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RIYADH: A cross section of Saudis and expatriates said here Sunday that they are entering 2017 with hope of better opportunities rather than fear and despondency.
They expressed confidence that the New Year will be one of peace, security and economic growth for the whole Middle East region after several years of conflict, strife, sectarian tension and hardship.
“The conflicts in the Middle East region continued to proliferate last year, but many of these problems are at least being addressed more seriously now than ever before,” said Adel H. Al-Saif, a political analyst.
He called on the international stakeholders to sit together and intensify efforts to solve the issues confronted in the region, especially in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq.
“The civil wars and militancy witnessed by several countries in the Middle East must end for the sake of peace and prosperity for future,” Al-Saif said.
Hisham Mazrui, a faculty member of the Riyadh-based King Saud University (KSU), said war was having a much wider impact on the region.
“The conflicts in the Middle East (are) directly affecting the Gulf states including the Kingdom, and they are affecting even the world at large indirectly,” he said.
“The major powers including the permanent members of the UN Security Council will find themselves under pressure to resolve the regional conflicts and their implications.”
Mazrui added that the problems have compounded further, affecting the economic wellbeing of the people and the governments.
“I am hopeful that 2017 will be a year of peace,” he added.
Referring to the regional issues, Mazrui said: “The Israel-Palestine peace
process must be a high priority together with concerted action to combat terrorism and address the humanitarian issues in the Arab world.”
Saudi Arabia, he said, is “on the forefront of all efforts that have been directed to find amicable and acceptable solutions to the conflicts.”
On economic front, a local banker said that “the situation in the Gulf region is better,” while referring to the recently approved state budget of the Kingdom. He said that Saudi Arabia had successfully cut its state budget deficit and will increase government spending in 2017 to boost economic growth. The deficit shrank to SR297 billion ($79 billion) in 2016.
The financial challenges for Saudi Arabia stem largely from the fall in the global price of oil over the past two-and-a-half years, he added. Moreover, the value-added tax (VAT) provision confirmed in the Saudi budget for 2017 is likely to have a substantial impact, he noted. Gulf countries are expected to implement VAT system by the beginning of 2018, and it will apply to all stages of production of goods and services. The revenue generated from VAT is expected to amount to SR25-30 billion, which will contribute toward bridging the budget deficit.
Referring to life and expenditure in Saudi Arabia, Safder Parvez, branch manager of Danube company, said that he has several New Year resolutions.
“Hope for New Year has always been high,” he said.
“Personally, I am comfortable so long as I manage my expenses… I just want to be healthy and hope that everything works out… I will neither fight with anyone nor anger anybody,” said Parvez, explaining his resolutions.
Madiha N. Jameel, a Pakistani housewife, advised to keep hopes high in the New Year, no matter how distraught one might currently be feeling.
“I am happy in Saudi Arabia,” she said with a note of optimism. She said however that the passing of a year and beginning of another always reminds us that “we are getting older, and that the clock never stops ticking.”
CAIRO: Houthi and Saleh-aligned militia in Yemen perpetrated 75,382 violations against civilians and public properties in the first half of 2016, according to a statement issued Sunday by the Saudi Embassy in Cairo.
The violations included murder, injury, kidnapping, arrest, assaulting public and private property, collective punishment and recruiting children, the statement said.
During a truce that began in April and later ended, 12,704 violations were registered, the statement said.
Between 2014 and 2015, there were 257 cases of violations against media outlets, targeting 86 websites, as well as kidnapping 91 academics, the statement on the Houthis’ breach of international laws and treaties added.
There were 262 arrests of soldiers while 1,302 people were detained due to their political affiliations, the statement said. There were 2,706 cases of forced disappearances, and 32 people under house arrest in Sanaa.
The statement reiterated Saudi Arabia’s abidance by the UN Security Council Resolution 2216 with regard to the cease-fire in Yemen and allowing the humanitarian aide to besieged areas.
The statement explained that on Oct. 20, the Kingdom’s foreign minister stressed that Saudi Arabia supports the call by the Yemeni government to stop the acts of violence, but reiterated the Kingdom’s right to defend itself.
