Qatar: Conciliators, Regional Superpower, or Simply Another Wealthy Arab Nation?

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

sheikh tamim bin hamad al-thani amir of qatar e-u. high representative for foreign and security policy and Vice president of the european commission catherine ashton in doha, qatar

DOHA, Qatar - An internationally renowned nation which was once known only for its pearl-fishing has become a major global player. Pumping out nearly 2.3 millions of barrels of natural gas a day which gets shipped around the globe as LNG, it is in the top 25 producers of oil and gas. (Source: Forbes) 

Unfortunately, it is also currently at the center of the FIFA scandal that is reverberating around the world, yet this is not the topic of discussion here.

In the 1940s the nascent country’s oil and gas industry was developed by Western nations as they continued to implement colonization strategies that included primary control of natural resources. This all changed in the 1990s when Qatar exercised greater control of the profits from its oil and gas industry thus transforming it into one of richest countries in the Emirates.

The government recognizes that shifting from a major global supplier of oil and gas will be a long and somewhat protracted process. But, the proactive open-market policies being instituted by the government is helping Qatar to become both a major financial hub in additional to a luxury tourist destination. At the start of 2015, Qatar’s economy was ranked a score of 70.8 according to the data tracked, which means that it is the 32nd most investor friendly economies in the world. With this type of recognition comes the ability to not only exert influence, but also encourages criticism as in the case of allegations of impropriety with the award to host the 2022 World Cup soccer games to Qatar.

Owing to economic diversification, investors from different parts of the world have taken a keen interest in doing business with the country as well as establishing corporate headquarters. The ramping up of foreign investments in infrastructure, finance and banking, products and services, etc. being delivered by these foreign corporations prognosticates some excellent job opportunities in Qatar, and is one of the main reasons that it was chosen as a host country for the games.

Qatar is often regarded as a study in contradictions and is known to be significantly more liberal than many of its neighbors. Apart from Saudi Arabia, the state of Qatar is the only Middle Eastern nation to adopt Wahhabism as its official state religion. The religious demographics in Qatar seem to support both the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the militant Hamas movement, and the internecine conflict between the two is quite complex and sometimes terrifying. At the moment the ‘tug of war’ raging inside the Muslim world consists of two sides. The Salafi jihadis―or hardcore Wahhabis, who are financed and supported by Saudi Arabia versus the Muslim Brotherhood who are supported by Qatar on the other.

For years Qatar has been supporting and propagating the Muslim Brotherhood's agenda in different parts of the Middle East and North Africa through its Al Jazeera television network. Though this may seem partisan at first glance, history reveals a more nuanced story, one in which Qatar has maintained a very diplomatic approach towards an increasingly global religious dilemma. Qatar's ability to act as arbiter and play the role of conciliator was demonstrated in its role in achieving the 2008 ceasefire in Lebanon according to the online news site Asharq Al-Awsat.

Unfortunately, the world’s eyes are trained upon Syria and the tragedies that are occurring within its borders, and though Qataris are working behind the political scene to help support Syrians to establish a post-Bashar Hafez al-Assad governance, these efforts toward stabilization are not obviously visible. As with much that occurs in negotiations, what is seen in the public eye is rarely what occurs behind the scenes, and in this context Qatar always positions itself to ensure that its interests are preserved. One of the main motives and interest in facilitating peace in Syria is the hope that a more moderate form of Islam will prevail in a new Syria, and if successful, may help to garner a bigger seat at the table of powerful Arab nations.

The initiatives taken thus far reflect Qatar’s desire to continue in its role as conciliator in the global economic and religious amphitheater. Qatar hopes that by making greater strides with this goal through an open job market, flexibility in accepting the customs of foreigners within limits of decorum, and negotiating for an air of tolerance, balance, and acceptance will ultimately serve to change external perceptions. From the highest levels of government to the ordinary Qataris, there exists a desire to be counted amongst the most developed and advanced countries in the world, and thus the nation hopes to break the stigma of mistrust and judgment that plagues almost every Muslim nation today.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Is Saudi Arabia on Path Toward Balance?

kingdom tower saudi arabia, By faisal photography

kingdom tower saudi arabia, By faisal photography

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -  Geographically located at the geopolitical crossroads of the Middle East and the West, Saudi Arabia has come a long way from being known only as a religiously constrained nation dominated by hardline conservatives focused more on internal governance to the exclusion of Western opportunities because of their possibly corrosive influences.

