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By Nawara Fattahova
KUWAIT: Kuwait’s Defense Ministry held the final training of ‘Gulf Shooting 2021’ – a joint drill of the Kuwaiti army, units of the royal Saudi forces, and Task Force Spartan of the US Army Central yesterday in Adira. It was attended by the Minister of Interior and Acting Minister of Defense Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah, Chief of the General Staff of Kuwait Army Lt Gen Khaled Al-Sabah, Saudi and US Ambassadors, and other officers of the participating army forces.
During the event, Sheikh Thamer Ali Al-Sabah noted that the Gulf Shooting 2021 training constitutes a deterrent for any evil intentions against Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, highlighting the systematic defense cooperation between the GCC countries, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Maj Gen Mohammed Al-Dhafiri, the Commander of the Kuwaiti Land Force, said that this training represents the cooperation and friendship of the participating joint forces. “This training included lectures and field trainings. It aims to unify the meaning of training, planning, and executing joint land operations to reach coherence between the participating units at the tactical and operational levels,” he pointed out.
Lt Gen Fahad Al-Mtair, Commander of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, expressed his gladness to participate in this joint training, which included different military and field operations. “This training aims to raise the readiness and capability of the participating forces to protect the security of the Arabian Gulf and the region in general,” he said.Paratroopers waving (left to right ) the Kuwaiti, Saudi and US flags, jump with parachutes during the military exercise.
“Such trainings increase the military cooperation of joint military operations to reach proficiency in this field. It also aims to exchange experiences for future military operations. I am glad that this training was successful, and we thank the Kuwaiti forces for their hospitality,” added Mtair.
Colonel Rupple-Lee, TFS G3 (Duty Force Operations Manager), stated that the participating joint forces spent the last 10 days with lots of training with Bradley tanks, medical training, and other exercise. “The soldiers came together and learned how to communicate both with simple words, and they started to use operational graphics to draw on the map, and then everybody understood each other.
And when they got inside the tank or the Bradley, they understood each other’s jobs and learnt different tactic techniques and procedures from each other. And today, we saw the result of their hard work and training,” stressed Rupple-lee. The training showed shooting with rocket launchers of the joint forces on their target, Apache helicopter firing, and paratroopers with Kuwaiti, Saudi, and US flags.
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KUWAIT: Kuwait identified the remains of 19 Kuwaiti Prisoners of War (POWs) and missing persons upon DNA tests by the General Administration of Criminal Evidence, said head of the Committee of POWs and Missing Persons Affairs at the Foreign Ministry Ambassador Rabie Al-Adsani yesterday.
The remains belong to the following martyrs: Bader Mubarak Al-Buraisi, Bader Met’eb Al-Mutairi, Hussein Al-Shimmari, Khaled Duaij Al-Khaledi, Sa’ad Mansour Al-Ajmi, Saud Nayef Al-Dhaihani, Saeed Awaadh Al-Rashidi, Salah Hussin Al-Enizi, Fares Abdulrahman Al-Mutairi, Fares Mohammad Al-Enizi, Fawaz Butaihan Al-Mutairi, Mohammad Humoud Al-Hula, Mohammad Abdulatif Al-Kharaz, Mekhled Jubairan Al-Dhaihani, Mousa Sattar Al-Enizi, Nayef Khalaf Al-Enizi, Nayef Awaad Al-Rashidi, Nayef Mehmel Al-Mutairi, and Waleed Mekhled Al-Buraisi.
Adsani said that the prisoners had been arrested during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and their remains were included in the previous batches received in November 2020 as well as January and March of 2021. He also added that the foreign ministry informed the martyrs’ families of the status of their loved ones. Adsani thanked the Iraqi authorities, the members of the tripartite and technical subcommittee, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) for their efforts through the work of the subcommittee.
‘Will not forget’
Meanwhile, the Kuwait Martyr’s Office said that the State of Kuwait, including its leadership, government and people, would never forget the prisoners of war, missing persons and martyrs. The office’s Director-General Salah Al-Awfan made the press remark immediately following the identification of the remains of 19 Kuwaiti prisoners of war and missing persons. He added that the total number of identified POWs has thus reached 293. He said that they had sacrificed themselves for the sake of Kuwait and set an awesome example for patriotism, self-sacrifice and valiance.
Awfan noted that this came in collaboration between the Kuwaiti General Administration of Criminal Evidence, the Foreign Ministry’s committee on the affairs of POWs and missing persons and reflects that the political leadership, led by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and Minister of Amiri Diwan and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Martyr’s Office Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, attaches much significance to the issue of Kuwaiti POWs and missing persons. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Air travel fares have recently dropped by 50 to 200 percent to some destinations after resuming full-capacity operations at Kuwait International Airport as of October 24. According to tourism and travel experts, Kuwaiti citizens and residents are eager to travel amid receding repercussions of the coronavirus crisis locally and abroad, where many countries have reopened borders. Airfares had soared due to the limited number of offered tickets, the experts said, noting that the pandemic issue had resulted in closing most airports across the globe and impounding aircraft, thus travel companies suffered heavy losses forcing some to shut.
