DUBAI: Dubai again is planning for the takeoff of flying taxis in this futuristic city-state, offering its firmest details yet Monday for a pledged launch by 2026.
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the relaunched flying taxi program on Twitter Sunday, saying air taxis will begin flying in Dubai within three years.
Sheikh Mohammed revealed that he had approved designs for air taxi stations at the World Government Summit in Dubai this week.
“From the World Government Summit, we approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years,” Sheikh Mohammed tweeted.
من القمة العالمية للحكومات .. اعتمدنا اليوم تصميم محطات التاكسي الجوي الجديدة في دبي .. والتي ستبدأ عملها خلال ٣ سنوات .. pic.twitter.com/tGQyPFVDUD
— HH Sheikh Mohammed (@HHShkMohd) February 12, 2023
The announcment highlighted the six-rotor electric flying taxi made by Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California, in the promotional video.
The inclusion of Joby Aviation aircraft is featured at a stand at the World Government Summit on Monday.
“We’re excited about the opportunity and actively exploring the possibility,” said Oliver Walker-Jones, a spokesman for Joby Aviation.
Ahmed Bahrozyan, an official in the emirate’s Roads and Transport Authority, told Dubai Eye radio station on Monday that “it’s early days” for the plan.
“We haven’t yet signed with any partners yet,” he said.
The announcment also included the city plans for four “vertiports” by Dubai International Airport, downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah archipelago and Dubai Marina. Those points will include two launching pads and four charging points for the flying taxis.
“We believe those are attractive areas with business hubs and tourist hubs that could generate considerable demand,” Bahrozyan said.
The pricing for the flying taxis “will be in the range of a limousine service in Dubai, maybe slightly higher,” Bahrozyan said. The RTA describes limo services rates as “at least 30 percent higher than taxi fares” in the city. Taxis have a minimum fare of around $3.25 and charge $0.50 a kilometer.
The Joby prototype can fly over 240 kilometers before needing a charge — something which would put Abu Dhabi and other areas of the country within range. It takes off and lands vertically, while its rotors tilt forward in flight. It has a maximum speed of 320 kph.
Joby Avation Inc., which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, was at $4.20 a share before trading Monday. Its major shareholders include Intel Corp., while Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines also has invested.
Opening the skies to flying taxis would contribute to easing the daily traffic that’s only worsening as city population booms to over 3.5 million people.
Rush hour on Sheikh Zayed Road, a dozen-lane artery running down the length of the Dubai, alternates between dense gridlock and sports-car slalom.
ANTAKYA, Turkiye: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stares down from a campaign poster at the earthquake ruins of Antakya, inspiring confidence in Ahmet Gulyildizoglu ahead of Sunday’s election runoff.
Millions across the ravaged region defied expectation and voted for the man who has ruled Turkiye for two decades and fell just short of securing another five-year term on May 14.
Erdogan’s secular rival, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, “does not fill you with hope,” Gulyildizoglu said in front of a debris-strewn expanse once occupied by his six-floor apartment building.
“On the other hand, you have an alliance that keeps their promises,” the pensioner added, referring to Erdogan’s Islamic-rooted party and its far-right allies.
Erdogan’s ability to maintain support across Turkiye’s southeastern disaster zone contributed to Kilicdaroglu’s disappointing showing in the first round, which he ended trailing by nearly five points.
The Turkish leader is now the strong favorite, capping a remarkable turnaround.
Seething anger at the government’s stuttering response to the February disaster, in which more than 50,000 died, put Erdogan in the unfamiliar position of issuing public apologies.
But Berk Esen, an associate professor at Istanbul’s Sabanci University, called Erdogan’s election rebound “not very surprising.”
Esen argued that the region is filled with pious voters who trusted Erdogan’s explanation that the massive toll resulted from an unavoidable act of nature — not state negligence over lax building standards.
In addition, “the opposition did not campaign heavily in the area and could not offer an alternative, credible message,” Esen said.
Instead of giving up, Kilicdaroglu is radically changing course.
Ditching his embracing vows to heal Turkiye’s social divisions, Kilicdaroglu has struck a stridently nationalist tone, pledging to expel millions of Syrians and other migrants.
The message resonates in Syria-border cities such as Antakya, a mountain-rimmed cradle of civilizations once known as Antioch.
