Elusive Messi like ski star Tomba, says Poland coach

Elusive Messi like ski star Tomba, says Poland coach
Argentina's forward Lionel Messi warms up prior to the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group C football match against Mexico. AFP
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Updated 29 November 2022

Elusive Messi like ski star Tomba, says Poland coach

Elusive Messi like ski star Tomba, says Poland coach
  • “Messi on the pitch is like Alberto Tomba on the slope, he’s able to avoid everyone like Tomba can get around everything,” said Michniewicz

DOHA: Argentina star Lionel Messi is football’s answer to skiing great Alberto Tomba, Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said on Tuesday.
Speaking ahead of Poland’s final World Cup group stage match against Argentina in Doha, Michniewicz said his side would need to surround Messi to stop him.
“Messi on the pitch is like Alberto Tomba on the slope, he’s able to avoid everyone like Tomba can get around everything,” said Michniewicz.
“So we need to put players around Messi because if he can get around (them) easily he will easily score.
“One player cannot stop Messi, we must get players around him.”
Even so, Michniewicz says that may not be enough.
“The whole world has been thinking for years about how to stop Lionel Messi and he has made dozens of goals and assists,” he added.
“I don’t think we’ll ever find the final answer to this question.”
Poland have their own star striker in Robert Lewandowski, who is following in the Argentine’s footsteps as the darling of Barcelona, where he has scored 18 goals in 19 games this season.
Many have billed this as the clash between Messi and Lewandowski, but Michniewicz does not buy into that.
“It’s not only a match between Lewandowski and Messi, it’s not tennis,” said the coach.
“Robert needs his teammates, the same as Leo needs his. We rely on these great strikers but they cannot win on their own.”
Michniewicz admitted that as a fan he has long supported Argentina but said he would have no conflicting emotions during Wednesday’s game.
“Since I was a little boy I’ve always rooted for Argentina. They have great fans, a great team, huge personalities like Mario Kempes in 1978 and other players.
“There have been many ups and downs but I have always rooted for Argentina, although I won’t tomorrow.”


House GOP votes to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from major committee

House GOP votes to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from major committee
Updated 9 min 43 sec ago

House GOP votes to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from major committee

House GOP votes to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from major committee
  • House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was able to solidify Republican support against the Somali-born Muslim woman in the new Congress
  • “My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world,” Omar said in a closing speech

WASHINGTON: The Republican-led House voted after raucous debate Thursday to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee, citing her anti-Israel comments.
This comes in a dramatic response after Democrats last session booted far-right GOP lawmakers over incendiary remarks.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was able to solidify Republican support against the Somali-born Muslim woman in the new Congress although some GOP lawmakers had expressed reservations. Removal of lawmakers from House committees was essentially unprecedented until the Democratic ousters two years ago of hard-right Republican Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Paul Gosar of Arizona.
The 218-211 vote, along party lines, came after a heated, voices-raised debate in which Democrats accused the GOP of targeting Omar based on her race. Omar defended herself on the House floor, asking if anyone was surprised she was being targeted, “because when you push power, power pushes back.” Democratic colleagues hugged and embraced her during the vote.
“My voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world,” Omar said in a closing speech.
Republicans focused on six statements Omar has made that “under the totality of the circumstances, disqualify her from serving on the Committee of Foreign Affairs,” said Rep. Michael Guest of Mississippi, the incoming chairman of the House Ethics Committee.
“All members, both Republicans and Democrats alike who seek to serve on Foreign Affairs, should be held to the highest standard of conduct due to the international sensitivity and national security concerns under the jurisdiction of this committee,” Guest said.
The resolution proposed by Rep. Max Miller, R-Ohio, a former official in the Trump administration, declared, “Omar’s comments have brought dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York said Omar has at times “made mistakes” and used antisemitic tropes that were condemned by House Democrats four years ago. But that’s not what Thursday’s vote was about, he said.
“It’s not about accountability, it’s about political revenge,” Jeffries said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, went one step further, saying that the GOP’s action was one of the “disgusting legacies after 9/11,” a reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack — “the targeting and racism against Muslim-Americans throughout the United States of America. And this is an extension of that legacy.”
She added, “This is about targeting women of color.”
McCarthy denied the Republican move to oust Omar was a tit-for-tat after the Greene and Gosar removals under Democrats, though he had warned in late 2021 that such a response might be expected if Republicans won back the House majority.
“This is nothing like the last Congress,” he said Thursday. He noted that Omar can remain on other panels, just not Foreign Affairs after her anti-Israel comments.
Omar is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress. She is also the first to wear a hijab in the House chamber after floor rules were changed to allow members to wear head coverings for religious reasons.
She quickly generated controversy after entering Congress in 2019 with a pair of tweets that suggested lawmakers who supported Israel were motivated by money.
In the first, she criticized the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC. “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” she wrote, invoking slang about $100 bills.
Asked on Twitter who she though was paying members of Congress to support Israel, Omar responded, “AIPAC!”
The comments sparked a public rebuke from then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats who made clear that Omar had overstepped.
She soon apologized.
“We have to always be willing to step back and think through criticism, just as I expect people to hear me when others attack me about my identity,” Omar tweeted. “This is why I unequivocally apologize.”
Democrats rallied in a fiery defense of Omar and the experiences she brings to the Congress.
Black, Latino and progressive lawmakers in particular spoke of her unique voice in the House and criticized Republicans for what they called a racist attack.
“Racist gaslighting,” said Rep. Cori Bush, D-Missouri A “revenge resolution,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal of Washington, the chair of the progressive caucus.
“It’s so painful to watch,” said Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Michigan, who joined Congress with Omar in 2019 the first two female Muslims elected to the House.
“To Congresswoman Omar, I am so sorry that our country is failing you today through this chamber,” Tlaib said through tears. “You belong on that committee.”
Omar’s previous comments were among several remarks highlighted in the resolutions seeking her removal from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
The chairman of the committee, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, argued for excluding Omar from the panel during a recent closed-door meeting with fellow Republicans.
“It’s just that her worldview of Israel is so diametrically opposed to the committee’s,” McCaul told reporters in describing his stance. “I don’t mind having differences of opinion, but this goes beyond that.”
McCarthy has already blocked Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, both California Democrats, from rejoining the House Intelligence Committee once the GOP took control of the chamber in January. While appointments to the intelligence panel are the prerogative of the speaker, the action on Omar requires a House vote.
Several Republicans skeptical of removing Omar wanted “due process” for lawmakers who face removal. McCarthy said he told them he would work with Democrats on creating a due process system, but acknowledged it’s still a work in progress.


Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 

Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Arab News Noor Nugali and Arun Venkataraman. (AN photo)
Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Arab News Noor Nugali and Arun Venkataraman. (AN photo)
Updated 16 min 8 sec ago

Saudi-US trade ties can only go one way — and that is up, says US official 

Assistant Editor-in-Chief of Arab News Noor Nugali and Arun Venkataraman. (AN photo)
  • “What is most impressive is that we see Vision 2030 already being implemented. It is not just a vision; it is becoming a reality,” said Venkataraman

RIYADH: A senior US official remains optimistic that Saudi-American trade relations will flourish — in contrast to the dire predictions of many Western pundits that recent political disagreements might hinder the ongoing strategic and mutually beneficial 80-year relationship between the two nations.

US-Saudi economic relations can be taken to a “new level,” according to Arun Venkataraman, assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service.

“What we see here in Saudi Arabia under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is a spectacular transformation that began as a result of Vision 2030.”

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman meets with US President Joe Biden. (File/AFP)

Venkataraman expressed his pleasure at being able to witness the changes in person. “And what is most impressive is that we see Vision 2030 already being implemented. So, it is not just a vision; it is becoming a reality and I am so pleased to be here and see it in person.”

The reason behind his visit and meetings in Saudi Arabia was explained in this way. “We hope through our meetings to build on the existing commercial work plan designed to strengthen our commercial partnership, which is so critical, and which underpins the strong strategic relationship between our two nations.”

Furthering commercial relations is at the top of his agenda in addition to deepening the already existing partnership. “We know there are many areas for collaboration in the business between our governments. The opportunities we have, and the way they complement our economies and our private sectors, are so vast that we want to make sure we take full advantage of them. Only by doing so can we be sure that the actions will benefit both our peoples.”

Assistant secretary of commerce for global markets and director general of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, Arun Venkataraman. (Supplied)Caption

Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, the Kingdom has gone through significant transformations on several fronts, including the empowering of women and diversifying the economy. Venkataraman called the transformations “game changers.”

“We see women taking their rightful place in professional society and in driving the work of both the private sector and the government. In meeting both American and Saudi companies today, I was really taken with the fact that both groups of companies emphasized how much they depend on women to fill the talent gaps. In addition, they are looking to women to be the future leaders in their companies in Saudi Arabia.”

During his trip to Riyadh, Venkataraman held many meetings but what stood out the most for him was the Apple Academy at Princess Nourah University. “The first visible sign is noting how women have taken on a new role. In my visit to the Apple Academy, it was so inspiring to see the university supporting the young women’s skills development in a space that women have really not until now been present in, either in Saudi Arabia or the United States.”

