Author Archives: Andy Salcedo

Aljazeera Arabic Presenters Quit over row over Clothing

Five female presenters at Al Jazeera Arabic channel have resigned over conflicts with management over “delicate issue”, including their looks and dresses.

Jumana Nammour (Lebanon), Luna Al Shibl (Syria), Lina Zahr Al Deen  (Lebanon), Jullinar Mousa (Lebanon) and Nawfar Afli (Tunisia) were among a group of eight women working for the Doha-based pan-Arab channel who had filed a complaint to protest against “repeated offensive public remarks” by an official from Al Jazeera about “clothes and decency.”

The other three female presenters, Khadija Bin Qenna (Algeria), Laila Al Shaikhli and Eman Bannoura did not hand in their resignations, Saudi paper Al Hayat reported on Sunday.

Sources that the paper did not name said that Al Jazeera formed an investigation committee to look into the unprecedented mass resignations.

The panel, chaired by Khalid Abudullah Al Mulla, concluded that Al Jazeera had legal rights over the looks and appearances of its presenters and that the channel was entitled to “set conditions and criteria for its employees’ physical aspects in line with the spirit, values and images it wants to disseminate,” Al Hayat said.

The probe committee dismissed the harassment complaint levelled against Ayman Jaballah, the deputy editor-in-chief, saying that his attitudes and behaviour were within his prerogatives and that he did not make any remarks that could harm the presenters’ reputation. His observations were not personal and were purely professional and related to the general appearance of the presenters, the panel said.

A similar complaint about the behaviour of the head of the make-up section was also dismissed.

“Arguments with the head of the make-up section were the result of different professional approaches and linguistic and cultural differences,” the committee said. However, it called for the drafting of a guidebook stating the presenters’ looks and clothes and recommended the appointment of a clothing adviser to offer expertise.

The panel said that all remarks on the presenters’ looks and clothes should be given in writing to avoid embarrassment.

Al Jazeera, established in 1996 as a news channel modelled after the BBC, quickly became the most popular media in the Arab world, mainly thanks to its talk shows, live reporting and analyses. It has often incurred the anger of Arab countries and was singularly targeted by the Bush administration.


Ex-defence chief wins Colombia vote

Colombia’s former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos, has easily won the first round of the country’s presidential election, but without the majority needed to avoid a June run-off with rival Antanas Mockus.

Santos, the anointed successor of Alvaro Uribe, the outgoing president, led with 46 per cent of the votes, while Mockus, a former Bogota mayor, had 21 per cent with almost all polling stations reporting, electoral authorities said on Sunday.

But the Unity party candidate failed to get more than 50 per cent of the votes needed to clinch victory outright and will have to battle Mockus, the Green party’s man, in a second round on June 20.

Addressing his supporters late on Sunday, Santos said: "Today our party, as it did four years ago and as it did on March 14, ratified that it is the first political force in the country."

Surging ahead

But Mockus was not conceding defeat, despite garnering less than half the votes his opponent did.

"More than three million citizens have united in what has become a wave of green hope. We know that together we can transform society, we know violence, inequality and corruption are not our destiny – they are problems we can overcome," he told his supporters.

Opinion polls had shown Santos in a tight race with Mockus, well ahead of the seven other candidates.

Speaking from Bogota, Lucia Newman, Al Jazeera English ‘s Latin America editor, said the "extraordinarily competitive" race had been expected to be one of the closest the country had seen in many decades, but Santos had emerged with a one-sided win instead.

Jorge Restrepo, a political analyst, told Al Jazeera English that the discrepancy between the opinion polls and the election results may have been due to pre-election surveys giving the urban opinion more weight.

"Colombia still has a significant proportion of the rural population who mostly support the security and continuation of Uribe’s security policy," he said.

"We may have also underestimated the very many strengths and the importance of Uribe’s opinion."

Al Jazeera English‘s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from Colombia’s second largest city, Medellin, said even the Santos camp was surprised by the margin of its candidate’s win, describing the results as exceeding all expectations.

Our correspondent said either Santos connected with voters on health and social issues or on his security policy.

"People here are not voting for change in this election but for an extension of Uribe’s security policy," he said.

Army seems to have upper hand in Bangkok

The Thai army looks to have taken the initiative in the battle with thousands of anti-government protesters who have occupied central Bangkok.

The heaviest fighting is in the Bon Kai area of the city, leading to the main business district.

More than 20 have died over the last three days and scores have been injured.

The government has rejected protesters’ calls for UN-supervised talks to end the crisis.

A state of emergency has been extended to a further five rural provinces, curbing activity in the protesters’ stronghold.

The military now say a curfew will not be imposed in flashpoint areas of Bangkok, as it is not yet needed.

