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Mohammed bin Rashid leads ‘Lets Walk’ march in Abu Dhabi

posted on 01/04/2015

Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, along with H.H. Lt. General Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, H.H. Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, led the ‘Let's Walk' march on the Abu Dhabi Corniche, organised by the ‘Healthy Children 2021' campaign, an initiative of the National Programme for Government Communication, NPGC.

Students from all over the UAE participated in the march, which aims to promote a healthy lifestyle in UAE society through community engagement activities involving children and their parents.

Encouraging children to adopt an active lifestyle by participating in physical activities, Sheikh Mohammed said, "Children's health is the focus of the government's plans and we aim to support them in all areas considering that they are the main pillars of growth and development. Their contribution is vital to making the UAE one of the best countries in the world by 2021."

He said it is the responsibility of everyone to promote healthy lifestyle practices, and the best time to instil this is at a young age. He also called on all government and private sector entities to raise awareness in the community about the importance of adopting healthy behaviour.

The campaign, which was launched last January, will continue until mid-April. It includes a number of events and awareness activities such as ‘Lets Run' in which school students took part in these activities across the country. The ‘Let's Walk' event has witnessed the participation of families, youth and children to walk together across the UAE. As part of the event, information on healthy lifestyle was distributed in an innovative manner at Abu Dhabi Corniche, Jumeirah Beach Walk, Al Barsha Pond Park, Al Khawaneej park in Dubai, Al Majaz Waterfront in Sharjah, in addition to Al Qawasim Corniche in Ras al-Khaimah and Ajman Corniche.

The national campaign ‘Healthy Children 2021' is one of the main pillars of the National Programme for Government Communication that is guided by the National Agenda and UAE Vision 2021.

As a dedicated pillar to address the challenge of obesity among children in the UAE, the campaign aims to reduce obesity levels to 12 percent by 2021. It will foster efforts to promote healthy lifestyles in the UAE community, focusing on children as the cornerstone of the community. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278713249.html


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Abu Dhabi in fast lane with Furious 7 release

posted on 01/04/2015

With the release of Furious 7 this weekend, and the glowing praise it has been receiving from critics, there's no doubt that the buzz surrounding Abu Dhabi's featured spotlight in the film has reached fever pitch in recent weeks, said a report published by Khaleej Times daily.

It's a big deal when Hollywood comes courting, especially at a time when the UAE is trying to position itself as a major hub for filmmaking and production, the report said, adding, that the filming of Furious 7 in the UAE is about more than just gaining prominence for Abu Dhabi, it was the chance of a lifetime for local industry buffs to work directly on a major Hollywood picture.

Casting agency Miranda Davidson Studios was put in charge with providing over 200 locally-based cast for the film a year before pre-production began. The daunting task gave many first-time actors the opportunity to showcase the best of the UAE's diversity on the big screen.

"We provided all the background extras for the Abu Dhabi portion of the movie. In a movie like The Fast and the Furious, the background is key. They had to go through a string of approvals before being accepted. Every extra was literally hand-picked," said company CEO, Miranda Davidson.

With financial cash-back incentive plans on offer as well as a strong team of advocates ranging from the grass roots level to the Film Commission, Davidson feels that the film will be a game changer for the local film industry as more outsiders discover the benefits of shooting here.

"I hope that outside productions see that the UAE is capable of servicing a film of this magnitude and that they will consider us a serious contender in the global film market," she said. "As far as the internal perception, I hope more people will see that there is a future in this country for anyone who wants to be a part of the film industry. I think it will help ignite awareness, passion and interest in the local entertainment business."

In neighbouring Dubai, which in 2011 witnessed its biggest Hollywood production with Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, the film's impact on local tourism could never be truly quantified but was nevertheless significant. As movie goers unfamiliar with the Middle East watched Tom Cruise climb on the facade of the world's tallest building, they began asking, "Where in the world is this place?"

Thanks to incredible special effects in Furious 7 which sees supercars smashing through the Etihad Towers alongside high-adrenaline desert drag races, that same question will be mused over with Abu Dhabi in mind, the report said.

If there's one thing that has kept audiences glued to the franchise, it's the high-octane driving. PP-Performance company, owned by Emirati businessman Salah Almoudi, provided the calibre of cars required for the film. Professional stunt driver Ben Menzies had the privilege of driving some of the world's most expensive cars provided by the company during the local shoot. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278712446.html


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The Hunger Games joins Motiongate Dubai theme park line-up

posted on 01/04/2015

Hawk-eyed Katniss Everdeen and her evil nemesis President Snow are set to become Dubai's newest residents after a deal to create a theme park inspired by the billion-dollar grossing film franchise.

The operator Dubai Parks and Resorts said on Tuesday it is partnering the Canadian-American entertainment company Lionsgate to bring The Hunger Games franchise, which is also a best-selling book series, to its Hollywood-themed attraction Motiongate Dubai. The final film in the franchise, Mockingjay – Part 2, is scheduled for release at the end of this year. A Lionsgate zone will also feature a live stage show based on its Step Up film series. Motiongate, which is scheduled to open in October 2016, is expected to attract more than three million visits a year to its 27-ride "journey of films”.

Along with the 4 million square feet Motiongate, Dubai Parks and Resorts will also operate a Legoland and a Bollywood-themed attraction, connected by a retail, dining and entertainment walkway called Riverland. Dubai Parks and Resorts, a unit of Meraas Holdings, reported an annual loss of Dh21 million for 2014, compared with a loss of Dh13m for 2013. The company's total asset base grew to Dh6.88bn at the end of December.

The Dh10.5bn project, comprising the three theme parks, is part of Dubai's 2020 vision, which seeks to attract 20 million tourists a year to the emirate by 2020.

Dubai Parks and Resorts announced in January that it had commenced construction for the Dreamworks zone, a 730,000 sq. ft. area housing 12 attractions and rides, which will form part of Motiongate Dubai.

The company secured a Dh4.2bn finance facility, arranged by Goldman Sachs, in November, and raised Dh2.5bn via a share offering on the Dubai stock exchange in December. Meraas has promised to fund any cost overruns for the park's construction through interest-free shareholder loans.

Despite being six times oversubscribed, Dubai Parks and Resorts shares suffered after debuting on the Dubai Financial Market during a major sell-off, in which the headline index fell by 12 per cent in December.

Yesterday, shares of Dubai Parks and Resorts closed up 0.7 per cent at 85.6 fils. They gained 17.2 per cent for the first quarter but are down 14.4 per cent since launch. – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/business/travel-tourism/the-hunger-games-joins-motiongate-dubai-theme-park-line-up


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Hamdan bin Mohammed emphasises importance of completing Museum of the Future on schedule

posted on 01/04/2015

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of Dubai Executive Council and also Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Museum of the Future, has issued directives for quick implementation of the work plan for the museum as per schedule since it plays an important role as a source of inspiration for innovations and an incubator for ideas.

H.H. Sheikh Hamdan emphasised the importance of completing the project as per the set schedule and achieving all its related aspects. He added that the museum will serve as a destination for inventors and entrepreneurs across the world.