King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 90, who died on 23 January 2015, was also known as 'the reformer' king, and under his decade long reign the socioeconomic transition strategies had already yielded positive results as the country became more open to doing business with partners that sometimes were at odds with the country's religious precepts. This fact was underscored by the number of world leaders and top dignitaries who visited Saudi Arabia to give their condolences.

The newly enthroned King Salman welcomed U.S. President Barack Obama, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Japan's Crown Prince Naruhito, Spain's King Felipe VI, Jordan's King Abdullah, Denmark's Crown Prince Frederik, Dutch King Willem-Alexander, and the United Kingdom's Prince Charles and others and will hopefully continue Saudi Arabia's embrace of a path that leads out of the religious cocoon that has historically governed it.

Though still a monarchy, the Saudi Arabian government is relatively stable, and the influx of new business partners is helping this thriving society to transform its image of being a totally Islam-centric culture to one that at least entertains and hosts people from different nations and backgrounds. This includes, doing business with Western companies that sometime send female executives to manage large scale projects.

However, Saudi Arabia is a nation that is built on Islamic principles and protecting these principles remains its cornerstone and governs every transaction. For instance, though Western women may come to work there, they are still expected to observe the decorum and customs that are unique to Muslim society. Even First Lady Michelle Obama was criticized in the media for not wearing an Abaya or head scarf during a recent visit; however, it was noted by the Associated Press that former First Ladies Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush have also appeared in public meetings Saudi royals without an Abaya.

Even still, Saudi Arabia is realizing unprecedented global, economic and employment growth as people embrace the reality that it is simultaneously the ultimate ‘Hajj’ destination, but also for non-Muslims it is a country where they can achieve economic success, explore great job opportunities, or just visit as a great vacation destination.

Socioeconomic Transformation:  In 1970 Saudi Arabia introduced the first of a series of the ongoing five-year development plans. The long-range plan had in scope the implementation of a modern infrastructure, fostering the development of business relations with other nations, and making the kingdom an affordable place for one and all. As a result of assiduously following the scope of this program over a 30-year period, today Saudi Arabia has been transformed into one of the most modern and sophisticated Arab states.

The table below provides a high-level summary of some of the major social and political breakthroughs that were achieved as a consequence of the Social Economic Transformation policies.

Government Goals and Objectives

Achievements

2001, December (Fight for Values & Saving the grace of Islam)

The government calls for the eradication of terrorism, and publicly states that terrorist acts are explicitly prohibited by Islam. The government also takes the unprecedented step of issuing ID cards to women.

2002, May (Sabotaging the rule to “offer pain”)

The criminal code underwent major revision that included ban on torture and right of suspects to legal representation.

2005, November (The World knows the worth now)

The prestigious World Trade Organization (WTO) gives a green signal to Saudi Arabia's membership after 12-years of negotiations.

2009, June (Making relations rock-solid)

U.S. President Barack Obama visits Saudi Arabia as part of a Middle East tour. The visit was aimed at increasing U.S. engagement with the Islamic world.

2012 June (Let the souls breathe and get their dreams)

Saudi Arabia agreed to allow women athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time. This decision was against the background of speculation that the entire Saudi team might be disqualified on grounds of sex discrimination.

2014 February (Banish the “Crude”)

New anti-terrorism law were introduced to fortify the suppression of violent groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

2014, June-September

Activists for women's rights have become more vocal and public in their demands for equal rights for women to fully participate in society, in particular, being able to drive. Among other platforms, social media users continue to push the boundaries and test the limits of freedom of expression.

