Queen Elizabeth II records her Christmas Day broadcast to the Commonwealth in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.
Queen Elizabeth II records her Christmas Day broadcast to the Commonwealth in the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace.

Queen praises troops and calls for climate action



LONDON // Queen Elizabeth II aligned herself firmly behind the military mission in Afghanistan when she praised the British troops' "positive contribution" to the campaign during her annual Christmas Day message yesterday. She also indicated her continuing worries about global warming when she called on the Commonwealth's 54 member nations to work together to tackle climate change.

On a day that gave the Queen her annual opportunity to address issues that concern her - without any input from politicians - British church leaders also seized the moment to address issues as diverse as the problems facing the young, to proposals to introduce the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda. During her speech yesterday afternoon the Queen singled out the country's soldiers serving in Afghanistan. More than 100 British soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past year and there has been a growing tide of sentiment against the deployment.

"I am sure that we have all been affected by events in Afghanistan and saddened by the casualties suffered by our forces serving there. Our thoughts go out to their relations and friends who have shown immense dignity in the face of great personal loss," she said. "But, we can be proud of the positive contribution that our servicemen and women are making, in conjunction with our allies. "Well over 13,000 soldiers from the United Kingdom, and across the Commonwealth - Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore - are currently serving in Afghanistan. The debt of gratitude owed to these young men and women, and to their predecessors, is indeed profound."

Speaking from the White Drawing Room at Buckingham Palace, she also urged the Commonwealth, especially its young people, to take co-ordinated action on global issues. Describing the Commonwealth as "a strong and practical force for good", she pointed out that more than a billion people in that group of countries were now aged under 25. "Recently I attended the Commonwealth heads of hovernment meeting in Trinidad and Tobago and heard how important the Commonwealth is to young people," the Queen said.

"New communication technologies allow them to reach out to the wider world and share their experiences and viewpoints. For many, the practical assistance and networks of the Commonwealth can give skills, lend advice and encourage enterprise. "It is inspiring to learn of some of the work being done by these young people, who bring creativity and innovation to the challenges they face. "It is important to keep discussing issues that concern us all. There can be no more valuable role for our family of nations."

At the Commonwealth summit, the Queen told the heads of state that they should take the lead in environmental issues and her call yesterday was seen as reinforcing this message, particularly in the wake of the indifferent outcome of the Copenhagen summit. Her message included clips of the Commonwealth's youth giving voice to what the organisation means to them. As well as being broadcast by television and radio stations around the world, the address was simultaneously made available on the YouTube Royal Channel.

While the 83-year-old monarch has long experience of special messages at Christmas, the Rev Vincent Nichols gave his first since becoming Archbishop of Westminster, the leader of English and Welsh Roman Catholics, earlier this year. He tackled the growing problem of gang culture among the young, saying that many young people are drawn into gangs in an attempt to bolster their weakened identity. He said a recent visit to a young offenders' institution reminded him how many youths were attracted to gangs.

The archbishop said that happiness came from family and community, not status and fame. "We know that our happiness lies much closer to home - in our steady relationships of friendship and love - in family and community," he said during his Midnight Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. Dr Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury and head of the Anglican church in England and Wales, warned in his Christmas message that children are being forced to grow up too quickly.

He said parents must treasure the dependency of their children and rushing them to become independent leads to misery and exploitation. Dr John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, tackled a much more controversial subject: the anti-homosexual laws currently being debated in Uganda. A private member's bill, which is under discussion in Uganda's parliament, would result in both male and female homosexuals facing a minimum of life in prison if convicted of having sex. The death penalty would be imposed on anyone found guilty of having homosexual sex with a minor while even people failing to report homosexuality taking place could be sentenced to up to three years in prison.

