The “Novel Coronavirus” now popping up in Saudi Arabia has been given the name Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus or MERS-CoV by the Coronavirus Study Group, an international organization. The World Health Organization and the Saudi Ministry of Health have accepted the new name. Giving it this name is expected to reduce confusion among scientists (and journalists) in their discussions of the disease.
Deadly Middle-East Coronavirus Has a New Name: MERS
A new virus that surfaced in Saudi Arabia last year, and has so far killed 20 people and infecting 20 more, finally has an official name: Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), according to news reports.
The Coronavirus Study Group, an international team of scientists, announced its decision to name the virus in a paper published in the Journal of Virology on Thursday (May 15).
The MERS coronavirus causes severe pneumonia with symptoms similar to another coronavirus, SARS, which emerged in China in 2002 and infected 8,000 people worldwide. Gene sequencing showed that the newly discovered virus was genetically different than SARS.
Arab News reports that the governments of Saudi Arabia and the Philippines have signed an agreement to end the interruption of labor contracts for domestic workers. The agreement stipulates various responsibilities for the two governments and sets certain working conditions for Filipinos taking jobs in the Kingdom as household workers.
Among those conditions are minimum salaries, set days off and daily breaks, freedom to communicate outside the household, and possession of their own travel documents. The agreement also requires that workers not be charged for the processing or procurement of recruitment and visas. All contracting must be handled through companies licensed in each country.
Some of these terms are still more notional than actionable at present. Both countries are going to have to work to set and get the conditions they require. They are feasible, though, and will serve to reduce abuse of domestic servants, intentional or accidental, and should make life easier for both Saudis and Filipinos.
KSA, Philippines sign watershed labor pact
Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr. | Arab News Staff
RIYADH: Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani signed a labor agreement Sunday on the hiring of Filipino household service workers (HSWs). Al-Haqbani signed on behalf of Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.
“The agreement is historic and today is a very significant day in Philippine-Saudi bilateral relations,” said Baldoz. The agreement is the first by the Saudi Ministry of Labor with a manpower-supplying country.
“This agreement heralds an era of stronger bilateral labor cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the protection and welfare of Filipino HSWs in the Kingdom,” she said.
The agreement comes after Saudi Arabia and the Philippines agreed on a standard labor contract last year, which shall govern the employment of HSWs in the Kingdom.
Just Do It isn’t only a Nike advertising slogan. According to this opinion piece in Saudi Gazette, it’s what the government of Saudi Arabia needs to do when it comes to the issue of women’s driving.
As with many things in Saudi Arabia, Mahmoud Ahmed reminds us, Saudi society takes a long time to come to conclusions about change. And the funny thing is that they never actually reach conclusions until the government says, “do this.” Once the mandate has been issued, and after a bit of fussing, the new becomes accepted. There are actually few things in which Saudi society has been the driver of change — satellite TV is one that comes to mind. In most cases, it’s the government that says girls will be educated or that English will be taught in primary schools. Even the most mundane issues like girls’ sports programs in schools take a government boot to get people moving.
It’s time, Ahmed suggests, for the government to act. All the arguments pro and con have been hashed out over the years. Everyone understands them. But until the government authorizes the activity, it’s not going to happen. So, just do it for crying out loud!
Will society allow women to drive?
There’s a decided single-mindedness in Saudi society when it comes to making decisions on social issues— especially issues that concern women. Just procrastinate and the issue will fade away. Is it me, or is it really the case that when issues require a firm decision, we either take a long time deliberating or just don’t bother to consider them, allowing them to simmer. In either case, the manner in which we tackle issues is poor at best. In the first case, we are just delaying the inevitable and the second — pushing the decision off with the attitude that out of sight means out of mind — is just wishful thinking.
Among the many issues demanding a decision from society is that of women driving. It has been said that only society can decide whether women should drive, but the question is: How long will this take?
