What is the way forward in the Middle East?

The geopolitics of the Middle East are so complicated. The other day I listened to a speech where the speaker maintained that the downfall of the region would be because of a lack of water.

 I don’t concur with this theory. Much of the Middle East has the best technology when it comes to augmenting water supply, mostly to generate desalinated water.

 The problem is that the Middle East has been divided into countries with no respect for tribal allegiances, or differences.

 hen looking up what may happen in the future in the region I came across this article in the journal: “The Cairo Review of Global Affairs”. To view the whole article go to: https://www.thecairoreview.com/essays/dark-geopolitics-of-the-middle-east/

 

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Why the top military brass in Saudi are leaving

The war in Yemen is often a forgotten war in the Middle East. The UN characterizes Yemen as the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world today.

I follow Yemen because I’ve travelled there. Yes, the group we were traveling with across the Wadi, from Haben to Aden, was kidnapped. Four of the party were shot dead. That was back in 1998.

I know the kidnappers were after Americans but the fact that people were of a different nationality didn’t matter. We were travelling with different tour groups.

This is what The Guardian newspaper said at the time.

“Three British tourists and one Australian were shot dead yesterday at their kidnappers' hide-out in Yemen when security forces stormed the site in a disastrous end to the country's worst hostage crisis.”

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Gaw Capital completes shopping center deal

Real estate is a favoured asset by many private equity firms, companies more generally and individuals. Gaw Capital is no exception. This is its latest release on a deal it's just done buying 17 shopping centres.

Gaw Capital Partners completed the deal to acquire a retail portfolio comprising 17 shopping centres in Hong Kong from Link REIT

 Gaw Capital Partners today announced that the firm, through a fund under its management, and consortium partners, including Goldman Sachs, have completed the deal to acquire a retail portfolio comprising 17 shopping centres in Hong Kong from Link Real Estate Investment Trust at HK$ 23 billion according to the agreement signed on 28th November 2017.

 Following the deal completion, Gaw Capital Partners’ asset management team will be responsible for overseeing the operation of the 17 shopping malls and car parks from today. The firm will ensure a smooth handover to maintain the service quality.

 Goodwin Gaw, Chairman and Managing Principal of Gaw Capital Partners, said, “We are delighted to complete the deal today. We will utilise our experience and adopt a visionary and creative approach to operate the malls, delivering quality service and refreshing them into modern community hubs for local residents.”

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Israeli justice minister's stealthy plan to annex the West Bank

What happens between Israel and Palestine always interests me- especially because I travelled from Palestine to Israel, through the Wall, on the West Bank and got a hard time from the Israelis. And I’m neither Israeli nor Arab.

 The B&B at which I stayed in Bethlehem had intermittent water and electricity. Both came from Israel.

 I always remember one man telling me- a person who had been part of the Peace negotiations at different times-that there will never be Peace between Israel and Palestine. It will always be better for Israel to retain the status quo. They will never give up any territory.

 The article below helps to explain why.

 From Israel Pulse

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How the Saudis ensure they always win

The Saudis in particular, and the Gulf Arabs in general, know about how to get their businesses thriving. These people are traders, wheelers and dealers, and they know how to get the most out of what they do. They do not think in the Western way, and they often have their own moral code with which Westerners often don’t agree. But their businesses do thrive.

 

With the intention of building 16 nuclear reactors in Saudi Arabia, the key Saudis in the project have hired lawyers to push through the deal with the US government. The deal is explained below. (from the Brooking Institute).

 

 

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Saudi women can now own businesses without male permission

It’s not always easy for a woman in Saudi Arabia, especially when it comes to doing things that require the approval of a male guardian- like working, or even setting up a business. I’ve set up a business in my country (New Zealand) with a female Saudi colleague for precisely this reason.

 According to the article in the UK’s Daily Mail that came out yesterday the rules are changing. Women will be able to establish their own businesses without requiring the permission of a male. This is well and good but many women will still depend on men, nonetheless.

 The aim, evidently, is to increase the percentage of women in the work force from 22 per cent now to one third by 2030.

 This reminds me of an occasion when I was in Riyadh for a conference and a man stood up and argued for more women in the workforce because “women are no less moral than men”.

 

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Solar-powered mosques

 Alternative energy is big in the Middle East and North Africa, by which I mean it is talked about a great deal. The first phase of world’s largest solar plant, Noor I, was switched on in Ouarzazate, Morocco , about two years ago. The German investment bank, Kfw, the European Investment Bank and the World Bank are backing the project for a total of $900 million. For more on what Morocco has planned go to https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/feb/04/morocco-to-switch-on-first-phase-of-worlds-largest-solar-plant.

