Melania Trump Club

Melania Trump Club
Melania Trump Club

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Star for Every State

After toying with various flag designs and changing the number of stars and stripes, in 1818 Congress decided that the U.S. flag would stick with 13 stripes and 20 stars with a new star added for each new state. We've been at 50 stars for about 50 years now. And in a few months those stars & stripes will be front & center as we celebrate U.S. Independence Day. And even before that we'll have Memorial Day and Flag Day. It might be a way off for those of us who tend to plan things at the last minute, but it's not too early to start designing your 4th of July party invites and decorations or other 4th of July themed projects (including ads, sales fliers, or promotional mailings).

How to Cut a Perfect 5-Point Star
4th of July Project Ideas, Templates, Fonts
Free Transparent PNG Objects - Stars
In keeping with the star theme, here's a quick comment about star-shaped cropping of photos or even text: don't do it. OK, saying that it is never OK might be too harsh. In a scrapbook or a greeting card or maybe occasionally in a casual newsletter it might be alright. Or, maybe it's just me. But I think most of the time photos cropped into funky shapes like stars or starbursts just look cheesy. Circles or ovals, sometimes. Use non-rectangular crop shapes sparingly. That's my opinion.

Do you agree or disagree? A little or a lot?

Source:desktoppub.about.com/

States trail in census game

Attention, Carolinians: Wisconsin is kicking our behinds in the census. Iowa, too. (But at least we're not Texas.)

The 2010 Census continues its $326 million marketing push this month with a new tactic to get you to return your 10-question census form - an appeal to your sense of community and competition.

The census officially kicked off April 1, and officials are helpfully letting everyone keep score on the response rate with an interactive online map - at 2010.census.gov - that lets you peek at results from your state and city, right down to your neighborhood.

How are we doing? As of Sunday, North Carolinians had returned 59 percent of the forms mailed out last month, a statistic the census calls the "mail participation rate." That's behind Wisconsin's pace-setting rate of 69 percent, but it's ahead of the national average of 56 percent and well on the way to N.C.'s 2000 participation rate of 66 percent.

South Carolina also checks in at a healthy 57 percent. Alaska (42 percent) and Texas (48 percent) are among those looking up from the bottom.

"We're happy with the numbers so far," said census N.C. spokesman Tony Jones. "We're actually anticipating a big spike, because a lot of people were waiting until April 1 to fill out the forms."

As in previous decades, the 2010 Census results will be used to determine how much money states and cities receive from the federal government, as well as how many congressional seats states gain or lose. North and South Carolina each could pick up an additional congressional seat because of population gains in the past decade. North Carolina received an additional seat after the 2000 Census.

Zoom in on the map, and you'll find the Charlotte area at 56 percent and having the same successes and struggles as much of the country. More affluent neighborhoods and suburbs are among the highest participation rates - areas that include Carmel Country Club and parts of Matthews boasted participation rates in the mid 70s - while census response lags in low-income areas and those with a high percentage of Latinos.

A challenge for communities nationwide: college students. Charlotte's worst participation can be found in the area including UNC Charlotte, at just 37 percent. Students, said Jones, are typically poor performers because of issues such as residences changing and an assumption that their parents are including them on their census forms. (Students should fill out their own form, census officials say.)

People have until mid-April to return their forms; those who mail theirs in after April 15 increase their chances of a visit from a census taker.

As for the lagging communities, the census already has sent out a second round of forms to areas that had poor participation rates in 2000. Also, officials have the next marketing piece ready - an outreach effort to community leaders, including churches and civic groups, to help nudge people into filling out the forms.

If that doesn't work, there's always the celebrity appeal. Census officials have videos at the ready by NASCAR's Greg Biffle, a Mooresville resident, Miss America Caressa Cameron and Donny Osmond.

Source:thesunnews.com/

Kevin Rudd faces election struggle in key states

A FALL in Labor support in NSW and electoral volatility in Queensland during the first three months of Tony Abbott's Liberal leadership have ensured the home states of the Opposition Leader and Kevin Rudd will be vital battlegrounds in the coming election.

Since his election as leader in December, Mr Abbott has picked up support in every mainland state and every age group at a cost to Labor, leaving the Rudd government with a clear primary vote lead only in South Australia and Victoria, The Australian reported.

Three months ago, under the leadership of Malcolm Turnbull, the Coalition trailed well behind Labor in every mainland state, except Western Australia, where the two sides were level.

Mr Abbott's support has been significantly boosted among voters aged over 50, those in regional areas and in SA and WA. Labor support has dropped in Queensland, NSW and Victoria and among older voters.

Younger voters have largely held firm for Labor, but despite claims Mr Abbott "has a problem with women", female voters were more satisfied with him than his predecessor.

Satisfaction with Mr Abbott reached 43 per cent in the January quarter, compared with 32 per cent for Mr Turnbull last November.

Labor strategists believe the vote in Queensland is "fractured" and seats will be won and lost against national trends while, in NSW, anti-ALP sentiment is being fuelled by the unpopular and incompetent state government.

Liberal strategists believe Mr Abbott, who has to win seven or eight seats to form government, has recaptured the Liberal voting base, particularly among older voters and people living in regional areas.

The Liberals are also buoyed by huge improvements for Mr Abbott in WA, where the ALP had hoped to lift its performance after a poor 2007 result, and in SA.

Last week, Julia Gillard spent almost a week in WA reassuring mining companies the Rudd government would be tough on illegal strikes and promoting spending on the $16.2 billion school building program.

According to an analysis of Newspoll surveys taken between January and March this year, the first full three months of Mr Abbott's leadership, Labor's total primary vote fell five points to 40 per cent and the Coalition's rose four points to 40 per cent, the first time the Government and the opposition have been level since the 2007 election.

Based on surveys of more than 6000 voters since January, the analysis includes the latest Newspoll survey, published in The Australian last week, in which the Coalition and Mr Abbott both lost ground.

Mr Abbott has reclaimed the Coalition's traditional lead among voters over 50 with a five-point rise on primary vote to 47 per cent compared with a five-point drop for Labor to 37 per cent. That gives the Coalition the biggest lead in any state or demographic group.

Young voters gave more support to Mr Abbott personally than Mr Turnbull, up 11 points from 32 to 43 per cent, but Labor held its strong primary vote lead among the young of 13 points.

Source:heraldsun.com.au/

China quiet on U.S. currency report delay

BEIJING, April 5 (Reuters) - A Chinese central bank adviser said Beijing could ease pressure over the yuan by buying more from recession-hit U.S. states, but China had no official reaction on Monday to the Obama administration's delay of a contentious currency report.

Monday was a public holiday in China, with government offices closed and state newspapers issuing slimmed down editions.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Saturday postponed the report, originally due out on April 15, that could have called Beijing a "currency manipulator." [ID:nN03183056]

The decision follows Thursday's announcement that Chinese President Hu Jintao will attend a nuclear security summit meeting in Washington April 12-13 and seems to be a move to keep tensions over currency in check. [ID:nTOE63100K]

Geithner said he would use meetings of the Group of 20 and a U.S.-China "strategic dialogue" in Beijing in May to urge China to budge on the yuan, which President Barack Obama, many U.S. lawmakers and several economists say is kept artificially low, undercutting U.S. competitiveness.

Several Chinese economists quoted in the overseas edition of the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, maintained that the yuan was not to blame for the U.S. trade deficit. The economists appeared to have commented before Washington announced the postponement of the report.

"Trade deficits and surpluses are not created by exchange rates, and the renminbi is not undervalued," said the paper.

Li Daokui, a member of the central bank's monetary policy committee, said China could nonetheless buy more goods from U.S. states struggling with recession to ease pressure from the White House and Congress.

"On the one hand, China needs to maintain the initiative in issuing information (about the yuan), so that there is no misunderstanding of China by the United States," the paper cited Li as saying.

"On the other hand, China should take the initiative to communicate with the United States," added Li, a professor at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

"China can increase purchases from (U.S.) states facing mass unemployment because of recession in the manufacturing sector," said Li, a Harvard-trained economist.

Beijing let the yuan CNY=CFXS rise 21 percent against the U.S. dollar between July 2005 and July 2008 before effectively repegging the currency, also called the renminbi, near 6.83 to the dollar to help the economy through the financial crisis.

The United States' deficit in trade with China fell to $227 billion in 2009 from a record $268 billion in 2008,. but the Obama administration is keen to lift exports and employment.

Wu Xiaoling, a Chinese lawmaker and former central bank vice governor quoted by the People's Daily international edition, said the root of the problem was not a cheap yuan, but the relatively low cost of labour and resources in China.

"That people feel the renminbi is undervalued is in fact because many price factors in China, including resources and labour, have not reached international levels," she said. (For analysts' views on the report delay, click on [ID:nSGE63400O]) (Reporting by Chris Buckley; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)

Source: reuters.com/

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia still on top of the one-day world

AUSTRALIA has overwhelmed a luckless but plucky Pakistan to claim its fifth one-day series in a row and consolidate its position on top of the world one-day rankings.
The home side drew on its newly found reserves of pace-bowling depth to dismiss the tourists for 246 and prevail by 40 runs, taking a 3-0 lead in the five-match series.

