Iraqi parliament partially passes budget, including disputed Kurdish share

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Baghdad ( The Iraqi parliament has partially passed its 2018 budget, including the share of Kurdistan opposed by the region’s representatives.

Alsumaria News said the chamber voted Thursday for 12 articles of the document, in the presence of 170 members, and adjourned the session to Saturday.

Discussion of the budget has been called off several times over the past months.

Alsumaria quoted a parliament source saying that the session did not reach quorum.

Kurdish representatives boycotted the session, in protest at the parliament’s insistence to keep the reduction of Kurdistan’s share of the budget at 12.67%, down from 17%.

The proposed Iraqi budget is worth USD71.65 billion, with a deficit of  USD19.13 billion

Relations between Baghdad and Erbil deteriorated following Kurdistan’s vote on independence from Iraq in a popular referendum in September. With Baghdad taking penal measures against the region in response, Erbil demanded the payment of delayed employee salaries.

Baghdad has also accused Erbil of corruption in handling oil exports from fields under the region’s control, suggesting revenues could be sufficient to fulfill its expenses, a suggestion rebuffed by Erbil.


Source :  Iraqi News

Five Iraqi soldiers killed, injured in Islamic State attack, west of Mosul

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Mosul ( Five Iraqi soldiers were killed and injured in an attack launched by the Islamic State in west of Mosul, Nineveh province, a security source was quoted saying on Thursday.

Speaking to Baghdad Today website, the source said, “gunmen, who are believed to belong to Islamic State, attacked a checkpoint for security troops in Badush, west of Mosul.”

The attack, according to the source, “left two soldiers killed and three others wounded.”

Islamic State continues to launch sporadic attacks across Iraq against troops. Security reports indicate that the militant group still poses threat against stability in the country.

Thousands of IS militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition was launched in October 2016 to fight the militant group, which declared a self-styled “caliphate” from Mosul in June 2014.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced, in December, full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.

As many as 3,298 civilians were killed and 4,781 others were wounded in 2017, excluding Anbar civilian casualty figures for November and December, which are not available, UNAMI said in a report in December.


Source :  Iraqi News

Mass grave with remains of 40 Christians found in west of Mosul

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Mosul ( A mass grave with remains of forty Christians was found in Mosul, church sources declared on Thursday.

“Al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) along with security troops in Halila region, near Badush in west of Mosul, ran into a mass grave of Christians who were kidnapped from the region,” a source from the Syriac Orthodox Church told Alghad Press website.

“Most of the human remains were buried collectively. Some of them were for women and children. They had small Christian crosses with them,” the source added.

Security troops ran into tens of mass graves at regions recaptured from IS. More than 70 graves, including Yazidis killed by IS, were also found.

Violence in the country has surged further with the emergence of Islamic State Sunni extremist militants who proclaimed an “Islamic Caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.

Thousands of IS militants as well as Iraqi civilians were killed since the government campaign, backed by paramilitary troops and the coalition, was launched in October 2016 to fight the militant group.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared in July victory over IS militants who had held the second largest Iraqi city since 2014. More than 25,000 Islamic State militants were killed throughout the campaign. Abadi announced, in December, full liberation of Iraqi lands, declaring end of war against IS members.


Source :  Iraqi News

Government officer charged with Dh30,000 bribe in UAE

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The complainant claimed that the 50-year-old Arab had asked money as bribe to complete certain transactions.

The Sharjah Criminal Court has charged an engineer, a government employee, with bribery charges.

The complainant, M.G.A., claimed that the 50-year-old Arab had asked Dh30,000 as bribe to complete certain transactions.

When confronted by presiding judge, Mahmood Abu Bakr, the man denied the charge. He said the amount was requested from the complainant as he was one of his best friends and their friendship had a history of over 12 years. He said he did not ask for the money as bribe and that he had always done transactions for his friend.

The judge confronted him with his contradicted testimonies. During the police interrogation, the man said he requested the money as a gift, but during the public prosecution interrogation, he claimed the money was asked as a loan to complete certain obligations.