US President Joe Biden can be seen during a trip to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

He was impressed with the level of skill the young women have acquired. “To see those young women develop the skills and start creating completely new apps out of the blue, and to see the passion and the pride that they exhibited in doing so was striking. That’s the kind of spirit and passion that is at the core of Vision 2030.”

Venkataraman noted that there had been diversification of the economy in many sectors. “We see that in the digital sector. We see that in the move to the development of clean energy, moving away from dependence on fossil fuels. We also see tremendous advances in healthcare, not only in terms of pharmaceuticals, but really looking at smaller, more cutting-edge areas of healthcare, like research, development and clinical trials.”

“I think we also see something of particular interest in the entertainment space. We know that Saudi Arabia has a long history of being a cultural leader in the region in terms of disseminating culture. To see it now, however, as it expands that role and gives our partnership special opportunities for American cultural industries, is really exciting.”

US President Joe Biden is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

Commenting on the recent Bloomberg report that the Saudi economy had grown 8.7 percent in 2022, he said: “Saudi Arabia had a fantastic year last year with a growth rate that we could only wish the rest of the world had enjoyed, particularly as we emerged from COVID-19 in 2022. Saudi Arabia’s growth was historic.”

According to Venkataraman, what that really shows is that “Vision 2030 is working. The intention to diversify the economy which the government is supporting is evident. It translates on the ground to what we are excited about from our perspective as the government pushes to diversify the economy.”

“We are proud that American companies have a role to play and can really greatly contribute to that diversification across a wide range of sectors. Such partnerships will further strengthen and underpin the strength of our bilateral relationship.”

US President Joe Biden is received by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a visit to the Kingdom. (File/AFP)

Venkataraman reiterated that relations between the two countries can only go one way — and that is up.

“I think we are fortunate to have such a strong broad-based foundation to our relationship. And what that means is that the commercial opportunities that exist are so vast that really, I see the opportunities as limitless. This is true whether we want to talk in terms of supporting Saudi Arabia through weapons sales, or whether we talk about supporting the movement away from fossil fuels by supporting clean energy development, or supporting the expanded role of tourism in the Saudi economy.”

“I think there are so many areas, both old and new, that will form the basis for the next stage of impactful, high-level economic activity between our two countries. I would say the future looks bright for our bilateral relations and I look forward to being a part of that relationship and facilitating it in the future.”


Iranian regime has ‘lost all legitimacy in the international arena,’ UK panel told

Iranian regime has ‘lost all legitimacy in the international arena,’ UK panel told
Updated 32 min 7 sec ago

Iranian regime has ‘lost all legitimacy in the international arena,’ UK panel told

Iranian regime has ‘lost all legitimacy in the international arena,’ UK panel told
  • Nationwide protests are ‘unprecedented,’ Washington Post columnist tells webinar attended by Arab News
  • Panelist: Iran is ‘stomping across the Middle East, it outwitted the West in Syria, and it controls a country bordering Israel’

