There is no doubt that the main economic challenge before the new Lebanese government is the burden of the public debt, which has recently grown at an alarming pace. The lack of growth and the widening fiscal deficit are putting great pressure on public finances. This puts the central bank in front of serious risks, not least of which is the high inflation rate and what may happen at the monetary level if the appropriate monetary policy is not implemented to support the Lebanese pound.
By the end of January, Lebanon’s public debt had reached $64 billion and its debt-to-GDP ratio has reached 163.1%. It should be noted that the debt in Lebanese pounds reached the equivalent of $37.8 billion, up 12.6%, while foreign currency debt increased by 6.7% to reach $26.1 billion. The rate of growth of the public debt is worrisome because it has exceeded 10%, and gross domestic product (GDP) growth for 2012-13 didn’t exceed 2%. In other words, the debt is growing faster than the economy at a rate exceeding 500%. One doesn’t need to be well-versed in economics to see that the country is heading for bankruptcy.
President Barack Obama has an opportunity this month to lead from behind on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia - behind, that is, a woman driver.
The president is visiting the repressive Gulf kingdom this month. In a letter delivered to the White House, Amnesty International is calling on him to take a stand on women’s rights by meeting with the female leaders of a campaign to end the ban against women driving. We are also calling on him to have a woman Secret Service driver himself during his visit.
Take action to demand the president support women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
There are five reasons why the president should hand over the car keys to a woman:
It is interesting that Hamas has been unable to prevent Islamic Jihad militants from operating along the border with Israel, in an area that is supposed to be off limits to them. This, despite having recently stationed its Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades in the area to ensure that no rockets are fired from it. But what is actually stopping Hamas, a group that even Israel recognizes as the sovereign authority in the Gaza Strip, from disarming the Al-Quds Brigades? Who or what is preventing fighters from the al-Qassam Brigades, whose military strength is several orders of magnitude greater than Islamic Jihad’s military wing, the Al-Quds Brigades, to enforce their authority? And what made the Hamas slogan of “concentrating military power in one hand” so hollow and meaningless?
Right now, the leaders of Hamas are looking at Islamic Jihad and coming to the conclusion that the Al-Quds Brigades are capable of doing to them exactly what Hamas did to Fatah seven years earlier. They can achieve military superiority, thereby posing a threat to Hamas and especially to its position of seniority in the Gaza Strip.
Iran favors Islamic Jihad. Hamas realizes this, and is not trying to disarm it. For its part, Islamic Jihad now knows how to take advantage of the crisis facing Hamas and the movement’s weaknesses. This leaves the leaders of Hamas caught between a rock and a hard place. On one side they have Israel, which threatens them with a large scale military attack if the rocket fire doesn’t stop. On the other side is Iran, which will not stand silently by if Hamas causes any harm to the members of Islamic Jihad or to Iranian interests in Gaza.
The leaders of the Hamas movement are being forced to evaluate the options and choose between Israel or Iran. Which frightens them more? Which poses a greater threat, as far as they are concerned? Which threat has far-reaching implications for their future? From which threat will they emerge with damage they can tolerate? Hamas tends to choose Iran.
On March 4 in Adana province, a 22-year-old woman attempted to commit suicide because she had been unexpectedly denied an abortion at a government hospital
On March 11, a peculiar headline appeared in the press and on social media: “Turkish Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology: Abortion is banned covertly.” Things get a bit tricky here, because the law has not changed. The head of the OB/GYN association, Dr. Cansun Demir, told Al-Monitor, “The option to click on ‘Abortion’ is removed from our Web page.” Hence, his doctors can no longer approve this procedure, and the government will not cover the expense.
Demir explained, “The right to choose to terminate a pregnancy based on the woman’s decision is legal, but we cannot provide the service. What is left to medical doctors is either classifying any abortion as a medical necessity or redirecting the woman to seek private care to terminate the pregnancy.” Demir said they cannot comprehend or explain the legal basis of this change to the patients, because it appears to be arbitrary.
“Changing the name of the square in Kiev, capital of Ukraine, from ‘independence’ to ‘euro’ is a clear sign that this movement, supported by the United States and Europe, is pushing Ukraine away from independence toward dependency,” said Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces.
Last week, Kayhan newspaper, which is managed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative, Hossein Shariatmadari, published an editorial in which the crisis in Ukraine was described as the conflict between the Kremlin and the “enemy” of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The editorial’s author, Sadollah Zarei, a theoretician who works for the Iran Revolutionary Guard, described the enemy as “the West,” but did not elaborate.
Inside Iran, however, some say that the recent events in Ukraine represent to the hard-liners more than just a disagreement between Russia and the West, and that it has reopened an old psychological wound.
“For the government, Ukraine is the symbol of the velvet revolution,” said a Green Movement activist to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. “A lot of people believe that the post-election demonstrations in Iran in 2009 were influenced by the Orange Revolution of 2005 in Ukraine.”
The activist said: “Certain groups in the establishment are worried that with the fall of the corrupt government in Ukraine, members of the Iranian social movement might think that if [President Hassan] Rouhani’s administration fails to push for a major improvements, they, too, can once again return to the streets.”
The conflict in Syria has taken on many shapes as it mutated from a popular mass movement for political change into a proxy civil war with sectarian undertones. Each region of this land, a diverse tapestry with intricately interwoven social, ethnic and religious ties bound together with the strings of a shared history, has experienced the conflict in distinct ways.
Aleppo is perhaps unique in this respect, deviating from the standard Syrian model in that the conflict here follows the stratification of society along class and clan lines, rather than the general sectarian rift that delineates the conflict elsewhere. A large number of Sunnis from all backgrounds, including the working and rural classes, fight alongside the regime in militias or as willing conscripts. In other provinces, however, the split could be more or less described as halves of a once coherent social order split along purely confessional lines.
In Aleppo, the splits are more blurred. Needless to say, the entirety of the rebel forces — except for the foreigners fighting with the al-Qaeda affiliates — fighting under Islamist or mainstream groups are composed of poorer Sunnis from the countryside.
“The project bears two goals - economic and political,” said Amir Dajani, deputy managing director at Bayti Real Estate Investment Company, which heads the city’s construction. “The city provides and will provide thousands of jobs, and in the political angle, the idea is to construct the Palestinian state through establishing this city, as well as other cities.”
The city is planned to spread over 6 million squared meters, and its first stages include 630 housing units - which have already been almost entirely sold, in buildings of four and five floors.
Some 70% of those who purchased apartments are newly married couples and relatively young people from the northern West Bank; most have academic degrees and a steady job, and only 11% are single. Among those who purchased apartments are Arab-Israelis who bought a second apartment, and are planning to use it during the weekends, as well as East Jerusalem residents who are hiding the transition for fear of losing their Israeli IDs.
Meanwhile, three schools, a mosque, a church, a large amphitheater and a soccer field are all being built in the city. The construction of a large commercial center with stores, a hotel, a hi-tech center and a cinema complex is nearly finished; a kilometer away from there, a logistics center for light industry has been established.
This video was posted by Gene over at Harry’s Place.
A black member of the south African Parliament argues that calling Israeli an apartheid state, is baseless and he should know since he lived under apartheid himself.
This article does not lend itself well to paraphrasing - and really is worth reading in its entirety - this is worth quoting :
Although accurate figures on the number of atheists in the Gulf are nearly impossible to come by, a 2012 poll by WIN-Gallup International titled “Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism” published a surprising number of self-professed Saudi atheists. The researchers found that up to 5% of the Saudi respondents declared themselves to be atheist, a figure comparable to the United States and parts of Europe.
Read more @ AL-Monitor