Dr Sentamu, who was born in Uganda, said that current laws in the country meant the provisions in the bill were, in effect, already in place. "I'm opposed to the death sentence," he said. "I'm also not happy when you describe people in the kind of language you find in this private member's bill, which seems not only victimising but also a diminishment of the individuals concerned." He said that the Anglican church had been trying to help colleagues in Uganda draw up a considered response to the proposals.

Dr Sentamu said that, while many people had "traditional" views about sexuality, the Anglican church was committed to recognising that gay people were valued by God. Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, has been urged to consider the effects on the country's human rights record if the proposals become law. Sweden has also threatened to withdraw aid if the bill, introduced by MP David Bahati, is passed.

dsapsted@thenational.ae

RACE CARD

6.30pm: Baniyas Group 2 (PA) Dh 97,500 (Dirt) 1,400m.

7.05pm Maiden (TB) Dh 82,500 (D) 1,200m

7.40pm Maiden (TB) Dh 82,500 (D) 1,400m

8.15pm Handicap (TB) Dh 82,500 (D) 1,400m

8.50pm Rated Conditions (TB) Dh 120,000 (D) 1,600m

9.25pm Handicap (TB) Dh 95,000 (D) 1,200m

10pm Handicap (TB) Dh 85,000 (D) 2,000m

Top 10 most competitive economies

1. Singapore
2. Switzerland
3. Denmark
4. Ireland
5. Hong Kong
6. Sweden
7. UAE
8. Taiwan
9. Netherlands
10. Norway

Anxiety and work stress major factors

Anxiety, work stress and social isolation are all factors in the recogised rise in mental health problems.

A study UAE Ministry of Health researchers published in the summer also cited struggles with weight and illnesses as major contributors.

Its authors analysed a dozen separate UAE studies between 2007 and 2017. Prevalence was often higher in university students, women and in people on low incomes.

One showed 28 per cent of female students at a Dubai university reported symptoms linked to depression. Another in Al Ain found 22.2 per cent of students had depressive symptoms - five times the global average.

It said the country has made strides to address mental health problems but said: “Our review highlights the overall prevalence of depressive symptoms and depression, which may long have been overlooked."

Prof Samir Al Adawi, of the department of behavioural medicine at Sultan Qaboos University in Oman, who was not involved in the study but is a recognised expert in the Gulf, said how mental health is discussed varies significantly between cultures and nationalities.

“The problem we have in the Gulf is the cross-cultural differences and how people articulate emotional distress," said Prof Al Adawi. 

“Someone will say that I have physical complaints rather than emotional complaints. This is the major problem with any discussion around depression."

Daniel Bardsley

Sam Smith

Where: du Arena, Abu Dhabi

When: Saturday November 24

Rating: 4/5

About My Father

Director: Laura Terruso

Stars: Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Kim Cattrall

Rating: 2/5

MEDIEVIL (1998)

Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

JOKE'S ON YOU

Google wasn't new to busting out April Fool's jokes: before the Gmail "prank", it tricked users with mind-reading MentalPlex responses and said well-fed pigeons were running its search engine operations .

In subsequent years, they announced home internet services through your toilet with its "patented GFlush system", made us believe the Moon's surface was made of cheese and unveiled a dating service in which they called founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page "Stanford PhD wannabes ".

But Gmail was all too real, purportedly inspired by one – a single – Google user complaining about the "poor quality of existing email services" and born "millions of M&Ms later".

Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough
Rating: 5/5

Virtual banks explained

What is a virtual bank?

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority defines it as a bank that delivers services through the internet or other electronic channels instead of physical branches. That means not only facilitating payments but accepting deposits and making loans, just like traditional ones. Other terms used interchangeably include digital or digital-only banks or neobanks. By contrast, so-called digital wallets or e-wallets such as Apple Pay, PayPal or Google Pay usually serve as intermediaries between a consumer’s traditional account or credit card and a merchant, usually via a smartphone or computer.

What’s the draw in Asia?

