Category Archives: People

Envoy praises iconic scent of Oman

This photo shows a sand art work drawn by Omani artist Shayma Ahmed Al Mughairy during the Omani Night event at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, Tuesday. Two hands are held tight and each of them have the national flags of Korea and Oman on them to indicate strong bilateral relations on the occasion of 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
/ Korea Times


Korea, Oman mark 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties

By Kang Hyun-kyung

The Omani Embassy building in Seoul emitted a delightfully exotic scent as this reporter entered the brand-new building last week for an interview with Ambassador Mohamed Alharthy.

“It’s from the dried gum resin of the Luban tree, which is better known as frankincense,” said the envoy. “We, Omani people, burn frankincense to please our guests. Burning the resin of the tree is a symbol of our hospitality.”

Frankincense has become widely-known to people as the Bible  lists it as one of the three gifts that the Three Wise Men or the Magi, who were guided by a star, gave to baby Jesus. The two other gifts were gold and myrrh. 

 Omani Ambassador Mohamed Alharthy
Ambassador Alharthy noted that frankincense is part of Omani culture as it is entrenched in the lives of people there. It not only helps please people with the sweet-smelling scent but also plays a role in improving human health as it kills germs, he said.

“Luban is also known as Boswellia and is an iconic tree showing our rich cultural heritage. The trees grow only in the southern part of the country as the cultivation of the trees requires certain weather and soil conditions,” Alharthy said.

“In ancient days, the camel caravans carried tons of frankincense following the Silk Road to sell it to Egyptians, Greeks, Romanians and even Chinese people. In Oman, people burn the dried gum of the tree at home and in mosques.”

 Dried gum of frankincense 

In Korea, a number of cosmetics companies and online shopping mall owners selling aroma oils import frankincense oil from foreign bulk oil companies. Natural shampoos and skincare products containing frankincense oil as an ingredient are available on the market.

Frankincense oil is popular particularly among massage therapists and they blend it with other aroma oils when they massage their customers.

The envoy stressed that Oman is also known as the land of Sindbad, the fictional character in “Sindbad the Sailor.”

“It is claimed that the relevance of Sindbad relates to several cities in the Middle East, which includes Sohar in Oman. The port city located in the northern part of Oman was the business capital and once known as the gate to the East because from there merchants and traders used to sail to India, China and Europe.”

The ambassador’s Omani culture pitch came as he was resolved to “spread the name of Oman and its culture in Korea” and vice versa to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

He noted that economic relations between the two are strong.

Korea is a major importer of crude oil and natural gas from Oman and several Korean companies won bids to construct buildings and other projects there.

The envoy regretted that cultural exchanges between the two countries were relatively inactive, compared with the strong trade ties.

“We have prepared a series of events to raise public awareness of the two cultures,” he said.

The Open House program is one of the awareness building programs the Omani Embassy has prepared.

During the monthly event, Korean students, scholars, businesspeople and tour agents have been invited to the embassy to help them explore the unique Omani culture.

Some of this culture was showcased during Omani Night, a get-together of Omani people in Korea, Tuesday.

Omani musicians performed and a runway show featuring sophisticated traditional Omani costumes followed during the event organized by Oman LNG.

The highlight of Omani Night came when a young Omani sand artist drew diverse images and shapes with her fingers to celebrate the anniversary of Korea-Oman relations.

As her performance began, all of the lights in the Safire Room of the Lotte Hotel were turned off, except the one near the big overhead screen which showcased her sophisticated work of art.

Hundreds of people there held their breath and fully focused on what Shayma Ahmed Al Mughairy did through the big screen.

One of the images the 19-year-old girl drew was a vessel carrying LNG from Oman following a waterway connecting Muscat to the port city of Incheon on the oceans on the map.

The last image she presented was two hands being held tight and each of them having the national flags of Korea and Oman on them.

Being impressed by the symbolic image showing strong economic ties between the two countries, guests of Omani Night gave thunderous applause to the young artist.

Mughairy said that she is the only sand artist in the Gulf region.

