Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’


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Looks like they fell for this one!!

Saudi king to buy Facebook to end the revolt: report

In what is being termed as pure Wall Street Gordon Gecko tactics, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has decided to make an offer of $150 billion to buy out Facebook. 

Inside sources within the kingdom suggest that the King is very upset with Mark Zukerberg for allowing the revolt to get out of control, Ahlul Bayt News Agency reported.

In a personal meeting between Mark Zuckerberg and King Abdullah on Jan 25, 2011, Zuckerberg had promised that he would not allow any revolt pages to be formed on Facebook even while he allowed Egypt and Libya revolt pages to be formed.

Left with no option, Abdullah advised by Goldman Sachs has decided to buy out Facebook and “clean out the weeds”. The offer on the table is $150 billion. Facebook balance sheet was shown to King Abdullah and his kingdom advisors had mentioned that it is not even worth $1 billion given that it generates no profit. But the King threw the report into the dustbin and fired his advisors and decided to hand over the investment banking mandate to Goldman Sachs who put the value at $150 billion. The deal will be all cash.

Most analysts believe that Zuckerberg will not take the offer and will wait for King Abdullah to up the offer to at least $500 billion. In the meanwhile king Abdullah has now logged on the Facebook and was busy profiling some of the models in the Goldman Sachs presentation.

Plans to provide cheap land for housing

In another development, minister of Municipal and Rural Affairs Prince Mansour bin Miteb said the government is striving to make affordable housing plots available for citizens.

“The Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs has allocated 130 plots for the General Housing Authority,” said Prince Mansour, adding that the task of making land cheaper needs the efforts of many government departments.

The prince said the housing authority, which has many plots of land left over from older allocations, will strive to provide houses to as many citizens as possible in all provinces. He added that a few housing projects were implemented in an unscientific manner and had to be redesigned. 

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Yemen’s hidden alcohol problem
By JUDITH SPIEGEL / THE MEDIA LINE
17/01/2011
Since alcohol is largely forbidden in this Muslim country, treatment for alcoholism is private, as government brushes it under the rug.
Yemen, Sana’a – It’s nine o’clock at night on a busy road on the outskirts of Sana’a and a man is waiting at the shadows. Samir, a 22-year-old university student, has been cruising in his car with his mates and has been engaged in a constant mobile phone negotiation with this man until finally, a location for the deal is made.

Samir halts his car. The man emerges from the shadows and quickly passes him a plastic bag containing two bottles of Stolichnaya vodka, wrapped in local newspapers and asks for the money. Samir gives him 12,000 Rials ($60) for both bottles.

In an Islamist country where alcohol is largely forbidden, just a simple transaction for a few bottles of vodka has a sinister nature of black alley contraband and fear. As much as alcohol is taboo, treating alcoholism is even more challenging since it exposes its sufferers to stigmas.

Samir, who spoke on condition his last name not be revealed, says he does not consider himself to be an alcoholic. He just has “to drink a few beers in the evening to be able to sleep.” A student at one of the Yemeni capital’s prestigious universities, Samir says he often skips classes to drink and was “stressed out” because of his father’s high expectations from him to get high marks and take over his family business. He both adores and fears his father and says his fear of not living up to his expectations makes him seek daily solace in alcohol.

He is not alone. According to Dr. Hisham Al-Nabhani, a psychiatrist at Al Amal psychiatric hospital, about six cases like Samir’s cross his door every month seeking treatment for alcohol abuse.

“They usually come after drinking for three or four years,” Al-Nabhani told The Media Line. “Most of them have high economic status, are the sons of military officers or businessmen who have money and therefore access to alcohol.”

Al-Nabhani said most of them had lived in Saudi Arabia for extended periods.

“This is where they picked up the habit of using alcohol. I know it is even more forbidden there than in Yemen but people tend to hunt after forbidden things,” he added.

Yemeni law prohibits the consumption of alcohol in public or public drunkenness. If caught, violators are sent to prison and not to treatment centers like the Al Amal hospital. What happens in private homes, however, is another matter and police do not as a rule search houses for alcohol. Unlike in Saudi Arabia, there are no religious police enforcing the Islamic ban on alcohol.