And officials have asked the Red Cross to help evacuate the red-shirts fortified camp in Ratchasprong by a Monday deadline.

Some children, women and the elderly have reportedly already begun to shelter in a temple inside the camp.

Those outside the camp’s barricades can only watch and wait.

Vicki Nikolaidis Leaves Asnycnow

Asnycnow Europe Affairs Editor Vicki Nikolaidis , who also fronts the Asnycnow Radio 1 sunday afternoon program ”The Conversation w/ Vicki Nikolaidis” and has served as an Editor to the  ”Environment” Page has left Asnycnow Network for a ne w job in her hometown in  Greece.

Vicki joined Asnycnow in 2009 as part of a restructure of Asnycnow Radio and hosted the second hour of the  Asnycnow Radio 1 Show ”The World Today” until the second hour of ”TWT” became ”The Interview” which was renamed ”The Conversation” in April 2010. ”The Conversation” will be on hiatus until Further Notice.

Vicki who was also the European Affairs Editor for Asnycnow Network , was scheduled to Host the May 2nd Edition of ”The Conversation”  and to Front a new program based on the Environment Column, has accepted a new job offer and notified me via Email :

“Hi Andy, So happy to have had the opportunity to work with you on Asnycnow Radio! I’ve accepted a job that will require a lot of work. I’m fortunate given the state of the economy in Greece so couldn’t turn it down. You and I had so many laughs! Remember when Shelley was on the show? You had us in stitches. But also you bring up lots of interesting, serious subjects – that reminds me our talk with Raul, which was nice, too. So I have to move on to new projects. Thanks, Boss man, for my internship, I learned a lot. Best wishes for your continued success in the world of Internet Radio! your friend, Vicki”

on behalf of Asnycnow Network, we wish Vicki the best in her future Endeavors!!!

UAE stocks seen surging if Dubai government backs debt plan

Dubai’s debt restructuring proposal will determine the fate of UAE equity markets as the ailing emirate seeks support from Abu Dhabi, with markets poised to rally if the deal includes guarantees, analysts said.

Dubai’s index has been resurgent, gaining 12.8 percent in 12 trading days, as investors bet a restructuring deal would be more favorable to creditors than once thought, but it is down 15.2 percent since November 25, the day Dubai World said it would seek a debt standstill.

The government conglomerate is trying to restructure about $26 billion in debt, while Dubai’s total debt pile is estimated at around $100 billion.

“It all depends on what the restructuring entails — if Dubai World offers a seven-year rollover and full repayment, then this is already discounted in the market, but if there’s a government guarantee the market will fly,” said Haissam Arabi, chief executive at Gulfmena Alternative Investments.

“If the offer is as expected, then banks won’t have to increase provisions and so bank stocks like Emirates NBD and the Abu Dhabi lenders should pick up.”

Emirates NBD and Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank are the two domestic lenders on a Dubai World creditors committee, with both stocks on the rise after slumping to multi-year lows in late January.

“Compared to other regional markets we’re way behind in valuations,” said Arabi. “Companies such as Aramex are fundamentally as strong as their regional peers, but are trading at a big discount, so I think the market is ripe for the rally to continue.”

Robert McKinnon, ASAS Capital chief investment officer, was more cautious.

“I don’t think there will be much of a rally, it’s likely to be anticlimactic because the market has pretty much priced everything in — there has been a good amount of news flow coming out of the negotiations,” said McKinnon.

Dubai’s problems have caused the emirate’s index to massively underperform, rising a mere 16 percent in the past year, when the MSCI emerging markets index gained 79 percent.

Dubai has also lagged other regional markets, with the Saudi benchmark rising 52 percent in 12 months. Neighboring Abu Dhabi

is up 19 percent, with many investors treating the UAE as a single market.

“The market has been running on rumor and speculation, so when something official comes out, it could trigger a rally,” said Ayman el-Saheb, Darahem Financial Brokerage director of operations, adding a government guarantee would boost UAE equities further.

Even if a debt offer disappoints, stocks should be steady because it will remove some of the uncertainty over the emirate’s finances.

“People want a resolution so they can start doing some fundamental analysis,” said Keith Edwards, head of asset management at Doha-based investment company The First Investor.

Foreign investors are likely to remain wary, with the dominant property sector continuing to struggle and a restructuring offer still not answering how Dubai will pay off its debts in the long term.

Dubai house prices are down around 60 percent from 2008 peaks and are forecast to fall another 10 percent in 2010, according to a Reuters poll.

“The property sector has such a large weighting on the market and I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel for real estate — it’s going to be stagnant for quite a while,” said McKinnon.

“There is over-supply and a lot of burned investors. There are also other issues for investors to consider such as the lack of liquidity.”

