Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into Lebanon, Al-Manar TV says

Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into Lebanon, Al-Manar TV says
Vehicles ride near a banner depicting Syria's President Bashar al-Assad, and Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the first truck carrying Iranian fuel is expected to reach Lebanon today, near the Lebanese-Syrian border, in Lebanon. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 September 2021

Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into Lebanon, Al-Manar TV says

Hezbollah brings Iranian fuel into Lebanon, Al-Manar TV says
  • The decision to import fuel marks an expansion of the role played by the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon

BEIRUT: Hezbollah began bringing Iranian fuel into Lebanon via Syria on Thursday, a move the Shiite group says aims to ease a crippling energy crisis but which its opponents have said exposes the country to the risk of US sanctions.
Quoting its correspondent, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV said a convoy of around 20 tanker trucks carrying Iranian fuel oil had entered Lebanon. The Iran-backed Hezbollah has said the ship carrying the fuel docked in Syria on Sunday.
The trucks crossed into northeastern Lebanon near the village of Al-Ain, where a banner declared that Hezbollah had broken a “siege” on Lebanon.
“Thank you Iran. Thank you Assad’s Syria,” declared another banner, referring to Syrian President Bashar Assad.
The energy crisis is a result of a financial meltdown that has devastated the Lebanese economy since 2019, sinking the currency by some 90 percent and sending more than three quarters of the population into poverty.
Fuel supplies have dried up because Lebanon does not have enough hard currency to cover even vital imports, forcing essential services including some hospitals to scale back or shut down and sparking numerous security incidents.
The decision to import fuel marks an expansion of the role played by the Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon, where critics have long accused the heavily armed group that has fought wars with Israel of acting as a state within the state.
Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said on Monday the ship had docked in Syria to avoid harming Lebanon and to avoid embarrassing some of its allies, an apparent reference to the sanctions risk.
Washington has reiterated that US sanctions on Iranian oil sales remain in place, but it has not said whether it is considering imposing measures against Lebanon over the move by Hezbollah.
Washington designates Hezbollah as a terrorist group and has also targeted it with sanctions.
The United States, a big supplier of humanitarian and military aid to Lebanon, is backing a plan to ease the energy crisis using Egyptian natural gas piped via Jordan and Syria. The US ambassador has said Lebanon does not need Iranian fuel.
Nasrallah has said a second ship with fuel oil would arrive in the Syrian port of Baniyas in a few days, with a third and fourth, respectively carrying gasoline and fuel oil, also due.

Middle East ‘catching up’ in better use of energy, but more work is needed: ENGIE

Middle East ‘catching up’ in better use of energy, but more work is needed: ENGIE
Updated 14 min 47 sec ago

Middle East ‘catching up’ in better use of energy, but more work is needed: ENGIE

Middle East ‘catching up’ in better use of energy, but more work is needed: ENGIE

DUBAI: Middle East companies need to do more to make a visible impact on bigger energy goals, an official with multinational utility company ENGIE has told Arab News. 

“There are new regulations in place, which basically request the builders and consultancy companies to build on a greener environment, and there are more stringent regulations,” Jesus Gutierez, head of energy efficiency at ENGIE Solutions, said.  

These regulations only applied to newer projects, he added, leaving a big percentage of older buildings inefficient in their energy use.  

Gutierez said there is increasing interest in the region for energy efficiency solutions, with demand coming from different sectors. 

“We started to be very active in the commercial sector — hotels, hospitals, and schools — but more and more now we are getting into factories,” the ENGIE head told Arab News on the sidelines of the Future Food Forum in Dubai. 

The French company is currently working with a UAE-based cement company, where they transform the heat produced by the factory into electricity.

Aside from the new regulations, a stronger consciousness about sustainability is also pushing the demand upwards.

“Before, energy efficiency was all about the payback and return of investments, but now the companies are willing to invest in solutions with longer returns,” he explained. 

Gutierez added: “For them the priority is how to become more sustainable because they understand, if they don’t do it, clients will start to notice and choose the ones that are greener.”

Another factor driving this demand for energy efficient solutions is financing —  as either the technology becomes cheaper or providers have designed a business model that is attractive to their clients. 

Energy efficiency in food and beverage companies

A particular sector where energy efficiency is a big issue is food and beverage, which is one of the biggest emitters of carbon dioxide in the world. 

About 40 percent of the man-made emissions come from food systems, according to a study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal. 

Although Gutierez said the supply side is catching up in implementing more sustainable systems, there is still a lot of work to be done on the consumer side, particularly in so-called ‘downstream’ processes such as food processing, delivery, and retail. 

