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Kuwait’s feathered friends


Real face Man United, Barca play Milan




Miss USA Olivia Culpo crowned Miss Universe

Max 24º Min 15º

NO: 15664- Friday, December 21, 2012

APOCALYPSE NOW? See Pages 7 & 15

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Conspiracy Theories

Local Spotlight

Obesity in Kuwait By Muna Al-Fuzai


t takes no scientist or doctor to agree that obesity is very noticeable in Kuwait. Now, it could be a matter of concern to doctors who see that the high rate of obesity in Kuwait will lead to many complications because of the accompanying diseases, bearing in mind that statistics indicate that approximately 80 percent of Kuwaitis have serious weight problems. I do believe that the lifestyle in Kuwait could be the main reason for the increase in weight, and the weather, of course, plays a role in all this, as much as tension does. I know all of these factors could seem to be excuses and justifications, but that is the truth. Kuwait is like a work camp and we should not assume that every Kuwaiti or expat is able to afford to join health clubs to exercise, as these are very expensive in Kuwait, and while they claim they are providing five star service, I doubt this is the truth and think these claims are only caused by greed. So not everyone is able to join a sport club. What about the cheapest sport ever, like walking on the beach? The weather, except in the lovely rare months, like the ones we have these days, is very hot and, also, all beaches are not open to the public. Plus, the beaches are becoming crowded with restaurants. Once I wanted to see if I could walk along the entire beach, and I found out that when you reach the Marina

Hotel, you have to walk in the other direction because the beach is blocked by yachts and you must cross over to continue your walk. So the space for walking on the beach is very limited, and that is the bottom line. Also, the tension and the work hours in Kuwait could be deadly here. In fact, for those who start work in the early morning, around 7 am, and finish at nearly 5 pm, unless they have another evening arrangement or commitments, then that is the end of the day and the next thing anyone would want to do is to have a nice meal while watching TV, while the last thing they wish to do is to be stuck in traffic just to reach the beach, and maybe they might find the road is closed by the police due to a demonstration. Let’s be real here ! I do have sympathy with all those who think it is hard to lose or keep weight off in Kuwait. Yet, it is easy to gain weight, as most of the food is oily and delicious. Beside, most people eat late at night, both Kuwaitis and expatriates, although some expats are not accustomed to doing so, though they do it when they are here. The Dasman Diabetes Institute puts a hopeful face on this issue. They are taking the mission of educating and spreading awareness to people on this issue, and many other concerns, too. Anyone can check their website to have a look at the services they provide. The issue is undergoing discussions and obesity is growing, so we need all efforts to be made by this institute and ourselves. The final tip, unless you really need to eat at night and unless your life depends on it, then maybe avoiding heavy meals would be a positive step.

Kuwait’s my business

‘When will life get better for me?’ By John P Hayes


eaders are goal setters. But according to many studies, only 3 percent of people set goals, and that explains why it’s so difficult to find leaders in every country of the world. Without a system for setting and achieving goals, most people will wander aimlessly through life and at some point might even ask, “When will life get better for me?” Without personal leadership, chances are it won’t. Goal setters, however, are happier than the average person, and they earn considerably more money. Nowadays in Kuwait, the newspapers are filled with articles about how to improve the country. And whether you favor the Government or the Opposition, it doesn’t matter until one side develops more leaders. That’s when change occurs. Change, good or bad, requires leaders. Only goal setters become leaders. Value of Goal Setters Isn’t it odd that students everywhere in the world - even the United States - can graduate from high school, even college, and never learn how to set goals? Note to the Minister of Education: It will benefit Kuwait to require every high school graduate to know how to set and accomplish goals. I’m not the only one who says so. One of Kuwait’s most successful business leaders, Adel Al-Shamali, general manager of IKEA, says that Kuwait needs more people who understand the practical, not the theoretical, side of life. “Teach more of this,” he said. “Teach our students how to set goals.” One of the reasons for IKEA’s success - including quadrupling its sales in the last 10 years - is its leader’s commitment to goal setting. Continuous improvement is a mantra at IKEA, and a big part of Al-Shamali’s job is to empower his employees to improve. Empowered employees attract and

keep customers. Consequently, IKEA invests in its employees by providing training and development programs, and by teaching goal setting. That helps explain why IKEA leads the retail community in Kuwait. Two years running, IKEA has won Service Hero’s top award for retailers. How to set goals “We don’t think short and quick,” explained Al-Shamali. “We are setting goals for 20 years from now.” Day-to-day, IKEA follows a 16-week plan, and the entire year’s plan is usually set in February. “We spend a lot of time preparing to set goals, both qualitative and quantitative,” he explained. “We don’t list 100 things to do, we list five to seven that are doable, then we look at the budget for accomplishing those ideas, and the revenue the ideas could generate, and that’s a goal.” The goal also includes a deadline with specific steps that employees must complete to accomplish the goal. Finding employees who know how to set goals is nearly impossible. “New employees are lost,” explained the leader. “Even if they set goals in their previous job, they have to learn the IKEA way. Our people, including our senior managers, are very hands-on.” Fortunately, hands-on attracts today’s younger generation because “they are dynamic, and they love gadgets,” said Al-Shamali. Consequently, younger employees love the management style at IKEA, and as they learn to set and accomplish goals, they will personally benefit for a lifetime. Kuwait will benefit, too, as the country cultivates more leaders. NOTE: Dr John P Hayes is a professor in the College of Business at GUST and the Head of the Business Administration Department. He teaches the Kuwait Leadership Mastery program at GUST. Contact him at, or via Twitter @drjohnhayes.

Could you change destiny? By Badrya Darwish


estiny is a field you cannot fiddle with no matter how hard you try. Do not give me the crap about you built yourself and how much of education you have, how hard you worked and who you mingled with. These are all excellent. My inspiration for this piece is something I recently read about a few winners of big lotteries whose destiny changed overnight. For instance, Michael Carroll, a garbage collector, won the British lottery in 2002. His luck was shortlived though. The man went loco and spent it all for eight years. Imagine what he spent the money on? You would think he bought a palace or a big house in a luxurious area in London. No, he decided to spend it on crack, hookers, throwing parties and renting posh cars instead of investing the money. He left his family. Now he is back on the trash trail. What do you call this? Is this destiny? There are many other stories about men and women lottery winners who were destined to their original jobs or lack thereof. Other winners went back sitting on the bench in Hyde Park or living in trailer parks. While I was writing on the topic of destiny, our Bulgarian editor narrated a story which added to my destiny collection thoughts. This is a story her father told her maybe because he wanted her not to change destiny. The story goes like this: “One poor man had a big family and a hard life. He was a hard worker but was never lucky to get more for his family than bread on the table. A rich guy decided to help the man out and left a big bag of money on the bridge which the poor man used to walk on his way back from work for 20 years at exactly the same time. What happened on that day? The poor guy told himself: “Every day for the past 20 years I pass over the bridge. This time for a change I will cross the bridge under.” Isn’t that a stroke of destiny? This makes me think. Is the Arab world destined to have this long Arab Spring? How long are we destined for this Arab Spring? Let’s stay under the bridge! Follow me on Twitter @badrya_D

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

e f a s t ’ h t i e a r w e u d fri K e New book documents vast Kuwait bird population


Common Black-headed Gull

By Nawara Fattahova


bserving and photographing birds in Kuwait has quickly become a popular hobby. Kuwait is considered one of the world’s main bird migration routes, so it’s a perfect place to practice photographing birds. One such bird observer is Mike Pope from South Africa, who also takes pictures as a hobby and is co-editor of the book ‘Birds of Kuwait’, in cooperation with Stamatis Zogaris, Biodiversity East and others. This book is a comprehensive visual guide, which includes photos of all birds found in Kuwait, and was not published for commercial purposes. The book was sponsored by the Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration Co (KUFPEC). Birds of Kuwait was officially launched with 1,500 copies in September this year, following years of collecting photos. “I started collecting photos in 2006, when I first came to Kuwait. I always had the idea of publishing such a book, and the dream became a reality through the joint efforts of all the photographers who shared their photos, as well as Biodiversity East, which is an environmental non-governmental organization linking a network of naturalists, KUFPEC and others. The book is not available for sale, though copies were distributed to different institutions,” Pope said. Some 95 percent of the photos used in the book are from Kuwait, while the remainder are from the United Arab Emirates and other countries. “Our team collected over 5,000 pictures and I had to choose 1,300 of them to be used in the book. It took me time to select the photos, to have different varieties of birds. Forty-three photographers from 10 countries have their photos in this book. Some of them were visiting Kuwait,” he added.

Common Quail Kuwait is a busy migration station, where birds stop for a few days, and then continue on. “Birds go north in the spring and south in autumn. There are 391 different birds in

Kuwait that were included in the book. Some were photographed in natural reserves, while others in different locations, such as the coast and other places. Three new birds were found

after we published the book, so, unfortunately, we didn’t add them. In fact, there are about five new birds found every year in Kuwait. The number of new birds is increasing due to the great interest of people in observing and photographing the birds. It is a growing hobby,” he pointed out. Pope also made note of those who hunt birds. “This phenomenon is not unique to Kuwait, it’s all over the world. But here it’s worse, as there is no legislation on this type of hunting. So we can’t stop these people, we can only talk to them and advise them. Even in the UAE, the protection of birds is better than here, and birds create eco-tourism, if the nation’s birds are protected. I think the situation can be changed with legislation,” he added. Pope also focused on the selling of birds at the Friday market. “I visited the animal market at the Friday market, and I saw birds there. Only some of them are legal to sell, while many are illegally caught and then sold at the market. I think that the institution in charge has closed the animal market a few times and confiscated the birds, though after two weeks the sellers come back again, as such checking doesn’t happen often. This is about education and enforcing regulations,” he said. “Most people don’t know there are all these types of birds in Kuwait. In this book, we tried to show these birds coming to Kuwait, as people don’t believe all these are actually here. Observing birds is a popular hobby around the world and, once you start you can’t stop, and want to see more and will travel more. It’s addictive. People simply don’t notice the birds, thus if they focus more they will see them. In a safari, for instance, people look for big animals, and if they look for birds, they will see them,” he stated.

Eurasian Grifflon Vulture

Eastern Greylag Goose

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

European Honey Buzzard


Eurasian Wigeon There is a proposal to publish an electronic version of this book in the future. “We aim to reach the young generations, who prefer to read on their smart phones and other gadgets, so we are planning to launch an e-book and iPhone application. This would be our next logical step. Our book is the first comprehensive work of its kind in the Middle East, and I consider it a fantastic achievement,” Pope noted. Kuwait is a fascinating crossroads for birds that migrate through Asia, Europe and Africa. Yet until recently, very little was known about its bird life. Some visitors have painted a bleak and uninspiring picture about the state’s natural environment, particularly after the 1990-91 war. This book is proof of both nature’s revival after a destructive war and this country’s outstanding wildlife riches. Moreover, it demonstrates the power of volunteer naturalists to systematically record, document and help promote bird life. The photography in this book was produced by amateur nature enthusiasts and naturalists - primarily by resident and visiting birders who know Kuwait’s nature and the wider region’s birds very well. Birders learn the language of nature - learn to identify birds by name, and learn which places are important for birds and biodiversity. Since birds are excellent indicators of the general health of landscapes, if we preserve their populations we will also be helping the environment as a whole. This book combines an initiative taken by an industrial corporation that is supported by the volunteer efforts of many citizens and environmental

organizations, Biodiversity East and the Kuwait Ornithological Rarities Committee. In a fast changing world, it is up to those of us who respect and enjoy wildlife to take an active role in its study and protection. It is our hope that through this book more people will become deeply interested in birds and biodiversity in Kuwait.

Pallid Scops Owl

Indian Pond Heron

Western Barn Owl Little Bittern

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012


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SEND US YOUR INSTAGRAM PICS hat’s more fun than clicking a beautiful picture? Sharing it with others! Let other people see the way you see Kuwait - through your lens. Friday Times will feature snapshots of Kuwait through Instagram feeds. If you want to share your Instagram photos, email us at

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@ Safinazs

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

21/12/2012: Has our time finally come? Clerics pooh-pooh doomsday predictions By Ben Garcia


oomsayers have declared that the world is going to end today, Dec 21, 2012. Psy, the famous pop singer from Korea, is said to have completed what has been termed ‘a doomsday prophecy.’ Several videos have emerged and are being circulated on the Internet through social networking media, displaying Psy’s famous song ‘Gangnam Style’ and portraying it as the ultimate fulfillment of a prophecy that people have associated with Nostradamus. And why should we believe Nostradamus? A notorious psychic who lived centuries ago, Nostradamus reportedly predicted in his writings how Princes Diana would die, World Wars I and II, the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, various natural disasters, social and political changes around the world, the World Trade Center attacks, and last but not least, the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance, which has captured the interest of many. Doomsayers believe the Gangnam Style dance may be a clear sign of the end of the world. In a video circulated across social media, doomsayers quoted Nostradamus’ prophecy: “From the calm morning, the end will come. When of the dancing horse, the number of circles will be 9.” Doomsayers have pointed out that Psy’s Gangnam Style features him dancing like a horse. His video is already the most-watched video on YouTube, and if it reaches 1,000,000,000 (1 billion) views, the number could be seen as representing nine circles. It has been suggested that on Dec 21, 2012, the video will reach 1 billion views. As of writing this, the view count has reached more than 990,000,000 views. Will it reach 1 billion today? Muslims believe that the world will not end so soon. “The signs are not yet complete. The Holy Quran has mentioned major catastrophic events [that have yet] to happen on Earth,” said Hamad Yousuf, a Muslim preacher from the Islam Presentation Committee. “Number one: An earthquake will devastate the world. The Quran has mentioned three major earthquakes that will define the destiny of mankind; the devastation will be dreadful, and no words can describe the destruction. The three major earthquakes will happen in just 40 days. The earthquakes will destroy Makkah and Madinah. Such catastrophic events will happen only if the world is already submerged in sin - men will dress like women, wickedness will be everywhere, and wild beasts will appear and multiply. The Holy Quran has also mentioned the sun rising from the west instead of the east. These signs are mentioned in Surra AlQiyama, Chapter 75, or the last days - resurrection and tribulations. If you see the signs mentioned in the Holy Quran, the world will be in its final hours. Yet all these signs are still missing right now.” Kuwaiti Astronomer Adel Al-Saadoun said doomsayers are people who benefit from making controversial predictions. “It’s about money. They are saying these odd things to make money. There are films that have generated money because of the fuss they have created about Doomsday. Remember the latest film about Doomsday, ‘2012’? It generated lots of money because the producers cheated people by saying the end of the world is near. It can create interest,

and some believed in it. So it’s about money and nothing else,” he stated. Saadoun remarked that the Samarians claim the world is going to end because of a planet hitting the Earth. “Previously, without a telescope, they saw 11 planets instead of 10, including the moon, but it turned out to only be nine. So they said the missing one would come and hit the Earth. This is part of their mythology. It is fake. The Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012 because it was the only calendar they made. This does not suggest that the world will end on December 21. So who is creating the mysteries

to destroy the world. The point here is whether we are ready and prepared to meet our Creator,” he said. Bantugan pointed out that the extra ‘biblical prophecy’ is not from the Bible, and he does not believe in it. “If Mayans say the end of the world is on December 21, 2012, I will leave it to them. Many times, people have said the world is going to end. We’ll leave it to them. But as Christians, we have only one source of information when we are talking about the end of the world, and it’s the Bible. The Bible says our world is going to end, but no one knows [when]. God said in the Holy

around us, including human beings - but the life preserver (Lord Vishnu) we call ‘hope’ will save the world, and life will be reborn again. It’s a neverending cycle. There will be life, then death (destruction) and rebirth. It will be endless,” she said. “Our Earth will see more turbulence - lots and lots of it - but according to Hindu mythology, creation will begin again if the Earth is destroyed. Lord Vishnu (the preserver) assumes an ‘avatar’ from the life around us. When we are eradicated through natural calamities, disasters, and the like, Lord Vishnu comes to save us. We believe that

and havoc? It’s the corporations that are of course are benefiting from the fuss. Mind you, there are people benefiting from it,” he said. A pastor from a Christian church refuted the claim. “The world is going to end, no doubt about it. But regarding the specific date and time, no one in this world knows,” Reverend Gil Bantugan, an evangelical pastor in Kuwait told Kuwait Times.”In [Matt 24:36], even the angels in heaven and the Son (Jesus) do not know. There are signs, and Jesus mentioned the signs 2000 years ago. They talked about the end of the world 2,000 years ago, and everyone knows that the world we are living in is going to end one day and will be destroyed. God says so in the Holy Book, which offers wonderful illustrations on how God is going

Book that He will not destroy the world through floods - not anymore. We believe that. The Bible mentioned fire, but what kind of fire it will be, we don’t know.” Speaking from the Hindu perspective, Rajeshwri Subbaraman, a lecturer at the Arab Open University, said there are some who believe in Doomsday. “I have a student who assures me that December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world. So why take an exam? But I told him, no, the world will not end on December 21,” she stressed. According to Subbaraman, Hindus believe that everything around us, including the lifecycle of the Earth, happens in an endless cycle. “Yes, there will be destruction - maybe total destruction and the eradication of everything

Lord Vishnu will come back, riding on a white horse, and will appear as ‘kalki’ (the avenger). The present is destined to be destroyed. Calamities and natural disasters are happening because of our evil deeds, because of corruption, but life will be formed again, and a new world will be born probably a new one that is much better,” she remarked. Some people are cautious though. “I am sad that I cannot be with my boyfriend in India. What if it’s really true?” asked one observer. Another has decided she will not report to work on Dec 21. “I’ll stay at home and eat a lot of chocolate. I want to watch the news. I hope at the time we will still be able to watch television, and there will be electricity,” she hoped.

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

New port for cargo on track

Salmon, 44, strums a guitar in his bedroom studio in Mangaf. His album of 12 songs is made at no fils, pooling resources from his friends and using his talents as a composer, singer and a sound engineer.

By Sunil Cherian


almon KB is no extraordinary man. But over the years, he has evolved to be a many-in-one man. From a high school boy who knew almost nothing about music, he has grown to become a ‘studio engineer’, composer and can play the piano, guitar, violin and drums. His home studio, composed of an old mixer, a computer with Rolland’s Cakewalk recording software, microphones and speakers, sing of a harmony of various factors, from his music students to his church friends who take care of the marketing side of music. But high among the factors is his wife who sacrifices her sleep and space because Salmon, who has a record of having unpredictable timings of inspirations to compose music, has set up the digital audio workstation in their bedroom.

“I never chased music, music chased me,” Salmon said seated on an only chair with a guitar in his hand in his bedroom studio, to me, comfortably placed on the bed, while Mrs Salmon stood by the door. Our common friend Santhosh Kuriyannoor walked up and down between the cupboard and the bed. Clothes hung above us. Salmon sang a song from his forthcoming album titled ‘A Light Ignited’, a collection of Christian

devotional songs due to be ‘released’ this Christmas. The songs were penned by his neighbor friend years ago, not intended for an album but as a youth fancy. Salmon picked the dusty notebook; found the poems fit, and composed the music. He recorded the 12 songs in his bedroom using, apart from his vocals, the youthful voices around him - his children, Kesiya, 13, Samuel, 11, his friends, their children and his music students. The CDs will be shared among his inter denominal congregation. “No fils spent; no fils earned”, laughed Salmon, plucking on the guitar and setting effects parameters on his computer. Back in India, years ago, Salmon said, he had to take up the responsibility of running a music institute. Those days made him try his hand at various instruments. Inhibited, he never sang outside his bathroom. “Life in Kuwait has done a lot of miracles,” Salmon said. His friend circle consisting of 120 people from 36 families from his neighboring buildings in Mangaf - and they have formed an association, but that is another story came ‘out of their burrows’, showing organizational abilities and cooperation skills. “Many of these people were bathroom singers”, Salmon said. “But when we had a stage program, they sang and spoke without any stage fear. We are gathering again next week for Christmas”, Salmon said. Salmon and Santhosh shared the story of how they found a professional singer in their residents’ organization. “Once at a petrol station in Mina Al Zour, our attendant, a young Indian, told his concern of not getting opportunities to perform his music skills. He had a degree in classical music”. From the following week onwards, the petrol attendant singer - Reghunath began teaching Salmon’s children classical music at Salmon’s house. “Now Reghunath is a busy stage performer”, Salmon said. ‘Miracle, indeed’, I said. “No, the miracle of the moment is,” said Salmon in a happy tone, “how my wife can endure sleeplessness. Last night, she was on duty”. That’s not new for me, the MoH nurse said, but this was news for this reporter.

KUWAIT: Efforts to transform Kuwait’s logistics infrastructure are gathering pace following the announcement that the first phase of the $1.2 billion Mubarak Al-Kabeer port development is on track for completion in the second quarter of 2014. The port, which will have an initial annual cargo-handling capacity of 1.8 million containers, forms a key part of Kuwait’s bid to accommodate growing domestic demand and build a reputation as a trans-shipment centre. However, while Kuwait’s plans to expand its freighthandling facilities are moving ahead, the country will have to vie for business with its neighbors in what is fast becoming an increasingly competitive regional market. Still in the early stages of development, the Mubarak AlKabeer facility is being built on Boubyan Island, located near the Iraqi port of Umm Qasr. A briefing provided in October by URS, the engineering and technical consultants overseeing the development, said that much of the early work on the port was on, or ahead of schedule, with more than half the initial stage of the project completed. According to URS, the facility will be handling cargo well before the final work is completed in 2020. The port is earmarked to become one of Kuwait’s major freight-handling hubs, helping to ease the load on existing facilities at the ports of Shuaiba and Shuwaikh. However, despite plans for it to be equipped with advanced technology and cargo-handling equipment, the facility may meet other challenges. Observers have pointed out that moves by Kuwait’s neighbors to pump investment into extensive maritime infrastructure programs of their own could leave Mubarak Al-Kabeer struggling to edge the competition in the country’s drive to become a regional logistics centre. “Kuwait’s strategic location, with access to Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, makes it a natural transit and transport hub for the Northern Gulf, but with neighboring nations working on their own infrastructure upgrades, the market is becomingly increasingly competitive,” Chris Hayman, the chairman of maritime research firm Seatrade, said. Speaking in mid-November, Hayman said that while the port would provide a significant boost for Kuwait’s logistics sector, its contribution to the economy would be considerably improved if, as has been proposed, the Boubyan Island facility is linked to the planned GCC rail network, which is earmarked for completion before the end of the decade. Kuwait plans to lay 340 miles of broad-gauge rail, which will connect into the Saudi section and continue on through to the rest of the grid. A proposal has also been made for the northern end of the line to be extended to the border with Iraq, linking into its main lines. While the extension would raise Mubarak Al-Kabeer’s trans-shipment capacity to its northern neighbor, the proposal has been caught up in Iraq’s long-standing opposition to the port project itself. Boubyan’s location on the narrow Khawr Abdullah waterway, which also provides access to Iraq’s ports, prompted Baghdad to accuse Kuwait of attempting to suffocate its shipping trade and cutting off what it regarded as its territorial waters. Concerns were raised that the development could restrict shipping access to Iraq’s ports to the north and lure away clients, despite Kuwait’s assurances that the Boubyan Island project would not harm Iraqi interests. The controversial issue has died down in recent months following a series of heated exchanges in 2011. However, its sensitivity may make future maritime logistics cooperation between the two countries something of a challenge. In an effort to allay concerns, Rabah Al-Rabah, the director general of the Kuwait Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Iraqi journalists in early November that Mubarak Al-Kabeer could boost cross-border trade and investment. He said Kuwait was keen to develop trade relations with Iraq, although he acknowledged that for this to happen, more needed to be done to improve sea and land access points. Kuwait will be keen to tie in Mubarak AlKabeer’s completion with the development of other major transport infrastructure projects as it looks to strengthen interconnectivity with both domestic and regional logistics networks. By establishing its credentials early, the port will be well placed to compete with others in the region. — Oxford Business Group

Local FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Info ministry shuts down oppn-linked TV channel Opposition blasts Al-Youm’s closure

By B Izzak

KUWAIT: The Ministry of Commerce and Industry’s team in the capital seized and confiscated 12 tons of rotting meat. The ministry said in a statement yesterday the team, headed by Undersecretary Abdul Aziz Al-Khaldi, and the supervisor of the capital Faisal Al-Ansari, would penalize the importing company. Samples of the frozen Australian meat were sent to the ministry laboratory for examination. — KUNA


in brief

Envoy urges cooperation with Ho Chi Minh City KUALA LUMPUR: Kuwait’s Consul General in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City Omar Suleiman Al-Qinaie yesterday called for enhancing economic cooperation with the “promising” city and benefit from investment opportunities it has to offer. Al-Qinaie told KUNA by phone earlier that in addition to such potential investment ventures, Ho Chi Minh’s tourism sector represents a major attraction for Kuwaiti businesspeople, especially after the opening of Phu Quoc International Airport, which was completed at the end of Nov 2012 in Phu Quoc Island, southern Vietnam. The airport covers nearly 900 hectares in Duong To village, Phu Quoc island-district, Kien Giang Province at a cost of around $810 million and is planned to be built in phases. The airport is 10 km from the existing Phu Quoc Airport. It replaced the existing airport from Dec 2, 2012. The airport is able to handle about 2.5 million passengers per annum and a maximum capacity of seven million passengers per annum.

KUWAIT: In a surprising decision that fell like a bombshell, the information ministry yesterday withdrew the licence of Al-Youm private satellite television station, almost the lone station that backs the opposition. The channel received a letter from Information Minister Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud AlSabah informing it that it has failed to meet requirements by the deadline provided by the ministry and accordingly the license had been withdrawn and the station must shut immediately. The ministry said that the station failed to meet administrative conditions after it was given a period for two months. The station went off the air around noon yesterday and its general manager Mohammad Al-Daas said the channel will challenge the unfair decision in the court. Sources familiar with the issue said that the case began more than two months ago when the information ministry began activating the audio-visual law on all local TV stations. The ministry told the station that its chairman Ahmad Al-Jabr cannot remain its general manager at the same time and that a separate general

manager must be appointed within two months. The station immediately appointed Saad Al-Enezi as the new general manager but the authentication of his papers and university degree took some time. The ministry first said as Enezi graduated from the United States more than 23 years ago, he should produce a recent degree to be adopted by the ministry. The station later informed the ministry that the process was likely to take more time and may exceed the two-month deadline. The ministry agreed to wait. But the ministry did not fulfill its promise and applied the law immediately after the deadline passed. The move came a few days after the station aired an interview with former housing minister Shuaib Al-Muwaizri who charged that billions of dinars, earmarked for the development plan, have gone missing and cannot be traced. The claim was confirmed by Shaye Al-Shaye, a member of the scrapped 2012 Assembly. Opposition figures and former MPs strongly condemned the decision as directed against the opposition and aimed at silencing opponents. Veteran opposition leader and for-

mer speaker Ahmad Al-Saadoun said the decision was taken because the channel has exposed corruption, agitating in the process the forces of corruption. Former MP Faisal Al-Mislem said Kuwait is in real danger, adding that the decision to close Al-Youm is an indication to the extent that the government has gone in attempting to silence its opponents. Member of the scrapped Assembly Faisal Al-Yahya said that the government does not want to hear any voice except its own. Another member of the scrapped parliament, Mohammad Al-Kandari, said “the closure of Al-Youm channel is completing the measures of silencing people and confiscating the freedom of expression... Have we really become a police state?” Former Islamist MP Jamaan Al-Harbash said the decision is an act of “tyranny”. The Islamist, nationalist and liberal opposition, angry over an amended electoral law, has since been staging protests almost every night to demand the dissolution of the parliament. On many occasions, the demonstrators were dispersed by riot police which used tear gas and stun grenades. Scores of youth activists have also been arrested and face trial.

Kuwait envoy meets Guatemalan acting FM GUATEMALA CITY: Kuwait Ambassador to Mexico and Non-Resident Ambassador to Guatemala City Samih Johar Hayat met on Wednesday with Guatemala City Acting Foreign Minister Rita Claverie, amid preparation for a visit to Kuwait by Guatemala City Foreign Minister Harold Caballeros. The ambassador discussed with officials ways of boosting bilateral relations between the two countries, and ways of enhancing cooperation in various fields. Hayat also discussed the upcoming visit by the Guatemalan foreign minister to Kuwait, after an official invitation by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, amid efforts to participate in the inauguration of Guatemala Embassy in Kuwait and strengthening bilateral relations.

KUWAIT: Minister of Information Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah poses with artistes during the finale of the 13th Kuwait Theater Festival late Wednesday. — KUNA

Curtain falls on theater fest KUWAIT: Sheikha Fareeha Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah inaugurates an art exhibition of Dr Youssef Al-Mulaifi (Sculptures in the Air) in collaboration with the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) yesterday. “The gallery aims at ‘liberating’ solid blocs from gravity by showcasing them floating in air,” Mulaifi told KUNA, adding that the process of dyeing bronze sculptures is done through temperature-controlled oxidization and chemical reactions. —KUNA

KUWAIT: Minister of Information and Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud Al-Sabah wrapped up the 13th Kuwait Theater Festival. Addressing the closing ceremony Wednesday night, the minister said: “This annual event provides an ideal gathering venue for youth and veteran artists and playwrights away from the considerations of competition; it’s a win-win situation. The creative and talented artists converged on this festive occasion where diverse theatrical performances and symposiums were held with a view to refining the skills of actors in this domain.”

