Friday, January 15, 2010

For ‘Ring of Fire’ watchers, it’s chance of a lifetime (Lead)

On Board Eclipse Cruise Ship, Jan 14 (IANS) As Aquamarine, India’s first eclipse cruise ship, sails towards the Maldives, the chatter among about 950 people on board is geared towards the keenly anticipated view of the millennium’s longest annular solar eclipse Friday.

The cruise ship left for Male from Kochi Jan 13 to chase the ‘Ring of Fire’ that will be visible best in the capital city of Maldives. Male is along the centre annular eclipse line, and will offer an optimal view as the sun there will be oscured the maximum at about 93 percent.

The eclipse starts in the Maldives at 10:15 a.m. (10:45 IST) and peaks at 12:20 p.m. (12:50 IST) before ending at 1:40 p.m. (14:10 IST).

“I have especially come with my two children to watch the eclipse. I don’t know much about solar eclipse and this was the opportunity to know it. After watching the eclipse, we will visit the city and other small islands,” Mansi Singh, a resident of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, told an IANS correspondent abroad the ship.

Mansi’s eight-year-old son has already bought solar goggles to watch the eclipse.

“I have studied in my books about stars, the Sun and the Moon, and now I am excited about seeing them from a giant ship,” said an excited Rishi Singh, a Class 3 student.

A science communication organisation SPACE (Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators) has tied up with Louis Cruises India to run the luxury vessel from Kochi to the Maldives, carrying eclipse chasers looking forward to seeing the ‘Ring of Fire’ when the sun’s disc will be covered by the passing moon.

People interested in watching the eclipse from the cruise have paid something between Rs.17,000 to Rs.50,000 for the four-day three-night trip.

“I was thrilled when I heard about the eclipse cruise and decided to get on board with my friends. Nothing can be more beautiful than chasing the eclipse on board a vessel from the island-nation,” said Bhambi Shah, a businessman from Gujarat.

Many others on board the Aquamarine also did not know about the solar eclipse, and came just for having fun during Pongal vacations.

“I came to know about solar eclipse during a workshop here Tuesday. I had no clue about it. I got excited about it and decided to stay back for the initial phase of the eclipse Friday morning. I can’t watch the ‘Ring of Fire’ as I have already booked a ticket for city excursion in the afternoon,” said Jigna Umand, a resident of Bangalore.

SPACE is charging Rs.1,000 per person for the eclipse watch and 50 people have registered with them. During the eclipse, the ship will be docked in Male port and telescopes will be put out on deck for people to watch the celestial activity.

“An eclipse watch will be organised Jan 15, to show passengers safe ways to view and photograph the eclipse. Guests on the eclipse cruise will be able to watch the ‘Ring of Fire’ for longest 10 minutes 46 seconds. The cruise will be back in Kochi Jan 16,” said Amit Verma, who works with SPACE.

A ’star party’ was organised Wednesday night, offering guided observations of constellations and deep-sky objects and showing the navigational tricks of ancient mariners.

According to Louis Cruises, tying up with SPACE for eclipse has increased the number of bookings.

“Of the 950 guests, I think 200 to 300 booked the tickets now to watch the eclipse, besides sight-seeing. It;s a good opportunity and we are really excited about it,” said Yogesh Gupta, general manager, corporate affairs, Louis Cruises India.

Annular solar eclipse occurs when the Sun and the Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon’s shadow is smaller than the visible disc of the Sun. The covered Sun, therefore, appears as a ‘Ring of Fire’, with its rays spread out from the outline of the Moon.

The last time India saw this ‘Ring of Fire’ was Nov 22, 1965, and it will not be witnessed again before June 21, 2020. The next longest annular solar eclipse will be seen in 3043.


Source: thaindian.com

Maldives Matters: President Nasheed’s love-hate media relationship

Perhaps, there has never been a person who “courted” the media so much and stood up for their rights like Mohamed Nasheed, in the then opposition MDP. Clad in his party colour, yellow, none could fit in so well with the slogan shouting youngsters in the media, like he did.

Young and energetic Nasheed protesting in Male’ streets, bashing the Gayoom administration over lack of a free press was a common sight then.

And now, over a year into Nasheed’s presidency, is Maldives a haven for a free media?

Queries have now risen if all is well with the Maldives media or has it really gone from bad to worse.

Maldives media

It is an undeniable truth that there was a firm government grip on the media in the early years of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The state owned Television Maldives and the Voice of Maldives was full of Maumoon and was biased in favour of the Government.

