End of the line

 

for-sale

As of the beginning of 2016,  BatamExpat.com has ceased publication, due to the owner moving from Batam to Hua Hin, Thailand.

BatamExpat.com will stay live online in 2016, but no new news will be posted.

UPDATE
Despite no new information being posted in 2016, BatamExapt.com continues to report significant traffic. Page views in January averaged 82 per day, about half from search engines. And advertisers below are still getting inquiries.

Have a GREAT 2016!

Ken Anderberg

P.S. I can still be reached at Email or by Skype (kenincr).

If you are interested in purchasing this site, please contact Ken at Email.


From Our Subscribers

“All the best for your future, Ken. You have provided a great service and interesting insight into working and life living abroad.” Owen

“Thanks for the good work done to date, Ken… and good luck with your Thai adventures.” Adrian

You will be missed! Thank you for your valuable contribution over the years… hopefully you can find someone to replace you here. Wishing you all the best for your new venture in Thailand!” Marc


Thanks To Our Partners

We are pleased to say a final “Thank You” to the companies that supported this website. We hope that if you need any of the services these companies provide that you will include them in your purchasing evaluations.

PT Mc Len Equipment

McLen small popup adRiding its reputation for reliability and customer-centric service, this small heavy equipment leasing company has stretched its tentacles throughout the Batam/Karimun/Bintan area with fabrication, welding, construction and other heavy-duty operations.

The company’s yards comprise approximately 7 hectares at Tanjung Uncang and Sekupang, and consist of workshops, showroom and storage areas. The company can handle offshore heavy lifts, steel construction fabrication works, transportation of materials, bridge projects, piling works, pipe laying, jetty projects, and has a yard and load-out facilities.


PT GSJ

GSJ adProviding machining services, engineering and shop fabrication, including: fully equipped facilities for cutting, drilling, welding and general engineering capabilities.; wire cut EDM, manual lathes, milling, CNC lathes.


 

 

Global Portfolio Strategies

GPS vertical 2Specializing in expatriate solutions for health insurance, life insurance, critical illness, education planning, savings plans, pensions, offshore banking, offshore investments, wealth management and overseas pension schemes.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Max Golf

Max golf adWe are offering driving range lessons starting at only IDR 100,000 per hour. Flexible dates and times to suit your schedule. Preferred location is at Konkow Driving range in Batam Centre. We have a wide range of accessories (Gloves, Tees, Balls etc) for Men & Women at a very affordable prices to suit all your needs. Contact: +62 812 36058850 or maxgolf@ptmutiarapermata.com


Max’s Dive Centre

Max dive ad white smallThe only PADI Dive Centre in Batam. Owned and operated by PT Mutiara Permata. We are a licensed Indonesian Training Centre. Discover local dive experiences around Batam’s outlying islands with white sand beaches and beautiful coral gardens. We offer public and private trips (Tour and Travel Agents also welcome) as well as certifications from PADI Open Water Diver to Divemaster. Contact: +62 812 77429844 or ana@ptmutiarapermata.com


EXCLUSIVE OFFER From Spa Central Sukajadi and BatamExpat.com. Click on the ad above, fill out the form and include the code "spa4batamexpat." A Spa Central representative will then contact you to make your appointment.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER From Spa Central Sukajadi and BatamExpat.com. Click on the ad above, fill out the form and include the code “spa4batamexpat.” A Spa Central representative will then contact you to make your appointment.

This week’s news

Merry-ChristmasTODAY’S HEADLINES: Govt to include 84 more countries in free-entry policy, including Australia/Miss Indonesia Wins Third Place at 2015 Miss World/At Christmas? Really? Company leaves 200 employees without pay/Christmas at GOODIES/Singapore blamed for lack of modern port in Batam/Pertamina to Lower Premium Prices in January/Four state-owned banks merge ATM services/Indonesia’s Top Five Tourists by Country of Origin/Garuda to Move UK Flights to Heathrow in March/Australia AG warns of ISIS in Indonesia/Total to Invest $1.1 B at Mahakam Operations in 2016/Growth prospects for shipbuilding and ports reflect a changing world trade order/Outraged Colombians look for blame in Miss Universe mix-up/To First Class or not to First Class, That is the Question


McLen small popup ad


Govt to include 84 more countries in free-entry policy, including Australia

The government is set to waive visa requirements for another 84 countries starting this week in an effort to boost arrivals of foreign tourists to the country.

