Russia Will Veto UN Resolution On Syria

France’s proposal to have the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation against the Syrian regime and opposition’s crimes against humanity and possible war crimes Russia will shut down according to the Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin. The four-year conflict, which began after a series of brutal crackdowns against protesters by the Syrin regime, had so far claimed 160,000 lives, most of them civilians.

France called for a vote on Thursday, but Russia revealed that it will veto the 58-country supported proposal. Ambassador Churkin said that the proposal was only a “publicity stunt”, which could affect all parties, including those in Syria, very negatively.

However, French Ambassador Gerard Araud said that Churkin could not argue against the proposal. No political process will be undermined because no political process exists against the proposal.

Other UN Security Council members aside from Russia and China had voiced their concerns regarding the possible abuses Syrians are suffering. France circulated a video from a Syrian defector showing the abuses endured by captives on both sides of the conflict as well.

China had chosen to remain silent on the issue.

Russia had already vetoed multiple UN Security Council proposals. One of them was against military action in Syria. A diplomatic resolution to the crisis was still highly improbable.


Oman’s Economy Grew Slowest in 2013

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated in its World Economic Outlook that Oman’s economy in 2013 had dropped to a 2.8% growth in nominal terms in 2013. The IMF said that this is the slowest expansion the country had since 2009 as outputs from the oil industry had fallen behind.

In 2012, Oman’s economy had grown by 11.5%

According to observers, the slowing economy marks the challenges Oman’s government faces with regards to generating jobs for its growing population, which is now at 2.2 million. Despite progressing efficiently from 1970 as a modern economy, Oman’s deficits are caused by the lack of natural oil reserves.

The 1.4% drop in the oil sector, which accounts for 46% of Oman’s £75 billion economy, also played a great role in the slow growth of the economy.

Oman’s services sector is the largest contributor to the country’s GDP, but it had slowed down to 10.0 % from 15.1 % in 2012.

Analysts said that Oman’s real GDP growth should improve to 4.0% this year because of stable oil prices and the government’s investment on major profit-generating projects in the last two years.

The recent allegation of corruption and public protests that demanded jobs for its population had also hurt the reputation of the country. However, the country had also generated tens of thousands of new government jobs.


Syrian Diplomatic Efforts Have Failed According to UN Chiefs

Five United Nations agencies have said that diplomatic efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis had already failed and that the UN must focus on providing support for civilians trapped and having trouble in different parts of the country. According to them, “the war escalates in many areas. The humanitarian situation deteriorates day after day.”

UN Under-Secretary General for Emergency Relief Valerie Amos, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres, Unicef Executive Director Anthony Lake, World Food Programme Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and World Health Organisation Director General Margaret Chan had signed the statement supporting the fact that humanitarian aid is more crucial now than diplomatic resolution

At least nine million Syrians are needing assistance from being trapped between crossfires from Rebels and government forces. The shifting battles had left many relief agencies limited access to provide humanitarian aid for civilian forces.

The five agencies also said that humanitarian access is often denied by all sides in the conflict. They added that “at least one million people are now in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Aleppo alone. Other key roads are blocked by different armed forces and groups.” The road links had been cut between the city and Damascus.

There is now a total of 2.7 million refugees escaping the Syrian civil war.


Oman Parents and Schools Can Track Student Performance With CampusLIVE

Computer-based systems are available in modern schools and universities across the world. Oman is adopting its own. CampusLIVE, a software that allows students to create their own academic profile, can allow their parents and educators to access their accounts and review information regarding their academic performance to their yearly fees.

According to the general manager of the IT company who made the software, Shiv Gupta, CampusLIVE allows routine sending of updates to parents by e-mail or SMS. Parents may view their student’s education, sports and extracurricular activities using different web links.

The school may also post tips on dealing with bullies, career development and supplementary educational material for their students. Teachers may also share resources with families to help them identify the possible career their children could have. Disciplinary remarks may also reflect on the child’s profile in the network.

Private schools, such as Assafwah Private Schools, are welcoming the system and said they parents of their students have a huge interest in the development of CampusLIVE and its implementation.

As of today, 11 schools in Oman are using the system. The Oman-exclusive software will also be released with fully Arabic features and will feature effective security measures depending on the clearance of the student, parent, teacher or school official.


Economists See PPI as a Booster to the UK Economy

A survey done by reveals that majority of consumers are using their PPI refunds to have vacation holidays or to purchase a new vehicle. A small majority only saves their refunds or uses it on clothing and gadgets. The survey also showed that UK consumers were quick to spend their PPI refund, contributing greatly to the UK economy.

Economists said the payout of £13.3 billion, which had already reached consumers, is equivalent to 1% of the UK GDP, a very effective “spend” signal that is better than quantitative easing or tax reductions. An increase in car sales from 2012 to the first quarter of 2014 is attributed to PPI.

An average PPI can pay out at least £2780-3500 for consumers. The amount is enough to afford medium-cost travel packages or a down payment for a new vehicle.

The survey showed that at least 19% of consumers who received their PPI compensation used it to purchase new home appliances. Some 17% of the recipients used the money to pay existing debt. The remaining saved the money or used them to buy apparel and groceries.

