Fascinating article on Qatar – thank you, John Mueller, who sends me these great news articles.
From the National Post
Qatar’s balancing act
Fadi Al-Assaad, Reuters Files
Qatar’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, has steadily built a reputation for mediation and seeks to be regarded as an “honest broker” in the Middle East.
Peter Goodspeed, National Post · Feb. 25, 2012 | Last Updated: Feb. 25, 2012 5:16 AM ET
The tiny country of Qatar used the slogan “Expect the Amazing” when it successfully bid to host soccer’s 2022 World Cup.
It’s a phrase that could summarize the reign of Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, who in just 17 years has turned a small Arabian peninsula of salt and sand flats, once one of the poorest countries in the Persian Gulf, into the world’s richest country and possibly the Middle East’s most influential state.
A former British protectorate, which was noted for its declining pearl fishery when it became independent in 1971, Qatar was once described by the Lonely Planet Travel Guide as “possibly the most boring place on Earth.”
Now, according to the World Bank, its 250,000 citizens and 1.5 million foreign workers have the highest per capita income in the world (US$84,000, twice that of the United States) and an economy that outstripped China by growing 15.8% last year.
Since 2006, Qatar has been the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas and the kingdom is transforming its new wealth into worldwide influence.
Qatar recently led the Arab League’s expulsion of Syria and, on Friday, called for the creation of an Arab military force to open humanitarian corridors to protect civilians in Syria.
Last month, it allowed Afghanistan’s Taliban to open an office in Doha to facilitate peace talks with the U.S.
And in the spring, it was the first Arab country to recognize the rebel government in Libya.
The emirate sent six Mirage fighters to Crete to help NATO enforce a no fly zone over Libya.
It also supplied rebels with the fuel, weapons, cash and the training they needed to overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi. Qatari special forces provided basic infantry training in the Nafusa Mountains, west of Tripoli and some helped lead the final assault on Col. Gaddafi’s compound in the capital.
They were so proud of their achievement, they hung a Qatari flag from the wreckage of his palace.
“The Qataris have really adopted a kind of adventurous foreign policy in the last couple of years and shown a willingness to send special forces to these kind of areas of conflict,” said Andrew McGregor, senior editor of the Global Terrorism Monitor for the Jamestown Foundation.
“They’ve used their considerable wealth to supply arms and whatever else is needed.
“I would be keeping a close eye on what they are doing [in Syria]. They are rapidly emerging as a real power in the Arab League, despite their size. They are very influential and very wealthy, and they have shown a willingness to be engaged.”
The Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, sometimes referred to disparagingly as the “Arab World’s Henry Kissinger,” has steadily built a reputation for mediation and seeks to be regarded as an “honest broker” in the Middle East.
“Since the mid-1990s, Qatar has pursued an activist foreign policy, using its affluence, unthreatening military position and skills as a mediator to interject itself in conflicts around the Middle East and beyond,” said David Roberts, deputy director of the Royal United Services Institute’s Doha Centre.
In recent years, Sheikh Hamad has carefully inserted himself in conflicts in Libya, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank, Sudan, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.
In 2008, an agreement negotiated in Doha averted another civil war in Lebanon by establishing a power sharing agreement between the country’s different factions. Around the same time, Qatar helped negotiate a short-lived ceasefire in Yemen, mediated a border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, and hosted peace talks between Sudan and rebel groups in Darfur.
A regional actor with international reach, Sheikh Hamad has pursued a foreign policy that is ripe with conflicts and contradictions.
Qatar maintains good relations with Iran, while still offering the U.S. its biggest and most important air base in the Middle East at al-Udeid, a few kilometres outside Doha.
Unlike most Arab states, Qatar has generally had good relations with Israel and allowed the Israelis to maintain a commercial office in Doha until the 2009 Gaza invasion.
At the same time, it has warm relations with Israel’s enemies Hamas and Hezbollah, and provides safe haven to hardline Islamists from all over the Arab world.
Leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Syria fled to Qatar in the 1960s and 1970s, even though the kingdom’s rulers frown on organized political Islam and ban all political parties.
Qatar “has a reputation for ‘omni-balancing’ between seemingly incompatible policies,” said Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the London School of Economics.
“Qatar’s rise, seemingly from nowhere, is rooted in deeper political, economic and security shifts and, in turn, is reconfiguring the balance of regional power.”
Those changes highlight Sheikh Hamad’s own rise to power and his reign in Qatar, where his family has ruled since the 19th century.