It was the end of the big year with three zeroes. The first X-Men movie had broken box office records. You couldn’t set foot in a supermarket without listening to Brittney Spears caterwauling, “Oops, I Did It Again.” And Republicans and Democrats had total control of both chambers of legislatures in the same amount of states. That was the way it was back in the distant days of the year 2000.
In 2016, Republicans control both legislative chambers in 32 states. That’s up from 16 in 2000.
What happened to the big donkey? Among other things, the Democrats decided to sell their base and their soul to a very bad billionaire and they got a very bad deal for both.
It was 2004. The poncho was the hottest fashion trend, there were 5 million new cases of AIDS and a former Nazi collaborator had bought the Democrat Party using the spare change in his sofa cushions.
And gone to war against the will of the people. This was what he modestly called his own “Soros Doctrine”.
“It is the central focus of my life,” George Soros declared. It was “a matter of life and death.” He vowed that he would become poor if it meant defeating the President of the United States.
Instead of going to the poorhouse, he threw in at least $15 million, all the spare change in the billionaire’s sofa cushions, dedicated to beating President Bush.
In his best lisping James Bond villain accent, Soros strode into the National Press Club and declared that he had “an important message to deliver to the American Public before the election” that was contained in a pamphlet and a book that he waved in front of the camera. Despite his “I expect you to die, Mr. Bond” voice, the international villain’s delivery was underwhelming. He couldn’t have sold brownies to potheads at four in the morning. He couldn’t even sell Bush-bashing to a roomful of left-wing reporters.
But he could certainly fund those who would. And that’s exactly what he did.
Money poured into the fringe organizations of the left like MoveOn, which had moved on from a petition site to a PAC. In 2004, Soros was its biggest donor. He didn’t manage to bring down Bush, but he helped buy the Democratic Party as a toy for his yowling dorm room of left-wing activists to play with.
Soros hasn’t had a great track record at buying presidential elections. The official $25 million he poured into this one bought him his worst defeat since 2004. But his money did transform the Democrat Party.
And killed it.
Next year the Democracy Alliance was born. A muddy river of cash from Soros and his pals flowed into the organizations of the left. Soros had helped turn Howard Dean, a Vermont politician once as obscure as this cycle’s radical Vermont Socialist, into a contender and a national figure. Dean didn’t get the nomination, but he did get to remake the DNC. Podesta’s Center for American Progress swung the Democrats even further to the left. And it would be Podesta who helped bring Hillary down.
The Democrats became a radical left-wing organization and unviable as a national political party. The Party of Jefferson had become the Party of Soros. And only one of those was up on Mount Rushmore.
Obama’s wins concealed the scale and scope of the disaster. Then the party woke up after Obama to realize that it had lost its old bases in the South and the Rust Belt. The left had hollowed it out and transformed it into a party of coastal urban elites, angry college crybullies and minority coalitions.
Republicans control twice as many state legislative chambers as the Democrats. They boast 25 trifectas , controlling both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion. Trifectas had gone from being something that wasn’t seen much outside of a few hard red states like Texas to covering much of the South, the Midwest and the West.
The Democrats have a solid lock on the West Coast and a narrow corridor of the Northeast, and little else. The vast majority of the country’s legislatures are in Republican hands. The Democrat Governor’s Association has a membership in the teens. In former strongholds like Arkansas, Dems are going extinct. The party has gone from holding national legislative majorities to becoming a marginal movement.
And the Democrats don’t intend to change course. The way is being cleared for Keith Ellison, the co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus with an ugly racist past, to head the DNC. Pelosi will oversee the disaster in the House. And Obama will remain the party’s highest profile national figure.
There could hardly be a clearer signal that the left intends to retain its donkey herding rights. Soros and his ilk have paid for the reins. That is why Pelosi, with her access to donors, will retain her position.
The left had recreated the Democrat Party and marginalized it. Much of this disaster had been funded with Soros money. Like many a theatrical villain, the old monster had been undone by his own hubris. Had Soros aided the Democrats without trying to control them, he would have gained a seat at the table in a national party. Instead he spent a fortune destroying the very thing he was trying to control.
