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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin is to meet his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko in the Russian city of St Petersburg on April 3, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.
BEIRUT (Reuters) - Warplanes pounded rebel-held areas north of the Syrian city of Hama on Thursday in an escalation of air strikes, a rebel official and a monitor said, as government forces fought to reverse the insurgents` biggest assault in months.

Scott Cook Intuit

When Evan Spiegel asked Intuit cofounder Scott Cook to invest in Snapchat`s Series A round of funding, Cook was sure that the app would be a complete flop.

"I didn`t believe in the product," he told Business Insider during a recent interview. "Who needs disappearing photos? I thought he was dead wrong on the business."

In retrospect, Cook admits that he was the one who was wrong.

Spiegel is now widely heralded as a product visionary who has Facebook playing catch-up with copycat features, and he recently took his company Snap Inc. public at a roughly 25 billion valuation.

Despite not believing in the original idea behind Snapchat, Cook invested early (and still owns his shares) because of how impressed he was after a surprise encounter with Spiegel back in 2011.

Betting early on Spiegel

Evan Spiegel

Cook was a guest lecturer for a graduate-level MBA class on entrepreneurship and venture capital at Stanford. The class was conducting a case study on the original business plan for Intuit, the software giant behind services like TurboTax and Mint that Cook cofounded in 1983.

"This particular year, the class was struggling," Cook told BI. "The answers were not very good. They were not thoughtful."

Toward the end of the class, one student in the back of the room raised his hand.

"And he laid it out brilliantly," said Cook. "He aced it. He understood both sides, could speak to both sides, and could explain why ultimately we did not get venture funding."

The answer came from Spiegel, who was auditing the class as an undergraduate product design student.

"Watching him outperform the MBAs, that was pretty impressive," Cook recalled.

Cook was so impressed with Spiegel`s answer that he asked the class`s professor to introduce the two at the end of the class. He then invited Spiegel to help with a new product Intuit was developing for India while he finished his degree.

The product never took off, and Spiegel only sat in on a few meetings with Intuit before he dropped out of Stanford to work full time on what would become Snapchat. But Cook was taken with Spiegel, and the two quickly formed a friendship.

When Spiegel later approached Cook, who has a net worth of 2.5 billion, to see if he wanted to invest in Snapchat`s first round of funding, Cook agreed because of his faith in Spiegel as an entrepreneur.

"I thought he`d figure it out rapidly and he`d pivot to something that is good," said Cook.

Looking back, Cook attributes Snapchat`s rapid growth to the "innovative thinking" at the company, and how Spiegel has built on the app`s core concept of ephemeral messaging.

"It`s not just the original idea anymore of only photos," he said. "He captured the main essence of allowing people to create and share — hence Stories and lot of other things. And then what he`s innovated in is the advertising, creating stuff that`s consistent with the user behaviors and allowing advertisers to do what they want to do in a way that works for both."

Facebook Stories

Cook`s faith in Spiegel as an innovator was cemented after the 26-year-old famously turned down a roughly 3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a few years ago.

"We spent time together before he met with Mark," said Cook. "I`d say he surprised me there. It would have been very easy to say yes to that offer. And in hindsight, he clearly made the better choice."

So what does his decision to rebuff Zuckerberg say about Spiegel`s vision for Snap?

"I think it says that he thinks he`s got a lot more innovation that will outlast any rival. Why sell out when you see the things you want to do next and you`re excited about them?"

SEE ALSO: Facebook`s mimicry of Snapchat has become a confusing mess

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The fabulous and charmed life of 26-year-old self-made billionaire, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel

2017 audi a4

Audi announced on Thursday that it`s buying Silvercar, a Texas-based luxury car-rental service. 

No deal terms were announced, but in 2015, "Audi participated in a 28 million Series C investment in Silvercar," the German automaker, part of the VW Group, said in a statement.

"The two companies have worked together since 2012, developing and delivering innovative consumer mobility offerings under the Audi mobility, Silvercar and Dealerware brands," Audi said.

Silvercar only rents Audi A4s. 

"Audi and Silvercar share a vision for the future of transportation," Matt Carpenter, Audi of America’s chief financial officer, added. "This acquisition enables Audi to move forward with a progressive partner and continue our technology leadership into the next era of mobility."

The acquisition is the latest in a series of moves into the transformation of mobility by established automakers. General Motors and Ford have invested in or bought outright companies in the past year, and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has partnered with Google to develop self-driving cars.

"It’s no secret that Silvercar and Audi have a longstanding relationship," wrote Silvercar CEO Luke Schneider on the company`s website. "Heck, we’ve only ever rented Audi A4s. "

He added, "I believe, as does the Silvercar team, that we are on the verge of the most profound changes in the 120-year history of modern personal transportation." 

According to Audi, "[t]he companies expect approval of the transaction by responsible regulatory authorities, with the transaction concluding in the first half of 2017."

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here are the 4 best ads of Super Bowl 51

galaxy s8 phones

The Galaxy S8 and S8+ are here, and they`re making a great argument for a place in your hands and pockets.

However, you have a choice to make: Which model will be best suited for your daily smartphone antics?

I`ve compared the specs and differences between the two versions of the phone to make the choice easier.

Check it out:

SEE ALSO: Hands-on with Samsung`s latest flagship smartphones, the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+

Here are both the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+.

The regular Galaxy S8 has a 5.8-inch screen with 570 ppi (pixels per inch), which means it`s very sharp. It`s bigger than most smartphone screens, even larger models like the iPhone 7 Plus.

The Galaxy S8+ has a whopping 6.2-inch screen with 529 ppi, which far exceeds the size of most smartphone screens. Despite the lower ppi, there was no perceivable difference in sharpness between the Galaxy S8 and S8+.

The difference in screen size between the two phones didn`t matter much in terms of initial reaction, too. They both made me go "wow" when I first picked them up because of their screen-to-body ratio, which is at 83%.

Apart from their size, both Galaxy S8 models are identical in design and features, including:

- Water resistance

- Samsung`s smart AI assistant, called Bixby

- Curved edges

- 12-megapixel rear camera, 8-megapixel front camera

- Wireless and fast charging

- Iris and face recognition

- Compatible with Samsung DeX monitor dock



This is the Galaxy S8 in my hand, for perspective.

Here are the Galaxy S8`s dimensions:

- 149 x 68.1 x 8 millimeters (height, width, and depth, respectively). In inches, that`s: 5.86 x 2.68 x 0.31

Despite its large 5.8-inch screen, the Galaxy S8 actually feels like a smaller phone than it is. The Galaxy S8 is actually narrower – albeit by one millimeter – than the Galaxy S7, which has a smaller 5.1-inch screen.

That`s because Samsung gave the Galaxy S8 and S8+`s screens an 18.5:8 aspect ratio. That means the screen is taller and narrower than most smartphone screens, which usually don a 16:9 aspect ratio.

It is 6.5 millimeters (0.25 inches) taller than the Galaxy S7, but I didn`t find it too difficult to reach the top of the screen with my thumb when holding it with one hand.

