About ducking time: Apple to tweak iPhone autocorrect function

Apple shares hit an all-time record Monday, putting the company’s market valuation just shy of $3 trillion. (AFP/File)
Apple shares hit an all-time record Monday, putting the company’s market valuation just shy of $3 trillion. (AFP/File)
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Updated 06 June 2023
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About ducking time: Apple to tweak iPhone autocorrect function

About ducking time: Apple to tweak iPhone autocorrect function
  • Texting tweak to stop changing some of the most common expletives

LONDON: One of the most notable happenings at Apple’s event for developers on Monday is likely the iPhone maker’s tweak that will keep its autocorrect feature from annoyingly correcting one of the most common expletives to “ducking.”
“In those moments where you just want to type a ducking word, well, the keyboard will learn it, too,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief.
The iPhone keyboard autocorrect feature has always had its quirks, sometimes taking a misspelled word while texting and substituting what it deems a logical option that ends up changing the meaning of a particular phrase or sentence.
Such occurrences generally produce follow-up texts along the lines of “damn autocorrect!” But the “ducking” substitution is a long-standing source of mirth or frustration, depending on how many times one has had to rewrite their own texts or scream at one’s own device (the iPhone cannot correct one’s verbal epithets).
Apart from the texting tweak, the company had a lot on its agenda — an expensive new mixed-reality headset, details on a revamping of its desktop and a laptop revamp.
Apple shares hit an all-time record Monday, putting the company’s market valuation just shy of $3 trillion, which would also be a record. Its gains of 280 percent over the past five years clearly demonstrates the power of the iPhone’s market share.
Of course, iPhone users have always had the option to turn off the autocorrect feature on their phones, which would allow its foul-mouthed users to be as profane as they want.


Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 3 journalists killed in Israeli raids

Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 3 journalists killed in Israeli raids
Updated 02 December 2023
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Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 3 journalists killed in Israeli raids

Gaza’s Hamas rulers say 3 journalists killed in Israeli raids
  • Gaza’s deadliest war began when Hamas militants on October 7 launched a shock attack on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials

GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Gaza’s Hamas-run government said three journalists were killed in Israeli raids on Friday as fierce fighting resumed after a week-long truce.
The government press office identified the three as cameraman Muntassir Al-Sawwaf, who worked for Turkiye’s Anadolu state news agency, his brother Marwan, who worked as a soundman, and cameraman Abdullah Darwish.
It said their deaths brought to 73 the number of journalists killed since the war began on October 7.
The Turkish agency confirmed Friday the death of Sawwaf and two others who it did not name in southern Gaza.
“We are concerned about the lives of our colleagues, who fulfil their duties with great devotion under very difficult conditions,” Anadolu general director Serdar Karagoz said.
“We will continue our struggle to ensure that those who carried out these attacks are held to account.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said earlier Friday that at least 57 journalists and media workers had died since the start of the war.
Gaza’s deadliest war began when Hamas militants on October 7 launched a shock attack on southern Israel, killing 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli officials.
Israel responded with an air and artillery assault on the Gaza Strip that it said aimed to topple Hamas and return more than 240 hostages.
The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said at least 178 people had died in the territory since a seven-day pause in hostilities expired early Friday and ground battles and Israel air strikes resumed.
During the truce, Hamas freed 80 Israeli hostages in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.
Hamas authorities say the Israeli campaign has killed more than 15,000 people, mostly civilians.

 


Spotify names Taylor Swift as Kingdom’s most-streamed artist of 2023

Spotify names Taylor Swift as Kingdom’s most-streamed artist of 2023
Updated 01 December 2023
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Spotify names Taylor Swift as Kingdom’s most-streamed artist of 2023

Spotify names Taylor Swift as Kingdom’s most-streamed artist of 2023
  • Adele’s ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ most popular song among Saudi listeners
  • Abdul Majeed Abdullah takes top spot on Arab artists list

DUBAI: Audio streaming service Spotify this week released its annual roundup of the most popular artists, songs, albums and podcasts streamed in each country over the past year.

