31 December 2008

* Dubai: "Mafi" Fireworks!

Cars pass the Fireworks canceled sign at Jumairah Palm Islan in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Wednesday Dec. 31, 2008. Hotels in Dubai scrambled to rework New Year's plans Wednesday after the ritzy tourist spot's ruler issued a last-minute order canceling celebrations due to the violence in Gaza.

29 December 2008

* Dubai Contractors Outsource Projects to Cover Crisis

Does outsourcing projects cover the drop and downsizing trend in Dubai? It would be more transparent to face the problem, accept it and propose solutions and initiatives.
"Arabec finalizes Russian contract - sees no need for job cuts

Ziad Makhzoumi, Arabtec’s Chief Financial Officer, said yesterday the Russian Okhta Centre Project is on track and the contract is being finalized. Makhzoumi added that there might be changes in the details of the project, but the total size and value of the project will remain unchanged. Makhzoumi also said three projects from the company’s backlog in Dubai have been suspended and may end up being resumed, cancelled, or rephased, adding that the total value of the three suspended projects is less than AED3 billion. Makhzoumi also reaffirmed that Arabtec has no immediate need for job cuts and the effect of project suspension will only lead to the shifting of labor to other ongoing projects in need of labor. Makhzoumi added that the suspension of the three projects will have no effect on Arabtec’s fourth quarter results and reaffirmed an expected revenue of AED8.8 billion for 2008 with expected profits of AED1 billion for the year." 


* Can there be any doubt who the real terrorists are?

US definition fits perfectly

Stuart Littlewood calls on Western leaders to pull the plug on Israel until it conforms to international law and the will of the United Nations, pulls back behind the 1967 border and strictly observes the principles of universal human rights. Otherwise, they “risk a mighty moral backlash from ordinary people, who are beginning to learn the awful truth”.

The patience of all decent men must surely be exhausted.

Today’s [27 December] slaughter of innocents in Gaza, with at least 230 reported killed in raids on “Hamas terror operatives” (as the Israeli military put it), amounted to “a mass execution”, said Hamas.

Can there now be any doubt who the real terrorists are?

The killing spree couldn’t have happened without the tacit approval of America, Britain and the European Union. The political pea-brains that direct the pro-Israel Western alliance were partying, gorging themselves on Christmas fare or binge-shopping while this massacre of hungry women and children and their despairing menfolk in Gaza was being planned and executed. 
According to the US's own definition of terrorism Israel is squarely in the frame. Under Section 3 of Executive Order 13224 "Blocking Property and prohibiting Transactions with Persons who commit, threaten to commit, or support Terrorism", the term “terrorism” means an activity that:
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended 
  • to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
  • to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
  • to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.
 The order and its definition of terrorism, signed 23 September 2001 by George W. Bush, is used to outlaw and crush any organization, individual or country the US doesn’t like. The Israeli regime’s "amoral thugs", as a British MP branded them, have plainly been terrorizing the Palestinians for the last 60 years.
The long drawn-out siege and blockade of Gaza, and the numerous military assaults on its people and their legitimate government, are only the latest crimes in a catalogue of torment and terror. They are clearly attempts to "intimidate and coerce", while the mass destruction of Gaza's infrastructure, the withholding of humanitarian aid, the assassinations, the abductions, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, and the many violent and dangerous acts, including indiscriminate bombing and shelling (and the use of cluster bombs in Lebanon), ensure Israel’s ugly head is a perfect fit for America’s terrorist hat.

How does the world feel about Obama pledging to “forge an unshakeable bond” with the "miracle" of terrorist Israel?

How do we feel about the EU rewarding Israel for its terrorist acts with enhanced benefits under the EU-Israel Association Agreement?

How do we Britons feel about our Intelligence and Security Committee being chaired by a Friend of Terrorist Israel and 5 out of its 9 members also being the Zionist regime’s devoted Friends? How do we feel about our Foreign Affairs Committee being chaired by a Friend of Terrorist Israel – and our Defence Committee too?

Britain’s prime minister, Gordon Brown, and his predecessor, now peace envoy Tony Blair, both self-confessed Zionists, have given their undying support to a terrorist state and steered Britain’s foreign policy on a course that has earned the opprobrium of civilized people.

The best Brown could do today was urge “restraint”. He called on Gazan “militants” to “cease all rocket attacks on Israel immediately”, but didn’t urge his bosom pals to end the siege and their illegal occupation which, as every sane person knows, are the cause of the strife. Our Foreign Office went so far as to say they were “deeply concerned” then spouted the mantra: “The only way to achieve a lasting peace is through peaceful means”.

The only peaceful means of achieving a lasting peace is for Western leaders to pull the plug on Israel until the regime conforms to international law and the will of the United Nations (without whose misguided generosity there would never have been a state of Israel), pulls back behind the 1967 border and strictly observes the principles of universal human rights.

If they don’t shoulder their responsibility, they risk a mighty moral backlash from ordinary people, who are beginning to learn the awful truth. 


* How Can Anyone Believe There is 'Progress' in The Middle East?

 A test of Obama’s gumption will come scarcely three months after his inauguration.

Let's kick off with the man who is not going to change the Middle East, Barack Obama, who last week, with infinite predictability, became Time's "person of the year". But buried in a long and immensely tedious interview inside the magazine, Obama devotes just one sentence to the Arab-Israeli conflict: "And seeing if we can build on some of the progress, at least in conversation, that's been made around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be a priority."

What is this man talking about? "Building on progress?" What progress? On the verge of another civil war between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, with Benjamin Netanyahu a contender for Israeli prime minister, with Israel's monstrous wall and its Jewish colonies still taking more Arab land, and Palestinians still firing rockets at Sderot, and Obama thinks there's "progress" to build on?

