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New footage for “Dragon Quest XI” revealed several gameplay aspects, including combat, camping, and riding on dragons. The game is set to be released next year for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, and the upcoming Nintendo Switch. 
( NHK | YouTube )

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the long-running but still massively popular Dragon Quest franchise, Japanese TV channel NHK showed a special presentation that included new footage for the next game in the series, Dragon Quest XI: In Search of Departed Time.

Not much about Dragon Quest XI was revealed in the footage, but it did provide a glimpse of some interesting things that players will be able to enjoy in the upcoming game.

What We Learned From The Dragon Quest XI Footage

The new footage for Dragon Quest XI revealed several gameplay aspects for the title, such as combat, camping, and riding on dragons.

Camping is shown in the video as an activity that restores the HP and MP of players, while also offering options such as praying to the Goddess, going on patrol, and smithing. Players will be able to access menu that lists several weapons that they can try to craft, with the necessary materials and difficulty level for crafting displayed.

The video also shows how riding on dragons will work in the game, as players hop onto the back of a dragon to mount them. Riding dragons is a new feature to the franchise with its addition in Dragon Quest XI, as the series has mostly been about players fighting dragons and not about using them for their advantage.

Dragon Quest XI Release Details

Dragon Quest XI will launch sometime next year in Japan for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo 3DS, and the upcoming Nintendo Switch, but no official release in the United States has yet been announced.

The game’s predecessor, Dragon Quest X, did not get an official release in the United States, but due to the more traditional single-player nature of Dragon Quest XI, it has a better chance of being released outside of Japan.

The Importance Of Dragon Quest XI On Nintendo Switch

It has previously been confirmed by Dragon Quest creator Yuji Horii that Dragon Quest XI was coming to the Nintendo Switch, and the game’s importance will largely contribute to the hybrid console’s success.

Dragon Quest remains very popular in Japan, and the pending release of Dragon Quest XI for the Nintendo Switch is a strategy that will most likely boost the hybrid console’s sale figures in the country.

There is no specified release date yet for Dragon Quest XI for the Nintendo Switch, so it is not known whether it will be available upon the hybrid console’s expected launch of March 2017. The upcoming presentation that will reveal all details of the Nintendo Switch might mention Dragon Quest XI, though, so fans of the franchise might want to watch it.

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(Via TechTimes)

New footage for "Dragon Quest XI" revealed

Shaan Taseer, the son of a prominent Pakistani politician assassinated over blasphemy allegations, is himself now the target of a police case and a fatwa calling for his killing after he recorded a Christmas message criticizing the country’s blasphemy law.

Mr. Taseer, a human-rights activist, was condemned in the religious edict by an Islamic group from the country’s mainstream religious tradition, after he recorded the message for Pakistan’s Christian minority.

In the video message, he called the country’s blasphemy law “inhumane” and expressed sympathy for Asia Bibi, a Christian woman sentenced to death by Pakistan’s courts on blasphemy charges.

In Pakistan, blasphemy is illegal and it carries the death penalty. Activists say that the threat of being accused of blasphemy has created a climate of fear, where anyone can be targeted and the law can’t be discussed.

“I’m now in a position something like Salman Rushdie,” said Mr. Taseer, referring to the novelist who has had to live in hiding since a 1989 edict condemned him to death. “They have called for my assassination.”

His father, Salmaan Taseer, then governor of Punjab province, was shot dead in 2011 by his own bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri, after he criticized Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Mr. Qadri was executed last year after a Supreme Court verdict, but his funeral was attended by huge crowds, and his followers are building an ornate shrine just outside Islamabad over his grave.

According to the fatwa, issued by a group called Tehreek Labaik Ya Rasool Allah, the younger Mr. Taseer has “crossed all limits of insulting God and the prophet” and is now “condemnable to death”. The group, which is legal, is from the Barelvi sect, the biggest Muslim denomination in the country, which is normally considered moderate but on the issue of blasphemy, it is the most hardline.

“In no unclear terms, they’ve told their supporters to prepare another Mumtaz Qadri,” said Mr. Taseer, adding that he had received hundreds of messages of hate and death threats since he was accused.

Police in Lahore also registered a case against Mr. Taseer under the blasphemy law. The case is under a section of the law meant for hate speech.

According to the charge, dated Dec. 30, police found a recording on a memory stick left outside a police station in which a person “ridiculed a religious law, which may cause provocation.”

Nasir Hameed, the police officer in charge of the Islampura police station in Lahore where the case is registered, said officers were investigating further. The case doesn’t name Shaan Taseer, but he identifies himself by name in the recording.

“Having a fatwa and a blasphemy case against you is putting a target on your back,” said Jibran Nasir, a lawyer and activist. “These fanatics can motivate people to get you anywhere.”

Mr. Taseer, aged 45, is currently outside Pakistan and asked for his location not to be revealed. Activists fear that the fatwa still puts him in danger abroad and also prevents his ability to return.

In Pakistan, crowds often surround police stations to pressure police into registering blasphemy cases, in which both Muslims and non-Muslims are targeted. Activists say that the evidence is usually flimsy and the blasphemy law is regularly used to settle personal scores. Allegations of blasphemy have repeatedly in the past motivated mobs to kill the accused.

Separately, the same religious group threatened on Dec. 31 to issue a fatwa against leading opposition politician Imran Khan, unless he apologizes for a supposed insult to the Prophet Mohammad in a speech. There was no immediate response from Mr. Khan’s spokesperson.

–Qasim Nauman contributed to this article.

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(via WSJ)

CAIRO A senior Egyptian judge arrested on corruption charges was found dead in his cell on Monday having hanged himself, his lawyer said.

Wael Shalaby, a deputy chief justice in the country’s administrative courts system, resigned on Saturday shortly before he was arrested and was charged the following day with taking a bribe.

“My client hanged himself using a scarf he was wearing. He was going through a terrible psychological state during his questioning,” his lawyer Sayed Beheiry told Reuters.

“It is very hard to be a big important judge and suddenly you lose everything and sit in front of an investigator being accused of taking a bribe.”

State news agency MENA also said Shalaby had killed himself, and that the public prosecutor had ordered an autopsy. The interior ministry, which oversees prisons, could not be reached for comment.

Shalaby was also secretary general of the Council of State, the umbrella organisation for Egypt’s administrative courts. He was held days after the council’s purchasing manager, Gamal al-Din al-Labban, was also arrested on corruption charges.

The public prosecutor has referred to the two arrests as part of the same case.

The Council of State said in a statement on Saturday that it accepted Shalaby’s resignation, without clarify his link to the Labban case. On Wednesday it had said Labban worked at the council but was not a judge.

Local and foreign non-governmental organisations say corruption is rife in Egypt while the government says it investigates all incidents. Corruption investigations into judicial bodies are rare.

The prosecutor issued an order banning media reporting of the legal details of the Council of State corruption case.

($1 = 18 Egyptian pounds)

(Reporting by Ahmed Mohamed Hassan and Haitham Ahmed; Writing by Ahmed Aboulenein; editing by John Stonestreet)


CAIRO A senior Egyptian judge arrested on

The UAE has moved up a global list of the best destinations for expats to enjoy a successful career while Bahrain is also in the world’s top 10 places to move to.

The UAE now ranks as the fourth best destination after moving up two places on 2015 in the new data released by HSBC.

Bahrain, ranked 10th, fell three places compared to last year’s list, while the ranking was topped by Switzerland, Germany and Sweden.

The new data examines the views of people towards their host countries across eight categories – chances to acquire new skills; work-life balance; work culture; career progression; fulfilling work; benefits packages; and earnings prospects.

The UAE improved across all eight indicators in comparison to the views of expats in 2015, indicating the continually improving work environment for people in the country, HSBC said. 

Among the primary reasons expats highlighted the UAE as one of the top international career destinations was for its earnings prospects (ranked 3rd), and the benefits packages offered by employers (5th).

The former, in particular, is an area that the UAE is consistently recognised for, with average salaries being 14 percent higher than the global average.

Nearly two-thirds of expats in the country (65 percent) said that they earn more than in their home country – only Switzerland (75 percent) and Qatar (66 percent) had a higher proportion of people that associated with this view. 

HSBC added that the Middle East and Africa region led the way for employee benefits with Saudi Arabia (95 percent), Egypt (94 percent), Oman (94 percent), Kenya (93 percent), and the UAE (93 percent) making up the top five countries where the highest proportion of expats say they receive benefits as part of their employment packages.

Kunal Malani, head of customer value management, MENA, Retail Banking and Wealth Management, HSBC Middle East, said: “Through the results of the research, it’s not surprising to see that the UAE continues to be rated highly globally for the financial benefits it offers.

“This has been one of the cornerstones of why people seek career opportunities here and it is indicative of the success of the government’s focus on diversification, which has resulted in the creation of an internationally recognised and sought after working environment with world-class infrastructure and services. Given these advantages, expats moving to and living in the UAE should look to make the best of their lives abroad.”

The UAE also ranked among the top ten (8th) in terms of career progression, with over half (54 percent) of expats recognising this to be the case since they moved from their home countries.

The HSBC report said that while the UAE was much closer to the global average when it came to work-life balance (24th), it rated highly for work culture (11th).

The report said expats living in Switzerland earn an average salary of $188,275 a year, the highest in the world and almost twice the global average. Hong Kong, India and Singapore were ranked second, third and fourth while China rounded out the top five.

Hong Kong and Singapore topped the ranking for career development with 68 percent and 62 percent respectively of respondents agreeing that these were good places to improve their careers.

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The UAE has moved up a global

DUBAI // A Pakistani man has been arrested for allegedly killing a relative with a garden tool in a leafy Dubai neighbourhood on New Year’s Eve.

An official prosecution source said the suspect accused the relative of flirting with his wife, which resulted in the murder in Springs 15.

According to a source from Springs 15, which is part of a larger Emaar community, the two men had an argument on December 31, which escalated into a physical altercation.

“We’re not sure what they were arguing about but the suspect hit the victim with a garden tool and killed him,” the source said.

The suspect was arrested and his case transferred to prosecutors to bring charges.

Dubai Police was not available for comment.