Fayez Al-Enezi, Head of Kuwait Airways’ Media and Public Relations Department, said that the corporation increased flights after the cabinet decided to resume full-capacity operations at Kuwait International Airport, effective October 24. He expressed hope that air travel would be restored to the pre-coronavirus levels, affirming that Kuwait Airways is fully ready and prepared to service many passengers at Terminal 4.
Kamal Kabsha, a tourism expert, said that the tickets’ prices dropped by more than 200 percent, namely for the departing flights, however, the fares for incoming ones remained high. Airfares are largely affected by demand and offer as well as costs of main operations, he said, also noting that booking increased by 20 percent before the full resumption of the airport operations.
The path for full restoration of air aviation is not totally paved yet due to a set of reasons such as health constraints imposed by states, namely obligatory quarantines and PCR tests in addition to peoples’ concerns of infection as well as uneasy measures at some airports. Full recovery of the travel and air navigation sectors is forecast late 2022 and early 2023, however, the prediction is conditional to vaccinations’ capacity to quell the pandemic and easing of the health restrictions, Kabsha said.
Meanwhile, Nassib Adnan, the deputy director of a travel agency, said the Kuwaiti Cabinet decision to re-operate the airport fully contributed to cutting the airfares by more than 50 percent to some destinations namely Turkey, Egypt, France, and Germany. The costs for traveling to some destinations such as the UAE, Britain, India, and the Philippines have remained high as compared to the airfares before the contagion outbreak. He predicted a gradual recovery of the sector in the foreseeable future.
IATA, the International Air Transport Association, predicted in a recently issued report that the local travel demand would increase in phases and reach the pre-pandemic levels in 2022. It also foresaw a decline of the sector losses to $51.8 billion in the end of 2021 and to $12 billion in 2022, compared to $137.7 billion in 2020, when the coronavirus was widely spread inflicting heavy casualties worldwide and paralyzing many sectors namely the air navigation. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Ambassador of India to Kuwait Sibi George visited Muhammad Al-Ahmad Kuwait Naval Base on Wednesday and met Commander of Kuwait Naval Forces Brigadier General Hazza Mutlaq Al-Alati. Both sides reviewed the ongoing cooperation between the two countries and ways of furthering deepening the engagement including in maritime areas. They also discussed the joint fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
Ambassador George thanked the leadership for the logistical and other support during the visit of Indian Naval Ships in June 2021 as part of the sea/air bridge set up for supply of medical oxygen to India during the pandemic. India and Kuwait share a strong maritime connect spanning over centuries. Both Navies are in close contact for further upgrading their bilateral relationship.
KUWAIT: The US Embassy in Kuwait marked International Education Week with an event on Wednesday at the creative arts studio Yadawi, located in Kuwait’s historic Bayt Al-Othman Museum, to promote international education and exchanges between the United States and Kuwait. The gathering also coincided with Global Entrepreneurship Week, a week-long celebration of innovation and entrepreneurship.
US Ambassador to Kuwait Alina L Romanowski gave opening remarks at the event, which included nearly 50 Kuwaiti graduates – entrepreneurs, artists, and more – from various US universities in attendance. “As someone who did their graduate and undergraduate studies in history and international relations, I know that education and exchanges can play a transformational role in international relations because they help foster cultural understanding. At the end of the day, it’s the people-to-people ties and networks that support strong relations between our countries,” Ambassador Romanowski said.A general view showing people in attendance.
“During my time as Ambassador in Kuwait I have met so many successful Kuwaiti men and women of all ages who graduated from US colleges and universities,” the Ambassador added. “Kuwait has a long history of sending students to the US for their studies, going as far back as seven decades.” Ambassador Romanowski highlighted the release of the 2020-21 report from the International Institute of Education, a global non-profit that creates and implements international education programs and conducts related research.
“The latest report from the International Institute of Education covering academic year 2020-2021 was just released, and although there was a drop in the number of international students going to the United States due to COVID-19, including from Kuwait, we still had around 7,000 Kuwaiti students in the US in the last academic year,” she said. “As we find ways to live, work, and study during the pandemic, we have found ways to continue to safely bring international students to America.”
To inspire more Kuwaiti students to study in the United States, Ambassador Romanowski also announced the continuation of an embassy grant, the Future Creatives Mentorship Program, to Shahad Bishara, founder of Kuwait-based art consultancy Visual Therapy. The program connects high school students in Kuwait with established creative professionals from different industries within the arts community in Kuwait. The program is part of wider efforts to empower and inspire young artists and nurture the creative community.
“Careers in the creative arts are not always as well-understood compared to others, but I believe that they are some of the most entrepreneurial in nature. The US Embassy is proud to partner with Visual Therapy to help fund this unique program,” Ambassador Romanowski said. “By connecting students with successful artists from a variety of fields, all of them graduates from schools in the United States, we hope to inspire the next generation of Kuwaiti artists and entrepreneurs and provide them with mentorship opportunities to succeed both creatively as well as professionally and consider the United States as a destination for future studies,” the US Ambassador added.
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KUWAIT: The Embassy of the Republic of Korea to the State of Kuwait in association with the Korean Food Promotion Institute organized a Korean food contest under the title ‘Kimchi Table 2021′ at its premises on Wednesday. The contest was held in Cooperation with the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL), and with sponsorship of Qatar Airways and Safir Hotel.
