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3 govt agencies will offer facilities to entrepreneurs

Author: ARAB NEWSSun, 2017-02-12ID: 1486849841879293500RIYADH: Three government agencies will sign a deal to provide facilities to entrepreneurs at the King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) on Sunday, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.The Ge…


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U.S. Special Forces Deployed To 70% Of The World In 2016

U.S. Special Operations Command launched a raid in Yemen’s Baida Province on Jan 29, targeting Qassim al-Rimi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The first high-profile special forces operation of Trump’s presidency, the raid resulted in the deaths of at least 14 Al Qaeda fighters, 20 civilians and Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens. Three other Americans were reportedly wounded and an Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft was destroyed by U.S. forces after it was heavily damaged in a forced landing. Over the past few days, it has emerged that al-Rimi survived the raid and he has subsequently released an audio message taunting President Trump.

As The Burning Platform’s Jim Quinn notes, special forces operations like the one in Yemen are nothing new. America’s elite troops have found themselves on the frontlines constantly since 9/11, conducting operations everywhere from the dusty back alleys of North Africa to the snow-capped mountains of Afghanistan. Even though they have made headlines for high-profile operations like the prison break near Hawija in Iraq or the raid on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in Afghanistan, the vast majority of special forces missions across the world involve training friendly soldiers to fight, mainly so Americans don’t have to.

Infographic: U.S. Special Forces Deployed To 70% Of The World In 2016  | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

Although US elite troops typically only appear in the media when an event of particular relevance (such as the capture and murder of Osama bin Laden in 2011), this does not mean that they are not active. As this infographic above shows, elaborated by Statista, these forces were present in 138 States last year or 70% of the world’s countries according to official Special Operations Command data published by TomDispatch. 55.29% of deployments were in the Middle East, a 35% decease since 2006. In Africa, deployments of elite U.S. forces skyrocketed 1,600 percent during the same timeframe.

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French terrorist Kassim hit

Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486849023479203000

WASHINGTON: French terrorist Rachid Kassim, suspected of inspiring several attacks in France, was targeted in a coalition airstrike near the Iraqi city of Mosul, but his death is not yet confirmed, the Pentagon said Friday.
Earlier in the day, several French media reports had reported Kassim’s death.
“We can confirm that coalition forces targeted Rachid Kassim, a senior Daesh operative, near Mosul in a strike in the past 72 hours,” said Pentagon spokesman Major Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway.
“We are currently assessing the results of that strike and will provide more information when it becomes available.”
In Paris, a high-ranking official involved in counterterror operations told AFP on condition of anonymity there was not “absolute confirmation” of his death, but that the probability was high.
Kassim, who is in his 30s, is believed to have inspired an attack last year in which a senior French policeman and his partner were knifed to death and another in which an elderly priest’s throat was cut.
He is suspected of using the encrypted Telegram app to direct attacks on France from Daesh-controlled territory in Iraq or Syria. Originally from Roanne in the Loire Valley, Kassim is suspected of guiding the attacks in France from Syria and has launched on the Internet numerous murderous appeals.
Dressed in fatigues with a turban on his head, the black-bearded Kassim was seen in July in a Daesh propaganda video in which he praised the attacker in the Nice truck massacre that killed 86 people on the July 14 Bastille Day holiday.

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Asylum seekers fleeing US brave snow, extreme cold

Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486848263549122000

EMERSON: Farhan Ahmed hoped to find refuge in the US after fleeing death threats in Somalia, but fear over a US crackdown on immigration sent him on another perilous journey — to Canada.
The 36-year-old was among nearly two dozen asylum seekers who braved bone-chilling cold on a February weekend to walk across the border, trudging through snow-covered prairies in the dead of night to make a claim in this country.
It was a record number of arrivals for a single weekend in the small border town of Emerson, and Canadian officials said they are bracing for more.
US President Donald Trump’s controversial ban on refugees and nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations has prompted many who had hoped for a new life in the US to flee north.
While the ban is currently on hold due to two successive defeats in federal court, Trump has warned he is weighing a new immigration order.
Among the first wave of immigrants to Canada in the wake of Trump’s measure was a two-year-old boy who reportedly begged his mother to let him to die in the snow because he could walk no further.
Two others lost their fingers to frostbite in -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) temperatures when they made the same trip in December.
Wayne Pfiel works at the Emerson hotel steps from the boundary. Asylum seekers, he said, often stop here for a moment of respite after walking up to 12 km from the US, coming in to ask if they have reached Canada.
Others have called police for help, and are taken to the closest border outpost, where they can file an asylum claim.
“They usually call us if they’re cold or lost, and we find them on the side of the highway,” said RCMP Corporal Paul Manaigre.
An agreement with the US prevents asylum seekers from lodging claims in Canada if they first landed stateside, but it only applies to arrivals at border checkpoints, airports and train stations.
Rita Chahal, executive director of the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council, described a “big surge coming across the border.”
According to Canada’s Border Services Agency, numbers have roughly doubled in each of the last four years to 321 cases in fiscal 2015-2016. Since April, there have been 403 cases.
People often come from Djibouti, Ghana, Nigeria and Somalia, said Chahal, whose agency works out of a building designed by a top Canadian architect who was once himself a refugee.
The numbers are high, but the risky routes asylum seekers take are also alarming.
“They’re crossing through farmers’ fields. Many of them are getting lost,” Chahal said.
The recent arrivals, she said, tell a common story: “We’re afraid of what’s happening in the United States, we’re not sure what’s going to happen if I get sent back to my country’.”
Samatar Adam, 30, from Djibouti, arrived last month. Asked why he did not file a refugee claim in the US, he replied: “Donald Trump.”
He left soon after the inauguration.
“It saddens me to see refugees flee not only their country but also a safe, democratic country like the United States,” said the Immigration Partnership Winnipeg’s Hani Al-Ubeady, himself an Iraqi refugee who now helps resettle others.
“They have to take another risky journey to make it to another safe place — Canada.”
Last weekend, Brenda Piett, an Emerson volunteer emergency coordinator who also publishes the local newspaper, received a call from border agents asking for help with the overflow of asylum seekers.
Piett said she arranged to feed and house the cold, exhausted group members — many wearing wet socks — overnight at the Emerson curling rink.
The next day, they took a taxi an hour north to Winnipeg, where aid agencies helped them find shelter and legal counsel.
Ahmed of Somalia said it was a much warmer welcome than the one he received in Texas in 2014.
In the lobby of a gloomy downtown hotel where he now shares a small room with three others, he described being handcuffed and detained until his US asylum bid was heard.
New arrivals received blankets, food and housing while their cases are ongoing, according to Ahmed. The next day, he expected to be given a date for his hearing.
Ahmed told the Americans he had witnessed his father being slaughtered by a rival tribe in his hometown, and as the oldest son, he feared he would be next.
He left behind his wife and three children — the youngest born only months earlier — and traveled through nine countries before reaching the US.
A US panel rejected his claim, but he was released under supervision and allowed to work as a truck driver until his deportation could be arranged.
After Trump announced his ban, which includes Somali nationals, Ahmed said he feared imminent deportation.
“I decided to try my luck in Canada to ask for protection, because if I were deported to Somalia I would surely be killed,” he said.
Ahmed took a bus to Minneapolis, where he met a man who dropped him off at the border with instructions to “walk north.”
Ahmed said he had seen snow in the US, “but not like this.”
“That night it was very, very cold,” he recalled. “My hands were frozen. I couldn’t feel my feet.”

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Turkmenistan’s leader set to win re-election

Author: 
The Associated Press
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486848263539121700