Sheikh Salman appreciated the efforts made by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) in promoting the literary and theatrical creativity particularly among youths. He also lauded the performances given by youth troupes as well as the efforts of the arbitration panel during the just-ended and previous sessions of the festival. At the end, the arbitration panel announced the laureates of the 13th Theater Festival which opened on Monday, Dec 11, in the presence of NCCAL Secretary General Ali Al-Youha and a constellation of local intelligentsia. —KUNA


Asian maids in Jordan tell of abuse, misery


Believers gather at the Serbian mountain ahead of ‘doomsday’


Hindu nationalists win in western Indian state


ASUNCION BAY: Children play in the water in Asuncion Bay, Paraguay. A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world’s 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America. — AP

Qatar - richest but ‘not the happiest’ Latin Americans rank as happiest people on planet MEXICO CITY: The world’s happiest people aren’t in Qatar, the richest country by most measures. They aren’t in Japan, the nation with the highest life expectancy. Canada, with its chart-topping percentage of college graduates, doesn’t make the top 10. A poll released Wednesday of nearly 150,000 people around the world says seven of the world’s 10 countries with the most upbeat attitudes are in Latin America. Many of the seven do poorly in traditional measures of well-being, like Guatemala, a country torn by decades of civil war followed by waves of gang-driven criminality that give it one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Guatemala sits just above Iraq on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, a composite of life expectancy, education and per capita income. But it ranks seventh in positive emotions. “In Guatemala, it’s a culture of friendly people who are always smiling,” said Luz

Castillo, a 30-year-old surfing instructor. “Despite all the problems that we’re facing, we’re surrounded by natural beauty that lets us get away from it all.” Gallup Inc asked about 1,000 people in each of 148 countries last year if they were well-rested, had been treated with respect, smiled or laughed a lot, learned or did something interesting and felt feelings of enjoyment. In Panama and Paraguay, 85 percent of those polled said yes to all five, putting those countries at the top of the list. They were followed closely by El Salvador, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago, Thailand, Guatemala, the Philippines, Ecuador and Costa Rica. The people least likely to report positive emotions lived in Singapore, the wealthy and orderly city-state that ranks among the most developed in the world. Other wealthy countries also sat surprisingly low on the list. Germany and France tied with the poor African state of

Somaliland for 47th place. Prosperous nations can be deeply unhappy ones. And povertystricken ones are often awash in positivity, or at least a close approximation of it. It’s a paradox with serious implications for a relatively new and controversial field called happiness economics that seeks to improve government performance by adding people’s perceptions of their satisfaction to traditional metrics such as life expectancy, per capita income and graduation rates. The Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan famously measures policies by their impact on a concept called Gross National Happiness. British Prime Minister David Cameron announced a national well-being program in 2010 as part of a pledge to improve Britons’ lives in the wake of the global recession. A household survey sent to 200,000 Britons asks questions like “How satisfied are you with your life nowadays?” The Organization for Economic Co-operation

and Development, which unites 34 of the world’s most advanced countries, recently created a Better Life Index allowing the public to compare countries based on quality of life in addition to material well-being. Some experts say that’s a dangerous path that could allow governments to use positive public perceptions as an excuse to ignore problems. As an example of the risks, some said, the Gallup poll may have been skewed by a Latin American cultural proclivity to avoid negative statements regardless of how one actually feels. “My immediate reaction is that this influenced by cultural biases,” said Eduardo Lora, who studied the statistical measurement of happiness as the former chief economist of the Inter-American Development Bank “What the empirical literature says is that some cultures tend to respond to any type of question in a more positive way,” said Lora, a native of Colombia, the 11th most-positive country. — AP

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Fear keeps Egypt’s Christians away from polls ASSIUT: A campaign of intimidation by Islamists left most Christians in this southern Egyptian province too afraid to participate in last week’s referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution they deeply oppose, residents say. The disenfranchisement is hiking Christians’ worries over their future under empowered Muslim conservatives. Around a week before the vote, some 50,000 Islamists marched through the provincial capital, Assiut, chanting that Egypt will be “Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians.” At their head rode several bearded men on horseback with swords in scabbards on their hips, evoking images of early Muslims conquering Christian Egypt in the 7th Century. They made sure to go through mainly Christian districts of the city, where residents, fearing attacks, shuttered down their stores and stayed in their homes, witnesses said. The day of the voting itself on Saturday, Christian voting was mini-

mal - as low as seven percent in some areas, according to church officials. Some of those who did try to head to polling stations in some villages were pelted by stones, forcing them to turn back without casting ballots, Christian activists and residents told The Associated Press this week. The activists now see what happened in Assiut as a barometer for what Christians’ status will be under a constitution that enshrines a greater role for Shariah, or Islamic law, in government and daily life. Even under the secular regime of autocrat Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s Christians complained of discrimination and government failure to protect them and their rights. They fear it will be worse with the Islamists who have dominated Egypt’s political landscape since Mubarak’s ouster in February 2011. “When all issues become religious and all the talk is about championing Islam and its prophet, then, as a Christian, I am

excluded from societal participation,” said Shady Magdy Tobia, a Christian activist in Assiut. “If this does not change, things will only get worse for Christians.” But some of the Christians of Assiut are pushing back against the emboldened Islamists. In recent weeks, young Christians joined growing street protests to demand that the charter is shelved, casting aside decades of political apathy. Assiut province is significant because it is home to one of Egypt’s largest Christian communities - they make up about 35 percent of the population of 4.5 million, perhaps three times the nationwide percentage. At the same time, it is a major stronghold of Egypt’s Islamists, who now dominate its local government. The province was the birthplace of some of the country’s most radical Islamist groups and was the main battlefield of an insurgency by Muslim militants in the 1990s. It was one of 10 provinces that voted in the

first round of Egypt’s referendum. Nationwide, around 56 percent voted in favor of the draft charter, according to preliminary results. Assiut had one of the strongest “yes” votes at more than 77 percent. It also had a turnout of only 28 percent one of the lowest in a round marred by a low participation of only 32 percent nationwide. The second and final round will held the coming Saturday in 17 provinces, including in Minya, which has the country’s highest proportion of Christians, at 36 percent. Rights groups reported attempts at suppression of the “no” vote in many parts of the country. But Christians say intimidation and suppression are more effective in this smaller, largely rural province. “In Assiut, we face more danger than in Cairo,” said businessman Emad Awny Ramzy, a key organizer of local protests against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his ruling Muslim Brotherhood. “Here they can

easily identify, monitor and attack us.” A senior figure of the Gamaa Islamiya - which was once one of the main groups waging the Islamic militant insurgency in Assiut but has since renounced violence and is allied to Morsi’s government - dismissed the Christians’ allegations of intimidation in the province. The claims are “just lies and rumors that surface every time we have an election,” Assem Abdel-Magued said. The Brotherhood and officials in Morsi’s government have similarly dismissed claims of violations around the country. The draft constitution, finalized by Islamists on a Constituent Assembly despite a boycott by liberals and Christians, has polarized Egypt, bringing out huge rival street rallies by both camps in the past four weeks. Opponents of Morsi accuse him of ramming the document through and, more broadly, of imposing a Brotherhood domination of power. — AP

Egypt’s atheist blasts Brotherhood regime Islamist govt ‘no better than dictatorial regime’ CAIRO: An Egyptian atheist convicted then released from prison on bail this week said that the new Islamist government is no better than the dictatorial regime it replaced. The blasphemy case against Alber Saber, 27, is seen by rights advocates as part of a campaign by Egypt’s ultraconservative Islamists to curb free expression. It underlines the growing divide between the country’s powerful Islamists and those who say their uncompromising approach is creating a new authoritarian system that does not represent all Egyptians. Saber was arrested in September after neighbors complained he had posted an anti-Islam film that sparked protests across the Muslim world on his Facebook page, but investigators didn’t find evidence of that. Even so, he was put on trial and sentenced last week to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion. He was released on bail on Tuesday pending an appeal in January. Saber, wearing a black tracksuit that hung off of his slight frame, told the AP that he believes the Muslim Brotherhood used him as an example - and as a means of warning those who oppose their Islamist ideology that alternate views will not be tolerated. “They are no different from the former regime,” said Saber of President Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. “The weapons have changed, but they are both oppressive regimes,” he said, explaining that while the Mubarak government relied on a network of security agencies to stifle dissent, the Brotherhood mobilizes an equally

well-organized network of followers to carry out similar efforts to repress opposition to the Islamist-led government. The fundamentalist group and its ultraconservative Islamist allies have dominated politics in the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 popular uprising that ousted longtime President Hosni Mubarak, winning several elections and sparking fears from secular and liberal Egyptians of a crackdown on basic rights. Islamists insist they speak for the Muslim majority in Egypt’s conservative society, calling the constitution a compromise that cannot meet all demands of every group. They deny that their intention is to persecute minorities. “They picked a good moment to target me,” said Saber, referring to the charged environment in the Muslim world after the anti-Islam film “The Innocence of Muslims” circulated on the Internet. He was arrested at home on Sept. 13 during a wave of public outrage over the film, which triggered a riot at the US Embassy in Cairo. Saber said that the night he was arrested and jailed, a police officer moved him to a cell where the officer incited detainees against Saber by telling that he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Saber was attacked by angry cellmates, one of whom slashed his neck with a knife. He said that this means of incitement on religious grounds is one of the tools being used by the government. He has a bumpy discolored scar from the wound. Saber said that regardless of the result of his appeal,

the Egyptian system is unjust for minorities like himself. “Egypt is a religious state,” said Saber. “If you disobey the norms, you get judged and sentenced. I’m not a criminal, but I’m being judged and sentenced on my opinion.” Openly admitting to being an atheist is extremely rare in Egypt, and the notion of atheism is considered offensive to many in the predominantly religious society. His mother, a Coptic Christian who wears a cross and bears a tattoo of a cross on her wrist like many Egyptian Christians, said she feared for her son’s safety. She was forced to leave her apartment the morning after Saber was arrested when men banged her door, telling her that they would burn her apartment and her church after Friday prayers if she did not leave. “Alber’s case is not the first and will not be the last,” said Ahmed Ezzat, one of Saber’s lawyers. “There are no steps by the authorities to protect freedom of expression - the opposite, authorities are attacking more.” Saber’s sentencing came days before Egyptians began voting on an Islamist-backed constitution. In the first of two legs, the draft received a 56 percent “yes” vote. Rights groups and members of Egypt’s opposition fear the document will enable the Islamist government to severely restrict civil rights. One article forbids limiting the basic rights of individuals but specifies that they “must be practiced in a manner not conflicting with” principles of religious law, which rights groups say opens the door for further clashes over freedom of expression. — AP

CAIRO: Newborn Egyptian quintuplets lie in an incubator at a hospital in Cairo yesterday. Doctors say the babies, three boys and two girls, born Tuesday, are in good health. — AP


in brief

Flash floods kill 25 COLOMBO: Flash floods have killed at least 25 people in Sri Lanka and left more than a quarter of a million marooned in their homes, disaster officials said yesterday. Heavy rains, which have battered the island for much of the week, were still being reported in 14 of Sri Lanka’s 25 administrative districts, with the central highlands-one of the world’s key tea producing regions-the worst hit. Sarath Lal Kumara, the deputy director of the Disaster Management Centre, said that 25 people were now known to have died and a further 36 remained missing. Most of the deaths were due to landslides engulfing homes. ‘Terrorists’ slay three JAKARTA: Suspected militants shot dead three policemen and injured three more yesterday, police said, in the latest attack to hit a central Indonesian district known for being a hotbed of terrorism. The attackers opened fire at paramilitary police patrolling the district of Poso just east of Borneo, the national police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said, where police believe a terrorist group runs a militant camp. Police have foiled several small bomb plots in the area in recent months and clashed with militants, shooting dead a suspected terrorist in November after explosives were hurled in their direction. “Three paramilitary police were killed in the shootout from head and chest gun wounds. Three were injured, two seriously,” Amar told reporters yesterday.

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Maids in Jordan tell of abuse, misery AMMAN: Norhima Hayral from the Philippines sought refuge in a shelter for abused Asian housemaids in Jordan to escape from employers she says both beat and raped her. “The recruitment agency took my passport the second I arrived in Amman’s airport” six months ago, 27-year-old Hayral said at the shelter funded by Manila’s Overseas Labor Office. In October, the Philippines lifted a ban imposed in 2007 on its citizens working in Jordan after the two countries signed deals to protect them, including guaranteeing a minimum monthly salary of $400. The ban had been imposed because of “the growing number of distressed Filipino workers” seeking help from Philippine diplomatic offices in Jordan, according to Manila. But despite the accords, abuse is still reported. Hayral worked for an eightmember Jordanian family, “but the wife used to beat me all the time. I think she was jealous because I was much younger.” She said she could not handle the abuse and within three months began working secretly for others. “One day I was asked to clean a house in a farm outside Amman. The

owner started to touch me and when I resisted, he beat me. “He threatened me with a knife, took me to a room and raped me,” she said, bursting into tears. Hayral said she could not contact the police because her status was illegal. “Officials at the shelter are trying to get back my passport. I am waiting for the Philippines government to give me money. I just want to go home.” The Philippines ambassador in Jordan, Olivia V Palala said that Manila wanted to protect these maids.”We want to ensure that the maids get better treatment. We want to ensure their basic rights, as humans, are protected,” Palala said. “Until all of this comes into place I do not think we will see more maids coming in,” she said, adding that there are already 30,000 workers from the Philippines in Jordan. But the situation has still not improved. “Violations continued even after the ban was lifted. You find domestic workers who are paid $150-$250 monthly and some are not paid at all,” said Mario Antonio, who is in charge of the shelter that currently houses 75 maids. “This year, we have received at this place more than 952 cases who were seeking our

help - 596 were returned to the Philippines.” Maylene Magno, 20, who broke her leg when she fled her employers’ home, said she was severely beaten after her Iraqi employers in Amman accused her of stealing 100 Jordanian dinars ($140). “The landlady beat me and broke my arm after accusing me of stealing the money,” Magno said. “I ran away when the family was asleep, jumping from the second floor, which broke my leg. Luckily I have my passport and now I am waiting to go home.” Many Sri Lankan workers in Jordan, estimated to number 40,000, are also suffering. “Around 100 domestic workers run away from their employers every month,” I L H Jameel of the Sri Lankan embassy said. “One day a woman came here after she ran away from a sponsor’s house because his 16year-old boy burned her with a hot iron. Another woman came to us in August after her sponsor severely tortured her.” Human Rights Watch (HRW) says many of the 70,000 Asian domestic workers in Jordan face the same abuses as migrant domestic workers elsewhere in the region. These include beatings, passports

confiscated, being confined to the house, insults, withholding of pay and long hours with no days off. “The reasons these abuses persist is the weak enforcement of existing legal rights and omissions and provisions in the law that facilitate abuse,” HRW said in a report late last year. Jordan’s labor ministry downplayed the problem, however. “The number of cases mentioned is small compared to the problems in other countries around us. We do not know if all these cases are actually right,” ministry secretary general Hamadah Abu Nejmeh said. “There is some negligence, but Jordan does not tolerate violations. It is very hard to inspect houses and search for violations. That is why we have a special department to receive complaints and address them.” Amman has approved some measures to protect domestic workers and punish violators, but problems persist. “There is no specific body to tackle abuse complaints,” said Linda Kalash of the local group Tamkeen for Legal Aid and Human Rights, citing “chaos in the entire process. “All related laws should be reviewed and then enforced effectively.”— AFP

Omanis set for historic vote latest attempt to stem discontent

BERLIN: Picture shows the main building of the Charite, one of the Europe’s largest university hospitals. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani arrived in Germany yesterday for treatment after he suffered a stroke. A spokeswoman for Berlin’s Charite said he was receiving treatment there but declined to provide further details.— AFP

Ailing Iraqi president flies to Germany for treatment BAGHDAD: Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a key figure who has sought to bridge political and sectarian divides, flew to Germany yesterday for treatment, his office said, after he suffered a stroke. Talabani departed “the Medical City hospital in Baghdad, heading to the Federal Republic of Germany, under the care of a specialized medical team,” said the presidency’s website. Medical care received in Iraq by Talabani, who is in his late 70s, “provided the appropriate circumstances for the transfer of his excellency outside the country to continue his treatment in Germany,” it said. Faruq Mullah Mustafa, a relative and friend of Talabani said the president had arrived in Germany and that he was going to a hospital in the Berlin area. Talabani was hospitalized late on Monday after what state television reported was a stroke, and doctors have since said that his condition

has improved. The president’s health has major political implications in Iraq, where he has sought to bring together various feuding politicians, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and Arabs and Kurds. “Jalal Talabani is a crucial joining-link between Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad,” International Crisis Group analyst Maria Fantappie said of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq, which is at odds with Baghdad over a number of issues. “President Talabani has been crucial in mediating between the two sides and ensuring the continuation of dialogue between Kurds and the central government,” said Fantappie. John Drake, an analyst with AKE Group, said: “While on paper his role is somewhat limited, his influence and mediation skills have gone a long way in smoothing over the country’s troubled political scene. —AFP

MUSCAT: Omanis vote in their first municipal election tomorrow, a modest opening apparently designed to stem discontent about graft and lack of jobs in what is normally one of the Arab world’s quietest corners. Stability in the small Gulf oil producer and US ally is important because it sits opposite Iran on the Strait of Hormuz, the conduit for almost a fifth of petroleum traded worldwide. One of the oldest Arab states and under absolute rule by Sultan Qaboos for 42 years, Oman experienced unrest inspired by Arab uprisings elsewhere early last year, with several strikes and protests against unemployment and corruption. The government swiftly promised to create thousands of jobs, announced plans for municipal polls and granted the sultanate’s only elected body, the Shura Council, some legislative power. According to government figures, Oman created more than 52,000 public sector jobs between January and October this year, as well as at least 22,000 in the private sector. An official said the number of registered unemployed fell to 17,230 at the end of October 2012 from 68,007 a year earlier. But the municipal polls appear to be drawing scant attention among the native population of about two million. Although Muscat’s normally staid streets have been plastered with posters of candidates promising to fix roads or build parking lots, many Omanis say the local vote is meaningless because municipal councils hold little or no power. “I don’t think these guys will make any significant changes because they will not be politicians and can’t make changes where needed,” said Malik Al-Malki, a civil servant. “They are not like the Shura Council mem-

bers, who can make enough noises to create jobs for our children.” STRIKES AND PROTESTS The Shura Council has been elected regularly since 1991 by a limited pool of voters. Universal suffrage was adopted in 2003. Hundreds of people were arrested in protests in 2011, when two people died and more than 100 were wounded in clashes with security forces. Most of those detained were later pardoned. Strikes in the critical oil industry occurred in May 2012, when hundreds contracted to firms working with the main state oil company downed tools to demand wage hikes. The company, Petrol Development Oman, said the dispute was largely over by June 2 and most of the strikers returned to work. Up to 200 young Omanis demonstrated in the industrial town of Sohar on June 30 with placards demanding jobs, better living conditions and an end to corruption. After last year’s protests, Sultan Qaboos decreed that at least seven portfolios in his 28-strong cabinet must be held by Shura Council members. Nine serve in the present cabinet. The sultan’s constitutional amendment also gave the council the right to approve or reject draft laws. But the final say remains with Qaboos, who wields much of the state’s power. Of the 1,475 candidates vying for 192 municipal council seats, fewer than 50 are women, reflecting a belief among some Omani women that men do not want to see them in public office. “Men vote for themselves and ask their wives and daughters to vote for male candidates,” said Salha AlMudathir, a businesswoman who owns a chain of boutique shops.— Reuters


International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Love online challenges Pakistan taboos MUZAFFARABAD: Sania was just a schoolgirl when she logged onto an Internet chat room and met a young college student called Mohammad. They fell in love and decided to get married. Internet dating in the West is now so common that it is no longer considered an act of shameful desperation but an acceptable way for busy professionals to discover a like-minded partner. But for Sania, the 22-year-old daughter of a conservative truck driver in Pakistan, online romance and her subsequent marriage has meant repeated beatings and death threats at the hands of her relatives. “No one gets married outside our community. It is our tradition,” Sania told AFP. She is from the garrison city of Rawalpindi and Mohammad comes from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani-administered Kashmir. At first she and Mohammad chatted online. Then they both bought mobiles to continue their relationship by telephone. For several years they asked their parents for permission to marry, but were refused. So Sania decided to escape. She packed a bag and sneaked out while her brother was at school, her mother sleeping and her father out at work. She took the bus straight to Muzaffarabad. “I spent the four-hour journey in fear. I kept thinking that if my family caught me, they’d kill me,” she said. In Muzaffarabad, Mohammad met her off the bus and they got married immediately. But while his family quickly accepted Sania, nearly two years later the couple still live in fear of her relatives. Twice they have dragged her back to Rawalpindi since her marriage and have demanded repeatedly that she break off relations with Mohammad. “Last time they took me back three months ago and put a lot of pressure on me to break off this relationship. I got in contact with my husband and asked him to fetch me. I escaped from the house at midnight and we managed to flee,” she said.

Now Sania and her 24-year-old husband have moved to a new one-room house in a slum, changed their phone number and dare not venture out of the city. “They say they will kill us whenever they find us,” Sania says. Women in Pakistan who marry against the wishes of their parents are ostracized or even killed by male relatives

that have dominated for centuries are on the wane. “Internet marriage is a new trend emerging in Pakistan. Technological advancement has entered into our homes and traditional taboos are slowly vanishing in educated and affluent families,” Zaman said. Online, they can share personal information and swap photographs-things

MUZAFFARABAD: Sania and her husband Mohammad Arif speak to AFP in Muzaffarabad. Sania was just a schoolgirl when she logged onto an Internet chat room and met a young college student called Mohammad. They fell in love and got married. But her subsequent marriage has meant repeated beatings and death threats. —AFP for supposedly bringing dishonor on the family. But online relationships are a new phenomenon. More than 2.1 million people are officially estimated to have access to the Internet in Pakistan, a drop in the ocean of the population of 180 million, a reflection of the huge disparity in wealth and literacy. Mohammad Zaman, professor of sociology at Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad, who has written a book about marriage, says arranged unions

that would be restricted or prohibited in the traditional selection of partners. The Internet is changing mindsets, giving young people freedom and privacy, and a forum to discuss matters frowned upon by Pakistan’s traditional, conservative society. “There is a kind of emancipation in society and young people want their say in the selection of their future partner,” Zaman said, although he conceded that parents find it easier to accept

a son’s choice than that of a daughter. Tahir, a Pakistani peace activist, knows only too well how the freedom of the Internet can collide with the restrictions of everyday life-not only conservative sensibilities but politics and war. The 26-year-old fell for university student Nazia on Facebook and Skype. All fine and good, except that Nazia lives on the other side of one of the most heavily militarized borders in the world-that which divides the Himalayan region of Kashmir between India and Pakistan. Twice India and Pakistan have gone to war over Kashmir. Although tentative peace talks resumed last year, travel is tightly controlled. Only those with special government permits are permitted to cross and take the bus service that runs once a week from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar, the capital of the Indianadministered portion. Last month, a 22year-old Indian girl was reportedly detained after trying to cross the Line of Control, as the de facto border is known, to meet her boyfriend from Pakistani-administered Kashmir, whom she allegedly met on Facebook, and to escape an arranged marriage at home. Not even modern methods of communication are reliable. “Sometimes when I speak to her on Skype, I can see her but there is a lot of noise and we cannot understand each other,” said 26year-old Tahir, not his real name. He says people in Indian Kashmir cannot call those in Pakistani Kashmir and that it can take three or four days for her to receive his text messages. If the Internet is the only place Tahir and Nazia could have met, Kashmir is probably the last place they could ever meet in person. “We understand each other from both sides of Kashmir, but they can’t come to our side and we can’t go there.... I love her a lot and don’t think I can live without her, but I’ve decided there is no future,” he said. —AFP

Benghazi fallout grows as four US officials quit Republicans await Clinton’s testimony WASHINGTON: The US State Department said on Wednesday its security chief had resigned from his post and three other officials had been relieved of their duties following a scathing official inquiry into the Sept 11 attack on the US mission in Benghazi. Eric Boswell has resigned effective immediately as assistant secretary of state for d iplomatic security, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a terse statement. A second official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Boswell had not left the department entirely and remained a career official. Nuland said that Boswell , and the three other officials, had all been put on administrative leave “pending further action.” An official panel that investigated the incident concluded that the Benghazi mission was completely unprepared to deal with the attack, which killed US Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The unclassified version of the report, which was released on Tuesday, cited “leadership and management” deficiencies, poor coordination among officials and “real confusion” in Washington and in the field over who had the authority to make decisions on policy and security concerns. “The ARB identified the performance of four officials, three in the Bureau of the Diplomatic Security and one in the Bureau of (Near Eastern) Affairs,” Nuland said in her statement, referring

to the panel known as an Accountability Review Board. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accepted Boswell’s decision to resign effective immediately, the spokeswoman said. Earlier, a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity said Boswell, one of his deputies, Charlene Lamb, and a third unnamed official has been asked to resign. The Associated Press first reported that three officials had resigned. CLINTON - NO BLAME The Benghazi incident appeared likely to tarnish Clinton’s four-year tenure as secretary of state but the report did not fault her specifically and the officials who led the review stopped short of blaming her. “We did conclude that certain State Department bureau-level senior officials in critical positions of authority and responsibility in Washington demonstrated a lack of leadership and management ability appropriate for senior ranks,” retired Admiral Michael Mullen, one of the leaders of the inquiry, told reporters on Wednesday. The panel’s chair, retired Ambassador Thomas Pickering, said it had determined that responsibility for security shortcomings in Benghazi belonged at levels lower than Clinton’s office. “We fixed (responsibility) at the assistant secretary level, which is, in our view, the appropriate place to look

for where the decision-making in fact takes place, where - if you like - the rubber hits the road,” Pickering said after closed-door meetings with congressional committees. The panel’s report and the comments by its two lead authors suggested that Clinton, who accepted responsibility for the incident in a television interview about a month after the Benghazi attack, would not be held personally culpable. Pickering and Mullen spoke to the media after briefing members of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee behind closed doors on classified elements of their report. Clinton had been expected to appear at an open hearing on Benghazi on Thursday, but is recuperating after suffering a concussion, dehydration and a stomach bug last week. She will instead be represented by her two top deputies. Clinton, who intends to step down in January, said in a letter accompanying the review that she would adopt all of its recommendations, which include stepping up security staffing and requesting more money to fortify US facilities. The National Defense Authorization Act for 2013, which is expected to go to Congress for final approval this week, includes a measure directing the Pentagon to increase the Marine Corps presence at diplomatic facilities by up to 1,000 Marines. Some Capitol Hill Republicans who had criticized the

Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi attacks said they were impressed by the report. “It was very thorough,” said Senator Johnny Isakson. Senator John Barrasso said: “It was very, very critical of major failures at the State Department at very high levels.” Both spoke after the closed-door briefing. Others, however, took a harsher line and called for Clinton to testify as soon as she is able. “The report makes clear the massive failure of the State Department at all levels, including senior leadership, to take action to protect our government employees abroad,” Representative Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement. Senator Bob Corker, who will be the top Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the new Congress is seated early next year, said Clinton should testify about Benghazi before her replacement is confirmed by the Senate. Republicans have focused much of their firepower on US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, who appeared on TV talk shows after the attack and suggested it was the result of a spontaneous protest rather than a premeditated attack. The report concluded that there was no such protest. Rice, widely seen as President Barack Obama’s top pick to succeed Clinton, withdrew her name from consideration last week.—Reuters

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Believers gather at Serbian mountain ahead of ‘doomsday’ RTANJ: Foreign visitors were flocking to a pyramid-shaped mountain in southeastern Serbia, ahead of the Mayan-foretold ‘doomsday’, local officials said yesterday. Hotel beds near Rtanj Mountain, had been booked up well in advance, local tourist officials said. “We have never had foreigners here at this time of the year,” said Marina Zikic of the tourist office in Boljevac, the main town in the area. Serbia’s Mountain Rescue Services (GSS), a non-profit voluntary association, said in a statement that it had sent two teams to Rtanj just in case help was needed. But the main reason for the sudden influx appeared to be a four-day conference organized by “The spirit of Rtanj” association, a New Age group. Some people believe the mountain is a source of unusual electromagnetic waves and the New Age group was holding a conference on its alleged properties . Given the conference was scheduled to end on December 23 however, the organizers did not appear to believe that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world today. “The newly discovered Mayan calendars indicate that there are calendars that describe and predict events on and after 21 December, so it is necessary to

understand this interpretation of caution,” said the “spirit of Rtanj” website ( The conference would look into reports that calendars from several ancient civilizations including those the Aztecs, the Hopi Indians and the Egyptians predicted a new era beginning today-on the 11th minute of the 11th hour. Nebojsa Gajic of the hotel “Rtanj” said the district’s modest quota of hotel beds-some 250 - had all been booked, with visitors from France, Germany and as far away as Australia due to arrive. “We have some 30 percent tourists more this year, compared to previous ones, maybe due to the ‘doomsday’ rumors, but also because a (New age spiritual) conference which started” yesterday, Gajic said. Many of the bookings had been made well in advance, but most of the expected visitors were yet to come, Gajic added.A few latecomers, several dozen in all, had “even asked if they could park their cars here and stay there on December 21,” he said. Another hotel manager, Obrad Blecic, reported one Italian and several Austrians among this year’s visitors. “We are fully packed, quite unusual for this time of the year,” said Blecic. But Gajic warned those still keen to come: “We have

Leadership change in Asia offers new start TOKYO: Near-simultaneous leadership changes in China, Japan and South Korea offer East Asia a fresh start after a period of tension, say analysts, despite the hawkish pedigree of those coming to power. After elections in Tokyo and Seoul this week and with Beijing’s leadership tussles resolved by last month’s Communist Party conference, the region’s three biggest economies could be over a hump. All three new leaders have less incentive to play to their galleries freeing them to be more pragmatic in their dealings abroad, said Zhou Weihong, a Japan specialist at Beijing Foreign Studies University. “Relations should generally turn better” he said. “There likely will be more room for cooperation between China, Japan and South Korea.” All three face problems from the stumbling world economy and the successful launch of a North Korean rocket last week adds to regional uncertainty. Japan’s presumptive Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spent much of his campaign talking tough on China and proclaimed after his victory there could be “no negotiation” over the sovereignty of islands that both sides claim. The spat blistered in September when Tokyo nationalized the chain. China sent government boats into the archipelago’s territorial waters almost every day until Sunday’s polls, and upped the ante last week with a flypast, in what Japan said was the first Chinese breach of its airspace since at least 1958. But Tokyo’s well-equipped coastguard has not reported any Chinese ships in immediate waters since the poll, won by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. The Democratic Party of Japan they displaced had proved something of an enigma to friends and foes alike during their three years in power. Washington insiders privately complained they were difficult to understand and Beijing sometimes struggled.—AFP

