Given the fatal results of flash floods in various Saudi Arabian cities over the past few years, it’s not strange that the municipalities involved would seek ways to ameliorate the situations. Vastly cheaper than digging up the cities to retroactively install major drainage projects are attempts to prevent rain. Unfortunately — or so allege Amnesty International and the Arab Organization for Human Rights — the Jeddah mayor’s office chose to use a chemical to stop cloud formation that seems to be classified as a WMD. Oops.
Oddly enough, the chemical allegedly used — “alkimitre” in the article; “alkimitril” in other sources — is pretty mysterious stuff. In fact, it’s one of the favorite chemicals condemned by the “Chem Trails” conspiracy theorists. Perhaps the “oops” belongs at the feet of Amnesty International?
City sued for ‘using toxic gas’ to prevent rain in Jeddah
Saudi Gazette report
JEDDAH — Two international organizations are suing Jeddah Municipality for allegedly using poisonous gases to dissipate clouds, Al-Hayat newspaper reported.
The representative of Amnesty International and the Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR), Dr. Talat Attar, said a lawsuit was filed with the Board of Grievances in July this year.
Attar said the lawsuit accuses the municipality of using Alkimtre gas for dissipating clouds to prevent rain.
This gas, he added, causes many environmental and health hazards. In a press statement, Attar pointed out that the legal authorities will review the case within the coming days.
“Alkimtre gas is a mass destruction weapon and its usage is in clear violation of all human rights,” he said.
Writing at Harvard University’s “Iran Matters” website, Saudi analyst and government advisor Nawaf Obaid offers his take on the recent deal reached between Iran and the “5+1 group. In sum, while the Kingdom is always interested in international agreements that tend toward peaceful resolution of issues, it is wary about Iran’s expansionist foreign policy and the likelihood of its acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Iran deal: a view from Saudi Arabia
The fundamentals of Saudi foreign policy stem from its role as the cradle of Islam, the world’s central banker of energy and the Middle East’s economic and financial engine. As the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and the location of the religion’s two holiest sites, the Saudi Kingdom is in a unique standing vis-a-vis the more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. This situation makes it incumbent on the Kingdom to remain extremely conservative at its core and outlook. This reality is enhanced by the Kingdom’s role as the world’s largest crude exporter. This has made Saudi Arabia the largest economy by far in the Middle East-North Africa region and the world’s third largest holder of foreign exchange reserves and is giving it the firepower to expend formidable financial and economic resources in assisting other nations in dire straits to maintain stability. The Kingdom’s enhanced role has generated an ever expanding foreign policy assertiveness that is being transformed from a primarily reactive based doctrine to a proactive one. The implications are that the Saudis will amalgamate political and financial incentives with an ever-growing military capability to sustain a forceful diplomacy to pursue vital national security imperatives.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts to reform its legal system continue. Saudi Gazette reports that three new measures have been signed into law by King Abdullah. These will help courts to work more efficiently and fairly. Defendants are assured both the right to an attorney and to be informed of the charges against them. Specialized courts will deal with particular areas of the law such as traffic, labor, and commercial law.
New laws to make judicial procedures more effective, open
Saeed Al-Bahes | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
DAMMAM – Approval of the three landmark laws by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah was widely welcomed by all those concerned with the Kingdom’s judicial sector.
They said that the new systems would expedite judicial procedures and make them more effective and transparent.
King Abdullah approved on Friday drafts of the Shariah defense law, the criminal procedure law and the procedures of the Board of Grievances, approved recently by the Council of Ministers
Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Nassaar, President of the Board of Grievances, described this as a giant step in judicial reforms which address all pressing needs and realize the ambitious goals. “As part of making the Board more effective, there would be more supportive bodies, such as the technical affairs bureau, of which the powers include publishing the copy of verdicts. The Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court have been constituted in line with the new laws,” he said.