“If people drink at home, this is between them and Allah, not between them and the Yemeni law,” Dr. Al-Nabhani says.

Ironically, alcohol is relatively easy to obtain in Yemen. There is locally brewed vodka, called Baladi, named after the Arabic word ‘bilad’ which means country. Vodka, whisky, beer and gin is also smuggled in from Ethiopia or Djibouti and then sold through dealers. There are even towns such as Haima and Amran where whole streets are lined with little shops selling booze behind their iron doors. At first glance the shops appear like the average Yemeni grocery with cans of beans, washing powder and cigarettes lining the walls. But they have a clandestine side room where crates of Heineken beer and bottles of whisky of assorted brands can be found.

The shops are known by many, including government officials. A recent Wikileaks report quoted President Ali Abdullah Saleh joking with US General David Petraeus that he loathed drugs and weapons coming from Djibouti, but whisky, on the other hand was fine, as long as it was good whiskey. Curiously, the report did not receive much media attention in Yemen despite fears in the foreign press that it could lead to a “Whiskey Controversy.” Yemen denied the quotes were made and the government-controlled newspapers and television channels ignored it.

Samir recalls how he and others seeking an alcoholic drink had ventured to the Russian Club, a nightclub in Sana’a playing outdated music but where alcohol flows freely, provided one is a foreigner. The club denied Samir and his mates entry since they were Yemenis.

“This is not up to the guy at the gate, it is up to us, for heaven’s sake,” Samir says angrily, recalling they went home and ordered a bottle of gin from a dealer.

Dr. Al-Nabhani believes that those coming to his clinic with an alcohol problem are only the tip of the iceberg and that the phenomenon is much more wide spread than the Yemeni public wants to admit.

“We only see the complicated issues where families bring the man to our hospital,” he says. “It is always men. I have never seen a woman here. They usually are brought after he starts beating his wife, his sons, his neighbours and the family was desperate for treatment.”

“It is there, so why deny it? The first step to treatment is acknowledgement, but in our society this is taboo. Furthermore, everyone in Yemen who seeks psychological or psychiatric help is considered insane, so this does not motivate people to go to a psychiatric hospital either,” he says.

Al Amal hospital checks in alcoholics for a two-week treatment, during which they receive medication, group and behavioural therapy. After they leave, they continue to receive medication and psychological treatment.

“But it only works with people who come voluntarily,” Dr. Al-Nabhani laments. “Those who are forced here by their families usually fall back again.”

The Al Amal hospital is funded by the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a Yemeni charity founded by Sheikh Abdul Majeed al-Zindani, an influential Yemeni religious leader who is also on the United States lists of terrorists. This doesn’t bother Dr. Al-Nabhani or his colleagues since their goal is to deal with alcoholism, and stay away from religious politics.

Because officially there is no alcohol, there are no campaigns or any other public awareness programs. People only know about treatment programs such as the one at Al Amal due to word of mouth. For years, Dr. Al-Nabhani and his colleagues have tried to publicize their care, but they are not supported by the government.

“So we can only sit here and wait for people to come to us,” he says, adding sardonically that knocking behind the closed doors of Sana’a would likely lead to a seven-fold increase in alcoholism patients.

Meanwhile, young men like Samir continue to titter on alcoholism which raises the question: Would it not be better to legalize it and just sell it in the supermarkets so that things can be controlled? Dr. Al-Nabhani is not so sure.

“First of all, access would be easier so we will have more drinkers,” he says. “Secondly, people think that if this were the case then Yemen would no longer be an Islamic country. As long as it is hidden, they simply think the problem does not exist.”

Yemen’s hidden alcohol problem

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In the latest in a series of blows to Wikileaks, PayPal says it will no longer support money transfers to the whistleblower site.
PayPal has posted a (late-night) statement to its website, saying: “PayPal has permanently restricted the account used by WikiLeaks due to a violation of the PayPal Acceptable Use Policy, which states that our payment service cannot be used for any activities that encourage, promote, facilitate or instruct others to engage in illegal activity. We’ve notified the account holder of this action.”