“The major track of the food industry based here in the UAE are more on the downstream processes, because local production is relatively small,” he explained, adding: “This is where we see more and more companies finding ways to reduce their energy build.”

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons
Updated 24 min 24 sec ago

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons

Why top players see Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala World Tennis Championship as a launchpad for successful new seasons
  • John Lickrish, CEO of MWTC organizers Flash Entertainment, tells Arab News about the capital’s unique tournament and the challenges and satisfaction of juggling sports and music events

If your job is to put on some of Abu Dhabi’s biggest sports and music events, it helps if you happen to love what you do.

Luckily, sports and music have been part of John Lickrish’s life from a young age.

For the Canadian CEO of Flash Entertainment, organizers of some of the biggest events and concerts in the UAE capital, the return of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC) on Dec. 16-18 is a sign that things are getting back to normal after a year and half like no other.

“We’ve been busy during the coronavirus pandemic. We’ve done a lot of stuff with the UFC and the Tourism Authority — logistics and operations around those events last year,” he said. “We had permission to do the MWTC event last year because it was outdoors and it was international, but unfortunately we couldn’t coordinate with the Australian Open, as they kept changing the dates. The players were available, then not available, but unfortunately we lose out to the Australian one because it’s a Masters event. It’s a high priority for the players.”

But the MWTC is back this year, and will be socially distanced (40 percent capacity) with PCR and vaccine requirements at a sterilized Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex.

“It’s a very safe environment — it’s outdoors and you really can’t get bad seats at the Zayed Sports City facility,” Lickrish said. “It’s one of the great venues left. If you ever attend any of the international events, you’re so far away from the players, whereas with this one you get up close and personal. You can watch some of the training sessions in the smaller areas as well. We’re really excited about getting it back and we think it’s a great event for families and people who might be a little hesitant of large crowds.”

Since the tournament’s inception in 2009, Rafael Nadal has won a record five titles, while Novak Djokovic has four wins and Andy Murray two.

After a year of disruptions and cancellations due to the pandemic, players and their teams are once again open to traveling and taking part in the MWTC, often the ideal lanchpad for the Australian Open, which in 2022 will take place from Jan. 17-20 in Melbourne.

“Last year they were bit hesitant,” said Lickrish. “Managers thought that if they are coming down here, there was much higher risk. So they were like, it’s going to cost more money, which you think would be the opposite.

“This year they’ve gone back to the normal way of thinking,” he said. “And we know they’ll be flying out of the UAE on private jets just for the players to get to Australia, so it makes it a lot more convenient for them.”

Lickrish said that with other high profile events — many organized by Flash Entertainment — taking pace in the UAE capital, “it’s not the worst time to be in Abu Dhabi.”

He added: “As you know, we’ve got the Formula 1 (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix) just before and there’s been lots of requests for the players to have additional accommodation so that they can attend that,” he said. “They love the Mubadala event because it’s a really good opportunity for them to evaluate themselves with the rest of the players — they get to play more than one round with the best in the world.

“It was Roger Federer who requested that if you get knocked out you get to play a consolation round, which of course we agreed to, but unfortunately he hasn’t been back since then. One of my favorite players, Nadal, has had a lot of luck here, as well as Djokovic. They’ve gone on to have typically good seasons depending on how they’ve performed here.

“So we’re taking credit for the positivity and we’re not taking blame for anything bad that happens,” Lickrish joked.

While the men’s lineup has yet to be announced, the women’s match on the opening day of the tournament will see US Open champion Emma Raducanu take on Olympic champion Belinda Bencic.

MWTC comes at time when Abu Dhabi’s sporting calendar is at its busiest. Lickrish is proud that over the years, Flash has consistently been asked to organize the capital’s biggest events.

“We’ve been very lucky. We’ve worked with the Tourism Authority on the UFC — over multiple projects. Flash used to be a 10 percent owner of the UFC until a few years ago, but they’ve continued to work with us,” he said. “We had the experience of the FIFA Club World Cup in three editions. The first one we did entirely by ourselves where we ran the whole program, and the last two came under the watchful eye of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. They owned the event and we were there as the operators.”

MWTC remains one of the dearest events to Lickrish, one that he and his team worked hard to “create from scratch.” But they remain on the lookout for more events.

“We’re always looking to expand our expertise,” he said. “I’d like to get into cricket, I’d like to get into basketball — we have done work with the NBA on a 3-on-3 tournament, which is really fantastic. We can pretty much do anything. We’ve worked with Red Bull on motocross. We have the capabilities, and if we don’t have the expertise, we find the person or persons who have that intimate knowledge in a sport and can help us with the competition side of these events.”

As a teenager, Lickrish was a promising athlete in his homeland and his love of sport has never left him, despite having his own dreams cruelly dashed.

“I was an alpine skier — Downhill, Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super GS,” he said. “I was ranked at one point fourth in Canada for 18 years and under, but unfortunately just before the 1988 Olympics I got hit by a car,” Lickrish, now in his early 50s, said. “I fractured my neck and had 40 stitches in my face so that moved my retirement a little bit forward. But I’m here now, have a really exciting job and a great family, so I can’t really complain about anything.”

Before his move to Abu Dhabi, Lickrish was also a certified skiing coach and today remains an avid golfer, having taken up the game at the age of 12. But what is one of his favorite spectator sports?

“American football, even though I’m Canadian,” Lickrish said. “I’m a big Green Bay Packers fan, as well as the Las Vegas Raiders. The Raiders are my second team. It’s funny because my youngest brother basically kicked me off the Raiders fan club. He started buying me Green Bay gear for Christmas and birthdays so I had hats and sweatshirts and all kinds of paraphernalia, because he wanted to support the Raiders and we couldn’t both support the same team. So they were kind of my second team but over the years I’ve really grown to love them.”

With the NFL already staging overseas games in London, would American football be something Lickrish would like to bring to Abu Dhabi?

“I would never say never in Abu Dhabi because if someone wants to go for it, it’s going to get done,” he said. “Of course I would love to do one, that would be amazing, but I haven’t approached them at all. I would leave that to the Sports Council or the Tourism Authority because they’re the ones bringing in the huge international events.”

As part of Flash, Lickrish has also played a major role in introducing some of the world’s leading musical artists to the UAE capital. His love of music and involvement in the industry ran in parallel with his own sporting journey.

“Even in university I was doing events,” he said. “I was very into music — all types of different music. I know everyone says that, but I’d been to every kind of concert, including classical, opera, DJ, rock and hip-hop. I started putting on university cover bands and theme nights and then I really got into electronic music because two Canadians — Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva — were coming to London, Ontario. One of them lived there and the other in Windsor, just by Detroit. I kind of fell in love with their music and their label.”

Since 2007, Lickrish and Flash have brought the likes of Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Kanye West, Kings of Leon, Aerosmith, Prince, Paul McCartney, Gun N’ Roses, The Rolling Stones and many more to Abu Dhabi — first to the lawns of Emirates Palace and then, from 2009, to Yas Island, many of those concerts being part of the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend.

So sports or music? For Lickrish, there is no simple answer and no obvious preference.

“It’s hard to say. I love doing the sporting events for completely different reasons to music events,” he said. “I think the really big thing for me is to watch the crowds and see how much they enjoy where they are. You can tell. I always go for a walk and look at people’s faces because I can see how much joy this is bringing them and how emotionally connected they are.

“I just love seeing that on people’s faces — to just disconnect from their responsibilities for one or two hours and dial into whoever is performing, whether that’s an athlete, a team or a musician,” Lickrish said. “It adds to people’s lives and I take a lot of joy in that.”

Pandemic has spurred engagement with online extremism: Experts

Pandemic has spurred engagement with online extremism: Experts
Updated 28 min 8 sec ago

Pandemic has spurred engagement with online extremism: Experts

Pandemic has spurred engagement with online extremism: Experts
  • 7% more terror-related content reported in 2020 than preceding year
  • Most people referred to UK’s counter-extremism program have mixed, unclear or uncertain motivations

LONDON: Engagement with extremist content has proliferated over the last 18 months as people have been forced inside and online by COVID-19 lockdowns, experts have warned.

“What we’ve seen is evidence of spikes of online activity in a wide range of extremist issues during lockdown,” Jacob Davey, head of research and policy of far-right and hate movements at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, told The Guardian.

“It is not just terrorist material but a broad cocktail of online harms, as people spent more time indoors.”

Last year, the UK’s Counter-Terrorism Internet Referral Unit said over 7 percent more pieces of suspected terrorism content were reported to them during 2020 compared with the year before.

Paul Gill, a professor of security and crime science at University College London, said the nature of the terror threat was already evolving after the defeat of Daesh’s so-called caliphate in 2019. “That has meant there were already fewer directed plots and a rise in self-initiation,” he told The Guardian.

The on-off lockdowns of the past 18 months have only served to turbocharge this change, as associating in person became more difficult and social isolation from community and family created “a perfect storm of other risk factors for radicalization,” Gill said.

“If you have any grievance you can go online and find people who will validate your grievance, and make you feel like you are part of something,” he added.

An increasing number of terrorist attacks — or closely related cases — were “hard to define,” he said.

The UK is currently coming to terms with the murder of an MP at the hands of a suspected Islamist, but as Gill alluded to, the circumstances surrounding the murder are not immediately obvious.

Some have blamed Islamist extremism, while others cite a rising tide of online hatred against public officials.

According to MI5, Islamist extremism remains the greatest threat to British public safety, but other forms — such as right-wing extremism — remain a clear threat, as does the growing category of instances with a mixed, unclear or uncertain motive.

Of all referrals to Britain’s counter-radicalization program from 2019 to 2020, the latest period for which figures are available, 51 percent were in the MUU category, while the rest were split between Islamists and right-wing radicals, at 24 and 22 percent respectively.

Top executives of SoftBank-backed Ola to exit ahead of potential $1bn IPO

Top executives of SoftBank-backed Ola to exit ahead of potential $1bn IPO
Getty Images
Updated 32 min 12 sec ago

Top executives of SoftBank-backed Ola to exit ahead of potential $1bn IPO

Top executives of SoftBank-backed Ola to exit ahead of potential $1bn IPO

SoftBank Group-backed Indian ride-hailing firm Ola is set to lose two top executives, according to an internal memo seen by Reuters, ahead of a potential $1 billion initial public offering.

Chief Financial Officer Swayam Saurabh and Chief Operating Officer Gaurav Porwal are leaving the company, according to the memo sent to employees by Chief Executive Officer Bhavish Aggarwal.

Ola did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Aggarwal in the memo also announced several management changes across its mobility, vehicle commerce, and delivery and financial services units.

Saurabh, a former CFO of Hindustan Zinc, has been with Ola for seven months while Porwal, who has run the mobility business over the last year, joined the company in 2019.

Porwal will be leaving Ola to "pursue other interests", while Saurabh will be pursuing other opportunities, according to the memo.

Moneycontrol first reported about Ola's management changes on Tuesday.

Ola plans to raise up to $1 billion through an initial public offering in the next few months, according to recent media reports.

Founded in 2010, Ola also counts private equity firms Temasek and Warburg Pincus among its investors and competes with U.S.-listed Uber Technologies for a share of India's ride-hailing market.

The firm has since expanded into offering cars on lease and into the electric-vehicle space in the country.

Ola's electric vehicle business earlier this year launched a scooter and has charted out plans to produce kick scooters, e-bikes, drones and even flying cars. The unit raised more than $200 million at a valuation of $3 billion in September.

Apple to sell fewer iPhones as chip crisis bites: J.P.Morgan

Apple to sell fewer iPhones as chip crisis bites: J.P.Morgan
Image: Shutterstock
Updated 48 min 59 sec ago

Apple to sell fewer iPhones as chip crisis bites: J.P.Morgan

Apple to sell fewer iPhones as chip crisis bites: J.P.Morgan
  • The brokerage trimmed its iPhone revenue estimate to $63 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2022

 J.P.Morgan on Tuesday became the second brokerage in two weeks to cut its forecast for Apple Inc's iPhone sales for the crucial holiday quarter as the global chip shortage and factory closures in Asia finally catch up to the technology giant.

The brokerage trimmed its iPhone revenue estimate to $63 billion for the first quarter of fiscal 2022, which would be a yearly fall of nearly 4 percent, analyst Samik Chatterjee said in a note to clients.

Last week, Needham said it expected iPhone 13 shipments to total 80 million units in the first quarter and cut its estimates for the holiday quarter by 10 million units citing supply chain issues including the chip shortage.

For the fourth quarter, JPM expects iPhones to bring in revenue of $46 billion after selling 58 million units, marginally higher than Wall Street's forecast of $41 billion.

According to Refinitiv IBES, analysts are expecting about 45 million units for the holiday quarter and 79.4 million units in the first quarter.

While Apple has weathered the supply crunch better than many other companies due to its massive purchasing power and long-term supply agreements with chip vendors, supply chain bottlenecks and lockdown in some countries are hampering its production timelines.

Bloomberg News reported last week that the Cupertino, California-based company is likely to slash production of its iPhone 13 by as many as 10 million units due to the global chip shortage.

Customers wanting an iPhone 13 are already having their patience tested with one of the longest wait times for the phone in recent years, analysts said.

"We continue to see strong demand for iPhone 13 and 5G iPhone SE relative to low investor expectations to act as a catalyst, the timing of realization of which, although delayed on account of supply headwinds, is unchanged in magnitude," Chatterjee said.

However, Apple said on Monday that its two new MacBook Pro models, that run on more powerful in-house chips, and new AirPods 3, will start shipping next week.

Apple's announcement of hardware innovations for the holiday season despite the chip shortage showed the company was flexing its supply chain muscles, Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said.