Notice Board

June 6 official day off

KUWAIT: The Civil services Commission (CSC) recently issued a directive pertaining considering Thursday, June 6 a day off in various governmental establishments and organizations on the occasion of celebrating the Isra’ and Me’raj anniversary

                                                                                                                                                                                                           -Kuwait Times

Explosion and gunfire shake Kabul


There has been a large explosion in the centre of the Afghan capital, Kabul, followed by heavy gunfire.

Afghan Channel One TV quoted police as saying a group of assailants had entered the Directorate of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF).

It said some of the attackers had taken up positions in the building.

"We are dealing with a well co-ordinated attack," said Kabul police chief Gen Ayub Salangi. "Afghan forces will deal with them."

Some reports said there had been several blasts, with Channel One reporting at least one suicide bomber in the APPF building. Ambulances were shown heading for the scene of the attack.

The Taliban said they were responsible for the attack, according to a report by AFP news agency.

Reports say smoke was seen over the centre of the city and the blast was felt several kilometres away.

Shopkeepers in the area said the explosion had shattered their windows. Part of Kabul was cordoned off.

Pakistan Airlines flight diverted over British airspace


RAF Typhoon jets have been launched to investigate an incident involving a civilian aircraft within UK airspace, the Ministry of Defence has said.

A Pakistan International Airlines plane has been diverted from Manchester to Stansted Airport, a Manchester Airport spokesman said.

An Essex Police spokeswoman added: "An incident has occurred on an aircraft. Police and partners are responding."

The BBC understands that the plane has now landed in Stansted.

The plane reportedly left Lahore at 09:35 local time. It was due in at Manchester at 1400 BST.

Bank Accounts Hacked


Some persons two days ago reportedly hacked the local bank accounts of some customers with the help of sophisticated software and technical means, reports Al-Anba daily quoting banking sources.

The sources added the suspects targeted the accounts of customers who purchase goods via the Internet and reveal their passwords to some unlicensed sites. This was the reason why the hackers were able to penetrate their accounts in a very short period of time.

However, once the money is withdrawn the customer gets a text message on his/her cell phone. The sources added some customers withdrew their money from some banks and then changed their password. Several customers are said to have filed complaints with the banks through which they operate their accounts.

The sources said the Central Bank of Kuwait is pursuing the file via its specialized organs to develop protection programs.

                                                                                     -Arab Times

Many Asians Nabbed In Illegal Call Centres Raid


n their continuing illicit activities, security operatives from Farwaniya led by Acting Director of Farwaniya and Jahra Directorates Major General Ibrahim Tarrah raided 11 illegitimate call centers in the area — with the help of the telecommunications sector, and apprehended 11 Asians for running illegal call business.

Security sources said the suspects offered illegal international call services to customers at low cost until security operatives managed to trail and arrest them, in coordination with personnel from the telecommunications sector. All suspects have since been referred to the concerned authority for legal action.

In a related story, security officers nabbed 12 individuals in Farwaniya for violating residency law. Sources said nearly all of those arrested were wanted in various police stations for other offenses. They have been referred for further investigation

                                                                                   -Arab Times

Indian-origin Srinivasan confirmed as top US court judge


Indian-American Srikanth Srinivasan Thursday scripted history after he was confirmed as the first South Asian judge to America's second highest court.Described as "trailblazer" by US President Barack Obama Chandigarh-born Srinivasan's nomination to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit was unanimously approved by the Senate with 97 voting in favour.

With Senate confirmation, 46-year-old Srinivasan has become the first Indian-American to be appointed to the top American court.

He was first nominated by Obama on June 11, 2012. On January 2, 2013, his nomination was returned to the president, due to the sine die adjournment of the Senate. On January 3, 2013, Obama re-nominated him for the same office.

Srinivasan was born in Chandigarh, and grew up in Lawrence, Kansas.

He received his BA with honours and distinction in 1989 from StanfordUniversity and his JD (Juris Doctor) with distinction in 1995 from StanfordLawSchool, where he was elected to Order of the Coif and served as an editor of the Stanford Law Review.

He also holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which he received along with his JD in 1995.

Srinivasan began his legal career by serving as a law clerk for Judge J Harvie Wilkinson on the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit from 1995 to 1996.

For his work, he received the Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Furthering US National Security in 2003 and the Office of the Secretary of Defence Award for Excellence in 2005.


