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March 19

Dubai Kiss Court Case Highlights Culture Clash; Friends in Need; How Privacy Vanishes Online; Where Did All the Love Go?; Qatar on the Cusp

March 18, 2010 6:59 by

Dubai Kiss Court Case Highlights Culture Clash

The recent case of a British couple, facing a one-month jail term in Dubai for kissing in a restaurant, has been widely reported by the international media. And it has once again brought to the limelight the cultural dilemma which Dubai faces.

“It’s very easy to make an economy out of different kinds of people with different religious backgrounds and nationalities,” Shahidul Haque, regional representative for the Middle East for the International Organization for Migration, tells CNN. “But it’s often very difficult to develop a social fabric with the same populations.”

Around 85 percent of Dubai’s population is made up of expatriates. “The local labor market cannot provide” what is needed, says Hague. “You either have to depend on foreign labor, or reduce the economy.”

“And no country wants to shrink their economy.”

And so the emirate struggles on, trying to balance its traditional culture with the more ‘modern’ international ones, says CNN.


Friends in Need

Last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler and the UAE’s prime minister convened a cabinet meeting at a remote oasis close to the UAE- Saudi border. At the meet, he led the planting of 22 trees in the shape of the UAE map, one for each minister. “The message was clear: that in the midst of crisis, the ties between the emirates were closer than ever,” says the Wall Street Journal.

The bond between Dubai and Abu Dhabi has come into particular attention thanks to the generous bailout given by the UAE capital to its neighbor after the financial crisis: Abu Dhabi has pumped $15 billion into Dubai since last year, says the report.

“Abu Dhabi has to share its wealth if the federation is to work,” Jim Krane, author of City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism tells the paper. “They have to share with Dubai,” he says.

But Dubai has lost something in the process, he adds. “This is the first major crisis Sheikh Mohammed has faced and he’s suffered from it,” he says. “The most prized asset of the sheikhs is their autonomy, some of that he now has lost.”


Where Did All the Love Go?

Thanks to recent events, it has become clear that relations between Israel and the Obama administration are in crisis, says the Economist. Last week, Israel’s interior ministry approved 1,600 new homes in Ramat Shlomo, a suburb in East Jerusalem. This move coincided with a visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden, who took it as a “gross and gratuitous insult,” says the report.

While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially created a media ruckus about the incident, she later tried to clear the matter by saying that America had “an absolute commitment to Israel’s security. We have a close, unshakeable bond.”

In the meantime, Israel’s ambassador to Washington was reported to have claimed that the crisis was “the worst between the two countries in 35 years.” He later said that he was misquoted.

Patching over the tensions between the countries will now be hard, says the magazine.


How Privacy Vanishes Online

Most people share a lot of personal information on services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr—school and work gossip, photos of family vacations, and movies watched. And according to experts, these seemingly harmless bits of data can be collected and reassembled to create a picture of a person’s identity, down to the Social Security number, says The New York Times.

Despite adopting tight privacy controls on social networks, individuals are exposed to the interconnected world of the internet, says the report.
While the paper says that the US government is thinking about introducing policies and rules to restrict the leak of information, researchers say that it may not be enough.

“When you’re doing stuff online, you should behave as if you’re doing it in public — because increasingly, it is”Jon Kleinberg, a professor of computer science at Cornell University tells the paper.


Qatar on the Cusp

“A lesser Dubai: That’s the first impression a visitor gets touring downtown Doha,” says Business Week. But the capital of Qatar is vastly different from Dubai, the magazine says. While Dubai promoted real estate and business because it lacked natural resources, Qatar, with the world’s largest natural gas deposits, has become of the one of the region’s most important places.

The country is slowly, but steadily, replacing investors’ fascination with Dubai, says the report, adding that Qatar has “opened itself up to foreign investors with an enthusiasm rarely seen in the Gulf.”

But the differences between Dubai and Doha run much deeper, says Business Week. “While Dubai has been racing to a western clock, Doha still does things in its own good time,” he report says and explains why.

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