Monday, October 10, 2011

In the land of the long white cloud, sun belatedly shines for blessed, brave and bold Wallabies

Talent, producing under pressure and excellent man management are all integral parts of a victorious World Cup campaign. Luck also plays a crucial role.

During the Wallabies' two World Cup triumphs, good fortune came at important times. The 1991 team was blessed by being able to play consistent line-ups as they were not hit by any major injury crisis. Likewise in 1999, the World Cup winners had only a few niggles, some like Tim Horan dragging himself out of a sick bed to help the Wallabies win a semi-final, and then were given a leg up when France knocked out the All Blacks, and offered Australia a far more comfortable finale.

In the case of the 2011 team, it appears at last luck has turned their way. When a team has only 24 per cent of the territory and 44 per cent possession, does not actually string a proper back-line move together and their lineout fails to function losing five of its own throws, and they were still able to beat the defending World Cup champions, you have to say they're also blessed.
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The players know that. The reactions in the Wallabies dressing room were, not surprisingly, ones of shock.

As Wallabies centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who basically did not see the ball all day, said: ''I've got no fingernails left. This is just pure relief. I'm still shaking.'' Or Berrick Barnes, who again played with decorum off the bench, said: ''The sun was shining on us. Gee, we had to endure something in that second half, but thank God, we got the result.''

The Springbok camp were moaning about getting a rough deal from New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence, believing that the man of the match, Wallabies breakaway David Pocock, got away with murder at the breakdown, adding further to the belief that Australia are suddenly the Lady Luck side of the tournament.

But no one can say the Wallabies have had an easy ride. It appeared everything was working against the Wallabies making an impact in this tournament until Sunday. A lot of the bad vibes were self-inflicted, but they also had to overcome some tricky hurdles before securing themselves a semi-finals berth.

First there was the embarrassment of James O'Connor failing to make the World Cup squad announcement or official team photo after he went to one too many eastern suburbs pubs. That incident exposed the raw underbelly of the Australian team, and the resentment some in the broader Wallabies group felt towards the young breed, and the suggestion they were allowed to get away with too much.

That wound took some time to heal. Then when the Wallabies arrived in New Zealand, they were beset with injuries, none worse than just before the Ireland pool match. Digby Ioane went first, and on the day of the game, Pocock and Stephen Moore - two of the most important Wallabies forwards - were forced out through injury and illness.

Without this trio, the Wallabies were well short of their best, and it showed against Ireland, who bashed them and forced them into the tougher part of the finals draw.

The injuries also continued to pile up, to the extent that in two pool matches, Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had only 24 players to choose from, prompting the unexpected but delightful selection of No.8 Radike Samo on the wing against Russia.

They somehow got through that, and even though injuries are still hovering, it is not so dire. And the bad vibes are now hitting the other countries, in particular the All Blacks, who apart from trying to stop certain players getting on the drink, are losing big names every day with a wide variety of ailments.

Maybe Barnes is right: the sun is at last shining on the Wallabies, and an unexpected tournament transformation is in the offing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Scholarship set up at a US law school in honour of a deceased Pakistani student

The parents of Momina Cheema, a 25-year-old Pakistani student who died in a road accident last month, announced establishment of a scholarship at the University of Virginia School of Law, her alma mater, to honour the memory of their daughter.The announcement was made by Momina’s parents—Tayeba Zia, a columnist for the Daily Nawa-i-Waqt and Dr. Akhtar Cheema, a medial specialist—on the occasion of her chehlum at their residence in Queens, a borough of New York City.The scholarship will be funded at $ 100,000, and the school will begin giving awards when the funding has reached $ 50,000, according to Paul Mahoney, the Dean of school.

“The scholarship would be awarded annually and a preference would be given to students who express an interest in Islamic law or culture,” Dean Mahoney said in a letter to Dr. Cheema.

