DUBAI: When it comes to man versus machine, many industries, including medical science, are at a critical juncture. Advancements in technology are creating a world where robots are performing tasks with speed and efficiency unmatched by their human counterparts. Increasingly, robots are becoming a familiar presence in operating theaters, especially in the Gulf. Experts predict that the region could become the leader in the field of robotic surgery. In June, Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare (JHAH) -- the result of a joint venture between Saudi Aramco and Johns Hopkins Medicine -- became the first hospital in the Kingdom to perform a robot-assisted hysterectomy.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held talks Monday with the Saudi king and crown prince about countering the military threat from Iran by building a broad, global coalition that includes Asian and European countries. Pompeo is likely to face a tough sell in Europe and Asia, particularly from those nations still committed to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that President Donald Trump repudiated last year. With tensions running high in the region after Iran shot down a U.S. surveillance drone on June 20 and Trump said he aborted a retaliatory strike, Iran's naval commander warned that his forces won't hesitate to down more U.S. drones that violate its airspace. The U.S. has been building up its military presence in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. announced additional sanctions Monday on Iran aimed at pressuring the Iranian leadership into talks.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The energy-rich Arab nation of Qatar says its ruling emir received a letter from the king of Saudi Arabia. The letter marks the highest-level, publicly known contact between the two nations since the kingdom and three other nations began boycotting it nearly two years ago. Qatar's Foreign Ministry late Sunday said the letter from King Salman to Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani requested Doha's presence at an emergency summit being held in Mecca later this week over alleged sabotage of ships off the United Arab Emirates and a drone attack by Yemen's rebels on a Saudi oil pipeline amid U.S.-Iran tensions. Qatar did not say whether it would attend the meeting. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been boycotting Qatar over a political dispute since June 2017.
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - A Yemen rebel drone strike this week on a critical Saudi oil pipeline shows that the otherwise-peaceful sandy reaches of the Arabian Peninsula now are at risk of similar assault, including an under-construction nuclear power plant and Dubai International Airport, among the world's busiest. U.N. investigators said the Houthis' new UAV-X drone, found in recent months during the Saudi-led coalition's war in Yemen, likely has a range of up to 1,500 km (930 miles). That puts the far reaches of both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two main opponents of the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen, within reach of drones difficult to detect and track. Their relatively simple design, coupled with readily available information online, makes targeting even easier, analysts say. "These installations are easily findable, like on Google Earth," said Tim Michetti, an expert on illicit weapons technology with experience in Yemen.
Two startups-- View Inc., which makes light-adjustable glass, and Zume Inc., which uses robots to make pizza--disclosed investments over the past week totaling a combined $1.5 billion from SoftBank's Saudi-backed Vision Fund. Late last month, Katerra Inc., an innovator in property construction, reached a tentative deal with the Saudi government to build up to 50,000 units of housing annually for the kingdom. That followed a $1 billion funding round led by the Vision Fund early this year that valued the Menlo Park, Calif., company at more than $3 billion. Meanwhile, negotiations continued in recent weeks for a deal in which Tokyo-based SoftBank would invest $15 billion to $20 billion to buy a majority stake in WeWork Cos. likely with Vision Fund money, according to people familiar with the discussions. A WeWork spokeswoman declined to comment.
In a particularly pungent case of victim-blaming, "hard-line Republicans and conservative commentators are mounting a whispering campaign against Jamal Khashoggi that is designed to protect President Trump from criticism of his handling of the dissident journalist's alleged murder by operatives of Saudi Arabia -- and support Trump's continued aversion to a forceful response to the oil-rich desert kingdom," The Washington Post reports, citing four GOP officials involved in the discussions. The campaign includes "a cadre of conservative House Republicans allied with Trump" who in recent days have been "privately exchanging articles from right-wing outlets that fuel suspicion of Khashoggi," a Post columnist and Saudi government critic, the Post says. Still, the murmurs have begun to "flare into public view" as conservative media organizations and personalities -- Rush Limbaugh, Front Page, Donald Trump Jr., and a sanitized version on Fox News, to name a few -- "have amplified the claims, which are aimed in part at protecting Trump as he works to preserve the U.S.-Saudi relationship and avoid confronting the Saudis on human rights." The main lines of attack -- pushed by pro-Saudi accounts on Twitter -- focus on and distort Khashoggi's association with the Muslim Brotherhood in his young and interactions as a journalist with late Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in the 1980s and '90s. "The GOP officials declined to share the names of the lawmakers and others who are circulating information critical of Khashoggi," the Post explains, "because they said doing so would risk exposing them as sources."
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – The Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen said it had attacked a Saudi Aramco refinery in Riyadh on Wednesday using a drone, but the oil company said a limited fire at the plant was due to "an operational incident. "Our drone air forces have targeted the refinery of ARAMCO company in Riyadh," read a tweet on the account of the Houthi-run television channel al-Masirah. "The operation by the drone air force is a strong start in a new stage of deterring the aggression," it quoted a Houthi military spokesman as saying in a tweet. Saudi officials were not immediately available for comment. Just before al-Masirah's tweet, Aramco announced that its fire control teams and the Saudi civil defenses had contained a minor fire that erupted in the early evening in a storage containers at its refinery in Riyadh.
It has been a year since the SoftBank Vision Fund was launched, and a pattern has emerged. Masayoshi Son has been using his nearly $100 billion armamentarium to invest in technology companies that gather user data. According to the SoftBank Group's most recent results, the fund, which marked its first anniversary on Sunday, had invested $29.7 billion by the end of March. This means about one-third of the fund's cash has been invested. The fund contributed 302.9 billion yen ($2.72 billion) to SoftBank Group operating profit for the year through March.
Masayoshi Son, with a net worth of $21.5bn, is reputed to be Japan's wealthiest person. He is also one of the world's slickest and smartest salesmen. In September 2016, Son met then Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. By the end of the 45-minute meeting, bin Salman, MBS, as he is known, had committed $45bn from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) to Son's Vision Fund. That's nearly half the value of what has become the biggest investment fund the world has ever seen.