[email protected]

The National

DUBAI // A Pakistani man has been


Stan Lee’s still working at 94

Legendary writer Stan Lee is showing no signs of slowing down despite having just turned 94. “I plan to keep creating characters with my company, Pow! Entertainment,” Lee says. “We just launched a new animated series called Stan Lee’s Cosmic Crusaders, a new digital graphic novel God Woke, and our TV show Lucky Man is going into its second season.” Lee, whose real name is Stanley Martin Lieber, is a comic-book writer, publisher, television host, actor and former president and chairman of Marvel Comics. The man, who turned a year older on December 28 last year, added that he loves his work and feels very fortunate to carry on with it for as long as he can. — IANS


Actor Akshay Kumar reveals his workload for 2017

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar has shared his line-up of films for the coming 12 months with his fans. “Busy summing up the year gone by? It’s time to not look back, but look ahead. Here’s what my 2017 looks like. Your thoughts, love and luck needed,” the 49-year-old tweeted. The first movie in the pipeline is a courtroom comedy drama titled Jolly LLB 2. Kumar’s second film is called Toilet — Ek Prem Katha, and is directed by Shree Narayan Singh. Following its release, the star will then be seen in the Tamil science-fiction action thriller 2.o before embarking upon his final project of the year, a biopic about Arunachalam Muruganantham called Pad Man. — IANS


Film director Ali Abbas Zafar makes Facebook debut

Director Ali Abbas Zafar, who had a blockbuster year in 2016 with the smash hit film Sultan, stepped into the world of social media on New Year’s Day. “Day 1 of the year, lots of things to do starting with the official Facebook page @Aliabbaszafarofficial … Please follow for all the updates,” the 36-year-old tweeted. Zafar shared pictures and posts with fans from his base in Paris where he was spending time for ‘work and holiday’ before celebrating the new year in Italy’s Vatican City. In the film Sultan, Khan played the lead role of a wrestling champion called Haryana who tries to make a comeback to represent India at the Olympics. — IANS


Rogue One: A Star Wars Story a hit with moviegoers

The films Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Sing loomed large at movie theatres over the new year’s holiday, racking up the biggest revenues. The Star Wars spin-off topped the box office for the third consecutive weekend, earning just under $50 million (Dh183,000) for the three-day period and a projected $64 million for the four-day holiday. The science fiction action film concludes a record-annihilating year for Disney. The studio became the first to top $7 billion in a single year, has fielded four of the five top grossing domestic releases, and should see four of its movies top $1 billion at the global box office. — Reuters


Hollywood sign vandalised to read Hollyweed

For a few hours on New Year’s Day, the famous Hollywood sign in California was changed to read ‘Hollyweed’. Police said that during the night a prankster had used giant tarpaulin sheets to turn two of the iconic sign’s white ‘O’s’ into ‘E’s’. The vandal, who was captured on film by security cameras, could face a misdemeanour trespassing charge for having scaled a protective fence surrounding the sign above Griffith Park, according to authorities. The prank is not an original one having been previously carried out by a college student in 1976. — AP


Bambi artist Tyrus Wong dies aged 106

Tyrus Wong, the artist whose works inspired the Disney film Bambi, has died aged 106. A Chinese immigrant who settled in the United States, Wong’s vibrant paintings captured the attention of Walt Disney and became the animated film’s distinctive style. “His influence on the artistic composition of the animated feature Bambi cannot be overstated,” said The Walt Disney Family Museum in a statement. Wong began working with Disney in 1938 as an “inbetweener”, drawing hundreds of pictures between poses to create the illusion of motion. Wong worked at Disney for three years before moving to Warner Brothers as a concept artist while designing greeting cards for Hallmark on the side. — IANS

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BP has opted out of the first wave of agreements to develop oil and gas reserves in Iran after the lifting of international sanctions — setting it apart from its two biggest European rivals Royal Dutch Shell and Total.

Iran has struck a series of deals with foreign energy groups in recent weeks, including Total and Shell, and plans to award more contracts early in 2017 as Tehran’s efforts to attract much-needed foreign investment gather pace.

However, BP, which has its corporate roots in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company responsible for the first Iranian oil discovery in 1908, is taking a more cautious approach ahead of a Donald Trump presidency which threatens renewed diplomatic tensions with Tehran.

BP has not applied to take part in a forthcoming tender of exploration and production rights in Iran, according to people briefed on the matter, and has no immediate plans for separate agreements of the kind reached by Shell and Total.

These people said the main reason was commercial. “It’s a question of where the best returns on investment can be made and BP has plenty of attractive opportunities elsewhere,” said one.

However, these people acknowledged the continued existence of some US sanctions against Iran — and the prospects of a hardline stance against Tehran by the Trump administration — was a particular deterrent for BP.

Although based in the UK, BP has the biggest US exposure of any European oil group; about 40 per cent of its shareholders and 30 per cent of its employees are American, including Bob Dudley, chief executive.

US citizens are barred from commercial activities in Iran under Washington’s bilateral sanctions against Tehran. BP would have to set up a separate governance structure, excluding Mr Dudley and other US executives, to oversee any investments in Iran, according to people briefed on the matter. US energy groups such as ExxonMobil and Chevron have so far remained on the sidelines as Iran has opened up.

BP has made some tentative steps to rebuild ties with Iran — including the reopening of an office in Tehran and the acquisition of a cargo of Iranian oil in October — but more slowly than non-US rivals. A BP spokesman declined to comment.

Iran has the world’s second-largest gas reserves and fourth-largest oil reserves, according to the US Energy Information Administration, but urgently needs outside capital and expertise to modernise its ageing infrastructure.

The country aims to attract $200bn of oil and gas investment over the next five years, after the 2015 agreement with the world’s major powers to curb its nuclear programme led to the lifting of international sanctions.

Total of France became the first western oil major to make a renewed commitment when it signed a deal last month to develop the next phase of Iran’s giant South Pars gasfield together with China National Petroleum Corp.

UK-listed Shell followed earlier this month with a more tentative agreement for studies of the Azadegan and Yadavaran oilfields in south-west Iran as well as the Kish gasfields in the Gulf.

Other companies to have struck agreements with Tehran this year include Gazprom, Rosneft and Lukoil of Russia, ONGC of India and DNO of Norway. Iran has said dozens more applied to take part in a licensing round for up to 50 exploration and production blocs due to take place early in 2017.

Jason Rosychuk, a Dubai-based oil and gas specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm, said that, after a slow start, Tehran’s investment drive was gaining momentum. “The level of interest is high,” he said. “All companies are taking a look.”

Tehran has been racing to seal deals before Barack Obama steps down as US president this month. It remains unclear whether Mr Trump will follow through on his campaign trail promise to rip up the nuclear deal which Mr Obama orchestrated, but a renewed downturn in US-Iranian relations looks likely.

Rex Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil chief executive nominated by Mr Trump to become secretary of state, will have a big role in policymaking on Iran if his appointment is approved by the US Senate.

Via FT

BP has opted out of the first

Welcome to a new year and the pressing market issues facing investors as they look to put money to work and navigate 2017.

Geopolitical surprises upended expectations last year and few predicted that 2016 would end with a global bull market in equities, while bond yields remain relatively low. Will strategists be any better at forecasting this time around? Here are the big questions that will preoccupy investors as the first trading days of the year unfold.

Are markets at risk of a Trump disappointment trade?

Investors have taken a leap of faith that the combination of fiscal stimulus and less onerous regulations for many businesses under president-elect Donald Trump will ignite the US economy and call time on the era of lacklustre growth and slumbering bond yields. In turn, the long-mooted great rotation has begun, with money leaving bonds and flowing into equities.

The S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and Russell 2000 of small capitalisation stocks have all hit highs since November 8.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury, meanwhile, has jumped from a low of 1.32 per cent in July to 2.5 per cent, as bond investors contemplate faster economic growth and higher rates ahead.

Yet is it too much, too soon, especially for a stock market many had judged to be expensive? A stronger dollar also looms over multinational US companies, offsetting cuts in taxes and regulation.

“Wall Street tends to get ahead of itself at times, and this appears to be one of those,” says Jenny Jones, head of US small and mid-cap equities at Schroders. “We do believe [Trump] will achieve many of his goals, but they seem to be close to fully priced now and they could take nine-18 months to accomplish. That leaves a lot of room for disappointment.”

How will Europe and the UK handle Brexit?

It may be only the eighth most traded currency pair, but euro-sterling price action offers a gauge for political risk as well as strong trading opportunities in 2017.

Talk of “hard Brexit” in which the UK forgoes single-market access to have full control over its borders has resulted in investors marking down the value of UK assets — selling the pound — and has cast doubt over London’s position as one of the world’s biggest financial centres.

Weakness in the euro against the pound on the back of Brexit developments would suggest a reduction in investors’ Brexit risk premium. Steven Saywell at BNP Paribas believes euro-sterling will fall. “Sterling is at an extreme pricing, it is vulnerable to positive surprises and a weakening in hard Brexit,” he says.

An outlandish prediction from Saxo Bank even has the euro falling to 73p on the basis that the EU will be forced by migration pressures in Europe to cede ground to the UK.

There is also the matter of what Brexit means for the future of the euro with France, Holland, Italy and Germany holding elections in 2017. If anti-euro movements gain the upper hand elsewhere, even Germany may reassess saving it, say Deutsche Bank group’s chief economist David Folkerts-Landau and chief German economist Stefan Schneider. “The pros of a single currency probably outweigh the cons for Germany — not least because its own currency would massively appreciate.”

Will the oil market balance?

Oil supply from the world’s biggest producers will be in focus from the first trading day of January as market participants assess the extent to which countries such as Saudi Arabia and Russia reduce production following a global deal to cut supplies for the first time since the global financial crisis.

There will also be keen interest in the return of US shale oil and the sustainability of supply recoveries by Libya and Nigeria, conflict-ridden nations that were left out of the output cut agreement.

The outcome of these unknowns will determine when oil supply and demand come into balance in 2017 and whether prices will remain above $50 a barrel. “Until we start to get answers, the debates will continue,” says Michael Wittner at Société Générale. “Until then, we believe that markets will enter a ‘wait and see’ mode; crude prices are likely to start trading within a relatively wide range”.

If Opec members and co-operating countries such as Russia succeed, they could finally draw down tanks brimming with excess crude — helping to end the commodity supply glut. The Bloomberg Commodity Index (BCOM), a basket of 22 futures contracts, rose nearly 12 per cent in 2016, its first annual rise since 2010. Alongside oil, industrial metals such as zinc and copper have also been climbing on hopes that stronger global growth will underpin demand.

Are global banks investable once more?

Banking equity indices in Japan, Europe and the US posted double-digit gains in the second half of 2016, marking a change of fortunes from earlier in the year when the sector was beset by worries about profitability erosion amid low and negative interest rates, strict regulation and fines for bad behaviour.

According to investors, one of the most important causes for optimism is the prospect of higher interest rates on stronger economic growth as policy gears switch from monetary to fiscal measures in the coming year. Rising long-term bond yields help banks by boosting their net interest margin — the difference between the rates on their borrowing and lending. “We remain broadly bullish on banks as a sector,” says Mark Dowding, partner at BlueBay Asset Management.

But the rebound will face a stern test, particularly in Europe where the health of the sector is in question. European banks are on course to be worth 0.68 times analyst estimates for the book value of their assets at the end of 2016. For all the share price movement, the valuation is less generous than it was a year ago.