Cabinet nod for Malayalam as classical language


 After nearly three years of deliberation at various levels, the Union Cabinet on Thursday declared Malayalam as a classical language. 

Telugu and Kannada have already been declared classical languages. 

However, the Cabinet decision is subject to the outcome of a writ petition pending in the Madras high court. As classical language, major benefits would accrue to Malayalam. This includes announcement of two major annual international awards for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages. A Centre of Excellence for Studies in Classical Languages would be set up. Also, the University Grants Commission (UGC) would be requested to create, initially in the Central Universities, a certain number of professional chairs for classical languages for scholars of eminence in classical Indian languages. 

Request to declare Malayalam as a classical language was made by the Kerala government and few other organizations. The pleas were referred to the Sahitya Akademi and later discussed by the Committee of Linguistic Experts. A meeting of this committee was held in January, 2011. The members deliberated on the subject and suggested that the Committee of Linguistic Experts may be reconstituted. Finally, a new panel was constituted and the decision was made.


Authorities unlawfully approve banned drugs, go scot-free

 People of this country, even babies, are being given drugs banned in other parts of the world. The health ministry and regulatory authority responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of medicines sold here continue to dither over banning these drugs despite a parliamentary committee specifically recommending an immediate ban on such drugs.

No action has been taken against officials in the regulatory authority, Central Drug Standards Control Organization (CDSCO), who gave unlawful approval for these drugs to be marketed in India despite parliamentary committee seeking immediate action against them.

In its action taken report (ATR), on the recommendations of the parliamentary committee made in May last year, the health ministry seems to speak with a forked tongue.

In the ATR the ministry stated that it had decided to suspend marketing approval of all drugs prohibited for sale in the US, UK, EU, Australia, Japan and Canada for safety reasons but has not banned a single such drug since May 2012. The department-related parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare has made specific references to several drugs which were either banned for adverse reactions or were being used in India for treatments for which they were not given approval.

For instance, the committee referred to the unlawful approval of Buclizine, a drug of no public health importance to India and which was being given to babies and children. This anti-allergic drug was approved in June 2006 for appetite stimulation without clinical trials and without consulting experts for use in children. This was done despite the fact that the company producing the medicine itself states that "because of lack of approved clinical studies and scientific data", Buclizine was not meant for appetite stimulation.

Even in Belgium, the originator country of Buclizine, it is not approved for appetite stimulation. Drugs and Cosmetic Rule 30-B bans the import and marketing of any drug the use of which is prohibited in the country of origin. The committee has sought action against officials in theCDSCO who approved Buclizine to be marketed for appetite stimulation in gross violation of the rules. Instead, the health ministry states that the DCGI will constitute an enquiry committee to look into the matter, a move the committee calls "dilatory tactics being adopted by the Ministry to somehow delay action against the wrongdoers".

Similarly, another medicine, Deanxit, an anti-depressant, was approved in 1998 flouting several rules. Deanxit is a combination of two drugs one of which has never been approved in India, plus, all combinations are treated as new drugs and can be used only after the necessary clinical trials. However, Deanxit seems to have no import permission and no document showing any clinical trials. Moreover, Deanxit was and continues to be prohibited for sale and use in Denmark, its country of origin.

And, Drugs and Cosmetic Rule 30-B bans the import and marketing of any drug the use of which is prohibited in the country of origin.

The committee felt that the DCGI should have gone into the reasons for the drug not being marketing in major developed countries such as United States, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Japan and Australia where there is greater demand for anti-depressants.

The committee sought immediate "concrete and exemplary action" by the ministry against functionaries of the CDSCO for the unlawful approval and reversal of the approval stating that it was "an open and shut case that needs immediate action, not promise of prolonged fruitless deliberation designed to delay action". "Why should the people of India consume a questionable drug approved in a questionable manner even for a day longer, more so when the drug regulator of the innovator country Denmark is not allowing its use within its jurisdiction but allowing its export to developing countries with weak or non-existent drug regulation? ", asked the committee.

In its May 2012 report the committee referred to several such cases of unlawful approval of drugs. But ten months later, beyond promising to constitute inquiry committees, no action has been taken against the officials who colluded neither have the approvals for these drugs been withdrawn.

"If perpetrators of such illegalities and collusive acts which are detrimental to public health are allowed to go scot-free then the total collapse of an ethical health care system is inevitable," stated the committee.


Anyone can record a dying declaration, Supreme Court rules

You need not be a police officer, doctor or a magistrate to record the dying declaration, a statement accusing those responsible for the death of the person making his last possible statement.

