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Special: UAE, Israel can make the desert bloom

In February of this year, months before there was any news of a peace treaty, Ibrahim Ajami, a courageous UAE investor, publicly invited Israelis to invest in his country. Many more invitations followed from business and government leaders in the Gulf.

As a serial entrepreneur who visited the UAE earlier this year, I am excited to accept these invitations and look forward to hosting my colleagues in the Gulf when they visit my hometown, Jerusalem.

These invitations are proof of the momentum that started well before the Abraham Accords were formally signed. We now have the opportunity to continue to expand business partnerships in multiple industries, including cyber, biotech, and fintech. We can make the Middle Eastern desert bloom and tackle environmental challenges by advancing water technology, desert agriculture, and solar power.

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Special: The trouble with fake news and how you can spot it

How does fake news come into being? Does someone wake up one fine day and go, ‘Today, I will create panic by concocting some news’? Or, is there a ‘fun’ element to it that ends up tickling the panic bone of society? What is the motivation behind fake news? There is no fame involved, for once the fake spreads or gets debunked, no one honours its creator for making up news. There is no money involved, for no one traces its author to give away a prize.

Is it a guessing game that offers some kind of toxic satisfaction for having ‘predicted’ something, even if it comes at the expense of having got 99.99 per cent guesses wrong? Are ‘I told you so’ bragging rights worth sending your fellow community members into a tizzy of concern and confusion?

Is the motivation for fake news spite? Revenge? Jealousy? Why would anyone in the right frame of mind cause anxiety among people?

Perhaps it is some random person thinking out loud. Maybe there is an evolution process for fake news that begins with a question. ‘Is such and such thing being planned?’ evolves to, ‘Such and such thing is being planned’, and finally to ‘Such and such thing has been rolled out’.

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Coronavirus news bulletin from UAE: Dubai fines businesses for Covid violations; resident recounts ordeal as patient; tourists back in Dubai

Here’s a round-up of all the latest Covid-19 developments you need to know:

UAE reports 851 Covid-19 cases, 868 recoveries, 1 death
The UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention on Sunday reported 851 cases of the Covid-19 coronavirus, along with 868 recoveries. One death was also reported. More than 106,000 new Covid-19 tests have been carried out, the ministry added, taking the total to over 9.3 million tests UAE so far. Yesterday, the UAE rubbished a tweet attributed to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) warning about “another lockdown”. The ministry posted a screenshot of the fake tweet with a ‘FALSE NEWS’ stamp above it. The fake tweet reads: “(Sic) Due to steadily increasing coronavirus cases, we’ve decided impose another lockdown with immediate effect starting from Sunday and urge everyone to self quarantine.  

Fines of up to Dh250,000 for Abu Dhabi schools violating Covid-19 safety measures
Fines of up to Dh250,000 will be imposed on private schools found not complying with the Covid-19 safety guidelines issued for the reopening of campuses for in-class lessons, according to education regulators. The Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (Adek) confirmed to Khaleej Times on Sunday that it had issued out the list of penalties to private schools in the emirate, which includes hefty fines if a school fails to comply with the health and safety measures issued earlier for the reopening of schools. The safety guidelines were intended to provide a safe learning environment for students and the school community amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mixed emotions as students in Sharjah step into school campuses again
Schools in Sharjah welcomed students on campus for their first socially-distanced classes. Children were brought in by parents or were seen getting off from school buses with a series of safety precautions in place. Yellow buses were less than half full as part of the physical distancing measures and parents were halted beyond a point on the building premises. Students were greeted with temperature checks at the entrance, while sanitiser dispensers lined the hallways. Stickers and signs on the floors and walls helped ensure that they kept their physical distance and break times meant students remained inside classrooms. Meanwhile, there was a visible mixture of regular back-to-school excitement and anxiety on Sunday. 

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Trump did not pay taxes years before presidency, claims report

President Donald Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, after years of reporting heavy losses from his business enterprises to offset hundreds of millions of dollars in income, the New York Times reported on Sunday, citing tax-return data. In a report that Trump dismissed as “fake news,” the Times said the Republican president also paid no federal income taxes in 10 of the previous 15 years through 2017, despite receiving $427.4 million through 2018 from his reality television program and other endorsement and licensing deals.

