Archive for the ‘Saudi Arabia’ Category

Daifailluh al-Bugami was just a year old when his parents noticed that his lips turned blue as he slept at night. It was his weight, doctors said, putting pressure on his delicate airways.

Now Daifailluh is 3, and at 61 pounds he is nearly double the typical weight of a child his age. So the Bugamis are planning the once unthinkable: To have their toddler undergo bariatric surgery to permanently remove part of his stomach in hopes of reducing his appetite and staving off a lifetime of health problems.

That such a young child would be considered for weight-loss surgery—something U.S. surgeons generally won’t do—underscores the growing health crisis here and elsewhere in the Middle East. Widespread access to unhealthy foods, coupled with sedentary behavior brought on by wealth and the absence of a dieting and exercise culture, have caused obesity levels in Saudi Arabia and many other Gulf states to approach or even exceed those in Western countries.

While solid national data are hard to come by, some experts say that obesity has turned into a serious health problem for Saudi children, with an estimated 9.3% of school-age youths meeting the World Health Organization’s body-mass-index criteria for obesity, according to research published in 2013 in the Saudi Journal of Obesity. About 18% of school-age children in the U.S. were considered obese in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Daifailluh’s doctor, Aayed Alqahtani, is a leading advocate of a radical approach to the problem. Patients travel to him from across the country and the Gulf region. Over the past seven years, he has performed bariatric surgery on nearly 100 children under the age of 14, which experts on the procedure believe is the largest number performed by one doctor on young children.

Dr. Alqahtani’s work is being watched amid a global debate about the appropriate age for bariatric surgery. In the U.S., the minimum is generally considered 14. The World Health Organization, in a 2012 report on pediatric bariatric surgery, concluded that there is a dearth of data available on the long-term outcomes of the procedure in children and that a “conservative approach” is necessary until long-term studies are conducted.

Bariatric surgery has been embraced as an effective and relatively safe procedure for morbidly obese adults. The concern with children revolves mostly around nonsurgical risks, such as how the abrupt change in nutrition could affect long-term brain development and sexual maturation.

Dr. Alqahtani says the decision to operate on Daifailluh is a difficult one because of his age. But after nearly two years of consultation with the clinic, Daifailluh’s obesity-related medical problems haven’t gotten any better. “We should not deprive our patients from bariatric surgery based on their age alone,” the surgeon says. “If they have [medical] conditions that threaten their lives, then we should not deny the bariatric surgery.”

The worsening obesity problem here also is manifesting itself in other ways. Some 20% of the Saudi adult population has Type 2 diabetes, a condition linked to obesity, according to the International Diabetes Federation, compared with 8.3% in the U.S., according to the CDC. The cost of diabetes treatment in Saudi Arabia is expected to rise to $2.4 billion in 2015, more than triple that spent in 2010, according to a recent study in the Journal of Family and Community Medicine.

Obesity, particularly among women, has become rampant across much of the Middle East, particularly in oil-rich Gulf nations. In Kuwait, almost half of adult women are considered obese, while 44% of Saudi women and 45% of Qatari women meet the criteria, according to the International Association of the Study of Obesity. Experts says Saudis, in particular, are more likely to carry certain genes linked to obesity.

Saudi lifestyle and parenting practices may exacerbate the problem, according to doctors at weight-loss clinics. Nannies or cooks are often employed, so parents may not know what their children are eating. Saudis often are coaxed to eat large quantities of food when visiting relatives and friends.

In Riyadh, physical activity is limited, particularly for girls, and high temperatures and few green spaces make walking difficult. School gym classes generally take place just once a week. Western-style fast food is abundant, particularly at the air-conditioned malls frequented by children and families.

Bariatric surgery has become an accepted treatment among obese Saudi adults and is paid for by the government. An estimated 11,000 bariatric surgeries were performed on Saudis in 2012, according to Dr. Alqahtani.

The surgery, of which there are several types, generally reduces the size of the stomach and, with some techniques, rearranges the digestive path to bypass much of the intestines. Some types are reversible but generally considered less effective. After the surgery, patients must eat very small meals—ideally for the rest of their lives. Many studies have shown that adults, on average, lose over 50% of their body weight after surgery.

Increasingly, youngsters are heading to the operating room here, where parents see no other options. These days, Dr. Alqahtani performs surgery on three to four youths a week.

“I have seen in my clinic patients who cannot sleep lying down—they sleep sitting—because of sleep apnea, and their age is 10 years, sometimes 5 years,” says Dr. Alqahtani, a professor in the college of medicine and an obesity specialist at King Saud University.

Pediatric surgeons in the U.S. say they also are facing demands from families to operate on younger patients. Thomas Inge, surgical director of the Surgical Weight Loss Program for Teens at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, says he will be operating on a 12-year-old later this month. He says that as younger and younger children are referred for consideration of surgery, care teams will need to carefully weigh the pros and cons.

Evan Nadler, a pediatric surgeon at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., is considering doing the operation on two young children. He and the family of a 7-year-old D.C. boy have agreed that surgery likely is the best option, he says. The family of an 8-year-old from the Middle East has decided to wait until their daughter is older and can better understand the surgery, he says.

Many doctors say they aren’t ready to follow Dr. Alqahtani yet. Kirk Reichard, chairman of the pediatric-surgery committee for the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, notes that there are no data to show that surgery doesn’t affect young children’s long-term sexual maturation or cognitive functioning. The brain, particularly in growing children, is sensitive to nutrition and needs enough energy to mature properly. Nutrition also has the potential to affect hormones linked to sexual maturation.

Dr. Alqahtani says he has seen evidence of normal growth following the procedure in his under-14 patients, many of whom are now four years postsurgery.

“We will certainly use his experience to inform us in some ways, but [Dr. Alqahtani’s work] won’t take the place of trials,” says Dr. Reichard.

One of the main criticisms from some weight-loss experts about performing the surgery on those under 14 is that changes in diet and exercise can prevent further weight gain. In addition, says Dr. Reichard, “there are a lot of other therapies short of surgery that can be helpful in managing” related medical conditions.

Saudi Arabia’s Dr. Alqahtani says he requires his child patients to enroll in a weight-loss program for at least six months because patients able to lose even a bit tend to have better outcomes after surgery. But he says that by the time families come to him, their children have such substantial health problems it is generally too late for diet and exercise alone.

Dr. Alqahtani was trained as a surgeon at McGill University in Montreal and at a minimally invasive surgery center in Denver. When he returned home to Riyadh in 2002, he says, he was inundated with pediatric patients so obese they were suffering from advanced stages fatty liver disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, a disorder in which patients repeatedly stop breathing for short periods during sleep—all diseases typically not seen until middle age.

Om Abdullah Asiri says she tried to help her 11-year-old son lose weight by restricting his eating at home. But he would eat fast food while out with his friends and plays videogames for hours on end, she says. “I can’t control him outside the home,” she says.

He grew to 250 pounds. His body-mass index—a calculation that uses weight and height to estimate percentage of body fat—was 61. A BMI of 40 or above is the most severe obesity category, according to the World Health Organization.

Ms. Asiri traveled with her son, Abdullah, from their home in Abha, more than 600 miles south of Riyadh, to see Dr. Alqahtani for the operation. Lying on a hospital bed the day before his surgery, Abdullah said he is “happy and ready” for the surgery.

His mother says surgery is the best solution for Abdullah, who has high blood pressure, fatty liver, hip pain and severe sleep apnea. Afterward, he won’t have a choice but to eat better, she says. “The surgery will make him change.” She says he dreams of playing soccer with his friends.

The procedure Dr. Alqahtani performs is called the gastric sleeve, which slices off a portion of the stomach but leaves the rest of the digestive tract intact. It is gaining in popularity because of its good weight-loss results and minimal side effects. The operation, conducted through tiny incisions in the abdomen, takes him just 30 minutes.

One recent morning, he operated on a 20-year-old, two 17-year-olds, a 12-year-old, then Abdullah, who was then 10.

Complications can include bleeding in about 10% of cases, and leaking and blood clots in 1% to 2%. Dr. Alqahtani says he has had only two leaks in 1,700 cases, neither in children.

Dr. Alqahtani says each of his pediatric patients has lost at least some weight, and nearly three-quarters have lost more than 50% of their initial body weight. Abdullah has lost close to 50 pounds since his surgery about two months ago, according to his 29-year-old brother, Ahmad.

Dr. Alqahtani says about 90% of his patients have seen medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension clear up, according to a paper scheduled for publication in the journal Surgery for Obesity and Related Diseases. He published outcomes on 108 children in the peer-reviewed Annals of Surgery journal in 2012.

Recovery involves a six-week transition diet starting with clear liquids and puréed food. Patients eventually can resume solid foods at much-reduced quantities. At first, patients feel full after just 1 to 2 spoonfuls of food, though they gradually can eat more as their stomachs stretch.

Some bariatric-surgery experts have raised questions about whether children are capable of maintaining the restrictive lifetime diet after surgery or whether they will sabotage the procedure when they become teenagers and have a greater autonomy to eat what they want. Some experts question whether parents should make such a drastic and permanent decision for a child.

The decision has been excruciating for the family of Daifailluh, the toddler from Ta’if. Daifailluh was referred to Dr. Alqahtani’s clinic about two years ago after difficulty breathing sent him to the intensive-care unit at a hospital in his hometown. Doctors there determined the toddler was seriously overweight. His mother, Hessa Salem al-Bugami, says she tried to improve his diet but didn’t have good guidance until she came to Dr. Alqahtani’s clinic, a trip of nearly 500 miles from Ta’if. “I feel like I failed,” she says.

At first, the family wanted Daifailluh to lose weight without the operation. Ms. Bugami says her son has always had an “open appetite” and never refuses food. She says she feeds him brown bread and boiled chicken and rice, and limits his portions, hiding the rest of the food. But his obesity hasn’t improved, she says.

Daifailluh will cry and sometimes throw temper tantrums when he wants food, she says. She has tried distracting him with toys, locking the two of them in a room to play for so long she ended up missing her own meal.

“When he starts crying, it’s hard not to give him any of the food, to make the crying stop,” she says. “I feel like I work really hard, but it’s just too much on me.”

Daifailluh, who was hospitalized again for pulmonary problems, is waiting for a surgery date, which will come if he gets final medical clearance from Dr. Alqahtani.

The entire family is worried about the surgery, particularly the effects of anesthesia and whether the surgery will reduce his appetite too much. Ms. Bugami also worries that her son will regain the weight when he leaves the house eventually and is no longer under her watch.

But that is a concern for another day. “Right now is the most scary situation,” she says.

Write to Shirley S. Wang at shirley.wang@wsj.com

http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304851104579360992538215578?mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702304851104579360992538215578.html

Thanks to Pete Cuomo for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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MERS-CoV

Saudi Arabia reported today that five more people have been infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), as if to underline yesterday’s warning from the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) that the novel virus is a global threat.

In a brief statement, the Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) said, “Within the framework of the epidemiological surveillance of the novel Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has announced that five novel Coronavirus cases have been recorded among citizens in the Eastern Region, ranging in age from 73 to 85 years, but they have all chronic diseases.”

Also, two more deaths from MERS have been reported in the past few days. Yesterday Agence France Presse (AFP) reported the death of France’s first MERS-CoV patient, a 65-year-old man whose illness was first reported on May 8. And on May 26 the Saudi MOH announced the death of an 81-year-old woman.

With today’s Saudi announcement, the unofficial global case count has reached 49; the death toll stands at 24, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Unofficially, Saudi Arabia has had 37 cases, with 18 deaths.

WHO concern
Deep concern about MERS-CoV was expressed yesterday by WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, MD, MPH, as she closed the annual World Health Assembly (WHA), the WHO’s policy-making body.

“Looking at the overall global situation, my greatest concern right now is the novel coronavirus,” she said as quoted in a WHO press release. “We understand too little about this virus when viewed against the magnitude of its potential threat. Any new disease that is emerging faster than our understanding is never under control.

“These are alarm bells and we must respond. The novel coronavirus is not a problem that any single affected country can keep to itself or manage all by itself. The novel coronavirus is a threat to the entire world.”

The WHO plans to send a second team to Saudi Arabia in coming weeks to help investigate the mysterious virus, according to a May 25 Arab News story that quoted Chan. The source of the pathogen remains unknown, but several case clusters have shown that it can spread between people in close contact.

“Without that proper risk assessment, we cannot have clarity on the incubation period, on the signs and symptoms of the disease, on the proper clinical management and then, last but not least, on travel advice,” Chan told Arab News.

The WHO, which sent a group of experts to Saudi Arabia earlier this month, will provide a fresh risk assessment ahead of this year’s Haj pilgrimage, which will take place in October, the story said.

Details on deaths
Concerning the five new cases, the Saudi MOH left many questions unanswered, including whether the patients are part of a hospital-centered outbreak of MERS-CoV that began in April in the Al-Ahsa region of Eastern province. The cluster has been reported to include 22 cases with 10 deaths. The statement gave no information on the patients’ conditions, gender, where they live, or how long they have been sick.

The French patient who died became ill on Apr 23, six days after he returned home from a vacation in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Another person contracted the virus after sharing a hospital room with him from Apr 27 to 29.

The 81-year-old Saudi woman who died was among the previously announced cases in Al-Ahsa governorate, the Saudi MOH said in a May 26 statement. It said she was suffering from chronic kidney failure and other chronic diseases.

Her case appears to be the one announced by the WHO on May 18. That announcement said the 81-year-old’s illness was the 22nd case in the hospital-centered cluster in Al-Ahsa.

The May 26 MOH statement also said that nine other case-patients have recovered and been discharged from hospitals since the first MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, which occurred in June 2012.

MERS-CoV designation

In other developments, the WHO announced today that it is accepting the name MERS-CoV for the novel virus, despite a general aversion to geographic references in the names of newly discovered viruses.

“Given the experience in previous international public health events, WHO generally prefers that virus names do not refer to the region or place of the initial detection of the virus,” the agency said in a statement. “This approach aims at minimizing unnecessary geographical discrimination that could be based on coincidental detection rather than on the true area of emergence of a virus.”

The name was proposed by the Coronavirus Study Group of the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, the WHO noted. The statement said the term emerged from consultations with a large group of scientists and represents an acceptable consensus

Patent issues
Also today, a story in BMJ offered more details on intellectual property issues related to MERS-CoV. Albert Osterhaus, DVM, PhD, head of viriology at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, told the journal that Erasmus has applied for patents on MERS-CoV genetic sequences and on possible related products such as diagnostics and vaccines.

Erasmus scientists were the first to analyze the virus and identify it as novel last year, after an Egyptian physician working in Saudi Arabia sent them a sample. Last week Chan and Saudi officials complained that restrictions imposed by Erasmus on use of MERS-CoV samples that it has supplied to other labs were impeding the investigation of the outbreak.

Erasmus officials have rejected the criticism and said they have supplied samples to all labs that want to use it for public health research and are equipped to handle if safely. But Osterhaus told BMJ, “We have patent applications submitted and that is on the sequences and the possibilities to eventually make diagnostics, vaccines, antivirals, and the like. It’s quite a normal thing if you find something new to patent it.”

He added that Erasmus has not made a deal with any company yet, because it’s too early. “At the end of the day, if you want something to happen for the benefit of public health—including making a vaccine, antivirals, whatever—you need to have at least some intellectual property. Otherwise the companies will not be interested,” he said.

http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/other/sars/news/may2813corona.html

A new racing craze in Saudi Arabia is putting Hollywood stunts to shame.

Extreme motorsport lovers are flocking to the desert in the northern city of Hail to witness “sidewalk skiing”, the technique where the driver balances the car on two wheels while people cling on the outside of the moving vehicle.

