Feb 17

S&P Downgrades Saudi Arabia For Second Time In 4 Months, Also Cuts Oman, Bahrain:

“We do not expect the agreement on Feb. 16 between oil ministers from Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela to freeze oil output.”

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Mar 01

Bahraini protesters move to parliament building (Reuters):

MANAMA (Reuters) – Bahrainis campaigning for democratic reforms in the Gulf Arab state staged a protest outside the U.S. ally’s parliament building on Monday, demanding that all its members resign over protester deaths.

Seven people were killed and hundreds wounded in protests earlier this month by Bahrainis mainly from the majority Shi’ite Muslim community who complain of repression by the Sunni monarchy and Sunni ruling elite.

“We came to this parliament to say that you represent the people and you represent us — take an honourable position over the killings by the army,” said Mirza al-Shihabi, one of around 500 protesters outside the building in central Manama.

Oman protests spread, road to port blocked (Reuters):

(Reuters) – Demonstrators blocked roads to a main port in northern Oman and looted a nearby supermarket on Monday, part of protests to demand more jobs and political reform that have spread to the sultanate’s capital.

A doctor said six people had been killed in clashes between stone-throwing protesters and police on Sunday in the northern industrial town of Sohar. Oman’s health minister said one person had been killed and 20 wounded.

Hundreds of protesters blocked access to an industrial area that includes the port, a refinery and aluminium factory. A port spokeswoman said exports of refined oil products of about 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the port were unaffected.

“We want to see the benefit of our oil wealth distributed evenly,” one protester yelled over a loudhailer near the port. “We want to see a scale-down of expatriates in Oman so more jobs can be created for Omanis.”

Congo coup attempt leaves six dead, say authorities (Guardian):

Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in what authorities said was a coup attempt on the presidential palace in the capital Kinshasa.

“We have witnessed a coup attempt,” the information minister, Lambert Mende, said.

“A group of heavily armed people attacked the presidential palace. They were stopped at the first roadblock. Our soldiers fought with them, arrested some of them and six people were killed.”

China’s jasmine revolution: police but no protesters line streets of Beijing (Guardian):

Police in Beijing and other cities mounted a major show of force following an anonymous call for protests inspired by the Middle East uprisings.

A US journalist was punched and kicked in the face and more than a dozen other journalists manhandled, detained or delayed as they covered the events which revealed official anxiety over similar protests against authoritarian rule in China.

Bloomberg Journalist Assaulted as China Heightens Security (Blommberg):

A Bloomberg News journalist was assaulted yesterday in Beijing while covering the deployment of police in response to online calls for protests in the Chinese capital.

At least five men in plain clothes, who appeared to be security personnel, punched and kicked the reporter at Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping street at 2:45 p.m. local time yesterday. They also took the video camera he was carrying and detained him in a roadside store.

Uniformed police arrived after the attack and escorted the journalist to a nearby station where he filed a report of the attack before seeking treatment for his injuries at a local hospital. Police returned the video camera while the reporter was at the station, saying a passerby had found it.

China’s working poor not yet ready to revolt (Guardian):

Like the Tunisian whose self-immolation sparked a revolt, Xu Mingao is a young street vendor. Fourteen-hour days selling flatbread in Zhongguancun – the capital’s Silicon Valley – earn him about 7,500 yuan (£709) a year.

Home is a tiny cubicle in a dusty, hastily constructed neighbourhood where adverts pasted to lampposts seek workers who can “eat bitterness” – endure the grind.

But the 30-year-old is “pretty happy” with his life: “The difference [from the old days] is huge. When I was small my family had to borrow money for my schooling and we wore hand-me-downs,” he said.

He and his wife have built a house back in their home town in Anhui with their earnings and hope for an office career for their boy.

Chile President faces protests a year after quake (Guardian):

Associated Press= SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — President Sebastian Pinera marked Sunday’s anniversary of one of the largest earthquakes in recorded history by praising his government’s progress on reconstruction and calling for national unity.

Instead, his political opponents staged protests and questioned his numbers.

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Sep 04

· Green energy glasshouses may transform arid areas
· Fresh water will end need to dig wells, say architects

The Sahara forest project will use seawater and solar power to grow food in greenhouses across the desert. Photograph: Exploration Architecture

Vast greenhouses that use sea water for crop cultivation could be combined with solar power plants to provide food, fresh water and clean energy in deserts, under an ambitious proposal from a team of architects and engineers.

The Sahara Forest Project, which is already running demonstration plants in Tenerife, Oman and the United Arab Emirates, envisages huge greenhouses with concentrated solar power (CSP), a technology that uses mirrors to focus the sun’s rays, creating steam to drive turbines to generate electricity.

The installations would turn deserts into lush patches of vegetation, according to its designers, and do away with the need to dig wells for fresh water, an activity that has depleted aquifers across the world.

Continue reading »

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Apr 15

Contrary to some claims that the Bush administration will allow diplomacy to handle Iran’s nuclear weapons program, a leading member of America’s Jewish community tells Newsmax that a military strike is not only on the table – but likely.

“Israel is preparing for heavy casualties,” the source said, suggesting that although Israel will not take part in the strike, it is expecting to be the target of Iranian retribution.

“Look at Dick Cheney’s recent trip through the Middle East as preparation for the U.S. attack,” the source said.

Cheney’s hastily arranged 9-day visit to the region, which began on March 16, included stops in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Oman, Turkey, and the Palestinian territories.

Tensions in the region have been rising.

While Israel was conducting the largest homefront military exercises in its history last week, Israel’s National Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer warned Tehran about expected attacks on the Jewish state.

“An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation,” he said.

He predicted that in a future war, “hundreds of missiles will rain on Israel,” but added that Iran “is definitely aware of our strength.” Continue reading »

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