George Soros saw America in terms of its centers of economic and political power. He didn’t care about the vast stretches of small towns and villages, of the more modest cities that he might fly over in his jet but never visit, and the people who lived in them. Like so many globalists who believe that borders shouldn’t exist because the luxury hotels and airports they pass through are interchangeable, the parts of America that mattered to him were in the glittering left-wing bubble inhabited by his fellow elitists.
Trump’s victory, like Brexit, came because the left had left the white working class behind. Its vision of the future as glamorous multicultural city states was overturned in a single night. The idea that Soros had committed so much power and wealth to was of a struggle between populist nationalists and responsible internationalists. But, in a great irony, Bush was hardly the nationalist that Soros believed. Instead Soros spent a great deal of time and wealth to unintentionally elect a populist nationalist.
Leftists used Soros money to focus on their own identity politics obsessions leaving the Dems with little ability to interact with white working class voters. The Ivy and urban leftists who made up the core of the left had come to exist in a narrow world with little room for anything and anyone else.
Soros turned over the Democrats to political fanatics least likely to be able to recognize their own errors. His protégés repeated the great self-destruction of the Soviet Union on a more limited scale
Soros fed a political polarization while assuming, wrongly, that the centers of power mattered, and their outskirts did not. He was proven wrong in both the United States of America and in the United Kingdom. He had made many gambles that paid off. But his biggest gamble took everything with it.
“I don’t believe in standing in the way of an avalanche,” Soros complained of the Republican wave in 2010.
But he has been trying to do just that. And failing.
“There should be consequences for the outrageous statements and proposals that we’ve regularly heard from candidates Trump and Cruz,” Soros threatened this time around. He predicted a Hillary landslide.
He was wrong.
As Soros plowed more money into the left, its escalating radicalism alienated more of the country. Each “avalanche” was a reaction to the abuses of his radicals. It wasn’t Trump or Cruz who suffered the consequences. It wasn’t even his own leftists. Rather it was the conservative and eventually the moderate wings of the Democrat party who were swept away by his left-wing avalanches.
The left did not mourn the mass destruction of the moderates. Instead it celebrated the growing purity of the Democrats as a movement of the hard left. It did not notice or care that it was no longer a political force outside a limited number of cities. It anticipated that voters would have no choice but to choose it over the “extremist” Republicans.
It proved to be very, very wrong.
George Soros spent a fortune to turn a national party favorable to the left into an organization that has difficulty appealing to anyone not on the left. He wanted to control a country he did not understand. And, as the left so often does, he achieved his goals and in doing so destroyed them.
We discuss the Housing Market in this video by looking through a bunch of data, and possible future drivers for the Market both to the upside and downside. I have mixed emotions about the Housing Market in general.
PALM BEACH, Florida: President-elect Donald Trump says that “no computer is safe” when it comes to keeping information private, expressing new skepticism about the security of online communications his administration is likely to use for everything from day-to-day planning to international relations.
Trump rarely uses e-mail or computers, despite his frequent tweeting.
“You know, if you have something really important, write it out and have it delivered by courier, the old-fashioned way. Because I’ll tell you what: No computer is safe,” Trump told reporters during his annual New Year’s Eve bash. “I don’t care what they say.”
Trump has repeatedly cast aside allegations by US intelligence agencies that Russia tried to influence the presidential election through hacking. President Barack Obama earlier this week ordered sanctions on Russian spy agencies, closed two Russian compounds and expelled 35 diplomats the US said were really spies. The Russian government has denied the allegations.
Trump, who has said that he plans to meet with intelligence officials next to week to learn more about the allegations, said he wants US officials “to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge.” He pointed to intelligence failures over the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the US invasion, and declared himself an expert in the area.
“I know a lot about hacking. And hacking is a very hard thing to prove, so it could be somebody else,” he said.
He added, cryptically, that he also knows “things that other people don’t know. And so they cannot be sure of the situation.”