The Supreme Court has found this to be true in law, at least in cases where the person dies of burn injuries. "The law on the issue can be summarized to the effect that law does not provide who can record a dying declaration, nor is there any prescribed form, format or procedure for the same," said a bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Dipak Misra while reversing the high court ordered acquittal in a dowry death case.

While indicating that any member of public could record the statement of a dying person, the bench said the only caveat was that the person recording the dying declaration must be sure that the one making the statement was in a proper mental condition to do so.

"The person who records a dying declaration must be satisfied that the maker is in a fair state of mind and is capable of making such a statement," said Justice Chauhan, who authored the judgment on behalf of the bench.

But, how does a lay man understand that a dying man is in a proper frame of mind to make the statement? The court left it to the discretion of the individual recording the statement and said a doctor's certificate about the dying man's mental condition was not necessary to make the dying declaration acceptable as evidence.

"Moreover, the requirement of a certificate provided by a doctor in respect of such state of the deceased, is not essential in every case," the bench said.

In the case at hand, a Damoh trial court had convicted one Dal Singh and his wife for setting ablaze their daughter-in-law, who had been subjected to cruelty in the matrimonial home. However, finding that she had suffered 100% burn injuries, the Madhya Pradesh High Courtacquitted the accused doubting the veracity of the woman's dying declaration.

MP's standing counsel Vibha Datta Makhija argued that the HC was not justified in doubting the dying declaration as there were sufficient evidence on record to show that the daughter-in-law was ill-treated by her parents-in-law and were responsible for her death.

"A person having 100% burns can make a statement, and a certificate provided by a doctor is not a condition precedent for placing reliance upon a dying declaration," she said and argued for reversal of the acquittal.


Use The Zebra Crossing … KD 25 Fine, 15 Days Jail For Jaywalkers


Assistant Undersecretary for Traffic Affairs at the Ministry of Interior Major-General Abdulfattah Al-Ali has warned pedestrians against violating the traffic law, reports Al-Rai daily.

Al-Ali said pedestrians must use only the zebra crossing to cross the roads wherever there are such signs. He also stressed the pedestrians should wait for the road crossing pedestrian signal to turn green.

He added violators of this law will be fined KD 25, a maximum of 15 days imprisonment or either one of the two penalties.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             -Arab Times

Spot-fixing probe reaches doorstep of BCCI chief's family

CHENNAI/MUMBAI: The IPL fixing scandal has reached the doorstep of Indian cricket's powerful boss and Chennai Super Kings (CSK) owner N Srinivasan's family -- quite literally.

A day after The Times of India broke the story about the police investigating Srinivasan's son-in-law and CSK CEO Gurunath Meiyappan's phone conversations with Dara Singh's son Vindu for possible links with a betting syndicate, a five-member crime branch team from Mumbai arrived in Chennai on Thursday morning to serve summons on Meiyappan.

They first went to the headquarters of Srinivasan-controlled India Cements, and on finding no one there, stuck a copy of the summons on the door before going to Meiyappan's home around 2pm to instruct him to present himself before the CB between 11am and 5pm within 24 hours.

But with no member of the family available to meet the team, they were initially not let in by the guard; after several phone calls, they were allowed into the compound. Rama Subbu, the chief security officer of India Cements, arrived soon thereafter and was seen signing a paper which the officers handed him. Strangely though, on his way out, he denied having received any summons on behalf of Meiyappan.

Later in the evening, the crime branch is reported to have received a one-page fax from Meiyappan saying he was out of town and seeking time till Monday, with the assurance that he would appear in person. A top police officer told TOI on Thursday night that no decision had been taken on whether to allow him the extra time. If the police were to reject such a request, which seems unlikely, Meiyappan could be arrested. To avoid such a situation, he could move the courts on Friday seeking anticipatory bail. "This may give him a few days, but eventually he will have to appear," an officer said.

The whereabouts of the 35-year-old continued to be shrouded in mystery with speculation placing him variously in Kodaikanal (where he has a holiday home), Kolkata (where CSK plays the IPL finals on Sunday against the winners of the Mumbai Indians vs Rajasthan Royals match) and Delhi (to prepare his legal defence with top-flight lawyers).

Nor is there any word as to where the BCCI chief might be although New Delhi was abuzz with rumours that he would leverage his considerable clout to counter what his supporters consider a "politically-motivated conspiracy to discredit him".

