Thursday, July 31, 2008

SSG stars at Kerala Social Centre Abu Dhabi

A vehicle that stands

A vehicle that stands
31 Jul 2008, 0010 hrs IST,AGENCIES

LONDON: A British designer has come up with a sports car that can be folded in half to park it in tight spaces.
Daniel Bailey, 22, has revealed that the BRB Evolution jacks up on its nose with its back wheels sliding underneath on two rollers, and thus uses 50% less parking space.

Bailey says that motorists will have to step out of the car before it morphs into its “upright” parking pose.

He adds that the car will run on electricity or hydrogen fuel, and will be more “sexy, sleek and mean” than other eco-cars.

According to him, his invention is inspired by the Lamborghini Murcielago and Peugeot 908.

“I figured two of the main problems of future cities would be pollution and over population,” the Telegraph quoted him as saying.

“With more vehicles needing more places to be stored, I came up with the concept of a folding car.
“The car folds up to 50% of its original size, and uses the negative vertical space, usually disregarded. This potentially doubles the amount of parking spaces,” he added.

Bailey has revealed that he has submitted his concept to Peugeot as part of a design competition.

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are also planning to knock up a full-scale model of their “City Car” — an experimental vehicle which “folds” itself in half and snuggles up to other City Cars in the manner of supermarket trollies.

The MIT team, led by architecture professor Bill Mitchell, reckons its revolutionary wheels would solve urban transportation problems at a stroke, with pollution-free electric drive and the ability to park in one-eighth of the space of a conventional car.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Photo Speaks - Abu Dhabi city scene

Abu Dhabi City Scene during an evening

Mina port road

A fish cleaner at the Mina Fish market Abu Dhabi

Children play area at Mina Cooperative market

Children play area at Mina Cooperative market

Children play area at Mina Cooperative market

Etisalat building at Airport road Abu Dhabi

Electra Street Abu Dhabi

A view of the Electra Street / Mina road junction

A view of the Electra Street / Mina road junction

An evening at Mina road

New visa rules: the facts

New visa rules: the facts

Last Updated: July 29. 2008 12:18AM UAE / GMT from THE NATIONAL

Exempted countries
Citizens of 33 countries are exempted from any visa fees, no matter what the purpose of their trip, and will be granted an entry visa free of charge at airports, seaports and border crossings. Such visas are valid for one month and can be renewed for another month for Dh500. Those wishing to stay more than two months can apply for a long-term visit visa, which is good for three months. These are issued by the Ministry of Interior and UAE embassies and consulates. Nationals of exempted countries are not required to pay deposits or have health insurance.

These countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States and Vatican City.

Tourist Visas

The tourist visa is initially issued for one month for Dh100. It can be renewed for another month for Dh500. Nationals of all countries are eligible to apply for tourist visas. The visas are issued directly by travel agencies and companies involved in the tourism industry such as hotels.


Expatriates living in GCC countries can obtain a one-month entry visa for Dh100. The visa can be renewed for a second month for Dh500.

Deposit and Insurance

Financial deposits and health insurance are prerequisites for obtaining any of the 16 types of visas to gain entry into the UAE, including tourist visas, except for citizens of the exempted countries.

Visit visas

There are two types of visit visas. Short-term ones, issued for one month, are non-renewable and cost Dh500. Long-term ones, issued for three months, are also non-renewable and cost Dh1,000. The new law allows residents to sponsor their spouses and direct relatives. Distant relatives can only be sponsored after obtaining approval from the Ministry of Interior’s under secretary. Only Emiratis are permitted to sponsor friends. A visit visa does not permit visitors to work in the country. If a person happens to find a job while visiting, they should fly to their home country before entering on a work permit, which the employer should secure. Officials say they will not grant visit visas to those who reapply for one immediately after leaving. The same applies for other types of visas.

New visa system launched

New visa system launched
The National Staff

Last Updated: July 29. 2008 11:18PM UAE / July 29. 2008 ABU DHABI/DUBAI // The new visa system was inconsistently applied on day one, with some officials saying they did not have key information about the new rules.

The changes, which mainly affect non-exempt people from countries such as India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Russia, came into effect yesterday, but staff at Abu Dhabi International Airport and a major embassy said they had not received official notification of the new regulations, and were still working under the old rules. At Dubai International Airport officials said the rules were applied, although some requirements – such as compulsory health insurance – were waived because the necessary infrastructure was not in place.

People entering the UAE now must apply for a tourist visa, through a registered tourist company or hotel, a visit visa sponsored by a direct relative living in the UAE, or one of 14 other visa types, such as a conference or a medical visit visa.

Anyone wanting to work in the UAE needs a work permit sponsored by an employer. The regulations also require people to leave the country when any existing visa expires, and those seeking to re-enter immediately are unlikely to be granted another visitor visa.

The rules, from which 33 nations are exempted, are intended to give officials better information about people entering the country, including the specific reason they are here. A Ministry of Interior official said immigration departments had implemented the new system nationwide. “It has been applied across the board,” he said.

However, officials at centres affected by the changes such as embassies and airports said they had been unable to implement the new rules fully.

It was “business as usual” at Abu Dhabi airport, said an airline official who did not wish to be named because he was not authorised to comment. Airline staff, responsible for checking the validity of passengers’ visas before they board a plane, were not given clear instructions about the visa changes. The official said no one at the airport knew what the new policies were or whether immigration or airport staff should be collecting fees for tourist visas.

He also questioned whether immigration staff had installed the infrastructure for the changes.

“Whilst these proposed changes are well-intentioned, the way they have been communicated to date could certainly have been better. There appears to be an information vacuum regarding exactly when the changes come into force and, critically, what airport processes are being put in place to make them run smoothly,” he said.

“Clarification is urgently required on these matters so that the airport authorities and airlines can best advise passengers of how these changes will affect them.”

All passport systems at Dubai Residency and Naturalisation Department (DRND) border points were shut down for 10 minutes for the system changeover at 11.50pm on Monday.

Brig Obaid bin Suroor, the acting director of the DRND, said: “We supervised the transition at the Dubai International Airport departure and arrival passport control counters to ensure the switch was completed smoothly. The systems were switched off at exactly 11.50pm and restarted at 12.00am to handle the large number of passengers on both sides.”

According to the DRND, the main offices and centres also had a smooth transition to the new visa regime. “There were no issues to mention. We continue our campaign to raise awareness amongst the public and offer an overview of the requirements to our key strategic partners about the new amendments and the list of visas and prerequisites.”

The DRND assigned 44 extra IT staff to supervise and follow the transition process of the new system. Brig Suroor also formed a team of senior officers to answer queries from individuals, corporations and public relations officers about the new visa regulations.

The Indian Embassy said yesterday it had not received any official letter from the immigration office about the new visa rules. A spokesman said the only information it had was from media reports.

Travellers said they were largely unaffected by the changes and many passed through immigration on visas arranged under the old system. But some said they were concerned about the impact when the rules were fully implemented.

Tarik Shehzad, who was waiting with his family at the entrance to Abu Dhabi airport, said: “I haven’t a clue what is changing or what is going on.”

Another visitor, Mr Jai from India, said: “I came on a tourist visa expecting lots of problems but I walked through with no problems, which surprised me. My uncle applied for me a few weeks ago, so it was all organised for my arrival.”

A man representing a Jebel Ali-based electrical company who was waiting for 90 men to start work for the company in the free zone said there had been no difficulties getting them into the country.

“About half of them are out already,” he said outside the arrivals gate. “None of them have said anything about problems passing through. Our company’s HR department organised all their work visas. There are no problems if the paper work is in order.”

It was calm at the Al Hili border crossing between Al Ain and Buraimi in Oman. Hundreds of people made visa runs across the border before today, according to a hotel operator in the area.

“Daily, I normally have around 150 guests in the hotel, staying to change their [UAE] visas,” said Jamal al Safar, the manager of the Al Salam Hotel in Buraimi. “But, in the last few days, I have had around 250 people trying to change their visas before [yesterday].”