This is largely because Samsung has narrowed the borders surrounding the screen to such a degree that the overall size of the phone isn`t that big, yet it has a significantly bigger screen.

The Galaxy S8 is the smallest model, but its screen is bigger than most large smartphones. As a result, it`s likely to be the sweet spot for most people considering buying Samsung`s new phones. It combines the comfort and ease-of-use of a normal-to-large-sized phone with the benefits of a large-screened phone.

Still, it may not please those who prefer smaller or average-sized phones, like the Galaxy S7.



And here`s the Galaxy S8+ in the same hand, also for perspective.

Here are the dimensions of the Galaxy S8+:

- 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 millimeters (height, width, and depth, respectively). In inches, that`s: 6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32

The Galaxy S8+ and its 6.2-inch screen is slightly over one centimeter (0.4 inches) taller than the Galaxy S8, which could make the Galaxy S8+ harder to use one-handed.

Indeed, the Nexus 6 and its 6-inch screen made it difficult to reach the top of the screen, where you`d swipe down to pull down the Android notifications shade.

At the same time, the Galaxy S8+ doesn`t feel as large as the Nexus 6 because it`s much narrower, which makes it easier to hold comfortably and firmly. And it`s just over one millimeter (0.04 inches) taller than the iPhone 7 Plus, which means anyone who likes larger phones will likely be happy with the Galaxy S8+.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged on Thursday that Washington faced difficult choices in the fight against Islamic State in Syria but sought to downplay differences with NATO ally Turkey over support for Kurdish militia fighters.
AMMAN (Reuters) - Syrian rebels have seized large areas from Islamic State in southern Syria in the last two weeks as the jihadist group prepares to defend its Raqqa stronghold in the north from a U.S.-backed assault, rebel commanders say.
ST JULIAN`S, Malta (Reuters) - Pro-European allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday set out a firm line on Britain`s exit negotiations, including an exit bill for London among the main priorities of the EU`s overall stance.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he expected to sign off on Thursday on building the first new settlement in the occupied West Bank for two decades, even as he negotiates with Washington on a possible curb on settlement activity.

amanda guidanceThe anticipation was palpable inside Verizon in the weeks leading up to the big launch.     

The forthcoming video service, to be called go90, was a quarter-billion-dollar bet that Verizon could evolve from a staid telecommunications company into a hip, Netflix-like digital native — and everybody wanted a piece of the shiny new toy.

The top brass from Verizon’s old guard jockeyed a bit with the executives at Verizon’s new AOL internet business for control of go90, but eventually it fell under Verizon veteran Brian Angiolet.

And while some insiders were skeptical that a millennial-focused app trying to bridge the gap between YouTube and Netflix would be commercially viable, many on the team also saw the magnitude of the opportunity.

“What attracted me was the potential reach, turning on the firehose” of Verizon, a former go90 staffer told Business Insider.

But in the first few months after go90’s October 2015 debut it became clear that the video service was not getting the expected traction, and the sentiment shifted inside Verizon from who could get the glory, to who would get the blame.

go90 3.0A year and a half after go90’s launch, Verizon is still trying to figure out the right chemistry to snag a massive audience for go90, after a series of missteps. The video service is still a big priority for Verizon, however, which sees it as the foundation for a variety of new video business models that will boost its topline.

But building an internet startup within the giant telecom company is no easy task and Verizon’s struggles are a case study in what can go wrong at the start. Go90’s launch was hampered by a lack of focus at a company eager to spend cash, but without a clear understanding of its audience, according to more than a dozen current and former members of the go90 team interviewed by Business Insider.

Verizon has taken steps in the last year to try and rectify the situation, including hiring key executives with experience in online video, as well as a total overhaul the guts of Go90’s technology, which debuted Wednesday, and is intended to fix some of the tech flaws that constrained the app.

That tech reboot came at a price: the firing of over 150 staffers in January, most of whom were the remnants of Verizon’s ~200 million acquisition of OnCue in 2014. These OnCue staffers never saw their internet TV product go to market, but were the force behind the original go90 tech and product.

Verizon is trying to close that chapter.

This, as go90 GM Chip Canter puts it, is “go90 3.0,” and it’s probably the app’s last real shot to make it.

Just make it work

To understand why Verizon stumbled out of the gate with go90, a good touchpoint is a small team of around a dozen members, hired shortly after launch in New York to watch videos and input metadata.

When Verizon debuted go90, it had tens of thousands of videos ready for users to watch. Except, they weren’t exactly ready.

Verizon ran into its first big go90 tech problem immediately. It was nearly impossible for people to sift through videos on the app, since they weren’t tagged with enough data to make them easy to find. If the video wasn’t being featured on the front page, it was lost in the swamp. The triage was to hire contractors, most in their early to mid twenties, to solve it with mainly brute force data entry.

That project was supposed to last for only three months, but stretched on over a year before finally being completed in December 2016.

Beyond the length, there was a haphazard and confusing nature to the whole operation, according to multiple members of the team. Partway through the metadata project, all the team`s contracts were supposed to end, but it was clear the job wasn’t complete. Management asked part of the team to stay on, but pretend like everyone was getting the axe.

“We all had to act like we were all leaving,” one former contractor said. “They asked us not to say anything.” Another former contractor confirmed that the half-dozen people on the metadata team who were staying on were told to lie, and act like the whole team was being let go.

From lying to coworkers to being unsure how long the project would last, it was an often baffling and disjointed experience for these contractors, and reflected an organization that was not prepared for the task at hand.

Guns blazing

Money was never the worry for the go90 team as it scrambled to create an advertising-supported video app designed to appeal broadly to “millennials.”

The idea was to serve up a mix of original shows and content licensed from other web and TV outlets. With a big checkbook and little oversight, Verizon spent more than 200 million on programming for the service, according to a former employee with knowledge of the matter.

Multi-million dollar content deals were made quickly, sometimes for big packages of shows that would run multiple years, another source explained. “They overpaid a lot,” the source said.

According to one former go90 staffer the large, rushed deals were a product of Verizon’s corporate culture. There was a sense that if the budget was not used, that money might be lost.

“They went in guns blazing [and] spent all the money,” a former employee said. The thesis was that if Verizon shelled out real money for quality shows, it would attract people to the platform. But the problem was that Verizon didn’t have a thorough understanding of the marketplace at the start, a former staffer explained.

Many go90 employees also felt a lack of focus in the target audience, which a former staffer said was once represented by a blue balloon and a pink balloon during a meeting.

And the initial studios producing shows for go90 were varied in how they viewed the platform. Some cared about viewership and the long-term prospects of the app, while others saw it as an opportunity to churn out one-off shows and grab the cash.

The initial content push was not an immediate success in attracting a lot of viewers, but did produce a few hits, former employees said. Originals “Guidance” and “[email protected],” a pair of high-school thrillers by Verizon investment AwesomenessTV, which appealed mainly to teen women, were touted as examples of what worked. Live sports, especially soccer, also proved popular.