Mughairy, also a university student majoring in architecture, brought dark brown sand she used for the performance from Oman.

The sand artist said she began to draw when she was three-years-old. She honed her drawing skill with the help of her supportive parents who recognized her talent when she was very young.

Why some people are addicted to gambling

Ever wondered what encourages people to keep on gambling despite losses? Blame it on “gambler’s fallacy”, scientists say.
During gambling games, people often misperceive their chances of winning due to a number of errors of thinking called cognitive distortions.
“For example, `near-misses’ seem to encourage further play, even though they are no different from any other loss,” said Luke Clark from University of Cambridge.
In a random sequence like tossing a coin, a run of one event (heads) makes people think the other outcome (tails) is due next. This is known as the “gambler’s fallacy”.
New research reveals that brain damage affecting the insula — an area with a key role in emotions — disrupts errors of thinking linked to gambling addiction.
There is increasing evidence that problem gamblers are particularly prone to these erroneous beliefs.
In a study, researchers examined the neurological basis of these beliefs in patients with injuries to different parts of the brain.
“While neuroimaging studies can tell us a great deal about the brain’s response to complex events, it’s only by studying patients with brain injury that we can see if a brain region is actually needed to perform a given task,” Clark explained.
For the study, the researchers gave patients with injuries to specific parts of the brain two different gambling tasks — a slot machine game that delivered wins and ‘near-misses’, and a roulette game involving red or black predictions, to elicit the gambler’s fallacy. For the control groups, they also had patients with injuries to other parts of the brain as well as healthy participants undergo the gambling tasks.
All of the groups with the exception of the patients with insula damage reported a heightened motivation to play following near-misses in the slot machine game, and also fell prey to the gambler’s fallacy in the roulette game.

Indians in Oman demand online voting in general elections

By A Staff Reporter — MUSCAT  — As the Republic of India is all set for yet another round of elections to choose its central cabinet followed by the state-wise elections, the expatriate Indians in the Sultanate of Oman are demanding to let them cast online votes to elect their favourite leaders. The number of Indians in Oman is about 700,000 out of which at least 95 per cent is eligible to vote in the general elections. Prominent Indians in Oman say if a ballot is run without taking this majority’s concerns, it wouldn’t be an perfect ballot. “Remittances from the gulf and elsewhere is a crucial contributor to the Indian economy and the sentiment of millions of people living abroad needs to be reflected in the general elections.

“It would have been more justifiable if we also can cast our ballots in the coming elections”, Manpreet Singh of Indian Social Club Salalah told the Observer, adding that casting online votes in the next month’s elections would be near to impossible but it can be done in at least in the coming elections. “There are more than 635,000 eligible voters in the Sultanate of Oman who are willing cast their ballots for their political affiliations. A general election that neglects this majority in Oman and an equal and more number of expatriates in the GCC and elsewhere will not reflect the people’s true feelings in the results”, P M Jabir, an active social worker in Muscat said. He blamed it on the nonchalance of some quarters who deems expatriate population least important and if the matter is taken up seriously there wouldn’t be any hassle in getting the voting rights for the Indians in this diaspora, he added.

“We have been demanding this postal ballots since time immemorial and nothing has come out yet. We are in the forefront of global information technology and we are exporting our expert IT hands across the world as is witnessed by the multinational IT firms and other companies in the world. I think we will not have any issue with the voting modus operandi as IT has grown by leaps and bounds and casting a ballot is just as easy as that”. “I have been living in the Sultanate of Oman for the last 40 years and believe me, I have never ever cast my ballot in any of the past elections because I was never present in India during elections”, C V Chothani, Convener, Gujarati Samaj Muscat which functions under the Indian Social Club. “If our feelings are not expressed in these general elections, how can it be a majority choice?”, asks Chothani.

As to the discipline and maintaining the decorum of elections, Jabir added that in a country like the Sultanate of Oman, people are more law-abiding and friendly and there wouldn’t be any issue in collecting the ballots of this many people. “We are living in a country that is known across the seas for its discipline and proper maintenance of law and order. We are equally law-abiding just as our Omani brothers are and there wouldn’t be any issue in collecting the ballots of all the Indians in one days provided efficient systems are maintained”. Meanwhile, the Indian Embassy in Muscat has informed that the Indians residing in Oman, along with other countries, can register online with the Election Registry to be able to cast their ballot in India. This is mainly aimed at those who will be in India for their vacation during the elections to be held next month.

Fried foods leads to obesity in people with genetic risk

Eating fried food more than four times a week may have twice as big an effect on body mass index (BMI) for those with the highest genetic risk of developing obesity, research indicates.
In other words, genetic makeup can inflate the effects of bad diet.
In a first such study, a team of US researchers analysed interactions between fried food consumption and genetic risk associated with obesity in over 37,000 men and women taking part in three large US health trials.
“Our findings emphasise the importance of reducing fried food consumption in the prevention of obesity, particularly in individuals genetically predisposed to adiposity (fatness),” said Lu Qi, assistant professor at Harvard School of Public Health.
The researchers used food frequency questionnaires to assess fried food consumption — both at home and away from home — and a genetic risk score based on 32 known genetic variants associated with BMI and obesity.
Three categories of fried food consumption were identified: less than once a week, one to three times a week, and four or more times a week.
Genetic risk scores ranged from 0 to 64 and those with a higher score had a higher BMI. Height and body weight were assessed at the start of the trials, and weight was requested at each follow-up questionnaire. Lifestyle information, such as physical activity and smoking, was also collected.
The researchers found consistent interactions between fried food consumption and genetic risk scores on BMI.

Confusion in Crimea sparks run on banks

Crowds in Crimea queued outside banks as the countdown to this weekend’s referendum to break away from Ukraine and join Russia sowed panic, confusion and fear of a looming legal vacuum.

Local pro-Moscow officials have tried to reassure locals, saying there will be no problem with pensions or salaries and that the banks have sufficient cash for everyone.

But details on how the financial system will work if Crimea severs ties with mainland Ukraine were sketchy and officials said there were plans to use the Russian ruble alongside the Ukrainian hryvnia “for a period of time”.

Rumours were spreading fast, including a report dismissed by the pro-Kremlin authorities as a “provocation” that all savings accounts were being frozen and withdrawals were being limited to just 300 hryvnia (23 euros, $32) per day.

“I couldn’t get any money out in any of the cash machines of Oschadbank in Simferopol. They had no more cash. So I came here to their main branch,” said one woman in a long queue outside the Ukrainian lender in the Crimean capital.

The limit on cash withdrawals in most banks in Crimea has been set at 1,500 hryvnia a day and some people have queued up day after day to take out as much money as possible in instalments.

Long queues also formed in Sevastopol, the historic port city that is home to Russia’s Black Sea Fleet and where Ukrainian military bases are surrounded by Russian forces.

Signs outside branches of Morskoy bank said cash machines were out of order and employees said they were not receiving enough banknotes.

There have even been reports in the local press of locals quickly taking out large loans in the hope that they will not have to pay them back once Ukraine becomes a part of Russia.

Several bank press services contacted by AFP declined to speak on the record but an employee at one of Ukraine’s biggest lenders, PrivatBank, in Simferopol said: “People are panicking because they want to keep their money at home.”

“When they see the cash, when they can touch it, they calm down. There are so many people coming now that we cannot cope with them all,” she said, speaking on condition of anonymity because she was concerned about losing her job.

‘The hryvnias are running out’
At UniCredit Bank in Simferopol, one manager said: “People are closing their savings accounts and trying to get all their money out.”

“First there’s political instability and secondly, people don’t know what will happen from Monday” — the day after the referendum.

“People are afraid Ukrainian banks are going to close down branches here and since everyone is trying to take their money out at the same time, the hryvnias are running out,” he said.

“Some people are taking money out and putting it under the mattress, others are stocking up on food,” he added, blaming the local government for “assaulting the banks”.