 One of the reasons alternative energy has never really taken off in the Middle East is that it, is for the most part, cheaper to use fossil fuels, usually oil, rather than put resources into alternative energy. Masdar City, in Abu Dhabi, is an exception. Masdar is a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, an investment company based in the same emirate, and the Government of Abu Dhabi is reported to have provided most of the seed capital. It’s fascinating to walk around Masdar- narrow loans, electric cars and wind mills. Nothing like the rest of the United Arab Emirates.

 With the emphasis on alternative energy, but largely without the commitment to fulfil it, I was fascinated to read this story in Al-Monitor and Palestine Pulse, about solar-powered mosques in Palestine. Maybe this would catch on in other parts of the Middle East?

 This is what was written. https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2018/02/palestine-west-bank-solar-energy-mosque.html?utm_campaign=20180209&utm_source=sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Daily%20Newsletter

Solar-powered mosque answers prayers in West Bank

Entsar Abu Jahal February 6, 2018

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How stockmarkets in the Middle East are faring

There’s been an almighty crash in the stock markets over the last couple of days with the Dow Jones Industrial Average index tumbling 1,175 points, or 4.6% to close down at 24,345.75 on Monday.

It regained 567 points by the end of the next day.

 Reportedly, this is because of the fear of an interest rate rise in the US and of a stronger global economy. This means that the economic stimulus that markets introduced during the financial crisis of 2008 will now be withdrawn, amid concern that such stimulus will overheat the economy.

 The rocky ride on the US stock market was followed by stock markets around the world- in the UK, the rest of Europe, Asia, Australia and even New Zealand to some extent, although it was closed on Tuesday because it was Waitangi Day.

But what has happened in the Middle East? While stock markets in that region showed some volatility the plunge was more limited. Dubai's stock market closed 1.5 per cent lower and Abu Dhabi's shed nearly 1 per cent in the region's third day of trading for the week. 

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What the UN can learn from Turkey about refugees

The subject of refugees always evokes a mix of emotions. Some people believe that refugees detract from the local community; others that they enhance it and give back more than they take from society. I’m in the latter camp but that’s because I’ve undertaken research on the matter. (I’ve made a documentary on the subject.: “Stepping Up: NZ’s response to the refugee crisis. https://www.luciadore.com/blog/stepping-up-nz-s-response-to-the-refugee-crisis).

I continue to do research on the subject. Indeed, I’m undertaking ongoing research with the Canterbury Refugee Resettlement and Resource Centre (CRRRC) (http://www.canterburyrefugeecentre.org.nz/) where we’re looking at employment and health.

So this article that was published in the Brookings Brief was both timely and enlightening. What will New Zealand learn about the Global Compact for Refugees (GCR).

 

What the UN can learn from Turkey about refugees

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The fight between the Turks and the Kurds

Dominating news in the Middle East is Turkey’s assault on the Kurds. This is nothing new. The Turkish government has always hated the Kurds- Recep Erdogen anyway- and have done all it can to wipe them out.

 Much to the chagrin of Turkey, the US has backed and even armed the Kurds in the fight against Islamic State (IS). And the Kurds have won. They are great fighters and are certainly effective.

 But they are caught between a rock and a hard place. If they fight too well, the Turks will set out to destroy the Kurds; if they don’t fight, they will be destroyed anyway. And with the backing of the US, and many of the international community, the Kurds are better armed and equipped than they have been most of the time.

 I read the article in the UK’s The Guardian newspaper below with interest. It explains the ongoing battlefield between the Turks, the Kurds and the Arabs.

 Turkey to extend Syria campaign to Kurdish-controlled Manbij

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The impact of women driving in Saudi Arabia.

I’ve thought long and hard about women driiving in Saudi Arabia. I’m a fan of women driving but what no news outlet has said that it will women driving is limited to people who at least 30 years. That’s my friend in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia says anyway. I thought that the article below was interesting.

 

Road To 2030: The Economic Impact Of Women Driving In Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia's decision to allow female drivers to drive has been hailed as a step forward for women's rights in the ultra-conservative kingdom, but it could also have a major economic impact. Driven heavily by the “Saudi Vision 2030,” Saudi Arabia is looking at a variety of changes that will make the country globally competitive and less oil-reliant in the future.