“From gaming playlists reigning supreme to the fascinating connection between global music trends and local podcasts, it’s evident that Saudi audiences are not only embracing the world but also cherishing their roots, especially in the realms of Khaleeji music and the ever-expanding world of podcasts,” said Akshat Harbola, managing director for the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

This year’s Wrapped report marks five years since Spotify launched in the MENA region. In that time, streams of female artists in the Kingdom have grown by 9,150 percent, with Taylor Swift the most popular of all.

Assala Nasri and Sherine took the fifth and 10th spots on the most-streamed Arab artists in the Kingdom, while Balqees’s “Da Elly 7sal” ranked third and “Alfin Bab” by Oumaima Taleb eighth on the most-streamed Arabic songs list.

International artists dominated the most-streamed artists in Saudi Arabia, with Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and Lana Del Rey filling the top three places.

Saudis’ affinity for international music was also reflected in the lists of the most-streamed songs and albums.

Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain,” Jung Kook’s “Seven” and Interworld’s “Metamorphosis” were the top three most-streamed songs in the Kingdom, while The Weeknd’s “Starboy,” Metro Boomin’s “Heroes and Villains” and Adele’s “21” were the most-streamed albums.

Most-streamed Arab artists in Saudi Arabia

  1. Abdul Majeed Abdullah
  2. Rashed Al-Majed
  3. Khaled Abdul Rahman
  4. Ayed
  5. Assala Nasri
  6. Majid Almohandis
  7. Mohammed Abdu
  8. Ahmed Saad
  9. Abadi Al Johar
  10. Sherine

Most-streamed artists in Saudi Arabia

  1. Taylor Swift
  2. The Weeknd
  3. Lana Del Rey
  4. Drake
  5. BTS
  6. Travis Scott
  7. Cigarettes After Sex
  8. Metro Boomin
  9. Abdul Majeed Abdullah
  10. Jung Kook

Most-streamed songs in Saudi Arabia

  1. “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele
  2. “Seven” (feat. Latto) (Explicit Ver.) by Jung Kook
  3. “Metamorphosis” by Interworld
  4. “Kill Bill” by SZA
  5. “Alo Aleky” by Mohammed Saeed
  6. “Snowfall” by Oneheart
  7. “Another Love” by Tom Odell
  8. “I Wanna Be Yours” by Arctic Monkeys
  9. “Cupid” Twin Ver. by Fifty Fifty
  10. “Like Crazy” by Jimin

Most-streamed albums in Saudi Arabia

  1. “Starboy” by The Weeknd
  2. “Heroes & Villains” by Metro Boomin
  3. “21” by Adele
  4. “Midnights” by Taylor Swift
  5. “SOS” by SZA
  6. “Born To Die — The Paradise Edition” by Lana Del Rey
  7. “Cigarettes After Sex” by Cigarettes After Sex
  8. “After Hours” by The Weeknd
  9. “Proof” by BTS
  10. “1989” by Taylor Swift

Spotify users can access their personalized Wrapped experience on its mobile app and website.


Californian council meeting goes viral online after residents defend Hamas

Californian council meeting goes viral online after residents defend Hamas
Updated 01 December 2023
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Californian council meeting goes viral online after residents defend Hamas

Californian council meeting goes viral online after residents defend Hamas
  • Speakers express support for militant group as Oakland council members vote for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Israel-Hamas war

LONDON: A recent city council meeting in Oakland, California went viral online after speakers defended militant group Hamas.

And following debate, council members voted for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.

In a clip shared online, one person attending the meeting said: “Calling Hamas a terrorist organization is ridiculous, racist, and plays into genocidal propaganda that is flooding our media and that we should be doing everything possible to combat.”

 

Another speaker referred to the group as a “resistance organization that is fighting for the liberation of Palestinian people in their land.”

Tye Gregory of the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area later told The Jewish News of Northern California that the meeting had been the “most antisemitic room I have ever been in.”

British journalist Piers Morgan shared the video on X and accused the commenters of being “brazen terrorist sympathizers.”

During the city council meeting, lawmakers unanimously approved a resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in the conflict, the unrestricted entry of humanitarian assistance into Gaza, the restoration of food, water, electricity, and medical supplies to the Strip, and respect for international law.

They also called for a resolution that protected the security of all innocent civilians.