Momina’s parents said they also plan to set up a scholarship in Momina’s name in Pakistan for outstanding students to help them acquire higher education.
The Chehlum was attended by a large number of the bereaved family’s friends, civil society representatives and members of U.S. based Pakistani media.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Corruption bigger threat than Pak: Anna Hazare

As the final round of talks between the government and the civil society failed, Anna Hazare sharpened his attacks on the government Wednesday, calling corruption and politician-bureaucrats nexus a bigger threat than Pakistan.

Addressing a press conference in the national capital, the noted social activist refuted government’s charge of trying to float a parallel government, saying, “We don’t want a parallel government. We want an autonomous Lokpal on the lines of Election Commission and Supreme Court which are out of the government’s direct control.”

He accused the government of trying to divert the people’s attention from the main issue by bring up talks about a parallel government.

Anna questioned government’s intention to curb rampant corruption in the country saying, “Why is the government not agreeing to bring CBI and other investigative agencies under Lokpal’s ambit? It seems government is not serious about corruption.”

Anna strongly demanded to put the whole bureaucracy under Lokpal’s ambit and also seemed disapproving of bringing NGOs under its purview. He went on to allege that the government didn’t want a strong Lokpal as it lacks will power and also as it didn’t want to end corruption in the country.

Speaking at the press meet, former IPS officer and a prominent member of Team Anna, Kiran Bedi said, “There is nothing for the common man in the government’s version of the bill. The common man is directly concerned with the lower bureaucracy but the government’s version of the bill only covers higher bureaucracy.”

Bedi added, “Government’s Lokpal won’t be able to solve the problems of the common man as it has no mechanism to lodge a direct complaint.”

She also asserted that the CVC and the CBI should come under Lokpal’s ambit, saying, “The CBI reports to the government so it cannot function independently.”

Also present was Arvind Kejriwal, who raised questions over government’s intentions saying, “It is not clear that for whose corruption, the government’s Lokpal Bill is. Though the bill covers 65000 government officers, more than 15 lakh NGOs come under its purview. Government should make it clear that whether it is for checking the corruption of bureaucrats or the NGOs.”

Earlier yesterday, the ninth and the final joint panel meeting on Lokpal was held at the office of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, chairman of the drafting committee. Except Home Minister P Chidambaram, who was in Jammu and Kashmir, all the other nine members had attended the meeting.

Sources said that the civil society draft contains contentious proposals like inclusion of the Prime Minister, higher judiciary and conduct of MPs inside Parliament within the ambit of the Lokpal.

It also seeks jurisdiction over the CBI and state Lokayuktas.

The civil society draft has a provision relating to the panel for the selection of Lokpal and his removal in which a citizen has the right to move the Supreme Court.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Video: Hilarious Interview with Charlie Sheen

Cleveland can barely contain itself today, what with Charlie Sheen being in town and all. Just about every news outlet threw out calls on Twitter and Facebook this morning imploring anyone who saw the Warlock around town to let them know where he was at, presumably so they could stick a mic in his face and land a pure-gold interview like this "exclusive" that WKYC scored. 

One person in this interview sounds like an idiot. The other one is Charlie Sheen.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A neglected coupe de plume

An average Pakistani bookworm will read or come across a treasure trove of intense and often realistic literature composed by fellow citizens. In those words of experience and observation, fictional or otherwise, they will agree with at least some of what the book says or tries to convey, for that matter. That feeling of being able to relate leaves a positive message for the reader who might think, ‘Oh, we share something in common.’ A bond is built; trust is generated between the reader and the writer. A sense of belonging takes form and that is exactly what a bookworm searches for among other feelings while reading. If you look closer, you will see Pakistani English literature gracefully detaching itself from the resonating tone of Indian English tradition; stuck in the past, lamenting colonisation, analysing prevalent corruption in the system and sometimes, describing a room over ten or eleven pages with burdensome details.