I suspect this nonsensical language comes from the mental mists of his future Secretary of State. "At least in conversation" is pure Hillary Clinton – its meaning totally eludes me – and the giveaway phrase about progress being made "around" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is even weirder. Of course if Obama had talked about an end to Jewish settlement building on Arab land – the only actual "building" that is going on in the conflict – relations with Hamas as well as the Palestinian Authority, justice for both sides in the conflict, along with security for Palestinians as well as Israelis, then he might actually effect a little change.

An interesting test of Obama's gumption is going to come scarcely three months after his inauguration when he will have a little promise to honour. Yup, it's that dratted 24 April commemoration of the Armenian genocide when Armenians remember the 1.5 million of their countrymen – citizens of the Ottoman empire slaughtered by the Turks – on the anniversary of the day in 1915 when the first Armenian professors, artists and others were taken off to execution by the Ottoman authorities.

Bill Clinton promised Armenians he'd call it a "genocide" if they helped to elect him to office. George Bush did the same. So did Obama. The first two broke their word and resorted to "tragedy" rather than "genocide" once they'd got the votes, because they were frightened of all those bellowing Turkish generals, not to mention – in Bush's case – the US military supply routes through Turkey, the "roads and so on" as Robert Gates called them in one of history's more gripping ironies, these being the same "roads and so on" upon which the Armenians were sent on their death marches in 1915. And Mr Gates will be there to remind Obama of this. So I bet you – I absolutely bet on the family cat – that Obama is going to find that "genocide" is "tragedy" by 24 April.

By chance, I browsed through Turkish Airlines' in-flight magazine while cruising into Istanbul earlier this month and found an article on the historical Turkish region of Harput. "Asia's natural garden", "a popular holiday resort", the article calls Harput, "where churches dedicated to the Virgin Mary rise next to tombs of the ancestors of Mehmet the Conqueror".

Odd, all those churches, isn't it? And you have to shake your head to remember that Harput was the centre of the Christian Armenian genocide, the city from which Leslie Davis, the brave American consul in Harput, sent back his devastating eyewitness dispatches of the thousands of butchered Armenian men and women whose corpses he saw with his own eyes. But I guess that all would spoil the "natural garden" effect. It's a bit like inviting tourists to the Polish town of Oswiecim – without mentioning that its German name is Auschwitz.

But these days, we can all rewrite history. Take Nicolas Sarkozy, France's cuddliest ever president, who not only toadies up to Bashar al-Assad of Syria but is now buttering up the sick and awful Algerian head of state Abdelaziz Bouteflika who's just been "modifying" the Algerian constitution to give himself a third term in office.

There was no parliamentary debate, just a show of hands – 500 out of 529 – and what was Sarko's response? "Better Bouteflika than the Taliban!" I always thought the Taliban operated a bit more to the east – in Afghanistan, where Sarko's lads are busy fighting them – but you never can tell. Not least when exiled former Algerian army officers revealed that undercover soldiers as well as the Algerian Islamists (Sarko's "Taliban") were involved in the brutal village massacres of the 1990s.

Talking of "undercover", I was amazed to learn of the training system adopted by the Met lads who put Jean Charles de Menezes to death on the Tube. According to former police commander Brian Paddick, the Met's secret rules for "dealing" with suicide bombers were drawn up "with the help of Israeli experts". What? Who were these so-called "experts" advising British policemen how to shoot civilians on the streets of London? The same men who assassinate wanted Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and brazenly kill Palestinian civilians at the same time? The same people who outrageously talk about "targeted killings" when they murder their opponents? Were these the thugs who were advising Lady Cressida Dick and her boys?

Not that our brave peace envoy, Lord Blair, would have much to say about it. He's the man, remember, whose only proposed trip to Gaza was called off when yet more "Israeli experts" advised him that his life might be in danger. Anyway, he'd still rather be president of Europe, something Sarko wants to award him. That, I suppose, is why Blair wrote such a fawning article in the same issue of Time which made Obama "person" of the year. "There are times when Nicolas Sarkozy resembles a force of nature," Blair grovels. It's all first names, of course. "Nicolas has the hallmark of any true leader"; "Nicolas has adopted..."; "Nicolas recognises"; "Nicolas reaching out...". In all, 15 "Nicolases". Is that the price of the Euro presidency? Or will Blair now tell us he's going to be involved in those "conversations" with Obama to "build on some of the progress" in the Middle East? 


* Sayyid Hassan Calls for Massive Rally Monday

Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah called for a massive gathering in Beirut’s southern suburb to denounce the Israeli aggression on Gaza and to express solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Sayyed Nasrallah was speaking through a large screen as he marked the first night of Ashoura at the Sayyed Shouhadaa complex in Dahiyeh.
His eminence addressed the situation in Gaza and expressed deep regret at the Arab collusion “that is similar to the Arab collusion during the 2006 Israeli war on Lebanon.”
“It is truly unfortunate to begin our Hijri new Year and Gregorian new year with a serious humanitarian calamity that has so far taken the lives of three hundred Palestinians in the besieged, oppressed yet resistant and steadfast Gaza Strip. Today, we might not need to speak about the notion as we are witnessing the model of a new Karbala. What is taking place today helps us more to understand history. Karbala’s reality is that a few believers had refused humiliation and yielding to tyrants. Those believers were to choose between humiliation and disproportionate confrontation that may lead to martyrdom, so they chose martyrdom. Imam Hussein peace be upon him created this model and said his famous words: We shall never be disgraced. It was not a matter of emotions, it was rather a matter of humanitarian and ideological commitment. This is the school of Prophet Mohammad peace be upon him in Karbala,” Sayyed Nasrallah explained.

