Syrian rebel fighters ride a tank in Daraa, southwestern Syria, on June 23, 2018. Syrian regime forces on Saturday made their first gains on the ground against rebel fighters in the southern province of Daraa after several days of intensified bombardment, a monitor said. Since Tuesday, regime troops have been ramping up shelling on opposition-held areas in Daraa's eastern countryside ahead of an apparent military offensive against rebels there.
 / AFP / Mohamad ABAZEED
Syrian rebel fighters ride a tank in Daraa, southwestern Syria, on June 23, 2018. Mohamad Abazeed / AFP

Syrian rebels say US tells them it won't intervene in south Syria



The United States has told Syrian rebel factions they should not expect military support to help them resist a Russian-backed government offensive to regain opposition-held parts of Syria bordering Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

A copy of a message sent by Washington to heads of Free Syrian Army (FSA) groups said the US government wanted to make clear that "you should not base your decisions on the assumption or expectation of a military intervention by us".

The United States had earlier warned Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his Russian allies that violations of a "de-escalation" zone agreed by the United States and Russia last year would have "serious repercussions" and pledged "firm and appropriate measures".

The toughly worded statements coming from the administration had raised the hopes of the Western-backed opposition of a possible American military intervention in the event the Syrian army's several days long bombing campaign broadens to an all-out offensive across the southwest.

The US message also told the rebels it was left to them alone to take the right decision on how to face the Syrian army's military campaign based on what they saw was best for themselves and their people.

"We in the United States government understand the difficult conditions you are facing and still advise the Russians and the Syrian regime not to undertake a military measure that violates the zone," the message also said.

The United States has supported the moderate mainstream FSA faction with millions of dollars worth of arms and paid monthly salaries to thousands of rebels in the course of the seven-year war under a military aid programme run by the Central Intelligence Agency.

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Read more

Syrian regime drops barrel bombs in Daraa

Thousands of Syrian flee as regime steps up bombardment in the south

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But analysts believe the aid has dropped after US President Donald Trump decided last year to shut down the programme.

Late on Saturday, Russian jets struck an opposition held town in southwest Syria, opposition sources said, in the first air cover provided by Moscow to an expanding Syrian army offensive.

Since the start of the offensive last week, the Syrian government had mostly deployed artillery and rockets. Russian warplanes that were critical to the recovery of other rebel-held areas were conspicuously absent.

Throwing in Russia's full military weight in the campaign to regain southern Syria will weaken the ability of mainstream rebel groups to withstand relentless bombing on civilian areas that forced their compatriots in other areas to submit to surrender deals.

The southwest is of strategic concern to US-allied Israel, which has this year stepped up attacks on Iran-backed militia allied to Mr Assad.

US ally Jordan, which has been worried by the escalation, said it was engaged in intensive diplomacy with Washington and Moscow to preserve the zone and prevent a wider confrontation.

The loss of opposition-held southern Syria would deal a major blow to the rebel cause.

The southwestern city of Daraa is seen by the opposition as the cradle of the 2011 uprising that began as a peaceful protest movement against Mr Assad's authoritarian rule but has spread across the country and degenerated into civil war.

How to play the stock market recovery in 2021?

If you are looking to build your long-term wealth in 2021 and beyond, the stock market is still the best place to do it as equities powered on despite the pandemic.

Investing in individual stocks is not for everyone and most private investors should stick to mutual funds and ETFs, but there are some thrilling opportunities for those who understand the risks.

Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, says the 20 best-performing US and European stocks have delivered an average return year-to-date of 148 per cent, measured in local currency terms.

Online marketplace Etsy was the best performer with a return of 330.6 per cent, followed by communications software company Sinch (315.4 per cent), online supermarket HelloFresh (232.8 per cent) and fuel cells specialist NEL (191.7 per cent).

Mr Garnry says digital companies benefited from the lockdown, while green energy firms flew as efforts to combat climate change were ramped up, helped in part by the European Union’s green deal. 

Electric car company Tesla would be on the list if it had been part of the S&P 500 Index, but it only joined on December 21. “Tesla has become one of the most valuable companies in the world this year as demand for electric vehicles has grown dramatically,” Mr Garnry says.

By contrast, the 20 worst-performing European stocks fell 54 per cent on average, with European banks hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic, while cruise liners and airline stocks suffered due to travel restrictions.

As demand for energy fell, the oil and gas industry had a tough year, too.

Mr Garnry says the biggest story this year was the “absolute crunch” in so-called value stocks, companies that trade at low valuations compared to their earnings and growth potential.

He says they are “heavily tilted towards financials, miners, energy, utilities and industrials, which have all been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic”. “The last year saw these cheap stocks become cheaper and expensive stocks have become more expensive.” 

This has triggered excited talk about the “great value rotation” but Mr Garnry remains sceptical. “We need to see a breakout of interest rates combined with higher inflation before we join the crowd.”

Always remember that past performance is not a guarantee of future returns. Last year’s winners often turn out to be this year’s losers, and vice-versa.

If you go

The flights
Emirates and Etihad fly direct to Nairobi, with fares starting from Dh1,695. The resort can be reached from Nairobi via a 35-minute flight from Wilson Airport or Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, or by road, which takes at least three hours.

The rooms
Rooms at Fairmont Mount Kenya range from Dh1,870 per night for a deluxe room to Dh11,000 per night for the William Holden Cottage.

Results

2pm: Maiden (TB) Dh60,000 (Dirt) 1,200m, Winner: Mouheeb, Tom Marquand (jockey), Nicholas Bachalard (trainer)

2.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh68,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Honourable Justice, Royston Ffrench, Salem bin Ghadayer

3pm: Handicap (TB) Dh84,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Dahawi, Antonio Fresu, Musabah Al Muhairi

3.30pm: Conditions (TB) Dh100,000 (D) 1,200m, Winner: Dark Silver, Fernando Jara, Ahmad bin Harmash

4pm: Maiden (TB) Dh60,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Dark Of Night. Antonio Fresu, Al Muhairi.

4.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh68,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Habah, Pat Dobbs, Doug Watson

INDIA'S TOP INFLUENCERS

Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
Bhuvan Bam is a 29-year-old comedian and actor from Delhi, who started out with YouTube channel, “BB Ki Vines” in 2015, which propelled the social media star into the limelight and made him sought-after among brands.
Kusha Kapila
Instagram followers: 3.1 million
Kusha Kapila is a fashion editor and actress, who has collaborated with brands including Google. She focuses on sharing light-hearted content and insights into her life as a rising celebrity.
Diipa Khosla
Instagram followers: 1.8 million
Diipa Khosla started out as a social media manager before branching out to become one of India's biggest fashion influencers, with collaborations including MAC Cosmetics.
Komal Pandey
Instagram followers: 1.8 million
Komal Pandey is a fashion influencer who has partnered with more than 100 brands, including Olay and smartphone brand Vivo India.
Nikhil Sharma
Instagram followers: 1.4 million
Nikhil Sharma from Mumbai began his online career through vlogs about his motorcycle trips. He has become a lifestyle influencer and has created his own clothing line.
Source: Hireinfluence, various

Profile box

Founders: Michele Ferrario, Nino Ulsamer and Freddy Lim
Started: established in 2016 and launched in July 2017
Based: Singapore, with offices in the UAE, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Thailand
Sector: FinTech, wealth management
Initial investment: $500,000 in seed round 1 in 2016; $2.2m in seed round 2 in 2017; $5m in series A round in 2018; $12m in series B round in 2019; $16m in series C round in 2020 and $25m in series D round in 2021
Current staff: more than 160 employees
Stage: series D 
Investors: EightRoads Ventures, Square Peg Capital, Sequoia Capital India

The specs: 2017 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn

Price, base / as tested: Dhxxx
Engine: 5.7L V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Power: 395hp @ 5,600rpm
Torque: 556Nm @ 3,950rpm
Fuel economy, combined: 12.7L / 100km

Seemar’s top six for the Dubai World Cup Carnival:

1. Reynaldothewizard
2. North America
3. Raven’s Corner
4. Hawkesbury
5. New Maharajah
6. Secret Ambition

BRAZIL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Alisson, Ederson, Weverton

Defenders: Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva, Eder Militao , Danilo, Alex Sandro, Alex Telles, Bremer.

Midfielders: Casemiro, Fred, Fabinho, Bruno Guimaraes, Lucas Paqueta, Everton Ribeiro.

Forwards: Neymar, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Raphinha, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, Gabriel Martinelli, Pedro, Rodrygo

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

T20 WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS

Qualifier A, Muscat

(All matches to be streamed live on icc.tv) 

Fixtures

Friday, February 18: 10am Oman v Nepal, Canada v Philippines; 2pm Ireland v UAE, Germany v Bahrain 

Saturday, February 19: 10am Oman v Canada, Nepal v Philippines; 2pm UAE v Germany, Ireland v Bahrain 

Monday, February 21: 10am Ireland v Germany, UAE v Bahrain; 2pm Nepal v Canada, Oman v Philippines 

Tuesday, February 22: 2pm Semi-finals 

Thursday, February 24: 2pm Final 

UAE squad:Ahmed Raza(captain), Muhammad Waseem, Chirag Suri, Vriitya Aravind, Rohan Mustafa, Kashif Daud, Zahoor Khan, Alishan Sharafu, Raja Akifullah, Karthik Meiyappan, Junaid Siddique, Basil Hameed, Zafar Farid, Mohammed Boota, Mohammed Usman, Rahul Bhatia