But still, the general consensus on the team was, “Why would anyone come here?”

tagged go90

A different point of view

As the months wore on, however, go90’s management seemed to get a better handle on how to approach the market, insiders said. This was fueled by key hires of execs like Chip Canter, Ivana Kirkbride to run content acquisition in Los Angeles, and Steve Woolf, who all had deep experience with online video in places like NBCU, YouTube, and AwesomenessTV.

Canter agreed that, to some extent, the original go90 mandate was also too broad. Based on what has worked, go90 is now doing more specific targeting in areas that have show promise: live sports (and original shows around sports), sci-fi and gaming, music, and dramas (primarily focused on young women).

It took some experimentation to understand that. ”Some of the current-season TV that we thought would do really well” ended up flopping, Canter said, for example.

Go90 is also doing fewer “output deals,” which are for an entire slate of shows, and instead looking at individual shows or franchises, according to Canter. This more granular view works in tandem with a desire by go90 execs to program the service more like an entertainment company, where one show leads to another.

A few isolated hits isn’t going to cut it.

Another change in Verizon’s thinking was to not being so maniacally focused on the smartphone.

“I don’t think the position we will take over time is mobile-only,” Canter said.

Young people are watching a ton of video on their phones, but the freedom to watch on any screen is valuable as well. In this change in sentiment, it helps go90 that Verizon is eyeing a 5G future, where things like watching actual TV on wireless data could be more common.

go90 qb1

3.0

But apart from the content, one aspect that has plagued go90 since launch is “discovery,” or how people actually navigate the app to find shows.

“The search functionality was very poor early on,” one former employee said. “A lot wasn’t searchable,” another agreed. Go90 had tens of thousands of videos, but people were ignoring 90% of them, partially because of the tech.

Now Verizon has a new weapon it hopes will knock out a bunch of its go90 tech woes in one swoop: Vessel.

In 2014, Verizon bought OnCue from Intel for about 200 million, but never actually went on to launch OnCue’s internet TV service. That San Jose team served as the backbone for go90. But in January, it was cut loose by Verizon, when the company laid off 155 people.

The reason: Verizon is betting that the tech team of another ill-fated video service, Vessel, will provide the needed spark for go90. It’s a pivot to the “small, amazing [Vessel] team that we brought on,” Canter explained.

Vessel, which was cofounded by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, and launched in early 2015, was widely praised for its recommendation and discovery engine. The problem was it simply failed to find a big enough audience for its 2.99-a-month subscription model built around YouTube stars.

In October, Verizon bought Vessel, which had raised over 130 million from venture capitalists, for an undisclosed amount. Verizon then shut Vessel down.

In the few months since then, the Vessel team has “rebuilt the entire [go90] service,” Canter said, and the tech side is now run out of San Francisco instead of San Jose.

On Wednesday, go90 debuted the new tech, which Canter said will serve not just go90, but help fuel an entire suite of video apps Verizon will launch in the future. And while it does look different on the surface, many of changes aren’t things users will see, but are rather features on the backend.

It’s a “platform we can build upon,” Canter said.

vessel

Time to get going

With “3.0,” Go90 is at a crucial point in its existence. It has to distinguish itself — soon — as something that has long-term viability, as opposed to just something Verizon tried for a few years that didn’t work out.

One former go90 staffer described the cynicism of some veteran Verizon content people, on the go90 team, who felt they had been burned before. These people thought that, after its initial stumbles, go90 would “slog around for two to three years, and then die” when the money ran out.

“If you try to do everything, you don`t really do anything,” one former go90 team member explained. There’s no point in spending hundreds of millions of dollars if people can’t watch it, or don’t develop a specific love for your brand.

Now Verizon is hoping to shift that vibe back to optimism, with a clarity about what audience niches it’s serving, and an ability for those audiences to easily find shows they’ll like. The tech and the content are finally coming together, with specificity and personalization, Canter said.

At least that’s the hope.

Go90 had over 2.1 million monthly active users in the US, on iPhone and Android, in February 2017, and grew 2.2x year-over-year, according to app analytics firm App Annie. (Verizon does not disclose user numbers.) But it will have to get a lot more than that to be considered a success.

This “3.0” reboot could be go90’s last chance to get that right.

If you have any more information about what it`s like to work on or with go90, tip the author at [email protected]

SEE ALSO: How to make a new kind of hit TV show for the YouTube generation — from someone who did it

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo`s statue in Madeira is being mercilessly mocked on Twitter

club penguin island

Back in January, Disney broke a lot of hearts when it announced that it would be shutting down "Club Penguin," its 12-year-old online hangout for kids. And as of Wednesday, "Club Penguin" is no more.

Disney says that over the years, "Club Penguin" amassed "hundreds of millions" of penguin accounts, and even those who hadn`t played in many years lamented the loss of a place where they spent many hours as kids. 

"The fan base is absolutely passionate, beyond a level we ever anticipated," says Disney VP of Kids & Casual Games Jim Molinets.

But dry your tears, "Club Penguin" fans, because the game has already been reborn: "Club Penguin Island," a full-fledged sequel, is now available as a free download for iPhone and Android. Like the original, it`s free to play, but a 4.99 monthly subscription adds access to extra features and personalization options. 

The reason the original "Club Penguin" had to shut down, says Molinets, was that the browser-based game had been around for over a decade, and the aging infrastructure could no longer support the team`s ideas for improvement. Even the game`s smartphone apps were lackluster, at best.

With "Club Penguin Island," Disney is in this for the long haul. Revamped for the smartphone era with a graphical overhaul, it preserves much of the original`s charm, from snowball lobbing to impromptu dance parties. And under the hood, says Molinets, it lays the technical foundations for the game to "hopefully be around for another decade."

Here`s the trailer:

Versus Minecraft and Roblox

Still, in the time since "Club Penguin" launched, the world has changed. Over the last few years, games like Microsoft`s "Minecraft" and fellow decade-plus club member "Roblox" have captured tens of millions of smartphone gamers, many, if not most, of whom are the kids that Disney is trying to win over with "Club Penguin Island."

But Liza Wood, executive producer of "Club Penguin Island," says that the game is a "more focused" experience. Where "Minecraft" dumps you in a vast open world to do with as you will, and "Roblox" offers you a wide selection of player-made activities and games, Wood says that "Club Penguin Island" walks a middle path. 

club penguin island

It`s a massively multiplayer online game, where you and your fellow penguins are citizens of the titular island. There are quests to undertake, and storylines to follow, but you`re equally free to just hang out and interact with your friends in themed areas like a concert stage or a spooky campfire. Plus, Disney characters will make cameos.

And while "Club Penguin Island" is definitely not as open-ended as "Minecraft," there are new options for creating customized clothing, so you can personalize your penguin avatar in new ways. Wood says that beta testers of the game have come up with excellent work. 

"It`s been an amazing display of creativity for the children," says Wood.

club penguin island

On a final note, the original "Club Penguin" had a reputation as something of a magnet for online trolls, who would try to outwit and outsmart Disney`s content filter. Wood says that those trolls should beware, as Disney now has even more advanced tools for making sure that rulebreakers get out and stay out — key to Disney`s vision of "Club Penguin Island" as a safe space for kids.