Man of the match Ryan Harris (5-43) and Clint McKay (3-48) ably covered for the resting Mitchell Johnson and injured Peter Siddle, Ben Hilfenhaus and Nathan Bracken by bowling tightly to plans well tailored to the flat Adelaide Oval wicket.

It was not all Australia's way however, with Shahid Afridi (40 from 29 balls) and Naved-ul-Hasan (33) throwing a scare into the home camp - and exposing a few chinks in the hosts' game with a late flurry of boundaries.

Earlier, Shaun Marsh (83), Michael Clarke (80) and Mike Hussey (49 from 28 balls) powered Australia to 6-286 before a sell-out crowd of 15,521 in the partly developed ground.

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Pakistan's chase started brightly, with opener Salman Butt smashing five fours in scooting to 34 from 39 balls.

But his lively hand ended when umpire Asoka de Silva adjudged him leg before to McKay.

Butt was clearly unhappy with the verdict, with some justification as the ball appeared to pitch outside leg stump and also be passing over the bails.

Reportedly facing the sack at the end of the series, touring captain Mohammad Yousuf has much on his mind, and it showed in his eight-ball stay for 11.

Younus Khan took 20 balls to get off the mark, then celebrated by punching his next ball to the cover fence with a superb drive.

When he was well caught by Brad Haddin from a McKay lifter, Pakistan was 4-60 and the run chase was flatlining.

Umar Akmal (59) and Fawad Alam (33) added 85 for the fifth wicket in an impressive rearguard action, but all the while the required run rate was ascending from six to seven per over.

As it had in the previous two games, Australia applied supreme pressure through disciplined length bowling to well-set fields.

In doing so it showed off its newly found fast-bowling depth in the 50-over game, with McKay and Harris making the early inroads then striking again in subsequent spells. McKay now has 12 wickets from five ODIs with a strike rate in the 20s.

Replacing the injured Siddle and playing just his second ODI, Harris made the initial breakthrough when he trapped Kamran Akmal in front for one when the score was 14. In his second spell, he had Umar Akmal caught behind, and he dealt the killer blow when he bowled Afridi.

Doug Bollinger, hardly a veteran in just in his 10th ODI, bowled with discipline to concede 35 runs from nine overs.

Australia's series win follows defeats of India, England, Pakistan and its Champions Trophy triumph.

Yesterday's win was set up by Marsh, who stepped out of man-of-the-moment Watson's wide shadow to have a day out in the bright Adelaide Oval sun.

After modest efforts in the first two one-dayers, Marsh batted with authority, poise and great skill in his 113-ball stay.

The left-hander's innings was all the more impressive given he had to right the ship when Australia stuttered, losing 2-1, including Ricky Ponting without scoring.

Ponting's third-ball duck was another example of his Jekyll and Hyde relationship with the pull shot. He was lbw after he appeared to misjudge the length of a ball that was too full to pull.

Source:theaustralian.com.au/

WORLD FOREX: Dollar Up Against Euro, But Gives Up Some Gains

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--The dollar was higher against the euro Tuesday as investors focused on a possible slowing of China's economy, which could throw a wrench in the global recovery.

But the dollar had given up some of its gains against the common currency by early afternoon, as better-than-expected U.S. consumer confidence data acted as a counter to other concerns floating around the market, helping spark a partial recovery in currencies sensitive to global growth.

"Risk aversion ran amok, and is unwarranted," to the degree it had invaded markets, said Andrew Wilkinson, senior market analyst at Interactive Brokers in Greenwich, Conn. "As nerves begin to steady, the demand for the dollar is seeming to abate."

Tuesday in New York, the euro was at $1.4087 from $1.4162 late Monday, according to EBS via CQG. The dollar was at Y89.62 from Y90.24, while the euro was at Y126.25 from Y127.79. The U.K. pound was at $1.6157 from $1.6232. The dollar was at CHF1.0445 from CHF1.0396.

The ICE Dollar Index, which tracks the greenback against a trade-weighted basket of currencies, was at 78.410 from 78.164.

Even though the euro and the commodity-backed currencies of Australia, Canada and New Zealand were able to claw back some of their earlier losses, worry over China and continued concern over mounting fiscal problems in the euro zone kept the dollar and yen well-bid.

"The data is better, but it doesn't seem to be enough to turn the tide," leaving a cloud of risk aversion over markets, said Brian Dolan, chief currency strategist at Forex.com in Bedminster, N.J.

U.S. consumer confidence rose for the third consecutive month in January, according to a report released Tuesday by The Conference Board.

The index of consumer confidence increased to 55.9 in January from a revised 53.6 in December, which was originally reported as 52.9. The January reading was better than economists' projection of 54.0, according to a survey conducted by Dow Jones Newswires.

The euro remained under pressure over the distressed finances of Greece and other peripheral euro zone nations. Greek Finance Minister George Papaconstantinou on Tuesday detailed a diversified global borrowing plan to plug government fiscal gaps including hopes to raise up to $10 billion from Chinese and other Asian investors.

Speaking in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires, he also said he is confident that the European Union council of finance ministers will approve the country's three-year deficit-reduction plan next month.

Greece is under pressure from the European Union and ratings agencies to fix a 2009 budget deficit of 12.7% of gross domestic product--four times the euro zone's 3% ceiling.

The confluence of global concerns is "causing people to go into wait-and-see mode," said Brian Kim, currency strategist at UBS in Stamford, Conn., keeping currencies in tight ranges "while the dust settles."

There are multiple reports that Chinese banks have been asked to curb lending, though the central bank, the People's Bank of China, hasn't said so officially. If China puts the brakes on growth, some investors worry the global economic recovery could be at risk.

The commodity-backed currencies had dropped significantly in the face of a possibly slowing Chinese economy, but they had recovered part of their losses by the afternoon. The possibility the voracious Chinese appetite for commodities could slow had sent the Australian dollar down more than 1% earlier in the session, but by early afternoon, it was down only 0.39% against the U.S. dollar.

The Federal Open Market Committee of the U.S. Federal Reserve on Tuesday began its two-day meeting. The committee will announce Wednesday any changes to key U.S. interest rates. No changes are expected, but investors will be paying close attention to whether the committee alters the language in its statement, indicating any timeline for future interest rate increases or policy tightening.

"You might get a hint from the FOMC statement that will confirm things are actually on track" when it comes to the U.S. rebound, Wilkinson said, which could help spark a solid rebound in risk appetite.

Source:online.wsj.com/

Ratings Report for “World News with Diane Sawyer”

World News Holds its Total Viewing and Demo Audience Week-to-Week

Increases Total Viewing and Demo Advantages Over CBS vs the Previous Week

For the Week, World News is Up 4% in Total Viewers and 5% in the Demo Over its Season to Date Average

For the week of January 18th, “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” averaged 8.51 million Total Viewers and a 2.0/7 among Adults 25-54 according to Nielsen Media Research. Following a week of heavy focus on the earthquake in Haiti, “World News” held its total viewing and demo audiences compared to the previous week.

For the week, “World News” was up 4% (+300,000) among Total Viewers and up 5% (+120,000) among Adults 25-54 compared to its season-to-date average. In Diane Sawyer’s first five weeks as anchor, “World News” has averaged 8,730,000 Total Viewers and 2,460,000 Adults 25-54. That is up 6% (+520,000) above World News’ season-to-date average among Total Viewers and up 6% (+130,000) in the demo.




Compared to the previous week, “World News’” total viewing advantage over CBS Evening News (1,970,000) grew 10% and the demo advantage (410,000) was 11 % larger.

Last week’s “World News” featured George Stephanopoulos’ exclusive interview with President Barack Obama at the White House on a range of issues including his reaction to the results of the critical special election in Massachusetts and the future of health care reform. “World News” also included continued coverage of the earthquake in Haiti.

Jon Banner is the executive producer of “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer.”

EVENING NEWS (Week of January 18, 2010)

Total Viewers Adults 25-54 Households
ABC 8,510,000 2.0/7; 2,450,000 5.6/10
NBC 10,280,000 2.6/9; 3,240,000 6.6/12
CBS 6,540,000 1.6/6; 2,040,000 4.4/8

Source: Nielsen, NTI (Total Viewers and Adults 25-54 Live + SD weeks of 1/18/10 & 1/11/10). Live +7 (where available) & Live +SD for Season-to-date (9/21/09-1/24/10) & World News with Diane Sawyer (12/21/09-1/24/10).

Monday, January 25, 2010

World Cup clashing with McFadden wedding plans


Brian McFadden will tie the knot with Delta Goodrem this year – but only if they can find a date which doesn’t clash with the soccer World Cup.

The former Westlife star - who proposed to the former 'Neighbours' actress three years ago, a year after he divorced Kerry Katona – is ready to walk down the aisle but has revealed the couple are struggling to find a suitable date which doesn’t clash with the summer tournament taking place in South Africa.

Sports -mad Brian, 29, said: "We're trying to work out a date between the World Cup and the end of the Formula 1 season. It's messing all my plans up... I was going to produce another album but I won't get any work done with both events going on."

