Day: August 20, 2007

Sharjah Port fire – Heroes of the inferno

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Heroes of the inferno









By Alia Al Theeb and Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporters/GULF NEWS Published: August 19, 2007, 23:05

Dubai: As the thick smoke cleared, they could finally breathe easy – firefighters from across the country fought valiantly to combat the blaze that spread panic in Sharjah.

Gulf News spoke to two of the brave men who battled the inferno all night.

Two firefighters from Dubai Civil Defence said they spent 13 hours fighting the fire that started at oil products storage facilities of Emirates Lube Oil Company in Sharjah’s Port Khalid.

Lieutenant Colonel Ebrahim Al Sayegh, Coordinator of the Dubai firefighting teams on the site, told Gulf News he did not sleep for two days guiding his men. He said some firefighters were even called back from their vacations to help put out the fire.

He said Dubai teams supported Sharjah teams by providing them with water and in putting out the fire and getting into the site. He said around 30 firefighters and four fire officers went from Dubai, 15 on the first day and another 15 on the second day.

Break for a breath
Lieutenant Colonel Al Sayegh, who has been in the Civil Defence for 20 years, described the fire as a “developed fire”. He said there was thick black smoke which was suffocating.

“We needed a place to rest at the site, so a tent was put up. We took a breath every now and then. Some of us even went to rest in our cars,” he said.

Lieutenant Colonel Al Sayegh said he rested his men, changing them every day, but he remained on the scene. “I did not sleep for two days as I was responsible for updating the firefighting plans depending on the wind direction as well as coordinating the teams,” he said.

Lieutenant Majid Bin Hafez, a field officer and Director of Al Ghusais Civil Defence Centre, said he spent 13 continuous hours on the site.

“The team spirit on the site made the job easier because teams from various emirates worked next to each other to confine the fire,” he told Gulf News.

Lieutenant Bin Hafez, who has been working as a field officer for the past six years, said exhaustion is always a factor, especially during the heat, but most of the firefighters were in good physical shape. “The experience was exciting and added to my knowledge,” he said.

A firefighter from Sharjah Civil Defence who was on site, Mohammad Guloom, told Gulf News he had been trying to douse the fire and cool the area since Saturday.

“We have been here all this time trying to put out the fire and prevent it from spreading. There seems to be a lot of damage but we managed to get it under control with cooperation from other emirates,” he said, adding that the fire was one of the biggest he had tried to fight. “This was probably the biggest on a national scale.”

The summer temperatures made the job more difficult, he said, but the water being sprayed played its part in keeping the firefighters cool too, he said as he filled his helmet with water and poured it over his head.

Firefighters stayed on site for seven hours before their colleagues took over.

The area Guloom was trying to cool is where containers of imported cigarettes once stood. “Hundreds of cartons of many different kinds of cigarettes were burnt,” he said.

An official from a marine services operator, which has an office at Port Khalid, said the company had lost two cars.

“Three thousand workers have been off work but hopefully they will be back soon.”

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15 Tips to help you succeed at whatever you wish.

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15 Tips to help you succeed at whatever you wish.

Tip 1 Ask for what you want.
How does the world know what to give you unless you put it out there? Ask for what you want and need. Let the world know what you want from it and look for it in return.

Tip 2 Be the person you want to be.
It’s call modeling. If you act like it, people will believe it. Assume the role you want others to see you in. Sell it from the inside out.

Tip 3 Believe in yourself.
If you don’t, no one will. People will follow; you just need to lead them. Forget worrying; concentrate on making things happen. Action and momentum are infectious.

Tip 4 Make a plan.
No one goes anywhere without a destination. Know your destination, and plot your journey. Take whatever pleasures you need on the way, but know that you are moving forward and will arrive at your destination.

Tip 5 Nervous = excited.
Realize that being nervous is the same as being excited. Instead of dreading it, welcome the surge of positive energy. Own it, and use it. It’s infectious in a good way!

Tip 6 Thinking about your failure brings your failure.
Concentrate on your success and watch it happen. Your mind will move in whatever direction you point it in. Make sure it’s pointed toward where you want to go and not where you don’t!