Anything related to the then Opposition MDP hardly appeared in it so much so the Opposition called the TVM, “Maumoon TV”.

Yet things changed in an impressive manner towards the end of Gayoom’s administration in 2008.

Former Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed under the Gayoom administration opened up the state clenched electronic media to all political parties alike.

Equal opportunities were given to all political parties ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

Many private radio stations and TV stations began ahead of the election giving rise to a vibrant media and also giving people a better opportunity to make an informed choice at the presidential election.

Today the country has 5 newspapers, 20 online newspapers, 6 radio stations and 3 television stations.
Biased

The massive change that was brought about under Gayoom has been reversed under President Nasheed, the Opposition DRP now alleges.

They say the state owned TV and radio is used by the President to promote his party, the MDP and it has almost become a party television.

One may argue that it is the norm of any Opposition to criticize the sitting government over lack of media freedom.

But independent parliamentarians like Mohamed Nasheed, who broke away from the main Opposition DRP too says that the media is heavily biased.

“It is common knowledge that media is experiencing a reversal of the freedom – they had fought so hard to achieve and maintain,” Nasheed wrote in his personal blog recently.

“While the state media has been converted into a pure government mouthpiece it has been denied the editorial independence to contribute to enhancing democracy in the Maldives.”

Sounding quite hilarious, the Government is trotting out a lame excuse over why its media cannot be independent.

The Government has said that although they would like to be independent there is a shortage of personnel trained to “deliver that independence.”

Moreover, the private electronic media is being “closely watched by the government” and “fledgling stations have already begun facing government ridicule and threats of closure and cancellation of license,” Parliamentarian Nasheed added.

Deadly blow

In the Maldives, the private print media is still not in position to be financially independent.

And a decision by President Nasheed in September 2009 to stop government advertisements to private newspapers has put them in a struggle for survival.

The decision sent almost all print media outlets gasping for breath, short of money to keep them running. The “Manas Daily” was forced to close down.

By all means, the private media should not be allowed to be at the mercy of the Government for funds as it could threaten their independence.

But the tragedy of its infantile media is such that it cannot stand on its own feet yet due to high cost, unless propped up with the monies coming from the government advertising, at least for the time being.

Speaking on one-to-one Dhi FM show recently, President Nasheed said he stopped advertisements to private media in a bid to promote a free press.

“We hope the private media will be strengthened,” President Nasheed was quoted as saying in the talk show.

But the President cannot sound so cut off from the reality of the Maldives media and -- to say now that he simply hoped the “private media will be strengthened”.

In the least, he should have provided them alternative means of funds temporarily.

Companies have to incur high cost for transportation of papers to its geographically isolated near 200 inhabited islands.

But its money-spinning tourism industry has no interest in investing or advertising in local newspapers as they are aiming at a global market for tourists.

Businessmen do invest in newspapers occasionally but that that has again given rise to a biased media.

Hence the Maldives Journalist Association has now requested for an allocation from the Government budget for print media and now it is upto the House to pass it.

Physical attacks and phone tapping

Journalists have been attacked under the Nasheed Government and there is reason to believe that media personnel are under government surveillance.

Ahmed Zahir, Executive Editor of Haveeru Daily and President of Maldives Journalist Association was assaulted last year while covering a protest by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party. Ibrahim Rasheed, newscaster of state broadcaster Television Maldives too was attacked in a separate incident.

According to Zahir, MJA President, there is reason to believe that some journalists are under surveillance. “The Defense Ministry officially admitted to phone tapping without specifying who were the targets,” he noted.

Religious extremism in the Maldives has added to media woes too.

“For example, no journalist would dare venture to cover any events in extremist-controlled Himandhoo island though there are credible reports of child sex slaves been kept there,” Zahir said.

Meanwhile, the Maldives leading newspaper “Haveeru Daily” has been threatened with eviction from its current location by the Government.

Extravagant license fees are still required for operation of private radio and television stations whilst registration is required to set up any media.

Also the Ministry of Islamic Affairs “monopolized by the extremist Adhaalath Party, has closed down many websites, alleging anti-Islamic content, though some of the sites were not anti-Islamic and some were even promoting Islam,” said Zahir.

The Adhaalath is a coalition partner in the Government and the party teamed up with Nasheed in the second round of presidential polls in 2008, helping him to assume presidency.

