Friday, September 30, 2011

CUT AMIRAH - Kerjasama Singapura, Malaysia dan Aceh

<a href='' target='_new' title='Episode 1'>Video: Episode 1</a>

Al-Azhar: We won't remain silent in the face of encroaching Shiism

<p>Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb during a press conference, Al-Azhar, 19 April, 2011. Referring to violent clashes in Syria, Yemen and Libya, Al-Tayyeb said Al-Azhar is concerned about Arab peoples and called on Arab leaders to keep peoples' interests above their own.</p>

Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb said on Thursday that he rejects all attempts at spreading Shiism in Egypt and the Islamic countries, as well as Shia "insults" against Prophet Mohamed’s companions and Sunni figures.

The statement was made during his meeting with a delegation representing the al-Hakeem Institution in Lebanon and some representatives from the Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Al-Azhar said the meeting addressed Al-Azhar’s efforts to reconcile different sects and doctrines in Islam.

Tayyeb said the first obstacle is the feverish attempts to spread the Shia doctrine in Sunni countries, especially in Egypt, home of Al-Azhar, the highest religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world.

 “I think there are ulterior motives behind these attempts, which no one would approve of,” said Tayyeb. “Things have evolved a lot, beginning with writings here and there questioning the companion’s faith and then insulting al-Sayeda Aisha, God bless her.”

Tayyeb went on to say that “Al-Azhar has so far controlled itself in order to preserve the unity of Muslims, but if this situation is left unchecked, Al-Azhar has ideological options.”

He added that the second obstacle was the “TV satellite channels devoted to cursing and insulting the companions, may God bless them, lambasting Sunnis, and even claiming the Quran was falsified.”

Translated from the Arabic Edition

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The richest Indians in the Gulf!

For the first time, Arabian Business has compiled a list of the most affluent Indians in the Gulf - and it contains an impressive $20bn worth of entrepreneurial talent. Landmark group chairman Micky Jagtiani has topped the list with estimated wealth of $3.2bn

Emke Group's Yussuf Ali is in second place on $1.75bn

 He is followed by NMC boss BR Shetty on $1.72bn

At rank 4 is Jumbo Electronics owner Chhabria family, with wealth of $1.3 bn. Above, Kiran Chhabria, a partner in the company

GEMS Education founder Sunny Varkey is at rank 6, with $950m estimated wealth

Dodsal Group chairman and president Rajen Kilachand is at rank 7, with $900m estimated wealth

Jashanmal Group Executive director Tony Jashanmal (centre) is at rank 8, with $900m estimated wealth

Galfar Engineering and Contracting Co founder Dr. Mohammed Ali is at rank 10, with $725m estimated wealth


Monday, September 26, 2011

Sharia MBAs on the rise as 25% more experts needed

The Islamic finance industry will need 15% more personnel over the next five years, said AAOIFI

The Islamic finance industry will need 15% more personnel over the next five years, said AAOIFI
A Bahraini group that sets standards for Islamic finance in 45 countries is helping universities start Sharia-compliant business courses to avert a shortage of experts in the $1 trillion market.

The industry will need 15 percent more personnel over the next five years and 25 percent more in a decade, said Khairul Nizam, deputy secretary general of the Accounting & Auditing Organization for Islamic Financial Institutions.

Pakistan is offering its first doctorate in Sharia banking, while the United Arab Emirates has introduced an Islamic Masters of Business Administration.

“There is a shortage of people in the industry at the entry level,” Nizam said. “We will need to make sure there are enough heads in the future.”

Sharia-compliant bonds returned 6.9 percent this year, according to the HSBC/NASDAQ Dubai US Dollar Sukuk Index, outpacing the 5.9 percent jump in emerging-market debt, data compiled by JPMorgan Chase & Co shows. Countries including Nigeria, Thailand, Australia and France plan to introduce legislation to facilitate Islamic financing, moves that will boost demand for scholars to certify that the products meet Islam’s ban on interest payments.

“If you don’t have quality people, then growth in the industry won’t be sustainable,” said Azahari Kamil, the chief executive officer of Kuala Lumpur-based Asian Finance Bank, a unit of Qatar Islamic Bank. “Governments and central banks should encourage universities to come up with more professional courses.”

The Canadian University of Dubai is offering a UAE- accredited MBA in Islamic banking, Foteini Lavda, the institution’s marketing manager, said in a statement. The International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan, started its doctorate course in Sharia banking to compliment its Masters program in August, said Shagufta Haroon, the director of academics. La Trobe University, based in Melbourne, began courses in the subject last year.

Experts in Singapore are also setting up an association focused on Sharia-compliant investments to foster links between bankers, lawyers and investors in the Arabian Gulf and Asia, Raj Mohamad, managing director at Five Pillars, a consulting firm in the city-state, said in an interview yesterday. Mohamad will be the secretary of the new body.

The Accounting & Auditing Organization, known as AAOIFI, has more than 200 members and its standards are used in Islamic finance in Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, Qatar, Sudan and Syria, according to its website.

The organization may issue 35 Sharia standards for Islamic institutions in 2012, according to a Sept 7 statement, citing Secretary General Mohamed Nedal Alchaar.

Under Islamic law, commercial transactions can take place as long as the provisions don’t violate the Koran. The charging or receiving of interest on a loan or bond is banned and investment in businesses that deal in tobacco, gaming or alcohol are prohibited, making conventional stock and bond indexes off limits to those wanting to invest in accordance with Islamic principles.

 “We have been speaking with a few universities to help them introduce some courses on Islamic finance and we are helping other universities to improve the courses they offer,” AAOIFI’s Nizam said. “We are also offering our own courses.”

Assets that comply with Islam’s tenets are estimated to almost triple by 2015 to $2.8 trillion, according to the Kuala Lumpur-based Islamic Financial Services Board.

Global sales of sukuk have risen to $17.4bn in 2011, from $10.7bn in the same period last year. Issuance reached a record $31bn in 2007.

Islamic banking assets in Malaysia, which pioneered financing along religious guidelines 30 years ago, have grown an average 20 percent annually since 2006 to 350.8 billion ringgit ($111bn) in 2010. The Southeast Asian nation accounts for 66 percent of global sukuk outstanding, according to the central bank’s annual report issued in March.

Australia and Thailand are pushing through legislation to remove tax barriers on Sharia-compliant products that would pave the way for issuance of Islamic bonds. Nigeria’s Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, a unit of South Africa’s Standard Bank Group, has been issued with a preliminary license to offer Islamic banking services.

Stanbic would be the African nation’s second lender to gain approval.

The International Islamic University of Malaysia offers postgraduate and Ph.D. courses in Sharia-compliant banking and finance, according to its website. The UK’s Durham University, also offers Islamic finance courses, while Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, runs an Islamic legal studies program through its law school, according to data on their websites.
The Paris-based French Institute for Islamic Finance in partnership with the French Institute for Management is providing vocational training in Sharia-compliant finance through 15 programs, according to its website.

“There’s been a surge in Islamic finance courses,” said Nik Norzrul Thani, chairman and senior partner of Kuala Lumpur-based legal firm Zaid Ibrahim & Co.

Mecca for the rich: Islam's holiest site 'turning into Vegas'

Historic and culturally important landmarks are being destroyed to make way for luxury hotels and malls, reports Jerome Taylor
Saturday, 24 September 2011
Behind closed doors – in places where the religious police cannot listen in – residents of Mecca are beginning to refer to their city as Las Vegas, and the moniker is not a compliment.
Over the past 10 years the holiest site in Islam has undergone a huge transformation, one that has divided opinion among Muslims all over the world.

Once a dusty desert town struggling to cope with the ever-increasing number of pilgrims arriving for the annual Hajj, the city now soars above its surroundings with a glittering array of skyscrapers, shopping malls and luxury hotels.

To the al-Saud monarchy, Mecca is their vision of the future – a steel and concrete metropolis built on the proceeds of enormous oil wealth that showcases their national pride.

Yet growing numbers of citizens, particularly those living in the two holy cities of Mecca and Medina, have looked on aghast as the nation's archaeological heritage is trampled under a construction mania backed by hardline clerics who preach against the preservation of their own heritage. Mecca, once a place where the Prophet Mohamed insisted all Muslims would be equal, has become a playground for the rich, critics say, where naked capitalism has usurped spirituality as the city's raison d'ĂȘtre.

Few are willing to discuss their fears openly because of the risks associated with criticising official policy in the authoritarian kingdom. And, with the exceptions of Turkey and Iran, fellow Muslim nations have largely held their tongues for fear of of a diplomatic fallout and restrictions on their citizens' pilgrimage visas. Western archaeologists are silent out of fear that the few sites they are allowed access to will be closed to them.

But a number of prominent Saudi archaeologists and historians are speaking up in the belief that the opportunity to save Saudi Arabia's remaining historical sites is closing fast.
"No one has the balls to stand up and condemn this cultural vandalism," says Dr Irfan al-Alawi who, as executive director of the Islamic Heritage Research Foundation, has fought in vain to protect his country's historical sites. "We have already lost 400-500 sites. I just hope it's not too late to turn things around."

Sami Angawi, a renowned Saudi expert on the region's Islamic architecture, is equally concerned. "This is an absolute contradiction to the nature of Mecca and the sacredness of the house of God," he told the Reuters news agency earlier this year. "Both [Mecca and Medina] are historically almost finished. You do not find anything except skyscrapers."

Dr Alawi's most pressing concern is the planned £690m expansion of the Grand Mosque, the most sacred site in Islam which contains the Kaaba – the black stone cube built by Ibrahim (Abraham) that Muslims face when they pray.

Construction officially began earlier this month with the country's Justice Minister, Mohammed al-Eissa, exclaiming that the project would respect "the sacredness and glory of the location, which calls for the highest care and attention of the servants or Islam and Muslims".

The 400,000 square metre development is being built to accommodate an extra 1.2 million pilgrims each year and will turn the Grand Mosque into the largest religious structure in the world. But the Islamic Heritage Foundation has compiled a list of key historical sites that they believe are now at risk from the ongoing development of Mecca, including the old Ottoman and Abbasi sections of the Grand Mosque, the house where the Prophet Mohamed was born and the house where his paternal uncle Hamza grew up.

There is little argument that Mecca and Medina desperately need infrastructure development. Twelve million pilgrims visit the cities every year with the numbers expected to increase to 17 million by 2025.

But critics fear that the desire to expand the pilgrimage sites has allowed the authorities to ride roughshod over the area's cultural heritage. The Washington-based Gulf Institute estimates that 95 per cent of Mecca's millennium-old buildings have been demolished in the past two decades alone.
The destruction has been aided by Wahabism, the austere interpretation of Islam that has served as the kingdom's official religion ever since the al-Sauds rose to power across the Arabian Peninsula in the 19th century.
In the eyes of Wahabis, historical sites and shrines encourage "shirq" – the sin of idolatry or polytheism – and should be destroyed. When the al-Saud tribes swept through Mecca in the 1920s, the first thing they did was lay waste to cemeteries holding many of Islam's important figures. They have been destroying the country's heritage ever since. Of the three sites the Saudis have allowed the UN to designate World Heritage Sites, none are related to Islam.

Those circling the Kaaba only need to look skywards to see the latest example of the Saudi monarchy's insatiable appetite for architectural bling. At 1,972ft, the Royal Mecca Clock Tower, opened earlier this year, soars over the surrounding Grand Mosque, part of an enormous development of skyscrapers that will house five-star hotels for the minority of pilgrims rich enough to afford them.

To build the skyscraper city, the authorities dynamited an entire mountain and the Ottoman era Ajyad Fortress that lay on top of it. At the other end of the Grand Mosque complex, the house of the Prophet's first wife Khadijah has been turned into a toilet block. The fate of the house he was born in is uncertain. Also planned for demolition are the Grand Mosque's Ottoman columns which dare to contain the names of the Prophet's companions, something hardline Wahabis detest.

For ordinary Meccans living in the mainly Ottoman-era town houses that make up much of what remains of the old city, development often means the loss of their family home.
Non-Muslims cannot visit Mecca and Medina, but The Independent was able to interview a number of citizens who expressed discontent over the way their town was changing. One young woman whose father recently had his house bulldozed described how her family was still waiting for compensation. "There was very little warning; they just came and told him that the house had to be bulldozed," she said.

Another Meccan added: "If a prince of a member of the royal family wants to extend his palace he just does it. No one talks about it in public though. There's such a climate of fear."

Dr Alawi hopes the international community will finally begin to wake up to what is happening in the cradle of Islam. "We would never allow someone to destroy the Pyramids, so why are we letting Islam's history disappear?"

Under Threat
Bayt al-Mawlid
When the Wahabis took Mecca in the 1920s they destroyed the dome on top of the house where the Prophet Mohammed was born. It was thenused as a cattle market before being turned into a library after a campaign by Meccans. There are concerns that the expansion of the Grand Mosque will destroy it once more. The site has never been excavated by archaeologists.
Ottoman and Abasi columns of the Grand Mosque
Slated for demolition as part of the Grand Mosque expansion, these intricately carved columns date back to the 17th century and are the oldest surviving sections of Islam's holiest site. Much to the chagrin of Wahabis, they are inscribed with the names of the Prophet's companions. Ottomon Mecca is now rapidly disappearing
Al-Masjid al-Nawabi
For many years, hardline Wahabi clerics have had their sites set on the 15th century green dome that rests above the tomb holding the Prophet, Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. The mosque is regarded as the second holiest site in Islam. Wahabis, however, believe marked graves are idolatrous. A pamphlet published in 2007 by the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, endorsed by Abdulaziz Al Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, stated that "the green dome shall be demolished and the three graves flattened in the Prophet's Masjid".
Jabal al-Nour
A mountain outside Mecca where Mohammed received his first Koranic revelations. The Prophet used to spend long spells in a cave called Hira. The cave is particularly popular among South Asian pilgrims who have carved steps up to its entrance and adorned the walls with graffiti. Religious hardliners are keen to dissuade pilgrims from congregating there and have mooted the idea of removing the steps and even destroying the mountain altogether.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Singapore pic 1.jpg
As the age of empires fades, Edward Carr argues that the world needs a federal capital.

Have you ever been to Canberra? Dull and safe and good for nothing but politics, it’s as if an alien had taken up town planning. Its lakes, bridges and low-slung offices are triumphs of sterile coherence which cannot begin to match the soft beauty of Sydney Harbour or the ethnic hum of Melbourne. And yet, Canberra is the ideal capital for a federation of rival states, each jealous of the others. Were Sydney the kingpin, New South Wales would have too much power. Were the government in Melbourne, Victoria would once again rule Australia. 

In the age of empires, the world’s capital was inevitably the Imperium. Rome, London, Paris and Washington, every dome had its day. But the age of empires is fading. If you think London and New York are too Western to be the world’s capital, that is because the West needs to make room for the rest. If you are not convinced by the claims of Washington, Beijing or Delhi, that is because no one country looks able to conquer its way to global supremacy. Increasingly, the world is a federation of rival states that all guard their independence and all expect their say.

As in Australia, the rules for choosing the capital of federations are different from the rules of empire. The Imperial capital exudes power, but the federal one should be unthreatening. James Madison, constitutional architect and fourth president of the United States, justified carving Washington out of 100 square miles of sparsely inhabited countryside by arguing that politicians need to gather without any one member state being able to impose “an imputation of awe or influence”. 

The Imperial capital needs art, culture and food to lift the spirit – spiced with danger, squalor and vice to revive the jaded palate. A federal capital is more likely to be purpose-built and doused with official culture: 1960s Brasilia rather than carnival-clogged Rio, Abuja rather than teeming, fetid Lagos. The cities that become capitals of federal countries are nobody’s first choice, because first-choice cities tend to belong to a dominant or near-dominant province or state. The European Union’s founding treaty honours Rome, and its engine was tuned in the ministries of Paris and Berlin, but they plonked its capital in boring old Brussels.

If federal capitals score badly on power and culture, they excel themselves on the rest of our checklist: wealth, education, cosmopolitanism. So the world capital should be somewhere efficient and neutral. Somewhere you can get easily in and out of. Somewhere used to welcoming travellers from all over the world. After the second world war, that place was Geneva. Today, as Europe and the United States turn inward, it should be in burgeoning Asia. 

That is why my vote goes to Singapore. Not because it is the world’s greatest city, but because it is the closest match to the ideal capital of an increasingly federal world. The city state has no enemies. It does not take sides in geopolitical arm-wrestling. It has one foot in Asia and one in the West. It is a fabulously well-connected trading hub. Its people are educated high-achievers. It ticks along like clockwork.

Singapore’s sterility and fussy outlook might not be what you’d choose for a weekend break, any more than you’d bother with Canberra on a trip to Australia. But order and efficiency are pluses when it comes to helping the world go round. The lesson from federal states is that you don’t choose a capital for fun – that’s what you want from your home town. You want a capital where you can get things done. So forget the doomed attempt to rediscover ancient Rome. If you picked a capital for the 21st century, you’d pick Singapore. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Malaysia renews its promise of tolerant Muslim leadership

In the last 15 years or so, however, Malaysia has seemed to lose that status as a shining example

'If you want to know whether Islam, democracy, modernity and women's rights can coexist," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in 2009, "go to Indonesia." As the outside world watches the progress of revolutions in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, this remains an elusive model. Will these states prove that the combination Ms Clinton mentioned is possible? Or will Islamists, who are always regarded as a monolithic and extremist movement bent on nothing other than repression and the subjugation of women, end up coming to power and showing that Islam and democracy, as the West understands it, are ultimately incompatible?

There is much anxiety in the chancelleries of Europe and North America, and this will not have been helped by the Muslim Brotherhood's indignant reaction to Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's recent remark that he hopes "there will be a secular state in Egypt". Even more so, given that Mr Erdogan himself is considered by many to be a not-so-closet Islamist who wants to dismantle the progressive reforms of his secular predecessors. If the leader of a country now thought of in Washington as a tarnished model of how democracy and Islam can work together is too liberal for the forces emerging from the Arab Spring, what hope is there for the choices they will make?

Not so long ago there used to be much talk of another model with a far greater track record than Indonesia (which has only been a democracy since 1998), which embodied the coexistence Clinton lauded: Malaysia. A democracy ever since independence in 1957, Islam was the religion of the state but the constitution guaranteed freedom of worship. The legal system was based on common law - a mild form of Sharia applied only to Muslims - and it was a country where citizens of different races and faiths worked and flourished side-by-side, while many prominent offices from cabinet posts to governorship of the central bank have been held by women.

In the last 15 years or so, however, Malaysia has seemed to lose that status as a shining example. The international press has focused on stories that suggested the country's historic tolerance had all but vanished - a fatwa banning yoga, tales of forced conversion and victimisation of Hindus and Christians - no matter that these were unrepresentative and mainly isolated incidents. Meanwhile, despite the opposition's success in defeating the government coalition in several states, the dominant personality of the former long-time prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and in particular the jailing of his former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, encouraged the belief that it had become a democracy in name only.

There was a perception, encouraged by those who appeared to regard a "clash of civilisations" as something to be welcomed rather than avoided, that this was an inevitable trajectory in Muslim states. This view was almost unintentionally confirmed by Dr Mahathir's successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, in a speech in Oxford in 2004 during which he warned that unless the West changed its attitude towards Islam, "those who want to carve a moderate space in the middle ground will be labelled apologists and worse, apostates".

This is why reforms announced last week by the current Malaysian premier, Najib Tun Razak, are so welcome and could help make the country a beacon of hope once more. The loathed Internal Security Act and Emergency Ordinance, which allow for indefinite detention without trial, are both to be abolished, while restrictions on media licences and public assembly will be considerably loosened. These, along with previously promised electoral reforms, are dramatic and historic measures - the ISA has been on the statute book since 1960, for instance - and provide real substance to Mr Najib's stated "commitment to making Malaysia a modern, progressive democracy".

Some have scoffed at his previous initiatives, such as the "1Malaysia" concept, which aims to break down the barriers among the country's different races (principally Malays, Chinese and Indians) and build a united national identity, or the Global Movement of Moderates for which he has called at the UN. But the doubters have had the ground pulled from beneath their feet by this latest move. It unequivocally marks an expansion of freedom in Malaysia which any future government will find very hard to restrict again. Mr Najib deserves some applause for his bravery.

I use the word "bravery" advisedly, because there are those who will disapprove strongly. Behind the scenes, Mr Najib will face considerable opposition, from the forces of conservatism and of Malay chauvinism, and from entrenched interests who do not wish the light of a freer and more vibrant political culture to expose their dubious practices. But his opponents will not be "the Muslims". In fact his entire programme of change shows that there is nothing unIslamic whatsoever about opening up a society, trying to reduce racial and religious tensions and building a participatory space and an economy in which all can share.

What worries Europe and North America about the newly liberated countries of Arab North Africa is that they are not looking sufficiently West. But why should they? There is no need. If they want examples of how to become modern, progressive, prosperous, egalitarian Muslim democracies, they can look East. To Indonesia, as Ms Clinton said. And, once again, to the original model - to Malaysia.

Sholto Byrnes is a contributing editor of the New Statesman and a frequent commentator on South-east Asian politics and religion

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Office Politics: Careers and cleverness

Husband comes home seething with righteous anger, tells wife he took on the boss, told him where he got off, enough’s enough, my self-esteem is more important than the consequences.

Wife’s eyes reflect the sheen of pride in her husband, the hero, we’ll take the world on my darling, keep the starch in those principles, don’t let anyone ride roughshod over you, show them what you are made of, the right stuff and all that. Someday later the houseboy back answers, is out of line or so the husband thinks. The reaction is instant. Insolence is unacceptable. He must be punished, the cheeky sod. And he is. Cancel his visa, send him home, he did not know his place. Why is virtue in us not a virtue in somebody else?

We spend an inordinate portion of our lives feeling good about the sort of persons we are. We even offload our concept of ourselves on others. “I am like this” or “I am very particular about” are sentiments, which preface our self-sell. Yet, establishing stakes turns into an invasion of our dignity when we become the targets. Surely, if we can dish it out we should be ready to take it. Remember the last time you cut your superior to size and felt justified as he squirmed and your colleagues admired your courage?
Splendid, so long as you are ready to extend the same privilege to your subordinate who may be somebody else’s superior. But when he takes you on, you bristle with rage. Many of us then plot to get even because we convince our-selves that retribution is well deserved, His misdemeanour is our martyrdom. One senior journalist, for example, worked for a very high profile Editor who was overly conscious of his prerogatives as a crusader and still is. Almost super-sensitive to any encroachment of his authority he brooked no interference. Paradoxically, he was indecently cavalier with the space other people administered. Since he had the benediction of the proprietors, little could be done to control his arbitrary tramplings in office and the chasm between that image and the sword and shield wielding civil rights champion projected to the outside world widened by the day.
Finally, a delegation was forged and dispatched to protest his double standards. The man was completely bewildered by the attack. So smugly certain was he that everyone admired his courage and his vitriolic pen that he presumed we also saluted his unilateralism. The lesson completely failed to get through and to this day he cannot practice what he preaches.
Success and power blind such people to their flaws and allow them to set themselves up against their own rules of conduct, denied to the rest. The tougher they go the deeper the dichotomy. They are candid. The rest are nitpicking. They see the whole picture. The others muddy the waters. They are innovative. Their subordinates are shortsighted. We’ve had bosses like that and been bosses like that. Our perks are legitimate, the other chap misuses company property. We see the greater good. He is only propelled by self-interest. We exercise individual perceptions. If he does it he is guilty of not being a team man. We know what we are doing. He is groping in the dark. We see ourselves as fair, reasonable, compassionate, open to suggestion and tolerant, never realising that others see us as mean, spiteful, small, vengeful and suspicious.
The more people we command the more potentially dangerous becomes this idea we have of ourselves as paragons. Failure to accept our weaknesses leaves us vulnerable to blandishment and flattery from the ranks and very soon the manipulator becomes the manipulated. Thousands of good people collapse mid-career because they serve inept and incompetent superiors. Instead of giving off their best at all times they divert their energies into the art of survival and engage in the most widely played game of all time — office politics. What is seen to be done becomes more important than what is done and the equation on the hierarchy becomes fluid and dependent on expediency and not expertise.

In the 21st century, parenthood and paranoia often walk hand in hand.

For some, the blessed event is followed by high-tech surveillance, a monitoring system that tracks the baby's breathing rhythms and relays infrared images from the nursery. The next investment might be a nanny cam, to keep watch on the child's hired caregivers. Toddlers and grade schoolers can be equipped with GPS devices enabling a parent to know their location should something go awry.
To cope with the uncertainties of the teen years, some parents acquire spyware to monitor their children's online and cell phone activity. Others resort to home drug-testing kits.
Added together, there's a diverse, multibillion-dollar industry seeking to capitalise on parents' worst fears about their children, fears aggravated by occasional high-profile abductions and the dangers lurking in cyberspace. One mistake can put a child at risk or go viral online, quickly ruining a reputation.

New tools
"There's a new set of challenges for parents, and all sorts of new tools that can help them do their job," said David Walsh, a child psychologist in Minneapolis.
"On the other hand, we have very powerful industries that create these products and want to sell as many as possible, so they try to convince parents they need them."
Some parents need little convincing.
In New York City, a policeman-turned-politician recorded a video earlier this year offering tips to parents about how to search their children's bedrooms and possessions for drugs and weapons. In the video, State Senator Eric Adams, who has a teenage son, insists that children have no constitutional right to privacy at home and shows how contraband could be hidden in backpacks, jewellery boxes, even under a doll's dress.
"You have a duty and obligation to protect the members of your household," he says.
Another parent who preaches proactive vigilance is Mary Kozakiewicz of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, whose daughter, Alicia, was abducted as a 13-year-old in 2002 by a man she met online. He chained, beat and raped her before she was rescued four days later.
In recent years, both mother and daughter have campaigned to raise awareness of internet-related dangers.
Mary Kozakiewicz urges parents to monitor children's computer and cell phone use, and says those who balk out of respect for privacy are being naive.
"It's not about privacy — it's about keeping them safe," she said.
  • Baby monitors:
These devices, some limited to audio monitoring, others also with video capability, have developed a reputation as a mixed blessing. They can provide parents with peace of mind, freeing them to be elsewhere in the house while the baby naps, but sometimes they accentuate anxiety.
"Some parents are reassured by hearing and seeing every whimper and movement. Others find such close surveillance to be nerve-racking," says Consumer Reports, which has tested many of the monitors.
  • Tracking devices:
Of the roughly 800,000 children reported missing in the US each year, the vast majority are runaways or were abducted by a parent. But there are enough kidnappings by strangers, including a few each year that make national news, to fuel a large, evolving market for products catering to apprehensive parents.
The devices range from clip-on alarms to GPS locators that can be put in a backpack or stuffed in a doll, but they have limited range and can raise safety concerns of their own. Ernie Allen, president of the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, says the devices can be helpful in some circumstances but worries about overreliance on them.
  • Spyware:
For many parents, one of the toughest decisions is whether to spy on a child's computer and cell phone activity. It is common for some children to send more than 100 text messages a day, and a recent Associated Press-MTV poll found that about one-quarter of teens had shared sexually explicit photos, videos and chat by cell phone or online.
Walsh, the Minneapolis psychologist, says the best initial step for parents concerned about online risks is a heart-to-heart talk with the child. "If it does make sense to use some spyware, I would never do that in a secret way," said Walsh, whose own three children are now adults. "Tell your children you'll check on them from time to time. Just that knowledge can be effective."
Mary Kozakiewicz, a Pittsburgh mother disagrees, saying use of spyware must be kept secret.
  •  Home drug tests:
Compared to tracking and spyware gadgets, home drug testing kits are relatively low-tech and inexpensive. But they raise tricky issues for parents, who may be torn between alienating their child on the one hand and living with unresolved doubts about possible drug abuse on the other.
David Walsh directed an adolescent treatment programme earlier in his career and says the at-home tests can be appropriate when parents have solid reason for suspicion.
A look at some of the monitoring tactics and products available to parents:

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Idea 'gila' pecahkan 'tembok' maklumat

Idea 'gila' pecahkan 'tembok' maklumat
Oleh Nazmi Yaakub

Gambar kecil, Michael Stern Hart.
Gambar kecil, Michael Stern Hart.
Gutenberg dan Hart pelopori E-buku dan projek persuratan dalam talian

PENCIPTA buku elektronik, Michael Stern Hart, tidak dapat menyaksikan kesudahan polemik kematian buku yang 'dibunuh' oleh e-buku apabila meninggal dunia di Urbana, Illinois, Amerika Syarikat (AS), pada 6 September lalu, ketika berusia 64 akibat serangan sakit jantung.
Bagaimanapun, pengasas Projek Gutenberg itu sempat menyaksikan ramalannya tentang ‘gizmo’ atau gajet bersaiz poket yang mengandungi pelbagai perkara termasuk buku menjadi kenyataan.
Penciptaan e-buku bukanlah semata-mata inovasi teknologi atau perintis kepada suasana maklumat moden, sebaliknya kita perlu memahaminya sebagai cara paling berkesan dan ketara untuk mengedarkan karya persuratan secara percuma. - Dr Gregory B Newby, CEO Yayasan Arkib Persuratan Projek Gutenberg
Pada 1998, beliau berkongsi ramalannya dengan majalah Wired bahawa: “Dalam 20 atau 30 tahun akan datang, kita akan melihat generasi depan membawa ‘gizmo’ di poket belakang mereka yang mempunyai semua benda termasuk buku kita sekiranya mereka mahu.”

E-buku, Projek Gutenberg dan Hart sangat sinonim kerana beliau bukan saja mencipta e-buku, bahkan mengasaskan projek persuratan dalam talian yang diiktiraf paling awal dan paling lama bertahan sehingga kini.

Projek Gutenberg meminjam nama Johannes Gutenberg yang mencipta mesin pencetak dan mencetuskan revolusi percetakan sehingga menyebabkan Eropah dan dunia tidak lagi sama selepas abad ke-15.

Hart memulakan Projek Gutenberg secara spontan apabila mendapat kebenaran untuk menggunakan komputer kerangka utama Xerox Sigma V di Universiti Illionois pada 1971.
Pada 4 Julai tahun itu, Hart menaip semula Deklarasi Kemerdekaan AS apabila mendapat idea besar selepas menemui salinannya dalam beg sandang ketika mencari bekalan makanan.

“Saya berfikir sejenak tentang agenda yang lebih penting daripada menaip kembali Deklarasi Kemerdekaan yang pastinya masih kekal dalam tempoh seabad akan datang.

“Bagaimanapun, saya tidak menemui usaha yang lebih murni daripada itu, lantas lahirlah Projek Gutenberg,” Hart dipetik berkata dalam wawancara pada 2002.

Idea melangkau masa itu boleh dianggap sangat mengagumkan kerana teknologi internet baru saja melintas benua, manakala komputer yang digunakan oleh Hart juga adalah daripada generasi terawal.

Memetik pandangan Mikhail Lermontov dalam The Red Shoes, ‘Ahli silap mata terhebat di dunia pun tidak mungkin dapat mengeluarkan arnab daripada topi, sekiranya haiwan itu tidak berada di dalamnya’, Hart menganggap idea itu muncul pada tempat yang betul, masa yang tepat dan latar belakang yang benar.

Bagaimanapun, idea Hart itu tidak diterima dengan baik pada peringkat awal sehingga tidak hairanlah ada yang mengejeknya sebagai ‘lelaki gila yang mahu memasukkan Shakespeare ke dalam komputer.’

Bermula dengan 100 naskhah karya agung dari Barat yang diimbas dan dimuat naik di laman web pada 1993, jumlah itu semakin meningkat kepada 1,600 pada 1998 dan 10,000 (2003).

Kini pengguna internet boleh mencapai kira-kira 36,000 e-buku secara percuma dalam 60 bahasa yang meliputi pelbagai format untuk memudahkan mereka.

Daripada kerja yang dianggap sebagai aneh kira-kira dua dekad pertamanya, Projek Gutenberg kini diiktiraf sebagai usaha perintis dan paling besar dalam memulihara hak cipta awam dalam era digital.

Menariknya, Projek Gutenberg digerakkan sukarelawan yang dipantau oleh Lembaga Pengarah Produksinya membabitkan pelbagai proses termasuk pemindahan format, penghantaran fail, kajian terhadap hak cipta dan pemilihan program pembaca aksara optik (OCR) untuk membuat imbasan terhadap salinan asal bagi memudahkan penyuntingan.

Sumbangan Hart itu diperakui Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif (CEO), Yayasan Arkib Persuratan Projek Gutenberg (PGLAF), Dr Gregory B Newby yang menganggap mendiang meninggalkan kesan besar terhadap dunia.

“Penciptaan e-buku bukanlah semata-mata inovasi teknologi atau perintis kepada suasana maklumat moden, sebaliknya kita perlu memahaminya sebagai cara paling berkesan dan ketara untuk mengedarkan karya persuratan secara percuma.

“Capaian kepada e-buku menyediakan peluang untuk meningkatkan kadar celik huruf dan memungkinkan idea dengan kandungan kesusasteraan lebih mudah serta luas digapai, selain mewujudkan peluang untuk maju,” katanya dalam belasungkawa pada laman web Projek Gutenberg.

Sementara itu, pengarang karya berunsurkan teknologi maklumat, Mohd Fudzail Mohd Nor, menganggap sumbangan Hart yang paling signifikan ialah menjadi pelopor kepada industri peruncitan buku secara dalam talian.

“Sumbangan Hart sebenarnya memberi laluan kepada usahawan tekno generasi kini seperti Jeff Bezos yang berjaya membina empayar Amazon.

“Hart juga mengajar bahawa wawasan yang melangkaui zaman memang memerlukan banyak pengorbanan dan masa untuk berhasil,” katanya yang berpengalaman dalam merekabentuk keperluan telekomunikasi di Dubai dalam 25 projek mega termasuk Palm Islands.

Mohd Fudzail berkata, usaha gigih Hart berjaya menyebarkan magnus opus peradaban Barat secara meluas, percuma dan dapat diakses pada bila-bila masa saja.

“Lebih daripada itu, kewujudan e-buku membuka ruang seluasnya untuk literasi dan idea segar dalam kesusasteraan, sekali gus mencipta peluang dan ruang kreativiti tanpa sempadan dan batasan fizikal buat generasi penulis baru walau di mana saja,” katanya yang turut menghasilkan kumpulan cerpen Dotkomania.

Hart dilahirkan di Tacoma, Washington, AS pada 8 Mac 1947 daripada keluarga intelektual, iaitu ayahnya sebagai akauntan manakala ibunya pula penganalisa kod rahsia semasa Perang Dunia Kedua.

Ibu bapa Hart kemudian berpindah ke Illinois untuk berkhidmat sebagai profesor sastera dan matematik, sekali gus memberi peluang kepadanya untuk mengikuti kuliah di universiti walaupun masih di bangku sekolah sebelum melanjutkan pengajian ke Universiti Illinois.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The rise of Recep Erdogan


From street snack seller to Middle East Muslim champion

 When the young Recep Tayyip Erdogan sold snacks on the streets of Kasimpasa, a tough neighbourhood in Istanbul, as a child to support his lower middle-class family no one would have guessed that this boy would grow up to become one of the most powerful prime ministers in Turkey's history and one of the most influential leaders in the Middle East.

Mr Erdogan, who is 57 today, fought his way to the top against many odds, spending time in prison and in the political wilderness, and surviving what prosecutors in trials said were plots by the military. However, he has always bounced back, thanks to an extraordinary mixture of political talent, self-confidence, Muslim piety and realism.
When the Turkish prime minister arrived in Egypt late on Monday, the first stop of a tour through three countries of the Arab Spring, he was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd, shouting slogans that called Mr Erdogan the "saviour of Islam".
At home, Mr Erdogan's religiosity has not been universally welcomed. Secularists in the military, the judiciary and the opposition have accused him of having a secret agenda aimed at turning the western-style republic into a Muslim theocracy. It is a charge that Mr Erdogan has been fighting against for most of his political career, which took off when he became the mayor of Istanbul in 1994. Four years later, he lost his post as mayor and was sent to prison for a speech that was seen by the judiciary as an incitement to religious hatred.
But Mr Erdogan has always balanced his religious roots with a healthy dose of hard-nosed realism. When he set up his Justice and Development Party, or AKP, in 2001, he turned always from Turkey's more radical religious circles in favour of a centrist approach that echoed Christian Democratic parties in Europe. That strategic move enabled the AKP to attract moderate voters in droves, resulting in the party's first election victory in 2002. It has won two other general elections since then.
In his foreign policy, Mr Erdogan has steered Turkey towards its long-time goal of becoming a member of the European Union, but his enthusiasm cooled markedly as he was confronted with an increasing unwillingness by EU countries to take Turkey in. Meanwhile, Turkey boosted its role in the Middle East. Mr Erdogan's personal popularity in the region soared when, in late 2008, he strongly condemned Israel for its military intervention in Gaza.

Today, Mr Erdogan regards Turkey, a western-style democracy with a Muslim population and a booming economy, as a natural regional leader. Caught off guard by the Arab Spring, his government has changed course in recent months, from cooperation with repressive regimes such as the one in Syria to support for popular uprisings in the region.
"We will become much more active in regional and global affairs," Mr Erdogan told supporters after the latest election victory of the AKP, which raked in almost 50 per cent of the vote on June 12.
Mr Erdogan's decision to visit Egypt, Tunisia and Libya was designed to cement Turkey's political role and to boost Turkish economic interests in the region at the same time. Almost 300 Turkish businessmen accompanied him on the visit to Cairo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

World’s cheapest petrol prices

Saudi Arabia has the cheapest petrol prices in the Gulf region but is behind Venezuela in a global list of the lowest fuel costs, according to a new report.

Home to nearly a fifth of the world’s oil reserves, Saudi Arabia is the largest exporter of petroleum and a major player on the global energy stage. With 90 percent of its earnings coming from oil, it is hardly surprising that citizens only pay an average of around $0.127 per litre at the petrol pumps.

The list of the world’s cheapest petrol prices was compiled by British car insurance provider Staveley Head, with Venezuela taking the top spot, where prices only cost an average of $0.047 per litre.

With President Hugo Chavez keeping prices low, petrol is cheaper than bottled water in some parts of the South American country.

While four Gulf States are listed amongst the rankings, the UAE was notably absent. The news comes as Dubai-owned oil firm Enoc Group has been plagued by fuel shortages this year, with petrol pumps this summer forced to cease or ration resources.

The Staveley Head rankings found the Norway was the most expensive country for petrol, costing $2.6 per litre.

10 Algeria: Algiers — $0.317 per litre 

60 percent of the country's income comes from its oil production and the North Africa state has the 14 largest oil reserves in the world. With around 11.8 billion barrels, no wonder the government can offer low fuel rates to its citizens in a bid to avoid Arab Spring type demonstrations.

9 Oman: Muscat — $0.317 per litre

 Around 600,000 barrels are produced here every day on average. But this oil rich economy is planning to expand further and invest $15bn in new petrochemical and infrastructure projects in the southeast of the country over the next 10 years. Simple put, this means even better news for Omanis at the pumps.

8 Egypt: Cairo — $0.30 per litre

Egypt is believed to have around 4.3 billion barrels of oil reserves. While it may only be the 27 largest it in the world in terms of reserves, its low fuel charges easily put it in the top ten cheapest. However, how long the low fuel costs can last after the economic impact of the Arab Spring movement and how the new government performs remains to be seen.

7 Qatar: Doha — $0.238 per litre

As well as enjoying the highest income level per person in the world, Qataris also enjoy one of the lowest petrol rates in the world. Qatar’s wealth is not just confined to oil - its gas reserves are almost as big and the tiny Gulf state is the third biggest natural gas producer in the world.

6 Kuwait: Kuwait City — $0.222 per litre

 One of the few democratic countries in the Gulf, the parliament-led government makes sure petrol, public transport and heavily subsidised fuel bills for locals are kept low. With the fifth largest proven reserves in the world, the government can afford to keep doing this for some time to come.

5 Bahrain: Manama — $0.206 per litre 

 Around 60 percent of the government's revenue comes from oil production and this is given back to the locals in the form of the fifth cheapest petrol prices in the world. With tribal divisions resulting in high levels of anti-government protests, this is a policy the island state’s rulers are likely to continue.

4 Turkmenistan: Ashgabat — $0.19 per litre 

Car drivers are entitle to around 120 litres free per month. So they don’t worry too much about the cost, which is already considerably low. But, with relatively low oil reserves, how sustainable is such a policy?

3 Libya: Tripoli — $0.142 per litre

 With Gaddafi still at large, the conflict in the North African country rages on and the country’s oil fields remain largely closed. So how long can fuel prices remain so low - is the big question facing the new rebel leaders.

2 Saudi Arabia: Riyadh — $0.127 per litre

 Home to around a fifth of the world’s oil reserves, it is hardly surprising that the kingdom has the second lowest petrol rates in the world. As the largest exporter of petroleum, Saudi plays a leading role in OPEC and with the sector accounting for 90 percent of the country’s export earnings, oil is the biggest economic factor in the country.

1 Venezuela: Caracas — $0.047 per litre

The South American leader Hugo Chavez’s ongoing popularity would appear to be down to the low prices his citizens enjoy, with water more expensive than petrol in some parts of the country.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Top Five Regrets on Life

By BronnieWare Description:

For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learned never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them. When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five: 

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people have had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it. 

2. I wish I didn't work so hard

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle. 

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result. We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win. 

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends

Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying. It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again. When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.
Life is a choice. It is YOUR life.
Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly.
Choose happiness.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Looking for work? Try Canada

As the U.S. economy collapses, more and more Americans seek jobs north of the border

Looking for work? Try Canada
This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.
TORONTO, Canada -- Usually, you hear stories of people fleeing to America, not the other way around.
Global Post But the jittery state of the U.S. economy is driving an increasing number of its citizens to seek better prospects north of the border.
Americans are the latest economic refugees, and they're heading to Canada.
As he prepares to campaign for re-election, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to make a speech Thursday night that calls for immediate stimulus spending to create jobs and improve infrastructure.
But those reforms will be difficult to make. Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, have resisted any efforts to boost the economy through additional spending.
As life in the U.S. worsens, prospects in Canada seem all the brighter.
Canadian officials say the number of Americans applying for temporary work visas doubled between 2008 and 2010.
Immigration lawyers in Toronto and the border city of Windsor, right across from job-starved Detroit, say they're seeing a dramatic growth in clients seeking to come to Canada to work, or even as permanent residents.
So, is this a reversal of fortunes on an historic scale? Has Canada become "el Norte"?
Well, not quite. The number of U.S. citizens working in Canada is, at least by global migration standards, relatively small with some 30,000 at the beginning of last year.
Still, Americans make up the second-largest group of temporary workers in Canada, behind only Filipinos, most of whom work as nannies.
Canada was one of the few to escape the 2008 financial meltdown relatively unscathed, a turn of events largely attributed to Ottawa's long-standing refusal to deregulate the banking sector.
"I'm looking for a quiet, calm, sane, civilized society to start the next phase of my life," said Michael, an out-of-work, white-collar professional from Michigan who is seeking a temporary visa to come to Canada.
Like several others interviewed for this article, he did not want his full name used for fear of drawing unwanted scrutiny to his application.
Though he describes himself as both patriotic and a conservative, Michael says he's lost faith in U.S. leadership -- "on both sides of the aisle" -- for failing to stem the excesses that led to the collapse of Wall Street, and for the current political brinkmanship over the debt ceiling.
"I'm looking for a country where the first role of the government is to protect its citizens," he said. "It looks to me like all [of Canada's] three major political parties seem to have proven that they are much more responsible than our leadership."
Workers like Michael are drawn to Canada's lower unemployment rate -- 7 percent in July compared to 9.1 in the U.S. -- and sustained economic strength in major centers such as Toronto, which alone attracts an estimated 100,000 new arrivals a year.
These include not only people with temporary work visas, or those seeking permanent residency, but also increasing numbers of university students, drawn by highly-ranked Canadian schools where tuition, even at 3 or 4 times the rates for Canadians, is still a fraction of what it costs to attend many colleges in the U.S.
John Cameron's mother lost her senior position at a bank branch in Maine in 2009 at the same time he was trying to finalize his choices for his freshman year in college.
He had his eye on American universities such as Loyola, University of Maryland, Columbia and Fordham.
His father, thinking about the finances, suggested the University of Toronto. Cameron was reluctant, but now he's a Canadian convert.
"I really love it," he said. "[It's] hands-down one of the best schools in North America."
Toronto has also become home to a couple in their mid-30s from New York City who both lost their full-time jobs in Manhattan in the wake of the 2008 crash. They now live in Canada on temporary visas.
"It's important for us to live in a place with a lot of diversity and a good cultural sector," said the woman, who asked that their names be withheld to avoid compromising their residency status in Canada. She says she was surprised at how quickly and efficiently they were able to qualify for Ontario health care.
Some Canadians who had considered America their adopted home are going back.
Al Brickman recently gave up on the United States after 30 years of running a Canadian-owned construction-supply business in Atlanta, Ga.
"I really did hold out for about two years," he said, but business had bottomed-out in the economy. Brickman said that his billings, once around $100,000, had dropped on some months by as much as 95 percent.
Brickman moved home to Toronto to work at his company there, where he has a steady job as a general manager. His American wife and their 11-week-old baby, are now trying to emigrate to join him.
Since he got back, Brickman said he's been fielding calls from American friends hoping he can get them a job up north, too.
Shawn Shepard, a legal software supervisor who was among hundreds laid off by his Manhattan law firm in 2008, is hoping a Canadian employer will sponsor him.
Shepard, who lives in Jersey City, N.J., is a regular visitor to Canada, with friends in Montreal and Toronto. With 20 years of experience, and, he admitted, "the arrogance of being a U.S. citizen," he figured it would be a snap.
But now, he's found himself in the classic migrant dilemma: "In order to get a work visa, you need a job offer. In order to get a job offer, you need a work visa." And even if he were to interest a prospective employer, a visa would only be issued if the employer can show that no Canadian was qualified for the job.
"The economy up there is doing very well, despite the global slump," Shepard wistfully told this reporter, a gainfully employed Canadian. "Your politicians didn't put you in the same mess that ours did."

9/11: Top 10 conspiracy theories

 The events of September 11 2001 provide fertile fodder for conspiracy theorists who refuse to accept the official version of events. Instead, their wild and whacky theories thrive on the internet, kept alive by bloggers who have written their own version of events. In a 2008 poll across 17 countries, 15 per cent of respondents believed the United States itself was behind the deadly terrorist attacks. Seven per cent of respondents blamed Israel, while a similar figure also believed that another perpetrator other than Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaida were behind the attacks. A list of the top 10 conspiracy theories floating out there...

1 ‘THEY KNEW IN ADVANCE': Immediately after the attacks, President George W. Bush said that nobody in the US government "and I don't think the prior government, could envisage flying air planes into buildings." Just weeks before, however, when Bush and other world leaders met for the annual G8 summit in Genoa, Italy, security planners had prepared for that exact scenario. Anti-aircraft missiles were deployed near the Genoa site because the Italians had a threat that a plane would be used as a missile to kill the G8 leaders. And Norad planners had prepared for such a scenario themselves in training exercises.

2 THE CONTROLLED EXPLOSION: Conspiracy theorists including physicists and software engineers believe the twin towers of the World Trade Centre were brought down in controlled explosions, not as a result of being struck by separate planes. The thinking comes from the fact that the two towers imploded neatly to the ground, rather than toppling over as expected. The theorists believe that large amounts of explosive were hidden in the towers, and strategic supporting beams of the building were pre-cut, allowing the towers to fall on their foundations. And because of security at the site after the collapse, the requisite evidence was removed and sent for recycling.

3 INSIDER TRADERS PLANNED IT: Before 9/11, there was a series of unusual stock trades on companies which would feel the negative and positive effects of the attacks. United Airlines and American Airlines, both of whom lost planes in the attacks, were sold heavily prior to 9/11. None of the other US carriers saw such activity on their stocks. And defence corporations, who would benefit from an aggressive military backlash, were also strong buys in the week before the attack. Morgan Stanley, based at the World Trade Centre, was a strong sell. Insurers were also heavy sells. The US Security and Exchange Commission even launched an investigation into Wall Street's activity around the attack.

4 STAND THE PLANES DOWN: Norad, the North American Defence Command, had advance knowledge of the hijacked planes and ordered their fighters to "stand down" or deliberately scramble them late so as they could not prevent the planes from reaching their intended targets. Surely Norad, responsible for air defences, has the capability to locate big, lumbering passenger planes. Haven't they got the latest radar? So why weren't they scrambled in time to prevent the tragedy? And why were two scrambled jets ordered out into military airspace over Long Island when New York City was under attack?

5 THE PENTAGON ‘PLANE': Conspiracy theorists argue that the Pentagon was not hit by American Airlines Flight 77. The most secure defence building in the world has banks of surveillance cameras scanning its perimeter. But none of the cameras picked up a clear image of the plane. Instead, it must have been a missile launched by rogue elements with the US government itself. And the hole made by the plane was barely 20 metres across — but the wingspan of a Boeing 757 is 40 metres from tip to tip. The hole punched in the Pentagon is too neat to come from a speeding plane and the building itself sustained little comparative damage if it really was a plane. It had to be a missile.

6 THE BLACK BOXES: All of the airplanes used carried two black boxes each. The official report on 9/11 says that none of the four black boxes from the two planes that hit the twin towers was recovered from the debris. But two men who worked on the debris field say that they helped federal agents recover three of the four there. And the Pentagon black boxes were conveniently too damaged to recover information from. Only on United 93, where passengers and crew fought back, forcing the plane into a corn field in rural Pennsylvania, were the boxes recovered. Even then, it took seven months before the families could listen to tapes, and a full five- and- a-half years before they were produced at the trial of so-called 20th hijacker.

7 BLAME CIA AND MOSSAD: A former President of Italy gives conspiracy theories fuel when he assets that all of the Italian centre-left knows that the Central Intelligence and Mossad were behind the attacks, making Muslim terrorists as the fall guys. This allows the US to throw its full weight behind Israel. In addition, a former head of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence agency asserts that the ISI had prior knowledge of the attacks, knowing that the CIA was acting with Israeli operatives to plan and mount the attacks. And the attacks were a perfect opportunity for the forces of Zionism to take control of world affairs in retribution.

8 THE ‘NO-PLANERS': Given that the Boeing planes supposedly used in the attacks are made largely of aluminium, it is physically impossible for the planes to cause as much damage as they did to the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. They were actually missiles with hologram effects, according to conspiracy theorist videos circulating on the internet. The theories are supported by their frame-by-frame analysis of the strikes at the twin towers. Fractional advancing of the tapes clearly show a cigar-shaped object, not a plane. Besides, the heat cause by airplane fuel could not possibly get hot enough to melt the steel beams supporting the towers.

9 OIL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL: The price of oil prior to 9/11 had been steadily declining due to increased production capacity and new finds. But having a dramatic attack on the US blamed on Muslim terrorists would have an immediate and long-term effect on oil prices. With the Middle East thrown into turmoil, military action would be justified to protect strategic oil interests, conspiracy theorists argue. Besides, who other than ‘Big Oil' could afford to plan and mount such an operation.

10 RIDING THE WRECKAGE: Conspiracy theorists add credence to an urban legend that a firefighter survived the collapse of the North Tower by riding on a piece of debris as it fell along a steel beam, surviving the fall from the 82nd floor. Another version is that an employee at a financial company — an avid surfer — rode the waves of dust and debris down safely as the building collapsed. Sadly, these two stories are not true. But the rest ...?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Emirates craves cool factor in drive to hire 4,000 crew

Emirates needs to boost flight attendant numbers by a third to 16,000 during the year through March
Emirates needs to boost flight attendant numbers by a third to 16,000 during the year through March
Emirates, the largest international airline, is advertising 4,000 cabin-crew jobs via online music provider Spotify as it strives to attract international staff for the world’s biggest fleet of Airbus superjumbos.
Emirates needs to boost flight attendant numbers by a third to 16,000 during the year through March as it adds five double- deck, 517-seat A380s, for a total of 20. Ads on Facebook, the No. 1 social website, may follow as the Dubai-based company seeks English-speaking, tech-savvy recruits aged from 21 to 30.
With Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad also adding staff, Emirates aims to leverage its status as long-haul market leader to become employer of choice among would-be cabin crew, akin to Apple in computing and Nike in sporting goods, advertising manager Sardar Khan said in an interview.
“We’ve growing rapidly and that presents a massive hiring challenge,” Khan said. “Apple and Nike are aspirational brands and we like to think of ourselves as in that league. Your friends are going to think, wow, you’re working for them?”
Apple rose three places to 17th in last year’s 100-company Best Global Brands ranking from Interbrand, posting the biggest gain in recognition, while Nike advanced one spot to 25th.
The maker of the iPhone also came 18th in a 2010 ranking of the 50 most attractive employers from recruitment-branding consultant Universum. Coca-Cola and Google were placed top of the two surveys, while airlines were absent from both.
Like other Gulf sheikdoms, Dubai is heavily reliant on foreign workers, who make up 90 percent of the 1.97 million- strong population.
“I certainly don’t think you’d have much in the way of UAE nationals,” said John Strickland, an aviation analyst at JLS Consulting Ltd. in London. “A flight I went on to Dubai in 2010 had British, Malaysians and Brazilians in the crew. Emirates offers a reasonable package. In terms of salary it’s always said levels are lower than in Europe, but then there’s less tax.”
Emirates flight attendants start on a basic annual salary of about AED47,000 ($12,800), plus hourly flying pay, a fixed monthly cash sum based on their role and competencies, free housing and transport, and an annual payment from a profit- sharing plan. At British Airways the starting salary is about £15,000 ($25,000) a year, before supplementary sums.
The 30-second Emirates ad on Spotify prompts listeners to think of the best reasons to move to Dubai, before listing key attractions including its “cosmopolitan” nature, sunny climate and “superb restaurants and sports and leisure facilities.”
Founded in Sweden and based in London, Spotify offers access to 15 million songs and claims 10 million users in seven countries in Europe, where it’s the No. 2 digital-music platform after Apple’s iTunes, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. It debuted in the US last month.
“Spotify has the x-factor in that it’s perceived as a dynamic brand with a product that’s regarded as best of breed,” said Mark Mulligan, an independent new media and music analyst in London, adding that the company is luring major advertisers after establishing the validity of a model that, while online, initially “looked and felt pretty much like radio.”
Emirates hasn’t given up more traditional hiring methods and will hold 77 recruitment fairs through Nov. 5, almost two per day, in countries as far apart as the Armenia, Paraguay, New Zealand and the U.K. English is the only linguistic prerequisite, though the carrier employs 130 nationalities speaking 80 languages.
Crew must also be educated to at least high-school level, be able to stretch 2.12 meters on tiptoe to reach emergency gear, and have “a positive attitude with the natural ability to provide excellent service working within a team environment, dealing with people from all cultures.”
Online ad budgets are forecast to total $132.1bn by 2015, almost double last year’s $68.1bn, and to comprise 22 percent of total media spending, according to eMarketer, a New York-based digital media and marketing research firm.
“For Emirates, as a public-facing brand, being seen to experiment with these platforms is an intelligent move because it shows that they are willing to understand and connect with people on the topics they’re interested in and in the places where they spend time,” said Tim Callington, head of digital and social media at public relations firm Edelman.
Emirates has orders for 90 superjumbos with 45,000 seats and a list price of $34bn. Each A380 needs 26 staff: four pilots, 20 flight attendants and two washroom workers who tend to premium shower cubicles. Its Boeing Co. 777s require 16 crew.
The Arab carrier is building the fleet to establish Dubai as an inter-continental hub and win passengers from Air France- KLM Group, British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa while fending off Qatar Air and Etihad. It will resist cutting flights as oil prices threaten the profitability of some destinations and instead aims to stir up demand with cheaper tickets, President Tim Clark said in an interview on June 20.
Qatar Air, the second-biggest Middle Eastern airline, has 91 jetliners in its fleet, 56 of them widebodies, with 172 on order, of which 160 are twin-aisle. Including retirements, it may operate 190 planes by 2020, 60 more than previously envisaged, CEO Akbar al Baker said in a June interview.
Etihad, the regional No. 3, is pursuing a less expansive growth plan, according to CEO James Hogan. The carrier has 57 wide-body planes, with 103 jets due for delivery in the coming decade, including 10 A380s, 25 Airbus A350s and 35 Boeing 787s.
Foster the most positive public image, though, and Emirates will succeed in fending off rivals to recruit the cream of the cabin-crew crop, according to advertising chief Khan.
“You want to be the brand that’s on tip of people’s tongues, that your neighbours are going to recommend,” he said.


NASA astronaut Douglas Wheelock who is currently aboard the International Space Station shares pictures of the Earth he snaps with the world through Twitter.
Known to his nearly 68,000 Twitter followers as Astro Wheels, Wheelock has been posting impressive photos of the Earth and some of his thoughts ever since he moved into the space station in June, five months after it got Internet access.
Greek islands on a clear night during our flight over Europe. Athens shine brightly along the Mediterranean Sea.

'Mystery Island' ...located in the Indian Ocean close to Madagascar. Interesting features on the island and the unusual shape should be enough to help you discover this beautiful place.

Northern lights in the distance in one of the finest nights over Europe. The photo clearly shows the Strait of Dover. Paris is dazzling with the city lights. A little fog over the western part of England, particularly over London.

The moon is breathtaking.

Of all the places of our beautiful planet few can rival the beauty and richness of colors in the Bahamas. In this photo, our ship is seen against the backdrop of the Bahamas.

At a speed of 28,163 kilometers per hour (8 kilometers per second), we rotate the Earth's orbit, making one revolution every 90 minutes, and watch sunsets and sunrises every 45 minutes. So half of our journey is in darkness. For the work we use lights on our helmets.

Every time I look out the window and see our beautiful planet, my soul sings! I see blue skies, white clouds and bright blessed day.

Another spectacular sunset. We see 16 such sunsets each day, and each of them is really valuable.

Beautiful atoll in the Pacific Ocean, photographed using 400mm lens. Approximately 1930 km south of Honolulu.

Perfect reflection of sunlight in the eastern Mediterranean.

Above the center of the Atlantic Ocean, before another stunning sunset. Downstairs in the setting sun visible spiral Hurricane Earl.

A little farther east, we saw a sacred monolith Uluru, better known as Ayers Rock. I have never had the opportunity to visit Australia, but someday I hope that I will stand by this miracle of nature.


Morning over the Andes in South America. I do not know for sure the title of this peak, but was simply amazed by her magic, stretching to the sun and wind tops.


Over the Sahara desert, approaching the ancient lands and thousand-year history. River Nile flows through Egypt by the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo. Further, the Red Sea, Sinai Peninsula, Dead Sea, Jordan River, as well as the island of Cyprus in the Mediterranean Sea and Greece on the horizon.

Night view of the River Nile, stretching like a snake through Egypt to the Mediterranean, and Cairo, located in the Delta. Far away in this picture, one can see the Mediterranean Sea.

Our unmanned 'Progress 39P' approaches the ISS for refuelling. It is full of food, fuel, spare parts and all necessities for our station. Inside was a real gift - fresh fruit and vegetables. What a miracle after three months of food from a tube!

I wanted to share with you this view from the Dome. We said goodbye to the members of our group Sasha, Misha and Tracy this weekend, and they returned safely back to Earth. In this photo, Tracy quietly dreams of returning home.

Module Union 23C Olympus docked with the ISS . When our work ends here, we go back home to Earth. We fly over the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus. The rising sun is reflected from the Caspian Sea.

The flash of color, movement and life on the canvas of our amazing world. This is part of the Great Barrier Reef off the east coast of Australia, photographed through the lens of 1200 mm.

All the beauty of Italy, a clear summer night. You can see many beautiful islands that adorn the coast - Capri, Sicily and Malta. Naples and Mount Vesuvius are allocated along the coast.

At the southern end of South America lies the pearl of Patagonia. The amazing beauty of rugged mountains, massive glaciers, fjords and seas combined in perfect harmony.

"Dome" on the side of nadir station gives a panoramic view of our beautiful planet. Fedor made the picture from the window of the Russian docking compartment. In this photo I'm sitting in the dome, preparing the camera for our evening flight over Hurricane Earl.

Florida and southeastern U.S. in the evening. A clear autumn evening, the moonlight over the water and sky, dotted with millions of stars.

Clear starry night over the eastern Mediterranean. The ancient land with a thousand years of history stretching from Athens to Cairo. Historical land of fabulous and alluring island ... Athens - Crete - Rhodes - Izmir - Ankara - Cyprus - Damascus - Beirut - Haifa - Amman - Tel Aviv - Jerusalem - Cairo - all of them turned into tiny lights in this cool November night.

In this time of year you can enjoy the beauty of the polar mesospheric clouds. With our high-angle illumination, we were able to capture a thin layer of noctilucent clouds at sunset.

Astronaut Douglas Wheelock