Shaikh Hamdan issued the orders as he chaired a meeting of the board of Museum of the Future at the Executive Office of Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

He noted that H.H. Sheikh Mohammed takes great interest in the project due to its importance for developing an environment that fosters innovation in line with the requirements and needs of the new generation in smart future cities and enhances innovation in the UAE.

He stressed the need to complete the museum by 2017 so as to fulfil the goals for which it was established. These goals include ensuring that the museum provides the best innovative environment in the world.

"The UAE is building a constructive future and the museum is one of the leadership's ambitious future plans for building this constructive future, create a knowledge-based economy, long-term development solutions and transform the UAE into a key global destination for innovation," Sheikh Hamdan said.

He also stressed the need to collaborate and unify efforts and work as a team to expedite the completion of the project, which would contribute to consolidating Dubai's and the UAE's position as an innovation stimulating platform.

Sheikh Hamdan said that practical steps have been taken to attract researchers, inventors and leading international scientific institutions and research centres.

Mohammad Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Deputy Chairman of the museum's board, and other members of the board of the museum, attended the meeting.

During the meeting, the board discussed the goals of the museum, most notably the innovation-friendly environment that supports creativity, helps develop education, and enhances community awareness about the importance of innovation to cope with requirements for the future. They also spoke about the logistical needs to speed up the construction of the museum, which can only be accomplished through joint coordination and efforts by all concerned bodies to be completed within the specified time-frame. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278738224.html


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UAE pledges Dh367m for humanitarian assistance in Syria through UAE humanitarian agencies

posted on 01/04/2015

KUWAIT: The UAE has announced that it will provide an additional Dh367 million(US$100 million) in aid to support humanitarian relief in response to the crisis in Syria.

The announcement was made yesterday by Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development and Head of the UAE Committee for the Coordination of Humanitarian Foreign Aid, in her statement during the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria, which opened yesterday in Kuwait with the participation of representatives of countries and organisations supporting the humanitarian situation in Syria.

Sheikha Lubna extended thanks to the Government and people of Kuwait under the wise leadership of His Highness the Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, 'Leader of Humanity," to host the conference, stressing the UAE's appreciation of the pioneering role of Kuwait in the humanitarian field, especially in the Syrian crisis as well as its efforts in organising the first and second Pledging Conferences for the Syrian people in the last two years.

She also indicated the UAE's rapid response in the light of the directives of the wise leadership of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to provide support and humanitarian assistance for the Syrian internally displaced persons (IDPs) as well as the Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries.

Sheikha Lubna, on this occasion, stated that the UAE's leadership deals with the issue of Syria and that it has honoured its pledges announced in the two previous editions of the International Humanitarian Pledging for Syria with a total of US$360 million in support.

Sheikha Lubna indicated the key role played by the UAE in response to the international humanitarian challenges to support Syrian IDPs and Syrian refugees in the neighbouring countries. The UAE humanitarian assistance for the affected Syrians from 2012 till the end of 2014 stood at over Dh1.4 billion (US$365 million).

Sheikha Lubna said that in the framework of its response to support the affected Syrians and under the umbrella of the Third International Pledging Conference for Syrian People, the country announces provision of an extra support for 2015 to the tune of Dh367 million (US$100 million) through direct implementation and as part of the role played by UAE humanitarian agencies in the light of the country's efforts to strive to provide better living standard for the suffering Syrians.

The UAE delegation to the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria included Dr. Tariq Al Hidan, assistant Foreign Minister for International Organisations Affairs; the UAE's Ambassador to Kuwait, Hussein bin Rahma Al Zaabi, and other senior officials.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and heads of international organisations participated in the conference. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278732500.html


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UAE remains dedicated to covering health needs of Syrian population affected by crisis

posted on 01/04/2015

The UAE is dedicated to fulfilling the financial gap in the health sector of the Syrian refugee population in order to meet their basic humanitarian and health needs, which are increasing severely on a daily basis.

The Ministry of International Cooperation and Development, said in a report it issued yesterday, that the UAE demonstrated its commitment through strategic partnerships with international aid organisations, working within a clearly identified scope, and taking measures to prevent risks that may impede project implementation, in addition to monitoring and evaluation processes.

In January 2015, the ministry signed a one-year agreement with the World Health Organisation, WHO, as part of its support for the United Nations' Syria Humanitarian Assistance Response Plan, SHARP. The agreement is part of the nation's ongoing efforts to improve the health conditions of people affected by the Syrian crisis by creating a positive impact on their lives with a contribution of Dh 3.6 million, which will be distributed in various phases. This contribution will provide 700 patients inside Syria with artificial limbs, in addition to repairing artificial limbs for another 300 patients.

Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, Minister of International Cooperation and Development, said, "The UAE has a long history of providing humanitarian assistance to those affected by crises and natural disasters around the world, and we recognise the importance of making sure basic needs are met – whether through healthcare, education, and employment opportunities – in particular to refugees and those that have been displaced. Our health aid to the Syrian refugee population is part of a directive of the UAE's wise leadership, and a reflection that the UAE will remain committed to supporting innocent civilians affected by the crisis."

The UAE also signed two agreements with the International Rescue Committee, contributing a total of Dh14.6 million towards the provision of healthcare services for Syrian refugees in Jordan. They provide education for children and employment opportunities for Syrian refugee youths in the Kurdistan region of Iraq as well.

Through one agreement, the UAE is contributing Dh7.3 million towards healthcare services for Syrian refugees in both Mafraq and Irbid governorates of Jordan, by making necessary healthcare available the UAE's aid is helping to reduce fatalities and illnesses in the refugee population. The number of beneficiaries is estimated to be around 80,000, of whom 36,000 are women and 24,000 are children. The project is scheduled for completion by the end of September, 2015.

The second agreement with IRC sees Dh7.3 million allocated to provide education and employment opportunities for Syrian refugee children and adolescents in the Kurdish region of Iraq. The project aims to increase access to primary and secondary schools through additional shifts and improved facilities. The project intends to improve quality of education through the professional development of teachers focused on instructional practices and student well-being. Increased income and savings for marginalised youth as well as improved goal-setting behaviour and self-esteem are also some of the project outcomes and goals, where the number of beneficiaries is 6,000 Syrian refugee students in Dohuk and Erbil governorates.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, the health services provided by the UAE covered the cost of over 30% of the total health needs of both Azraq and Zaatari camps between January and September 2014. This impact was the result of an Dh18 million contribution to UNHCR, made last year, for the provision of health assistance in the two camps, of which Dh7 million was allocated to health activities and Dh11 million for water, sanitation and health. The UAE's aid allowed UNHCR to reach almost 94,000 Syrian refugees through two field hospitals operating with a total of 55 beds, nine primary healthcare centres, and one delivery unit in Zaatari camp. In Azraq refugee camp, the UAE's donation is supporting a clinic that is open 24 hours per day, seven days a week, in addition to one health post.

Jawaher, a nine-month-old baby that was found by the health team of the IRC mobile clinic, which functions through the UAE's support, is but one example of a child that has benefited from the various aid programs in place. Jawaher was found in one of the communities in a remote area of the Northern Jordanian desert weighing only 4.5 kilograms (10 pounds) – almost the same as her weight when she was born, nine months earlier. Through the UAE's agreements with international aid organisations, Jawaher has been able to receive specialised care in one of Jordan's hospitals, and will be treated by specialist nutritionists in one of the UNHCR-funded Jordan Health Aid Society clinics. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278710956.html


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UAE Ambassador to Cyprus present credentials to President of Cyprus

posted on 01/04/2015

LARNACA: Abdulwahab Nasser Al Najjar, Ambassador of the UAE to Cyprus, yesterday presented his credentials to President Nicos Anastasiades Cyprus.