LONDON: Iran’s leadership has “zero answers” to the population’s “very legitimate” demands, and its brutal crackdown on nationwide protests will shape society for years to come, a UK panel has heard.
The regime in Tehran is “perhaps the most insular and least qualified in the history of the Islamic Republic,” Iranian-American Washington Post columnist Jason Rezaian told a webinar organized by London-based international affairs think tank Chatham House.
Thursday’s event, titled “The Islamic Republic at 44” and attended by Arab News, was moderated by Sanam Vakil, Chatham House’s Middle East and North Africa program deputy director.
It included Rezaian; Azadeh Pourzand, director of the Siamak Pourzand Foundation, which promotes freedom of expression for artists, writers and journalists; and Kian Tajbakhsh, senior adviser for Columbia Global Centers, which are research outposts established by Columbia University in different locations worldwide.
Rezaian and Tajbakhsh, both dual nationals, have faced political persecution and imprisonment in Iran at different times.
Rezaian described the protests that erupted in Iran last year as “unprecedented.” The standard of living and quality of life in the country have “plummeted across the board,” he said.
“There’s no coming back” from the regime’s brutal crackdown, Rezaian added, referring to the killing of innocent people, including children, and the stifling of Internet access nationwide.
The origins of public anger lie in deteriorating economic conditions, with the Iranian state “no longer delivering on basic services” and “people failing to see their lives improving,” he said, adding that the regime has “zero answers.”
However, he warned against the West failing to enforce economic sanctions on Iran. “If we don’t activate the international levers of justice to hold the regime accountable, it (sanctions) is all for show,” he said. The threat of Iran’s nuclear capability is also an issue that “can’t be ignored,” Rezaian added.
Tajbakhsh said the roots of the “toxic relationship” between the US and Iran lie in the regime’s “extremely consistent and coherent” rejection of Western ties.
Panelists discussed the future of the Iranian protest movement, with Rezaian and Tajbakhsh predicting that the “culture war” in the country would shape society for years to come.
However, Tajbakhsh warned: “The bad news is that the regime has succeeded in repressing and controlling the protest movement.
“Protests remained restricted to a narrow band of people from their late teens to late 20s, and failed to expand to the urban middle class or the military.”
Pourzand described the nationwide demonstrations as a “quest of a people for an ordinary life,” adding that “dignity and quality of life” are the key demands of the public.
From now on, the regime, which “lacks any form of accountability” and has “lost all legitimacy in the international arena,” is “only buying extra time,” she said. The resilience and creativity of the Iranian people offer hope for the future, Pourzand added.
However, Tajbakhsh argued that the economic situation in Iran’s urban centers, including Tehran, “is often not as dire as presented by the international media.”
The protest movement represents only a small section of the country, he said, adding that the demonstrations and crackdown represent “competing visions of society that will clash over the coming decades.”
Tajbakhsh said: “The striking thing about the government response is its solidarity. There was almost no dissent from any senior officials or clerics, which demonstrated the remarkable unity of the regime.”
The high price of repression, the tolerable economic situation, and the lack of effective alternative political organization have made the middle class reluctant to join the protest movement, he added.
“If you look at Iran, it’s remarkably successful. It’s stomping across the Middle East, it outwitted the West in Syria, and it controls a country bordering Israel,” Tajbakhsh said, referring to Lebanon.
“It maintained this and has remained in power over many, many decades. It has avoided political fissures, circumvented sanctions, as well as provided enough economic welfare so that the stakes of the middle class to overthrow the regime are too high.”
It will never alter its behavior as long as it has the support of key regional allies, he added, warning that protests and revolts are “an ordinary day’s work for authoritarian regimes.”


Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks

Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks
Updated 02 February 2023

Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks

Israel’s finance minister confiscates Palestinian money to compensate Israeli victims of attacks
  • The amount to be deducted is double the amount normally confiscated monthly
  • This is not the first time that Israeli authorities have confiscated Palestinian tax revenues as “compensation” to the families of Israelis

RAMALLAH: Israel, which collects taxes on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, would use 100 million shekels ($29 million) from PA funds to compensate victims of Palestinian attacks, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich has said.
The amount to be deducted is double the amount normally confiscated monthly — $14.7 million — in the first such move since Smotrich took office.
Smotrich signed off orders, claiming these funds would normally be transferred by the PA to the families of prisoners and those carrying out attacks against the occupation.
This is not the first time that Israeli authorities have confiscated Palestinian tax revenues as “compensation” to the families of Israelis killed and injured in Palestinian operations.
On Jan. 8, Smotrich ordered the seizure of $40.5 million from the PA’s funds as part of the sanctions he decided to impose on the Palestinians.
The sums deducted by Israel between 2011 and 2021 under this clause reached $11 billion.
In 2022 alone, the total unilateral Israeli deductions from Palestinian tax revenues amounted to $450 million.
A senior PA economic official, who preferred anonymity, told Arab News that the Israeli decision to double the deductions would exacerbate the financial crisis the PA has been suffering from for over a year.
“This is a deliberate attempt to weaken and undermine the Palestinian Authority,” he said.
“Considering the rise in prices and the increase in financial obligations for public sector employees, the additional deductions will make the PA unable to even pay 80 percent of the monthly salary to its employees, which will weaken the security establishment and push people to support violence against Israel,” he added.
The authority, he said, had exceeded the limit allowed to borrow from the Palestinian banks, and it was concerned that if it continued to borrow, it would cause a shock to the Palestinian banking sector.
Ahmed Majdalani, Palestinian social development minister, told Arab News that the additional Israeli cuts would impact the private sector as well as the Palestinian government’s ability to pay salaries and provide welfare for impoverished Palestinian families.
“Israel is pushing the PA to the brink of inability to fulfill its obligations, which aggravates the Palestinian situation and weakens PA institutions, including the security services,” he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli forces have arrested 27 Palestinians from the West Bank, most of them from Ramallah, transferred five Jerusalemites to administrative detention for three to six months, and demolished two houses in Duma village, south of Nablus, in the northern West Bank.
Suleiman Dawabsha, the head of the Duma village council, told Arab News that large forces from the Israeli army, accompanied by a military bulldozer, stormed the eastern area of the village and demolished the homes.
At the same time, the houses of 15 more people were threatened with demolition.
In a separate incident, an Israeli settler attacked a child from Hawara, south of Nablus, with pepper spray.
The settler stopped Suleiman Al-Mukhtar’s vehicle on the main street in the town and shot pepper spray through the car window at the face of his 14-year-old son, Faisal.
The Wall and Settlement Resistance Commission said the month of January saw 150 attacks carried out by settlers against Palestinians, including an attempt to establish six new settlement outposts. It added that 72 attacks were carried out in Nablus.
Meanwhile, 160 Palestinian and American human rights and humanitarian organizations have called on the US Congress to stop funding the “massacres” committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people.
They stressed the need for Congress to take immediate political measures to stop arming Israel by ending its military funding.
Amnesty International has called on Israeli authorities to dismantle the “apartheid” system, which is upheld by “unlawful killings” that constitute “crimes against humanity.”
It also condemned other grave and ongoing violations committed by Israeli authorities, such as administrative detention and forcible transfer of detainees.
In its statement, the organization said Israeli authorities controlled virtually every aspect of the lives of Palestinians, “subjecting them to oppression and unfair discrimination daily through the fragmentation of regions and legal segregation.”
People in the occupied Palestinian territories are isolated in enclaves, with those living in the Gaza Strip cut off from the rest of the world by Israel’s illegal blockade, which has caused a humanitarian crisis, a form of collective punishment, Amnesty said.
Elsewhere, Hamas condemned the opening of the Chadian Embassy in Israel on Thursday, calling on Chad to review its decision, which contradicts the position of the country’s people, who have historically supported Palestine.
Separately, the Islamic-Christian Organization for the Support of Jerusalem and Sanctities denounced an attack by settlers on a church in the Old City of Jerusalem.
It described the vandalism of the church as “a dangerous transgression by the settlers toward everything that is not Jewish in Jerusalem.”
The Israeli police said the culprit was an American tourist in his 40s who has been arrested.
Press reports said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, during his visit, pressured Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to accept a security plan formulated by US Security Coordinator Gen. Michael Wenzel to restore the authority’s control over the cities of Nablus and Jenin, which have become centers of unrest.
The plan includes training a special Palestinian force to confront militants in the occupied West Bank.
“Such a security plan will never succeed because it has nothing to do with reality. The security problem in both Jenin and Nablus is not limited to suppressing those who resist Israel,” Jenin Gov. Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub told Arab News.


Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping
Updated 02 February 2023

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping

Meta accused of playing double game on data scraping
  • Tech giant filed lawsuit against data collection company it collaborated with for years
  • Evidence shows Meta hired firm to pull information from a number of e-commerce sites

LONDON: Meta is accused of playing a double game on scraping, with the tech giant criticized for having scraped data for years while denouncing the practice.

According to evidence that surfaced from a legal case being pursued by the company, the tech giant has been subcontracting a company for years to scrape data from other websites, despite publicly criticizing the practice and suing companies that scrape data from its own social media platforms.

In an ironic twist, Meta filed a lawsuit against Israel-based data collection company Bright Data for allegedly pulling data from its platforms, but a series of emails between the two businesses reveals that Meta has worked with the Israeli firm for years.

The professional relationship was confirmed by Meta spokesperson Andy Stone, who said that the social media giant had hired Bright Data to pull information from a number of e-commerce sites in order to build brand profiles, as well as identify “harmful websites” and “phishing operations.”

“The collection of data from websites can serve legitimate integrity and commercial purposes, if done lawfully and in accordance with those websites’ terms,” said Stone.

He said that Meta was not using Bright Data to scrape rivals’ websites, but declined to specify what websites users’ data were pulled from.

Stone added that Meta interrupted its partnership with Bright Data after it found that the Israeli company breached terms and conditions for carrying out the practice on Meta’s own platforms.

“Many companies scrape websites to retrieve data that can help them keep track of competitors, better understand a specific audience, follow market trends and compare prices,” tech expert and writer Marissa Newman said.

“However, scraping can pose a privacy risk when it targets personal information, such as contact details, and runs foul of EU law if companies do not make an effort to prevent that through technical and legal means.”

In recent years, Meta has cracked down on scraping practices and pursued legal action against companies that carry out scraping-for-hire services on its platform.

Earlier in January, Meta filed a claim against surveillance company Voyage Lab, claiming it allegedly created more than 38,000 accounts to collect data from over 600,000 Facebook users.

Bright Data CEO Or Lenchner said the two companies had a “long-lasting successful partnership,” adding that Meta “has long been a valued client of our proxy and scraping services for six years.”

The Israeli data collection company decided to file a countersuit, claiming that it followed EU and US regulations, and acquired only public information that was not password-protected.