Tip 7 Feel whatever way you choose.
You control your feelings. You allow yourself to be upset, annoyed or frustrated. Only you control your feelings and no one else. Take back the power you give others and choose to feel strong, clear-minded and in control.

Tip 8 Communicate.
Listening and being understood are the keys to communication. People want to talk about themselves and they want to hear interesting things about you. No one wants to hear a sermon or hear a rant about your latest victory or great audition. Listen, observe and speak about mutually interesting subjects. Otherwise, you’re a bore.

Tip 9 Freak out.
Bad audition, interview or meeting? Take ten minutes to beat yourself up. Blame yourself, be annoyed and frustrated. Then, learn your lesson and move on. Now that all your anger is gone, put your energy into the lessons learned and move forward once again.

Tip 10 Speak your mind, NOW.
People swallow their feelings and anger, they postpone what they really want to say, thinking, “I’ll just wait till a good time.” DON’T! Handle the situation now, before the situation changes. Have a problem? Be a diplomat and talk about it. Handling a minor situation now will prevent it from becoming a festering chasm of misunderstanding and resentment later.

Tip 11 Dive in.
Someone make you feel inadequate? A situation makes you feel uneasy? In a room with a big shot and feeling small? Don’t overcompensate, navigate or fake your way through it, because you can’t. Dive in and address the problem. Address your feelings and say, “I’ve got to be honest, I’m a big fan and I’m feeling a little intimidated right now.” As soon as you own up to your feelings and the playing field is understood, you’re both able to move ahead. Everyone wants to deal with someone who’s truthful and honest, and not afraid to address their own insecurities.

Tip 12 Exploit yourself.
Find out what makes you different and exploit it. Each of you has a quality that makes you unique. Instead of trying to be what others are, exploit your uniqueness. It’s the one “ace” you have that no one else possesses.

Tip 13 Don’t accept the unacceptable.
Train people to treat you as you want to be treated. Being late is not acceptable, not returning calls is not acceptable and them not doing their job is not acceptable. Don’t accept these behaviors from people.

Tip 14 Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
Be someone else. Changing perspective is an amazing tip to see the world from another point of view. Assume a character and role and act it out for one day, then go out in the world as if it’s all new to you. You’ll be amazed at the new perspective you gain.

Tip 15 Say thank you.
Send an email from Hallmark, a card or a simple phone call. Don’t underestimate the value of someone feeling appreciated and recognized for their efforts. It leaves a lasting impression when someone thanks you for meeting or helping them.

A TRICK

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A TRICK
A young man, a student in one of our universities, was one day taking a walk with a professor, who was commonly called the students’ friend, for his kindness to those who waited on his instructions.

As they went along, they saw lying in the path a pair of old shoes, which they supposed to belong to a poor man who was employed in a field close by, and who had nearly finished his day’s work.

The student turned to the professor, saying: “Let us play the man a trick: we will hide his shoes, and conceal ourselves behind those bushes, and wait to see his perplexity when he cannot find them.”

“My young friend,” answered the professor, “we should never amuse ourselves at the expense of the poor. But you are rich, and may give yourself a much greater pleasure by means of the poor man. Put a coin into each shoe, and then we will hide ourselves and watch how the discovery affects him.”

The student did so, and they both placed themselves behind the bushes close by.

The poor man soon finished his work, and came across the field to the path where he had left his coat and shoes. While putting on his coat he slipped his foot into one of his shoes; but feeling something hard, he stooped down to feel what it was, and found the coin.

Astonishment and wonder were seen upon his countenance. He gazed upon the coin, turned it round, and looked at it again and again. He then looked around him on all sides, but no person was to be seen. He now put the money into his pocket, and proceeded to put on the other shoe; but his surprise was doubled on finding the other coin.

His feelings overcame him; he fell upon his knees, looked up to heaven and uttered aloud a fervent thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife, sick and helpless, and his children without bread, whom the timely bounty, from some unknown hand, would save from perishing.

