November 28, 2008

Saudi News (Nov 22-28, 2008)

Three Saudi diplomats were among 11 Saudis safely evacuated from the Taj Mahal and the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. However, one Saudi man remains missing.

Finally, Saudi Arabia will impose tougher punishments to prevent harassment of women. The new law calls for a maximum fine of SR100,000 and three years jail.
I’m glad the law explicitly states that sexual harassment does not mean only physical contact, but may also take place over the phone or through physical gestures or speech even if no physical contact occurs.

What’s the latest on the Saudi oil tanker? ABC confirmed that an American businesswoman, (Michele Ballarin) with connections to U.S. intelligence, has been talking with the Somali pirates trying to get the ship released.
As you recall, the pirates gave us a deadline until Nov 30. I’m almost certain the deadline will be extended….maybe.

A Saudi-Chinese joint venture is to establish a SR300-million China Mart in Riyadh to showcase Chinese products ranging from furniture to ceramics.
I welcome the venture but I recommend that we keep away from Chinese milk.

King Abdullah University (KAUST) is offering scholarships for those who will graduate in 2009, 2010 and 2011
Apply here:

The Jeddah Chamber for Commerce signed a contract with five well-known beauty centers in Jeddah to employ 46 Saudi females.

Well done. We need to end the employment problem among both Saudi men and women.

Two strong announcements were made on terrorism this week. The Experts Committee in the Council of Ministers is studying a draft law to punish those involved in terrorism. Also, the Ministry of Education ordered the removal of two books from school libraries because of the extremist ideas they contained. The books are ‘The Lies About Sayyid Qutb’ and ‘The Jihad in the Way of God.’
This is great news. Also Interior Minister Prince Naif called this week to eradicate extremism and propagate the moderate teachings of Islam that promotes tolerance. It is about time we also remove a few teachers who spread extremist and confusing ideas to misinform our children.

Saudi Gazette reported that the Summary Court in Jeddah has sentenced a 23-year-old Arab national and an 18-year-old American girl to one year in prison and 100 lashes each after they were convicted of adultery.

The father of the girl reported the relationship to the authorities after his daughter became pregnant….Why did he wait that long?

The Saudi girl rock group “The Accolade” released its first single, "Pinocchio”. Hundreds of young Saudis are downloading the song from the group's Web site. The group consists of Lamia (lead singer), Dina (guitarist and founder), Dareen, (bass), and Jood (keyboard).
The band is looking for a female drummer. I’m not sure this will solve the unemployment crises here, but it will add some fun to our life.

Movie of the Week Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a CIA operative working in Jordan searching for terrorists. Ferris uncovers information on the mastermind Al-Saleem (Alon Aboutboul) and devises a plan to infiltrate Al-Saleem's terrorist network with the help of his boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe). Ferris enlists the help of the Chief of Jordanian Intelligence, Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), but he doesn't know how far he can trust him without putting his life in danger.
This is your chance to listen to DiCaprio speaking Arabic
I give it (A).

Life goes on….
Abdullah Al Alami

November 21, 2008

SaudiNews (Nov 15-21, 2008)

Main story
Somali pirates hijacked a Saudi supertanker loaded with crude. The Sirius Star, a brand new tanker was seized on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya. The area lies far south of the zone where warships have increased their patrols this year in the Gulf of Aden, one of the busiest channels in the world, leading to and from the Suez Canal, and the scene of most past attacks.
The tanker is three times the size of an aircraft carrier and can carry about 2 million barrels of oil. Sirius Star was carrying crude worth about $100 million.
Its crew includes citizens of Croatia, Britain, the Philippines, Poland and Saudi Arabia.
The Somali pirates are demanding $25m in ransom to be paid within 10 days. If we paid this time, it would be the beginning of a long journey of blackmail.

Citigroup won a vote of confidence from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, its largest individual investor, who said on Thursday he plans to boost his stake in the US banking giant to five percent from less than four percent.
I’m all for investing overseas, but I’m also for investing at home.

Kuwait's daily Al-Seyassah reported that the United States has asked four oil-rich Gulf states for close to 300 billion dollars to help it curb the global financial meltdown. Apparently Washington has asked Saudi Arabia for 120 billion dollars, the United Arab Emirates for 70 billion dollars, Qatar for 60 billion dollars and was seeking 40 billion dollars from Kuwait.
As one of my favorite writers said: “Perhaps if the US didn't give upwards of US $5-10 BILLION to Israel EVERY year, the Gulf countries would be more inclined to help them.... or, even better, the US would be less inclined to NEED the help.”

Clear Vision will offer the “Six Sigma Orientation Course” (Nov 22-26) in Dammam. For more details: 03 858 8362

This is the link to my interview with Weekend America discussing the G-20 summit.

Life goes on….
Abdullah Al Alami

November 19, 2008

When will we have the first Saudi woman minister?