“We decided to apply the visa-free policy to 84 more countries starting this week,” Coordinating Maritime Affairs Minister Rizal Ramli said after a meeting at the ministry’s office in Jakarta on Monday.

GPS vertical 2Australia, Brazil, Ukraine, Kenya, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Palestine, Honduras, Pakistan, Mongolia, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Costa Rica, Israel, Albania, Mozambique, Macedonia, El Salvador, Zambia, Moldova, Madagascar, Georgia, Namibia, Kiribati, Armenia, Bolivia, Bhutan, Guatemala, Mauritius and Paraguay are among the countries mentioned by Rizal, whose nationals would no longer need a visa to enter Indonesia.

The Indonesia Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs Rizal Ramli, however, rejected the proposal to offer free visa facility to Israel.

“There is a proposal to offer free visa facility to Israel. We have rejected it,” the coordinating minister said through his Twitter account, @RamliRizal, Monday night.

“The total number of countries so far [that fall under the visa-free entry policy] since October is 174,” added Rizal.

Hopefully, said Rizal, the extension of the free-entry policy would be able to boost foreign tourist arrivals to the archipelago, which was targeted to reach 20 million by 2019. The number of foreign tourists reportedly increased by 19 percent year-on-year following the application of the policy to 47 countries in October.

“The [19 percent] figure is much higher than the normal growth [rate], which is usually only 6 to 8 percent,” said Rizal.

According to the National Mid-Term Development Plan (RPJMN) for 2015-2019, the government also aims to earn of US$20 million in foreign exchange and have 7 million direct workers employed in the tourism sector (up from 3 million at present) in 2019. – Jakarta Post


Miss Indonesia Wins Third Place at 2015 Miss World

Miss Indonesia 2015, Maria Harfanti won third place at the 2015 Miss World on Saturday at the Beauty Crown Hotel, Sanya, China. Harfanti also snatched the award for the Beauty with Purpose category in the pageant. The 2015 Miss World crown was awarded to Miss Spain, Mireia Lalaguna Royo, and runner-up went to Miss Russia, Sofia Nikitchuk. (Tempo)
Miss Indonesia 2015, Maria Harfanti won third place at the 2015 Miss World on Saturday at the Beauty Crown Hotel, Sanya, China. Harfanti also snatched the award for the Beauty with Purpose category in the pageant. The 2015 Miss World crown was awarded to Miss Spain, Mireia Lalaguna Royo, and runner-up went to Miss Russia, Sofia Nikitchuk. (Tempo)

At Christmas? Really? Company leaves 200 employees without pay

PT Sarana Metal Dhiva, located in Punggur, Batam, has shut down its operations, leaving 200 employees seeking three months’ worth of salaries, and 66 previously laid-off workers still without severance pay.

Reports are that the company boss, Richard Setiawan, had fled to Canada.

The company manufactures pipe thread for industrial use of oil and gas. It reportedly has a debt of about Rp 4 trillion to the banks, plus severance pay plus two months’ wages for 66 employees who were laid off amounting to Rp2.1 billion.

There were a number of additional debts left unpaid, as well, amounting to trillions of rupiah. – Batam Pos


6 crew missing after Danish cargo ship sinks near Batam

Indonesia rescuers approach the sunken freighter MV Thorco Cloud in the Malacca Strait off Batam , Thursday. (AP)

Officials say six Filipino crewmen are missing after their cargo ship collided with a chemical tanker and sank in Batam waters last week. Six other crew members were rescued.

GSJ adBatam port official Gajah Rooseno said the Danish cargo ship Thorco Cloud collided with the chemical tanker Stolt Commitment about 8 miles (13 kilometers) off Batam island late Wednesday.

Rooseno said the cargo ship had 12 crewmen from Ukraine and the Philippines and was operated by Copenhagen-based Thorco Shipping. He said the collision with the tanker operated by Stolt Tankers ripped a large hole below the water line on the cargo ship, causing it to sink.