In return, President Nasheed offered the party the Ministry of Islamic Affairs but the religious extremist party since then has opposed the government on many issues.

Delayed laws

Above all, hardly any investigative reporting is being done now with the Government seeking to restrict access to information from public agencies, Zahir noted.

The Freedom of Information bill giving access to information is still pending Parliament.

Currently, the content and air time of the state broadcaster is heavily biased in favor of the Government and the ruling party.

But the media bills aimed at allowing state broadcasters to have independent editorial boards have yet to come into effect.

As the list of issues related to media freedom goes endless, one wonders if President Nasheed, the one time darling of the press was really genuine in his so-called love for the media that has turned into apparent hatred now.

Source: www.asiantribune.com

Maldives Matters: President Nasheed’s love-hate media relationship

Perhaps, there has never been a person who “courted” the media so much and stood up for their rights like Mohamed Nasheed, in the then opposition MDP. Clad in his party colour, yellow, none could fit in so well with the slogan shouting youngsters in the media, like he did.

Young and energetic Nasheed protesting in Male’ streets, bashing the Gayoom administration over lack of a free press was a common sight then.

And now, over a year into Nasheed’s presidency, is Maldives a haven for a free media?

Queries have now risen if all is well with the Maldives media or has it really gone from bad to worse.

Maldives media

It is an undeniable truth that there was a firm government grip on the media in the early years of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.

The state owned Television Maldives and the Voice of Maldives was full of Maumoon and was biased in favour of the Government.

Anything related to the then Opposition MDP hardly appeared in it so much so the Opposition called the TVM, “Maumoon TV”.

Yet things changed in an impressive manner towards the end of Gayoom’s administration in 2008.

Former Information Minister Mohamed Nasheed under the Gayoom administration opened up the state clenched electronic media to all political parties alike.

Equal opportunities were given to all political parties ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

Many private radio stations and TV stations began ahead of the election giving rise to a vibrant media and also giving people a better opportunity to make an informed choice at the presidential election.

Today the country has 5 newspapers, 20 online newspapers, 6 radio stations and 3 television stations.
Biased

The massive change that was brought about under Gayoom has been reversed under President Nasheed, the Opposition DRP now alleges.

They say the state owned TV and radio is used by the President to promote his party, the MDP and it has almost become a party television.

One may argue that it is the norm of any Opposition to criticize the sitting government over lack of media freedom.

But independent parliamentarians like Mohamed Nasheed, who broke away from the main Opposition DRP too says that the media is heavily biased.

“It is common knowledge that media is experiencing a reversal of the freedom – they had fought so hard to achieve and maintain,” Nasheed wrote in his personal blog recently.

“While the state media has been converted into a pure government mouthpiece it has been denied the editorial independence to contribute to enhancing democracy in the Maldives.”

Sounding quite hilarious, the Government is trotting out a lame excuse over why its media cannot be independent.

The Government has said that although they would like to be independent there is a shortage of personnel trained to “deliver that independence.”

Moreover, the private electronic media is being “closely watched by the government” and “fledgling stations have already begun facing government ridicule and threats of closure and cancellation of license,” Parliamentarian Nasheed added.

Deadly blow

In the Maldives, the private print media is still not in position to be financially independent.

And a decision by President Nasheed in September 2009 to stop government advertisements to private newspapers has put them in a struggle for survival.

The decision sent almost all print media outlets gasping for breath, short of money to keep them running. The “Manas Daily” was forced to close down.

By all means, the private media should not be allowed to be at the mercy of the Government for funds as it could threaten their independence.

But the tragedy of its infantile media is such that it cannot stand on its own feet yet due to high cost, unless propped up with the monies coming from the government advertising, at least for the time being.

Speaking on one-to-one Dhi FM show recently, President Nasheed said he stopped advertisements to private media in a bid to promote a free press.

“We hope the private media will be strengthened,” President Nasheed was quoted as saying in the talk show.

But the President cannot sound so cut off from the reality of the Maldives media and -- to say now that he simply hoped the “private media will be strengthened”.

In the least, he should have provided them alternative means of funds temporarily.

Companies have to incur high cost for transportation of papers to its geographically isolated near 200 inhabited islands.

But its money-spinning tourism industry has no interest in investing or advertising in local newspapers as they are aiming at a global market for tourists.

Businessmen do invest in newspapers occasionally but that that has again given rise to a biased media.