During the meeting, Al Najjar conveyed the greetings of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the Cypriot president.

The Cypriot President requested the UAE Ambassador to convey his greetings to President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

He also hailed the outstanding relations between the two countries which would be enhanced with the opening of the UAE Embassy in Cyprus, and wished for further progress and welfare for the UAE under the leadership of H.H. Sheikh Khalifa.

Abdulwahab Nasser Al Najjar is the first UAE ambassador to Cyprus.

In April 2014, Cypriote President Nicos Anastasiades visited Abu Dhabi to meet His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. The two parties discussed ways of enhancing and supporting cooperation between the UAE and Cyprus, serving the common interests and future plans of the two friendly countries and peoples, backing trade partnerships between their private and public sectors, promoting educational and cultural relations, and expanding cooperation in the domains of healthcare and medical care.

During the Cypriote president's visits, Cyprus and the UAE signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs). These include a cooperation agreement on air transport services, an MoU on higher education and scientific research, an MoU on tourism, and a MoU on energy.

On 5th March 2014, The UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced that with effect from 22nd March 2014, holders of ordinary passports of 13 European Union member states, including Cyprus, will be exempted from visa requirement when entering the UAE. MoFA's announcement was in implementation of the decision taken by the UAE Cabinet in this regard.

On 28th July 2010, in Nicosia, H.H Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Foreign Minister, and his Cypriot Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou, signed an agreement exempting holders of diplomatic and special and VIP passports of both countries from visa requirement when entering the UAE and Cyprus. They also signed an MoU on political consultations between the two foreign ministries of their countries.

UAE's non-oil imports from Cyprus grew 19.4% from Dh56.59 million in 2003 to Dh67.57 million in 2011, while Cyprus' non-oil imports from the UAE rose 3% from Dh10.46 million to Dh10.75 million.

In 2012, the UAE and Cyprus signed a double-taxation agreement proving a new strong incentive for joint investments and relations between the two countries. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278741940.html


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ECSSR's 20th Annual Conference launches to discuss Middle East, shifting roles, interests and alliances

posted on 01/04/2015

Under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), the ECSSR yesterday inaugurated its 20th Annual Conference entitled, "The Middle East: Shifting Roles, Interests and Alliances," in the presence of Fouad Siniora, former Prime Minister of Lebanese Republic and a plethora of intellectuals, academics, researchers, and a number of members of the diplomatic corps and the media. The two day conference will be held at the ECSSR complex in Abu Dhabi.

The proceedings of the 20th Annual Conference opened with welcoming remarks from Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, through which he conveyed greetings of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to the participants at the conference and his wishes for success.

Fouad Siniora, former Lebanese Prime Minister, delivered one of the keynote addresses in which he lauded the model represented by the UAE as an Arab unification experiment since its establishment at the hands of the founding father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

"This experiment is a success story based on the fact that unity is strength. The UAE is a good example to be followed in the Arab world, where unity turns weakness into strength. The UAE is also a good example of diversity and acceptance, in addition to being open to the modern world, whilst retaining the national character and a tradition of independent decision making," Siniora added "Today, the Arab region is experiencing a period of uncertainty, especially with the growing role of non-state actors. A unified Arab strategy is required to confront the many challenges facing the region, including the uncertainty of whether the current political boundaries will remain; the growth of extremist organisations such as Da'esh; the ambiguity of the future of the Arab-Israeli peace process; and the future of economic and social conditions in the Arab region.

The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 has been a serious threat to the Arab region, removed Iraq from its historic role in the regional security system, and demolished the Iraqi state that existed since 1920. When the US withdrew from Iraq, the latter fell under Iranian hegemony, forcing it to suffer from a sectarian war and the growing influence of the forces of extremism and terrorism.

Iranian control over Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon, weakening these Arab regimes, cannot be ignored, as it seeks to export its revolution to the Arab region, and further, for its continuous pursuit to destabilise the region by way of supporting sectarian militias in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.

There are many non- Arab actors exerting influence in the region. Israel continues to occupy Arab lands, preventing the establishment of an Arab state; Iran has a heavy hand in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; Turkey seeks to play a growing regional role; the United States, which has contributed to strengthening the role of Iran and destabilisation of the region through the execution of its policies; Russia, which supports the Assad regime, and perhaps communication with it may help stabilise the region; and finally, militant and terrorist movements. However, Operation Decisive Storm is a good example of Arab moderation forces working together to restore regional stability.

Arab moderate forces should raise the level of their response to these existing threats through three main fronts. Firstly, by revisiting the Palestinian issue, which is the prime source of all problems in the region and should be resolved on the basis of the Arab Peace Initiative. Secondly, activation of joint Arab political, security and economic action is urgently required. This will not be possible without restoring the leading role of Egypt in the Arab world by alleviating the burdens of the domestic economic and security shocks it now suffers. There should be a restructuring of the Arab League in a manner that boosts its regional role. Operation Decisive Storm and the joint Arab action in Yemen represent a practical application and action of this kind should continue in the future. There are also a number of economic challenges which should not be overshadowed, including population increase, the deterioration of economic conditions and high unemployment rate among the youth, which in turn constitutes the greatest challenge. We need to create 50 million new jobs in the near future in order to absorb new labour market entrants. Thirdly, we must confront extremist and terrorist groups and reform the content of religious discourse by reforming our own religious institutions.

The work of Arab moderate forces on these three fronts should be accompanied by work with external powers and an enhancement of cooperation with them on the basis of common interests and non-interference in Arab affairs. The world has an interest in the stability of the Arab region and it also has a responsibility to achieve this by helping to rid the region of the situation of despair and provide strong support to moderate forces in Syria in their fight against the criminal regime," Siniora further said.

Ambassador Mohammad al-Orabi, former foreign minister of Egypt, delivered a speech in which he praised the civilisational model represented by the UAE in all fields and the forward-looking scientific research role played by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR). He described the ECSSR as a prestigious Centre which is considered today as one of the best think tanks in the world for its objectivity, research activity, publications and events. He expressed his appreciation for the sponsor of this important intellectual conference, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and for Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi.

Ambassador Mohammad al-Orabi, former Egyptian foreign minister, noted that his presence among the conference participants coincided with grave events threatening Arab nations, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Gulf. Several forces have joined efforts to undermine the modern Arab state, and "we have to confront this threat with joint Arab action," he urged. The recent Arab Summit in Sharm El-Sheikh is the best example of joint action for which we aspire for. Joint action has changed from the realm of a wish to action with the formation of a joint Arab force.