The survivors were taken to a hospital in Singapore. Indonesian rescuers are searching for the six missing crewmen. The cause of the accident is being investigated. – Associated Press


Christmas at GOODIES

DSC_1377The always-fun Goodies Poolside Christmas Buffet is on for Friday at Smiling Hill. BatamExpat.com highly recommends this event for families, as Santa will be attending and giving out gifts for all the children.

Watching the gift-giving by Santa, especially to the local children who look forward to this day all year, is a wonderful experience. And the food’s not bad either! And there’s music, too!

The buffet will be operate from 12.30 pm and continue throughout the afternoon, and there will be more evening light music with our regular food menus available.
Goodies’ FREE BEER night has been suspended for Christmas Day but will return on Friday, Dec. 31 (NEW YEAR”S EVE) .


Singapore blamed for lack of modern port in Batam

Deputy Speaker of the House, Fahri Hamzah, said the failure of the construction of a modern port facility in Batam is due to Singapore lobbying. According to him, Singapore does not want to have a competitor in the region very close to them because it would be detrimental to the island nation.

According to him, there is information that Singapore every year lobbies government institutions in Batam and PT Pelindo to not build a modern port infrastructure because it will suck the ships that had been docked in Singapore.

“That’s why the city of Batam in the Riau Islands province will forever be the city remains of luxury Singapore,” he said.

A modern port development plan in Batam was designed long ago was never realized. Batuampar port development, for example, always has foundered on the tender process. So did Tanjungsauh port development. Until now, the process is still unclear.

Tanjungsauh port will be used as a transhipment port, with port capacity of 4 million containers.

Earlier, BP Batam Mustafa Widjaja said, “The port is still a strategic project. This will have major sales to Indonesia from the waterway. It’s a transhipment port that will serve the international and not national,” he said.

Mustafa is optimistic that in 2016 Tanjungsauh will be established as a free trade zone through government regulations.  This project is an opportunity to capture the international marine transportation market in the waterway, he said, estimated to reach 55 million TEUs per year.

The Tanjungsauh Island cargo terminal area is planned for 1,000 hectares and connected by road 7 kilometers from Kabil. – Batam Pos


EXCLUSIVE OFFER From Spa Central Sukajadi and BatamExpat.com. Click on the ad above, fill out the form and include the code "spa4batamexpat." A Spa Central representative will then contact you to make your appointment.
EXCLUSIVE OFFER From Spa Central Sukajadi and BatamExpat.com. Click on the ad above, fill out the form and include the code “spa4batamexpat.” A Spa Central representative will then contact you to make your appointment.

Pertamina to Lower Premium Prices in January

The price for Premium, a brand of subsidized, low-octane fuel marketed by state oil-and-gas company Pertamina, is set to decrease by Rp. 300 in January. Also, diesel fuels - marketed by Pertamina as Solar - are also expected to experience a decrease of more than Rp. 500 per liter in January. Fuel prices must be reviewed every three months in order to ensure that retail prices reflect the realities of the global market. (Antara)
The price for Premium, a brand of subsidized, low-octane fuel marketed by state oil-and-gas company Pertamina, is set to decrease by Rp. 300 in January. Also, diesel fuels – marketed by Pertamina as Solar – are also expected to experience a decrease of more than Rp. 500 per liter in January. Fuel prices must be reviewed every three months in order to ensure that retail prices reflect the realities of the global market. (Antara)

Four state-owned banks merge ATM services

Four state-owned banks in Indonesia have merged their automatic teller machines and networks in a bid to enhance competitiveness and efficiency ahead of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), which starts next year.

State-owned Enterprises Minister Rini Soemarno said that Bank BRI, Bank Mandiri, Bank BNI, and Bank BTN had officially merged their ATM machines and networks, allowing customers of all four banks to use the ATMs of all four banks without incurring additional charges.

According to Rini, the move forms part of efforts to increase state-owned banks’ efficiency in human resource and backbone infrastructure, as well as to give a prime service to the customer as encouraged by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Meanwhile, Association of State-Owned Banks (Himbara) chair Asmawi Syam said that the synergy would cut ATM operational costs for the banks, as well as reduce customers’ transaction costs. – Jakarta Post


Indonesia’s Top Five Tourists by Country of Origin

Foreign tourists visit Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. (Antara)
Foreign tourists visit Borobudur Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. (Antara)

This year, Indonesia’s Tourism Ministry dedicated its efforts to bolstering the archipelago’s tourism industry as a means to spur economic growth amid sluggish conditions.