SIRINCE: Photo shows a general view of Sirince, a village in western Turkey yesterday. Believers in the Mayan calendarís doomsday prediction for today are flocking to Sirince, a small village in Turkey’s Izmir province, which some believe is the only safe haven from the impending apocalypse because the Virgin Mary is said to have risen to heaven from there. — AFP

no more rooms available.” Rtanj, which lies some 250 kilometers east of Belgrade, is normally a quiet winter resort visited mainly by hikers and climbers from Serbia. It is known for its wild countryside and fields of medical herbs.Serbia’s Tourist office (TOS) said it was aware of the sudden influx of foreign visitors. “Our official stance is not to

support such mythology, but if it is good for business, so much the better,” Sandra Vlatkovic of the TOS said. A number of countries, including France and Argentina, have closed off sites which some people are convinced have some special role in what they believe is the Mayan-prophesied end of the world today.—AFP

China arrests nearly 1,000 cult members Group accused of spreading doomsday rumors BEIJING: China has arrested nearly 1,000 people in a crackdown on a Christian sect that spread doomsday rumors and targeted communist rule, state media said yesterday ahead of the supposedly Mayan-foretold apocalypse. The Christian-inspired group “Almighty God” has been accused of spreading doomsday rumors apparently linked to the ancient Mayan Long Count calendar and urging followers to slay the “red dragon” of communism, state media reports said. Close to 1,000 followers of the sect, which state-run media labels an “evil cult”-the same description it applies to the banned Falun Gong grouphave been held in a nationwide crackdown that began last week, state-run CCTV reported. Police detained more than 350 Almighty God members in the southwestern province of Guizhou, while in the northwestern province of Qinghai more than 400 were held for “gathering unlawfully”, the Beijing Times reported. Smaller numbers have been held in other areas across the country. Almighty God predicts that three days of darkness will begin on Friday, and has called on its members to over-

throw China’s ruling Communist Party, which it refers to as “the big red dragon”, the state-run Global Times reported. It has also told believers that a new era presided over by a “female Jesus” has arrived and that tsunamis and earthquakes will rock the world, the Global Times said. The apocalypse predictions have received widespread coverage in China, thanks in part to the success of the Hollywood disaster film “2012”, which was inspired by the supposed Mayan prophecy. Chinese state-run media have condemned the group in lurid detail, with the China Youth Daily reporting that Almighty God “even uses ‘sex communication’, calling on female members to use their sex appeal to seduce single men”. The sect was founded in the early 1990s, but has remained secretive in the face of government intolerance of non-official religious groups. Group members use pseudonyms such as “Little White Rabbit” or “Doggy” to conceal their identities, and are often not allowed to carry mobile phones or other communication devices, China Business View magazine reported. China’s Communist Party does not

tolerate challenges to its authority and has brutally cracked down on religious groups that refuse to toe the party line, including the Buddhist-inspired Falun Gong, which was banned in the late 1990s. Authorities were shocked when Falun Gong was able to quietly mass thousands of silent protesters at key symbolic locations including Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and the central leadership compound of Zhongnanhai. China has a long history of religiously-inspired anti-government movements, most notably the nineteenth century “Taiping Heavenly Kingdom”, led by a Christian convert who gathered millions of followers in an attempt to overthrow the emperor. Earlier this week CCTV quoted police in Qinghai as saying their investigation into the Almighty God sect was related to stability maintenance and would be linked to “our anti-self-immolation fight”. The comment was a reference to nearly 100 Tibetans setting themselves on fire since 2009 in protest at China’s rule of its Tibetan-inhabited regions, which include Qinghai.— AFP

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Rape outcry shines light on India’s ‘misogyny’ NEW DELHI: Despite an outpouring of anger at a student’s gang-rape, observers say misogyny remains widespread in India where sex assaults are often dismissed as “teasing” and victims find themselves blamed for attacks. The Sunday night assault on a bus in New Delhi, which left the 23year-old victim fighting for her life, has triggered nationwide revulsion and protests. But campaigners say India has been slow and complacent in its response to what they call a rising tide of sexual violence against women. Official figures show rape cases alone more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, though part of the rise could be attributed to better reporting. “Our streets reflect an extreme misogyny,” Brinda Karat, a Communist Party lawmaker said. “Women are objectified, harassed or sexually assaulted all the time, but no one does anything about it. “Why should it take such a horrendous crime to wake us up to the fact that crimes against

women keep increasing while conviction rates remain very low?” National crime records show that 228,650 of the total 256,329 violent crimes recorded last year targeted women, with conviction rates for rape cases at 26 percent. Campaigners say such figures are a direct consequence of a failure to tackle a culture in which sexual harassment is often dismissed as little more than a joke. For example activists say “eveteasing”, a phrase widely used to describe harassment ranging from obscene comments to molestation, obscures the depth of the problem and creates an impression that victims are only being “teased”. There have long been complaints that police in India are dismissive of sexual harassment as a serious crime and campaigners have steadily attacked authorities for their lax and often insensitive response to victimized women. An account published in the national newsmagazine “Tehelka” this month

Armored backpacks, rush on guns after US massacre SALT LAKE CITY: When Ken Larson’s 1-year-old son starts school in a few years, he’ll be carrying an armored backpack. After the Connecticut school shooting, Larson and his wife have decided to buy him one just to be safe. Larson already owns one himself that he takes with him when he goes to the movies. “It’s a no brainer. My son’s life is invaluable,” said Larson, 41, of Denver. “If I can get him a backpack for $200 that makes him safer, I don’t even have to think about that.” The reaction to the deadly Connecticut school shooting can be seen at gun stores and self-defense retailers across the nation, with anxious parents buying armored backpacks for children and firearms enthusiasts stocking up on semi-automatic rifles in anticipation of tighter gun control measures. A spike in gun sales is common after a mass shooting, but the latest rampage has generated record sales in some states, particularly of assault weapons similar to the AR-15 rifle the gunman used Friday in an attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, including 20 children. Colorado set a single-day record for gun background check requests the day after the shootings, while Nevada saw more checks in the two days that followed than any other weekend this year. Records were also set in Tennessee, California and Virginia, among others. Some gun shop owners stopped selling the remaining stock of their assault weapons, anticipating only more interest and value after President Barack Obama on Wednesday instructed his administration to create concrete proposals to reduce gun violence. Robert Akers, a Rapid City, SD, gun seller who specializes in military-style weapons, said the rush of customers had transformed his Rapid Fire Firearms store into a “madhouse” and that he’s not actively selling the guns and has turned off his phone. “The price is only going to go up higher,” he said. There was also an unusual increase in sales for armored backpacks designed to shield children caught in shootings, according to three companies that make them. The armor inserts fit into the back panel of a child’s backpack, and sell for up to $400, depending on the retailer. The armor is designed to stop bullets from handguns, not assault weapons like the one used in the shooting at the Newtown, Conn., school. Still, the manufacturers and some parents say that while they don’t guarantee children won’t be killed, they could be useful as shields. Some experts, however, say sending children to school in armored backpacks is not a healthy response to fear about mass shootings. Anne Marie Albano, psychiatry director at Columbia University’s Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders, said parents should convey calmness, not anxiety. —AP

by a rape survivor illustrated the routine treatment of victims of sex crimes. In it, a 23-year-old student at Delhi University recollected her ordeal, from the violent rape and beating to a brutal medical examination at a government hospital to a courtroom trial where she was questioned several times about the fit of her jeans and her “provocative” underwear. Although Indian law requires that any rape victim be shielded from public view during a trial, no such screen was provided during her initial court appearances. Her family received anonymous threatening phone calls every time she turned up in court. Last week, three years after the attack, her alleged rapist was cleared. “Rape is a crime unlike any other. You have to live with your violated body, you have to live with the memory of what was done to you, and you have to live with the fact of your own helplessness,” she wrote. In response to widespread fear among

women of sexual harassment, trains in Mumbai and Delhi run segregated women-only coaches. India’s top court directed all state governments last month to put female police officers in all public spaces including markets, parks, beaches and public transport. A traditionally conservative country, India’s rapid economic growth has thrown open new job opportunities for women and increased their financial independence. But activists say that many men see the trend as representing a threat to male dominance. “Today we are seeing a real battle between a violent patriarchal mindset and a surge of empowered women who are very visible in urban India,” Hindol Sengupta, co-founder of Delhibased non-profit Whypoll said. “Female empowerment is totally unsettling to many men in this country, it has shaken up their sense of entitlement and their response is violent and volatile.”— AFP

Hindu nationalists win in western Indian state Congress reputation battered by corruption scandals NEW DELHI: Hindu nationalists won a resounding victory yesterday in state elections in western India, buttressing the political strength of Narendra Modi, the Hindu ideologue and polarizing figure whose supporters believe could become prime minister in 2014. With nearly all results counted, news reports from Gujarat state, where Modi has served as the state’s chief minister since 1998, gave his right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party 122 seats in the state parliament, up from 117 seats in the last election. Its closest rival, the Congress party, was expected to take 56 seats, six seats less than it held before. The Congress, which leads India’s national government, has seen its position dramatically weakened in recent years, its reputation battered by clumsy political maneuvering, weak leadership and a seemingly endless stream of corruption scandals. The BJP’s top leadership has long presented Modi as a potential future prime minister. Yesterday, as supporters danced in front of party offices holding signs calling for Modi to take the country’s top position, party officials dodged questions of his role in the next national elections, expected in 2014. Modi himself made clear he was thinking of the future. “No need of looking behind, FORWARD! We want infinite energy, infinite courage, infinite patience...” said a quote on his personal Twitter site. Behind Modi, though, lies one of the grimmest times in recent Indian history, when marauding mobs of Hindus killed and burned their way through Muslim neighborhoods in Gujarat in 2001, leaving more than 1,100 people dead. While he was never charged with a crime, his many critics say Modi did little to stop the three months of rioting. Some have accused him of encouraging the violence. Since then, Modi has been a deeply divisive figure in Indian politics, a man revered by supporters as a defender of Hinduism and reviled by opponents as an ideologue who has taken advantage of his state’s religious divide. While earlier campaigns highlighted his Hindu credentials, this year’s avoided divisive issues. Gujarat has become a wealthy state over the past decade, a magnet for companies eager for businessfriendly regulations. His campaign showcased his claims that he molded Gujarat’s transformation, bringing industries, jobs, electricity and water in a country where power outages and joblessness are epidemic. Certainly, Modi is the most powerful man in Gujarat. He runs nearly every major state ministry, and his face is omnipresent on posters. One TV station does little but broadcast adoring reports about him. While Modi is a masterful politician - his latest campaign included high-tech holographic speeches that took his image to dozens of towns and villages at a time - it’s unclear if he could become a national

AHMADABAD: Gujarat state chief minister Narendra Modi flashes victory sign during the victory celebrations of Gujarat assembly elections in Ahmadabad yesterday. — AP leader. His polarizing history would make it difficult for a Modi-led BJP to forge the alliances it would need. “It’s not going to be that easy for the BJP to settle on Modi” as a national leader, political analyst Zoya Hasan said on NDTV television. The party “desperately needs more alliances to create a government in 2014.” His political rivals, not surprisingly, insisted yesterday’s victory did little to push him to national power, since the BJP did not dramatically increase its seats in the state parliament. “This Gujarat election proves that it’s not open skies for Narendra Modi,” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid told reporters. The Gujarat elections were held Dec 13 and 17, though official counting did not occur until yesterday.— AP

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Putin backs tough response to US rights law MOSCOW: President Vladimir Putin said yesterday a US law that punishes Russians who abuse human rights was poisoning ties with Washington but signaled support for a retaliatory ban on Americans adopting Russian children. In comments broadcast live to the nation, Putin, 60, also laughed off speculation that he was in bad health and said Russia’s economy was in good shape. Putin struck a hawkish tone in his first annual news conference since he returned to the presidency in May for a six-year term, after four years as prime minister, and presented himself as the guarantor of stability after months of protests. He said he regretted new legislation signed by President Barack Obama last week that will punish Russians accused of violating human rights by refusing them visas and freezing their assets in the United States. “This is very bad. This, of course, poisons our relationship,” he said. Putin and Obama have indicated they want to warm up ties following their presidential election victories this year but the spat over human rights endangers those efforts. Despite the threat, Putin indicated he would sign into law a tit-for-tat move by Russia’s lower house of parliament that would stop Americans adopting Russian children and bar entry to Americans who abuse Russians’ rights. “It is an emotional response by the State Duma (lower house of parliament) but it is an appropriate response,” Putin said. The feud began when the US Congress approved a trade bill that orders the United States, Moscow’s former Cold War enemy, to deny visas to

Midwest hit by major snowstorm of season DES MOINES: The Midwest’s first major snowstorm of the season swept across several states yesterday, shuttering schools, creating treacherous roadways and threatening to slow down one of the nation’s busiest airports ahead of the holiday weekend. Forecasters warned that heavy snowfall coupled with strong winds would create blizzard conditions for morning commuters from Kansas to Wisconsin. Nebraska’s largest school district canceled classes because of heavy overnight snow, as did many districts across Iowa, where drivers were being told to stay off the roads starting Wednesday evening because of whiteout conditions. But the weather likely won’t stop Iowa native Laurie Harry from starting up her car yesterday morning. “If I need to get into work, I’ll be here,” said Harry, a manager at a Casey’s General Store in the western Iowa town of Atlantic. “We’ve had snow before. Iowans know what to expect. We’re used to it.” The heaviest snow is expected across a swath extending from northwest Missouri into Milwaukee, Chicago and Michigan, with predictions of as much as a foot of snow in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow. Light snow, strong winds and low clouds could make visibility poor and cause delays at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest airport, according to the National Weather Service. The weather has already prompted Delta and United Airlines to allow many affected travelers to change schedules without incurring fees. By Wednesday night, snow had blanketed parts of Iowa and Nebraska as the storm moved out of eastern Colorado and across parts of Kansas. Several states were reporting numerous traffic accidents, including one fatality in Nebraska. “There are a few truckers stranded here. And we have some semis that have rolled over and we have some that have jackknifed,” said Ashley Brozek, a clerk at the Eagle Travel Center in the western Kansas town of Tribune. “We also have a UPS driver that is stranded and a local family has let him in for the night.” In Madrid, about 30 miles north of Des Moines, auto repair shop owner Steve Simmons said he had a busy Wednesday morning with customers looking for snow tires ahead of the storm. “Everybody seems to wait to the last minute for this kind of thing,” he said. And he was also expecting a busy snowplowing several churches and private businesses. “The bad weather usually benefits me greatly,” he said.—AP

Russian human rights violators. It was drawn up because of concern over the death in a Russian prison of anti-corruption lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009. Putin backed the original Duma bill but has signalled he wants to contain the dispute with Obama’s administration. The Kremlin says Obama will visit Russia early next year. ECONOMY PERFORMING WELL During his first spell as president from 2000 until

MOSCOW: Russia’s President Vladimir Putin holds the first major press conference of his third term in power in Moscow yesterday. —AFP

2008, Putin began a tradition of giving long annual news conferences to show his grasp of policy detail. The previous one, in 2008, ran for four hours and 40 minutes. He appeared intent on showing he has a firm grip on Russia after the biggest protests since he began his 13-year domination of the country and to show he is strong and healthy. The Kremlin has dismissed suggestions that Putin has serious health problems since he was seen limping at a September Asia-Pacific summit and Russian government sources told Reuters he was suffering from back trouble. “This is only beneficial for political opponents who are trying to question the legitimacy and the effectiveness of the authorities,” Putin said. “I can give the traditional answer to the health question: there’s no point in waiting.” Putin began the news conference by reeling off economic data for the world’s ninth-largest economy, forecasting that it would grow by 3.7 percent this year. “This is a good result overall,” he said, suggesting that Russia’s economy was performing well particularly if it was compared with the euro zone and the United States. Putin said recession in the euro zone had acted as a drag on Russian growth and that a poor harvest had hit the economy in the third and fourth quarters, lifting inflation over 6 percent. He expressed concern over a slowdown in industrial output growth. But he highlighted Russia’s low unemployment rate of 5.3-5.4 percent, which he described as “good - one of the best in all the developed economies of the world”. — Reuters

Washington, Beijing tout progress on trade irritants China agrees to address piracy, counterfeiting concerns WASHINGTON: After a year of clashes on trade and investment issues, senior US and Chinese officials touted progress on Wednesday on a number of commercial irritants as a sign of the commitment both countries have to building a stronger relationship. China agreed to take further steps to address US concerns about widespread piracy and counterfeiting of American-made goods by strengthening enforcement of intellectual property rights and promoting the use of legal software by state-owned banks and state-owned enterprises, Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming told reporters after the meeting. Such recycled pledges are a staple of the annual US-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade (JCCT), but US officials said it was important to keep up pressure on the issue because of the big potential payoff for US firms. “Some of these issues may seem a bit esoteric, but they can make the difference between millions, billions of dollars of new exports and jobs being retained here at home,” US Trade Representative Ron Kirk told reporters. The past year has been a particularly bumpy one for the USChina trade relationship, with the United States initiating a number of trade complaints against China at the World Trade Organization and slapping duties on high-value Chinese exports such as solar cells and wind turbine towers. During the recent US presidential campaign, both President Barack Obama and his Republican rival Mitt Romney also argued about who would do a better job of standing up to Beijing and fighting for US jobs. Chen said the United States made commitments in Wednesday’s meeting to promote exports of high-technology goods to China and promised Chinese companies fair treatment when their plans to invest in the United States are reviewed for national security purposes. China has long pressed the United States to ease its restrictions on exports of high-technology goods, and the Obama administration is in the process of a comprehensive reform effort that is expected to make it easier for many countries, including China, to buy those items from American firms. However, acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank said that would not apply to items on the US munitions list because the United States does not allow arms exports to China. The JCCT is an annual forum launched in 1983 for the two countries to address trade and investment concerns. JOBS AND ECONOMIC GROWTH Some recent high-profile Chinese investments in the United States have been rejected on national security grounds, although

US officials say most projects are welcomed with open arms as a source of new jobs and economic growth. The head of the Chinese delegation, Vice Premier Wang Qishan, took a shot at US suspicions of Chinese state-owned enterprises that dominate China’s economy and the important but often unclear role of the ruling Communist Party in those firms. “You can’t deny the fact that some Americans lack understanding of China and have stereotypes about China,” he said in remarks at a dinner of officials and business leaders of the two countries on Wednesday night. Wang said he asked US counterparts, “Can you conduct a security check without doing a political background check? Do you normally ask Americans what party they belong to?” Kirk estimated total Chinese investment in the United States at about $9 billion, up “over 600 percent” in last three years. The US trade deficit with China hit a record $295 billion in 2011 and is expected to set a new record this year when final figures are announced in February. Chen said China also pledged not to force US companies to transfer technology as a condition for doing business in China and negotiate “as quickly as possible” to join the WTO’s agreement on government procurement. However, both US and Chinese officials said China and other WTO members remained far apart on the definition of public works projects that would be covered in any market-opening agreement. China also agreed to delay a proposed regulation that could impede US auto exports until the United States has a fuller opportunity to express its concerns, officials on both sides said. US Chamber of Commerce official Jamie Waterman said agriculture was another key concern for this year’s talks. In agriculture, “the absence of product approvals for roughly a year is a serious concern and has the potential to create real challenges for China,” he said. With ongoing leadership transitions in Beijing and Washington it was important that working-level officials hold up “the JCCT as one of the pillars of stability in this relationship,” said Kirk. “The true success of this plenary will be judged by those who rely on the JCCT to deliver measurable results that help stabilize and enhance our trade and investment relationships,” he said. Obama is expected to bring in a new economic team for his second term, which begins in January. Meanwhile, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping took over the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party in November and will become head of state at March at the annual parliament meeting. — Reuters

International FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Embattled BBC takes hit over executive pay LONDON: Reeling from the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal, the BBC came in for another round of criticism on Thursday over the huge payoff it agreed for its former director general, who quit last month over the crisis. The world’s largest broadcaster barely had time to digest Wednesday’s highly critical report into its handling of claims that late television star Savile was a predatory paedophile before being faced with new accusations, this time over its “cavalier use of public money”. In a new report, parliament’s public accounts committee attacked the decision to give former BBC director-general George Entwistle £450,000 ($730,000, 550,000 euros) when he resigned-twice as much as he was contractually entitled to. And the MPs expressed shock at their discovery that since November 2010, the publicly-funded broadcaster has made severance payments worth more than £4 million to 10 other senior

managers, including almost £1 million to one person. “Public servants should not be rewarded for failure. But that was exactly what happened when the BBC Trust paid off the former director general, George Entwistle,” said committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge. Not only was he paid too much, but his leaving package included a year’s private medical insurance and a contribution to the cost of his legal fees and public relations advice, the opposition Labour MP said. “This cavalier use of public money is out of line with public expectations and what is considered acceptable elsewhere in the public sector,” Hodge said. Entwistle quit last month after just 54 days in the job after the BBC became embroiled in a major crisis over the way it reported child sex abuse. The crisis was sparked by revelations in October that Savile, one of the BBC’s star presenters who died last year aged 84, may have sexually abused hundreds of children over a

40-year period. The BBC’s flagship Newsnight program dropped an investigation into the Savile allegations last year, but went ahead with the broadcast last month which falsely implicated a senior politician in separate abuse at a children’s home. An official report on Wednesday cleared the BBC of a cover-up over Savile but found the corporation had been gripped by “chaos and confusion” over the affair. Responding to the parliamentary report on Thursday, the chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, defended the payoff to Entwistle as necessary to allow him to be quickly replaced. “The legal advice we had was that if we fought it we’d fetch up with a bigger bill,” he told BBC radio. On the wider crisis, Patten vowed to push through wide-reaching reforms to the corporation in a bid to restore public trust. “We have some work to do to rebuild that trust but I’m sure we’ll do it,” the former governor of Hong Kong said.— AFP

‘Cliff’ talks turn sour Obama threatens to veto ‘Plan B’

ALGIERS: French President Francois Hollande shakes hands with people gathered in central Algiers’ ‘Place Maurice-Audin’ where he paid tribute to the French member of the Algerian Communist Party and activist in the anti-colonialist cause who disappeared in 1957. — AFP

Hollande recognizes France ‘brutal’ past ALGIERS: France’s President Francois Hollande said in Algiers yesterday that he recognized his country’s century of “brutal” colonial rule over the Algerian people, as he sought to launch a new era in relations. “Over 132 years, Algeria was subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system,” Hollande told the Algerian parliament on the second and final day of a landmark visit to the north African country, to applause from MPs. “This system has a name: it is colonialism and I recognize the suffering that colonialism inflicted on the Algerian people,” he said. Referring to specific atrocities, Hollande cited the massacres at Guelma, Kherrata and Setif where nationalist unrest that broke out at the end of World War II was brutally suppressed by French forces, leaving thousands dead. “On May 8, 1945, when the world triumphed over brutality, France forgot its universal values,” Hollande said. The truth “must also be spoken about the circumstances in which Algeria was delivered from the colonial system, in this war whose name was not mentioned in France for a long time, the Algerian war” of independence, he added. “We have a duty to speak the truth about the violence, injustices, massacres and torture... Establishing the truth is an obligation that ties Algerians and French. That’s why it is necessary that historians have access to the archives.”

The French president said after arriving in Algeria on Wednesday that he had not come to say sorry for the crimes committed during the colonial period. But he stressed the importance of recognizing what happened as a way of beginning a new era in relations between the two countries, bound together by human, economic and cultural ties. More than half a million Algerians live in France, and hundreds of thousands of others hold French nationality, but many are also frustrated at not being able to obtain visas and seek a better life in Europe. Hollande promised yesterday to “better accommodate” Algerians seeking to move to France and to streamline the visa process, saying that doing so was of “mutual interest.” It is necessary to “manage the flow of migrants” but the demand for visas “must not become an obstacle course, or worse still, a humiliation,” he told the Algerian parliament. “Rather, we need to ensure that the return trips continue, and are even increased, for students, businessmen, artists, families, in other words all those who drive the relationship” between France and Algeria. Nearly 200,000 Algerians already receive visas every year. On arrival, Hollande was received with full honors by his Algerian counterpart Abdelaziz Bouteflika, and said he wanted relations between their countries to be a “strategic partnership between equals.”—AFP

WASHINGTON: The conflict over the stalled “fiscal cliff” talks grew more heated Wednesday and threatened to become even more so when the action is expected to shift for the first time to the floor of the US House of Representatives. In the absence of a bipartisan agreement, the Republican leadership of the House plans to move a bill of its own to the floor to avert the steep tax hikes and budget cuts set for January. But instead of serving as a show of unity for Republicans in their wrangling with Democratic President Barack Obama, the so-called Republican “Plan B,” which was still evolving late Wednesday, was exposing internal fractures because it includes a tax hike on those earning $1 million or more, dividing anti-tax conservatives. The planned action by Republicans angered President Barack Obama Wednesday, who accused opponents of holding a personal grudge against him. As a year-end deadline nears, Obama and House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner are locked in intense bargaining over a possible deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff of harsh tax hikes and spending cuts that could badly damage an already weak economy. Obama said he was puzzled over what was holding up the talks and told Boehner’s Republicans to stop worrying about scoring “a point against the president” or forcing him into concessions “just for the heck of it.” “It is very hard for them to say yes to me,” he told a news conference in the White House. “At some point, you know, they’ve got to take me out of it.” The rise in tensions threatens to unravel significant progress made over the last week. Boehner and Obama have each offered substantial concessions that have made a deal look within reach. Obama has agreed to cuts in benefits for seniors, while Boehner has conceded to Obama’s demand that taxes rise for the richest Americans. However, the climate of goodwill has evaporated since Republicans announced plans on Tuesday to put an alternative tax plan to a vote in the House this week that would largely disregard the progress made so far in negotiations. On Wednesday, Obama threatened to veto the Republican measure, known as “Plan B,” if Congress approved it. Boehner’s office slammed Obama for opposing their plan. “The White House’s opposition to a backup plan ... is growing more bizarre and irrational by the day,” Boehner said through his spokesman, Brendan Buck. Boehner expressed confidence the House would pass the legislation, but Wednesday night it was still unclear exactly what it would contain. That was reflected in a late meeting of the Rules Committee of the House, which was supposed to

prepare the legislation for the floor but had little actual wording in front of it as it struggled to complete its task. In an eleventh hour effort to avoid a potential defeat at the hands of some of his own party members over the tax hike, Boehner added spending cuts to Plan B that would convince conservatives it was worth a risky vote. Any fiscal cliff agreement by Obama and the Republican leadership would need the support of their parties’ rank and file in Congress, and the vote on Plan B will be a test of Boehner’s ability to deliver votes on any eventual deal. In an effort to help Boehner out, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist gave his blessing to the bill. But other conservative groups, including the influential Club for Growth, were urging Republicans to vote against Plan B. Wall Street is on edge over the fiscal cliff talks although investors still expect a deal. The S&P 500 stock index slipped 0.76 percent on Wednesday. Business leaders have descended on Washington to lobby for a deal to avoid going over the cliff while putting public finances on a more sustainable path. Without an agreement to narrow deficits over the long run, the United States could eventually lose investors’ trust, triggering a debt crisis. An acrimonious presidential campaign that culminated in Obama’s re-election on Nov 6 has added to the bad blood in Washington between Obama and congressional Republicans. The two sides also clashed bitterly last year over the government’s limit on borrowing - known as the debt ceiling - an episode that nearly led the nation to default on its debt. On Wednesday, Obama said the fiscal cliff must not get bogged down with negotiations over the debt ceiling, an issue that must be dealt with again early next year. But Boehner’s offer to raise the debt ceiling enough for another year of borrowing is facing opposition from a large group of Republicans, a House Republican aide said. Obama and Boehner appeared to have bridged their biggest ideological differences but remain hung up on the mix of tax hikes and spending cuts meant to narrow the budget gap. “What separates us is probably a few hundred billion dollars,” Obama said. The White House wants taxes to rise on household incomes above $400,000 a year, a concession from Obama’s opening proposal for a $250,000 income threshold. Senior administration officials described negotiations as at a standstill and Obama warned he would ask everyone involved in the talks, “what it is that’s holding it up?” Still, the top Republican in the Senate said a resolution to the stalemate could come by the end of the week.—Reuters

Business FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

BNP joins rival SocGen in divesting Egyptian assets

Shares slide; Tension rises over US budget PAGE 22 PAGE 20

TOULOUSE: Photo shows the tails of two A380 Airbus passenger planes from Qantas and Emirates air companies, recently assembled in the airplane construction site Aeroconstellation. Australia’s competition watchdog yesterday gave its preliminary approval to a global alliance between struggling carrier Qantas and Dubai-based Emirates. — AFP (See Page 21)

‘Creative’ Iran dodges Western sanctions Middle men disguise origin, call it ‘Iraqi special blend’ DUBAI: Iran is becoming increasingly creative in dodging Western sanctions, managing to sell a rising volume of fuel oil to generate revenue equal to up to a third of its crude exports, which have been badly hit by restrictions. Compared with the first half of the year, Iran has on average exported more fuel oil per month since July, when European Union oil and shipping insurance sanctions came into effect and more than halved its crude exports. EU sanctions prohibit the import, purchase and transport of Iranian petroleum products in an attempt to curb revenues that might be channeled into a nuclear program that Iran says is for peaceful purposes but the West fears is to enable it to make weapons. Even for companies with no link to the EU, sanctions on financing and shipping insurance discourage would-be customers. Iran uses fuel oil for electricity generation and to power ships, but unlike other more valuable refined products such as diesel or gasoline, it has a surplus to export from the 70,000 tons a day it produces. The July sanctions slashed the OPEC member’s fuel oil sales initially, traders and analysts say, as term customers cancelled contracts, but sales have since rebounded thanks to the innovative methods of Gulf-based middlemen and Iran’s market-savvy oil officials. The Islamic Republic sold an average

648,000 tons of fuel oil monthly from July to October, up from 636,000 tons for January to June, according to data from a company that tracks Iran’s oil shipments. That brought in an average of $410 million per month. August income was more than double that figure, helping Iran to recoup a portion of the $3.8 billion it has lost in monthly crude export revenues since July. Salar Moradi, oil analyst at FACTS Global Energy, said Iran fuel oil exports have risen from lows of around 400,000 tons a month this summer. “The National Iranian Oil Company has been very successful in finding new strategies to circumvent sanctions and sold its fuel oil to Asia in August and September. Now we think Middle Eastern buyers of Iranian fuel oil have reappeared,” he said. Using ship-to-ship transfers, discharging and loading at remote ports and blending the Iranian fuel oil with other fuels to disguise the origin have become popular tactics for the Gulf-based middlemen and helped keep sales steady, several trading and industry sources familiar with the region said. Data from the firm tracking Iran shipments showed sharp fluctuations in fuel oil flows, which sources said could be attributed to shipping delays and tanker availability. Exports dived to zero in July and then jumped to 1.389 million tons in August, with a third of the sales

going to the Middle East. Iran’s fuel oil exports stayed above 1.1 million tons in September, and the Middle East received nearly 900,000 tons of this. In October, exports plunged to about 35,000 tons. Reuters data for Iranian fuel oil flows to East Asia showed a new record of around 1.4 million tons in September and 1.1 million tons in October. Requests for comment from officials at the NIOC were not answered. Iran is no stranger to international sanctions, and one common tactic to skirt them has been to cooperate with small Gulf-based oil traders who act as middlemen for buyers who might be unaware that the cargo is of Iranian origin. Several Middle Eastern traders said they had been approached by small UAE-based companies offering a type of fuel oil dubbed in the market as “Iraqi special blend” that included a combination of different fuel oil blends from the Middle East, or with an origin described as Iraqi. The specification indicates this is a cocktail of products blended in storage tanks and usually offered from the quiet Gulf port of Hamriyah and bunkering hub Fujairah mostly via ship-toship transfers (STS), trading sources said. “This Iranian fuel oil, disguised as Iraqi origin, has been flooding the market in Fujairah and depressing both cargo and bunker premiums in September,” said a Middle East-based trader.