He noted that there are numerous challenges facing the Arab world today including the failure to reach a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict; the growing nuclear capabilities of Iran and Israel; low rates of development in Arab countries, where societies are largely composed of young people; the spread of extremist and terrorist groups and organisations such as Daesh (ISIL); sectarian and ethnic conflicts which contribute to fuelling the intervention of regional and international powers; the clear rise of the role of non-state actors, driven by a desire to fragment the Arab nation-state; the internationalisation of Arab problems which has seen the files of major Arab issues transfer to non-Arab hands, as is the case in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Iraq; and the role played by some non-Arab regional actors in an attempt to fill the strategic vacuum.

"Daesh seeks to undermine the integrity of brotherly Iraq, and Egypt calls on the present governmental team in Baghdad to proceed towards restoring Iraq's links with its neighbouring countries as well as renewing the concept of the nation state in order to prevent the consolidation of the concept of division of a sectarian, ethnic or geographical nature."

"Yemen suffers today from disintegration that threatens the country and all Arab security and Egypt has declared its participation in the positive Arab effort to achieve stability in Yemen, to ensure and maintain the integrity of Arab national security against external interventions that spread chaos and instability.

The Syrian crisis is still at a standstill after four years. It has slipped, as a result of political and security errors, into a spiral of violence and chaos, the cost of which is being paid by the Syrian people. Egypt, however, is dedicating its efforts to finding a solution to the Syrian crisis, with emphasis on complete independence from any external influences. Therefore, a conference for Syrian national forces will be held in Egypt this spring which will hopefully lead to a political solution that will protect Syria and its people from war.

Libya is one of the most pressing challenges facing the region. The situation has become more dangerous and threatening as terrorist and jihadi organisations have exploited the instability to expand and acquire more influence. As a result, the region is now facing a cross-border terrorist threat."

Ambassador al-Orabi added that Egypt is regaining its position at the heart of the Arab world and it is fully determined to address the challenges the Arab region is facing.

The first panel, entitled "The Current Political and Strategic Landscape in the Middle East," chaired by Salem Mohamed Humaid, Director-General, Al Mezmaah Studies and Research Centre, began with Paul Salem, Vice President, Middle East Institute, United States, presenting a paper, entitled, "Arab Change States and Regional Powers: Shifting Interests and Alliances," in which he explained that the Arab world has been swept by a storm of changes since the uprisings of 2011. This has led to profound political change in some countries and civil war in others. It has also enabled the rise of a radical terrorist proto-state in the heart of the Levant. Meanwhile, these fast moving developments have impacted the role of regional players such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, Qatar and Egypt, and altered the position of the region among global powers.

Salem examined the interconnections between developments in these states and the changing policies and fortunes of key regional players. He also examined the competing and converging interests of regional powers; the impact of their policies in key parts of the Middle East; and the way forward in terms of building regional security and stability.

Raghida Dergham, New York Bureau Chief, Al Hayat newspaper, and Executive Chairman of the Beirut Institute in the Lebanese Republic, presented her paper, entitled, "The Current Situation in the Arab States in Change."

She noted that Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Tunisia have all experienced significant changes in recent years as a result of the so-called "Arab Spring." This has affected inter-state relations in the region as well as relations with external and non-Arab regional powers; Iran and Turkey in particular are benefiting from the changes taking place in the Arab arena. The fall-out from the changes brought about by the so-called "Arab Spring" has also affected relations between Arab change states and major non-regional powers. This, in turn, is reflected in the policies of these states towards the Arab region. At the forefront of these powers is the United States of America, the policy objectives of which have ranged between continuity and change. Dergham also noted that the changes taking place in the Arab states have had a significant impact on regional balances in general. As a result, Iran has been able to take advantage of the situation by attempting to expand and strengthen its influence in the region, particularly in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, and this will have significant consequences for existing and future regional alliances.

Richard Barrett CMG OBE, Senior Vice President of The Soufan Group, presented his paper, entitled, "The International Coalition Against Terrorism: Opportunities and Challenges," in which he pointed out that the past 13 years have witnessed a continuous campaign against terrorism, and yet we face more widespread disruption from armed non-State actors today than we did in the immediate aftermath of the attacks in the United States in 2001. In most parts of the world, the actual threat from terrorism to political stability, national identity and social cohesion is minimal, but in others, terrorist groups have developed into insurgencies and even proto-states. Even where terrorism is not, in fact, a significant threat, it can dominate the political and social agenda, challenging the concepts of a multi-cultural society, posing questions about the role of religion in government, and throwing doubt on the continued viability of national borders.

Mr Barrett added that terrorism, therefore, has created a new world disorder without allowing time for a considered international response to the challenges it poses, challenges so serious that even states which pride themselves on their observance of universal values have pursued policies at odds with their international commitments. Emotion has often trumped analysis in policy-making and changed the nature of political leadership.

Barrett concluded by saying international consensus centres around opposition to terrorism without any agreed definition of what terrorism is. This has led to broad agreements on policy and operational responses that are marked only by a common lack of impact. Old tools have proved inadequate to meet the terrorist threat, but the world has been slow to develop and adopt new ones. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278740415.html


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IAEA experts find effective UAE progress made towards preparing for a Nuclear Power Plant Emergency

posted on 01/04/2015

The United Arab Emirates is establishing effective nuclear emergency management arrangements that build upon the nation's existing emergency response system, according to a team of international safety experts, that yesterday completed an 11-day review of the UAE's planning efforts.

At the UAE's request, the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, assembled an Emergency Preparedness Review, EPREV, service comprising seven international and IAEA experts to examine the UAE's progress in preparing the necessary response measures to be applied in the unlikely event of a nuclear emergency at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant now under construction in Abu Dhabi's Western Region.

The UAE's emergency response plan involves a coordinated effort from a variety of UAE entities, including the National Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Management Authority, the Ministry of Interior, the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation and the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, which served as the liaison agency for the EPREV mission. Together, these entities are working to have all emergency preparation and response measures in place and well-tested before the first nuclear fuel arrives at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, planned for 2016.

The IAEA team found that the UAE plans include some key areas of excellence that emergency planners in other countries could learn from. For example, it is a good practice to co-locate the emergency operations centres responsible for managing emergencies at both the nuclear power plant site and in the surrounding area. The UAE is preparing such a facility in Al Ruwais, about 50 kilometres from the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant.

"This is a unique feature of the UAE nuclear emergency management framework and can greatly enhance the effectiveness of the cooperation between the operator and the offsite emergency management authorities, a key to the success of any emergency response," according to a press release issued by the IAEA.

Furthermore, the IAEA team lauded the UAE for establishing a clear definition of roles and responsibilities for the organisations that would manage nuclear emergencies, and for the great progress being made in the development of facilities and capabilities to manage the medical response needed following an unlikely nuclear emergency.

The team also identified areas where more progress can be achieved such as further clarifying the arrangements to decide how best to protect the public during a nuclear emergency. The EPREV team also urged the UAE's emergency response organisations to develop consistent plans to communicate with the public during a nuclear emergency.

"The United Arab Emirates is committed to a nuclear energy programme that protects the nation's people and environment to the highest possible standards," said Ambassador Hamad Alkaabi, the Permanent Representative of the UAE to the IAEA. "This IAEA mission constructively boosts our efforts to ensure that we meet those standards."

In addition to its review of the UAE's nuclear emergency response arrangements, the IAEA conducted a follow-up assessment to parts of an earlier IAEA review of the UAE's nuclear regulatory framework. The IAEA conducted an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission in 2011 that included some emergency response components, and the EPREV team determined that FANR has resolved all the emergency preparedness and response recommendations and suggestions that were raised by that mission.

