Ghaf tree chosen as the logo for UAE’s ‘Year of Tolerance’

The Ghaf, the UAE’s national tree has been chosen for the official logo for the ‘Year of Tolerance’.

The logo will be used by all UAE government, private and media entities in all campaigns, initiatives and programmes launched during 2019.

In a tweet announcing the decision, Sheikh Mohammed said, “Tolerance is a universal value, and Ghaf is our authentic national tree, a source of life and symbol of stability in the middle of the desert, under its shadows our ancestors gathered to consult on matters related to their daily lives. In the ‘Year of Tolerance’, we chose the Ghaf as a logo for all of us to live by the principles of tolerance, coexistence and diversity.”

The Supreme National Committee of the ‘Year of Tolerance,’ chaired Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the Ghaf tree was chosen as a major component of the logo due to its great significance as one of the authentic national trees in the country.

It added that the Ghaf “represents a great cultural value in the UAE and is associated with the identity and heritage of the country.”

“The late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan has given great importance to the Ghaf and issued laws and regulations prohibiting the cutting of the tree throughout the country,” a statement by the committee read.

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Instagram curbs self-harm posts after teen suicide

Instagram has announced a clampdown on images of self-injury after a British teen who went online to read about suicide took her own life.

The Facebook-owned picture sharing platform’s announcement followed a Thursday meeting between its global chief Adam Mosseri and British Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

British teen Molly Russell took her own life in her bedroom in 2017. The 14-year-old’s social media history revealed that she followed accounts about depression and suicide.

The case sparked a vigorous debate in Britain about parental control and state regulation of children’s social media use.

“It is encouraging to see that decisive steps are now being taken to try to protect children from disturbing content on Instagram,” said Molly’s father Ian Russell.

“It is now time for other social media platforms to take action.”

Molly’s parents did not directly blame Instagram for the loss of their daughter.

But they cited the easy access to such posts as a contributing factor, to which Instagram should respond.

Mosseri said the changes followed a comprehensive review involving experts and academics on children’s mental health issues.

“I joined the company more than 10 years ago and we were primarily focused on all of the good that came out of connecting people,” Mosseri told The Telegraph newspaper.

“But if I am honest we were under-focused on the risks of connecting so many people. That’s a lesson we have learned over the last few years.”

Cry for help

Instagram has never allowed posts that promote or encourage suicide or self-harm.

But it will now remove references to non-graphic content related to people hurting themselves from its searches and recommendation features.

It will also ban hashtags – words featuring a “#” that mark a trending topic – relating to self-harm.

The measures are meant to make such images more difficult to find for depressed teens who might have suicidal tendencies.

“We are not removing this type of content from Instagram entirely,” said Mosseri.

“We don’t want to stigmatise or isolate people who may be in distress and posting self-harm related content as a cry for help.”

Instagram is also reaching out to counsellors to see how they can engage with teens who the platform thinks need help.

‘Careful regulation’

Social media are coming under increasing scrutiny as they expand in reach and cultural influence.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said last year that he thought more regulation of the industry was “inevitable” because of the internet’s size.

“My position is not that there should be no regulation,” Zuckerberg told an April 2018 US congressional hearing.

“But I also think that you have to be careful about regulation you put in place.”

Instagram’s Mosseri told The Telegraph that he supported statutes being considered by the British government “as a concept”.

“There is a lot of regulation already,” said Mosseri.

“We think it’s important to collaborate with policy makers so that … whatever legislation or processes they put in place work, make sense.”

The UK government this month will publish a “white paper” on harmful online behaviour that will be used as guideline for possible oversight rules.

“The task is to design a system of oversight that preserves what is best and most innovative about the online companies but which also insists that they do what they can to keep the users of their services safe,” UK culture minister Jeremy Wright wrote in The Times.

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UAE bans import of live birds from Kuwait

The UAE’s Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MoCCAE) has banned the importation of all live birds from Kuwait.

The ministry said all domestic and wild live birds, ornamental birds, chicks, hatching and table eggs, poultry meat, and their non-heat-treated by-products and waste are banned from being imported from Kuwait.