And now, just for fun, here`s Benedict Cumberbatch, the star of Disney/Marvel`s "Doctor Strange," completely messing up the word "penguin" in a BBC documentary:

  

SEE ALSO: A video game that has turned players into 50,000-a-month entrepreneurs just raised 92 million to turn them into media moguls

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Disney just turned its famous Epcot globe into a real-life Death Star — and it even shot a laser

Al-Sisi and Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit 2017

Amid political challenges and security worries, Arab leaders gather in Jordan for the 28th annual Arab League Summit, held near the Dead Sea.

The agenda of the Summit was topped by the turmoil in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Islamic State (IS). It was attended by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura.

Egypt President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi arrived in Jordan to attend the Summit along with Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Al-Sisi has met with Saudi King Salman after months of tension in bilateral relations.

New Phase for Egyptian-Saudi relations

Having met several Arab leaders and held bilateral meetings, Al-Sisi’s meeting with Salman is deemed as the most important, particularly that the latter invited Al-Sisi to visit Saudi Arabia.

In October 2016, the tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia started in the UN Security Council when Egypt voted in favour of two rival resolutions regarding peace in Syria.

One of them was in favour of France’s resolution, which was backed by Saudi Arabia, the other one was filed by Russia.

Although both resolutions were not adopted by the council, Egypt’s voting in favour of Russia sparked the anger of Saudi Arabia.

Two days following the voting session, Saudi Arabia’s company of Aramco decided to cut its oil shipments to Egypt,

However, the bilateral relations have started to warm up again recently, with Saudi Arabia deciding to resume the oil shipments and Salman’s invitation to Al-Sisi.

The Declaration of Amman

Ahead of the meeting, Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that Palestine may introduce a new peace initiative during the League. However, it was quickly denied by the Palestinian authority.

Even though its flag was lifted, the Syrian seat was empty. Arab leaders have failed to reach a common ground for a solution in Syria, leaving at least 320,000 killed during the six-year war and millions displaced. For unannounced reasons, King Mohamed VI of Morocco did not attend the summit.

By the end of the Summit, the “Amman Declaration” that comprises 15 points was announced; it focused on the Syrian and Palestinian conflicts. The declaration said that the Arab countries will support peace in Syria and support all the countries that receive Syrian refugees. Also, they asserted their adherence to the two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The statement explicitly condemned and opposed the relocation of the embassy of the United States (U.S.) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying that it is “unacceptable”.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with Al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington DC in April.

Despite Trump being vague on his plans regarding peace initiative for the Palestinian conflict and saying that he is open to one-state solution, U.S. envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt met with Aboul-Ghiet prior to the summit and said that they had constructive discussion regarding the Palestinian conflict and a plan for a comprehensive peace in the region.

King Abdullah of Jordan, who hosted the summit after Yemen was not able to due to the turmoil, said in a speech that the Israeli settlements are hindering peace deals opportunities. He further added that Jordan will not allow any harm to reach Al-Aqsa mosque.

Ahead of the Summit, political analysts expected that it will not be fruitful and will be just another meeting of the Arab leaders to fail to reach consensus.

The last Arab League Summit was held in Mauritania after Morocco had withdrew from hosting the summit. Morocco stated back then that it will not host the summit because it is an event that implies that Arabs are in unity when it fact the gap between them is discrepant and wide.

 

 

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Thursday that the body of Kim Jong Nam, half brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been released to North Korea, bringing an end to a diplomatic spat that escalated over nearly seven weeks.
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has deported 10 potential attackers since January as part of a tougher approach toward failed asylum seekers after one of them killed 12 people in an attack on a Berlin Christmas market, security sources said on Thursday.
ARKHANGELSK, Russia (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday he was ready to meet U.S. president Donald Trump at an Arctic summit in Finland.
BEIJING (Reuters) - There was "no such thing" as man-made islands in the disputed South China Sea, China`s Defence Ministry said on Thursday, and reiterated that any building work was mainly for civilian purposes.
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu resolved a dispute with his finance minister on Thursday over broadcast regulation, an issue that had put a strain on the governing coalition and fed speculation of an early election.
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Jacob Zuma is considering offering to step down next year, at least 12 months before his term as South African president ends, under a deal with opponents in his ruling party that would see Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan leave office now, two senior party sources said.

Al-Sisi and Salman on the sidelines of the Arab League Summit 2017

Amid political challenges and security worries, Arab leaders gather in Jordan for the 28th annual Arab League Summit, held near the Dead Sea.

The agenda of the Summit was topped by the turmoil in Syria, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Islamic State (IS). It was attended by United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan De Mistura.

Egypt President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi arrived in Jordan to attend the Summit along with Egypt Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry. Al-Sisi has met with Saudi King Salman after months of tension in bilateral relations.

New Phase for Egyptian-Saudi relations

Having met several Arab leaders and held bilateral meetings, Al-Sisi’s meeting with Salman is deemed as the most important, particularly that the latter invited Al-Sisi to visit Saudi Arabia.

In October 2016, the tension between Egypt and Saudi Arabia started in the UN Security Council when Egypt voted in favour of two rival resolutions regarding peace in Syria.

One of them was in favour of France’s resolution, which was backed by Saudi Arabia, the other one was filed by Russia.

Although both resolutions were not adopted by the council, Egypt’s voting in favour of Russia sparked the anger of Saudi Arabia.

Two days following the voting session, Saudi Arabia’s company of Aramco decided to cut its oil shipments to Egypt,

However, the bilateral relations have started to warm up again recently, with Saudi Arabia deciding to resume the oil shipments and Salman’s invitation to Al-Sisi.

The Declaration of Amman

Ahead of the meeting, Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that Palestine may introduce a new peace initiative during the League. However, it was quickly denied by the Palestinian authority.

Even though its flag was lifted, the Syrian seat was empty. Arab leaders have failed to reach a common ground for a solution in Syria, leaving at least 320,000 killed during the six-year war and millions displaced. For unannounced reasons, King Mohamed VI of Morocco did not attend the summit.

By the end of the Summit, the “Amman Declaration” that comprises 15 points was announced; it focused on the Syrian and Palestinian conflicts. The declaration said that the Arab countries will support peace in Syria and support all the countries that receive Syrian refugees. Also, they asserted their adherence to the two-state solution for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The statement explicitly condemned and opposed the relocation of the embassy of the United States (U.S.) from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying that it is “unacceptable”.

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to meet with Al-Sisi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington DC in April.

Despite Trump being vague on his plans regarding peace initiative for the Palestinian conflict and saying that he is open to one-state solution, U.S. envoy to the Middle East Jason Greenblatt met with Aboul-Ghiet prior to the summit and said that they had constructive discussion regarding the Palestinian conflict and a plan for a comprehensive peace in the region.

King Abdullah of Jordan, who hosted the summit after Yemen was not able to due to the turmoil, said in a speech that the Israeli settlements are hindering peace deals opportunities. He further added that Jordan will not allow any harm to reach Al-Aqsa mosque.

Ahead of the Summit, political analysts expected that it will not be fruitful and will be just another meeting of the Arab leaders to fail to reach consensus.