Hugging, apparently, is an ‘exotic practice’ in Saudi Arabia. A practice that can get one arrested, if done in public and with unrelated people. Al Arabiya TV reports that three men were arrested in Riyadh and Madinah by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for offering free hugs to passersby, as part of the international Free Hugs Campaign.
Given Saudi social mores, I can’t say I’m surprised….
boy was arrested in Saudi Arabia on Friday after taking part in the “Free Hugs” campaign that has seen some Saudi men take to the streets to offer up a hug to passers-by.
Arrested in the city of Madina, the boy, who was identified as a minor by the police, was holding a banner inscribed with the slogan “Free hugs” and was allegedly offering hugs to people near a local hospital.
Police told Al-Hayat daily newspaper that another man promoting the campaign evaded arrest.
Also, two men were arrested in Riyadh on Thursday for offering free hugs to passers-by in the capital.
Members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrested the two men in Riyadh for violating local laws and engaging in “exotic practices,” al-Hayat newspaper reported. They were asked to sign a pledge that they would not partake in the campaign again, according to the newspaper.
Saudi Arabia, through the King Abdullah Economic City, continues its efforts to diversify and expand its economy. Saudi Gazette reports (here in a piece from Al Arabiya TV) that it has signed agreements with Volvo and Renault to build trucks at KAEC, located north of Jeddah.
Saudi Arabia to produce Volvo and Renault trucks
King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) recently signed a land plot to purchase of 225,000 sq. meters in KAEC’s Industrial Valley for the construction and operation of Volvo and Renault trucks.
The plant, constructed by Zahid Tractor and Heavy Machinery Company, will be developed on an area of 60,000 sqm and is expected to produce 4,000 trucks a year and provide 400 new jobs.
Fahd Al-Rasheed, Managing Director and CEO of KAEC, said “the new trucks assembly plant, which will be constructed by Zahid Group, is considered a major milestone in the growth of King Abdullah Economic City.”
Saudi Arabia is known as ‘The Desert Kingdom’. Indeed, it has some remarkable deserts, from the Rub’ Al Khali to the Al Dahna east of Riyadh to the Nafud in the north. Saudi cities grew out of town built primarily on the edges of these deserts. The growth, however, did not adequately take into consideration that it does occasionally rain.
The result has been inadequate drainage systems that lead to flooding when there is heavy rain. Whether it’s flash floods caused by large masses of water running down mountainsides, as was the case in the 2007 Jeddah floods, or simply vast amounts of standing water as has more recently happened, when it rains, it floods.
It does not help matters that city streets are now paved with impervious concrete and asphalt. In earlier days, the dirt roadways could at least absorb rainwater.
What will be required is massive work in building appropriately-sized drainage facilities, whether they be sewers or catchment areas. In any case, it will be expensive to do it in the midst of some of the world’s most expensive real estate.
Rains make a mockery of the Kingdom’s drainage projects
Abdo Khal | Okaz
With every rainy season, one of our cities becomes a victim of the rains giving rise to the same cries and complaints of the season before.
Riyadh has been the first victim of the rainy season this year. The rains caused the death of three people in Riyadh, destroyed cars along the streets, damaged traffic signals and obstructed the flow of traffic. Water flooded government and private sector establishments and created pools in a number of neighborhoods. The rains have exposed the ineffectiveness of Riyadh’s drainage projects.
Every year, we complain about ineffective drainage systems which have become a problem for every town and city in the Kingdom. Although large sums of money have been spent on these projects, they still fail to drain the rain and floodwaters.
The government has spent more than SR12 billion on projects to protect towns and cities from floods. If you told any international expert that this much money had been spent on drainage projects in a year or two, he would never believe you. For this amount of money, a sewage network could be built to drain not only rainwater, but the waters of the seas and oceans as well!
Saudi Gazette runs a story from Reuters noting that Saudi Arabia is not concerned about a huge increase in US oil production. It believes global demand will continue to grow at such a pace that Saudi oil production can continue at it current rate and still be very profitable. Rather than seeing a smaller piece of the global petroleum pie, Saudi Arabia will be taking a piece of a much bigger pie.