The Employment Affairs:  Saudi Arabia currently possesses more than 25% of the world's oil reserves. The oil and gas sector in Saudi Arabia has created astounding wealth for the country, and has encouraged investment by other nations that buy oil and gas from this Middle East powerhouse. Experts believe that with social reforms that continue to take place, will encourage nations not traditionally inclined to do business with Saudi Arabia to reconsider. Such expansion should result in the creation of many high-paying job opportunities for foreign and domestic workers alike; a fact evidenced by Jeddah being named one of the top livable cities in the world.

Persistent Concerns:  Saudi Arabia still has much to improve upon when it comes to human rights especially with regard to meting out punishment. In this respect the country is still in a religious cocoon of ultra-conservative, orthodox ‘Wahhabism' which has been Saudi Arabia's dominant faith for the past two centuries. This religious interpretation of Islamic law takes a literalist view of Qur'an and the tenets, and thus continues to condone heinous acts such as "death penalty or stoning for adultery and fornication, flogging and amputation for stealing, and punishments of retribution, are sanctioned by the Qur'an and are unchangeable," legal scholar Shahid M. Shahidullah explains. Wahhabist interpretation of "sharia law is the exclusive foundation of criminal justice" in Saudi Arabia. (Source: VOX)

Frontline PBS featured an Analyses of Wahhabism and its rigidity that "has led it to misinterpretation and distortion of Islam, pointing to extremists such as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban." Indeed, many of the perpetrators of the September 11th air attacks against the U.S. were instigated and perpetrated by Saudi nationals, and indeed many people still believe that the government and constituent nations in the region harbor extremist.

Between 2014 and 2015 Saudi Arabia has more than redeemed itself with tangible efforts and resources in the fight against radical Islamist groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, two of the greatest terrorists threats facing the world today. The "Saudis have sent jets to bomb the group in the Syrian regions where it [ISIS] first gained strength and broader influence. The result is that Saudi Arabia now has useful intelligence on the groups the U.S. will be arming and training within Syria later this year. Saudi Arabia is one of only three Muslim countries (the others are Turkey and Qatar) that would allow the U.S. to set up rebel-training camps on its soil." (Source: Huffington Post)

In summary, Saudi Arabia has realized vast improvements and it has boldly embraced the challenges that face a country that struggles to balance modernity with tradition; and though many may yet criticize this nation, its increased presence on and involvement in global affairs heralds its desire to move toward balance.

Middle East Correspondent:  @Vinita Tiwari

Does Middle East Harbour Fears of Oil Drying Up?

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MIDDLE EAST - Will the world soon experience a major oil and gas crunch? Many global countries are gradually becoming self-dependent and planning to adopt new drilling technologies in the hope of discovering their own oil reserves. The Middle East, which has long maintained its stature as the world’s largest oil exporter, now feels great pressure. Someday the oil reserve will dry up under the burden of consumption of a vast volume of barrels of crude oil per day.

Governments and those involved in framing policies in the Middle East are now aware that the world’s oil fields are depleting at a rate of 9.1% per year, which is terrifying. It has been reported that if nothing is done to overcome the threat, then oil production could fall 38% in only five years. A recent report in the Guardian revealed that conventional sources of oil are expected to continue to decline and future oil demands will need to be satiated through more unconventional resources.

This is a matter that requires immediate attention for most of the oil producing nations in the Middle East. What if the economic highs created by the precious oil drop down to nothing? This very fear has brought economic diversification to the center stage. The only saving grace that can protect the global population from experiencing this painful outcome is to introduce a diversification strategy.

The concept of economic diversification is to improve the GDP. Economic diversification is a process that generates a growing range of economic outputs. This diversifies the markets for exports or income sources outside of domestic economic activities (i.e. income from overseas investment). The Middle East and its constituting nations have adopted the concept, where previously they were characterized by the lack of it.

Other sectors will now stand with pride and make their own contributions to the GDP and thus lead to a flourishing fiscal health. At the moment, private sectors are the first visible output of the economic divergence protocol.