But during that saunter down aisles and aisles of prose and poetry, we tend to overlook one stark truth: where are the books for children? More importantly, why are there terribly few English books for the young ones? Of course we have Roald Dahl, Sweet Valley High, Harry Potter, Enid Blyton and a few dozen others (not to forget the cringe-worthy addition of Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight for the “youth”), but they all have one thing in common: they are not Pakistani. They cannot speak of the experience to be a young one in this country. They do not share the simple joys, sometimes sadness and now, the restlessness of being a Pakistani youth.
I attended several educational and literary conferences where popular figures stressed upon the need to encourage literacy and reading books in our country – but there was something missing. Children are often forgotten at such occasions; a lot is honked, little is done. But forgive me for my glumness: there are efforts being positively channeled into this direction as well. The Pakistan Children Writers Guild was formed for promoting literature for children of which Dr. Mujeeb Anwar Hamidi is the patron-in-chief along with Professor Saher Ansari, Jamil-u-Din Aali, Masood Barkati, Alhaj Shamim-u-Din, Naheed Nargis, Fatima Suriya Bajia, Altaf Qadri, Dr. Aslam Saeed and Agha Noor Mohamed Pathan part of the executive committee of the guild. In this regard, a small yet colourful ray of hope was given by Mahnaz Malik who published her first story book for kids title ‘Mo’s Star,’ a story about a penguin trying to reach the stars.
I recall my fourth grade student’s snarky yet true remark during a reading class: “You know, if they coloured these books and told better stories like my grandfather does, I would read them with a lot more interest. Promise.” I did not doubt her honesty a single bit simply because she was right. Our children want to read books they can relate to. As far as I know, no matter how glamourised and addictive Twilight gets, young Pakistani girls cannot relate to Bella for two good reasons: 1) There are no vampires in Pakistan thanks to the angry summers we get. 2) I don’t have a number 2.

On a serious note, there is a dearth of localised English literature for children in the land of pure and that needs to be addressed, especially due to the education emergency we are facing. Book clubs should be formed, reading circles should be encouraged, young graduates and high school students ought to take the time out for younger ones and share stories with them. It is truly a simple task with incredible rewards. But above all, writers need to emphasize on the significance of children’s books and make sure that they step forward with contributions for these young minds.

No doubt, the achievements garnered by our writers must be extolled wherever and whenever possible, but we need to shift our focus towards a younger yet significantly larger audience. This crowd is the most neglected and unheard in our country. The irony is that it comprises the majority of our nation and, from what you and I have been told since childhood according to the loud teacher with the horn-rimmed spectacles in class, the majority is authority. These boys and girls want books. Give them something to read and something they can relate to.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

From Purifoy to pure joy, Blazers finally land as champs

The shot felt like it hung in the air for eternity. All the frustrations, all the slights, all the close-but-no-cigar finishes in recent UAB basketball history accompanied the ball as it ascended from the hands of a freshman who didn't know any better.

Rising ...

"It felt good coming off my hands," Preston Purifoy said.

Rising ...

"It felt like it was up there about 20 minutes," Jamarr Sanders said.

Rising ...

"First I thought (Gary) Flowers was going to block it," Mike Davis said. "Then I thought it was an air ball, and I said, 'Why did I call that play?' And then it goes through the net, and I said, 'Oh my goodness, he made the shot.'"

UAB has landed.

Whether the Blazers eventually get invited to the NCAA Tournament team was immaterial Wednesday night. They are C-USA champions -- an unlikely one, given preseason expectations for an inexperienced team -- and a win away Saturday over East Carolina from their first outright conference title since 1989-90.

So they jumped on each other's backs. They danced in the aisles of Reed Green Coliseum. They screamed and jumped and skipped and pranced all through the tunnel back to the locker room.

Remarked a Southern Miss reporter: "I've never seen a team celebrate like that after beating Southern Miss."

You celebrate when you toss the monkey off your back and stomp on it. You celebrate when you finally make the crucial play in the big moment rather than succumbing to excruciating games of what-if in your head.

It was, without a doubt, the biggest win in Davis' five-year tenure at UAB.