The EPREV experts delivered a draft report of their review yesterday, and they are expected to complete a final report within approximately three months. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278721544.html


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DME reaches significant new milestone of 8 billion barrels traded

posted on 01/04/2015

DME announced yesterday that it has now reached the 8 billion barrel mark, with a total of 8 million contracts (eqv. 8 billion barrels) traded on the exchange.

The increased interest in DME's value proposition driven by new members from Asia and their participation has contributed to the Exchange's trading performance and enabled it to hit the new milestone in March 2015, despite the current challenging conditions for the global oil markets.

The achievement reinforces DME Oman's position as the most credible trading benchmark for the Asian crude oil market. The DME Oman contract currently is the largest physically delivered crude oil futures contract in the world.

"As the only exchange capable of bridging the most significant global crude oil corridor between the Middle East and Asia, the DME's central role in providing a fair price discovery mechanism for crude oil heading east through the DME Oman contract, especially during these volatile times, has never been more important," said Christopher Fix, Chief Executive Officer of DME. "The DME has developed a great deal of trust among customers in Asia due to its transparent trading mechanism and strong regulation. This in turn has helped the exchange to register this impressive performance of reaching the 8 billion barrels traded milestone."

"The growth of the Asian derivatives market and the increased appetite for risk management and hedging has also benefitted the DME," said Fix. "The exchange looks forward to establishing a closer relationship with our expanding Asian customer base in order to maintain our upward trajectory in terms of trading growth." – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/economics/1395278701016.html


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Etihad Airways celebrates arrival of inaugural Alitalia flights from Venice and Milan to Abu Dhabi

posted on 01/04/2015

Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, joined celebrations at Abu Dhabi International Airport yesterday to welcome the arrival of its equity and codeshare partner Alitalia's inaugural flights from Venice and Milan to the UAE capital.

A traditional water cannon salute was arranged to mark the occasion, with Alitalia's CEO Silvano Cassano and Chief Customer Officer Aubrey Tiedt travelling onboard the inaugural flight from Venice, along with Enrico Marchi, Chairman of the SAVE Group – Venice Airport.

The senior delegation was greeted on arrival by Bruno Matheu, Etihad Airways Chief Operating Officer Equity Partners, and officials from Abu Dhabi Airports Company, ADAC.

Peter Baumgartner, Chief Commercial Officer of Etihad Airways, said, "Network development has been placed at the heart of Alitalia's ambitious development strategy and we are delighted to codeshare on both of these new routes, which are the first to be launched by Alitalia since Etihad Airways acquired a 49 percent stake in the airline.

"The service between Milan and Abu Dhabi combines with our own daily flights between the two cities to provide a convenient double-daily frequency, while the Venice flights not only support inbound tourism, but are also an important new link to serve people in Northern Italy.

"Together, Etihad Airways and Alitalia now offer combined double-daily flights to Milan and Rome, and a daily service to Venice. This is great news for our respective countries, as strong air transport links act as a catalyst for economic growth. It is also great news for travellers, not only between Italy and the UAE, but beyond. Abu Dhabi is a natural hub with a strategic location that connects Italy with destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Indian subcontinent, Asia and Australia through the fast-growing Etihad Airways network."

Alitalia's daily Venice to Abu Dhabi service is operated using an Airbus A330 aircraft with 20 business class seats, 17 economy plus seats and 213 economy class seats. The airline's daily Milan to Abu Dhabi service is operated using a Boeing 777 aircraft with 30 business class seats, 24 economy plus seats and 239 economy class seats. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278695946.html


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Etisalat and LG collaborate to bring LG G FLEX2 to the UAE

posted on 01/04/2015

Hot on the tail of its global unveiling at CES 2015, the LG G Flex2 is rolling out in the UAE on 1st of April 2015, thanks to Etisalat and LG Electronics pairing up to make it available to its customers. The partnership between Etisalat, the UAE's leading telecommunication operator and LG, a global leader and technology innovator in consumer electronics, mobile communications and home appliances, was announced yesterday at Etisalat's head office in Abu Dhabi.

Consumers in the UAE will have the opportunity to own the perfectly curved LG G Flex2 smartphone for free through Etisalat's smartphone plans, offering 10GB data allowance, 300 flexi-minutes or 1,000 local minutes for Dh400 a month on 18 months' contract or 1GB data and 50 flexi minutes for Dh200 monthly on 24 months' contract. Flexi-minutes can be used for local, international and incoming roaming calls.

Alternatively, customers can buy the LG Flex2 device on a standalone basis for Dh2,799. Prepaid customers can get 1 GB monthly data for Dh 99 for the first three months free of rental charges. From the fourth month onwards, a monthly charge of Dh99 for 1 GB data applies.

Etisalat's Chief Marketing Officer, Khaled ElKhouly, said, "The rich portfolio of smartphone devices that we offer our customers is driven by our dedication to provide the latest, most advanced technology on the most competitively priced plans in the market. We are excited about partnering with LG to bring its newest innovation to the UAE on our nationwide 4G LTE network."

Customers will also be able to take advantage of Etisalat's fastest LTE network, which covers nearly 90 percent of the country's populated area and allows 4G smartphone users to connect to the UAE's fastest Internet.

"In launching the LG G Flex2 hand in hand with Etisalat, we are pleased to be making it possible for Etisalat customers to have the ultimate user experience" said D. Y. Kim, President, LG Electronics, Gulf FZE. "We believe that the G Flex2's improved specifications, innovative technology and dynamically curved design make it the perfect combination of form and function. Now combined with Etisalat's offerings the G Flex2 is a truly irresistible offer for customers." – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395278645877.html


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UAE’s food imports to rise to US$400b in 10 years

posted on 01/04/2015

The UAE's food imports are expected to rise from US$100 billion (Dh367 billion) in 2014 to US$400 billion in the coming ten years, Sultan Al Mansouri, UAE Minister of Economy, told Gulf News on the sidelines of a ministerial round-table at the Annual Investment Meeting 2015 on Tuesday.

The UAE import 85 per cent of its food, and the government plans to develop farmland in other countries — due to the lack of arable lands in the UAE — to secure food supplies amid increasing demand.

Also the government is urging diversification of the sources of the food it imports to hedge against any crisis.

"Planning to secure food supply is very important not only for the UAE or Gulf region but for the entire Arab world,” Al Mansouri said.

The UAE's government has carried out a number of missions to regions that have potential in agro-food investments including, Latin America, Africa, East Europe and other Arabic countries. Most of these countries were not ready for investments in terms of rules and regulations, he said.

Countries who have promising potential in agro-food investments need to improve their laws and ethics to attract foreign investors.

"To boost its food security programme, the UAE has a clear strategic plan to increase its FDI outflows in the agro-food sector, but unfortunately most of the countries that obtain these resources are high risk,” he said.

Al Mansouri called upon countries that have the potential for agro-food investment and lack a sound legislative framework to set up an official commission to review all the challenges and obstacles that face foreign investors and find proper solutions.

"These countries were also having other challenges related to food production, food industry and food technology,' he added.