Some oil traders afraid of falling foul of western sanctions said a close examination of the socalled “Iraqi special blend” gives them reason to be suspicious. A certificate of quality for one such cargo showed the density of the product to be around 0.9655 kilograms a liter - a level suggesting it was probably Iranian, the traders said. The Islamic Republic usually exports 280 cst viscosity straight-run fuel oil from its Bandar Mahshahr port, with a density of around 0.965. AIS Live shiptracking data on Reuters showed that tankers were regularly shuttling towards Iran’s main fuel oil export terminals of Bandar Abbas and Bandar Imam Khomeini, then turning off their satellite signals before reappearing soon afterwards next to the UAE storage hub Fujairah. In another tactic, small barges have left the port of Bandar Imam Khomeini, near Iran’s largest refinery Abadan, and then transferred their cargo onto bigger tankers destined for Fujairah, two industry sources said. Separately, Chinese e-commerce website Alibaba showed an Iranian seller offering volumes of at least 100,000 barrels of Iraqi fuel oil for sale. Reuters previously reported that Iran had exported its own fuel oil to Malaysia on a National Iranian Tanker Company vessel, before transferring it at sea to a Vitol-chartered tanker. —Reuters

Business FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Google to sell Motorola Mobility’s TV for $2.35 billion SAN FRANCISCO: Google is selling Motorola Mobility’s TV set-top business for $2.35 billion, lightening the load that the Internet search leader took on earlier this year when it completed the biggest acquisition in its history. The cash-and-stock deal announced late Wednesday will turn over Motorola’s set-top division to Arris Group Inc., a relatively small provider of highspeed Internet equipment that is looking to become a bigger player in the delivery of video. Investors applauded the move, driving up Arris’ stock by nearly 17 percent. Google’s decision to jettison the set-top boxes comes seven months after the Mountain View, Calif., company took control of Motorola Mobility Holdings in a $12.4 billion purchase. The set-top boxes were never a big allure for Google, although the company is interested in finding ways to pipe its service on to TVs so it can sell more advertising. Google prized Motorola for its portfolio of more than 17,000 mobile patents. Those form an arsenal that it can use in a fierce battle that has broken out over intellectual property as smartphones and tablet computers have emerged as hot commodities in recent years. Motorola also makes smartphones and tablets, a manufacturing business that Google

will retain, despite lingering concerns on Wall Street about the hardware shrinking Google’s profit margins and possibly alienating other device makers that use the company’s Android software. Besides not being a natural fit for Google, Motorola’s set-top box also has become a potentially expensive liability. Digital video recorder pioneer TiVo Inc. is seeking billions of dollars in damages in a lawsuit alleging that Motorola’s boxes infringed on its patents. Those claims are scheduled to go to trial next year in federal court in Texas. Although they declined to provide specifics, Arris Group executives told analysts in a Wednesday conference call that Google still must cover most of the bill for any damages or settlement that TiVo might win. TiVo already has negotiated about $1 billion in combined settlements in other patent-infringement cases it has brought against other companies, including Dish Network Corp., AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications. The proposed sale of Motorola’s set-top division calls for Google to receive $2.05 billion in cash and $300 million worth of Arris stock. If the deal wins regulatory approval, Arris Group expects to take over the division before the end of June.—AP

WASHINGTON: Photo shows a screen image of the Google logo in Washington, DC. — AFP

Shares slide; Tension rises over US budget Stalled budget talks reigniting fears LONDON: World shares retreated from 17-month highs and commodities fell yesterday as talks to avert a US fiscal crisis stalled, reigniting fears over the health of the world’s largest economy. On the currency market, the yen firmed against the dollar and the euro following the Bank of Japan’s widely expected decision to ease monetary policy for the third time in four months as it tries to reverse stubborn deflation. But with trading winding down ahead of the holiday season and following weeks of strong gains in many risk asset markets, many investors seemed ready to use the setback in ending the

saga of Washington’s budget deadlock to close out positions. “We’re opening in the red this morning because of the failure to come to any concrete deal on the ‘fiscal cliff’,” said Central Markets senior broker Joe Neighbor. “If there are profits to be had, we’ll be looking to take them off the table.” London’s FTSE 100, Paris’s CAC-40 and Frankfurt’s DAX all opened down as much as 0.3 percent, while the FTSE Eurofirst 300 index of top European shares slipped 0.2 percent from a 19month high set on Wednesday. A weaker Wall Street start was suggested by a 0.3 percent drop in US stock futures.

NEW DELHI: An Indian man carries baskets on his cycle as he passes in front of India Gate in New Delhi yesterday. India cut its growth forecast for the current fiscal year to just under six percent this month, putting Asia’s third-largest economy on track for its worst annual performance in a decade. — AFP

MSCI’s world equity index, which has steadily risen over the past five weeks on optimism over the outlook for 2013, was down 0.1 percent at 341.7 points . The political wrangling over narrowing the budget deficit gap in Washington is needed to avoid a package of mandatory spending cuts and tax rises set for January that would throw the economy back into recession. No progress was made on Wednesday. The tension was expected to rise later when the Republican Party leadership plans to try to pass a bill of its own in Congress in a move which has already angered President Barack Obama. The worries over the latest course of events have spread into the commodity markets, leaving gold near its 3-1/2-month low hit earlier in the week at around $1,670 an ounce. London copper hit a three-week low, slipping by 0.5 percent to $7,885 a ton. That extended losses in the previous session, when prices had dropped by more than 1 percent. While US crude fell 0.5 percent to $89.54 a barrel and Brent fell 0.4 percent to $109.94. In the currency markets, the Bank of Japan’s latest policy move was the main driver of prices. On top of expanding its asset-buying program, the BOJ said it would review its guidelines for mediumand long-term price stability at its next policy-setting meeting in January - a signal that further easing was to come. The dollar fell 0.45 percent to 84.00 yen on the decision, after hitting a 20-month high of 84.62 yen on Wednesday in anticipation of aggressive easing by the Japanese central bank. The euro also slid 0.45 percent yesterday to be at 111.32 yen retreating from a 16-month high. However, the dollar edged up 0.1 percent against a basket of major currencies.— Reuters

Gold inches up SINGAPORE: Gold edged up yesterday, but uncertainty around US budget talks kept investors nervous and Asia’s physical buying interest failed to lift prices substantially from a more than three-month low struck earlier this week. Talks in Washington to avert a fiscal crisis stalled as a deadline approaches for the world’s top economy to avoid $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts, dubbed the “fiscal cliff”, that could tip it back into recession. Earlier this week, gold slipped to its lowest since the end of August, and has languished near that level since, with investors hesitant to jump in as the US talks grind on. The earlier sharp drop triggered some interest from Asia’s bullion buyers, lending support to the market, but the buying was not enough to lift prices, dealers said. “There is decent Asian physical buying but it’s not enough to send prices recovering,” said a Tokyo-based trader. Spot gold inched up 0.2 percent to $1,669.31 an ounce by 0708 GMT, hovering above a key support at the 200-day moving average of $1,660.83. US gold rose 0.2 percent to $1,670.60. Spot gold may consolidate in the range of $1,660 and $1,688 an ounce for one more trading session before dropping towards $1,631, said Reuters market analyst Wang Tao. The weaker-than-expected physical demand in Asia will remain a hurdle to gold’s ascent, analysts said. “Without a significant pick-up in physical demand, gold will struggle to make big gains early next year, in our view,” Barclays analysts said in a research note. Supporting the sentiment in gold, the Bank of Japan delivered its third dose of monetary stimulus in four months yesterday in a prelude to more aggressive action next year. Spot gold has risen nearly 7 percent so far this year in its twelfth year of gains, largely thanks to monetary stimulus measures adopted by central banks, which drive investors worried about currency debasement to hard assets including gold. Holdings of SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s biggest gold-backed exchange-traded fund, were unchanged at 1,350.519 tons, not far off the historical high of 1,353.346 tons struck in early December. In industry news, South Africa wants to set export curbs on minerals such as platinum and iron ore, as part of a drive by the ruling African National Congress to create more jobs in the continent’s biggest economy. Spot platinum dropped to a twoweek low of $1,574.49 an ounce earlier in the day, and recovered to $1,588.74. Spot silver fell to $30.94, its lowest since Nov 5. — Reuters

Business FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Discounts abound as stores try to salvage season NEW YORK: When it comes to fat holiday discounts, better late than never. This holiday shopping season, many stores haven’t been offering the same blockbuster deals as they did last year. Instead, they’ve dangled offers of free shipping and no-fee layaways to lure shoppers. But during the final weekend before Christmas, shoppers should expect to see more “70 percent off” and “buy one, get one free” signs as stores try to salvage a season that so far has been disappointing. Teen retailer Aeropostale Inc has slashed prices on everything in its stores by 60 percent. Rival teen chain American Eagle Outfitters is offering 40 percent off all purchases. Saks Fifth Avenue is cutting prices on some

designer clothing up to 60 percent. And Children’s Place, a children’s clothing chain, is offering up to 75 percent off on its website. The sales are aimed at luring shoppers like Jennifer Romanello, who lives in Rockville Centre, NY Romanello, a publicity consultant, is planning to spend $400 less on holiday gifts this season as she spent a year ago. She said she’ll be looking for deep discounts when she heads to stores this weekend. “I just want to be cautious,” said Romanello, 47, who has two children, ages 12 and 15. “If it’s a great deal, I will consider.” The price slashing may be good news for shoppers, but it hurts stores. They’re profits likely will suffer in their last-ditch effort to boost sales during

the two-month holiday shopping period, a time when they can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue. To be sure, stores have been offering discounts throughout the season, but they resisted the blockbuster deals that ate away at profits last year. In fact, promotions and other discounting efforts were down 5 percent through Dec. 10 compared with last year, according to BMO Capital Markets, which tracks promotions at about two-thirds of mall stores. But sales have been slow, so stores will have to rely even more on the final days before Christmas to make up the difference. ShopperTrak, which counts foot traffic and its own proprietary sales num-

Under pressure, BOJ boosts stimulus again

BOJ offers gloomy assessment of Japan economy TOKYO: The Bank of Japan delivered its third shot of monetary stimulus in four months yesterday, in a prelude to more aggressive action next year as it faces intensifying pressure from the country’s next leader for bolder action to beat deflation. It also signaled setting a higher inflation target at its next meeting in January, when a new government will be in place. Shinzo Abe, whose opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) won Sunday’s election by a landslide, has put the central bank’s independence on the line by repeatedly calling for a binding 2 percent inflation target, double its current price goal. Feeling the heat, the central bank expanded its asset-buying and lending program by 10 trillion yen ($119 billion) to 101 trillion yen, a widely expected move that barely moved markets. “I take it as that the BOJ is carrying out what we sought during the election step-by-step,” Abe told a party meeting. The incoming prime minister caused a brief stir when he said that BOJ Governor Masaaki Shirakawa had telephoned to inform him of the decision in the morning - when the policy meeting was still taking place. The LDP later said the remark was a slip of the tongue and Shirakawa told a news conference he made the call in the afternoon, after the meeting was over. With the latest move, the BOJ has expanded asset purchases five times this year, the most frequent activity during a single year in a decade. The last time it eased so many times was in 2001, when Japan was battling a domestic banking crisis. “The next step is inflation targeting. The BOJ will come up with something that’s just enough to avoid criticism from Abe but probably not enough to avoid some sense of disappointment,” said Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo. “Abe is not even prime minister yet. If you look at how the BOJ is behav-

TOKYO: Bank of Japan (BOJ) Governor Masaaki Shirakawa explains an asset-buying program during a press conference in Tokyo yesterday. —AFP ing, you could argue this is a loss of independence.” LONG-TERM TARGET The BOJ now has a 1 percent inflation target in place, and defines a range of zero to 2 percent consumer inflation as a desirable level of long-term price growth. The central bank said it would review that guideline next month. It will probably clarify that, after 1 percent inflation is in sight, it will aim to achieve 2 percent inflation. Shirakawa admitted that Abe’s request for setting a 2 percent inflation target was partly behind the central bank’s decision to review its long-term price goal. But he warned that in doing so, the BOJ would ensure that its policy flexibility was protected and take into account the fact that Japan has long suffered from deflation even as other advanced economies experienced inflation. “We must bear in mind the fact that inflation has been low in Japan for a long time,” Shirakawa told a news conference. Shirakawa has consistently argued that setting a 2 percent

inflation target would be counter-productive in a country that has not seen consumer inflation exceed 1 percent for most of the past two decades. But Abe made a rare, direct push for a higher inflation target when Shirakawa visited the LDP’s headquarters on Tuesday, saying that the central bank must pay heed to the fact that he won an election campaigning for bolder monetary stimulus. Abe also said that once he takes over as primes minister on Dec 26 he would instruct his new cabinet ministers to begin working with the BOJ on setting a shared inflation target. GOVERNMENT ACTION ALSO NEEDED The yen has fallen almost 9 percent against the dollar since September, as Abe’s emergence as the likely next prime minister raised expectations of more expansionary policy and spending. The dollar briefly edged up to around 84.39 yen after the BOJ’s decision, but quickly slid back down as markets saw its action as lacking any surprises. — Reuters

bers from 40,000 retail outlets across the country, said Wednesday that the number of shoppers in stores for the week that ended on Saturday fell 4.4 percent from the year-ago period, while sales declined 4.3 percent. As a result, the company said it would slash its sales forecast to a 2.5 percent increase, down from the 3.3 percent growth it had initially predicted. The company declined to give dollar figures. And online sales, which have been seen as a beacon during the season, have been below expectations, too. Online sales are up 13 percent to $35 billion from Nov 1 through Dec 16, according to comScore, an online research. That pace is below the forecast of 17 percent for the season. — AP

Qantas-Emirates alliance wins conditional approval SYDNEY: Australia’s competition watchdog yesterday gave its preliminary approval to a global alliance between struggling carrier Qantas and Dubai-based Emirates, but only for five years initially. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said the benefits, which will see the airlines coordinate ticket prices and flight schedules, would likely outweigh reduced competition on certain routes. A final decision will be made by March. “The ACCC considers that the alliance is likely to result in material, although not substantial, benefits to Australian consumers,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange. “The main benefit arising from the alliance is an improved product and service offering by the two airlines to their customers. “This includes increased customer access to each others’ flights, destinations and frequent flyer programs.” Sims added that the alliance, seen as pivotal to the future of Qantas, would lessen competition on some international routes, but competition from other airlines should mitigate the impact. However, he said Qantas and Emirates could reduce or limit capacity on routes between Australia and New Zealand under the partnership, which could result in higher airfares. It was for this reason that the ACCC only gave an initial five-year approval, half the 10 years requested by the airlines. The decision would then be reviewed. Under the alliance, Qantas will shift its hub for European flights to Dubai from Singapore in a bid to stem losses after this year posting its first annual deficit since privatization in 1995. It also means an end to Qantas’s partnership with British Airways on the so-called kangaroo route to London, which has spanned nearly two decades. Once final approval is granted, Qantas will fly daily A380 services from Sydney and Melbourne to London via Dubai, meaning that between the two airlines there will be 98 weekly services between Australia and the Emirates hub. As a consequence, Qantas flights to Singapore and Hong Kong will terminate in those cities and be rescheduled to enable more same-day connections across Asia. For Emirates customers, the alliance opens up Qantas’s Australian domestic network of more than 50 destinations and nearly 5,000 flights per week. The deal goes beyond codesharing to include coordinated pricing, sales and scheduling and a benefit-sharing model, although neither airline will take equity in the other. “We put a strong case to the ACCC that outlined the benefits of this partnership, both for travelers and for Australian tourism, “ Qantas chief Alan Joyce said. “Our customer research has shown very strong support for the Qantas and Emirates partnership, particularly in terms of increasing one-stop access to Europe, cutting travel time and offering frequent flyer benefits.” — AFP

Business FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

UAE, Saudi to outperform other Gulf bourses DUBAI: Stock markets in the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are likely to outperform other Gulf Arab bourses early next year, buoyed by strong economic growth and a recovery in Dubai’s real estate market, fund managers and analysts believe. This year was a mixed and in many cases disappointing one for Gulf equities, as the global financial crisis and geopolitical tensions weighed on the region’s markets despite healthy growth in its underlying economies. Dubai’s benchmark index is up 17.6 percent so far this year, exceeding a 14.8 percent gain for the Morgan Stanley Emerging Market index. On the other hand, Abu Dhabi’s index has climbed just 8.8 percent and the Saudi benchmark is up only 7.3 percent. Kuwait, plagued by instability in domestic politics that shows no clear sign of easing despite this month’s parliamentary elections, has edged up just 3.0 percent. Qatar’s index is down 4.2 percent, indicating skepticism among investors about the benefits to listed firms of the tiny country’s mas-

sive infrastructure building plans. So any hopes for big equities gains across the region next year look over-optimistic. But a substantial amount of money is waiting to enter the markets on dips, which should provide a firm tone in the opening months of 2013, many analysts believe. “UAE markets will retain a positive tone until the finish of the year, given the overall expectation for equities in 2013,” said Anastasios Dalgiannakis, institutional trading manager at Mubasher. “On that basis, I would expect more positive momentum.” REAL ESTATE The gradual recovery of Dubai’s real estate market from its 2008-2010 crash has been one of the Gulf’s top financial trends this year. It has helped shares in leading Dubai property developer Emaar Properties soar 44 percent this year, and with that stock now close to this year’s high, it appears possible for the rally to continue. Dubai is “emerging as the clear favorite among major real estate investors across

the MENA region. There are indications that some of the lessons of the last real estate crisis have been learned,” consultants Jones Lang LaSalle said in a report this week. “The most important of these is the need to adopt a long-term and coordinated approach, rather than developing too much real estate too quickly. Providing this increase in confidence does not result in negative over-exuberance, it is likely that most sectors will continue to experience some growth in prices and rentals in 2013.” Another factor sustaining the UAE is high expected dividend payouts for some stocks. Air Arabia is among the favorites, with a forecast dividend yield for 2012 of 7.5 percent, according to analysts; Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank is expected to pay a 5.8 percent yield. Companies usually announce their annual dividends during the first-quarter earnings reporting season that starts in January. “I’m very bullish on Q1 2013. Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s markets tend to rally in the first few weeks of the year, and liquidity

BNP joins rival SocGen in divesting Egyptian assets Dubai lender ENBD buying 95.2% of BNP Egypt DUBAI: BNP Paribas SA, France’s largest bank, agreed to sell its Egyptian arm to Dubai lender Emirates NBD for $500 million as French lenders divest operations in the North African country to shore up their capital bases. BNP, like other French and European banks, has spent the past year cutting assets and staff to better withstand the euro zone’s

that despite continued political turmoil in Egypt, cash-rich Gulf investors remain keen to raise their presence in the country after last year’s revolution, even as European banks repair damaged balance sheets by selling some overseas units. Following deal agreement by both SocGen and BNP, the focus may now shift to Credit Agricole SA, which

CAIRO: An Egyptian vendor reads a newspaper as he waits for customers in his shop in Khan Al-Khalili market in Cairo.—AP debt crisis and tougher global Basel III rules on risk-taking. For ENBD, majority-owned by the government, the deal offers an opportunity to expand its Dubai-centric business, having been hit in recent quarters by its exposure to debt-laden, state-linked entities in Dubai that have been forced to restructure billions of dollars of obligations. “This deal represents an excellent opportunity for Emirates NBD to enter the promising Egyptian market and achieve our strategic aspiration of expanding regionally,” the bank’s chairman, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, said. The agreement is a fresh sign

also owns 60 percent of Credit Agricole Egypt and operates a retail, corporate and private banking business in the country, a banking source familiar with the matter said. “There have been some informal discussions related to that asset. We would expect it come on the block soon,” the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public. ENBD, majority-owned by the Dubai government, will buy BNP’s 95.2 percent stake in its Egyptian arm and make an offer to minority shareholders for the remaining 4.8 percent, it said in a bourse statement on Thursday. The transaction,

which is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2013, values the business at 1.6 times its book value as of September 2012, ENBD said. The valuation is below the two times book value paid by Qatar National Bank when it agreed to buy Societe Generale’s Egyptian arm for $2 billion last week. “We see this as a positive development for ENBD as the deal represents the bank’s first step into growth markets, with near-term growth prospects in UAE subdued,” EFG-Hermes said in a research note. “However, the size of the acquired bank...indicates that it is pursuing international expansion cautiously.” BNP, France’s biggest listed bank, put its business in Egypt on the block in June, seeking to strengthen its capital base and exit non-core operations. Industry sources told Reuters this week that ENBD had outbid Morocco’s Attijariwafabank for the asset. EGYPT BUSINESS BNP has a network of 69 branches in Egypt and operates retail, corporate banking and private banking operations with retail banking accounting for the majority chunk of its business. Sources earlier said the sale may include only the retail arm, but the statement indicated the French bank was selling its entire business in the country. The Egypt unit had around 200,000 retail and 3,000 corporate clients as of September 2012. EFG Hermes said in the note that the unit had a lending market share of 1.4 percent and deposit market share of 1.5 percent, as of September 2012. The Cairo-headquartered business had revenues of 731 million Egyptian pounds ($118.50 million) and net earnings of 222 million Egyptian pounds ($35.99 million) in 2011, ENBD said. ENBD is aiming for international revenues of around 15-20 percent of its total in five years, up from 5 percent at present, with acquisitions likely to play a key role in achieving the target, CEO Rick Pudner said in an interview in November. —Reuters

always increases as people position for dividends,” said Shehzad Janab, head of asset management at Dubai-based Daman. “We’re still relatively cheap and we have the dividend-led uptick coming up.” Dubai’s index is currently priced at about 9.5 times expected 2012 earnings and 8.2 times 2013 earnings, according to analyst forecasts. “From an asset allocation perspective, I have a more sanguine outlook on equities compared to bonds because the relative attractiveness of bonds has declined with yields shrinking in the recent rally,” Janab added. UAE markets however, continue to suffer from low levels of trading activity. This week Al Habtoor Group, one of Dubai’s leading family-owned firms, shelved plans to raise as much as $1.6 billion through an initial public offer of shares in Dubai next year. Analysts say stock market conditions have still not recovered enough to be conducive to IPOs. Trading volume on Dubai’s bourse so far in 2012 is about 33 billion shares, compared to 106 billion shares traded in all of 2009. —Reuters

Strike looms at East and Gulf Coast ports BOSTON: Weeks after a critical West Coast port complex was crippled by a few hundred striking workers, the East Coast is bracing for a possible walkout numbering thousands that could close 15 ports from Massachusetts to Texas. The latest talks between shipping companies and dockworkers broke down Tuesday, less than two weeks before the contract expires Dec 29, leading to worries a strike was inevitable. The National Retail Federation wrote to President Barack Obama this week to ask him to use “all means necessary” to head off a strike, which they fear could have catastrophic ripple effects nationwide. “We foresee this as a national economic emergency, to be honest,” said Jonathan Gold, the group’s vice president of supply chain and customs policy. Gold said billions in commerce at countless businesses nationwide could be affected, from auto manufacturers awaiting parts to the truckers that deliver them. Ingrid Hirstin Lazcano, founder of the Los Angeles-based Andean Dream LCC, said a strike on the East and Gulf Coasts could bankrupt her company, which sells soups, pasta and other products made from quinoa, a grain, grown in the Bolivian Andes. The company has two containers shipped monthly to both Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and Lazcano said she’s still recovering from the eight-day strike of 450 clerical workers at the Los AngelesLong Beach port complex, which ended Dec 4. “If the strike does happen, we will be paralyzed,” she said. “We will not be able to fill orders.” James McNamara, spokesman for the International Longshoremen’s Association, said the union knows what’s at stake for others but must protect its membership. “We offer the labor that keeps the commerce moving,” he said. “If management doesn’t appreciate or respect the labor that has made them a lot of money, then we have to do what we have to do.” A strike wouldn’t affect passenger cruise ships, US mail, military cargo or perishable cargo with a limited shelf life. It also wouldn’t affect non-container, or break bulk, cargo such as steel, wood products and cars. The longshoremen’s union represents 14,500 workers at the 15 ports, which extend south from Boston and handle 95 percent of all containerized shipments from Maine to Texas, about 110 million tons’ worth. The New York-New Jersey ports handle the most cargo on the East Coast, valued at $208 billion in 2011. The other ports that would be affected by a strike are Boston; Delaware River; Baltimore; Hampton Roads, Va; Wilmington, NC; Charleston, SC, Savannah, Ga; Jacksonville, Fla; Port Everglades, Fla, Miami; Tampa, Fla; Mobile, Ala; New Orleans and Houston. The impasse comes during a 90-day extension of the current contract. On Tuesday, a federal mediator offered another monthlong extension. Various issues, including wages, are unresolved, but the sides couldn’t agree on what’s become the key sticking point, container royalties. The royalties are payments to union workers based on the weight of cargo received at each port. They were created in the 1960s to boost wages and finance worker benefits after increased automation cut down salaries and jobs, making it impossible for the dwindling labor force to finance its benefits, McNamara said. —AP

Tr a v e l FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

No peaks?

No problem for Latvian downhill ski fans I

n the flat Baltic nation of Latvia, where hills are few and far between, wily alpine skiing fans have found ways to indulge their passion without flying south to hit the slopes. “Every year we grow the hill a little. It’s now about 25 meters higher than it was,” says Vadims Kamenevs, marketing director of the Zagarkalns ski resort in Cesis, 90 kilometers (55 miles) northeast of the capital Riga. Kamenevs’ team have spent recent off seasons piling an earth-mix onto a natural hill, and it now stands 112 metres (367 feet) above sea level. It says a lot for Latvians’ love of downhill skiing that people in the Baltic nation of two million are prepared to grow their own mountains. “If you want bigger slopes, there are only two ways you can go-either up or down, and we didn’t

want to start digging,” Kamenevs laughs. The tallest hill in the country, Gaizinkalns, rises just 312 meters above sea level and, predictably, it has three pistes on its flanks. The Zagarkalns resort is not alone in using cosmetic surgery to enhance nature’s modest mounds. In the western port of Ventspils, a ski hill was built from scratch in 2005. It too is growing each year, currently towering 52 meters over the nearby Baltic Sea beach and oil terminal. Named “Lemberga Hute”, or “Lembergs’ Trilby”, its bizarre shape imitates the preferred headwear of colourful local mayor and political kingpin Aivars Lembergs. Whereas cross-country skiing is a national obsession in neighboring Estonia, Latvians prefer the thrill of downhill skiing and snowboarding.