The judge adjourned the case to March 12.


Source :  The Khaleej Times

Reading initiative to supply a million books to schools

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Filed on March 2, 2018 | Last updated on March 2, 2018 at 12.03 am

“Today, we are announcing an initiative to support our school libraries with a million new books,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

A total of one million books will be supplied to school libraries across the UAE, thanks to a new initiative by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Sheikh Mohammed said that the effort aims to establish reading as a habit in the country.

“Today, we are announcing an initiative to support our school libraries with a million new books,” he said.

He said that there is a reading law which aims to encourage 80 per cent of students to read.

The objective is to prepare a generation that is in step with the future. It will also cement the UAE’s leading position as a knowledge society.

Sheikh Mohammed added that “we can’t create a tolerant society and build stable families without the culture of reading which promotes knowledge”.

“Today marks the beginning of the UAE’s Month of Reading, where every person works on instilling this civilised habit in our society and for future generations,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

The launch of the initiative coincides with the UAE’s Reading Month, which was launched as part of the UAE Reading Strategy.


Source :  The Khaleej Times

Dh2.4m swiped from traveling businessman’s bank account in UAE

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Filed on March 1, 2018 | Last updated on March 1, 2018 at 01.52 pm

The defendant and other runaways forged a power of attorney document and an Emirates ID card.

A man and his accomplices allegedly embezzled Dh2.4 million from the bank account of an Indian businessman while he was abroad.

The Court of First Instance heard how another Indian businessman – 36-year-old – obtained a SIM card replacement on the victim’s behalf and activated a bank card in his name to withdraw huge amounts of money from his bank accounts.

The defendant and other runaways forged a power of attorney document and an Emirates ID card.

They applied for and received a bank card and a cheque book in the victim’s name.

They made purchases and withdrawal transactions with the bank card and 11 forged cheques worth Dh 2.4 m.

The case dates back to January, last year, and a complaint was filed at Al Muraqqabat police station.

The Public Prosecution urged the court to inflict the strictest penalty on the defendant when they referred him on forgery and fraud charges.

The victim, a 64-year-old business partner, said he left the UAE on January 20, 2017, to India, his mobile phone line got off service and he stopped receiving SMS alerts from his bank.

“I had my own doubts as I am a businessman and I received lots of such alerts about business transactions. When I contacted my bank on January 29, I was told Dh 2.4 m had been withdrawn in many transactions.

“The purchases and cash withdrawal transactions were done with a card that was issued after my departure from the country. Cheques were encashed in my name and the cheque book had also been issued while I was out of town.”

The bank customer returned the next day to the UAE. “I learned someone had applied for a SIM card replacement in my name on the same line registered with the bank and misused it,” the victim said.

An Indian legal investigator at the bank said, “we conducted an internal probe and found the bank card was issued on January 23, last year, after someone contacted the bank from the victim’s personal number saved in our records and impersonated him. He claimed he lost his bank card and applied for a new one. His request was approved after he answered all the security questions.”

A Sudanese sales supervisor at the courier shipment company said their employee completed all the necessary procedure (taking a copy from the customer’s original ID and his signature) when delivering the bank card and cheque book to the alleged fraudster.

The police got a copy of the CCTV footage showing the latter collecting the package sent by the bank.

Source :  The Khaleej Times

‘Leaning’ tower proposed as part of major Brisbane CBD development

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By Ruth McCosker

Updated 1

first published at 

The development application, submitted to Brisbane City Council on Wednesday, outlined plans for the development spanning across Charlotte, George and Mary streets, which has been called the ‘QIC Triplets and 62 Mary Street’ on architectural plans.

The QIC Triplets and 62 Mary Street development proposed for Brisbane CBD.

The QIC Triplets and 62 Mary Street development proposed for Brisbane CBD.

Photo: Bureau Proberts

“The Applicant, QIC, proposes to develop a new commercial tower on the site fronting Mary Street and to revitalise the ground and plaza levels of the site through improved pedestrian connectivity and spaces and expanded and new uses to both the street frontages and internally within the site,” the application said.

