Repeal JASTA, New York Times urges US Congress

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, second from left, and his colleagues listens to a question during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Sept. 13, 2016, file photo. (AP)
Updated 03 October 2016
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Repeal JASTA, New York Times urges US Congress

JEDDAH: The New York Times has urged the US Congress to repeal the so-called 9/11 Bill or the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) before it could do more damage.
The US Senate and the House of Representatives delivered a stinging rebuke to President Barack Obama on Wednesday by overriding his veto of the bill that was meant to allow the families of the 9/11 victims to sue Saudi Arabia.
In its editorial, America’s leading newspaper and one with worldwide influence, damned what it called the “baldfaced admission of gross ineptitude” after reports that Republican leaders were discussing the possibility of changes to the bill.
The editorial referred to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s statement on Thursday that “nobody had really focused on the potential downside in terms of our international relationships, and I think it was just a ball dropped.”
The New York Times was livid. “Instead of putting the responsibility entirely where it belongs — on Congress — McConnell went on absurdly to blame Obama for failing to communicate the potential consequences of the bill,” it said. “In fact, Obama, the national security agencies, the Saudi government, retired diplomats, the European Union and big corporations had all bombarded Congress with warnings. Yet lawmakers ignored all of them in a rush to pass the legislation and then, this week, override Obama’s veto by a large bipartisan vote.”
In its sharp rebuke, the editorial said: “Congress seems determined to set a new standard for craven incompetence.”
The New York Times pointed out that the aim of the bill — to give the families their day in court — “is compassionate, but it is already complicating the American relationship with Saudi Arabia, and it could expose the American government, citizens and corporations to lawsuits abroad.”
The newspaper said while the families believe that Saudi Arabia allegedly played a role in the attacks because 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, “an independent American commission that investigated the attacks found no evidence that the Saudi government or senior Saudi officials directed or financed the terrorists.”
The newspaper said it is not clear what the lawmakers can do to mitigate the problems with this “ill-conceived” law.
The Saudi government, in a statement, said it hoped Congress would “correct this legislation” in its lame duck session after the November election.
Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has suggested that changes could include limiting suits to the Sept. 11 attacks or creating a separate legal tribunal.
But, as the New York Times pointed out, foreign governments could still retaliate by taking similar steps, such as carving out sovereign immunity exceptions for specific incidents of importance to them — perhaps America’s mistaken bombing of a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan in 2015 that killed 42 people.
“Congress has once again embarrassed itself and harmed American interests in the process,” said the newspaper. “The only way to fix this law is to repeal it.”


Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

Updated 40 min 47 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women driving

  • They start their engines and hit the roads throughout the Kingdom
  • End of driving ban is crowning achievement so far of Saudi Vision 2030

Women throughout Saudi Arabia waited for the stroke of midnight, turned the keys in the ignition, fired up their engines — and hit the road to a bright new future.

It was the moment they had waited for since King Salman issued the royal decree on September 26, 2017, to lift the driving ban on women. 

Just after midnight on Saturday and in the first minutes of Sunday, Samah Algosaibi grabbed the keys to her family’s 1959 Corvette C1 and drove out of the driveway of her beach house in Khobar.
“We are witnessing history in the making as we look toward the dawn of a promising future,” said Algosaibi, the first female board member of Ahmad Hamad Algosaibi & Bros.

“As a businesswoman in Saudi Arabia, I am grateful for the women’s empowerment movement taking place. Today, I am honored to be sitting behind the wheel of change.”

Another woman to hit the road after midnight was Lina Almaeena, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council. “It feels very liberating,” she said about driving her mother’s Lexus.
Almaeena, also the co-founder and director of Jeddah United Sports Co, had exchanged her UAE license for a Saudi one. 

“I am thrilled!” Sarah Alwassia, 35, a nutritionist in Jeddah, told Arab News. “I learnt how to drive 18 years ago in the States where I got my driving license. I can’t believe that the day to drive in my own home town has come.”

Alwassia obtained her first American license when she was 18 years old in 2000, and had it exchanged for a Saudi license on June 6 in Jeddah. She explained that she is a mother, and this change provided comfort for her and her family. It also comes with various benefits, such as taking quick action in emergencies, and economic benefits such as saving money instead of paying for a driver when she needs to run errands. 

“I will be driving my kids to school and picking them up in comfort and privacy,” she said.

Women in the Kingdom commented on how this event is changing the course of their lives. “Independence is a huge thing for me,” Alwassia said. “Driving is one small part of it. I am very optimistic of the change that our loving country has made.”  

Alwassia applauds the efforts the country has made to support women. “I am confident that driving in the beginning will be pleasant, since our country has made all of the effort to support women and to protect them.
“I think our society was looking forward for this change, and I am sure the majority will adapt fast.

“I feel safe, our country did everything to make this transition pleasant and safe for every woman behind the wheel. I am really thankful to witness this historic moment and I am so happy for all the women in Saudi Arabia, especially my daughters.”
Sahar Nasief, 64, a retired lecturer from the European languages and Literature Department at King Abdulaziz University, said: “Nothing could describe my feelings. I can't wait to get on the road.”
Nasief received a very special gift from Ford for this occasion.

“They gave me a 2018 Expedition to drive for three days, a Mustang California Special,” she told Arab News.

Nasief obtained her Saudi license on June 7. She also holds a British license and two American licenses. “Now, I have my national license too,” she said. 

She also said the lifting of the ban provided a sense of relief. “I feel that I can practice one of my rights, and I don't have to live at the mercy of my driver any more.”
Society has been demanding such a change for years, “as it will take the physical and economic burden off most men.”
Pointing to the anti-harassment law, Nasief said: “I feel very confident especially after announcing the strict harassment law.”
Joumana Mattar, 36, a Jordanian interior designer, exchanged her Jordanian driver’s license and obtained a Saudi one on June 11. 

“I had my Jordanian license since I was 18 years old, and the moment I heard about the opening of exchanging foreign licenses, I immediately booked an appointment,” she said.
Mattar said she looks forward to the change in so many ways. “I'm finally in control of my time, schedule and privacy.” 

Mattar said she is both confident and anxious about the event. “I'm anxious only for feeling that I'm part of a huge first step for women driving in the Kingdom, but I'm confident also because of the support that I'm getting from my husband and family.
“Every first step is the hardest. Society is facing a huge change, but I'm positive because this change is done and supported by the government and Vision 2030.”

Mattar said she feels secure now. “I'm in control of any case I'm facing.”

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