Snowboarders prepare to go down from the top of Zagarkalns’ main slope in Cesis, Latvia. — AFP

“Although Latvia is not a land of mountains, its steep slopes and snowrich winters are just perfect for short runs with skis or on snowboard,” according to a recent report on 400 European ski resorts from the European Consumers Centre Network. “And while it may seem quite unusual, alpine skiing is one of the Latvians’ favorite winter-time activities. Ski runs are located in almost every municipality,” it adds. Europe’s cheapest skiing The report also gives a clue as to why Latvians have kept skiing even during an economic crisis that saw their country battered by the world’s deepest recession in 2008-09. The country offers the continent’s cheapest skiing, with one-day adult passes costing the equivalent of

about four euros ($5) — albeit on a slope just 250 meters long at the Ramkalni ski centre just outside Riga. In contrast, the continent’s most expensive adult pass is found on the somewhat larger Matterhorn in Switzerland, at 62 euros ($81). Latvia also has its own slope for well-heeled skiers, however, with the Zviedru Cepure resort charging 50 euros for a day’s skiing on a kilometre-long slope. One of the benefits of small hills is that skiers can be confident they will not be stuck halfway up a mountain awaiting rescue before spending weeks on crutches. According to the Latvian Ski Track Association, just 61 people were hurt during the 2011-12 season. According to Kamenevs, the competition generated by dozens of small slopes is driving rapid improvements in facilities. “Latvia is the capital of downhill as far as the Baltics are concerned. We get lots of visitors from Estonia, and Lithuanians tell us it’s cheaper for them to come here for a weekend than to visit their local facilities,” he says. “The Russian market is also becoming very important. Russians can easily combine a weekend break in Riga with a couple of days’ skiing on different slopes.” Since Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, its slopes have found an extra role-teaching a new generation of skiers skills that they can then take to the Alps, Pyrenees or further afield, which was impossible during 50 years of Soviet occupation. “A fair share of our winter passengers are skiers,” says Janis Vanags of national airline airBaltic, himself a fan of the slopes. “Latvians are quite keen to explore less-known ski areas in Finland and Norway, plus new resorts in Georgia are generating a lot of interest. We are quite stubborn. We won’t let the fact that we just have a few small mounds stop us from skiing,” he adds. With the arrival of the Baltic winter, Latvia’s 31 ski centres have just opened for business, and with luck they will stay open well into March. At the top of Zagarkalns’ main run, 23-year-old Janis Bendiks says skiing is a way of life even in a small town such as Cesis. “It’s simple. You finish work at five o’clock, then everyone heads to the slopes. This evening the run will be packed. It’s right on my doorstep, so why not make the most of it?” he asks before swerving expertly away in a cloud of powder. —AFP

Tr a v e l FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Clad in Santa Claus costumes, workers wipe windows some 55 meters above the ground outside a hotel in Tokyo yesterday. The hotel produced the event to enliven the Yaesu business district near Tokyo Station ahead of Christmas.— AFP

Elves add magic to families’

Christmas traditions S

omeone’s spying on the VanNatta kids. Their parents aren’t worried. In fact, they approve wholeheartedly. That someone is Buddy, the elf doll the VanNattas have adopted as a Christmas-season emissary. Buddy’s job is to use his magical powers to keep an eye on the five VanNatta children and report back to Santa on the behavior of Corey, 12; Cole, 11; Cade, 9; Cameron, 7; and Caleigh, 5. That’s their mother’s story, anyway, and she’s sticking to it. Colleen and Chris VanNatta of Lake Township, Ohio, are among the growing legions of parents who have embraced the tradition of inviting an enchanted elf into their homes in the weeks leading to Christmas. Legend has it that the elves watch the children during the day and then return to the North Pole each night to share the inside scoop on naughtiness and niceness, along with tips on what the kids hope to find under their trees. What’s especially fun is that when an elf returns each morning, he (or she, in some cases) finds a new place in the house to perch-and sometimes, some new mischief to get into. That inspires the kids to start each day with a sort of treasure hunt. It also inspires a good deal of creativity. Elves have been spotted hanging from ceiling fans and stringing lights on trees. They’ve been found in the midst of snowball fights with other toys, using miniature marshmallows as ammo. They’ve been discovered making snow angels in flour, crafting paper snowflakes and checking Facebook. Keeping up with an active elf can take some effort, Colleen VanNatta admitted. But she likes how Buddy serves as a check on behavior at a time of year when kids can spin out of control. She said Buddy has a knack for showing up where he’s really needed, such as near the piano on a day after some of the kids balked at having to practice. “It is work,” she said, “but it really is so fun.” Bianca Murphy agreed. “It just adds to the magic of Christmas,” said Murphy, whose Copley house is the seasonal home-away-from-home

Ben, the elf of the family of Bianca Murphy, was found reading a Christmas story to a group of stuffed animals (foreground) in their home. — MCT photos

The Murphy brothers Sean, 9, from left, Jack, 6, and Joe, 4, pose for portrait with their elf, Ben at their home. to an elf named Ben. Ben came to stay last year with the Murphy family-Bianca, husband Patrick and sons Sean, 9; Jack, 6; and Joe, 4. She said Ben was fairly well-behaved that first year, but as he’s become more comfortable in his surroundings, he’s let his impish side show. One day, he got into the refrigerator and turned the milk green. He’s written on the bathroom mirror with toothpaste and unrolled the toilet paper. The Murphy kids have discovered the elf playing Scrabble with some of their toys and having a slumber party with their stuffed animals, during which Ben and his inanimate friends ate popcorn and watched-what else? — the movie Elf. Murphy is among the parents who share their elves’ adventures on social networking sites such as Facebook and Pinterest. Some even manage to capture their elves’ hi-jinks

on video. YouTube has footage of elves flying, riding toy trains, boogieing along with the video game Just Dance 3 and even taking a potty break. (Don’t worry; the camera is outside the bathroom. Elves deserve their privacy, too.) The idea of an elf, angel or other figure visiting children is rooted in a number of Christmas traditions around the world, but a Portage County, Ohio, woman was instrumental in popularizing it in the United States. The late Flora Johnson of Atwater, Ohio, shared the tradition with her own children in the 1960s, and her daughter passed it along to Johnson’s grandson. When Johnson noticed how much the elf’s visits thrilled the child, she got the idea of sharing the tradition with other children. So in 1984, at age 60, Johnson wrote the story of an elf called Christopher Pop-In-Kins and started making elf dolls by hand, which were packaged with the book and sold locally. Over the years, she made an estimated 10,000 dolls, and eventually the kitchen-table enterprise grew into Pop-In-Kins Ltd., a company in Alliance, Ohio, that markets the dolls and books through independent retailers and, said Ed Kuntzman, the company’s vice president of creative services. Johnson was so insistent on maintaining the enchantment that she asked retailers to keep her products behind the counter, shielded from little eyes, said Kuntzman’s brother Dave, the company’s president. “We’re trying to maintain the magic that Flora always wanted the elf to have,” he said. —MCT

Analysis FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Qaeda gains ground as Syria’s endgame nears Terror group not far from Israeli troops


aving seen its star wane in Iraq, Al-Qaeda has staged a comeback in neighboring Syria, posing a dilemma for the opposition fighting to remove President Bashar Al-Assad and making the West balk at military backing for the revolt. The rise of Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, Al-Nusra Front, which the United States designated a terrorist organization last week, could usher in a long and deadly confrontation with the West, and perhaps Israel. Inside Syria, the group is exploiting a widening sectarian rift to recruit Sunnis who saw themselves as disenfranchised by Assad’s Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that dominates Syria’s power and security structures. AlNusra appears to have gained popularity in a country that has turned more religious as the uprising, mainly among Sunni Muslims, has been met with increasing force by authorities. It has claimed responsibility for spectacular and deadly bombings in Damascus and Aleppo, and its fighters have joined other rebel brigades in attacks on Assad’s forces. According to Site Intelligence group, Nusra claimed responsibility in one day alone last month for 45 attacks in Damascus, Deraa, Hama and Homs provinces that reportedly killed dozens, including 60 in a single suicide bombing. “In 18 communiquÈs issued on jihadist forums ... most of which contain pictures of the attacks, the Al-Nusra Front claimed ambushes, assassinations, bombings and raids against Syrian security forces and ‘shabbiha’, pro-Bashar Al-Assad thugs,” Site said. REVIVING THE CALIPHATE Members of the group interviewed by Reuters say Al-Nusra aims to revive the Islamic Caliphate, which dates back to the Prophet Mohammad’s seventh century companions, forerunners of the large empire that once stretched into Europe. That prospect alarms many in Syria, from minority Christians, Alawites and Shiites to traditionally conservative but tolerant Sunni Muslims who are concerned that Al-Nusra would try to impose Taleban-style rule. Fear of religion-based repression has already prompted Kurds to barricade their quarter of Aleppo city and was behind fierce clashes between Kurdish and al-Nusra fighters in the border town of Ras al Ain in November. The ideas of AlNusra are also at odds with a new

Syrian opposition coalition that was recognized last week by dozens of countries as an alternative to Assad and is committed to establishing a democratic alternative to Assad’s rule. Omar, a 25-year-old university graduate and former army conscript, said he deserted and joined al-Nusra in reaction to repression he experienced as a Sunni from Alawite officers who all but monopolise the army’s higher echelons. Prior to the revolt, Omar said he had sympathized quietly with Hizb utTahrir, an Islamic international party with a vision for the restoration of the Islamic caliphate abolished by the secular Turkish strongman Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1924. “Prayer in the army is banned, and if they suspected that you pray they would send you to the most remote posts,” Omar said by phone from a rural area near Aleppo city. “Our aim is to depose Assad, defend our people against the military crackdown and build the caliphate. Many in the Free Syrian Army have ideas like us and want an Islamic state.” “We and other Islamists have gained a reputation as being able to hold our own in battle. Lots of people want to join Nusra, but we do not have enough weapons to supply all of them.” But a woman teacher, who lives in the central Mogambo district of Aleppo, said Nusra’s thinking was abhorrent. “Al-Nusra thinks that by

shouting Allahu Akbar (God is Greatest) they can justify anything they do. We did not rise up to move from the humiliation from being under Assad to the humiliation of being under Al-Qaeda,” she said. NUSRA ATTACKS Opposition sources said many Syrians who facilitated the transfer of jihadis from Syria to Al-Qaeda in Iraq at the height of its campaign against US forces there were now fighting for Nusra, while jihadis in Iraq had reversed their roles, arranging for transfer of personnel and bomb-making know-how into Syria. The source of Nusra funding is unclear, though that, too, may come from Iraq. Ibrahim, another young Nusra member in Idlib province, said he was imprisoned in the notorious Sednaya prison north of Damascus, where 170 mainly Islamist prisoners were killed after the army put down a mutiny in 2007. “We want revenge,” he said. Asked about a US statement that Nusra operations were killing many civilians, Ibrahim said it was an exaggeration. “A bomb goes off in front of a security compound with four cars full of shabbiha in civilian clothes guarding it. The shabbiha die and state media says they were civilian. Only their clothes are civilian,” he said. Several videos have appeared on the

Internet in recent weeks purportedly showing Al-Nusra-linked rebels shooting and in some instances beheading captured Assad soldiers. But Al-Nusra still appears to have wide support. Video footage on Friday showed crowds in southern Syria, the birthplace of the revolt, denouncing the US designation of the group as terrorists and shouting “Al-Nusra front protects us”. Farouk Tayfour, deputy head of the Muslim Brotherhood, who fought against Assad’s father in the 1980s, said it was too early to categorize opposition fighters. Some, he said, joined Nusra to defend their homes without subscribing to its ideology. NOT MONOLITHIC GROUP The identity of al-Nusra’s leadership is not clear. A shadowy figure known as Abu Muhammad alGolani - whose nationality is not known - has been named by some as the head. But an Islamist opposition campaigner who toured northern and central Syria a few days ago and met Nusra commanders said the group operates more like an umbrella organization with little coordination between units in different regions. “They are not a monolithic group. The nature of Nusra in Damascus is more tolerant than Idlib. They have a real popular base in Idlib, where most Nusra members are Syrians, as opposed to

MAARET IKHWAN: Syrian rebels clean an anti-aircraft gun, while commanders talk at their headquarters in Maaret Ikhwan, Syria. —AP

Aleppo and Damascus.” He said it did not appear to be seeking to impose Taleban-style control. “Many rebels I have met say they joined Al-Nusra because the group has weapons, mostly seized from raids, and that they will go back home after the revolt,” he added. But many centrist opposition campaigners fear that Al-Nusra will turn its guns on any nonIslamist order that could come if Assad was deposed. “The big question is how to contain Nusra in a post-Assad Syria,” said an opposition figure linked to jihadist groups, who did not want to be identified. “Al-Nusra is the type of group that could declare the most pious cleric a heretic and kill him in the middle of a mosque just because he does not share its view,” he said. Nusra members are estimated to number in the thousands and are particularly strong in the northern region of Aleppo and Idlib, where they have joined or carried out joint operations with Islamist groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham and Liwa Al-Tawhid unit. In and around Damascus they are fewer in number but remain potent, and are only 20 kilometers at some points from the Golan Heights front with Israel. Abu Munther, an engineer turned rebel who operates on the southern edge of Damascus and goes to Jordan to meet other rebels, said in Amman that AlNusra numbered hundreds of people in Damascus, as opposed to thousands in the north. But those numbers could grow. AlMujahideen brigade in the southern Tadamun neighborhood of Damascus declared its allegiance to Al-Nusra after dissatisfaction with Arab-backed military groups headed by defector officers. Another opposition figure, who did not want to be named, said international intelligence agencies were trying to curb Nusra’s influence in Damascus and the southern Hauran Plain, where they are near Israel and close to the Jordanian border. “Western intelligence agencies are realizing that the Nusra is the biggest threat in a post-Assad Syria and are devoting more resources to deal with the threat,” he said. “For the first time Al-Qaeda is within striking distance of Israel,” he said. “Many are realizing that the best that could be done for now is to contain them in north Syria - even if the area risks becoming an Islamist emirate of sorts - while trying to build a civic form of government in and around Damascus.” — Reuters


KUWAIT : Workers clean the windows of a building in Kuwait City yesterday. Kuwait's provisional budget surplus surged 43 percent to 14.7 billion dinars in the first seven months of the fiscal year, boosted by oil income, government data showed. — Photo by Yasser Al-Zayyat


Smart cookies



ll that dashing and dancing in the kitchen adds up to a lot of time around the holidays. Anything you can do ahead is bound to help. That may be enough motivation to make cookie doughs in advance and stash them in the refrigerator, ready to bake. But how about this: Your time-saver may be a flavor booster. Making cookies in advance may improve them. Sweet! In the last few years, cookie recipes have been cropping up that harness the idea of building flavor and texture by letting things wait a little. “I think you can taste a difference,” says Sue Gray, manager of product development for King Arthur Flour. “There are changes happening.

Exactly what they are is hard to pin down. Probably a bunch of little things are happening.” The idea of letting cookie dough sit in the refrigerator, not just for a couple of hours but for as long as several days, came to my attention in 2008, when food writer David Leite wrote a story for The New York Times on his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. He discovered that Maury Rubin of City Bakery in New York let cookie dough rest for 36 hours before baking. After hearing that, Leite went back to the source, a 1953 cookbook by Ruth Wakefield, the originator of the Toll House cookie, and noticed that her recipe called for letting the dough rest overnight. Apparently, the step was

dropped when Nestle put the recipe on bags of semisweet morsels. After trying it, Leite decided it did make a difference. The dough was drier and firmer, and the cookies developed sweet, toffee-like flavors. I played with the idea a little more last year, when I was working on a crunchy pecan chocolate chip cookie. Several baking sites touched on the idea of letting creamed butter, sugars and egg sit for a few minutes before adding flour. The sugar melts a little, leading to a crispier cookie. For the holidays, I decided to look further. What I learned is that there’s a lot of anecdotal evidence, but not a lot of proof of what exactly is happening. Making cookie doughs in advance is common in bakeries, says Megan Lambert, a senior baking instructor at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, N.C. She and her mother used to own a bakery in Raleigh, NC, the Flour Shop. “You make a huge batch of cookie (doughs) and then you just pull from that.” But in her classes, cookies usually are baked the same day they’re mixed. She does notice a little difference, she says, particularly a sharper flavor from the baking soda, which hasn’t had a chance to mellow. Even though doughs are commonly made in advance in bakeries, there’s not a lot of research into the difference, says Sue Gray of King Arthur. Studies usually are paid for by food companies, which are more interested in techniques that lead to efficiency, not flavor. “So anything I say, I can’t prove,” she says. Still, she does think something is happening with the flavor. “There’s so much happening in doughs,” she says. “Anytime you make something, giving it some time for the flavors to develop, for water to

become evenly absorbed, can’t hurt.” Food science writer Harold McGee definitely agrees. In his new book, “Keys to Good Cooking,” he included this point: “To develop more flavor, refrigerate doughs for days wrapped airtight. Refrigerated doughs slowly break down some starch and protein, and make progressively darker and more flavorful cookies.” Kenji Lopez-Alt has worked with doughs made in advance and he notices differences, too. Chief creative officer for the food website and a former editor with Cook’s Illustrated, he’s writing a book based on his Serious Eats column The Food Lab, where he tests cooking theories. “Definitely, the way the dough handles (changes),” he says. “Letting it rest, you end up with a drier dough that I find a little easier to measure and scoop. When you bake it, it’s a flavor difference. A little sweeter, a little more complex.” The difference starts with the liquid in the egg, which hydrates the starch in flour. Giving the flour more time to absorb that liquid makes the dough firmer, but it also lets enzymes in the flour and the egg yolk break down carbohydrates into the simple sugars fructose and glucose. Separately, they taste sweeter and they caramelize faster when baked. While some theories claim that long refrigeration lets gluten relax in cookie doughs, both Gray and Lopez-Alt discount that. There’s not that much gluten development in cookie dough. And not all cookies can sit, of course. Meringues and macaroons, based on foamy egg whites, can’t wait. But doughs based on flour, sugars, butter and egg are made for waiting. Cookies with strong flavors, such as ginger or peanut butter, can benefit from time to


ripen. Cookies are small things, made from simple ingredients using simple techniques. So small changes, like waiting times, can do big things. “You start with such simple ingredients,” says Lopez-Alt. “It’s really the process and the details of technique that are going to have the biggest effect.” Making cookies? How you measure makes a difference. For dry ingredients, use dry-cup measures the flat rim lets you level them easier. Glass or plastic liquid measuring cups are difficult to fill accurately with dry ingredients. To measure flour and sugar, spoon them into the cup until they’re above the rim, then level off with the flat edge of a knife. Be careful about adding fresh dough to a still-hot cookie sheet - it can melt and spread. The easiest way: Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper, then slide it off to a cooling rack and rinse the sheet with cold water. You can portion out the next batch of dough on parchment paper too, so it’s ready to slide onto the cooled sheet. “Room temperature” butter should be soft, but not too soft or it won’t hold air when you beat it. Let it stand until you can just press a fingertip into it and leave a mark. To hurry it, cut the butter into 1-tablespoon slices. Don’t soften butter in the microwave. The center may melt before the outside softens. “Creaming” means to beat fat (usually butter) with sugar. Beat it long enough to make it light-colored and fluffy, which can take several minutes. Cooling matters: If you remove cookies from a baking sheet too soon, they’ll break or bend. If you don’t have a cooling rack, pull out the second rack of your oven or the rack from inside the toaster oven. (Cover the rack with paper towels if it’s stained.) Always cool cookies completely before decorating or storing them. Roll-out sugar cookies From “The King Arthur Flour Cookie Companion” (Countryman Press, 2004). Sugar cookies, with their simple flavors, can benefit from refrigerating. If you’re baking with kids, it also helps to have the dough ready and waiting in the refrigerator. 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 2 teaspoons baking powder 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 1 teaspoon almond extract (optional) 1 large egg 1\2 cup heavy cream or sour cream 3 tablespoons cornstarch 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour Simple cookie glaze: 2 cups confectioners’ sugar 2 tablespoons light corn syrup 1 to 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon milk or heavy cream Food coloring (optional) Beat the butter, sugar, salt, baking powder, vanilla and almond extract with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Add half the cream, all of the cornstarch and half the flour; beat well. Add the remaining cream and flour, mixing just until incorporated. Divide the dough in half. Flatten into rounds and wrap well. Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to several days. Lightly grease two baking sheets or line with parchment. Transfer one section of chilled dough to a lightly floured surface. Lightly flour a rolling pin and roll out the dough to 1 to 1\2 inch thick. Using cookie cutters dipped in flour, cut out shapes and transfer to the baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, until cookies are set but not browned. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes before removing from

the baking sheets. Cool completely before decorating. Glaze: Whisk together the confectioners’ sugar, corn syrup and 1tablespoon milk or cream. Spread a little on one cookie. If it doesn’t smooth out after a minute, dribble in a little extra milk. Divide into small bowls and stir in food coloring if desired. Yield: About 4 dozen, depending on cutter sizes. Gingersnaps From “The Baker’s Manual,” by Joseph Amendola and Nicole Rees (Wiley, 2003). 1 cup butter, softened 1\2 cup shortening 1 cup granulated sugar 1 large egg 2 tablespoons dark molasses 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tablespoon ground ginger 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1\2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon ground cloves Beat the butter and shortening with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat on low just until dough forms. Remove the dough from the mixer and place in an airtight container. Refrigerate up to 1 week. Form dough into 1 inch balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place balls on ungreased bak-

ing sheets. Flatten with the bottom of a glass, dipped in sugar to prevent sticking if necessary. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until centers are puffed and almost set (bake up to 14 minutes for crunchier cookies). Cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool. Yield: 3 dozen. Overnight shortbread From “Pure Dessert,” by Alice Medrich, and the blog Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman. The second baking makes exceptionally crisp shortbread, while letting the dough sit overnight fully hydrates the flour and increases the buttery flavor. 12 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter 5 tablespoons granulated sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1\2 teaspoon salt 1 cup all-purpose flour Granulated sugar, for topping Line an 8-inch baking pan with foil, letting it hang over two sides. Or grease an 8-

inch springform pan with a removable bottom. Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add to a mixing bowl with the sugar, vanilla and salt. Mix until combined. Add the flour and mix just until incorporated. Pat and spread the dough evenly into the pan. Cover and let stand at least 2 hours and up to overnight. (It can just sit on the counter, unrefrigerated.) Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat oven to 300 degrees. Bake the shortbread for 45 minutes. Remove from oven, leaving the oven on. Lightly sprinkle the surface with sugar, then let stand for 10 minutes. Remove the shortbread from the pan and gently cut it in wedges, rectangles or squares. Place the pieces slightly apart on a nonstick baking sheet and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack. Yield: 16 wedges or about 2 dozen squares. Candy cane pinwheels 1 cup finely ground peppermint candies 3 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking powder 1\2 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar 1 large egg 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 teaspoon peppermint extract 6 drops red food coloring Crush the peppermints and set aside. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in egg. Add flour and beat on low just until a dough forms, about 1 minute. Remove half the dough from the bowl and reserve. Add the extracts, candy and food coloring to remaining dough and beat until combined. Place the reserved (plain) dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper and roll into a 14-by-8-inch rectangle. Repeat with the peppermint dough. Remove paper from one side of each dough and place them together, pressing gently. Roll up from the long side, forming a log. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate, at least 2 hours or up to 3 days. Place oven racks in the upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment. Slice chilled dough into \-inch rounds and place 1 inch apart on baking sheets. Bake until edges are just golden, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Cool 10 minutes on sheets, then transfer to a rack. Store cookies in an airtight container up to 1 week. NOTE: To grind peppermint, unwrap about 20 disc-type hard peppermints and place in a resealable freezer bag, beating with a mallet to crush them. Or put them in a food processor and pulse until ground. You also can use about 30 small candy canes to create the crushed peppermint. — MCT

Beauty FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Flash those pearly whites Find out if teeth whitening works for you M

any teeth whitening systems and products are available, including whitening toothpastes, over-thecounter gels, rinses, strips, trays, and whitening products obtained from a dentist. Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and gums. Individuals with yellow tones to their teeth respond best. But this cosmetic procedure is not recommended for everyone. All toothpastes help remove surface stains, because they contain mild abrasives. Some whitening toothpastes contain gentle polishing or chemical agents that provide additional stain removal effectiveness. Whitening toothpastes can help remove surface stains only and do not contain bleach; over-thecounter and professional whitening products contain carbamide peroxide or hydrogen peroxide that helps lighten the color deep in the tooth. Whitening toothpastes can lighten the tooth’s color by about one shade. In contrast, light-activated whitening conducted in your dentist’s office can make your teeth three to eight shades lighter. Over-the-counter whitening strips Whitening gels are clear, peroxide-based gels applied with a small brush directly to the surface of your teeth. Instructions generally call for twice a day application for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about four months. Whitening strips are very thin, virtually invisible strips that are coated with a peroxide-based whitening gel. The strips are applied twice daily for 30 minutes for 14 days. Initial results are seen in a few days and final results are sustained for about four months. Whitening rinses Among the newest whitening products available are whitening rinses. Like most mouthwashes, they freshen breath and help reduce dental plaque and gum disease. But these products also include ingredients, such as hydrogen peroxide, which whiten teeth. Manufacturers say it may take 12 weeks to see results. You just swish them around in your mouth for 60 seconds twice a day before brushing your teeth. However, some experts say that rinses may not be as effective as other over-the-counter whitening products. Because a whitening rinse is only in contact with the teeth for such a short time-just two minutes a day compared to 30 minutes for many strips-it may have less of an effect. Tray-based tooth whiteners Tray-based tooth whitening systems, purchased either overthe-counter or from a dentist, involve filling a mouth guard-like tray with a gel whitening solution-which contains a peroxidebleaching agent. The tray is worn for a period of time, generally from a couple of hours a day to every day during the night for up to four weeks and even longer (depending on the degree of discoloration and desired level of whitening). In-office whitening In-office bleaching provides the quickest way to whiten teeth. With in-office bleaching, the whitening product is applied directly to the teeth. These products can be used in

combination with heat, a special light, and/or a laser. Results are seen in only one, 30- to 60-minute treatment. But to achieve dramatic results, several appointments are usually needed. However, with in-office bleaching, dramatic results can be seen after the first treatment. This type of whitening is also the most expensive technique. How long do teeth whitening effects last? Teeth whitening is not permanent. People who expose their teeth to foods and beverages that cause staining may see the whiteness start to fade in as little as one month. Those who avoid foods and beverages that stain may be able to wait one year or longer before another whitening treatment or touch-up is needed. The degree of whiteness will vary from individual to individual depending on the condition of the teeth, the level of staining, and the type of bleaching system used. There are differences between whitening teeth at home and having them bleached in a dentist’s office, including: Strength of bleaching agent: Over-the-counter products and dentist-supervised at-home products usually contain a lower strength bleaching agent, with about a 10 percent to 22 percent carbamide peroxide content, which is equivalent to about 3% hydrogen peroxide. In-office, professionally applied tooth whitening products contain hydrogen peroxide in concentrations ranging from 15 percent to 43 percent. Mouthpiece trays: With dentist-supervised at-home bleaching products, your dentist will take an impression of your teeth and make a mouthpiece tray that is customized to exactly fit your teeth. This customization allows for maximum contact between the whitening gel, which is applied to the mouthpiece

tray, and the teeth. A custom-made tray also minimizes the gel’s contact with gum tissue. Over-the-counter whitening products also contain a mouthpiece tray, but the “one-size-fits-all” approach means that the fit will not be exact. Ill-fitting trays can irritate the gum and soft tissue by allowing more bleaching gel to seep onto these tissues. With in-office procedures, the bleaching agent is applied directly to the teeth. Additional protective measures: In the office setting, your dentist will apply either a gel to the gum tissue or use a rubber shield (which slides over the teeth) prior to treatment to protect your gums and oral cavities from the effects of the bleaching. Overthe-counter products don’t provide these extra protective measures. Costs: Over-the-counter bleaching systems are the least expensive option, with in-office whitening being the costliest. Supervised vs unsupervised process: Dentist-supervised at-home bleaching and in-office treatments offer additional benefits compared with over-the-counter procedures. First, your dentist can perform an oral exam and consider your complete medical history, which can be helpful in determining if bleaching is an appropriate course of treatment based on the type and extent of stains, and the number and location of restorations. Your dentist can then better match the type of stain with the best treatment, if appropriate, to lighten those stains. With dentist-supervised bleaching procedures, your dentist will likely want to see you a couple of times to ensure you are following directions, to make sure the customized tray is fitting properly, to inspect the gums for signs of irritation, and to generally check on how the teeth whitening process is proceeding. With over-the-counter bleaching products, you are on your own.

