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Quotes of the year: Biden & Pollack 18, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations, Foreign Policies, Kuwait.
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Today I heard two fantastic quotes.

Vice President Biden, on returning to the US remarked:

…it’s great to be back to a place where a boom in housing construction is actually a good thing.

Without wishing to engage in too much hyperbole, I think that the statistic that David Pollock briefly mentioned in a recent Washington Institute for Near East Policy podcast is simply amazing. Unbelievable at first, after a minute’s searching I corroborated the statistic. It comes from US Department of State website, no less.

…for most of this decade 60% of the territory of Kuwait was devoted to the United States military.

Playboy played on children’s TV & Al J’s birth 18, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Al-Jazeera, Qatar.
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There is some consternation in the US at the moment after TV directors mistakenly played Playboy adult TV adverts during children’s programmes last week. Apparently, parents were none too pleased. The reason that I mention this on thegulfblog.com is that a very similar thing happened back in the mid-90s without which Al Jazeera, the Arab world’s most popular TV channel, would not have been able to get off the ground.

[Please excuse my vagueness at times as I can’t remember the technical terminology involved and I don’t have the source book with me right now.]

When Al Jazeera was originally broadcast it was only available to a relatively small number of people. This was because there is only a finite amount of ‘bandwidth’ for all TV channels and there simply was not the space for Al Jazeera. However, fortuitously – so to speak – a TV station broadcasting in Saudi Arabia (of all places…) accidentally broadcast what I seem to remember being described as really rather hard-core pornography during the day during children’s TV shows. Need I say that this really did not go down too well in the Kingdom of the Two Holy Mosques. The upshot was that the TV station in question (French or Italian, I think…) had its license and ergo ‘bandwidth’ stripped away freeing up otherwise rare ‘large scale’ bandwidth necessary for Al Jazeera to reach a far wider audience.

Farming in Qatar: the portable farm 18, March 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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Qatar currently imports well over 90% of its food from abroad. This is not the most sensible of policies and it is currently being addressed by authorities. This excellent little Al Jazeera clip shows one of the possible futures for Qatar and other countries like it. Here, in a ‘proof of concept’ rather than a profitable business idea to be rolled out, Japanese companies have designed a farm in a shipping container growing lettuces.

Whilst ideas such as this may be a bit far fetched, Qatar is seeking to grow more food in its own borders. This necessitates a closed atmosphere for most of the year and far better water management that is currently available. Saudi Arabia, conversely, after slaving for decades to grow its own food recently decided to scrap these policies for it was just too costly in terms of water.

This desire to secure food resources outwith national borders has led to what many describe as neo-colonial land-grabbing in various poor countries across the world. Originally Qatar, like their neighbors, bought swathes of land in, for example, Sudan. Now, however, Qatar appears to have changed policies and is buying up local food companies instead of just the land. Hassad foods in Qatar has been leading this particular charge. Many see this as a far more acceptable way to secure stronger ties abroad without the negative publicity that comes from directly buying the land out from under often impoverished natives. Yet whether there is actually a difference between the two policies is debatable.