ASHGABAT: The president of Turkmenistan is set to sail to victory in Sunday’s election where eight other candidates are on the ballot, but all praise his policies.
President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has been the overwhelmingly dominant figure in the former Soviet republic since late 2006, when he assumed power after death of his eccentric predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov.
Berdymukhamedov has made small reforms of the single-party system imposed by Niyazov and some aspects of the latter’s cult of personality, which included naming the months of the year after his family members and mandating all schoolchildren read his book of philosophical musings.
Some of Niyazov’s more notoriously odd initiatives, such as banning opera and gold teeth, also were rolled back. Notably, Berdymukhamedov expanded public access to the Internet and increased compulsory education from nine years to 12.
Under Berdymukhamedov, a law was adopted to allow non-government parties, although these parties are strictly vetted. The candidates nominally competing with Berdymukhamedov have been allowed to meet with voters in theaters and cultural centers, but the encounters were not televised and no debates were held.
The country last year amended the constitution to extend the presidential term to seven years from five, and eliminated the age limit of 70, effectively allowing Berdymukhamedov to be president for life.
Meanwhile, Berdymukhamedov has established a considerable personality cult of his own.
He is regularly shown on state media successfully acquitting himself in a wide array of physical and competitive disciplines, such as horse-riding, racing cars, cycling, sailing and lifting weights. More recently, the president has taken up music with gusto, on occasion regaling wildly applauding crowds with performances on the guitar and piano.
State television reported on how during a pre-election visit to a gas refinery last month, Berdymukhamedov watched as workers serenaded him on a severely out-of-tune guitar. Later, the president was shown strumming the same guitar — now properly tuned — and performing a song of his own composition as workers clapped along.
Authorities in Turkmenistan have secured quiescence among the country’s 5 million people through a combination of authoritarianism and generous welfare subsidies, like free household gas and salt. But the state’s ability to dispense that largesse has come under intense strain as the price for natural gas — Turkmenistan’s only significant export commodity — has plummeted.
Until a few years ago, Turkmenistan could count on selling gas to China, Russia and Iran. Russia and Iran have recently stopped buying the fuel, however, following pricing disputes. Turkmenistan is placing strong hopes on an ambitious plan to build a gas pipeline serving Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, but construction so far is underway only in Turkmenistan.
The economic crisis triggered by the collapse in gas revenue has led to devaluation of the national currency, the manat, and shortages of many staples including cooking oil and sugar. Because of the intense secrecy which the government imposes on economic data, there are few ways of being certain about the depth of the problem.

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Saudi Arabia to start granting female gym licenses this month

Author: 
Arab News
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486846162968892000

RIYADH: Licenses will be granted for women’s gyms by the end of February, Princess Reema bint Bandar, vice president for women’s affairs at the General Authority of Sports, told local daily Okaz.
A target is in place to open gyms in every district and neighborhood, it was reported.
Three ministries are set to take part in this process, including the labor, rural affairs and commerce ministries.
Licenses will not be issued for gyms that offer competitive activities, such as football, volleyball, basketball and tennis. The focus will instead be on techniques that contribute to weight loss and fitness, such as swimming, running and bodybuilding.
Workshops and seminars will be held within two months, in order to motivate women to invest in gyms.
As for the high cost of women’s gyms, the authority is working on finding solutions through involving entrepreneurs in what is known as “micro-business.”
Social rejection of women’s sports can be avoided through explaining the enormous benefits of sports for overall health, according to the princess.
“It is not my role to convince the society, but my role is limited to opening the doors for our girls to live a healthy lifestyle away from diseases that result from obesity and lack of movement.”

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Not The Onion: Saudi Crown Prince Receives CIA Medal For “Efforts Against Terrorism”

We are sad to report that despite the change in administration, the “new” CIA is exactly the same as the “old” one.

In a stunning mockery of fact, either real, “alternative” or gratuitously made up, on Friday the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who is also Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security, Al Arabiya proudly reported.

The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by the new CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense. The meeting came days after the Washington Times reported that Trump is set to unblock a multi-billion weapons shipment to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, including precision-guided missile technology and dozens of F-16s fighter jets.


The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director
Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh

Taking the farce further, the Crown Prince – who until just a few months ago was a fervent supporter of Hillary Clinton yet appears to have changed his mind about Trump on a dime, just like every Wall Street hedge fund – said in a press statement after receiving the medal that he appreciated the CIA honor, stressing that his efforts were guided by the leaders of Saudi Arabia headed by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, as well as the efforts of the Kingdom’s security forces.

With regards to terrorism in the region, the Crown Prince said all religions are separate from the beliefs and actions of extremist groups, noting that religious, political and social groups who have used religion as a tool throughout history do not reflect the absolute truths about the religion which it is affiliated to, or attributes its actions to.

As expected, the prince was silent about the recently leaked email, courtesy of the Podesta files, in which Hillary Clinton admitted that Qatar and Saudi Arabia “are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region”, to wit:

 Armed with proper equipment, and working with U.S. advisors, the Peshmerga can attack the ISIL with a coordinated assault supported from the air.  This effort will come as a surprise to the ISIL, whose leaders believe we will always stop with targeted bombing, and weaken them both in Iraq and inside of Syria.  At the same time we should return to plans to provide the FSA, or some group of moderate forces, with equipment that will allow them to deal with a weakened ISIL, and stepped up operations against the Syrian regime.  This entire effort should be done with a low profile, avoiding the massive traditional military operations that are at best temporary solutions.  While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region. 

Instead, Al-Saud said Saudi Arabia has played a key role in the fight against terrorism and condemns all forms and manifestations of terrorism. “We, God willing, continue to confront terrorism and extremism everywhere, and with thanks to God we have managed to thwart many terrorist plots from occurring.”

And yet, if they do occur, we will make sure to know when, where and how, because we orchestrated them in the first place, he could have added, but did not and instead stressed that the fight against terrorism is a shared international responsibility that requires international efforts at all levels to confront it militarily and intellectually, as well as financially. This must be done within the framework of international law and the principles of the United Nations.

More importantly, the Crown Prince then tipped his cards and said that with regards to the relations between Saudi Arabia and the US, the Crown Prince said: “Our relationship with the United States is historical and will continue to succeed.”

Addressing the issue of possible future attacks, the Crown Prince said: “We are surrounded by areas of conflict, and we were the first affected by terrorism from various sources, but we are equipped to combat terror in any place and under any circumstances.

And for that, the Saudis can thank the US which has assured its Riyadh friends it will remain a steadfast supported of the biggest exporter of terrorism in the region, far greater, and far more dangerous than Iran which Trump has branded “the number one terrorist state.”

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Cambodia opposition leader resigns for ‘sake of party’

Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486845642448841000

PHNOM PENH: The self-exiled leader of Cambodia’s opposition party said Saturday he would resign his post, a shock blow to a movement struggling to unseat the country’s authoritarian premier.
Sam Rainsy, who has led the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) since its creation in 2012 and has spent over a year in France to avoid several lawsuits, announced his resignation from the party on Twitter and Facebook.
The sudden move casts doubt over a party that poses the only viable challenge to strongman Hun Sen’s 32-year rule in a general poll scheduled for 2018.
“I resign as CNRP leader for the sake of the party. In all circumstances I cherish and uphold the CNRP’s ideals in my heart,” wrote the 67-year-old, who has been a major force in Cambodian politics for decades.
His resignation comes shortly after Hun Sen proposed amending political party laws to bar convicts from leadership positions — a clear threat to Rainsy, who has long been his top foe and the target of his political machinations.
The opposition leader has not visited Cambodia since 2015, when he fled to France to avoid a two-year jail term for defamation, which his supporters say was politically-motivated.
In December, a Phnom Penh court handed him a five-year prison sentence over a post on his Facebook page — a conviction that made any imminent return from exile even more unlikely.
Hun Sen also lodged a one-million-dollar defamation lawsuit against Rainsy last month and threatened to seize the CNRP’s headquarters if he wins the case.
The party’s spokesman Yim Sovann told AFP he had no other information about Rainsy’s decision to step down on Saturday, saying only that it was motivated by “personal reasons.”
Rainsy’s deputy, Kem Sokha, who has been serving as acting leader, is expected to guide the party as it prepares for local commune elections in June.

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Myanmar jade mine landslide kills 9: Official

Author: 
AFP
Sun, 2017-02-12
ID: 
1486845642578841600

YANGON: A landslide in northern Myanmar’s jade mining region has killed 9 people, a local official said Saturday, the latest fatal incident to strike the shadowy billion-dollar industry.
The men were believed to be searching for jade in Kachin state when a wall of unstable earth collapsed late Thursday night.
Five bodies were found buried beneath the rubble on Thursday and three more were found on Friday, said Kyaw Swar Aung, the administrator of Hpakant — the heart of Myanmar’s jade-producing region.
Rescuers also found two injured men, but one was pronounced dead at the hospital, he added.
“The total number of dead bodies found was nine. Their funerals are today,” he told AFP.
Myanmar is the chief source of the world’s finest jadeite, a near-translucent green stone that is highly prized in China.
But the secretive trade is poorly regulated and enormously dangerous.
The area around Hpakant has suffered a string of deadly landslides in recent years, with a major incident in November 2015 leaving more than 100 dead.
Numerous other smaller accidents have left scores more dead or injured.
The victims are usually impoverished locals or itinerant workers scouring the area for pieces of of jade left behind by the industrial diggers that have turned the region into a moonscape of environmental destruction.
While the mining firms — many linked to the junta-era military elite — are thought to be raking in huge sums, local people say they are shut off from the bounty.

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