(Reuters) DUBAI – Saudi Arabia remains unconcerned by surging US shale output, which threatens to eat into OPEC’s market share, and sees no need to cut production to support prices, Deputy Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz told a conference in Dubai on Wednesday.
“We need to make sure that the world economy comes out decisively on a growth pattern and, if that can be established, I think that the world economic growth will be sufficient to handle growth from all sorts – shale oil, shale gas, tight oil and including renewable,” he said.
“The world economy over the long term will need every contribution of every source of energy available,” he said. “The kingdom welcomes new resources of energy supplies, as they are needed.”
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries expects global demand for its crude to fall in the next five years because of increasing supplies outside the 12-member group from the boom in shale energy and other sources, according to its annual World Oil Outlook.
Among the petty annoyances found in Saudi offices is the level of multitasking that goes on. It’s not bad if it’s all job-related, but too often it seems that it’s for the benefit (and sometimes profit) of the official rather than his clients whose issues he is handling. Two or three people who have nothing to do with the matter at hand are hanging around conversing; one or more TVs are running in the background; one or many cellphones are in constant use by the official.
Saudi Gazette/Okaz report that the Saudi government has now banned the use of cellphones in the Passport Offices. This should bring a little more focus to the work that is supposed to be done, but we’ll have to wait and see about that. We’ll have to see, too, whether this new practice is spread across other government offices or even the private sector.
Jawazat staff banned from using mobile phones in office
Hanadi Abbas | Okaz/Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH – Director General of Passports Maj. Gen. Suleiman Al-Yahya has banned the staff from using mobile phones during office hours.
Al-Yahya, who took over as the chief of the General Directorate of Passports last week, told Okaz/Saudi Gazette on Wednesday that the performance of Passports Department employees will be monitored through surveillance cameras.
He also said that the working hours of the Passports Department will be extended up to 5.30 p.m. for employees who deal directly with citizens and expatriates so as to clear the transactions that were submitted during the grace period.
The passport offices will have more employees to deal with huge crowds of visitors, he said, and reiterated that passport offices seek to ensure that expatriates’ rights are maintained so they can visit hospitals, government bodies, courts and other government departments.
Cui bono? is a Latin phrase that asks, “Who benefits?” It is used in the context of asking who, ultimately, is the one who profits from an action, with the implication that it may not be who it first seems. Here, on the pages of Saudi Gazette, Ali Al-Ghamdi raises the question about the illegal workers in Saudi Arabia. He breaks them down into different types and points out who is the fundamental miscreant. The problem of illegal immigrants and those who overstay their visas is clear enough. What the recent crackdown on illegal workers has not adequately addressed, though, are those Saudis who were and still are complicit in creating the problem.
Who were the real beneficiaries of the grace period?
Dr. Ali Al-Ghamdi
DID we take advantage of the amnesty period to correct the status of expatriates in the Kingdom in the best way possible? Did all illegal expatriates manage to rectify their status during this period? What were the hurdles that prevented those who wanted to correct their status from doing so?
Before answering these questions, we have to accept the fact that the law of the land must be respected and those who attempt to violate or ignore it –whether they are Saudis or expatriates – must be penalized.
Illegal expatriates have been classified into various categories. The first group are those who infiltrated across the borders of the Kingdom and their presence in the country is a crime. Hence they will be prosecuted together with those who gave them transportation or shelter or extended to them any kind of help.
The second group are those who came on Haj and Umrah visas and overstayed in the Kingdom after the expiry of their visas. Unlike the first category, the entry of these people into the Kingdom was legal, but later they violated the regulations. These people as well as those who gave them jobs or shelter should also face penal action.