Delta – who was recently spotted meeting Britain's Prince William during his tour of Sydney – is fortunately a "huge sports fan" so has been understanding to Brian’s wishes.

The Australian actress-turned-singer – who was first rumoured to marry Brian in December 2009 – said: "I would love to go to the World Cup.”

Source:breakingnews.iol.ie/

Myners meets G7 to debate world banking reform

Lord Myners, the City minister, will on Monday meet representatives from the G7, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in London to discuss reform of the global banking system, including a possible tax on transactions to protect the taxpayer from future bail-out threats

The Treasury is also expected to call on banks to reduce the amount they pay out to staff as a proportion of revenue, so that more of the industry’s profits are used to build up capital.

Lord Myners has suggested that it is not right that banks are currently not required to pay a tax premium for the “implicit state guarantee” they benefit from. There has been widespread public and political opposition to the notion that banks will swiftly return to huge profits and bonuses despite the government support which pulled the system back from the brink of collapse
Commenting on today’s meeting, Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: “A financial transactions tax is by far the best way to raise serious money from the finance sector, not just to make good the damage they have already done, but to stop future deep cuts in spending.”

The debate over how to reform the global financial system intensified last week when President Barack Obama proposed sweeping reforms of the sector in the US, which would prevent banks from taking part in certain activities. Lord Myners said the ideas were very specific to the US: “The argument is that hedge funds, private equity and proprietary trading are a source of risk – that is not our general view”.

He added: “The US administration is taking action to address problems in its own system.”

In comments made over the weekend Alistair Darling, the Chancellor, suggested that the US proposals would not have prevented the financial crisis from happening. “You could end up dividing institutions and making them separate legal entities but that isn’t the point. The point is the connectivity between them in relation to their financial transactions,” he said.

The Chancellor also suggested that the US approach could threaten the G20’s progress on reform at an international level: “If everyone does their own thing it will achieve absolutely nothing. The banks are global – they are quite capable of organising themselves in such a way that if the regime is difficult in one country they will go to another one.”

Soutrce:telegraph.co.uk/

Deans the man for World Cup: O'Neill

Robbie Deans has been confirmed as Wallabies coach until the 2011 World Cup, with Australian Rugby Union boss John O'Neill boldly declaring the struggling code had turned the corner after confronting its demons.

Last year wasn't kind to rugby, with Australia winning just six of 14 Tests, no Australian team making the Super finals and concerns over declining attendances and television ratings.

There was speculation highly-regarded New Zealander Deans might struggle to retain his position after an indifferent year.

However, O'Neill revealed the ARU board had guaranteed his tenure through to the next World Cup after listening to a review of 2009 by Deans and the ARU's high performance manager David Nucifora.

"The board were very comfortable and confirmed Robbie in his position through to the World Cup in 2011," O'Neill said at the Wallabies jersey launch.

O'Neill said there would be no changes to Deans' assistant coaching line-up, but revealed that former Brumbies and Blues coach Nucifora would be more available and would help assistant coach Jim Williams in the lineout and breakdown areas.

With a new broadcasting rights deal which O'Neill said he was "pretty pleased with" to be announced over the next month, the ARU chief believed there was also on-field reasons to justify his belief Australian rugby had turned the corner.

He said the emergence of promising youngsters like flanker David Pocock, halfback Will Genia and inside back Quade Cooper potentially heralded "the making of another golden era".

O'Neill was also pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction of leading northern hemisphere administrators following Australia's 33-12 win over Wales in the final match of their spring tour.

"I was in Dublin for an IRB meeting and a number of northern hemisphere reps said the way we played in the first 20 to 30 minutes, we could be the team to beat at the World Cup," O'Neill said.

Although the World Cup looms next year, O'Neill said Australia's immediate objective was to win their first Tri-Nations tournament since 2001 and regain the Bledisloe Cup which was lost to New Zealand in 2003.

O'Neill was adamant he wasn't concerned about rival football codes, even though soccer stood to gain tremendous coverage this year from the World Cup.

"We are not concerned about competition, we will be cheering for the Socceroos as loudly as any other good Australian would," said the former Football Federation Australia chief executive.

"The reality is we've confronted our demons as a game.

"We were really open last year in talking about the state of the game, crowd figures, ratings et cetera.

"The response we've had from sponsors, corporate partners and broadcasters has been `that's great, that you aren't trying to hard from the truth and you've confronted it'.

"You don't want to be in the trough for too long and I think we're coming out of the trough and 2010 will be the year when we've turned the corner."

Source:news.smh.com.au/

World Bank aims to earn stripes

BANGKOK - An international campaign to save the tiger, one of Asia's iconic wild animals, has been chosen as the place for the World Bank to earn its stripes as an institution keen on joining the ranks of conservationists.

Senior officials from the international financial institution's Washington DC headquarters will be in Thailand to attend the Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation, which runs from January 27-29 in Hua Hin, a beach resort town south of Bangkok.

The ministerial meeting in Thailand is the penultimate conference on the road to a heads of state meeting in Vladivostok in September. World Bank president Robert Zoellick is billed to co-chair the tiger summit with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
"We are witnessing the power of the World Bank to bring governments together through its involvement," Mike Baltzer, leader of the tiger initiative of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF - formerly the World Wildlife Fund), told journalists last week. "The bank has funded US$1.5 million to train officers in some tiger-range countries."

The bank's move into tiger territory was unveiled in June 2008 with the launch of the Global Tiger Initiative (GTI), which pledges to place the concerns of tiger conservation on the international political agenda and to take a lead role in conservation efforts.

"The bank hopes to invest in high-priority conservation actions, ensure that its own infrastructure investments do not damage tiger populations, and support investigations and economic analyses of key issues such as poaching and habitat conversion," states the WWF, the world's largest conservation organization, in a background note ahead of the Hua Hin meeting. "This is believed to be the first time in the bank's history that it has undertaken such a major and focused initiative targeting a single species."

Last January, Thai police seized four decapitated tiger carcasses found in a truck passing through Hua Hin in Prachuap Kiri Khan province. Police said the dead tigers were believed to have come from Malaysia and were being transported to China.

The following month, Thai authorities discovered the butchered carcasses of two tigers and a panther when they stopped a truck further south in Pattani province.

Last May, the Thai navy seized two tiger carcasses and 45 pangolins and arrested eight traffickers who had planned to smuggle the animals across the Mekong River into Laos, TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, reported at the time.

Laos, one of the 13 Asian countries home to wild tigers, offers visible signs of the bank's new interest in the wild tiger. It is backing an awareness campaign featuring billboards with an image of the endangered animal at the international airport in Vientiane. A message to stop illegal wildlife trade appears on each sign.

The billboards and stickers with a similar message that appear on the ubiquitous three-wheeled taxis in the Lao capital were unveiled by the bank in November last year.

The World Bank office in Laos provides support to Laos through the Global Tiger Initiative, Victoria Minoian, a bank spokeswoman at the Vientiane office, said. The bank has also been co-sponsoring the Lao Campaign for Wildlife Conservation, which involves the government, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, she added. The GTI has allocated US$15,000 to support this wildlife campaign.

Yet the bank's aim to expand its portfolio by taking on the cause of the conservationists is drawing criticism from some environmentalists, given the financial institution's history in funding large projects in developing countries - such as mega-dams - that have seen wanton destruction of the environment and affected livelihoods of local residents.

"The World Bank's past record has left a trail of ecosystem destruction behind virtually every large project it has financed," charged Bittu Sahgal, editor of Sanctuary Asia, one of India's leading wildlife news magazines. "Today tigers [in India] survive largely in the precise areas where World Bank money has been kept at arm's length."

The bank's involvement to save the wild tiger is "worse than greenwashing", he told Inter Press Service in an e-mail interview. "They are looking to pull off a public opinion coup. While they say they want to help tigers, they are simultaneously cajoling the Indian government to accept loans in excess of $1 billion for highways and mines that will destroy tiger and wildlife habitats."

Conservationists supporting the tiger summit hope to draw mileage out of participants other than the bank.

The timing of this year's meetings has added symbolism for Asia, because February 14 marks the start of the Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar. The current wild tiger population is estimated at 3,200, which is half the number, between 5,000 to 7,000 wild tigers, that conservationists estimated were around when the Year of the Tiger was last celebrated 12 years ago.

"It is now or never," said James Compton, Asia programs director of TRAFFIC. "I don't think there has ever before been similar international attention and signs of political will towards tiger conservation."

Among the expected goals to come out of this World Bank-led effort is for countries to implement strong enforcement programs that will "knock off the big illegal wildlife trader", Compton said in an IPS interview. "There has to be good law enforcement to detect and prosecute those involved in driving the trafficking trade."

Almost every part of the tiger feeds the global illegal wildlife trade, which is reported to be the third-largest illegal trade after arms and drugs. Interpol estimates the annual value of the trade to be between $10 billion and $20 billion.

"Illegal trade is not going away. It has remained persistent," said Compton. "If you look at the pattern of seizures [of wild tiger parts], all tiger-range countries are implicated. It has a long trade chain."

China and increasingly Vietnam are often fingered for driving the demand for tiger parts. Besides tiger skin often given as gifts, tiger bones are used for wines and powdered Chinese medicines, and tiger penis is sought as an aphrodisiac.