Delivering welcoming remarks on this occasion, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the State of Kuwait Chung, Byung-ha attended the event, while Mohammad Redha, Representative of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters also attended. The Embassy invited 10 judges to the contest who have special knowledge and experience in Kimchi to ensure fair and professional assessment of the dishes.
Six contestants, comprising famous hotel chefs and social media cooking influencers, took part in the contest after passing through the preliminary screening process. The contestants, who were divided into two groups, prepared several variant fusion dishes using Kimchi. Videos of the contestants were screened after the speeches, adding to the sense of pride and enthusiasm in the contest.
At the end of the contest, the panel of judges selected two winners, one from each group. The winners are Ramu Naidu from the hotel chefs’ group and Mimi Murad from the Instagram influencers’ group. The winners were offered two round-trip tickets to Korea presented by Qatar Airways in addition to giving them the chance to attend a Korean cooking class organized by Korean Food Promotion Institute.
Kimchi is preserved vegetables seasoned with unique spices and fermented seafood that are stored for a specific period of time before eaten. According to historical records, Koreans used to make Kimchi and eat it even before 760 AD. Kimchi is a unique Korean food that is deeply related to the identity of Koreans to the extent that UNESCO inscribed Kimjang, an activity of making and sharing Kimchi on its Representative List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2013. Recently, Kimchi is admired as a healthy food across America, Europe and several Asian countries along with expansion of Hallyu wave.
BANGKOK: Kuwait and Thailand signed an agreement on Wednesday on mutual visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, special and official passports, the Thai embassy in Kuwait announced. Thani Thongphakdi, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, and Mohammad Husain Al-Failakawi, Ambassador of the State of Kuwait to Thailand, signed the agreement between the government of the Kingdom of Thailand and the State of Kuwait. The agreement is an important milestone for Thailand and Kuwait relations which will commemorate their 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations in 2023, the embassy said in a statement to the press yesterday.
On this occasion, the Permanent Secretary reiterated the opportunity to expand and strengthen cooperation between Thailand and Kuwait in various fields, such as hospitality sector, energy, food and agriculture, as well as the new technology such as internet of thing (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI) and cybersecurity.
The Permanent Secretary also pointed out that the Thai private sector has been paying more attention to the potential of Kuwait and is ready to increase its investment in Kuwait. Similarly, Thailand wishes to encourage companies from Kuwait to explore trade and investment opportunities in Thailand. This agreement will, therefore, play a crucial role in facilitating and enhancing cooperation between both countries in order to achieve these goals, he said.
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By Sahar Moussa
What are the reasons that make a person commit suicide? Is it depression, debts, addiction, bullying, family violence, physical or sexual abuse, losing a job, emotional pain or lack of faith? People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk for suicide+ADs- that is why we should never disregard the warning signs.
If you hear someone talking about wanting to die or kill themselves, feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live, feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions, feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain, talking about being a burden to others, talking or thinking about death often, withdrawing from family and friends and saying goodbye to them – know for sure that this person needs help. All thoughts of suicide should be taken seriously and require immediate attention.
We always hear on the news about the number of people who commit suicide and their nationalities, but we never hear the causes behind it. We read the doctors’ analyses and reports and also hear various rumors, but what we should do is to deeply investigate the main reasons behind these attempts and highlight them.
I do understand that suicide is considered to be a taboo subject in the Arab world, but it is very important that families share and talk about it in public and spread awareness about the main reasons behind it. Families should reveal secrets in order to help other families that are going through the same situation. Maybe this can help and prevent someone else from committing suicide. Family and friends are often the first to recognize the warning signs of suicide, and they can take the first step towards helping a loved one find treatment for mental health.
However, there must also be a platform to discuss these topics openly, to find solutions and save lives. It is also important that we increase mental health awareness in society and end the stigma surrounding it, so people will be more encouraged to seek help. As a community, our duty is to stand by each other and be involved in people’s sufferings and pain, so we can ease them and save lives.
The latest suicide cases by citizens and residents raises a red flag, as many of them used various means and methods in ending their lives. Unfortunately, suicides reached 120 cases from January until November 2021 – around 12 cases per month, according to official statistics. Security sources said a majority of these suicides are committed by Asians, with cases increasing since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
If someone tells you that they are going to kill themselves, do not leave them alone. Encourage them to seek help, or if they couldn’t, then urge them to tell a trusted friend or family member about their negative thoughts or feelings. If you are feeling suicidal or have serious thoughts of depression and self-harm, you can reach out to professionals at the social development office by calling:
For teens and adults:
+-965/9960-3997 (children and teens)
For adults only:
Phones are answered at various hours depending on staff availability. Please know that you are not alone. Don’t give up. Your life matters.
LONDON: The British-Kuwait Friendship Society held yesterday a ceremony distributing awards for the best English-language book on studies in the Middle East under sponsorship of Sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al-Mubarak Foundation. Names of the winners of Abdullah Al-Mubarak prize were declared during the virtual ceremony and jurors lauded several books on the Middle East history.