Health FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012


ave you noticed that the yogurt section of most grocery stores has practically taken over the dairy aisle? It’s getting harder to find more traditional dairy foods, such as cottage cheese and sour cream, amid the sea of yogurt options. But it only makes sense that a food with as many health benefits as yogurt be given prime real estate in the supermarket. And just what are the health benefits of yogurt? First off, your body needs to have a healthy amount of “good” bacteria in the digestive tract, and many yogurts are made using active, good bacteria. One of the words you’ll be hearing more of in relation to yogurt is “probiotics.” Probiotic, which literally means “for life,” refers to living organisms that can result in a health benefit when eaten in adequate amounts. Miguel Freitas, PhD, medical marketing manager for Dannon Co, says the benefits associated with probiotics are specific to certain strains of these “good” bacteria. Many provide their benefits by adjusting the microflora (the natural balance of organisms) in the intestines, or by acting directly on body functions, such as digestion or immune function. (Keep in mind that the only yogurts that contain probiotics are those that say “live and active cultures” on the label.) And let us not forget that yogurt comes from milk. So yogurt eaters will also get a dose of animal protein (about 9 grams per 6-ounce serving), plus several other nutrients found in dairy foods, like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium, and magnesium. In fact, the health benefits of yogurt are so impressive that many health-conscious people make it a daily habit. Here are five possible health benefits of having a yogurt a day: Benefit No. 1: Yogurt may help prevent osteoporosis “Adequate nutrition plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, and the micronutrients of greatest importance are calcium and vitamin D,” says Jeri Nieves, PhD, MS, director of bone density testing at New York’s Helen Hayes Hospital. Calcium has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone mass in people of all ages, although the results are not always consistent, says Nieves, also an assistant professor of clinical epidemiology at Columbia University. “The combination of calcium and vitamin D has a clear skeletal benefit, provided the dose of vitamin D is sufficiently high,” she adds. And what qualifies as “sufficiently high?” Currently, 400 IU per day is considered an adequate intake of vitamin D for people ages 51-70, Nieves says. (Look for the Daily Value amount listed on food labels.) But more may be better. “This amount is likely to be sufficient for most young adults for skeletal health, although many would argue that for overall health, more than the 400 IU may be required, even at these younger ages,” Nieves said in an email interview. Nieves believes that older people specifically can benefit from more vitamin D. Many dairy products, including some yogurts, are made with added vitamin D. A recent study, which followed more than 5,000 Spanish university graduates for about two years, found a link

between dairy intake and risk of high blood pressure. “We observed a 50 percent reduction in the risk of developing high blood pressure among people eating 2-3 servings of low-fat dairy a day (or more), compared with those without any intake,” Alvaro Alonso, MD, PhD, a researcher in the department of epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said in an email interview. Although most of the low-fat dairy consumed by the study subjects was as milk, Alvaro believes low-fat yogurt would likely have the same effect. Benefit No. 2: Yogurt with active cultures help the gut Yogurt with active cultures may help certain gastrointestinal conditions, including: • Lactose intolerance • Constipation • Diarrhea • Colon cancer • Inflammatory bowel disease • H. pylori infection That’s what researchers from the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University concluded in a recent review article. The benefits are thought to be due to: • Changes in the microflora of the gut • The time food takes to go through the bowel • Enhancement of the body’s immune system A recent Taiwanese study looked at the effects of yogurt containing lactobacillus and bifidobacterium on 138 people with persistent H. pylori infections. The researchers found that the yogurt improved the efficacy of four-drug therapy. H. pylori is a type of bacteria that can cause infection in the stomach and upper part of the small intestine. It can lead to ulcers and can increase the risk of developing stomach cancer. Benefit No. 3: Yogurt with active cultures may discourage infections Candida or “yeast” vaginal infections are a common problem for women with diabetes. In a small study, seven diabetic women with chronic Candidal vaginitis consumed 6 ounces of frozen aspartame-sweetened yogurt per day (with or without active cultures). Even though most of the women had poor blood sugar control throughout the study, the vaginal pH (measure of acidity or basicity) of the group eating yogurt with active cultures dropped from 6.0 to 4.0 (normal pH is 4.04.5). These women also reported a decrease in Candida infections. The women eating the yogurt without active cultures remained at pH 6.0. Benefit No. 4: Yogurt may help you feel fuller A study from the University of Washington in Seattle tested hunger, fullness, and calories eaten at the next meal on 16 men and 16 women who had a 200-calorie snack. The snack was either: • Semisolid yogurt containing pieces of peach and eaten with a spoon • The same yogurt in drinkable form • A peach-flavored dairy beverage • Peach juice Although those who had the yogurt snacks did not eat fewer calories at the next meal, both types of yogurt resulted in lower hunger ratings and higher fullness ratings than either of the other snacks. —

Sweeten the deal Choose your sweetener The other decision is whether you want artificial sweeteners (which are used in most “light” yogurts) or whether you’re okay with most of the calories coming from sugar. If you are sensitive to aftertastes, you may want to avoid light yogurts. If you don’t mind NutraSweet, there are lots of light yogurts to choose from, and all taste pretty good. Look for active cultures and probiotics To make sure your yogurt contains active cultures, check the label. Most brands will have a graphic that says “live and active cultures.” If you want to know which specific active cultures your yogurt contains, look at the label again. Under the list of ingredients, many brands list the specific active cultures. For Activia by Dannon, for example, L.Bulgaricus, S.Thermophilus, and bifidobacterium are listed. This particular yogurt contains the probiotic culture bifidus regularis, which works to regulate your digestive system. So if constipation is your challenge, this might be the probiotic for you. Team yogurt with flaxseed Get in the habit of stirring in a tablespoon of ground flaxseed every time you reach for a yogurt. A tablespoon of ground flaxseed will add almost 3 grams of fiber and approximately 2 grams of healthy plant omega-3s, according to the product label on Premium Gold brand ground golden flaxseed. Look for Vitamin D When enjoying calcium-rich yogurt, why not choose one that also boosts your intake of vitamin D? Some brands list 0 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin D; others have 20 percent.

Te c h n o l o g y FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Phablets, tablets, smartphones, and NFC New technology and IT trends in 2013


his is a time when anticipation is rife and consumer wish-list for technology trends in 2013 gets way ahead and in high gear. Consumers are imagining ideas in technology and other sectors that may be hallmarks of 2013 and the coming years. 2012 produced new technology products like the ultrabooks, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and of course, iPhone 5. The last months of 2012 unveiled a number of innovations from Apple and Microsoft boardrooms. Apple launched the iPhone 5 on September 12, following that with iPad Mini, and Microsoft launched Windows 8 on October 26. The launch of its premier tablet, Microsoft Surface running windows 8 is expected in January 2013. It will be the first time that Microsoft enters hardware business with a complete PC hardware. The new trend from Redmond simply shows how future competition will be shaped. What will happen in 2013 seems to be the greatest question. Will technology exceed 2012, or will it be a continuation of what we have seen so far? In a nutshell, users are hoping for improved touch and smart screens, better batteries for mobiles, sixth sense computing, more live tiles and apps, OS from Mozilla, smartphones from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, self health apps, nanotech products, video chat... you name it. Better and smarter technology trends in 2013 is all everyone cares for. Let us go through a list of trends that should get the hardware and software giants wrapped up in endless hours of boardroom debates. IT trends in phablets: The smartphone and multitouch concept is a technological feat that holistically changed the concept of communication and computing. Starting with the iPhone in 2007 and followed by the iPad in 2010, manufactures were sent scrambling around for a perfect mobile device and soon thought of something that bridged the two products. The device in question is what became popularly known as Phablet. The word Phablet is an amalgamation of smartphone and tablet, and is meant to serve as a communication and Internet device at a cost lower than a full tablet, and a screen bigger than a smartphone. A phablet screen should agreeably be 7 inches and priced at much lower or just slightly over $199. Apart from the price, a 7-inch device is light enough to carry around and at the same time accomplish the task for the normal smartphone and tablet.

and is becoming a fully fledged voice assistant. I can imagine it having better interpretation of human commands and should do much more than only mimic repetitive commands, give map related answers and recall user contacts. Guys at Google are watching every step that Siri takes and following the launch of IOS 6, they should have widened their own horizons in preparation for the release of a more fine tuned assistant. All the voice assistants should be getting more natural and should offer appealing interaction. Google Assistant should also help unite multiple speech assistants that straddle various Android devices. Whether Siri in iPhone 5 is spontaneous as we think it is, or not, and whether Google matches up, 2013 should be the perfect year for streamlined and efficient voice assistants.

The need for phablets was heightened by success stories of the Amazon Kindle Fire and later, Asus Google Nexus 7. The apparent opening in the phablet market catapulted Apple into designing the iPad Mini, which first was announced in November 2012. Come 2013 and the market for the phablet should escalate. Holographic display and infrared keyboard There are lots of future technological concepts and innovations floating around the internet, and none so compelling as the implementation of holographic display and infra red keyboard. As farfetched as they may look, the imple-

mentation of these features is already there and just waiting to get the perfect boost. A case in point is the patent filed by Apple on August 11, 2011, where it unveiled plans to integrate mini or pico-like projectors into future devices. Integration of the projector would enable the user project video or image data presentation on any surface or better still, anywhere without a surface. The same technology will also be used to further keyboard enhancement. Infrared keyboards should help smartphone users type and interact with much larger and friendly keyboard. With this technology the phone projects a virtual keyboard on a surface before the

user who then enters data as if he were using a laptop keyboard. Some think that Apple may after all integrate this technology in the upcoming iPhone 5. Whether this technology is integrated or not in the next iPhone, it surely must be the trend for 2013. More in Near Field Communications (NFC) Near Field Communications has been implemented in a number of Google’s Android based smartphones. It is still not as wide spread as analysts had always predicted but is bound to catch fire, now that Apple is implementing it in the upcoming iPhone 5.See all 5 photos NFC technology allows commercial transactions to be done wirelessly through mobile devices, without the need for data cards. The phone can be paired (read placed close to each other) or tap products, in order to transfer files, read product information and seal financial transactions. Google has been running miles to implement Google Wallet app to enable its users do all online mobile financial transaction. Better voice assistants for everyone How often do you type and feel like you can type no more. I am writing about those who spend countless hours typing away. The idea of using something else, preferably a voice assistant is a welcome idea. Siri for iPhone has been around for a year and is not the best of ideas yet. It still has a lot to learn. With IOS 6 however, Siri is getting out of beta

More cloud computing It is easy to underestimate the potential of the cloud given that it has been with us for the better part of the last decade. But just think about it. What is better than having every file and document on the fly however much you travel? You write documents, store photos, store music, watch movies and communicate via video with all your friends. Microsoft Office Web Apps is embedded in Live and hotmail is just good enough for online typing. Advancements in mobile device technology makes all these possible. Smartphones, phablets and tablets are getting faster, more convenient and reaching every corner of the globe. It is just a matter of harmonizing and maximizing usability of these innovations . Sixth sense Sixth sense technology has been with us for some years now but it hasn’t quite manifested itself clearly. The ability to use gestures to manipulate all sorts of daily activities, read information from the internet, and even project information on the wall, can be mind boggling. Imagine using your hands to read bar codes or even take pictures anywhere in the street or house. We first saw a glimpse of sixth sense technology in 2009 and are waiting anxiously to put it into action. 2013 should just be the year for sixth to once again, rear its head. 2013 is definitely a year for new ideas in hardware and software like never before: innovations and breakthroughs for companies that have been around but been busy on other products should help catapult the world to yet another level. Some of the hoped for ideas may not materialize but are definitely in the pipeline.

Te c h n o l o g y FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Phablets, tablets, smartphones, and NFC New technology and IT trends in 2013


his is a time when anticipation is rife and consumer wish-list for technology trends in 2013 gets way ahead and in high gear. Consumers are imagining ideas in technology and other sectors that may be hallmarks of 2013 and the coming years. 2012 produced new technology products like the ultrabooks, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Windows 8, Microsoft Surface and of course, iPhone 5. The last months of 2012 unveiled a number of innovations from Apple and Microsoft boardrooms. Apple launched the iPhone 5 on September 12, following that with iPad Mini, and Microsoft launched Windows 8 on October 26. The launch of its premier tablet, Microsoft Surface running windows 8 is expected in January 2013. It will be the first time that Microsoft enters hardware business with a complete PC hardware. The new trend from Redmond simply shows how future competition will be shaped. What will happen in 2013 seems to be the greatest question. Will technology exceed 2012, or will it be a continuation of what we have seen so far? In a nutshell, users are hoping for improved touch and smart screens, better batteries for mobiles, sixth sense computing, more live tiles and apps, OS from Mozilla, smartphones from Microsoft, Google and Amazon, self health apps, nanotech products, video chat... you name it. Better and smarter technology trends in 2013 is all everyone cares for. Let us go through a list of trends that should get the hardware and software giants wrapped up in endless hours of boardroom debates. IT trends in phablets: The smartphone and multitouch concept is a technological feat that holistically changed the concept of communication and computing. Starting with the iPhone in 2007 and followed by the iPad in 2010, manufactures were sent scrambling around for a perfect mobile device and soon thought of something that bridged the two products. The device in question is what became popularly known as Phablet. The word Phablet is an amalgamation of smartphone and tablet, and is meant to serve as a communication and Internet device at a cost lower than a full tablet, and a screen bigger than a smartphone. A phablet screen should agreeably be 7 inches and priced at much lower or just slightly over $199. Apart from the price, a 7-inch device is light enough to carry around and at the same time accomplish the task for the normal smartphone and tablet.

and is becoming a fully fledged voice assistant. I can imagine it having better interpretation of human commands and should do much more than only mimic repetitive commands, give map related answers and recall user contacts. Guys at Google are watching every step that Siri takes and following the launch of IOS 6, they should have widened their own horizons in preparation for the release of a more fine tuned assistant. All the voice assistants should be getting more natural and should offer appealing interaction. Google Assistant should also help unite multiple speech assistants that straddle various Android devices. Whether Siri in iPhone 5 is spontaneous as we think it is, or not, and whether Google matches up, 2013 should be the perfect year for streamlined and efficient voice assistants.

The need for phablets was heightened by success stories of the Amazon Kindle Fire and later, Asus Google Nexus 7. The apparent opening in the phablet market catapulted Apple into designing the iPad Mini, which first was announced in November 2012. Come 2013 and the market for the phablet should escalate. Holographic display and infrared keyboard There are lots of future technological concepts and innovations floating around the internet, and none so compelling as the implementation of holographic display and infra red keyboard. As farfetched as they may look, the imple-

mentation of these features is already there and just waiting to get the perfect boost. A case in point is the patent filed by Apple on August 11, 2011, where it unveiled plans to integrate mini or pico-like projectors into future devices. Integration of the projector would enable the user project video or image data presentation on any surface or better still, anywhere without a surface. The same technology will also be used to further keyboard enhancement. Infrared keyboards should help smartphone users type and interact with much larger and friendly keyboard. With this technology the phone projects a virtual keyboard on a surface before the

user who then enters data as if he were using a laptop keyboard. Some think that Apple may after all integrate this technology in the upcoming iPhone 5. Whether this technology is integrated or not in the next iPhone, it surely must be the trend for 2013. More in Near Field Communications (NFC) Near Field Communications has been implemented in a number of Google’s Android based smartphones. It is still not as wide spread as analysts had always predicted but is bound to catch fire, now that Apple is implementing it in the upcoming iPhone 5.See all 5 photos NFC technology allows commercial transactions to be done wirelessly through mobile devices, without the need for data cards. The phone can be paired (read placed close to each other) or tap products, in order to transfer files, read product information and seal financial transactions. Google has been running miles to implement Google Wallet app to enable its users do all online mobile financial transaction. Better voice assistants for everyone How often do you type and feel like you can type no more. I am writing about those who spend countless hours typing away. The idea of using something else, preferably a voice assistant is a welcome idea. Siri for iPhone has been around for a year and is not the best of ideas yet. It still has a lot to learn. With IOS 6 however, Siri is getting out of beta

More cloud computing It is easy to underestimate the potential of the cloud given that it has been with us for the better part of the last decade. But just think about it. What is better than having every file and document on the fly however much you travel? You write documents, store photos, store music, watch movies and communicate via video with all your friends. Microsoft Office Web Apps is embedded in Live and hotmail is just good enough for online typing. Advancements in mobile device technology makes all these possible. Smartphones, phablets and tablets are getting faster, more convenient and reaching every corner of the globe. It is just a matter of harmonizing and maximizing usability of these innovations . Sixth sense Sixth sense technology has been with us for some years now but it hasn’t quite manifested itself clearly. The ability to use gestures to manipulate all sorts of daily activities, read information from the internet, and even project information on the wall, can be mind boggling. Imagine using your hands to read bar codes or even take pictures anywhere in the street or house. We first saw a glimpse of sixth sense technology in 2009 and are waiting anxiously to put it into action. 2013 should just be the year for sixth to once again, rear its head. 2013 is definitely a year for new ideas in hardware and software like never before: innovations and breakthroughs for companies that have been around but been busy on other products should help catapult the world to yet another level. Some of the hoped for ideas may not materialize but are definitely in the pipeline.

Lifestyle FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Niche perfumers infuse Paris with new options


eep in concentration, Tina Queralt sorts through a scatter of white paper strips sprayed with scent. She has whittled the choice down to a handful in her search for The One: the perfect perfume. One Saturday in the run-up

Perfumer Mark Buxton smells a bottle of perfume at his workshop in Paris. — AFP

to Christmas, the Parisian and her two daughters have come to investigate a niche perfume store called Nose, that holds more than 250 references-and the elusive promise of personalized perfumery. Opened in June, Nose is one of a new breed of stores that prides itself on cutting the marketing out of the scent business to put the focus back on the people at either end of the chain-the creators and clients. The concept behind Nose is an online questionnaire, where clients key in details on their tastes-perfumes they have worn before, favorite keynotes and an algorithm generates five suggested scents. “It’s a starting point, not an ending. So it enables us to understand ‘Who is the customer?’” explained the store’s co-founder Nicolas Cloutier. Tina and her daughters took the questionnaire in-store, and said the results closely matched their taste. From there a salesperson guided them through the scents of Nose’s 30 niche brands. Tina settled on “Aqua Universalis” by Maison Francis Kurkdjian, declaring herself “delighted” with the experience. A perfumer for more than 20 years, Mark Buxton is part of the team behind Nose. Two years ago he opted out of what he calls “the industry” and started his own line, which is one of those on offer in the store. When big companies develop a new perfume they typically brief the perfumers with a general idea of the smell they want, perhaps a character to keep in mind, and a price limit that affects the quality and quantity of materials used. By

contrast, perfumers say they have more room for creativity when working for smaller, niche firms because they are less constrained by cost ceilings, freeing them to use natural oils and high-quality synthetics. Buxton never gives himself a price limit, and to him that’s one of the biggest advantages of niche products. “They have, in general, great diffusion and long-lastingness, and that’s because they’re using high quality products,” he told AFP. Of course that increases the price. At Nose perfumes average around 100 euros ($132) and up. At a nearby beauty chain, the range falls between 30 and 90 euros, with Chanel “No. 5” midway at 54 euros. ‘You don’t see much packaging here’ Mining a similar vein, New York-based Le Labo opened a Paris branch in July, offering its own combinations of essential oils, which are kept separate from the alcohol base used for diffusion until a customer makes a purchase. Jovoy, another niche perfume boutique, opened its second shop in February. Owner Francois Henin says he looks for a connection with the people behind the brands he stocks. “What we sell is full of passion,” he said. “It’s because the perfumers are authentic that their products are authentic, and that they will last.” “You don’t see much packaging here; we want you to see the promise of what’s inside.” Often set up by perfumers going it alone, many but not all of them French, these niche firms will typically offer a range of six to 10 perfumes, stocked in

600 to 1,000 outlets, with an average turnover of 10 million euros. The Nose team vets every new scent for quality and originality before putting it on sale. The store recently delivered its first bespoke perfumethough for that level of personalization, prices start in the thousands. In France, the southern town of Grasse has been the centre of perfume making since the 17th century, under Louis XIV. The sun king reportedly used so much that the scent made him ill. Up until the early 20th century, when perfumers began producing larger batches, they used to create for a single individual. Today perfumes are heavily associated with fashion and celebrities, a trend started by Coco Chanel’s “No. 5” in 1921. Since then perfumes have become a normal part of a designer’s franchise. But to Cloutier, perfumes hold a special place in that they are closely associated with memory-mirroring the fact that the brain centres for smell and memory creation lie close to each other. The link is important to perfumers as well. Mark Buxton’s fragrance “Wood and Absinthe” was inspired by an evening in Corsica, when he and a friend raided the drinks cabinet and found only the notorious spirit. “This whole ambiance, this whole feeling with the absinthe, of course we were getting a bit drunk, and with the smell of the maquis, the woody notes, and this freshness in the air because the sun was going down, gave me the idea to capture this moment,” he said. — AFP

Clown Barto performs during the final rehearsal for the Wereldkerstcircus (World Christmas Circus) at the Carre Theater in Amsterdam on December 19, 2012. —AFP

Lifestyle FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Musical about rise of

File photo shows Michael Jackson leans, points and sings, dances and struts during the opening performance of his 13-city US tour, in Kansas City. —AP

a superstar heads to Vegas


ome key figures who helped manage Michael Jackson’s career are teaming up to create a stage musical about the behind-the-scenes making of a superstar that producers call a cross between “Goodfellas” and “Dreamgirls.” Producers Mark Lamica, Quincy Krashna, Jerry Greenberg, Raymond Del Barrio and Larry Hart will join forces to present “The Man,” a fictional show inspired by the rise of Jackson, Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston. The story will be told through the eyes of a manager. “We want this project to be a compelling, gritty, entertaining tale, that tells the story of the price of fame in a new way,” said Lamica, who served as a partner with the late Frank Dileo, who was Jackson’s manager. “The Man,” with a book by Lamica and Grammy Award-winning com-

poser Hart, is expected to open in Las Vegas in the late fall of 2013. The show will have all original music and will follow the superstar from the 80s to 2005. The producing team last combined to create “Larry Hart’s Sisterella,” a pop-rock update of the Cinderella fable that Jackson was an executive producer on before his death. Greenberg was president of Jackson’s jointly owned record label with Sony Music for 11 years. Krashna is another Dileo partner who also worked with Jackson. Lamica, in a statement, called the musical an “epic, music driven dramatic work” and said he is drawing widely from personal experiences. “This is a fictional template and story that, with some variation, fits a number of global celebrities,” he added. — AP

‘Cirque du Soleil’ makes 3D leap to the big screen

French clown Julien Cottereau poses for pictures during a photocall for his one-man show ‘Imagine Toi’ at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. —AFP


scar-winning director James Cameron, who broke new ground with 3D technology with “Avatar,” is bringing that knowhow to Cirque du Soleil, producing a 3D film featuring the high-flying acrobatic troupe. Cameron acted as executive producer and camera operator for “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away”-a movie spectacle which brings the group’s breathtaking aerial routines to the big screen for the first time. “This movie was a dream come true,” Cameron said of the 91-minute film directed by New Zealander Andrew Adamson, who also was at the helm of the hit “Chronicles of Narnia” films. “Worlds Away” recounts the story of Mia, played by acrobat Erica Linz, who, while searching for a lost love, traverses through various universes-each of which is one of the fantastical worlds crafted by Cirque du Soleil. Among the troupe’s shows re-created in the film are “Believe,” “Mystere,” “O,” and “Viva Elvis.” The movie was filmed in part at a studio in New Zealand, which the Canadian-born Cameron now calls home, and is due to open Friday in cinemas across North America. For all of the fantastical celluloid worlds he has created in the past, Cameron says what he really marvels about is the sheer majesty of the human form in action-particularly the elastic and athletic “Cirque” performers. “Their deathdefying acts require such incredible skill and nerve-we felt it was so important to show the cabling, everything supporting that human ability,” he told reporters in Florida ahead of the film’s release. Another of Cameron’s highlyanticipated movie projects, a sequel to “Avatar,” is expected to open in theaters late next year. — AFP

Adele voted AP Entertainer of the Year


hough Adele didn’t have a new album or a worldwide tour in 2012, she’s still rolling. After a year of Grammy glory and James Bond soundtracking, Adele has been voted The Associated Press Entertainer of the Year. In 132 ballots submitted by members and subscribers of the AP, Adele easily outpaced other vote-getters like Taylor Swift, “Fifty Shades of Grey” author E.L. James, the South Korean viral video star PSY and the cast of “Twilight.” Editors and broadcasters were asked to cast their ballot for the person who had the most influence on entertainment and culture in 2012. Adele’s year began in triumph at the Grammys, took a turn through recording the theme to the 007 film “Skyfall,” and ended with the birth of her son in October. The ubiquitous Adele was that rare thing in pop culture: an unqualified sensation, a megastar in a universe of niche hits.By the end of the year, her sophomore album, “21,” had passed 10 million copies sold in the US, only the 21st album in the Nielsen SoundScan era (begun in 1991) to achieve diamond status. Buoyed by hits like “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” long after its release in early 2011, “21” was also the top-selling album on iTunes for the second year running. As David Panian, news editor for Michigan’s Daily Telegram, put it: “It just seemed like you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing one of her songs.” Women have had a lock on the annual Entertainer of the Year selection. Previous winners include Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Betty White and Tina Fey. Stephen Colbert is the lone male winner in the six-year history of voting. The Grammy Awards in February were essentially the de-facto crowning of the 24-year-old Adele, whose real name is Adele Adkins, as a pop queen. She won six awards, including album of the year. It was also a comeback of sorts for Adele, who performed for the first time since having vocal cord surgery, drawing a standing ovation from the Staples

Center crowd. Accepting the album of the year award, a teary Adele exclaimed: “Mum, girl did good!” The emotional, sniffling singer endeared many viewers to her when she copped in her acceptance speech to having “a bit of snot.” “This record is inspired by something that is really normal and everyone’s been through it: just a rubbish relationship,” said Adele. But her luck in love has since turned, thanks to her boyfriend Simon Konecki. In an inter-

exception was recording the opening credits theme song to “Skyfall.” The song was recorded with her “21” producer Paul Epworth at the Abbey Road Studios in London with a 77-piece orchestra. Within hours, it zoomed to the top of digital charts. “There was an overwhelming embrace of Adele and her music,” said Joe Butkiewicz, executive editor of the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. “And that was never more evident to me than when I heard teenagers express their enthusiastic

File photo shows Adele poses backstage with her six awards at the 54th annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. —AP view with Vogue magazine, Adele said she was through with break-up records and done being “a bitter witch.” When Adele announced in June that she was having a baby with Konecki, her website promptly crashed under the heavy traffic. Their son was born in October. With such an avalanche of success and now a mother of a newborn son, Adele has understandably taken a step out of the spotlight. One notable

expectations for the new James Bond movie because Adele performed the theme song.” The song recently received a Golden Globe nomination. No Bond theme has ever won the best original song Oscar, but given Adele’s awards success thus far, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think she has a chance of changing that. The tune is among the 75 short-listed songs in the Academy Awards category. —AP

Lifestyle FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

This publicity film image released by Universal Pictures shows, from left, Maude Apatow, Iris Apatow, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann in a scene from the film, ‘This is 40.’ — AP photos

This publicity film image released by Summit Entertainment shows Naomi Watts in a scene from the film, ‘The Impossible.’

Capsule reviews of new movie releases “Amour” - Michael Haneke takes a subject you don’t often see in movies and probably don’t even want to see - the slow, steady deterioration of an elderly woman - and handles it with great grace. The Austrian writer-director, who’s achieved a reputation for a certain mercilessness over the years through films like “Cache” and “Funny Games,” displays a surprising and consistent humanity here, and draws unadorned but lovely performances from his veteran stars, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva. Haneke focuses on the intimate moments of their changing lives as the longtime married couple remains holed up in their comfortable Paris apartment, coping day to day, waiting for eventual death. It will surely strike a chord with anyone who’s watched a loved one slip away in this manner, whether it’s a parent or a spouse. But Haneke’s aesthetic can feel too stripped-down, too one note in its dignified monotony. He will hold a shot, as we know, and once again he avoids the use of a score, so all that’s left to focus on is the insular, dreary stillness of quiet descent. Certainly minimalism is preferable to melodrama in telling this kind of story, but Haneke takes this approach to such an extreme that it’s often hard to maintain emotional engagement. PG-13 for mature thematic material including a disturbing act, and for brief language. In French with English subtitles. 125 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.-Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

“The Impossible” - Based on the true story of a family swept away by the deadly tsunami that pummeled Southeast Asia in 2004, director Juan Antonio Bayona’s drama is about as subtle as a wall of water. The depiction of the natural disaster itself is visceral and horrifying - impeccable from a production standpoint. And Naomi Watts gives a vivid, deeply committed performance as the wife and mother of three young boys who finds the strength to persevere despite desolation and debilitating injuries. But man, is this thing heavy-handed. Watts and Ewan McGregor play Maria and Henry, a happily married British couple spending Christmas at a luxury resort in Thailand with their three adorable sons. (The real-life family whose story inspired the film was Spanish; changing their ethnicity and casting famous people to play them seems like a rather transparent attempt to appeal to a larger audience.) During a quiet

morning by the pool, the first massive wave comes ashore, scattering the family and thousands of strangers across the devastated landscape. “The Impossible” tracks their efforts to survive, reconnect, find medical care and get the hell out of town. The near-misses at an overcrowded hospital are just too agonizing to be true, and the uplifting score swells repeatedly in overpowering fashion to indicate how we should feel. Surely, the inherent drama of this story could have stood on its own two feet. PG13 for intense, realistic disaster sequences, including disturbing injury images, and brief nudity. 107 minutes. Two stars out of four.Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic “On the Road” - Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s famous novel was made with noble intentions, finely-crafted filmmaking and handsome casting, but, alas, it does not burn, burn, burn. This first ever big-screen adaptation of the Beat classic doesn’t pulse with the electric, mad rush of Kerouac’s feverish phenomenon. Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) approached the book with reverence and deep research, and perhaps that’s the problem - that its spirit got suffocated by respectfulness and affected acting. If anything has made “On the Road” so beloved, it’s not its artful composition,

This film image released by Sony Pictures Classics shows Jean-Louis Trintignant in a scene from the Austrian film, ‘Amour.’

but its yearning: the urgent passion of its characters to break free of themselves and post war America. As our Dean Moriarty, Kerouac’s standin for Neal Cassady, Garrett Hedlund (“Tron”) gives his all in an ultimately failed attempt to find Moriarty’s wild magnetism within him. As the center of the book and the film - the Gatsby to our narrator Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) - he’s

This undated publicity film image released by IFC Films/Sundance Selects shows Sam Riley, left, as Sal Paradise/Jack Kerouac and Garrett Hedlund, right, as Dean Moriarity/Neal Cassady in a scene from the film, ‘On the Road,’ directed by Walter Salles.

crucial to “On the Road” working. The women, afterthoughts in the book, have more fire. Salles has focused particularly on the carnality of Kerouac’s tale, and it threatens to overtake the film. As Moriarty’s first wife, Marylou, Kristen Stewart has a slinky sensuality that briefly dominates the movie. But her character is never developed beyond her sexy bohemia. In a few scenes as Moriarty’s heartbroken second wife, Kirsten Dunst makes the strongest impression. Elisabeth Moss, also as one left behind, excels, shouting: “They dumped me in Tucson! In Tucson!” Viggo Mortensen, Steve Buscemi, Terrence Howard and Amy Adams all make cameos, mostly suggesting the prestige of the project. R for strong sexual content, drug use and language. 123 minutes. Two stars out of four.-Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer “This Is 40” - Every inch a Judd Apatow movie, from the pop culture references and potty mouths to the blunt body humor and escapist drug use. And like all of Apatow’s movies, it’s a good 20 minutes too long. But within that affectionately messy sprawl lies a maturation, an effort to convey something deeper, more personal and more substantive. That goes beyond the casting of his real-life wife, Leslie Mann, as half the couple in question, and the Apatow children, Maude and Iris, as the family’s daughters in this sort-of-sequel to the 2007 hit “Knocked Up.”. As writer and director, Apatow seems more interested in finding painful nuggets of truth than easy laughs. Much of the banter between longtime Los Angeles marrieds Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Mann) can be very funny, but frequently it’s raw and painful as they have the kind of conversations about kids, finances and sex that might make many people in the audience feel an uncomfortable shiver of recognition. The film takes place during the three-week period when Pete and Debbie are both turning 40 (although Debbie likes to pretend she’s still 38). Birthday parties, fights about money, school confrontations, bratty kid flareups and awkward attempts at reconciling with parents are among the many events that occur during this vulnerable time of transition. The strong supporting cast includes Albert Brooks, John Lithgow, Jason Segel and a surprisingly funny Megan Fox. R for sexual content, crude humor, pervasive language and some drug material. 133 minutes. Three stars out of four. — Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Lifestyle FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012


20-year-old Boston University sophomore and a self-described “cellistnerd” brought the Miss Universe crown back to the United States for the first time in more than a decade when she won the televised contest Wednesday. Olivia Culpo beat out 88 other beauty queens to take the title from Leila Lopes of Angola during the two-hour competition at the Planet Hollywood casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Culpo wore a tight navy blue mini-dress with a sequined bodice as she walked on stage for the competition’s opening number. Later in the night, she strutted in a purple and blue bikini, and donned a wintery red velvet gown with a plunging neckline. Culpo’s coronation ends a long losing spell for the US in the competition coowned by Donald Trump and NBC. An American had not won the right to be called Miss Universe since Brook Lee won the title in 1997. Culpo was good enough during preliminary competitions to be chosen as one of 16 semifinalists who moved on to compete in the pageant’s finale. Her bid lasted through swimsuit, evening wear, and interview competitions that saw cuts after each round. She won over the judges, even after tripping slightly during the evening gown competition. Telecasters pointed it out but also noted her poised recovery. Minutes before the middle child of five was crowned, she was asked whether she had she had ever done something she regretted. “I’d like to start off by saying that every experience no matter what it is, good or bad, you’ll learn from it. That’s just life,” she said. “But something I’ve done I’ve regretted is probably picking on my siblings growing up, because you appreci-

Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, is crowned Miss Universe 2012. ate them so much more as you grow older.” Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, came in second, while Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero, placed third. All the contestants spent the past two weeks in Sin City, where they posed in hardhats at a hotel groundbreaking, took a painting lesson, and pranked hotel guests by hiding in their rooms. Culpo was the first Miss USA winner from Rhode Island when she took the national crown in Las Vegas in June. She grew up in

Miss USA, Olivia Culpo is surrounded by contestants after being crowned Miss Universe 2012 during the Miss Universe Pageant at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 19, 2012. —AFP photos

Cranston with two professional musicians for parents and has played the cello alongside world-renowned classical musician Yo-Yo Ma. On her Miss Universe page, she said she hopes to pursue a career in film or television, and cites Audrey Hepburn as a role model because of her “generosity, intelligence and grace.” With Culpo’s promotion, Miss Maryland Nana Meriwether becomes the new Miss USA. The Miss Universe pageant was back in Las Vegas this year after being held in

Sao Paulo in 2011. It aired live on NBC and was streamed to more than 100 countries. Organizers had considered holding the 61st annual Miss Universe in the popular Dominican Republic tourist city of Punta Cana, but Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart said that country’s financial crisis proved to be too much of an obstacle. The panel of 10 judges included singer Cee Lo Green, “Iron Chef” star Masaharu Morimoto and Pablo Sandoval of the San Francisco Giants. —AP

Miss Universe hosts Andy Cohen, left, and Giuliana Rancic, introduce the final round of competition as the five finalists wait to answer questions from the judges.

