Monday, 31 December 2012

Saudi cabinet approves record budget

King Abdullah chairs Cabinet's session (SPA)
File photo of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah arriving at the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Islamic Conference summit in Mecca. (R)
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah chairs annual Cabinet session. (SPA)
Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat - The Saudi cabinet approved yesterday the kingdom’s largest ever annual budget, projecting revenues of 829 billion riyals, or $221 billion, for 2013 and 820 billion riyals, or $219 billion of expenditure.The budget was approved by a special Cabinet session, chaired by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah in Riyadh. “We hope it will be a budget of goodness and blessing for Saudis as well as other Muslims,” the king said.
In his statement, King Abdullah said the budget reflects the government’s plan to increase spending to strengthen the economy.
He said greater spending would create more job opportunities for Saudis and improve services being extended to the public. He reiterated the government’s desire to invest more in the country’s human resources.
“We have allocated SR 204 billion for education and training and improve learning atmosphere in tune with modern developments in the field,” the king said.
Addressing the budget session, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said the Kingdom’s budget surplus for 2012 amounted to SR 386 billion. Revenues in 2012 amounted to SR 1,239 billion, while expenditure hit SR 853 billion.
Saudi Arabia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to reach SR 2.72 trillion in current prices by the end of 2012 according to the General Statistics Department’s estimates, registering a growth of 8.6 percent compared to last year, the minister pointed out.
The Kingdom’s nonoil GDP is expected to grow 11.2 percent with a public sector growth of 10.6 percent and private sector growth of 11.5 percent in current prices.
The GDP growth in fixed prices is expected to reach 6.8 percent with the petroleum sector making a growth of 5.5 percent, nonoil sector 7.2 percent, public sector 6.3 percent and private sector 7.5 percent.
“On the basis of these figures the total contribution of the private sector to the GDP has reached 58 percent,” Al-Assaf said.
He added: “All components of GDP recorded positive and healthy growth in 2012. More specifically, nonoil industrial sector is estimated to grow by 8.3 percent; construction by 10.3 percent; electricity, gas, and water sector by 7.3 percent; transport, storage and communication sector by 10.7 percent; wholesale, retail, restaurants, and hotels by 8.3 percent; and finance, insurance and real estate by 4.4 percent.”
Al-Assaf referred to a report issued by the International Monetary Fund in 2012 commending the Kingdom’s monetary and financial policies. “Saudi Arabia has been using its high oil prices to accelerate growth and achieve local development targets,” he quoted the IMF report as saying. IMF executive directors have also commended the Kingdom’s efforts to stabilize international oil markets. They have noted the Kingdom’s efforts to fight money laundering and terror funding.
Al-Assaf highlighted the Kingdom’s economic strength. According to a report issued by G20, Saudi Arabia has achieved top place among the member states in fulfilling structural reforms, fiscal discipline, financial markets regulations, resisting trade protectionism and progress in the implementation of the development agenda.
Remarking on the budget announcement Fahd Alturki, senior economist for Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment, said that after several years of big spending rises, the economy was starting to find it harder to respond to additional government money.
Nevertheless, he predicted the budget would help Saudi Arabia grow strongly next year, especially in sectors that depend on domestic demand such as retail and telecommunications.
The country is already enjoying a private sector boom. Gross domestic product, adjusted for inflation, expanded 6.8 percent this year, the finance ministry said. The private sector shot up 7.5 percent, outpacing state sector growth of 6.2 percent.

New year revellers welcoming 2013

Shanghai and Hong Kong welcomed 2013 with spectacular fireworks as well as music and dancing