The top award was divided by the writer Marina Rustow for her book “The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate at a Cairo Synagogue” and Zeina Maasri for her book, “Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties.” The first book was published by Princeton University Press and the second one by Cambridge University Press.Khaled Al-Duwaisan
Khaled Al-Duwaisan, the State of Kuwait’s Ambassador to the UK, lauded in a statement during the gathering the award role in boosting the Arab-British relations, particularly in the cultural and scientific realms. Managing personnel of the award are keen on holding such a contest annually due to its positive impact on the cultural relations between the UK and Kuwait, he said.
Representative of the foundation Sheikh Mubarak Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah affirmed in remarks to the press significance of the prize for establishing bridges of understanding and rapprochement among states and promoting the dialogue among civilizations.
He has affirmed that the prize is designed to back up valuable researches in English, also indicating that such valuable books can be quite useful in the efforts to bridge the gulf and tackle misunderstanding between the Western and Arab cultures. The prize, which attracts around 50 nominations from some 20 publishers each year, is granted for the best scholarly work on the Middle East. The British-Kuwaiti Friendship Society, headed by the Kuwaiti ambassador, was established in 1996. Among the honorary heads are Sheikha Dr Suad Al-Sabah, and the British Heir Apparent Prince Charles. – KUNA
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KUWAIT: Zain, the leading digital service provider in Kuwait, announced its platinum sponsorship of the 37th annual conference of the National Union of Kuwaiti Students in the United States of America (NUKS USA), which is set to be held from the 25 – 28 November in Chicago, Illinois under the patronage of His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah.
The announcement was made during the press conference held at the Kuwait Economic Society, which witnessed the presence of Zain Kuwait’s Internal and External Relations Department Manager Hamad Al-Musaibeeh, NUKS USA Director Abdulaziz Al-Kandari, as well as NUKS USA representatives and the event’s sponsors.
Zain expressed its pride in being the platinum sponsor of the conference, which makes a return after a halt of nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Zain continues its role as a main supporter of the event for 17 years. The conference is considered the largest gathering of Kuwaiti students abroad, and Zain’s support comes in line with its Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility strategy towards the youth and education sectors. The company is proud to have become an integral part of this event’s success, through which it connects with the country’s youth abroad.
As always, Zain will be contributing to the event by organizing a number of unique activities and programs for the students. The company will sponsor a special sports seminar featuring many distinguished current and past Kuwaiti athletes, as well as sponsor a health seminar that will host Ministry of Health Spokesperson Dr. Abdullah Al Sanad, who will share a behind-the-scenes look at the ministry’s efforts to curb the COVID outbreak last year.
Zain will take part in a special exhibition for sponsors, where the company will present available career opportunities to students, as well as showcase its leading experience in the telecom sector. In addition, Zain has prepared a number of surprises for students who will be visiting the event. The company is also set to host ZAINPHONIC, a special workshop that shares tips and tricks of smartphone photography, giving the students a chance to learn the best techniques for taking pro-level photos with their smartphones and helping them unleash their creativity.
Zain’s presence in the event conveys its enthusiasm to interact with the future generations of Kuwaiti youth, especially those who pursue their education abroad, as the NUKS USA conference is considered the largest gathering of Kuwaitis outside of Kuwait, and welcomes students from all over the US. The event appeals to students on both intellectual and social levels and it serves as an open forum for them to exchange opinions and views regarding important domestic issues with the presence of distinguished national figures from the Kuwaiti community, including academics, media personalities, athletes, doctors, and more who fly to the US for the purpose of meeting with the students and sharing their experiences with them.
Zain sees its annual participation in the conference as part of its responsibility as a leading national company to help provide bright and enthusiastic young Kuwaitis with a great social experience, as well as listen to their ideas and experiences while pursuing their education abroad.
The National Union of Kuwaiti Students in the United States of America (NUKS USA) serves nearly 14,000 Kuwaiti students studying in the United States. The union aims, through its events and programs, to connect Kuwaiti students with each other on one level, and with their nation and the latest updates of the Kuwaiti community on another.
NUKS USA was publicized in the USA and was granted the recognition of the United States government. The achievement is considered a proud milestone for Kuwait’s youth, and is a direct result of the great relations between the State of Kuwait and United States. Such a recognition is a clear reflection of the strategic relations between the two nations.
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KUWAIT: Free transportation by bus will be offered to and from Mubarakiya from four stops in the capital district, Kuwait Public Transport Company (KPTC) said yesterday. CEO of KPTC Mansour Al-Saad told KUNA during the launch ceremony of the service, attended by governor of the Capital district Sheikh Talal Al-Khaled Al-Sabah, that the service will operate from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm with trips available every 30 minutes.
The four stations are located in the parking lot of Souq Sharq, the yard near Jahra roundabout and Sheraton hotel, Sanabel Complex, and the ministries complex in Mirqab, he revealed. Saad added that the service will run until March 2022, and will be renewed if there is considerable demand. Hopefully, the service will lessen traffic jams in Mubarakiya, indicated the KPTC CEO, pointing out that the buses included in this service are unique in shape, color and passenger capacity. – KUNA
KUWAIT: Acting Group CEO at Kuwait Finance House (KFH) Abdulwahab Essa Al-Rushood signed two donation agreements with Kuwait Red Crescent Society, represented by the Secretary General, Maha Al-Barjas and King Hussein Cancer Foundation, represented by Princess Ghida Talal, the Chairperson of King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan, for the treatment of Syrian and Gaza Strip refugee cancer patients in Jordan.