It explains the rapid drop in the wild tiger population in Southeast Asia, from Myanmar on one end to Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia at the other. The other tiger ranges are in Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia.

A commitment to protect and expand these forest ranges that tigers inhabit is also a benchmark the tiger summit is expected to strike. "According to tiger experts, the wild tigers may disappear by the next Year of the Tiger in 2022 if no action is taken to stop the poaching and illegal hunting, and to enhance habitat protection," states the WWF.

Source:atimes.com/

World Stocks Extend Losses After Wall Street Slide

World stock markets extended their slide Monday after Wall Street suffered its biggest rout since the depths of last year's financial crisis.

Most Asian markets dropped less than 1 percent as the region posted its fourth day of losses, while European shares fell about 1 percent in early trade. Oil prices fell near $74 a barrel and the dollar was mixed against the yen and euro.

Investors continued to cut back their bets on stocks after U.S. markets tumbled Friday to their worst three-day showing since they hit bottom last March.

Uncertainty over the ultimate effects of U.S. President Barack Obama's bank reform plan was cause for more caution, analysts said, as were worries about earnings results from American companies and rising opposition to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's reappointment.

In Asia, investors already on edge about China's economy and moves to prevent its overheating were further unnerved after Bank of China said it would seek to raise billions of dollars by issuing new equity and bonds. The move, designed to help the country's third-biggest lender to replenish its capital and meet government standards, added to concerns about banks after a flood of lending to prop up the economy.

Clive McDonnell, head of Asia strategy at BNP Paribas Securities, said the markets could trade lower for now unless Chinese policymakers expressed new confidence in the country's growth or the U.S. clarified its banking proposal to calm investors. Still, he expected markets to bounce back.

"Sentiment is fairly poor at the moment," said McDonnell, who is based in Singapore. "But I don't see any of the fundamentals have changed whatsoever and I don't think (stock) valuations are overly expensive. In our view, the markets are going to remain strong in 2010."

As trading got under way in Europe, the Britain's FTSE 100 lost 1.1 percent, Germany's DAX fell 1 percent and France's CAC-40 was off 0.7 percent. U.S. futures, however, pointed to a turnaround on Wall Street Monday, with Dow futures gaining nearly 0.7 percent to 10,218 and Standard & Poor's 500 futures 0.7 percent at 1,098.

Source:abcnews.go.com/

World's filthiest hotels revealed

The survey, conducted by travel website TripAdvisor.com, revealed that a Blackpool hotel, the Grosvenor Hotel in the Lancashire resort has been named as Europe's dirtiest place to stay in.


Despite the hotel stating, "Your comfort is our priority, as is the cleanliness and standard of service", customers left comments on the travel website like, "Worst hotel I've ever stayed in! Don't go there!" and "Disgusting".

London has a world-class reputation for its five star hotels, but six budget hotels along with the Park Hotel, which was number three on the list, were voted the dirtiest in the capital.

One unhappy visitor to the Park described it as "Hell" on the website. Another said: "Sometimes a bargain is not a bargain."

The Minster Hotel in York was the only other northern hotel singled out - at Number 10.

But while one guest called it a "house of horror" another said it was "a very good hotel" and he'd had "a pleasant surprise".

According to Trip­Advisor, disappointing hotels still exist at the budget end.

"It's hard to believe these absurdly awful places exist, and the fact that these hotels stay in business shows how easily good people get ripped off," the Daily Express quoted it as stating.

Organisers said they sifted through more than 30 million evaluations to bring damning verdicts on hotels around the world.

But Gerrard Khajua, manager of the Grosvenor Hotel, hit back saying the listing was unfair.

"The hotel has had hundreds of satisfied customers," he said.

"We charge 25 pounds for a double room. This is very basic accommodation.

"Most of the reviews on Trip­Advisor come from people who have expected facilities at the hotel that were never promised, such as car parking when we do not advertise we have a car park here," he stated.

Patel, manager of the Blair Victoria and Tudor Inn Hotel in London, which came in ninth, denied the hotel was dirty.

He said it was divided into basic rooms "with a bit of wear and tear" costing 25 pounds to 40 pounds a night and more expensive en-suite rooms "of a much better standard".

"It is usually only people with a complaint that will leave a review," he added. (ANI)
Source:news.oneindia.in/

Snowboarder Anderson wins World Cup bronze



STONEHAM, Que. — The Canadian team’s run of gold medals in parallel giant slalom on the FIS World Cup snowboard tour this season came to an end at four Sunday, but the podium streak is still alive.


World champion Jasey Jay Anderson of Mont-Tremblant, Que., won the bronze medal, defeating Switzerland’s Marc Iselin. Austrians Benjamin Karl and Andreas Prommegger finished 1-2, respectively.


“The conditions were really difficult for me,” Anderson said in a news release. “The conditions were icy, and usually I like to do some nice turns with forgiving snow. This was technical riding with controlled skids. It was really intense, and I felt like in a battle field.”


Karl defeated Anderson in the semifinals and won for the first time since the season-opening event in Argentina in September. He leads the overall World Cup standings with 4,260 points, followed by Anderson with 3,800 and Prommegger with 3,280.


Toronto’s Michael Lambert, one of three different Canadians to win parallel giant slalom World Cup gold medals this season, finished seventh Sunday and fell to fourth in the standings with 2,940 points. Anderson has won two World Cup races this year and Matt Morison of Burketon, Ont., has won one.


Pat Farrell of Oakville, Ont., was 21st Sunday, Darren Gardner of Burlington, Ont., ended up 43rd, Richard Evanoff of Pickering, Ont., placed 45th, one spot ahead of Steve Barlow of Courtice, Ont., and Sebastien Beaulieu of Sherbrooke, Que., was 50th. Matthew Carter of Maryhill, Ont., was disqualified.


In the women’s event, Russians Svetlana Boldykova and Alena Zavarzina took the top two spots on the podium, with France’s Nathalie Desmares third.

Caroline Calve of Aylmer, Que., was seventh, her best result of the season.


“The conditions were a little bit rough throughout the course. The blue course was really icy. My board skipped a few times during the last four gates, and that where I lost the 0.01 seconds,” Calve said after quarter-final loss to Boldykova.


Ekaterina Zavialova of Calgary was 20th, Kimiko Zakreski of Calgary placed 24th, Zoe Rubin of Montreal finished 41st and Alexa Loo or Richmond, B.C., and Marianne Leeson of Burlington were both disqualified.

Source:montrealgazette.com/s

Diane Sawyer has immediate effect on ABC's 'World News'


Reporting from New York - When she took over anchoring ABC's evening newscast last month after 11 years of rising before dawn to host "Good Morning America," Diane Sawyer thought she would finally get to catch up on her sleep. Charles Gibson, Sawyer's predecessor on "World News" and her former co-host on "GMA," had promised her, "Oh, you won't believe the difference," she recalled.

So much for that.

Sawyer kicked off her tenure by traveling to Copenhagen to confront Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad about his nuclear ambitions.

A few weeks later, she was in Afghanistan, where she shadowed U.S. Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal and questioned President Hamid Karzai about corruption in his administration. As she prepared to leave Kabul, Sawyer got word about the deadly earthquake in Haiti and rushed to Port-au-Prince to cover the aftermath, a journey of 20 hours.

Today, she's in Washington to interview President Obama for an exclusive sitdown before the State of the Union.

"I want to write Charlie and say, 'You tricked me!' " Sawyer said with a laugh, back in her New York office Friday during a rare lull in the news.

But she's not complaining. After more than two decades at ABC, the 64-year-old anchor has finally secured the post that colleagues say it was clear she had long sought.

"I do think that I'm probably addicted, if anything, to stretching, and I love the idea of something that is challenging in a new way," she said. "That I love. It wasn't about a position for me.

"It is a thrilling vantage point," she said happily in her snug second-floor office. Dressed in an oversized zip-up cardigan over a fleece vest and black stretch pants, her eyes framed by magenta-colored glasses, she looked more like a college student than a network anchor. "It's a chance to think, plan and have a conversation that ripens all day long into what you collectively believe you are as a broadcast."

In her short time, Sawyer has already introduced some subtle changes -- most notably, adding more on-set conversations with correspondents about their stories.

And she's urged the staff to devote more resources to long-range pieces, though she refused to divulge topics. "I don't want anyone to do them until we do!" she said with a grin.

ABC took a purposefully low-key approach to Sawyer's arrival, putting her on the air right before Christmas without a significant marketing push. So newsroom executives are especially pleased that the audience already appears to be responding.

In her first four weeks as anchor, "World News" averaged 8.8 million viewers, a spike of 8% over its season-to-date average, though it still trails the top-rated "NBC Nightly News."

"Her curiosity, her energy, I think have really given a lift to the program," said executive producer Jon Banner.

Sawyer was known for her hands-on involvement at "GMA," taking an interest in details like video selection, and she's brought that approach to "World News."

"She knows, 'Let's put this picture here, let's do this story here,' " Banner said. "She's a huge contributor to the entire experience of the half hour, which is just great from my point of view."