Among its many campaigns was a marketing strategy aimed at specific countries, which officials hoped would increase the number of foreign tourist arrivals. Indonesia had also waved a free visa policy for tourists from 75 countries to boost arrivals.

“We wouldn’t need to spend too much time and energy [on promoting Indonesia] if we knew where to market out tourist spots,” said Tourism Minister Arief Yahya.”Tourism is one of the world’s leading industries. But we must first identify Indonesia’s position in the [global industry] in order to effectively manage our own tourism sector.”

Max golf adHere are the top five countries of origin of Indonesia’s most frequent foreign visitors, according to 2015 data from the directorate general of immigration and Indonesia’s Statistics. They also happen to be Indonesia’s top investors and trade partners.

  1. Singapore. The government recorded more than 1.2 million Singaporeans entering Indonesia through 19 major airports and ports in the January-October period, up 0.57 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Last year, Singaporeans on average spent $158.25 a day during their trips to Indonesia, up from $154.15 in 2013. Each visitor stayed an average of 4.16 days, according to a report released in August.

hhen logo squareThe large figure was not a huge surprise considering Singapore’s high foreign direct investment in Indonesia. Investments from Singapore in the January-September period reached $3.55 billion or equal to 1,999 projects. The city state is Indonesia’s biggest investor, followed by Malaysia, Japan and South Korea.

It is also one of Indonesia’s largest trade partners, alongside Japan, the United States, China and India.

  1. China. China became the Indonesian Tourism Ministry’s main target in its marketing campaign, as the Asian giant had seen a large growth in both holiday travelers and the money they spend while visiting Indonesia.

The two countries reached an agreement earlier this year to boost the number of tourists traveling to each other’s countries to two million by the end of this year. However, only 966,988 Chinese tourists entered Indonesia in the January-October period, suggesting a likely shortfall in the target. Still, the number is an 18.85 percent increase from last year.

Chinese tourists in Indonesia spent on average $168.74 a day in 2014, up from $161.66 in the previous year. Each visitor stayed an average of 6.28 days.

  1. Malaysia. Malaysian tourists visiting Indonesia in this year’s January-October period reached 957,414, lower than the more than one million Malaysian travelers recorded in the same months last year.

GPS vertical 2In 2014, each Malaysian tourist spent an average of $133.84 a day, down from $145.36 a year earlier. However, they stayed longer in Indonesia last year, spending an average of 5.3 days here compared to 4.82 days in 2013.

Malaysia is the second biggest investor in Indonesia behind Singapore, toppling Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands. The neighboring nation invested $2.9 billion in the archipelago during the January-September period of this year, up 196.5 percent from 2014, according to Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board.

  1. Australia. The government recorded 878,920 Australian tourists entering Indonesia through the country’s 19 major airports and ports in the January-October period, down 3.26 percent from 908,582 tourists in 2014.

Each Australian tourist, on average, spent $175.87 a day during their stay in 2014. Most stayed for 9.08 days.

  1. Japan. More than 409,530 Japanese travelers chose to holiday in Indonesia in the January-October period of this year, up 2.64 percent from 398,984 in 2014.

Each Japanese tourist spent $168.59 a day during their visit in 2014, staying for an average of 6.75 days.

In line with the higher number of tourists, the country’s investment to Indonesia grew 22.2 percent year-on-year to $2.49 billion in 2015’s January-September period.

Honorable mentions. The following countries each deserve an honorable mention as more of their travelers chose to visit Indonesia in the first 10 months of 2015 compared to the year before: Egypt, Britain, India, Germany and the United States.

The Tourism Ministry will have Rp 5.4 trillion to spend on encouraging both foreign and domestic tourists to travel across the archipelago next year, more than double the Rp 2.4 trillion budget it received in 2015. – Jakarta Globe


Garuda to Move UK Flights to Heathrow in March

Flagship carrier Garuda Indonesia has secured flight slots at London’s Heathrow Airport for next year, cementing the airline’s plan to move away from the less busy Gatwick Airport and increase its load factor for the Indonesia-Britain route.

“We have secured the slots [at Heathrow] and are completing the administration requirements right now. Hopefully we can fly there in March,” Garuda president director Arif Wibowo said in a recent interview.