Kilicdaroglu has plastered Antakya with posters declaring: “The Syrians will go.”
“We will not turn Turkiye into a depot for migrants,” the 74-year-old said on a visit to Antakya on Tuesday.
The tough talk pleased Mehmet Aynaci, 20, who blames Syrians for local housing problems.
“Before the earthquake, if you looked for a flat, there were a lot of Syrians,” Aynaci said.
“Of course they must go,” added Atilla Celtik, who like Aynaci is one of the few who has not left the almost completely deserted city.
“They will be asking for our land in the future,” he said. “We are worried.”
The historically liberal lean of Antakya’s Hatay province gave Kilicdaroglu a slight edge here over Erdogan in the first round.
It was one of just three of the 11 quake-hit provinces to vote against the incumbent.
Kilicdaroglu’s future success will depend in part on how many people who left the disaster zone are willing to make a second trip back for the runoff.
Nearly 1.7 million of the displaced failed to change their registration address by an April 2 deadline, meaning they must come back to vote.
Sema Sicek, whose anger at Erdogan is just as strong as the days when thousands slowly died under the debris while the government unwound its response, thinks they simply must.
“Walk if you have to but don’t give up on your land,” the 65-year-old said, accusing Erdogan of “burying us alive.”
Some of that fury has spilled over onto social media, where survivors were targeted for backing Erdogan.
The Turkish leader mentions these messages often on the campaign trail, trying to blame them on Kilicdaroglu.
Gulyildizoglu’s daughter Hatice said the attacks stung.
“This really offended us,” she said. “Our grief is immense. You have to live it to understand.”
Erdogan has won votes with pledges to build victims new homes by early next year — “maybe a little later” for those in Antakya.
Kilicdaroglu is trying to do the same, telling Tuesday’s rally that “nobody should ever doubt” his ability to rebuild the region.
But Hakan Tiryaki, the provincial head of Kilicdaroglu’s leftist party, is sensitive to complaints that the opposition did not make its voice heard enough before the first round.
Campaigning any harder might have given the impression that the opposition was trying to profit from people’s grief, Tiryaki said.
It might also have failed to change the mind of voters such as Omer Edip Aslantas, 51, who remembers chatting with other leftists about developing Turkiye in the 1970s.
“The Turkish left is no longer the same,” he said in Kirikhan, a northern Hatay district that backed Erdogan.
“They have become anti-Turk, anti-Muslim.”
BEIRUT: Lebanese authorities Wednesday briefly detained a prominent Egyptian blogger and human rights activist, his lawyer and sister said, but the reason for his arrest was not immediately clear.
The first word about the arrest of Abdul-Rahman Tarek, also known by his nickname Moka, came from his sister, Sara Tarek. She posted on her Facebook page that her brother was detained by plainclothes policemen Wednesday afternoon from his apartment. She called for his release saying he had spent seven years in jail in Egypt until his release last year.
Tarek was taken to police intelligence headquarters in Beirut where he spent about five hours and was later released, his lawyer, Farouk Moghrabi. The reason behind the arrest was not immediately clear, Moghrabi said.
Sara Tarek later wrote that her brother was released, and he is at home.
Security officials did not immediately confirm Tarek’s arrest and later release.
Mary Lawlor, the UN’s independent expert on human rights defenders, tweeted: “I hear extremely disturbing news” that an Egyptian human rights defender in exile in Lebanon was arrested today “with no warrant.” She tagged Lebanon’s foreign ministry in her tweet.
A group of Lebanese activists had planned to hold a protest outside police headquarters to demand Tarek’s release, but it was called off after he was set free.
CAIRO: Tugboats refloated a large ship that had been stranded in the Suez Canal, shipping agent Leth Agencies said on Thursday, allowing flows through one of the world’s busiest waterways to return to normal.
Leth identified the ship as the 190-meter Xin Hai Tong 23, a bulk carrier.
“The Suez Canal Authority has successfully refloated M/V XIN HAI TONG 23 at 0740hrs (0440 GMT). The northbound convoy will enter at 0930hrs,” Leth Agencies said in a tweet.
In a statement, canal authorities said they were informed of an engine malfunction and deployed tugboats to successfully refloat the ship. The process was briefly delayed by the failure of the ship’s winch, they added.
