Saturday, March 16, 2013

Qatar’s efforts lift hopes for rare bird

Al Wabra Wildlife Preservation, Qatar’s globally-recognised conservation organisation, has reaped yet another success by breeding Bulwer’s pheasant, classified as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

Established by Sheikh Saoud bin Mohamed bin Ali al-Thani in central Qatar, Al Wabra has earlier been credited for the stellar conservation work on the Spix’s macaw, Beira antelope, Somali wild ass and the Birds of Paradise.
“Naturally occurring in the lower montane forests of Borneo, Indonesia, the Bulwer’s pheasants are extremely difficult to breed and have not successfully bred in several decades in captivity,” Al Wabra’s director Dr Tim Bouts told Gulf Times.

The efforts of the bird team have been rewarded by the hatching of two Bulwer’s pheasant chicks, a first for Al Wabra, and their successful rearing.

“Breeding behaviour was observed and afterwards the female laid three eggs,” Dr Bouts recalled. Once candling revealed that two eggs were fertile, they were moved to the incubation room just before hatching.
The chicks, both males, barely weighed 35 grams when hatched. Raj, one of the bird keepers, taught them to eat by pecking towards the food with a small paint brush.

“It was amazing to see how the chicks immediately followed this pecking movement and started taking the food off the floor,” he said.

When the chicks were old enough and could eat completely independently, they were moved into a heavily planted outside aviary.

The chicks have already started displaying towards each other.

Al Wabra is now awaiting the arrival of a donated female soon from Al Bustan Zoological Centre near Dhaid, Sharjah, in the UAE, to hopefully form a second breeding pair.

“This will hopefully be the beginning of successful breeding of Bulwer’s pheasant, as a vibrant captive breeding population is needed to bring attention to the conservation of this elusive species,” Dr Bouts added.
Al Wabra, which focuses on breeding and protecting threatened species, is non-commercial and not open to the public. A member of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria, it is considered the only hope for the survival of the Spix’s macaw, the most endangered parrot in the world.

Native to the Caatinga region (Curaca, Bahia) in Brazil, the species is extinct in the wild and as per statistics updated on November 1, 2012, just 79 were left in the world – all in captivity – with Al Wabra holding 60 (79%), comprising 24 males and 36 females.

With a far reaching vision of reintroducing the Spix’s macaw to the wild, Sheikh Saoud purchased in 2008 the 2,380 hectare Concordia Farm, in the Caatinga near the town of Curaca, where the species was last seen.
The farm was used as the field base for the Spix’s macaw recovery efforts in the 1990s and still boasts the tree nesting-hollow used by the last known wild pair back in the 1980s.

Qatar, Iran rival to make Prophet Mohammed movies

Movie makers from Iran and Qatar are competing  for a new movie depicting the life of holy Prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him) both the countries are  racing to bring the movie to the big screen.
The Qatari production is set to be shown as a series of films aiming to target a worldwide audience. With a spending budget of $1 billion, the movie is funded by Qatar-based Alnoor Holdings. The film’s production will be led by Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradwai to ensure that events in the movie are parallel to the Quran.
“They are being understandably very cautious," said The Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osborne, who was hired as the project advisor.
Now, Iranian director Majid Majidi is competing with Qatar’s production, beginning to film another story of the Prophet in October, with a set budget of $30 million.
The character of the Prophet will be shown in Majidi’s production; his figure shown without revealing his face.
However, it is unlikely that the prophet’s figure will be shown in the Qatari production, in accordance to Sunni Islamic laws stating prophets cannot be depicted on screen or in print.
Last year, protests swept the Muslim world in September following the release of the U.S. produced movie, Innocence of Muslims, which depicted the image of Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer.
Following the protests, the United Arab Emirates held an event in Dubai, as part of global campaign, named “The True Message of the Prophet,” involving a group of young Muslims offering roses with a message of “peace and good manners” inspired by the sayings of Prophet Mohammed.
Similar initiatives were seen across the Arab world as a backlash to the film they deemed offensive.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Qatar Rail bags Visionary Project of the Year Award

DOHA: Qatar Railways Company, the organisation overseeing the construction of an integrated railway network, received the ‘Visionary Project of the Year Award’ at the 6th Global Infrastructure Leadership Forum in New York City recently, a press statement said yesterday.

Organised by CG/LA Infrastructure, the forum focuses on infrastructure projects locally, regionally, and globally and identifies real opportunities in the dynamic global infrastructure market.