Raised by a maternal uncle’s family, after his mother died young, the Emir attended the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, west of London, graduating in 1971, the year Qatar won its independence and when its first natural gas field was discovered.
He was made a lieutenant colonel in Qatar’s army and, after his father deposed an uncle to become emir in 1972, he rapidly rose to become commander-in-chief of its armed forces.
As crown prince, Sheikh Hamad was gradually given the power to run the country day-to-day, while his father cultivated a taste for extravagance and spent most of his time on the French Riviera.
Sheikh Hamad oversaw development of Qatar’s oil and gas industry and carefully planned an economy that provides Qataris with free education, health care, housing and utilities – and no taxes.
But when his father returned home briefly in 1995 and arbitrarily demoted another son from his position as prime minister, Crown Prince Sheikh Hamad staged a bloodless coup. He informed his father by telephone while he was holidaying in Switzerland.
The old emir returned to the Gulf the following year, publicly disowning his son and trying to drum up support for a countercoup, but Sheik Hamad snuffed out the plot by freezing billions of dollars in his father’s overseas bank accounts.
Then, just 44 and the youngest ruler in the Gulf, he set about to reform and redefine Qatar.
Surrounding himself with young, Western-educated advisors, he drew up a longterm plan to develop a post-oil knowledge-based economy.
He has allocated 40% of Qatar’s budget between now and 2016 to massive infrastructure projects, including an $11billion international airport, a $5.5-billion deep-water seaport and a $1-billion transport corridor in Doha, as well as $20billion in new roads.
He has also invited foreign universities to establish Middle East campuses in a $100-billion Education City in Doha.
Without an elected parliament to advise him, the Emir has final say in the disposition of the country’s $70-billion to $100-billion sovereign wealth fund, which has made it a financial powerhouse internationally by investing heavily in everything from German carmakers Porsche and Volk-swagen to the Agricultural Bank of China, Harrods department store in London, a Brazilian bank, Chinese oil refineries, a Spanish soccer team and a French fashion house.
The Emir’s most influential investment was his creation of the 24-hour Arab-language Al Jazeera television network in 1996.
Granted a level of editorial independence unheard of in the Arab world, Al Jazeera is encouraged to report freely and aggressively on everything but Qatari politics, and is the most watched TV network in the Middle East.
The broadcaster was widely regarded as one of the driving forces behind the spread of the Arab Spring.
“Qatar hopes to insert itself as the key mediator between the Muslim world and the West,” Mr. Roberts said.
“Qatar sees its role as a highly specialized interlocutor between the two worlds, making – from the West’s point of view – unpalatable but necessary friendships and alliances with anti-Western leaders.”
Sheikh Hamad Bin Jasem Al-Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and a distant cousin of the Emir, likes to say his country is small and has to be proactive to protect its interest and avoid being run over by more powerful neighbours.
“Our policy is to be friendly with everybody,” the Emir said recently in a television interview. “We are looking for peace. It doesn’t mean if two parties turn against each other, we have to go to one party. No, we would like to stick with the two parties.”
- Formerly a British protectorate, Qatar has been ruled by the Al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. The current Emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, overthrew his father in a bloodless coup in 1995.
- Oil and natural gas revenues have enabled Qatar to attain the highest per-capita income in the world (US$84,000 according to a report this year by Global Finance).
- Oil output at current levels should last 57 years, according to the CIA World Factbook.
- It has a zero unemployment rate and zero percentage below the poverty line.
- The mostly flat and desert land is 11,586 square kilometres – only slightly larger than Jasper National Park.
- It has a population of 848,016 – similar to the population of Edmonton.
SOURCE: NATIONAL POST NEWS SERVICES
JONATHON RIVAIT / NATIONAL POST
People are SO creative!
My heart is heavy as the Syrian peoples in Homs and Hama are bombarded, and babies, children, mothers, non-combatants – all are killed, whether they are fighting or not. I remember the shivers as we would pass the headquarters of the Mukhabarat, or secret police, which we called ‘the fingernail factory’ and I am shamed at our shallowness and callowness, as the reality of people tortured and damaged just for the example of it. While I know that the troubles are political, they are following religious lines. Homs and Hama have always resisted the rule of the Alawites, and have suffered horribly, 30 years ago, at the hands of Bassam Al-Assad’s father, who almost leveled Hama. I know, because I visited there shortly afterwards. It was a silent ghostland, a beautiful city, deserted and haunted.