One of the stunts, performed by a group of young Saudi men who call themselves the “Impossible Group”, kicks off as a small sedan drives off a ramp so it speeds on just two wheels.

”I raise the car on two wheels and drive it on the right and left sides. I do a lot of acrobatic movements, including taking the tires off [while driving] to jump on the sidewalks of the road while driving on two wheels, driving in the desert, lots of things really, with small and large cars, and any car,” says the driver and team leader Captain al-Mustaheel, nicknamed “Captain Impossible”.

Team members then climb out of the car and take two of its tires off before placing them back on the wheels.

“The movements are frankly exhilarating; creating happiness with little danger and creativity, and the audience enjoys it. Unlike the hand break turn movements, unlike accidents, it is possible to get into a minor accidents. Risk is involved in everything, but there’s not much danger in this,” explains a member of the “Impossible Group” who goes by the nickname “Shahoot”.

Members of the group ride on top of the car as it cruises down the desert highway, followed by an entourage of vehicles.

“In the eyes of the viewer, these movements are dangerous. It is not dangerous, it’s normal, except if the speed is high. There are dangers even if they are driving on four wheels, but when driving at the speed of 20, 30, 40 (km per hour) at the event, and with the presence of the public along with safety measures and support in place, things are good,” says “Captain Impossible”.

“Our role with ‘Captain Impossible’ is to take the tires off. He is versed in professional leadership-driving. We are not afraid because we are taking security measures and drive safely. God willing, we will excel, and if there was no creativity, there will be no development,” echoes “Shahoot”.

“Captain Impossible” who enjoys life in the fast lane hopes someday he’ll be able to develop his driving skills even further.
“I have a high capacity and have a good concentration, and I hope to go outside Saudi Arabia to the United States, Britain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Dubai, Bahrain, any country where there is space [for Motorsports] and big companies that embrace the talent,” he says.

The open roads in Saudi Arabia’s desert provide an ideal location for car racing and home to the annual Hail Baja Rally.

http://english.alarabiya.net/en/life-style/variety/2013/05/24/-Sidewalk-Skiing-the-new-craze-for-Saudi-racing-daredevils.html

saudi

Saudi Arabia’s oldest man died at the age of 120 years, leaving behind 447 children, grand children and great grand children, including his 98-year-old eldest son.

Sheikh Awad bin Abdul Aziz bin Saifi Al Qarni died of old age at his house in the central village of Al Badadha although he was in a good health just before his demise.

The chief of his tribe for most of his life, Sheikh Awad left behind 24 sons and daughters from various wives, including his eldest son, 98, youngest 22-year-old son and his eldest grandson aged around 65 years.

“Sheikh Awad was born in 1893…he witnessed three centuries and all the kings of Saudi Arabia…he was known by his tribe and many other people as nice, wise and frank man and for this reason, he was loved by all,” Sabq newspaper said.

http://www.emirates247.com/offbeat/this-is-life/saudi-dies-at-120-leaves-behind-447-progeny-2013-04-24-1.503910

tanks

Built to dominate the enemy in combat, the Army’s hulking Abrams tank is proving equally hard to beat in a budget battle.

Lawmakers from both parties have devoted nearly half a billion dollars in taxpayer money over the past two years to build improved versions of the 70-ton Abrams.

But senior Army officials have said repeatedly, “No thanks.”

It’s the inverse of the federal budget world these days, in which automatic spending cuts are leaving sought-after pet programs struggling or unpaid altogether. Republicans and Democrats for years have fought so bitterly that lawmaking in Washington ground to a near-halt.

Yet in the case of the Abrams tank, there’s a bipartisan push to spend an extra $436 million on a weapon the experts explicitly say is not needed.

“If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way,” Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press this past week.

Why are the tank dollars still flowing? Politics.

Keeping the Abrams production line rolling protects businesses and good paying jobs in congressional districts where the tank’s many suppliers are located.

