London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism
Vidhya Ramalingam, co-founder of Moonshot CVE. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism

London-based high-tech company tackling online extremism
  • Moonshot CVE employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms

LONDON: Vidhya Ramalingam believes it’s always possible to change, even for people deeply involved in the murky online world of extremism.

Her company Moonshot CVE has the ambitious aim of trying to get anyone tempted by violence back on the straight and narrow.

Over the last four years, the London-based startup has grown quietly but not anonymously, if a recent partnership deal with Facebook is anything to go by.

US national Ramalingam and the firm’s co-founder Ross Frenett previously worked as researchers into extremism and believe radical groups are often one step ahead when it comes to technology.

“There was a lot of recognition that terrorists were using the internet in creative ways, that they were reaching young audiences, that they were able to innovate,” she told AFP in an interview.

“Yet those of us that were trying to counter them simply were moving too slowly and had too many constraints to actually replicate those methods for counter-terrorism purposes.”

That led to the idea of a technology startup able to keep up with and fight against all forms of violent extremism to nationalists and even “incels.” But greater visibility has forced the company to take more security measures because of the sensitive nature of its work — and the potential for violence from the people it tracks.

The address of Moonshot CVE’s London offices is kept secret and most of its staff have no visible online presence.

Just to get into its premises in a nondescript building in the British capital, visitors have to pass through heavy armor-plated doors and a security check.

“We take precautions,” said Ramalingam. “We work on high-risk issues and we try and put as much into the public domain as possible.”

The startup’s name refers to the act of launching a rocket to the moon — and gives an indication of its stellar ambition. The CVE stands for countering violent extremism.

It employs 40 people working in 15 languages, including English, French and Arabic, on 76 projects in 28 countries, with clients ranging from governments to technology firms.

One project is a collaboration with the Canadian government against the far-right. Another works with the UN on online extremist content in Asia.

The company has also had a partnership for several years with Google, using online advertising to target people looking up violent extremism on the net.

The Facebook contract involves Moonshot analizing how effective the social network could be to “deradicalize” users looking up extremist content.


Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit
Updated 8 min 11 sec ago

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit

Global consortium completes $12.4bn stake sale in Aramco unit
  • It is part of the company’s long-term strategy to maximize its profit by optimizing its portfolio as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its income sources

DUBAI: Saudi Aramco has completed a $12.4 billion stake sale in its natural gas pipeline network to a global consortium that includes US-based EIG and Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala.

The international consortium, which consists of broad cross-section investors from North America, Asia and the Middle East, acquired 48 percent of the Aramco Oil Pipelines Co.

It is part of the company’s long-term strategy to maximize its profit by optimizing its portfolio as Saudi Arabia seeks to diversify its income sources.

“We are pleased to conclude this transaction with the global consortium. The interest we have received from investors shows strong confidence in our operations and the long-term outlook for our business,” Aramco President Amin Nasser said.

“We plan to continue to explore opportunities to capitalize on our industry-leading capabilities and attract the right type of investment to Saudi Arabia,” he added.

As part of the transaction, Aramco and its subsidiary entered into a 25-year leaseback agreement for the company’s stabilized crude oil pipeline network.

In return, Aramco Oil Pipelines Co. will receive a tariff payable by Aramco for stabilized crude oil that flows through the network.

Aramco retains a 51-percent majority stake in the subsidiary, and the transaction does not impose any restrictions on Aramco’s crude oil production volumes.


Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup
Updated 6 min 48 sec ago

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup

Qatar expects $20bn economic boost from 2022 World Cup
  • Al-Thawadi said the construction and tourism industries are expected to benefit the most from the event

DUBAI: Qatar is anticipating big returns from hosting the World Cup in 2022, Bloomberg has reported.

“We anticipate the contribution to the economy essentially would be around about $20 billion,” said Hassan Al-Thawadi, secretary-general of the committee for delivery and legacy, citing a “high-level study.”

That represents 11 percent of the country’s gross domestic product in 2019.

But a more detailed projection is yet to be declared, he added, as the event will take place in November and December next year.

Al-Thawadi said the construction and tourism industries are expected to benefit the most from the event.

Qatar has developed massive infrastructure ahead of the cup, which could be the first widely attended sporting event since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is building a new metro system, an airport expansion and an entirely new city, which Bloomberg estimates to be worth $300 billion.


Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race
Updated 19 June 2021

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race

Arab economies jostle for position in $200 billion green hydrogen race
  • The region has the potential to be one of the most competitive globally for green hydrogen production thanks to its abundant wind and solar resources

RIYADH: Another week, another huge green hydrogen project announcement in the Middle East. This time, it was Egypt’s turn. The most populous Arab nation is planning to invest up to $4 billion in a project to create hydrogen through electrolysis powered by renewable energy, Egyptian Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker said on June 14.
The disclosure follows a flurry of announcements last month, including Oman’s plan for the biggest green hydrogen plant in the world, to be built over the coming 27 years along with 25 GW of solar and wind power.
Also in May, Dubai launched the region’s first industrial scale solar-powered green hydrogen plant, a demonstration facility built by Siemens Energy and Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).
Later in the month, Abu Dhabi got in on the act as it revealed plans for a $1 billion facility with capacity to produce 200,000 tons of green ammonia from 40,000 tons of green hydrogen (hydrogen is turned into ammonia for long-distance transport before being transformed back for use).
As for Saudi Arabia, it unveiled plans in July last year for a green hydrogen facility powered by 4 GW of wind and solar, the world’s largest such project at the time. The $5 billion plant will be built by Air Products, ACWA Power and Neom and will be capable of producing 650 tons of green hydrogen a day, enough to run about 20,000 hydrogen-fueled buses.
“The Middle East has joined the green hydrogen wave with mega project announcements,” said Flor Lucia De la Cruz, a senior research analyst for hydrogen and emerging technologies at Wood Mackenzie. “The Middle East has now positioned itself to become a key player in the green hydrogen economy leveraging its solar and wind capabilities and strategic position in between the European and Asian markets.”
The region has the potential to be one of the most competitive globally for green hydrogen production thanks to its abundant wind and solar resources, industrial infrastructure and its location as an export hub, Dii Desert Energy and Roland Berger said in a report on the industry this month.
The Gulf alone could create a $200 billion green hydrogen industry by 2050, generating up to one million jobs, the report said as it predicted a long-term renewable energy deployment of up to 1,000 GW, 500 GW of electrolyzer capacity producing 100 million megatons of hydrogen.
“The GCC region is on the verge of a new era similar to the discovery of oil decades ago,” Vatche Kourkejian, a partner at Roland Berger, wrote in the report. Green hydrogen could allow the Gulf to continue being the main energy supplier to the world in a sustainable manner, he said.
The majority of the world’s hydrogen today (about 95 percent) is considered brown or gray, in that it is produced by steam reforming of natural gas, partial oxidation of methane or coal gasification. While the end product is a clean fuel, the production process uses huge amounts of energy and creates significant amounts of carbon dioxide.
So-called blue hydrogen uses the same process as gray hydrogen, but captures the carbon. Green hydrogen creates the gas through splitting water into oxygen and hydrogen via electrolysis and powering the process with renewable energy, leaving no dirty byproducts.
As well as allowing for the storage of intermittent wind and solar power, hydrogen can also be used to heat homes and cook as a replacement for natural gas, power vehicles, including planes and ships as well as cars, trucks and trains, and be used in industry to reduce the environmental impact of making metals, chemicals and refining oil.
However, the Middle East is not the only region looking to green hydrogen for future industrial development.
So far, 17 countries, (including Japan, South Korea, Canada and UK) have announced a hydrogen roadmap, strategy or vision, according to Wood Mackenzie.
Last year, the EU’s Green Recovery Package earmarked €150 billion ($178 billion) for green hydrogen, including targets for 6 GW of electrolyzer capacity in the first phase between 2020 and 2024, with 40 GW to be installed by the end of the second phase in 2030.
“The last year has seen a decisive pivot toward decarbonization globally, which is extremely positive for zero-carbon technologies,” said Ben Gallagher, lead analyst, emerging technologies at Wood Mackenzie. “Green hydrogen is a key beneficiary, with this pivot pushing it to the fore ahead of other methods for producing the gas. In fact, electrolysis-based low-carbon production now makes up 67 percent of the overall pipeline for hydrogen.”
 


British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs
Britain’s business lobby predicted on Friday that the economy is on course to reach its pre-COVID level by the end of 2021. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2021

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs

British retail sales fell in May on easing lockdown curbs
  • Sales by volume declined 1.4 percent in May after a 9.2-percent bounce in April

LONDON: British retail sales fell last month on easing lockdown curbs, as people dined at bars and restaurants instead of buying food at supermarkets, data showed Friday.

Sales by volume declined 1.4 percent in May after a 9.2-percent bounce in April, the Office for National Statistics said.
Food stores were the hardest hit, with sales sinking 5.7 percent as Britons took advantage of reopening hospitality.
Under the phased reopening of Britain’s battered economy, bars and restaurants restarted outdoor dining in April and indoor services in May.
“Instead of eating every meal at home as we all did during lockdowns, we were able to dine outside at cafes or restaurants,” said Capital Economics analyst Paul Dales.
“Spending just shifted from the shops to social activities,” he said, but warned however that “soft retail sales data could mean May was not as strong for the economy as we had thought.”
Overall UK retail sales in April and May were nevertheless 9.1 percent higher than the pre-pandemic level in February 2020.
The UK also reopened nonessential retail in April, allowing the broader British economy to recover further from pandemic fallout on the rapid vaccines rollout.
The economy is now expected to fully reopen on July 19, after the government this week delayed the date by four weeks due to surging Delta infections.
Britain’s business lobby predicted Friday that the economy is on course to reach its pre-COVID level by the end of 2021.
The Confederation of British Industry, the nation’s biggest employers’ organization, now expects the economy to surge 8.2 percent this year and 6.1 percent in 2022. The COVID-ravaged economy had collapsed by almost ten percent last year in Britain’s biggest slump in three centuries — and the worst performance among the G7.

SPEEDREAD

The economy is now expected to fully reopen on July 19, after the government this week delayed the date by four weeks due to surging Delta infections.

Stubborn Brexit worries also fester after Britain formally exited the EU single market at the start of 2021.
Industry data showed Friday that UK food and drink exports to the bloc almost halved in the first quarter as a result of both Brexit and pandemic fallout.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said EU sales slumped 47 percent from the same period a year earlier.
Exports to the EU fell by £2.0 billion ($2.8 billion) compared with the first quarter of 2019, before the pandemic struck.
The industry body blamed “the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and changes in the UK’s trading relationships” after Brexit.
Non-EU sales accounted for 55 percent of all UK food and drink exports in the first quarter, it added.
“The loss of £2 billion of exports to the EU is a disaster for our industry,” said Dominic Goudie, head of international trade at the federation.
The news “is a very clear indication of the scale of losses that UK manufacturers face in the longer-term due to new trade barriers with the EU,” he added.


Italy reimposes quarantine on arrivals from Britain

Italy reimposes quarantine on arrivals from Britain
Passengers undergo a rapid antigen swab test for COVID-19 at Malpensa Airport in Milan. (AFP)
Updated 19 June 2021

Italy reimposes quarantine on arrivals from Britain

Italy reimposes quarantine on arrivals from Britain
  • Currently those arriving from the US, Japan and Canada must show a negative coronavirus test and quarantine for 10 days on arrival unless they come on one of a limited number of “COVID-free” flights

ROME: Italy will reintroduce a five-day quarantine on arrivals from Britain while easing rules for other countries, Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced on Friday.
Britain on Thursday recorded 11,007 new daily coronavirus cases, with the emergence of the Delta variant pushing the figure above 10,000 for the first time since late February.
“I have signed a new order that ... introduces a five-day quarantine with a requirement to take a test for those coming from Britain,” Speranza wrote on Facebook.
A Health Ministry spokesman said the order would come into force on Monday. It also extends an existing ban on arrivals from India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

BACKGROUND

Britain on Thursday recorded 11,007 new daily coronavirus cases, with the emergence of the Delta variant pushing the figure above 10,000 for the first time since late February.

Speranza said it would also allow entry for those arriving from the EU, the US, Canada and Japan who meet the requirements of the so-called Green Certificate issued by the EU.
That digital COVID certificate, which comes into force on July 1, will demonstrate whether a bearer has been vaccinated against COVID-19, has been recently tested or has acquired immunity from previously contracting the disease and recovering.
Currently those arriving from the US, Japan and Canada must show a negative coronavirus test and quarantine for 10 days on arrival unless they come on one of a limited number of “COVID-free” flights.
Italy has been one of the European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic, but infection rates have fallen sharply in recent weeks and restrictions in much of the country have been lifted.