Are financial conditions going to be tighter?

The last time there was a substantial and rapid rise in US government bond yields was more than two decades ago — in 1994. At the time, much of the financial world failed to anticipate the speed and pace of rate increases announced by the Federal Reserve — which led the yield on 10-year Treasuries to jump 2 percentage points in the space of five months.

Complacency this time around may be of a different kind. Investors appear to see a pro-growth Federal Reserve under Janet Yellen and expect three more rate raises in 2017.

Philippe Ithurbide, global head of research for Amundi Asset Management, says: “It is difficult to understand the message: how to have at the same time stronger growth, a weaker dollar and a more restrictive monetary policy?”

Real economic growth in the US is running at about 2 per cent, as is the rate of inflation, while the unemployment rate is low, figures that would have normally suggested a much higher level for interest rates. Should the Fed move too fast the repercussions could be severe. Six of the 12 tightening cycles since 1945 have resulted in a US recession within two years.

Has the EM tantrum got further to run?

Donald Trump’s election win intensified a rout in developing economy assets that spurred net redemptions from emerging market equity and bond funds at a pace not seen since the US bond taper tantrum of 2013.

The Mexican peso and Turkish lira plumbed record lows, as the post-election “Trump trade” spurred a stronger dollar and higher bond yields.

Only Russia appeared to escape the trend, thanks in part to discernible warmth between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin.

With capital flowing out of China in spite of efforts to stem it, and markets expecting further US rate rises in 2017, the largest investors in emerging markets are focusing on differentiation and “managing risk”.

“Questions remain with respect to how a Trump administration will deal with issues of trade and protectionism and whether campaign promises in relation to tariffs and trade deals materialise into something significant,” says Pierre-Yves Bareau, head of emerging market debt at JPMorgan Asset Management.

Will there be more public market listings?

The recent dearth of listings made last year the slowest for US IPOs since 2003 — but there are hopes of a rebound.

“There will be a significant pick-up [in listings] in 2017, and this will probably become most evident in the second quarter,” predicts JD Moriarty, head of Americas equity capital markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Bankers say the post-election equity rally and positive performance of 2016 deals bode well for a pick-up in activity next year. In contrast to 2015 deals, which ended that year down 6.5 per cent, 2016 listings are up on average by about 20 per cent, according to Dealogic.

There is also hope for a revival of tech initial public offerings. The hottest tech companies have avoided public markets in recent years, instead raising billions of dollars at attractive values privately.

Snap, the messaging app, is preparing for what is expected to be one of the largest tech listings in years as early as March. It is hoping for a valuation of $20bn to $25bn. If successful it could lure other tech “unicorns” — private tech companies that have achieved valuations of $1bn or more — to test the public markets.

Reporting by Elaine Moore, Dan McCrum, Roger Blitz, Nicole Bullock and Anjli Raval

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KABUL Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suspended his minister for telecommunications and information technology on Monday while he is investigated over a levy on mobile telephone charges, officials said.

The removal of Communications Minister Abdul Razaq Wahidi adds to a lingering political crisis in Afghanistan, heightened in November when parliament passed no confidence votes against a number of ministers over poor performance and budgetary issues.

Yasin Sameem, a spokesman for the communications ministry, said the decision to suspend Wahidi was taken after an audit into the collection of a 10 percent tax on mobile phone topups imposed in 2015.

He said the president’s office, which has declared the fight against graft as a top priority, felt the ministry had not cooperated sufficiently with an investigation into alleged corruption surrounding the levy.

“We are committed to accountability and the minister will wait for the findings of the investigation,” Sameem said.

The mobile phone levy, which has raised millions of dollars for government coffers, was imposed as part of efforts to raise domestic tax revenue to make up for a gradual reduction in international donor aid in coming years.

While Wahidi’s suspension will not immediately affect the day-to-day functioning of the government, it highlights the difficulties Ghani has had in pushing through major reforms of the economy while fighting the Taliban insurgency.

Ghani ordered ministers removed by parliament to remain in their posts until a Supreme Court ruling on the affair but the standoff underlined the weakness of the national unity government formed after a disputed election in 2014.

(Reporting by Mirwais Harooni; Writing by James Mackenzie; Editing by Alison Williams)


KABUL Afghan President Ashraf Ghani suspended his

By Elizabeth Pineau

BAGHDAD France will fight any French jihadists it finds on the battlefields of Iraq, arrest them if they return home and work to de-radicalise their children, President Francois Hollande said on a visit to Baghdad on Monday.

There are about 60 French citizens fighting alongside Islamic State militants in the northern city of Mosul alone and hundreds more in the rest of the country and Syria, French diplomatic sources said.

“We will fight them like (we fight) all jihadists … since they are attacking us, since they prepare attacks on our own territory,” Hollande told a news conference.

The children of returning militants would be taken in and “de-radicalised,” he said on the one-day visit. “We are preparing for these returns and the very particular processing of these children.”

The Socialist president, whose country has faced a series of militant attacks in the past two years, said French soldiers serving in a U.S.-led coalition against the jihadists were preventing more mass killings at home.

“Everything that contributes to reconstructing Iraq is an additional step to avoiding Daesh strikes on our own territory,” Hollande said, using an Arabic acronym for Islamic State.

Hollande has seen his popularity rating plummet since taking office, amid frustration over his handling of the economy and national security. He has said he will not stand again in presidential elections this year.

He will travel later on Monday to the Kurdish city of Erbil, where France will deliver about 38 tonnes of humanitarian aid, including medicine, officials said.

The European Union police agency Europol last month warned of the risk of an increased rate in the return of foreign fighters.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are currently fighting to push Islamic State, the Sunni Muslim militant group, from Mosul, the fighters’ last major stronghold in the country, but are facing fierce resistance.

It will likely take weeks to recapture Mosul, Hollande said. “Daesh is stepping back and Daesh will be defeated,” he said. “It’s a year that will be a year of victory, here, against terrorism.”

At least 16 people were killed by a car bomb in a busy square in Baghdad’s sprawling Sadr City district on Monday, while Islamic State attacks on military positions north of the capital killed 16 pro-government fighters, sources said.

(Additional reporting by Stephen Kalin; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


Google has rolled out carrier billing option to two of India’s largest telecom operators, making it easier for more Indians to purchase apps, music and other items from marque Google Play Store. 

Users on Airtel and Vodafone, two carriers with over 460 million subscribers between them, can now pay for their purchases on Google Play using credit on their mobile phone. The company had told developers about this upcoming change at an event in October

Carrier billing feature has long been requested by Android users in India. Unlike Western nations, the penetration of debit and credit card is very low in India, stranding many with little choice to make digital purchases. 

“This is a big move,” Anuj Tandon, head of mobile games and marketing at game publishing firm Nazara Games told Mashable India after the event. “App and game developers have requested this feature for years. It should help remove the friction in making payments in a market like India.”

Previously, carrier billing was only available to Idea subscribers. The company last year rolled out Google Play prepaid vouchers in the country to make it a little convenient for people to purchase items from Google Play.  

With carrier billing (also known as operator billing), a user is able to pay for his or her purchases with the credit on their phone in case of a prepaid connection or it reflects in their monthly bill. This is one of the most convenient payment modes for digital purchases in emerging regions.

Google was also recently testing net banking option in India, with several users already seeing the payment modes on their Android phones. Interestingly, Google Play doesn’t yet support mobile wallet apps, which have grown immensely popular in India in the wake of demonetization

BONUS: Get Lost in Google’s Interactive ‘Music Timeline’

Via ASDA Alltop

Google has rolled out carrier billing option

Image: Getty Images / mashable composite 

LONDON — There’s no hiding place on Twitter when you’re president-elect of the United States.

Your tweets, favourites and even the accounts you follow are under constant scrutiny. Especially when you start following an account dedicated to fluffy little kittens. 

That’s right. Donald Trump — soon to become the 45th president of the United States — followed ‘Emergency Kittens’ on Twitter for a few hours. As you might have guessed, ‘Emergency Kittens‘ is an account dedicated to photos and videos of tiny felines. 

Their mission — as outlined in their Twitter bio — is simple: “Critiquing the cutest cats online!” What’s not to love?

On Sunday night, Trump followed the account, which lays claim to almost 2 million followers. Was it an accident? Or did Trump just admit to the world that he secretly really, really, really loves kitties? 

Trump doesn’t follow very many people on Twitter. Indeed, until recently he was following a mere 41 people. The list — not including the kitten account — comprises politicians connected to the Trump campaign, members of his family, a select few journalists, and accounts belonging to his businesses. 

Naturally, the addition to the list of accounts Trump’s following caused a stir on Twitter. 

The person behind the account decided to reach out to their new follower with a private message containing the opening line of a joke. Trump, however, didn’t wait around for the punchline and unfollowed ‘Emergency Kittens’. 

We’ll likely never know if this out-of-character Twitter follow was accidental, or a hint that Trump is secretly nurturing a love for tiny kittens. Let’s hope it’s the latter. 

BONUS: Christmas Kittens Frolickicking by the Yule Log

Via ASDA Alltop

Image: Getty Images / mashable composite By



Volcanologist Carolyn Parcheta builds robots in her quest to uncover the secrets of volcanoes. 

‘How She Works’ is a new series from Mashable highlighting women in diverse occupations. 

Watch more episodes on our YouTube channel.

More about Engineer, Volcanobot, Robots, Robot, and Volcano

Via ASDA Alltop

Volcanologist Carolyn Parcheta builds robots in her

LONDON — It’s not everyday that an enormous crocodile strolls into someone’s back garden. 

But, when a 3.5-metre crocodile strutted into the backyard of a house in Karumba in Queensland, Australia, on New Year’s Eve, locals found themselves building a makeshift trap with a few unusual garden objects. 

“The croc enjoyed basking in the backyard for a few hours from around 6am before he made the snappy decision to move out to the front gate where he remained for the rest of the day,” reads Queensland Police’s account of the dramatic events. 

“Officers and locals initially orchestrated a line of wheelie bins in an attempt to funnel him back towards the water but it became clear he wasn’t keen to move,” the account continued. 

When the wheelie bin “funnel” plan was showing no signs of working, police then decided it was best to keep him in one place and ensure he didn’t wander off. They decided that hay bales were the best option for a makeshift trap. 

“Officers then made the large scale decision to box him in with hay bales and contain him until wildlife experts from Cairns arrived to relocate him.”

Aye, Karumba!

BONUS: Firefighters rescue dog that slipped through the ice on Lake Michigan

Via ASDA Alltop

LONDON — It's not everyday that an

Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum on Monday launched Dubai Harbour, a new waterfront destination that will feature the MENA region’s largest marina and the Dubai Lighthouse.

The mega project will also include a cruise ship port, shopping mall, events arena, residential buildings, hotels, offices and shops.