As for the third category, they are a group of people who came to Saudi Arabia on employment visas to work with their sponsors, who are either individuals or establishments and companies. These expatriates include those who were well aware that they were coming to the Kingdom on a so-called “free visa”, which they had obtained from visa agents operating in their respective countries, and that with this visa they could work anywhere they wanted. This group also includes those who only learned after their arrival in the Kingdom that they had no fixed job with their sponsor and that they had to find work on their own. These people are forced to give a fixed amount of money to the sponsor every month. They also have to pay all the fees related with the issuance of the iqama (residency permit) and the re-entry visa, in addition to travel expenses.
Jeddah is not the only city in Saudi Arabia under threat from flash floods. Over 125 were killed in that city in 2007. Now, Arab News reports, some 15 have died as a result of floods in various parts of the Kingdom.
Saudi cities are simply not built with the idea of flash flooding in mind. As a result, heavy rains invariably lead to flooded streets, rapid movement of masses of water, and infrastructure that quite literally goes underwater.
Flash floods claim 15 lives
JEDDAH: MD AL-SULAMI
At least 15 people have died and eight others are reported missing in flash floods caused by heavy rains in Riyadh and other parts of the Kingdom in the last 24 hours.
The Civil Defense Department said Monday that it had received more than 7,000 calls for help from different regions following rains. “We have rescued over 800 stranded people, while 450 vehicles have been pulled out from flooded areas,” it said in a statement. The department has urged the public to be cautious following weather forecasts for more rains in the next three days.
Col. Saeed Sarhan, the department’s spokesman in Makkah, said the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment has forecast the formation of thunderclouds over the southern Makkah region, Qunfuda and Al-Laith, as well as Makkah and Taif.
Deaths resulting from rain-related accidents were reported across the Kingdom, sources said.
According to Saudi Gazette, Saudi government workers are a bunch of slackers. Leaving work early, excessive breaks, unauthorized absences… they just don’t seem to like sitting behind their desks.
The reasons are many, the article states. Low salaries, lack of incentives, lack of supervision and lack of punishment are all recognized. Then, too, there is the need for male workers (and nearly all government employees are male) to take time off to drive the women and children in their families around for things like doctor’s appointments, shopping, and all the other things that must be done but that women cannot do because of the ban on their driving.
69 percent of govt workers are absent sans excuse
Saudi Gazette report
RIYADH — There is an increase in the number of government workers leaving work before they complete their contracted working hours, according to a study.
Workers sometimes leave early or take breaks of up to three hours, according to a study conducted by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA).
In the survey of 182 government institutions, 69 percent of workers have gone absent from work without a valid excuse.
The study also showed that 59 percent of workers leave work before they complete their working hours.
According to the research, 68 percent of workers regularly take three-hour breaks.
Saudi Arabia leads the world in terms of YouTube viewership. But Saudis aren’t just consuming YouTube videos. Al Arabiya TV runs this Reuters report on how young Saudis are creating content to fill the void created by state-operated media (void because no one watches it for other than Saudi sports and religious inspiration).
Saudis live in a severely constrained social environment. As a result, many youths are living a ‘virtual’ life on the Internet where they are able to say and see things that are otherwise not available to them. Rather than waiting for governmentally shaped commentary, they make their own and get immediate feedback, both positive and negative.
Young Saudis getting creative on YouTube
Turn on a Saudi television and you’ll usually get a diet of religious programming and uncontroversial imported fare. But there’s much more to a “night in” for the average Saudi – they’re also the world’s most avid watchers of YouTube.
The programs of Jeddah-based UTURN, from drama to reality shows, are typical. “3al6ayer,” or “On the Fly,” is a Saudi version of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” “Eysh Elly” is a lighthearted weekly review of Arab online videos.
As of mid-September, UTURN had 286 million views on YouTube and 8 million followers on social media such as Facebook and Twitter, most of them Saudis, said Abdullah Mando, 27, who set up the company in 2010 with two university friends.
The secret of UTURN’s success is simple, but in a Saudi context, rather revolutionary: give the audience what it wants