Mis sold PPI is the UK’s largest financial scandal in history with banks, including the Big Four major banks, setting aside £20 billion for mis sold PPI claims.

Oman’s Teachers Double in Number Within a Decade

According to the Oman National Centre for Statistics and Information, the number of teachers in the classroom had doubled from one teacher for every 19 students in 2002, to one teacher per 10 students in 2012. The numbers show that the number of students enrolled in classes had declined boosting the ratio to close on each other.

However, it was also due to the efforts of the government to improve the educational standards in the country. The Oman Ministry of Education spending had increased by 279.8 million Rial to 925.2 million Rial in 2012. Education accounted for 6.8% of total government expenditure in 2012.

The Oman MOE had also provided 59.8 million Rial to construct new educational facilities and to upgrade existing facilities. The number of general education schools in Oman had increased from 1,019 to 1,043 in 2012.

Oman currently has 444 private schools, 39 foreign schools, six vocational centres and other literacy centres.


US and Iran Must Support Each Other to Stop Middle East Violence

As Syrian regime troops continue to push on against rebel positions in Aleppo in Syria and Egypts’ political climate is still at its worse, the US and Iran become key figures in helping to avert the crises in the middle east. However, in conflict with each other, political analysts advise that the only way through the middle east conflicts is support from both sides.

Iran recently refused its role the US suggested on the Syrian peace talks or Geneva 2, which is to happen on January 22. Aside from Iran, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the opposition rebels will be in attendance in the Geneva 2 talks. Despite the slated date, exchanges between Syrian regime and rebels continue.

Syria is also in danger of al-Qaeda militant invasion, which is using Iraq as a “safe passageway” towards fierce fighting in Syria.

However, Washington and the Syrian opposition is arguing that Tehran had supported Assad with manpower and arms as the uprising continued in the country. UN Special Envoy to Syria Lakhdar Brahimi had also backed Tehran’s involvement.

Despite the US-Iran sanction and nuclear enrichment reduction, there is minimal improvement on the outlook of the US against Iran regarding the Syrian civil war.

Iran had given no indication to take any of the US’ suggestion regarding its role in Syria.


Mis Sold PPI Refunds Help UK Economy Grow Further

The increasing numbers of consumers getting back their complete refunds were also music to the ears of UK economists. Experts said that payment protection insurance contributes heavily to the United Kingdom’s economic recovery as more households mobilize local economies and increase interests in properties.

An average PPI claim could cost around £3000-3500. However, lenders such as Halifax or HSBC could possibly introduce you to higher fees for your insurance policy. If you’re making a PPI claim from Halifax for example, their PPI and other financial repayment are also included in an increased interest rate.

According to economists £3000-3500 in cash instead of a tax deduction makes the money more a windfall and helps motivate people to spend. The motivation to spend, use the money as down payment for further investment or re-invest the money in the stock market helps the local economy, which improves prices.

The Office of National Statistics previously had a theory regarding PPI withholding consumer spending in the past few years. In the first two quarters of 2013, they reported a 15% increase in the number of car registrations with over 27,000 new vehicles named in different areas of the country.

The PPI scandal could be the most expensive scandal to hit the UK with a projected total of £20 billion, but the timing for economic recovery and better reclaiming services could not have been better.

Sultanate of Oman Donates $1.8 Million to Smithsonian Museum

The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art announced that the Sultanate of Oman had given a $1.8 million donation in support for the programs intended to celebrate the Omani and East African arts and culture. In its official press release, the museum said that it was the “largest single donation to the museum” that it ever had.

The National Museum of African art is dedicated to the collection of Africa’s traditional and contemporary artworks. The museum’s new programs will begin in 2014.

The programs will highlight the cross-cultural connections of East and Northern Africa and the two’s relation to the Middle East. The programs also highlight the evolution of Oman’s arts and cultures, focusing on the beauty of Omani arts and the connections it has with East Africa.

According to the museum’s director, Johnetta Betsch Cole, the donation from Oman marks a significant milestone for the entire museum. The unique gift, along with an extended collaboration with the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Centre in Washington, makes the entire 50th Anniversary of the museum a very special occasion.

She said that they intend to bring the Omani arts, culture and tradition into greater global awareness as it is a very special and unique culture that is not too known in the mainstream.


Friends of Syria, Arabian Foreign Ministers to Discuss the Syrian Crisis

The Friends of Syria group, comprised of Egypt, France, Italy, Jordan, Qatar and other Arab nations will convene in London to discuss how they could resolve the Syrian crisis through a peace conference in Geneva on November. Britain Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the meeting aims to persuade the Syrian opposition to unite with a single decision in discussing peace treaties with the Syrian regime.

The Syrian Opposition had agreed to attend the talks, but still, factions in its core do not agree to meeting a negotiation halfway with the Syrian regime. The Syrian regime and President Bashar al-Assad said that the parties involved in the peace talks were people only representing their countries and not the Syrian people, which shows his perspective that the peace talks may be less fruitful than expected.

President Bashar al-Assad said that he will be running for re-election in 2014. The Syrian National Coalition had said that it will not agree to any negotiations if al-Assad remains in power.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also observed the same notion and said that Assad, who had bombed and launched a chemical attack against his people has no right to stay in power and the Syrian opposition sees that he has no legitimacy to remain in power in the future.