His eminence went on saying that this was the choice in Karbala “and this was the choice during the July 2006 war.” He told the resistance community in Lebanon that “when you were to choose between surrender and confrontation, you chose to stand up, thus refusing disgrace regardless of the tens of thousands of homes destroyed and the hundreds of martyrs and injured. You stood up against collusion, betrayal and disgrace and this is how blood conquered the sword.”

The Hezbollah chief underlined that what is taking place in Gaza today was identical to what had taken place in Lebanon during the 2006 war. “It’s the same choices, the same collusion and inevitably the same consequence,” he said predicting victory in the end.
“When the legitimate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyyeh come out from under the rubble and fire to say ‘we will not surrender and we will preserve our dignity…this is Karbala.”
Sayyed Nasrallah openly spoke about the ongoing confrontation in Gaza. “Allow me to dot the i's and cross the t's, because we’re in dire need for the nation to shoulder its responsibility. What is taking place today in Gaza is similar to what had taken place in Lebanon; there is a US-Israeli scheme in the region and they want to impose humiliating conditions on the Palestinians, Lebanon and Syria after Egypt and Jordan made so called peace agreements with Israel. They are working on imposing these conditions by force, pressure, isolation, internal sedition, media and psychological wars, assassinations and wars. For them, it is essential to yield those who have not yet yielded t the US-Israeli scheme.”

His eminence stressed some Arab regimes are partners in the scheme. “It is not true that there is Arab silence; there is real and complete partnership in this particularly the sides that signed agreements with Israel. They are working today on preparing the circumstances for the surrender of the resistance engaged in the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

The Hezbollah chief revealed that the war of 2006 was waged with Arab consent and request. “The Israelis were crystal clear when they revealed this and those Arab regimes cannot deny this because the Israelis might possess evidence on their collusion. This is what is happening today in Gaza. Not only those same Arab regimes are demanding Israel cuts the heads of the resistance forces, in fact they are helping the Zionist entity on this. We have heard from Israel that the magnitude of the Arab support to the war on Gaza well exceeds their support to the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.”

Sayyed Nasrallah also attributed the internal division in Palestine to the same Arab regimes that want division to become internal strife.
He set as example the notorious decisions taken by the previous government in Lebanon against Hezbollah and a senior Muslim Shiite officer managing security at the airport on the fifth of May 2008 and which nearly dragged the country into civil war. “The previous government wouldn’t have taken those decisions on the fifth of May if it weren’t for the support of these Arab regimes. They don not feel embarrassed; they are convinced and committed to the scheme.”
His eminence added that “even on the political and media levels, no one is asking Arab regimes to open its fronts and fight, but the least they could do is to take a fair stance by not holding the victim responsible.”
“We have heard an Egyptian official blaming Hamas for the attack on Gaza. Can anyone believe that this is the position of an Arab official who said during the blockade of Gaza: ‘We’ll break the feet of anyone who will set foot in Egypt? Is this the stance of an Egyptian official in the wake of the slaughter of more than 300 Palestinians in a short period of time?”
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit warned Hamas that Israel’s attack will not stop unless the resistance group stops firing rockets at occupied territories.
“Today we are hearing the same positions we heard in 2006 in terms of shouldering the resistance with the responsibility of breaking the war; this is shameful. Some Arab media outlets which should be called “Israeli media outlets” are dealing with the developments in Gaza as if the 300 martyrs were killed in a road accident; they broadcast the news and go back to regular programs as nothing is happening and the worst is that they insist on not calling those killed martyrs.”

Sayyed Nasrallah said that the Gazans have made their choice and they are practicing it through martyrdom and resistance, “just as you did in 2006; nothing stopped you from clinging to your rights and to the resistance.”
“What is the nation’s responsibility today? To triumph, the central objective is to work on stopping the aggression against Gaza and preventing the Israelis from achieving their goals. Arab peoples should press their governments to take action even if this leads to face their regimes with their chests. Those who would fall will definitely be martyrs on the road to Quds. Arab governments should not take weakness as a pretext not to act and Arab people should not take their government’s suppression as a pretext not to take action.
In our present time, the US is in a financial crisis and we have oil, money and political stature and our governments can stop the Israeli aggression with a humble effort. The Egyptian stand is the cornerstone. No one is asking it to open a front; we are asking it to open the Rafah crossing for the living, for food, for water and even for arms. In the war of 2006, Syria did not close its border with Lebanon despite the continuous bombing of the border. Egypt is is the “Mother of the World”; it is not the ‘Red Crescent’ to deal with Gaza like this. Egypt is requested not to exploit the war to pressure Hamas to yield to Israel’s conditions. If Egypt did not open the Rafah crossing to Gaza, he added, it would be considered an accomplice in the killing of Palestinians and they (Egyptian officials) should know that they will be in the circle of condemnation if they do not rush to take an honorable stance.”

The leader of the resistance urged the pride and noble people of Egypt “who we know what really lies in their hearts to take to the streets. If the people took to the streets by the millions, could the police kill millions of Egyptians? People of Egypt, you must open this crossing by the force of your chests," he said. “We know that Egyptian officers and soldiers adhere to their authentic Arab identity. I am not calling for a coup in Egypt, but those officers should tell their government that they are not with watching the Palestinian people being slaughtered while they guard Israel’s border. No one is justified today; the Egyptian stand can change the situation. If Gaza was steadfast for a few days or weeks, the aggression will eventually end because the Israeli enemy cannot tolerate war of attrition and will be forced to stop and abandon its goals.”

