UAE, China remain Saudi Arabia’s leading non-oil export destinations despite a decline

Update In the first quarter of 2022, Saudi Arabia exported non-oil goods worth SR11.52 billion ($3 billion) to its neighboring country, SR343 million less than in the fourth quarter of 2021. File
In the first quarter of 2022, Saudi Arabia exported non-oil goods worth SR11.52 billion ($3 billion) to its neighboring country, SR343 million less than in the fourth quarter of 2021. File
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Updated 30 May 2022

UAE, China remain Saudi Arabia’s leading non-oil export destinations despite a decline

UAE, China remain Saudi Arabia’s leading non-oil export destinations despite a decline

RIYADH: The UAE’s share in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil exports including re-exports dropped to 14.81 percent in the first quarter this year, down from 14.87 percent the previous quarter, according to the initial data released by the General Authority for Statistics.

In the first quarter of 2022, Saudi Arabia exported non-oil goods worth SR11.52 billion ($3 billion) to its neighboring country, SR343 million less than in the fourth quarter of 2021.

The drop is partly due to a decline in transport equipment exports, which made up 27.54 percent of the UAE’s share of (Saudi) exports in the first quarter this year. Exports in this goods group fell from SR4 billion in the last quarter of 2021 to SR3.17 billion in Q1 this year.

On the other hand, the Kingdom’s exports of machinery, optical goods and pearls to the UAE increased by SR330 million, SR170 million and SR99 million, respectively.

Despite the fall, the UAE remains the leading destination for non-oil exports from the Kingdom, followed by China and India.

Non-oil Saudi exports to China reached 12.22 percent, dropping from 13.26 percent from the previous quarter.

The Kingdom’s non-oil exports to China fell by SR1.1 billion to SR9.51 billion in the first quarter of 2022.

This drop is attributed mainly to a decline in the value of exports of chemical products to SR5 billion from SR5.87 billion in the last quarter. Exports of plastics and transport equipment also declined by a total of SR685 million. This decline, however, was partly offset by a $461 million increase in the value of base metals shipped to China in the first quarter of 2022.


UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official

UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official
Updated 04 February 2023

UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official

UN ‘unable’ to resolve conflicts, Jordanian official
  • Global organization needs to play a more “effective” role in ending regional disputes, said senate speaker Faisal Fayez

AMMAN: Jordan’s Senate Speaker Faisal Fayez has said that the UN is still “unable” to play its role in ending conflicts and crises, especially ending the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

On Friday, Jordan’s News Agency reported that Fayez’s statement came during a student workshop on the role of the UN and the goals on which it was founded.

He said the UN has been unable to end the Israeli occupation of Palestine and had not been able to take any decision regarding the crimes and massacres committed by the Israeli authorities daily against Palestinians.

“The UN is unable to end the conflicts and political crises in Syria, Yemen and Libya,” Fayez added.

The organization needed to play a more “effective” role in ending regional conflicts and enabling its people to live freely and safely, he said.


Michigan man says 6-year-old son ordered $1K in food from Grubhub

Michigan man says 6-year-old son ordered $1K in food from Grubhub
Updated 04 February 2023

Michigan man says 6-year-old son ordered $1K in food from Grubhub

Michigan man says 6-year-old son ordered $1K in food from Grubhub
  • Keith Stonehouse said his son ordered food from so many different places that Chase Bank sent him a fraud alert declining a $439 order from Happy’s Pizza

CHESTERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Michigan: A Michigan man says he was left with a $1,000 bill after his 6-year-old son ordered a virtual smorgasbord of food from several restaurants last weekend, leading to a string of unexpected deliveries — and maybe a starring role in an ad campaign.
Keith Stonehouse said the food piled up quickly at his Detroit-area home Saturday night after he let his son, Mason, use his cellphone to play a game before bed. He said the youngster instead used his father’s Grubhub account to order food from one restaurant after another.
The boy’s mother, Kristin Stonehouse, told The Associated Press on Thursday that Grubhub has reached out to the family and offered them a $1,000 gift card. The company also is considering using the family in an online promotional campaign, she said. Grubhub officials did not immediately respond to a message from the AP seeking comment.
Keith Stonehouse said he was alone with his son while his wife was at the movies when Mason ordered jumbo shrimp, salads, shawarma and chicken pita sandwiches, chili cheese fries and other foods that one Grubhub driver after another delivered to their Chesterfield Township home.
“This was like something out of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” Keith Stonehouse told MLive.com.
He added: “I don’t really find it funny yet, but I can laugh with people a little bit. It’s a lot of money and it kind of came out of nowhere.”
Keith Stonehouse said his son ordered food from so many different places that Chase Bank sent him a fraud alert declining a $439 order from Happy’s Pizza. But Mason’s $183 order of jumbo shrimp from the same restaurant went through and arrived at the family’s house.
Stonehouse said it took the arrival of a few orders of food for him to realize what was going on. By that time, there was nothing he could do to stop the orders from coming.
Kristin Stonehouse told the AP that Mason is extremely intelligent and has been reading since he was 2 1/2 years old.
“He’s very smart,” she said. “He’s not your average 6-year-old.”
She said her husband had just used the Grubhub app on his phone to order dinner before she left and probably just left the app open. She said her son took the phone, hid in the basement and proceeded to order his feast.
She said she and her husband had a talk with Mason on Sunday morning and told him what he did was akin to stealing.
“I don’t think he grasped that concept at first,” she said.
To drive the point home, she and her husband opened up Mason’s piggy bank and pocketed the $115 he had gotten for his birthday in November, telling him the money would go to replenish their accounts. That didn’t seem to faze the boy.
“Then he found a penny on the floor and said he could start all over again,” she said.
Keith Stonehouse said most of the food went into the family’s refrigerators. He said he also invited some neighbors over to eat some of it.
He said he’s heard of things like this happening to other parents, but not at the level he experienced last weekend. He recommends making sure important apps are not readily available for children to click on when they’re using a parent’s phone. He said he’s changing his password.
“I knew this could happen, but you just don’t think your kid is going to do something like this. He’s definitely smart enough, I just didn’t expect it,” Keith Stonehouse said.

 


Sushi conveyor belt pranks spark outrage in Japan

This picture shows plates of sushi on a conveyor belt at a sushi chain restaurant in Tokyo on February 3, 2023. (AFP)
This picture shows plates of sushi on a conveyor belt at a sushi chain restaurant in Tokyo on February 3, 2023. (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2023

Sushi conveyor belt pranks spark outrage in Japan

This picture shows plates of sushi on a conveyor belt at a sushi chain restaurant in Tokyo on February 3, 2023. (AFP)

TOKYO: A handful of unhygienic pranks at sushi conveyor belt restaurants in Japan have sparked stock slumps, venue overhauls and legal action, along with furious social media commentary.
Several videos dubbed “sushi terrorism” have emerged on social media including Twitter and TikTok in recent days, some of them apparently weeks or even years old.
In one, viewed nearly 40 million times on Twitter, an apparently teenaged customer licks the top of a communal soy sauce bottle and the rim of a teacup he then places back on a shelf, before licking his finger and touching a piece of sushi as it goes past on the belt.
The video, filmed at a branch of the Sushiro chain in the central Japanese city of Gifu, prompted stocks in the restaurant’s parent company to plunge nearly five percent Tuesday.
Other videos emerged showing customers at different chains putting wasabi on passing pieces of sushi or licking the spoon in a communal green tea powder container.
Though the incidents appear to be confined to just a few videos, they have caused an uproar in Japan, a country with famously high standards of cleanliness.
“This is sickening,” one Japanese Twitter user wrote in response, with another adding: “I can’t go to conveyor belt sushi restaurants anymore.”
In a statement, Sushiro said the teen behind the viral video had apologized, along with his parents, but that the firm had filed a formal police complaint.
“As a company, we will continue to respond firmly with both criminal and civil cases,” it said.
It said all the soy sauce bottles at the affected store had been replaced and all the cups cleaned, and announced new restaurant policies.
At the Gifu branch and others nearby, customers will now take utensils and condiments to their tables from a serving point, and nationwide, diners will be able to request disinfected tableware.
Two other affected chains, Hama-sushi and Kura Sushi, have also said they plan to take legal action, with the latter planning to install cameras above conveyor belts to monitor customers, Jiji press agency reported.
In Tokyo, 20-year-old musician Luna Watanabe said she was appalled by the videos.
“Omotenashi (hospitality) is an important selling point in Japan, so I think it’s unforgivable,” she told AFP in Tokyo’s upscale Ginza district.
“It’s harmful to customers and employees.”
But others largely shrugged off the incident, including Tetsuya Haneda, a photographer.
“As far as I’m concerned, it only happened once, so that doesn’t mean it happens all the time,” he said.
“It’s not a problem — on the contrary, now there will be fewer people waiting in line, so I won’t need to make a reservation anymore to go and eat, even on the weekend.”
Online too, after the initial outcry, there was something of a wave of support for the affected companies, with some tweeting their backing under the hashtag #saveSushiro.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Sushiro but haven’t been able to because it’s always crowded,” Japanese singer Yuya Tegoshi tweeted.
“But the situation now is the absolute worst for them, so I’m definitely going to visit.”
Sushiro president Kohei Nii said on Twitter he had been overwhelmed by “an outpouring of support.”
“I’m so grateful I could cry.”