When the quake hit Haiti, Sawyer and her team in Kabul scrambled to find the quickest way to Port-au-Prince. After traveling all day and night, they arrived in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic and boarded a plane, only to be turned back from the Port-au-Prince airport. On the ground, they finagled a few spots on a private helicopter that finally got Sawyer into the country.

"It was the central story and I wanted to know when I came on the air at night what it felt like, how it was to breathe that air," Sawyer explained, calling the destruction there "inexpressible."

The anchor, who did two broadcasts of "World News" from Haiti and a one-hour prime-time special, slept in a chair at the airport amid jet fumes and the roar of planes.

Sawyer professes to have "negative vanity," calling it "bliss" not to have to get her hair and makeup done first thing in the morning now.

In a new daily feature dubbed “The Conversation” on ABCNews.com, a decidedly unglamorous Sawyer, wearing casual clothes and glasses, chats by webcam with correspondents about the news of the day. The segments show viewers a personal side of the anchor, who admitted to correspondent Jake Tapper in one that her eyes are so bad that she can't read the big E on eye charts, a condition she blames on reading "Gone With the Wind" by the dim light cast by an electric blanket.

Sawyer seems prepared to embrace more new media than Gibson, who posted little material online. Aside from doing "The Conversation," she said she will likely blog and tweet.

But she's still bullish on the power of her newscast, despite the fact that the network news programs have shed millions of viewers since she got her start in broadcasting in 1967 as a local television reporter in Louisville, Ky.

"We can still bring facts to the world that, like Archimedes' fulcrum, can move the whole political debate," Sawyer said. "The expectation that you're not there to entertain, you're there to inform and enrich, I think give these broadcasts enormous heft still."

Source:latimes.com/

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Gates fears pressure on health aid

Bill Gates, one of the world's leading philanthropists, has warned that growing donor support for climate change threatens thousands of lives in the developing world by squeezing out funding for health.

The warning comes as Mr Gates steps up investment in carbon-free energy and green technology.

In an annual letter released today through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation , the world's largest philanthropic organisation, Mr Gates expresses caution over the $100bn (€71bn, £62bn) in extra pledges by rich countries made to the developing world by 2020 at December's Copenhagen climate summit.

He wrote: "If just 1 per cent of the $100bn goal came from vaccine funding, then 700,000 more children could die from preventable diseases. In the long run, not spending on health is a bad deal for the environment because improvements in health, including voluntary family planning, lead people to have smaller families, which in turn reduces the strain on the environment."

The letter also criticises some western nations, in particular Italy which he accuses of being "uniquely stingy among European donors", for backtracking on aid commitments. He expressed "huge disappointment" that even his own personal intervention with Silvio Berlusconi, the premier, last June, failed to boost its generosity.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Gates stressed that by tackling child mortality, his existing programmes were helping reduce the birth rate and cut demographic pressure, while work on improved agricultural crops that were drought resistant was

helping to deal with the consequences of global warming.

He rejected criticism that he had not followed other philanthropists by channelling some of his foundation's $34bn in assets to fight global warming, arguing that the best solution was for-profit investment in new carbon-free energy technologies.

"There's this multi-trillion dollar market and yet the investments in totally new breakthroughs are surprisingly small," Mr Gates said, adding that he had invested "tens of millions" of dollars in ventures such as enhanced nuclear power.

In his letter, Mr Gates stressed that money spent on health and agriculture - two top priorities for his foundation - was "incredibly well spent", and represents only a small proportion of aid from rich countries.

He highlighted backtracking by France and Japan on their traditional high level of support for development, and cautioned that much US aid went to reconstruction efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2010. You may share using our article tools. Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.

Source:ft.com/

Asean set to let world feel its warmth


Competitiveness Enhancement (ACE) Project in close collaboration with the Asean Tourism Association (Aseanta) yesterday presented the campaign to the ministers. ACE is a US Agency for International Development-backed project to help Asean enhance the integration and competitiveness of its travel and tourism sectors.

R J Gurley, project director of ACE, told The Brunei Times the primary objective is to make the site sustainable and improve it over time for the hard launch in March at the tourism expo in Berlin. “We had a presentation to the National Tourism Organisation (NTO) on Thursday and Aseanta President Felix Cruz presented the website and marketing plan to officially ask for endorsement from the NTO. I’m pleased to report that again we have the unanimous, enthusiastic and official endorsement from them for our campaign.”

Oscar Palabyab, Philippine Undersecretary for Tourism Services and Regional Offices, during a meeting with Aseanta representatives reminded them to consider suggestions made by ministers to the website. “Aseanta in return request that materials like images for the website come from the NTOs themselves,” he said.

Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism Dr Thong Khon said the website is an important marketing tool but it still needs to be fine-tuned. “The challenge for Asean to be one destination, however, is we have to promote it a lot and it needs to be further developed.”

Brunei’s Minister of Industry and Primary Resources Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Hj Yahya Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Hj Bakar said Brunei will also play its part in promoting other countries to reciprocate their initiatives to promote the Sultanate as part of the Southeastasia.org initiative to promote intra-regional travel. “We will be carrying out promotions. We have been doing joined promotions for example in Malaysian Borneo states. We don’t see any problem with reciprocating other countries, for example, India. We are promoting them here and they are promoting us as well. It is a joint cooperation,” he said.

Sasithara Pichaichannarong, Thailand’s Permanent Secretary from the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, said the website is Asean’s new marketing tool. “Ten years ago we had ‘Visit Asean’ and now it’s time to change this strategy and marketing tool towards more electronic ways, which is through website presentation rather than printouts. The idea is very good, today we more or less acknowledge it,” she said.

“Southeastasia.org has been recognised means that we recognise they should continue to with modifications according to the suggestions made by ministers,” she added.

Sasithara believes that the cultural diversity of each nation would not be overlooked when promoting Asean as a single tourist destination. “On the contrary, it is an attraction. I sometimes say a Thai looks like Laos and vice versa but both are different. Bruneians may look like Malaysians or Singaporeans but you are not, you are you. These factors attract people, if not they won’t go to different countries, they will visit other countries because of the culture so this is also another marketing tool to attract people to see a number of things,” she said.

Somphong Mongkhonvilay, Minister of Lao National Tourism Administration, speaking on the challenges that Asean is facing in promoting itself as a single tourist destination said, “Once the strategic plan is properly formulated, it would require every country to put in their earnest efforts to realise the objectives envisioned in the plan.” He proposed for member-states to promote themselves along with their closest neighbours, then build this promotion towards a regional approach. “Connectivity via air, road, sea and train linkages is an integral aspect to be considered in this promotion drive.” With reports from Melvin Jong, Ubaidillah Masli and Fitri Shahminan

Source:news.brunei.fm/

China is now world’s second largest market


CHINA easily beat its 2009 growth target after a blistering performance in the fourth quarter that forms a powerful springboard for it to jump over Japan this year to become the world's second-largest economy.

Gross domestic product expanded 10.7 per cent between October and December, compared with a year earlier, roughly meeting market expectations, and up sharply from 8.9 per cent in the third quarter.

"Obviously the month-on-month growth momentum is very strong," said Xing Ziqiang, an economist at CICC in Beijing.

"So I think the chances for us to see an interest rate rise in the first quarter are increasing."

For all of the year, the economy grew 8.7 per cent.

That handily exceeded the official target of 8 per cent, a goal deemed the minimum needed to preserve social stability and one that some sceptics dismissed as fanciful well into 2009.

Initial market reaction to the figures was muted. Shanghai shares were up 0.3 per cent in mid-morning.

The fourth-quarter flourish was flattered by a low base of comparison in the same period a year earlier, when China's export-orientated economy was dragged down by the global financial crisis, costing more than 20 million migrant workers their jobs.

But the double-digit growth is also testimony to the government's rapid response to the downturn, which reached its peak in the second quarter.

A 4 trillion yuan ($US585 billion) fiscal stimulus package was complemented by an unprecedented surge in lending by the nation's predominantly state-owned banks, ensuring that China was the first major economy to recover decisively from the credit crunch.

Indeed, banks have been lending so freely of late that policymakers have turned their attention to nipping inflation in the bud.

The National Bureau of Statistics, which released the GDP figures, also reported that consumer prices rose 1.9 per cent in the year to December, a marked acceleration from November's reading of 0.6 per cent.

Inflation alert

Alarmed by a new burst of credit at the start of January, the central bank last week increased the proportion of deposits that banks must hold in reserve, rather than lending out, and followed through this week by ordering some of them to sharply curtail lending for the rest of the month.

After today's batch of generally strong data, economists said it was only a matter of time before Beijing tightened monetary policy further.

"The overall macro picture is one of continued strength in activity growth and rapidly rising inflation. We believe further policy tightening measures over and beyond what has already been implemented are needed in order control inflation in the coming months," said Yu Song and Helen Qiao of Goldman Sachs in a note.

So far China has resisted international pressure to let the yuan resume its rise after an 18-month pause, but expectations are growing that Beijing will relent in coming months.

"Yuan appreciation is likely to resume in March or April, though the rise will be gradual, say about 3-5 per cent a year," said Xing at CICC.