Manama: Shaikha Mai Bint Mohammad Al Khalifa became Bahrain's new information minister.
Shaikha Mai, the former assistant undersecretary for culture and heritage, is the second woman in the government, and the third woman to ever hold a ministerial portfolio.
Dr Nada Haffadh became the first woman minister in 2004 when she was handed the health portfolio. However, she left in 2007 after a bitter standoff with a parliamentary committee investigating alleged irregularities in her ministry.
Following the splitting of the labour and social affairs ministry, Dr Fatima Al Belooshi was appointed minister of social development.

Shaikha Mai is popular among intellectuals and writers for her efforts to promote culture in Bahrain and for promoting respect for Gulf traditions abroad.

November 15, 2008

Human Beings Are Created Equals

Greetings from the land of the Nile, where I'm attending the "Fikr 7" conference. This is probably the only thing we can be proud of today: The Arab Thought.

There's so much going on this week.

ConocoPhillips and Saudi Aramco said they would delay a proposed $10 billion oil refinery in Yanbu. In addition, TOTAL joint venture refinery in Jubail may also be delayed. However, the picture is not so dark, at least not yet.
King Abdallah will attend on Nov 15 the Group of 20 financial summit in Washington. I made some comments on the global financial situation in my interview with NPR (to be aired on Nov 15 @ noon Eastern Time)

The special UN General Assembly session on cultural and interfaith dialogue in New York was a wonderful opportunity. I hope the world was listening to what King Abdallah said: "Human beings are created equals and partners on this planet. Either they can live together in peace and harmony or they will inevitably be consumed by the flames of misunderstanding, malice and hatred.”

The AP reported that a group of women gathered to celebrate the afternoon 18 years ago when they got into cars and drove the streets of Riyadh. The AP also reports that the 47 female drivers were arrested, lost their jobs for 2 1/2 years, were banned from travel for a year and were condemned by the powerful clergy as harlots. To this day, some say they have not been promoted at work because of their protest.

Eighteen years later, and we're still the same!!

Life goes on….
Abdullah Al Alami

November 7, 2008

SaudiNews (Nov 1-7, 2008)

My words
Last week I attended a reception at the UNDP in Riyadh on the occasion of the 63rd anniversary of the United Nations. The new UN Resident Coordinator in Riyadh Dr. Riyad Al-Ahmad and his team did everything possible to make this event a success….and it was.

Heavy rains across the Kingdom last week caused hundreds of accidents in Riyadh, Qassim and Jeddah….More to come (see pictures below).

Khalid Al-Falih has been appointed as the new president of Saudi Aramco. On Jan 1, Al-Falih will take over from Abdallah Jum’ah, who has been holding the position for the last 14 years.
I have worked with Mr. Jum’ah staff back in 1984, his leadership and human skills are superb. I wish Mr. Al-Falih the best of luck.

Warning! Do not employ, transport or accommodate foreigners overstaying Haj or Umrah visas. Passports Office announced that violators would be fined a minimum of SR10,000 and may also be sent to jail.

Jeddah Ghair - A monumental $250 million structure (similar to the London Eye or Millennium Wheel in Britain) is to be built in Jeddah as part of the Jeddah City Center project. The project will include a hotel, a museum, shopping malls and a variety of restaurants and cafes. The central area will also have a park, a beach, a museum, an open arena for festivities and a fountain.
I hope the Jeddah Eye will convey our desire to become one of the leading global economic powers and a peace loving nations.

A court in Madinah acquitted two members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue of their involvement in an accident that caused the death of four Saudis including two women. The two vice cops were accused of tracking the vehicle carrying the four when the accident took place. The two were then accused of misusing their power.
"The two commission officials are innocent and have nothing to do with the accident," the court said. I understand the ruing is being appealed….like everything else.

On Monday the Council of Ministers issued a statement emphasizing the government’s resolve to protect the rights of women and prevent violence against them and called for efforts to increase awareness among women about their rights.
We don’t need more media propaganda. Many Royal and ministerial decrees were issued in the past to protect the rights of women but were not implemented. Our judicial system is still bureaucratic and women’s rights are still being violated.

Innocent Question

Will public hunger strikes draw “foreign” attention to our internal problems? Is this the way we express our anger at the detention (without charge) of political reformists?

Did you know that in 2003 Saudi Arabia had foiled a terror plot by Saudi militants who planned to hijack a plane and blow it up over Los Angeles?
The authorities here indicted 991 suspected militants on charges they participated in over 30 terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia over the last five years. These attacks killed 164 people, including 74 security officials, and wounded hundreds. As you know, 15 of the 19 idiots who have hijacked and attacked the United States on Sept 11, 2001, were from Saudi Arabia.

Life goes on….

Abdullah Al Alami

Water Water Everywhere...