Garuda now flies to the United Kingdom three times a week. Arief said Garuda would consider adding flights should the move to Heathrow – Britain’s busiest airport – indeed raise the airline’s load factor.

Furthermore, he added, Heathrow offers more options for connecting flights with Garuda’s peers in Sky Team, a global alliance of 20 airlines that covers 1,064 destinations around the world. – Jakarta Globe


Back to work

Women plant rice seedlings in a field in Kembaran district, Banyumas regency, Central Java, on Monday. As the rainy season begins, farmers in many regions in the country have begun replanting their agricultural land again after this year’s prolonged dry season. (Jakarta Post)
Women plant rice seedlings in a field in Kembaran district, Banyumas regency, Central Java, on Monday. As the rainy season begins, farmers in many regions in the country have begun replanting their agricultural land again after this year’s prolonged dry season. (Jakarta Post)

Australia AG warns of ISIS in Indonesia

Australian Attorney General George Brandis Tuesday warned that ISIS is eyeing Indonesia as the location for a base “caliphate.” According to Brandis, the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria can can use Indonesia as the “front door” of Australia.

Brandis’s referred to the arrests of suspected terrorists in several regions suspected of planning bombings in Jakarta in celebration of the New Year 2016. Those arrested are also suspected of being a terror cell inspired by ISIS.

Brandis said there was “no doubt at all” that Indonesia has become important to ISIS, which has already declared caliphates in Afghanistan, Libya and other countries outside Syria and northern Iraq.

“ISIS has the ambition to increase its presence and level of activity in Indonesia, either directly or through surrogates,” said Brandis. “ISIS has the intention to establish a caliphate outside the Middle East, the applicable provincial caliphate and has identified Indonesia as the location.”

McLen box adIndonesia’s anti-terror squad has arrested seven men suspected of planning Christmas or New Year’s attacks, police said Sunday. One man was captured Saturday in Sukoharjo, a town in Central Java province, a day after three other suspected militants were nabbed in two separate locations in West Java province.

Their interrogation led police to arrest three other group members in Mojokerto town in East Java on Sunday. Police seized bomb-making devices from the men’s homes, but no explosive materials were found. – From reports


Total to Invest $1.1 B at Mahakam Operations in 2016

totalFrench oil firm Total will invest $1.1 billion at its Mahakam operations in Indonesia next year, below an earlier estimate of $1.5 billion, a company spokesman said.

Arividya Novianto, a spokesman for Total E&P Indonesie, told reporters the decline in investment in 2016 was because of the low global oil price rather than the expiry of its contract at the end of 2017.

“We don’t do it (investment) because it’s not economically viable,” he said. – Reuters


Singapore Seizes Huge Shipment of Elephant Tusks

Authorities in Singapore have impounded half a ton of elephant tusks in one of the largest ivory seizures made in the city-state in more than a decade. The tusks, weighing 505 kilograms, were found along with 324 kilograms of pangolin scales in an air shipment on its way to Laos on Dec. 12. The boxes were labeled as synthetic wigs and had come from Nigeria, the authorities said, adding that the shipment had an estimated value of S$1.3 million ($920,000). (Jakarta Globe)
Authorities in Singapore have impounded half a ton of elephant tusks in one of the largest ivory seizures made in the city-state in more than a decade. The tusks, weighing 505 kilograms, were found along with 324 kilograms of pangolin scales in an air shipment on its way to Laos on Dec. 12. The boxes were labeled as synthetic wigs and had come from Nigeria, the authorities said, adding that the shipment had an estimated value of S$1.3 million ($920,000). (Jakarta Globe)

Growth prospects for shipbuilding and ports reflect a changing world trade order

The growth outlook for the global shipbuilding industry has deteriorated marginally, according to the latest Castrol Marine Trade Barometer.

Though down slightly since the last report, annualized five-year growth rates for the sector are still forecast to reach a healthy 3% to 5%, before picking up substantially after 2017.

The Barometer predicts that growth will be driven largely by the Asia-Pacific region, but also Latin America and the Middle East. All European nations but the Netherlands face a downward trend until 2017.