A stronger exchange rate would damp down inflation and encourage domestic demand, thus helping to rebalance the Chinese as well as the global economy.

China has already taken a slew of steps to spur spending, including subsidies for rural buyers of domestic appliances and tax breaks on fuel-efficient cars, a measure that helped China to overtake the United States in 2009 as the world's largest car market.

Retail sales grew 17.5 per cent in the year to December, accelerating from 15.8 per cent in November and compared with forecasts of a 16.4 percent rise.

Industrial production growth slowed to 18.5 per cent from 19.2 per cent, undercutting market forecasts of a 20.0 per cent increase.

Growth of 8.7 per cent in 2009 fell short of the previous year's rate of 9.6 per cent, but economists polled by Reuters expect a rebound this year to around 9.5 per cent.

That would be enough for China to relegate Japan to number three in the world economic rankings. Goldman Sachs expects China to eclipse the United States as the biggest economy in the world by 2027. - Reuters

Source:solomonstarnews.com/

DP World Sees 2009 Profit Before Tax Down On Throughput Drop

DUBAI (Zawya Dow Jones)--Dubai-based port operator DP World (DPW.DIF) Monday said it expects 2009 profit to drop as falling container volumes amid the global economic slowdown hit earnings.

"Our 8% decline in volumes will lead to a decline in full year profit before tax against the same period last year," DP World Chief Executive Mohammed Sharaf said in an emailed statement. "However management's focus on cost cutting and maintaining revenues has mitigated the downside and we expect to report 2009 results in line with expectations."

DP World shares closed Sunday 1.9% lower at $0.52 on the Nasdaq Dubai exchange.

-By Stefania Bianchi, Dow Jones Newswires; +971 4 4461685; stefania.bianchi@dowjones.com

Source:online.wsj.com/

Brockie still hopeful for World Cup



All Whites midfielder Jeremy Brockie believes he can return to fitness before this year's football World Cup in South Africa.

Brockie was stretchered from the field in the North Queensland Fury's match against the Brisbane Roar at the weekend with a broken leg.

Brockie is hopeful the injury won't dent his chances of being picked in the All Whites squad for South Africa.

He says he has been told he could be back playing somewhere between eight and 10 weeks after surgery and a rehab programme.

Brockie played for the under-23's All Whites at the 2008 Beijing Olympics but did not play in the recent World Cup qualifiers.

Source:tvnz.co.nz/

Lost in a world of toy storeys



Andy Phillips explores the five levels of one man's shrine to playthings and collectables.

My eyes don't know where to look first. Should I gaze at the rare, pristine, unopened Star Wars figures in their original packaging? Or at the Flash Gordon comic - issue No.1? Pressing my face against the glass at the top level of the world's first purpose-built toy museum, it is difficult to know where to begin.

The MINT Museum of Toys, a five-storey establishment between tall buildings close to Singapore's Raffles City complex, is the manifestation of every big kid's dream.

Opened in 2008, it includes more than 50,000 toys from across the world, some worth tens of thousands of dollars. Among the displays is the only Batman sports car in the world known to exist with its original box and a 1950s Dan Dare water pistol now believed to be unique.

With the emphasis on toys of the past, a visit is as magical for grown-ups as it is for children - if not more.

Just as incredible as the sight of the shelves crammed with rare toys and games is the story of museum founder and owner, Chang Yang Fa.

From the age of six, the Singaporean started to collect toys but not in the usual way. Chang left his toys unopened and in their original packaging. By 2008, at the age of 57, he had so many that he was able to open the museum.

He was unable to use his first-choice name - Mint in Box - as the makers of the Men in Black movie franchise took issue with the abbreviation MIB. So he called it MINT, which stands for "Moment of Imagination and Nostalgia with Toys".

The monumental discipline he showed as a child has been rewarded with one of the world's most varied toy collections. Split across the five floors by theme, there are playthings from 40 nations - at last count.

The contemporary building in which the museum is housed has won several architectural awards for its undulating mesh frontage and minimalist interior.

Toys sit on backlit shelves so each gallery looks more like a high-end boutique than a museum and there is a rooftop wine bar and a basement-level cafe.

It is on the fifth-floor gallery of "outer space" toys that I find Star Wars figures from the original series, laid out in their sealed boxes. Behind me looms a life-size figure of Darth Maul, double-edged light sabre in hand.

There are also movie posters from the original Star Wars trilogy and figures of astronauts and space-aged heroes from China, India, Russia and Germany.

Down a flight of steps, level four is devoted to "characters" and includes one of the world's biggest collections of Batman memorabilia. Superman shows his face and there is a huge collection of "Disneyana".

Felix the Cat from the US and the lesser-known Bonzo the Dog (from Britain) are among the third-level floor of "childhood favourites", together with toys from Australia, Japan, Germany and Italy.

The evolution of toys is also covered, with a nostalgic lament on the impact of modern plastics on the hand-built pieces of the past.

Among the "collectables" on level two are examples of the ingenuity that was used in toymaking before they were produced on a mass scale. There are monkeys that climb ropes, the first wind-up toys and a pair of tumbling acrobats from Germany - a male and a female.

Just about the only character I don't see portrayed is Chang himself. There are no photos of him in the museum and it is clear that he gives few interviews.

But seeing his life's pride and joy throughout the museum reveals enough of his character to know that he's just like the rest of us: a big kid at heart.

MINT Museum of Toys, 36 Seah Street, Singapore, open daily from 9.30am-6.30pm. See emint.com.

Source:smh.com.au/

'Bring it on' _ Flatt, Nagasu ready to challenge world and all those critics of US skating


SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — They're young, don't have much experience and no one's giving them any chance of winning a medal in Vancouver. As for those NBC commercials that will be on perma-play this next month, suffice it to say Rachael Flatt and Mirai Nagasu won't have starring roles like Lindsey Vonn or Apolo Anton Ohno.

"Bring it on," Nagasu said, a touch of defiance beneath her smile. "At this Olympics, it's just Rachael and me and we're just going to blow them away."

Then she cocked her finger and pointed: "Bang. Bang. Bang."

The Americans have been looking for their next big things since Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen stepped away in 2006, and there's been much angst over the powerhouse's loss of prominence and prestige. The United States has just two spots in Vancouver, failing to qualify for the maximum for only the second time since 1924. The gold medal contenders are from half a world away, South Korea's Kim Yu-na and Japan's Mao Asada.

But Flatt, 17, and Nagasu, 16, might be just the skaters to turn things around. What they lack in experience and exposure they make up for with youthful enthusiasm.

And lest anyone forget, nobody picked the 16-year-old Sarah Hughes to win a medal in Salt Lake City, let alone a gold one.

"We need to embrace the challenge, and I'm sure we're both up for it," Flatt said. "We're young and spirited and have lots of enthusiasm, so I think that will bode well for the Olympics."

Flatt may not have the natural grace and ease that made skaters such as Cohen and Kwan so successful (and popular). But she stuffs her program with so much difficulty she can overwhelm the competition. She was one of only two women to do a triple-triple combination Saturday night, and she did five more triples, including two others in combination.

Those four triples she did in combination? That was more than some skaters did total.

Her overall score of 200.11 makes her the first U.S. woman to crack the 200-point barrier and puts her in Kim and Asada territory.

And forget about flops, Flatt is as consistent as a metronome. She won the U.S. title Saturday after finishing second the previous two years. She made a very respectable debut at worlds last year by finishing fifth, and she's the 2008 junior world champion. She's been fourth or better at all of her Grand Prix events.

"I would love to be both, steady and spectacular," Flatt said. "I've been pushing the envelope, but I haven't quite been 100 percent happy with all of my performances. I'm always on the cusp of doing something that feels absolutely incredible and completely exhilarating."

Nagasu was on the brink of stardom when she won the U.S. title two years ago. Just 14, she was perky and precious and was as entertaining off the ice as she was on it. For as gifted as she is, though, Nagasu is also a very typical teenager. When she struggled last year, part of it was ordinary teenage angst and rebellion.

But she switched coaches last spring and now works with Frank Carroll, and the move has made all the difference. Personality oozes from her programs as she uses every inch of her body — from the top of her head to the very tips of her fingers — to bring characters to life.

Her sexy, saucy and powerful "Carmen" sure proved that. She started with a seductive little dance and flew from there. Her double axel-triple toe combination was so massive it would have gone from blue to blue line had this been a hockey rink. Her spins are fabulous, done with the flexibility of a rubberband.

She also has found a way to blend the artistry and athleticism that makes skating so enticing — a quality many complain has been lost under the current judging system — by linking her jumps and spins with intricate steps and other deceptively difficult maneuvers. Instead of a series of elements, her programs are more like an entire piece of art.

She skates with her heart, too, and everyone in the arena is touched by it. She had the audience clapping in time to her music not even a third of the way into the program, and fans were on their feet when she still had a good 15 seconds to go.

Best of all, while Flatt and Nagasu have very different personalities, they're both strong enough to carry their sport.

Flatt is the daughter of a molecular biologist and a chemical engineer, and all she's done is make straight A's her entire life. She's applied to nine schools, most of them in the Ivy League. (To give you an idea of how stout the list is, she ranked UCLA as one of her "safety" schools.)