If there’s a home of the Abrams, it’s politically important Ohio. The nation’s only tank plant is in Lima. So it’s no coincidence that the champions for more tanks are Rep. Jim Jordan and Sen. Rob Portman, two of Capitol’s Hill most prominent deficit hawks, as well as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

They said their support is rooted in protecting national security, not in pork-barrel politics.

“The one area where we are supposed to spend taxpayer money is in defense of the country,” said Jordan, whose district in the northwest part of the state includes the tank plant.

The Abrams dilemma underscores the challenge that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel faces as he seeks to purge programs that the military considers unnecessary or too expensive in order to ensure there’s enough money for essential operations, training and equipment.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, faces a daunting task in persuading members of Congress to eliminate or scale back projects favored by constituents.

Federal budgets are always peppered with money for pet projects. What sets the Abrams example apart is the certainty of the Army’s position.

Sean Kennedy, director of research for the nonpartisan Citizens Against Government Waste, said Congress should listen when one of the military services says no to more equipment.

“When an institution as risk averse as the Defense Department says they have enough tanks, we can probably believe them,” Kennedy said.

Congressional backers of the Abrams upgrades view the vast network of companies, many of them small businesses, that manufacture the tanks’ materials and parts as a critical asset that has to be preserved. The money, they say, is a modest investment that will keep important tooling and manufacturing skills from being lost if the Abrams line were to be shut down.

The Lima plant is a study in how federal dollars affect local communities, which in turn hold tight to the federal dollars. The facility is owned by the federal government but operated by the land systems division of General Dynamics, a major defense contractor that spent close to $11 million last year on lobbying, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Jordan, a House conservative leader who has pushed for deep reductions in federal spending, supported the automatic cuts known as the sequester that require $42 billion to be shaved from the Pentagon’s budget by the end of September. The military also has to absorb a $487 billion reduction in defense spending over the next 10 years, as required by the Budget Control Act passed in 2011.

The plant is Lima’s fifth-largest employer with close to 700 employees, down from about 1,100 just a few years ago, according to Mayor David Berger. But the facility is still crucial to the local economy. “All of those jobs and their spending activity in the community and the company’s spending probably have about a $100 million impact annually,” Berger said.

Still, said Jordan, it would be a big mistake to stop producing tanks.

“Look, (the plant) is in the 4th Congressional District and my job is to represent the 4th Congressional District, so I understand that,” he said. “But the fact remains, if it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do.”

The tanks that Congress is requiring the Army to buy aren’t brand new. Earlier models are being outfitted with a sophisticated suite of electronics that gives the vehicles better microprocessors, color flat panel displays, a more capable communications system, and other improvements. The upgraded tanks cost about $7.5 million each, according to the Army.

Out of a fleet of nearly 2,400 tanks, roughly two-thirds are the improved versions, which the Army refers to with a moniker that befits their heft: the M1A2SEPv2, and service officials said they have plenty of them. “The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s,” Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army budget office, said this month.

The tank fleet, on average, is less than 3 years old. The Abrams is named after Gen. Creighton Abrams, one of the top tank commanders during World War II and a former Army chief of staff.

The Army’s plan was to stop buying tanks until 2017, when production of a newly designed Abrams would begin. Orders for Abrams tanks from U.S. allies help fill the gap created by the loss of tanks for the Army, according to service officials, but congressional proponents of the program feared there would not be enough international business to keep the Abrams line going.

This pause in tank production for the U.S. would allow the Army to spend its money on research and development work for the new and improved model, said Ashley Givens, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Ground Combat Systems office.

The first editions of the Abrams tank were fielded in the early 1980s. Over the decades, the Abrams supply chain has become embedded in communities across the country.

General Dynamics estimated in 2011 that there were more than 560 subcontractors throughout the country involved in the Abrams program and that they employed as many as 18,000 people. More than 40 of the companies are in Pennsylvania, according to Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., also a staunch backer of continued tank production.

A letter signed by 173 Democratic and Republican members of the House last year and sent to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta demonstrated the depth of bipartisan support for the Abrams program on Capitol Hill. They chided the Obama administration for neglecting the industrial base and proposing to terminate tank production in the United States for the first time since World War II.