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seats vacant for educational courses

Seats vacant for Islamic History

The Department of Islamic Studies has few vacant seats for MA Islamic History course. Apply before 10th August. More information can be had from 0471-2417115.

Seats vacant for MA Linguistics

The Department of Linguistics has few vacant seats for MA Linguistics course for both general and SC/ST categories. Those with a degree with not less than 50% marks in any subject are eligible to apply. SC/ST candidates will get statutory preference. More information can be had from 0471-2418469.

Refresher course in Computer Science

Applications have been invited from college teachers for a refresher course in Computer Science which will held from 16th August to 6th September at Academic Staff College, Karyavattom. Application forms can be had from the Academic Staff College or from the here. Phone 0471-2418989.

Bharathidasan MBA admission

Bharathidasan MBA admission

July 17 : Bharathidasan Institute of Management (BIM), Tiruchirappalli provides excellent study facilities for two year full time residential MBA programme with specializations offered in marketing, finance, operations, systems and human resource management.

Bachelors / PG Degree holders in any discipline with 50% marks or final degree students are eligible to apply.

All applicants to BIM should take IIM-CAT-2008. BIM uses CAT Score for only short listing the applicants for Group Discussion and interview.

Prospectus and application can be obtained by sending DD for Rs. 1400/- (Rs. 920/- for SC/ST) drawn in favour of Bharathidasan Institute of Management, payable at Tiruchirappally along with two self addressed slips to Bharathidasan Institute of Management, P.B. No. 12, MHD Campus, BHEL Complex, Tiruchirappalli – 620 014, Tamil Nadu, Phone: 0431 – 2520796, 2520502 (E-mail: Forms will be distributed from 1st September 2008.

Online registration facilities are also provided from 1st September 2008 onwards through the website

IGNOU In move to train Private Security

IGNOU In move to train Private Security \
New Delhi, Jul 29: A leading distance university and a security company got together today to train and qualify private security guards-- an industry hitherto itself a source of concern.

Indira Gandhi National Open University and newly-formed Security Skills Council of India signed a Memorandum of Understanding this afternoon to ''design, develop and deliver'' skills and diplomas and certificates for guards and supervisors.

The MoU was jointly announced by IGNOU Vice Chancellor V N Rajasekharan Pillai and SSCI Chairman and Managing Director R K Sinha as effort to bridge a yawning gap between law and the ground reality.

Law requires personnel to be trained in everything from ''correct wearing of uniform'' to handling weapons and spotting improvised explosive devices, and includes fitness, firefighting, crowd control, checking identities, and even giving first aid.

Prof Pillai also released a student prospectus-cum-programme guide for short term, non-credit vocational programmes for security guards and security supervisors.

''Terrorism cannot be checked only by law enforcement agencies,'' Sinha said as he and other speakers pointed to the key role private security men or even citizens play in securing a nation by detecting suspicious activity or individuals early on.

India's private security industry currently employs some five million individuals, many of whom are not educated or qualified or even trained. The agencies came up as a result of demand from businesses and homes. Many companies themselves are accused of offering poor wages and work conditions.

Authorities readying to regulate the industry three years ago noted how these agencies helped meet businesses' security needs, but caused ''a growing concern'' by the manner of their functioning.

''Many of these agencies conduct their operations without due care for verifying the antecendents of the personnel employed as private security guards and supervisors.

''Certain private multinational security agencies have also established their branches in the country, which unless properly regulated may have serious security implications.'' In some instances personnel employed by these agencies have been involved in criminal activities.

In 2005, the Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act was enacted followed by the Private Security Agencies Central Model Rules a year later.

The law requires private security agencies to get a licence within a year or fold-- but most States have yet to enforce it, industry sources say.

As D K Kotia, an officer of the Home Ministry, put it in a speech delivered in absentia, ''When fully implemented, this Act will help bring in desired professionalism in security industry in a big way.''

MBA at Army Institutes of Management

MBA at Army Institutes of Management

July 29 : Army Institute of Management, Kolkata (AIMK) and Army Institute of Management & Technology (AIMT), Greater Noida have invited applications from eligible candidates for admission to their two-year regular MBA Programmes for 2009-11 session.

Of the 120 seats available at AIMK, 80% seats are reserved for Army Wards and 20% are general seats. At AIMT, all the 120 seats are reserved for Army Wards. There is hostel facility for boys and girls at both the Institutes.

Applicant should have a three year Bachelor Degree recognized by AIU in any discipline with 50% marks. Those completing Bachelor Degree in 2009 may also apply.

Selection to the course at both Institutes will be based on score of CAT conducted by the IIMs. Short listed candidates will be called for Group Discussion and Interview at AIMK/AIMT for final selection. Separate application has to be submitted to each Institute.

For applying to AIMK, application and Prospectus can be obtained by post by sending a DD for Rs. 800/- for Army Wards and Rs.900/- for General Candidates drawn in favour of ‘Director AIM’ payable t Kolkata.

They can also be obtained by hand by submitting a DD for Rs.750/- for Army Wards and Rs.850/- for general candidates from AIM, Judges Court Road, Opp. Alipore Tele Exch, Alipore, Kolkata-700027.

For applying to AIMT, Prospectus and Application can be obtained from AIMT, Plot M-1, Pocket P-5, Greater Nioda, UP-201306, by sending a DD for RS.800/- drawn in favour of AIMT payable at Noida. They can also be obtained by hand by submitting a DD for Rs.750/- at AIMT. Only Army Wards are eligible for admission at AIMT.

Prospectus and Application from of the Institutes can also be obtained by hand through DD only, from AWES, Army HQ, Kashmir House, New Delhi and from AWES Cells of all Command HQs. They can also be down loaded from the websites of the Institutes AIMK- and AIMT- The Prospectus and Application forms will be available from 4th August 2008 to 29th September 2008.

The last date for submission of AIMK/AIMT applications is December 6, 2008. Application can also be submitted with a late fee of Rs.200/- till 31st January, 2009.

Applicants to AIMK/AIMT should also apply for CAT as per the instructions of CAT. The last date for receipt of Application for CAT 2008 at various IIMs is 5th September, 2008. CAT will be held on 16th November, 2008 (Sunday).

Details of CAT are available at

Khaleej Times plans relaunch

Khaleej Times plans relaunch
Bradley Hope for THE NATIONAL Last Updated: July 26. 2008 8:03PM UAE

ABU DHABI // Khaleej Times, a 30-year-old English-language newspaper based in Dubai, is preparing for a major relaunch at the end of August to compete in the region’s rapidly expanding media market.

Sources familiar with the newspaper report that earlier this month the board appointed Rahul Sharma, formerly the Delhi editor of Hindustan Times, as editor and Didier Brun, the former senior vice president of strategy and development at the International Herald Tribune (IHT), as the chief executive. Both declined to comment for this article.

The relaunch of Khaleej Times would come less than six months after the launch of The National, which is printed six days a week by Abu Dhabi Media Company.

Earlier this year Arab Media Group, based in Dubai, relaunched a daily newspaper as a business publication, Emirates Business 24/7.

And the Financial Times recently began publishing a Middle East edition, with increased coverage of the GCC countries. Gulf News, which was established the same year as Khaleej Times, 1978, is also a long-standing English-language publication.

“For years Gulf News and Khaleej Times were the established, must-read papers here,” said Austyn Allison, the managing editor of Communicate magazine. “Now there’s this new competition from The National and other publications. Newspapers are having to change.”

To meet the challenge Khaleej Times has been drawing on resources from abroad. For instance, the paper’s layout is being redesigned by Paula Scher, a partner at Pentagram Design in New York, who has done work for The New York Times Magazine.

Mr Sharma, the new editor, has been given an open-ended budget for hiring reporters and editors from around the world, according to sources familiar with the newspaper.