Attendees at the signing ceremony, held at King Hussein Cancer Foundation premises in the Jordanian capital, were the Ambassador of Kuwait in Jordan Aziz Al-Deehani, Kuwait Red Crescent Society Consultant Mesaed Al-Enizi and the General Manager of King Hussein Cancer Foundation Nisreen Qatamesh.
During the signing ceremony, Rushood indicated that the humanitarian aid presented by KFH to King Hussein Cancer Foundation is part of the social and relief activity which the bank conducts within the framework of its social responsibility and commitment. He added that the donation presented by KFH shall be partially allocated for the treatment of Gaza refugees while the other part shall be utilized for the treatment of Syrian refugees. He expressed his pride in concluding the partnership with the Kuwait Red Crescent Society for the execution of qualitative human and relief programs.Abdulwahab Al-Rushood and Princess Ghida Talal.
Rushood emphasized that KFH always considers social and human work as a priority. He added that the relief initiatives were and still are at the top of its schedule, thus referring to the several successful programs of cooperation with the Kuwait Red Crescent Society inside and outside Kuwait. These programs have proved KFH’s leading and pioneering position in social responsibility and the long and distinguished record of social initiatives and achievements.
Meanwhile, Princess Ghida expressed her appreciation and gratitude to the State of Kuwait and to KFH’s initiative to support King Hussein Cancer Center as part of its social and relief efforts. From her side, Barjas praised and appreciated KFH’s social and relief efforts and stated that the present cooperation between the Kuwait Red Crescent Society and King Hussein Cancer Center goes back to 2016 as the treatment expenses of many cancer patients were covered.
She added that the allocation of part of the human donation presented by KFH to the patients from Gaza Strip takes into consideration the difficult conditions which the inhabitants of the strip live in and the lack of medicines and care which cancer patients are experiencing.
It is worth mentioning that KFH has signed an agreement with the Kuwait Red Crescent Society to execute relief and medical projects for the Syrian refugees in Jordan in cooperation with the Jordan Red Crescent. The agreement covers winter clothing, medical relief, Kuwaiti doctors’ participation in surgical operations, provision of one year food supplies, a clinic, and other social activities.
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By B Izzak
KUWAIT: Prominent opposition leader and former MP Musallam Al-Barrak yesterday returned to Kuwait after three and a half years in exile following an Amiri pardon, as hundreds of his supporters gave him a hero’s welcome. Barrak was accompanied on the same flight from Istanbul by former MP Khaled Al-Tahous and three activists who were also given Amiri pardons as part of a national dialogue to resolve political problems.
Barrak, Tahous and the activists thanked HH the Amir for pardoning them, and Barrak in particular wished the Amir good health. Dressed in a grey suit without a tie and with a Kuwaiti flag draped over his shoulders, Barrak and his companions kneeled down and kissed the soil of Kuwait immediately after disembarking the Kuwait Airways aircraft. Hundreds of supporters had waited for the returnees at T4 terminal at Kuwait Airport, but they had to move quickly to nearby Sheikh Saad Airport, where Barrak and the opposition activists were taken.
Hundreds others had been waiting at the diwaniyas of Barrak and Tahous and the three activists to greet them. Supporters thronged Barrak as he emerged from the airport, then carried him on their shoulders and shouted slogans. Barrak thanked the good treatment he was given by police officers, saying they completed all procedures within seconds.
His supporters also surrounded Barrak’s vehicle on the Fifth Ring Road on the way to his diwaniya. Traffic was paralyzed and came to a halt despite police intervention. At Barrak’s diwaniya in Andalus, preparations had started from Tuesday as people performed traditional bedouin dances and songs, waving swords in celebration for their hero’s return. Firecrackers were also burst.
Barrak and his companions were greeted by Kuwaiti travelers first at Istanbul Airport when he boarded the plane, which was brought back to the country by pilot Ammar Al-Ajmi, himself a former MP. The five exiles sang the Kuwaiti national anthem as the plane approached Kuwait Airport, according to videos posted on Twitter.
The five men were among some 15 former opposition MPs and activists who left Kuwait to Turkey in the summer of 2018 to escape jail terms passed on them by the top court for storming the national assembly building in 2011. On Monday, three former MPs returned to the country and two years ago two other former MPs returned to Kuwait after a special Amiri pardon.
Only former MP Faisal Al-Muslim has not returned so far and it is not immediately known when he is due to come back. Muslim has not been enthusiastic to the deal that led to the Amiri pardon, fearing of concessions in return for the pardon. Muslim has not made any comment for the past several days and his supporters have launched a campaign on Twitter urging him to return.
DUBAI: Robots puttering around Dubai’s hi-tech Expo site could be a sign of things to come for the Gulf, where new cities are being built from scratch with artificial intelligence at their core. The 5G-enabled Expo, covering an area twice the size of Monaco, will remain as a “city of the future” and tech industry hub, Expo’s chief told AFP before its grand opening last month.
