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Saudi Tourist Visa Program Brings Another Dent on Vision 2030

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Tourist Visa to Saudi Arabia

Tourist visa to Saudi Arabia, which has long remained in the country’s to-do-list, has finally been checked off. The Kingdom recently announced its gates open for the visitors, who’ll land in the country for more than just religious reasons. A new e-visa program was introduced last week, which will be facilitating the holidaymakers from around 50 countries to stay in Saudi for as long as three months.

Saudi visas were earlier restricted to mainly the Muslims travelling for the five-day pilgrimage Hajj or a smaller religious trip Umrah, and for the working business people and expatriates. The Saudi tourist visa program came as one of the strategies of country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to bring down the excessive reliance of the economy on oil.

A scholar at Princeton University studying the kingdom, Bernard Haykel stated, “The Saudis already have experience with outsiders coming in as religious tourists, but tourism for culture, ecology, desert — that’s new and its part of the project for opening up” He said, “It’s not going to displace oil, but it’s a dent in that direction.”

The Saudi visitors visa will allow people from 49 countries, including the United States, Canada, most European countries and China to visit the kingdom. Travellers can either apply for a visa ahead of their trip or on arrival. Those above 18 can go on the website “visa.visitsaudi.com” and apply for a visa on registration. Besides, those under 18 can apply with an adult guardian.

Single entry tourist visa to Saudi Arabia will allow a full month stay, while people with multiple entry visas will be allowed to stay for up to three months. The visa will cost 440 Saudi riyals ($117), which will include a health insurance fee. Saudi said that the decisions will be taken in half an hour for each applicant.

However, where Saudi authorities are taking decisions centered around its Vision 2030, the diversification goal of the ultraconservative Arab country appears to be diverting from its track. In fact, it appears as if the Kingdom is sailing on two boats together, where it wants to blend in the global modern society, but without leaving hands of its stern Sharia laws.

“One of the obvious issues that will arise is that it is a fairly conservative society,” Mr. Haykel said. “How will Saudis take to outsiders with different norms of dress? How are people going to react to that, especially to women who are not modestly dressed? Lots of tensions could arise around westerners who are dressed immoderately.”

On one hand, the Gulf nation opened up to the foreign tourists, but imposed several types of restrictions in the name of public decency, on the other. Saudi announced that it would issue fines ranging from 50 riyals ($13) to 6000 riyals ($1,600) for 19 such offences of public behaviour.

The latest tourism website lists several violations for the travellers who plan to visit Saudi. It reminds them that the during the prayers (five times a day), music should be turned off in public places. Other restrictions include alcohol or drugs, and taking photographs and videos of people without permission.

The site also states that “public displays of affection are not consistent with local culture and visitors should also avoid using profane language or gestures”. Moreover, travellers visiting Saudi are expected to dress conservatively, where women especially are expected to cover shoulders and knees in public.

“The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behavior so that they comply with it,” stated a government media statement.

As a part of its Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia has been taking several initiatives, where most have been blemished by a tinge of its customs. As a part of its plan, it had lifted the driving ban on women last year, but the country’s reputation was tarnished as the women’s rights activists were arrested for protesting against the ban.

Besides, Saudi has been inviting several global celebrities, including Nicki Minaj, as a part of promoting the entertainment sector. However, the rapper cancelled her shows, citing the oppressive laws of the conservative Gulf nation.

Now, when the tourists visa to Saudi Arabia has finally come into existence, the plenty of restrictions are believed to become a barrier for travellers, who might seriously consider to visit the Kingdom. Well, tourism is a great initiative, but the conservative laws might become a major turnoff for the tourists.

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Epstein’s Suicide a Result of Casual Attitude of the On-Duty Guards?

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Epstein

The controversial American financer, Jeffrey Epstein left the world in questions over three months ago, when he hanged himself in a Manhattan jail. On Tuesday, two Bureau of Prisons guards were taken into custody after a court hearing.

The 31-year-old Tova Noel and 41-year-old Michael Thomas were charged by a Manhattan federal court with conspiracy and filing false records about their actions on the August night of Epstein’s death in Prison.

The charges came months after the multimillionaire was found dead at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, a federal detention facility in lower Manhattan. During his lifetime, Epstein was accused of operating a sex-trafficking ring from 2002 to 2005, and paying girls as young as 14 for sex.

However, he had pleaded not guilty. His August 10 death was ruled a suicide by hanging by the New York City’s chief medical examiner.

The indictment on November 19 revealed that the night the convicted sex offender took his life, one of the guards was keeping up with sports news and surfing on the motorcycle sales on the government computer. Whereas, the other one spent his time shopping online for furniture. Moreover, they also appeared to be asleep for two hours at a desk, which was only 15 feet away from Epstein’s cell.