Price and demand are two of the most important aspects of the global economic system and fiscal diversification is one way to escape the complex phenomenon. Countries and their respective economic systems are experiencing problems such as low growth rates, lack of public and private incentives to accumulate human capital, lack of competition in manufacturing, and similar problems. This is something that has coaxed the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council to opt for economic diversification.

Economic diversification can reduce a nation’s economic volatility and increase its real activity performance. With oil consumption going up at a very steep rate, diversification is something that can pacify the fear in the Middle East associated with its diminishing oil reserve.

The answer lies in the relationship between fiscal divergence and private sector economic reforms. The theory suggests that diversification will help increase the private sector and will lower the contribution of the public sector to a certain level. One of the reasons for more private sector involvement is that a part of economic divergence relates to the issue of the foreign direct investments. A report from LSE suggests FDIs can bring in capital, create new jobs for people living in the Middle East, encourage development of new technology, and formulate management methods. These will help the countries build and expand their societies and knowledge communities.

It can safely be said that the potential of the Middle Eastern nations to attract FDI is severely limited without a well-functioning private sector. The growth of the private sector in the overall GCC economy has not only brought a fresh breath of air but has also created ripples in the employment market as a whole. The premise is simple: Take the revenue from oil and gas and invest it in other budding industries and sectors.

The expectation of fiscal diversification is freedom from the monopoly of oil and gas revenue on the GDP, and newcomers entering the economic arena. The Gulf would soon be relieved from the fear of depleting oil reserves and could still manage the country with a growing private sector. There would be well-paying jobs in the Middle East and the standard of living would still be maintained.

Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

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Belo Monte | World's Third Largest Dam Construction Threatens Kayapó

Semana Dos Povos Indiangenas, Photo by Governopara

Semana Dos Povos Indiangenas, Photo by Governopara

PARÁ, Brazil -- Despite environmental and humanitarian protests, the Brazillian government plans to build five hydroelectric dams on the Tapajos River. The river is an important tributary to the Amazon and if built, the dams will flood the area displacing both people and animals and destroying land considered sacred.

"The first Indian Park in Brazil was created in the river basin by the Brazilian government in the early 1960s. This park marks the first indigenous territory recognized by the Brazilian government and it was the world's largest indigenous reserve on the date of its creation.

Currently, fourteen tribes live on the reserve surviving with natural resources and extracting from the river most of what they need for food and water." (Source: Wikipedia)

Over the past few months, 13,000 people from the Munduruko tribe have protested the project which would threaten their land, livelihood and culture.

Their fight involves battling through new laws and ordinances saying indigenous people don't have a right to control what happens on their own land. It is disturbingly reminiscent to what happened to American Indians in the 1800s.

The government's claim is that the Amazon has enormous untapped hydroelectric potential which would provide needed clean energy for the country. To this end, the government is trying to circumvent the constitutional clause protecting native people and their land.

In terms of cost, hydro-power is Brazil's top alternative energy solution. Other viable options include wind, solar and fuel made from sugarcane.

Disputes over the Amazon are nothing new. Since the 1890s, loggers, ranchers, miners and more have been trying for a share of the Amazon's resources. In the past, warriors fought back with organized and sometimes violent protests, including forcible eviction from the territory.

Official governmental red tape is hard to handle, but this isn't the first time an Amazon tribe has fought the dam fight.  In 1989, with international support and the help of conservationist groups, the neighboring Kayapo tribe successfully prevented the building of the Kararao dam, which would have flooded the Xingu River.

They weren't as successful with the Belo Monte reservoir, also chosen to be built on the Xingu River, and slated to be finished by year 2015.

While some predict Belo Monte will lead to needed jobs and ease the nation's energy burden, others foretell the drying of the forest caused by the diverted water, the displacement of thousands of people whose homes are now underwater and the pollution and inevitable destructive influence roads and workers will have on the previously undisturbed forest.

Chiefs from over 60 villages have submitted a letter demanding the government consult and receive permission from native people before constructing the new dams. However, it is still unclear whether the campaign will be successful or if the Tapajos dams will become the next Belo Monte.