Mandhir Singh, COO at Castrol, says, “The main growth in shipbuilding will come from Asia-Pacific countries to 2019. These nations are well positioned to supply ultra-large vessels, which shipping companies are increasingly demanding for their fuel efficiency and economies of scale.

“Traditional shipbuilding nations, like Germany and the UK, will need to up their game if they’re to compete with the colossal shipyards and deep ports of the Asia-Pacific region.”

GSJ adThe Castrol Global Trade Barometer (CGTB) is a series of reports tracking the performance and outlook of global trade based on a rolling, five-year forecast of future trade patterns.

The Marine Trade Barometer tracks the value of manufactured ship parts as a measure of the performance of the global shipbuilding industry. It also includes the Castrol Global Port Report, which scrutinises the performance of the 50 largest ports in the world by value.

Top traders

The Marine Trade Barometer reflects the continued importance of the Asia-Pacific region to the global shipbuilding industry. Four of the top five leading traders in ship parts are from the area.

Hong Kong is the biggest success story, overtaking South Korea and China to become the world’s second largest ship-parts trading nation. It is one of the few top 10 trading nations in the sector to see a rise in forecast growth since the last report.

Although China’s forecast annualized export growth to 2019 has dropped from 10.05% to 8.08%, the economic powerhouse has displaced South Korea as the world’s top exporter of ship parts. The dip in growth may be associated with China’s ongoing policy to move away from export-led growth toward domestic consumption.

Algeria has jumped straight into the 10 fastest-growing ship-parts trading nations at number one, following heavy investment in port capacity, and in wider infrastructure and skills development. The country’s proximity to the EU, soaring energy trade and developing relations with China have also helped.

AIM box adThe presence of Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela (a new entry at number seven) in the list indicates the rise of Latin America as an important region for the sector in the years to come.

Mandhir Singh, COO at Castrol, says, “Many Asia-Pacific nations have rapidly developing ports, improving infrastructure, low-cost communications and access to potential new customers via valuable shipping trade routes. This places them in a strong position for growth.”

Leading ports

The Port Report highlights the importance of emerging nations in global trade – nine of the world’s top 10 ports by trading volume are in Asia-Pacific. The report also confirms the inexorable rise of China as a dominant trading power: seven of the top 10 ports are now Chinese.

There has been dramatic change to the list of the world’s top 20 fastest-growing ports. Brazil, India and Australian ports no longer dominate as they did in the last report.

Durban in South Africa has entered the list at number one, largely due to the export of automotive parts and commodities. Vancouver and Montreal are also new entries, reflecting improvements in the North American trading environment.

And the entry of seven Turkish and Middle Eastern ports highlights the emergence of fast-growing trade routes, focused particularly on the logistics and infrastructure sectors. – ajot.com


Freeport: 10 Years Required to Prepare Underground Mine

Senior Vice President PT Freeport Indonesia Wahyu Sunyoto said the key to success in developing an underground mine is the investment for underground drilling.

“Investment certainty is important as a mine will require 10 years preparation,” Wahyu said last week.

Freeport spent $17 million in last year’s exploration. Next year, it is estimated to spend $10-15 million.

The largest mineral producer still comes from the Grassberg open pit, capable of producing 70 percent, while DOZ Block Cave is just 30 percent. Other units include Big Gossan Block Cave, Kucing Liar, and Deep MLZ Block Cave has yet to operate.

Wahyu said Big Gossan is ready to start producing, with an expected maximum production of 7,000 tons. However, the early production is estimated to be 1,000 tons.

The government and Freeport are currently in talks on the divestiment mechanism. Freeport will be divesting its share of 10.64 percent. – Tempo


Russian Strikes Against Syrian Opposition are Helping IS

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said last week that Russia’s continued focus on targeting most of its air strikes in Syria against opposition forces rather than Islamic State was helping the militants advance.

Russia, one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s staunchest allies, is carrying out a campaign of air strikes it says are aimed at Islamic State (IS) militants, but which also support Assad’s forces.

“The majority of Russian air strikes continue to target Syrian opposition forces rather than Daesh,” Hammond told parliament, using the Arabic term for Islamic State.

“With our coalition partners including the United States, we will continue to urge the Russians at every opportunity to focus their fire solely on Daesh. It is unacceptable that Russian action is weakening the opposition and thus giving advantage to the very Daesh forces that they claim to be engaged against.”