Who is next, Assad? After the cities of Homs and Hama – oh, and don’t forget Deraa – will you start hitting the Christian villages, even though the Syrian Christians are at the very least, neutral, and many support you? The monster of tyranny is not easily sated, and to survive, there must be constant sacrifices to keep the people in fear, or else they won’t be obedient.
This is all heavy on my heart. I lave loved Syria, all of it, not just Damascus. When will we learn to live in peace with one another?
John 17:20-26. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me.
This verse is taken from the so-called high priestly prayer of Jesus for the unity of the church. What is our understanding of unity in the church? From the outset there was a great diversity of Christian groups. Diversity arose from differing practices and religious customs as well as from the difficulty of interpreting authentically the mystery of the person of Jesus.
What is meant by the unity of all Christians? An imposed uniformity in which everyone must bow their heads and obey without freedom of expression and cultural variations? That would be more harmful than beneficial. That idea persisted for a long time and led to the imposition of strict uniformity in religious practice worldwide. It was pernicious.
Today we realize that there can be unity in diversity. It is important to highlight the diversity of cultures while maintaining unity. The unity that Jesus wanted was based on love, compassion, and mercy—not uniformity.
PRAY for the Diocese of Bukuru – (Jos, Nigeria)
Ps 30, 32 * 42, 43; Ezekiel 39:21-29; Philippians 4:10-20
I am sorry, but this totally cracks me up. I found in on AOL Huffpost and it is about a Tampa family, where the one writing the obituary gets to insert his point of view. We all have families; they each have their points of view.
When I am reading the obituaries, the ones that crack me up are the ones who have clearly written their own obituaries and had them ready to go when their time is up. Many of the ones written by men are a little grandiose, the ones written by women are more matter-of-fact. You can usually tell what they found most important about the life they lived. Now and then, you find someone original, with a sense of humor and proportion about themselves, who talk about hunting, or their dogs, or sailing. There are people I wish I had met when I read their obituaries; maybe we should all publish pre-death summaries of our lives so far . . . Oh wait . . . that’s a blog, LOL!
When AdventureMan says “that’s not how I remembered it!” I always say (you’ve heard it before, you can say it along with me) “Get your own blog, AdventureMan!” But it is true, the one who is doing the blog gets to skew the history, LLOOLL!
By Laura Rowley
One of my first assignments in my first real job in journalism was writing obituaries for The Milwaukee Journal. I found it a little daunting at first, this job of writing about the dead. But that changed after a phone call with a woman whose daughter had died in a car crash overseas with her husband and toddler.
It was my job to call the family for the story, and I assumed the mother would hang up on me. Instead she spoke for an hour, sobbing, telling me stories about her extraordinary daughter and son-in-law, and the grandchild she had barely gotten to know. At the end of the call she said, “Thank you, my husband won’t talk with me about this.”
In every call I made after that I had a different attitude. I realized that the obituary is a place where ordinary people have the opportunity to honor the people they love in a very public way.
That is, unless the survivor is self-centered enough to believe the obituary is about him, as appears to be the case with Angelo “A.J.” Anello of Florida. Anello placed an obituary for his mother Josie, who died on February 11, taking the opportunity to insult his siblings Ninfa and Peter with the following line:
“She is survived by her Son, ‘A.J.’, who loved and cared for her; Daughter ‘Ninfa’, who betrayed her trust, and Son ‘Peter’, who broke her heart.”
The source of this rivalry between these post 50 siblings? Money. Ninfa Simpson told the Tampa Bay Times that her brother A.J. became more controlling over their mother once their father died, which A.J. denied. The two told the paper that the third sibling, Peter, has been estranged from the family for more than 25 years. The Tampa Bay Times also reported that:
Simpson says Anello drained the mother’s savings and maxed out her credit cards. Anello says Simpson and her husband used their mother’s Social Security checks to go on vacations to Branson, Mo., and Alaska.
Both siblings deny the other’s allegations.
A.J. told the Tampa Bay Times that he was merely conveying what his mother said through the obituary; nevertheless, an alternative version of Josie Anello’s obituary — which does not include evidence of the siblings’ feud — has also been published.
What do you think about Josie Anello’s obituary? Let us know in the comments, and watch the below video to hear more about this unbelievable family rift.
You gotta love this story. I found it on AOL HuffPost; I only wish she had been truly scamming them and not cheating them:
How does it feel when the tables are turned?