Dubai Harbour will be located on King Salman Street, in the area between JBR and Palm Jumeirah, and will be spread over 20 million sq ft.

In a series of tweets, it was announced that the development will be completed in four years in phases by developer Meraas, and will include a 1,400-berth marina, a shopping mall covering 3.5 million sq ft, and the Dubai Lighthouse.

The Dubai Lighthouse will feature a luxury hotel and an observation deck that offers 360 degree views. Its facade will also be used as a gigantic screen for high resolution projections and light shows. 

The masterplan of the new destination integrates Skydive Dubai, Dubai International Marine Club (DIMC) and Logo Island into a single community.

Sheikh Mohammed said: “We are happy that this new project, which represents a unique and innovative new addition to the region’s tourism landscape, opens up a range of new opportunities to investors.

“Dubai Harbour creates a venue for new investments that support our vision for this important sector and promises to further accelerate the expansion of the tourism industry in the UAE, which is already growing rapidly. I am confident that the project will have a highly positive impact on our entire region’s tourism sector.

He added that Dubai Harbour is also set to enhance the city’s profile as a magnet for wealth and investment. The project promises to be an attractive destination for GCC yacht owners, who own one third of the world’s largest superyachts. 

The project will also feature water stations in various areas of the destination including under the shopping mall and selected hotels while there will also be three helipads.

Dubai Harbour will also offer a transport network and a connected road grid and monorail system that can transport passengers between different areas of the destination.

The project will play a vital role in raising Dubai’s global profile as a cruise ship hub, with a new passenger terminal, offering a duty free shopping experience, capable of accommodating 6,000 passengers at one time.

In 2017, Dubai is expected to receive 650,000 maritime travellers, while 25.3 million passengers are expected to sail around the world, according to a report published recently by the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA).

The residential offerings of the project will include high and low rise buildings, waterfront villas and houses. There will also be a wide selection of retail outlets, restaurants and cafes.

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Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al

CAIRO Islamic State claimed responsibility on Monday for a New Year’s Day mass shooting in a packed Istanbul nightclub that killed 39 people, an attack carried out by a lone gunman who remains at large.

The jihadist group made the claim in a statement on one of its Telegram channels, a method it has used to claim attacks in the past. There was no immediate comment from Turkish officials.

“In continuation of the blessed operations that Islamic State is conducting against the protector of the cross, Turkey, a heroic soldier of the caliphate struck one of the most famous nightclubs where the Christians celebrate their apostate holiday,” the statement said.

NATO member Turkey is part of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State and launched an incursion into Syria in August to drive the radical Sunni militants from its borders.

The authorities believe the assailant may be from a Central Asian nation and suspect he had links to Islamic State, Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper said. Police distributed a hazy black-and-white photo of the alleged attacker taken from security footage.

The shooting at the Reina nightclub on the shores of Istanbul’s Bosphorus waterway shook Turkey as it tries to recover from a failed July coup and a series of deadly bombings in cities including Istanbul and the capital Ankara, some blamed on Islamic State and others claimed by Kurdish militants.

Some people jumped into the Bosphorus to save themselves after the attacker began shooting at random just over an hour into the new year. Witnesses described diving under tables as he walked around spraying bullets from an automatic rifle.

Nationals of Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Lebanon, Libya, Israel, India, a Turkish-Belgian dual citizen and a Franco-Tunisian woman were among those killed, officials said. Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh said five of the dead were from Saudi Arabia.

Security services had been on alert across Europe for new year celebrations following an attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12 people. Only days ago, an online message from a pro-Islamic State group called for attacks by “lone wolves” on “celebrations, gatherings and clubs”.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein and Ahmed Tolba; Editing by Giles Elgood and Ralph Boulton)


CAIRO Islamic State claimed responsibility on Monday

The mega-extravaganza of the tech world in Las Vegas is showcasing an array of new devices that get smarts from computer chips, sensors and artificial intelligence, but go further by opening doors to augmented or virtual realities.

The Consumer Electronics Show, which begins with a series of media events Tuesday will offer trade professionals a look at new robotics, connected cars and a dizzying assortment of gizmos from connected sneakers to drones.

This year’s show will see results of a boost in computing power from , which can help power things like autonomous cars, and deliver new experiences such as augmented or virtual reality.

“Virtual reality is changing the game for a variety of industries including health care, agriculture, manufacturing and business,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association that organizes the annual show, in a Reddit chat.

“Doctors are using VR to enhance traditional therapies, architects use VR to design stronger buildings and travel agencies are using it to simplify vacation planning.”

CES will celebrate its 50th anniversary at the gathering, and organizers promised it would have the largest showcase of VR technology ever.

One CES panel discussion will examine how virtual reality is transforming television, movies and even news with immersive forms of video.

A host of will entice attendees at the trade-only show.

Cars will feature displays to provide a better sense of the environment around them, while similar technologies will be showcased for smart glasses, medicine and beauty makeovers.

Enhancing reality

Robin Raskin, who heads the Living in Digital Times center of the show, said is catching on with try-and-see beauty apps, in-store virtual mirrors and toys.

Augmented reality, she said, “lets us look at the real world and add valuable, entertaining and immersive information to it.”

Analyst Jack Gold at J. Gold Associates said that despite the potential benefits of virtual and augmented reality in business or industry, “gaming is where it is going to take off first,” because that’s where people are spending money.

“The issue is not whether it has the potential to transform things, but whether you can put it into a space where consumers can afford it and give enough additional information so people are able to use it,” Gold said.

CES is among the world’s biggest trade shows, and last year drew 177,000 attendees over exhibit space of 2.47 million square feet (230,000 square meters). This year, 150 countries will be represented.

It will include big industry names such as Sony, LG and Samsung in electronics, with the perennial battle to have the sleekest most gorgeous television screen.

Meanwhile, in attendance will be more than 600 startups from 33 countries, including first-time participants—the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Ukraine.

Auto-industry titans including Ford and BMW are increasingly using CES to show off technology packed into vehicles for efficiency, safety, entertainment and navigation.

Race for autonomy

The show will feature demonstrations of autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles, including one from Japan’s Honda said to be equipped with an artificial intelligence “emotion engine” that aims to better understand its occupants.

Electric car startup Faraday Future, one of several manufacturers taking on Tesla, is expected to unveil its first production car a year after showing a prototype.

Renault-Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn has promised to discuss “a major technological breakthrough in the realization of a zero-emission, zero-fatality world for everyone,” according to a statement from CES organizers.

Humanoid robots

The show is also expected to feature advances in robotics, with more human-like robots and the public debut of “Professor Einstein” from Hanson Robotics.

Getting a boost from artificial intelligence, some new robots at the show will keep an eye on the kids, play chess or help with homework.

Gold said he expects to see a large number of drones looking for a slice of a surging market.

“This is really the year of the drone, and everybody is trying to get into this market,” he said.

But he added that the strongest potential for drones may be with businesses, with uses including aerial photography.

On the smartphone front, South Korea’s LG will show a range of new “mid-range” handsets and China’s Huawei has a smartphone event scheduled. TCL, the Chinese firm which owns the Alcatel brand, will unveil new BlackBerry handsets following its deal for the troubled Canadian brand.

The floor will see a host of new and improved connected home technologies that manage everything from light bulbs to refrigerators.

“We’re pretty close on things like the smart home, where we’re going to get up one day and everybody is going to speak to their refrigerators,” said NPD analyst Stephen Baker.

Carolina Milanesi of the consultancy Creative Strategies said 2016 “has seen material progress” in some new technologies that will result in products hitting the marketplace, even though not all will be hits.

“In some cases, it’s because the consumers weren’t really asking for it,” she said.

Explore further:
Berlin’s IFA fair dons virtual reality headsets

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These are the main events that took place in February 2016.

3 February

The government proposed to completely repeal two articles in the Criminal Code which make it illegal to vilify religion “by words, gestures, written matter, whether printed or not, or pictures or by some other visible means. Another of the amendments proposed was to criminalise revenge porn.

3 February

The government in the afternoon said that it had had approved Caroline Farrugia Frendo, who is Speaker Anglu Farrugia’s daughter, and Ingrid Zammit Young to join the benches of the judiciary.

Dr Farrugia Frendo, as it had transpires, was only legally eligible to take up the post some three days before she was approved. Dr Zammit Young’s nomination withdrew her nomination because according to law, if a person has sat on the Employment Commission they must have resigned from their post for at least three years before being eligible for a magisterial appointment.


6 February

Twenty-three people were arraigned in connection with the November incident at the PlusOne club in Paceville, in which over 70 people were injured. The accused include three directors and two managers employed by the nightclub.

18 February

German MEP and Chair of the EU Parliamentary Committee on Employment and Social Affairs Thomas Handel drew attention to the alleged exploitation of North Korean workers in Malta at Leisure Clothing factory, sending letters to a number of EU agencies.

The Leisure Clothing case was one that shocked the island when the case went before the courts, with allegations of sub-standard working conditions, low wages and misappropriation of wages being made


20 February

Parents of students attending San Anton School were incensed at the school authorities after a wall being constructed as part of the extension project collapsed during school hours, luckily injuring no-one but damaging cars belonging to teachers.

21 February

The government and church were at loggerheads over the gay conversion therapy bill that seeks to outlaw ‘conversion therapy’, a practice that attempts to change a person’s sexual orientation and that is widely acknowledged to be harmful and more-often than not traumatic. The church was accused of equating homosexuality to an illness due to a position paper it penned. It vehemently denied this. The bill was recently made into law, making headlines all over the developed world.


25 February

Sparks flew in Parliament when Opposition Leader Simon Busuttil demanded a statement from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat over what he described as the “shocking news” that former energy and health minister Konrad Mizzi holds a shell company in Panama and a trust in New Zealand. Blogger and The Malta Independent columnist Daphne Caruana Galizia had revealed, one day prior, that the trust set up in New Zealand by Dr Mizzi contains a shell company which has been registered in Panama, a company registered to be a ‘non cooperative jurisdiction’ by the European Commission. These revelations sparked months of heated political debate, with many people – not just the opposition – calling for Dr Mizzi’s resignation.

It later transpired that the Prime Minister’s chief of staff Keith Schembri had the exact same financial structure as Dr Mizzi, and that there was a mysterious third company, named Egrant, registered at the same time as Dr Mizzi and Mr Schembri’s Panamanian companies. The identity behind the ultimate beneficial owner of Egrant is not known.  

This scandal took on an international spotlight as a result of millions of documents from Mossack Fonseca, the Panama based corporate service provider at the centre of the scandal, leaked to a German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists together with Zeitung and a number of other partners exposed how the world’s elite go through expensive and complicated processes to conceal their wealth. While having a company based in a financially secretive jurisdiction like Panama does not necessarily amount to illegalities, the fact that both quantities and sources of wealth is easily concealed provides a framework for wrongdoing to take place. No-portfolio Minister Konrad Mizzi claimed political naivety but insisted that he did not intend to do anything irregular.