Hence the Maldives Journalist Association has now requested for an allocation from the Government budget for print media and now it is upto the House to pass it.

Physical attacks and phone tapping

Journalists have been attacked under the Nasheed Government and there is reason to believe that media personnel are under government surveillance.

Ahmed Zahir, Executive Editor of Haveeru Daily and President of Maldives Journalist Association was assaulted last year while covering a protest by the ruling Maldivian Democratic Party. Ibrahim Rasheed, newscaster of state broadcaster Television Maldives too was attacked in a separate incident.

According to Zahir, MJA President, there is reason to believe that some journalists are under surveillance. “The Defense Ministry officially admitted to phone tapping without specifying who were the targets,” he noted.

Religious extremism in the Maldives has added to media woes too.

“For example, no journalist would dare venture to cover any events in extremist-controlled Himandhoo island though there are credible reports of child sex slaves been kept there,” Zahir said.

Meanwhile, the Maldives leading newspaper “Haveeru Daily” has been threatened with eviction from its current location by the Government.

Extravagant license fees are still required for operation of private radio and television stations whilst registration is required to set up any media.

Also the Ministry of Islamic Affairs “monopolized by the extremist Adhaalath Party, has closed down many websites, alleging anti-Islamic content, though some of the sites were not anti-Islamic and some were even promoting Islam,” said Zahir.

The Adhaalath is a coalition partner in the Government and the party teamed up with Nasheed in the second round of presidential polls in 2008, helping him to assume presidency.

In return, President Nasheed offered the party the Ministry of Islamic Affairs but the religious extremist party since then has opposed the government on many issues.

Delayed laws

Above all, hardly any investigative reporting is being done now with the Government seeking to restrict access to information from public agencies, Zahir noted.

The Freedom of Information bill giving access to information is still pending Parliament.

Currently, the content and air time of the state broadcaster is heavily biased in favor of the Government and the ruling party.

But the media bills aimed at allowing state broadcasters to have independent editorial boards have yet to come into effect.

As the list of issues related to media freedom goes endless, one wonders if President Nasheed, the one time darling of the press was really genuine in his so-called love for the media that has turned into apparent hatred now.

Source: www.asiantribune.com

Korean Air to Operate Direct Flights to Maldives

Korean Air on Wednesday announced it will operate a total of 24 direct charter flights between Incheon and the Maldives four times a week between April 25 and June 4.

The direct flights will reduce the travel time to the island nation in the Indian Ocean to nine hours from 15-plus, as the journey currently requires at least one transfer at another airport.

Source: english.chosun.com

Diva Maldives joins conservation project

Initiatives introduced to help fund conservation of unique whale shark habitat

Luxury resort Diva Maldives has become a flagship supporter of the recently designated FenMaaDhiguRan, the Maldives’ first fully regulated, and largest, Marine Protected Area (MPA) – home to a globally significant population of whale sharks, not to mention some of the world’s finest dive sites. The first resort located within the MPA to commit to backing the pioneering conservation project with fundraising initiatives, Diva Maldives has introduced a voluntary gratuity charge scheme enabling guests to actively contribute to the conservation of the whale sharks and their habitat.

A tropical paradise on one of the archipelago’s largest and most beautiful natural islands, with four kilometres of pristine white sand and lush tropical greenery flanked by a crystal clear lagoon, Diva Maldives enhances the picture postcard Maldivian idyll with the elusive luxury of space, and the liberty of choice. The introduction of the voluntary gratuity charge scheme underlines Diva’s commitment to protecting the whale sharks and their habitats, while helping the new MPA to generate improved business, education and employment opportunities for the local community.

Established following successful lobbying by the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme conservation charity, the MPA was officially designated by the Republic of Maldives government in July 2009. The MPA is 42km in length and, through proper regulation and educational community initiatives, will protect important habitats and species in this area from threats including overfishing, unregulated tourism and pollution, and help the local community to protect their natural resources for future generations.

Source: traveldaily.co.uk

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Luxury Thai spa lifestyle opens in Maldives


he gentle touch of traditional Thai spa therapies has been introduced to the Republic of Maldives with SPA Cenvaree at the newly opened Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives.

The oceanfront village spa has 11 multi-function therapy rooms, a Vichy rain shower, wet treatment room with Jacuzzi and herbal steambaths, a manicure and pedicure salon, hair and makeup services, and outdoor relaxation lounges.

With a d├ęcor inspired by clear open skies and the use of natural woods and fabrics, SPA Cenvaree soothes the senses through a combination of music, aroma, traditions and touch.