But the $7 billion project, featuring robots that greet visitors and can be used to order food, is not alone in the wealthy Gulf, where petrodollars are being invested heavily in a post-oil future. Neighboring Saudi Arabia is lavishing $500 billion on NEOM, a brand new, next-generation Red Sea tech center that will offer ultra-connectivity to its planned population of one million-plus, and is trialing airborne taxis.
AI is also at the heart of other Saudi developments including the Red Sea Project, a new tourist area that will use smart systems to monitor environmental impacts and visitor movements. Analysts say the Gulf monarchies are willing to bet big on AI, knowing they must move away from their reliance on fossil fuel industries and become more active in tech, tourism and other areas.
“You’ve got very forward (-looking), somewhat risk-loving leadership that sees the need to transform,” said Kaveh Vessali, a partner at consultancy firm PwC Middle East. “I think that’s just completely the opposite of what I see in the rest of the world.” Artificial intelligence courses in Bahrain primary schools, the UAE’s plans for automated delivery drones and Dubai’s ambition to have 25 percent of all transport automated by 2030 offer further evidence of the Gulf’s tech aspirations.
The Middle East is predicted to receive only two percent of the estimated $15.7 trillion global AI economy by 2030, according to PwC. But analysts say the Gulf countries – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE – are playing the long game, positioning themselves to leapfrog global players. The annual growth rate of the Middle East AI market is about 20 to 34 percent, led by the UAE and then Saudi Arabia, PwC said in a report, predicting that more than 10 percent of each of the two countries’ GDP will come from AI by 2030.
“Governments have the luxury of being more strategic,” said Vessali, citing the 20 and 50-year plans which are a hallmark of Gulf governments. “This is unheard of a) in the private sector, and b) in the West,” he adds. Vessali said most AI companies in Gulf states are fully, or at least semi, governmental, with comparatively low pressure to generate short-term returns. However, the region has a history of investing in companies which did not become particularly profitable, outside a few core industries such as oil and gas, he warned.
While the region might be known as culturally conservative, its AI strategies are better characterized as liberal and aggressive, according to some local players. In 2017, the UAE appointed its first minister of state for artificial intelligence, Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama, to spearhead the country’s AI strategy, launched that same year. The UAE has said it aims to become one of the leading nations in AI by 2031, creating new economic and business opportunities, and generate up to 335 billion dirhams ($91 billion) in extra growth.
“The region seems to classify being left behind on new technologies as a bigger risk than anything else,” said Cesar Lopez, the CEO of Datumcon. “Taking the risk to do what others aren’t has attracted and built business,” he told AFP. The data and AI solutions company based in the UAE and Saudi Arabia is using computer vision to scan and identify damaged containers at Jebel Ali port in Dubai, one of the world’s busiest, operated by logistics company DP World.
But despite the Gulf’s AI investments, the lack of reliable and accessible data sets, which are at the core of these systems, remain a barrier. “It’s going to take a few years to get there because the data isn’t mature enough for it yet (in the region),” said Stephen Rawson, an associate at American consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
While Gulf countries have been better at centralizing data across different governmental platforms, other leading countries have managed better data sets for longer. But being newer to data collection has its advantages, said Rawson, as Gulf countries can generate cleaner data to create more streamlined AI systems. “They are empowered to do this more than they would be in the West,” said Rawson, because with private enterprises, “getting them to work and play nice will only work if there’s a profit margin incentive for all of them.” – AFP
DUBAI: Drones, guided missiles, simulators: the United Arab Emirates is on the offensive to develop its defense industry in a bid to wean itself off dependence on imports. Khalid Al-Breiki heads one of five clusters of the Emirati defense consortium EDGE, formed two years ago and bringing together 25 Emirati arms firms in a bid to develop “national capacities”. According to him, the Abu Dhabi-based defense consortium is an indicator of the “maturity of our industry in the UAE”.
EDGE became the first Middle Eastern company to rank among the top 25 military firms in the world last year, with gross sales of over $5 billion, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. “We realized that we needed to bring our capabilities under one roof to focus on what we want to manufacture and service in the country, and now we can go global with that,” Breiki told AFP. “We have a start-up mentality, but with an economy of scale.”
The group has 13,000 employees “from all over the world”, but it wants to hire more UAE citizens, with a focus on striking agreements with universities in the country or abroad. Its targets align with a country-wide “Emiratization” strategy that has seen the authorities push for more local hires in an oil-rich Gulf country, where the foreign population outnumbers citizens at almost nine to one.
At the Dubai Airshow, the huge display erected by EDGE boasts several homemade products, from guided missiles to cybersecurity systems. The group’s contracts have multiplied recently, nearly all of them with the UAE government. Particularly lucrative deals have included maintenance of military jets, worth almost $4 billion, as well as providing guided munitions at $880 million.