The Courier Mail in Australia reports that Sarah Jane Cochrane-Ramsey pleaded guilty last Thursday to one count of aggravated fraud for scamming Nigerian con artists out of $33,000.
Cochrane-Ramsey opened an Australian bank account that the Nigerians could use to funnel payments they got through their “dodgy account on a popular car sales website,” according to the Courier Mail.
The terms of her arrangement with the con artists said that Cochrane-Ramsey was supposed to keep eight percent of all monies sent to the account, with the rest going back to the Nigerians. Instead, she kept the money for herself.
Slate points out that Cochrane-Ramsey denied knowing she was working for fraudsters, thereby “denying herself the defense that she was somehow attempting to give her fellow scammers a taste of their own medicine.”
Nigeria’s The Nation notes that Cochrane-Ramsey is not the first person to con Nigerian scofflaws.
In fact, “This American Life” produced a story in 2008 on a group of people who made a Nigerian scammer travel 1,400 miles in search of a promised cash reward.
Photo by Flickr user B Rosen.
We’ve long believed one of the ways to stay healthy is to stay out of hospitals as much as possible. A horrifying report I found on AOL Everyday Health:
Dirty Surgical Tools: A Hidden, Deadly Danger
A new report suggests that doctors all over the country are using medical instruments contaminated with blood, tissue, and other debris. Could the same devices that save your life also put it at risk?
THURSDAY, Feb. 23, 2012 — When John Harrison checked into Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, to have routine surgery for a damaged rotator cuff, he was told he’d need, at most, a one-night stay in the hospital followed by a few weeks of physical therapy. Seven follow-up operations and two-and-a-half years later, however, his shoulder is worse off than it was before, and Harrison, frankly, is lucky just to be alive.
Shortly after his initial surgery in 2009, the 63-year-old began experiencing severe pain and discomfort around the site of his scar, which had turned bright red and was oozing thick fluid. Doctors reopened him up to determine the problem — and found that an infection had eaten away part of the bone and set loose the screws and sutures they had placed just weeks earlier.
A Hidden Danger in the OR
Harrison’s case, unfortunately, was not an isolated one. Within days, at least six other joint surgery patients at Methodist developed similarly serious infections, leading to a temporary shutdown of the hospital’s operating rooms while officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) probed for a cause.
They found what they were looking for, and then some, in two commonly used surgical tools: an arthroscopic shaver and an inflow/outflow cannula. Both contained human tissue and bone, despite having been thoroughly cleaned after every procedure — a discovery that suggested the problem might be bigger than just one hospital in Texas.
In fact, according to a new report by investigative journalist Joe Eaton of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit that focuses on ethics and accountability, dirty medical devices are a widespread and potentially deadly threat to your health. In 2008, Eaton notes, a hepatitis C outbreak in Las Vegas revealed that a local outpatient surgery center was working with contaminated tools, some of which were intended for only single use anyway. This, in turn, led to an inspection of 1,500 other such centers — and the finding that 28 percent of them had “infection control deficiencies related to equipment cleaning and sterilization.”
But that’s not even the worst of it. In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs admitted that improperly cleaned endoscopes had been used on more than 10,000 vets, some of whom later tested positive for HIV or hepatitis. It’s difficult to know for sure how many of those infections (if any) resulted from the dirty instruments, but experts say the risk is higher than most people realize.
“The cases we hear about,” CDC medical officer Melissa Schaefer, MD, told Eaton, “are only the tip of the iceberg.”
Whose Fault Is It, Anyway?
It would be easy to blame hospitals for this potentially deadly danger (and in some cases, we should), but Eaton says the problem is more complicated than it looks.
For one thing, research shows that sterilization instructions from manufacturers are often not up to industry standards. In a study presented last summer at a workshop for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), scientists at the University of Michigan Health System ran a tiny video camera inside 350 “surgery-ready” suction tips and found that every one contained traces of blood, bone, tissue, and rust. Even more disturbing, however, was the fact that all but seven still contained debris after the team put the tools through the recommended cleaning and disinfection processes.
“I don’t know who approved this or who made this a reusable item, but this is not a reusable or cleanable item,” said lead researcher Jahan Azizi, a risk management clinical engineer at the University of Michigan, referring to one of the suction tips. Azizi blames the proliferation of dirty instruments on poor product design and manufacturing — but experts say there are many other factors to consider as well.
Among them, Eaton reports, is that as tools become more specialized and intricate, so too do their cleaning needs. There are added parts to sterilize, smaller channels to unclog, different materials to wield — you can’t just blast everything with a heavy shot of hot steam and move on.