“Qatar Rail is one of a number of transformational projects that aim to continue the progress of Qatar through the National Vision 2030, the Qatar National Strategy, the Qatar National Development Framework 2012-2032 and the Transport Master Plan for Qatar,” Saad Al Muhannadi, CEO of Qatar Rail, said.

He added: “The State of Qatar has a very clear vision and strategy for the future of the country; at Qatar Rail, we support the four pillars of this national vision: Economic, social, human and environmental development, including the significant benefits of reducing congestion and emissions and leading to more efficient movement of people and goods.”

He said the integrated rail system will be an essential part of Qatar’s urban infrastructure and will be recognised as one of the most successful, safe and environmentally-friendly railway systems in the world.

‘Made in Qatar’ coach unveiled by Mowasalat

DOHA: Mowasalat launched its first bus that was fully assembled in Qatar by the company’s technicians.
The technical team at the Karwa Services Unit (KSU) assembled the 41-seat “Made in Qatar” coach from a complete set of imported spare parts.

This is the first of a series of prototypes being developed by Mowasalat as part of its plans to enter bus assembling and manufacturing industry in a big way.

The company is working on a project to establish a large-scale facility in Oman to assemble buses for the Arab and GCC markets.

“This marks a major achievement for us in terms of technology transfer. We will develop more bus models locally as we prepare to establish our assembling and manufacturing unit in Oman,” Jassim Saif Al Sulaiti, Mowasalat’s Chairman and Managing Director, said in a press conference yesterday.
“We will develop two or three new models every year but we have no plans to assemble buses locally on a large scale,” he added.

He said that the proposed facility in Oman once ready will assemble 2,000 buses every year to meet the requirements of the local and GCC markets.

“We are in the final phase of preparations to establish the facility. We have also plans to enter bus manufacturing industry in a later phase,” said Al Sulaiti.

He said the locally assembled buses are more cost-effective compared to the imported ones.
The first “Made in Qatar” bus has joined the fleet of Mowasalat buses that are available for private hire.
Assembled from Complete Knockdown (CKD) units, the bus offers the same comfort, safety features, stylish looks and versatile body of the imported Karwa buses.

The bus is designed to meet various requirements such as transportation of schoolchildren and company staff, feeder services and for tour and travel.

The bus took shape in-house, with strict inspection and quality checks during assembly, ensuring stability.
The CKD-assembled bus passed test conditions successfully and was rolled out as a new in-house- built coach bus in December last year.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

‘Great’ turnout at Qatar Academy Quackfest

There was a great turnout at the Qatar Academy (QA), a member of Qatar Foundation's event, which encouraged its students and their parents to donate to local and international charity projects at its student-organised annual Quackfest yesterday.

The event at QA senior school grounds attracted a large number of students with their parents. There were a number of commercial participants who put up more than 20 stalls,  displaying artworks, artifacts, clothes, gifts and sweets. Food items from different places were on offer. Students took part in different activities.

Heather Schuaberow, a QA teacher and organiser of the event, said that donations collected through the event would mainly go to Eravur Education and Development Institute in Sri Lanka and QA’s  community and service programmes.

She explained that QA had tied up with local and international charities such as Qatar Charity and Roots & Shoots, which is the Canadian-based Jane Goodall Institute’s global network of youth taking action to make the world a better place and other charities as well.

A considerable part of the donations will be allocated to Syrian people and orphan support in different places around the world such as Somalia.   

Schuaberow was satisfied about the turnout of visitors, describing it as “great”. She expected to raise around QR10,000 as net donations for the various causes. Allana Beaton, QA arts teacher, displayed her students’ production of artifacts and selling them at prices down to QR5.

She said that the sales of her goods surpassed expectations as visitors were attracted to have a look and buy some, expressing their admiration at the skill and innovation of students’ work.

Steve Parenteau, QA head of counselling and support services, said that QA was trying to raise students’ awareness’ of  labourers’ issues and make them directly communicate with such category to enlighten them about their rights and how to approach them.

He also pointed out that QA often donated used and new computers, laptops and mobile phones to workers to facilitate their communication with the world.

Meanwhile, Mukhtar, a QA teacher of Islamic studies, said that his department took part in the fair through raising students and their parents’ awareness about dilemma and sufferings of the Syrian people and people of other conflict zones, and how they should do something to ease their hardships.

He said that donations for such causes had been increasing over the years.