The last Arab League Summit was held in Mauritania after Morocco had withdrew from hosting the summit. Morocco stated back then that it will not host the summit because it is an event that implies that Arabs are in unity when it fact the gap between them is discrepant and wide.

 

 

Tradeshift  Christian Lanng

LONDON — On one side sat Christian Lanng, the Danish founder of Tradeshift, wearing bright blue shoes, a dark jacket over a black t-shirt, and a baseball cap with futuristic symbols on it.

Opposite him sat Vivek Ramachandran, HSBC`s global head of propositions and trade & receivables finance, in a full suit, tie, and smart black shoes.

The contrast at Thursday`s press conference — jokingly referenced by Ramachandran at the start — was the perfect picture of the culture clash in global finance right now. Technology is reinventing finance and incumbents are increasingly turning to startup to help them navigate the change.

HSBC announced on Thursday that it is partnering with Tradeshift to offer working capital to companies that use its platform. Tradeshift offers a cloud-based software platform to help companies keep track on their entire supply chain in one place. Lanng likened it to Facebook, connecting up all companies that do business together, directly or indirectly, in one place. Founded in 2010, it already has over 1.5 million companies connected to its platform on both the buy and supply side and processes 500 billion in trade over its platform each year.

Ramachandran called the tie-up with Tradeshift "genuinely game changing in terms of supply chain finance" as it allows HSBC to lend to people much further down the chain.

Usually, banks will only offer working capital — the money needed to fund the fulfilment of big orders and contracts — to businesses with direct contracts with a large company. What if that supplier itself needs to buy its raw materials from another company? The supplier to the supplier — and often the chain stretches longer — could struggle to get financing.

Tradeshift`s platform allows the banks to see the whole chain, giving them more confidence to lend. The bank can see that order trail ultimately leads back to a big corporate like, say, Tesco or Unilever. HSBC were so taken with the product that they invested an undisclosed sum in the company last year. Santander is also an investor.

Ramachandran said on Thursday: "With the data we get from the platform, we can actually lend to the supplier knowing if they have a contract the buyer, or if they have a purchase order, we know the track record of payments and can see if they have an approved invoice."

Lanng likened the partnership to "bringing virtual [bank] branches to where the trade is." He praised HSBC as a partner, saying it was one of the few banks with the reach to satisfy the finance demands of Tradeshift`s customers globally.

Banks are increasingly teaming up with startups

HSBC is not alone in partnering with a fintech startup to help offer new digital services to clients. Santander has partnered with US online lender Kabbage. JPMorgan has inked a similar deal with online loan provider OnDeck.

And this week Barclays announced it has begun working with a startup ClauseMatch to help it manage compliance and workflow globally. ClauseMatch has been part of Barclays` global accelerator programme.

Fintech has exploded around the world since the 2008 financial crisis, due to a combination of cheap capital, finance professionals finding themselves unmotivated or out of work, and advances in things like cloud computing and machine learning.

Big banks initially saw fintech startups as pesky flies on the back of the corporate elephant. They then emerged as potential competitors. But increasingly incumbents are viewing startups as sherpas who can help guide them to a digital future.

Dirk Klee, the COO of UBS` Wealth Management arm, told Business Insider in February: "We as incumbents, we have long moved on to a full collaboration model.

"We are embracing fintechs and actually we believe that there is great innovation. We need to find very smart ways to partner up and improve our existing business model."

The Tradeshift partnership allows HSBC to do just that, stretching deeper into the supply chain than it could before to offer finance.

HSBC`s partnership with Tradeshift, which is available through Tradeshift`s platform, will be soft launched to European corporates from July, although finance will be offered to suppliers globally. HSBC plans to expand the partnership in 2018.

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Samsung Galaxy S8 Bixby

Samsung has touted Bixby, its rival to Siri, Cortana, and Google Assistant, as a major new feature on the Galaxy S8 and S8+, but the voice assistant won`t recognise British accents when the phones launch in the UK.

That means Bixby won`t be voice activated in the UK, at least at first. Samsung hasn`t specified when this might change, and product spokespeople didn`t seem to know at the S8 launch event in London on Wednesday.

IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo was given a "controlled demo" of Bixby on Tuesday. According to Samsung, he said, British English would be "available later this year," but could only recognise American English and Korean for now. "All those details aren`t clear, and whether you can activate Bixby by calling it isn`t totally clear," he said.

A Samsung spokeswoman said: "All Bixby functionality, bar the Voice Function, will be available to UK customers at launch.

"This includes Bixby Vision which allows users to identify objects the camera is pointing at, and Bixby Home. Its Voice function will be available in Korean at launch and U.S English from May, and will expand to more languages globally over time." 

According to an earlier Business Insider report, Bixby isn`t actually finished, nor does it integrate Viv, the AI assistant built by Siri`s creators.

Demo phones at Wednesday`s launch event came with a localised version of Bixby, which you could activate through a dedicated button on the left hand side of the device.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Bixby Vision

Pressing the button brought up "cards," similar to Google Now, showing information like weather or your steps.

Bixby is also integrated into the camera to create a visual search engine — point the camera at an object and Bixby will, in theory, identify it and bring up shopping links. Jeronimo cited another featured, where a user could ask Bixby to display photos taken in London, then sort them into a dedicated album.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ will launch on April 28 in the UK for £679 and £789 respectively.

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Have you ever seen a picture of a farting unicorn? Have you ever seen a picture of a farting unicorn, drawn by Elon Musk? Behold:

elon musk farting unicorn

Elon MuskOn Wednesday night, the Tesla and SpaceX cofounder took to Twitter to share an unusual image: A flatulent mythical beast, surrounded by smiley faces, a rainbow, and a car appearing to vacuum up the unicorn`s gaseous emissions.

It wasn`t just a stroke of inspiration that Musk felt compelled to share with the world.

Instead, the famous entrepreneur used the image to show off a new hidden feature in Tesla`s cars: Sketch pad.

Made today on Tesla sketch pad pic.twitter.com/Z8dFP2NN41

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2017

The feature is exactly what the name suggests — a sketchpad app that lives on the electric cars` touchscreens. It comes with the latest software update, V8.1, and it`s accessed by pressing the "T" three times, Musk said.

If you just downloaded V8.1, tap the the T on center screen three times

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 29, 2017

Musk didn`t come up with the farting unicorn himself, however. It`s borrowed from a mug he owns and shared photos of in February. (It sells online for 28.)

Rainbows, unicorns and electric cars pic.twitter.com/oGHkVUmpdi

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 4, 2017

It is, he says, "maybe my favorite mug ever."

The rear of the mug reads: "Electric cars are good for the environment because electricity comes from magic!" The magic of unicorn farts, apparently.

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Amir taaki darkwallet bitcoin

Bitcoin tends to attract anarchists and political radicals. But few are as committed to the cause as Amir Taaki — a prominent Bitcoin developer who is reportedly under investigation after joining an anarchist movement in Syria and fighting ISIS.

According to reports in the BBC and Wired, Taaki travelled to Syria in February 2015 to join the Rojava movement.