Hundreds of millions of people under-served by traditional institutions, for one thing. In China, India and elsewhere, digital wallets such as Alipay, WeChat Pay and Paytm have already become ubiquitous, offering millions of people an easy way to store and spend their money via mobile phone. Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines are also among the world’s biggest under-banked countries; together they have almost half a billion people.

Is Hong Kong short of banks?

No, but the city is among the most cash-reliant major economies, leaving room for newcomers to disrupt the entrenched industry. Ant Financial, an Alibaba Group Holding affiliate that runs Alipay and MYBank, and Tencent Holdings, the company behind WeBank and WeChat Pay, are among the owners of the eight ventures licensed to create virtual banks in Hong Kong, with operations expected to start as early as the end of the year. 

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets
Story of 2017-18 so far and schedule to come

Roll of Honour

Who has won what so far in the West Asia rugby season?

 

Western Clubs Champions League

Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Runners up: Bahrain

 

Dubai Rugby Sevens

Winners: Dubai Exiles

Runners up: Jebel Ali Dragons

 

West Asia Premiership

Winners: Jebel Ali Dragons

Runners up: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

 

UAE Premiership Cup

Winners: Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Runners up: Dubai Exiles

 

Fixtures

Friday

West Asia Cup final

5pm, Bahrain (6pm UAE time), Bahrain v Dubai Exiles

 

West Asia Trophy final

3pm, The Sevens, Dubai Hurricanes v Dubai Sports City Eagles

 

Friday, April 13

UAE Premiership final

5pm, Al Ain, Dubai Exiles v Abu Dhabi Harlequins

Syria squad

Goalkeepers: Ibrahim Alma, Mahmoud Al Youssef, Ahmad Madania.
Defenders: Ahmad Al Salih, Moayad Ajan, Jehad Al Baour, Omar Midani, Amro Jenyat, Hussein Jwayed, Nadim Sabagh, Abdul Malek Anezan.
Midfielders: Mahmoud Al Mawas, Mohammed Osman, Osama Omari, Tamer Haj Mohamad, Ahmad Ashkar, Youssef Kalfa, Zaher Midani, Khaled Al Mobayed, Fahd Youssef.
Forwards: Omar Khribin, Omar Al Somah, Mardik Mardikian.

THE SPECS

Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder turbo

Transmission: seven-speed dual clutch automatic

Power: 169bhp

Torque: 250Nm

Price: Dh54,500

On sale: now

Five personal finance podcasts from The National

 

To help you get started, tune into these Pocketful of Dirham episodes 

·+

Balance is essential to happiness, health and wealth 

·+

What is a portfolio stress test? 

·+

What are NFTs and why are auction houses interested? 

·+

How gamers are getting rich by earning cryptocurrencies 

·+

Should you buy or rent a home in the UAE?  

Dubai World Cup factbox

Most wins by a trainer: Godolphin’s Saeed bin Suroor(9)

Most wins by a jockey: Jerry Bailey(4)

Most wins by an owner: Godolphin(9)

Most wins by a horse: Godolphin’s Thunder Snow(2)

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

If you go...

Etihad Airways flies from Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, from about Dh3,600. Air Asia currently flies from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu, with Berjaya Hotels & Resorts planning to launch direct chartered flights to Redang Island in the near future. Rooms at The Taaras Beach and Spa Resort start from 680RM (Dh597).

HAJJAN

Director: Abu Bakr Shawky 


Starring: Omar Alatawi, Tulin Essam, Ibrahim Al-Hasawi 


Rating: 4/5

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Haltia.ai
Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends

MATCH INFO

Syria v Australia
2018 World Cup qualifying: Asia fourth round play-off first leg
Venue: Hang Jebat Stadium, Malayisa
Kick-off: Thursday, 4.30pm (UAE)
Watch: beIN Sports HD

* Second leg in Australia on October 10


Latest
Most Read
Top Videos

View from London

Your weekly update from the UK and Europe

      By signing up, I agree to The National's privacy policy
      View from London