26 February

Despite being embroiled in this fast-growing scandal, with new information coming to light around every corner, Dr Mizzi received an overwhelming endorsement as the new Labour Party deputy leader, bagging 672 or 96.6% of the 696 valid votes cast. This was later taken from him because of his role in the Panama Papers.


28 February

Following a week of rampant speculation, Minister Konrad Mizzi revealed the names of and the dates on which his trust in New Zealand and the shell company held by that trust in Panama were established. From the documentation made available by Dr Mizzi, it transpires that Dr Mizzi became the ultimate beneficial owner of the Panamanian company, named Hearnville Inc., on 2 June 2015, a few weeks before Panama was blacklisted by the European Commission over its financial secrecy. A document dated 26 February 2016 signed by the former owners of the company in question, ATC Administrators Inc., says that between 2 June 2015 and 21 July 2015, “all the shares in the company were held in our name for the exclusive benefit of Mr Konrad Mizzi”. Additional research conducted by this newspaper indeed shows that while Hearnville Inc. had first been incorporated on 9 July 2013, it had at the time been registered by ATC Administrators, which later sold the company in 2015 to the trust held by Dr Mizzi.

(via Google News)

By Sankalp Phartiyal

MUMBAI Smartphone component maker Wistron Corp, which counts Apple Inc among its customers, has applied for permission to expand its plant in the Indian city of Bengaluru, a high-ranking regional government official said on Monday.

The Taiwanese contract manufacturer has also requested that its application be fast-tracked, the official at the state government of Karnataka in southern India told Reuters.

The move comes less than two weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that Apple was in talks with India’s federal government about the possibility of assembling products in one of the world’s biggest smartphone markets, where the U.S. tech firm controls less than 2 percent.

Apple setting up production in India would be a significant win for the government which has embarked on a major campaign to attract global manufacturers under the slogan “Make in India”.

“Wistron has approached us to expedite certain clearances with regards to the augmentation and expansion of its existing unit,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and so declined to be identified.

Whether Apple will begin manufacturing in India is unknown, but Wistron’s desire to expand “pretty quickly” could represent “several steps in that direction,” the official said.

Apple did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment. Wistron could not be reached for comment.

Analysts have said local manufacturing could come as part of a wider strategy for Apple to expand in India and even lower prices after Chief Executive Tim Cook visited the country in May and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Certainly that (local manufacturing) will help in some level of cost optimization,” said Gartner research director Anshul Gupta. “Because looking at the current tax structure, local facilities do provide some kind of cost advantage.”

Another of Apple’s Taiwanese suppliers, Hon Hai Precision Industry Co Ltd – commonly known as Foxconn – also has a manufacturing facility in southern India.

(Reporting by Sankalp Phartiyal; Editing by Christopher Cushing)


A New York City agency has issued 55-year old Sara Kelly Keenan a birth certificate that bears the word intersex in the gender field.

Keenan, who uses female pronouns, was born with male genes and female genitalia. The corrected birth certificate she received via mail last month is the first known intersex birth certificate that was issued in the United States.

New Option For People With Non-Binary Gender

About one in 2,000 children born each year can be considered as intersex, but they would have to be classified as either male or female in their birth certificate. The issuance of Keenan’s intersex birth certificate could pave way for changes that would have significant impact on the lives of people who have non-binary gender.

While it is relatively simple to change a person’s gender from male to female and vice versa — as long as the necessary medical care and documentation are provided — there is a need for another option for those who were born intersex and those who do not identify themselves to either binary genders. One American was reissued a birth certificate bearing “hermaphrodite” and several do not have the sex specified on their birth certificates.

Julien Martinez, Assistant Press Secretary of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), which issued the new birth certificate, said that Keenan’s case revealed that the agency is working to adapt to changes that would more accurately reflect a person’s sex.

Keenan is not the first intersex person to legally fight for her recognition on identity documents but hers is the first known case to finally have intersex written on her birth document.

How Intersex Birth Certificate May Affect People Belonging To Third Gender

Her success could pave way for more of such certificates and may help improve the healthcare of those belonging to the third gender. The issuance of the certificate may likewise eventually simplify efforts of non-binary persons to gain access to essential documents.

“In the United States, birth certificates often provide access to a wide range of public services and critical identity documents, such as state IDs and passports,” said Lambda Legal attorney Paul Castillo.

“Having birth certificates with gender designations other than male or female provides an enormous sense of validation for a number of non-binary and intersex people.”

Keenan’s case may eventually pave way for changes in the lives of people and children who are born intersex. Thirty people in the United States are currently on the waiting list to change their gender.

“In bringing this change, all the intersex children born now and yet to be born are my children because I can bring change for them,” Keenan said. “I don’t have a biological piece of the future but I have a heart piece of the future through those children because I can help them and give them a better experience.”

© 2016 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

(Via TechTimes)

A New York City agency has issued

· Hamriya, Rashidya and Al Aweer branches added to the network of bank’s disability-friendly branches

· Jumeirah branch to now offer Braille currency for its customers with visual disabilities

· Emirates NBD’s #TogetherLimitless platform committed to transforming additional branches in 2017 and creating an inclusive community for people with disabilities in the UAE

02 January 2017

Dubai – Emirates NBD, a leading bank in the region, has expanded its disability-friendly branch network to include the Hamriya, Rashidya and Al Aweer branches, in addition to the Jumeirah and Jumeirah Emirates Towers branches. The bank has also implemented the distribution of Braille currency in its Jumeirah branch for customers with vision disabilities, and will remain committed to enabling financial inclusion for people with disabilities in the UAE into 2017.

In its first phase of modification, employees of Hamriya, Rashidiya and Al Aweer branches were trained on disability etiquette and the privileges offered to Sanad Card* holders. To enhance mobility access, branches have been equipped with sliding doors, accessible low-height ATMs and cheque writing counters, in addition to designated car parking spots. To provide people with visual impairment ease of direction within the branch, tactile floor indicators have been installed. All branches also offer priority queuing and a separate waiting area to provide an easier and more elevated branch experience for people with disabilities.

Commenting on the announcement, Husam Al Sayed, Group Chief Human Resource Officer at Emirates NBD said: “Step by step, we are working to transform our entire

institution into one that caters to the needs of people with disabilities in the UAE and furthers their financial inclusion and independence. The three additional branches that have been transformed this year attract a large percentage of Emirates NBD’s customer base with disabilities and we are happy to provide them a far superior and inclusive customer experience.”


The bank will also be launching the distribution of Braille currency, issued by the Central Bank of the UAE, in its Jumeirah branch to further empower its customers with visual disabilities and offer them the independence of processing their own branch transactions.

Ahmed Al Marzouqi, Executive Vice President & General Manager of Retail Distribution at Emirates NBDadded: “With the introduction of Braille currency in our branches, we hope to set an example in the UAE banking industry and offer our customers with visual disabilities the ability to manage their own cash transactions. Starting with the Jumeirah branch, the distribution of Braille notes will extend to the rest of our branches and we envision a society in which disability-friendly currency will be the norm. Going forward, Emirates NBD will continue to find more ways to elevate the customer experience of people with disabilities and offer them products and services that support both their integration and independence financially.”

Emirates NBD’s commitment to people with disabilities supports the ‘#MyCommunity’ initiative launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council that aims to transform Dubai to a disability-friendly city by 2020. Under #TogetherLimitless, its flagship advocacy program, the bank has undertaken several initiatives in the past year to foster the sustainable long-term improvement and integration of people with disabilities into the community, including launching the Careers Network to facilitate workplace inclusion of people with cognitive disabilities, opening disability-friendly bank branches, promoting financial inclusion by offering Sanad card holders (privilege access card developed by CDA for people with disabilities) the Emirates NBD ‘Beyond from Personal Banking’ package, exempt of minimum salary  as well as publishing a research report on the banking and financial habits and attitudes of people with disabilities in the UAE. The advocacy platform won the Arabia CSR Awards in the Partnerships and Collaborations category in 2015 for its strategic partnership with Manzil’s PRIDE (People Receiving Independence and Dignity through Empowerment) programme.

Iman Ahmed
Senior Manager – Media Relations
ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller 
P.O.Box 28063, Dubai, UAE 
T: T: +971 4 4507600 , D: D: +971 4 4507650; M: 00971 50 2058021 
[email protected], www.asdaabm.com

© Press Release 2017

© Copyright Zawya. All Rights Reserved.

Via Zawya


MOGADISHU A suicide car bomb exploded at a checkpoint outside the main African peacekeepers (AMISOM) base in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Monday, police said.

“A suicide car bomb rammed into the checkpoint outside the AMISOM base,” Abdikadir Hussein, a police officer, told Reuters.

“There are Somali security forces at the checkpoint and it is too early to know the number of casualties.”

A Reuters photographer at the scene saw the burnt-out shell of the bomber’s car and another vehicle nearby on fire.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Louise Ireland)


MOGADISHU A suicide car bomb exploded at

Make this the year your phone saves you time. Instead of wasting it with social media and silly games, The National staff has put together its list of the most helpful apps. Have anything to add? Send us an email at [email protected]


Dubai Now

Dubai Now is invaluable for anyone who lives in Dubai. Every city in the world should have an app like this. It enables users to do pretty much everything that can be annoying with the minimum of fuss: including Salik and Nol top-ups, police fines, utility payments, charitable contributions and on-street parking.

Eleven topic headings cover everything important in life, such as public transport, education, security and justice, health, driving, business, residency, Islam and housing.

* Nic Ridley



Washmen is a really cool app for people, like me, too bone idle to do their own laundry.

A few simple taps will bring the friendly Washman driver to your home to collect your laundry (in one of their own bags). You also specify when you want your laundry returned. When it is, it is beautifully pressed and cleaned and packaged.

Washmen also encourage social-media participation – and you get rewarded for recommending their service to friends and family. I do.

* Nic Ridley


Smart Drive

There are three great things about the Smart Drive app by Dubai’s Road Transport Authority (RTA).

First, it is intuitive and easy to use, and there is much more detail than Google Maps. You search for your location, it maps a choice of routes, you pick the one you like and a voice – a woman with impeccable and un-annoying English – tells you exactly where to go (even which lane to be in). If you miss a turning, you are automatically rerouted.

Second, as long as you set your location while you have a Wi-Fi connection, you don’t need Wi-Fi to use it during the journey – it uses your phone’s GPS to guide you your end point.

Third, it is regularly updated so is better than a Sat Nav and, if you wish, it can also take you to “Facebook places nearby” or “Foursquare venues nearby”.

* Rosemary Behan



Whether you are the sender or the recipient, Fetchr is a speedy and convenient courier service for deliveries within the UAE. Drivers will pick up a document or package and deliver it, using your phone’s GPS to determine your location.