Saudi society is divided on many mundane issues, including teaching English at the elementary level (a necessity of the times), changing the weekend to Friday and Saturday instead of Thursday and Friday ( in line with global necessity), girls’ sports in school (a healthy option for society) and many others. So why should the issue of women driving be any different? The irony is that not that long ago, society was divided on the issue of women going to school. But once the decision was taken society accepted it with the naysayers realizing the necessity of education for both boys and girls. Now those who were once against the idea are used to it and the result is that there are many schools and universities for women in the Kingdom.
Agence France Presse reports that Saudi filmmaker Haifaa Al-Mansour has won a “Newcomers” award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film “Wadjda”. In the interview — here republished by Yahoo.com’s news portal “Maktoob” — Al-Mansour says she sees culture changing in Saudi Arabia. While there’s still a long way to go, changes are taking place.
Saudi Arabia more tolerant, says woman film maker
Saudi Arabia’s first woman film maker, Haifaa Al-Mansour, said her country was becoming “more tolerant and more accepting” as she picked up an award in Cannes on Saturday for her acclaimed film “Wadjda”.
The 2012 tale of an impish young Saudi girl who plots to own a bicycle in defiance of a ban has won the hearts of critics and public alike in France, Germany and Switzerland, where it is being distributed.
Filming “Wadjda” was an odyssey in itself.
In conservative neighbourhoods, local residents would block shooting, or Mansour would have to direct from a van with a walkie-talkie, as she could not be seen in public together with male crew and actors.
The film itself will only be seen in the kingdom on DVD or on television, as cinemas there are banned.
Only five years after Farouk Al-Zuman became the first Saudi Arab to climb Mount Everest, a Saudi woman has done the same. Al-Jazeera TV reports on 25-year-old Raha Mharrak’s accomplishment.
A 25-year-old graphic design graduate has become the first ever Saudi woman to climb to the top of Mount Everest.
Raha Moharrak is the only female in a group of four Arabs who announced two months ago that they would be reaching the summit in 2013.
“The first ever Saudi woman to attempt Everest has reached the top!! Bravo Raha Moharrak. We salute you,” said a tweet from the group.
If Saudi women were permitted to do what their male counterparts are allowed to do, with only a five-year lag…
A Saudi imam is among those visiting Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp, as part of a Holocaust Awareness program, Arab News reports. I wish it could have been a few hundred. Holocaust denial is a problem among Saudis; they simply don’t believe it happened and are willing to accept any ‘proof’ that it didn’t no matter how bad or biased the source. Having clerics visit the site — as well as the various museums that describe Jewish life in Poland before the Nazi conquest and implementation of labor and death camps — would certainly help to open their eyes to a bit of history they might politically prefer not to know.
Interfaith harmony: Imams to visit Auschwitz
WARSAW: ARAB NEWS
A Saudi preacher is among 14 Muslim scholars from across the globe who will visit the former Nazi Auschwitz death camp in southern Poland next week as part of a Holocaust awareness and anti-genocide program, organizers said yesterday.
“This is an opportunity for imams who are influential in their communities to look at the Holocaust first hand and to go to Auschwitz, to see what that kind of hatred led to,” Poland’s Chief Rabbi Michael Schudrich told AFP yesterday.
“It’s to make sure that civilization doesn’t fail again.”
Other visiting imams are from Bosnia, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Morocco, Nigeria, Palestine, Turkey and the US. They will also visit a new museum in the Polish capital Warsaw focusing on centuries of Jewish life before the Holocaust, John C. Taylor from the US State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom told AFP.
Arab News reports that another case of the novel coronavirus (nCoV) has been identified in the Eastern Province city of Al-Ahsa. This brings the worldwide number of victims to 40, 20 of whom have died of it.
JEDDAH: Another case of novel coronavirus infection in the eastern part of the kingdom was confirmed by the Ministry of Health on Saturday.
“One case of coronavirus has been recorded in the Eastern region, and he is now under the medical health care receiving the proper treatment,” the MOH said in a brief statement posted on its website.
The new discovery brings to 31 the total number of coronavirus infections in the Kingdom, mostly in the eastern town of Al-Ahsa, since the SARS-like virus first emerged in September 2012.