She now counts Dorothy Hamill as a friend and mentor, riding the bus to the arena with the Olympic gold medalist Saturday night.

Source:latimes.com/s

KELLY'S WORLD - Commissioner job anyone?



So, there I was, moaning and groaning about our weather when Haitians would love it if their biggest problem was feeling nippy.

The quake definitely helped me put things into perspective and I hope we all tried to help in some way. Of course, since then, I realise that the Jamaican Government seems to need help in knowing what to do with our money. This, after the news broke about the handsome pay, members of the FINSAC commission are getting.

I think, when I grow up, I want to be head of a commission of enquiry, especially one that may not solve anything for those afflicted. Now, that sounds like a good job for the chairman/adjudicator or whoever, but not for the victims. Remember, the enquiry commissioners are getting that dough for themselves, not to pay the legal folks who have been doing the paperwork, taking the notes, arranging the proceedings, etc. Plus, only one commissioner is retired, so the other two are already making their own dough.

But paying people handsomely to do stuff that hasn't helped the average Jamaican is nothing new. Jamaican taxpayers have had to fund events/spectacles that will leave the historians scratching their heads and wondering "what was that for?"

Remember back in the late '90s, when Jamaica qualified for the World Cup? We got the brilliant idea to go for the Guinness Book of World Records as having the biggest football. Well, the ball turned out not to be a ball after all as it wasn't made of the same material as a regulation-size football. So, after the money was spent to create it and promote it, I don't see where we ended up with anything substantial for our efforts.

How about the West Kingston Commission when, at times, chairman Justice Julius Isaacs was 'fas' asleep' during testimony? I know it was lengthy but c'mon man, 27 people were killed during the incident! And in the end, no member of the police was charged. Some commissions of enquiry come back inconclusive while, for others, we're still waiting for the results (does Armadale ring a bell?).

And we do it with more events than just enquiries. Remember the coroner's inquest into Bob Woolmer's death? And what about the countdown clock to show how much time we had before the year 2000? Trying to prepare Jamaica for the expected shutdown of computers as Y2K dawned (which never really happened) is one thing, but a clock to show us the time? (sigh).

No doubt, we've been penny wise and pound foolish many times. We could have used all those monies for something else, like giving me a raise. Later.

Tell me what you'd do with the commission money at daviot.kelly@gleanerjm.com

Source:jamaica-gleaner.com/

Dutch designer inspired by gory world of the trenches



During haute couture week in Paris, the most extravagant dresses on earth are unveiled amidst a rarefied atmosphere of gilt chairs and scented air.


However, as the first show of the spring/summer 2010 couture collections demonstrated yesterday, there's more to made-to-measure fashion than Cinderella ballgowns. The Dutch designer Josephus Thimister's creations were inspired by the "bloodshed and opulence" of 1915, and featured jackets, tank tops and trousers evoking Russian army uniforms and splattered with fake blood.

Past inspirations for other designer's couture shows have included Vermeer and organ music, but Thimister, 47, whose grandmother was a White Russian princess, told AFP that he wanted to express the fact that "it's a tough world we live in," and "even in ugly, rough and tough pieces you can find a kind of poetry". His collection, which was a mix of couture and ready-to-wear pieces for men and women, featured variations on long officer's coats from WW1, slim jodhpurs and evening dresses in red and khaki or beaded finishes.

The show marks a fashion comeback for Thimister, who has been invited to show as a guest member of the Chambre Syndicale, the French body that controls which brands can use the legally protected label of haute couture. After working as the creative director of the esteemed fashion house Balenciaga from 1991 to 1997, Thimister launched his eponymous ready-to-wear collection in 1997. In his late Nineties heyday he dressed Madonna and showed during the couture schedule in 1998, but was forced to close his label due to lack of investment.

However, rich couture clients who want something more traditionally glamorous might want to wait until later in the week before flexing their Coutts cards. Today will see Christian Dior, one of the grandest and most quintessentially Parisian houses on the couture calendar, unveiling its latest collection by the British-born designer John Galliano, followed by Giorgio Armani's Privé line. Other big names later in the week will include Chanel, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, Givenchy, Jean-Paul Gaultier and Valentino. A couture dress requires several fittings, take 800 hours to make and costs anywhere between tens and hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Sadly, Christian Lacroix, the couturier famed for his richly coloured, flamboyant designs, is no longer showing at couture week after being declared bankrupt and reduced to a licensing operation last year.

The number of fashion houses showing their collections as part of the event has dwindled from around 100 in 1945 to just 11 official couture members. However ready to wear labels are showing their pre-collections during the event, and the Chambre Syndicale has invited jewellers including Chanel, Dior and Boucheron to present their fantastic designs on Thursday as part of a day dedicated to their craft. Couture's high-rolling clients might find that their exclusive Parisian shopping spree just became a whole lot more expensive.

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Source:ndependent.co.uk/

37 hours. 102 sets. Two tired strangers. One Guinness World record


TWO ordinary Sydney dads have completed an extraordinary journey together, embracing in the middle of a suburban tennis court.
They were strangers just a few weeks ago.

Gavin White, 39, and Jeganathan "Jega" Ramasamy, 48, both from Epping, set out on Friday to play the world's longest continuous singles tennis match.

Battling shocking heat throughout Saturday, followed by rain, fatigue, sleep depravation and even delirium, the pair were supported by a team of family and friends as they smashed the Guinness World Record by almost an hour .

Gavin had placed an ad in the local paper, keen to find a partner to break the previous record of 36 hours and 36 minutes and raise money for the Haitian earthquake victims. Jega was the man who answered the call.

Starting at 7pm Friday, they played under lights at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre into a blistering Saturday, when temperatures hit 39.5C, even hotter on court.
Then came the afternoon's cool change and the rain of Saturday night and Sunday morning.

Finally, at 11.32am yesterday Gavin played a forehand winner down the line and the scorer called "game". It was then the pair agreed to call it quits, having unofficially set a record of 37 hours and 32 minutes, made up of 35 consecutive matches.

And out of those 102 sets, Jega's greatest glory came early on Sunday when he won a set tie-break to claim a 7-6 thriller.

It was the only set the still smiling father of four won.

As emotional families and friends rallied around the pair, Gavin revealed the moment that he had hit rock-bottom.

"Some time around 2am I was absolutely delirious," he said.

"I thought, 'How can I possibly keep doing this?' because at that stage I was barely able to stand up."

But with help from his support team he and Jega played on.

Neither had trained for the attempt and Jega said he'd responded to Gavin's ad because he always liked a challenge. "I thought this crazy man; I should join this crazy man," he said, pointing at himself and his partner.It could be up to six weeks until the record is made official. But the real winners are the people of Haiti - and two extraordinary men.

Source:heraldsun.com.au/

World News in Brief

Militants ambushed Pakistani security forces at checkpoints in two regions close to the Afghan border yesterday, sparking gunbattles that left 22 insurgents and two troops dead, officials said. Elsewhere in the northwest, a suicide bomber killed a police officer and three passers-by, part of a relentless wave of violence by Al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents also blamed for attacks on U.S. and NATO troops across the frontier in Afghanistan. (AP)

A roadside bomb killed two U.S. service members in southern Afghanistan, NATO said in a statement yesterday. No further details were given. The deaths bring the total number of Americans killed in Afghanistan so far this year to at least 22, according to an Associated Press tally. The south is the Taliban heartland and is expected to be a major focus of fighting as the U.S. and NATO allies send 37,000 additional troops to rout the insurgency. (AP) Advertisement


British actress Jean Simmons, who starred opposite Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet" during a career spanning 60 years, has died in California, Los Angeles Times reported yesterday. Simmons, who was 80 and had lung cancer, died at her home in Santa Monica on Friday night, it quoted her agent Judy Page as saying. Born in London, Simmons started acting in British films as a teenager and later moved to the United States to star in movies such as the 1955 musical "Guys and Dolls" with Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, and Stanley Kubrick's "Spartacus" with Kirk Douglas in 1960. Simmons won a best supporting actress Oscar nomination for playing Ophelia in "Hamlet" in 1948. (Reuters)

The U.S. Marine Corps wrapped up nearly seven years in Iraq yesterday, handing over duties to the U.S. Army and signaling the beginning of an accelerated withdrawal of American troops as the U.S. turns its focus away from the waning Iraqi war to a growing one in Afghanistan. In Baghdad, meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden held talks with Iraqi leaders amid rising tensions over plans to ban election candidates because of suspected links to Saddam Hussein's regime. The White House worries this could raise questions over the fairness of the March 7 elections. (AP)

Saudi Arabia's assistant defense minister said yesterday that the bodies of 20 of the 26 soldiers reported missing were found on the border, raising the toll for the fight against Yemen's Shi'ite rebels to 133. Prince Khaled bin Sultan told reporters that the bodies were found after liberating areas around Dokhan mountain, a strategic high point in the rugged border region. (AP)

Pope Benedict XVI has a new commandment for priests struggling to get their message across: Go forth and blog. The pope, whose own presence on the Web has grown heavily in recent years, urged priests yesterday to use all multimedia tools at their disposal to preach the Gospel and engage in dialogue with people of other religions and cultures. And just using e-mail or surfing the Web is often not enough: Priests should use cutting-edge technologies to express themselves and lead their communities, Benedict said in a message released by the Vatican. (AP)

Source:haaretz.com/

PRGMEA joins world apparel federation

KARACHI: The Pakistan Readymade Garments Manufacturers and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) has joined International Apparel Federation (IAF), making Pakistan the 44th country to join hands with the grouping on apparel trade, PRGMEA Chairman Mohsin Ayub Mirza said in a statement on Saturday.