You can select the time-slot for the pickup and delivery, and track the journey of your package. It is a useful delivery tool for start-up brands and businesses – and for up-and-coming companies who sell goods through social media, Sellr by Fetchr allows for cash-on-delivery payment methods.

The company recently introduced Fetchr Now (currently only available in Dubai), which promises to send a driver to collect and immediately deliver a package within 45 minutes of booking the service.

* Hafsa Lodi


Muslim Pro

While in some neighbourhoods, there are mosques on every corner that broadcast the call to prayer loud and clear, some areas, especially within high-rise offices, are oblivious to the sound.

For those who try to pray five times a day, Muslim Pro is a useful app that lists the prayer times and sounds the prayer calls on your smartphone, wherever you are. It is especially useful as an alarm for the early sunrise prayer, which some people struggle to wake up for. If you would prefer a more discreet reminder, you can opt for a silent notification.

The app is also helpful while travelling, since in addition to the Quran, it features a compass to give you the prayer direction and timings no matter where you are in the world.

* Hafsa Lodi


Helpling ME

Sometimes things get away from you, and all of a sudden you realise you need a cleaner straight away. Helpling ME promises to “book a cleaner in Dubai in just 60 seconds”.

The service is offered for Dh35 per hour, with a three-hour minimum, and charges for extras such as ironing or cleaning out the stove or refrigerator. You can even pay for the staff extra to bring their own cleaning materials, and it is easy to order cleaners on a one-time or recurring basis, either weekly or every other week.

Although the app is as yet only available in Dubai, the company is preparing to launch service in Abu Dhabi soon, so stay tuned.

* Ann Marie McQueen



This two-for-one app just keeps getting better and better. My friends refuse to dine anywhere we can’t use our Entertainers, and the app always saves us by providing ideas – particularly through the monthly offers section – whenever that whole “we can’t decide where to eat” vibe descends on us.

I was very pleased to get the Body version by jumping at the earlybird offer for my 2017 update. Last year, I had much more regular massages with their two-for-one offers and saved more than Dh2400 on dining out.

Late in the year the company also launched a way to share deals you have not used with other people, too.

* Ann Marie McQueen



Zomato looks more sleek and polished than other meal-ordering apps, and uses GPS rather than asking for location every time. It has all the usual filtering options but where it really wins out is during and after the ordering process. It takes credit cards and offers instant confirmation that the restaurant has received the order and can deliver it.

Once accepted, you get a fairly accurate estimate of the delivery time, and real-time updates on the status of your order. Most of my orders have arrived at or before the stated delivery time, sometimes a lot sooner than predicted.

If there are any issues with processing or delivery, a Zomato operator is on standby to quickly intervene on your behalf and will call to let you know what is happening.

* Liam Cairney



FoodOnClick is another meal-ordering app that offers a vast selection of restaurants to order food deliveries from, which can be filtered through by cuisine type, average delivery time, or promotion.

Some restaurants on the app also have a “best selling” category which can be helpful when trying out a new place or whenever you are unsure of what to eat. The app also has the option to pay with cash or credit.

Once an order has been placed, an email will be sent confirming it was received from the restaurant. There’s also a nice section for fast reorders which allows customers to repeat a previous meal they enjoyed.

* Evelyn Lau


Ministry of the Interior

I’m not proud of getting speeding tickets but inevitably, despite my best efforts, it still happens. I keep my mind at ease by checking in here every couple of months or so (you can search by licence-plate number) just to make sure I have not accrued any and missed a text message.

The app safely stores credit card information and makes paying a breeze. It also offers updates on criminal status (eek), long and short-term visas and information about other services the ministry provides.

* Ann Marie McQueen



Waze is a must-have for anyone who drives in the UAE. The community-based traffic and navigation app offers real-time road and traffic information, and has been a lifesaver since I arrived in the UAE.

Aside from showing drivers where to go, the interactivity of this app allows other drivers to log incidents that may affect other people’s road journeys. Users can log congestion and alert other motorists to accidents that may hold them up.

All you have to do is launch it, punch in your destination – an address or landmark – and it will calculate the distance and the time it will take, offering a number of routes. If you need a petrol station or car park, you can search for those too.

It’s reliable and accurate and the maps are updated regularly.

* Melinda Healy


Cinema UAE

There are several cinema chains in the UAE and not all of their websites are as user-friendly as they could be. Besides, who wants to trawl through several sites to find where the latest blockbuster is showing at a time that suits?

Cinema UAE is a simple but effective little app that displays a list of all films showing that day in every emirate (except Umm Al Qaiwain), where and when. You can also see at what’s showing on the next two days to plan ahead, and follow links to trailers and additional info about the films.

For some cinema chains, you can click on a showtime and be taken straight to the cinema’s online-booking site. For the others, you will still need to go to the chain’s own website to book.

This free app will not win many awards for snazzy design, the inevitable ads are mildly annoying (though there is an ad-free version for about Dh7), and there are still a few minor niggles, but those aside, this is a great one-stop app for planning your cinema trips.

* Liam Cairney



This app allows you to report almost any public problem you might come across in Abu Dhabi, from potholes or lights that out in the park, to rubbish pile ups, broken benches, hedges along walkways that need trimming, ongoing night noise, and much more.

I have had them all fixed by using the app to submit a photo of the problem, mapping its location and providing a short explanation. Problems have been solved in anywhere from one day to two months. But I always get a response – even if that response is just to say that a particular problem is outside the responsibility of public management.

* Laura Koot



I use Trans AD’s Darb app on my Android to find bus information, from which lines are closest to my current location, to timings and routes. Simply click on the app and hit the side tab for the bus icon. There you will find all the bus markers within 1.5 kilometres of your location.

The bus timings are pretty accurate, depending on the popularity of the line, but what I really like about the app is that I can check the map while on the bus and see upcoming stops for potential transfers.

However, the app should allow users to click on various buses at stops to see their exact routes (this was previously a feature, but now no longer seems to work). The app also still has a few issues with some of its features, including marking out bicycle paths, parking and allowing users to order taxis.

* LeAnne Graves

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Make this the year your phone saves

Chinese companies invested a record $45.6bn in the US in 2016 despite a US presidential campaign heavy on China bashing, but Donald Trump’s imminent arrival in Washington is among factors making the feat unlikely to be matched this year, according to a new report.

The surge in Chinese foreign direct investment into the US documented by Rhodium Group, a research firm, led the annual flow of corporate acquisitions to triple over 2015 levels. It also took the stock of China’s long-term investment in physical assets over $100bn for the first time, with Chinese companies now employing more than 100,000 people in the US. 

The increase in Chinese investment highlights the changing nature of the economic relationship between the US and China. For decades, US-based multinational companies have been building factories and making other substantial investments in China. But little direct investment has flowed the other way, although Beijing has parked trillions of dollars of its foreign exchange reserves in US Treasuries. 

That pattern has led to an imbalance. In a November study backed by the National Committee on US-China Relations and the China General Chamber of Commerce, Rhodium said US companies had invested $228bn in China since 2000. In its latest report the group said cumulative Chinese investment in the US over the same period had reached $109bn, with almost half of that coming last year alone. 

The rapid increase in 2016 came despite rising political scrutiny of Chinese investment in Washington and a presidential campaign in which Mr Trump, the eventual winner, threatened a trade war with China and blamed Beijing for the loss of industrial jobs in key US states. 

But Rhodium’s analysts said the new uncertainty surrounding Mr Trump’s administration and particularly his appointment of China hawks to oversee trade policy meant Chinese companies were unlikely to repeat that level of investment in 2017. 

Chinese companies are waiting for regulatory approval for acquisitions worth $21bn and have committed more than $7bn to announced greenfield projects that have not yet started construction, according to Rhodium.

Slowing growth in China and an improving economy in the US would normally lead to yet more investment. However, “while the economic fundamentals and the deal pipeline suggest that 2017 will be another boom year for Chinese investment in the US, the political realities on both sides pose a major downside risk to both pending transactions and new deal flow in coming months,” Rhodium analysts wrote. 

Growing concerns about rising capital outflows have led authorities in Beijing to crack down on overseas investments by Chinese companies in recent months. 

But “Chinese investors also face greater uncertainty and political deal risk in the United States in the aftermath of the presidential election,” Rhodium said. Beyond the more “confrontational approach to trade and investment policy toward China” signalled by Mr Trump’s appointments so far, there are also questions over the administrative approval process for foreign investments under the new administration. 

Some members of Congress have been clamouring for changes to the way the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US scrutinises deals and are calling for a broadening of its now relatively narrow national security-focused mandate. 

China has long complained that its investments receive unfair scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, and how to deal with those issues has been part of the discussions surrounding a bilateral investment treaty that has been a focus during the Obama administration. 

In a rare move, President Barack Obama last month formally blocked the takeover of German technology group Aixtron by Chinese investors following a recommendation by Cfius, which examined Aixtron’s US assets. 

Companies have in the past chosen to cancel deals before the committee’s concerns reached the president. 

Philips, the Dutch technology group, last year abandoned a $3.3bn deal to sell its US-based Lumileds lighting division to a Chinese-backed private equity fund because of opposition from the committee. Unisplendour, a subsidiary of state-owned Tsinghua Holdings, also withdrew its $3.8bn bid for a stake in Western Digital, a US data storage company, after it became clear Cfius was planning to review the deal.

Via FT

Chinese companies invested a record $45.6bn in

In the last two months of the year, financial markets responded to the unanticipated election of Donald Trump in a textbook fashion — not only at the asset class level, with the major moves up in stocks and government yields, but also within asset classes as financials and the dollar surged.

In doing so, they were responding to prospects for higher growth, inflation and market inflows following the President-Elect’s policy announcements on deregulation, tax reform and infrastructure. Even more impressive, this occurred in a remarkably-orderly fashion, with little evidence of distress among investors, many of whom were not set up for the sharp re-pricing of financial assets.

Trumponomics will remain an important market influence in 2017, with investors particularly interested in two things: the transition from announcements to detailed design and sustained implementation; and outcomes, particularly when it comes to the mix between higher growth and inflation. But when it comes to the evolution of the trifecta that influences most the wellbeing of investors — that is, returns, correlations and volatility — four other macro influences will also be in play:

Monetary policy beyond data dependency: The anticipation of a more active fiscal policy under a Trump administration, together with relatively firm economic numbers, will encourage the Federal Reserve to evolve its policy stance beyond just responding to high frequency data releases. It will become more strategic and be inclined to tighten somewhat beyond what the markets are currently expecting.