At last month’s G20 summit in Turkey, Russian President Vladimir Putin told British Prime Minister David Cameron he was seeking to do more to focus Russian efforts on combating Islamic State, a source in Cameron’s office said.

Hammond said that while Russia had increased the number of strikes against IS since the Russian plane crash in Sinai in October for which the group claimed responsibility, it was still only targeting around a quarter of its strikes on the militants.

“What the Russians have done so far is at best ambiguous,” Hammond said.

“It is still only around 25 percent of the total of their air strikes, the remainder are targeted against the moderate opposition and that is deeply unhelpful to put it mildly.”

Hammond also said a U.S. target to reach agreement on a national Syrian ceasefire at talks of world powers in New York on Friday would be “highly challenging.” – Reuters


Outraged Colombians look for blame in Miss Universe mix-up

Former Miss Universe Paulina Vega, center, takes away the flowers and sash from Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez, left, before giving it to Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, right, at the Miss Universe pageant Sunday in Las Vegas. (AP)
Former Miss Universe Paulina Vega, center, takes away the flowers and sash from Miss Colombia Ariadna Gutierrez, left, before giving it to Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach, right, at the Miss Universe pageant Sunday in Las Vegas. (AP)

Colombians celebrated for a little more than two minutes what appeared to be an unprecedented feat for this beauty pageant-obsessed South American nation: back-to-back Miss Universe titles.

From President Juan Manuel Santos to Miss Colombia’s relatives in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla, millions of Colombians who tuned in for Sunday’s pageant screamed joyously when it was announced that Ariadna Gutierrez Arevalo had won this year’s crown.

But the celebrating turned to shouts of fraud seconds later as host Steve Harvey announced on live television from Las Vegas that he had mistakenly read from the cue card. The contestant from the Philippines was the new Miss Universe, not Miss Colombia.

“They took away her crown,” and “the shortest reign in history” was the sentiment expressed almost universally on Twitter, where the hashtag “Respect the Crown” was the country’s top trending topic.

“The entire country, and our family, was overcome with emotion,” Alvaro Arevalo, the Colombian runner-up’s cousin, told Blu Radio in an interview Monday. “The truth is we’re a little shocked.”

The sudden reversal even caught the president by surprise, forcing him to reverse his initial celebratory tweet.

Colombians are obsessed with beauty and pageants are a major draw across social classes. But unlike neighboring Venezuela, which has won seven Miss Universe titles, Colombians are accustomed to falling short of the crown, with five runner-up appearances since 1992, including Sunday’s.

Before last year’s crowning of Paulina Vega, only one other Colombian had won the Miss Universe title, in 1958.

In the aftermath of Sunday’s shocking finale, Colombians were at a loss to explain the mistake. Newscasts devoted almost 20 minutes to dissecting every detail of the pageant’s confusing end — from the tweets by a member of the jury celebrating Gutierrez’s win to a front-row audience member’s alleged slipping of a cue card to Harvey — as reporters looked for clues of what many Colombians believe was a scripted ending to rob their country of its rightful crown and produce higher TV ratings.

For her part, Gutierrez in her initial remarks seemed saddened but resigned to her fate.

“Everything happens for a reason,” she said, wiping back a tear, in a backstage video posted on the organizer’s website in which she also thanked the judges who voted for her.- Associated Press


To First Class or not to First Class, That is the Question

first classFlying first class is one of the most delightful and unique flights you will ever experience. It is a very interesting experience you will have to try at least once in your lifetime. If you looking for first class flight, you might have trouble finding a ticket, because sometimes first class flight is rare. We suggest you use a website like Traveloka, so you can book first class flights easily.

But of course, a first class flight with all its luxury comes at a price. A very steep price. Most of us will have to consider a lot of things before taking the first class flight. What are those things to consider? Here are a list of questions you’ll want to answer before you decide if a first class flight might be worth it:

  1. Is not being tired at your destination important?

One of the best things when flying first class is the comfort provided. The seats are spacious and soft. The legroom is huge. They usually even provide a pillow for you. All of those facilities, alongside with the (usually) free food and champagne, will make you feel relaxed for your whole flight and most importantly not tired.