 


Biden sounds ready to seek 2nd term while rallying Democrats

President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP)
President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP)
Updated 04 February 2023

Biden sounds ready to seek 2nd term while rallying Democrats

President Joe Biden speaks at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP)

PHILADELPHIA: President Joe Biden sounded like a candidate making his case for a second term Friday night as he rallied a raucous meeting of national Democrats who chanted, “Four more years!”
The only thing missing was an official announcement — that’s not expected for at least several weeks.
Speaking to the Democratic National Committee after a strong jobs report, Biden boasted about helping create a strong economy and said his administration had made the country’s most significant federal investments in public works, health care and green technology in decades. He also slammed Republican extremism, suggesting that party is still too beholden to former President Donald Trump’s Make America Great Again movement.
“Let me ask you a simple question. Are you with me?” a grinning Biden asked onstage in Philadelphia as hundreds of party leaders from around the country interrupted him with cries of “Four more years! Four more years!”
He later added, to nearly as loud applause, “America is back and we’re leading the world again.”
Biden has sought to seize the political offensive after a strong midterm election season for his party and as he looks toward 2024, with Trump having already announced another bid for the White House. It’s especially important given mounting pressures in Washington, including a special counsel investigation into his handling of classified documents and a Republican-controlled House eager to serve as a check against Biden and his agenda on Capitol Hill.
Speaking before Biden on Friday night, Vice President Kamala Harris was just as defiant about the GOP and its staunch opposition to issues like abortion rights.
“There are those who want to stand in the way of our momentum,” she said. “The extremist, so-called leaders, who want to distract and divide our nation as they ban books, as they reject the history of America, as they criminalize doctors and nurses and the sacred right to vote.”
At a DNC fundraiser before taking the stage, Harris referenced Democrats’ holding onto Senate control during fall’s midterms and reminded a smaller crowd: “It’s not the time to pat ourselves on the back. It’s the time to see it through.”
“And that’s going to take as much work, if not more, than everything that everyone here put into where we are today,” she said.
Looking to the future himself, Biden told the same reception: “No matter who is president, things are going to change radically in the next 15 years.”
“Are we going to be leading the pack?” he added. “Or are we going to be the end of it?”
Earlier in Philadelphia on Friday, Biden and Harris visited a water treatment plant and hailed $15 billion in funding to remove lead pipes from service lines around the country. That comes from a bipartisan infrastructure package, which is also bankrolling railway projects the president spent this week trumpeting.
“The issue has to do with basic dignity,” Biden said. “No amount of lead in water is safe. None.”
With the State of the Union address coming next week, Biden has renewed calls for political unity, something he’s acknowledged being unable to achieve despite his promises as a candidate in 2020. But those appeals haven’t tempered Biden’s broadsides against Trump and the former president’s MAGA movement.
“This ain’t your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said, adding that the GOP agenda was so extreme that “we have to keep pointing out what the other team wants.” Of Trump loyalists, he said, “These aren’t conservatives.”
That’s made some Democrats anxious to see Biden stay aggressive in touting his record.
“The president is trying to solve the problems of the nation on infrastructure, on microchips, on gun safety, on health care,” said Randi Weingarten, a DNC member and president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Compare (that) to the GOP, which seems to be on a revenge agenda.”
Biden’s speech comes the day before the DNC is set to approve an overhauled presidential primary calendar starting next year that would replace Iowa with South Carolina in the leadoff spot. New Hampshire and Nevada would go second, followed by Georgia and Michigan — a change the president has championed to ensure that voters of color have more influence deciding the party’s White House nominee.
The new calendar would be largely moot if Biden runs again, since party elders won’t want to oversee a drawn-out primary against him. Democrats have been solidly unified in their opposition to the new Republican-controlled House, while no major Democratic challenger is thought to be preparing to run against Biden.
Biden’s advisers haven’t waited for his official reelection announcement, already spending weeks making staffing arrangements and readying lines of political attacks against Republicans seen as early presidential front-runners, including Trump, who launched his campaign in November, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Alan Clendenin, a DNC member from Florida, said Biden has strengthened the economy, reestablished US global standing and promoted inclusive values — the opposite of what Trump and DeSantis stand for.
“They predicted gloom and doom. He’s proved them all wrong,” said Clendenin, who kicked off a DNC Southern caucus meeting by noting that Florida has begun lagging behind other states in key policy areas and joking of its governor, “That’s what happened when you’re led by the devil.”
Biden repeatedly denounced “extreme MAGA Republicans” as a threat to the nation’s democracy in the runup to the midterms and gloated a bit Friday about the results.
“People looked at me like I was nuts,” he said, referring to his repeated emphasis on MAGA Republicans last fall. “They’re nuts. I’m not nuts.”
The president, meanwhile, will have a harder time campaigning on future legislative accomplishments now that the GOP controls the House. A coming fight over extending the nation’s legal debt ceiling may only harden partisan clashes.
Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said he and the White House would continue talking about ways to avoid a debt limit crisis. But, referring to federal spending, McCarthy said, “The current path we’re on we cannot sustain.”
Biden has also suggested that simply bashing Republicans won’t be enough, however, noting that Democrats have seen their support among Americans without a college degree decline. He said Friday night that his party “stopped talking to” blue-collar workers.
“We have to get working-class people to say we see them,” the president added.
In a more lighthearted nod to the coming Super Bowl, Biden declared “Fly, Eagles, fly!” and called fans in Philadelphia “the most informed, obnoxious fans in the world.”
That would ostensibly include his wife, Jill, who is a diehard Eagles supporter.

 


Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
Updated 04 February 2023

Iraqis outraged after father kills YouTube star daughter

Tiba Al-Ali. (Social media)
  • Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared

BAGHDAD: The death of a young YouTube star at the hands of her father has sparked outrage in Iraq, where so-called “honor killings” continue to take place in the conservative country.
Tiba Al-Ali, 22, was killed by her father on January 31 in the southern province of Diwaniya, interior ministry spokesman Saad Maan said on Twitter on Friday.
Police had attempted to mediate between Ali — who resided in Turkiye and was visiting Iraq — and her relatives to “resolve the family dispute in a definitive manner,” Maan said.
Unverified recordings of conversations between Ali and her father appeared to indicate that he was unhappy about her decision to live alone in Turkiye.
Maan said that after the police’s initial encounter with the family “we were surprised the next day... with the news of her killing at the hands of her father, as he admitted in his initial confessions.”
He did not give further details on the nature of the dispute.
Ali had gained a following on YouTube, where she posted videos of her daily life and in which her fiance often appeared.
A police source speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity meanwhile confirmed that the “family dispute” dated back to 2015.
She had traveled to Turkiye with her family in 2017, but upon their return, she refused to join them, choosing instead to stay in Turkiye where she resided since, the police source said.
Her death has sparked uproar among Iraqis on social media, who have called for protests in Baghdad on Sunday to demand justice in response to her death.
“Women in our societies are hostage to backward customs due to the absence of legal deterrents and government measures — which currently are not commensurate with the size of domestic violence crimes,” wrote veteran politician Ala Talabani on Twitter.
Human rights defender Hanaa Edwar told AFP that, according to voice recordings attributed to the young woman, “she left her family... because she was sexually assaulted by her brother.”
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights too reported the allegation. AFP could not independently verify the authenticity of the voice recordings.
Amnesty International condemned the “horrific” killing, saying “the Iraqi penal code still treats leniently so called ‘honor crimes’ comprising violent acts such as assault and even murder.”
“Until the Iraqi authorities adopt robust legislation to protect women and girls... we will inevitably continue to witness horrific murders,” Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, Aya Majzoub, said.