Portman, who served as President George W. Bush’s budget director before being elected to the Senate, said allowing the line to wither and close would create a financial mess.

“People can’t sit around for three years on unemployment insurance and wait for the government to come back,” Portman said. “That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant.”

Pete Keating, a General Dynamics spokesman, said the money from Congress is allowing for a stable base of production for the Army, which receives about four tanks a month. With the line open, Lima also can fill international orders, bringing more work to Lima and preserving American jobs, he said.

Current foreign customers are Saudi Arabia, which is getting about five tanks a month, and Egypt, which is getting four. Each country pays all of their own costs. That’s a “success story during a period of economic pain,” Keating said.

Still, far fewer tanks are coming out of the Lima plant than in years past. The drop-off has affected companies such as Verhoff Machine and Welding in Continental, Ohio, which makes seats and other parts for the Abrams. Ed Verhoff, the company’s president, said his sales have dropped from $20 million to $7 million over the past two years. He’s also had to lay off about 25 skilled employees and he expects to be issuing more pink slips in the future.

“When we start to lose this base of people, what are we going to do? Buy our tanks from China?” Verhoff said.

Steven Grundman, a defense expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the difficulty of reviving defense industrial capabilities tends to be overstated.

“From the fairly insular world in which the defense industry operates, these capabilities seem to be unique and in many cases extraordinarily high art,” said Grundman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial affairs and installations during the Clinton administration. “But in the greater scope of the economy, they tend not to be.”

http://news.yahoo.com/army-says-no-more-tanks-115434897.html

saudi-arabia

Human Rights group Amnesty International has condemned a reported Saudi court ruling sentencing a man to be paralyzed as retribution for having paralyzed another man as “outrageous.” In a statement issued Tuesday, the rights group called the punishment “torture,” adding that it “should on no account be carried out.”

The Saudi Gazette, an English language daily paper, reported that Ali Al-Khawahir was 14 when he stabbed and paralyzed his best friend 10 years ago. Al-Khawahir has been in prison ever since, and has been sentenced to be paralyzed if he cannot come up with one million Saudi Riyals ($266,000) in compensation to be paid to the victim, the newspaper reported.

“Paralyzing someone as punishment for a crime would be torture,” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director. “That such a punishment might be implemented is utterly shocking, even in a context where flogging is frequently imposed as a punishment for some offenses, as happens in Saudi Arabia.”

The rights group calls this an example of a “qisas,” or retribution, case, adding that “other sentences passed have included eye-gouging, tooth extraction, and death in cases of murder. “In such cases, the victim can demand the punishment be carried out, request financial compensation or grant a conditional or unconditional pardon.” Despite repeated attempts, the Saudi Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment on the case.

“If implemented, the paralysis sentence would contravene the U.N. Convention against Torture to which Saudi Arabia is a state party and the Principles of Medical Ethics adopted by the UN General Assembly,” Amnesty International said.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/03/us-saudi-sentence-paralysis-idUSBRE9320OL20130403?feedType=RSS&feedName=oddlyEnoughNews

2013-634985203946598048-659

A joint Saudi committee composed of representatives of the ministries of interior, justice and health is mulling the replacement of beheading with firing squads for capital sentences due to shortages in government swordsmen, Saudi daily Al-Youm reported on Sunday.

The committee argued that such a step, if adopted, would not violate Islamic law, allowing heads – or emirs – of the country’s 13 local administrative regions to begin using the new method when needed.

“This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages in official swordsmen or their belated arrival to execution yards in some incidents; the aim is to avoid interruption of the regularly-taken security arrangements,” the committee said in a statement.

The ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom beheaded 76 people in 2012, according to an AFP tally based on official figures. Human Rights Watch (HRW) put the number at 69.

Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking are all punishable by death under Saudi Arabia’s strict version of Sharia, or Islamic Law. So far this year, three people have been executed.

http://english.ahram.org.eg/News/66531.aspx