Sayyed Nasrallah criticized the sides that are calling for a fair and comprehensive peace with Israel. “I ask them: what has Israel given you except for more humiliation and more conditions? The Palestinians did not gain from Camp David the least rights to save face. It is really silly to believe that the international community will protect us through international resolutions, none of which was implemented by Israel. You say that Arab solidarity will protect us? Where is this Arab solidarity and they could not agree on a summit to address the situation in Gaza because of (Egyptian) reservations? What really protects our peoples and gains back our rights is the sincere resistance and everything else is mere illusion.”

As for Lebanon, Sayyed Nasrallah continued, “since the aggression on Gaza began, Barak, Livni and Olmert have been sending warnings to Lebanon and the Israeli army has been stepping up measures on the border and calling on settlers in the north to prepare their shelters. Hearing this, there are two options: the first is that everything the Israelis are saying and doing is in the framework of a pre-emptive measure; and the second is that they are planning for something. We should be aware that this bad timing amid Arab collusion, international void, economic crisis and US political vacuum between Bush and Obama, might allure Israel to take a certain action against Lebanon especially that they need to make such move for political and electoral gains.
This requires Lebanon to be cautious and not to underestimate what it happening around it. For instance, who placed the eight rockets discovered lately in the south? Some politicians in Lebanon have been pointing their fingers at us. But I tell them that Hezbollah has enough courage to take responsibility for any action it takes. On the other hand, isn’t it true that Israel has the capacity to infiltrate into Lebanon and plant these rockets, or maybe use its agents in Lebanon to do this job so that the Zionist entity would be justified to attack Lebanon? Unfortunately, some Lebanese politicians are giving Israel this pretext through their silly statements.
I have asked the brothers in the resistance in the south specifically to be present, on alert and cautious because we are facing a criminal enemy and we don't know the magnitude of the conspiracies being weaved around us."

Sayyed Nasrallah concluded his speech by calling on the Lebanese, Arabs and Muslims to act responsibly at this stage and exert every effort to stop the aggression on Gaza.
“Imam Sayyed Khamenei has called for mourning on Monday. We are concerned in this. For my part, I invite you to gather tomorrow at 1500 (local time) at the Raya field, men and women, young and old, to consolidate with Gaza and the martyrs. We have to make the whole hear our voice and see our fists rising. Tomorrow is Ashoura as well because every day is Ashoura and every land in Karbala.”


28 December 2008

* Amiantit R&D

"Amiantit signs agreement to finance new research and development center Amiantit Company signed a lease agreement with King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals on Saturday to establish Amiantit's research and development center, said CEO Soliman Abdulaziz Altwaijri. The center will be part of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz complex for industrial research, which is part of King Fahd University for Petroleum and Minerals. The center will cover 7,250 square meters of land and will have an annual lease payment of SAR0.4 million for fifteen years starting the day the lease agreement was signed."


* Gaza Gaza Gaza!

"Israel intensifies its genocide against Palestinians; commits massacre in Gaza."
Is this Obama's Change????????????????
No... This is how Israelis respond to tame Obama and teach him a lesson about world politics: "Obama... you can do nothing about this.. we can kill and spill as we want... the hell with UN and world treatees... welcome to Israel"
It may be unfair to blame Obama... but usually  you blame the empowered nations... so the arab world is to blame too... by having a "kick my ass" writen in their foreheads!

27 December 2008

* Syrian embassy in Hamra

A Lebanese police officer stands guard in front of the newly opened Syrian embassy in the Hamra district of Beirut, Lebanon, Friday, Dec. 26, 2008. Lebanon chose its first ambassador to Syria Saturday, the latest step toward normalizing relations since the neighboring countries agreed earlier this year to establish diplomatic ties


* Russia deploys 2nd S-400 missile system

Russia deploys missiles fitted with S-400 Triumf air defense system, which can hit target at a distance twice the range of the US Patriot.
"The S-400 system is being successfully deployed with air defense units," said the head of the Russian Air Force, RIA Novosti reported.

The placement, currently in process in Moscow's vicinity, is aimed at guarding the capital's surrounding airspace.

"At present, we are testing a new missile for this system," Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin added.

Another missile complex enhanced with the S-400 defense technology was earlier deployed in the area. Russia is expected to arm 18 battalions with the system until 2015.

Its strike capability enables the S-400 to hit targets within 400 kilometers (248.5 miles) which is equal to two times the distance flown by the US MIM-104 Patriot missiles. 

The US says its plans for setting up bases is Poland equipped with the Patriot is aimed at warding off potential strikes from 'rogue states' in the Middle and Far East.

Moscow has denounced the move saying that Washington is using the 'rogue states' as an excuse to jeopardize Russia's sovereignty. 


26 December 2008

* Rockets Discovered on Borders

Lebanese army explosives experts inspect a rocket discovered near the border town of Naqoura, Lebanon, Thursday, Dec. 25, 2008. A senior Lebanese army officer says troops have discovered seven rockets near the country's border with Israel and are now being dismantled. He refused to say if the rockets were directed toward Israel.