Immigration Policies: Two Countries Address the Global Expat Dilemma

japan-visa-photo-by-paul-davidson.jpg

Vinita Tiwari, Middle East CorrespondentLast Modified: 02:23 a.m. DST, 25 July 2014

Dubai - UAE, Visa, Medical, Registration, Photo by Emon Dinglasan

“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists”. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

This phrase by one of the most iconic figures in the history of the American presidency affirms the fact that the process of immigration which has been a part of the human experience since time immemorial, and which continues today, is a crucial part of nation building.

Yet, even with the historical proof that immigration is valuable and necessary, the process of moving to another country to achieve upward mobility is more challenging than it has ever been.  This post does not seek to address the issue of 'legal' versus 'illegal' immigration, but the simple fact that in all of the contention people have forgotten their own origins as they lay claim to lands in which they were once strangers.

Society, economies, and global relations are an integral component of a robust immigrant population, and for the world to continue walking on the right path or precisely on a path of continued success owing in large part to the efforts of immigrants and their descendants; countries need to refocus their immigration policies to streamline and provide greater avenues for legalizing migrants, versus an approach that borders on xenophobia.

Some of the most vociferous complaints lodge against immigrants is that they will become a drain on society because they are poorly educated and lack skills required in this technological era. What has been forgotten is that the lack of education or skill does not constitute a high-probability of failure.  Many titans of industry arrived on foreign shores with little more than the clothes on their backs, and a primary school education to boot.

These migrants who shuffled from place-to-place in the earlier centuries were not afraid to wager on the future with their hard work, dreams, and determination to rise above their humble origins, thus laying a strong foundation for future generations to build upon.  This is not to say that there aren't many people who seek to gain illegal entry to a country for nefarious intent, but the majority of immigrant expats are law abiding citizens.

Immigration: Historical Significance

If one were to turn the pages of history, it can be seen that immigration activity started in the United States during the colonial era, and for the first part of the 19th century the country experienced unprecedented rates of immigration during the period between the 1880s to the 1920s.  According to the History Channel in an article about U.S. Immigration Before 1965, immigrants were divided into two lots on the basis of their motive behind their desire to immigrate; the first group entered America to look for better economic opportunities, while the other group which mainly constituted pilgrims, moved to America in search of religious freedom.

Only in 1965 did America formulate immigration laws which subsequently paved the way for Asia and Latin American laborers to immigrate.  Prior to the codification of immigration legislation a Quota System was used, but it clearly favored laborers of European descent.  This inherent inequity in the system has led to persistent accusations of racism, while the other side claims justification for this imbalance with specious diatribe and fear mongering.

Immigration: Different Nation, Different Facets

Since time immemorial, the activity of moving from one place to another for work, money or religious purposes has been prevalent. These globe trotters have been called many names in different nations; ‘Nomads’, ‘Wetbacks’, ‘Banjaras, Pikey, or Gypsies, but these derogatory labels sought to diminish migrants as human beings and malign their true intent, which has always been to search for better life in a better place. Soon, social concerns, religious constraints, and a clash of cultures served to ignite anti-migration activity.

In response to the demands made by the citizens already inhabiting various countries legally or by birth, their elected representatives institute tougher immigration laws to level the playing field, and reduce the appearance of bias and negativity.  But, how many succeeded and how many failed?  What were the hurdles?

The Current Story of ‘Sweet & Sour’ Experiences

Migration activity has become a trend nowadays as individuals are feeling the need to work and settle down in countries with good economic conditions and standard of living. There are favorable nations for them and then on the other side there are nations that have risen from the ashes and have achieved an enviable stature, yet reject immigrants because they do not want the country to experience a reduction in standards of living because too many migrants "may" require social services support at the tax payers' expense.