Trump made the comments during his annual New Year’s Eve bash at his Mar-a-Lago club. Hundreds of guests gathered in the club’s grand ballroom, including action star Sylvester Stallone and romance novel model Fabio. Reporters were invited to watch as guests arrived.
Earlier in the day, Trump ditched his press pool, traveling to play golf at one of his clubs without a pool of journalists on hand to ensure the public has knowledge of his whereabouts.
A member of Trump’s golf club in Jupiter, Florida, posted a photo on Twitter of Trump on the greens Saturday morning and said about 25 US Secret Service agents accompanied the president-elect. Reporters had not been advised of the visit to the club.
Transition aide Stephanie Grisham confirmed that Trump had made a “last-minute trip” to Trump National Golf Club Jupiter, which is about a half-hour drive from Mar-a-Lago, where Trump has been spending the holidays. He returned to the estate at midafternoon.
Grisham said that she and other aides weren’t aware of the trip and “appreciate everyone’s understanding.”
“We are in the home stretch of this transition period and don’t anticipate any additional situations like this between now and inauguration,” she said in a statement.
Before he went golfing Saturday, Trump tweeted an unusual New Year’s message to friends and foes: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!“
With the arrival of 2017, another New Year’s message moved on Trump’s Twitter account at about midnight.
This one was decidedly more upbeat, addressed to all Americans, and including an abbreviation for his campaign slogan: Make America Great Again.
“To all Americans- HappyNewYear & many blessings to you all! Looking forward to a wonderful & prosperous 2017 as we work together to #MAGA.”
Happy New year to All
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JEDDAH: Saudi police have arrested three people over the kidnapping of a judge in Qatif, authorities said on Sunday.
A hunt has been launched to nab the other three suspects, according to the Saudi Ministry of Interior.
Ministry security spokesman Maj. Gen. Mansour Al-Turki said investigations are ongoing into the kidnapping of inheritance and endowments circuit Judge Sheikh Mohammad Al-Jirani.
The judge was kidnapped from near his home on Dec. 15. Security authorities have been investigating the case since receiving a report about Al-Jirani’s disappearance.
Those arrested included Abdullah Ali Al-Darweesh, 25; Mazen Ali Al-Qabaah, 40; and Mustafa Ahmad Al-Sahwan, 25.
The three men, Al-Turki said, were tasked by planners to implement the crime.
The other three, who are on the run and who are wanted in the kidnapping case are: Mohammad Hussein Al-Ammar, 35; Haitham Ali Al-Qudaihi, 29; and Ali Bilal Al-Hamed, 22.
Al-Turki said these three suspects were among the wanted criminals announced last October, for their involvement in a number of terrorism crimes in Qatif and Dammam.
Al-Turki, in a press statement, said preliminary information confirms the wanted criminal, Al-Amar, is the mastermind of the operation and had tasked the arrested individuals to monitor and follow the judge in advance of the kidnapping.
The official confirmed that security authorities still do not have any information about the whereabouts of Sheikh Al-Jirani nor his health condition.
The names of others involved in the crime cannot currently be disclosed due to ongoing investigations.
The ministry warned the perpetrators against harming Al-Jirani, and urged them to release him immediately. Should the judge be subjected to any harm, those involved will be held criminally and fully responsible.
The ministry urged all those who have any information about the wanted individuals, or previous announcements regarding the kidnappers, or information about the location of the kidnapped judge, to contact (900) or the nearest security apparatus.
Should future investigations identify any individual that withheld information or had any involvement in the crime, they will be held accountable and considered a partner in the crime, the ministry said.
Anyone who reports information that leads to the arrest of a wanted criminal will be rewarded SR1,000,000 ($266,600), as per a royal decree of 2003, while any information that leads to the arrest of more than one wanted criminal will be rewarded with SR5,000,000.
A reward of SR7,000,000 will be given to anyone who reports information that leads to the thwarting of a terrorist operation.
Authorities speculate that Al-Jirani’s position in opposition of terrorism occurring in Qatif, Al-Awwamiya, and Dammam, and his calls not to transfer funds collected from Shiites in Saudi Arabia to other countries such as Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon to be spent on the poor may have been the motive for his kidnapping.