He mentioned that stability and protecting investment in the long run is essential for any market venture.

"We did set up several businesses but after starting the production we faced a backlash with many obstacles that threatened the stability and profitability of the investment,” Al Mansouri said.

In the Arab world, US$5 billion is needed annually to bridge the food gap (the difference between demand and production) that the region is facing, according to Al Mansouri.

While the world population will be growing by one billion in 2035 and another one billion in 2050, food production should be increased by 50 per cent and 70 per cent relatively, according to Kandeh K. Yumkella, Undersecretary-General of Sustainable Energy for All and Chairman of UN Energy in Australia.

Currently, UAE has investment in ago-food in Namibia, South Africa and in several Arabic countries including, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Sudan and Egypt, according to Al Mansouri.

Morocco, one of the most potential country for agro-food investments due to the resource it has, identified investment in this sector worth US$20 billion according to Aziz Rabbah, Morocco Ministry of Equipment, Transport and Logistics.

UAE with other Gulf countries have big investments in agro-food in Morocco related to agriculture, food production and strategic foot storage, he said.

"Our government has changed a lot of law and regulation to facilitate and protect FDI inflows to Morocco,” Rabbah said. – Gulf News - http://gulfnews.com/business/sectors/investment/uae-s-food-imports-to-rise-to-400b-in-10-years-1.1482864


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Canal project flowing smoothly

posted on 01/04/2015

The Dubai Water Canal project is progressing on schedule, an official said at a government services expo where a huge model of the canal is on show.

Scheduled for completion in mid-2016, the canal will run 3.2km from Business Bay and empty into the sea in Jumeirah. The Dh2 billion project will cut across Shaikh Zayed Road, Al Safa Park and Al Wasl and Jumeirah roads.

It will be lined by hotels, shops and restaurants that are expected to draw scores of residents and tourists.

The large canal model, turning heads at the Dubai Government Achievements Exhibition (DGAE) until Wednesday, offers a rare view of the entire project in 3D.

Salma Al Shamshi, an engineer at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), told Gulf News most of the Phase 1 canal work has been completed. It involves the construction of a bridge on Shaikh Zayed Road comprising eight lanes in each direction.

She added that Phase 2, which includes constructing bridges on Al Wasl and Jumeirah roads, was 25 per cent complete.

"We are raising the roads and maintaining the same number of lanes, so there will no impact on traffic,” Salma said.

Parking, too, is not expected to be problematic as each building in Dubai must provide a set number of parking spaces under Dubai Municipality rules, she added.

"I think parking will be part of the new buildings, with parking capacity per building according to municipality rules.”

The RTA is "handling the infrastructure and canal part of the project”, Salma explained, while private developers will build their own leisure destinations along the water body.

What's more, according to Salma, the canal will improve the environment as it will increase the water circulation in Dubai Creek, which will be connected to the canal at its beginning, and will run the course into the sea.

"It will enhance the movement of the water, reducing pollution in the Creek… The canal will also increase the waterfront area of Dubai. There will be water taxis and marine transport, as is available in the Creek.”

A little over two weeks ago, the RTA had announced the completion rate of Phase III, which includes constructing the canal connecting the Business Bay Canal with the Arabian Gulf, had hit 15 per cent.

The final phase also involves constructing three pedestrian bridges linking the two sides of the canal. It also includes constructing four marine transit stations and filling works to build a man-made peninsula along Jumeirah Park. - Gulf News - http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/transport/canal-project-flowing-smoothly-1.1482674


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Masdar Institute ensuring safety of crops grown with treated waste water in UAE

posted on 01/04/2015

Desalination was the first major technological innovation that allowed the UAE to overcome its freshwater resource scarcity to achieve greater quality of life. The next innovative breakthrough that will dynamically improve the UAE's water security will be in the form of wastewater treatment, says a team from the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.

While desalination has and will continue to provide the majority of the UAE's freshwater for domestic use, it is a costly and energy-intensive process, necessitating the need for alternative water sources. Treating wastewater for limited use – like agriculture and cooling – in place of desalinated water could provide energy and cost savings. Already, Abu Dhabi recycles some of its municipal wastewater, with roughly 60 percent of the treated municipal wastewater being reutilised for landscape irrigation. But due to limited irrigation distribution networks, the remainder is discharged to the Gulf.

The Masdar Institute scientists want to capitalise on unused treated wastewater, known as treated effluent, so it can be utilised to help the country meet its various water needs, sustainably and cost-effectively.

"Agriculture accounts for nearly 60 percent of Abu Dhabi's water consumption. The use of treated effluent for irrigation could free-up Abu Dhabi's limited freshwater for our drinking and washing needs while providing more water for agriculture - enhancing both food and water security. Essentially, it could be a win-win situation," Dr. Farrukh Ahmad, Associate Professor, Water and Environmental Engineering and project lead, explained.

He is joined in the project by Andreas Henschel, Assistant Professor, Computing and Information Science; Jorge Rodriguez, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Environmental Engineering; and Yamrot Amha, Research Engineer and Masdar Institute Alumna.

Their research is focused on determining the wastewater quality – in terms of microbiological safety – so it can be decided whether it needs additional clean-up before it can be recycled back into our food production chain through edible crop irrigation.

"The treated effluent we are targeting is the wastewater that has undergone a conventional treatment process followed by chlorine disinfection – a process that removes much of the organic and biological contaminants in wastewater. While conventional treatment and chlorine remove most biological contamination, they do not necessarily render the water safe for potable consumption or for edible crop irrigation," Ahmad explained.

In order to use treated effluent for crop irrigation, the water must be properly treated such that it does not pose adverse health risks to the crops' consumers, namely us – the people who eat the crops.

"When considering the use of treated wastewater for agricultural use, reliable methods need to be in place for determining the quality of that treated water – so we know what is in it before we use it to grow our food – and the effectiveness of its treatment – so we know whether our treatment method works," Dr. Ahmad added.

Dr. Ahmad's team is developing reliable methods for detecting disease-causing bacteria, or pathogens, in the treated effluent using next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS) technology.

"NGS allows us to extract genetic information from the bacteria, sequence large stretches of its DNA and analyse it in a timely manner. Based on the NGS technology, our team has developed novel protocols to isolate specific regions of the bacteria's genome, enabling us to better identify bacterial pathogens based on the evolutionary changes in their DNA. Our study is one of only two in the world that has applied and developed new protocols for NGS in wastewater treatment and recycling," Dr. Rodriguez explained.

The water was tested for pathogens at three different stages of the treatment plant and after chlorine disinfection. The team discovered that some classes of bacteria, which contain human pathogens, may be resistant to chlorine disinfection.

A risk assessment was administered to determine whether adverse health effects, specifically outbreaks of the bacteria Salmonella, can result from consuming food irrigated with this treated effluent. The health-risk evaluation model studied whether three vegetables frequently consumed uncooked – lettuce, cabbage and cucumber – would potentially cause a disease in the person eating it, if treated wastewater was used for their cultivation.

Of the three vegetables considered, lettuce showed the highest risk of infection, suggesting that further investigations and advanced treatment might be required prior to the use of treated effluent for edible crop agriculture.