The ministry took the decision following the outbreak of a highly contagious strain of bird flu (H5N8) in Kuwait.

The announcement was made based on a notification from the Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases.

However, thermally-treated poultry products such as meat and eggs have been cleared for import from Kuwait.

“By taking immediate precautionary measures to curb the strains of the bird flu virus affecting Kuwait from reaching the UAE, said Sheikh Majid Sultan Al Qassimi, director of Animal Health and Development Department at MoCCAE.

“MoCCAE hopes to ensure bio-security levels and prevent the spread of pathogens in the country. We are confident such efforts will mitigate the impact of the bird flu on the UAE’s poultry health and safety, in addition to protecting public health and well-being.”

The ministry said it is carefully scrutinising documentation accompanying consignments, such as a certificate of origin, health certificate and halal certifications, among others, of food products shipped into the country.

The ministry is also conducting sensory detection to ensure the quality of the products as per their identification cards complies with the UAE’s stringent standards. The samples of food products from shipments are transferred to laboratories for the necessary tests to ensure they are safe and fit to enter the country, he added.

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Abu Dhabi establishes investment office to increase FDI under $13.6bn plan

Abu Dhabi has formalised the establishment of a new government body and given it more authority to increase foreign direct investment (FDI) to the emirate.

Two laws were passed by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan to firstly formally establish the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), which opened last year, and secondly to regulate partnerships between public and private sectors.

The office is part of Abu Dhabi government’s Ghadan 21 accelerator’s programme, a $13.6 billion investment plan that includes 50 initiatives aimed at stimulating the emirate’s economy. A total of $5.45 billion has been allocated to the 2019 development package.

The initiative, announced by Sheikh Mohamed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, is based on four main tenets: business and investment, society, knowledge and innovation, and lifestyle.

The ADIO’s activities will expand to include key levers to accelerate economic growth such as public-private partnership (PPP) and targeted incentives for Abu Dhabi’s priority sectors such as technology, tourism, and advanced manufacturing.

“The formal establishment of ADIO is an important milestone for Abu Dhabi’s economic development,” said Saif Mohamed Al Hajeri, chairman of Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

“With a growing, diversified economy, it is essential we continue to attract inward investment from international players. Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s most attractive investment destinations and I am confident that ADIO will drive further progress in line with our economic strategy.”

Elham Abdulghafoor Mohamed AlQasim, acting CEO of ADIO, added, “Our goal is to channel FDI towards priority sectors and enhance private sector participation in strategic projects where there are growing opportunities.

“We want to boost economic growth and competitiveness by executing an ambitious, targeted FDI strategy and driving partnership across the private and public sectors, where there are global precedents of private sector participation in priority public sector projects.”

Strategic programmes

The ADIO will implement the FDI strategy through a range of strategic programmes, including the establishment of a ‘PPP Centre of Excellence’. This platform will be designed to deliver best practice and develop attractive investment models for international and local investors, in line with the Government of Abu Dhabi’s economic strategy.

The PPP framework will bolster FDI inflows and enhance the private sector’s participation in key strategic sectors such as technology and the creation of urban infrastructure as well as the provision of services in education, healthcare, housing and transportation.

The ADIO will also support investors in making commitments in line with Abu Dhabi’s economic strategy and work with government and private sector partners to use financial, technical, and regulatory criteria to screen proposed projects and assess their feasibility for PPP.

The UAE accounted for 37% the FDI flows into the Middle East and North Africa region in 2017, while the UAE’s FDI stock has increased from $64 billion to $130 billion since 2010.

In addition, Abu Dhabi’s Ghadan 21 programme and the reform of business and investment regulations is contributing to the advancement of a vibrant commercial ecosystem around key sectors and helping build an attractive FDI environment.

As the gateway for all inward investment into the emirate, ADIO’s mandate includes providing guidance to investors and promoting Abu Dhabi as a world-class investment destination.

With its location at the heart of the Middle East and the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the emirate already offers unique trade, industry and tourism opportunities.