Imperfect global policy rebalancing: Such Fed tightening is part of a gradual policy rebalancing after too many years of excessive reliance on central banks. This is a good thing as the benefits of unbalanced policies have been declining while costs and risks have been rising. But only the United States, with its stronger economy and the endogenous political disruption occasioned by Trump’s surprise election, is able and willing to undertake this policy transition. In the systemically-important economies of Asia and Europe, the People’s Bank of China, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank will remain the “only game in town” policy-wise.

Divergence and the risk of too strong a dollar appreciation: Greater disparity in policies and economic performance will widen interest rate differentials and place further appreciation pressure on the dollar. As more Asian and European financial capital migrates to the US in search of higher returns, the dollar will appreciate beyond what economic relationships can readily support, thereby fuelling anti-globalisation rhetoric and increasing the risk of protectionism.

Dealing with the anti-establishment surge: Non-traditional movements, while even more influential on both side of the Atlantic, will probably have different implications. In the US, with its stricter checks and balances among the three arms of government — executive, legislative and judicial — political disruptions will occur within broadly stable parameters as to how the economy operates. Not so in Europe where unpredictability extends to the most basic economic parameters, from the redesign of the UK’s trading relations to growing nationalist pressures in France, the Netherlands and (even) Germany that hinder the needed strengthening of the regional architecture and increase its vulnerability.

All this speaks to 2017’s heightened “unusual uncertainty” as both political and economic systems continue to respond to too many years of growth that has been too low and insufficiently inclusive. It is a situation that raises tricky questions for investors, not only about what to think but also how to do so. With that, conventional tools of analysis and prediction are be further challenged, especially when it comes to evolving portfolio positioning with longer-term trends.

In the weeks ahead, the expansion of the Trump Rally depends on how the new Administration governs relative to its electoral promises. Beyond that, it requires that other countries overcome the headwinds of political fluidity to join the US in rebalancing their fiscal-monetary policy mix while, importantly, also pursuing pro-growth structural reforms. In the meantime, investors would be well advised to book some profits while also rebalancing some of their remaining risk exposures in favour of sectors that have lagged behind (such as traditional tech), and also to emerging markets with strong balance sheets, limited currency mismatches and sound management.

The writer is chief economic adviser to Allianz and author of ‘The Only Game in Town’

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In the last two months of the

CES 2017 is the 50th anniversary of the annual consumer electronics trade show.

There have actually been well over 70 CESes since there used to be a summer version in the 1980s and 90s; this will be my 60th. And while interest in the show waned a bit in the 90s due to competition from Comdex, it’s been full steam ahead since Comdex bit the dust.

CES officials expect at least 170,000 at this year’s show, with 50,000 coming from abroad. Those in attendance can explore 1 million square feet of show floor and expect to walk at least 15-20 miles; make sure you pack comfortable shoes. As for what you might see as you give your Fitbit a run for its money, here are what I see as the five major themes for this year’s CES.

Smart Cars and Autonomous Vehicles

One of the more interesting exhibitors at CES is the automotive industry. It’s been represented at the show for decades, but mostly for add-on sound systems, in-car entertainment systems, and navigational products.

But CES has now become the place for auto companies to show off versions of their smart cars and prowess in self-driving cars. This year, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn is expected to show off an autonomous vehicle during a keynote.

We should also see a lot of products that can be added to a car to make them smarter, such as Navdy’s add-on that delivers a heads-up display for navigation and connects to smartphones to make existing cars more intelligent. Also look for innovative designs from Corning, which will demonstrate how “smart” glass will change the way we interact with our cars of the future.

Faraday Future is also expected to show off its electric car, a wannabe Tesla rival.

VR, AR, and Mixed Reality

At CES 2014, Oculus introduced its “Crystal Cove” VR headset prototype, and it became one of the bigger hits from the show. Since then, Facebook has acquired Oculus, which introduced a consumer version of the Rift this year. We’ve also seen the HTC Vive, Sony PlayStation VR, and Samsung Gear VR. However, VR so far has focused on games or vertical apps that bring VR to things like real estate listings, travel, and other visually driven business disciplines.

Standalone, powerful VR headsets not tethered to a PC are still in the works, so VR still has a few years before it reaches mainstream consumers. But virtual and augmented reality will be big at CES 2017, as will those that combine both experiences, or mixed reality.

8K on the Horizon

4K TVs, or those with HDR, were a hot topic at recent CES shows, and that should be the case again this year. 4K TVs are now more affordable and 4K content is slowly rolling out. The big question will be whether to buy a TV with an LCD, OLED, or Quantum dot display. Sony argues that LCD has a lot of life in it yet while LG wants to move everyone over to OLED. Samsung says Quantum dot is the future.

Cost will be a big factor in this decision. LCD resolution quality has improved, but these sets are also mass produced, so they’re less costly than OLED TVs, which require a more labor-intensive production process. Quantum dot TVs are also pricier than LCD, but all three are highly competitive and the value of each is in the eye of the beholder.

CES will also have at least a couple TV vendors showing off 8K TVs. The goal is to start moving people to 8K by the 2020 Olympics, which will hopefully be shot in 8K, with a more complete rollout by 2021-2022.

IoT Will Be Everywhere

The Internet of Things (IoT) will be represented in just about every product in one form or another. Connected devices and IoT-related products will be in everything from new wearables and health-related products to appliances and vehicles. One could almost call CES the IoT show given that just about every product shown will have some form of connectivity. CES recognizes this and has pavilions dedicated to connected health, fitness, communications, and automobiles.

Personal Robots, Transportation Devices, and Drones

Given the amount of invites I have received about personal robots, I suspect this will be an interesting new category at CES.

Some of these robots are task-oriented, such as robot vacuums and coffee makers, but some are actually small robots that follow you around and become some type of personal assistant. Also hot will be personal transportation devices like hoverboards and different variations on the idea of giving people new forms of personal transportation options. And we should see dozens of new drones that target both business and consumers.

While I enjoy walking the full show, the most interesting area of the show for me is something called Eureka Park, home to many startups and booths sponsored by specific countries such as France, China, Spain, Italy, and others. Every year, I find some gem from one of these vendors; it’s one of the richest areas of CES to mine for new products and product ideas.

For many, the show has just become too big and crowded and they choose to not attend. I respect that decision, but I still see CES as very valuable to check out new products, see old friends and meet new ones, meet with clients and of course, network. Thankfully my health is holding up and walking 15-20 miles during the show is actually good for me.

I expect CES to also have a surprise product or two, so stay tuned.

(via PCMag)

CES 2017 is the 50th anniversary of

Submitted by Federico Pieraccini via Strategic-Culture.org,

The two previous articles have focused on the various geopolitical theories, their translations into modern concepts, and practical actions that the United States has taken in recent decades to aspire to global dominance. This segment will describe how Iran, China and Russia have over the years adopted a variety of economic and military actions to repel the continual assault on their sovereignty by the West; in particular, how the American drive for global hegemony has actually accelerated the end of the ‘unipolar moment’ thanks to the emergence of a multipolar world.

From the moment the Berlin Wall fell, the United States saw a unique opportunity to pursue the goal of being the sole global hegemon. With the end of the Soviet Union, Washington could undoubtedly aspire to planetary domination paying little heed to the threat of competition and especially of any consequences. America found herself the one and only global superpower, faced with the prospect of extending cultural and economic model around the planet, where necessary by military means.

Over the past 25 years there have been numerous examples demonstrating how Washington has had little hesitation in bombing nations reluctant to kowtow to Western wishes. In other examples, an economic battering ram, based on predatory capitalism and financial speculation, has literally destroyed sovereign nations, further enriching the US and European financial elite in the process.

Alliances to Resist

In the course of the last two decades, the relationship between the three major powers of the Heartland, the heart of the Earth, changed radically.

Iran, Russia and China have fully understood that union and cooperation are the only means for mutual reinforcement. The need to fight a common problem, represented by a growing American influence in domestic affairs, has forced Tehran, Beijing and Moscow to resolve their differences and embrace a unified strategy in the common interest of defending their sovereignty.

Events such as the war in Syria, the bombing of Libya, the overthrowing of the democratic order in Ukraine, sanctions against Iran, and the direct pressure applied to Beijing in the South China Sea, have accelerated integration among nations that in the early 1990s had very little in common.

Economic Integration

Analyzing US economic power it is clear that supranational organizations like the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund and the World Bank guarantee Washington’s role as the economic leader. The pillars that support the centrality of the United States in the world economy can be attributed to the monetary policy of the Fed and the function of the dollar as a global reserve currency.

The Fed has unlimited ability to print money to finance further economic power of the private and public sector as well as to pay the bill due for very costly wars. The US dollar plays a central role as the global reserve currency as well as being used as currency for trade. This virtually obliges each central bank to own reserves in US currency, continuing to perpetuate the importance of Washington in the global economic system.

The introduction of the yuan into the international basket of the IMF, global agreements for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and Beijing’s protests against its treatment by the World Trade Organization (WTO) are all alarm bells for American strategists who see the role of the American currency eroding. In Russia, the central bank decided not to accumulate dollar reserves, favoring instead foreign currency like the Indian rupee and the Chinese yuan. The rating agencies – western financial-oligarchy tools -have diminishing credibility, having become means to manipulate markets to favor specific US interests. Chinese and Russian independent rating agencies are further confirmation of Beijing and Moscow’s strategy to undermine America’s role in western economics.

De-dollarization is occurring and proceeding rapidly, especially in areas of mutual business interest. In what is becoming increasingly routine, nations are dealing in commodities by negotiating in currencies other than the dollar. The benefit is twofold: a reduction in the role of the dollar in their sovereign affairs, and an increase in synergies between allied nations. Iran and India exchanged oil in rupees, and China and Russia trade in yuan.

Another advantage enjoyed by the United States, intrinsically linked to the banking private sector, is the political pressure that Americans can apply through financial and banking institutions. The most striking example is seen in the exclusion of Iran from the SWIFT international system of payments, as well as the extension of sanctions, including the freezing of Tehran’s assets (about 150 billion US dollars) in foreign bank deposits. While the US is trying to crack down on independent economic initiatives, nations like Iran, Russia and China are increasing their synergies. During the period of sanctions against Iran, the Russian Federation has traded with the Islamic Republic in primary commodities. China has supported Iran with the export of oil purchased in yuan. More generally, Moscow has proposed the creation of an alternative banking system to the SWIFT system.

Private Banks, central banks, ratings agencies and supranational organizations depend in large part on the role played by the dollar and the Fed. The first goal of Iran, Russia and China is of course to make these international bodies less influential. Economic multipolarity is the first as well as the most incisive way to expand the free choice before each nation to pursue its own interests, thereby retaining its national sovereignty.

This fictitious and corrupt financial system led to the financial crisis of 2008. Tools to accumulate wealth by the elite, artificially maintaining a zombie system (turbo capitalism) have served to cause havoc in the private and public sectors, such as with the collapse of Lehman Brothers or the crisis in the Asian markets in the late 1990s.