First, part of Saudi Vision 2030 is to grow and encourage more foreign direct investment (FDI) into the country. An immediate effect from allowing women to drive is the new market for women drivers. There are estimates that out of the country’s 30 million people, there are more than eight million women aged 15-54 in Saudi Arabia, with a combination of both Saudis and expats, who will be eligible to drive. This means that various automotive companies will potentially have a new massive market to sell their vehicles, as well as those in the auto supply chain.

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What is micro-learning?

Evidently, we've been doing it for years -  micro-learning that is. Flashcards is an example of micro-learning; they're analogue but of course it is now digital. Micro-learning is all about learning when we get the chance, maybe in 10 or 15 minute bursts. This article explains more about the concept.

What is Microlearning: The Education Tactic Stopping Student Burnout Syndrome

Short learning modules can help engage students and fight burnout.

by Meghan Bogardus Cortez Twitter

Meghan is an associate editor with EdTech: Focus on Higher Education. She enjoys coffee, cats and science fiction TV.

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Stampede: why thousands were killed at Mecca

During the hajj of 2015, when more than two million Muslims make the pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, some 2,400 pilgrims were crushed or trampled to death in about 10 minutes. Why? The authorities claim that it was "God's will" but, according to an article in Vanity Fair, it was a result of arrogance and dishonesty of the Saudi regime. "The panic that broke out was the result and not the cause of the carnage", the author writes.

Here is the link to the article:

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2018/01/the-mecca-stampede-that-made-history-hajj

Lebanon’s energy promise could be regional game changer

Between 2010 and 2014 I sat through numerous debates about the exploitation of oil and gas in Lebanon. The oil and gas blocks were often talked about, and companies like Consolidated Contractors Company, (CCC), one of the largest construction firms in the Middle East, had put in a bid for a block.

Although there was much talk, the political process was slow and the ideal of being self sufficient in terms of energy never happened.

This article from Al Monitor is interesting because the author clearly believes that this time the Lebanese government will make the energy equation work. Great if it were to happen; I doubt that it will though. I’ve heard it all before.

Make up your own mind.

 Lebanon’s energy promise could be regional game changer

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The reason why Qatar is out in the cold

The row between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and Qatar continues. I doubt that the Gulf countries and Egypt expected it to go on for so long. But Qatar is holding out. I said the row would have been over something other than terrorism since all countries in the region can be accused of that. I thought it would be for commercial reasons that the row had erupted, such as Emirates Airlines versus Qatar Airways, which are competing on similar routes. Anyway, according to the Daily Mail UK, the row is over the fact that Qatar refused to hand over the wife of a UAE opposition leader (not that I knew there was one) who had fled to Britain.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5263901/Qatar-crisis-began-did-not-hand-wanted-wife.html

Qatar's fallout with its neighbours was sparked 'when they refused to hand over the wife of an Emirates opposition leader after he fled to Britain'

Qatar says the pair fled the UAE in 2013 to escape political arrestsThe woman's activist husband was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK But when she tried to renew her passport at the UAE embassy in Qatar, her application was refused and a demand was made for her extraditionQatar's refusal to comply with the UAE request led to a rise in its social media attacks on Doha,  Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani said

By Anthony Harwood For Mailonline

Published: 05:39 AEDT, 13 January 2018 | Updated: 06:35 AEDT, 13 January 2018

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Saudis watch Iran protests intently

The political machinations between Saudi Arabia and Iran go on and on. Both countries are vying for dominance in the region. Iran is helping Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Assad regime in Syria. Saudi Arabia is trying to wrest control from the Houthi rebels (who are mostly Shi’ite) and have been unwilling to let aid through, which has led to a famine of mega-proportions. As the article below states: “Yemen soon will be the ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis in 50 years’ if the war continues."

Bruce Riedel January 8, 2018

While Saudi Arabia's economy is suffering due to low oil prices and discontent at home grows, the kingdom is following the protests in Iran with great interest, hoping national issues will distract from Iran's regional advances.

Saudi Arabia is following the unrest in Iran with intense interest, hoping it will force its regional rival to turn inward. The Saudis have little capacity to influence Iranian domestic developments, however, and share many of the same problems as Tehran. The Iranian question is unlikely to help resolve Riyadh’s biggest foreign policy challenge: the expensive quagmire in Yemen that is only getting worse. 

Since the start of the protests Dec. 28 in Mashhad, Iran's second-largest and holies city, the state-controlled media in Saudi Arabia has followed the protests closely. The protesters' call for Iran to spend more money at home and less on foreign adventures in Syria, the Gaza Strip, Iraq and Yemen especially has gotten much attention in Saudi media outlets. The Saudis have been fighting to combat Iranian advances in all these states for years with little success, so they hope that domestic unrest will constrain Iran, especially the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Saudi media has expressed concern about the sustainability of the unrest. Media articles in the country featured CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s public estimate that the unrest is likely to continue because of the weakness of the Iranian economy. At least one Saudi commentator has expressed concern that the unrest not produce another failed state in the region, which would create too much turmoil. Better to have enough disruption to keep the Iranians focused internally.

