China Plans to Send More Pandas to US Zoo

A Chinese giant panda male Ru Yi eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow on February 13, 2024, as the zoo celebrates its 160th anniversary. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)
A Chinese giant panda male Ru Yi eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow on February 13, 2024, as the zoo celebrates its 160th anniversary. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)
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China Plans to Send More Pandas to US Zoo

A Chinese giant panda male Ru Yi eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow on February 13, 2024, as the zoo celebrates its 160th anniversary. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)
A Chinese giant panda male Ru Yi eats bamboo at its enclosure at the Moscow Zoo in Moscow on February 13, 2024, as the zoo celebrates its 160th anniversary. (Photo by NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

China said Thursday it had signed agreements to send pandas to a zoo in San Diego, after nearly all the beloved black-and-white animals on loan in the United States were returned during years of diplomatic tensions.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular press briefing that "Chinese institutions have already signed agreements with... the San Diego Zoo in the US".

The agreement centered "on a new round of cooperation in giant panda protection", she said.

A deal was also signed with a zoo in Madrid, and Beijing is in talks with zoos in Washington and Vienna, she added, according to AFP.

China has long deployed the fluffy envoys to various countries as "panda diplomacy", often to further its foreign policy aims.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing mean that only a handful of the bears remain in the United States, with three having left the national zoo in Washington in November.

The last remaining pandas in the United States, currently at a zoo in the southern city of Atlanta, are due to return to China by late 2024.

But after a meeting last year with US President Joe Biden, Chinese leader Xi Jinping said that China could send new pandas as "envoys of friendship between the Chinese and American people."

The White House said it would be happy to have more of the bamboo-chewing bears.

"Giant pandas are a national treasure of China and are deeply loved by people all over the world," Mao said on Thursday.

"We look forward to a new round of international cooperation on the protection of giant pandas with the relevant countries," she said.

There are an estimated 1,860 giant pandas left in the wild, according to environmental group WWF, and about 600 in captivity in panda centers, zoos and wildlife parks worldwide.



Japanese Authorities Urge Caution after Wild Bears Attack Several People

A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
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Japanese Authorities Urge Caution after Wild Bears Attack Several People

A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)
A train makes its way down the tracks along the Kanda river in the Ochanomizu area of Tokyo at sunset on May 17, 2024. (Photo by Richard A. Brooks / AFP)

Japanese authorities have warned residents Saturday to be aware of wild bears in the country's northeast after several people were attacked, including police officers.
The bears, measuring about 50 centimeters in height, were seen in the area, including Akita and Fukushima Prefectures.
Two police officers were attacked Saturday in the city of Kazuno in Akita while recovering the body of a missing man, according to Japanese media reports. The man had gone hunting for bamboo shoots in the mountains a few days earlier where he was found dead in the area with gash wounds. It remains unclear if he died due to a bear attack.
The officers are in serious condition, though not life-threatening, reports said.
In response, some wooded areas have been closed off in Kazuno "for an indefinite time,” The Associated Press quoted officials as saying in a statement.
News footage showed police officers putting up signs warning people to stay out of mountainous areas where the bears were sighted.
Over the weekend, patrol cars were dispatched together with a helicopter search to locate the bears.
Akita Prefectural Police have urged people to keep bells and other noise-producing devices on hand to scare the bears away in case of an encounter, and not to go out at night.
Thousands of Asiatic black bears live in the wild throughout Japan. Attacks have risen as the borders blur between the bears’ habitats and people’s dwellings. The scarcity of acorns, berries and other food, possibly connected to climate change, is also blamed for the surge in bear encounters.


British Woman, 82, Bikes Up Mont Ventoux to Raise Gaza Aid Funds

Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
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British Woman, 82, Bikes Up Mont Ventoux to Raise Gaza Aid Funds

Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media
Anne Jones completed the cycle in six hours. Photo: PA Media

An 82-year-old British grandmother has taken on one of the Tour de France's most famous mountains to raise funds for aid to Gaza, the BBC reported.

Anne Jones, from Lewisham, south London, rode 20 km up Mont Ventoux in southern France to support Amos Trust's Gaza appeal, it said.

She battled hail, rain and fog as she cycled for six hours to the climb's summit at 1,910m above sea level.