With a rapidly diversifying economy that is increasingly integrated into global supply chains, a stable and well-capitalised banking sector, a flexible and highly skilled labour force and excellent infrastructure, ADIO will build on these existing economic fundamentals to accelerate FDI and create new opportunities for people of the UAE.

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Liverpool post $137m world record net profit

Liverpool FC posted a world record-breaking £106 million ($137 million) net profit last year even after spending £190 million on new players, according to financial results announced on Friday.

The club’s profit before tax was £125 million – up from £40 million – with the club benefiting from increased revenue both on and off the pitch from a run to the Champions League final in Kiev, where they were beaten by Real Madrid.

Turnover increased by £90 million to £455 million in the 12 months to May 31 last year, with media revenue, commercial revenue and matchday revenue all up.

The previous record was set by Leicester (£80 million after tax) in 2016/2017, the season after they won the Premier League, when they reached the Champions League quarter-finals.

Liverpool still trail the two Manchester clubs in revenue terms. United declared their results for the 12 months to the end of last June in September, with revenues of £590 million.

Jurgen Klopp’s side are level on points with Manchester City at the top of the Premier League as they chase their first English top-flight title for 29 years.

The financial statement shows £137 million came from player transfers, the largest chunk being Philippe Coutinho’s January sale to Barcelona in a deal that could eventually worth up to £142 million, during the accounting period.

The club invested heavily, signing Mohamed Salah, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Andrew Robertson, Dominic Solanke and Virgil Van Dijk, who arrived as the world’s most expensive defender at £75 million.

Since the end of the reporting period club owners Fenway Sports Group have spent more money on players, with Naby Keita, Fabinho, Xherdan Shaqiri and Alisson Becker, briefly the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, coming in at a cost of £165 million but those deals will be reflected in the current year’s figures.

“Financial results do fluctuate depending on player trading costs and timing of payments but what’s clear in these latest results is the further strengthening of our underlying financial footing and profits being reinvested in the squad and infrastructure,” said chief financial officer Andy Hughes.

“Since the reporting period, which is now nearly 12 months old, we have continued reinvesting in the playing squad from those areas of growth. We’re making solid progress right across the club.”

Overall, the club’s social media platforms had a 14 percent growth rate and in May 2018, they had the highest viewing figures on YouTube ever for a Premier League club and third of any sports club globally.

In January, Liverpool climbed two places to seventh in Deloitte’s Football Money League. The top-ranked English club on the Deloitte’s list were Manchester United, in third.  

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Abu Dhabi acquires stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel

A stake in New York’s Park Lane Hotel has been sold to an Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund as part of the US Justice Department’s efforts to recover billions of dollars that flowed through Malaysia’s scandal-plagued 1MDB investment fund.

Roughly $140 million for the interest in the hotel, which sits on Central Park South between Fifth and Sixth avenues near Manhattan’s Billionaires’ Row, was transferred to the US government around December 10, said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s office in Los Angeles.

A representative for the buyer, Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Investment Co, declined to comment.

The sale was made possible in November, after fugitive Malaysian financier Low Taek Jho, known as Jho Low, agreed to drop his claims to the property in a US forfeiture lawsuit. The Justice Department agreed that dropping the claims is no admission of wrongdoing or liability, according to a statement at the time.

The Justice Department seized Low’s stake based on allegations that he bought it with money stolen from Malaysia’s state-owned 1MDB fund. Prosecutors charged Low with conspiracy and money laundering last year in connection with the looting of 1MDB.

The department had been seeking to seize almost $1.7 billion in assets it says were illegally acquired through money diverted from 1MDB, including the super-yacht Equanimity and artwork by Pablo Picasso and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Loan sought

In recent days, potential new lenders to the Park Lane Hotel were notified of the hotel’s ownership change, which hasn’t previously been reported. Mubadala, the Witkoff Group and partners hired the Newmark Knight Frank debt team led by Dustin Stolly and Jordan Roeschlaub to refinance the 631-room hotel, according to a document seen by Bloomberg News that shows the group is seeking a $600 million floating-rate loan.

Mubadala and Witkoff’s partners in the Park Lane Hotel are hotel manager Highgate Hotels LP and New Valley, a unit of Vector Group Ltd.

Representatives for Newmark Knight Frank and New Valley declined to comment. Representatives for Witkoff and Highgate didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.

According to the document, proceeds will be used to pay down the existing loan, as well as for additional air rights and renovations. The value of the land is estimated to be more than $1 billion, and the hotel itself represents “the last commercial tear-down opportunity abutting Central Park South.”

The Park Lane Hotel was developed in 1967 by the late billionaire Harry Helmsley and owned by a Helmsley family trust until its purchase by Witkoff and entities affiliated with Low in 2013 for about $654 million. Later that year, Mubadala paid Low $135 million for a portion of his stake in the hotel.

The latest deal for a stake in the hotel follows a settlement between the Justice Department and Red Granite Pictures Inc., which resulted in the producer of “The Wolf of Wall Street” paying $60 million to settle claims it financed the move with cash siphoned from 1MDB. It also follows Sony Corp.’s acquisition of EMI Music Publishing. Low’s $415 million in proceeds from that deal were deposited in a holding account on Dec. 14, pending the outcome of forfeiture litigation, and could be joined by the proceeds from the sale of other assets, including a Bombardier Global 5000 jet in Singapore.

The civil forfeiture lawsuits, numbering more than a dozen, were stayed in 2017 at the Justice Department’s request to protect its criminal investigation of Low and his accomplices. They remain on hold, with the exception of cases that were resolved last year.

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Coming soon to Saudi: Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ and magician Dynamo

The ‘Illusionist’ and Michael Jackson-inspired ‘Thriller’ are headed to Saudi Arabia as part of a wave of agreements signed by the kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) in the UK, the GEA announced on Thursday.

Among the agreements signed by GEA Secretary Turki bin Abdul Mohsen Al Sheikh is an MoU with UK-based ‘Flying Music’ to organise a number of global theatrical shows, including ‘Thriller’.

MoU’s were also signed with British magician Dynamo and The Works to organise the world-famous ‘The Illusionist’ show, as well as with Luna Cinema to organise several open-air cinemas shows and with ‘1001 Inventions’ to present touring educational exhibitions.

Other agreements include one with ‘Design Lab Experience’ to organise Ramadan tents with entertainment options in various parts of the kingdom, as well as with ‘TeamPartner Three’, a company that specialises in touring theatres. As part of the agreement, the firm will operate two state-of-the-art theatres and train Saudi teams.

When it comes to TV, Turki Al Sheikh signed an MoU with ‘Police Academy’ to bring interactive arena shows. A separate agreement was signed with the ‘Ultimate Soldier Challenge’ to produce a ‘Soldiers Challenge’ TV show in the kingdom that will feature members of the Saudi armed forces.

Additionally, an MoU was signed with “Ferrari Festival” to present an interactive public parade show that showcases Italian Ferrari vehicles, as well as an MoU with ‘Mellors Group’, a firm that specialises in touring theme parks.

Lastly, agreements were signed with ‘Insomnia’ to organise one of the world’s largest video game exhibitions, and with Merlin Entertainment – the owners of Madame Tussauds – and IMG to organise a ‘Color Run’ race in the kingdom.

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Qantas cancels Airbus A380 order in another blow to superjumbo

Airbus’ long-suffering A380 superjumbo suffered another blow after Qantas Airways formally cancelled an outstanding order for the out-sized aircraft whose future is once again on the line.

The Australian airline, one of the initial operators of the double-decker plane, scrubbed an order for eight aircraft, which has a list price in excess of $445 million.

Sydney-based Qantas had been pushing back the 2006 commitment for the Airbus aircraft for years. In a statement Thursday, Qantas, however, said it will upgrade its existing fleet of 12 A380s, starting this year.

“These aircraft have not been part of the airline’s fleet and network plans for some time,” Qantas said in its statement, referring to the 2006 order.

The formal scrapping of the order puts the future of the flagship program in further doubt. Gulf carrier Emirates, the primary operator of the superjumbo, may convert some or all of its most recent 20 orders for the jet into smaller A350s, people familiar with the matter have said.

That switch would slash Airbus’s order backlog of its largest passenger aircraft.

Qantas has had a fractured relationship with the A380. The airline made global headlines in late 2010, when an A380 en-route from Singapore suffered a mid-flight engine explosion that ripped through the wing, though the aircraft returned to the airport safely and nobody was seriously hurt.

Qantas grounded its fleet of A380s for a few weeks immediately after the incident.

For all its imposing size and commanding presence in the skies, the A380 hasn’t managed to leave much of an imprint with most airlines, relegated instead to an afterthought for carriers who built their stables around nimbler planes.

Since entering commercial service a decade back, the A380 has faced an ever-shrinking fan base. Passengers love the plane for its modern layout, perks like spacious bars in business class and even enclosed cabins and showers in some first-class offerings, but airlines have been much harder to win over.

Some early prospective customers dropped out, others scaled back their order book.

Only Emirates became a true champion of the A380, building a large part of its globe-spanning fleet around the plane, with already more than 100 in operation.

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West Ham launch investigation after Mo Salah abuse

West Ham have launched an investigation after social media footage emerged of abuse directed at Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah during a Premier League match at the London Stadium.

The Egypt international was filmed on a mobile phone from a section of home supporters as he was taking a corner during Monday’s game.

The video clip contains audible expletives directed at the Liverpool player, including comments against his Muslim religion.

The user who posted the video on Twitter said: “I was disgusted by what I was hearing. People like this deserve no place in our society let alone football matches. #kickracismout.”

A West Ham spokesman said the club had “a zero-tolerance policy to any form of violent or abusive behaviour”.

They added in a statement: “Anyone identified committing an offence will have their details passed to the police and will face a lifetime ban from London Stadium. There is no place for this kind of behaviour at our stadium.”

Police are reviewing the footage.

“We are aware of a video in which it appears racial abuse is being directed at a player at a West Ham vs Liverpool game at London Stadium on Monday, 4 February,” a statement from the Metropolitan Police said.

“Officers are in the process of reviewing the footage. No arrests have been made and enquiries continue.”

Salah, who won multiple individual awards last season, is the leading scorer in the Premier League in 2018/19, with 16 goals.

Premier League leaders Liverpool drew the match with West Ham 1-1, frustrating their hopes of putting further pressure on rivals Manchester City in the race for the title.

British sports minister Mims Davies said earlier this week that she planned to meet with football authorities following a number of recent incidents of racist chanting and abuse at matches.

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Bahrain’s Arcapita eying investments in Saudi leisure and wellness sector

Bahrain-based Shari’ah compliant alternative investment firm Arcapita sees Saudi Arabia as a “market with significant growth potential” for private equity, according to CEO Atif Ahmed Abdulmalik.

Abdulmalik said that Arcapita is particularly optimistic about the leisure, wellness and healthcare segments in the kingdom.

In October, Arcapita invested $67 million in NuYu, a chain of female-only gyms. The investment will allow NuYu to expand its network from seven gyms to over 30 spread across the country.

“The fiscal year 2018 marked our first private equity investment in the kingdom’s sports and wellness industries,” he said. “We believe these industries are poised to experience significant growth over the medium to long term, in large part due to the government’s commitment to help citizens to lead a more active and healthy lifestyle.”

Abdulmalik added that Arcapita has previously invested in multiple real estate projects in Saudi Arabia, which have “yielded strong returns, especially in the logistics sector.”

“We are currently focused on logistics and industrial-oriented projects that provide a recurring income in the range of 8 to 10 percent per annum,” he explained.

Across the wider GCC, Abdulmalik said that he believes the logistics and industrial sectors “will continue their robust growth over the medium to long term due to the sustained and continued growth of e-commerce.”

“While we are mainly focused on traditional sectors such as logistics and healthcare, we are seeing an uptick in investment activity across emerging sectors such as Fintech and e-commerce and are keeping an eye on both start-ups and established businesses in this space,” he said.

Additionally, Arcapita said it aims to create the MENA region’s first wellness-focused investment platform which is expected to include, among other sectors, fitness and wellbeing, pharmaceuticals and devices and non-clinical healthcare services.

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