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Celebrations are being held around the world to mark the new year, with the city of Auckland in New Zealand holding the first major event of 2013.
More than 1.5 million people gathered around Sydney harbour to watch that city's famous firework display.
Big shows are also taking place in many other cities globally.
Celebrations have also been held for the first time in Burma, where large public gatherings were banned by its previous military rulers.
Subdued celebrations
In Auckland, the largest city closest to the International Date Line, fireworks exploded over the city's 328m (1,076ft) Sky Tower as midnight struck (11:00 GMT).
Two hours later, the huge crowds around the harbour in the Australian city of Sydney were treated to a typically extravagant fireworks display.
Seven tonnes of fireworks lit up the famous landmarks of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House to a soundtrack co-written by Australian singer Kylie Minogue.
The display is expected to pump $160m (£98.5m) into the local economy, the BBC's Phil Mercer in Sydney said.
Fireworks lit up the skyline in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, while South Korea ushered in the new year with the traditional ringing 33 times of the 15th century Bosingak bell in the capital Seoul.
As many as 100,000 people were expected around Hong Kong's harbour for the city's biggest ever fireworks display, costing $1.6m (£980,000), the Associated Press reports.
Firework displays were also held in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
A Burmese worker puts up a sign to bring in the new year ahead of the country's first public new year countdownThe Burmese city of Rangoon is gearing up for its first new year's festivities
Meanwhile, Burma has for the first time welcomed in New Year with a big public fireworks display in the former capital Rangoon.
Tens of thousands of people were expected to attend the event, which was held close to the country's most sacred site, the golden Shwedagon Pagoda, and saw many of the country's top entertainers perform.
The celebration is in stark contrast to previous years, when the only big new year celebrations took place inside luxury hotels, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports.
It will inevitably seen as another sign of Burma's normalisation, as it rejoins the global economy, he adds.
The $1m event was organised by a prominent Thai firm with ambitions to cash in on the untapped market for promotional events in Burma, our correspondent notes.
However, there is a subdued atmosphere in the Indian capital Delhi, following the death last week of a 23-year-old victim of a brutal gang rape.
The army has cancelled its celebrations across the country, as have the governments in the states of Punjab and Haryana.
Thousands of residents and clubs have also called off new year celebrations. Protests over the case continued on Monday.
Later on, festivities will be held in European cities including Moscow, Paris and London.
More than two million people are expected to be on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.
New York will mark the new year with the traditional New Year's Eve countdown and ball drop over Times Square.

Day of Seesaw Talks Produces No Accord on Fiscal Crisis

T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times
“It looks awful,” Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranking Democrat, said after tense negotiations on Sunday.More Photos »
WASHINGTON — Senate leaders on Sunday failed to produce a fiscal deal with just hours to go before large tax increases and spending cuts were to begin taking effect on New Year’s Day, despite a round of volatile negotiations over the weekend and an attempt by Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to intervene.

The Fiscal Deadline in Washington

The New York Times is following the talks between President Obama and Congressional leaders on the so-called fiscal cliff.
Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
Senator Mitch McConnell, left, the Republican leader, with aides on Sunday. He called the vice president seeking help. More Photos »

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
In seesaw negotiations, the two sides got closer on the central issue of how to define the wealthy taxpayers who would be required to pay more once the Bush-era tax cuts expire.
But that progress was overshadowed by gamesmanship. After Republicans demanded that any deal must include a new way of calculating inflation that would mean smaller increases in payments to beneficiaries of programs like Social Security, Democrats halted the negotiations for much of the day.
The Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, made an emergency call to Mr. Biden in hopes of restarting negotiations, and the White House sent the president’s chief legislative negotiator to the Capitol to meet with Senate Democrats. Soon after, Republicans withdrew their demand and discussions resumed, but little progress was made.
Lawmakers will be back on Monday. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said the Senate would return at 11 a.m. Monday and then left the Capitol just after 6 p.m.
“Talk to Joe Biden and McConnell,” Mr. Reid told reporters when asked if negotiations were continuing.
In the balance are more than a half-trillion dollars in tax increases on virtually every working American and across-the-board spending cuts that are scheduled to begin Tuesday. Taken together, they threaten to push the economy back into recession.

Police seek man subject to TPim terror control measure

Ibrahim MagagAn anonymity order on Ibrahim Magag was lifted on Monday

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Detectives have asked for help to trace a man believed to have absconded from a TPim terror control measure.
Police say Ibrahim Magag, 28, who is of Somali origin, is not considered to "represent a direct threat to the British public".
TPims replaced control orders in January 2012, amid some controversy.
Home Office minister James Brokenshire said: "We do not believe his disappearance is linked to any terrorism planning in the UK."
He added: "The Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measure in this case was intended to prevent fundraising and overseas travel."
TPims restrict the movements of people thought to pose a risk to the public, but who cannot be tried for reasons of national security.
The identity of people under TPims are usually kept secret, but an anonymity order imposed on Mr Magag has been lifted following a request by the police.
Police were alerted when he "failed to meet his overnight residence condition" on the night of Boxing Day.
'Call 999'
Metropolitan Police Service counter-terrorism detectives have asked people to call 999 if they see him, and not approach him directly.