The disclosure of previously private tax information came little more than a month before the November 3 election between Trump and Democrat Joe Biden. Democrats were quick to seize on the report to paint Trump as a tax dodger and raise questions about his carefully groomed image as a savvy businessman.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer took to Twitter to ask Americans to raise their hands if they paid more in federal income tax than Trump.

He also previously indicated he preferred to minimize his tax bill, saying in a 2016 presidential debate it made him “smart.”

The Times reported that Trump was able to minimize his tax bill by reporting heavy losses across his business empire. It said he claimed $47.4 million in losses in 2018, despite saying he had income of at least $434.9 million in a financial disclosure that year.

The Times said it had obtained tax-return data covering over two decades for Trump and companies within his business organization. It did not have information about his personal returns from 2018 or 2019.

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IPL: Mumbai Indians win toss, to field against RCB

Click here for all the live updates from the match.

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IPL live score: Mumbai Indians vs Royal Challengers Bangalore

Click here for all the live updates from the match.

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Exclusive: India cracks down on drugs after Bollywood scandal

The Bollywood drug scandal has sent shockwaves across India and the Kannada film industry in South India (Sandalwood) also finds itself in the eye of the storm with a daily surge of allegations, denials and new revelations.

These have raised uncomfortable questions on how deep the rot has spread as police and counter-narcotics agencies piece together evidence and launch raids across the country.

Five states – Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Andhra – are sharing information on drug cartels, their suppliers, the modus operandi, and users in the Indian film industry. More than 630 cases of possession of marijuana and other psychotropic substances, peddling and sourcing have been filed in 2020 in these states this year alone.

Police say 130 suspects have been arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, (NDPS Act). Names of film actors, their facilitators, and people who act as conduits and agents have come up, and sleuths are pursuing leads in the case. Top Bollywood actors like Deepika Padukone and Shraddha Kapoor have been quizzed by officials for their role.

Two Kannada actors, Ragini Dwivedi and Sanjjanaa Galrani were earlier taken into custody on drug charges under the NDPS Act. They were remanded in judicial custody for 14 days in Bengaluru. A male model, Niyaz Ahmed from Kerala, event managers Viren Khanna and Ravishankar, were also remanded in police custody.

It all began with the suspicious death of Bollywood actor Sushanth Singh Rajput in June. The actor’s alleged suicide has now snowballed into a massive drug scandal and could have international ramifications following the arrest of Albanian drugs smuggler Denis Matoshi by the Dubai Police last week.

Indian Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) sources said Matoshi was involved in the Indian drug trade as well and they are working with the Interpol to piece together the missing links to Bollywood and Sandalwood. “We have launched a multi-agency swoop in Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Mysuru. Police are coordinating their efforts in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra,” said Karnataka state Director General of Police Praveen Sood to Khaleej Times.

The Indian Coast Guard, Coastal Security Police and local police are coordinating effortrs to counter smuggling of drugs into the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone.

“We are certain that there is an international connection to this drug trafficking and are taking it up at all levels,” Sood said. There have been 330 cases of ganja smuggling in the four districts of Kasargod, Mangalore, Udupi and Uttara Kannada districts in 2020 so far, which is concerning, according to the police officer

What’s worse, in cities like Bengaluru, Mangaluru and Kochi, college students are taking to peddling drugs, more so during the pandemic. “We arrested 180 persons
who are peddlers and smugglers. Some of them are youngsters of college-going age.” said Vikash Kumar, Commissioner of Police in Mangaluru.

In July, police recovered 200 kgs of marijuana. Our focus now is on MDMA, popularly known as Ecstacy,” Shilpa Dyavaiah, Superintendent of Police, Kasargod, in
Kerala state told Khaleej Times. 

Police, meanwhile, have been getting information about marijuana grown in forests and even in cultivable fields. People living in the Western Ghats region and the plains of interior Karnataka have been calling local police stations informing them about the large-scale cultivation and processing of marijuana.

The writer is a senior journalist based on Mangaluru, India.

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Markets wary of coronavirus spike, US presidential debate

Chinese stocks drove Asian markets higher on Monday, though sentiment was still cautious ahead of a US Presidential debate and as a spike in new coronavirus cases undermined global economic recovery hopes.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan advanced 0.5 per cent to 550.47, but still within striking distance of a two-month low of 543.66 hit last week.
The index is set to end the month deep in the red after three straight monthly gains as the pandemic continues to wreak economic havoc around the world and raises investor anxiety about sky-high valuations.