In addition to individual treatments for guests, the spa offers two-day and three-day programmes, with Ayurvedic wellness therapies, detox programmes, anti-cellulite therapies, and Jurlique anti-ageing facials.

Inspired by the spa "skinfood concept", only fresh and natural ingredients are used in the bodycare treatments. Fragrant oils, herbs and vegetable extracts are all featured strongly in the treatment recipes.

A range of international and traditional massages such as Deep Tissue, Hot Stone, Traditional Thai Massage and Balinese Massage are available, along with yoga stretching and breathing programmes.

The signature treatment is the Maldivian Massage. This therapy combines the best of hot oil aroma massage techniques with acupressure, Ayurvedic Abhyanga movements, deep tissue, shiatsu and lomi lomi. A special warm herbal oil with balancing properties is applied to the entire body and pressure is tapped rhythmically along the muscles.

Wellness therapies have been designed for him and for her, including stress relief, "chill out", and hair and scalp care programmes.

After a day of soaking in the sun, guests can also benefit from the spa's after-sun care treatments such as the Island Sun Secrets treatment using aloe vera and red rice to soothe sunburnt skin.

For newly-weds, the Bridal Spa Retreat encompasses beauty and body care from head to toe, with treatments such as Bride Radiance.

Set amongst the perfect islands and blue ocean of South Ari Atoll in the Republic of Maldives, 25 minutes by seaplane from Male, Centara Grand Island Resort & Spa Maldives offers the ultimate in barefoot luxury along with a range of exciting activities that will appeal both to couples and to families.

Featuring 112 suites and villas, the resort offers diving and snorkeling enthusiasts outstanding opportunities including an excellent house reef complete with a dedicated sunken ship wreck, and is within easy reach of the top dive spots in the Maldives.

Source: etbmice.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Chasing the 'Ring of Fire' in the sky from sea cruise


The Aquamarine is no ordinary vessel. It is India’s first eclipse cruise, which will sail to Male in the Maldives on January 13 to chase the ‘Ring of Fire’, or the millennium’s longest annular solar eclipse. The eclipse will be seen for the longest time in the Indian Ocean nation on January 15.

A science communication organisation SPACE (Science Popularisation Association of Communicators and Educators) has tied up with Louis Cruises India to run the luxury vessel from Kochi to Maldives carrying eclipse chasers looking to see the ‘Ring of Fire’ when the Sun’s disc will be covered by the Moon.

The cruise will start at 3 p.m. on January 13 and reach Male at 5 p.m. on January 14. People interested in getting on board the cruise will have to shell out something between Rs.17,000 to Rs.50,000 for the four-day three-night trip.

Four astronomers along with three telescopes, besides a number of binoculars with solar filters will be on hand aboard the vessel to facilitate eclipse viewing.

“On January 15, guests on the eclipse cruise will be in the Maldives where the ‘Ring of Fire’ will be visible for 10 minutes 46 seconds. Male is along the centre annular eclipse line, and will offer an optimal view of the eclipse as the obscuration of the Sun there will be the maximum of about 93 percent,” Sachin Bhamba, chief managing director SPACE, told IANS.

During the cruise, a number of ‘star parties’ will be organised at night, offering guided observations of constellations and deep sky objects and showing the navigational tricks of ancient mariners.

“An eclipse watch will be organised on January 15, to show passengers safe ways to view and photograph the eclipse. The cruise will be back in Kochi on January 16,” he said.

Annular solar eclipse occurs when the Sun and the Moon are exactly in line, but the apparent size of the Moon’s shadow is smaller than the visible disc of the Sun. The covered Sun, therefore, appears as a ‘Ring of Fire’, with its rays appearing spread out from the outline of the Moon.

The last time India saw this ‘Ring of Fire’ was on November 22, 1965, and it will not be witnessed again before June 21, 2020.

The maximum duration of the eclipse would be 11 minutes 08 seconds over the Indian Ocean, thus making it the longest annular eclipse of the millennium.

According to Bhamba, this innovative vessel will place SPACE in the unique position of having organised eclipse watches from earth, sky and now eater. Last July during the total solar eclipse, the organisation launched an eclipse flight in India as part of Grahan 2009.

“This feat of SPACE is dedicated to the heritage that scientific thinkers have created, and will herald in a new phase in astro tourism in the country,” he said.

Source: thehindu.com