Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News

Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News
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Asharq News, the multi-platform service and business news partner of Bloomberg, has secured a show for Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef ahead of its official launch. (Supplied)
Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News
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Asharq News is the multi-platform service and business news partner of Bloomberg which will launch officially soon. (Supplied)
Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News
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Asharq News is the multi-platform service and business news partner of Bloomberg which will launch officially soon. (Supplied)
Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News
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Asharq News is the multi-platform service and business news partner of Bloomberg which will launch officially soon. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 November 2020

Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News

Egypt’s Bassem Youssef makes ‘healthy’ television comeback with Asharq News
  • Surgeon-turned-satirist to focus on diet, wellness in Asharq News show

LONDON: Asharq News, the multi-platform service with an exclusive content agreement for business news with Bloomberg, has secured a show for Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef ahead of its official launch.

However, Youssef will not be returning as the quick-witted political satirist the Arab world was used to seeing on his hit show “Al-Bernameg” (The Program). Instead he will rely on his medical experience to advise audiences on the benefits of plant-based diets for health.

Referring to his show “Isa’al Bassem” (Ask Bassem), Youssef told Arab News: “To have this opportunity, to be on this kind of a platform in order to show people a different path to wellness, is amazing.”

 

The comedian said he shifted his own diet to plant-based foods after learning that a close childhood friend had recovered from life-threatening multiple sclerosis by adopting a similar approach.

“I was sold and I changed my life. I remember the date, Sept. 15, 2013 — seven years ago — and I never went back,” said Youssef. “I immediately felt a difference in my life, in my health, my stamina, my energy.”

The comedian is a qualified surgeon who graduated from Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine, majoring in cardiothoracic surgery, in 1998.

 

In 2013, he started Plant B in Egypt and watched it slowly grow into a movement, with discussions and advice on the health benefits of this lifestyle posted on social media and his website PlantB.tv in both English and Arabic.

Youssef said “Isa’al Bassem” will offer “a mixture of interviews, personal journeys, information, and discussions on health topics, not only about losing weight but also mental health, sexual health, fertility, and how food affects your mood, your sleep.”

He said: “I think Plant B is only going to get bigger and the movement is going to grow. We’re planning big things in the future to accommodate many of the people who have followed us and benefited from us, and who still want to have benefits in their lifestyle.”

 

From Cairo to LA

Youssef left Cairo in 2014 and now lives in Los Angeles, far from the crowds that once gathered at the sight of him walking along the Egyptian capital’s sidewalks.

“It’s much cooler this way,” he said.

“I am now in America and am more focused on my life here. I am doing stand-up comedy, one-man shows, talks and live performances. This has been an incredible journey for me. Leaving ‘Al-Bernameg’ in Egypt kind of liberated me to explore options that I never thought I would be able to,” he told Arab News.

Apart from hosting “Isa’al Bassem” on Asharq, which has an exclusive content agreement with Bloomberg for business news, Youssef has been working on several side projects in the US — from penning television scripts to writing children’s books.

“I wrote a children’s book that is going to launch in February called ‘The Magical Reality of Nadia.’ It is based on my daughter — the daughter of an immigrant in the US — and will discuss interesting and important issues that immigrants face. But it’s in a children’s book. It’s magical, beautiful, funny, and we’re very excited,” he said.

While Youssef’s political satire made him a household name in the Arab world, the comedian insists that he has never left that domain, but is just in a different country focusing on his current surroundings.

“I still do politics, still do a little comedy, but I’m a resident of the US, so I talk about the surroundings I am exposed to every day. People are still locked into this idea of ‘Al-Bernameg,’ of what I did, but this is something that happened when I was in Egypt,” he said.

Meanwhile, he is excited to be able to offer a healthier approach to life in his new show and help audiences around the Arab world better understand the benefits of plant-based diets.

“This is an amazing thing, and I said we need to make this movement much bigger. Asharq was launching this channel and we discussed having a show, which is, for me, amazing because seven years ago this was something that people made fun of and now I’m bringing plant-based lifestyle into the mainstream,” he said.

Asharq News is a 24/7 multi-platform news service that brings content to users in the Arab region and the rest of the world, providing news and analysis, often through an economic prism.

Headquartered in Riyadh, with central offices in Dubai and Washington D.C, Asharq News also includes  hubs in Abu Dhabi, and Cairo, with regional offices in Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Istanbul.


Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
Updated 22 September 2021

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl

Netflix acquires the whole works of Roald Dahl
  • The streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright
  • No financial details of the deal were given

SAN FRANCISCO: Netflix has acquired the whole works of acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl, creator of such classics as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda,” the company  announced Wednesday.

In 2018, Netflix signed a deal to create animated series based on 16 Dahl books. But now the streaming giant said it had bought The Roald Dahl Story Company, the family firm that owns the late British author’s copyright.

“This acquisition builds on the partnership we started three years ago to create a slate of animated TV series,” Netflix co-chief executive Ted Sarandos and Luke Kelly, RDSC managing director and Dahl's grandson, said in a joint statement.

Under the previous deal, Oscar-winning filmmaker Taika Waititi and “Zootropolis” screenwriter Phil Johnston are working on a series based on the world of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and an adaptation of “Matilda the Musical,” both of which are currently underway.

“These projects opened our eyes to a much more ambitious venture – the creation of a unique universe across animated and live action films and TV, publishing, games, immersive experiences, live theater, consumer products and more,” Netflix said.

Dahl died in 1990 aged 74. His books have been translated into 63 languages and sold more than 300 million copies worldwide.

“These stories and their messages of the power and possibility of young people have never felt more pertinent,” the statement said. “As we bring these timeless tales to more audiences in new formats, we're committed to maintaining their unique spirit and their universal themes of surprise and kindness, while also sprinkling some fresh magic into the mix.”

No financial details of the deal were given. However, in 2018, The Hollywood Reporter quoted sources as saying that the licensing deal covering the 16 Dahl books cost Netflix more than $100 million.


Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Updated 22 September 2021

Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off pushing pro-platform stories to users via Facebook News Feed, reported The New York Times

LONDON: A recently launched Facebook initiative codenamed Project Amplify was set up to push pro-platform stories on users’ news feeds, The New York Times reported.

And some of the promoted articles were written by the social networking giant to help paint the company in a positive light, the newspaper claimed.

The article said Project Amplify came into being at a meeting in January with the aim of reshaping Facebook’s image by adopting a multi-faceted approach including measures such as distancing the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, from controversies, and reducing external access to data.

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. As a result, Facebook executives decided to go on the offensive with a new approach involving marketing, communications, policy, and integrity teams, sources revealed.

Although Zuckerberg did not drive all the decisions as part of the new initiative, he reportedly approved them.

Denying the newspaper’s claims, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said: “People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely.”

Since the recent launch of the new project, Facebook has been testing the changes in three US cities through a tool called Quick Promote. The stories appear with a Facebook logo and link to websites published by the company as well as third-party websites.

Osborne told The New York Times that it was a “test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook,” adding that the new initiative was “similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”

In a series of tweets, Osborne said The New York Times’ article had attempted to “villainize Facebook,” included “clear falsehoods,” and had left out part of his statement which included him saying, “there is zero change to News Feed ranking.”

He added that the January meeting had never taken place, although according to the newspaper report one attendee had claimed that several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal.

Osborne concluded his tweets by suggesting that The New York Times’ story should have written that, “Facebook ran a small test of an informational unit on Facebook in three cities – clearly labeled as from Facebook on the top of the unit,” along with an image of what the stories looked like.

Screengrab of Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne's tweet of pro-Facebook stories in the News Feed. (Twitter:@JoeOsborne) 

 


Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist
Updated 22 September 2021

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist

Spotify celebrates Saudi National Day with patriotic playlist
  • “Ana El Saudi” playlist brings east, west, central regions together with special selection

DUBAI: Music and podcast streaming platform Spotify is celebrating Saudi Arabia’s 91st National Day through music by releasing a special playlist.

Its “Ana El Saudi” playlist brings together some of the finest male and female voices to pay homage to Saudis through a rich selection of 94 patriotic songs. The tracks are considered a treasure among Saudi nationals, and Spotify expects them to be especially overplayed to mark the momentous day.

Among the songs that Saudis listen to the most on Spotify’s Saudi National Day playlist is Fahad Bin Fasla’s “Haza El Saudi Foq.” The Sheilat star’s hit song was an instant fan favorite among locals and has established itself at the top spot.

Rabeh Saqr’s “Anta Malek” comes in second place; the iconic Saudi artist has been serenading the Kingdom with his oriental style for more than 30 years, cementing his legacy in Saudi music.

Ayed, Borhan, and Naif Al-Naif’s “Ya Mohammed” is third, with the three khaleeji-style artists collaborating to tribute a song to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

Mashael secures the top spot for female artists. Her recently released song “Sawb Alriyadh” has already garnered almost 2 million streams on Spotify. Waed, Shaikha Alaslawi, and Shamma Hamdan come in second, third, and fourth, respectively, among the female artists.

Riyadh has been the city leading the way in streaming “Ana El Saudi,” followed by Jeddah and Dammam.

Tune into “Ana El Saudi” here.


Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
Updated 21 September 2021

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016

Facebook spent over $13 bln on safety, security since 2016
  • The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security
  • Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app

DUBAI: Facebook Inc. said on Tuesday it has invested more than $13 billion in safety and security measures since 2016.
This comes days after a newspaper reported the company had failed to fix “the platform’s ill effects” researchers had identified.
The social media giant said it now has 40,000 people working on safety and security, compared with 10,000 five years ago.
Facebook played down the negative effects on young users of its Instagram app and had a weak response to alarms raised by employees over how the platform is used in developing countries by human traffickers, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, citing a review of internal company documents.
“In the past, we didn’t address safety and security challenges early enough in the product development process,” the company said in a blog post
“But we have fundamentally changed that approach.”
Facebook said its artificial intelligence technology has helped it block 3 billion fake accounts in the first half of this year. The company also removed more than 20 million pieces of false COVID-19 and vaccine content.
The company said it now removes 15 times more content that violates its standards on hate speech across Facebook and its image-sharing platform Instagram than when it first began reporting it in 2017.


Netflix offers free plan in Kenya to entice new subscribers

The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
Updated 21 September 2021

Netflix offers free plan in Kenya to entice new subscribers

The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days. (File/AFP)
  • Netflix offers free mobile plan with one-quarter of its TV shows and movies in Kenya to increase frowth
  • The free plan is available on Android mobile phones and will not have ads

LOS ANGELES: Netflix Inc. on Monday began offering a free mobile plan with about one-quarter of its TV shows and movies in Kenya, a strategy aimed at sparking growth in a key African market, the company told Reuters.
The free plan is available on Android mobile phones and will not have ads. It features Netflix movies and TV shows such as dramas “Money Heist” and “Bridgerton” and African series “Blood & Water,” plus some of the programming the company licenses from others. Netflix hopes the free plan will lead to users signing up for a paid option with more content.
The world’s largest streaming video service is looking to add customers outside of more saturated markets such as the United States, where new subscriber signups have slowed at a time when competition for online audiences has intensified.
Executives remain bullish on the long-term future, noting there are large markets where streaming television is just starting to take hold. To attract customers in Africa, Netflix is investing in locally made programming such as “Queen Sono” and “Jiva!” and has partnered with production studios in Nigeria.
“If you’ve never watched Netflix before — and many people in Kenya haven’t — this is a great way to experience our service,” Cathy Conk, director of product innovation at Netflix, said in a blog post. “And if you like what you see, it’s easy to upgrade to one of our paid plans so you can enjoy our full catalog on your TV or laptop as well.”
The free plan started on Monday and will roll out across Kenya in the coming days.
The non-paying Netflix subscribers in Kenya will not be counted in the paid total the company reports each quarter, a spokesperson said.
Netflix has experimented with free offers before. In 2020, it made some episodes of series such as “Stranger Things” and movies including “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” available around the world for no charge via web browsers.
The free plan in Kenya is broader. It will look similar to paid Netflix profiles to give viewers a feel for the service, the spokesperson said. Shows that are not included in the free plan will be marked with a lock icon. Clicking on one of those titles will encourage the user sign up for a paid option.
Anyone 18 or older in Kenya can enroll in the free plan and create up to five profiles. No payment information will be required.
Some functions, such as the ability to download a show or movie, will not be available under the free plan.
Netflix, which streams in more than 190 countries, has taken other steps to boost usage in Africa, including creation of a paid mobile-only plan and partnerships with local telecom operators to ease payments.
The company reported 209 million paying customers worldwide at the end of June. New member pickups slowed in the first half of 2021 after a boom early in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Africa currently is a relatively small market for streaming TV subscriptions. Digital TV Research projects Netflix will lead subscription video on demand services on the continent with 6.26 million paying customers in 2026, followed by Walt Disney Co’s Disney+.