According to the BBC, Jones raised £13,000 for the appeal.

The grandmother-of-six said she was "delighted" to have completed the feat and hoped it would change the "assumptions" people make when they see "an old face.”


Eruption of Indonesia's Mt Ibu Forces 7 Villages to Evacuate

Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
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Eruption of Indonesia's Mt Ibu Forces 7 Villages to Evacuate

Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS
Lightning appears amid a storm as Mount Ibu spews volcanic material during an eruption, as seen from Gam Ici in West Halmahera, North Maluku province, Indonesia, May 18, 2024 in this handout image. The Center for Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation (PVMBG)/Handout via REUTERS

A volcano on the remote Indonesian island of Halmahera has spectacularly erupted, spewing a grey ash cloud into the sky, and people from seven nearby villages have been evacuated, authorities said on Sunday.
Mt. Ibu erupted on Saturday evening, sending ash 4 km (2.5 miles) high, as streaks of purple lightning flashed around its crater, according to information and images shared by Indonesia's volcanology agency.
A joint team comprised of police, military and search and rescue officials was dispatched to the area to evacuate residents from surrounding villages, Abdul Muhari, from the disaster mitigation agency, said in a statement.
According to Reuters, photos shared by the disaster agency showed authorities assisting the elderly, while other residents were moved in pick-up trucks and accommodated in emergency tents for the night.
The agency did not provide any information about how many people had been moved, but authorities have recommended that a seven-km (4.35-mile) radius be cleared.
Indonesia's volcanology agency raised the alert level of the volcano to the highest level on Thursday, after Ibu erupted multiple times earlier this month.
Ibu's activities follow a series of eruptions of different volcanoes in Indonesia, which sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" and has 127 active volcanoes.
Flash floods and cold lava flow from Mount Marapi, one of the most active in West Sumatra province, covered several nearby districts following torrential rain on May 11, killing more than 60 people.
In recent weeks, North Sulawesi's Ruang volcano has also erupted, spewing incandescent lava. The eruption prompted authorities to evacuate more than 12,000 people on a nearby island.


Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
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Parts of Northern India Scorched by Extreme Heat with New Delhi on High Alert

 A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)
A roadside vendor sells iced lemonade in New Delhi, India, Saturday, May 18, 2024. (AP)

Parts of northwest India sweltered under scorching temperatures on Saturday, with the capital New Delhi under a severe weather alert as extreme temperatures strike parts of the country.

India's weather department expects heat wave conditions to persist across the north for the next few days, and has put several states on high alert.

On Friday, parts of New Delhi reported up to 47.1 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit). The nearby states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan also saw temperatures soar and are likely to stay high over the next few days, said Soma Sen Roy, a scientist at the India Meteorological Department.

Roy cautioned people against going outdoors under the afternoon sun, drink lots of water and wear loose-fitting clothes while who are especially vulnerable like the elderly should stay indoors.

The extreme temperatures in northern India coincide with a 6-week-long general election, with experts worried that the heat wave could increase health risks as people wait in long lines to cast their vote or candidates campaign aggressively in the outdoors. One minister fainted due to heat last month while addressing an election rally in Maharashtra state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as his main challenger, Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress Party, are expected to hold rallies in New Delhi later on Saturday, as the city heads to the polls on May 25.

The main summer months — April, May and June — are always hot in most parts of India before monsoon rains bring cooler temperatures. But the heat has become more intense in the past decade and is usually accompanied by severe water shortages, with tens of millions of India's 1.4 billion people lacking running water.

A study by World Weather Attribution, an academic group that examines the source of extreme heat, found that a searing heat wave in April that struck parts of Asia was made at least 45 times more likely in some parts of the continent by climate change.

Climate experts say extreme heat in South Asia during the pre-monsoon season is becoming more frequent and the study found that extreme temperatures are now about 0.85 C (1.5 F) hotter in the region because of climate change.

At least 28 heat-related deaths were reported in Bangladesh, as well as five in India in April. Surges in heat deaths have also been reported in Thailand and the Philippines this year, according to the study.

Extreme heat is fast becoming a public health crisis in India, with more than 150 people dying last year during heat waves. The government estimates nearly 11,000 people have died during heat waves this century, yet experts say such figures are likely a vast undercount.