Like neighboring Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the UAE is among the world’s top arms importers and is seeking to diversify its economy. In the defense industry, this occurs through “offsets”, which require defense manufacturers to invest in countries that import equipment from them. “We have 20 products done under the ‘Made in the UAE’ initiative and 13 new products announced this year,” Breiki said. “There is an inspiration to have an indigenous capability, however we haven’t matured enough that we can do it without partners.”
EDGE has signed multiple deals with foreign partners, including US firms Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, and Brazil’s Embraer, Breiki said, adding that they are also part of the “Airbus ecosystem”. He added that the company has set up “strategic partnerships” with certain firms “where they buy from us and sell for us”.
The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Zionist entity last year has opened up new opportunities for partnerships with Zionist defense firms, which have made their first appearance at the Dubai Airshow. “We’re discussing with them, we’re signing contracts with them,” Breiki said, adding: “We’re in line with our government”.
On Sunday, Zionist weapons giant Elbit, known for its sophisticated unmanned aerial systems, announced the creation of a UAE subsidiary that seeks to “lead the transfer of technologies to local partners”. EDGE, which has so far signed about 20 contracts for defense and munitions, hopes to expand its foothold on the international scene.
One of its companies specialized in precision engineering for aerospace, EPI, already exports more than 60 percent of its production. “Export is important, not only on the economic side,” but also to demonstrate the quality of Emirati products abroad, Breiki said. “We have this criterion: If we have a good product, we should be able to sell it abroad.” – AFP
NEW DELHI: India’s capital has shut schools and coal plants as it battles dangerous levels of air pollution in the region that yesterday also left Lahore in neighboring Pakistan choking on acrid smog. Air quality has worsened across northern India and adjacent parts of Pakistan in recent years, as industrial pollutants, smoke from seasonal crop burn-off, and colder winter temperatures coalesce into toxic smog.
Delhi is consistently ranked the world’s worst capital for air quality, with levels of pollutants last week reaching more than 30 times the maximum limit recommended by the World Health Organization. The city on Tuesday ordered the closure until the end of the month of six of 11 coal-fired power plants surrounding the metropolis in a bid to tackle the filthy air.
The move comes after India led the charge at the weekend to weaken anti-coal pledges at the UN COP26 climate summit, with critics saying it prioritized economic growth over the planet’s future. The Indian capital of 20 million people has also cancelled school classes and urged people to work from home, while banning non-essential trucks from entering the city in an effort to clean the smog. In an order passed late Tuesday, the city’s Commission for Air Quality Management said all education institutions should remain shut until further notice.
“Anti-smog guns” – which spray mist into the air – and water sprinklers were ordered to operate at pollution hotspots at least three times a day. The commission also said that at least half of government workers were being sent home and private firms should follow suit. The order came days after the Delhi government pushed back against a call by India’s Supreme Court to declare the city’s first “pollution lockdown”, which would restrict the population to their homes.
In neighboring Pakistan, the city of Lahore in Punjab province near the border with India was ranked the most polluted city in the world yesterday by a Swiss air quality monitor. By evening the air above the city of 11 million had cleared slightly. But levels of PM2.5 – the smallest and most harmful particles polluting the air – were still at 118 micrograms per cubic meter, nearly eight times the WHO’s daily recommended maximum.
“Children are experiencing breathing diseases… for God’s sake, find a solution,” labourer Muhammad Saeed told AFP. In recent years, Lahore residents have built their own purifiers and filed lawsuits against government officials in desperate bids to clean the air. But authorities have been slow to act, blaming the smog on India or claiming the figures are exaggerated.
Lahore is consistently ranked one of the world’s worst cities for air pollution. “We are poor people, we can’t even afford a doctor’s charges,” shopkeeper Ikram Ahmed told AFP. “We can only plead with them to control the pollution. I am not a literate person, but I have read that Lahore has the worst air quality and then comes India’s Delhi. If it continues like this, we will die.”
Laborer Saeed said he had stopped taking his children outside for walks because of the dirty air. “There are factories and small industries operating here – either shift them somewhere else, give them compensation or provide them with modern technology, so we can get rid of this smog,” he said. – AFP
KHARTOUM: Sudanese security forces shot dead at least 10 anti-coup protesters and wounded dozens more yesterday, medics said, in the bloodiest day since the military’s Oct 25 takeover. The fatalities – all in Khartoum, especially its northern districts – raised to 34 the death toll from unrest since the military seized power, a pro-democracy doctors’ union said. Hundreds more have been wounded.
Demonstrators had taken to the streets across the capital even though telephone lines and Internet services had been disrupted since the military took over, AFP journalists reported. “The people choose civilian rule,” demonstrators chanted, also shouting slogans against Sudan’s ruler, top general Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan. The security forces fired tear gas, injuring several more protesters, witnesses said. They have denied using live ammunition.
The doctors’ union said most of the casualties had suffered gunshot wounds to “the head, neck or torso”, but added that the demonstrators were still marching. Demonstrations also erupted in Port Sudan, an AFP journalist said, against the coup which halted a democratic transition that followed the 2019 toppling of longtime dictator Omar Al-Bashir. “It was a very bad day for the protesters,” Soha, a 42-year-old protester, told AFP. “I saw a person with gunshot wounds behind me and there were a lot of arrests” in Khartoum.
