October is a great month for festivals. If you are a fan of food then you know how much fun it can be to try new dishes. But food festivals aren’t the only place to try tantalize your tastebuds. Enjoy a sneak peak of your favorite restaurant’s dishes at food festivals or find a new favorite. First Heatwave Expected Next Week Are you a USC Trojan Alumni? If so, Phil Diegelman tells us “Part of the biggest thing that we’re doing is we’re hosting USC Trojans Football watching party and it’s for alumni only.” They have a great patio to sit and enjoy a good time out at City Café with your friends. Name (required) Mail (required) (not be published) Website Make a comment 6 recommended0 commentsShareShareTweetSharePin it faithfernandez More » ShareTweetShare on Google+Pin on PinterestSend with WhatsApp,Virtual Schools PasadenaHomes Solve Community/Gov/Pub SafetyPASADENA EVENTS & ACTIVITIES CALENDARClick here for Movie Showtimes Community News City Café in Azusa will be attending several food events this month. They will be at The Taste of Arcadia, October’s Taste, The Taste of Azusa and The Taste of Monrovia. These four events are great chances to check out the delicious dishes that City Café offers. Subscribe Pasadena Will Allow Vaccinated People to Go Without Masks in Most Settings Starting on Tuesday Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * More Cool Stuff Pasadena’s ‘626 Day’ Aims to Celebrate City, Boost Local Economy City Café also invites you to come in and try some of their scrumptious offerings this month. They have a banana fosters that will melt in your mouth. It consists of flambéed bananas with Meyer’s Rum and brown sugar sauce topped with ice cream. Admit it, your mouth is watering. If that sounded good you may also want to try their signature Pulled Pork Sliders with Coleslaw. Top of the News Pasadena Eats, The Dining Blog The New Tastemakers By ANGELA MORGAN Published on Friday, October 9, 2015 | 1:02 pm Get our daily Pasadena newspaper in your email box. Free.Get all the latest Pasadena news, more than 10 fresh stories daily, 7 days a week at 7 a.m. HerbeautyThese Are 15 Great Style Tips From Asian WomenHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyAmazing Sparks Of On-Screen Chemistry From The 90-sHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty11 Signs Your Perfectionism Has Gotten Out Of ControlHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyThe Kardashians Know How To Throw A Good Party!HerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeautyEverything You Need To Know About This Two-Hour ProcedureHerbeautyHerbeautyHerbeauty7 Reasons Why The Lost Kilos Are Regained AgainHerbeautyHerbeauty City Café is located at 607 N. Azusa Ave, Azusa. Call (626) 633-0269 for more information or visit www.citycafeazusa.com. Community News Come on down to City Café for Happy Hour after work. It is Monday through Friday from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. For you night owls they also have a Late Night Happy Hour Sunday-Thursday. Not a beer drinker? Not to worry, this month they will be putting in an espresso machine that will be perfect for coffee outings with friends and co-workers. EVENTS & ENTERTAINMENT | FOOD & DRINK | THE ARTS | REAL ESTATE | HOME & GARDEN | WELLNESS | SOCIAL SCENE | GETAWAYS | PARENTS & KIDS Business News Home of the Week: Unique Pasadena Home Located on Madeline Drive, Pasadena
in Daily Dose, Featured, Loss Mitigation, Market Studies, News, Print Features The Week Ahead: Nearing the Forbearance Exit 2 days ago Gathering Storm: Preparing Homeowners for Natural Disasters Home / Daily Dose / Gathering Storm: Preparing Homeowners for Natural Disasters The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago In 2017, Hurricanes Harvey and Maria impacted vast swaths of the southern United States, with Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico incurring billions of dollars in damages to homes and infrastructure. According to a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing on the administration of disaster recovery funds, natural disasters combined to cause over $300 billion in direct damages in 2017 alone—a new annual record for the U.S.The California wildfires also raged through that state in 2017. A report by National Public Radio noted that, even as a shortage of construction workers delayed recovery efforts in the aftermath of those fires, some affected homeowners found themselves running out of insurance that provided them with wiggle room to rent while their homes were being rebuilt. Though California lawmakers passed a bill extending insurance for wildfire victims, the report said that it only helps homeowners who are impacted by such a disaster starting in 2019.These are just some of the challenges facing servicers as they plan for future disasters. However, the industry is keenly aware of the lessons learned from recent years and are working to prepare plans of action to support borrowers through future difficulties.“The most significant lesson is that we are all in this together, and that resilience in the face of disaster is a community effort,” said Chris Terzich, SVP, Wells Fargo Enterprise Incident Management. “My previous experience in public-private partnerships led me to participate in a working group of the National Infrastructure Advisory Council, where we recommended the Department of Homeland Security include the private sector in a framework for a partnership for disaster response. I am pleased to report that, in many communities, this is now the norm.”The industry is also facing a daunting reality—natural disasters are becoming both more common and more damaging, and it is up to servicers and service providers to become more proactive in their efforts before, during, and after such events.According to David Hughes, SVP of the Contact Center at RoundPoint Mortgage Servicing, efforts such as “monitoring potential threats and actively preparing potentially impacted borrowers, as well as integrating previously disjointed activities such as customer outreach, loss mitigation options, and loss draft processes into a single unit, as well as designing and preparing that dedicated team so it can quickly scale to the size of the disaster,” are just some of the steps that servicers have learned to take.LOOKING BACKAs the occurrence of natural disasters becomes more commonplace, the need for a robust and stress-tested disaster response plan has become clear. However, the flexibility of these plans is also crucial.“Because each disaster from 2017 and 2018 has been somewhat unique, industry participants have had to ensure disaster plans are not too prescriptive,” said Jake Williamson, VP of Collateral Risk Management at Fannie Mae.He explained that flexible disaster response plans are “more about the coordination of the response activities versus the response activities themselves.” They need to address how to coordinate across different stakeholder groups (both internally and externally), how to manage the data received from the various sources (boots on the ground, call centers, social media, inspections, etc.), and who is on point to address each process challenge.Recent research by the Urban Institute, funded by JPMorgan Chase, found that disasters lead to broad, and often substantial, negative impacts on financial health such as credit scores, mortgage delinquency, and foreclosure rates. This makes it even more imperative for servicers to be prepared to streamline loan modifications and forbearance programs while planning their strategy for such events.“Do not underestimate the effect of these events on your customers and your portfolios,” said Thomas O’Connell, SVP of Default Management for Planet Home Lending. “We learned from hurricane Harvey that the customer was not only affected by damage to their property but also by the loss of income due to businesses closing for long periods. Servicers need to determine which customers have been affected early and streamline the requirements for forbearance or modification.”Research also suggests that, despite advances in technology and processes, property damage assessments tend to be far from perfect, causing some households to get left behind during the recovery process.“Our industry has learned that it’s critical to identify at-risk properties during the application process, which will help expedite and streamline the review process if disaster strikes those properties and loans,” said Gerardo Caceres, SVP of Product Management and Data Operations for Closing Corp.Michael Greenbaum, COO of Safeguard Properties, added, “Hurricane seasons from the past few years have been unprecedented. When coupled with disasters like the wildfires in California, a coordinated strategic approach to action is necessary to protect properties.”Communication between all stakeholders—including servicers, service providers, government agencies, and the public at large—has therefore emerged as key ammunition in any disaster preparedness plan.COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE“In the chaos that occurs around a natural disaster, knowing exactly what your next steps should be for the various scenarios that arise will save time, money, and relationships,” said Elizabeth Wright Billings, Pricing and Execution Manager for Churchill Mortgage.Rullah Price, SVP of Wells Fargo Community Outreach, told DS News that communicating early on is key to ensuring that customers know what to do if and when they’re impacted by a natural disaster.Wells Fargo uses a variety of channels to ensure that their communication reaches the widest audience, ranging from email to text, ATMs, and social media. This outreach continues both during and after the disaster itself.Hughes said that pre-disaster communication was “critical and should achieve several objectives.” Those include informing the borrower of the impending disaster, providing recommendations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on how to prepare, letting borrowers know about the financial relief options available with their lender—especially if their income is impacted by the disaster, advising them to contact their insurance company to start the claims process, ensuring the borrower understands the servicer’s role once the claim process is completed, and providing information for additional available resources through the government.“Do not be afraid to go above and beyond to get the homeowners prepared with proactive preventative measures,” said Bryan Lysikowski, Co-Founder and CEO of ZVN Properties Inc. “Encourage flood/hurricane insurance and provide borrowers with information as to how they can purchase the required items to protect the asset.”It is also advisable to have a single, dedicated point of contact.“This contact can more efficiently assist the borrower and manage the processes in a more comprehensive manner,” Williamson said.It is as important for businesses to assure customers that, despite the disaster, they remain up and running to serve them.“During emergencies, when it seems as though the world is turned upside down, customers just want to know something is safe and secure,” said Steve Comer, Director of Financial Services and Insurance Sales for Hyland. “Executives and IT departments should be able to assure customers that their investments are secure, business is open, and they are ready to serve and assist as needed. But that assurance can only be provided if the right security plans are in place from the start.”Billings agreed. “Overall, clear communication and clear expectations from all representatives of your company will reduce stress in an inherently chaotic situation, although the type of disaster dictates how the communication occurs,” she said.Having a disaster response team in place well in advance can make all the difference between providing borrowers with timely information or leaving them in the lurch.“Servicers need to establish a disaster response team for both outbound and inbound inquiries in the call centers,” O’Connell said. “Team members should be trained on all relief measures. Inbound activities should be a one-touch event for the customer, so there is no additional stress.”Progressive companies are also utilizing data and technology to make better business decisions not when it comes to communicating with their customers but also in ensuring the safety of the property before and during such events. “This includes geolocation, mobile, and multimedia technology, in addition to data analytics to track trends,” Greenbaum said.TECH TO THE RESCUEFrom social media and drones to satellite imagery and real-time modeling, technology is changing the landscape of disaster response. Trevor Nace, a Geologist and Founder of Science Trends recently wrote in Forbes that technology is not only helping those being impacted by a natural disaster to communicate the urgency of the situation but is also playing a key role in ensuring that emergency response managers are better prepared.“As weather models, seismic sensor arrays, and systems advance and with it the modeling of natural disasters, we know earlier and with better precision the next major disaster. These systems provide local, state, and federal officials the ability to prepare for the next natural disaster better than ever before. The outcome of it all, more lives saved,” Nace said.Servicers are increasingly using these tools not only to improve their disaster response but also to also help homeowners safeguard their properties during these events. At a recent DS News webinar, John Thibaudeau, Director of Single-Family Real Estate for Fannie Mae, spoke about the tools and apps that are helping provide real-time information for properties that need an inspection. They are also used to guide inspectors and users on what to look for once they reach the property, and to help servicers absorb all that data so they can prioritize their work.Looking at some of the best practices that the industry has learnt from past disasters, Nickalene Badalamenti-Kalas, President of Five Brothers Default Management Solutions, said that it’s important for clients to upload location verification documents (plat maps, origination appraisals) when FEMA inspections are ordered, as oftentimes normal property indicators such as mailboxes, addresses on homes, and street signs are destroyed.According to Greenbaum, technology and data are key to effective disaster management before, during, and after the storms. “Mortgage servicers are looking to assess the damage to both their current and delinquent properties as quickly as possible to determine the impact. Mobile technology and smart scripting, one that is responsive based on the answers chosen, plays an important role in assessing property damage following a major disaster,” he said.These scripts can easily be adjusted to ensure inspectors gather the appropriate information, photos, and videos. In turn, the information collected goes into the property preservation company’s automated workflow system to quickly assess and determine which properties require immediate attention, enabling servicers to take prompt action.For the vendors in the field, advancements in technology are allowing for better and faster responsiveness. “Vendors can create routes based on their work orders’ addresses to increase efficiency and have faster turnaround times to better serve clients,” Badalamenti-Kalas said. “Field operatives can also be notified and dispatched from surrounding areas to assist in pre and post-disaster efforts.”Servicers are also looking at technology to help them evaluate disaster impacts and target response activities. “The use of aerial imagery (satellite, manned aircraft, drones, etc.) has provided data that can be built into image processing tools and provide heat maps that track damage at a property level,” said Jason Chapman, Director of Property Preservation at Fannie Mae. “These heat maps can quickly inform investors and property owners where the hardest hit areas are and determine potential portfolio impacts.”In addition to aerial imagery, the use of microwave imagery can be leveraged to detect the impacts of flooding in neighborhoods as well as the depth of the flooding. These tools can better define impacted zones and improve response times to the areas that need the most assistance.The use of data and analytics in communicating with customers and helping servicers prepare for any eventualities related to disasters is also becoming an important element of borrower outreach. According to Caceres, using data and analytics to determine national trends and then using those to work with the government and other third-party agencies to discover potential risk areas will be the wave of the future.However, to use these tools before, during, and even after a disaster, it is important for servicers to have a strong IT department in place.“Most customers expect instant access to the information they need whenever and wherever. If a company is experiencing infrastructure downtime due to a disaster, customers lack access to that information, which becomes another area out of their control. With a strong IT and disaster preparedness plan in place, lenders can assure their borrowers that information is secure and available, and they are prepared to work with their borrowers to ensure ‘business as usual,’” Comer said. “That plan might start with a disaster recovery solution that allows financial services organizations to keep their essential systems running by backing up systems, allowing for complete recovery of data, processes, and programs.”It is also important for servicers to utilize the technology at hand at the right time according to O’Connell who gave an example of how drones helped Planet Home Lending in assessing the damages in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.“A servicer has to quickly access and approve the work to protect the property, if possible, before a disaster. During the aftermath of a storm, it can be difficult to assess the damage,” he said. “Due to the amount of flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey, our teams could not get to the affected areas to assess the damage, so we worked with our preservation companies to deploy drones in selected areas.”“Effective disaster recovery plans should involve the technology that will eliminate vulnerabilities by keeping information secure and accessible during and after a disaster,” Comer said. “This should include content services systems hosted in a purposefully built cloud.”The first line of defense in making the right business decisions before, during, and after the storm, however, remains the seamless partnership between mortgage lenders/servicers and service providers such as property preservation companies. “Property preservation companies need to engage their mortgage servicing partners with customized, ongoing disaster updates,” Greenbaum said. “Researching projected impacted areas, pulling news articles on the impending storms, and comparing that information to the servicers’ portfolios is key to providing them with as much information as possible so they can effectively make better business decisions.”PARTNERING TO PREPAREAccording to Hughes, open communication between servicers, agencies, and the administration is the best way to ensure the specifics of the disasters properly shape potential policies.Price agreed, giving an example of how Wells Fargo was collaborating with state authorities to maintain communication around where resources were being deployed and where they needed to be. “We want the state and our other partners on the ground to know what we are doing for our customers in these communities so they can direct those in need to the resources that can help them recover and rebuild,” Price said. “We’ve heard from the state and other partners that this approach is effec-tive, especially as the impacted communities transition from immediate relief efforts to the longer recovery process.However, a smooth rebuilding process can-not be achieved without insurance companies, according to O’Connell who said that currently, the amount of time it took to determine “what is insured damage versus what damage can be covered by government or community programs can be excessive.”Partnerships and policies gain even more importance in the aftermath of certain disasters that are difficult to predict in advance. “In disasters that occur more suddenly, such as tornadoes and straight-line winds, the communication around the next steps typically happens after the disaster has occurred,” Bill-ings said. “In these post-disaster conversations, the content covered is the same but the next step is the focus of the conversation. Prepared policies and procedures allow for the Home Loan Specialists to reach out to a borrower as soon as they’re aware that a natural disaster has occurred, knowledgeable about what needs to happen to ensure their loan closes with as little interruption as possible.”The confusion in the aftermath of a disaster also sees a lot of duplicated efforts by servicers. According to Williamson, there’s an easy way around this if the industry works together. To help mitigate this overtaxing of resources and the potential creation of coordination issues, he suggested that the industry could do a more effective job by “working together to create a common and consistent set of response activi-ties for impacted borrowers and properties, balancing the requirements of the investor, servicer, and vendor.”Additionally, he said that sharing impact data such as aerial imagery results or damage assessments from vendor inspections were some more ways in which “the industry could work together to accomplish a common goal of as-sessing impacts quickly and cost-effectively.”Giving Wells Fargo’s example of how public-private partnerships could work together to help streamline the recovery process, Price said that the bank leveraged the relationships it had built over the years to “deploy coordinated messages to local nonprofits, state and local government and national relationships.”