Al-Turki clarified that while this is possible, the ministry and security agencies cannot speak on behalf of the kidnappers until they have been arrested, investigated, and Al-Jirani freed.
He also noted that there is currently no information about ties between the kidnapping and the incident involving the attack on the mayor of Tarut.
Al-Turki confirmed those arrested were supporters of the kidnappers, and do not have any information about the whereabouts of Al-Jirani, nor information about other individuals that may be targeted among families of Qatif or Dammam.
He said investigation and security efforts in the Kingdom are not based solely on protecting targeted individuals because the primary targets of terrorists are security people themselves. Last year, security men and military officers at the Ministry of Defense were subjected to five terrorist operations, four of which were direct targets of security men of the Ministry of Interior in Qatif and one that targeted a land forces officer in Tabuk. Thankfully, all the terrorists have met their fate due to the efforts and security strategy to fight such crimes, he said.
He said the consensus is that terrorist incidents that occurred in the Kingdom have been supported from foreign countries and originations, but security staff at the ministry are specialized in combatting terrorism within the Kingdom.
Al-Turki said security agencies monitor and pursue all Saudis that have been lured to go to conflict areas and abroad, and are in regular contact with their families in an effort to convince them to return to the Kingdom.
A royal order was issued criminalyzing travel to conflict zones, with is punishable with a jail sentence of at least three years prior to transfer to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef Counseling and Care Center.
Al-Turki said the number of Saudis abroad has reached nearly 2,100 citizens, including women and children, noting that the fight against terrorism requires the effort of the entire Saudi community in order to combat and promote the negative effects of these extremist ideologies.
He concluded by saying that the escape of the kidnappers abroad is possible, but unlikely, as there is upmost trust in the work of security authorities and agencies at border posts and ports.
If you thought 2016 was full of market maelstroms and geopolitical gotchas, 2017’s ‘known unknowns’ suggest a year of more mayhem awaits…
Here’s a selection of key events in the year ahead (and links to Bloomberg’s quick-takes on each).
The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 17-20.
QuickTake: Sustainable Investing
Finland begins a test of a universal basic income by offering 2,000 unemployed adults 560 euros a month.
QuickTake: Universal Basic Income
The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision aims to complete an overhaul of capital standards by Jan. 8.
QuickTake Q&A: What Global Bank Regulators Are Fighting About
France is gathering dozens of foreign ministers in Paris Jan. 15 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
QuickTake: Israeli Settlements
Judges may rule as early as February in a U.S. patent dispute determining who invented the gene-editing technique known as Crispr-Cas9.
QuickTake: Gene Editing
U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen gives the first of her twice-yearly reports to Congress.
QuickTake: The Fed Lifts Off, Barely
Intercontinental Exchange Inc., which runs the daily London gold auction, will start trading a futures contract for the metal in the U.S., part of a battle for control of the world gold market.
QuickTake: Gold’s Ups and Downs
The number of influenza cases typically peaks this month in the U.S.
QuickTake: The Flu
ChemChina aims to complete its $43 billion purchase of Syngenta, a record acquisition by a Chinese company, by the end of the first quarter.
QuickTake: China Inc.’s Spending Spree
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the legal process for Britain’s exit from the European Union, starting a two-year countdown for Brexit.
Hong Kong’s Election Committee chooses the city’s next chief executive.
QuickTake: Hong Kong’s Autonomy
SpaceX plans to launch the Falcon Heavy, the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V moon rocket program ended in 1973.
QuickTake: Elon Musk
Launch of an earlier Falcon SpaceX rocket.
A general election in the Netherlands will be held March 15.
India Post is expected to start operations of its postal banking system.
QuickTake: Postal Banking
The European Central Bank is scheduled to begin scaling back its quantitative easing program, reducing monthly bond buying to 60 billion euros.
QuickTake: Europe’s QE Quandary
The French presidential election’s first round is April 23, with the second and final round two weeks later.
