February 2010

Marv Albert Goes In —

Killer Cross

Kobe is really on another level than the rest of NBA

And this video is just really great



Iran’s banks were somewhat insulated from the global financial turmoil affecting the developed world. Although profits across the sector remained relatively static in The Banker’s Top 1000 listings this year, a boom in Islamic financing has added much-needed ballast to banks’ bottom lines. Iranian banks now hold $235bn of sharia-compliant assets, which makes up 37.5% of total sharia-compliant assets worldwide.

In fact, The Banker’s Top 500 Islamic Institutions ranking, published last October, shows Iran has more Islamic assets than all other countries and its banks account for six of the top 10 Islamic institutions worldwide. Bank Melli Iran has the most sharia-compliant assets in the world at $48bn. The others in the top 10 are Bank Saderat Iran, Bank Mellat, Bank Tejarat, Bank Sepah and Bank Keshavarzi.

The assets of Iran’s biggest banks grew considerably in 2009’s rankings. Particularly impressive was Bank Saderat Iran, which increased its assets by 32% from $32.6bn in last year’s Top 1000 rankings to $43bn. The return on those assets, however, fell from 0.7% to 0.42%. In fact, despite the strong growth in assets across the Iranian bank sector, the return on assets among most of Iran’s biggest banks fell in this year’s Top 1000, compared with last year’s rankings. Bank Saderat’s pre-tax profits were also down in this year’s rankings. Pre-tax profit fell nearly 21% from $228m for the financial year to March 2007, to $181m for the financial year to March 2008.

Profit-wise, Bank Maskan was the most profitable in absolute terms with $418m of pre-tax profits, while Bank Pasagard had the most significant growth, increasing 94.9% to $187m.

Five of Iran’s banks entered the highest movers category in this year’s Top 1000, with the Export Development Bank of Iran topping the list. The bank leapt 579 places from 867 last year to 288 this year. Its Tier 1 capital increased from $327m in calendar year 2007 to $2.1bn in calendar year 2008. Bank Saderat Iran, Bank of Industry and Mine, Bank Pasagard and Bank Melli Iran also made the list of highest movers in this year’s Top 1000.

Looking ahead, Iran’s banks face a series of challenges if they are to sustain their current strength. The recent mass protests and violent state response over the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad do not bode well for the economic future of the country. Weaker oil prices will also damage Iran’s macro-economic outlook. However, the steady growth of Islamic finance gives the Iranian banking sector good cause for optimism.

…. Camel sales have reached more than Dh60 million in the first two days of the ongoing Al Dhafrah Festival in Zayed City, Al Gharbia (Western Region), an official said on Monday.

“The festival challenged the economic recession in its first days; camel sales are very active since the beginning of the festival which points to hot competition coming up between camel owners, more than last year,” Al Ameri said.

Participants in the festival were talking about Emirati Hamdan Bin Ghanim Al Falahi who bought three camels on Sunday worth Dh24 million. The First camel worth Dh10 million, the second worth Dh9 million and the third worth Dh5 million. In addition to that, the same buyer bought other camels totalling Dh32 million.

Another participant sold his camel yesterday for Dh8.5 million.

The rise in camel sales reflects the interest of camel owners to support their camel troupes with the best and beautiful camels. This is particularly relevant as the festival has introduced for the first time the Al Bayraq lap, where each participant is required to participate with a group of 50 camels, and the grand prize for first winner for both Asayel and Majaheem camels is Dh1 million.

But there is no denying the fact that the basis of Samarkand’s fame was born at the turn of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and hence during Timur’s reign. Timur is an astonishing historical phenomenon. His name aroused terror for decades. He was a great ruler who kept Asia under his heel, but his might did not stop him from concerning himself with the details. His armies were famed for their cruelty. Wherever Timur appeared, writes the Arab historian Zaid Vosifi, “blood poured from people as from vessels,” and “the sky was the color of the field of tulips.” Timur himself would stand at the head of each and every expedition, overseeing everything himself. Those whom he conquered he ordered beheaded. He ordered towers built from their skulls, and walls and roads. He supervised the progress of this work himself. He ordered the stomachs of merchants to be ripped open and searched for gold. He ordered his adversaries and opponents poisoned. He made the potions himself. He carried the standard of death, and this mission absorbed him for half the day. During the second half of the day, art absorbed him. Timur devoted himself to the dissemination of art with the same zeal he sustained for the spread of death. In the conscious of Timur there was a very fine line separating art and death. It is true that Timur killed. But it is also true he did not kill all. He spared people with creative qualifications. In Timurs Imperium, the best sanctuary was talent. Timur drew talent to Samarkand; he courted every artist. He did not allow anyone who within him carried a divine spark to be touched. Artists bloomed, and Samarkand bloomed. The city was his pride. On one of its gates Timur ordered the inscribed sentence: IF YOU DOUBT OUR MIGHT – LOOK AT OUR BUILLDINGS! And that sentence has outlived Timur by many centuries. Today, Samarkand still stuns us with its peerless beauty, its excellence in form, the artistic genius. Timur supervised the construction himself. That which was unsuccessful he order removed, and his taste was excellent. He deliberated about various alternatives in ornamentation; he judged the delicacy of design, the purity of the line. And then he threw himself again in the whirl of a new military campaign, into carnage, into blood, into flames, into cries.

Timur was playing a game that few people have the means to play. Timur was sounding the limits of man’s possibilities. Timur demonstrated that which Dostoyevsky later described – that man is capable of everything. One can define Timur’s creation through a sentence of Saint-Exupery’s: “that which I have done no animal would ever do.” Both the good and the bad. Timur’s scissors had two blades – the blade of creation and the blade of destruction. These two blades define the limits of mans activity. Ordinarily, though, the scissors are barely open. Sometimes they are open a little more. In the case of Timur, they were open as far as they could go.

Timurs grave in Samarkand, made of green nephrite. Before the entrance to the mausoleum there is an inscription, whose author is Timur: HAPPY IS HE  WHO RENOUNCED THE WORLD BEFORE THE WORLD RENOUNCED HIM.

He died in 1405 during an expedition to China.

–Kapuscinski, Imperium

We have grown quite fond of our brothers here in the desert. There are poetry contests here, the poets who line up for days, and who follow the caravans through the Saudi tundra, from Oman, from Yemen, they follow the caravan commiting their reams of poems to the mind. There is a great patience in the camel, a meaningful elegance and grace, these poets live their subject, and for them there is nothing else.  The poems are only sang, and so putting them to the page is beyond us — the slow cadence of the chants, the dancing of the winners, these are good beasts.

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