“Also proposed is the consolidation of the existing vehicle crossover, introduction of a new vehicle crossover on Mary Street and the internal reconfiguration and expansion of the existing basement levels.”

The new 39-storey (42 level), cantilelevered commercial tower is proposed to be built at 62 Mary Street while the to-be-refurbished towers stand at 111 George Street, 33 Charlotte Street and 54 Mary Street and are predominantly occupied by state government tenants.

 The existing three-storey commercial building at 62 Mary Street is currently vacant and will be demolished to make way for the new tower which will have a gross floor area of 42,319 square metres.

The new building is proposed to be 189.4 metres, which is 84.9 metres short of the aviation-enforced maximum building height.

Along with the buildings, a new laneway connecting Mary and Charlotte Streets is proposed along with 12 new retail spaces and landscaped seating areas.

Commercial tenancies are proposed to be built at the base of the commercial tower at 62 Mary Street.

Commercial tenancies are proposed to be built at the base of the commercial tower at 62 Mary Street.

Photo: Bureau Proberts

A range of tenants would be able to occupy the retail spaces including commercial office, shops, food and drink outlets, and potentially include a child care centre, supermarket, medical suites and small-scale multi-use conference facilities.

“The proposed development represents an integrated, whole of site, development outcome that allows for the revitalisation of the ground plane to create a more permeable, activated and pedestrian-oriented environment and a new commercial office building with a floor plate that meets current market demand,” the application said.

The proposed development will be delivered in four stages.

Stage one will involve the demolition of the existing building at 62 Mary Street and the construction of the new commercial tower, stage two includes the lobby refurbishment and street upgrades to 54 Mary Street.

Stage three comprises the new cross block link, including ground and plaza level improvements to 111 George Street and stage four involves the ground and plaza level upgrades to 33 Charlotte Street.

The QIC Triplets and 62 Mary Street development is proposed to be completed over four stages.

The QIC Triplets and 62 Mary Street development is proposed to be completed over four stages.

Photo: Bureau Proberts

Across the site, there are currently 418 parking spaces, but 32 of these will be lost as part of the new development.

The new building will include 386 car spaces and a new end of trip facility will also be built which will have 366 bicycle spaces, 448 lockers and 42 showers.

This application is considered code assessable and therefore does not require public notification.

Brisbane City Council will now assess the development application.

Source :  The Brisbane Times

ACCC approves gas pricing tie-ups to help ease energy crisis

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By Cole Latimer

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has given gas companies greater trading and pricing powers in Western Australia and the Northern Territory to provide more gas for the east coast.

The ACCC will allow two NT gas companies to jointly market and price their gas and let Chevron, Inpex, Shell and Woodside coordinate their maintenance activities in Western Australia – in fact taking turns to do maintenance work for contractors.

The maintenance proposal had previously triggered concerns that it could give the company whose turn it was an unfair advantage in gas trading, as it would have market-sensitive information ahead of time.

Woodside can coordinate its maintenance with Chevron, Shell, and INPEX.
Woodside can coordinate its maintenance with Chevron, Shell, and INPEX.

“LNG producers can now schedule maintenance together without risking breaching competition laws, reducing concurrent work at their facilities. This will improve efficiency and maximise LNG production,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said.

However, there is the potential that Chevron, Inpex, Shell and Woodside could use this knowledge of scheduled downtimes to redirect their own gas to now undersupplied markets.

 “If producers become aware of each other’s LNG facility shutdowns as part of this agreement, this information might give them an advantage in gas trading markets,” Mr Sims said.

To overcome this, ACCC will force the LNG producers to publicly disclose their maintenance information that they share.

“Information is a crucial component for creating efficient, well-functioning markets. Market-sensitive information disclosed to competitors as part of this process should be available to all participants,” Mr Sims said.

He added that the ACCC has only given its approval for five years, instead of the 10-year period sought by the LNG producers, as due to the changing nature of gas markets “there is significant uncertainty about the impact of the proposed conduct on related markets”.

