Friday, 3 August 2012

Nkorea: Annual Arirang mass perfromance

SEOUL: North Korea has opened an annual festival featuring tens of thousands of performers praising the ruling Kim dynasty, amid reports this year's Arirang event will be the last.

The festival began Wednesday evening at Pyongyang's May Day Stadium with a display of "music, dances, gymnastics, acrobatics and ever-changing background", the official news agency reported Wednesday night.

The extravaganza, named after a famous Korean folk song, involves artists including young children performing synchronised acrobatics, dances and flip-card displays of politicised messages.

The impoverished communist state has drawn thousands of Chinese and other foreign tourists to the festival, which began in 2002 and became an annual event in 2007.

Performances this year are in honour of "the leadership of the dear respected Marshal Kim Jong-Un, holding President Kim Il-Sung and leader Kim Jong-Il in high esteem for all ages", the news agency said.

Slogans such as "Long live heaven-sent illustrious commander General Kim Jong-Un! were displayed and the stadium became a "huge sea of flowers and dances", it added.

Jong-Un took over as leader when his father Jong-Il died last December.

Jong-Il succeeded his own father and founding president Kim Il-Sung, who helped establish an all-pervasive personality cult around the family.

A Beijing-based tour firm which for years has organised trips to the North has said this year's Arirang festival, from August 1 to September 9, will be the last.

The North plans to present new shows with different themes beginning next year, Koryo Tours said in June. (AFP)

Dancing robots competition held in China

BEIJING: A robot dancing competition took place in northeast China, attracting 29 teams from China, Russia, Mexico and South Korea.

A pair of giant panda-shaped robots drew attention as they had to move over 20 joints in costumes when they were dancing.

"We worked very hard on these giant panda robots. It took a lot of work to ensure even easy moves. For example, we spent three days to complete the giant panda costumes," said He Rong, student of Xihua University.

A robot that could write calligraphy stood out at the competition as well. The robot wrote "Welcome to Fujin" and won applause from competitors and judges.

A team from a Mexican University won the first prize for the solo dance category after a day-long competition. (Monitoring Desk)

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Visa scam: Asad to release more videos

LONDON: The central character in Olympic visa scandal, Muhammad Ali Asad in an interview given to Geo News on Tuesday said he was all set to release more videos to expose the reality of the passport system that is in place Pakistan.

"I have only released a trailer, the whole movie still remains to be released," Asad said during an exclusive interview with Geo News.

Asad claimed to have video footage of many hours in duration and that the moment it is released would completely unnerve Rehman Malik.

He said he was waiting for the day when Prime Minister's Advisor on Interior Rehman Malik takes action against him. "I am not a villain, I just want Pakistan's passport system in a better shape," he said and termed the claim of the country's passport system being error-free as 'ridiculous'.

He believed that terrorists were gaining undue advantage from the weaknesses of Pakistan's passport apparatus.

"I haven't besmirched the name of Pakistan, only fulfilled journalistic responsibilities," Asad maintained.

'Mission of the decade’ nears Mars

WASHINGTON: The last time the United States landed a mission on Mars to look for extraterrestrial life or its building blocks, Gerald Ford was president and the nation had just finished celebrating its 1976 bicentennial.

Next week, the long-delayed second attempt will try to deposit a rover on the planet’s surface.

The descent and landing in the early hours of Aug. 6 will be the most complex and hair-raising in planetary history. The destination is a deep crater with a three-mile-tall mountain that NASA could only dream about using as a landing site until very recently.

It’s the most ambitious, the most costly ($2.5 billion) and the most high-stakes mission ever to another planet. It was also described last week by the agency’s top scientist, former astronaut John M. Grunsfeld, as “the most important NASA mission of the decade.”

“There is no doubt that this is a risky mission, and that is coming from a human-spacecraft guy,” Grunsfeld said. “It’s hard to get something this big and complex to the surface of Mars, and then to get it to start roving. Thousands of people around the world working on it will be feeling their lives are riding on the mission landing successfully. We’ll all know soon if the risk was worth it.”

What the Mars Science Laboratory mission and its rover named Curiosity bring to Mars is a capacity to analyze the planet with much more sophistication than before, and to do it over a sizable and scientifically rich expanse.

The goal is not to find Martian life per se but rather to ferret out carbon-based organic compounds that are building blocks of life, and then to determine whether the Gale Crater landing site was ever suitable for creatures. Both are integral parts of the science of astrobiology — the search for life beyond Earth.

At 10 feet long and seven feet high at the top of its camera mast, Curiosity is the size of an SUV and weighs almost a ton, about three times more than the Spirit and Opportunity rovers sent to Mars in 2003 on a primarily geological mission. Its robotic arm for digging soil and drilling rock is seven feet long, almost three times longer than previous rover arms. This tool will provide more and better samples for the lab’s instruments, which will do their analysis on Mars and send back the results to scientists here.

Curiosity will have numerous ovens to bake soil and rocks up to 1,800 degrees and analyze what comes out; it will have a laser zapper to free up potentially important targets in rocks; it will have cameras with unprecedented capabilities, including one that will take video of the last several minutes of the high-drama landing, now dubbed “seven minutes of terror” by NASA.

Getting to Mars, and especially landing on it, is difficult. Forty-four missions — flybys, orbits and landings — have been sent to the planet by NASA, the former Soviet Union, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and China, and about one-third have made it. All six successful landings were flown by NASA. (A Soviet capsule made a soft landing in 1971 but then sent back only 14 seconds of data, so it is not considered to have succeeded.)

Ramazan fasting could help quit smoking

ISLAMABAD: With bundle of blessings the holy month of Ramazan offers for human beings, the bad habit of smoking can also be avoided through fasting.