Another major drag is the ongoing merger of mortgage providers Amlak and Tamweel, McKinnon said, with the two companies’ shares suspended since November 2008. Little information has emerged since, although the UAE economy minister was quoted Thursday as saying that a merger would happen soon.

“The Amlak-Tamweel merger has wider implications for the market — people have been trapped in those stocks for more than a year and foreign investors are worried that could happen again,” McKinnon added.

Dubai World’s offer will also boost sentiment on other regional exchanges.

“Regional markets are decoupling from the rest of the world and year-to-date we’re one of the best performing asset classes in the world,” said Gulfmena’s Arabi.

He added this would prompt some international institutions to relocate cash from other emerging markets such as China and India to the Middle East.

Chilean sailor returns cash found in collapsed home

A Chilean sailor returned four million pesos (7,600 dollars) in cash he found inside an open safe amid the rubble of a house destroyed by last month’s devastating quake and tsunami, local media reported Friday.

“I gathered everything I could and put it back inside,” Corporal Carlos Gomez of the Almirante Latorre frigate told La Segunda newspaper.

“While I was doing this, I thought the owner might need (the cash), so I called the officer in charge and we contacted the police,” he added.

Gomez found the safe full of money, mud and water while scouring the sparsely populated Juan Fernandez Islands, which were destroyed by the February 27 disaster.

His unit was the first to reach the archipelago after the quake and tsunami, with orders to clear the affected areas.

The government has lowered the official death toll from the massive 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami to 452, from an earlier high of 802.

Officials said another 96 people were still missing or unaccounted for.

Two million people were affected and 800,000 were left homeless, mainly in hard-hit central and southern coastal areas.

Black and white meets new technology at photo show

Traditional black and white is sharing the spotlight with color and new digital formats at a major international photography show that runs through Sunday in New York.

“There are two different audiences, but they are certainly coming together more than they have in previous years,” said Stephen Bulger, a Toronto gallery owner and president of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD), which organized the show.

“For the most part, people who were collecting black and whites in the 1970s and 80s were not interested in color at all. Then they were worried about the longevity of it. But now the camps are coming together.”

The show, which opened Thursday, features works from more than 70 major photography galleries, including a wide range of museum-quality work, modern and 19th century photographs, photo-based art, video and new media.

The New York show is the longest running and among the most important exhibitions of fine art photography.

The works range from those of digital media artist Shirley Shor, whose alternating images of a man’s and a woman’s face is listed for sale at 20,000 dollars, to the 1856 black and white still life of early French photographer Adolphe Braun.

“It is only a bouquet of flowers, but the range of tones between black and white is impressive for the period, and this photo remains intact after 150 years,” said Paris gallery owner Jonas Tebib, who lists the print at 6,000 dollars.

The highest price tag of the show goes to a unique 1921 print by US photographer Edward Weston, who died in 1958. This is the first time Weston’s photograph of a naked woman’s bust is shown in public, and the owner is asking for 650,000 dollars.

Andy Warhol’s black and white photographs from 1976 to 1979 are displayed by Steven Kasher Gallery, which is also showing the first ever prints of autochrome prints, from the National Geographic collection dated 1907-1925.

Peru aims for Japan, South Korea trade talks in April

Peru is aiming to complete negotiations on free trade agreements with Japan and South Korea in April, Trade Minister Martin Perez said Friday.

The new round of talks with South Korea will take place in Washington in early April, while the Japan meeting will held the week of April 26 in Tokyo, Perez said, according to state news agency Andina.

“Both Asian nations want this to be the last round” of negotiations, he added.

At the last meeting between Peruvian and South Korean representatives, Seoul offered to lower a proposed tariff on 200 Peruvian products, Perez said.

He said Peru hoped Japan would exclude fewer than 1,000 Peruvian products from the tariff scheme in the economic partnership agreement under negotiation.

Trade negotiations between South Korea and Japan began in March and May of last year, respectively.

Peru said earlier this month that its free trade agreement with China went into effect at the same time as it sealed a similar trade pact with the European Union jointly with Colombia.

It also has free trade agreements with Canada, Singapore and the United States.

‘A dad like any other,’ son says of drug lord Escobar

Undated picture of Colombian child Sebastian Marroquin, formerly Juan Pablo Escobar, with his father Pablo Escobar, the leader of the Medellin cartel, killed by the Colombian police in 1993. Marroquin, who has lived in Argentina for the past 16 years under a new identity, attended the launch of the documentary film "Los Pecados de Mi padre" (My Father's Sins) at the Guadalajara film festival.

Pablo Escobar may have been the world’s top drug lord and blamed for 15,000 murders, but to his son, he was “a dad like any other” who read stories and sang him to sleep.

“When I had the chance to talk with my dad about his behavior… I felt between a rock and a hard place because I wasn’t about to turn him in… it was like living with two different people,” Juan Pablo Escobar said in an interview at Mexico’s Guadalajara Film Festival.

Escobar, 32, presented the documentary “Sins of my Father” about his life and the notorious legacy his father left.

In it, he atones for his father’s crimes and begs forgiveness to the sons of two politicians his father ordered killed in the 1980s.

Fearing for his safety, Juan Pablo Escobar changed his name to Sebastian Marroquin after his father was killed by police in the northern Colombian city of Medellin in late 1993. The following year, he fled to Argentina where he now lives with his wife, mother and sister.

Escobar said he rejected several proposal for documentaries before Argentine filmmaker Nicolas Entel came along with his project.

“One way or another, the other documentaries wanted to glorify gangsterism and take advantage of history to turn a profit,” he told AFP. “Nicolas’s project was different, but it took him six months to convince me.”

In “Sins of My Father,” Marroquin talks about his childhood spent with the “Cocaine Czar,” but also recounts meeting the sons of slain politicians Rodrigo Lara Bonilla and Luis Carlos Galan.

“Both meetings were very intense. I couldn’t believe they had agreed to see me,” Escobar said.

“The fact is both sides came away with a feeling of relief, of liberation. We realized that forgiveness is the only way of achieving peace in Colombia, which doesn’t imply giving up on justice.”

Despite his notorious exploits as the head of the Medellin drug cartel and his vast fortune — he was considered one of the richest men in the world during the 1990s — the elder Escobar was an ordinary family man at home, “a dad like any other,” according to his son.

The younger Escobar said his father imparted life values that put him on the right path.

Upon learning of his father’s death, he publicly threatened his killers but retracted his words 10 minutes later.

“Those 10 minutes for me were full of reflection — 10 very intense minutes that made clear to me what would happen if I followed down the path of violence,” said Escobar, an architect and self-proclaimed “pacifist.”

“The outlook was so terrible that, right there, I told myself history wouldn’t be repeated.”

He acknowledged that being a major drug kingpin’s son came with an extra dose of responsibility.

“Every word I utter carries extra weight because of who I am. It’s something I’ve had to learn to live with,” he said.

Escobar is also quick to condemn the sources of drug trafficking, his late father’s trade.

“While poverty persists in this world, there will be drug trafficking. As long as it remains illegal and governments neglect the downtrodden, this business will thrive.

“The only way to wipe it out is through education. I don’t know how things would have turned out if my father had had the chance of going to university and becoming a professional.”

The Guadalajara Film Festival is one of the most important events of its kind in Latin America. Some 230 films and documentaries were shown March 12-19.

British boy receives pioneering stem cell surgery

British and Italian doctors have carried out groundbreaking surgery to rebuild the windpipe of a 10-year-old British boy using stem cells developed within his own body, they said.

In an operation Monday lasting nearly nine hours, doctors at London’s Great Ormond Street children’s hospital implanted the boy with a donor trachea, or windpipe, that had been stripped of its cells and injected with his own.

Over the next month, doctors expect the boy’s bone marrow stem cells to begin transforming themselves within his body into tracheal cells — a process that, if successful, could lead to a revolution in regenerative medicine.

The new organ should not be rejected by the boy’s immune system, a risk in traditional transplants, because the cells are derived from his own tissue.

“This procedure is different in a number of ways, and we believe it’s a real milestone,” said Professor Martin Birchall, head of translational regenerative medicine at University College London.

“It is the first time a child has received stem cell organ treatment, and it’s the longest airway that has ever been replaced.”

More clinical trials were needed to demonstrate that the process worked, he said, but if it did, it could lead to other organs such as the larynx or oesophagus being transplanted in hospitals around the world.

The boy, who has not been named, was born with a life-threatening condition called long segment tracheal stenosis, which meant he had a tiny windpipe that would not grow — described by the team as like breathing through a straw.

Although he received various treatments, his condition deteriorated in November and his doctors called in Professor Paolo Macchiarini, a stem cell pioneer at the Careggi University Hospital in Florence.

Macchiarini led the surgery in Spain two years ago on 30-year-old Claudia Castillo, the first person to receive a transplant organ created from stem cells.

In her case, the new tissue was developed outside her body, but it is far less complicated to grow it within the body. The boy is only the second patient and the first child to have such a procedure.

Cardiothoracic surgeon Professor Martin Elliott, director of tracheal services at Great Ormond Street, said the boy was recovering well.

“The child is extremely well. He’s breathing completely for himself and speaking, and he says it’s easier for him to breathe than it has been for many years,” Elliott said.