“Cleaning was once a basic factory job,” said Joe Lewelling, vice-president of standards development at the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation. “Now it’s very complex. It takes a lot of steps. It’s more like a laboratory process.”
That process needs to be regulated, industry vets say — but by whom?
The Need for Action
According to Eaton, most sterilization of surgical instruments takes place in hospital basements, where underpaid employees work in less-than-ideal conditions to keep equipment in rotation, sometimes cleaning as many as 40,000 tools a day. Technicians are under a vast amount of pressure to do their jobs both quickly and well, which leads to high staff turnover and a frenetic atmosphere that lends itself to mistakes.
Mary Olivera, director of sterilization at a New York City medical facility and past president of the New York State Association of Central Service Professionals, thinks these issues could be addressed if central sterile techs were required to be certified to work in medical facilities. (Currently, only New Jersey mandates professional certification in the field.)
“The people who do your nails, they have to take an infection control course before they can apply for a license,” Olivera told Eaton. “Same with a dog groomer. Yet the people who deal with lifesaving equipment, they are required to have zero education.”
Olivera is among a group of people who have been pushing for legislation to regulate sterilization workers, but as she and her colleagues are finding out, change is easier said than done.
In July of 2009, after the CDC’s Methodist investigation, the FDA launched a safety review of arthroscopic shavers. Findings from the review have not been made public, but insiders say the results are “scary” and show serious potential for patient harm. Years later, however, the agency still has not taken any additional action to address the problem, save an alert on its Web site encouraging facilities to assess the effectiveness of their cleaning procedures.
“These are important products that have been used for decades with little evidence of risk to public health as a result of reprocessing,” FDA spokeswoman Karen Riley said by way of explanation. “In 2010, there were 2.1 million arthroscopic procedures of the knee performed and yet total adverse events from all causes was one percent. This does not merit withdrawal of a valuable device.”
John Harrison might disagree. Nearly three years after going under the knife for a “routine” operation, he can’t even raise his right arm to scratch an itch on his head. And the damage isn’t just physical.
“It’s changed my life,” he told NBC News. Every aspect of it.”
It’s great having friends who all returned to the USA after our years of living in Qatar (and Kuwait) so we can share our experiences, our frustrations, our challenges. It’s been two years for me since AdventureMan and I made the big decision to retire, and in Pensacola, not Edmonds, WA.
Pensacola is a pretty cool place to be retired. One of the best things, after living in Kuwait especially, is the traffic. People might complain, but the traffic here is laughable. It’s very calm. Traffic might be waiting two lights at a stoplight, but hey – people wait, don’t just drive right through. No one has ever pushed me into a round about, or anywhere else, unlike Qatar, when I got in some young man’s way, and he pushed me out of his way (!)
When you go to the symphony, or to church, or to aqua aerobics, in the worst traffic it might take ten minutes. There are restaurants everywhere, many of them pretty good. The worst restaurants are usually better, cleaner, faster than most of the restaurants in Kuwait and Qatar. The only cuisine we have not been able to find here is Ethiopian, and we can drive to Atlanta or New Orleans and get that.
It’s been two years . . . there is something in me that starts getting a little restless, starts looking at my household goods with an eye to getting rid of, giving away, cutting down on weight. At the very least I might have to paint something, or change the furniture around . . .
My friends are suffering many of the same challenges, the challenge of being an expat back in the USA. What was formerly comfortable is not such a good fit anymore; we have changed, and we are trying to cobble together lives that can accomodate the changes.
I had a minor triumph; I realized that after two years, I am starting to have people I can go sit with when I walk into a crowded venue. It may sound like a small thing, but the fear of having to sit alone in a crowd where everyone is visiting and sharing is a little daunting. Who wants to look pathetic?
But my expat friends and I laugh; in expat world two years makes you an old-timer. When new people come in, you are expected to show them around, show them where (and how) to shop for things, where to get things fixed, altered, where to go to pay your bills and how to pay them. Two years makes you and old hand, often with one foot out the door, getting ready for the next posting or contract.
Three of my friends went back to their home locations, only AdventureMan and I settled in a new place. While I am making some progress, two years in, I still wonder who my friends will be? Will I ever feel at home in Pensacola?
Found this on AOL news; the video is posted on YouTube:
The guy in front rolls back into this guy, and tries to get him to pay $500! Did not know it was all filmed!
Pantone predicts the colors consumers will be buying in Spring 2012: