Friday, September 14, 2012

US embassies attacked as anti-Islam film protests widen

Protesters angered by a film made in the US and mocking Islam have attacked Western embassies in Tunisia and Sudan.

Footage shows protesters in Khartoum storming the German embassy

Protesters in Khartoum entered the US compound, while the German and UK embassies were also attacked. The US compound in Tunis was also breached by protesters, who started a fire in the car park as police fired shots.

There were further clashes in Yemen and Egypt. One person in Lebanon has died.

Protests began on Tuesday against the film, which was made in the US.

However, the film - clips of which were dubbed into Arabic and distributed online - has no link to either Germany or the UK.

It depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a womaniser and leader of a group of men who enjoy killing.

The film's exact origin and the motivation behind its production remain a mystery.

'March abandoned'

In Tunisia, hundreds of protesters entered the embassy compound and set fire to several vehicles in the car park.

Police have fired shots, but it is not clear whether these are rubber bullets or live rounds.

Demonstrators raised a black flag bearing the Islamic proclamation of faith: "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger."

The American school in Tunis has also been set on fire.

The German embassy in Khartoum was set partially alight. Demonstrators tore down the German flag and hoisted an Islamic banner in its place.

The German foreign ministry confirmed all its staff in Khartoum were safe.

In Cairo, police firing tear gas pushed about 500 protesters back from the US embassy. The streets nearby have been blocked with barbed wire, concrete and police vehicles.

Islamist groups and others had called for a peaceful "million-man march" in the city, but a number withdrew those calls on Friday.

The Muslim Brotherhood of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi said it would organise marches and sit-ins in front of mosques - but none outside the US embassy in Cairo.

After talks with Italian leaders in Rome, Mr Mursi reiterated his government's determination to protect foreign diplomats on its soil. He also condemned the film as unacceptable.

In other developments:
In the Yemeni capital Sanaa, security forces fired warning shots and water cannon to disperse protesters near the US embassy
The US is sending a fast-response team of 50 marines to Sanaa to boost security
In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, protesters set fire to a KFC branch, sparking clashes with security forces
In Bangladesh, thousands of demonstrators demanded harsh punishment for the film's makers, and burned the American flag
In London, about 200 protesters gathered outside the US embassy, burning the US and Israeli flags but there was no violence
About 1,000 people joined a protest in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, burning an effigy of US President Barack Obama
The US embassy in Brussels has been evacuated
Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem
In Nigeria, police in the flashpoint northern city of Jos fired live round at a protest outside a mosque
There were also protests in eastern Sri Lanka and in the Maldives

The protests against the film began on Tuesday in Cairo.

They spread to the Libyan city of Benghazi, where demonstrators stormed the US consulate, killing the ambassador and three other Americans.

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are attending a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base for the return of the remains of the Americans killed.

The US has said it is stepping up security at its diplomatic missions around the world in the wake of the attack.

The BBC has been told that the US consulate in Benghazi was not given the standard security contract offered to most US diplomatic missions in the Middle East.

The allegation came from Western private military contractors.

A White House spokesman has said there was no "actionable intelligence" in advance about the Benghazi attack.

President Obama has now ordered a review of security at US diplomatic facilities around the world.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Businesses look to cash in on royal visit to Singapore

A lone aeroplane engine stands centre stage covered in plastic and waiting to be unwrapped.

Workers around it are setting up a podium and re-painting the stage wall just the right shade of blue, in readiness for a royal visit.

This is the $562m (£350m) Rolls-Royce aeronautical production facility which opened earlier this year in Singapore, and the engine, a Trent 900 Aero, is destined for an Airbus A380 plane.

On Wednesday, its plastic covers will be unwrapped as the engine is unveiled by Prince William, who is in town with his wife Catherine on a tour of Singapore, Malaysia and the Solomon Islands.

Jonathan Asherson, the head of Rolls-Royce's South East Asian operations, says their visit will bring a number of benefits.

"The tangible benefits to the visit will include things like the buzz that the employees will feel, and the partnership between Singapore and the UK," he tells the BBC.

"The Duke and Duchess will be launching the first production engine and the first production fan blades from this facility.

"Intangible benefits are things like the coverage we get, those benefits are going to be for our own internal buzz, but we're hoping our customers will notice this as well," he adds. Flower power

The Duke and Duchess are touring the region to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

According to the British High Commission in Singapore, the visit to the city was included in their trip as it's seen as an important trading partner of the United Kingdom.

They will be meeting key Singapore and British business leaders during their trip.

Some $40bn is invested in Singapore by UK businesses while the UK attracts two-thirds of Singapore's foreign direct investment into Europe.

One of the first stops on their tour saw them visiting the nation's Orchid Gardens on Tuesday where they had an orchid named after them.

The gardens, set within the larger botanical gardens, charge for entry and are 70% self-funded.

They have been naming hybrid orchids, created by their horticulturists, after famous people since 1957.

According to Nigel Taylor the director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens, there is almost always an uptick in visitors after an orchid is named after a well known person.