"When I found out there was an actual anarchist revolution happening in Syria, I felt, `I have to do that.` I was compelled to go help them," he told Wired.

Taaki was previously famous for his radical political ideology, and his work on DarkWallet — bitcoin wallet software that makes transactions using the digital currency private and untraceable.

Once in Syria, despite going out with the intention of offering technical support, Taaki found himself forced to fight instead."I got sent to the frontline. I had no training, and I was given a Kalashnikov. I learnt how to use a gun on the way, another Western fighter showed me," he said to the BBC. "I wanted to go elsewhere, where my skills would be useful."

He says he subsequently provided software training, designed a curriculum, and helped build factories. "My main goal with going to Rojava was not because I opposed ISIS, it`s because I support their [the Kurds`] revolution. I support their politics and their struggle," he said. "It is the only solution for lasting peace in the Middle East."

He returned to the UK in 2016 — and has reportedly spent the last year on police bail. The authorities are reportedly concerned that he may have traveled to Syria to support or join ISIS — something he strongly denies — and his passport still hasn`t been returned.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police told the BBC: "Everyone who returns from taking part in the conflict in Syria or Iraq must expect to be reviewed by the police to determine if they have committed criminal offences and to ensure that they do not pose a threat to our national security."

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LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit may not be a game-changer in the debate about Scottish independence, according to research published on Thursday that suggests Scots want similar outcomes as other Britons do from the United Kingdom`s exit from the European Union.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China`s Defence Ministry said on Thursday it was futile for Taiwan to think it could use arms to prevent unification, as the self-ruled democratic island looks to fresh arms sales by the United States amid what it sees as a growing Chinese threat.

David Goldberg

Facebook`s billionaire cofounder Dustin Moskovitz is funding the operations of a London startup called Founders Pledge, which encourages high-potential entrepreneurs to commit to giving to charity when they eventually exit their businesses.

Founded two years ago, Founders Pledge has convinced more than 800 tech entrepreneurs and investors to commit to giving at least 2% of their exit proceeds to a charitable cause. Pledgers include DeepMind cofounder Mustafa Suleyman, who sold his artificial intelligence research startup to Google for a reported £400 million, and Y Combinator president Sam Altman.

On the FAQ section of the Founders Pledge website, the company writes that it relies on a "small group of donors that provide monetary and in-kind support" to operate, without going into too much detail.

But at the launch of Founders Pledge in Germany on Wednesday, David Goldberg, the CEO of the charitable startup, told a room of entrepreneurs and investors that Moskovitz is providing Founders Pledge with the majority of its capital.

"Everything we [Founders Pledge] do is free," said Goldberg in Berlin. "We can do that because of some pretty incredible supporters. Some of our pledgers have given us money, but our biggest funding comes from one of the founders of Facebook, Dustin Moskovitz."

Dustin MoskovitzFollowing up with Business Insider by email, Goldberg said: "The grant [from Moskovitz] was made by the Open Philanthropy Project, a joint venture between Good Ventures (Dustin and [wife] Cari`s investment vehicle) and GiveWell."

A page on The Open Philanthropy Project`s website shows that it granted Founders Pledge slightly over 1 million (£810,000). Founders Pledge has raised £1.4 million in total, according to Goldberg.

"The Open Philanthropy Project awarded a grant of 1,032,947 over two years to Founders Pledge, executed through the Center for Effective Altruism, for general support," the page reads. "Founders Pledge is a new organisation, based in London, that encourages technology entrepreneurs to pledge at least 2% of their proceeds upon exit to charity, and supports them in making thoughtful and impactful decisions about where to give. This grant is intended to enable Founders Pledge to expand to Germany, France, and Sweden, and to hire a developer."

Moskovitz founded Facebook with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at Harvard University in 2004. He left in 2008 and became a billionaire when the company went public thanks to his share options. Today, he has a net worth of 11.4 billion (£9.19 billion), according to Forbes

Moskovitz also made headlines last September for giving 20 million (£16 million) to the Democrats in a bid to help them defeat now president Donald Trump in the US presidential elections.

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NOW WATCH: A mathematician gave us the easiest explanation of pi and why it’s so important

broken iphone 6s

If you get a phone call claiming to be from Apple warning of an iCloud breach, beware: It`s a trick.

Telephone scammers are cold-calling people, claiming that iCloud, Apple`s cloud service, has been hacked, and asking them to give up their accounts details.

They seem to be exploiting the recent headlines about a group of hackers who claim to have access to hundreds of millions of iCloud user accounts. (In short: iCloud wasn`t hacked, although bad password practices mean many people`s accounts are still vulnerable — but more on that in a moment.)

There are numerous accounts of people being called by the fraudsters online. Glenn Fleishman, writing for Macworld, says his wife was called five times by them. Twitter is full of similar tales — with some people falling for the phishing scam.

If you guys get a random call from "Apple Support" don`t fall for it guys. I just got hacked and lost all my money. pic.twitter.com/trcI4TKkHB

— steff (@steffartnieee) March 27, 2017

Have you gotten a call from scammers claiming to be Apple saying your iCloud infor was compromised... They called to Harris Jack 6 times! pic.twitter.com/PMberwR8yR

— Henry Rosoff (@HenryKIRO7) March 30, 2017

Gone Phishing: Twice today robot calls warning me of an iCloud breach with a Call back # 844-822-2855
Apple says this is BOGUS.

— Paul Bergman (@ThePaulBergman) February 28, 2017

The scam is a simple one. The potential victim receives an automated message that claims to be from Apple`s support, telling them there is an issue with their iCloud account or that it has been breached. They`re then put through to a human to "help" them.

Kiro 7 spoke to people in Seattle who were targeted who said they were then asked for "personal information," which could potentially give the scammer access to the victim`s account, allowing them to make purchases or do whatever else they want.

Or, as Macworld points out, these scammers sometimes direct the victim to install "antivirus software" — in reality, malware — onto their computers, and charge them for the privilege.

Apple advises its users that you should "never provide personal account information—including your Apple ID password, credit card info, or other personal information—by email or text message, and use extreme caution when clicking links in messages or sharing information over the phone. Instead, visit the company`s website directly or call them yourself."

These kind of cold-call iCloud scams aren`t new. But recent headlines have given them a renewed potency, as potential victims could see the news and become confused.

If you are an @Apple user and get a phone call about a breach in your iCloud act....it is a SCAM just hang up.

— Alison Reynolds (@BigAlPeoplesPal) January 8, 2017

Earlier in March, Motherboard reported that a hacking group claimed to have hundreds of millions of iCloud logins. Apple says it hasn`t been breached — meaning this data was likely to have come from a previous hack elsewhere, like LinkedIn.

The problem is that people keep reusing their passwords over and over. This means if a site where they have an account (e.g. LinkedIn) is hacked and their password is made public, then every other service where they have an account (e.g. iCloud) is now vulnerable.

And that`s the important point. In theory, phone scammers can`t do anything if you don`t give them your details or do what they say. But if you`ve reused the same password multiple times, then anyone might be able to gain access to your account.

