Tag Archives: Public

Saudi Arabia offers monthly handout to soften public over tax hike

Saudi Arabia offers monthly handout to soften public over tax hikeSaudi Arabia has ordered new monthly payments to civil servants and soldiers in an effort to soften the impact of price hikes and new taxes introduced under the kingdom’s economic reform plans.  The Saudi monarchy – driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – this week doubled petrol prices and introduced a VAT tax to try to take on a 195 billion riyal (£38 billion) budget deficit caused by years of low oil prices. But wary of public anger over the price rises, the government announced Saturday that it was taking steps to address “the increase in the cost of living on some segments of our population as a result of the necessary measures taken by the State to restructure the economy”. The populist measure was framed as an initiative by Crown Prince Mohammed, often known by his initials MBS, who is expected to take over from his 82-year-old father King Salman in the near future.  The new deal means that soldiers and civil servants will receive monthly payments 1,000 riyals (£197), while troops serving on the Yemeni border would receive a one-off bonus of 5,000 riyals.  Saudi officials sitting in a high-speed train, ahead of their trip, at a station in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca.  Credit: BANDAR ALDANDANI/AFP/Getty Images Other measures were introduced to help students, pensioners and some people seeking specialist medical care.  It was not clear how much the package would cost but the Saudi government insisted that “economic reforms are proceeding as planned”.  A calculation by Reuters estimated that it would cost the treasury around 23 billion riyals, compared to a projected budget deficit for 2018 of 195 billion riyal.  The announcement came in the same week as thousands of protesters in neighbouring Iran took to the streets in anger over rising prices and unemployment among other grievances. Saudi police reportedly arrested 11 princes this week after they gathered at a royal palace in Riyadh to protest against the government’s austerity measures – which included no longer paying royal utility bills. Women are expected to begin legally driving in Saudi Arabia in 2018 Credit:  REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo The online news website Sabq said the princes had gathered at the Qasr a-Hokm, a historic royal palace, demanding the cancellation of a royal decree that stopped state payment of water and electricity bills for royal family members. They were also demanding compensation for a death sentence issued against a relative, the site said. Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the arrest of dozens of senior princes and businessmen in November in what the government said was an anti-corruption drive. Critics said the arrests were a manoeuvre by the 32-year-old to crush potential rivals and consolidate his own power.  Crown Prince Mohammed has presented himself as a moderniser and a scourge of the corruption which has plagued Saudi Arabia’s economy for decades.  However, it has emerged that he shares a taste for luxury with many of his fellow Saudi princes. In 2015 he reportedly bought a £452m yacht on an impulse purchase. He reportedly also owns a £221 chateau outside Paris – the world’s most expensive home. 



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CDC To Teach The Public How To Prepare For A Nuclear Explosion

CDC To Teach The Public How To Prepare For A Nuclear ExplosionThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week ― days after President Donald Trump bragged about the size and effectiveness of his “Nuclear Button” (which doesn’t exist) ― that the agency will hold a public session on how to prepare for a nuclear explosion.



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Rare public protests spread across Iran amid spiraling inflation

Rare public protests spread across Iran amid spiraling inflationIranian police clashed with protesters demonstrating against government corruption on Friday, in a rare public show of discontent in the Islamic republic.  About 300 people gathered in the western city of Kermanshah on Friday calling for a "revolution", shouting "where's my paycheck?", "the people are begging, the clerics act like God" and “death to the dictator”. It followed a day after similar protests in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where more than 50 were arrested.  President Hassan Rouhani's government has been unable to control spiralling prices – the costs of basics such as milk and eggs has doubled in a week. And despite the loosening of international sanctions in 2015, the country has seen little economic growth and few ordinary residents feel they have benefitted.  There have been calls on social media for protests up and down the country, despite warnings from the government against illegal gatherings. Protestors attack security forces in Iran (location unknown) #iranprotestspic.twitter.com/aeS8zVyM9X— Wladimir (@vvanwilgenburg) December 29, 2017 The outbreak of unrest reflects growing discontent over rising prices and alleged corruption, as well as concern over the country’s costly involvement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Iraq. There were also chants in Mashhad on Thursday of "not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran" and "leave Syria, think about us". Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked to by police, but a few who refused were "temporarily detained", the ILNA news agency reported. In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back-pay. "The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei)," the resident said by telephone. Chants in the holy city of Qom tonight, the spiritual center of #Iran: “We don’t want an Islamic Republic!” pic.twitter.com/ilawigFGej— Holly Dagres (@hdagres) December 29, 2017 In Qom, a stronghold of the Shi'ite clergy, footage posted on social media showed protesters attacking Ayatollah Khamenei by name. "Seyyed Ali should be ashamed and leave the country alone," they chanted. Police arrested 52 people in Thursday's protests, Fars quoted a judicial official as saying in Mashhad, one of the holiest places in Shi'ite Islam. In social media footage, riot police were seen using water cannon and tear gas to disperse crowds. Some social media videos showed demonstrators chanting "Death to Rouhani" and "Death to the dictator". Protests were also held in at least two other northeastern cities. Openly political protests are rare in Iran, where security services are omnipresent. The last unrest of national significance occurred in 2009 when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election as president ignited eight months of street protests. Pro-reform rivals said the vote was rigged. The protests came as Tehran looked to have bowed to internal pressure to relax its strict Islamic dress codes. Morality police in the capital said they will no longer automatically arrest women for failing to women seen without the proper hijab head-covering in public, mandated since the 1979 revolution. For nearly 40 years, women in Iran have been forced to cover their hair and wear long, loose garments.  Younger and more liberal-minded women have long pushed the boundaries of the official dress code, wearing loose headscarves that do not fully cover their hair and painting their nails, drawing the ire of conservatives. The announcement signalled an easing of punishments for violating the country's conservative dress code, as called for by the reform-minded Iranians who helped re-elect President Rouhani, a relative moderate, earlier this year.



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'I’m Not Giving up My Voice.' Sen. Al Franken Makes First Public Statement Since Resigning

'I’m Not Giving up My Voice.' Sen. Al Franken Makes First Public Statement Since ResigningSen. Al Franken spoke to his supporters in Minneapolis Thursday evening after resigning due to sexual harassment allegations made against him.



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Major fire at public sauna in South Korea kills at least 29, injures dozens

Major fire at public sauna in South Korea kills at least 29, injures dozensAt least 29 people were killed and 29 more were injured on Thursday in a major blaze at a building housing a sports centre and public bath in the South Korean city of Jecheon, officials said. The fire broke out around 4:00pm local time (7am GMT) and quickly engulfed the entire eight-storey building, leaving many trapped inside. Sixteen victims were found at a public sauna and two elsewhere in the building, the National Fire Agency said. Television footage showed the building consumed by flames and issuing dark plumes of smoke, as several people stood waiting to be rescued from an outdoor terrace. The fire – believed to have started in a parking lot on the first floor – has been mostly put out, but the death toll may rise further as firefighters continue to search the building, an agency spokesman said.  Smoke rises from a burning building in Jecheon, South Korea  Credit: YONHAP/REUTERS "The fire produced so much toxic smoke so quickly, leaving many people unable to evacuate," the spokesman said. Jecheon is in central South Korea, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the capital Seoul. President Moon Jae-In expressed regret over the accident and urged officials "utmost efforts" for rescue and search operations, his office said. The worst fire accident ever to hit the modern South Korea was an arson attack on a subway station in the southeastern city of Daegu that killed 192 people in 2003. A survivor jumps down to an air mattress as he waits for rescue from the burning building in Jecheon Credit: REUTERS  



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Major fire at public sauna in South Korea kills at least 29, injures dozens

Major fire at public sauna in South Korea kills at least 29, injures dozensAt least 29 people were killed and 29 more were injured on Thursday in a major blaze at a building housing a sports centre and public bath in the South Korean city of Jecheon, officials said. The fire broke out around 4:00pm local time (7am GMT) and quickly engulfed the entire eight-storey building, leaving many trapped inside. Sixteen victims were found at a public sauna and two elsewhere in the building, the National Fire Agency said. Television footage showed the building consumed by flames and issuing dark plumes of smoke, as several people stood waiting to be rescued from an outdoor terrace. The fire – believed to have started in a parking lot on the first floor – has been mostly put out, but the death toll may rise further as firefighters continue to search the building, an agency spokesman said.  Smoke rises from a burning building in Jecheon, South Korea  Credit: YONHAP/REUTERS "The fire produced so much toxic smoke so quickly, leaving many people unable to evacuate," the spokesman said. Jecheon is in central South Korea, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) southeast of the capital Seoul. President Moon Jae-In expressed regret over the accident and urged officials "utmost efforts" for rescue and search operations, his office said. The worst fire accident ever to hit the modern South Korea was an arson attack on a subway station in the southeastern city of Daegu that killed 192 people in 2003. A survivor jumps down to an air mattress as he waits for rescue from the burning building in Jecheon Credit: REUTERS  



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Secret scholar who battled Islamic State goes public

Secret scholar who battled Islamic State goes publicHis mother didn't know that "her Omar" had been working as an undercover historian, documenting atrocities committed by the Islamic State group inside Mosul. But she wasn't totally surprised when her son told her his secret.



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Garrison Keillor Fired From Minnesota Public Radio Over Alleged Inappropriate Behavior

Garrison Keillor Fired From Minnesota Public Radio Over Alleged Inappropriate BehaviorGarrison Keillor, longtime host of the syndicated public radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion,” said Wednesday he’s been fired by Minnesota Public Radio after accusations of inappropriate behavior.



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Pope Francis Preaches Forgiveness in First Public Mass in Myanmar

Pope Francis Preaches Forgiveness in First Public Mass in MyanmarPope Francis urged Myanmar’s long-suffering people to resist the temptation to exact revenge for the hurt they have endured, preaching a message of forgiveness Wednesday to a huge crowd in his first public Mass in the predominantly Buddhist nation.



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Pope Francis Preaches Forgiveness in First Public Mass in Myanmar

Pope Francis Preaches Forgiveness in First Public Mass in MyanmarPope Francis urged Myanmar’s long-suffering people to resist the temptation to exact revenge for the hurt they have endured, preaching a message of forgiveness Wednesday to a huge crowd in his first public Mass in the predominantly Buddhist nation.



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