The 66-year-old “had committed suicide overnight while unobserved,” according to the indictment.

Jeffrey Epstein was on a suicide watch and was supposed to be checked on regularly by the guards at an interval of 30 minutes. However, neither guards made the required rounds, and also filed false paperwork claiming that they had. Security cameras revealed that nobody entered his cell the entire night, between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.

Noel and Thomas discovered that Epstein was dead, when they visited to give him breakfast. The two are first people to face charges in the ongoing criminal investigations into the financier’s suicide case. However, both of them pleaded not guilty on Tuesday morning, and were released on bail packages that include $100,000 bonds for each defendant.

The new revelation in the case only forces to believe that Epstein may not have died, if only the prison employees on duty were as responsible as they are expected to.

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Lower House Prices amid Brexit Uncertainty Disrupt UK Immigration

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UK immigration

Recently, the percentage of migrants travelling to the UK has significantly increased. It now ranks fifth among the top 15 countries having the maximum number of immigrants (in millions). But the question is why do these people opt for migration?

It appears that the hope to improve their condition by owning their own land or by participating in the fur trade could be one of the reasons for UK immigration.

In the wake of Brexit delays, the rate of house price growth has been falling that has brought huge number of migrants in the UK. Recently, dozens of migrants were found in refrigerated container on a ferry travelling from the Netherlands to the UK.

The ferry, Britannia Seaways, operated by DFDS Seaways, left the port in Vlaardingen. It was bound to reach Felixstowe, Suffolk in England, but returned immediately after discovering the people on board.

The crew of the seaways first discovered the hiding people and alerted the police, who arrived on the boat while it was still at sea. The Dutch authorities later informed that 25 migrants were stowed away in one of ferry’s refrigerated container.

All those found on board were alive, with one of them thought to be a child. Upon its return, the ship was met by 20 ambulances. Two of the migrants, because of their extremely low body temperatures, were taken to hospital to be checked for hypothermia.

The emergency services stated that the remaining 23 migrants received a medical check-up at the port before being processed by Rotterdam police for their whereabouts. While, each of the migrants were undergoing checks by emergency responders, it was noted that most of them were males.

As the severity of the migrants’ conditions remain vague as of now, the authorities believe it to be a human trafficking case. The driver of the lorry was detained for further questioning on the matter. This really is a big question on the security of people and the refrigerated ferry containers that are mostly locked and sealed. 

A report suggests that the UK immigration significantly increased between 2013 and 2014 by 560,000, while the number of emigration has significantly fallen.

A month ago, 39 bodies were discovered in a lorry in Essex. Upon investigation it was found that the dead ones were Vietnamese nationals, who travelled inside a refrigerated container from Zeebrugge in Belgium.

Meanwhile, the authorities are investigating more into the origin of such acts and how the migrants managed to get into the ferry containers.

In October, Home Secretary Priti Patel announced that the government will introduce an “Australian style” points-based immigration system (PBS) post Brexit. It has become more obvious that millions of unauthorised migrants, without a residence permit are now actively migrating, contributing to the UK immigration regime.

But is it good to travel under life-threatening circumstances?  

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Suspect of California School Shooting Dies Without Revealing Motive

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Santa Clarita

Shootings across the world have become quite common, but the recent incident in California came as extremely unusual and dreadful. On Thursday, a 16-year-old boy decided to celebrate his birthday not by blowing the candles, but by shooting his mates.

Entering Saugus High School in Southern California, the boy pulled out a pistol from his backpack and shot five of his classmates and himself in 16 seconds. Two of the victims, including a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy, died at a hospital. Three other were wounded and taken by ambulance from Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, said authorities.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva stated that the suspected gunman, Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow used the last bullet from a .45-caliber piston to shoot himself. After being in a critical condition for a day, he died on Friday. Besides, the investigators also couldn’t discover the motive behind the attack.

“It still remains a mystery why,” sheriff Villanueva stated a press conference. He said it was “a planned attack, it was deliberate”, but “we don’t have” the details behind it.

“As far as we know the actual targets were at random,” the sheriff said.
Friends and neighbors of Berhow described him as a bright, funny, quiet and a normal. Authorities were looking into biographical information on his social media account, but no signs of violence were found. Besides, he also didn’t appear to be liked to extremism or terrorist group.

At a press conference, Capt. Kent Wegener of the Sheriff’s Department’s homicide unit said that authorities couldn’t find any clue, despite over 40 interviews and investigations at his home.

Officials stated that the shooting began before the classes started at around 7:30 a.m., where several students streamed out of the building and other hid. The chaos also left one injured and in need of medical attention. Students were shepherded to the nearby Central Park by officials, where parents were told to meet them.

The two victims, who died, were identified as Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell.

While the suspect has died himself, the investigation becomes even more complex. Besides, where no evidence has been found yet, the motive behind the shooting might remain in dark for more time than expected.

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New Zealand Considers Euthanasia Legalisation, Elderly Women to Benefit Most

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Euthanasia

Poor health followed with disability is a common problem in old age that brings many on the verge of death, signifying the fact that mortality rates increase exponentially at older ages. But what about the ones, who due to their incurable illness wish to put an end to their sufferings themselves?

Practicing euthanasia is the answer to all of their problems and New Zealand is one of the countries, which is now putting efforts to make it legal. There is a growing body of information on the extent to which disability impacts on the lives of older people in New Zealand and how they actually make a request for their death to be hastened by a physician.

To legalise euthanasia, the lawmakers backed David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill to get it passed in New Zealand Parliament on Wednesday. The country’s authorities are due to hold a national referendum on the issue before the provisions of the bill goes into effect.

Euthanasia, in practice, is the termination of a very sick person’s life in order to relieve them of their suffering. Euthanasia is legal in countries such as Belgium, Canada, Colombia, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

Since 2017, there have been eight parliamentary debates and a record 39,000 submissions from the public on the issue. If the bill gets endorsed by voters in a referendum next year, patients with less than six months to live, would be eligible for euthanasia.

Nearly, 72 percent of New Zealanders support medical assistance in hastening death, yet there are opposition lawmakers, who have equally criticised the bill, calling it to be “dangerous and permissive” and saying that it would bring back state-sanctioned killing and would force the older patients to end their lives.

Thus, under the new agreements patients would be required to suggest the ending of life first, and two doctors must agree that the patient is well informed and other criteria were met.

“It’s entirely about choice,” the lawmaker sponsoring the bill, David Saymor, said on Wednesday.

“It makes me proud of our country that we can have this debate, and we can actually get progress, and become a more free and compassionate society,” added Saymor, who is the only representative of the libertarian ACT Party In the 120-seat assembly.  

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern also supported calls for euthanasia reform, following the protestors vocalising their disagreement with the bill outside the parliament. The voting on the bill in a referendum will take place in conjunction with the 2020 elections in New Zealand.

Moreover, a second referendum question, about recreational cannabis that are used to intentionally change one’s state of consciousness, often producing feelings of happiness and exhilaration, will also be on the ballot paper.

Legalising euthanasia is most likely to benefit women, who are much more prone to diseases but tend to have a longer life expectancy than men. Such a practice would bring them at peace and relieve them of their long sufferings, lessening the health concerning cases, while resulting in more youthful and balanced population in New Zealand.

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Violation of Iran Nuclear Deal May Lead to Further Sanctions from European Countries

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Iran Nuclear Deal

The continuous strife between Iran and the US over the Iran Nuclear Deal has for a long time contributed in creating instability in the Middle East. Since only European signatories are trying to safeguard the deal, maintain regional peace and oil availability in the global market, the chances of the deal being upheld are quite bleak.

On the other hand, the Iranian government is continuously enriching uranium, despite the warnings from the European countries of the possible consequences for the violation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) deal.  

Despite the Iranian government’s stance of not backing down, the spokespersons from Germany, the United Kingdom and France on Monday, asked the Iranian authorities to withdraw all its breaches of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

As per the reports by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), traces of uranium particles have been found on an undeclared site in Iran. Although the location of the site is kept under wraps, it is believed that the traces were found at the “secret atomic warehouse” in Turquzabad district of Tehran.

To make the matters worse, the report also claimed Iran had begun uranium enrichment at an underground Fordo facility, violating the Non-Proliferation Treaty under the deal, which prevented Iran from making nuclear weapons.

The Iranian government has blamed the US for its actions claiming to be in retaliation of the US’ withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018 and the sanctions, which Trump administration imposed on Iran.

And seeing the current economy of Iran, it is not hard to comprehend the consequences of the issue, if the European countries themselves back out of the Iran Nuclear Deal or impose sanctions on the Middle Eastern country.

Furthermore, the aftermath of the sanctions will add more woes to the instability in the region and might even affect the global production of oil, causing a rise in per barrel prices and affecting the global economy.

Addressing the gravity of the situation, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, before the meeting in Brussels said, “Iran must finally return to its commitments (under the 2015 accord). Otherwise, we will reserve the right to use all mechanisms specified in the deal (for sanctions to be reimposed).”

The European nations also made a statement addressing the gravity of the situation and continuously worsening Iran Nuclear Deal. The leaders said, “We stand ready to continue our diplomatic efforts to create the conditions for, and to facilitate, the de-escalation of tensions in the Middle East. These efforts are however made increasingly difficult by Iran’s latest actions.”

“We affirm our readiness to consider all mechanisms in the [nuclear deal] including the dispute resolution mechanism, to resolve the issues,” the European leaders added in the statement.

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