Security experts recommend you use a different, strong password for each account, storing them with a password manager app if necessary, and that you enable two-factor authentication wherever possible.

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Geoffrey Hinton

Google is one of several multinationals backing a new 150 million (£120 million) artificial intelligence (AI) research facility in Canada as it looks to make further breakthroughs in the field.

Launched on Thursday, the Vector Institute is based in the city of Toronto, which already has a reputation as one of the strongest AI hubs in the world, largely as a result of the research efforts at the University of Toronto.

The institute wrote in a press release that it intends to produce more "masters, applied masters, PhDs and post-doctoral graduates in deep learning and machine learning AI than any other institution in the world."

Working with academic institutions, incubators, accelerators, and startups, the institute hopes that its efforts will result in new breakthroughs, jobs and economic growth.

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla ChanThe Province of Ontario has committed 50 million (£40 million) to support the institute but the majority of the funding —80 million (£64 million) of the 150 million (£120 million) — is coming from the private sector.

Google is one of several "platinum" partners that have pledged to give 5 million (£4 million) to the institute. Others platinum partners include IT consultancy giant Accenture and chip maker Nvidia.

The Chan Zuckerberg initiative, the investment fund of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan, has also pledged to support the institute with 20,000 (£16,000) a year.

"The opportunities for new discoveries in the field of deep learning are very exciting, and the applications are endless," said Google engineering fellow Geoffrey Hinton, who will serve as Vector`s chief scientific advisor, in a statement.

Hinton, a British-born Cambridge University graduate, added: "Now is the time for us to lead the research and shape the future of this field, putting neural network technologies to work in ways that will improve health care, strengthen our economy and unlock new fields of scientific advancement. And with the Vector Institute collaborating with institutes in Montreal and Edmonton we can do that here in Canada."

Ed Clark, chair of the Vector Institute board of directors, added: "The Vector Institute will confirm Canada’s world-leading position in the field of deep learning artificial intelligence.

"Consequently, it will spur economic growth in Canada by attracting talent and investment, supporting scale-up firms and enabling established firms to be best-in-class adopters of artificial intelligence."

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary said it will not withdraw new legislation to regulate foreign universities that a Budapest college founded by American financier and philanthropist George Soros says could force it out of the country.
PARIS (Reuters) - More than one in two French voters believe struggling Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon should drop out of the presidential race in favor of a rival left-winger who has overtaken him in surveys of voting intentions, a poll showed on Thursday.

Bahia Shehab, associate professor of professional practice in the Department of the Arts at The American University in Cairo (AUC)

The 14th edition of the UNESCO Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture to be awarded to Egyptian – Lebanese Bahia Shehab for her innovative use of Arabic calligraphy in street art, making her the first woman from the Arab region to receive this award.

Bahia’s project No, A Thousand Times No is a series of graffiti images centred on the one thousand ways of writing “no” in Arabic. Her artistic work in graffiti brings to the forefront issues pertaining to political and economic injustices, UNESCO stated, as well as personal issues and gender-based violations, reflecting her conviction that art is a tool for change that can provoke people to leave their comfort zone and engage in action for justice.

The work of the artist, designer and art historian has been displayed in exhibitions, galleries and on the streets of cities in many parts of the world.

The designs of the political campaigns “no to military rule.”  And “no to military trials for civilians” are all Shehab’s making.

In 2010, Shehab was invited as an artist to participate in an exhibition commemorating 100 years of Islamic art in Europe using Arabic script for her artwork. “In Arabic, to say “no,” we say “no, and a thousand times no,” she said during a 2012 Ted Talk.

“So I decided to look for a thousand different noes. On everything ever produced under Islamic or Arab patronage in the past 1,400 years, from Spain to the borders of China,” she said.

Nine months after the Jan 25 2011 revolution, the artist found herself spraying messages in Tahrir Square and in Cairo’s streets. She narrated:

“No to a new Pharaoh, because whoever comes next should understand that we will never be ruled by another dictator.

No to violence: Ramy Essam came to Tahrir on the second day of the revolution, and he sat there with this guitar, singing. One month after Mubarak stepped down, this was his reward.

No to blinding heroes. Ahmed Harara lost his right eye on the 28th of January, and he lost his left eye on the 19th of November, by two different snipers.

No to killing, in this case no to killing men of religion, because Sheikh Ahmed Adina Refaat was shot on December 16th, during a demonstration, leaving behind three orphans and a widow.

No to burning books. The Institute of Egypt was burned on December 17th, a huge cultural loss.

No to stripping the people, and the blue bra is to remind us of our shame as a nation when we allow a veiled woman to be stripped and beaten on the street, and the footprint reads, “Long live a peaceful revolution,” because we will never retaliate with violence.

No to barrier walls. On 5 February, concrete roadblocks were set up in Cairo to protect the Ministry of Defense from protesters.”

Shehab has received many other awards and honours throughout her impressive career, such as being named one of BBC’s 100 Women Initiating Change in 2014. She is a TED Senior Fellow, an American University in Beirut distinguished alumna and a 2016 Prince Claus Laureate.

The award ceremony of the Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture will take place on 18 April at UNESCO’s Headquarters. Shehab is to receive the prize along with French artist eL Seed.Both 

Established in 1998, the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture awards those whose achievements promote a greater understanding of Arab art and culture as part of UNESCO’s greater mission to foster cross-cultural exchange. Two laureates are selected each year by the director-general of UNESCO, with recommendations from a jury of experts in the field of Arab art and culture.

BEIJING (Reuters) - China said on Thursday that it blocked an Australia-based Chinese academic from taking a flight to Sydney this week to "safeguard national security" as fellow professors called for Beijing to allow him to return home.
ANKARA (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held talks with Turkey`s leaders on Thursday in a one-day visit to a NATO ally crucial to the fight against Islamic State but increasingly at odds with Washington and its European partners.

Samsung Galaxy S8 curved screen

Samsung`s Galaxy S8 will arrive in the UK on April 28 (or earlier, if you put in a pre-order now), along with its big brother, the Galaxy S8+.

Early reviews for the two phones are positive. Some people think the curved screen, which covers the sides of the phone, makes the S8 "one of the most attractive phones you can buy."

I disagree.

I found the phone frustrating from the moment I picked it up, though I did only spend a short time with it.

While the 5.8-inch curved screen looks pretty great when the S8 is sitting on a display table, the size makes the phone difficult to hold. I currently have a 5.2-inch phone, the Huawei P9, and I can just about manage to use it with one hand. The S8+ has a 6.2-inch screen, which is edging into tablet territory.

Samsung Galaxy S8

Even basic navigation felt cumbersome as a result.

For example, Samsung has removed the physical home button from the S8, instead adding digital keys at the bottom of the screen display.

And on the left side of the phone, Samsung`s added a physical button for Bixby, its new digital assistant.

Samsung Galaxy S8 buttons

It`s impossible to reach both the Bixby button and then reach the home button while holding the S8 in one hand.

So if you were to activate Bixby to check your diary, or the weather, you would then have to manoeuvre the S8 awkwardly in your hand to return to the home screen.