In early May Khaleej Times announced it had formed a strategic alliance with IHT to print and distribute its newspaper in the UAE. The companies said at the time that further publishing arrangements, including running the IHT as an insert in some editions of Khaleej Times, were potentially on the horizon.

IHT has relationships with nine English-language newspapers around the world in which the local affiliate runs a daily edition of the newspaper as an insert, according to the company’s website.

Achilles Tsaltas, the vice president of circulation and development at the IHT, said that his company had signed the agreement with Khaleej Times in the belief that the newspaper would undergo major changes.

“We are investing in the thinking of Khaleej Times – they are very committed to changing their game,” he said. “They want to emulate The New York Times’s editorial credibility. We’re confident that is where they are heading.”

The Government of Dubai has a considerable stake in Khaleej Times and was pressuring its board members to improve the newspaper, the sources said.

Two years ago the Investment Corporation of Dubai, an investment group owned by the Dubai Government, acquired a 30 per cent share of Galadari Brothers, the parent company of Khaleej Times.

The chairman of the newspaper division is Adel al Shirawi, who is the vice chairman of Istithmar World – an investment group owned by the Dubai Government.

Five of the seven boardmembers are employees of companies wholly owned by either Dubai Holdings – a private company of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai – or the Investment Corporation of Dubai.

Abu Dhabi and Dubai among world’s most pricey cities

Abu Dhabi and Dubai among world’s most pricey cities
Vivian Salama THE NATIONAL Last Updated: July 26. 2008 8:26PM UAE

ABU DHABI // Abu Dhabi and Dubai remain among the world’s most expensive cities, though at a lower ranking than last year, a new cost-of-living survey has revealed.

This year Dubai ranks as the 52nd most expensive city, down from 32nd place last year, while the capital is number 62, down from 45th, according to Mercer, the international human resources company that conducts the annual survey. The cities rank second and third in the Middle East respectively, behind Tel Aviv, which ranked 14th. Conversely, a number of European cities have risen in the ranks and dominate the top of the list.

Yvonne Traber, a principal and research manager at Mercer, attributed much of the change to exchange rate fluctuations. “Current market conditions have led to the further weakening of the US dollar which, coupled with the strengthening of the Euro and many other currencies, has caused significant changes in this year’s rankings,” she said.

The survey, covering 143 cities in six continents, is designed to help multinational companies and governments determine compensation allowances for their expatriate employees. It charts the cost of more than 200 everyday items, from clothing and footwear, to groceries, personal care needs, transport costs and dining out, as well as the cost of renting a high quality two-bedroom furnished flat.

The cost of living in many European cities has grown more rapidly than in Abu Dhabi and Dubai because, in addition to inflation, the cost of goods is denominated in euros, which have strengthened against the dollar.

On the other hand, soaring oil prices and the rapid growth of GCC economies has fuelled inflation in the Middle East this year at a faster rate than in Europe and the US.

UAE inflation accelerated to a 20-year high of 11.4 per cent last year and will rise slightly to 11.8 per cent this year, a Reuters poll last month showed. Food, beverage and tobacco accounted for 11 per cent of that rise and, according to the Emirates Consumer Protection Society, a division of the UAE Ministry of Economy, food inflation could rise as high as 40 per cent this year.

“The saying goes that Emirates Hills is now more expensive than Beverly Hills,” said Mary Nicola, an economist with Standard Chartered Bank in Dubai. “Day-to-day expenses in terms of groceries and such have become more expensive here.”

Soaring rent prices have also become a burden for UAE residents. A report released by the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy (DPE) estimated that rents during the first quarter alone increased by 18 per cent.

A recent survey found that rents in the capital had risen by an average of 49 per cent since June of last year and, in some cases, almost doubled since the beginning of the year despite a Government cap of five per cent. The survey by Asteco, a UAE property services company, found that rent for two-bedroom apartments in the Muroor and Tourist Club areas increased by 80 per cent or more in the 12 months from last June.

The annual rent for two-bedroom apartments ranged from Dh180,000 (US$49,000) to Dh194,400 in Hamdan Street, on the Corniche, in the Tourist Club area, Salam Street, Muroor and Khalifa Street. The average rent for one-bedroom apartments throughout the city ranged from Dh110,000 to more than Dh140,000, depending on the quality and location of the unit, the survey found.

In comparison, the UK estate agent Foxtons is offering two-bedroom flats in the fashionable districts of Kensington or Notting Hill for £2,167 (Dh15,843) a month, or Dh190,838 a year. A similar two-bedroom apartment in the Financial District of New York was advertised by the CitiHabitats agency for $4,350 (Dh15,977) a month, or Dh192,000 a year.

Ms Traber said that multinational companies were attracted to countries with a high rate of economic growth. “Companies may assign high priority to expansion in these economies but may have to deal with inflationary pressures due to competition for expatriate-level housing and other services,” she noted.

Ms Nicola said inflation would have an impact on attracting new people to the GCC.

“Businesses trying to set up shop and attract new talent have to fork out more money,” she said.

Worldwide, Moscow ranked as the world’s most expensive city for the second year running, followed by Tokyo, and London. The only US city in the top 50 is New York, which is down from 15th place last year to 22nd this year, due to the weakness of the dollar.

Municipality issues new construction safety rules

Municipality issues new construction safety rules
Praveen Menon THE NATIONAL Last Updated: July 29. 2008

The high number of construction workers being killed or injured after falling from buildings has sparked the introduction of a new set of on-site safety rules.

The municipality yesterday announced all building industry firms will have to meet new standards and that any who fail to do so will be fined.

The major area of change is the safety requirement for workers on tall buildings with four chapters of a new rule book dedicated to this area.

Essa al Maidour, Assistant Director General for Planning and Building Affairs at Dubai Municipality said the new manual was launched following “great concern for safety issues and a need to introduce future standards for the same.”

According to municipality statistics, workers falling from high rise buildings constituted forty-five per cent of the 865 accidents that occurred between 2004 and 2007.

Last year alone, nearly 48 per cent of work site accidents were due to workers falling from buildings.

“We have dedicated four chapters in our new safety manual to this particular issue. This is a serious concern for us and we believe that the consultant as well as the contractor is responsible for these deaths,” said Mr Maidour.

Abu Dhabi house rents soar 49pc in one yearBy Haseeb Haider

Abu Dhabi house rents soar 49pc in one yearBy Haseeb Haider
29 July 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES

ABU DHABI — Rents of quality apartments in Abu Dhabi have gone up by 49 per cent over the past one year as the demand for reasonably priced apartments outstripped supply in a city that is witnessing hyper business activity, says a report.

"The most notable movement comes in the two-bedroom unit category with 66 per cent increase in rents over the last year," says the report compiled by Asteco, a property management company that is analysing the current demand and supply situation.

The report has, however, painted a rosy picture for the future, as almost 70 per cent of the new projects being built in the Musaffah area have been earmarked as residential because the government is well aware of the shortage in accommodation.

The Asteco report for the second quarter of 2008 estimates that 60 per cent of the new accommodations would be two-bedroom apartments meant for couples and families. Nearly 25 per cent of the new accommodations will be one-bedroom units while the remaining will be three- and four-bedroom units.

Areas such as Muroor, Tourist Club Area (TCA) and Salam Street are witnessing the most activity. Khalidiyah, which showed the lowest growth due to low tenant movement, is still the most-sought-after location.

Khalidiyah attracts a mix of nationalities, specially emiratis and western expatriates, due to its proximity to Marina Mall and a number of international schools in the area.

Hamdan Street continues to command high rents of nearly Dh125,000 for one-bedroom apartments. Units in this area are of poor quality and landlords are taking advantage of the shortage of supply and are charging above average prices

Villas in Khalidiyah, Bateen and Manaser command some of the highest rents in Abu Dhabi starting at Dh150,000 for a three-bedroom property. Nearly 80 per cent of the villas in these areas are high quality and tend to be occupied by a mix of high-income individuals.