The student stood there deeply affected, and his eyes filled with tears. “Now,” said the professor, “are you not much better pleased than if you had played your intended trick?”

The youth replied, “You have taught me a lesson which I will never forget. I feel now the truth of those words, which I never understood before: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'”

— Author Unknown

etisalat to offer ‘triple play’ service soon

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etisalat to offer ‘triple play’ service soon
By Ivan Gale, Staff Reporter/GULF NEWS Published: August 19, 2007, 23:05

Dubai: etisalat expects to offer ‘triple play’ service to more than 100,000 customers this quarter once government regulators approve its pricing scheme, its chief executive said.

Triple play is a bundled service delivering fixed line and high-speed TV and internet over one cable into the home or office. It is often touted as producing cost savings to operators and customers.

“Customers will be able to receive state of the art technology at very high broadband speeds,” Mohammad Al Qamzi said. “This will be high-definition TV and internet will also be at very high speeds.”

Reduced costs

The etisalat CEO said an immediate benefit to the company would be reduced costs on maintenance and equipment.

“This is where the future of telecom is, where we can serve customers at a lower price and higher bandwidth.”

The product rollout will first be offered to subscribers of etisalat’s e-vision TV service because these customers already have installed the necessary cabling into their homes.

A pricing plan has already been submitted to the UAE Telecommunications Regulatory Authority.

The bundling will target higher sales of each of the three services offered, including the unprofitable e-vision division.

The initiative is the first step in a multi-year plan for the company, as it develops a next-generation network composed entirely of IP-based technology.

After completing its core network in Dubai and Abu Dhabi last year, the telecom provider will spend the next three years installing soft switches and fibre optic cabling throughout the country, Al Qamzi said. “We are now going for the ‘last mile’ – deploying fibre to the customer,” he said.

The first recipients of this high-bandwidth, all-IP network will be 27,000 residents in Abu Dhabi after etisalat successfully replaces the first of several hundred legacy switches. The new network should debut in Abu Dhabi in two months.

The project comes at a time when businesses and consumer are increasingly consuming higher data traffic, the CEO said.

“Internationally, voice [revenues] are declining, but data is increasing – that’s where the growth is.”

Gulf to Japan VLCC freight hits four-year low partly due to Opec cuts

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Gulf to Japan VLCC freight hits four-year low partly due to Opec cuts Reuters Published: August 19, 2007, 23:05

London: The world’s main crude export route sank to a four-year low last Tuesday, hit by strong fleet supply, long-standing Opec cuts and refinery maintenance in Asia, according to brokers and analysts.

The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) route from the Gulf to Japan struck W50 – its lowest level since October 2003, according to Reuters data.

The London Baltic Exchange confirmed the physical spot trade on the route at W49.97 – an average between single and double-hulled oil tankers on the long-haul voyage.

Japan is Asia’s biggest importer of crude oil, closely followed by China. More than two-thirds of the Gulf’s oil flows to Asia.

Brokers Simpson, Spence & Young cited a bout of refinery maintenance in Japan at the end of August and South Korea as a further reasons for the weakness.

Other core rates from the Gulf to the United States and out of the Atlantic Basin – West Africa and the North Sea – to the United States have already struck four-year lows.

Long-haul routes

Despite strong world crude demand and buoyant economic growth, major long-haul crude export routes – including those from top producers in the Gulf – have been hit hard by strong fleet growth and long-standing Opec cuts this year.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries decided last year to lower output by 1.7 million barrels per day (bpd), equivalent to a VLCC’s worth a day from the market.

The group is meeting about 900,000 bpd of the promised reduction, according to a Reuters survey of July output.

High stocks in the United States and a backward dated Nymex crude futures market since mid-July have pressured export flows and correspondingly rates, as traders delay buying.

A heavy round of refinery maintenance in the world’s biggest consumer and unscheduled stoppages have also squeezed flows. “Oil tanker movements suggest oil in transit is well below seasonal norms, especially on westbound routes, and will remain so for several weeks,” the International Energy Agency said in a report last week. “In the Atlantic Basin, production outages and economic run cuts in Europe offer further downside to prospective crude vessel interest,” it said.