That problem might go away if Bixby could be activated by voice, but Samsung hasn`t added voice controls in the UK yet. It isn`t clear when this will happen, if ever. I`ll come back to Bixby`s unfinished qualities later.

The camera was another disappointment. It felt less immediately impressive than my Huawei P9, which came with a fantastic dual-lens camera when it was released in 2016. The S8 matches its rivals with a 12-megapixel rear camera and 8-megapixel front camera, which means pictures will look as good as any other current, high-end phone on the market.

One fun feature with the S8`s camera is the Snapchat-like filters, which I could see myself using.

Samsung Galaxy S8 filters

Samsung has tried to differentiate its camera with Bixby Vision, a feature that turns the S8`s camera into a visual search engine.

Point the camera up to a famous building, for example, and Bixby will (theoretically) suggest restaurants nearby and give you other relevant information. Until Bixby looks more complete and works properly, though, it`s hard to tell whether this is more useful or gimmick.

There are a few really neat tricks. The iris scanner on the front of the S8 lets you unlock the phone faster than a fingerprint scanner would. You can also unlock the phone using facial recognition, though this might be less secure.

Samsung Galaxy S8 iris scanner

And there`s no doubting that the curved, almost bezel-free display is really lovely when it comes to reading on the S8.

Samsung Galaxy S8 curved screen

But if you need something more manageable in the hand than Samsung`s jumbo phones, the S8 and S8+ probably won`t be for you.

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SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australian authorities told 40,000 people to evacuate to higher ground on Thursday as a storm system generated by a powerful cyclone that pummeled the northeast two days ago swept down the coast with heavy rain.
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities wrongly identified the slain half-brother of North Korea`s leader as a South Korean national and first alerted Seoul`s embassy in Kuala Lumpur soon after his death, sources familiar with the incident told Reuters.
GENEVA (Reuters) - The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt has passed 5 million for the first time in Syria`s six year conflict, data from the U.N. refugee agency showed on Thursday.
JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesia`s government has proposed issuing a decree to govern the domestic tobacco industry, a move that could sharply raise cigarette output in the world`s fourth-most populous nation, after a bill outlining the changes was opposed by the health ministry and anti-smoking groups.
TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan`s ruling party on Thursday urged Prime Minister Shinzo Abe`s government to consider acquiring the capability to hit enemy bases and to beef up missile defense, as North Korea defies U.N. sanctions with its nuclear and missile development.
BEIJING (Reuters) - China`s Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that Chinese President Xi Jinping would travel to the United States to meet President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Florida on April 6-7.
Archaeologists haven’t even had time to write up their findings for a scholarly journal about this ancient Assyrian tomb found in Erbil, Iraq.

Though the Islamic State group (Daesh) recently plundered and wrecked a few ancient Assyrian cities, fighters recently successfully defended Erbil in Iraq, known long ago as Arbela. In that city, construction workers uncovered a tomb containing two skeletons in three ceramic sarcophagi and another eight skeletons scattered nearby.

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain was in not seeking to threaten Europe when it said cooperation in fighting terrorism would be weakened if it left the European Union without a comprehensive deal, Brexit minister David Davis said on Thursday.
ANKARA (Reuters) - The arrest in the United States of a top Turkish banker charged with participating in a multi-year scheme to violate sanctions against Iran is a "completely political" move, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster A Haber on Thursday.
The remains of a mother and fetus were buried alongside those of two other children in the early days of the Black Death in Italy, however researchers cannot say for certain that they died of the plague.

We can only guess about the life and times of a young mother and two children buried with her, possibly felled by the first wave of the bubonic plague in the 1340s in Italy. They were all buried in a single grave excavated in 2006. We know she was expecting the birth of a baby. Later, after the putrefaction of her body and the placenta generated gases in her uterus, her dead body partially expelled the fetus, in what is known as a coffin birth.

An archaeological team that analyzed the skeletal remains of the bodies says the mother was 30 to 39 years old at the time of her death. The children, who may have been hers, were about 3 and 12. The fetus was about 38 or 40 weeks old. The researchers wrote that a post-mortem fetal extrusion, or coffin birth, is rare in the archaeological record.

The bodies were buried in a cemetery of the "ospitale" of San Nicolao di Pietra Colice, 45 miles (72.5 km) from Genova. It may have been a treatment center for people suffering communicable diseases. The woman and children buried together in the cemetery suffered from various ailments, evident to the researchers in the bones and teeth of the deceased.

Jeff Bezos

Good morning! Here is the tech news you need to know this Thursday.

1. Samsung unveiled its newest flagship phones, the Galaxy S8 and the Galaxy S8 Plus. It will go on sale in the UK on April 28.

2. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is now the second richest man in the world after overtaking Amancio Ortega and Warren Buffett, according to Bloomberg`s Billionaires Index. His rise to number two has been fuelled by a surge in Amazon`s stock price, which rocketed 50% in the past 12 months.

3. President Donald Trump has switched from an Android device to an iPhone. The Apple device should be more secure than the ageing device he was previously using, thought to be a Samsung Galaxy S3.

4. Apple is finally letting developers respond to iOS app reviews. Reviewers will receive an email when a dev has responded, along with options to update their review or contact the developer directly.

5. Google quietly sued Uber`s head of self-driving vehicles, Anthony Levandowski, months before it filed its lawsuit against the ride-hailing company. That`s according to a new court filing.

6. Bloomberg reports that Amazon is shutting down its subsidiary Quidsi. Quidsi cost Amazon 545 million (£438 million) and it has 1,100 total employees.

7. A French billionaire is turning an abandoned railway building into the world`s biggest startup campus. It will be called Station F.

8. ustwo, the London tech startup behind "Monument Valley", has developed a new iPhone app to help you relax. The app is called "Sway".

9. Jeff Bezos has revealed new concept images of a capsule that his rocket company, Blue Origin, could to use to ferry adventurous tourists into space. Blue Origin plans to attach a flight-ready version of the capsule to the top of its reusable, liquid-fueled New Shepard rocket system.

10. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said women aren`t better off four years after she published "Lean In," which went on to be a bestseller. Women are still facing push back in business and in politics, both in the US and around the world, Sandberg reportedly said.

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SYDNEY/SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The big data company credited with helping Donald Trump win the U.S. presidency has registered a company in Australia and plans to meet the country`s ruling conservative Liberal Party next week, according to documents and a government official.
HONG KONG (Reuters) - Nine leaders of Hong Kong`s 2014 democracy protests appeared in court on Thursday after their surprise summons, charged with inciting the street occupation that paralyzed parts of the city for months in what some expect to be a long legal battle.
KIEV (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund executive board will meet on April 3 to decide whether to disburse a 1 billion aid tranche to Ukraine as part of its 17.5 billion bailout program for the country, it said in a statement on Thursday.
LONDON (Reuters) - Brexit minister David Davis said he did not expect Britain to have to pay 50 billion pounds (62 billion) to the European Union as part of the Brexit process and said the era of huge sums being paid to Brussels was coming to an end.
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