Villas in Al Falah and Airport Road areas are of slightly lower quality, yet the rents are high. In addition, many villas are split into separate units to cater to the growing 'bachelor' clientele.

According to Asteco report, there is no shortage of villas in Abu Dhabi, yet rents are high.

"This problem is likely to be eased when the more affordable villa projects in Khalifa City, Mohammed bin Zayed City, Al Raha, Sas Al Nakheel and Seashore come on line," says the report.

Commenting on the situation, Rebekah Savage, of Foundation Property Management Co, which manages a large number of residential buildings, told Khaleej Times that Abu Dhabi Commercial Properties (ADCP) recently estimated that there are 250 buildings in and around Abu Dhabi city centre that would be demolished and 750 buildings would be built in and around Abu Dhabi and the garden city of Al Ain.

Ex-Google workers launch 'Cuil' search engine

Ex-Google workers launch 'Cuil' search engine
Agencies Published: July 29, 2008, 10:29

San Francisco: A group of former Google engineers have launched a rival Internet search engine Cuil this week, calling it an improved version of the world's most popular web-scouring tool.

Cuil's founders include former Google staffer Anna Patterson. Patterson intends to upstage Google, which she quit in 2006 to develop a more comprehensive and efficient way to scour the Internet.

The end result is Cuil, pronounced "cool." Backed by $33 million in venture capital, the search engine began processing requests for the first time on Monday.

Cuil had kept a low profile while Patterson, her husband, Tom Costello, and two other former Google engineers — Russell Power and Louis Monier — searched for better ways to search.

Cuil's search index spans 120 billion Web pages. Patterson believes that's at least three times the size of Google's index, although there is no way to know for certain. Google stopped publicly quantifying its index's breadth nearly three years ago when the catalog spanned 8.2 billion Web pages.

Cuil won't divulge the formula it has developed to cover a wider swath of the Web with far fewer computers than Google. And Google isn't ceding the point: Spokeswoman Katie Watson said her company still believes its index is the largest.

After getting inquiries about Cuil, Google asserted on its blog Friday that it regularly scans through 1 trillion unique Web links. But Google said it doesn't index them all because they either point to similar content or would diminish the quality of its search results in some other way. The posting didn't quantify the size of Google's index.

A search index's scope is important because information, pictures and content can't be found unless they're stored in a database. But Cuil believes it will outshine Google in several other ways, including its method for identifying and displaying pertinent results.

Minibuses will have their speeds limited, say Dubai police

Minibuses will have their speeds limited, say Dubai police

By Alia Al Theeb, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 29, 2008, 00:05

Dubai: Minibuses will soon be fitted with speed limiting devices, a senior police official said on Monday.

Brigadier Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of Dubai Police's Traffic Department, on Monday held a meeting with representatives of more than 50 companies that own or rent minibuses. The open discussion aimed at pinpointing the problems and the reasons behind the increasing number of traffic offences and accidents involving minibuses.

Check at 100km/hr

Brigadier Al Zafein said there is a plan to install speed limiters in minibuses which will prevent drivers from exceeding the speed of 100km an hour.
He said there is coordination between the traffic department and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) regarding this plan which will contribute in reducing fatal accidents.

"Most minibuses which were involved in fatal accidents and resulted in high number of victims were speeding excessively which does not suit the vehicle's nature," he said.

He pointed out to the minibus accident which took place on Shaikh Rashid Road two weeks ago and claimed five lives.

"The driver of that minibus was speeding at 140km/hr to 160km/hr," he said. He said in the next phase, they will meet with drivers of minibuses.

Brigadier Al Zafein said the traffic department confiscated 65 minibuses as part of a campaign launched to crack down on offences committed by minibus drivers. The vehicles were confiscated for 30 days for reckless driving and overloading with passengers.

Offence: 'Most are reckless'

Brigadier Mohammad Saif Al Zafein, Director of Dubai Police's Traffic Department, said according to him 99.9 per cent of minibus drivers are reckless drivers and they commit four common offences which are, excessive speeding, changing lanes without indications and not abiding by lane lines, overloading of passengers and tailgating.

UAE get set to Sing and Dance with the Super Stars

A hoarding announcing the arrival of the Super Stars for their performance on 1st August 2008

National Theatre Abu Dhabi where the Super Stars Nite will be held on Friday, 1st August 2008

A view of the National Theatre Abu Dhabi where the Super Stars Nite will be held on Friday, 1st August 2008
Hoardings in the main street of Abu Dhabi announcing the programme on Friday, 1st August 2008.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Photo Speaks - Eldorado Theatre Abu Dhabi

Youngster is 'super star'

Youngster is 'super star'

SCHOOLBOY dancing sensation Vidyuth Menon has returned to Bahrain to a hero's welcome after starring in one of the world's most celebrated reality TV competitions.
The Asian School pupil took time away from his classroom to grab the opportunity of shining under the spotlight in the Super Star Junior Dance Competition aired on popular Indian television channel Amrita.

Viewers watched in awe every week from Monday to Friday and thousands of Batelco customers here in Bahrain cast their SMS vote for Vidyuth, 11, who attracted millions of fans in India too as he battled into the semi-finals.
Vidyuth, was one of only 15 children selected from more than 7,000 worldwide entries, and said: "I just love to dance!

"This was an incredible experience and so exciting and I've made so many new friends."

His proud mum Priya, from Hoora, said: "The competition has helped him immensely to overcome his shyness and has brought about a fresh ray of confidence - so I am very thankful.

"It was not one of the easiest ventures we have ever done as we had to travel up and down to India twice. After the first audition which was in August last year, we came back.

"He was selected for the next stage and so we returned in September for rounds two and three of the audition process."

After the auditions were concluded and Vidyuth was finally selected his family were forced to make some serious decisions. Fortunately Vidyuth's school permitted him to take a six-month leave of absence but his mum had to resign her position as a maths teacher at Al Noor International School so she could take care of her only son.
Priya explained: "Our jobs are very important but I knew that I could come back and look for a new one. Vidyuth's chance was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For the sake of our children we sometimes need to make compromises and sacrifices.

"I am glad I made that choice, otherwise I am sure I would have lived to regret not going."

The pair returned to the kingdom after spending six months back in India.
Although the family live in Kerala where the show was staged their hometown was actually 440km from the set.

They decided to rent a house close to the studios rather than face a daily gruelling train trek.

"Both of Vidyuth's grandmothers came to stay with us. It was quite demanding ... every 10 days there was a shoot for two days.

"This meant choosing two songs, learning the steps, arranging the costumes and preparing for the filming which began at six in the morning."

Also assisting the family was Jyothi Raj, a well-known dance teacher from Bahrain, who is Vidyuth's trainer. Priya explained: "He actually came to India and stayed with us throughout the competition - all at his own expense - to be able to help Vidyuth."

During the adventure Priya was often overcome by the pressure but Vidyuth's excitement and energy helped soothe over the periods of anxiety.

Priya said: "There were times when I wanted to just leave everything and come back home to Bahrain but my son would tell me not to worry."

His talent and optimism proved decisive as he was the only contestant not to fall in the 'danger zone' - a part of the competition where the participant achieved low audience votes and marks.

In the competition, the selection process was done in two ways. While the judges gave them the marks and comments, the real fate of the dancer rested with the viewers and audience.

Text messages were the main source of voting a favourite dancer and after every performance, the number of votes were counted for each of the contestants.
With Vidyuth's participation in the competition, the family requested the channel organisers to also accept votes from Bahrain, as this was indeed his home.

Vidyuth's father, Arun Menon, commercial manager, African and Eastern, had the pressure of coping with the stress all alone in the kingdom.

He said his son had attracted a huge following of fans, adding: "He has one particular supporter living in Saudi who still regularly calls up! He is a dancer himself and has been keeping a track of Vidyuth's performances since the very beginning.