"There's clearly a marketing effect that benefits Singapore and the gardens," he says.

"There's also a more immediate local effect, for some of the locals who haven't visited the orchid gardens for a while, they may be reminded that it exists and that it's an opportunity they shouldn't miss out on.

"When someone like the Duke and Duchess come to visit, which is something that happens very rarely... the quid pro quo is definitely the publicity we get." Brand effect

The British monarchy is a very valuable brand.

One study published before the Queen's jubilee celebrations in June, found that this value amounted to $70bn.

But more than half of that is intangible. Rather than creating value by producing goods, the monarchy's brand value lies in association.

Samir Dixit from Brand Finance who carried out the research, says the British monarchy is the world's second most valuable brand after Apple, with Apple valued just slightly higher at $70.6bn.

The firm has measured the value of the Royal Family in part by looking at companies who have been issued Royal warrants and coats of arms.

Royal warrants have been issued for centuries for goods or services that are supplied to the sovereign or to a member of the royal family.

These, according to Brand Finance, have made those brands associated to the Royal Family more successful. Local interest

And it is this brand value that some local firms are keen to cash in on.

Art Trove, a Singapore art gallery is celebrating the Queen's jubilee by selling lithographs of watercolour paintings by Prince Charles and other art pieces as well as photographs of the Royal Family.

These include pictures of Prince William as a child with his late mother, Princess Diana.

Also on offer is a $200,000 diamond encrusted gold medallion made by the East India Company for the Queen's jubilee. The gallery says it has already sold its other silver version worth $40,000 to an Asian collector.

The entire collection for sale is worth nearly one million dollars.

Sharon Tay, a consultant at the gallery, thinks that interest in the exhibition, which has been running since last month, will pick up with the Duke and Duchess' visit to Singapore.

The St. Regis in Singapore, part of the US Starwood chain of hotels, is also hoping the visit will help push sales for their themed dinners and activities.

The hotel has planned a month long tribute to British culture and the arts which includes hiring a Michelin starred Welsh chef to cook $200 per head meals and a tie up with the Royal Academy of Arts with an exhibiiton by British artist Paul Huxley.

Cheryl Ong, the hotel's director of sales and marketing, says that even though the events were not planned to coincide with the Royal trip, it was "very serendipitous timing".

"We have seen keen interest from our guests and members of the public, with reservations coming in steadily for the British Arts Celebration culinary showcases," she adds.

For local and multinational companies alike, the consensus is that even though they might not see an immediate pick-up in business during the short visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, the effects of it will be evident in higher sales after they leave.

Then it won't just be the monarchy having a diamond year.

Ferrari sales and profits surge to record highs

Exhibition in Rome aimed at highlighting Italian flair and craftsmanship.

Italian supercar and Formula 1 racing firm Ferrari has reported record sales and profits for the first six months of 2012.

The company made 100m euros ($128m; £80m) net profit, up 10% on the same period a year earlier.
With 3,664 cars delivered to dealers during the period, revenues rose 11.9% to 1.2bn euros.
Sales and profits remain strong, so 2012 could be another record year, chief executive Amedeo Felisa predicts.

In 2011, Ferrari sold 7,195 cars, also a record, up 9.5% when compared with 2010.
"Probably this year we will have, again, a record in terms of volume and we will have a record in terms of economic results for the company," Mr Felisa told BBC News in an interview.

New models:
Ferrari sales have been bolstered by a broader range of cars launched in recent years.
"If you compare the situation at Ferrari five years ago, we have reshaped the range of products," Mr Felisa said.

They include relatively recently-launched models such as the California and the FF, which offer everyday comforts and practicality and thus appeal to a new type of customers.

Its latest model, the F12berlinetta, goes on sale this month and is expected to drive sales further among customers more interested in extreme high-speed performance.

Ferrari also offers two other sportscars, the 458 Italia and the 458 Spider.

Global growth:
The carmaker has also enjoyed strong sales growth in new markets in Asia - China in particular, and in Russia, the Middle East, and South America.

"Today, of the total we manufacture we sell 7% within Italy, 93% around the world," said Mr Felisa.
Ferrari currently sells its cars in 60 countries.

"We continue to look for new markets," Mr Felisa said.

G20 economic growth slows in 2012

G20 leaders
G20 leaders discussed measures to encourage economic growth at their summit in June
The G20 group of leading world economies has reported slower growth in the three months ending in June.
National output as measured by GDP grew at an annual rate of 3% in the second quarter compared with 3.2% in the first quarter, official data showed.

But, economic health varied with China's output growing 7.6% and Italy's shrinking 2.6% due to recession.
Taking global population growth into account, G20 output is effectively stagnating.

The G20 data was compiled by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
Officials from the world's 19 leading economies and the European Union are meeting in Mexico City for talks.

They are under particular pressure to act to moderate the impact of high food prices on households whose incomes are stagnating and shrinking due to the economic slowdown.

Drought has reduced harvests in North America whilst Russian grain exports have also fallen, pushing up global prices.

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