'Danger Behind the Beauty': More Solar Storms Could Be Heading our Way

Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
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'Danger Behind the Beauty': More Solar Storms Could Be Heading our Way

Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File
Auroras may be pretty, but the solar storms that cause them can cause serious havoc on Earth, scientists have warned. Sanka Vidanagama / AFP/File

Tourists normally have to pay big money and brave cold climates for a chance to see an aurora, but last weekend many people around the world simply had to look up to see these colorful displays dance across the sky.
Usually banished to the poles of Earth, the auroras strayed as far as Mexico, southern Europe and South Africa on the evening of May 10, delighting skygazers and filling social media with images of exuberant pinks, greens and purples.
But for those charged with protecting Earth from powerful solar storms such as the one that caused the auroras, a threat lurks beneath the stunning colors.
"We need to understand that behind this beauty, there is danger," Quentin Verspieren, the European Space Agency's space safety program coordinator, told AFP.
Mike Bettwy of the US Space Weather Prediction Center said that "we're focused on the more sinister potential impacts" of solar storms, such as taking out power grids and satellites, or exposing astronauts to dangerous levels of radiation.
The latest auroras were caused by the most powerful geomagnetic storm since the "Halloween Storms" of October 2003, which sparked blackouts in Sweden and damaged power infrastructure in South Africa.

There appears to have been less damage from the latest solar storms, though it often takes weeks for satellite companies to reveal problems, Bettwy said.
There were reports that some self-driving farm tractors in the United States stopped in their tracks when their GPS guidance systems went out due to the storm, he told AFP.
'Definitely not over'
These strange effects are caused by massive explosions on the surface of the Sun that shoot out plasma, radiation and even magnetic fields at incredibly fast speeds born on the solar wind.
The recent activity has come from a sunspot cluster 17 times the size of Earth which has continued raging over the week. On Tuesday it blasted out the strongest solar flare seen in years.
The sunspot has been turning towards the edge of the Sun's disc, so activity is expected to die down in the short term as its outbursts aim away from our planet.
But in roughly two weeks the sunspot will swing back around, again turning its gaze towards Earth.
In the meantime, another sunspot is "coming into view right now" which could trigger "major activity in the coming days", ESA space weather service coordinator Alexi Glover told AFP.
So the solar activity is "definitely not over", she added.
It is difficult to predict how violent these sunspots could be -- or whether they could spark further auroras.
But solar activity is only just approaching the peak of its roughly 11-year cycle, so the odds of another major storm are highest "between now and the end of next year", Bettwy said.
What threat do solar storms pose?
Geomagnetic storms such as the recent one create a magnetic charge of voltage and current, "essentially overloading" things like satellites and power grids, according to Bettwy.
The most famous example came in 1859 during the worst solar storm in recorded history, called the Carrington Event.
As well as stunning auroras, the storm caused sparks to fly off of telegraph stations. The charge that originated from the Sun was so strong that some telegraphs worked without being plugged into a power source.
So what would happen if such a powerful geomagnetic storm struck Earth again?
Bettwy said most countries have improved their power grids, which should prevent prolonged outages like those that hit Sweden in 2003 or Canada in 1989.
Still, he suggested people have an emergency kit in case electricity is knocked out for a day or two. Fresh water might also help in case filtration plants go offline.
Astronauts are particularly at risk from radiation during extreme solar activity. Those on the International Space Station usually take the best shelter they can when a bad storm is expected.
Bettwy said a massive solar storm could expose astronauts to an "unhealthy dose" of radiation, but he did not think it would be lethal.
Emphasizing that he did not want to "instill fear", Bettwy added that radiation can also potentially "get through the fuselage" of planes flying near the north pole.
Airlines sometimes change routes during extreme solar storms to avoid this happening, he added.
Several upcoming missions are expected to improve forecasting of the Sun's intense and unpredictable weather, aiming to give Earth more time to prepare.