The event incorporated fun, shopping, musical shows, games, traditional Henna drawings, community service and a good opportunity for concerned families to share the activities of their children from near.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

New study points to Qatar’s shifting economic trends

A report issued by the Ministry of Trade and Business this week gives an overview of Qatar economy’s evolution over the last three decades until 2012.

The report, called Qatar Business and Trade 2012 Study, aims to provide context to economic stakeholders and decision-makers with information and data that will facilitate Qatar’s way forward to growth and sustainable development.

The Ministry hopes to publish similar reports on an annual basis from now on. Next year’s report will compare the results from 2013 with those of the previous years. The report brought out the fact that Qatar is embarking on plans to diversify its economy away from its heavy dependence on hydrocarbons to a knowledge-based economy.

But it will be a challenging mission for the state. As hydrocarbons account for 58% of Qatar’s nominal GDP, it will be extremely difficult to reduce dependence on them. But with vision and proper planning, this could be achieved gradually. To diversify its economy, Qatar has already taken steps like investing in foreign assets, introducing regulations to stimulate economic growth, encouraging a knowledge-based economy and promoting itself as a tourist destination leading up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. And some of these measures have already started paying dividends.

 As QNB Capital CEO Salman al-Muhannadi pointed out during a panel discussion at the report’s release, the only way to shift from a hydrocarbon-based economy to a knowledge-based one was through the creation of quality human resources. He urged the private sector to play a key role in this economic shift. The education sector, the report notes, has experienced a 19% growth over the last 10 years while the healthcare sector in Qatar has witnessed a strong 15% growth in terms of the number of new entities registered.

The positive growth trends in the education and healthcare sectors indicate that the Qatari market is moving in line with the 2030 National Vision. Octogenarian leader holds Italy’s fate As Italy faces a deep political crisis, the fate of the country is in the hands of an octogenarian former communist only weeks from retirement. Under Italy’s constitution, President Giorgio Napolitano, 87, is charged with trying to find the way out of an intractable impasse caused by a huge protest vote in the February 24-25 election, which saw no group emerge with enough support to govern.

 The task is exceedingly difficult, but if anybody can succeed it is probably Napolitano, who enjoys both huge respect and popularity, and has shown skill in navigating previous major storms in Italy. In fact after an election in which Italians vented their rage against the politicians, he may be the only traditional political figure left who commands much respect at all.

Monday, March 4, 2013

London Luxury-Home Rise Most in 10 Months

Central London luxury-home prices unexpectedly rose at the fastest pace in 10 months in February as the British pound’s depreciation helped attract international investors, Knight Frank LLP said.
The average price of a house or apartment in the city’s most expensive neighborhoods climbed 0.9 percent from January, according to an index compiled by the broker. Knight Frank, along with Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. and Savills Plc (SVS), last year forecast that prices would be little changed in 2013 after an 8.7 percent increase in 2012.

“The fall in the value of sterling has increased the appetite for prime central London homes among overseas buyers,” Knight Frank said in a statement today. Prices have risen every month since November 2010, he said.

Investors from overseas are buying London real estate to preserve wealth amid political, economic tension in their home markets. The pound’s lost about 5.5 percent this year against a basket of currencies, a Bank of England index shows, and 18 percent in the past five years. On March 1, an industry report showed U.K. manufacturing unexpectedly shrank in February and the pound fell to less than $1.50 for the first time since July 2010.

Overseas Sales Developers such as Berkeley Group Holdings Plc (BKG) and Battersea Power Station Development Co. are benefiting from efforts of Asian governments to cool their property markets with new restrictions and the weakened pound by marketing their projects overseas. Berkeley, the U.K.’s second-largest homebuilder by market value, sells 40 percent of its properties to people living outside the U.K.
Prime residential prices rose 8.4 percent in February from a year earlier, Knight Frank said. The monthly increase was the biggest since April 2012’s 1.1 percent gain.

The average U.K. home price increased 0.1 percent in February from the previous month, the first gain in nine months, Hometrack Ltd. said in a report today. The number of new buyers registering with agents gained 14.3 percent, outpacing an 8.7 percent increase in supply. A year ago, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne increased the levy, known as stamp duty, on purchases of homes costing 2 million pounds or more. As a result, the volume of transactions of that size will probably drop by 15 percent to 3,400 in the 12 months through March, Knight Frank said. The broker based its forecast on data compiled by HM Revenue & Customs.

Fewer than half of the luxury homes bought in the U.K. capital last year were purchased with cash, down from about three quarters in 2011, as banks reined in bonuses, Cluttons LLP said in a report last week. A “severely limited supply” of homes means the change has had little effect on prices, according to the broker.