If you have an important meeting or are attending an important ceremony or other things that require your full attention at your destination, a first class flight might suit you. You don’t want to fall asleep in the middle of an important meeting because you’re too tired, do you?

  1. Do you need to work during the flight?

Because of its narrow space, working while you’re in a plane is usually not a good idea. With barely enough space to straighten your leg, working with your documents and laptop might be a tough challenge. Not in first class, though.

The huge private room they give you in first class will usually be enough for all of your documents and electronics, making you able to work comfortably. There’s also usually a power socket, so you won’t have to worry about battery in a longer flight.

  1. How far is your destination?

When you fly far away, for instance across the globe, you will most definitely need sleep. Sleeping in an airplane, for those who haven’t experienced it yet, is a nightmare. The cramped room will leave you sleeping without moving, guaranteeing a sore body when you wake up. And then there’s the noise. With hundreds of people around, there will be a lot of noises. If you’re the type that can’t sleep in a noisy environment, you will not be sleeping.

In first class, though, your seat will be easily converted to a bed, complete with a blanket. Sleeping in your chamber on a first class flight is not too different from sleeping in a hotel. This will make your long distance flight very enjoyable!

  1. Is privacy important for you?

If you are a very private person, the first class cabin will be heaven for you. There’s usually some kind of divider to provide privacy for every guest. On some newer airplanes, there’s even doors you can close, complete with the “do not disturb” light so the attendants know not to bother you. With all of those, it might even be possible for you to work on confidential documents!

So, are you ready for the first class experience? – Inforial


Five things you should know about noodles

noodlesYou’re probably thinking of cooking up a big hot bowl of noodle soup tonight given the weather. The possibilities with it are quite endless: from spicy concoctions to good old chicken-based broths.

However, if you’re adding in some Asian noodles to the mix, you ought to treat them a little more special than your usual other noodle varieties. Chef Siggy Torrente of The Red Light, who served up some dishes for the restaurant’s #Noodles series, let us in on some trade secrets.

  1. Know the difference between egg and rice noodles. Most Asian noodles are either made with flour and egg or rice. Each offers a distinct flavor and has characteristics that affect the dish you’re serving.

For soup-based recipes, chef Siggy advises you to go for egg noodles. “Rice noodles tend to absorb liquid continuously,” he says. “Egg noodles will stop absorbing the liquid at a certain point and hence, won’t be soggy when left in soup. Rice noodles are best for dry, stir-fry dishes.”

  1. Prepare each type of noodle accordingly. Don’t overcook your noodles. For egg-based ones, put them in the soup when it’s at its highest boiling point and then leave for a maximum of two minutes. “Leaving them to boil with the rest of the soup will make them too soft and will also make them lose their flavor,” explains chef Siggy.

For rice noodles, you need to soak them in clean, room-temperature water before putting them in the pan. This will soften the noodles and “pre-cook” them so they are al dente.

  1. It’s a matter of taste. As mentioned earlier, the ingredients used to make each kind of noodles gives them a distinct flavor that will affect your chosen dish. Egg noodles have a richer body and sometimes have herbs already blended in to them. “This makes them good for spicy concoctions. It provides a good balance as it counteracts the flavor,” says chef Siggy.

If you are more about the ingredients that go with the noodles such as salted fish, a slab of pork, or a juicy strip of beef, rice noodles are good option. Chef Siggy tells us, “It’s a good palate cleanser and almost has no additional flavoring that would clash with your other ingredients.”

  1. Storage is key. Most noodles will last for around two weeks with proper manner of storage. “Rice noodles should be kept in a cool, dry airtight container,” advises chef Siggy.

On the other hand, egg noodles are best kept in the chiller, in their original packaging. “Exposing them to heat will spoil them, while keeping them in the chiller helps also seal in their flavor,” says the chef.

  1. Once cooked, consume immediately. The main difference between Asian noodles and its Western flour counterparts is also how long they can be kept when cooked. While pasta will keep in the fridge for quite a while, Asian noodles are meant for immediate consumption.

Chef Siggy explains,“The main ingredients used to make Asian noodles are quite volatile once they are cooked.” Given this, it’s best to keep them for only one to two days after cooking them.

“They may not spoil easily, but the taste will surely change. Once cooked, the noodles release their flavor which you can’t quite contain after.” – Asia News Network


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