Sharp contrast

The slide on crude freight markets is in sharp contrast to ocean freight for dry commodities – a different sea freight sector – which continues to smash records. Some analysts said the new freight lows on crude were on a nominal basis only because the ‘real’ or dollar per tonne price was higher on a Time Charter Equivalent basis due to starkly higher ship fuel (bunker) costs this year.

Blue eyes spell success

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Blue eyes spell success
Monday,20 August 2007 20:7 hrs IST /Malayala Manoram

New York: Success lies in the colour of your eyes, and those with blue ones are likely to achieve more in life than their peers as they tend to study more effectively and perform better in exams, says a study conducted by US scientists. The study did not mention anything about people with black irises.

The tests showed that brown-eyed people had faster reaction time, but those with lighter eyes appeared to be better strategic thinkers.

Brown-eyed people succeeded in activities such as football and hockey, but lighter-eyed participants proved to be more successful in activities that required skills in time structuring and planning such as golf, cross-country running and studying for exams, the scientists said.

Louisville University professor Joanna Rowe, who conducted the tests, said the results suggested an unexplored link between eye colour and academic achievement.

“It is just observed, rather than explained,” she told ‘Herald Sun’. “There’s no scientific answer yet.”

Bedfordshire University senior psychology lecturer Tony Fallone, who has also studied eye colour, believed it should be taken more seriously as an indicator of personality and ability.

Blue-eyed academic successes include Stephen Hawking and Marie Curie who twice won the Nobel prize, for physics and chemistry.

Blue eyes contain low amounts of melanin within the iris stroma. The type of melanin present is eumelanin. People with blue eyes are relatively common throughout Europe and other areas with populations of European descent, such as Canada, the United States, Australia and some countries of the Middle East. Iranian states such as Afghanistan and Iran also have somewhat uncommon occurrences of blue-eyed people.

There are also populations in northern India and Pakistan that have naturally occurring blue eyes, although this is extremely rare. Throughout the rest of the world they are relatively rare. Around eight percent of the world’s population has blue eyes.

As melanin production generally increases during the first few years of life (especially if exposed to the sun), the blue eyes of some babies may darken as they get older. In the case of blue-green eyes, they must be more blue than green to be considered blue. Aqua blue is a good example of eyes that are more blue than green.

Why Smart People Make Dumb Money Mistakes

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Why Smart People Make Dumb Money Mistakes

We are programmed to get our money decisions wrong. But we can still win

Monika Halan and Rajesh Kumar / Outlookmoney.com

The house I did not buy at Rs 46 lakh three years back now costs Rs 1.1 crore.

The Rs 5,000 I put in a mutual fund three years ago is now worth Rs 15,000. I regret not putting in Rs 5 lakh.

The best-performing fund slipped as soon as I bought it.

I sell a stock after holding it for years, and it begins to fly like a kite the day I sell it.

My neighbour got a super price for his land; I did not for mine.

I have the wrong insurance policy, but am holding on to it.

The price of my car dropped a week after I bought it.

I feel unlucky with my financial decisions. Here I am, a perfectly normal sort of a person with a good job, a great family, in control of most of my life. Except for one thought that rankles in my overall feeling of well-being. I feel that I constantly take financial decisions that are not so cool.

If you find any of the above even a little bit familiar, take heart, most of us feel exactly the same way. Did you know that the human mind is programmed to fall into some behavioural traps that cost us big money? A relatively new branch of Economics, called Behavioural Finance, lays down a paradigm that is different from traditional Economics, where all people were rational, all economic choices were the best possible, and markets were mostly in equilibrium. This meant there was a perfect world out there, where men were calculating machines with zero emotions such as fear, greed, regret and anticipation, and with perfect information about all products, services and prices at all points of time. But when psychologist-economist Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize for his work in Behavioural Finance, this more real branch of Economics came centrestage. And it is now accepted that the human mind is programmed to make big money mistakes due to habit—and emotion-driven actions. Though the scope of behavioural finance is much wider, we shortlist the five most common behaviour patterns that most often cost you a lot of money. And tell what you can do to sidestep these traps.