"There are also two girls - Mary and Lachchu students of the Indian School who regularly keep in touch. They even created a community name 'Vidyuth the Super Dancer Junior' on the online friends networking site - Orkut!"

The youngster has faced a few embarrassing moments of fame too. Once he received a greeting card addressed to 'Vidyuth of Class Five, Asian School' from an Indian admirer.

Vidyuth also has a growing number of dance fans in Bahrain where he has been performing ever since he returned from India.

Priya said: "Recently during a show organised by the Indian Ladies Association for the Children and Mother's Welfare Society, Vidyuth performed to an audience of Shaikhas.

"After the performance one lady came and gave him a small packet and congratulated him saying the society's president sent her regards and a small gift."
The gift, BD100, helped him purchase a collection of games for his Play Station which is his passion alongside dancing.

Vidyuth also performed at the May Queen 2008 event as part of his dance group - the Rap City Boys. The group was formed by his trainer and consists of six dancers.
His love of dancing began at an early age when he watched his mother give dance lessons at home.

Priya said: "When we first moved to Bahrain I used to hold dance classes at home and he would silently watch me before running to the sitting room and doing his own dance."

Since his small screen performances, Vidyuth has been approached by TV soap opera producers in India who have expressed an interest in creating a part for him.

Solar eclipse on Friday

Solar eclipse on Friday
28 July 2008

ABU DHABI - UAE Astronomy Society has announced that the UAE, Gulf residents and other countries in the region will view partial solar eclipse on Friday. The eclipse will cover Oman, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, eastern parts of Saudi Arabia and northern parts of Jordan and Palestine.

Mohammed Shokat Awda, Chairman of the Islamic project for moon sighting, said the eclipse will take place in the UAE from 2.45pm- 4.10pm. Viewers must use proper observation equipment to protect their eyes. In Dubai, the eclipse will reach it's maximum around 1127 GMT and will cover about 15 per cent of the sun. The best place to see the eclipse is near. Nadym in central Russia, where the eclipse will be almost total. The total phase of an eclipse looks like the onset of a rapidly darkening sky whose appearance resembles evening twilight about half an hour after sunset. Go to to see an interactive Google map of the eclipse. This map allows the user to sellect any portion of the path and to zoom in using either map data or Earth satellite data. You will also find a link with tips on how to photograph the eclipse.

UAE: Expats opt to buy property than pay rent

UAE: Expats opt to buy property than pay rent
July 27th, 2008 Indo Asian News ServiceSunday, July 27, 2008 (Dubai)

An increasing number of residents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) – especially expatriates – are opting to buy property rather than live in rented property because of soaring rents.

"Given the steady increase in UAE rental prices over the past few years, buying is appearing increasingly attractive to expats who are looking to build equity from the significant financial investment they are already making in their home," Chris Dommett, chief executive of leading independent mortgage advisor John Charcol Dubai, said in a statement in Dubai.

Indians, at 1.5 million, form the largest expatriate community in the UAE.

"The era of pumping hard earned income into oblivion for rent is dissipating within Dubai's expat community as educational awareness of the local mortgage market increases and home lending services become more accessible," Dommett said.

Building equity is widely considered the most important financial advantage of buying a home, said the statement.

"The ability of locking in a fixed monthly payment for a long term period is also a major incentive as rent in Dubai in general increases markedly every year," it said.

Recent reports showed the UAE's capital Abu Dhabi overtaking the country's commercial capital Dubai in property prices.

According to figures released by HSBC this month, the average rent per square metre in Abu Dhabi, which was $272 in the last quarter of 2007, rocketed to $430 per square metre in the second quarter of 2008, a rise of 58 percent.

In Dubai, average rent per square metre was $343 in the last quarter of 2007. But this rose 22 percent to $420 per square metre.

As for buying a house, in Abu Dhabi prices rose by 61 percent from the last quarter of 2007 to the second quarter of 2008, while Dubai witnessed a rise of 37 percent in the same period.

"The main reason prices in Abu Dhabi are outpacing Dubai is because the market is much tighter and delivery delays are more apparent," Majid Alam, an analyst at HSBC, told the Gulf News.

"Ultimately, we believe that Abu Dhabi should be at a premium because affordability is higher," he added.

According to John Charcol, the volume and variety of mortgage options in the market, coupled with low interest rates, are also enticing a growing number of expatriates to tap into the region's booming real estate industry and invest in their own property.

"Depending upon the price of the property and its expected return as opposed to what they are paying in rent, for many buying is often times a more economic solution," it said in the statement.

However, it added, despite these advantages, "many foreigners continue to rent at exorbitant prices, in part due to a lack of understanding of the local real estate market, but also out of hesitation to get involved in the seemingly daunting UAE property buying process".

International health insurance can cover visitors

International health insurance can cover visitors
By Asma Hamid, Ahmed Abdul Aziz & Mary Nammour KHALEEJ TIMES 28 July 2008

ABU DHABI - Visitors entering the country on visit visas from tomorrow can be covered by international health insurance policies, according to Brigadier Nassir Al Awadi Al Minhali, Acting Director-General of the Federal Naturalisation and Residency Department (FNRD) in the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

He explained that if this health insurance policy is internationally certified and covers the UAE, it would be approved for all types of visit visas.

Meanwhile, Major Mohammad Al Hammadi, Director of the Entry Permit Department at the Department of Naturalisation and Residency in Dubai (DNRD) announced that from next week, special counters of health insurance companies will be set up on its premises to provide medical insurance covers for visa-seekers.

“We will be signing agreements with some health insurance companies soon to ensure the insurance service is made available to applicants at the DNRD. He, however did not disclose the fees and service costs.

Al Hammadi clarified that sponsors could also seek medical insurance cover for the visa-seeker through any renowned health insurance company in the emirate, or in the UAE.

“Private companies applying for visas for their workers should provide them with medical insurance. The same applies to the tourism companies. In case the tourism companies already have the insurance cover in their packages offered to the tourists, we will not be asking for that condition.”

According to Major Al Hammadi, the international medical insurance policies will be valid in the UAE. “The insurance should be valid as long as the visa-holder is going to stay in the UAE.”

The local insurance companies are making all preparations to meet the new demand. Speaking to Khaleej Times, Wesam Ibrahim, head of the Department of Life and Medical Insurance at Al Wathba National Insurance Company (AWNIC), said the company already has a plan that can accommodate visitors in accordance with the new visit visa requirements.

“We will find out the exact details of the new visit visa requirements by the end of this month. At this point of time, we have no plans to develop a new plan,” he said.

Ibrahim explained that AWNIC’s existing visitor plan only covers inpatient emergency cases, and covers healthcare services of up to Dh100,000. Clients can be insured for either a month or three months, but the company has no insurance policy for visitors staying for less than a month. The cost of the plan ranges from Dh130 to Dh150 per month. “We do not think that much will change for our company after the new visit visa law is enforced,” he added.

A reliable source at the National Health Insurance Company (Daman) said the health insurance will cover the categories that would be defined by the Naturalisation and Residency Department in the Ministry of Interior.

According to the current rules in Daman, the health insurance for mission visas (six months) costs Dh420 for those above 51 years of age, and Dh 240 for those between 16 and 50 years.

Visit visas to be issued in 10-15 minutes

Visit visas to be issued in 10-15 minutes
By Ahmed Abdul Aziz & Mary Nammour 28 July 2008 KHALEEJ TIMES

ABU DHABI - From tomorrow, applicants approaching the naturalisation and residency departments countrywide with the required documents could get visit visas within 10 to 15 minutes without any extra fees, according to a senior official at the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

Brigadier Nasir Al Awadi Al Minhali, Acting Director-General of the Federal Naturalisation and Residency Department (FNRD) in the MoI, told reporters in the capital yesterday that the documents required include passport copies, photographs of the visitor and the data of the visitor including his/her address in his/her home country.

The health insurance certificate of the visitor will have to be submitted after the approval of the application.