The need for Russia, China and Iran to find an alternative economic system is also necessary to secure vital aspects of the domestic economy. The stock-market crash in China, the depreciation of the ruble in Russia, and the illegal sanctions imposed on Iran have played a profound role in concentrating the minds of Moscow, Tehran and Beijing. Ignoring the problem borne of the centrality of the dollar would have only increased the influence and role of Washington. Finding points of convergence instead of being divided was an absolute must and not an option.

A perfect example, explaining the failed American economic approach, can be seen in recent years with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), two commercial agreements that were supposed to seal the economic trade supremacy of the US. The growing economic alternatives proposed by the union of intent between Russia, China and Iran has enabled smaller nations to reject the US proposals to seek better trade deals elsewhere. In this sense, the Free Trade Area of ??the Asia Pacific (FTAAP) proposed by Beijing is increasingly appreciated in Asia as an alternative to the TPP.

In the same way, the Eurasian Union (EAEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) have always been key components for Moscow. The function these institutions play was noticeably accelerated following the coup in Ukraine and the resulting need for Russia to turn east in search of new business partners. Finally, Iran, chosen by Beijing as the crossroad of land and sea transit, is a prime example of integration between powers geographically distant but with great intentions to integrate vital structures of commerce.

The Chinese model of development, called Silk Road 2.0, poses a serious threat to American global hegemonic processes. The goal for Beijing is to reach full integration between the countries of the Heartland and Rimland, utilizing the concept of sea power and land power. With an investment of 1,000 billion US dollars over ten years, China itself becomes a link between the west, represented by Europe; the east, represented by China itself; the north, with the Eurasian economic space; the south, with India; Southeast Asia; the Persian Gulf and Middle East. The hope is that economic cooperation will lead to the resolution of discrepancies and strategic differences between countries thanks to trade agreements that are beneficiary to all sides.

The role of Washington continues to be that of destruction rather than construction. Instead of playing the role of a global superpower that is interested in business and trade with other nations, the United States continues to consider any foreign decision in matters of integration, finance, economy and development to lie within its exclusive domain. The primary purpose of the United States is simply to exploit every economic and cultural instrument available to prevent cohesion and coexistence between nations. The military component is usually the trump card, historically used to impose this vision on the rest of the world. In recent years, thanks to de-dollarization and military integration, nations like Iran, Russia and China are less subject to Washington’s unilateral decisions.

Military deterrence

Accompanying the important economic integration is strong military-strategic cooperation, which is much less publicized. Events such as the Middle East wars, the coup in Ukraine, and the pressure exerted in the South China Sea have forced Tehran, Moscow and Beijing to conclude that the United States represents an existential threat.

In each of the above scenarios, China, Russia and Iran have had to make decisions by weighing the pros and cons of an opposition to the American model. The Ukraine coup d’état brought NATO to the borders of the Russian Federation, representing an existential threat to the Russia, threatening as it does its nuclear deterrent. In the Middle East, the destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria has obliged Tehran to react against the alliance formed between Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States. In China, the constant pressure on South China Sea poses a serious problem in case of a trade blockade during a conflict. In all these scenarios, American imperialism has created existential threats. It is for this reason natural that cooperation and technological development, even in the military area, have received a major boost in recent years.

In the event of an American attack on Russia, China and Iran, it is important to focus on what weapon systems would be used and how the attacked nations could respond.

Maritime Strategy and Deterrence

Certainly, US naval force place a serious question mark over the defense capabilities of nations like Russia, China and Iran, which strongly depend on transit via sea routes. Let us take, for example, Russia and the Arctic transit route, of great interest not only for defense purposes but also being a quick passage for transit goods. The Black Sea for these reasons has received special attention from the United States due to its strategic location. In any case, the responses have been proportional to the threat.

Iran has significantly developed maritime capabilities in the Persian Gulf, often closely marking ships of the US Navy located in the area for the purposes of ??deterrence. China’s strategy has been even more refined, with the use of dozens, if not hundreds, of fishing boats and ships of the Coast Guard to ensure safety and strengthen the naval presence in the South and East China Sea. This is all without forgetting the maritime strategy outlined by the PLA Navy to become a regional naval power over the next few years. Similar strategic decisions have been taken by the navy of the Russian Federation. In addition to having taken over ship production as in Soviet times, it has opted for the development of ships that cost less but nevertheless boast equivalent weapons systems to the Americans carrier groups.

Iran, China and Russia make efficiency and cost containment a tactic to balance the growing aggressiveness of the Americans and the attendant cost of such a military strategy.

The fundamental difference between the naval approach of these countries in contrast to that of the US is paramount. Washington needs to use its naval power for offensive purposes, whereas Tehran, Moscow and Beijing need naval power exclusively for defensive purposes.

In this sense, among the greatest weapons these three recalcitrant countries possess are anti-ship, anti-aircraft and anti-ballistic systems. To put things simply, it is enough to note that Russian weapons systems such as the S-300 and S-400 air-defense systems (the S-500 will be operational in 2017) are now being adopted by China and Iran with variations developed locally. Increasingly we are witnessing an open transfer of technology to continue the work of denying (A2/AD) physical and cyberspace freedom to the United States. Stealth aircraft, carrier strike groups, ICBMs and cruise missiles are experiencing a difficult time in such an environment, finding themselves opposed by the formidable defense systems the Russians, Iranians and Chinese are presenting. The cost of an anti-ship missile fired from the Chinese coast is considerably lower than the tens of billions of dollars needed to build an aircraft carrier. This paradigm of cost and efficiency is what has shaped the military spending of China, Russia and Iran. Going toe to toe with the United States without being forced to close a huge military gap is the only viable way to achieve immediate tangible benefits of deterrence and thereby block American expansionist ambitions.

A clear example of where the Americans have encountered military opposition at an advanced level has been in Syria. The systems deployed by Iran and Russia to protect the Syrian government presented the Americans with the prospect of facing heavy losses in the event of an attack on Damascus. The same also holds for the anti-Iranian rhetoric of certain American politicians and Israeli leaders. The only reason why Syria and Iran remain sovereign nations is because of the military cost that an invasion or bombing would have brought to their invaders. This is the essence of deterrence. Of course, this argument only takes into partial account the nuclear aspect that this author has extensively discussed in a previous article.

The Union of the nations of the Heartland and Rimland will make the United States irrelevant

The future for the most important area of ??the planet is already sealed. The overall integration of Beijing, Moscow and Tehran provides the necessary antibodies to foreign aggression in military and economic form. De-dollarization, coupled with an infrastructure roadmap such as the Chinese Silk Road 2.0 and the maritime trade route, offer important opportunities for developing nations that occupy the geographical space between Portugal and China. Dozens of nations have all it takes to integrate for mutually beneficial gains without having to worry too much about American threats. The economic alternative offered from Beijing provides a fairly wide safety net for resisting American assaults in the same way that the military umbrella offered by these three military powers, such as with the the SCO for example, serves to guarantee the necessary independence and strategic autonomy. More and more nations are clearly rejecting American interference, favoring instead a dialogue with Beijing, Moscow and Tehran. Duterte in the Philippines is just the latest example of this trend.

The multipolar future has gradually reduced the role of the United States in the world, primarily in reaction to her aggression seeking to achieve global domination. The constant quest for planetary hegemony has pushed nations who were initially western partners to reassess their role in the international order, passing slowly but progressively into the opposite camp to that of Washington.

The consequences of this process have sealed the destiny of the United States, not only as a response to her quest for supremacy but also because of her efforts to maintain her role as the sole global superpower. As noted in previous articles, during the Cold War the aim for Washington was to prevent the formation of a union between the nations of the Heartland, who could then exclude the US from the most important area of ??the globe. With the fall of the Iron Curtain, sights were set on an improbable quest to conquer the Heartland nations with the intent of dominating the whole world. The consequences of this miscalculation have led the United States to being relegated to the role of mere observer, watching the unions and integrations occurring that will revolutionize the Eurasian zone and the planet over the next 50 years. The desperate search to extend Washington’s unipolar moment has paradoxically accelerated the rise of a multipolar world.

In the next and final article, I will throw a light on what is likely to be a change in the American approach to foreign policy. Keeping in mind the first two articles that examined the approach by land theorized by MacKinder as opposed to the Maritime Mahan, we will try and outline how Trump intends to adopt a containment approach to the Rimland, limiting the damage to the US caused by a complete integration between nations such as Russia, China, Iran and India.

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Submitted by Federico Pieraccini via Strategic-Culture.org, The two

BAGHDAD At least 10 people were killed and 35 wounded by a car bomb in a busy square in Baghdad’s sprawling Sadr City district on Monday, police and medical sources said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack but Islamic State regularly targets civilian areas in the heavily fortified capital, even after losing most of the northern and western territory it seized in 2014.

Three bombs killed 29 people across the capital on Saturday, and an attack near the southern city of Najaf on Sunday left seven policemen dead.

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are currently fighting to push Islamic State from the northern city of Mosul, the militants’ last major stronghold in the country, but are facing fierce resistance.

The recapture of Mosul would probably spell the end for Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate, but the militants would still be capable of fighting a guerrilla-style insurgency in Iraq, and plotting or inspiring attacks on the West.

Since the offensive began on Oct. 17, elite forces have retaken a quarter of the city in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said the group would be driven out of the country by April.

(Reporting by Kareem Raheem in Baghdad and Ghazwan Hassan in Tikrit; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


BAGHDAD At least 10 people were killed

Sunday, June 8 – The Islamic Finance Gateway (IFG) Briefing, published from Sunday to Thursday, carries the latest market-moving news and data for institutions offering Islamic financial services. To view the full IFG Briefing click here: bit.ly/1qb3njw

Top Stories:

Islamic Economy: Islamic credit cards and startup financing focus for EFICA 2014 (Page 3)



? Call for more private sector involvement in Turkey’s Islamic finance sector (Page 7)

Sukuk Analysis:

? Dream issue fizzles for Khazanah (Page 9)

? Bangladesh seeks sukuk rule amendments, sovereign issuance (Page 10)

Sukuk Pipeline:

? UPDATE 1-Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ sets up $500 mln sukuk programme in Malaysia (Page 10)

? UPDATE 1-Dubai Emaar’s malls unit eyes potential debut sukuk issue (Page 10)

Banking News:

? Dubai Islamic Bank buys 25 pct of Indonesia’s Bank Panin -report (Page 12)

? Oman’s Bank Dhofar proposes share swap ratio for Bank Sohar merger (Page 12)

? London-based EIIB proposes tender offer, share buyback (Page 12)

Funds News: PineBridge Investments raises $140 mln for GCC real estate fund (Page 12)




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? IFAAS -Turkey- Istanbul – Executive Training Programme; Fundamentals of Islamic Banking & Finance

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