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National security is the government's top priority and the police are doing everything in their power to apprehend this man as quickly as possible.”
James BrokenshireHome Office minister
Mr Magag is said to be 6ft 2in tall, of slim to medium build, with a beard, although police say it is possible he may try to change his appearance.
He was last seen in the Camden area at 17:20 GMT on Wednesday.
He was wearing a khaki robe, a black Berghaus windcheater and navy Converse trainers.
In March it was revealed nine British citizens were subject to TPims.
In June another man was charged with breaching the conditions of his.
Those subject to a TPim can be ordered to stay overnight at a specified address and report to a police station every day.
Other measures include a ban on contacting particular individuals, going to certain areas and places and travelling abroad.
Mr Brokenshire said: "National security is the government's top priority and the police are doing everything in their power to apprehend this man as quickly as possible.
"The home secretary, on police operational advice, today applied to the High Court for an order protecting anonymity to be lifted in order to assist with their investigation."
Police have asked anyone with information about Mr Magag, who was last seen in Camden on Boxing Day, to contact the anti-terrorist hotline on 0800 789 321.

Oscar winner Michael Hopkins dies in rafting accident

Michael Hopkins with actress Jennifer Garner at the 2006 OscarsMichael Hopkins posed with actress Jennifer Garner at the 2006 Oscars
Oscar-winning sound editor Michael Hopkins, who worked on films including the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the 2005 King Kong remake, has been killed in a rafting accident in New Zealand.
Hopkins, 53, from Greytown, New Zealand, died after being thrown from his raft on Sunday, police said.
He won Academy Awards for his work on The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers in 2003 and King Kong in 2006.
He also worked on Blade Runner, Superman, Octopussy and Transformers.
Hopkins first worked with director Peter Jackson on his 1992 movie Braindead, and was also part of Jackson's team for Heavenly Creatures and The Frighteners as well as the three Lord of the Rings epics.
Hopkins shared his two Oscar wins and one further nomination with US collaborator Ethan Van der Ryn.
The accident happened in the Waiohine River on New Zealand's North Island. His two rafting companions both survived.
Police Senior Sergeant Carolyn Watson said: "Police would like to thank all those who assisted in the recovery of Mr Hopkins and the rescue of his companions, particularly the jet boat operator who came to our aid and, at considerable risk to himself, was able to rescue the female.
"All three were wearing life jackets, wetsuits and helmets at the time and it appears that Mr Hopkins got into trouble after they were ejected from the raft in a fast flowing eddie."

Dozens of horses rescued from flooded field

Dozens of horses that were stranded by flood water have been rescued from farmland in Gloucester.
Concern for the group of 60 animals had been growing after a group called Friends of the Causeway Horses posted on Twitter calling for them to be moved.
Clare Burton reports.

Russian plane crash impact captured by Moscow driver

Footage of the moment a Russian plane ran off a runway and hit a motorway in Moscow has emerged.
At least four crew members were killed when the Red Wings Tupolev-204 overshot the runway. No passengers were on board.
A motorist happened to be filming in his car as he drove along the road when the plane crashed.
Peter Dobbie reports.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

6 New Year’s Resolutions for Kids

New Year’s Eve is almost here, and with that brings the famed New Year’s resolutions.  Adults everywhere are reflecting on the past year and looking ahead to the next, finding places where they can improve their lives.  Parents often make big plans to change habits and behaviors with this fresh start, and these plans often include their children.  Here are a few New Year’s Resolutions you could work with your child to make.
Keep my belongings organized – The first thing that parents need to recognize about this resolution is that it very likely means something very different to your child.  Children typically have unique ways of keeping things organized.  This frequently stirs friction between child and parent because mom and dad might believe “organized” means that everything is folded, put away neatly and out of sight, while their child might consider things organized if he can find his underwear in the morning.  This is a great opportunity for parents to connect with their child.  Sitting down and discussing the differences between your view of organization and theirs can actually help a child if it is done though positive conversation.  Giving him freedom in this area can go a long way in helping him discover what his organization style is.  If there are rules in common areas, parents should be clear about those, but should also allow their child to control how he organizes his own space. This will help him learn to keep it all together.
Drink water with every meal. Most people do not drink enough water; this is true for adults and children.  Telling a child she cannot have soft drinks or juices anymore will cause aggravation in the child and will only work to make her sneak them elsewhere.  By setting the rule that everyone drinks water with each meal, this healthy liquid is introduced without the ban on other drinks altogether.
Practice the sport, art or activity of their choice for 30 min every day.  Everyone has hobbies or skills they want to improve.  Children often beg parents for lessons to learn to play piano or be in basketball, but after the first few weeks of lessons, the excitement fades when they learn they have to practice.  Parents can help their children set the goal to practice by finding their own new skill to work on. This way parents and children can work in unison to improve themselves in at least one way.
I will talk to one new person every week at school.  This is a great resolution for the child that has a hard time making friends and connections.  It can seem like a leap of faith for a timid child to make new friends, which is why it is so important to start with just one conversation.  Maybe only one in every five conversations end in some kind of friendship, but then in a little over a months’ time your child will have a new friend and be confident enough to make more.
I will try one new food a week.   Children tend to eat the same foods every week.  This is due in part to the fact that these foods are easy to make and because parents are tired of fighting with their children to eat new and more healthy foods.   This approach addresses the problem in steps.  It does not require the child eat entire meals that he hates, just one new food a week.  Make the new food three or four times during the week so that he gets a chance to try just one bite a few times.  Parents should try to make the experience fun and set a good example by eating the food alongside him.
I will help one person every day without being asked.  Generosity is a character trait most people believe is absent in children these days.  Parents can inspire the development of this habit by encouraging their children to find one person to help or to do one helpful activity each day without being asked to do it.  Keep a chart of these activities and praise the big-heartedness that it brings. Try to avoid “rewarding” these activities with material positions because part of generosity is not expecting anything in return.  Instead give rewards with kind words and gratitude.
Change is best done with someone else.  If parents want to encourage their child to make these transformations, the best way to do so is to make the changes along with their child.  Find one or two small changes that you and your child can work together to make, then connect and talk about the successes and the challenges of altering this habit every week.  If you do, then by this time next year both you and your child will be healthier, happier and more connected to each other.