The authority confirmed that “shipping activity on both directions would return to normal as soon as the towing process is finished, as a precautionary measure.”
Leth had previously tweeted that the vessel was grounded at 4 a.m. local time, disrupting at least two convoys of ships.
Refinitiv Eikon shipping data had showed the ship, which sails under the Hong Kong flag, as “not under command” near the southern end of the canal. It was initially positioned at an angle with its stern abutting the canal’s eastern side but the ship appeared to have been moved toward the center and pointed south.
The trackers showed three Egyptian tugboats surrounding the vessel.
The ship had originated from Dhuba port in Saudi Arabia. It is owned by Xiang B12 HK International Ship Lease and managed by Tosco Keymax International Ship Management.
Approximately 12 percent of the world’s trade moves through the Suez Canal, the shortest shipping route between Europe and Asia.
During strong winds in 2021, a huge container ship, the Ever Given, became jammed across Suez Canal, halting traffic in both directions for six days and disrupting global trade.
Last year, tugboats refloated an oil tanker that was briefly stranded in the canal after to a technical fault with its rudder, while the breakdown of a container ship in the canal caused minor delays in March.
HAZANO, Syria: One cold winter night, Syrian Ibrahim Othman went out to pray and came home cradling a baby girl, abandoned at the doorstep of the village mosque just hours after she was born.
“I took her home and told my wife, ‘I brought you a gift’,” said the 59-year-old resident of Hazano, in rebel-held northwest Syria.
He named the baby Hibatullah, meaning “gift of God,” and decided to raise her as one of the family.
Officials say babies are being left outside mosques, hospitals and even under olive trees in war-torn Syria as more than 12 years of grinding conflict fuel poverty and desperation.
“Only a few cases of child abandonment” were officially documented before the war broke out in 2011, according to the Washington-based group Syrians for Truth and Justice, which records human rights abuses in the country.
But between early 2021 and late 2022, more than 100 children — 62 of them girls — were found abandoned across the country, it said in a March report, estimating the real figure to be much higher.
“The numbers have increased dramatically” since the start of the conflict along with “the social and economic repercussions of the war” affecting both government-controlled and rebel-held areas, the group said.
It pointed to factors including poverty, instability, insecurity and child marriage, along with sexual abuse and pregnancy out of wedlock.
While adoption is forbidden across Syria, Othman has asked the local authorities for permission to raise Hibatullah.
“I told my children that if I die, she should have part of my inheritance,” even though she can never officially be part of the family, he said, breaking into tears.
The three-year-old, her hair pulled back loosely into pigtails and tottering around in shiny pink sandals, now calls him “grandpa.”
“She is just an innocent child,” Othman said.
Widespread death and destruction
Syria’s war has killed more than 500,000 people, displaced millions and ravaged the country’s infrastructure.
Health department official Zaher Hajjo told AFP that 53 abandoned newborn babies had been registered in government-controlled areas in the first 10 months of last year — 28 boys and 25 girls.
Syrian President Bashar Assad this year issued a decree creating dedicated facilities for the children, who would be automatically registered as Arab, Syrian and Muslim, with the place of birth as the location they were found.
In rebel-held Idlib province, social workers at the main center for abandoned children tended to tiny babies wrapped tightly in blankets in basic cradles, some spruced up with purple paint or ribbons.
In the bare-walled room with a brown-and-beige carpet, one woman rocked a baby to sleep with one hand while feeding another milk with the other.
Faisal Al-Hammoud, head of programs at the center, said one baby girl they took in was found under an olive tree after being mauled by a cat.
“Blood was dripping down her face,” he said, adding that the orphanage had since entrusted her to a family.
Workers follow up to make sure such babies are well treated and “that there is no child trafficking,” Hammoud added.
The center has taken in 26 babies — 14 girls and 12 boys — since it opened in 2019, and nine this year alone, said Abdullah Abdullah, a civil affairs official with Idlib’s rebel authorities.
More than four million people live in areas controlled by jihadists and Turkish-backed groups in Syria’s north and northwest, 90 percent of whom depend on aid to survive.
“The war is to blame and families too” for child abandonments, Abdullah said.
“These children are victims,” he added.