Known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, the new virus is from the same family as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.
Most of the infections were in Al-Ahsa and a few were reported in Jeddah and Riyadh, said the MOH.
Saudi Gazette reports that while the Saudi Ministry of Health is, of course, concerned, it believes it is on top of the situation and does not see the need to close schools.
Al Arabiya TV runs a Reuters report on computer attacks aimed at networks operated by the government of Saudi Arabia. The attack described appears to be a DoS — Denial-of-Service attack. In this, foreign computers constantly attempt to connect with the network, flooding its ability to respond and essentially locking up the network.
The article declines to identify the attackers. I think we can safely assume that it is not the Chinese government as China is a major importer of Saudi oil. On the other hand, hackers in Syria have been very active of late, attacking The Financial Times in the UK as well as the Associated Press. I think that in the proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, this is a very likely source of the attack. Not proved, of course, just very likely.
Saudi Arabia says hackers sabotage government websites
Reuters, Riyadh -
Several government websites in Saudi Arabia were sabotaged in a series of heavy cyber-attacks from abroad in recent days, disabling them briefly until the attacks were repelled, the government said.
An investigation traced the “coordinated and simultaneous attacks” to hundreds of Internet protocol addresses in a number of countries, an unnamed source at the Saudi Interior Ministry told state news agency SPA.
The interior ministry website crashed on Wednesday after it received a “huge amount” of service requests, but was back online less than two hours later after the “necessary technical drills” were performed to counter the attack, the source said.
The report made no mention of a possible motive.
Arab News runs a Reuters story reporting on an observation by the World Health Organization that the Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) now found in Saudi Arabia is capable of infecting health care workers. As there is no vaccine, this means that special steps toward prophylaxis will be required to preserve the health of those workers, the front line of medical care.
WHO: 2 Al-Ahsa health workers among coronavirus patients
Kate Kelland | Reuters
LONDON: Two health workers in Saudi Arabia have become infected with a potentially fatal new SARS-like virus after catching it from patients in their care — the first evidence of such transmission within a hospital, the World Health Organization said.
The new virus, known as novel coronavirus, or nCoV, is from the same family of viruses as those that cause common colds and the one that caused the deadly outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that emerged in Asia in 2003.
“This is the first time health care workers have been diagnosed with (novel coronavirus) infection after exposure to patients,” the Geneva-based UN health agency said in a disease outbreak update late on Wednesday.
The health workers are a 45-year-old man, who became ill on May 2 and is currently in a critical condition, and a 43-year-old woman with a coexisting health condition, who fell ill on May 8 and is in a stable condition, the WHO said.
France has also reported a likely case of transmission within a hospital, but this was from one patient to another patient who shared the same room for two days.
‘Islamist’ is a term used as a shorthand way of referring to Muslim extremists. The term never really had a great deal of accuracy, but now it has even less. Writing at Al Arabiya, Adbulrahman al-Rashed points to the difficulties Islamist groups and governments are having with other Islamist groups. If the one is to be called ‘extremist’, then the other must be ‘extreme extremist’.
The situation has come about in both Tunisia and Egypt where the perennial “I’m more Muslim than you!” campaigns are in full throat. Governments are discovering that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and as a result are cracking down on groups they view as taking things too far, into the realm of terrorism. How they behave will have an effect on how willing other governments — including Saudi Arabia’s — will be to give them financial or political support.
Islamists vs. Islamists in the Arab world
“If you are fools, try stopping us,” is the title of a campaign led by an extremist Islamist group in Tunisia. By fools, the group is referring to the Islamic Ennahda party and its government.
The paradox is that Ennahda Islamists doubted the presence of terrorist groups. They condemn the prevention of preaching campaigns and charity activities under the excuse that they are Islamic acts. But history repeats itself. The Islamist Ennahda government is currently the one setting the prohibitions.
What is prohibited today is the Ansar al-Sharia group. Its members are being deterred with the removal of tents that were set up for spreading their religious campaigns and distributing the Salafi movement’s leaflets.