The ACCC has also approved Central Petroleum and Macquarie Mereenie’s LNG supply negotiation agreement for the next three years to help ramp up their joint venture Mereenie gas project.

“In order to allow the development of Mereenie gas as soon as possible, the ACCC has granted interim authorisation, which allows the parties to begin negotiating joint supply agreements with customers,” the ACCC said.

Without the ACCC approvals, the two companies would be directly breaching competition laws.

“The ACCC’s preliminary view is that joint marketing is likely to encourage investment to increase gas production at Mereenie. Bringing forward new gas supply benefits the public, particularly once the Northern Gas Pipeline links the Northern Territory to east coast gas markets for the first time later this year,” Mr Sims said.

“Supply of affordable gas available for east coast customers is tight, particularly in southern parts of Australia, which is putting significant pressures on consumers and businesses. We were very mindful of this in granting interim authorisation.”

Late last year, the ACCC broke a similar, 48-year-old joint gas market venture in Victoria between Esso and BHP.

“The ACCC was concerned that the joint marketing arrangements were likely to have resulted in a substantial lessening of competition in the market for the supply of gas to buyers in the southern states,” Mr Sims said.


Source :  The Brisbane Times


Man shot in the ear, chases intruders from home, police say

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By Jorge Branco

A 24-year-old man chased offenders from his house after they busted into his bedroom and shot him in the ear, police say.

Two men came into the man’s Hendra home, in Brisbane’s north-east, about 11pm on Thursday before threatening him.

Police said one of the intruders was armed and shot at the man, hitting him in the neck and ear and leaving him with minor injuries.

A police spokesman said the 24-year-old then chased the men from the Long Street house, before paramedics arrived and took him to the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for treatment.

Police say the victim knows his attacker, who fled in a car shortly after firing a single shot.

“The victim’s mother was at the rear of the house. She heard the gunshot and came out to the front of the house where her son was, however by that stage the offender had fled the house,” Inspector Daniel Bragg told the ABC.

– With AAP


Source :  The Brisbane Times

Driving not ‘be all’ of Saudi women’s rights, says Princess Reema

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Princess Reema said the abaya will be no hindrance to Saudi women’s exercise.(AN photo)
WASHINGTON: Saudi Arabia is working to address deeper issues on the path to women’s rights after allowing them to drive and attend soccer matches, one of the Kingdom’s top female officials has said.
“These are things that are quick wins, we know we can do them, women in stadium, women driving, that’s great, but women driving is not the end all, be all of women’s rights,” Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud told the Atlantic Council in Washington.
As part of a wide-ranging social and economic reform initiative in the face of falling oil revenue, King Salman announced in September that Saudi women would be allowed to drive from June this year.
Saudi Arabia then tackled the male bastion of soccer, letting women into stadiums to watch matches for the first time in January.
Princess Reema, a vice president at the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, said deeper issues are still being worked on including “a woman feeling safe in her home” and having any career path open to her in a traditionally male-dominated society.
“Those are things that will be more dynamic in moving the conversation for women’s rights than just getting her driving,” said the princess, who in 2016 became the first woman named to a senior post in the authority, which is the equivalent of a ministry.
“Domestic violence is so critical. I promise you we really are working on it.” The Sports Authority is trying to get more Saudis exercising as part of efforts to build a healthier population.
Saudi women traditionally cover themselves from head-to-toe in black robes, known as abayas, but Princess Reema said the attire will be no hindrance to women’s exercise.
She said she knows of three companies making abayas for running and two more that have robes designed for cycling.
“Innovation will come. It has to come,” she said. “Guess what, I’m wearing trousers today,” added the princess, also dressed in sparkling silver shoes, purple, black and grey flowing sleeves, and with a blue scarf around her head.
The Kingdom sent four women as “wild cards” to the 2016 Olympics, but Princess Reema told AFP on the sidelines of the Atlantic Council event that she will be happy when one gets to a future Olympics “on her own merit … however long it takes.”
Source :  Arab News