“They have taken a series of steps without any logic that is just sowing confusion”.

Crimea’s deputy premier Rustam Temirgaliyev has said that if the peninsula joins Russia, local lenders will fall under the country’s law.

“Ukrainian banks working in Crimea will have to register as foreign banks in Russia,” he said.

In Kiev meanwhile, central bank governor Stepan Kubiv said the security situation had hampered movements of cash and “we cannot ensure the transportation of cash even within Crimea”.

In Simferopol, Aleksiy Yefremov, head of the student association “New People of Crimea” said he was concerned that bursaries for local students might not be paid out but added that there were also “a lot of rumours going around”.

“Whether we stay with Ukraine or go with Russia, it’s understandable that people are concerned,” he said. “We do not have enough information. Do we listen to official Kiev or to the local authorities?”

‘Barking Aussies’ leave people cold, alienated from team’s success

SYDNEY Australians have acclaimed their cricket team’s epic series win over South Africa, but not the manner in which they achieved it.

Michael Clarke’s team Wednesday clinched a 2-1 series win over the world’s number one-ranked Test side just months after thrashing England 5-0 in their home Ashes series.

But just as Australia dominated the South Africans with their aggressive brand of cricket under coach Darren Lehmann, the team was rebuked by sections of the media on Friday over their on-field behaviour during the final Cape Town Test.

“Darren Lehmann has guided the Australian cricket side to the top of the world. His next challenge is to control it,” News Ltd cricket columnist Robert Craddock said.

“Australian fans like to see their side play tough cricket but social media in Australia yesterday had strong feedback from fans wanting their side to behave better. The sight of Michael Clarke angrily confronting umpires and Australian fieldsmen barking like dogs at batsmen left a lot of people cold and alienated from the team and its success.”

Some Australian cricketers were pictured howling following the dismissal of South African batsman Faf du Plessis, in reaction to Du Plessis’s comments likening them to “a pack of dogs” in the field.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said the barking dogs incident might have been childish, but he saw it as funny.

“That’s just typical childish cricketers, but he (Du Plessis) asked for that with his comments a few days earlier,” Sutherland said in a radio interview.

“Some people might not see the humour in that but I did.”

David Sygall, writing in Fairfax Media, said: “The Australian psyche is characterised by uncompromising toughness, determination and dignity. Those traits must no longer be confused with boorish and bullying behaviour.

“After another significant win by our national cricket team, too many people are only half-celebrating. Too many people feel the team has not spoken for them.

“Judging by commentary on websites and blogs across the country, a chunk of people too large to ignore feels disappointed by the team’s behaviour. Many feel unrepresented by Clarke’s men.”

Clarke apologised for being “out of line” in a spat with South African Dale Steyn during the tense finish to the series-ending Test.

Clarke had already been the subject of a lecture from
the match umpires, who were unhappy with how regularly the Australians were letting the ball hit the pitch when throwing in, a scuffing tactic which generally aids reverse swing.

The Australia captain conceded that he had been at fault in the showdown with Steyn that immediately followed the wicket of Vernon Philander being overturned.

“If anybody was out of line it was me and I apologise to the opposition player (Steyn) I was out of line to, a player who I have the utmost respect for, who tries to kill me every time I bat, who batted exceptionally well, and I was out of line,” he said.

“Let’s just say he got me at a bad time.”

Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in South China Sea with 239 people aboard …

Kuala Lumpur: A Malaysia Airlines flight carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew crashed in the South China Sea on Saturday, Vietnamese state media said, quoting a senior naval official.

The Boeing 777-200ER flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had been missing for hours when Vietnam’s Tuoi Tre news quoted Admiral Ngo Van Phat as saying he had asked boats from an island off south Vietnam to rush to the crash site.

If the report is confirmed, it would mark the US – built airliner’s deadliest crash since entering service 19 years ago.

Malaysia Airlines had yet to confirm that the aircraft had crashed. It said earlier in the day that no distress signal had been given and cited early speculation that the plane may have landed in Nanming in southern China.