25 December 2008

* تسريح 7.5% من العاملين اللبنانيين في الخليج

الاقتصادية - هيام شحود/
قد تكون سنة 2009 الآتية من أصعب السنوات على الاقتصاد العالمي حيث إن العنوان الأساسي للاقتصادات الأمريكية واليابانية والآسيوية والأوروبية هو الركود في غالبية القطاعات الصناعية والمصرفية والعقارية، يرافقه ارتفاع معدلات البطالة ويلامس لبنان مع العام الجديد تداعيات الأزمة العالمية ويواجه تحديات اقتصادية ومالية وسياسية في آن. ومن المتوقع وبحسب دراسة حديثة أن ينخفض النمو الاقتصادي من 5.5 في المائة إلى أقل من 3.5 في المائة بسبب تراجع الحركة الاستثمارية للمستثمرين العرب وتقلص الإنفاق الاستهلاكي وتراجع أسعار العقار بنسبة 20 في المائة وانخفاض الصادرات اللبنانية إلى الخارج، وتراجع تحويلات المغتربين بعد فقدان آلاف اللبنانيين العاملين في الخارج وظائفهم. وإزاء هذا الواقع يناقش اقتصاديون وصناعيون فكرة إنشاء "مجلس أعلى للتنافسية" يتولى مواجهة انعكاسات الركود العالمي على الاقتصاد اللبناني. "الاقتصادية" التقت رئيس جمعية الصناعيين فادي عبود وهو مشارك أساسي في صياغة هذا المشروع، وسألته عن تأثيره فيما لو تم تبنيه من قبل مجلس الوزراء ومجلس النواب. وكشف أن آلاف اللبنانيين المتخصصين والجامعيين الذين يعملون في الدول الأوروبية والولايات المتحدة الأمريكية ودول الخليج، قد فقدوا وظائفهم ويستعدون للعودة إلى لبنان مطلع العام المقبل، معتبراً أن التعجيل في إنشاء هذا المجلس بات ضرورة لتمكين العائدين من تأسيس شركات في إطار إجراءات سليمة تجعلهم قادرين على المنافسة.

وأضاف عبود أن جمعية الصناعيين اقترحت المشروع خلال الطاولة الاقتصادية المستديرة التي عُقدت بدعوة من النائب سعد الحريري وناقشت سبل الوقاية من ارتدادات الأزمة المالية العالمية على لبنان وتداعيات الركود الاقتصادي العالمي على البلاد. وأوضح أن مؤتمر باريس 3 للدول المانحة تطرق إلى إنشاء مجلس للتنافسية من خلال الإصلاحات الاقتصادية الواجب اتخاذها، وبالتالي فإن رئيس الحكومة فؤاد السنيورة والمشاركين في الطاولة الاقتصادية كلفوا وزير المال السابق جهاد أزعور، تشكيل لجنة متخصصة لصياغة الاقتراحات المتخذة لمواجهة الواقع المستجد، على أن تباشر التنسيق مع الوزارات المعنية حول سبل التعامل مع الأزمة المالية العالمية على خلق فرص عمل للشباب العائد.

وعن توقعاته بتزايد معدلات البطالة رأى أنها قد تتجاوز 20 في المائة بفعل تسريح ما بين 5 إلى 7.5 في المائة من العاملين في منطقة الخليج أي ما بين 20 إلى 30 ألف من إجمالي العدد البالغ 400 ألف، إضافة إلى وصول نحو 35 ألف شخص جديد إلى سوق العمل لم توفر لهم حتى الآن أي وظائف.

وأكد أن المشروع المقترح من الجمعية يهدف إلى استباق التحدي الكبير أمام الحكومة ووضع حوافز ضريبية ومالية لتشجيع المؤسسات على التوظيف والاستثمار. وأضاف مع استمرار انخفاض أسعار النفط فإن الأزمة ستنعكس على مزيد من الشركات الخليجية وبالتالي سيتعرض مزيد من اللبنانيين وغيرهم من العاملين إلى مشكلات إضافية. أما إذا تغيرت الأوضاع بشكل دراماتيكي في المنطقة فمن المرجح أن تعود فرص العمل مع استعادة الأسواق عافيتها.

وأكد أن الأزمة لم تضغط بالكامل على لبنان لكن مطلع عام 2009 سيشهد حالة مختلفة من الضغط وسيشعر اللبنانيون بثقل هذه الأزمة. ولفت إلى أن دول الخليج أصيبت بالتداعيات، لكن السعودية والإمارات والكويت تمكنت من استيعابها نظراً للاحتياطي المالي الكبير المتوافر لديها.

وفي هذا الإطار اعتبر عبود أنه على الحكومة عدم رفع معدلات الضرائب لتحفيز النمو الاقتصادي وهو ما تعتمده غالبية الدول في خططها الإنقاذية، إضافة إلى دعوة القطاع المصرفي لتسهيل القروض الاستهلاكية. ولفت إلى عقبات تحول دون تشجيع أصحاب رؤوس الأموال على الاستثمار في مشاريع صناعية وتجارية وزراعية في لبنان، وفي مقدمتها الروتين الإداري. ووجد أن المجلس الأعلى للتنافسية سيكون صاحب الحق الحصري في وضع الإجراءات وآليات العمل المتعلقة بالمعاملات اليومية ما يجعل من عملية تأسيس شركة أمراً سهلاً وسريعاً. وخلص إلى أن تسهيل المعاملات الإدارية هو مطلب ملح اليوم ويشكل عاملاً أساسياً في إعادة التنافسية للاقتصاد الوطني.


24 December 2008

* Dubai 45% Lay-Offs?

Foreign workers stand in line to take a bus that will transport them to where they live at the end of their shift at a construction site in Dubai, April 2008. Up to 45 percent of the construction workforce in the United Arab Emirates could be laid off, with thousands already having lost their jobs due to the global financial crisis.

23 December 2008

* New Missile Kills Air Defenses DEAD

A deadly-effective supersonic missile, designed to take out enemy air defenses, is getting a major upgrade to make it even more lethal than before. I have an article in this month's Defense Technology International about it.