A College Puts the ‘Cat’ into ‘Education’ by Giving Max an Honorary ‘Doctor of Litter-ature’ Degree

This photo provided by Vermont State University shows Max the Cat stands in front of Woodruff Hall at Vermont State University Castleton on Oct. 12, 2023 in Castleton, Vt. (Rob Franklin/Vermont State University via AP)
This photo provided by Vermont State University shows Max the Cat stands in front of Woodruff Hall at Vermont State University Castleton on Oct. 12, 2023 in Castleton, Vt. (Rob Franklin/Vermont State University via AP)
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A College Puts the ‘Cat’ into ‘Education’ by Giving Max an Honorary ‘Doctor of Litter-ature’ Degree

This photo provided by Vermont State University shows Max the Cat stands in front of Woodruff Hall at Vermont State University Castleton on Oct. 12, 2023 in Castleton, Vt. (Rob Franklin/Vermont State University via AP)
This photo provided by Vermont State University shows Max the Cat stands in front of Woodruff Hall at Vermont State University Castleton on Oct. 12, 2023 in Castleton, Vt. (Rob Franklin/Vermont State University via AP)

A Vermont university has bestowed the honorary degree of “doctor of litter-ature” on Max the cat, a beloved member of its community, ahead of students' graduation on Saturday.

Vermont State University’s Castleton campus is honoring the feline not for his mousing or napping, but for his friendliness.

“Max the Cat has been an affectionate member of the Castleton family for years,” the school said in a Facebook post.

The popular tabby lives in a house with his human family on the street that leads to the main entrance to campus.

“So he decided that he would go up on campus, and he just started hanging out with the college students, and they love him,” owner Ashley Dow said Thursday.

He's been socializing on campus for about four years, and students get excited when they see him. They pick him up and take selfies with him, and he even likes to go on tours with prospective students that meet at a building across from the family's house, she said.

“I don't even know how he knows to go, but he does,” Dow said. “And then he'll follow them on their tour.”

The students refer to Dow as Max's mom, and graduates who return to town sometimes ask her how Max is doing.

Max won't be participating in the graduation, though. His degree will be delivered to Dow later.


US Teen Died After Doing Spicy Chip Challenge

The local chief medical examiner determined that Harris died of cardiac arrest after ingesting a food with a large amount of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, said the autopsy report. (Illustrative - Getty Images)
The local chief medical examiner determined that Harris died of cardiac arrest after ingesting a food with a large amount of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, said the autopsy report. (Illustrative - Getty Images)
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US Teen Died After Doing Spicy Chip Challenge

The local chief medical examiner determined that Harris died of cardiac arrest after ingesting a food with a large amount of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, said the autopsy report. (Illustrative - Getty Images)
The local chief medical examiner determined that Harris died of cardiac arrest after ingesting a food with a large amount of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, said the autopsy report. (Illustrative - Getty Images)

A US teenager died of cardiac arrest after taking part in a social media challenge daring people to eat a single extremely hot tortilla chip, an autopsy revealed Thursday.

Harris Wolobah, a 14-year-old from Massachusetts, died in September after taking part in the so-called "One Chip Challenge" -- which involved a single chip produced by Paqui, dusted with Carolina Reaper and Naga Viper peppers.

The dare has manifested in several iterations over the years, with the peppers changing each time.

The local chief medical examiner determined that Harris died of cardiac arrest after ingesting a food with a large amount of a chili pepper extract called capsaicin, said the autopsy report, seen by AFP.

The autopsy also concluded that the teen had an enlarged heart, which could have contributed to his death.

Days after his death, Paqui removed the product -- packaged in a coffin-shaped box with a red skull and marked "extreme heat" -- from store shelves.

In California, three youths were hospitalized after taking part in the dare, and seven got sick in Minnesota for the same reason, according to media reports.


British Woman Becomes ‘Star’ for Saving Starving Owl

A tawny owl. (Getty Images)
A tawny owl. (Getty Images)
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British Woman Becomes ‘Star’ for Saving Starving Owl

A tawny owl. (Getty Images)
A tawny owl. (Getty Images)

A woman has become an unlikely social media star in her Cornish village - all thanks to a family of tawny owls, reported the BBC on Friday.

Diane Knight had set up a CCTV system so she could watch the owls nesting in her barn near Carnon Downs, Cornwall.

But when the male owl stopped bringing the female food, Knight stepped in.

Her work to supply the owl and the baby owlet with dead mice has proved popular on the village's Facebook page.

Knight's owl obsession started through watching the pair of tawny owls on a nest-cam she had set up.

She said the male owl was injured in a fight with a rival owl and stopped bringing the female the food she needed while sitting on her single egg.

