Venezuela’s National Assembly Snubs Maduro, Rips Oil Control Resolution

Julio Borges, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, ripped up a resolution on Thursday that would have allowed President Nicolas Maduro to approve oil ventures without congressional oversight. The resolution had been designed to increase foreign investment in the country’s struggling oil industry. The last 2.5 years of low oil prices have slashed government revenues, causing mass shortages of day-to-day products and medical supplies, all of which were imported using energy profits in the past. Now even gasoline is running low in…

EMEA Investor Of the Year Predicts Brent At $70 By 2017 End

Oil prices are set to hit the $70 barrel mark later this year, according to Pierre Andurand, the managing partner at Andurand Capital Management that won 2017’s EMEA Investor’s Choice Award. The general consensus among energy experts, on the other hand, puts the Brent barrel at $55 by the end of the year, and at $60 in the next 2 to 3 years. “I think oil prices are likely to recover to around $70,” Andurand told CNBC. “I think the market will switch to backwardation – sustainable backwardation – by late summer…

How Chicago’s Largest Pension May Run Out Of Cash In As Little As 4 Years

Chicago’s pension funds, along with several other large public pensions around the country, are in serious trouble (we recently discussed the destruction awaiting our financial markets here: “Are Collapsing Pensions “About To Bring Hell To America”?”)….

The post How Chicago’s Largest Pension May Run Out Of Cash In As Little As 4 Years appeared first on

Saudi marine security units boast highly trained frogmen

Sat, 2017-04-01 03:00

JEDDAH: Recent military developments have highlighted missions carried out by the Saudi Royal Navy in the sea off Yemen, particularly the operation carried out last week in which naval mines were identified and deactivated.
Retired Marine Rear Adm. Dr. Shami Mohammed Al-Dhahri, commander of the College of Command and Staff at the Saudi Armed Forces, told Arab News that the Saudi Royal Navy special units have been paying close attention to the quality of their training in various climates, both in mountainous terrain and deep in the valleys.
Training has been taking place in the cold winter months as well as the hot summer, to fully prepare soldiers and officers who have pledged their lives to protect their religion and their homeland, Al-Dhahri said.
He said members of special navy security units have spent extensive hours of training in areas like mountain warfare skills, tactical exercises, shooting, and “frogmen” combat diving. This equips them with extensive skills to carry out their military tasks with high precision.
Al-Dhahri said units are currently operating within the coalition forces to support legitimacy in Yemen, and are among the most trained combat units. They work under the most difficult of circumstances, due to the need for high sensitivity and accuracy in these special military operations.
Special navy security units are believed to have advanced boats and special equipment, from binoculars to snipers, in addition to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and other equipment required to carry out missions day and night with great efficiency.
These units have a long history of nearly 40 years, informed sources reveal, dating back to when the Marine and Special Naval Security Units school was founded. The institution has the latest equipment and weapons, including amphibious armor and vehicles, mortars, heavy machine guns, and mines.
Officers and members of these units undergo intense training programs inside and outside the Kingdom, and are involved in joint annual exercises with forces from allied countries. The private marine security units are divided into three sections, namely frogmen or combat diving, stunts, and removal or deactivation, each with specific tasks.

Main category: 