“The cabinet resolution has created 16 types of visas, including visas for medical treatment and education, with the aim of stamping out illegal residency,” Brig Al Minhali said.

He predicted that by next December, the UAE will be free of illegal residents.

According to Brigadier Obeid bin Suroor, Deputy Director of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Departmen (DNRD), the new visa rule aims at streamlining the process. "The rule aims to provide better service to people rather than imposing a burden on them. It was the outcome of a thorough study by the authorities concerned.”

The NRDs across the country will distribute the application forms for the new visas to the typing offices during the coming hours.

There will be no change in the procedures. However, the sponsors and public relation officers (PROs) of firms have to provide the home country addresses of the persons who will enter the country.

Applying online for visas is currently a service provided to only companies and typing offices. However, the MoI is examining the viability of extending the service to the public.

“We are studying the ways by which our applicants across the country could enjoy more facilities and save their time and efforts. We have contracted a leading IT company for preparing online applications for individuals as well,” said Brig Al Minhali.

Under the new visas rule, the applicant must provide the health insurance certificate to the NRD as a major document for all types of visas, including tourist visas.

Colonel Rashid Sultan Al Khider, Director of the Legal Department in the MoI, said that the applicants have to pay a refundable guarantee of Dh1,000. This guarantee should be paid to cover all types of visit visas, including tourist visas.

Brig Al Minhali said the MoI is surveying the nationalities and communities and more nationalities could be included in the list of 34 countries, whose citizens do not need to pay the guarantee deposit of Dh1,000, in case their communities comply with the NRD instructions. "The change is possible", said Brig Al Minhali.

Orientation for typing staff

Typists who were briefed by NRD officials in various emirates yesterday said they now understand their tasks and are ready to implement the new visa rule

Representatives of over 200 typing offices from Dubai attended the gathering held at the DNRD headquarters in Jaffliya. They were briefed on the guidelines to follow under the new visa rule once it comes into effect.

Habib from Shad Typing Office said he was not worried about the new system. “It will not be that different. They have only changed the fees and introduced new types of visas. We will get used to it with time,” he said.

Abdulghaffar from Al Musalla Star Typing Office in Dubai said that he was not yet sure what kind of problems they might be facing with the inception of the new system.

Sameh from Eden Star for Documents Clearance in Dubai underscored the need for typists to be very careful when typing the information of the applicants. “The new rule will have zero tolerance regarding any misleading information, however, irrelevant it may look like. So we have to be very vigilant,” he said.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Photo Speaks - Passing shots - Bengaluru - July 2008

Bengaluru - International Airport arrivals

Bengaluru - Traffic scene on a rainy day

Bengaluru - Traffic scene on a rainy day

Bengaluru - Traffic scene on a rainy day

Bengaluru - a roadside temple

Bengaluru - a tender coconut vending station

Bengaluru - Waste Management - a real waste of time, if people concerned to not co-operate.

Bengaluru - it's raining and let me try and sell some umbrellas

Bengaluru - a two wheeler parking area

Bengaluru - a traffic scene, bikers raring to go

Bengaluru - a traffic scene

Bengaluru - orphaned children taking care of the footwear near Ayyappa Temple at Subbanna Palaya.

Bengaluru - Traffic violation managment

Bengaluru - traffic scene

Bengaluru - a street vendor waiting for traffic signal to open

Bengaluru - Now this is the most convenient and economical way of transportation. They are testing the prototypes already - If the petrol price increase like this, in few years time along with Metro, this site will not be an unusal one. Get ready and book your models without delay.

Bengaluru - what a way to go!. This biker had a lucky escape. His bike was run over by a speeding truck but he escaped. Now on way to a repair centre, he might be thinking of what every biker in the city thinks.

Bengaluru - Another transport options

Bengaluru - Transport options - shifting workers and stuff from one site to another.

Bengaluru - Back to home - with a nice view of what's happening around.

Applications invited for admissions to the intensive modular certificate course on Petroleum Refining Technology and Management

Applications invited for admissions to the intensive modular certificate course on Petroleum Refining Technology and Management

Sunday July 27 2008 02:01 IST Express News Service

KOCHI: The BPCL-Kochi Refinery Learning Centre has invited applications for the admissions to the intensive modular certificate course on Petroleum Refining Technology and Management.

The course has four modules, each having 2 weeks training at Ambalamugal.

Modules are on Refining process, Equipment in Hydrocarbon Industry, Safety, Health and Environment and Refinery Management.

A BTech degree in any branch or a diploma in engineering (preferably with some experience in the process industry) is the qualification for the course.

The candidates can apply for the whole course or any particular module. The seats are limited to 25. Preference will be given to those candidates applying for the complete certificate course and the selection will be based on a first-cum-first-serve basis.

The application form and details will get from the Head, Learning and Development Centre, BPCL Kochi Refinery, Ambalamugal.

For more details, contact: 0484 2821401.

Invitation - Let's Sing & Dance with Super Stars-1st August 2008, National Theatre Abu Dhabi

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Expatriates hoping for total reform

Expatriates hoping for total reform

By Sunita Menon, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 24, 2008, 00:03

Dubai: The confidence vote secured by the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government has enthused Indian expatriates in the UAE.

Some hailed the UPA victory as a defining moment in the country's history; others expressed hope that the government will now be able to push ahead with its reforms agenda without worrying about the Left parties; there were also those who wanted the government to come clear in the face of bribery allegations brought by the opposition.

For the last four-and-half years, his government has been tied down on account of some his coalition partners says K.V. Shamsudheen, director, Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC.

K.V. Shamsudheen, director, Barjeel Geojit Securities LLC, said he hoped Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would break his shackles. "For the last four-and-half years, his government has been tied down on account of some his coalition partners. Energy dependance is one of the main obstacles to progress. When the entire world is turning to atomic energy, India can't afford to isolate itself. A person like Manmohan Singh would never sacrifice India's integrity," he said.

Businessman Sunil Bhatia says he found it hard to digest the manner in which some members of the opposition waved wads of money in the well of the House to substantiate bribery allegations.

Businessman Sunil Bhatia said he found it hard to digest the manner in which some members of the opposition waved wads of money in the well of the House to substantiate bribery allegations.

Bhatia believes money had influenced the voting. "There is no smoke without fire. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not stupid to come to the House with a bagful of cash. But having said that I am glad that the government can now push ahead with reforms. The Left parties had been setting the government back each time they sought to go ahead with the reforms."

Shyam Prasad, manager product and programme development, General Motors, Dubai says the manner in which some lawmakers turned up with wads of cash in parliament was nothing short of a mockery of democracy.

Shyam Prasad, manager product and programme development, General Motors, Dubai said: "The manner in which some lawmakers turned up with wads of cash in parliament was nothing short of a mockery of democracy. Things could have been handled and dealt with more diplomatically."

Abbas Ali Mirza, president of the Indian Business and Professional Council (IBPC), Dubai, said the decisive vote of confidence could well turn out to be a milestone in the country's march to superpower status "There are those who believe the country is poised to emerge as one of the top three economic superpowers. Therefore, I believe, the UPA government's victory was a step in the right direction for the country - it will certainly send the right signals to the international community."

People's will

Pradeep Parmar, managing director of distribution firm Enthusiasm, said it was only right that the will of the people had prevailed. "If you elect the wrong people or those with low morale, they won't be in tune with the office they hold," he said.

K. Kumar, convenor ICWC, said he was happy that a stable dispensation would govern until such time that elections were due.

"We anticipate more reforms to come through which had been on hold because of the composition of the coalition. As far as the allegations of bribery are concerned, they should be investigated. In the current scenario, nothing can be ruled out but there has to be a thorough investigation and any culprits should be penalised," he said.

Tourist visa opened to all nationalities

Tourist visa opened to all nationalities
By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 24, 2008, 00:03

Dubai: People of all nationalities can now enter the UAE on a tourist visa under new rules that come into effect from next week, a senior official from the Interior Ministry said on Wednesday.

Earlier, nationals from 79 countries in the subcontinent, Middle East and elsewhere were not eligible for tourist visas and could come to the UAE only on a visit visa. "The new rules will encourage the tourism sector in the country," said Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director General of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD).

Al Merri announced the new rules after a meeting with hotel and tourist agency representatives yesterday. He said travel agencies will no longer be allowed to apply for visit visas. "Now these companies will only be allowed to apply for tourist visas," he said. "This will regulate the business and make the process of people travelling to the UAE easier and smooth, as tourism is a high priority for us."

Al Merri reiterated that people should apply only through licensed tourism agencies and hotels. Individuals cannot apply for the tourist visas, he added.

Short trips to the Iranian island of Kish, Oman and other neighbouring countries to change visit visas has also been stopped. "People wanting to apply for a new visit visa after the expiry of their visa, must go back to their home countries or distant countries," he said. However, Al Merri did not elaborate which countries would be considered distant.

"Nobody can now go on these visa runs. We don't want people to get stuck [on these trips]," said Al Merri. A visit visa will also not be converted to a work visa, he said. "Applicants will have to go back to their home country and wait for the work visa, which will be authorised by the Ministry of Labour," he said.

No free entry

The new visa rules will come into force from July 29 and all typing centres will get the software for the new online forms and fee payments by July 28, the official said. He added that those who apply before July 29 will be dealt with on the old system.

People applying for any visa will have to pay a refundable deposit of Dh1,000. Separate visas will be issued for various purposes such as medical treatment or studies. "We will know why each person is coming here for and the sponsor will be responsible for the visitor. This will address the issue of illegal overstayers," Al Merri said.

As per the new rules, 34 nationalities who earlier got a free visit visa for 60 days upon arrival in the UAE will now have to pay Dh100 for a 30-day visa.


--Tourist visas can only be applied for by a licensed hotel or a tourism agency.

--Residents can apply for a visa for their spouse or blood relative.

--Expatriates will no longer be allowed to sponsor friends, and all visitors should have a health insurance cover.

--Medical treatment visas can only be applied through licensed hospitals and clinics.

--Education visas can only be applied by a licensed educational institution.

--Exhibition and conference visas can only be applied for by the organisers.

Those working on visit visa face Dh50,000 penalty

Those working on visit visa face Dh50,000 penalty

By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 23, 2008, 13:51

Dubai: People caught working on a visit visa will be fined more than Dh50,000 and banned from entering the UAE and those employing them will face harsh penalties, a senior interior ministry official said on Wednesday.

He said companies can hire such people temporarily on a contract from the Ministry of Labour. Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director-General of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) announced the new visa changes which will be implemented on July 29 at a meeting with representatives of hotels and tourist agencies.
Under the new rules each visa applicant will have to pay a Dh1,000 refundable deposit, Mohammad Ahmad Al Hammadi, Director of the Department of Entry Permits at the DNRD, said.

"Now everybody will need health insurance when they enter the country. People could be involved in a traffic accident or get a health problem," he said.

He said the new visa rules will have a positive impact on the tourism sector and the labour market as they will curb illegal overstaying.
Al Hammadi said the 34 nationalities who earlier got a free visit visa for 60 days upon arrival will now have to pay.

These nationals can now get a visa on arrival for 30 days for a fee of Dh100. This visa can be extended for another 30 days for a fee of Dh600.
"These nationals are exempt from health insurance and from paying the Dh1,000 deposit," he added.

The Dh100 fee will affect citizens from the UK, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Finland, Malta, Spain, Monaco, Vatican, Iceland, Andorra, San Marino, Liechtenstein, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong and citizens of GCC states.

Resident expatriates who bring their spouses on a visit visa can change it to a residence visa, but they cannot work, he said. Each application will be studied carefully before issuing it and the application should be logical.
Individuals and companies can apply for visit visas, he said. Tourist visas can only be applied for by licensed travel agencies and hotels. They cannot be submitted by individuals. The official said there would be no visa runs to nearby countries.

"People who go there from the UAE after the expiry of their visa will not be issued a new visa. It is best for them to go back to their country and wait for their visa to enter the UAE again," he said.

He said a visit visa holder will be allowed to enter the UAE once within two months from the date of issue of the visa.

Residents can apply for a visa for their spouse or blood relative. Expatriates will not be allowed to sponsor friends. And sponsoring other blood relatives will require approval of an undersecretary of the Interior Ministry or their representative.

Details on the web soon

Brochures and booklets will be distributed to tourist companies describing the new rules.

All the new information will be available on the DNRD website from Saturday onwards. Typing centres will get new forms and new fees online from July 28 midnight.

Those who apply before July 29, will go through the old system and the fees and the way of applying will not change for them, Al Hammadi said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dolphin Energy awards $418 million Taweelah Fujairah gas pipeline to Russian contractor

Dolphin Energy awards $418 million Taweelah Fujairah gas pipeline to Russian contractor
Staff Report GULF NEWS Published: July 22, 2008, 13:01

Abu Dhabi:Dolphin Energy Limited awarded the construction contract for its new Taweelah to Fujairah Gas Pipeline (TFP) across the UAE to Stroytransgaz PJSC of Russia. Site work will begin in the third quarter 2008.

The new gas pipeline will be 48 inches in diameter. It is to be laid over an environmentally approved cross-country route, through more than 240 kilometres of desert and mountainside one of the longest and largest overland pipelines in the UAE.

The TFP will link Dolphin Energy's gas receiving facilities at Taweelah, on the coast of Abu Dhabi, with the ADWEA Power and Water Desalination Plant at Qidfa in Fujairah. It is designed to carry significant quantities of Dolphin gas from Qatar via Taweelah directly to the UAE east coast.

The value of the TFP construction contract is $418 million. Eight international construction companies initially bid for the work, and technical tenders were accepted from five, which proceeded to the commercial bid stage. They were Al Jaber Energy Services, UAE; Consolidated Contractors International (CCC), Greece; Dodsal, India; Stroytransgaz PJSC of Russia and Saipem/Snamprogetti of Italy.

e-governance gains ground in Abu Dhabi

e-governance gains ground in Abu Dhabi
By Ahmed A. Elewa, Senior Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 23, 2008, 00:03

Abu Dhabi: The number of hits recorded by the Abu Dhabi e-government portal exceeded 20 million in 2007, and the number is growing steadily, according to a senior official.

"More than half the e-government programme has been accomplished so far, in coordination with international consultants, especially from Singapore," said Rashed Al Mansouri, chairman of Abu Dhabi Systems and Information Committee (SIC).

"We are also coordinating with the federal e-government portal, as we seek to adopt the best standards and practices to meet the target of ranking Abu Dhabi among the best five governments worldwide," he added.

SIC on Tuesday launched the second version of the emirate's IT Architecture and Standards Reference, which represents the general reference for all the ongoing e-government projects adopted by the various departments.

The stages of implementing the e-portal differs among the various local departments, where some are at more advanced stages than others, though the full assessment and evaluation of the progress will be only published towards the end of the year.

"We are also focusing on the training and education of the government employees where we trained about 3,500 civil servants in 2007, and more programmes are being introduced this year," Al Mansouri explained.

RTA legalises car-pooling

RTA legalises car-pooling
By Alia Al Theeb, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 22, 2008, 13:11

Dubai: The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has legalised car pooling by launching Sharekni, "a share your car service."

The move aims to give people a way to legally car-pool in Dubai and encourages motorists to share rides and cut traffic congestion.

Abdul Aziz Malek, CEO of the Dubai Taxi Agency at the RTA, announced the launch of the free service yesterday in the form of a dedicated website.

"The services comes after extensive field studies carried out by a specialist team in the Public Transport Agency (PTA) in collaboration with a global consulting firm, which found that car occupancy is 1.6 person per one private car and this is one of the factors that is worsening the problem of traffic jams on the streets and roads of Dubai," he said.

Malek said those sharing cars with relatives and friends need not register. RTA inspectors check vehicles only if they suspect that someone is picking passengers up on the road or using their vehicle as an illegal taxi.


He said the those interested in car-pooling should visit the RTA's website to register.

The website offers various options, which includes a search to find drivers or passengers in a certain company or emirate.

The PTA will maintain a database of subscribers and car owners. Residents can log on to either one of the two websites, the dedicated website or the RTA's website, and register to acquire a six-month valid permit and be part of the car-pooling service. Parties may agree a fee between themselves or share costs.

Malek said the maximum number of passengers in one car is four and all their names must be mentioned on the permit.

Currently, RTA inspectors issue a Dh5,000 fine to motorists for car-pooling or running an illegal taxi. The fine is aimed at stopping people from using their cars as illegal taxis. But there have been numerous complaints of motorists being fined while sharing cars with friends and colleagues.

Mohammad Bin Fahad, Acting Director of Planning and Business Development at the PTA, said the initiative will help lower costs commuters incur by using one car for sole use in addition to reducing stress caused by traffic jams especially during peak hours.

He said it will also contribute to reducing emissions from the large numbers of private cars, which means cutting pollution. "The service will also contribute effectively in reducing the phenomenon of illegal taxis, as all passengers in one car will have to be registered and their names mentioned on the permit which the driver will carry."

For car-pooling register at website or the RTA's website

Stress buster

Residents said the service would not only ease traffic on roads but also minimise road rage. Almost all of them agreed it would also lessen the burden on their pockets.

Mohammad Rizwan, a Pakistani, currently car-pools. He said: "Five of us travel from Sharjah to Dubai Media City. All of us hold valid UAE driving licences and own a car. Each one of us takes turns to drive the rest of our colleagues to work every day. In my view car-pooling has lessened the stress level when driving in traffic and getting stuck. We all chit-chat and reach our office in a happy mood."

Avinash G., an Indian computer analyst who lives in Bur Dubai, uses car-pooling to reach his place of work in Jebel Ali.

"There are four of us in the car. A couple of us get off on Shaikh Zayed Road while the rest get off in Jebel Ali. We are all charged Dh150 per month by the driver who runs this service. He is an office boy who after dropping us goes to work. He comes to pick us up after he leaves his work at 6.30pm. I have to wait half an hour after work for him but it's worth the wait. I used to drive and I hated the traffic. I only take my own car out during weekends or to run errands," he said.

Raziya Kazmi, a Bangladeshi who works as a secretary has no intention of getting a driving licence of her own. She lives in Hor Al Anz and has been making use of a car-pooling service run by an office boy. "I have been using the service for two years. I work in Rashidiya. We are charged as per the location of our workplace. For example I pay Dh200 a month, a fellow passenger whose office is on Shaikh Zayed Road is charged Dh250. The public buses are so overloaded and so I prefer car-pooling. It is economical."

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New procedures for visit visas to start soon

New procedures for visit visas to start soon
By Bassma Al Jandaly, Staff Reporter GULF NEWS Published: July 22, 2008, 22:22

Dubai: Applications can be filed starting next Tuesday for new visit visas which were revamped under a Federal ruling last June, a senior residency department official said on Tuesday.

The new fee schedule for the visas, which range from visit visas to visas for medical treatment should have started August 1, according to an earlier announcement, but have been pushed forward due to the weekend holidays.

July 30 is an official government holiday. The rules apply to nationalities who currently have to get sponsorship before arriving in the country.

The Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) and the Economic Department will meet with representatives of hotels, tourist agencies, hospitals and educational institutions on Wednesday to brief them on how the changes will be implemented.

Major General Mohammad Ahmad Al Merri, Director-General of DNRD, reiterated the fact that all visitors should have health insurance cover and sponsors have to pay a Dh1,000 refundable deposit.

He said the visit visa holder will be allowed to enter the UAE once within two months from the date of issue of the visa. According to the amendments, there will be 16 new types of visas.

Residents can apply for a visa for their spouse or blood relative. Expatriates will not be allowed to sponsor friends. And sponsoring other blood relatives will require approval of a senior officer.

Under the new rules, expatriates cannot apply for relatives who wish to come to the UAE for medical treatment, only hospitals can.

'No instructions given'

Typing centres still do not have a clue what applications to fill out when new visa rules come into effect.

"We are aware new visa rules will be implemented soon but we are still working on the same old visa and residency applications," said Mohammad, an employee at a typing centre in Jafiliya, Dubai.

"So far everything in our system is the same, including the online fees. So far, we have no instructions on the changes," said Ali at a typing centre in Sharjah.

The Federal authorities announced 16 types of visas and new fees under the revamped rules earlier in June. These include visas for medical treatment to entry visas for students.

Under the rules, expatriates are not allowed to sponsor friends to visit the UAE.

New visa fees in Dhs

Short Entry (visit) Visa - 500 (1 month)
Long Entry (visit) Visa - 1,000 (3 months)
Multiple Entry Visa - 2,000
Entry Visa for Study - 1,000
Renewal of Study Visa - 500
Entry Visa for Medical Treatment - 1,000
Renewal of Medical Treatment Visa - 500
Entry Visa for Expos and Conferences - 100
Tourism Entry Visa - 100
Renewal of Tourism Visa - 500
Entry Visa for GCC State Residents - 100
Renewal of GCC State Resident's Visa - 500
Entry Visa for GCC State Resident's Companions - 100
Renewal of GCC State Residents Companions' Visa - 200
Mission Entry Visa - 200
Transit Entry Visa - 100

Source: B.A.J./GULF NEWS

Off-campus courses in Bharatanatyam

Off-campus courses in Bharatanatyam

The world’s first off-campus degree programme in Bharatanatyam offered through a joint venture of Bharathidasan University and Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts, Tiruchi, is taking firm root in India and abroad.

For the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts and Diploma courses that are offered under the distance mode, the enrolment is poised to go up to 350 during the current academic year, from 220 last year. Enrolment started with 45 students in 2004-2 005. It increased to 62 students in 2005-2006 and 170 in 2006-2007.

Students from Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Haryana and Assam in India, and from countries such as Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Germany, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, France, Canada and the United States of America already benefit from these courses.

Those running dance schools, dance teachers, performing artistes, or those employed in any other profession, or doing any degree in any discipline in regular colleges, and housewives have enrolled for these courses.

Reputed cultural centres and art centres in India and abroad seek to be recognised as co-ordinating centres for the Kalai Kaviri Off-Campus Degree Programme.

Says Rev. Msgr. S.M. George, Founder and Director of the Off-Campus Degree Programme, who is also the Founder of Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts belonging to the Catholic Diocese of Tiruchi: “The off-campus programmes have revolutionised the concept of promoting and popularising the fine art forms across barriers.”

Impressed by the concept, Bharatanatyam artiste Saraswathi promoting the cause of fine arts with Padma Vibhushan Dr. Balamuralikrishna for the past 20 years and Director of Vipanchee Natyalaya, Chennai, recommends her students who have dance schools all over the globe for admission to Kalai Kaviri Off-Campus programme.

Eligibility options for joining this programme is of a wide range.

A graduate in any other discipline with proficiency in full Maargam (practical and theory) in Bharatanatyam (but does not have a Diploma in Bharatanatyam from any university or government institution) can take a ‘Special Eligibility Test’ both in theory and practicals, for direct admission to M.F.A.

B.F.A. and M.F.A. courses in Bharathanatyam can be done concurrently or simultaneously by students undergoing other UG and PG degree courses in other disciplines in the regular colleges.

Those with a pass in Class X and ten years of experience in teaching Bharatanatyam can join B.F.A. And those with Plus-Two qualification and teaching experience can join the second of the three-year undergraduation programme through lateral entry.

The website provides more information. Application forms can also be downloaded.