On May 16, the day Sreesanth and his two Rajasthan Royals were arrested, Srinivasan had said, "One or two bad eggs cannot sully the game," before stating, on further questioning, "I hope nobody else is involved, but if information comes to BCCI, we will act immediately."


Jahra robbery gang in police custody


Jahra police arrested five people, who admitted responsibility for the multiple home robberies and thefts reported at police stations around the governorates. Police obtained surveillance tapes from a company that had reported the theft of a safe containing KD500. Through those tapes, the officers were able to identify the main suspect. The man was arrested in an ambush in Riggai being identified as a Syrian fugitive who had received a five-year jail sentence for previous crimes. After the arrest, he revealed the identity of his accomplices – two Syrian nationals and two stateless residents – who were then arrested in separate operations in Jahra and Salmiya. Investigations revealed that all the gang members had criminal records and were wanted in connection with various cases. The group led the police to a location in Salmi desert where they had kept the items they had stolen from companies, houses and pedestrians.

Drunk officer held Three people, including a police officer, were arrested recently for intoxication and possession of what was suspected to be an illegal drug. The arrest took place in Al-Khairan, where the special task force officers and two others were reportedly found by the patrol police to be under the influence of alcohol. A substance found in their possession was sent for testing, according to the police report. The detainees were referred to the Drug Control General Department for further action.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              -Kuwait Times

KNPC stresses human resources a priority


KNPC stresses human resources a priority

KUWAIT: Managing Director of the Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC) Mohammed Ghazi Al- Mutairi said yesterday that the company has four priorities which it will be working on during the next phase, chiefly the development of the human element. Mutairi told reporters yesterday during a meeting with wellwishers over assuming his new post that priorities also include paying more attention to health, safety and the environment as well as the development of the company’s performance, increasing revenue, achieving better indicators and finally focusing on major projects according to clear-cut plans. He expressed his thanks to the Minister of Oil and CEO of KNPC for this nomination, expressing optimism in achieving further development at the level of the KNPC and all subsidiary companies through teamwork and according to a specific strategy. He said that “this precious trust requires us to work for the development and modernization of the company’s performance over the long term”, noting that the new leadership team has been shouldered this big task by the government and the political leadership as the oil sector is the backbone of development and the main source of income in the state. — KUNA

Re 1 rent for 1,672 square metres in Matunga

 Re 1 rent for 1,672 square metres in Matunga

In 1873, K S Thakkar and four others were given 2,350 square metres of land in Mazgaon for next to nothing. The lease rent was Rs 1.53 a year. The lease expired in 1972, but the collector has not bothered to renew it and meekly collects the rent set 140 years ago

* Yahyabhai Adamji Jasdanwala and two others leased a land measuring 1,814.39 sq m in Byculla in 1885. The lease lapsed in 1994, but the amount collected continues to be Rs 5.65 a year

* M/s Prithvi Cotton Mills has two leased properties admeasuring 1,597.83 sq m in Malabar and Cumbala Hill, for which the lease expired in 1996. But the rent the state gets stands at Rs 4.98 a year.

* Yo San Ching Than Bing and two others leased a 1,672.25 sq m property in Matunga. Despite the lease ending in 1998, the collector's office collects a pittance of Re 1 annual rent, which was set in 1889.

* The lease rent of Rs 1,592.94 a year for Retreat House in Bandra, with an area of 94,200 sq m, has not been revised since the lease expired in 1950

Lease deals for close to 700 properties in the island city and suburbs have run out of time. For most, the leases ended years ago. Yet the lessees continue to pay rents set over a century ago, sums that amount to a trifle today.

Former central information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi sought information under the Right to Information ( RTI) Act on lands that Mumbai's two collectors let out. Gandhi estimated that the city collector books an annual loss of about Rs 1,550 crore and the suburban collector a loss of about Rs 1,200 crore because leases have not been renewed.
What is shocking is that the city collector's office is clueless about another 103 properties that have been given out and hence does not know when those leases end. "Some leases are renewed, while some are allowed to continue at the old rates. What are the reasons for such irrational actions? This is due to carelessness or corruption," said Gandhi.

Currently, the annual revenue from all the 1,278 properties leased out by the city collector is Rs 48.82 crore and the 295 plots let out by the suburban collector fetch Rs 20.59 crore. City collectorChandrashekhar Oak said it is true that the leases for about 550 properties have ended, but his office had started sending out letters asking lessees to shell out the new rent or buy out the property. Mumbai suburban collector Sanjay Deshmukh said his office had already sent out 129 notices for expired leases.