Flight MH370, operating a Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, last had contact with air traffic controllers 120 nautical miles off the east coast of the Malaysian town of Kota Bharu, Malaysia Airlines chief executive
Ahmad Jauhari Yahya said in a statement read to a news conference in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia and Vietnam were conducting a joint search and rescue, he said but gave no details. China has also sent two maritime rescue ships to the South China Sea to help in any rescue, state television said one of its microblogs.

“We are extremely worried,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told reporters in Beijing before the Vietnamese report that the plane had crashed. “The news is very disturbing. We hope everyone on the plane is safe.”

The flight left Kuala Lumpur at 12.21am (1621GMT on Friday) but no trace had been found of the plane hours after it was due to land in the Chinese capital at 6.30am (2230GMT on Friday) the same day.

“We deeply regret that we have lost all contacts with flight MH370,” Jauhari said.

Malaysia Airlines said people from 14 nationalities were among the 227 passengers, including at least 152 Chinese, 38 Malaysians, 12 Indonesians, six Australians and three Americans. It also said a Chinese infant and an American infant were on board.

If it is confirmed that the plane has crashed, the loss would mark the second fatal accident involving a Boeing 777 in less than a year and by far the worst since the jet entered service in 1995.

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER crash-landed in San Francisco in July 2013, killing three passengers and injuring more than 180.

Boeing said it was aware of reports that the Malaysia Airlines plane was missing and was monitoring the situation but had no further comment. The flight was operating as a China Southern Airlines codeshare.

An official at the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) said the plane had failed to check in as scheduled at 1721GMT while it was flying over the sea between Malaysia and Ho Chi Minh city.

Camels likely source of MERS virus in people: study

By Kerry Sheridan -

A respiratory virus that has killed dozens of people, mainly in the Middle East, is widespread in camels and may be jumping directly from camels to humans, said a study yesterday.
Called Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, it has killed 79 of the 182 people infected since September 2012, according to the World Health Organization.
Until now, little was known about its source or how it could be infecting people.
But senior study author Ian Lipkin of Columbia University said research now shows the virus is “extraordinarily common” in camels and has been for at least 20 years.
“In some parts of Saudi Arabia, two-thirds of young animals have infectious virus in their respiratory tracts,” he said.
“It is plausible that camels could be a major source of infection for humans.”
Lipkin worked with colleagues at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and lead author Abdulaziz Alagaili of King Saud University in Riyadh on the study, which was published in the journal mBio on February 25.
Researchers took blood samples as well as rectal and nasal swabs from more than 200 camels in Saudi Arabia in November and December of 2013.
They analysed the samples using mobile laboratory technology and found antibodies for MERS as well as active virus, particularly in the nasal secretions of younger camels.
“Overall, 74 per cent of camels sampled countrywide had antibodies to MERS-CoV (coronavirus),” said the study.
The team also analysed archives of blood samples from dromedary camels — the most common species — taken from 1992 to 2010, and found evidence of MERS going back two decades.
“The virus that has been identified in these camels is identical to the virus that has been found in humans with disease,” Lipkin said.
If confirmed, MERS would not be the only disease known to pass from camels to humans, but such cases are rare. One other is Rift Valley fever, which can cause fever and flu-like symptoms in people.
Camels that tested positive for the virus appeared to be in otherwise good health. — AFP

H1N1 virus kills 2 people in Oman

An official source at the Sultanate of Oman’s Ministry of Health said that two people died from severe pneumonia due to the H1N1 virus.

The ministry affirmed that it closely monitors the disease through the epidemic monitoring system, Oman News Agency (ONA) reported.

The ministry calls on the citizens to follow proper practices during sneezing and coughing, as well as, ensuring personal hygiene especially hands. They should also ensure washing hands before and after visiting patients.

H1N1 is one of the seasonal flu viruses. Many cases have been recorded in the Sultanate and different parts of the world. Most of these cases are very simple and do not need therapeutic intervention. They do not also constitute an epidemic at the current period.