The positive gains made in immigration policy by many nations, has suffered blows in recent years.  In 2012, the Global Post published an article that listed the top 5 nations (Latvia, Japan, Thailand, UAE, and Australia) with the world's worst immigration policies.  Additional research and rankings of countries with similar labor abuses was done by the Human Rights Watch and Foreign Policy groups, and these studies confirmed and expounded upon the dangers faced by migrants seeking a better life in other countries.

Several of these countries on the lists are faring well both economically and socially, and their resistance to immigration supports the assertion that they view immigrants as a nuisance and a drain.  The report also revealed that each of these countries had severe shortcomings in their employment laws, practiced unfair and punitive behavior toward immigrants, especially in preventing immigrants from joining or forming labor unions which may have providing them with basic workers' rights and additional protections.

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Published: 25 July 2014 (Page 2 of 2)

‘The Wounds Washed & Bandaged’

The fact cannot be ignored that there are several nations, predominantly Asia and Arab, that are thriving because of the high rate of immigration, lax or none -existent worker's rights, and the subsequent benefit derived from these laborers that encourages foreign investments due to low wages.

Though this is still the prevailing model, many countries with stable economies that are flourishing, have begun to roll-out initiatives that seek to align the disparity between the benefits realized from these migrant workers versus their treatment and status..

Though identified in the Global Post, these 5 countries are definitely guilty of harsh anti-immigration policies, but there are many more socially restrictive nations that refuse to even let expatriates reach their shores, as has been reported these past few weeks in several tragedies where immigrants were wounded, drowned, or killed in open waters.

One incident occurred off of the coast of Italy where 60 people were killed trying to escape suffocation in a poorly ventilated and over crowded below deck area of the ship. Another ongoing concern is how Australia is currently handling immigrants seeking asylum.  Instead of allowing them to plead their case on shore, immigrants are stopped at sea and sent back without any regard to potential persecution they may face as a result.  Amongst the 5 countries listed above, one Asian and one Middle East country have begun to re-addressed their immigration laws to make them more equitable and as a result have begun to frame new laws and regulations.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Recently, UAE has emerged as one of the favorite destinations for immigrants. Expatriates from different nations who are seeking to expand their professional horizons are seeking career opportunities in the UAE.  Job seekers with technical skills can anticipate high per capita income, easy home loans and a vibrant lifestyle.  But, this is a relatively new but positive turn of events, especially since the UAE made the 2012 list of countries with the worst immigration policies.

Now, 2-years later, many Emirate-level governments have taken steps to strengthen the rights and protection of migrant workers.  With new strategic direction the federation has begun to focus on labor issues and legislating governmental bodies to arbitrate between the workers and employers, a mutually beneficial resolution of any immigration issues.  The country has reviewed and revised some laws, as well as its bilateral agreements with the countries from which many of the migrant laborers have originated for the past several years.

One such noteworthy amendment legislating greater protection in the interests of workers who were not covered under Wage Protection System (WPS). For this, the UAE government did following:

  • In 2012, the UAE Federal National Council called for legislation for addressing the protection of domestic workers' rights.
  • Later in 2013, the UAE government revised a federal law to safeguard victims of human trafficking.
  • There were initiatives and training programs developed to help custom and immigration officers to identify and targeted those who may be guilty of tafficking.

This may not seem like much, but these changes are substantial when one considers that the UAE based upon the 2012 report, gave the appearance of such a lack of interests in the rights of migrant workers, that laws and regulations did not even exists.

Japan

It is said that Tokyo’s government intended to pay the immigrants to leave the country as soon as possible. Sounds weird and disheartening, but it’s true.  Similar anti-immigrant action is being taken in both the United States and Australia where  asylum seekers and immigrants are being treated inhumanely and with little compassion or any consideration of extenuating circumstances.

However, as with UAE, Japan has realized some positive reversals in its heretofore inhospitable immigration policies.

  • The Japanese government has introduced a point system that makes migration protocols easier for workers conducting one of three activities: academic research, specialized technical work or business management.
  • New Preferential Treatment System that allows a foreign professional to work in a number of fields as long as they possess the requisite education or business acumen and/or capital.  Similar to the US H1B visa which is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise in specialized fields such as in architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine.
  • Clauses that will allow families of professionals to enjoy many of the same benefits of citizens.