10 iPhone Apps to Help You Manage Your Nanny Search

Finding the perfect nanny isn’t always easy, and often requires a lengthy search in order to ensure that the person you hire to care for your children is qualified, competent and genuinely has your children’s best interests in mind. For busy, working parents, the nanny search is a time-consuming task that often needs to be managed as quickly as possible so that they can get back to the demands of their own careers. These 10 iPhone apps take productivity to an entirely new level, helping you find and hire the best candidate, right from your mobile device.
  1. – This free app puts the power of nanny searching and screening in your hands, providing you with the tools you need to streamline your approach to finding the right nanny. Search the database by ZIP code and manage background screening and the Nanny Success Kit through the clean, easy-to-navigate interface of’s powerful application.
  2. – While the iPhone app is free, it does require a premium membership in order to function properly. Accessing the huge community of nannies, babysitters, tutors, housekeepers and senior care providers is a snap, with local searches filtered by ZIP code and detailed profiles of all prospective matches. You can even post a job listing in order to encourage nannies to contact you, as well as manage last-minute childcare emergencies with the Care-on-Call function.
  3. Background Check App – BeenVerified – Regardless of the methods you use to find your nanny candidates, the most promising ones will still need to be subjected to a full background screening in order to ensure that they have no undisclosed criminal history. Access public records for free with the BeenVerified app, which allows one completely free, exhaustive check each month.
  4. Craigslist Mobile for iPhone_iPod – Craigslist is a popular, free local classifieds site that connects buyers and sellers, renters and landlords, and prospective employers and potential employees. With this free app, you can access your local Craigslist boards in order to peruse listings posted by nannies in search of a new engagement, or post your own help wanted ad to invite applicants’ to contact you.
  5. UrbanSitter – The UrbanSitter community is a great tool for parents in need of childcare, with the power of connectivity brought to your fingertips through this free app. While you will need an account in order to use this application, it’s also free and can help you connect with childcare providers quickly and easily.
  6. Nannies As Needed – Parents in the Connecticut area have access to the Nannies As Needed application, a free offering that provides emergency, short-term or daily childcare services to families in search of a great provider. Schedule appointments quickly and easily through this app, which will help you find either a permanent provider or interim care while you’re in search of a more permanent solution.
  7. Background Checker – Making a habit of checking the background of any promising candidate before extending an offer of employment is a great way to be diligent regarding your children’s care. This free app searches 175 separate public data sources in order to return exhaustive results about a potential nanny’s background.
  8. SOSsitter – One of the most popular sources of childcare in Canada, SOSsitter is a free English-language version of a popular French-Canadian app. Families across the country can connect with a new childcare provider quickly and easily, filtering by postal code and availability.
  9. Sitter Booker – SitterBooker is a free app connected to the Mom’s Best Friend agency, a household staffing specialist that provides nannies to families across Texas and Colorado. Housekeepers and executive household support workers are also available through the agency for families in need of more than childcare.
  10. Interview Questions Pro – While this $0.99 app is designed to prepare job seekers for an upcoming interview, it can easily be used by families that aren’t accustomed to conducting job interviews by providing lists of common questions. You’ll never be stumped at an interview again, thanks to the 600 flashcards and prompts.
Regardless of the time constraints involved with your search for a quality childcare provider, it’s important to remember that operating any of these applications and texting or emailing prospective nannies during your commute is reckless and unsafe behavior. While your iPhone does make the nanny search a mobile one, sifting through responses or resumes while you’re navigating traffic can have horrific results.

The Houses of Aad and Thamud


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