Lifestyle FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

The remaining five contestants, from left, Miss Brazil, Gabriela Markus; Miss USA, Olivia Culpo; Miss Australia, Renae Ayris; Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon; and Miss Venezuela, Irene Sofia Esser Quintero; stand together during the Miss Universe competition.

Miss Universe hosts Andy Cohen, left, and Giuliana Rancic, center, react as Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, answers a question.

Miss Brazil, Gabriela Markus

Miss USA, Olivia Culpo, walks on stage.

Miss India, Shilpa Singh

Miss Universe contestants stand on stage.

Miss Mexico, Karina Gonzalez

Miss Philippines, Janine Tugonon, stands on stage.

Miss Russia, Elizabeth Golovanova



Al-Madena Al-Shohada’a Al-Shuwaikh Al-Nuzha Sabhan Al-Helaly Al-Fayhaa Al-Farwaniya Al-Sulaibikhat Al-Fahaheel Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh Ahmadi Al-Mangaf Al-Shuaiba Al-Jahra Al-Salmiya

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Pe t s FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Rick Smith and his wife see a booming business this time of year at their Double R Reindeer Ranch in Midlothian, Texas. —MCT photos


ancer paced in her stall as did Dasher. Across the barn, Blitzen grunted. Comet and Cupid were remarkably calm, considering this is the busy season for reindeer. Such was the spirit one recent morning at the Double R Reindeer Ranch just outside of Midlothian, Santa’s Texas reindeer division, operated by Rick and Roberta Smith. “We’re busy six days a week right now,” said Rick Smith, wearing an elf outfit that he designed. “We won’t get a break till January.” It’s been that way for the last four years, since the Smiths started the reindeer ranch, a project that was encouraged by Don Shelton, a longtime Fort Worth-based Santa. Lt Col Roberta Smith was getting ready to retire from the Air Force and Rick Smith was headed that way from the Texas Department of Public Safety. “We wanted to raise something unique,” Roberta Smith said. “I knew Dr Shelton and once he heard about what we wanted to do, he suggested the reindeer. We didn’t think of it much at first, but he kept after us.” And that’s how the Double R Reindeer Ranch was born. The Smiths started with young reindeer Comet and Cupid. They weighed about 125 pounds and will eventually top out at 450 to 500 pounds when fully grown. The couple already had horses and miniature donkeys on their 15acre spread, so four-legged creatures were nothing new. The couple got special feed for Santa’s helpers, registered them with the Reindeer Owners and Breeders Association and, of course, bought evaporation coolers for the sizzling Texas heat. “Since we got them so young, they have been able to adapt to the heat,” Rick Smith said. “But we still try to keep them in cool conditions.” The Double R now has six reindeer, and even though the last two months of the year are the busiest, the ranch is active most of the year. Santas from across the country visit the Double R during the year to take photographs with the reindeer to update their portfolios. The reindeer are also available for hourly events, seasonal leases, commercials, and television and movie work. Generally, fees are $350 an hour, a minimum of two hours, for local events within 50 miles of the ranch. And the Double R reindeer go to all kinds of events. On Friday, the reindeer are scheduled to appear in the “HoHo-Holiday” show with the Waco Symphony Orchestra. “We

Comet the reindeer checks out children touring the Double R Reindeer Ranch in Midlothian, Texas.

went there last year and they’ve asked us back,” Rick Smith said. “Right now, Prancer is at Santa’s Wonderland near College Station.” Reindeer are also at the ranch to greet curious visitors. One recent morning, pre-school kids from the Creative Children’s Center in Corsicana were taking a tour. “This is our first time here,” said pre-kindergarten teacher Theresa Cates. “A friend saw this on Facebook and told us about it. It’s been a perfect visit. The kids are having a blast.” Along with the reindeer, the ranch has a sleigh, a bright red trailer to haul the reindeer and Santa even has an office in the barn, complete with a Christmas tree and holiday decorations. And yes, visitors do ask about Rudolph, who, the Smiths explained, was absent because he was out on a training flight. — MCT

Roberta Smith gets hugs from Mershawn Foster after a tour of the Double R Reindeer Ranch.



Aries (March 21-April 19) You will be inclined to lend someone a helpful hand this morning. Develop a peaceful mind when approaching a tense situation—there are solutions within your grasp. One effective technique in developing a peaceful mind is to practice moments of silence. Make a focused effort to remove the things that slow you from your goals. Take your old books to a used bookstore and your clothes to a store of slightly used clothes—thrift store. You could throw in a few collectibles and have a garage sale? Old paperwork, like some tax records over seven years old, could be pitched. As the accumulated items thin out think about the psychological items that clutter up your growth. Make room now for the new, the useful and the unique items that will come to you.

Taurus (April 20-May 20) Unexpected changes can disrupt the usual order and routine of your life in the workplace. However, you may welcome changes as a great excuse to branch away from the usual routine. You may want more creative freedom in your work and today just may be the day to prove you can handle the changes. In the main stream of human contacts, there are opportunities to choose some important paths for next year. Contemplating the pros and cons of an issue is a good thing and will help you in the decision making processes. Nothing really frightens you because you always see difficult situations as a means of growth and knowledge. You may gain a new friend from today’s experience. Networking is a good thing.

Gemini (May 21-June 20) Although this is a demanding day you may have that frame of mind where you feel that you can accomplish anything. Of course, one of the ways to make life a little easier now is to allocate the time-consuming jobs to others that have some extra time. You are more energetic now. As the magnitude of your goals is recognized, you may be prone to bouts of humility. You have plenty of initiative to put your plans into action. Others in high position will see your progress as you emphasize your personality, skill or productivity. Avoid extravagance or overextending yourself financially. Last minute purchases may cause you to wonder where the next dime is coming from—you will manage. At home this evening you will find others are appreciative.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) Your mind is sharp today. With this fully packed day ahead of you, you will need that great insight of yours to find the right answers and to respond to the needs that come to your attention. This is a good day for job-related events. You may be called upon to help with budgeting matters in the workplace. You will probably discover some valuable information for your own personal budgeting success. You may want to talk to family members—or have some good self-talk about budgeting. This afternoon you see that there is a need to bring attention to the care of unattended pets in your city this winter. You may be able to work with an animal rights group and encourage others to do the same. Perhaps you can encourage an adopt-a-pet program.

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ACROSS 1. A nucleic acid that transmits genetic information from DNA to the cytoplasm. 4. Small sweet triangular nut of any of various beech trees. 12. A federal agency established to regulate the release of new foods and health-related products. 15. A resource. 16. Earnest or urgent request. 17. A human limb. 18. A belief (or system of beliefs) accepted as authoritative by some group or school. 19. A official who can issue a license or give authoritative permission (especially one who licenses publications). 20. The sense organ for hearing and equilibrium. 21. An official language of the Republic of South Africa. 23. A republic in West Africa on the Gulf of Guinea. 25. A former copper coin of Pakistan. 26. A town in central Kansas. 28. The residue that remains when something is burned. 30. (Akkadian) God of wisdom. 31. Deeply moved. 35. English theoretical physicist who applied relativity theory to quantum mechanics and predicted the existence of antimatter and the positron (19021984). 39. Someone who is morally reprehensible. 42. A university town in east central Maine on the Penobscot River north of Bangor. 43. A Loloish language. 45. A man who serves as a sailor. 46. Someone (especially a woman) who annoys people by constantly finding fault. 47. Rare (usually fatal) brain disease (usually in middle age) caused by an unidentified slow virus. 49. A city in the northern panhandle of Texas. 52. An agency of the United Nations that promotes education and communication and the arts. 54. American plover of inland waters and fields having a distinctive cry. 55. Old master of the Venetian school (1490-1576). 57. On or toward the lee. 58. A hard gray lustrous metallic element that is highly corrosion-resistant. 59. Second brightest star in Perseus. 61. A public promotion of some product or service. 63. Any of numerous local fertility and nature deities worshipped by ancient Semitic peoples. 66. A trivalent metallic element of the rare earth group. 72. A white linen liturgical vestment with sleeves. 75. Aircraft landing in bad weather in which the pilot is talked down by ground control using precision approach radar. 76. (informal) Of the highest quality. 77. Pastry made with a cream cheese dough and different fillings (as raisins and walnuts and cinnamon or chocolate and walnut and apricot preserves). 78. A barrier constructed to contain the flow or water or to keep out the sea.

Daily SuDoku

79. Experiencing or showing sorrow or unhappiness. 80. Incited, especially deliberately, to anger. 81. A loose sleeveless outer garment made from aba cloth. DOWN 1. An Indian side dish of yogurt and chopped cucumbers and spices. 2. The seventh month of the civil year. 3. Someone whose business is advertising. 4. A logarithmic unit of sound intensity equal to 10 decibels. 5. Something that baffles understanding and cannot be explained. 6. Make an etching of. 7. Evergreen mat-forming shrub of North America and northern Eurasia having small white flowers and red berries. 8. A reddish brown dye used especially on hair. 9. Speak in a nasal voice. 10. A member of the Shoshonean people of Utah and Colorado and New Mexico. 11. (Norse mythology) God of war and strife and son of Odin. 12. Any wingless blood-sucking parasitic insect noted for ability to leap. 13. Lacking or deprive of the sense of hearing wholly or in part. 14. A city in northern India. 22. Hungarian choreographer who developed Labanotation (1879-1958). 24. God of death. 27. A state in midwestern United States. 29. Any of a number of fishes of the family Carangidae. 32. The space between two lines or planes that intersect. 33. An ax used by mountain climbers for cutting footholds in ice. 34. A city in central Tanzania. 36. A native or inhabitant of Iran. 37. English physician who in retirement compiled a well-known thesaurus (1779-1869). 38. Of or relating to or near the coccyx. 40. East Indian tree bearing a profusion of intense vermilion velvet-textured blooms and yielding a yellow dye. 41. Common black European thrush. 44. Type genus of the Amiidae. 48. A singer of folk songs. 50. Aromatic West Indian tree that produces allspice berries. 51. Conforming to an ultimate standard of perfection or excellence. 53. The granite-like rocks that form the outermost layer of the earth's crust. 56. Being ten more than one hundred forty. 60. Money paid out. 62. (Irish) Chief god of the Tuatha De Danann. 64. Type genus of the Alcidae comprising solely the razorbill. 65. In bed. 67. An indication of radiant light drawn around the head of a saint. 68. A republic in the Middle East in western Asia. 69. King of Saudi Arabia since 1982 (born in 1922). 70. Someone who works (or provides workers) during a strike. 71. God of love and erotic desire. 73. A byproduct of inflammation. 74. Rate of revolution of a motor.

Yesterdayʼs Solution

Yesterday’s Solution

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

‘This microphone is powerful right now’ NEW YORK: The game was over, and the postgame interview appeared to be, too, when Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey suddenly decided otherwise. By then, the sting of his team’s 65-55 loss to Ohio State was already an afterthought. Instead, like a lot of us, he was still heartbroken about the school shootings in Newtown, determined to say something about them. “The last thing I want to say,” Kelsey began, as reporters scrambled to turn their tape recorders back on Tuesday night, “is I’m really, really lucky, because I’m going to get on an eight-hour bus ride, and I’m going to arrive in Rock Hill, South Carolina, and I’m going to walk into my house, and I’m going to walk upstairs, and I’m going to walk into two pink rooms with a 5-year-old and a 4-year-old laying in that pink room, with a bunch of teddy bears laying in that room. “And I’m going to give them the biggest hug and the biggest kiss I’ve ever given them. And there’s 20 families in Newtown, Conn., that are walking into a pink room with a bunch of teddy bears with nobody laying in those beds,” he said. “And it’s tragic.” No one in the room knew that was coming, nor the call to action that came next. The only thing that was certain was that Kelsey’s voice grew stronger the longer he went on. “I know this microphone is powerful right now because we’re playing the (seventh)-best team in the country. I’m not going to have a microphone like this the rest of the year, maybe the rest of my life. And I’m going to be an agent of change with the 13 young men I get to coach every day and the two little girls that I get to raise. ... “But,” he said, “we’ve got to change.” Kelsey is one of dozens of mid-major coaches hoping for a job at a big school like Ohio State someday, but he’s a parent first. When he played basketball at Cincinnati, Kelsey was a captain and twice voted the team’s most inspirational player. So maybe the most surprising thing about the past few days is that he wasn’t the only coach or player to step forward and say what was on his mind. At Syracuse the other night, coach Jim Boeheim also used the last moments of his postgame interview to make certain the next day’s stories weren’t focused solely on his career milestone 900th win. “If we cannot get the people who represent us to do something about firearms, we are a sad, sad society,” Boeheim said Monday. “If one person in this world, the NRA president, anybody, can tell me why we need assault weapons with 30 shots - this is our fault if we don’t go out there and do something about this. If we can’t get this thing done, I don’t know what kind of country we have.” There were plenty of other worthy remarks and measured gestures from the world of sports in the aftermath of Newtown - almost too many to list. A few weeks ago, NBC announcer Bob Costas caught plenty of criticism by calling for saner gun-control laws during a brief halftime essay the night after the tragedy in Kansas City. Chiefs linebacker Javon Belcher shot his live-in girlfriend to death after an argument, then drove to the team’s facility and, in view of his coach and general manager, turned the gun on himself. People are still debating whether Costas overstepped. Never mix sports and politics. But those were the old rules. For years, many athletes and coaches went out of their way to avoid taking a stand on anything that happened outside the white lines. It was like stepping on the third rail of sports and almost a guarantee that endorsements would dwindle or disappear altogether. It might even cost them a job. Times have changed, and if the events of the past few weeks are any indication, that corner of the sports world is about to change, too. Athletes and coaches have always had the platform, and now a few of the braver souls have shown them how to use it in a responsible way for something more important than selling tickets. Here’s hoping there’s no turning back. — AP

S Leone bats for cricketing glory from ashes of war FREETOWN: Packed with hard red dirt overlooked by a faded scoreboard, Sierra Leone’s only cricket oval is worlds away from the lush, carefully grassed grounds typically associated with the game. Muddy water pools around the edges of Kingtom Oval after a downpour, as a rag-tag group of young men, women, and children barely big enough to hold a bat, gather to warm up for cricket practice. But first: The daily battle of chasing teams of footballers off the pitch, a sign the soccer-mad nation, which zealously follows teams in the English Premier League, is not yet bowled over by the growing success of its cricketers. “The footballers are here every time we want to play. Look at them! They are playing football right now whilst we are playing cricket!” says national team player Emmanuel Pessima, who is also chairman of the Kenemmanjane cricket club. With the glaring footballers relegated to the outskirts of the field, the cricketers unfurl a strip of grubby green astro turf, torn in places, along a long slab of cement which forms the pitch. While any fielder would think twice before diving and sliding to stop a cricket ball on such unforgiving terrain, it is from here that Sierra Leone’s players have edged their way up in rankings on the African continent. Cricket has a rich history in the west African nation, where it was introduced by the British in the late 19th century, and had a thriving club and schools league until war broke out in 1991. Kingtom Oval was “well-grassed” in the 1980s, says Beresford Bournes-Coker, chairman of the Sierra Leone Cricket Association. But during the devastating 11-year conflict which left 120,000 dead and thousands maimed by rebels, the field, which belongs to an adjacent police station, became home to hundreds of refugees looking for safety. While cricket structures fell apart, the game did not die, and it was the country’s wildly popular U-10 Barracks League which “kept the momentum going”. Mostly made of up of policemen’s children, the league has provided the majority of the country’s cricketers,

many of whom in turn joined the force. While the children’s games still whip up the most fervour, it is those who grew up during the war who became members of the under-19 team which in 2009 defied expectations to reach the Cricket World Cup qualifier in Canada. But, in a massive blow to the team, they were refused visas to participate. In 2010 Sierra Leone moved up to Africa’s Division Two, also that year winning an award from the African Cricket Association for the most improved cricketing standards on the continent. “Sierra Leone is being branded as the Afghanistan of Africameaning that with nothing we’ve gone so far,” says Bournes-Coker, referring to the war-torn Asian nation’s recent successes in international cricket. —- Howzat West Africa? Sierra Leone hopes to bring the same fervour for the game seen in other parts of the continent to mostly francophone west Africa. The country is trying to rope in Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast who have never played cricket and encourage them to join a regional tournament in Gambia in March 2013. Cricket has never caught on amongst the French and its former colonies but this may slowly be changing with countries such as Mali playing organised cricket since 2005. “For the east and southern African countries, they have lots of regional tournaments, which is why they perform better and it has been a learning curve for them and we must try to replicate the same in West Africa,” said Bournes-Coker. Local sports journalists held a workshop recently to avoid being stumped by cricket jargon, where a “duck” is not an aquatic bird, a “bail” has nothing to do with being released from jail and players may yell out “Howzat?!” from time to time. “Hopefully by 2014 we are looking for, with all the facilities and with the playing standard raised, we should be able to apply for an associate membership” of the International Cricket Council, which governs the sport, BournesCoker said. —AFP

SIERRA LEONE: Boys learn to play cricket in Freetown at Kingtom Oval, Sierra Leone’s only cricket oval. Packed with hard red dirt overlooked by a faded scoreboard, it is worlds away from the lush, carefully grassed grounds typically associated with the game. — AFP

Gabart, Le Cleac’h in sight of each other PARIS: After sailing halfway around the world, Armand Le Cleac’h and Francois Gabart still have each other in their sights as they set out on the second half of the Vendee Globe race. Amazingly, Le’Cleac’h, in his yacht Banque Populaire, is barely three nautical miles clear of fellow-Frenchman Gabart, in Macif, south of New Zealand and in heavy seas. “It’s incredible, amazing,” Gabart enthused in a video link as he briefly saw the mast of his rival’s yacht emerge from among the swell and on the ship tracking technology. “We’re keeping an eye on each other,” Le Cleac’h said, “I can see him on the AIS (automatic identification system).” He said they were making progress in heavy seas and explained: “The wind has also got up, with gusts of up to 55 knots.” With some 12,000 nautical miles to the finish at Les Sables-d’Olonne in west-

ern France, the fleet which began with 20 boats but has since been reduced to 13, has now been at sea for 40 days in what is widely regarded as the most prestigious race in the sport. The solo helmsmen who sail without stopping or without assistance must now negotiate the dangers of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans as they make their way back towards the starting point. The record to beat is 84 days three hours and nine minutes established by fellow Frenchman Michel Desjoyeaux during the last race in 2008-2009. Only French sailors have won the event since it began in 1989. Another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Dick, is a distant third, 524 nautical miles behind the leading pair. Italian Alessandro di Benedetto is the back marker, a massive 4,260 nautical miles behind Le Cleac’h. — AFP

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Knicks evade Nets, Thunder roll NEW YORK: Carmelo Anthony scored 31 points in his return to the lineup and the New York Knicks beat the Brooklyn Nets 100-86 on Wednesday night in the third meeting this season between the city rivals. After two tight games in Brooklyn, the Knicks turned the first one at Madison Square Garden into a rout by dominating the second half. Anthony, who missed two games with a sprained left ankle, moved fine and shot well, though his scoring average against the Nets this season actually dropped to 37 points per game. JR Smith added 19 points and Tyson Chandler had 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Knicks, who bounced back from their first home loss Monday against Houston, improving to 11-1 at MSG. Joe Johnson scored 17 points for the Nets, who have lost three straight and eight of 10. What once was a deadlock for the Atlantic Division lead after the first meeting is now a six-game advantage for the Knicks. Deron Williams and Brook Lopez each had 16 points for Brooklyn. Thunder 100, Hawks 92 In Atlanta, Kevin Durant set a season high with 41 points and had 13 rebounds as Oklahoma City held off Atlanta for its 12th straight win. Russell Westbrook added 27 points - 21 in the first half - and 11 assists for the Thunder. The Thunder (21-4) improved the NBA’s best record and atoned for a 104-95 home loss to the Hawks on Nov. 4. Oklahoma City is 20-2 since that loss. The 12 straight wins matches the longest streak for the franchise since 1996, when it had a 14-game winning streak as the Seattle SuperSonics. Jeff Teague scored 19 points to lead the Hawks. Clippers 93, Hornets 77 In Los Angeles, Blake Griffin scored 18 points and Los Angeles beat New Orleans for its franchise record-tying 11th consecutive victory. Jamal Crawford added 17 points, DeAndre Jordan scored 12, and Chris Paul had 10 points and 12 assists, surpassing 5,000 in his career for the Clippers.

They tied the franchise record set by the 1974-75 Buffalo Braves. Robin Lopez scored 14 of his 22 points in the first quarter and rookie Anthony Davis added 16 for the Hornets. They lost their ninth in a row and 11th in their last 12 games while falling to 2-10 on the road. They were the last team to beat the Clippers on Nov. 26. Celtics 103, Cavaliers 91 In Boston, Paul Pierce scored 25 of his season-high 40 points in the second half, hitting 10 of his 11 shots after halftime, and Boston beat Cleveland to snap a threegame skid. Pierce made his first eight shots coming out of the break, including three 3-pointers. He finished 13 of 16 from the field. Rajon Rondo added 20 points and eight assists for the Celtics. Jason Terry added 15 points. Kyrie Irving scored 22 points for the Cavs, who played without Anderson Varejao, the NBA’s leading rebounder who sat out with a bruised knee. Rookie Tyler Zeller got his first career start in Varejao’s place and scored 20 points as Cleveland fell to 2-14 on the road. Kings 131, Warriors 127 In Sacramento, DeMarcus Cousins scored 24 points, Aaron Brooks added 23 and Sacramento snapped a five-game losing streak with a win over Golden State. After blowing a 15-point lead, Brooks made a pair of 3-pointers in the final minutes to help the Kings pull away. Both teams shot 50 percent, while the Kings had a season high in points and scored more than any team had against the Warriors this season. Stephen Curry scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half before fouling out, and David Lee had 29 points and eight rebounds in Golden State’s worst defensive outing of the season. Only Oklahoma City had shot at least 50 percent against the Warriors. Grizzlies 90, Bucks 80 In Memphis, Zach Randolph had 15

NBA results/standings Toronto 97, Detroit 91; NY Knicks 100, Brooklyn 86; Orlando 90, Washington 83; Indiana 104, Utah 84; Boston 103, Cleveland 91; Oklahoma City 100, Atlanta 92; Houston 125, Philadelphia 103; Phoenix 121, Charlotte 104; Memphis 90, Milwaukee 80; Sacramento 131, Golden State 127; LA Clippers 93, New Orleans 77. Eastern Conference Atlantic Division W L PCT NY Knicks 19 6 .760 Brooklyn 13 12 .520 Boston 13 12 .520 Philadelphia 12 14 .462 Toronto 8 19 .296

GB 6 6 7.5 12

Central Division 14 10 .583 13 11 .542 14 12 .538 7 21 .250 5 22 .185

1 1 9 10.5

LA Clippers Golden State LA Lakers Phoenix Sacramento

Southeast Division 16 6 .727 15 8 .652 12 13 .480 7 18 .280 3 20 .130

1.5 5.5 10.5 13.5

Memphis San Antonio Houston Dallas New Orleans

Chicago Milwaukee Indiana Detroit Cleveland Miami Atlanta Orlando Charlotte Washington

Western Conference Northwest Division Oklahoma City 21 4 .840 Denver 14 12 .538 Minnesota 12 11 .522 Utah 14 13 .519 Portland 11 12 .478 Pacific Division 19 6 17 9 12 14 11 15 8 17

7.5 8 8 9

.760 .654 .462 .423 .320

2.5 7.5 8.5 11

Southwest Division 17 6 .739 19 8 .704 13 12 .520 12 13 .480 5 20 .200

5 6 13

LOS ANGELES: New Orleans Hornets’ Xavier Henry (left) gets fouled by Los Angeles Clippers center Ryan Hollins during the second half of an NBA basketball game.—AP

points and 17 rebounds, and Marc Gasol had 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead Memphis over Milwaukee. Rudy Gay added 13 points for Memphis, which won its third straight. Mike Conley had 11 points and six assists, while Marreese Speights scored 10 points. Brandon Jennings led Milwaukee with 26 points despite missing his first eight shots. Marquis Daniels was the only other Bucks player in double figures with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Monta Ellis, the Bucks leading scorer at 19 points a game, missed his first 13 shots and didn’t score a field goal until 2:30 was left in the game. He ended the night with four points.

Charlotte to its league-worst 13th straight loss. Goran Dragic added 21 points and Jared Dudley had 20 for the Suns, who have won a season-best four straight. Their 17 3s came on 28 attempts. Kemba Walker scored 27 points and Michael KiddGilchrist added 25 to match a career high for the Bobcats, who have not won since Nov. 24. After taking a one-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Suns outscored the Bobcats 22-6 over the first six-plus minutes of the second to take a 50-33 lead. Phoenix led by as much as 30.

Pacers 104, Jazz 84 In Indianapolis, reserve guard Gerald Green scored a season-high 21 points, and Paul George had 20 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks to help Indiana beat Utah. George Hill also scored 20 and had five assists for the Pacers, who matched their largest victory margin of the season and won for the fourth time in five games. Derrick Favors scored 16 points, Alec Burks had 12 and Mo Williams 11 for the Jazz, who lost their third in the last four games. Indiana scored more than 100 points for just the fourth time this season - and the Pacers have won all those games. The Pacers shot 51.2 percent from the field.

Raptors 97, Pistons 91 In Toronto, DeMar DeRozan had 23 points, Alan Anderson scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and Toronto beat Detroit to extend its winning streak to four games. Jose Calderon had 17 assists, one shy of his season high, and Jonas Valanciunas scored 12 points for the Raptors, who last won four straight from Nov. 17-24, 2010. Ed Davis added 11 points and nine rebounds for the Raptors, who had lost six of their previous seven meetings with the Pistons. Anderson helped seal it for Toronto with a trio of 3-pointers in the final quarter. Greg Monroe scored a career-high 35 points and Rodney Stuckey had 13 for the Pistons, who lost their sixth straight and dropped to 2-13 on the road.