Mental Accounting

We tend to use mental short-cuts to decode everyday life. These rules of thumb make us put money into different mental accounts, preventing us from seeing the overall picture. Sometimes this works to our advantage—putting money in sacrosanct mental buckets like insurance premiums, tax saving instruments, and so on. But sometimes these buckets cause harm. How do you use the money that a money-back insurance policy throws up periodically? Most people tend to blow up that money instead of treating it as a return on their investment to be used to meet a financial goal, or for further investing. Similarly, a dividend, or tax refund is often used frivolously by ordinarily responsible people. A good way to get over this is to quickly bank the cheque and wait for some time. This waiting period can allow mental accounting to kick in so that we treat this money as part of our savings and not something to be blown up.

Mental accounting does not snare us only while spending, it traps us into sub-optimal investing decisions as well. While working out overall asset allocation, we forget to include the provident fund, the Public Provident Fund and endowment insurance polices in the process because they are not seen as part of our decision-making process but as something that’s pre-decided. We then divide the rest of the surplus money between debt and equity. No wonder that the average equity in household savings is a mere 5 per cent, the rest going into debt products (Handbook of Statistics on Indian Economy, Reserve Bank of India). Since equity has given an average annual return of over 16 per cent in the last 26 years, such mental blocks bring down our capacity to create wealth by leaving too much in low-return instruments.

Way out. So, do remember to look at your total savings—fixed and unfixed. Take a look at the full asset allocation pie and then divide your funds between debt and equity.

Loss Aversion and Sunk Cost

We hate to lose. The distress that each lost rupee causes is twice as high as the pleasure we get from each rupee gained. This is actually good because it prevents us from gambling away our retirement funds or the money we save for our kids’ education. But there is a big flipside to this. We tend to hold on to the wrong consumer and financial products. Why? Because the act of throwing the rotten thing out would bring home the loss and make us ‘feel’ dumb. To prevent that feeling, we stuff new but tight shoes at the bottom of the shoe rack, and a new but useless mixer-juicer at the back of the kitchen cupboard. Similarly, you hold on to losing shares and funds. People who invested Rs 10,000 in Bajaj Hindustan, a sugar stock, in May 2006, would be left with just Rs 2,943 today. If, on the other hand, they had cut losses and moved the money to the Sensex even after losing 25 per cent at the end of May 2006, their investment would be at Rs 11,000 today.

Use the loss aversion argument carefully, for it does not work for fundamentally sound stocks. Sometimes an overall fall in the market brings down the price of strong stocks. That, in fact, is the time to buy more rather than book losses.

Linked to this is the sunk cost trait. We go on putting good money after bad in, say, car or washing machine repair. Aren’t we all familiar with spending recurrent amounts on ‘fixing it’ when a new appliance would have cost less? Loss aversion looks nasty when we see what it does to our investment behaviour. Take, for example, our fetish for buying a new insurance policy every year. The only life cover one needs is a term plan, but the agent keeps selling you a useless policy every year. But do you discontinue the 4-per-cent-return money-back and endowment polices even when you discover that they are garbage? Most people continue paying premiums and say they are doing so because they have already invested for a few years.

Way out. The first mantra is to learn to cut losses and move on, but it should be used selectively for investments and products that are genuine losers. The second strategy is to have a well-diversified portfolio. It would be less subject to such mental traps as it would be more stable than individual stocks or funds.

Status Quo Bias and Regret Aversion

Since we hate to lose, we go to great lengths to avoid the feeling of regret and don’t want to take on the responsibility of a wrong financial decision. This is called regret aversion. In the ‘Status Quo Bias and Regret Aversion’ test (on the left), the two people are in the same situation, but the second person feels worse because he blames himself for a wrong financial decision.