Knight, 69, took advice and started buying dead mice, stocked as snake food by local pet shops, soon racking up a bill of more than £100.

She was told to place the mice on a nearby beam to avoid disturbing the nest, which involved climbing up a 15ft (4.5m) ladder.

She also started to share stills and video on the Carnon Downs And Surrounding Area Notice Board on Facebook and was inundated with offers of help from followers.

"They've been brilliant," she said. "One gentlemen paid for 30 and another lady she paid for 20 so I've got 50 dead mice waiting for me.

"We've got enough now, we've got a freezerful," she added, according to the BBC.

Her regular owl updates on Facebook are attracting dozens of likes and comments.

"I am a little bit addicted to it myself, I haven't watched television for months," she said.

"I cannot believe how one little owlet has brought the community together.

"I went to the dentist and the first thing they said to me is 'Are you the Owl Lady of Carnon Downs?'"

Knight has named the owlet Dorothea - Dotty for short - and is hoping the young bird is soon learn to fly, leave the nest and hunt for its own mice dinners.


Syrian Refugees in Jordan Receive Mobile Homes from KSrelief

The project provides 500 mobile homes for 500 Syrian families - SPA
The project provides 500 mobile homes for 500 Syrian families - SPA
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Syrian Refugees in Jordan Receive Mobile Homes from KSrelief

The project provides 500 mobile homes for 500 Syrian families - SPA
The project provides 500 mobile homes for 500 Syrian families - SPA

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) secured a new batch of 500 mobile homes for Syrian refugees in Zaatari Camp, Jordan, as part of the center's project to provide mobile homes in the camp.
Governor of Mafraq Governorate in Jordan, Salman Najada, commended the relief and humanitarian efforts of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in supporting the needy people through KSrelief in Jordan.

He underscored the significant role played by the center in addressing the economic, social, and financial challenges facing Syrian refugees in Jordan.
The mobile housing project aims to offer suitable housing for the Zaatari camp's most vulnerable Syrian refugee families. It involves providing 500 mobile homes for 500 Syrian families, given the increase in the camp's population due to new arrivals and newly married residents.
The project is part of the humanitarian and relief efforts of the Kingdom, implemented through its humanitarian arm, KSrelief, to assist Syrian refugees and enhance their living conditions in various refugee locations.


Saudi National Products Exhibition Concludes in Qatar

The exhibition also saw the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding under the auspices of the Saudi-Qatari Business Council - SPA
The exhibition also saw the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding under the auspices of the Saudi-Qatari Business Council - SPA
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Saudi National Products Exhibition Concludes in Qatar

The exhibition also saw the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding under the auspices of the Saudi-Qatari Business Council - SPA
The exhibition also saw the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding under the auspices of the Saudi-Qatari Business Council - SPA

The first edition of the Saudi National Products Exhibition in Qatar concluded with the participation of over 80 Saudi companies from the industrial, food, health, and commercial sectors.
The three-day exhibition helped to strengthen the brand image of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's exports and highlight its position in global markets, which is in line with the goals of Vision 2030 to increase non-oil exports.
Alongside the exhibition, various events and activities were organized to attract visitors, showcase the quality of national industries, and generate innovative ideas across different sectors. A dialogue session titled "Saudi Women and Their Excellence in Business" was held during the exhibition, focusing on the role of governments in supporting women in business, sharing their experiences and successes, and emphasizing Vision 2030's significant role in enhancing women's participation in economic development, SPA reported.
The exhibition also saw the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding under the auspices of the Saudi-Qatari Business Council. Notably, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Saudi Investor Innovation Company and the Qatari Kate Real Estate Group, aiming to collaborate in the field of shopping centers. Additionally, an agreement was signed between Asma Turki Home and Al-Najah Company to enter the Qatari markets, and another agreement was signed between BTOUCH EVENT and EVENT VQ Company for event and exhibition organization exchange.
The first edition of the Saudi National Products Exhibition in Qatar was held under the patronage of Saudi Ambassador to the State of Qatar Prince Mansour bin Khalid bin Farhan. The event witnessed the participation of government agencies, including the Ministry of Investment, the Saudi Export Development Authority (SAUDI EXPORTS), and the Federation of Saudi Chambers, as well as a prominent presence from businessmen and interested parties in Qatar.