VCUQ project documents life in Qatar with moving postcards

A faculty member from Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar (VCUQ) has come up with an innovative research project, “The Moving Postcards Project”, to document the lifestyle of the country for a local as well as international audience. The project depicts facets of life in Doha through a number of moving postcards.

Assistant professor of the Foundation Program at VCUQ, Simone Muscolino, told Gulf Times that he had been working on the project since joining the institute in 2010. He explained, “Each postcard is a video of less than a minute’s duration, depicting one aspect of life in Qatar. Each of these is an innovative endeavour that documents changing life in Doha through a developing collection of video fragments. Moving postcards are micro-video loops that present a space, behaviour or an atmosphere particular to a local environment.”

The assistant professor has produced his own videos and taught the technique to students in his Time Studio classes. During the last five semesters, around 150 students - both Qatari and expatriates - have been involved in the project, and the body of work includes around 1,000 moving postcards on Doha. He added that 50% of the students involved in the project were Qataris. The project provides glimpses into the traditions and customs of the country in motion through the eyes of those who know it best.

Muscolino said he had three objectives in developing the postcards. “Primarily, it is an effort to document the local life and the changes taking place in the country through these slides. Secondly, it is to produce the content through educational activities and teaching the students how to do it. Finally, it is to build a local community of video-makers,” he elaborated. The entire project has been done in collaboration with Doha Film Institute and Qatar Museum Authority (QMA).  Most of the postcards have also been uploaded on the Internet.

A table with an attached computer, a projector and a wide screen are used to show the video. There is a slot on the table to insert the postcard. Once inserted, the video starts playing the content, which can be a particular lifestyle or certain aspect of life in Doha. Some of these videos involve various activities, such as having a drink with a face- veil, checking the purity of pearls, a cobbler working in a shop and many more. 

The project gives an insider’s view as the videos have been recorded by many Qatari students, who have access to some of the lifestyles of the Qatari community. Muscolino said “The videos are a true depiction of some of the daily events in Qatari households and society. The students have recorded them in the true style and given a glimpse into the Qatari culture.” He added that the project would be screened at the Students’ Centre of Hamad bin Khalifa University during the upcoming Tasmeem Conference this month.

Muscolino observed that these snippets of life in Doha with animation would be a great tool for tourists and visitors to Qatar. He said, “The whole project can be used as a tourist guide to learn more about Qatar, the living style of the country and its culture. I plan to add more videos working with the students in the coming years.” 
The entire research project was funded by Qatar Foundation and the university, the assistant professor said, adding that he was granted $12,000 for the same. “It covered the cost of technology. I am going to ask for another grant to continue with the project.”

Sunday, March 3, 2013

FIFA could consider Qatar World Cup in winter

FIFA has suggested for the first time in the history of FIFA world cup that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar could be moved to winter if medical evidence showed that playing in the intense summer heat would be dangerous. The tempratures in Qatar go upto 48 degrees during summer.

FIFA has previously insisted that Qatar would have to make the request to move the tournament.

But the emirate placed responsibility on world football`s governing body to make the call. According to Gulf News, in a sign that the impasse could be ending,

FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke said the executive committee could decide on the shift to winter if the June temperatures exceeding 40 degrees Celsius are deemed dangerous. Valcke is sure that moving the tournament would not open up FIFA to legal challenges from the United States, Japan, South Korea and Australia, who lost out to Qatar in the 2010 vote.

Qatar, Saint Lucia, Establish Diplomatic Relations

New York, March 02 (- The State of Qatar and the State of Saint Lucia have formalized diplomatic relations.  
Qatar's permanent delegate to the UN HE Ambassador Sheikh Meshaal Bin Hamad Al Thani, signed the diplomatic relations formalization accord at a ceremony held at the headquarters of Qatar's Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York, the permanent delegate of Saint Lucia to the UN Menissa Rambally signed for her country.

On the occasion, the two sides underlined their common desire to strengthen and promote ties of friendship and cooperation in the various political, economic, commercial, scientific, technological and cultural fields beside establishing bilateral relations as per the principles of the UN charter and ob bases of peaceful coexistence, equality, mutual respect of the sovereignty of territorial integrity of each country's and the non-interference in the internal affairs of both QatarSaint Lucia. 

The two parties also expressed joint confidence that such diplomatic relations and the exchange of ambassadors between them would further contribute to enhancing joint cooperation and stabilize world peace