Soon after radar-guided anti-aircraft missiles became a threat, planners realized that the simplest way to stop them was to take out the radar. These radars make an easy target; in radio terms, they are equivalent to lighthouses, radiating brightly. So in 1958 the U.S. introduced the Shrike, an "Anti-Radiation Missile" that homed in on enemy radar and proved invaluable in the Vietnam War. The modern successor is the AGM-88 HARM High Speed Antiradiation missile, which has longer range and a speed of over mach 2. "No U.S. aircraft has ever been lost to surface-to-air missiles when HARM has been flying cover," Mike Vigue, HARM Growth Manager at Raytheon, told me.

The problem with this type of missile is that it relies on the enemy radar being turned on. Once they spot a missile barreling towards them, the operators can turn off the radar so it has nothing to home in on. So the mission is known as Suppression of Enemy Air Defence or SEAD: you're not likely to kill them, but you can force enemy radar to shut down, making the skies safe for friendly aircraft.

All that changes when you can fit HARM with a GPS module that allows it to accurately pinpoint the location of the radar emitter. The addition means that even if the radar turns off, the missile can still hit it precisely.

Raytheon's upgrade is called HDAM, for HARM Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses Attack Module. It's being built for the Air Force. And it incorporates both GPS and an inertial measurement unit with a fiber-optic gyro. Raytheon won’t say exactly how accurate it is, but unlike other anti-radiation missiles which rely on a shrapnel warhead, HDAM has achieved "metal on metal" hits on radar targets, both emitting and non-emitting.

The Navy, meanwhile, has ordered the AGM-88E HARM , otherwise known as the Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missile (AARGM), from Alliant Techsystems. This includes GPS guidance like HDAM, as well as a range of other features.

Both weapons give a new capability, and rather than Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses, they're now being described as being for Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses – DEAD.

And they can target more than radar. The GPS guidance also means that the upgraded missiles can be programmed to hit a precision target from sixty miles away, making HARM the only high-speed surface-to-air weapon in the inventory. This gives it obvious utility against fleeting, time-critical targets.

The Navy are spending over a billion dollars on acquiring 1,750 missiles. The HDAM is cheaper at "much less" than $100k a missile, but the Air Force may be able to get their upgrades without spending a dime. This is because Raytheon has a "replacement exchange in kind" deal under which the company takes obsolete missiles (such as old stockpiled Sidewinder, Maverick or HARM missiles) and refurbishes them for foreign customers - and gives the Air Force credit to purchase other Raytheon products like the HARM upgrades.

(zinio/wired/defense technology international)

* Dubai raises US$490 million from Metro naming rights

UAE. Dubai raised AED1.8 billion (US$490 million) by selling naming rights and funding from companies for the light-rail metro system it is building, according to the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

Companies will pay AED886.7 million for buying the naming rights and AED917 million for funding the project, according to the statement.

Rights to name the stations were won by local retailers, property developers and telecommunications companies, it said.

Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA, made the announcement during a press conference on Monday.

"At the top of the brands that met the selections criteria of Metro Naming rights and partnership with the RTA are Majid Al Futtaim Group (Mall of the Emirates Station and Deira City Centre Station).

The list also includes Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat Station), Gulf General Investment Company (GIGCO Station), Sharaf DG Station, First Gulf Bank Station, Nakheel, which has three stations (Nakheel Station, The Palm Deira Station and Nakheel Harbour and Tower Station) and Dubai Airport Free Zone Station," said Al Tayer.

"Companies and organisations that contributed to funding Dubai Metro Stations include Dubai Holding, which will build six stations costing AED600 million, namely: Dubai Creek, Jaddaf, Emirates Towers, Dubai Health Care City, TECOM and Business Bay.

The list also includes Emirates Airlines (Emirates Airlines Station costing AED100 million), Emaar (Burj Dubai Station costing AED100 million), and Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (Jumeirah Lake Towers Station costing AED117 million).

"Dubai Metro Naming Rights initiative commanded huge attention of CEOs and senior marketing executives of leading local and global companies and brands, representing the first batch of companies joining Dubai Metro Naming Rights initiative," Al Tayer said.


20 December 2008

* Arabtec hopes to finalize Gazprom deal soon

Reuters reported that Arabtec Holding expects to finalize a deal this month to build a project in Russia with partners including the oil arm of Gazprom.

It may be noted that Arabtec in April 2008 had won an AED 10 billion contract to build the first stage of Okhta Centre, jointly owned by Gazprom Neft and the City of St Petersburg.

Mr Ziad Makhzoumi CEO of Arabtec said that 'The project is going ahead and we are still aiming to start work on mobilization in the first quarter of 2009 and major works in the second quarter.” He added that “Our team is in the final stages of negotiations and we are aiming for Christmas to finalize the details with the client.”

Mr Makhzoumi also said that Arabtec has no plans for any immediate reduction in staff as it expands into Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. He observed that “Some projects have been delayed and some projects have been suspended. But that has not materially affected the workload we have.”


11 December 2008

* Arabtec to cut jobs if projects cancelled

UAE. Arabtec Holding, the largest listed builder in the UAE, may downsize its 43,000-strong workforce amid growing concern over a slump in the emirates’ property industry, a senior official said yesterday.

“We’ve had no major lay offs at this moment in time,” the company official told Zawya Dow Jones. “But we’re reviewing our labor needs going forward.”

The official, who asked not to be identified, said that any job losses at the company depend on the status of its order book and the possible delay, or cancelation, of its projects.

Dubai’s real estate and building industry is facing harder times as property prices fall and companies lay off workers. Nakheel, developer of Dubai’s Palm island projects, recently laid off 10% of its workers in response to the downturn.

Arabtec said it October that nine-month profit more than doubled to AED 761 million (US$207 million) from a year earlier. The company’s board approved in late November a one-for-one bonus share distribution to boost its capital to AED 1.2 billion, from AED 598 million. Morgan Stanley cut this month its price target for Arabtec to AED12.04, from AED18.87.


* Arabtec's order book to help cushion property slowdown

Arabtec Holding, the UAE's biggest construction company, expects its more than Dh43 billion order book will help it cushion the impact of the slowdown in the property market.

"The rate of growth will fall substantially in 2009, although it will not be negative," Ziad Makhzoumi, Arabtec's Chief Financial Officer, said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Dubai is bracing for a slowdown of its previously booming property industry after residential prices quadrupled in the past five years and the seizure of global credit markets hurt mortgage lending. Dubai and Abu Dhabi house prices fell for the first time in October, HSBC Holdings said in a report last month.

Arabtec has "no immediate plan" to cut its workforce of about 52,000 as none of its projects have been delayed, although some future orders may be rescheduled or redesigned, Makhzoumi said. These changes "will not have a major impact on our business because of our backlog", he added.

Arabtec is being "prudent" and "planning for a slowdown to make sure we are not caught unprepared if there are major changes in the market", Makhzoumi said. The company may move people across projects if necessary, although some people recruited for specialised projects may leave when the projects are completed, he added.

Arabtec, the largest-listed builder in the UAE, had earlier also told Dow Jones that there were no plans for lay-offs.

"We have had no major lay offs at this moment in time," a company official had said. "But we are reviewing our labour needs going forward."

The official, who asked not to be identified, said any job losses at the firm depend on the status of its order book and the possible delay, or cancellation, of its projects.

Arabtec said in October that nine-month profits more than doubled to Dh761 million from a year earlier. Last month its board approved a one-for-one bonus share distribution to boost its capital to Dh1.2bn, from Dh598mn.

Meanwhile, Nakheel earlier said it will cut its workforce by 15 per cent, or 500 jobs, as it scales back some of its projects. Emaar Properties, the Middle East's largest real estate developer, has also announced it is reviewing recruitment policies, while Damac Holding reported early last month that it had eliminated 200 jobs.


08 December 2008

* Bank Al Madina Conspiracy Time Line (part H): The BCC Bank


It seems that the Banking Control Commission (BCC) had many doubts and serious concerns about the situation at Bank AI-Madina and have sent many letters to the bank in that respect.
This is obvious from their letters to the Governor of the Central Bank in August 2000, September 2000, and October 2000.

The BCC have asked a team from the BCC auditors during December 2000, January and February 2001. The BCC audit team concluded that the statements presented by Bank AI-Madina were falsified and there was double accounting being practiced at the bank which is a very serious matter and that the statements could not be trusted. In March 2001, the BCC suggested to the Governor to refer the bank to the Higher Banking Authority and appointing a temporary manager for the two banks (Madina and UCB) and appointing an additional external auditor to the bank.

The Governor informed Madina on March 1ih 2001 that a new external auditor (Deloitte & Touche) was appointed to perform an investigation mission of finding out the real situation at the bank. (Rana acknowledged receipt of the Governor letter)

On June 13th 2001 the BCC submitted their report to the Governor of the Central Bank in which the results of the investigation of Deloitte and Touche was revealed which showed many violations, noncompliance incidents and unclear banking operations. The BCC suggested the appointment of a new general manager with wide authorities and to also expand the mission of Deloitte & Touche to become a comprehensive audit of Madina and to know the reality of the banking operations.

In June 2001, and after the BCC report, the situation at the bank appears to be an almost panicky situation. During June 2001, the Board of Directors met 5 times and took drastic decisions in an attempt to ease the BCC and Central Bank concerns. More than 8 letters were sent to the Governor of the Central Bank and they all revolve around the measures being taken by the bank to improve the situation, correct the errors, sending more money, setting up new committees (audit, loans, IT, etc..). The chairman of Bank AI-Madina was summoned to attend a meeting at the Central Bank but Mr Ibrahim apologized for not being able to attend due to previous trip engagement and appointed Mr Abd Nour (although he resigned earlier???) to represent him.

We believe that when all the above attempts didn’t work out, somebody forged Dr Adnan Abou Ayyash signature in a letter sent to the Governor (28 June 2001) in which a pledge for a transfer of $200 Millions was made latest August 31st 2001).

The Governor decided to appoint Deloitte & Touche again for another mission of investigation at the bank.

At this time, another forgery of Dr Adnan’s signature occurred on a letter sent to the Governor stating that he will have more frequent visits to Lebanon and that he will be spending more time to oversee the operations of the bank closely.

I believe whoever did the forgery was trying to use Dr Adnan’s creditworthiness and his good reputation at the Central Bank in order to convince the BCC and the Central Bank to take their hands off and back off from their attempts to find out the reality.

Anyway, the attempt of convincing the Central Bank seems to have worked out after the said forged letter since the Governor backed off a little bit and suspended his decision to appoint Deloitte & Touche for the investigation mission in order to follow up on Dr Adnan’s claimed undertaking to put some order to the bank and transfer the money promised ($ 200 Millions).

During that time (from July to September 2001 the bank tried to publish their Financial Statements for the year 2000 but the BCC refused to allow them that before making sure the figures are correct.

On September 4th 2001, another letter was forged in Dr Adnan’s name which refers to Dr Adnan’s transfer of $ 150 Millions to Bank AI-Mad ina account at BDL (noting that he did transfer $ 150 Millions from UBS-Zurich to Dr Adnan’s account # 69911 at Madina on 27/8/2001). The letter asked the central bank for a period until end of 2001 to sort out the problems and organize the things at the bank.

In fact, the Governor of the Central Bank, after seeing that the money transfer was done, decided to give the bank until the end of 2001 to execute the promises of Dr Adnan provided that he provides them with the details of his steps and actions performed to rectify the situation.

The period from September 2001 to May 2002 was very calm in terms of communications between the bank and the Central Bank and the first letter was from the BCC to the Governor on May 16th 2002 in which they restated their concerns of problems at Madina following a review done and asked the Governor to take a decision in that respect.

The Governor then summoned the Madina Bank Chairman for a meeting on 22/May/2002 to discuss the bank situation.

A letter was forged in Dr Adnan’s name to the Governor on 21/May/2002 in which certain clarifications to the violations and mistakes were listed. It also refers to the transfer of $200 Millions to Bankers Trust which should add more confidence to the bank financial standing (noting that Dr Adnan’s did transfer $200 Millions on 27/December/2001 to his account 69911).

Another letter was forged in Dr Adnan’s name on 21/May/2002 to the Governor promising to transfer an additional $ 100 Millions latest June 15 2002.

On June 24th 2002, a letter was sent by Rana Koleilat and walid Nassif to the Governor confirming the receipt of a transfer for $150Millions and attaching a copy of the said Swift. This Swift is most probably forged since it is not sent by Dr Adnan and does not appear in Dr Adnan’s list of transfers sent from the banks and confirmed by them. This means that when Rana was not able to convince Dr Adnan to send a transfer for $100 Millions as promised to the Governor on May 21st 2002, she made up the transfer for $ 150 Millions to convince the Governor that everything was in order and that the transfer did come in.

In July, a report was sent by the BCC to the Governor restating their concerns. The Governor summoned the chairman of Madina bank to appear on September 2nd 2002 at the Central Bank to discuss the bank situation. The reasons stated were that the promises made by Dr Adnan need to be executed (taking over the management, rectifying the errors, appointing BOO Fiduciaire du Moyent Orient as additional external auditor, etc..)

On August 2th 2002, four more letters in Dr Adnan’s name were forged. The first letter was for the appointment of Abd Hafiz Barbir in which Dr Adnan’s signature appear as Chairman-General Manager for the first time. Another letter in Dr Adnan’s name appointed Rana and Walid Nassif to represent the bank at the Central Bank and BCC. The worst forgery was the third letter sent in Dr Adnan’s name (with Dr Adnan’s forged signature) on August 2th 2002 in which a pledge for transferring $ 500 Millions to the Central Bank was made in 5 equal amounts ($100 Millions each, on 29/8/2002, 29/9/2002, 29/10/2002, 29/11/2002, and 29/12/2002).

A fourth letter on August 27 2002 forged in Dr Adnan’s name was sent to the Governor of the Central Bank which replied to his letter dated July 18 2002 and tried to explain the actions taken by the bank and show that real measures were taken.

It seems the letters were not enough and the Governor (on September 2 2002) decided to disallow the bank from making further loans and ordered it to rectify the violations of the Central Bank directives immediately.

Another letter was then made in Dr Adnan’s name and Dr Adnan’s signature was forged on September 5 2002. The letter mentioned a meeting between Dr Adnan and the Governor on September 3rd 2002. There is also a pledge to transfer $ 100 Millions in preparation for the increase in Madina equity.

September 2002 witnessed many letters back and forth between the bank and the Governor concerning the loans of Zenta, Ali ahmad, Fadi Sobh, etc.

A letter in Dr Adnan’s name was made up on 19 September 2002 pledging to execute the Central Bank directives completely.

In October 2002, the BCC informed the Governor, that the problems of the bank were not solved and that more errors were found in their statements. They further asked the auditor BOO to confirm the bank account balances with its correspondents since they suspected those balances to be incorrect and misstated. On 26 October 2002, the BCC seem to have reached a decision that the situation was out of control and that no further solutions are possible and concluded that the situation of the bank necessitate the appointment of a temporary manager and the suspension of the operations of Bank AI-Madina and UCB (cancellation from the list of operating banks). This was mainly due to the forged bank statements, concealing of foreign currency positions, double accounting, many unresolved violations, the impossibility to confirm the account balances at the correspondents (especially Bankers Trust), the absence of the bank chairman from the meetings at the Central bank, the bank losses, suspicion of money laundry, etc..

As an attempt to ease the pressure, a letter was sent by Youssef Hishi and Kazem Bahlawan to the Governor of the Central Bank informing him that the account of Rana Koleilat contains $ 200 Millions and will transferred to the Central Bank for necessary transfer to Lebanese pounds and deposited in Bank AI-Madina account at the central bank. Rana signed on the letter for acceptance.

A letter was then forged in Dr Adnan’s name (on 31/10/2002) and sent to the Governor confirming that he will personally resolve the problems during November and that he invites the auditors to come in during December 2002 to investigate and verify the actions taken.

As a last resort, a final letter was forged in Dr Adnan’s name (on 8/11/2002) and sent to the Governor informing him that he is taking steps to merge the two banks and that this will require the preparation of certain documents and certain Board resolutions. This was the last unsuccessful attempt to delay the catastrophe which proved to be imminent.


06 December 2008

* World Music Awards 2008 (other irrelevants)

Other irrelevants meaning non-candidates or non-nominees! Just media squeeze!

No comments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

No comments!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


* World Music Awards 2008 (Nancy Ajram)


Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.