Both the collectors reasoned that there had been a delay in collecting new rents because the 1999 rent renewal policy of the state had been challenged in the Bombay high court and the state had drawn up a fresh one only in December 2012.

Gandhi said citizens must speak against the state policy of selling off these properties at subsidized rates of 20% for residential, 25% for industrial and 30% for commercial. Applying an average of 25% on all plots, Gandhi said the ownership rights would be given out for Rs 2,248 crore by the city collector and Rs 1,841 crore by the suburban collector if all the properties were sold. "Citizens must protest before the government dispossesses us of our land and legitimate revenue. If we can get the government to auction off the leases in Mumbai and all over Maharashtra we could have a revenue stream of over 25,000 crore each year," said Gandhi.

Seaplane likely to take off on May 27

Seaplane likely to take off on May 27
Aircraft reaches New Delhi for mandatory clearances

Ignoring mounting protests from eco-groups and traditional fishermen, the State government has given the nod to Kerala Tourism to kick off the seaplane project aimed at linking remote tourist destinations by this month.

The first seaplane for Kerala has reached New Delhi for the mandatory clearances from the Customs and the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and is expected to arrive in Kochi, the base of the seaplane operations, later this week.

The five-plus-one seat plane has been taken on lease by a Bangalore-based company from a Dubai-based aviation company. Tourism Secretary Suman Billa told The Hindu that the aim was to enable the takeoff of the seaplane, preferably on May 27 from Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam.

The project was showcased at the Emerging Kerala meet in Kochi last year to attract investors from across the world. Water-dromes, floating jetties, and other facilities have been built at Ashtamudi, Kumarakom, Vembanad, and Bakel. Houseboats have been deployed as terminals at the seaplane landing and takeoff sites with lounges for tourists.

At present, only one of the five operators who had been given the nod has come forward to commence the services. “Others have informed that they have placed the orders and would soon join us. By the end of the year, we expect seven to eight seaplanes in the State,” he said.

The international airports in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode and the one at Mangalore will act as base stations. The State-owned Kerala Tourism Infrastructure Ltd is the nodal agency for the project aimed at ensuring ‘last mile connectivity by air to various tourist destinations.’

The project envisages connecting 25 tourist destinations and the services will be in the prioritised circuit, Mr. Billa said.

The Ashtamudi, Punnamada, Vembanad, and Kochi backwaters and Kottappuram are the prioritised destinations. The operations shall be based on zero-subsidy, open sky policy. The seaplanes will be allowed only to take the aerial route and the operations will be limited to daytime, he said. On the apprehensions raised by environmental groups and fishermen, Mr. Billa said the detailed project report had spelled out all aspects. Another round of discussions is to be held with fishermen groups on Wednesday here to take them into confidence.

“No refuelling and maintenance has been permitted at the water-dromes taking into account the environmental aspects and the fragility of the ecology,” he added. Such activities will be at the base airports. The Airport Security Group of the Kerala Police will take care of the security of the water-dromes. They have been trained and certified by the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security.

The government will have a facilitator/regulator role and the seaplane operations would be promoted and marketed to the extent possible by Kerala Tourism.
-The Hindu

Top LeT militant killed in Srinagar encounter

Top LeT militant killed in Srinagar encounter
 The District Police and Special Operations Group killed a militant, Hilal Maulvi, belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), during an early morning raid on his hideout in the congested Fatehkadal area on Thursday. The militant from Palhalan, Pattan, was one of the most wanted men in Jammu and Kashmir.

Sources said that the gunbattle lasted for about an hour, though the militant was believed to have died within 15 minutes of firing. This is the first time after several years that an encounter has taken place between the police and the militants in downtown Srinagar, once the hub of separatist militancy and politics.

Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, confirmed to The Hindu that the militant killed in the gunbattle near Chinkral Mohalla, between Habbakadal and Fatehkadal, was identified as Hilal Maulvi of Palhalan, Pattan. He said that the raid was conducted on specific information about the militant’s presence at the hideout. As soon as the holed up militant found himself cordoned, he lobbed at least four hand grenades and shifted to three different houses, but was finally gunned down by the police, Mr. Bukhari said.