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Dubai: Year in Review 2017

I thought this was an interesting article talking about Dubai. Here is the article first published by Oxford Business Group (OBG), the global publishing, research and consultancy firm.

*This article is copyright of Oxford Business Group 2018. Published under permission by OBG www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com.

 

22 Dec 2017

Increased activity in trade, tourism and construction paved the way for another year of growth in Dubai, with momentum expected to continue through 2018 as the emirate’s preparations for Expo 2020 shift up a gear.  

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Has FDI fallen out of favour in New Zealand?

hThese articles recently appeared in FDI magazine.

Lucia Dore | 14/12/2017 12:02 pm |

https://www.fdiintelligence.com/Locations/Asia-Pacific/New-Zealand/Has-FDI-fallen-out-of-favour-in-New-Zealand

Observers fear New Zealand’s historic openness to foreign investors could be a thing of the past under new prime minister Jacinda Ardern, with property speculation coming under increased scrutiny. Lucia Dore reports.

For the most part, New Zealand has had an open and welcoming attitude towards FDI over the years, and has recognised the positive contribution that foreign investors have made to the country. However, this may be about to change. 

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Top 10 UX Articles of 2017

Frequently, I have had to write predictions about different topics. Most recently, I had to write about Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) in the Middle East and then write predictions for M&A- mainly the countries that will see the biggest deals and the factors driving them. It's all a "stab in the dark" and if any of the predictions are true it's a bit of oil-fashioned good luck mixed with some knowledge.

Many of the predictions cross my desk and they are too numerous to mention. Most will not come to anything. I believe one of the exceptions to this, is the “Top 10 UX articles in 2017” list compiled by Jakob Nielsen based on the most hits an article has garnered. Here is the list.

 Top 10 UX Articles of 2017

The following articles published in 2017 were the ones our audience read the most:

Flat UI Elements Attract Less Attention and Cause Uncertainty Flat interfaces often use weak signifiers. In an eyetracking experiment comparing different kinds of clickability clues, UIs with weak signifiers required more user effort than strong ones.UX Research Cheat Sheet User research can be done at any point in the design cycle. This list of methods and activities can help you decide which to use when.UX Mapping Methods Compared: A Cheat Sheet Empathy maps, customer journey maps, experience maps, and service blueprints depict different processes and have different goals, yet they all build common ground within an organization.Mega Menus Work Well for Site Navigation Large, rectangular menus group navigation options to eliminate scrolling and use typography, icons, and tooltips to explain users' choices.The Most Hated Online Advertising Techniques Modal ads, ads that reorganize content, and autoplaying video ads were among the most disliked. Ads that are annoying on desktop become intolerable on mobile.Comparison Tables for Products, Services, and Features Use this versatile GUI tool to support users when they need to make a decision that involves considering multiple attributes of a small number of offerings. Consistency in content, scannability, and a simple layout are some of the most important qualities of successful comparison tables.Date-Input Form Fields: UX Design Guidelines Date-entry fields must be unambiguous and support task completion by using the right design pattern. Small design changes can prevent big user errors.Personas vs. Jobs-to-Be-Done Jobs-to-be-done focus on user problems and needs, while well-executed personas include the same information and also add behavioral and attitudinal details.Don’t Use Split Buttons for Navigation Menus Menu on hover, category landing page on click: we discuss challenges and solutions for replicating this pattern on touchscreens.Flat-Design Best Practices Flat designs often suffer from usability problems and cause click uncertainty because of lost signifiers. Avoid these negative side effects by consistently and clearly differentiating between clickable and unclickable elements.

Bonus Articles

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Saudi Arabia: Is a purge on corruption really the motive?

The corruption scandal in Saudi Arabia continues to run and run. While prominent Saudi princes and businessmen are arrested, Prince Al Waleed Bin Talal, one of the richest men in the region said to be worth $16 billion, there are stories that they will give part of their holdings to Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) who is calling the shots . Is this really a purge on corruption or a power grab?

 In some of the reports, US mercenaries, who provide protection for MBS, are reportedly holding the hostages. In another report, Americans are also being held in the round up.

This is the link.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5215505/Saudi-prince-detained American-businessmen-crackdown.html

This is the news story in the Daily Mail (UK).

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