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PayPal’s announcement follows Wikileaks’ loss of its DNS server today and its ousting from Amazon Web Services earlier this week. This comes on the heels of the recent release by Wikileaks of another round of leaked documents – 250,000 U.S. diplomatic cables.
PayPal isn’t the only way to donate to Wikileaks. You can make a bank transfer or send money directly by mail. But certainly sending money online via PayPal has become one of the easiest and most routine ways for folks to make all sorts of online donations.
It’s not the first time Wikileaks has run into trouble with PayPal either, as the organization had its account temporarily frozen earlier this year.
PayPal’s announcement will certainly result in a loss of donation dollars for Wikileaks. But it also marks an important symbolic loss for the organization as well, as it represents yet another major private tech company that has closed its doors to Wikileaks. In addition to those who’ve refused to provide Wikileaks with hosting and financial services, the visualization company Tableau Software also expunged all Wikileaks content from its site.
Although these companies have said that their terms of service forbid the support or facilitation of illegal activity, such pronouncements about Wikileaks are debatable. While it is a crime to leak classified information, receiving and publishing it is not.
PayPal Announces It Will No Longer Handle Wikileaks Donations

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Cohabitation et tolérance
La singularité et l’exception marocaines exaltées à Londres
flecheRouge Publié le : 11.11.2010 | 17h26
Le modèle marocain singulier s’impose dans un monde en proie aux turbulences et aux divisions, dixit le président du Musée juif de Londres.

La vocation du Maroc en tant que havre de paix et terre de rencontres a été saluée à Londres à l’occasion de l’exposition «Morocco», organisée dans la capitale britannique par le musée juif de Londres en partenariat avec la Moroccan-British Society (MBS), que préside l’ambassadeur du Maroc en Grande-Bretagne, Chrifa Lalla Joumala Alaoui.
La cérémonie d’inauguration de cette grandiose manifestation a été l’occasion pour de nombreuses personnalités d’exprimer leur reconnaissance au Royaume, pays qui a su depuis plusieurs siècles donner l’exemple en matière de pluralisme et de cohabitation entre les différentes cultures et religions. «Le Maroc a été, depuis des centaines d’années, un modèle de coexistence entre les adeptes des différentes religions dans un cadre marqué par le respect des valeurs de chaque communauté», a déclaré à la MAP, Lord Young, président du musée juif de Londres et Conseiller du Premier ministre britannique, David Cameron. «Ce modèle marocain singulier s’impose dans un monde en proie aux turbulences et aux divisions», a dit Lord Young, émettant le souhait de voir les autres pays suivre l’exemple de l’exception marocaine.

Lord Young a tenu à souligner le rôle important que le Maroc a depuis toujours joué pour la promotion des valeurs de tolérance et pour trouver un règlement juste et durable au conflit du Moyen-Orient.
Par ailleurs, Lord Young a exprimé sa gratitude à la MBS pour son partenariat et son soutien pour l’organisation de l’exposition. Rappelant que la MBS œuvre pour le renforcement des relations d’amitié et de coopération privilégiées entre le Maroc et la Grande-Bretagne, il s’est dit convaincu que la grande contribution apportée par la MBS pour la tenue de l’exposition ne manquera pas de renforcer davantage ces relations.

La présence des juifs au Maroc date depuis plus de 2.000 ans, a-t-il dit, soulignant que l’exposition «Morocco» offre l’occasion propice pour rendre un hommage appuyé au Maroc, un pays où la cohabitation entre musul

Lord Young a également tenu à rendre un vibrant hommage à feu S.M. Mohammed V pour la sollicitude que le défunt Souverain accordait à ses sujets de confession juive.
L’exposition de Londres vise à la fois à promouvoir la diversité de la communauté juive et renforcer les relations de dialogue et de coexistence entre les différentes cultures et religions, a-t-il encore dit.

Même son de cloche chez Claire Spencer, qui dirige le département Moyen-Orient/Afrique du Nord à l’Institut Royal des Affaires Internationales (Chatham House, basé à Londres), qui a relevé que l’exposition offre l’occasion de mettre en relief la place du Maroc en tant que «référence clef» en matière de relations entre différentes communautés. «Nous sommes ici pour célébrer les aspects et les dimensions culturels du Maroc au Royaume-Uni, loin de toute considération d’ordre idéologique», a-t-elle dit. De son côté, Sydney Assor, membre éminent de la communauté juive marocaine en Grande-Bretagne, a rendu hommage à l’ambassadeur du Maroc en Grande-Bretagne pour les efforts inlassables qu’elle ne cesse de déployer pour la promotion de l’image authentique du Maroc en tant que terre de paix et de rencontres.

«C’est grâce à vos efforts que le public britannique aura l’occasion de découvrir la culture juive du Maroc, vieille de plusieurs siècles», a-t-il dit, réitérant l’attachement indéfectible de la communauté juive marocaine à la mère patrie et au glorieux Trône alaouite. L’exposition «Morocco», qui durera jusqu’au 6 mars 2011, représente un véritable voyage dans le temps, mettant en relief la richesse de la civilisation du Maroc et la splendeur de ses valeurs intrinsèques de tolérance et de respect de l’autre. A travers une collection de 74 photographies inédites, prises durant les années 40 et 50 par Elias Harrus, Marocain de confession juive, le visiteur découvre la vie quotidienne des juifs de l’Atlas et du sud du Maroc et leur interaction avec leurs concitoyens musulmans dans un environnement empreint de quiétude et d’enrichissement mutuel.

Ces photos sont d’une importance particulière du fait que cette communauté juive a, depuis, virtuellement disparu des montagnes de l’Atlas et du sud du Maroc pour s’installer dans les grandes villes du Royaume ou immigrer à l’étranger, estime la directrice du musée juif, Rickie Burman. L’exposition comprend également des photos captées par Pauline Prior qui a revisité, à la demande du musée juif d’Amsterdam, les mêmes lieux que Harus pour transposer ce qui reste du patrimoine juif au Maroc. Le musée juif expose également des costumes traditionnels portés ou confectionnés par des juifs marocains ainsi qu’une collection de bijoux.

A signaler que cet événement phare vient rappeler l’exposition exceptionnelle des textes et des livres saints des trois religions monothéistes, qui s’est tenue du 27 avril au 23 septembre 2007 au siège de la prestigieuse British Library (BL) à Londres. Tenue sous le Haut Patronage de S.M. le Roi Mohammed VI et de S.A.R. le Prince Philip, Duc d’Edimbourg, l’exposition avait réalisé un succès éclatant témoignant ainsi du rôle de premier plan que le Maroc joue dans le rapprochement entre les religions, les civilisations et les cultures.

Un tel constat de succès a été souligné dans un rapport élaboré par la BL, qui a noté que l’exposition, a été l’événement le plus réussi jamais organisé par l’institution, attirant plus de 200.000 visiteurs durant cinq mois. Un sondage réalisé par l’Institut Mori a montré qu’une grande majorité des visiteurs de tout âge ont indiqué que cette exposition de portée universelle leur a permis de découvrir les multitudes de valeurs partagées par les trois religions monothéistes: l’Islam, le Christianisme et le Judaïsme.

Convergence des civilisations

«C’est un Maroc fort de sa diversité culturelle et riche de toutes ses histoires additionnées que l’Angleterre
est invitée à découvrir», a déclaré à la MAP André Azoulay, conseiller de S.M. le Roi.
«Espace privilégié de convergence des civilisations berbère, arabo-musulmane et juive, le Maroc a su résister aux mirages d’une histoire réécrite en fonction des aléas de l’instant», a dit M. Azoulay après avoir donné lecture du message adressé par S.M. le Roi Mohammed VI, que Dieu l’assiste, aux organisateurs de l’exposition sur le judaïsme marocain, inaugurée mercredi soir au siège du Musée juif de Londres.
«Le message de S.M. le Roi donne sa juste mesure à la singularité, à la modernité et à la profondeur des choix faits par le Maroc pour résister aux tentations du repli», a ajouté le conseiller de S.M. le Roi, en mettant en relief la détermination des communautés juives marocaines, où qu’elles se trouvent, pour «afficher, promouvoir et protéger leurs racines marocaines et leur mobilisation effective aux côtés du Maroc».

Par MAP

Cohabitation et tolérance : La singularité et l’exception marocaines exaltées à Londres

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Tehran confirms its industrial computers under Stuxnet virus attack
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 25, 2010, 6:07 PM (GMT+02:00)

Iran is first nation to admit to being victim of cyber-terror


Mahmoud Alyaee, secretary-general of Iran’s industrial computer servers, including its nuclear facilities control systems, confirmed Saturday, Sept. 25, that30,000 computers belonging to classified industrial units had been infected and disabled bythemalicious Stuxnet virus.
This followed debkafile‘s exclusive report Thursday, Sept. 23, from its Washington and defense sources that a clandestine cyber war is being fought against Iran by the United States with elite cyber war units established by Israel. Stuxnet is believed to be the most destructive virus ever devised for attacking major industrial complexes, reactors and infrastructure. The experts say it is beyond the capabilities of private or individual hackers and could have been produced by a high-tech state like America or Israel, or its military cyber specialists.
The Iranian official said Stuxnet had been designed to strike the industrial control systems in Iran manufactured by the German Siemens and transfer classified data abroad.

The head of the Pentagon’s cyber war department, Vice Adm. Bernard McCullough said Thursday, Sept. 22, that Stuxnet had capabilities never seen before. In a briefing to the Armed Forces Committee of US Congress, he testified that it was regarded as the most advanced and sophisticated piece of Malware to date.
According to Alyaee, the virus began attacking Iranian industrial systems two months ago. He had no doubt that Iran was the victim of a cyber attack which its anti-terror computer experts had so far failed to fight. Stuxnet is powerful enough to change an entire environment, he said without elaborating. Not only has it taken control of automatic industrial systems, but has raided them for classified information and transferred the date abroad.

This was the first time an Iranian official has explained how the United States and Israel intelligence agencies have been able to keep pace step by step of progress made in Iran’s nuclear program. Until now, Tehran attributed the leaks to Western spies using Iranian double agents.
Last Thursday, debkafile first reported from its Washington sources that US president Barack Obama had resolved to deal with the nuclear impasse with Iran by going after the Islamic republic on two tracks: UN and unilateral sanctions for biting deep into the financial resources Iran has earmarked for its nuclear program, and a secret cyber war with Israel to cripple its nuclear facilities.
In New York, the US offer to go back to the negotiating table was made against this background.
Leaks by American security sources to US media referred to the recruitment by Israel military and security agencies of cyber raiders with the technical knowhow and mental toughness for operating in difficult and hazardous circumstances, such as assignments for stealing or destroying enemy technology, according to one report.
debkafile‘s sources disclose that Israel has had special elite units carrying out such assignments for some time. Three years ago, for instance, cyber raiders played a role in the destruction of the plutonium reactor North Korea was building at A-Zur in northern Syria.
Some computer security specialists reported speculated that the virus was devised specifically to target part of the Iranian nuclear infrastructure, either the Bushehr nuclear plant activated last month – which has not been confirmed – or the centrifuge facility in Natanz.
debkafile‘s sources add: Since August, American and UN nuclear watchdog sources have been reporting a slowdown in Iran’s enrichment processing due to technical problems which have knocked out a large number of centrifuges and which its nuclear technicians have been unable to repair. It is estimated that at Natanz alone, 3,000 centrifuges have been idled.

DEBKAfile, Political Analysis, Espionage, Terrorism, Security
Also see Stratfor’s analysis here

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>A computer worm proliferating in Iran targets automated activity in large industrial facilities. Speculation that the worm represents an effort by a national intelligence agency to attack Iranian nuclear facilities is widespread in the media. The characteristics of the complex worm do in fact suggest a national intelligence agency was involved. If so, the full story is likely to remain shrouded in mystery.

Analysis

A computer virus known as a worm that has been spreading on computers primarily in Iran, India and Indonesia could be a cyberattack on Iranian nuclear facilities, according to widespread media speculation.

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