Over 1,000 artists, including Olivia Colman, accuse art institutions of censoring support for Palestine

Over 1,000 artists, including Olivia Colman, accuse art institutions of censoring support for Palestine
Updated 01 December 2023
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Over 1,000 artists, including Olivia Colman, accuse art institutions of censoring support for Palestine

Over 1,000 artists, including Olivia Colman, accuse art institutions of censoring support for Palestine

LONDON: More than 1,300 artists, including Academy Award winner Olivia Colman and BAFTA winners Aimee Lou Wood and Siobhan McSweeney, signed an open letter on Thursday accusing cultural institutions across Western countries of “repressing, silencing and stigmatizing Palestinian voices and perspectives.” 

This includes “targeting and threatening the livelihoods of artists and arts workers who express solidarity with Palestinians, as well as cancelling performances, screenings, talks, exhibitions and book launches,” they said in the letter.

“Despite this pressure, artists in their thousands are following their conscience and continuing to speak out. Freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Human Rights Act and the European Convention of Human Rights, is the backbone of our creative lives, and fundamental to democracy.”

The letter cites several examples of censorship such as Lisson Gallery’s so-called postponement of a London exhibition by Ai Weiwei, Folkwang Museum’s last-minute cancellation of Anais Duplan’s Afrofuturism exhibition, as well as Saarland Museum’s cancellation of Candida Brietz’s solo exhibition in Germany. 

In addition, Hollywood producers announced their decision to remove actress Melissa Barrero from “Scream VII.”

In every instance, the organization stated that the reason for the cancellation was the artists’ support for Palestine, which is unrelated to their professional work.

Last month, the publicly funded Arnolfini, an international arts center and gallery in Bristol, decided not to hold film and spoken word poetry events organized by the Bristol Palestine Film Festival, due to claims the events might “stray into political activity.” 

The events have since been moved to other venues in the city. 

Letter signatory Hassan Abulrazzak, whose play “And Here I Am” is based on the life of a Palestinian actor, was canceled in Paris in October. 

He said: “This censorship is as frustrating as it is wrongheaded. Now is the time to listen to Palestinians, to understand what their lives are like.”

Film directors Emma Seligman, Hany Abu-Assad and Ken Loach, among many others, urged arts organizations to join calls for a permanent ceasefire and to “stand up for artists and workers who voice their support for Palestinian rights.” 

They accused arts organizations of a “disturbing double standard,” saying that “expressions of solidarity readily offered to other peoples facing brutal oppression have not been extended to Palestinians.” 

The letter calls on the arts and culture sector to publicly demand a permanent ceasefire, promote and amplify the voices of Palestinian artists, writers, and thinkers, stand up for artists and workers who voice their support for Palestinian rights and refuse collaborations with institutions or bodies that are complicit in severe human rights violations.

Award-winning composer Jocelyn Pook, Robert del Naja, David Sylvian and many others said they “stand in solidarity with those facing threats and intimidation in the workplace.”

They went on to warn that “many artists are refusing to work with institutions that fail to meet (these) basic obligations” to uphold freedom of expression and anti-discrimination when it comes to speech on Palestine. 

Two thousand poets announced a boycott of the Poetry Foundation in the US after its magazine refused to publish a book review it had commissioned. 

Artforum magazine is also facing significant backlash as artists and writers from around the world express their refusal to collaborate with the publication. 

Additionally, its editorial team has stepped down in protest following the dismissal of editor David Velasco, who had published a letter signed by 8,000 artists that called for a ceasefire and for “Palestinian liberation.”

Last Friday, UN experts said in a statement: “People have the right to express solidarity with victims of grave human rights violations and demand justice, whether from one side or the other or both.”

They added: “Some artists have been deprogrammed and censored for calling for peace, others have lost their jobs, and some artists have been silenced or side-lined by their own cultural organizations and artistic communities.”


‘Now, we can engage with our customers throughout the day,’ says OSN Group CEO on new Anghami-OSN+ deal

‘Now, we can engage with our customers throughout the day,’ says OSN Group CEO on new Anghami-OSN+ deal
Updated 01 December 2023
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‘Now, we can engage with our customers throughout the day,’ says OSN Group CEO on new Anghami-OSN+ deal

‘Now, we can engage with our customers throughout the day,’ says OSN Group CEO on new Anghami-OSN+ deal
  • New company will be powered by an integrated technology platform

DUBAI: Last month, OSN Group announced an investment of $50 million in local audio streaming app Anghami, which will see its streaming service OSN+ and Anghami merge to form one entity.

The deal, currently subject to regulatory approval, is expected to be completed before the end of the first quarter of 2024, combining over 120 million Anghami registered users and more than 2.5 million OSN+ paying subscribers.

“The move helps us scale very quickly,” Joe Kawkabani, CEO of OSN Group, told Arab News.

The new company will be powered by an integrated technology platform on the back end, which will “allow us to be more agile in terms of serving our customers and giving them a superior technological experience,” he said.

OSN is, however, taking its time to decide what the front end will look like. Both brands have different strengths; OSN+ is well known for premium video content, particularly in the Gulf, while Anghami is well known in West Africa and Levant, Kawkabani added.

“We want to leverage the strength of both brands and take our time to see what our customers want and make decisions accordingly,” he said.

This means that the companies have not yet decided whether they will merge both apps into one or introduce content from either platform on the other or some combination of the two.

Part of the uncertainty is intentional, Kawkabani said. “We have massive scale and great content, so we have all the right ingredients to go effectively wherever we want from here.”

He added: “I like to create strategic moves that give us the flexibility, and honestly at that point, we have to just listen to what the customer wants.”

The deal also “gives us an opportunity, through the combination of music and video, to engage our customers throughout the day,” he said.

The time and method of consuming audio and video formats can vary vastly, with audiences listening to music and podcasts while commuting, for example, and tuning into video formats like TV shows and movies at the end of the day, he explained.

“Now, we can engage with our customers throughout the day, and that will help us build a very robust foundation for our business,” he added.

And that is what ultimately matters to OSN. As Kawkabani put it: “We care a lot about engaged and happy customers.”

Approximately 37 percent of OSN’s customers in the Gulf are purely cord-cutters, while 23 percent are primarily traditional TV viewers and the remaining 40 percent are hybrid viewers, meaning that they consume content on streaming platforms as well as linear TV channels, Kawkabani explained.

The company has made several investments to cater to these various segments, such as launching an upgraded version of the OSNtv box this June, which provides both live TV and streaming channels through one device.

Western content performs extremely well in the Middle East, said Kawkabani. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” for example, broke the 2023 record for advanced ticket sales in Saudi Arabia.

OSN has capitalized well on this success, building exclusive partnerships with international studios such as HBO, NBC Universal, and Paramount.

When it comes to original content, the streamer wants to do more but is focused on quality over quantity, and that takes “time and patience” to build the kind of slate that can sit comfortably with other premium shows in its library, said Kawkabani.

Its first original feature film, “Yellow Bus,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this year where it was one of the 26 titles featured in TIFF’s Discovery program.

Kawkabani was reluctant to name a number when it came to upcoming originals “because managing volume on a streaming service is different than managing volume on a linear service,” with the former allowing streamers to produce based on audience feedback and the latter requiring broadcasters to account for the number of hours they need to fill.

He said: “There is no fixed percentage we’re working towards, but we’re going to keep on increasing year on year, quarter over quarter as we find new projects.”

Although global companies like Netflix produce hundreds of originals every year — with several local partnerships now in effect in the Middle East — Kawkabani remains unfazed.

“What they do doesn’t dictate what we do,” he said.

“We don’t try to emulate or follow the footsteps of others. We believe that from a local perspective, we have a better vantage point. We are from the region,” he added.

Bringing together its array of Western as well as regional content — such as Turkish shows dubbed in Arabic that are popular among audiences — with its local background, Kawkabani views OSN as a “gateway” for international companies in the region.

He also believes there is an opportunity in the Middle East for “premium local stories” and that is where “OSN can play a role in producing and broadcasting.”

The need for a “strong local streamer” is critical, especially as the number of streaming services increases, he said.

“Being a successful streamer and offering content worthy of subscriptions — or their (consumers’) time and engagement — is very hard, so we feel that we need to be one of the top two or three apps that customers use frequently and repeatedly,” he concluded.