"For sure, because we've fallen short," Davis said. "We had an opportunity to beat Memphis. We had an opportunity to beat UTEP last year before the conference tournament. We've been so close. This is so big because, without a doubt, it gives us a share of the championship. No matter what happens on Saturday, we're No. 1 in our conference."

UAB won because Aaron Johnson, Davis' pick for C-USA Player of the Year, had 14 assists and one turnover. He created points non-stop, even though a jammed thumb contributed to 3-of-9 shooting and hurt him at the foul line -- a constant theme for the Blazers, who were 4-of-14 at the stripe.

Free-throw shooting could have been an excuse. In the past it might have been after a loss in a must-win, winnable game.

"Yeah, free throws can win or lose games," Johnson said. "We're just gonna keep fighting. That's all we know."

Johnson is the heart of the Blazers. When you're one of 11 siblings, stand 5-foot-8, and have always been told what you can't do rather than appreciate what you can do, what else is there to do but fight?

"Everybody wants to criticize us," Johnson said. "We don't care what nobody says."

UAB won because Sanders, the team's best player and leading scorer, woke up from another slumber. He went scoreless in the first half and got benched for seven minutes because Davis didn't like his energy.

David read him the riot act at halftime. Sanders' response: 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting in the second half, including six in the final two minutes during a brilliant back-and-forth duel with Southern Miss' Flowers.

"I couldn't go out this game with six points or three points," Sanders said. "Whatever it took, I had to will this team to a win tonight."

But ultimately UAB won because a freshman came off the bench and sank a shot headed for the heavens.

"I've hit plenty of shots like this," Purifoy said nonchalantly.

Oh, freshmen.

Johnson, a senior, shook his head knowingly at Purifoy's remark. He was a freshman once who surprised everyone with a game-winning basket.

"It didn't sink in for me for a while, and it hasn't sunk in him for yet," Johnson said. "It's gonna sink in for him after Saturday, though."

UAB might need three days before Purifoy's shot ever lands.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Pure Cycle Corp (PCYO) Hits New 52-Week High at $4.60

Shares of Pure Cycle Corp (PCYO) hit a new 52-week high on Wednesday. The stock traded as high as $4.60 during mid-day trading and last traded at $4.34. The stock previously closed at $4.05.

Pure Cycle Corporation is a water and wastewater service provider that contracts with landowners, land developers, home builders, cities and municipalities to design, construct, operate and maintain water and wastewater systems. The Company’s assets include owning water rights to provide domestic and irrigation water to customers (it owns surface water, groundwater, reclaimed water rights and storage rights); infrastructure (such as wells, diversion structures, pipelines, reservoirs and treatment facilities) required to withdraw, treat, store and deliver domestic water to customers; infrastructure required to collect, treat, store and reuse wastewater, and infrastructure required to treat and deliver reclaimed water for irrigation use by customers. It provides water services to approximately 258 Single Family Equivalent (SFE) water connections and 157 SFE wastewater connections located in south-eastern metropolitan Denver.

Pure Cycle Corp (PCYO) traded up 7.16% during mid-day trading on Wednesday. The stock has a 52 week low of $2.03 and a 52 week high of $4.25. Its 50-day moving average is $3.68 and its 200-day moving average is $3.29. The company has a market cap of $95.7 million and a price-to-earnings ratio of N/A.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Turkel Committee defends choice of Galant for IDF chief

The Turkel Committee, which vets senior civil service appointments, defended Wednesday its choice to approve Major General Yoav Galant for the top military post despite allegations that he had been involved in appropriating plots of public land near his home. 

The committee discussed the issue only briefly before approving Galant for the position of Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, sparking a wave of public criticism and questions. 

In response, the committee declared Wednesday that its responsibility was to ensure that the candidate's values were "pure", and that he was non-partisan and otherwise free of personal attachment to any government entity. 