Similar amendments are in progress in the 3 remaining countries on the list, but immigration reform in these countries has not progressed enough to demonstrate outward manifestation, nor is the process transparent enough for us to gain additional insight.

The Final Verdict

The countries that have been facing issues pertaining to harsh anti-immigration laws now recognize that their heinous treatment of foreign workers will no longer go unnoticed and in fact is being classified as a human rights violation.  It is easy to malign countries with record of various human rights abuses; however, it is more reprehensible for countries with robust economies and strong human rights protections to deny the benefits that have been received from immigraant or 'undocumented' laborers. To adopt such a hypocritical and uncompromising stance on immigration will only hurt the economic ecosystem in the long-term.

One could be kind and say that the stance they have adopted is because they haven't realized the true worth of these migrants and the advantages they bring.  But, more likely the exact opposite and that these governments are keenly aware of the benefits derived, but because this population of migrant workers is vulnerable and have the most to lose, many laborers find themselves in the untenable position of being regularly abused and taken advantaged.

This is a highly charged issue clearly demands greater awareness and compassion, as well as a desire to accept people from different backgrounds and religious beliefs into their midst. Once this has been accomplished, immigration laws will hopefully become merely written words on a piece of paper, because policy will then be driven less by the letter of the law, but the fulfillment of the original framework that provided avenues for people to improve their lot in life while bring great benefit to their adopted country.

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Follow Vinita on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Middle East Correspondent: @vinita1204

Pressures on the System Threaten the Wealthy's Income Stream

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ROBERT REICH WEARS many hats. He is a professor of Public Policy at UC Berkeley. He brought his economic expertise to Republican Gerald Ford and Democrat Jimmy Carter's administrations. As Secretary of Labor during Bill Clinton's first stint in the White House, Reich oversaw an increase in the minimum wage and was an outspoken advocate of everyday Americans.

Reich is the focal point of the 2013 documentary 'Inequality For All.' His central assertion in the film is that while inequality drives the free market, severe wealth inequality makes the market stagnant. When the gap between the haves and have-nots is such that the bottom 47% of Americans have no wealth (and likely have significant debt), and 400 billionaires at the top have capital comparable to 80 million families, everyone loses out.

While I felt aligned with Reich's agenda from the beginning of the film, I did wonder how he would substantiate the claim that massive wealth inequality is bad for the very rich. I hoped that his rationale would go beyond some sort of moral-ethical dilemma of the one-percenters. As the film progressed, I got the quantitative documentation I was looking for.

During 'Inequality,' we follow a number of people, some billionaires, some struggling to keep enough food on the table for a family of four. The most telling interview came from the successful, thoughtful billionaire named Nick Hanauer. When asked about his yearly salary, he responds "anywhere from 10 million to 30 million." He acknowledges this is an absurd amount of money for one person to collect.

Hanauer describes how the gulf between ordinary Americans and a small circle of billionaires is actually bad for his business, and for the free market in general. As it turns out, billionaires only need a few pairs of blue jeans a year; they only purchase one or two pillows when necessary.

According to Hanauer, if his money was more evenly allocated throughout working class Americans, more consumers would be able to afford a new pair of jeans, and he would move more pillows. Sales would increase. Despite incredible capital and his position on the top of the economic ladder, Hanauer's bank account is hurt by inequality. The wealth disparity limits the free market system and each agent, rich or poor.

The documentary is not short on ways to address the widening wealth gap in the United States. Each facet of Reich's plan is rooted in years of economic research, not in dogma or partisan ideology. Some suggestions are a no-brainer. Decades ago, Japan showed the world that investing in education can be profitable for everyone. As Japan developed, officials prioritized training the workforce and made trade schooling widely available. Now, Japan is one of the wealthiest countries in the world.