Efforts to stem the protests have seen hundreds arrested, including activists, passers-by and journalists. Qatari network Al Jazeera’s bureau chief was arrested Sunday and released Tuesday. The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors has said security forces have also arrested injured people inside Khartoum hospitals. The Sudanese Professionals Association, an umbrella of unions instrumental in the 2019 protests, denounced “immense crimes against humanity” and accused the security forces of “premeditated killings”.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on a visit to Kenya yesterday urged Africans to watch out for rising threats to democracy. He told Sudan’s military the country stood to regain badly-needed international aid if it restores the “legitimacy” of civilian government. Washington has suspended some $700 million in assistance to Sudan since the coup. “If the military puts this train back on its tracks and does what’s necessary, I think the support that has been very strong from the international community can resume,” said Blinken.
Prior to 2019, Sudan had been under some form of military dictatorship for much of its modern history. Burhan has declared a state of emergency, ousted the government and detained the civilian leadership, derailing a transition to full civilian rule and drawing international condemnation. Burhan insists the military’s move “was not a coup” but rather a push to “rectify the course of the transition”.
‘Trajectory of revolution’
US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee has been shuttling between the generals and the ousted civilian government in a bid to broker a way out of the crisis. Phee has called for the reinstatement of ousted Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who is effectively under house arrest. The few remaining free members of his cabinet continue to describe themselves as the “legitimate” government and refuse to negotiate with the military leaders.
While some of the civilian leaders have been freed since the power grab, new ones have been arrested. Burhan last week announced a new Sovereign Council, the highest transitional authority, with himself as chief and all nine military members keeping their posts. Its four civilian members were replaced. Burhan has also removed a clause in the transitional constitutional declaration that mentions the Forces for Freedom and Change, the key group behind the protests that toppled Bashir. He has continued to promise elections will go ahead as planned in 2023, reiterating to Phee on Tuesday that his actions aimed to “correct the trajectory of the revolution”. – AFP
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Scientists say they have proven what many people fortunate enough to grow up with theirs have known all along: Grandmothers have strong nurturing instincts and are hard-wired to care deeply about their grandchildren. A new study published in the Royal Society B on Tuesday is the first to provide a neural snapshot of the cherished intergenerational bond. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers at Emory University in the southern US state of Georgia scanned the brains of 50 grandmothers who were shown pictures of their grandchildren, who were between three and 12 years old.
As a control, they were also shown pictures of an unknown child, an adult parent of the same sex as their grandchild, and an unknown adult. “They recruited areas of the brain that are involved with emotional empathy, and also areas of the brain that are involved in movement and motor simulation and preparation,” James Rilling, an anthropologist and neuroscientist who led the study told AFP. “When they’re viewing these pictures of their grandchild, they’re really feeling what the grandchild is feeling. So when the child is expressing joy, they’re feeling that joy. When the children are expressing distress, they’re feeling that distress.”
The same motor related regions of the brain also light up in the brains of mothers, and are thought to be related to the instinct to pick up a child or approach and interact with them. By contrast, when the grandmothers viewed images of their adult children, there was a stronger activation of brain regions linked to cognitive empathy – trying to understand what a person is thinking or feeling and why, without as much emotional engagement. This, said Rilling, might be linked to children’s cute appearance – scientifically known as “baby schema”, which the young of many species share in order to evoke a caregiving response.
Unlike other primates, humans are “cooperative breeders”, which means mothers get help in rearing offspring. Rilling, who had previously conducted similar research on fathers, had wanted to turn his attention toward grandmothers in order to explore a theory in anthropology known as the “grandmother hypothesis.”
This holds that the evolutionary reason that human females tend to live long lives – well beyond their own reproductive years – is to provide benefits to their grown offspring and grandchildren. Evidence supporting the hypothesis has been found in societies including Hadza hunter-gatherers of northern Tanzania, where grandmothers provide nourishing tubers to their grandchildren.
The effect also been seen in other species such as elephants, and has been observed in orcas, which like humans – but unlike the vast majority of mammals – also experience menopause. “This is really the first look at the grand maternal brain,” said Rilling, explaining that brain scan studies on the elderly normally focus on studying conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. The grandmothers, who were drawn from the Atlanta, Georgia area and came from a cross-section of economic and racial backgrounds, were also asked to fill out questionnaires.
Grandmothers who reported a greater desire to be involved with caring had greater activity in brain regions of interest. Finally, when comparing the new study with the results from his earlier work on fathers, Rilling found that overall, grandmothers more strongly activated regions involved with emotional empathy and motivation. But he stressed that this finding was only an average and doesn’t necessarily apply to any given individual.
Rilling also interviewed each of his subjects to get a sense about the challenges and rewards of being a grandparent. “Consistently, the challenge that came up the most was the differences of opinion they would have with the parents in terms of how the grandchildren should be raised-their values, and the constant struggle to step back from that,” he said.
On the other hand, “We joked about it, but a lot of them talked about how you can give the grandchildren back, it’s not a full time job,” he said. Many grandmothers felt they could be more present now that they were free of the time and financial pressure they experienced when raising their own children. “So a lot of them reported actually enjoying being a grandmother more than they enjoyed being a mother,” he said. – AFP