QuickTake Q&A: Why France’s Surprise Primary Winner Is No Trump
India will introduce its first national sales tax.
QuickTake Q&A: How India’s New Tax Might Help Business, Not Hurt
Golf’s Masters Tournament takes place April 6-9 in Augusta, Georgia.
QuickTake: Golf in the Rough
G-7 meets in Sicily. First meeting for U.S. President Trump.
Iran’s presidential election is May 19.
QuickTake: Iran’s Oil
Pope Francis visits Fatima, Portugal, May 13 for the 100th anniversary of the day on which three children said the Virgin Mary first appeared to them.
QuickTake: Pope Francis
The Eurovision song contest will be held in Kiev after Ukraine’s Susana Jamaladinova, who uses the stage name Jamala, won the contest in 2016.
Ukraine’s Jamala reacts on winning the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.
College graduates say farewell to school and, in the U.S., hello to an average of more than $30,000 in debt.
QuickTake: Student Debt
Deadline for South Korea’s constitutional court to rule whether to remove President Park Geun-hye from power, triggering a presidential election within 60 days.
QuickTake Q&A: Why South Korea’s President Faced Impeachment Vote
Roaming charges for mobile phones will be abolished in the European Union on June 15.
The U.S. Federal Reserve typically releases results of its annual bank stress tests.
QuickTake: Stress Tests
The 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War.
QuickTake: Two-State Solution
The Confederations Cup, a practice run for hosting the 2018 FIFA World Cup, is held June 17 to July 2 in Russia.
QuickTake: The World Cup
Spotify plans to sell shares in an initial public offering by mid-year.
QuickTake: The Streaming Revolution
Canada Day, July 1, marks 150 years since the British colonies were federally united into the Dominion of Canada.
The Group of 20 nations meets in Hamburg, July 7-8.
QuickTake: Neutral Interest Rates
U.S. banks face a July 21 deadline for divesting their investments in private equity and hedge funds.
QuickTake: The Volcker Rule
Kenya holds an election Aug. 8.
The Perseid meteor shower will peak Aug. 12 or 13.
Earliest date possible for the German federal election is Aug. 27. In recent years, elections have taken place in September.
QuickTake: Angela Merkel
Russia will hold its annual strategic military exercises in its western regions.
QuickTake: Cool War
Russian officers march during the Victory Day military parade.
Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, has vowed to hold a referendum this month on splitting from Spain.
Bloomberg will open its new European headquarters in London before the end of the year. The site includes a museum for the archaeological remains of a temple dedicated to the Roman god Mithras.
London trial opens for six traders accused of manipulating Euribor.
QuickTake: Broken Benchmarks
Norway will hold a parliamentary election Sept. 11.
Apple typically unveils new technologies for its iPhones in September.
U.S. meat producer Tyson Foods pledged to end the use of antibiotics in its chickens this month.
QuickTake: Antibiotic Resistance
Nobel Peace Prize is announced. Colombia’s president won in 2016.
QuickTake: Colombia’s Peace Plan
Annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in Washington, Oct. 13-15.
Chinese President Xi Jinping may narrow the field of potential successors at the party congress, expected in October or November.
QuickTake: China’s Pain Points
If the U.S. Affordable Care Act is still in place, its open enrollment period will run from Nov. 1 to Jan. 31, 2018.
QuickTake: Health Insurance Exchanges
China celebrates Singles’ Day Nov. 11. It’s the largest online shopping day.
Singles’ Day is a Chinese annual online shopping spree that has been held every Nov. 11 since 2009.
New Zealand’s general election must be held by Nov. 18.
Leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meet in Vietnam.
Deadline to hold South Korean presidential election is Dec. 20.
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress will choose a new leader at its party conference to replace President Jacob Zuma.
QuickTake: South Africa
Thailand’s junta promises that a new, elected government will be able to assume power this month.
QuickTake: Thailand’s Troubled Democracy
A loophole that’s allowed U.S. hedge fund managers to avoid taxes on performance fees parked offshore expires Dec. 31.
New Year’s Eve brings the usual resolutions to lose weight.
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