Abbas, Israel’s Gantz hold new high-level talks, urged by US

Abbas, Israel’s Gantz hold new high-level talks, urged by US
In this Aug. 1, 2021, file photo, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem. (AP)
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Updated 30 August 2021

Abbas, Israel’s Gantz hold new high-level talks, urged by US

Abbas, Israel’s Gantz hold new high-level talks, urged by US
  • A Palestinian official said Gantz and Abbas discussed possible steps toward improving the atmosphere

JERUSALEM: Israel’s defense minister has held talks with the Palestinian president in Ramallah, the first high-level meeting between the two sides in years, officials said.
Sunday’s meeting between Benny Gantz and Mahmoud Abbas signaled a possible shift of direction after after the near-complete breakdown of communication between Abbas and Israeli leaders in recent years.
It came two days after President Joe Biden urged Israel’s new prime minister during a White House meeting to take steps toward improving the lives of Palestinians.
Gantz’s office said he told Abbas that Israel will take new measures to strengthen the Palestinian economy. It said they also discussed security issues and agreed to remain in touch. It was believed to be the highest level public meeting between the sides since 2014.
A Palestinian official said Gantz and Abbas discussed possible steps toward improving the atmosphere. He said this included Palestinian demands for a halt in Israeli military operations in Palestinian areas of the occupied West Bank, allowing unification of families with relatives inside Israel and allowing more Palestinian workers into Israel. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the late-night meeting.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a hard-liner who opposes Palestinian independence, as do key partners in his diverse, ruling coalition. But Bennett has said he supports building up the Palestinian economy and expanding autonomy for Palestinians. He also is interested in bolstering Abbas in his rivalry with the ruling Hamas militant group in Gaza.
While Biden supports a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, his administration is focused on interim confidence-building measures. Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, pursued a hard-line policy toward the Palestinians, backed by former President Donald Trump.
The Trump administration took a number of steps, including moving the US Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to contested Jerusalem. Abbas halted most contacts with the US and Israel in return.
Netanyahu had repeatedly claimed Abbas was not a reliable partner for negotiating a peace deal, a portrayal dismissed by Netanyahu critics as a pretext for avoiding making concessions.
Hussein Sheikh, a top Abbas aide, confirmed the meeting in a statement on Twitter. It took place on Sunday night in Ramallah in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Abbas maintains his headquarters.


Euro zone’s trade surplus narrows; supply bottlenecks continue: Economic wrap

Euro zone’s trade surplus narrows; supply bottlenecks continue: Economic wrap
Updated 9 min 33 sec ago

Euro zone’s trade surplus narrows; supply bottlenecks continue: Economic wrap

Euro zone’s trade surplus narrows; supply bottlenecks continue: Economic wrap
  • In addition, imports from Russia and the United States rose noticeably as they jumped by yearly rates of 107.1 percent and 18.4 percent respectively

 

The trade surplus of the Euro area steeply shrank to EUR4.8 billion in August, compared to EUR20.7 billion in the previous month. According to Eurostat data, this was mainly driven by a 26.6 percent surge in imports as energy prices rose. 

In particular, imports of fuels and lubricants soared by 84.4 percent year-on-year. Imports of crude materials also grew significantly in August, rising by a yearly rate of 65.4 percent.

In addition, imports from Russia and the United States rose noticeably as they jumped by yearly rates of 107.1 percent and 18.4 percent respectively.

Global inflation risks

Following elimination of pandemic-related restrictions, a rising global demand has been met with supply shortages all over the world. The Wall Street Journal reported that surging costs for energy and raw materials are the result of this clash.

While more than a dozen central banks have raised their interest rates, two of the most influential, the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, are yet to raise their rates. 

This likely means that different central banks have different views over the current inflationary fears. Some predict it to be temporary and will gradually taper off; others expect that it will feed into even more inflationary pressures and thus act accordingly with a contractionary monetary policy.

Italy’s growth forecasts

Italy’s business lobby, Confindustria, has favorably revised its growth outlook for the country. The lobby’s research unit now forecasts the economy to grow by 6.1 percent this year and 4.1 percent in 2022. 

In April, the forecast for 2021 was a lower 4.1 percent.

This means that GDP will be above pre-pandemic levels in the first half of 2022. Limited impact of the Delta variant and robust economic indicators were cited as reasons for this revision.

European Inflation 

Official data showed that France's consumer price inflation rate recorded its highest rate since October 2018, as it increased to 2.2 percent year-on-year in September, higher than last month’s 1.9 percent. Energy costs had the highest jump, growing by 14.9 percent. 

Moreover, according to Italy’s National Institute of Statistics, the country’s yearly inflation rate rose to 2.5 percent in September 2021, rising from 2% in August. Higher energy costs drove this increase as they rose by 20.2 percent. This is the highest inflation rate since November 2012.