“These include resource material and contact information should they need to reach out to us with any questions or concerns. Both the American Red Cross and Ready.gov offer cur-rent information and resources on what you can do before and after disaster strikes,” she said.Fannie Mae, which had announced an expansion of the post-disaster resources it offered in November 2018, has also been at the forefront of developing such partnerships. Its Disaster Response Network is a comprehensive case-management service for disaster-affected homeowners whose mortgage loans are owned by the company. “It provides homeowners broader personalized support in addition to the mortgage payment relief we make available through our servicers,” said Mike Hernandez, VP of Housing Access and Disaster Response and Rebuild at Fannie Mae.Additionally, he said that using a call-center model staffed exclusively by HUD-certified counselors within the United States, the Disaster Response network helps homeowners navigate the challenging and unfamiliar disaster recovery process. “Services offered include a recovery assessment and action plan, assistance filing claims (i.e. FEMA and SBA claims), help working with mortgage servicers for payment relief, access to online tools and resources, and ongoing status checks to help ensure a success-ful recovery,” Hernandez said.ROAD TO RECOVERYDespite these advances in technology and streamlining disaster response, challenges remain for servicers—the biggest one being educating borrowers about their options in forbearance and loan modifications. “I still think there is work to be done around educating borrowers (and potential borrowers) about what assistance options are available following a disaster and who is eligible. In reality, the same assistance options are not available across the board,” Price said, giving the example of payment deferrals, which had caused much confusion for borrowers after the storms last year because of inaccurate information.“To be clear, payment deferrals are an option whereby the missed principal and interest payments are added to the end of the current loan term. Borrowers should know that payment deferrals are not available across all investors so it’s important to check with your lender (whoever that may be), first, to determine eligibility,” she explained. “Names of some of the larger investors who borrowers may be familiar with include Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, and VA.”Options such as loan modifications from offered forbearance plans are an area that borrowers need better education on, according to Hughes. “Servicers should educate their customers as early on as possible on the impact of the various solutions available to resolve a delinquency resulting from an offered forbearance plan,” he said. “Many borrowers indicate had they known a modification might mean a higher interest rate or a significantly extended term (e.g., 40-years), they would have found other means of making their monthly payments or resumed their monthly payments more quickly and resolved the smaller resulting past due amount on their own.”Hughes added, “Though most servicers apply credit protections (i.e., negative credit suppressions, blocks, etc.), the credit repositories could still lower the borrower’s credit score. The dilemma is in understanding that disasters are acts of God, but so are other reasons for delinquency such as death and illness, which are not afforded equivalent credit protections. This is a matter requiring further thought and discussion by the industry.”Manpower and the cost to obtain it also plays key roles in rebuilding after a disaster. “In most instances the amount of required work and effort to rebuild far exceeds the available qualified workforce,” Lysikowski said. “The importance of knowing and understanding the available in state resources and out of state resources willing to participate in the recover, cannot be understated.”From the servicer’s perspective, the industry must look at alleviating challenges such as “over burdensome documentation requirements, rate increases at modification when the loan has an ARM teaser rate and addressing the expectations from the homeowners that the payments should be waived,” O’Connell said.Finally, though, the best way a servicer can look to prepare for a disaster is looking back and evaluating their processes during the previous disaster to help them strengthen the things that went right and rework on the elements that didn’t. “Thinking about these types of questions ahead of the hurricane season and taking action on the opportunities will allow response activities to be efficient and prevent a lot of rework in retraining and re-decisioning,” Williamson said. Print This Post Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago LoanCare Natural Disasters Servicing 2019-06-10 Radhika Ojha Share Save Sign up for DS News Daily Data Provider Black Knight to Acquire Top of Mind 2 days ago Related Articles About Author: Radhika Ojha Previous: Foreclosure Sales: The Investor Outlook Next: Studying Homebuying Trends of the LGB Community Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Radhika Ojha is an independent writer and copy-editor, and a reporter for DS News. She is a graduate of the University of Pune, India, where she received her B.A. in Commerce with a concentration in Accounting and Marketing and an M.A. in Mass Communication. Upon completion of her masters degree, Ojha worked at a national English daily publication in India (The Indian Express) where she was a staff writer in the cultural and arts features section. Ojha, also worked as Principal Correspondent at HT Media Ltd and at Honeywell as an executive in corporate communications. She and her husband currently reside in Houston, Texas. Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Subscribe Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago Tagged with: LoanCare Natural Disasters Servicing June 10, 2019 5,773 Views The Best Markets For Residential Property Investors 2 days ago Governmental Measures Target Expanded Access to Affordable Housing 2 days ago Servicers Navigate the Post-Pandemic World 2 days ago Demand Propels Home Prices Upward 2 days ago
A young character in Exit 7, which depicts the journey of a middle-class family through a rapidly modernizing Saudi Arabia, raised eyebrows when he befriended an Israeli boy through an online video game.In another controversial scene, one of the Saudi characters justifies establishing trade ties with Israel, arguing that Palestinians are the real “enemy” for insulting the kingdom “day and night” despite decades of financial support.Another show called Umm Haroun, or the mother of Haroun, portrays a Jewish community in a village in Kuwait during the 1940s. Social media imploded with scathing criticism of the shows, with multiple Twitter users saying their aim was to promote “normalization with Israel”. The shows are produced by the influential Arab satellite network MBC, effectively under Saudi government control after its founder —- media mogul Waleed al-Ibrahim —- was detained with other elite businessmen at Riyadh’s Ritz-Carlton hotel in a 2017 anti-corruption campaign.They stand in contrast to The End, a popular Egyptian sci-fi drama that provoked fury in Israel after it predicted the collapse of the Jewish state.MBC said its shows were among the most popular during Ramadan, garnering top ratings.”The Middle East has been stereotyped for decades as a region of fear, bloodshed, hatred, extremism,” MBC spokesman Mazen Hayek told AFP.”The shows have sought to project another image of the region that embodies hope, tolerance, inter-religious dialogue. The accusation of ‘normalization’ is a bit outdated in the context of globalisation and hyper connectivity.”‘Gauging tool’Observers, however, say the shows may be an attempt to normalize the debate on normalization.”These shows are useful for the Saudi state to understand where people stand on Israel and Palestine,” said Aziz Alghashian, a lecturer at Essex University specialising in the kingdom’s foreign policy towards Israel.”These shows function as a gauging tool and feel out peoples’ reactions.”This is hardly the first such attempt.Earlier this year, the kingdom announced the screening of a Holocaust-themed film for the first time at a movie festival, before it was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.Multiple Saudi media columnists have shrugged off the MBC controversy, reiterating the kingdom’s official stance that a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a precondition for normalising ties.But relations appear to be warming regardless, in a shift spearheaded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The cooperation saw Riyadh welcome US President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace plan –- skewed in favour of Israel –- even as many others in the Arab world rejected it.Saudi Arabia quietly opened its airspace in 2018 for the first time for an Israel-bound passenger plane.Other Gulf states appear to be adopting a similar approach, with Oman hosting Netanyahu in October 2018 in the first visit of its kind in more than two decades.The United Arab Emirates flew its first publicly announced flight to Israel on Tuesday when Etihad Airways transported medical supplies to Palestinians.’Revolutionary moment’A surge in tensions between Tehran and Riyadh and Saudi attempts to attract foreign investment to fund its ambitious Vision 2030 economic reforms appear to be pushing the kingdom closer to Israel than ever.”The Saudis recognise the important role that Israel plays in the region,” said Marc Schneier, an American rabbi with close ties to the kingdom and the Gulf.”Just a couple of years ago, [Prince] Khalid bin Salman told me that the kingdom knows that Israel is an integral part of their achieving their 2030 economic plan. That is a major statement and really shows the warming of the ties,” Schneier told AFP.Saudi authorities did not respond to a request for comment and an interview with Prince Khalid, the younger brother of the crown prince.In recent years, Saudi Arabia has pursued a bold outreach to Jewish figures, but the kingdom appears wary of a public backlash.In February, the Saudi king hosted a Jerusalem-based rabbi in Riyadh for the first time in modern history.Israeli media published a photograph of rabbi David Rosen with Saudi King Salman, hailing it as a “revolutionary moment”.But the official Saudi Press Agency omitted Rosen’s name from its dispatch and the photograph published on its website cropped out the rabbi.”This is a region of the world where change like this takes time,” said Schneier.”We are seeing evolutionary signs of a warming, but it may take longer before we see more dramatic diplomatic moves.”Topics : Two Ramadan television dramas on a Saudi-controlled network have stirred controversy as they test public perceptions of quietly warming relations between the Gulf kingdom and Israel.Arab states including Saudi Arabia have no official diplomatic ties with Israel, but both sides are pursuing what one think tank calls a “tepid dance” to furtively build relations on the basis of shared animosity towards Iran.Now, two taboo-busting series during the holy fasting month —- the peak television season —- have fuelled speculation that Riyadh is trying to openly normalize closer ties with the Jewish state.
Three out of 14 recipients of the 2016 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award discussed the issues surrounding human rights, women’s equality and social progress at a panel Thursday in Wallis Annenberg Hall.The discussion was hosted by the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg and the panel included Nisha Ayub, a transgender rights advocate in Malaysia; Rodjaraeg Wattanapanit, the co-owner of a bookstore, Book Re:public, and co-founder of Creating Awareness for Enhanced Democracy; and Nihal Naj Ali Al-Awlaqi the minister of legal affairs of Yemen. The panel was moderated by Stéfanie von Hlatky, a visiting scholar at the Center on Public Diplomacy and assistant professor of political studies at Queen’s University. Al-Awlaqi and Wattanapanit spoke through translators.Other recipients of the award, Latifa Ibn Ziaten from France, Debra Baptist-Estrada from Belize, Thelma Aldana from Guatemala, Nagham Nawzat from Iraq, Vicky Ntetema from Tanzania and Zuzana Števulová from Slovakia joined the event as audience members.Each panelist was asked two questions from von Hlatky. Al-Awlaqi opened the discussion by answering the question of how she raised awareness of women’s rights in her country. She started off by describing the nature of women’s rights.“As it is well-known, women’s rights are part of human rights. Once you have real guarantee of freedoms and human rights, women will benefit from that,” Al-Awlaqi said.She then described her work for women’s rights in Yemen. Al-Awlaqi explained that women put the foundation for the new Yemen after the 2012 Yemeni Revolution.“I believe we have accomplished a great remarkable victory by having women represented by no less than 30 percent in all three branches of our government,” Al-Awlaqi said. “That was mostly done because of the recommendations we have issued after the national dialogue conference, sponsored by the United Nations and many international partners.”The moderator asked about the importance of educating young people about due process and democracy. Al-Awlaqi explained how the cornerstones of democracy are the rule of the people, political diversity and human rights.“It is really a culture and attitude,” Al-Awlaqi said. “Therefore, raising children on accepting others, being independent and respecting human rights will reflect on their cultural and political behaviors. You will also see fruitful results of that in school and throughout their lives.”Ayub was then asked about her thoughts on the pace of change. She discussed how Malaysia is starting to change despite the Sharia Law, which considers being gay a punishable offense.“It is slow, but there is a progression,” Ayub said. “There is more awareness because of the visibility of the trans community. Most often within the LGBT community, the transgender community, especially the transwomen community — we are the most affected because of the Sharia Law back home in Malaysia.”Ayub continued on how she recently challenged the system in Malaysia along with three transwomen and how the action attracted national attention.“We were the first Malaysians to challenge the Sharia Law and that opened the mindset of the system,” Ayub said. “I think this is a first step. I encourage more trans people, not from just Malaysia but from around the world, to talk about trans issues and become more visible, because when you start to talk, people will start to realize that we are actually human beings.”Ayub was then asked about how her personal challenges have affected her in terms of formulating strategies as an activist.“I try to engage public without making them feel fear,” Ayub said. “I try to touch base on human values. Share our stories. I interviewed transgender women and men from all races to share their own personal stories, whether they are from prison, whether they are from discrimination in school or even their own families.”Lastly, Wattanapanit was asked questions about what advice she would give to younger women to protect their rights and themselves. She began her response by relating how she had to escape the country to not get captured by the military. She explained that she returned home when her safety was secured as the martial law announced that the people who were arrested will be detained for seven days.“Before we stand up to fight for any cause, we not only have to assess the situation, the environment, the atmosphere, but also look at our own safety as well,” Wattanapanit said.Wattanpanit also spoke about how this applies to college advocates.“When I train with the students I tell them that your family will be threatened by the military regime. So talk to them if they are ready for that,” Wattanpanit said. “And for college students, a lot of time when they stand up for their rights, they mostly get suspended from school. I also tell my college students, ‘be brave, but don’t be crazy.’”