The interior ministry has prohibited “all organizations, people or political parties from carrying out preaching activities in public places without a having a prior permit.”
Ansar al-Sharia described Ennahda leaders, like Sheikh Ghanouchi, as “tyrants dressed with the guise of Islam.” The group also warningly said: “[We] remind you that our youths who displayed heroism in defending Islam in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Iraq, Somalia and the Levant will never hesitate to make sacrifices for the sake of their religion in the land of Kairouan in Tunisia.”
Rather than the price of oil rising unrelentingly on the back of shrinking supplies, the discovery and exploitation of new oil sources in the US and elsewhere is having quite another effect. The BBC reports that this new oil will shift the balance of power around the world.
A steeper-than-expected rise in US shale oil reserves is about to change the global balance of power between new and existing producers, a report says.
Over the next five years, the US will account for a third of new oil supplies, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
The US will change from the world’s leading importer of oil to a net exporter.
Demand for oil from Middle-East oil producers is set to slow as a result.
Saudi ARAMCO takes a somewhat more sanguine view, as reported in Al Arabiya. I think this is correct, too, at least for Saudi Arabia. Over the past decade, Saudi oil markets have shifted more toward China and the rest of Asia, areas that are undergoing explosive growth and rising demand. The Saudis, though, may find themselves in fiercer competition with other states that will now become oil-exporters rather than importers. I think this will affect the OPEC ‘hawks’, those that argue for — and structurally depend on — high oil prices.
Of course, even the new producers and exporters are going to want certain prices. They will need them, actually, because ‘fracking’ and other new technologies aren’t cheap and will never meet the current low lifting prices found in the Arab Gulf States. Saudi Arabia will likely do well simply through its own economic factors, though perhaps not as well as in a world of scarce oil supplies.
Saudi Arabia embraces U.S. shale production
Al Arabiya -
Saudi Arabia welcomes and encourages U.S. shale production rates, chief executive of Saudi Aramco told the Financial Times.
Khalid al-Falih, head of the kingdom’s national oil company, said the production revolution will reassure consumers about the reliability of oil supplies, and help ease fears about excessive reliance on the Middle East, reported the newspaper.
“Oil is going to be the fuel of choice, in terms of its overall performance, for an extended period of time, and we need to manage it, we need to invest in it,” said al-Falih.
According to the Financial Times, the shale oil boom has raised U.S. crude production by almost 50 percent since 2008, but Saudi Aramco –the holder of the world’s largest conventional oil reserves—believes that the U.S. production will not take away its market in the long term.
The horrific case of the family of a young man paralyzed in the course of a crime calling for his assailant to be equally paralyzed as a matter of justice has been resolved through the payment of SR 1 million in diyya, “blood money”. Saudi Gazette reports that a Saudi philanthropist has raised the funds demanded by the family and that the assailant will be released after having spent 10 years in jail for his crime.
Man facing eye-for-an-eye punishment to be freed soon
Saudi Gazette report
AL-AHSA — In a few days, Ali Al-Khwahir, a young man who spent 10 years in prison after stabbing his friend and paralyzing him, will be freed now that the SR1 million blood money has been paid to the victim thanks to philanthropists in Al-Ahsa.
Al-Khwahir’s act deprived Muhammad Al-Hazeem of mobility and the ability to have children. The blood money was paid in full to the victim after a group of philanthropists and businessmen in Al-Ahsa governorate came up with the amount.
Al-Khwahir’s mother has never stopped praying to Allah that her son will be released from prison. She did not know whether to be happy or cry after she learned that her son would be released very soon. She thanked Al-Hayat daily for publishing her son’s story.
Al-Hayat met Al-Khwahir inside the prison. He said: “I am born again. All this time in prison I’ve spent has been marked with hope sometimes and too much fear at other times. I told myself I would accept any fate Allah ordains.” He is planning to complete his college education despite the difficulties facing him as a person with a criminal record.