Teaching hospital opens at PNU in Riyadh

Sat, 2017-04-01 03:00

RIYADH: Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar on Thursday opened the 300-bed King Abdullah University Hospital (KAUH) on behalf of King Salman.
KAUH, at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University (PNU) in the Saudi capital, is a teaching hospital with outpatient clinics, operation theaters and an emergency department.
Its areas of specialization include women’s health, adolescent health, and child growth and development. Other specialized clinics include obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, surgery, pediatrics and urology.
The governor took a tour of the facility, and met with patients and heads of various departments.
During the ceremony, the Pioneer Award for Health Science Researchers for women was also announced.
The ceremony was attended by Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, national guard minister; Prince Turki bin Abdullah, executive director of the King Abdullah Foundation; Dr. Ahmed Al-Issa, minister of education; Abdullah Al-Qarni, undersecretary of Riyadh region; and Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Abu Aba, executive director of KAUH.
Abu Aba said the hospital is geared toward achieving the aims of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.
In line with its objective, he said the hospital combines services with education and scientific research.
“Quality and patient safety is a fundamental pillar in our care model. This is achieved on a daily basis in all tasks performed by each individual or department within the hospital system, where patients and their families are safeguarded by adopting the best practices of safety and health care.”
He pointed out that emphasis was placed on students and trainees by providing the environment that achieves the highest level of field training in an academic environment conducive to education and exchange of knowledge.
PNU Rector Dr. Hoda bint Mohamed Al-Ameel said the opening of the hospital comes in the context of realizing the vision of the Kingdom’s wise leadership to make the university a beacon for science, knowledge, values and rehabilitation of women.
“In a world of unprecedented global and regional changes and challenges, our country is safe and sound, reassuring and prosperous because of the solid foundation laid by the founder of this country, King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman, whose policies and principles were followed by his noble sons,” she said.
She said the university administration pays great attention to be consistent with Vision 2030, to activate the role of universities in investment in human capital and to increase the active participation of women to find viable employment opportunities in the Kingdom.

Main category: 

Saudi Arabia on road to implementing customs transit system

Sat, 2017-04-01 03:00

RIYADH: A workshop held in the Saudi capital has discussed the country’s plan to adopt a global customs transit system.
A delegation from the International Road Transport Union (IRU) attended the workshop, which was held in Riyadh and hosted by the Saudi Customs.
“The workshop was held in connection with the decision of the Kingdom to accede to and implement the global transit system for moving goods across regional and international borders expected in 2017,” Rani Wehbe, IRU senior adviser for the Middle East, told Arab News by phone from Beirut on Friday.
Wehbe also said that Umberto de Pretto, secretary-general, led the IRU delegation that visited the Kingdom and attended the workshop. Wehbe was also with the delegation.
Present in 100 countries, the IRU leads solutions to help the world move better, supporting trade, economic growth, job safety, the environment and communities.
De Pretto said in a statement that the “workshop demonstrates the seriousness with which the Saudi Customs approaches accession to TIR.” TIR, which stands for Transport Internationaux Routier, is the world’s only global customs transit system.
He added that the IRU is highly motivated to facilitate knowledge-sharing and to help generate a clear understanding of the TIR system.
He also said that “our aim is to communicate its simplicity, efficacy and compelling capability to transform the region’s trade potential.”
The statement also quoted Saudi Customs Director General Ahmed Al-Hakbani as saying that the Kingdom is one of the most important transit countries in the region and confirmed the decision to begin TIR implementation this year.
Wehbe said that the workshop offered insights and guidance on the application of the TIR system to improve trade facilitation.
“The system is a very important tool for implementing the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) which came into force in February 2017. The Kingdom had previously ratified the TFA in August 2016,” he said.
He added that the workshop also provided awareness and highlighted the key benefits of the system for Saudi Arabia among the pertinent stakeholders.
“It also discussed the practical aspects of accession and implementation,” Wehbe said.
The participants in the workshop unanimously acknowledged the advantages and benefits of the TIR, gaining an understanding of how Saudi Arabia’s accession and implementation of the TIR Convention will facilitate trade in a secure manner through seamless intermodal transit connectivity.
The IRU has since 1949 been mandated by the UN Economic Commission for Europe to manage the TIR system.

Main category: 

Madinah heritage district: A story from the past

Sat, 2017-04-01 04:53

MADINAH: The heritage neighborhood project in Madinah’s King Fahd Park encompasses many old-fashioned businesses imitating the commercial environment of the city decades ago. The project, covering 120,000 square meters, aims to preserve the city’s urban and architectural heritage, under a directive by Madinah Gov. Prince Faisal bin Salman.
The district imitates the city’s old residential and commercial areas. Old architectural-style buildings and restaurants selling Madinah’s traditional yagmoush, balila, manto, luqaimat and rice cooked in different styles surround an imitated Al-Oyayna market, which was the most famous market in Madinah for 300 years. As the market used to lead straight to the Prophet’s Mosque, it was demolished for the expansion of the mosque 30 years ago.
“A merchant who didn’t own a dukkan (shop) in Al-Oyayna market was considered a small businessman,” said Omar Barnawi, who showcased the profession of chair-banding — the occupation of adorning rope chairs — which no longer exists. “Demand for such chairs is now very weak because of developments in chair manufacturing, but some people still like to buy them. A set of these chairs costs about SR2,500 ($667).”
Blacksmith Mousa Hawsa, who makes antique lanterns, doors and windows, said he learned the profession from his father since childhood.
Carpenter Adam Hassan has been in the trade for 40 years. “I make doors, windows and Madinah-style balconies known as rawasheen in different sizes and styles,” he said. One rowshan takes two weeks to make, he said, adding that the spread of the use of aluminum and metals in manufacturing reduced demand for wood products. “Besides, new generations don’t like carpentry,” he said.

Main category: 

McCaskill To Oppose Gorsuch, Virtually Assuring Use Of “Nuclear Option”

Senator Claire McCaskill said she will join the Democrats attempted filibuster of Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch and will not vote for him, making it almost certain that Republicans will have to trigger the “nuclear option” to confirm President Trump’s first Supreme Court nominee.

The Missouri Democrat announced Friday in a post on Medium, faulting the nominee for “a stunning lack of humanity.”

“While I have come to the conclusion that I can’t support Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court ?- ?and will vote no on the procedural vote and his confirmation? – ?I remain very worried about our polarized politics and what the future will bring, since I’m certain we will have a Senate rule change that will usher in more extreme judges in the future,” McCaskill wrote in a post on Medium.

She said the nomination of Gorsuch goes against the grain of Trump’s promise to help working-class Americans because he is “a judge who can’t even see them.” McCaskill also raised concerns about Gorsuch’s refusal during his confirmation hearing to say how he viewed the constitutionality of campaign fundraising regulations, which were limited by the landmark case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission in 2010.

“I cannot support Judge Gorsuch because a study of his opinions reveal a rigid ideology that always puts the little guy under the boot of corporations,” she said adding “I cannot and will not support a nominee that allows dark and dirty anonymous money to continue to flood unchecked into our elections.”

What makes McCaskill’s opposition unique is that she is the first Democrat facing reelection next year in a state President Trump carried by double digits to come out against Gorsuch, a move which will likely force other “on the fence” Democrats to follow in her footsteps.

The political press is divided over what her no vote means: according to Axios: “Gorsuch just got the last “no” it needed so the Democrats can meet the vote threshold to filibuster his nomination. Republicans will now have to get rid of the 60-vote filibuster threshold for judges, or allow Gorsuch’s nomination to fail.”

A less definitive conclusion comes from the Hill, according to which her “no” vote shrinks the pool of Democrats who have undecided or unclear positions on Gorsuch to nine. Gorsuch’s nomination needs the backing of eight Democrats or Independents, along with all 52 Republicans, to break a filibuster.

Only two Democrats have so far said they will vote to end a filibuster of Gorsuch and support his final confirmation, according to The Hill’s Whip List. Both of them, Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), represent states Trump won overwhelmingly in November.

Meanwhile, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has vowed that Gorsuch will be confirmed and has told colleagues to expect a vote to change the rules to lower the threshold for ending a filibuster to a simple majority, i.e. the “nuclear option”.

As The Hill adds, to avoid a showdown over the rules, it now becomes crucial for Gorsuch to pick up the support of the two remaining undecided Democrats who face reelection next year in strongly pro-Trump states: Sen. Jon Tester (Mont.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

Gorsuch would likely also need the support of senior Democrats such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), who might be concerned about preserving their power to filibuster for the next vacancy on the court.


Other Democrats up in the air are centrist Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Chris Coons (Del.), along with Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who praised Gorsuch earlier this year as “exceedingly independent.”

Assuming Axios’ whip list is the correct one, and McCaskill’s vote was the tiebreaker, forcing the “nuclear option”, the likely outcome is to make the already deep split between Republicans and Democrats even more polarized, further complicating the passage of any future Trump legislative proposals.

The post McCaskill To Oppose Gorsuch, Virtually Assuring Use Of “Nuclear Option” appeared first on