"[The committee is] not a panel of inquiry, and thus does not have the tools necessary to carry out investigations of the sort," it said in the statement. "It is not authorized to conduct an investigation and relies only on the information provided." 

The High Court of Justice on Wednesday, meanwhile, rejected a petition lodged by the Green Party to bar Galant from assuming the position until allegations against him are cleared. 

Galant is expected to testify on the matter next week. 

Defense Minister Ehud Barak named Galant as the next chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces in August, to replace Gabi Ashkenazi once the latter steps down.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein had requested that the High Court delay by 10 days its consideration of the Green Party's petition, in light of new information he had received about the case. He asked the state comptroller to submit his final report as soon as possible, but the report will be completed only after Galant has testified.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Retronomicon 01.12.11: Super Mario Land

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the best retro column to have ever been opened on your browser in this particular second, the Retronomicon. As ever I am your host Lee Price and this is the usual spiel about how I'm going to show you the best that old school gaming has to offer. And I am. As for my current school gaming, it has almost exclusively been taken up by my apparent desire to play Final Fantasy VII through to completion. I haven't had as much time as I would like to dedicate to my gaming this week, but what I have had has been used by over-leveling my party and busting through FFVII for the umpteenth time. I do adore the game, regardless of the arguments that seem to rage around the title in regards to its quality in comparison to other games in the series. I'm loving it all over again anyway. So much so that I have literally played nothing else all week. The rest of my time has been spent working and making my way through a bunch of films that I picked up the other day. Anyway enough of that nonsense, because I believe its about time we got to the...

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Sebi bars Rose Valley from raising public money

Market regulator Sebi has barred West Bengal-based Rose Valley Real Estates & Construction from raising money from the public on the charge that it did not seek the watchdog's permission for running a scheme.

While Rose Valley claimed that it was mobilising funds for real estate business, Sebi came to the conclusion that the company was in fact running a Collective Investment Scheme (CIS) and did not seek market regulator's permission, mandatory for these products.

As such, Sebi directed Rose Valley, "not to collect any money from investors or to launch any scheme, not to dispose of any of the properties or delineate assets of the schemes and not to divert any fund raised from public at largest kept in bank account and or at the custody of the company."

The company has been raising funds from the public in certain areas of West Bengal in the name of sale of plots of land under its Ashirbad scheme.

However, all investors in the scheme get a piece of land at a fixed price.

It is this feature of the scheme, on the basis of which Sebi said the product cannot be called a real estate business.

A typical real estate business would price its land banks, depending on location, terrain, current and future potential of use of the land, Sebi said.

"It is a prevalent and innate feature of real estate that even within the same location, there may be differential pricing taking into account the floor rise etc. However, the schemes of the company claim to be a pure real estate developer on the premise that all investors in this scheme get a piece of land at a fixed price," the watchdog said.

Pointing out that land or land banks at different places would be valued differently in real estate business, Sebi said however, in the current case no demarcation was made in terms of pricing of land.

"The land is proposed to be sold according to the plans offered under the Ashirbad scheme and not on the basis of pricing of land based on its locations or otherwise," Sebi said.

As such, Sebi said it appears that land units are fungible and irrespective of location, the price remains the same.

CIS is a scheme in which payments made by investors are pooled and utilised for the purpose of the scheme. Under the scheme, contributions are made with a view to receive profits, income, produce or property.

In CIS, the investors do not have a day-to-day control over the management, operation of the scheme or arrangement.

In Ashirbad scheme, the company first receives earnest money in installments from a purchaser, pools the fund so mobilised and uses it to develop the land labs and thereafter provides return at the option of the investor on the amount invested at the end of the scheme in the form of credit value.

Calling the scheme a CIS, Sebi said, "Investors have an option to receive the credit value after making payment of the entire earnest money instalments. It is observed that investment is made with a view to earn profit."

The company has land banks spread across West Bengal in Rajarhat, Durgapur, Siliguri, and also in Tripura, Madhya Pradesh and Orissa.