Other calls for action are a thorough reform of Wall Street, more equitable tax policies, and greater oversight in the power of amassed wealth in the political system. Whether campaign contributions come from a multi-millionaire or a multi-national corporation, a small number of oligarchs are assuming the arms of democracy and monopolizing the ears of politicians, as per the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United.

While the challenge is great, Reich wants his viewers to feel empowered. Empowered to demand change, to refashion 'equality' from a buzzword to a basic requisite of the American way, to make sure that every person's voice is heard in their political system, regardless of the number of zeros and commas in his or her paycheck.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Editor: @MAndrewRansom

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Omani Woman Nora Al-Daher, Gambled and Lost £2m in One Night, then Refuses to Pay Casino

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Gambling Addiction, Model A.A., Photo by Gregory CinqueUNITED KINGDOM, London - There is such a thing as gambling addiction, problem gambling, or ludomania which is the urge to continuously gamble despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Pathological gambling is considered by the American Psychiatric Association to be an impulse control disorder rather than an addiction. However, for the DSM 5.0, Pathological Gambling is being considered as an Addictive Disorder as opposed to an impulse-control disorder. (Wikipedia) Then, there is the question of personal responsibility. In today's modern world there are a number of means to avoid the consequences of irresponsible or downright bad behavior i.e. if one is rich enough, if one can claim mental defect, or you can simply run away.

None of these options absolve the person of responsibility, but having a disorder such as a gambling addiction could potentially mitigate the ultimate judgment in the case of someone gambling away their savings, house, and car, thus leaving them in a position whereby they are unable to meet credit obligations.

Nora Al-Daher, whose husband is the foreign minister of Oman, told the High Court that she is a gambling addict. She was testifying in a suit which she brought against the exclusive Ritz Club in London where she gambled and lost £1million, but only after she had lost an equal sum earlier that night at other casinos around the city.

It is interesting to note that according to Islamic scholars gambling, is categorically forbidden, as is drinking alcohol. So, this begs the question of how Mrs. Al-Daher was able to lose millions of pounds, a sum which 99.9% of the world's population will never realize in their lifetimes? According to court documents, "between 1999 and April 2012, The Ritz alone had received more than £20million in buys-ins from Mrs. Al-Daher, of which she lost more than £7million." (Daily Mail U.K.)

Her credit was extended by The Ritz because of her previous good payment history, and as a valued customer they wanted to accommodate the self-proclaimed addict. However, this time she wrote checks, which in the parlance of the poor, "bounced" and were not honored by her bank because of "Non-Sufficient Funds."

The idea that someone with access to that amount of money would be frivolous enough to gamble it away, and then refuse to pay the debt, disparages people of lesser means who have gambling addictions. With her extreme wealth she could have sought the best addiction treatment in a private and exclusive environment.

She could have also settled her debt and informed in advance all the casinos that she frequented and were known to extend generous credit to her, that she has a gambling addiction, and ask that they cut her off much like a bar tender is now legislated to no longer serve alcohol to a patron who is clearly intoxicated.

Instead, Mrs. Al-Daher called foul play after the fact, and used the condition to justify her not settling the debt. It is not as if she doesn't have access to the money, but it is curious that her checks bounced. Perhaps, this time her husband refused to provide her with the money to pay her debt, but in any case The Ritz should not be made the scapegoat.

Personally, I am against gambling, so this article is not written in support of these institutions that regularly fleece millions of customers each year in casinos all over the world. The fact that gambling, once illegal in many countries, has been granted the veneer of respectability under the guise that the taxes which they pay are used to better the communities in which they reside, does not confer upon them beneficence.

The logic behind the marketing scheme used to convince communities to allow these establishments to operate in their midst, is that by paying large sums in taxes to local and state governments, these funds can in turn be used by these governments to improve schools, social services, etc. However, in fact this premise is about as valid as the claims that cigarettes are safe and do not cause cancer. The fact that exorbitant taxes are paid is akin to bribery because very little of this money trickles down to the people or communities that are professed to benefit.

That said, this case has yet to be adjudicated, but in this court of opinion......she played, she lost, she has the millions, so she should pay the piper.

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