57 Seconds

Director: Rusty Cundieff
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Morgan Freeman, Greg Germann, Lovie Simone
Rating: 2/5

Specs

Power train: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 and synchronous electric motor
Max power: 800hp
Max torque: 950Nm
Transmission: Eight-speed auto
Battery: 25.7kWh lithium-ion
0-100km/h: 3.4sec
0-200km/h: 11.4sec
Top speed: 312km/h
Max electric-only range: 60km (claimed)
On sale: Q3
Price: From Dh1.2m (estimate)

GREATEST ROYAL RUMBLE CARD

The line-up as it stands for the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia on April 27

50-man Royal Rumble

Universal Championship
Brock Lesnar (champion) v Roman Reigns

Casket match
The Undertaker v Rusev

Intercontinental Championship
Seth Rollins (champion) v The Miz v Finn Balor v Samoa Joe

SmackDown Tag Team Championship
The Bludgeon Brothers v The Usos

Raw Tag Team Championship
Sheamus and Cesaro v Bray Wyatt and Matt Hardy

United States Championship
Jeff Hardy (champion) v Jinder Mahal

Singles match
Triple H v John Cena

To be confirmed
AJ Styles will defend his WWE World Heavyweight title and Cedric Alexander his Cruiserweight Championship, but matches have yet to be announced

Results

Men's finals

45kg:Duc Le Hoang (VIE) beat Zolfi Amirhossein (IRI) points 29-28. 48kg: Naruephon Chittra (THA) beat Joseph Vanlalhruaia (IND) TKO round 2.

51kg: Sakchai Chamchit (THA) beat Salam Al Suwaid (IRQ) TKO round 1. ​​​​​​​54kg: Veerasak Senanue (THA) beat Huynh Hoang Phi (VIE) 30-25.

57kg: Almaz Sarsembekov (KAZ) beat Tak Chuen Suen (MAC) RSC round 3. 60kg: Yerkanat Ospan (KAZ) beat Ibrahim Bilal (UAE) 30-27.

63.5kg: Abil Galiyev (KAZ) beat Nouredine Samir (UAE) 29-28. 67kg: Narin Wonglakhon (THA) beat Mohammed Mardi (UAE) 29-28.

71kg: Amine El Moatassime (UAE) w/o Shaker Al Tekreeti (IRQ). 75kg:​​​​​​​ Youssef Abboud (LBN) w/o Ayoob Saki (IRI).

81kg: Ilyass Habibali (UAE) beat Khaled Tarraf (LBN) 29-28. 86kg: Ali Takaloo (IRI) beat Emil Umayev (KAZ) 30-27.

91kg: Hamid Reza Kordabadi (IRI) beat Mohamad Osaily (LBN) RSC round 1. 91-plus kg: Mohammadrezapoor Shirmohammad (IRI) beat Abdulla Hasan (IRQ) 30-27.

Women's finals

45kg: Somruethai Siripathum (THA) beat Ha Huu Huynh (VIE) 30-27. 48kg: Thanawan Thongduang (THA) beat Colleen Saddi (PHI) 30-27.

51kg: Wansawang Srila Or (THA) beat Thuy Phuong Trieu (VIE) 29-28. 54kg: Ruchira Wongsriwo (THA) beat Zeinab Khatoun (LBN) 30-26.

57kg: Sara Idriss (LBN) beat Zahra Nasiri Bargh (IRI) 30-27. 60kg: Kaewrudee Kamtakrapoom (THA) beat Sedigheh Hajivand (IRI) TKO round 2.

63.5kg: Nadiya Moghaddam (IRI) w/o Reem Al Issa (JOR).

Bridgerton season three - part one

Directors: Various

Starring: Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton, Jonathan Bailey

Rating: 3/5

How to vote

Canadians living in the UAE can register to vote online and be added to the International Register of Electors.

They'll then be sent a special ballot voting kit by mail either to their address, the Consulate General of Canada to the UAE in Dubai or The Embassy of Canada in Abu Dhabi

Registered voters mark the ballot with their choice and must send it back by 6pm Eastern time on October 21 (2am next Friday) 

Is it worth it? We put cheesecake frap to the test.

The verdict from the nutritionists is damning. But does a cheesecake frappuccino taste good enough to merit the indulgence?

My advice is to only go there if you have unusually sweet tooth. I like my puddings, but this was a bit much even for me. The first hit is a winner, but it's downhill, slowly, from there. Each sip is a little less satisfying than the last, and maybe it was just all that sugar, but it isn't long before the rush is replaced by a creeping remorse. And half of the thing is still left.