Fasting is considered as a strong tool to maintain good health and effective cure for various psychological and medical disorders and health experts suggest fasting as a best way to quit smoking.

"The holy month of Ramadan serves as a best exercise for smokers to maintain good health and avoid bad habits of nicotine dependency to stay normal," said Dr Haseeb Sitaar of Holy Family hospital.

Fasting keeps a person healthy and clean both physically and spiritually and when it comes to quit smoking, it can be a best way for those having serious infections from smoking, he said.

In normal days, it becomes hard for smokers to leave smoking completely as hectic routine and other social pressures compel some to smoke while the period of fasting keeps them away from smoking.

Fasting is a religious obligation and the faithful follow this
obligation prior to anything else during Ramadan, which leads them to
avoiding all the bad habits.

Taking a month-long break from the practice of smoking sometimes get converted to a permanent avoidance of health hazardous things.

"Will power is needed to quit smoking, which the fasting provides people during this holy month and the people refrain themselves to smoke to fulfill their religious obligation," Dr Haseeb said.

Other than Ramadan, smokers experience withdrawal symptoms, like irritability, anger, restlessness, impatience, insomnia and difficulty concentrating but the fasting helps them to maintain patience.

"Fasting is a spiritual help to spend smoke-free days during Ramadan and an excellent practice for leaving many bad habits," said Hanif Ejaz, a student suffering from serious infections of smoking. (APP)

Phelps new record Olympic medals winner

LONDON: Michael Phelps became the most decorated Olympian of all time on Tuesday, winning a record 19th medal in the pool as China's swimming sensation Ye Shiwen grabbed her second gold of the Games.

Phelps anchored the US team to a convincing victory in the 4x200m freestyle relay to secure gold and beat the record of 18 medals amassed by Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina between 1956 and 1964.

The American had earlier had his bid for a 200m butterfly Olympic treble thwarted by Chad le Clos of South Africa, but the silver allowed him to match the record medal haul before the relay sealed his unprecedented achievement.

Phelps, 27, won six golds and two bronze medals at the 2004 Athens Games, then brought home a spectacular eight golds from Beijing.

He has suffered a testing Games in London, slumping out of the medals in the 400m individual medley and then having to settle for silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay.

But Phelps' record 19th medal was never in doubt in Tuesday's relay as he took over the final leg with a healthy lead and powered home to leave France trailing in silver and China with bronze.

Ye, just 16, is likely to fuel more speculation about her remarkable performances after she added the 200m individual medley title to the 400m individual medley crown.

The Chinese girl was lagging behind the leaders at the turn in the Aquatics Centre, but produced a powerful final 50m to overhaul Australia's Alicia Coutts in an Olympic record time of 2min 7.57sec.

Her swim came just days after her lightning freestyle leg in the longer medley propelled her to a new world record.

Ye's emergence has raised unproven suspicions of doping, with John Leonard, executive director of the World Swimming Coaches' Association, describing her display in the 400m medley as "impossible."

But Chinese authorities went on the offensive, saying it was unfair to point the finger at their swimmers.

"The Chinese athletes, including the swimmers, have undergone nearly 100 drug tests since they arrived here," Jiang Zhixue, the head of anti-doping at China's General Administration of Sport, told Xinhua news agency.

"Many were also tested by the international federations and the British anti-doping agency. I can tell you that so far there was not a single positive case.

"I think it is not proper to single Chinese swimmers out once they produce good results. Some people are just biased."

Former British swimmer Adrian Moorhouse, a gold medallist in the 100m breaststroke in the 1988 Seoul Games, issued a strong defence of Ye, saying it was possible China had unearthed their own Phelps.

"I think it's sour grapes," Moorhouse said. "I think it's quite insulting actually."

In the gymnastics arena, the United States won the women's team final to claim their first gold medal in the event since 1996. Russia had to settle for silver while Romania pipped 2008 Olympic champions China to bronze.

The first of 15 golds up for grabs Tuesday was won by defending champions Germany in the equestrian three-day eventing, with Michael Jung then becoming the first rider to hold the European, world and Olympic individual titles.

Great Britain finished second in the team event to earn a silver medal for Queen Elizabeth II's granddaughter Zara Phillips.

China won their third diving gold in three events when world champions Chen Ruolin and Wang Hao clinched the women's 10m synchro platform.

Chen, the individual 10m platform champion from the Beijing Games and the synchronised 10m platform champion, teamed with Wang to tally 368.40 points from their five dives off the tower. (AFP)

Crude mixed in Asia

SINGAPORE: Crude was mixed in Asia Tuesday as wary traders looked to meetings this week by the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank (ECB) for market leads, analysts said.

New York's main contract, light sweet crude for delivery in September added six cents to $89.84 a barrel and Brent North Sea crude for September delivery shed 29 cents to $105.91.

Crude markets were expecting additional stimulus to be announced during the two-day Federal Reserve meeting which starts Tuesday as well as at the ECB meet on Thursday, analysts said.

But markets were tempering their optimism with "worries that expected stimulus from the United States and Europe may fail to lift their economies", Phillip Futures stated in a commentary.

In Europe in particular, expectations that the ECB would resume its bond purchase program was met with a tinge of caution, IG Markets said in a report.

"While there was an air of optimism about the willingness of European policymakers to act to stabilise the bond markets, on the ground there is still an underlying sense of unease," it stated.

Data issued by the ECB on Monday suggested that the bank had last week opted not to resume its programme of buying up bonds of eurozone nations, its 20th week in a row of not doing so.

The ECB launched its bond-buying blitz under the Securities Market Programme (SMP) in 2010 to help debt-wracked eurozone countries that were finding it difficult to drum up financing in capital markets.

But the SMP has lain dormant since February following the ECB's moves to pump more than one trillion euros ($1.23 trillion) into the banking system via three-year funding operations in December and February.