However, Italian consumer prices declined by 0.2 percent month-on-month compared to a 0.4 percent rise in August.

Indonesian balance of trade 

In the 17th straight month of continued trade surplus, Indonesia's surplus expanded from $2.4 billion in September 2020 to $4.4 billion in this year’s September, data from Statistics Indonesia showed.

This was mainly due to significantly high export growth, as it increased by a yearly rate of 47.6 percent due to larger oil and non-oil exports. Imports also surged, albeit at a slightly slower pace, growing by 40.3 percent. Oil and gas imports soared by 59.2 percent while purchases of non-oil and gas rose by 38.2 percent.


Pope Francis decries attacks in Norway, Afghanistan and England

Pope Francis decries attacks in Norway, Afghanistan and England
Updated 22 min 34 sec ago

Pope Francis decries attacks in Norway, Afghanistan and England

Pope Francis decries attacks in Norway, Afghanistan and England
  • ‘I implore you, please, to abandon the path of violence, which is always a losing one’
VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis on Sunday decried recent deadly attacks in Norway, Afghanistan and Britain, expressing closeness to the families of victims and calling violence “a defeat for everyone.”
“Last week various attacks were carried out, for example in Norway, Afghanistan, England, which caused many deaths and injuries,” the pope said, after greeting the public in St. Peter’s Square for his customary Sunday remarks and blessings delivered from a window of the Apostolic Palace.
“I express my closeness to the families of the victims,” Francis said.
In Norway, a bow-and-arrow attack claimed five lives and left three persons wounded.
In southern Afghanistan, a suicide bombing at a mosque killed 47 people and wounded scores more. The Daesh group claimed responsibility.
In England, a British lawmaker who was meeting at a church with some of his constituents was fatally stabbed, and police are investigating the slaying as a terrorist act.
“I implore you, please, to abandon the path of violence, which is always a losing one, is a defeat for all,” Francis said. ”Let’s remember that violence generates violence.”
Norwegian police have been criticized for reacting too slowly to contain the massacre in the town of Kongsberg, acknowledging that the five deaths occurred after police first encountered the attacker, a 37-year-old local resident whom authorities say has admitted to the slayings and is undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
In Afghanistan, relatives of those killed by the bombing at a Shiite mosque in the Kandahar province in the south of the country called on the ruling Taliban to protect them.
British authorities haven’t publicly identified the suspect in the slaying of Conservative lawmaker David Amess in the town of Leigh-On-Sea.

US actress Yara Shahidi to guide young filmmakers in new role with Ghetto Film School

Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)
Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)
Updated 22 min 27 sec ago

US actress Yara Shahidi to guide young filmmakers in new role with Ghetto Film School

Actress Yara Shahidi has been announced as the Ghetto Film School’s Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. (File/ Getty Images)

DUBAI: Actress Yara Shahidi has announced that she is joining hands with the US-based Ghetto Film School as the organization’s new international thesis advisor.

The 21-year-old star of hit TV show “Grown-ish,” who is also a student at Harvard University, will be on hand to guide students who are based in New York, Los Angeles, and London through the educational program.

During the 30-month program, students will research the cinematography and culture of a specific country and will complete a script based on their findings.

Shahidi, whose father is US-Iranian, shared the announcement via a previously recorded video message that was aired during the nonprofit’s fall benefit, which was held in Los Angeles late last week.

“When I think of the impact of Ghetto Film School, I reflect on my own career. Here I sit before you, not only as an actress but as a producer, as a director, an advocate, an entrepreneur and so much more,” she said in a pre-recorded message.

“And the reason why I know all of this is possible is precisely because of one thing, which is opportunity. The opportunities that have been given to me by people within my support network who actively believed in me, who invested in me and were ready to see me to my next step and my next evolution.

“It is surreal at the age of 21 to be able to partake in any work that is seen as helping to (make) this industry more equitable,” she said in a statement reported by People magazine. “I know the stories of our Brown and Black filmmakers are stories that are necessary on screen, and not just from an artistic standpoint, but from a point of being cultural disruptors who are guiding us to new futures.”

The star went on to explain a little bit about her role as the Dell XPS International Thesis Advisor. There will be roughly 30 fellows in each location and Shahidi will be on hand for advice as they write, shoot, and edit their project.

“Being an international thesis advisor basically means that I’m helping in this process, giving my expertise where possible, being of service where possible,” she said, according to Yahoo News.

In April, Shahidi announced she is developing a new television series via her production company, 7th Sun Productions. The part-Middle Eastern star is set to executive produce and develop an on-screen adaptation of Cole Brown’s critically-acclaimed debut book “Greyboy: Finding Blackness in a White World,” alongside her mother and business partner Keri Shahidi and Brown for ABC Signature.


Assad’s cousin boasts Ferrari and Israeli girlfriend in US while Syrians continue suffering

Assad’s cousin boasts Ferrari and Israeli girlfriend in US while Syrians continue suffering
Updated 14 min 2 sec ago

Assad’s cousin boasts Ferrari and Israeli girlfriend in US while Syrians continue suffering

Assad’s cousin boasts Ferrari and Israeli girlfriend in US while Syrians continue suffering
  • This is not the first time the Makhloufs’ lavish lifestyles, and their business ties to the Assad regime, have come to light

LONDON: A viral video showing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s millionaire cousin Ali Makhlouf cruising around Los Angeles in his $300,000 Ferrari 488 Spider has highlighted the stark divisions in a war-torn country where many people do not have enough to eat.

The video, which was apparently caught randomly, showed popular vlogger Daniel Mac standing near a traffic light in LA when Makhlouf rolled by in his luxurious car alongside his Israeli model girlfriend Michal Idan.

As per Mac’s standard, he asked Makhlouf what he did for a living, to which the latter replied that he worked, before saying that he was at an internship after further playful prodding by the vlogger. At the end, he said that the car was a rental before driving off.

What is even more telling is that Makhlouf is seemingly dating an Israeli model.

Syria’s Golan Heights have been occupied by the Israelis for years; the US recognized them as Israeli in 2019. And Israel has continuously attacked Iranian troops and Iran’s proxies across Syria with fighter jets, and so Makhlouf’s dealing with — even dating — the enemy could be regarded as treason.

Past lavish living

This is not the first time the Makhloufs’ lavish lifestyles, and their business ties to the Assad regime, have come to light. However, ties between Assad and his cousin, Rami Makhlouf — Ali’s father — are said to be strained after the US-sanctioned Syrian businessman revealed last year that he had set up a web of offshore front companies to help Assad evade Western sanctions.

Strained or not, the Makhloufs’ splurging has repeatedly caught the media’s eye and placed them under severe scrutiny, with Ali seemingly lacking any sense of moral responsibility when posting items on his social media accounts.

During the pandemic, Ali took to his Instagram account to show a video of him celebrating his birthday in Dubai by blowing out a cake in front of at least four MacBooks and two iPads — one for each of his friends beaming in via Zoom.

Other posts to his page include collections of luxury cars, mansions and even a couple of jet skis.

The average Syrian earns between $70 and $130 per month and, with the country still reeling from its decades-long war and with Assad firmly in power, this may not be the last the world hears of Makhlouf’s lavish spending.


Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
Updated 43 min 25 sec ago

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai

Indian Davis Cup player Ramkumar Ramanathan joins Tie Break Tens in Dubai
  • A new TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will culminate with final on the evening of the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena on Oct. 22

Indian Davis Cup representative Ramkumar Ramanathan is the latest player to join the Tie Break Tens Dubai Presented by Zone, joining Taylor Fritz, Dustin Brown, Dan Evans and Gaël Monfils at the tournament being held on Oct. 22 at City Walk’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Ramkumar is the first Indian player to reach an ATP world tour singles final since Somdev Devvarman in 2011. He plays both singles and doubles games and is well known for his attacking serve, which will come in handy in the Tie Break Tens short-form of the sport.

“Ramkumar is a great addition to the inaugural Dubai TB10s line-up, and is sure to be a particularly big attraction for the UAE’s passionate Indian sports fans. He has a very aggressive style on the serve and second shot, so he is another player that promises to do well with the tie breaker format. Whoever he is pitted against, one thing is for sure: It’ll be quick and dramatic,” said Jimmy Poon, the tournament director.

As the build-up to the Middle East’s first ever TB10 tennis tournament continues, the organizers have also announced the launch of the inaugural TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament. This new competition will culminate in some of the UAE’s best young players battling it out in the finals ahead of the main tournament itself on the evening of Oct. 22 at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena.

Qualifying rounds are taking place each Friday, leading up to the main event at the Coca-Cola Arena in Dubai’s City Walk. The TB10s Dubai Grassroots Junior Tournament will further support young Emirati talent in the sport, with the finals for the under-18 competitors set to take place in front of the international stars and a packed arena on the night of the main event.

The TB10s format is the only officially recognised short form of tennis. It is already proving popular among the participating youngsters, and up to 16 players of ages ranging from 12 to 18 are competing in each of the Friday tournaments, drawn from tennis academies and schools across Dubai. The finals will be played between the players who accrue the most points across the three weeks.

As well as the Friday competitions, a tennis clinic will be held the day before the main TB10s evening for competition winners from schools in Dubai.