The caramel version is far superior to the blueberry, too. If someone put a full caramel cheesecake through a liquidiser and scooped out the contents, it would probably taste something like this. Blueberry, on the other hand, has more of an artificial taste. It's like someone has tried to invent this drink in a lab, and while early results were promising, they're still in the testing phase. It isn't terrible, but something isn't quite right either.

So if you want an experience, go for a small, and opt for the caramel. But if you want a cheesecake, it's probably more satisfying, and not quite as unhealthy, to just order the real thing.

 

 

Plan to boost public schools

A major shake-up of government-run schools was rolled out across the country in 2017. Known as the Emirati School Model, it placed more emphasis on maths and science while also adding practical skills to the curriculum.

It was accompanied by the promise of a Dh5 billion investment, over six years, to pay for state-of-the-art infrastructure improvements.

Aspects of the school model will be extended to international private schools, the education minister has previously suggested.

Recent developments have also included the introduction of moral education - which public and private schools both must teach - along with reform of the exams system and tougher teacher licensing requirements.

Sanju

Produced: Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Rajkumar Hirani

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Vicky Kaushal, Paresh Rawal, Anushka Sharma, Manish’s Koirala, Dia Mirza, Sonam Kapoor, Jim Sarbh, Boman Irani

Rating: 3.5 stars

Why it pays to compare

A comparison of sending Dh20,000 from the UAE using two different routes at the same time - the first direct from a UAE bank to a bank in Germany, and the second from the same UAE bank via an online platform to Germany - found key differences in cost and speed. The transfers were both initiated on January 30.

Route 1: bank transfer

The UAE bank charged Dh152.25 for the Dh20,000 transfer. On top of that, their exchange rate margin added a difference of around Dh415, compared with the mid-market rate.

Total cost: Dh567.25 - around 2.9 per cent of the total amount

Total received: €4,670.30 

Route 2: online platform

The UAE bank’s charge for sending Dh20,000 to a UK dirham-denominated account was Dh2.10. The exchange rate margin cost was Dh60, plus a Dh12 fee.

Total cost: Dh74.10, around 0.4 per cent of the transaction

Total received: €4,756

The UAE bank transfer was far quicker – around two to three working days, while the online platform took around four to five days, but was considerably cheaper. In the online platform transfer, the funds were also exposed to currency risk during the period it took for them to arrive.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company: Eco Way
Started: December 2023
Founder: Ivan Kroshnyi
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: Electric vehicles
Investors: Bootstrapped with undisclosed funding. Looking to raise funds from outside

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Almouneer
Started: 2017
Founders: Dr Noha Khater and Rania Kadry
Based: Egypt
Number of staff: 120
Investment: Bootstrapped, with support from Insead and Egyptian government, seed round of
$3.6 million led by Global Ventures

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Nausea
Vomiting
Swollen glands
Rash

Anghami
Started: December 2011
Co-founders: Elie Habib, Eddy Maroun
Based: Beirut and Dubai
Sector: Entertainment
Size: 85 employees
Stage: Series C
Investors: MEVP, du, Mobily, MBC, Samena Capital

The specs

Engine: 3.0-litre 6-cyl turbo

Power: 374hp at 5,500-6,500rpm

Torque: 500Nm from 1,900-5,000rpm

Transmission: 8-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.5L/100km

Price: from Dh285,000

On sale: from January 2022

Team Angel Wolf Beach Blast takes place every Wednesday between 4:30pm and 5:30pm

Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

The National in Davos

We are bringing you the inside story from the World Economic Forum's Annual Meeting in Davos, a gathering of hundreds of world leaders, top executives and billionaires.

In Full Flight: A Story of Africa and Atonement
John Heminway, Knopff

Company name: Farmin

Date started: March 2019

Founder: Dr Ali Al Hammadi 

Based: Abu Dhabi

Sector: AgriTech

Initial investment: None to date

Partners/Incubators: UAE Space Agency/Krypto Labs 

The Greatest Royal Rumble card as it stands

The Greatest Royal Rumble card as it stands

50-man Royal Rumble - names entered so far include Braun Strowman, Daniel Bryan, Kurt Angle, Big Show, Kane, Chris Jericho, The New Day and Elias

Universal Championship Brock Lesnar (champion) v Roman Reigns in a steel cage match

WWE World Heavyweight ChampionshipAJ Styles (champion) v Shinsuke Nakamura

Intercontinental Championship Seth Rollins (champion) v The Miz v Finn Balor v Samoa Joe

United States Championship Jeff Hardy (champion) v Jinder Mahal

SmackDown Tag Team Championship The Bludgeon Brothers (champions) v The Usos

Raw Tag Team Championship (currently vacant) Cesaro and Sheamus v Matt Hardy and Bray Wyatt

Casket match The Undertaker v Chris Jericho

Singles match John Cena v Triple H

Cruiserweight Championship Cedric Alexander v tba