Egypt's Sisi warns Ethiopia dam risks 'unimaginable instability'

Egypt's Sisi warns Ethiopia dam risks 'unimaginable instability'
Ethiopia's filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has stoked tensions with country's downstream - including Egypt. (AFP/File)AFP
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Updated 30 March 2021

Egypt's Sisi warns Ethiopia dam risks 'unimaginable instability'

Egypt's Sisi warns Ethiopia dam risks 'unimaginable instability'

ISMAILIA, Egypt: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned Tuesday that Ethiopia's enormous dam, upstream on the Nile, risked causing "unimaginable instability".
"Nobody will be permitted to take a single drop of Egypt's water, otherwise the region will fall into unimaginable instability," Sisi said in response to a question at a press conference about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.


Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine

Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine
Updated 43 min 38 sec ago

Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine

Singapore sees early rush for Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine
  • Singapore has vaccinated almost half its 5.7 million population with at least one dose of the vaccines
  • Singapore allowed the usage of the Sinovac vaccine by private health care institutions under a special access route

SINGAPORE: Offering Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccines to the public in Singapore for the first time since Friday, several private clinics reported overwhelming demand for the Chinese-made shot, despite already available rival vaccines having far higher efficacy.
Singapore has vaccinated almost half its 5.7 million population with at least one dose of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Both have shown efficacy rates of well over 90 percent against symptomatic disease in clinical trials, compared with Sinovac’s 51 percent.
Earlier this week, officials in neighboring Indonesia warned that more than 350 medical workers have caught COVID-19 despite being vaccinated with Sinovac and dozens have been hospitalized, raising concerns about its efficacy against more infectious variants.
Evidence from other countries showed people who had taken the Sinovac vaccine were still getting infected, Kenneth Mak, Singapore’s director of medical services, said on Friday. “There is a significant risk of vaccine breakthrough,” he said, referring to the report on Indonesian health care workers.
A number of the people rushing for the Sinovac shot on the first day of its availability in Singapore were Chinese nationals, who felt it would make it easier to travel home without going through quarantine.
Singapore allowed the usage of the Sinovac vaccine by private health care institutions under a special access route, following an emergency use approval by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this month. Singapore said it is awaiting critical data from Sinovac before including it in the national vaccination program.
Meantime, authorities have selected 24 private clinics to administer its current stock of 200,000 doses. The clinics are charging between S$10-25 ($7.5-$18.6) per dose.
“We have about 2,400 bookings, so that stretches from right now until end of July,” Louis Tan, CEO at StarMed Specialist Center, said on Saturday. He said many of those who made the Sinovac bookings tend to be in their 40s and above.
Wee Healthfirst, another approved clinic, put a notice at its entrance on Friday, saying it had stopped reservations for the vaccine until next Thursday, citing “overwhelming demand.” A receptionist said about 1,000 people had registered there.
Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases doctor at Rophi Clinic, also said he had been “overwhelmed” by people wanting the Sinovac shot.
Tang Guang Yu, a 49-year-old engineer, was among the Chinese nationals resident in Singapore who waited for the Sinovac shot rather than take a foreign-made vaccine that he thought might not be recognized by authorities back home.
“No one wants to be quarantined for a month, I don’t have so many days of leave,” Tang told Reuters as he queued outside a clinic.
Travelers to China may have to be quarantined at a facility and at home for up to a month depending on their destination city, regardless of vaccination status, according to the Chinese government website.
Other people said they have more confidence in the Sinovac vaccine since it is based on conventional technology, while those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna use a newly developed messenger RNA platform.
“The mRNA technology has been around for 30 years, but it has never been injected into human until recently due to COVID-19 emergency, how safe it is?” asked Singaporean Chua Kwang Hwee, 62, as he lined up outside a clinic to enquire about getting the Sinovac shot.
Singapore’s health ministry says persons with a history of allergic reaction or anaphylaxis to mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or its components as well as severely immunocompromised individuals should not receive the mRNA-based vaccines.
Sinovac vaccine uses an inactivated or killed virus that cannot replicate in human cells to trigger an immune response.
In recent weeks, several social media messages have popped up saying inactivated virus COVID-19 vaccines, like Sinovac’s, provide superior protection against variants than mRNA vaccines. Other messages on platforms have said the mRNA vaccines are less safe.
Authorities have rejected these claims, saying they are safe and highly effective.


Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law

Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law
Updated 19 June 2021

Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law

Hong Kong pro-democracy media executives denied bail under security law
  • The case is the first time political views and opinions published by a Hong Kong media outlet have triggered the security law

HONG KONG: Two executives from Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily appeared in court on Saturday on charges of collusion and were denied bail after authorities deployed a sweeping security law to target the newspaper, a scathing critic of Beijing.
Chief editor Ryan Law and CEO Cheung Kim-hung are accused of colluding with foreign forces to undermine China’s national security over a series of articles that police said called for international sanctions.
Chief magistrate Victor So said there were insufficient grounds “for the court to believe that the defendants will not continue to commit acts endangering national security.”
The two will remain in custody until their next court appearance on August 13 as prosecutors said police needed time to examine more than 40 computers and 16 servers seized from the newsroom.
The case is the first time political views and opinions published by a Hong Kong media outlet have triggered the security law, which was imposed last year by Beijing to stamp out dissent in the financial hub.
Apple Daily and its jailed owner Jimmy Lai have long been thorns in Beijing’s side, with unapologetic support for the city’s pro-democracy movement and caustic criticism of China’s authoritarian leaders.
More than 500 police officers raided the paper’s newsroom on Thursday. Five executives were arrested. Law and Cheung were charged on Friday while the three others were released on bail pending further investigations.
“We will continue to publish our paper tomorrow,” deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man said outside court. She was released late Friday on bail.
Dozens of supporters were queuing to get seats in court on Saturday morning, including many former and current employees of Apple Daily.
A staff member, who gave her surname as Chang, said she and many other Apple Daily employees treat “every day like it is our last” working for the paper.
“At first, authorities said the national security law would only target a tiny number of people,” she said.
“But what has happened showed us that is nonsense,” she added.
Another staff reporter, who gave her first name as Theresa, said she felt Apple Daily’s legal troubles were a warning shot.
“I think what has happened to Apple Daily today can eventually happen to every other news outlet in the city,” she said.
Multiple international media companies have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, attracted to the business-friendly regulations and free speech provisions written into the city’s mini-constitution.
But many are now questioning whether they have a future there and are drawing up contingency plans as Beijing presses on with a broad crackdown on dissent in the city.
Local media have an even tougher time, with journalist associations saying reporters are increasingly having to self-censor.
Hong Kong has steadily plunged down an annual press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, from 18th place in 2002 to 80th this year.
Mainland China languishes at 177th out of 180, above only Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials say the arrests were not an attack on the media.
Earlier this week, security secretary John Lee described Apple Daily as a “criminal syndicate.”
Apple Daily is by far the most outspoken of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy media outlets. But it is not clear how long it can survive.
Its wealthy owner Lai, 73, is currently serving multiple jail sentences for his involvement in democracy rallies in 2019.
He has also been charged under the national security law and has had his Hong Kong assets frozen.
Authorities froze a further HK$18 million ($2.3 million) of Apple Daily’s company assets on Thursday.
Police say they also plan to prosecute three companies owned by Apple Daily under the security law, which could see the paper fined or banned.
It is the first time companies, rather than an individual, have faced a national security investigation.
Mark Simon, an aide to Lai who lives overseas, said the paper would have difficulty paying its staff of about 700.
Company lawyers were trying to work out the breadth of the asset freeze order, he added.
“Money is not an issue. Draconian orders from Beijing via the NSL (national security law) are the issue,” he said.


Battle for the Nile: How Egypt will be impacted by Ethiopia’s filling of GERD reservoir

Battle for the Nile: How Egypt will be impacted by Ethiopia’s filling of GERD reservoir
Updated 19 June 2021

Battle for the Nile: How Egypt will be impacted by Ethiopia’s filling of GERD reservoir

Battle for the Nile: How Egypt will be impacted by Ethiopia’s filling of GERD reservoir
  • For 10 years Ethiopia has failed to reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan on how quickly the reservoir should be filled
  • On the eve of the summer rains on the Ethiopian Highlands, the dam is all but complete and filling is about to begin

LONDON: In the decade since Ethiopia announced it was going to build Africa’s biggest hydropower dam on the Blue Nile, the source of the bulk of Egypt’s water, the prospect has loomed over Egyptians as an existential threat.

For 10 years Ethiopia has failed to reach an agreement with Egypt and Sudan, its two downstream neighbors, on how quickly its vast reservoir should be filled, and how the electricity-generating Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam will be operated in the years to come. Now, on the eve of the anticipated annual summer rains that fall on the Ethiopian Highlands, the dam is all but complete and filling is about to begin in earnest.

DEEP DIVE: For a longer, interactive version of this story: https://www.arabnews.com/BattleForTheNile


Iran ultraconservative named presidential election winner

Iran ultraconservative named presidential election winner
Updated 19 June 2021

Iran ultraconservative named presidential election winner

Iran ultraconservative named presidential election winner
  • Hard-line judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi was seen as all but certain to emerge victorious
  • Former populist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad joined those who said they would not cast their ballot

TEHRAN: Congratulations poured in for Iranian ultraconservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi on Saturday for winning presidential elections even before official results were announced.
Iran’s outgoing moderate President Hassan Rouhani said his successor had been elected in the previous day’s vote, without naming the widely expected winner, Raisi.
“I congratulate the people on their choice,” said Rouhani. “My official congratulations will come later, but we know who got enough votes in this election and who is elected today by the people.”
The other two ultraconservative candidates – Mohsen Rezai and Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi – explicitly congratulated Raisi.
“I congratulate ... Raisi, elected by the nation,” Ghazizadeh-Hashemi said, quoted by Iranian media.
And Rezai tweeted that he hoped Raisi could build “a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems”.
The only reformist in the race, former central bank governor Abdolnasser Hemmati, also tweeted his congratulations to Raisi.
Raisi, 60, would take over from moderate Rouhani at a time the Islamic republic is seeking to salvage its tattered nuclear deal with major powers and free itself from punishing US sanctions that have driven a painful economic downturn.
Raisi, the head of the judiciary whose black turban signifies direct descent from Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, is seen as close to the 81-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has ultimate political power in Iran.
The moderate candidate in Iran’s presidential election has conceded he lost to the country’s hard-line judiciary chief.
Former Central Bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati wrote on Instagram to judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi early Saturday.
Hemmati wrote: “I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran.”
Voting on Friday was extended by two hours past the original midnight deadline amid fears of a low turnout of 50 percent or less.
Many voters chose to stay away after the field of some 600 hopefuls was winnowed down to seven candidates, all men, excluding an ex-president and a former parliament speaker.
Three of the vetted candidates dropped out of the race two days before Friday’s election, and two of them threw their support behind Raisi.
Former populist president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, one of those who were disqualified by the powerful 12-member Guardian Council of clerics and jurists, joined those who said they would not cast their ballot.
Raisi’s only rival from the reformist camp was the low-profile former central bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati, 65, who had polled in the low single digits before the election.
Iran’s electorate, of now almost 60 million eligible voters, has delivered surprise results before, observers warn. If no clear winner emerges, a runoff will be held next Friday.
On election day, pictures of often flag-waving voters in the country of 83 million dominated state TV coverage, but away from the polling stations some voiced anger at what they saw as a stage-managed election.
“Whether I vote or not, someone has already been elected,” scoffed Tehran shopkeeper Saeed Zareie. “They organize the elections for the media.”
Enthusiasm has been dampened further by the economic malaise of spiralling inflation and job losses, and the pandemic that proved more deadly in Iran than anywhere else in the region, killing more than 80,000 people by the official count.
Among those who lined up to vote at schools, mosques and community centers, many said they supported Raisi, who has promised to fight corruption, help the poor and build millions of flats for low-income families.
A nurse named Sahebiyan said she backed the frontrunner for his anti-graft credentials and on hopes he would “move the country forward... and save the people from economic, cultural and social deprivation.”
Raisi has been named in Iranian media as a possible successor to Khamenei.
To opposition and human rights groups, his name is linked to the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988. The US government has sanctioned him over the purge, in which Raisi has denied playing a part.
Ultimate power in Iran, since its 1979 revolution toppled the US-backed monarchy, rests with the supreme leader, but the president wields major influence in fields from industrial policy to foreign affairs.
Rouhani, 72, leaves office in August after serving the maximum two consecutive four-year-terms allowed under the constitution.
His landmark achievement was the 2015 deal with world powers under which Iran agreed to limit its nuclear program in return for sanctions relief.
But high hopes for greater prosperity were crushed in 2018 when then-US president Donald Trump withdrew from the accord and launched a “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign against Iran.
While Iran has always denied seeking a nuclear weapon, Trump charged it is still planning to build the bomb and destabilising the Middle East through armed proxy groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.
As old and new US sanctions hit Iran, trade dried up and foreign companies bolted. The economy nosedived and spiralling prices fueled repeated bouts of social unrest which were put down by security forces.
Iran’s ultraconservative camp — which deeply distrusts the United States, labelled the “Great Satan” or the “Global Arrogance” in the Islamic republic — attacked Rouhani over the failing deal.
Despite this, there is broad agreement among all the candidates including Raisi that Iran must seek an end to the US sanctions in ongoing talks in Vienna aiming to revive the nuclear accord


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.”