Hilal Maulvi, according to the SSP, was a top-ranking LeT commander who was also involved in a fidayeen attack at a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) camp at Police Public School at Bemina, in Srinagar outskirts, on March 13, this year. Two Pakistani militants of LeT and five CRPF men died in that gunbattle. Mr. Bukhari said that the two militants killed, and also the arrested militant from his hideout at Qamarwari area, had stayed with Hilal Maulvi at his home in Palhalan village a number of times.

One Chinese pistol was reportedly among the things recovered from the site of the encounter. Mr. Bukhari said that three policemen sustained injuries in the encounter.

Even as the police and security forces had described Hilal Maulvi as “LeT’s most wanted militant in North Kashmir,” separatist political groups, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani-led faction of the Hurriyat Conference, had repeatedly mentioned him as a “political activist.” They have claimed in their statements that Maulvi was not associated with any guerrilla group but had gone underground due to continued raids on his home and harassment to the family.
-The Hindu

Oil savings win-win drives Saudi solar boom – Solar could cost much less than half oil fired power

Oil savings win-win drives Saudi solar boom
 – Solar could cost much less than half oil fired power
DUBAI: A slide in solar power costs and a surge in oil prices over the last few years has made solar power a win-win strategy for Saudi Arabia: saving billions of dollars of crude for export while making electricity at less than half the cost. Riyadh plans to install 41,000 megawatts (MW) of solar power over the next 20 years, but to date has built only 12 MW – or less than even Britain installed in early May. Despite year round sunshine, the oil and gas rich countries of the Gulf have lagged far behind most of the world in solar power – so far. Saudi energy officials have talked of becoming major solar players for years, but while China built 5,000 MW in 2012 alone, Saudi solar capacity is still insignificant.

That is set to change, with an economic argument too strong to ignore. “Saudi Arabia is determined to diversify its energy sources and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons,” said Wail Bamhair, the project manager for the Saudi team that visited the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) last week. “Renewable energy isn’t just an option, but absolutely necessary. We have the means to build renewable energy, and we need to do it,” he said in a statement published on the NREL website during the Saudi delegation’s visit on May 13. Five years ago, high costs made harnessing the sun’s rays an uneconomic way to make electricity and development was driven mostly by environmental concerns of European politicians. Thanks largely to multi-billion dollar subsidies, Europe had 70,000 MW of solar photovoltaic installed by the end of 2012, compared to a global total of 102,000 MW, according to data from the European Photovoltaic Industry Association. Dim growth in debtridden Europe, combined with a trade spat that could limit EU panel sales to China, means the Saudi programme is a vital potential export market – and the economics should now guarantee that it takes off. Solar panel prices have fallen more than 80 percent over the last five years, because of global over-supply and lower demand in Europe, while average annual Brent crude prices have risen by a third, making the sun a very cheap source of electricity for a country that currently burns oil which it could export for over $100 a barrel.

After years if stalling on solar, Saudi authorities now appear to be moving quickly to capitalize on the slump in costs, with contracts for the first round of 500-800 MW of solar power expected before the end of 2013 and a target of over 5,000 MW installed in the next five years. “Solar in the Middle East is not being prompted today based on environmental or reputational concerns. It is simple economics,” Michael Parker, an energy analyst at Bernstein Research said in a May 10 note. According to a Reuters study of average selling prices reported by four of the top-10 manufacturers, siliconbased modules have fallen from around $3.5-$4.5 per watt (W) in 2008 to less than $0.8/W last year. Bernstein estimates Saudi oil fired power costs at about 16 US cents/KWh, based on a modern power station with an efficiency of around 37 percent, compared to less than 9 cents/KWh for solar, assuming an installation cost of $1/W. Solar power is still economically unattractive in a US market awash with cheap natural gas. In Saudi Arabia, where a lack of gas forces it to burn up to 800,000 barrels a day of oil in summer, solar remains attractive even at well below $100. “Falling oil prices reduce the incentive, but don’t kill it until oil hits $50/barrel,” Parker said.

According to a study by European engineering giant ABB, Saudi oil fired power plants have an average efficiency rate of less than 30 percent. If valuing Saudi oil fed into these plants at international market prices of around $100, oil fired power costs Saudi Arabia far more, around 26 cents/KWh because its inefficient plants get less power from each barrel they burn, Robin Mills, chief analyst at Manaar Energy Consulting, said. At a capital cost of $2/W for utility-scale projects, solar could produce electricity at around 12.6 cents/KWh, Mills said in a study for the Emirates Solar Industry Association published in early 2012. Costs have continued to fall since then, dragging solar costs down to 9.9 cents/KWh when capital costs for large scale projects are around $1.50/W, he said.

Saudi Arabia’s light crude has been sold at an average of more than $108/barrel since the start of 2013, according to Reuters calculations, making solar power even more attractive by saving millions of barrels a week from power plant furnaces. Bloomberg New Energy Finance agrees that utility scale solar photovoltaics costs are likely to average around $1.52/W globally this year. At that installation cost, solar power offers Saudi Arabia an internal rate of return (IRR) on its investment of nearly 22 percent at $108/barrel. Even a drop in oil prices to $94 would still give an IRR of over 20 percent, Logan Goldie-Scot, lead Middle East analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance said.—Reuters
-Kuwait Times

Watchdog decries abuses against expats, women – Amnesty: Human rights abuses rampant in Gulf

Watchdog decries abuses against expats, women
– Amnesty: Human rights abuses rampant in Gulf
KUWAIT: Human rights abuses remained widespread last year in the Gulf states, including discrimination against dissidents, migrant labourers, women and religious minorities, Amnesty International said in a report yesterday. In particular, authorities severely restricted freedom of speech, association and assembly and clamped down on the dissent and unrest that swept several countries during the so-called Arab Spring, the London-based group said. Arbitrary arrests of critics and opposition members were commonplace in almost all the Gulf states and accompanied with long periods of detention without trial, it said.

In Saudi Arabia, “government critics and political activists were detained without trial or sentenced after grossly unfair trials,” Amnesty said. Saudi authorities continued to clamp down on people calling for political and other reform as well as human rights defenders and activists. Some were detained without charge or trial, and others faced prosecution on vague charges such as “disobeying the ruler”. The Saudi authorities continued to hold incommunicado thousands of suspected members and supporters of Al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups. And a number of their relatives were detained when they staged a protest to call for their release.

Women were discriminated against in the Gulf states in law and practise and inadequately protected against domestic and other violence, it said. In Saudi Arabia, women continued to be denied the right to drive despite several campaigns by activists. Amnesty said migrant workers in the Gulf states were inadequately protected by labour laws and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse by employers. Women domestic workers in particular were at risk of sexual violence and other abuses.

Foreign workers and their families are estimated to be around 17 million out of a native population of around 40 million, according to unofficial estimates. Hundreds of people were on death row at the end of last year with many executions reported. Most were in Saudi Arabia, where 79 people were beheaded in 2012, the report said. The Amnesty report spoke of discrimination against Shiites who form a minority in Saudi Arabia and majority in the Sunni-ruled Bahrain, and which have been witnessing violent protests by Shiites for more than two years.

Security forces in the two nations were alleged to have used excessive force at times against the protesters. At least 10 people were shot dead during protests in the Saudi oil-rich Eastern Province where the majority of Shiites live. In neighbouring Bahrain, dozens of protesters and policemen were reported killed and many wounded during protests. In the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Oman hundreds were arrested and put on trial for protesting and some sentenced to prison terms. In Qatar, a poet was handed a lengthy jail term for allegedly insulting the ruler. – AFP
-Kuwait Times

Jleeb raid nets 555

Jleeb raid nets 555
KUWAIT: A flash inspection campaign was launched yesterday in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, resulted in the arrest of 480 male and 75 female residents for various violations including working for others, expired residency visas, not carrying IDs, deserting domestic employemtn and dependant visa holders working in various places.
The campaign is part of a massive drive carried out by the Ministry of Interior on the instructions of First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Sheikh Ahmed Al-Humoud to arrest illegal residents and wanted people. The ministry’s security media department vowed more campaigns would follow and sudden inspections would continue in various areas.
-Kuwait Times

65 rounded up from Mubarakiya market

65 rounded up from Mubarakiya market
KUWAIT: The Ministry of Interior carried out an inspection campaign against those violating residency permit norms. The campaign, that was launched yesterday morning, covered Mubarakia markets and its surrounding areas. It was led by Lt. General Tareq Hamada. The police stations in the capital governorate participated in the campaign along with support patrols. The campaign resulted in the arrest of 65 persons found in violation of the law. Of these, 59 were found without identification and three with expired residency permits. One person was earlier reported by an employer as absent, while two others were in violation of the residency law. All the arrested persons were sent to the concerned authorities.
-Kuwait Times