Rockets 125, 76ers 103 In Houston, James Harden had 33 points and seven assists to lead Houston to a victory over Philadelphia. Harden topped 20 points for the seventh straight game to send the 76ers to their fifth straight loss. He made 17 of 18 free throws, including six in the fourth quarter, as Houston improved to 9-2 in its last 11 home games. Toney Douglas hit five 3-pointers and scored all 17 of his points in the fourth for Houston. Nick Young scored 21 points for Philadelphia, which matched its most lopsided loss of the season. The 76ers also lost by 22 points against the New York Knicks on Nov. 5. Suns 121, Bobcats 104 In Phoenix, Shannon Brown scored a season-high 26 points and Phoenix hit a season-high 17 3-pointers to send

Magic 90, Wizards 83 In Orlando, JJ Redick scored 17 points and fellow reserve E’Twaun Moore had 15 to lead Orlando to a win over Washington. Redick hit four 3-pointers and Arron Afflalo had 15 points as Orlando won its fourth straight. Nene had 20 points in a reserve role for the Wizards, who lost their fifth in a row. Jordan Crawford added 19 points and six assists. The Magic took a 76-63 lead into the fourth quarter but started the period shooting 3 for 15, giving the Wizards an opening they failed to capitalize on. Washington pulled to 85-81 with 4:02 left, but the Wizards couldn’t score on their next three possessions.—AP

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

No peaks? No problem for Latvian downhill ski fans CESIS: In the flat Baltic nation of Latvia, where hills are few and far between, wily alpine skiing fans have found ways to indulge their passion without flying south to hit the slopes. “Every year we grow the hill a little. It’s now about 25 metres higher than it was,” says Vadims Kamenevs, marketing director of the Zagarkalns ski resort in Cesis, 90 kilometres (55 miles) northeast of the capital Riga. Kamenevs’ team have spent recent off seasons piling an earth-mix onto a natural hill, and it now stands 112 metres (367 feet) above sea level. It says a lot for Latvians’ love of downhill skiing that people in the Baltic nation of two million are prepared to grow their own mountains. “If you want bigger slopes, there are only two ways you can go-either up or down, and we didn’t want to start digging,” Kamenevs laughs. The tallest hill in the country, Gaizinkalns, rises just 312 metres above sea level and, predictably, it has three pistes on its flanks. The Zagarkalns resort is not alone in using cosmetic surgery to enhance nature’s modest mounds. In the western port of Ventspils, a ski hill was built from scratch in 2005. It too is

growing each year, currently towering 52 metres over the nearby Baltic Sea beach and oil terminal. Named “Lemberga Hute”, or “Lembergs’ Trilby”, it’s bizarre shape imitates the preferred headwear of colourful local mayor and political kingpin Aivars Lembergs. Whereas cross-country skiing is a national obsession in neighboring Estonia, Latvians prefer the thrill of downhill skiing and snowboarding. “Although Latvia is not a land of mountains, its steep slopes and snow-rich winters are just perfect for short runs with skis or on snowboard,” according to a recent report on 400 European ski resorts from the European Consumers Centre Network. “And while it may seem quite unusual, alpine skiing is one of the Latvians’ favourite winter-time activities. Ski runs are located in almost every municipality,” it adds. Europe’s cheapest skiingThe report also gives a clue as to why Latvians have kept skiing even during an economic crisis that saw their country battered by the world’s deepest recession in 2008-09. The country offers the continent’s cheapest skiing, with one-day adult passes costing the equivalent of about four

euros ($5) — albeit on a slope just 250 metres long at the Ramkalni ski centre just outside Riga. In contrast, the continent’s most expensive adult pass is found on the somewhat larger Matterhorn in Switzerland, at 62 euros ($81). Latvia also has its own slope for well-heeled skiers, however, with the Zviedru Cepure resort charging 50 euros for a day’s skiing on a kilometre-long slope. One of the benefits of small hills is that skiers can be confident they will not be stuck halfway up a mountain awaiting rescue before spending weeks on crutches. According to the Latvian Ski Track Association, just 61 people were hurt during the 2011-12 season. According to Kamenevs, the competition generated by dozens of small slopes is driving rapid improvements in facilities. “Latvia is the capital of downhill as far as the Baltics are concerned. We get lots of visitors from Estonia, and Lithuanians tell us it’s cheaper for them to come here for a weekend than to visit their local facilities,” he says. “The Russian market is also becoming very important. Russians can easily combine a weekend break in Riga with a cou-

ple of days’ skiing on different slopes.” Since Latvia joined the European Union in 2004, its slopes have found an extra role-teaching a new generation of skiers skills that they can then take to the Alps, Pyrenees or further afield, which was impossible during 50 years of Soviet occupation. “A fair share of our winter passengers are skiers,” says Janis Vanags of national airline airBaltic, himself a fan of the slopes. “Latvians are quite keen to explore less-known ski areas in Finland and Norway, plus new resorts in Georgia are generating a lot of interest. We are quite stubborn. We won’t let the fact that we just have a few small mounds stop us from skiing,” he adds. With the arrival of the Baltic winter, Latvia’s 31 ski centres have just opened for business, and with luck they will stay open well into March. At the top of Zagarkalns’ main run, 23-yearold Janis Bendiks says skiing is a way of life even in a small town such as Cesis. “It’s simple. You finish work at five o’clock, then everyone heads to the slopes. This evening the run will be packed. It’s right on my doorstep, so why not make the most of it?” he asks before swerving expertly away in a cloud of powder. —AFP

Nehwal courts controversy with match point retirement

The Indian Public School team

The winning Indian Central School team

Carmel School secures semi-final spot Kuwait Cricket’s U-18 School Cricket KUWAIT: A magnificent unbeaten 140 runs by Meezan Ali in just 58 deliveries, the very first of its kind by a school cricketer in recent times was the highlight of Indian Central School’s 139 runs victory over Indian Public school in the U-18 school cricket tournament organized by Kuwait Cricket and sponsored by Gulf Four. Indian Public School tasted success in the very first over as Mohsen was bowled by Waleed but thereafter Meezan Ali & Saad launched fierce onslaught on the IPS bowlers and put on a record 232 runs second wicket partnership. Meezan stylishly drove with elegance & played his shots with great authority while Saad rotated the strike to his senior partner. Saad’s power packed innings contained 7 fours & one six. Meezan’s innings of 140 contained 20 hits to the fence & 3 huge sixes. IPS indeed put up a brave fight to match the skills of their opponents but the ICS bowlers were right on the mark as Mohsin & Meezan Ali tore through the he IPS batting line up to skittle them out for 101. Supun (16 runs) & Imran (19 runs) played well for IPS.

Mohsin & Meezan both took 3 wickets each for 24 & 23 runs respectively. Carmel School rightly secured a place in the semi finals when they handsomely

Arjuna presenting Meezan Ali the Player of the match for his brilliant century & bowling.

defeated Titans XI by 10 wickets in the Kuwait Cricket’s ongoing U-18 School cricket tournament sponsored by GULF FOUR. The highly acclaimed tournament which is part of Asian Cricket Council’s vision to promote grass root level cricket in Kuwait has been a tremendous success with the participation of almost 10 teams. Batting first on a sunny morning, Titans XI could muster only 105 runs as the Carmel bowlers particularly Shadat & Anil bowled extremely well to capture three wickets each. Harjot Singh was the top scorer for Titans with a handsomely struck 32 runs while Solomon (14 runs) & Mustafa (13 runs) supported the team to reach 105 runs in overs. Carmel openers Mohammed Waseef & Aleem easily scored the winning runs without being departed as Aleem played a stellar knock of scoring 52 runs with 10 hits to the fence while Waseef played an anchor role to notch 25 runs. Aleem was declared Player of the match for his batting performance.

NEW DELHI: India’s Saina Nehwal has kicked up a storm by retiring from a match she was on the verge of winning because of a knee injury. The London Olympic bronze medallist had reached match point against Russian Ksenia Polikarpova in the first round match at the India Grand Prix in the northern city of Lucknow on Wednesday when she decided to retire. “Even when I was playing at the Super Series Finals (in China last week), I was playing with a taped knee,” the world number three was quoted as saying by the Times of India newspaper. “I have been facing this problem since then. This could have aggravated if I had continued. So I decided to back out,” she added. The Badminton Association of India (BAI) said it would investigate the incident but maintained it had no reason to doubt Nehwal’s sincerity, vice president TPS Puri told Reuters yesterday. “We are looking into her pullout but her injury is genuine,” Puri said by phone. “She sustained it at the Denmark Open (in October) and has been struggling since then. She is our top shuttler and we have to look after her,” he said. Puri also dismissed media reports that Nehwal, under pressure to play in the city which is home to her sponsors Sahara and also of BAI president Akhilesh Das, had no intention of playing beyond the first round. “I don’t think it’s correct to say that she had got her return tickets booked for Wednesday. “She came here straight from China. She was taking a chance with her injury and probably realised it was not worth aggravating it,” Puri added. The $120,000 tournament suffered another setback when men’s top seed and 2004 Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia crashed out with a shocking 21-17 21-12 first round defeat to unheralded Indian Pratul Joshi. —Reuters

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Gignac: Marseille must use home advantage PARIS: Olympique Marseille could be top of Ligue 1 if they had not collapsed in their last two home games, striker Andre-Pierre Gignac said, warning his team mates that they could not afford any more home losses. Third-placed Marseille, tied on 35 points with leaders Paris St Germain, host eighth-ranked St Etienne on Sunday having won one of their last five home league games. While they have the French league’s best away record with seven victories from 10 games, including the last three, they were thrashed 4-1 by Olympique Lyon and 3-0 by Lorient in their last two home encounters. “We should have more points. We collapsed in some games. I can’t explain that,” Gignac, who scored a superb goal

to earn his side a 1-0 win at Toulouse last weekend, told the club website ( Even if we lose, we have to fight...we can’t afford to collapse like that.” Marseille have one of the worst defensive records at home with 12 goals conceded in eight games but in-form playmaker Mathieu Valbuena said they could improve. “We can produce great performances at home. There’s is no ‘Velodrome’ syndrome,” he told reporters. “We just have to be more consistent.” Sunday’s game could be the ideal occasion for a home recovery as St Etienne have endured a 500-minutes goal drought and have lost two of their last three league matches. Their poor run started against neighbours Olympique

Lyon who will rekindle bad memories on Saturday (1900) when former coach Claude Puel arrives with his current side Nice, who are fifth in the standings, six points behind their hosts. Puel was fired after a three-year spell during which he failed to win a single trophy despite taking charge of a club who were seventimes defending champions when he was appointed in 2008. Olympique Lyon president JeanMichel Aulas, whose club won the French Cup last season under new coach Remi Garde, had harsh words about Puel ahead of the game. “Puel was our coach for three years, and they were not good times for Lyon and our fans. He left on bad terms, with the whole soccer community having a bad opinion of him,”

Aulas said. Nice will again bet on Argentine front man Dario Cvitanich, who has scored seven goals in as many games and has already been dubbed “best catch of the close season” after he was signed for 400,000 euros ($530,400). Leaders Paris St Germain, ahead of Lyon and Marseille on goal difference, could consolidate their first place before the winter break if they win at mid-table Stade Brest on Friday (1945 GMT). Champions Montpellier will aim to extend their winning run to a fourth game when they visit Lille tomorrow. Fourth-placed Lorient, who are on 30 points - the club’s best tally from 18 games - host promoted Stade Reims on the same day. — Reuters

Reinvigorated Arsenal to kick-off festive feast

Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri

Napoli desperate for Siena win MILAN: Napoli travels to bottom club Siena for the last Serie A game before the winter break, looking to end the year on a positive note after a week to forget. After conceding late to lose 3-2 at home to struggler Bologna in the league on Sunday, it was dumped out of the Italian Cup by the same team on Wednesday following another stoppage-time winner. There has been more misery off the pitch, as on Tuesday Napoli was penalized two points in the standings for a fixed match three years ago while captain Paolo Cannavaro and defender Gianluca Grava were each banned for six months for failing to report the fix. The sentence dropped the southern club from a tie for third place into fifth position, 10 points behind league leader Juventus, which faces Cagliari on Friday. Second-placed Inter Milan trails Juventus by seven points and hosts struggling Genoa tomorrow. “Unfortunately when things go bad, they always get worse,” Napoli coach Walter Mazzarri said. “The points deduction has affected us psychologically as well I think, as has the loss of Paolo and Gianluca, who are two driving characters in the dressing room. “The only answer I know is to pay attention to everything. We have to search out the niggles, and adjust and fix everything, every little aspect, from private life to the last minute of training. I won’t sleep, I have to find the right recipe so the lads can bounce back, because they’re united.” Napoli has lost four games on the trot in all competitions and was booed at the end of its cup defeat. “I ask the fans to support these players, in a difficult time after so much joy before,” Mazzarri said. “We hope we’ll see signs of a turnaround against Siena. “Last year we also lost four games in a row and then we won the next five.” Siena also crashed out of the Italian Cup, on penalties to Lazio. It is new coach Giuseppe Iachini’s first league match in charge since replacing the sacked Serse Cosmi. —AP

LONDON: The first offering of a 12-day Premier League feast is served up tomorrow when Arsenal travel to Wigan Athletic for a clash involving two of the country’s most unpredictable teams. With 39 top flight matches crammed into the holiday period the next two weeks will offer some telling clues into what is turning into a two-horse title race between Manchester United and Manchester City and the survival scrap involving several sides at the wrong end of the table. For Arsenal, it promises some much needed festive cheer in a season that has so far been as disappointing as the Christmas cracker jokes that do the rounds over the dinner table. Their chronic lack of consistency is encapsulated by a month that began with them being booed off after a 2-0 home defeat by Swansea City, hit rock bottom in a League Cup exit at League Two Bradford City and continued this week with Santi Cazorla scoring a hattrick in an uplifting 5-2 romp at Reading. Monday’s win muted the growing grumblings of discontent in north London but the season of goodwill could quickly turn sour if the Gunners fail to build on it at third from bottom Wigan. Victory, however, would send Arsene Wenger’s side temporarily into third place and launch them into a holiday fixture schedule eased by the postponement of the Boxing Day derby against West Ham United because of a Tube strike. “We now go to Wigan. It’s another difficult place but we can do well again. Hopefully we’ll get some confidence from the (Reading) game,” said Wenger. While it will take more than one emphatic win against a bottom-of-the-table side whose defence did an impressive vanishing act to restore the faith of frustrated Arsenal fans, the performances of Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott were encouraging signs. A 15-point gap to Premier League leaders Manchester United already makes a title challenge a forlorn hope, but Arsenal still look capable of putting together a run that would at least cement them in the top four come New Year. “We know the games come thick and

Theo Walcott fast over the Christmas period,” said Oxlade-Chamberlain who was joined by Wilshere, Welsh midfielder Aaron Ramsey and England defenders Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson in signing new long-term contracts on Wednesday. “It’s a really important period for everyone in the Premier League and if you can string together a good number of results and get points on the table, then it stands you in good stead for the run-in to the end of the season.” Wigan have managed only one win in seven matches since a shock 1-0 triumph at Tottenham Hotspur in early November, but on their day Roberto Martinez’s team can prove a handful. They won 2-1 at Arsenal last season and effectively ended Arsenal’s title hopes with a 3-2 home victory in 2010. Sergio Aguero and Carlos Tevez will be salivating at the prospect of a visit from Reading as champions Manchester City play their final home game of an epic year, almost three years to the day since Roberto Mancini replaced Mark Hughes as coach. City’s 37-match unbeaten Premier League run at home was ended by United in the previous match at the Etihad Stadium but Reading’s prospects appear about as bright as a Christmas turkey against a side desperate to close the sixpoint gap to United who are away at

Swansea City on Sunday. United are in free-flowing goal-scoring form, having netted 10 times in their last three Premier League games, and Alex Ferguson’s side have an appetising fixture list over the holiday period with home games against Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion to follow their visit to Wales. “We usually get ourselves to the New Year in a good position and that’s where we want to be,” Ferguson told United’s website ( Third-placed Chelsea, who beat Leeds United in the Capital One (League) Cup on Wednesday after losing the Club World Cup final last weekend, must wait until Sunday to return to Premier League action when they host a struggling Aston Villa side buoyed by a 3-1 victory at Liverpool last weekend. Fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur can move above Chelsea if they avoid defeat at home to Stoke City tomorrow. Sixthplaced Everton are also eyeing a return to the top four, although they will be without the suspended Marouane Fellaini as they take on West ham United at Upton Park. At the bottom, Queens Park Rangers, who gained their first win of the season last weekend against Fulham and are unbeaten in four matches under new manager Harry Redknapp, will look to continue their escape bid at sliding Newcastle United. — Reuters

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Milan-Barca, Madrid-United top Champions League last-16 line-up NYON: Barcelona versus AC Milan and Manchester United against Real Madrid were the pick of the ties in the Champions League last 16 draw yesterday, as the knock-out phase of this year’s competition took shape. Perennial favorites Barcelona, champions in 2009 and 2011, are currently nine points clear in La Liga but received a hammer blow on Wednesday when it was revealed coach Tito Vilanova was facing surgery after cancer returned to his salivary gland. His assistant, Jordi Roura, has been placed in temporary charge. “Yesterday (Wednesday) was a very hard day, a tough blow,” said Barca captain Carles Puyol in comments posted on the club’s official Twitter feed. “Tito gave us strength, already talked about coming back. Personally, I’m happy about facing Milan. Not because it’s

an easy opponent but because it’s a team I’ve always liked.” Barcelona and Milan locked horns four times in last season’s competition, with Barca finishing above Massimiliano Allegri’s side in the group phase and then prevailing 3-1 on aggregate when they met again in the last eight. United’s tie with Madrid will see Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo face his former club for the first time since leaving Old Trafford for the Spanish capital in 2009. T he sides last met in 2003, when a famous hat-trick in Manchester by Ronaldo-Cristiano Ronaldo’s Brazilian predecessor and namesake-gave Madrid a 6-5 aggregate quarter-final win. Madrid coach Jose Mourinho has only lost two of his 14 previous encounters with United but Alex Ferguson said he was looking forward to resuming

NYON: The match fixtures are shown on an electronic panel following the draw of the games for the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League at the UEFA Headquarters. —AP

hostilities with his old sparring partner. “Well, it’s the tie of the round,” the United manager told the club website. “It’s a great opportunity for our fans to see Cristiano again and also for me to meet up with Jose again-I’ll need to order some good wine!” Former Madrid player and club director Emilio Butragueno said: “I’m sure it’s going to be a special game for Ronaldo. “He’s a great professional so I’m sure he’s going to do his best to help Real Madrid qualify for the next round, but going back there will be special for him.” Arsenal were drawn against last season’s beaten finalists, Bayern Munich, who have constructed a nine-point lead in the Bundesliga after a storming start to the season. “We know Arsenal well,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “That’s fortunate and we can be happy about the draw. The game won’t be a foregone conclusion and we should not under-estimate Arsenal.” Meanwhile, Celtic’s reward for reaching the knockout phase for the first time since 2007-08 is a rendezvous with Italian champions Juventus. “In terms of glamour, it is great,” Celtic coach Neil Lennon told Sky Sports News. “In terms of qualification it is going to be very tough. But we will take it as it comes and our supporters will be looking forward to this match.” Big-spending French club Paris SaintGermain will take on Valencia, with German champions Borussia Dortmund slated to face their Ukrainian counterparts Shakhtar Donetsk. In the remaining ties, competition debutants Malaga tackle Porto and Turkish outfit Galatasaray meet German side Schalke. In a remarkable quirk, the draw for the matches in February and March produced exactly the same ties as had been drawn in Wednesday’s rehearsal. —AFP

ITALY: This combo made of file pictures taken on July 22, 2011 shows (from left) Napoli goalkeeper Matteo Gianello, captain Paolo Cannavaro and goalkeeper Matteo Gianello posing during an official team photo. The Italian football federation (FIGC) said that Napoli have been docked two points and fined 70,000 euros ($92,000, 57,000 pounds) in connection with a longrunning probe into illegal betting. —AFP

Napoli humbled by Bologna ITALY: Holders Napoli, already reeling after being deduced two Serie A points for match-fixing, were knocked out of the Italian Cup last 16 after suffering a last-gasp 2-1 home defeat by Bologna on Wednesday. Edinson Cavani gave the hosts a 12th-minute lead but Cristian Pasquato on 38 minutes and Panagiotis Kone in stoppage time helped Bologna set up a last-eight clash with Inter Milan, who beat second tier Hellas Verona 2-0 on Tuesday. Greek midfielder Kone had also scored late on for modest Bologna when they won 3-2 at Napoli in the league last weekend. Lazio also won through after a 4-1 penalty shootout success at home to Siena following a 1-1 draw. The match was played in a mostly empty stadium in the Italian midweek afternoon such is the lack of interest from fans in the competition. They will face Catania in the January quarter-finals after the Sicilians progressed last week along with AC Milan, Juventus and AS Roma, who will host Fiorentina following the Florence side’s 1-0 win at Udinese on Wednesday. Borja Valero netted for Fiorentina in the 36th minute The standout tie of the pre-drawn last eight is Serie A champions and last season’s beaten finalists Juventus travelling to Milan. Serie A title chasers Napoli were docked two points on Tuesday in Italy’s latest match-fixing shame as three players were banned for between six months and three years over bets placed on a match with Sampdoria in 2010. — AFP

Barca coach’s surgery went well, says Puyol BARCELONA: Barcelona coach Tito Vilanova’s cancer surgery yesterday went “very well”, his captain Carles Puyol said, after an unexpected relapse shocked the Spanish league leaders. Vilanova, 44, has led Barcelona to their best league start ever but the club said he will be in hospital for four days and then need up to six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. “The first message I have received is that the operation has gone very well,” Puyol told a news conference after surgeons operated on Vilanova yesterday, just over a year after he underwent a similar operation on his salivary gland. “It is very tough news, a very hard blow,” Puyol said. Sports media quoted Vilanova as assuring players “I will be back soon,” the evening before his surgery, which media said was at Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron hospital, where there is a specialist oncology unit. Barca had yet to give an official update on Vilanova’s condition yesterday afternoon. “We will have to try to go on as normally as possible but there will not be total normality because Tito is the coach and now for a few weeks he

will not be there,” the club’s president Sandro Rosell said late Wednesday. “Tito is very strong and we are convinced he will .come back to us soon,” he insisted at a news conference, as players including Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta sat by solemnfaced. A six-week lay-off would mean Vilanova may return just in time for Barcelona’s last-16 tie in the Champions League, which will be against AC Milan in mid-February, the draw revealed yesterday. Before the draw in Nyon, Switzerland, UEFA secretary-general Gianni Infantino said in Catalan: “Tito, we are all with you.” The surgery came at a dramatic moment for Barca, flying nine points high at the top of Spain’s La Liga while their fierce rivals and title holders Real Madrid are suffering a malaise. Jose Mourinho’s Real are 13 points adrift in third place and rattled by reports of internal squabbles. Atletico Madrid are in second place, nine points behind Barcelona. Barca’s sporting director Andoni Zubizarreta said assistant coach Jordi Roura would stand in for the time being, acting as coach when the side travels to Valladolid for tomorrow’s league game.

Messages of support poured in from sporting stars and even occupied the front pages of the fiercely partisan Madrid sports press. Zubizarreta rejected speculation that Barcelona’s previous coach Pep Guardiola who left last season would step back in. “Tito is the coach and continues to be the coach. Jordi Roura will be in the dugout at Valladolid but the trainer is Tito,” he told a news conference. Real Madrid joined various sporting figures in Spain and abroad in wishing Vilanova well. “Tito, everyone is behind you to beat thisthe strength of football and people. It’s impossible you will lose this match,” Real skipper and Spain international keeper Iker Casillas wrote on his Facebook page. Vilanova has been Barca manager since the departure of his long-time comrade-in-arms Guardiola in April. Vilanova underwent an operation to remove a tumour on his parotid salivary gland on November 22, 2011 and was back at work as Guardiola’s deputy just two weeks later. The club said doctors had detected that the illness had returned to the same area. —AFP

Sports FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2012

Chelsea and Cech face Sparta in Europa League NYON: European champions Chelsea’s compensation for missing out on the Champions League knockout stages is a last-32 tie against Sparta Prague, former club of their goalkeeper Petr Cech, in the Europa League. Yesterday’s draw threw up a number of intriguing ties with Inter Milan, European champions in 2010, drawn against CFR Cluj of Romania and Ajax, four-times European Cup winners, taking on Steaua Bucharest who lifted the trophy in 1986. Five-times European champions Liverpool face Zenit St Petersburg while Atletico Madrid, who won the Europa League last season, play Rubin Kazan of Russia. Chelsea dropped down into the Europa League after becoming the first reigning European champions to fail to get through the group stage of the Champions League. Juventus and Shakhtar Donetsk qualified from the Londoners’ group. The winners of that tie will play either Ajax or Steaua. Ajax also failed to survive the Champions League group stages, losing out to Borussia Dortmund and Real Madrid, and they will have a tough task against Steaua who lead the Romanian championship by 10 points and topped their Europa League group. Inter, second in Serie A, should have little problem against Cluj, fifth in the Romanian league, but Liverpool will not fancy the trip to Russia to face Zenit in February. Bayer

tional for him,” said Lyon manager Remi Garde, who used to play for Tottenham’s London rivals Arsenal. “It will not be easy. Tottenham seem to be improving by steps and I think Hugo has played a part in that because he has brought a lot of stability.” The first legs of the last-32 ties will be played on Feb. 14 with the return fixtures a week later. Europa League draws First legs to be played Feb 14, second legs Feb 21

NYON: The UEFA Europa League trophy sits on the podium after the draw for the round of 32 of the UEFA Europa League yesterday, at the UEFA headquarters. — AFP Leverkusen v Benfica appears an evenly matched tie between sides with fine European pedigree as does Borussia Moenchengladbach against Lazio. The winners of the Inter v Cluj tie will play either Tottenham Hotspur or Olympique Lyon in

the last 16. Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, who joined from Lyon this season, will look forward to the last-32 tie against his old team mates. “It was destiny, it will be certainly very emo-

BATE Borisov v Fenerbahce Inter Milanv CFR Cluj Levante v Olympiakos Piraeus Zenit St Petersburg v Liverpool Dynamo Kievv Girondins Bordeaux Bayer Leverkusen v Benfica Newcastle United v Metalist Kharkiv VfB Stuttgart v Racing Genk Atletico Madrid v Rubin Kazan Ajax Amsterdamv Steaua Bucharest Baselv Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk Anji Makhachkala v Hanover 96 Sparta Prague v Chelsea M’gladbach vLazio Tottenham Hotspurv Olympique Lyon Napoli v Viktoria Plzen Teams listed first will play first legs at home. —Reuters

Feyenoord beat Heerenveen

LONDON: Chelsea’s Brazilian defender David Luiz (second left) clears the ball from Leeds United’s Argentine forward Luciano Becchio during the League Cup Quarter Final football match. — AFP

Chelsea thump Leeds LONDON: Chelsea brought a ray of light to a largely miserable December when they reached the Capital One (League) Cup semi-finals after a 5-1 triumph at second tier Leeds United on Wednesday. The Londoners, dumped out of the Champions League as holders and beaten in the Club World Cup final already this month as dubious fans adjust to interim boss Rafa Benitez, went a goal down before storming back to set up a last-four tie with Swansea City. Leeds, rivals of Chelsea after a series of fractious games between the sides since an infamous 1970 FA Cup final, went ahead on 37 minutes through Luciano Becchio after Chelsea defender David Luiz had again charged up field and lost the ball. Chelsea, who had numerous

chances in a rain-hit first half, struck back through Juan Mata just after the break when his shot from the edge of the box following a fine move foxed the goalkeeper.

League Cup Branislav Ivanovic headed in Frank Lampard’s corner at the near post to make it 2-1 on 64 minutes and forward Victor Moses soon increased the lead when he fired in after a mazy run. Eden Hazard then latched on to David Luiz’s long pass before Fernando Torres completed the scoring for a strong Chelsea lineup, who host Villa in the Premier League on Sunday lying third. Swansea, Villa and fourth tier Bradford City, who stunned

Arsenal, had already progressed to the last four last week as they chase England’s secondary knockout trophy which provides a Europa League berth. Chelsea are at home to Swansea in the first leg in the week starting Jan. 7 while Bradford host Villa. The second legs take place in the week commencing Jan. 21. “The reaction in the second half was fantastic, especially with travelling back from Japan (World Club Cup) and having jet lag,” Benitez told Sky Sports television. “We were looking for character and the reaction was so good, we have to consider it for the future. Every competition is important for us and a top side like us has to win every competition. Swansea like to play football, on the floor.”— Reuters

ROTTERDAM: Ronald Koeman’s Feyenoord reached the quarter-finals of the Dutch Cup after beating Marco van Basten’s Heerenveen 7-6 on penalties after a 20-kick shootout on Wednesday. The entertaining clash had finished 2-2 after extra time but that was nothing compared to Vitesse Arnhem’s 10-1 hammering of third-tier amateurs ADO ‘20 Heemskerk. Graziano Pelle put Feyenoord ahead after 28 minutes with a well-executed volley but 10 minutes after the break Jeffrey Gouweleeuw equalised. Midway through the second half, Lex Immers restored the lead with a close-range header followed by several missed chances for Pelle. Heerenveen then took the initiative in the final 10 minutes of normal time and Filip Djuricic netted a rebound in stoppage time after a free kick from Lukas Marecek bounced back off the bar. “It is always a pleasure to be decisive in a shootout but we caused our own problems,” said Feyenoord keeper Erwin Mulder, who saved four penalties. “After our second goal we should have sealed the match and then we again concede a goal from a set piece,” he added. Last season’s runners-up Heracles Almelo had to come from behind to beat NAC Breda 3-1. Arnhem thrashed Heemskerk thanks to doubles from Wilfried Bony, Nicky Hofs and Renato Ibarra. On Tuesday, holders PSV Eindhoven cruised to a 4-0 away win against amateurs Rijnsburgse Boys. Ajax Amsterdam will be in action on Thursday at Groningen. — Reuters


Reinvigorated Arsenal to kick-off festive feast

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LONDON: Leeds’ Tom Lees (top right) fights for the ball against Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta (lower right) during their English League Cup soccer match at Elland Road Stadium.—AP

Chelsea thump Leeds Page 47

21 Dec  

Friday Times