Having been through many situations where our financial decisions were proven wrong (selling a stock just before it became a kite, buying a house at the tail end of a property bubble, buying a gadget to see its price halving a week later), we fall into the status quo bias trap, or the desire not to change anything much with our financial lives so that we don’t get to a position where we regret taking faulty financial decision.

Several cash-poor but asset-rich senior citizens fall into this category. Some of them are 100 per cent invested in debt instruments and real estate. They see real estate and stock prices zooming, but are unable to take the call of selling some of the real estate they are holding selectively to get more cash and invest the rest in stocks. They feel that real estate prices may go higher and stockmarket investments may go wrong anytime.

Way out. An overall asset allocation and portfolio diversification approach makes us look at portfolio return rather than individual product returns.

Anchoring

This is when we hang on to a number, fact or return figure that has no bearing on the overall investment or spending decision. When property prices began zooming up in 2003, some of us postponed our purchase decision till they ‘settled down’. We watched prices rise more than 100 per cent without doing anything, for we were ‘anchored’ to the earlier prices. While this sort of anchoring can really break a family’s wealth creation stride, a smaller, but more insidious hurt comes in the monthly grocery bill. You may have seen this sale gimmick: ‘Cheap Basmati Rice: 5-kg bag now selling at Rs 210, down from Rs 350’. But this is Rs 42 a kg on sale, down from Rs 70 a kg. You anyway get basmati rice at Rs 40-42 a kg. When we buy more or unnecessary products and services because they are ‘cheaper’ or ‘free’, we use up money that could have been used for wealth creation. A simple way out it to use the calculator to break ‘sale’ prices down to per kg or per gram or per litre to skip the anchoring trap.

Another example is a stock going at, say, Rs 1,500 that someone recommends. You consider buying it, but don’t. When it reaches Rs 1,800, and you see that the company is going great guns, you say, “I should have bought it at Rs 1,500”. That you didn’t is one mistake, another would be to not buy it at Rs 1,800. You could fall into this trap while renting out your house. You may want the older, higher rent for your property even when overall rents have gone down. As a result, you may forego rent while still paying tax on the imputed rental on the second home.

Way out. To beat this mental trap, you can look for a current benchmark and not the one that is implicitly suggested, or even better, look at a realistic lifetime return that will make you happy. This is specially useful while evaluating the performance of your portfolio, fund and, even, unit-linked insurance policy.

Money Illusion

We have a tendency to ignore the effect of inflation on our money choices. Take, for example, the way an average insurance agent sells you a policy. His pitch to you is: Put in Rs 1 lakh every year for 15 years and get back Rs 25 lakh. Sounds great, till you remove the money illusion. The annual return here is a nominal 6.9 per cent. Factor in inflation at 6 per cent and you are left with a return of just 0.9 per cent. Other fixed return instruments like fixed deposits (FDs) and bonds also fall prey to this trap. We think FDs are giving us 9 per cent return nowadays. But, at 6 per cent inflation, the real return is just 3 per cent. Allow taxes in and the return is even lower.

Way out. Look at returns after taking into account inflation and taxes. To get the real returns, consider all the costs and taxes that apply to an investment, then reduce the return rate by the expected inflation number—about 6 per cent in India. You will find then that the stockmarket index gives the best long-term, low-cost real return. If you had invested Rs 10,000 in the Sensex in 1979, it would be worth over Rs 12.6 lakh today; a bank FD would have fetched Rs 1.58 lakh on the same amount.

Another way money illusion hurts is when inflation keeps eroding the real value of a life or non-life cover. If we assume an inflation rate of 5 per cent, a 25-year life cover of Rs 10 lakh would be half as effective after 15 years since Rs 10 lakh then would be able to buy only what Rs 5 lakh does today. This is one reason why our insurance covers need periodic reviews.

You can be more in control of your financial life if you know the traps that you are programmed to fall into. The real challenge is to use these five behaviour traits as two-way weapons. Wherever possible, use their good points to your advantage, while being careful about their stings. Let not your financial journey be one of remorse and regrets, but of hope and conquests.

With reports from Anagh PAL, Kayezad E. Adajania, Pankaj Anup Toppo and SUNIL DHAWAN