The Federation’s aims and objectives include consolidation and collaboration between apparel industries across the world in order to promote fashion industries and present innovative ideas and solutions to multiple challenges.

Ijaz A Khokhar, former central chairman of PRGMEA, recently attended the 25th World Apparel Convention in New Delhi, India in which PRGMEA was formally inducted as a full member of IAF.

The PRGMEA chairman said becoming the member of a prestigious body like IAF would help Pakistan’s apparel industry and exporters establish worldwide business contacts. These would foster dialogue and knowledge-sharing, exchange between individuals active in the world apparel value chain for the betterment of business practices, promotion of international image of Pakistan’s apparel sector, advancement of technology and promotion of its use, encouragement of innovation and new ways of thinking and improvement of social, health and safety and environmental conditions relating to the apparel chain worldwide, and advancement of apparel education and training.

The IAF is a worldwide knowledge network that collects and disseminates information about statistics, bench-marking, developments in apparel design, manufacturing, distribution, sourcing, trade and technology. Mirza said soon efforts would be made to invite IAF members from all over the globe along with different buyers and brand heads to explore the potential of Pakistan’s apparel industry. “All this is possible once the law and order situation improves in the country.”

Source:thenews.com.pk/

World Cup venues pass first test



Two of South Africa's World Cup venues witnessed their first football matches on Saturday in preparation for the tournament.


GettyImages
The Peter Mokaba Stadium is ready to go.
The Cape Town Stadium hosted a local derby between Santos and Ajax Cape Town while the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane held an-all day tournament and both stadiums passed the first test of their readiness for the big event in June.

The Peter Mokaba Stadium is one of the five new stadiums that were built up from the dust. It will host four group stage matches including a much anticipated clash between France and Mexico. On Saturday, the stadium held just one less match than it would in the entire World Cup, with no complications.

The Peter Mokaba Cup, featuring defending South African Premiership team SuperSport United, Soweto giants, Kaizer Chiefs, student Premiership side, BIDvest Wits and Danish club Brondby, saw two semi-finals and a final played on the same day.

Roger de Sá, former South African goalkeeper and coach of BIDvest Wits said the stadium handled the day professionally. "All round it's a very good stadium. The training grounds are close by and the stadium itself has a good pitch and tight atmosphere with modern touches."

Part of that upgrade involved security. Police spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo said more police officers than normal were deployed in the Polokwane area for the event. The stadium has a capacity of 46,000 but less than half of it was occupied for the Cup. More than 18,000 tickets were sold, according to Ndavhe Ramakuela, the Director of 2010 in the Polokwane Municipality.

A slightly larger number of fans piled into the revamped Cape Town Stadium to watch the derby match between the two Premiership teams. Twenty thousand tickets were made available and the match was sold out. The event was dubbed the Cape Town Soccer Festival and also had a musical performance by Freshly Ground and an official blessing.

Danny Jordaan, CEO of the Organising Committee, said he hopes Cape Town would come together as a community for the eight matches that will play out there. "We want this stadium to have a significant number of supporters from Cape Town, so that they can enjoy the stadium; so that they can embrace the fans coming and get into the spirit of being good hosts. It would be sad if you have a party in your house, and there's not a single one of your family members in the house," said Jordaan.

The match was also used as an opportunity to test the transport arrangement. Almost all of the ticket holders used the free park and ride facility and organisers said there were no glitches. Security was significantly increased ahead of the match. A thousand police officers from 24 different units patrolled the area around and inside the stadium on the day. The stadium will be tested again in two weeks time when a rugby match will see over 40,000 allowed into the venue.

Source:soccernet.espn.go.com/

Lange tops four-man World Cup bobsled, Rush seventh



IGLS, Austria — Andre Lange of Germany clinched the European four-man bobsled championship with his victory Sunday in the season-ending World Cup race.

Lange, who will be looking to defend his Olympic gold in both the two-man and four-man next month in Vancouver, crossed the finish line in a winning time one minute 42.59 seconds, just 0.05 ahead of Ivo Rueegg of Switzerland. Thomas Florschuetz of Germany won the bronze.

Lyndon Rush of Humboldt, Sask., partnered up with Chris le Bihan of Kelowna, B.C., David Bissett of Edmonton and Calgary’s Lascelles Brown in the Canada 1 sled and finished seventh in 1:42.75.

Pierre Lueders of Edmonton, Justin Kripps of Summerland, B.C., Jesse Lumsden of Burlington, Ont., and Neville Wright of Edmonton finished 16th (1:43.50).

American Steven Holcomb, who secured the overall World Cup title in the four-man with his victory last weekend in St. Moritz, was eighth in 1:42.77.
Source:montrealgazette.com/

World Cup is too high a target for Zambia, says Herve Renard


KickOff.com speaks exclusively to Zambia’s coach Herve Renard on the eve of his team’s African Nations Cup quarterfinal with Nigeria in Lubango on Monday.

How delighted are you with a place in the last eight?
“It’s a good achievement. Before the tournament I spoke a lot about making our target to reach the quarterfinals. I think some people thought I was a little bit mad. But when we were in our training camp in Johannesburg we spoke a lot to the players about this and about reaching the quarterfinals as our target. Even if the group was very tough, we were sure of our objective. We are so happy because not many believe in us. As a coach I did not have too many supporting me.”

Is this some consolation for not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa?
“No, it’s not a consolation. The World Cup is too high a target for Zambia. A lot of people don’t agree with me but I continue to say it’s too early for Zambia.

For you personally, what has been achieved here in Angola is a great way for a young coach to make a name and create an international profile?
“I was with Claude LeRoy as assistant coach of Ghana but I came to Zambia because I’m ambitious. It was a very good opportunity for me. People won’t be happy if I say I have had to work with an average team. When I came they were ranked 13th in Africa. Zambia have qualified for a lot of Nations Cups but since 1996 they haven’t been to the quarterfinals. One of my early targets was to say that we could again go to the second round. I am ambitious for myself. I want to coach a very big team elsewhere in the world or in Africa. If it is possible, a team like Cameroon or Ivory Coast.

What are the qualities of your team?
“There is a lot of skill, to compare with the best in Africa. We have a lot of skillful players. But we need better organisation because one of the difficulties is the players sometimes forget on the pitch what they need to do. We also don’t have a player with big international experience. Sometimes they are afraid of big names and big teams but we have nothing to fear really. Physically we can hold our own. What has been missing is the experience. The best example was in the recent game against Cameroon were we played so well in the first half and we were in the game until just a few minutes to go but made mistakes and got punished. This side has a lot of potential. They can be proud of what they have done.”

Is it easier not having a big star player, like Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto’o, in your side?
“I’d prefer to have Drogba in my team! These are players who can make all the difference for a team. I often joke with Kalusha Bwalya (Zambia FA president) that we could win this Nations Cup if he was still playing at his peak. What we are really missing is one very strong defender with a lot of experience. A big captain, who can take the side up to another level.”

What about your chances against Nigeria?
“We played them three weeks ago and we played very well (the Nations Cup warm-up match in Durban ended goalless). I think now teams will be very careful about Zambia. We will go out to play our football, try to stay organised and try to play as quick as we usually do. Our offensive players have the capability of making a difference. There is a risk what the players might be satisfied with reaching the quarterfinals but I have already talked to them about this. We have to set ourselves a new target. I don’t want the players to be satisfied, we must try now to get a medal. Everything from now on is a bonus, but we must take these bonuses.”

Is there a fear perhaps about playing a team with as formidable a reputation as Nigeria?
“We don’t care who we are playing against. It is our team that can create a lot of problems for the big sides. I told the players in 2008 they were looking at the shoes of Samuel Eto’o, now they are on the same pitch as him. Zambia has a team with great potential for the future, with several new players who have done well here. Mbola, Sunzu, Thomas Nyirenda at right back. There is super potential in Zambia but we need better facilities if we are to reach our potential.”

Source:zambianwatchdog.com/

Deportivo defender Luis' season and World Cup hopes over after surgery on ankle

A CORUNA, Spain — Deportivo La Coruna defender Filipe Luis' season - and World Cup hopes - are over after the Brazilian was ruled out for up to six months.

Filipe underwent surgery on his broken right ankle Sunday, one day after falling awkwardly after scoring and with Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Gorka Iraizoz landing on top of him in Deportivo's 3-1 victory in the Spanish league.

Deportivo says Filipe will be immobilized for the next four weeks and will need a minimum of four months to recover.

The 24-year-old Filipe has been Deportivo's standout player this season. He had also been likely to make Brazil's squad for the World Cup later this year after making his international debut in 2009 against Venezuela.

Source:AFP