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BA set for Christmas strike 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in UK.
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British Airways – ‘the world’s favourite airline’ – will, according to reports, vote in favour of a Christmas strike perhaps starting on the 21st December. They have a monumental hole in their pension pot as well as making an estimated £600 million loss this year and BA’s management have been seeking ways to cut costs. One of these has been through charging to reserve seats in advance and another has been reducing staffing costs. Indeed, the latter does not seem so unreasonable given that BA’s cabin crew earn almost twice as much as some of their rivals.

I really have no idea as to what BA needs to do. All I do unequivocally know is that having a strike at Christmas, with people flying home to their relatives, will erode BA’s name and customer base yet further and earn them vitriol and hate. They must not do this. If the London tube drivers want to strike (though I think it’s reprehensible given their pay) then but so be it: people will always have to take the tube. Need it be said that the same is utterly untrue for BA? With Emirates, Ethiad and Qatar airways buying billions and billions of dollars worth of new, beautifully comfortable planes and offering discounted ticket prices compared to BA’s overpriced tickets for old planes, (not to mention healthy European competition) striking would be, as far as I see it, more or less suicide.

I very much hope that I am reading this situation wrongly. For as average as BA are these days I nevertheless think it’s exceedingly important for Britain to retain a viable flagship carrier.

Update: Cabin crew have voted for a strike – 12 days (22nd December – 2nd January) affecting nearly 1 million passengers costing BA anywhere up to £80 million. Utter suicide.

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Egypt v Algeria football riot: Zionist Conspiracy 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Egypt.
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…but then again, isn’t everything?

(I can’t embed it – go to the ever trustworthy (…) MEMRI for the clip)

What makes this somewhat worse is that it is a former Egyptian Ambassador to Afghanistan and Iraq that is trotting out this absurd rubbish. His logic is that the US wants to defend Israel so they set the two most powerful Arab nations, Egypt and Algeria (…), against each other to reduce each as a threat. Flawless analysis there.

Arabian Gulf…Persian Gulf…Gulf of Basra? 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Gulf.
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As you no doubt know there’s a remarkable amount of kerfuffle over whether the name for the body of water separating Iran from their Arab neighbors is called the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Gulf. Yet, as if this weren’t one too many choices already, the Iraqi Foreign Minister has decided to stick his oar into the subject and has “discovered” that it “in fact” used to be called the Gulf of Basra. This is really such a curious debate when international law and historical precedent are really rather unequivocal on the matter.

Saudi’s floods and the Yemen conflict 14, December 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia.
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The ever-dependable Simon Henderson over at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has a few useful notes in his latest policy brief.

Aside from a brief recap of the basics of Saudi succession (there is no-one better on this topic) Henderson briefly discusses the fall out of the recent floods in Jeddah and there’s also a word or two about their Yemeni conflict. The whole piece is well worth the read, but here are the key interesting bits, as far as I see it.

The Red Sea port of Jeddah is a case in point. The city suffered catastrophic floods on November 25, brought about by torrential rain after a period of drought. (The government had called on the Saudi people to pray for rain.) At least 118 people died, although some estimates put the toll at several times this, with one claiming more than a thousand. Critics see the magnitude of the catastrophe as correlating directly to insufficient investment in public works.

Among the places badly damaged were parts of the new, state-of-the-art King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, a pet project of the monarch. In Jeddah itself, the crisis was worsened by lack of drains, even on newly built roads. The sewage system in much of the city is antiquated, relying on basement tanks that are emptied regularly and the contents trucked to Musk Lake (labeled on GoogleEarth), an artificial lake in the hills several miles east of the city. Fears that the earth walls of the lake could collapse have led to the panicked flight of some residents in the likely path of the estimated 30 million cubic meters of mostly untreated sewage. On December 10, it was reported that the Jeddah municipality has banned further dumping into the lake.

Despite claims of successes, the fighting has not been going entirely well for the Saudi forces. At least one small group of special forces has been wiped out by rebel units, and Saudi officials have released the names of nine missing soldiers, including a lieutenant colonel. Online reports indicate that some of the missing have been found in Yemeni territory, a contentious issue because King Abdullah has said no soldiers will cross the border.