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The Dangers of Saudi Succession
The monarchy’s greatest strength is its outward display of unity. That’s also its weakness.
National leaders do, on occasion, lose the plot when in office. But seldom do they gain top positions when their minds have already gone. The elevation of Crown Prince Salman to the Saudi throne, following the death of King Abdullah on Thursday, could prove a live experiment in whether such a scenario is viable.The Economist has reported that the 79-year-old Saudi leader may be suffering from dementia. Former top CIA analyst Bruce Riedel has written that Salman is “not up to the job.” At this stage, speculation about Salman’s health remains unconfirmed by Saudi authorities. But keep in mind that Saudi Arabia isn’t just any country; the kingdom is the leader of the Islamic world, a leader of the Arab world, and, by virtue of being the world’s largest oil exporter, a major economic player. So hold on. The ride ahead could be rough.
Saudi Arabia now faces two principal challenges. The short-term one is that the kingdom’s leaders believe they are threatened on all sides. To the south, pro-Iranian tribesmen have taken over Sanaa, the capital of neighboring Yemen (a chaotic Yemen is nothing new, but it would be embarrassing and destabilizing for Saudi Arabia if Yemen’s northern region becomes a lawless haven for jihadists). ISIS is probing the nation’s northern frontier; three Saudi border guards were killed along the Iraqi-Saudi border on January 5. And it looks as though the despised Iran, across the Persian Gulf, is being offered a tantalizing nuclear deal by the United States, hitherto Saudi Arabia’s trusted security guarantor. It isn’t obvious how Saudi Arabia can best respond to these developing crises, but it is obvious that it will need a shrewd leader to craft those responses.
In the longer term, Salman’s decision to accept his half brother and Deputy Crown Prince Muqrin as his own crown prince, or designated successor, doesn’t resolve how royal succession will play out following Muqrin. With no more sons of the kingdom’s founder, Ibn Saud, available, which line of grandsons will be tapped as a source of future kings? The news that grandson Prince Muhammad bin Nayef has become the new deputy crown prince does not fully answer this critical question. Are all the other grandsons going to simply accept being banished into obscurity? I doubt it. MbN, as he is known, is dour, not dynamic. His father wasn’t a king. He is favored by U.S. counterterrorism officials, but that is not necessarily a plus in his country, where it is better to be regarded as pro-Saudi than pro-American. Still, as a survivor of the world’s first rectal suicide bomb (a jihadist, claiming he wanted to surrender to MbN, managed to circumvent a security screening), he at least has “luck.”
As the few remaining sons of Ibn Saud grow older and more infirm, the weakness of Ibn Saud’s succession mechanism has grown more glaring. Successive Saudi kings—Saud, Faisal, Khalid, Fahd, Abdullah, now Salman—have become progressively older at the point of gaining the throne, and their reigns have become more dominated by health issues than ideas about guiding the kingdom through turbulence, both foreign and domestic. Competition among Ibn Saud’s sons has often been vicious. There is little reason to expect that rivalry among his grandsons will be any less intense, despite all the efforts to publicly convey a sense of calm in the House of Saud.
Given Salman’s reported health problems, who is going to actually rule Saudi Arabia? The king, after all, is notionally also the prime minister and top decision-maker. The simple answer is Salman’s camp, but the makeup of this camp is murky, and Salman will likely be suspicious of those who served loyally for his predecessor. The one sure character in the inner circle is Salman’s son Muhammad, who has headed the crown prince’s court and now been made minister of defense. Only in his 30s, Muhammad bin Salman has yet to demonstrate a clear skill set, but his ambition is gigantic. Other sons include Abdulaziz, the perpetual assistant oil minister; Sultan, the astronaut who shared a space shuttle with a female American crew member, Shannon Lucid, despite strict Saudi notions of gender separation, and is now in charge of tourism and antiquities; and Faisal, the governor of Medina province whose Oxford doctorate discussed power politics in the Persian Gulf.
Finish reading at the Atlantic.
How Driverless Cars Could Make Traffic Dramatically Worse
A new simulation shows that comfortable rides can come with big congestion costs.
Safety is often celebrated as the biggest benefit of a world full of driverless cars, but two other presumed social improvements follow closely behind. One is that the technology could reduce traffic congestion, since shorter gaps between cars means more cars per lane. The other is that car travel will become more productive time for either business or pleasure—the way riding a train is today.
To wit: the way Mercedes envisions driverless interiors (top) isn’t much different from the set-up already used in Amtrak’s Acela (bottom):
A new simulation-based study of driverless cars questions how well these two big secondary benefits—less traffic and more comfort—can coexist. Trains are conducive to productivity in large part because they aren’t as jerky as cars. But if driverless cars mimic the acceleration and deceleration of trains, speeding up and slowing down more smoothly for the rider’s sake, they might sacrifice much of their ability to relieve traffic in the process.
“Acceleration has big impacts on congestion at intersections because it describes how quickly a vehicle begins to move,” Scott Le Vine of Imperial College London, who led the research, tells CityLab via email. “Think about being stuck behind an 18-wheeler when the light turns green. It accelerates very slowly, which means that you’re delayed much more than if you were behind a car that accelerated quickly.”
For their study, Le Vine and colleagues simulated traffic at a basic four-way urban intersection where 25 percent of the vehicles were driverless and the rest were standard. In some scenarios, the driverless cars accelerated and decelerated the way that light rail trains do—more comfortable than, say, riding in a taxi, but still a little jerky at times. In other scenarios, the cars started and stopped with the premium smoothness of high-speed rail.
Within these broad scenarios the researchers also tested alternatives that reduced speeds but improved smoothness, such as longer yellow lights or following distances. All told they modeled 16 scenarios against a baseline with all human-driven cars. The researchers then ran each simulation for an hour, repeated it 100 times, and calculated the average impact that scenario had in terms of traffic delay and road capacity.
In every single test scenario, driverless cars designed to create a comfortable, rail-style ride made congestion worse than it would have been in a baseline scenario with people behind every wheel.
Read it all HERE.
This torture device consisted of a metal piece with two opposed bi-pronged forks attached to a belt or strap. One end of the device was pushed under the chin, the other to the sternum, and the strap was used to secure the victim’s neck to the tool while the victim hung from the ceiling or was somehow suspended so that they could not sleep. If their heads dropped, the prongs would pierce their throat and chest.
Islam: History of the ‘Dark and Bloody’ Caliphate
Most Muslims live a peaceful life dedicated to God, however, there are many, hundreds of millions by many accounts, who do not. Hundreds of thousands would be the best case scenario.
The more than a billion peaceful Muslims are among the targeted victims of radical Islam.
Those who try to completely separate Islam from radical Islam fail to know their history.
Whereas, politicians after 9-11 tried to separate peaceful Muslims from radical Muslims, they now try to pretend there is no connection.
Where did the term “religion of peace” come from? Is that how Muslims define their religion?
“Religion of Peace” is a political neologism used as a description of Islam. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, some politicians described Islam as a “religion of peace” in an effort to differentiate between Islamic terrorists, Islamism, and non-violent Muslims.
The Arabic term Islam (?????) is derived from aslama, which means “to surrender” or “resign oneself”. The Arabic word salaam (????) (“peace”) shares the same consonantal root (s-l-m) with the words Islam and Muslim.
George Bush adopted the phrase as have most U.S. and European politicians, all with good intention and for a good purpose.
Many Muslim sects are peaceful but “surrender” is more applicable. It is a religion of surrender to Allah.
Neuroscientist and New Atheism writer Sam Harris wrote, “The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you.”
Radical British imam, Anjem Choudary, denies Islam is a “religion of peace”, it’s about “submission”.
ISIS is nothing new though we like to tell ourselves they are a rarity – an anomaly for the religion of peace – so rare that Al Qaeda had to disown them because they are too violent. That’s not exactly true.
The real reason for the break between the groups was ISIS would not swear allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri and the groups’ leader al-Baghdadi disobeyed al-Zawahiri’s orders more than once.
Both groups do at times team up in fighting nonetheless. They have cross-fighters.
We like to believe we are civilized but groups of equal measure to ISIS have tortured and enslaved innocents throughout much of the world without letup, over the centuries into current day, and many do it in the name of God, other totalitarians choose the State or a titular head as their god.
Islamic terrorists have been at war since Muhammad lived and died. What is going on now is nothing new.
In an address on the Egyptian Al-Kahera Wal-Nas TV, Egyptian Islamic researcher and TV host Islam Behery said, with regard to the Salafi desire to restore the Caliphate: “Who are you kidding? The days of the Caliphate were all dark times.” The statements aired on November 24, 2014.
Videos and much more found HERE.