The use of treated municipal wastewater to irrigate edible crops that this research is looking to promote is an example of the integrated thinking needed in the UAE to enhance food and water security while reducing energy consumption. This research provides an innovative solution to help meet the UAE's growing demand for water and food sustainably, while also reducing the country's energy and carbon emission load. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278733441.html


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Abu Dhabi’s first solar-powered car on display at Yas Mall

posted on 01/04/2015

The first solar car produced in Abu Dhabi will be displayed at Yas Mall starting from Wednesday.

The idea behind the solar car came about in 2013 at the World Future Energy Summit, with Tokai University displaying its own solar car, the ‘Tokai Challenger 2011'.

Inspired by the idea, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces, decided to launch the UAE's own project in building its own solar-powered car.

The project was a success with students from Abu Dhabi's Petroleum Institute managing to build the car, which will now go on display at Yas Mall allowing the public to see and learn about the car for themselves.

Talal Al Dhiyehi, Chief Development Officer at Aldar Properties, said that the display of the solar car at Yas Mall shows its continued commitment to a sustainable and clean future. "Yas Mall has an unrivalled commitment to creating a sustainable future for the capital, incorporating sustainability into our construction, cleaning and waste management. We are proud to be hosting the solar car in Town Square created by the engineering stars of tomorrow, increasing environmental awareness in the UAE,” he said.

The solar car also made its appearance during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, at the Abu Dhabi Solar Challenge 2015, the first such event held in the Middle East. The UAE-based solar team came second during the race against international competitors from all around the world, with the solar car managing to race for over 13 hours.

The Abu Dhabi produced solar car has also won awards for its achievement, such as taking first place in the Shell Innovation Awards. – Gulf News - http://gulfnews.com/news/uae/environment/abu-dhabi-s-first-solar-powered-car-on-display-at-yas-mall-1.1482752


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DoT Abu Dhabi launches its new automated payment system with "Hafilat" smart cards

posted on 01/04/2015

In its continuous pursuit to develop and improve public bus service in terms of accessibility and sustainability, the Department of Transport in Abu Dhabi, DoT Abu Dhabi, announced yesterday the launch of its new automated payment system with "Hafilat" smart cards that are designed to pay public bus fares in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi as of May 15th.

The new payment cards provide the feature of adding a certain balance and recharge it, in addition to the possibility of adding other services such as the weekly and monthly passes.

These contactless cards operate by passing them over the fare collection devices installed at the bus entrances, provides a smooth and smart bus fare collection in fractions of a second, thus contributing to reduce the congestions while boarding or descending from the bus.

The launch of "Hafilat" automated payment system, which will be implemented in phases in all public buses throughout the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, aims to enable passengers to pay for their bus trips easily, quickly and safely.

"This smart card or ticket deducts the fare of the bus trip directly from the cash value stored in the T-Purse. The fare is calculated automatically based on the distance of the passenger's journey from the moment one boarded the bus until descent," said Mohammed Nasser Al Otaiba, Acting General Manager of the Bus Office at the DoT.

The launch of the smart payment system will facilitate the bus boarding and descent process for passengers by reducing the queues in front of the bus driver to pay the fare, he said, adding, it will only allow authorised passengers to board the bus and thus eliminate free rides.

Al Otaiba also pointed out that these cards have distinct features that enable passengers to register their cards in order to protect their balance in the event of card loss or theft, as well as allow frequent bus users to avail from special offers and loyalty programs.

The "Hafilat" cards can also be recharged using cash or credit card payments via the automated payment devices distributed across the Emirate. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395278717742.html


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ADP urges motorists to follow traffic guidelines during fog

posted on 01/04/2015

One person sustained minor injuries following a 15-car pile-up on the Abu Dhabi – Dubai road towards Al Samha on Monday morning. The injured citizen was treated at the scene of the accident, which resulted from low horizontal visibility due to fog in various areas of the road.

Colonel Mohammed Ahmed Saif Al Mazroui, Head of the Peripheral Regions Traffic Department at the Traffic and Patrols Directorate in Abu Dhabi Police, said that the operation room dispatched traffic patrols immediately on hearing of the situation, who then implemented the emergency plan for foggy conditions by controlling traffic flow at the location and clearing the road of damaged vehicles as quickly as possible in order to avoid further incidents involving one or more cars.

Colonel Al Mazroui noted that the Directorate has also implemented a contingency plan during fog to prevent trucks and heavy vehicles from entering Abu Dhabi from truck motorways during peak hours, until the visibility clears. Procedures like this contribute to the promotion of road safety during foggy conditions and reduce traffic accidents.

He urged drivers to abide by directives of the traffic and patrols officers in the event of fog in order to maintain their safety and avoid accidents.

Colonel Al Mazroui called on drivers to pay attention over the coming days and to watch for changes in weather conditions that may cause fog and low visibility. He emphasised the importance of following traffic rules like maintaining sufficient space between vehicles, avoiding overtaking other vehicles, reducing speed gradually, driving cautiously at a speed that is appropriate for the circumstances, using the low-beam lights of the vehicle.

He reiterated the need to maintain enough space between vehicles, saying, "You should double the safety distance that you usually leave between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you in order to allow more time to stop, as driving conditions affect your ability to brake as quickly as you would be able to under normal conditions."

Colonel Al Mazroui encouraged transport companies to strengthen their drivers' traffic culture and to encourage them to abide by traffic regulations in foggy conditions, even advising them to cancel transportation if visibility was too low. He said that the Directorate will address drivers, especially external roads users, with awareness messages in collaboration with the Security Media Department at the General Secretariat of the Office of H.H Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395278693300.html


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SKMC, ADMAF unveil "Wall of Roses" student mural

posted on 01/04/2015

Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, SKMC, managed by the Cleveland Clinic, will be showcasing the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, ADMAF, Wall of Roses student mural, unveiled yesterday at the hospital.

The mural was created in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Art Hub with 400 school children aged 12 to 17 years old in Abu Dhabi. Each student learned how to make roses using polymer clay, which were then glazed in different colours and developed into a mural portraying young children.

Showing the mural is part of SKMC's philosophy of putting patients first, as it is one of many activities at the hospital designed to provide more than medical care to patients living with illness.

Salama Al Haj, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, SKMC, said, "The healing process is not only about providing a setting of care of the highest quality to patients, but also enhancing their quality of life. The use of art and music in therapy can be used to help encourage emotional expression, promote interaction, relieve symptoms, and can certainly be of help to them in healing their spirits. Art in the hospital helps to develop an environment of healing, and creates a safe, comfortable and spiritual space for the healing process."

"The arts, in all their varied forms, are known to positively impact patients and it is with this knowledge and the experience we have amassed over the last six years that we remain firmly committed to bringing music to medical institutions like the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City for the betterment of all," said Hoda I. Al Khamis-Kanoo, Founder of ADMAF and the Abu Dhabi Festival.

SKMC, managed by Cleveland Clinic, is part of the SEHA HealthSystem and is owned and operated by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company, SEHA, which is responsible for the curative activities of all public hospitals and clinics in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/general/1395278706441.html


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Talented Emirati musicians perform for patients across the UAE to aid their recovery

posted on 01/04/2015

The Abu Dhabi Festival, in association with Mubadala, has brought the popular ‘Music in Hospitals' initiative to healthcare facilities across the UAE for the sixth year running as part of its 2015 community and education programme.

Designed to enrich the lives of patients and provide an opportunity for community development between families and healthcare staff, the festival presents a series of recitals by young Emirati musicians of oud, piano and guitar for the patients and staff of various hospitals.

Nadine Saleh, Head of Social Development and Partnerships at Mubadala, said, "Our commitment to the community is an important component of the different youth empowerment and sponsorship initiatives we support. Not only does our collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Music and Arts Foundation, ADMAF, provide a platform to provide Emirati youth with enriching experiences that combine arts and science, but initiatives like Music in Hospitals provide a unique opportunity to give back to the community by using talent for a greater purpose."

Music in Hospitals artists this year performed at Imperial College London Diabetes Centre, Tawam Hospital, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, and RAK Hospital. – Emirates News Agency, WAM - http://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395278703724.html


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Another ancient Sharjah site found by archaeologists

posted on 01/04/2015

Stone axes, scrapers and awls thought to date back hundreds of thousands of years have been unearthed at a newly discovered archaeological site in Al Dhaid.

A team of archaeologists from the Department of Antiquities and Tubingen University in Germany found a large quantity of stone tools at the site in the central region of Sharjah.

Dr Sabah Jassim, head of the local archaeological team, said the items were believed to be between 200,000 and 500,000 years old. They are being analysed to determine their exact age.

"We have sent several items, including axes and scrapers, to Germany for further analysis, said Dr Jassim. "The discovery of these tools will add valuable information to our records about the Stone Age in the emirate, and the early history of human groups and their predecessors in this region.”

Awls were used to puncture the leather of animal hides, while scrapers were used to clean the leather by scraping away the meat and fur.

Several excavations have been carried out in Sharjah at Al Dhaid, Al Madam and Al Faya in recent years. Objects unearthed in these locations were similar to those found at the new site.

Last year the DoA discovered anvils, hammers, pottery and the remains of smelting and copper workshops dating back to between 500,000 and 1 million years ago. Human skeletons were found in a mass grave containing pottery, glazed jars, weapons and burial gifts, as well as a rare collection of glass bottles. – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/uae/heritage/another-ancient-sharjah-site-found-by-archaeologists


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Abu Dhabi takes Volvo Ocean Race Leg 5 lead as fleet rounds treacherous Cape Horn coast

posted on 01/04/2015

Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ador) has moved into first place during the Volvo Ocean Race fifth leg as the remaining fleet round the treacherous Cape Horn coast.

"The Horn”, as it is most commonly known, is located on Hornos Island — a remote and rocky outcrop in the Tierra del Fuego archipelago — completely exposed to the Southern Ocean storms that rage around the bottom of the world.

Conditions were characteristically ferocious when Azzam rounded at 14:22 UTC (6.22pm UAE time) on Monday, March 30. A Southern Ocean frontal weather system packing 25-30 knot winds and driving up huge waves meant a white-knuckle ride as the crew tore across the dividing line between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans at speeds over 25 knots.

Azzam was the second yacht to round "The Horn” following then leg leaders Team Alvimedica but Ian Walker and his crew have since taken the lead, with the latest released standings — at 10.40 (UAE time) — putting Abu Dhabi in the lead by 0.3 nautical miles.

"Cape Horn more than lived up to its reputation,” Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing skipper Walker said. "We have been sailing on the edge for the last 500. The waves are so big you can't go around them so you have to go through them and the water down here is five degrees Celsius. It's a relief to have got around in one piece.”

The same cannot be said for one of ADOR's joint overall race leaders, Dongfeng Race Team, who broke its mast early on Monday in the final hours of the night, 240 nautical miles west of Cape Horn. Fortunately no-one was hurt, and the boat is heading towards Ushuaia, Argentina, under its own sail.

"We knew how important it was to get around the Horn in touch with the pack, unscathed and in a position to challenge for the leg win in the final 2,000 miles,” Walker said. "We kept reminding ourselves — you can't win the Volvo Ocean Race on this leg, but you can lose it.

"We have had plenty of hairy moments on the way from Auckland and even the odd wipe-out but we have no injuries and the yacht and sails are in good shape for the final push.”

ADOR navigator Simon Fisher — making his second ‘Horn' rounding — said the fearsome history of Cape Horn was impossible to ignore, and made rounding it, particularly in such extreme conditions, a major milestone for any ocean racer.

"It's a rounding that's steeped in history,” Fisher said. "The Clipper ships racing to deliver tea used this route and like us they would have been roaring along at 20-knots and just itching for the chance to turn left at the Horn.

Milestone

"The waves are simply massive down here. It's great to have come through the Southern Ocean and after Cape Horn it all starts to get better.”

Remarkably, after 12 days of racing fewer than 20-miles separated the leading pack of identical VO65 one-design yachts at Cape Horn. For Justin Slattery, who now has five Horn roundings under his belt, this has been the closest Southern Ocean racing he has ever experienced.

"Rounding Cape Horn is a huge milestone in professional sailor's career and the significance doesn't ever diminish,” Slattery. "This is one I will particularly remember — having this many boats charging around the Horn so close after a week and half of racing is just mind-blowing.”

Slattery's partner in the two-man ADOR bow team, VOR rookie Luke Parkinson, said rounding Cape Horn had been on his personal ‘Bucket List' since he first heard of the Volvo Ocean Race from his dad when he was a kid.

"I have dreamed of taking part since then and I especially imagined racing through the Southern Ocean and rounding Cape Horn for the first time. It's been on my Bucket List for a long time so it's very satisfying to make it come true. We did it in style too — flat out in big seas and strong winds.”

No time to rest

However significant a milestone passing Cape Horn might be, the Abu Dhabi crew must now focus on the Leg 5 finish in Itajaí, another 2,000 miles north. Trimmer Phil Harmer knows this is no time to relax. In the last edition of the race as part of the Groupama crew, Harmer led comfortably around Cape Horn but was dismasted 1,000 miles from the finish. Groupama eventually limped home in third position after stopping in Punta del Este, Uruguay to jury rig a temporary mast out of the wreckage of the old one.

"You can never relax on this leg,” Harmer said. "Last race we thought we had done the hard part,” Harmer recalled. "Then one big wave and the mast came tumbling down. We have been keeping a close eye on everything on-board and we will continue to do so. We may have broken the back of this leg but 2,000 miles is still a lot of ocean to race and with everyone so close we need to have out wits about us.”

Azzam skipper Walker summed up the mood of the ADOR sailors as they summoned up the strength to make the final push to Brazil.

"We will celebrate the Horn rounding properly in Brazil,” he said. "Right now for us it's business as usual, we have a leg to win and the watches continue as normal and we keep doing everything we can to get to Itajaí ahead of the rest of them.”

Current estimates have the leading yachts reaching the Leg 5 finish in Itajaí on April 6. ADOR fans can follow the team's progress via the race tracker at http://www.volvooceanrace.com. – The National - http://www.thenational.ae/sport/volvo-ocean-race/20150331/abu-dhabi-takes-volvo-ocean-race-leg-5-lead-as-fleet-rounds-treacherous-cape-horn-coast#page2


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