Chinese shares opened higher and helped to underpin Asian markets after a tentative start, with the blue-chip CSI 300 index up 0.85 per cent. Shanghai’s SSE climbed 0.5 per cent.

Encouragingly, data over the weekend showed profits at China’s industrial firms grew for the fourth straight month in August buoyed in part by a rebound in commodities prices and equipment manufacturing.

Elsewhere, Japan’s Nikkei was 0.75 per cent higher, partly on a lower yen, while South Korea’s KOSPI index gained 1.1 per cent.

Australia’s main share index reversed early losses to edge up, led by positive news on the coronavirus front with new infections in the country’s second-most populous state of Victoria down sharply and allowing authorities to ease some of the mobility restrictions.

The broad gains in Asia follow a Wall Street rally on Friday though analysts expect the gains to be short-lived as expectations for economic growth start to falter.

Particularly worrying is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Europe, dousing earlier hopes that authorities might have started to exert some control on the outbreak and raising further strains on businesses already grappling with losses.

“Clouds have started to gather over the developed world as political uncertainty increases in the US and Europe grapples with a resurgence in COVID-19 cases,” Kerry Craig, Global Market Strategist, JP Morgan Asset Management.

COVID-19 cases are edging closer to 33 million around the globe with 1 million reportedly dead with Europe seeing a surge in new infections.

“While governments are loathe to re-introduce nationwide lockdowns, localised and sector based restrictions may last for some time, restraining economic activity,” Craig added.
Investor focus will next be on the first debate between US President Donald Trump and rival Joe Biden on Tuesday ahead of the November election.

A strong performance in Tuesday’s debate by Biden, who currently has a modest lead in betting odds and polls, might boost stocks related to global trade and renewable energy, while a perceived victory by Trump could benefit fossil fuel and defense companies.

Market focus will also be on progress on a new fiscal support package in the United States while investors will be closely watching UK-Europe post-Brexit trade talks as they continue this week.

In currencies, the dollar eased from a near a two-week high against the Japanese yen to 105.44.

The euro was last at $1.1628, not far from a two-month trough of $.1611 touched on Friday.

The British pound rose 0.1 per cent to $1.2760.

The risk sensitive Australian dollar was slightly firmer at $0.7052 after falling for six consecutive sessions as odds narrowed over the prospect of further monetary policy easing in the country.

In commodities, oil prices came under pressure as renewed mobility curbs in various countries to contain a resurgence of coronavirus cases cloud the outlook on fuel demand recovery.

US Brent crude slipped 18 cents to $41.74 a barrel while US light crude was down 19 cents at $40.06.

Gold was a shade higher at $1,861.8, still some way off an all-time peak of above $2,000 an ounce touched in August.

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15 Saudi prisoners to be released by Houthis: Arab Coalition

The Arab coalition forces to Restore the Legitimate Government in Yemen said that 15 Saudi prisoners are to be released by Houthis, adding that the prisoner swap is in line with the Stockholm agreement.

The official spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen Colonel Turki Al Maliki said in a press conference here on Sunday that the Yemeni government will release 681 prisoners, and the Houthi militia will release 400, according to the Saudi Gazette.

“Fifteen Saudi prisoners of war will be released by Houthi militia as part of the Yemen prisoner exchange agreement,” Al Maliki added.

Al Maliki said Yemeni prisoner exchange agreement also includes the release of four Sudanese.

He described the prisoner swap as ‘purely humanitarian’. The Coalition called on the Houthi militia not to undermine the efforts of the United Nation special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.

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’15 Saudi prisoners to be released by Houthis’

The Arab coalition forces to Restore the Legitimate Government in Yemen said that 15 Saudi prisoners are to be released by Houthis, adding that the prisoner swap is in line with the Stockholm agreement.

The official spokesman of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen Colonel Turki Al Maliki said in a press conference here on Sunday that the Yemeni government will release 681 prisoners, and the Houthi militia will release 400, according to the Saudi Gazette.

“Fifteen Saudi prisoners of war will be released by Houthi militia as part of the Yemen prisoner exchange agreement,” Al Maliki added.

Al Maliki said Yemeni prisoner exchange agreement also includes the release of four Sudanese.

He described the prisoner swap as ‘purely humanitarian’. The Coalition called on the Houthi militia not to undermine the efforts of the United Nation special envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths.