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Expo 2020 records 5.66 mln visits, boosted by UAE’s 50th National Day celebrations

Boosted by the UAE’s Golden Jubilee festivities, as well as a raft of spectacular sport, music and cultural performances, Expo 2020 Dubai has seen a staggering 5,663,960 visits up to December 5, since it first opened on October 1.
Besides, during October and November, a total of 5,383 government leaders, including ministers, presidents, prime ministers, and heads of state, have graced the Expo site to speak at official events or celebrate their nation’s Expo National Day, with Expo hosting a total of 10,461 events in just the first two months.

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During his visit last week, President of the French Republic Emmanuel Macron, congratulated Expo 2020 Dubai for “organizing this exhibition and making it a success”.

Proving that one day isn’t enough to experience everything Expo 2020 has to offer, six out of 10 visitors (57 per cent) now hold an Expo Season Pass, with the number of repeat visitors in the first two months reaching 1.2 million.

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “We are delighted with the figures, and that so many people chose to celebrate such a momentous occasion, the UAE’s 50th National Day, with us here at Expo 2020 Dubai. Two months in, these numbers are a testament to the hard work of everyone involved in Expo, from the hosting of spectacular events that make people want to visit again and again, to the bringing together of global changemakers on a powerful platform for action and collaboration, and – crucially – to our robust COVID-19 measures, which allow us to accommodate such large numbers in a safe, reassuring manner.”

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of November visitors came from outside the UAE, with the top international visitor countries including India, France, Germany, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the UK.

The Expo School Programme has attracted nearly 250,000 pupils from private and public schools across the UAE who have participated in 10,000 dedicated school journeys encompassing The Legacy of the UAE; World of Opportunities; The Universe in Motion; and The Sustainable Planet, while more talented youngsters have delighted visitors from the stage, as part of Expo’s popular Young Stars and Rising Stars entertainment.

Major crowd-pullers

November saw some major crowd-pullers, including the end of Riverdance’s popular run; a spectacular performance from the Accademia Teatro alla Scala; award-winning Pakistani musician Javed Bashir; Egyptian singer Mohamed Hamaki; a KITE (K-Pop in the Emirates) concert and the opportunity to take part in a family fun run with sprint king Usain Bolt.

Other highlights included the Golden Jubilee’s ‘Journey of the 50th’ – a stirring show in Al Wasl dome that skilfully melded the tenacity of the past with the UAE’s visionary present and pioneering future – as well as the ‘The Boy and the Horse,’ a 20-minute theatrical production that honoured His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Expo’s Program for People and Planet in November continued to attract changemakers from around the world, with two of Expo 2020’s 10 Theme Weeks – Urban & Rural Development Week and Tolerance & Inclusivity Week – as well as a slate of festivities and activities to mark World Children’s Day, International Day of Persons with Disabilities and International Volunteer Day pulling in the crowds.

Christmas festivities, more world-class performances

Looking forward, numbers are expected to rise further as Expo’s new Dh 95 Festive Pass, on sale until the end of December, gives access to Christmas festivities and more world-class performances, such as Grammy Award-winner Alicia Keys’ show at Al Wasl Plaza on 10 December, Academy Award-winning composer and musician A.R. Rahman on the 22 December and Broadway superstar Lea Salonga on December 25.

In keeping with Expo 2020’s sustainability aims, an impressive amount of people have travelled to the site using RTA transport. During October and November, around 455,000 rides were made to and from the site using taxis, more than 600,000 trips were made on the free Expo Rider bus service, and 2.2 million users entered and exited Expo via the Dubai Metro.

Expo 2020’s virtual visitation rose to an incredible 25 million, driven by the uptake of Live@Expo, which enables visitors to take a bespoke live virtual tour through the site. Virtualexpodubai.com was also honoured by the UK’s Favourite Website Awards (FWA) with the ‘Most Favourite Website Award’ for November 2021.

As the largest major global event to be held since the start of the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai continues to maintain robust COVID-19 measures, ensuring a safe and exceptional event for all attending. These include the mandatory vaccinations of all Expo and International Participant staff, volunteers, contractors and service providers, while visitors ages 18 and above must present proof of any vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours. Face masks are mandatory both indoor and outdoor, and Expo maintains on site sanitisation stations.

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Entertainment

Lindsay Lohan celebrates birthday as married woman to Dubai resident Bader Shammas

Actress Lindsay Lohan is celebrating her 36th birthday on Saturday as a married woman.

The “Freaky Friday” star said she was the “luckiest woman in the world” in an Instagram post Friday that pictured her with financier Bader Shammas, who had been her fiance.

“I am stunned that you are my husband,” Lohan said in the post, adding that “every woman should feel like this everyday.”

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The couple had announced their engagement last November. People magazine and Entertainment Tonight confirmed there had been a wedding, but no details were offered.

While still single a few years ago, Lohan told Entertainment Tonight that she was looking for “a smart businessman” and someone who doesn’t like the spotlight. Shammas’ Instagram account is private.

The “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” actress and sometimes singer has worked through some sobriety issues in recent years, and has recently filmed a romantic comedy that is due to be released on Netflix later this year.

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Entertainment

Dutch university gets cyber ransom money back with interest

A Dutch university that fell victim to a massive ransomware attack has partly received back its stolen money, which in the meantime more than doubled in value, a news report said on Saturday.

The southern Maastricht University in 2019 was hit by a large cyberattack in which criminals used ransomware, a type of malicious software that locks valuable data and can only be accessed once the victim pays a ransom amount.

“The criminals had encrypted hundreds of Windows servers and backup systems, preventing 25,000 students and employees from accessing scientific data, library and mail,” the daily De Volkskrant said.

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The hackers demanded 200,000 euros ($208,000) in bitcoins.

“After a week the university decide to accede to the criminal gang’s demand,” the paper said.

“This was partly because personal data was in danger of being lost and students were unable to take an exam or work on their theses,” it said.

Dutch police traced part of the ransom paid to an account belonging to a money launderer in Ukraine.

Prosecutors in 2020 seized this man’s account, which contained a number of different crypto currencies including part of the ransom money paid by Maastricht.

“When, now after more than two years, it was finally possible to get that money to the Netherlands, the value had increased from 40,000 euros to half-a-million euros,” the paper said.

Maastricht University will now get the 500,000 euros ($521,000) back.

“This money will not go to a general fund, but into a fund to help financially strapped students,” Maastricht University ICT director Michiel Borgers said.

The investigation into the hackers responsible for the attack on the university is still ongoing, De Volkskrant added.

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Singer R. Kelly sues Brooklyn jail for putting him on suicide watch

R. Kelly on Friday sued the Brooklyn jail that has housed him since his racketeering and sex crimes conviction, saying it wrongly put him on suicide watch after he received a 30-year prison sentence despite knowing he was not suicidal.

In a complaint filed in Brooklyn federal court, the 55-year-old multiplatinum R&B singer said officials at the Metropolitan Detention Center ordered the watch after his June 29 sentencing “solely for punitive purposes” and because he was a “high-profile” inmate.

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Kelly’s lawyer Jennifer Bonjean quoted a prosecutor as saying the jail’s legal counsel had told her that “per the psychology department, is on a psych alert for various reasons, such as age, crime, publicity and sentencing.” No timetable was provided.

Bonjean wasn’t satisfied with the explanation. “Simply put, MDC Brooklyn is run like a gulag,” she wrote.

Kelly said the “harsh conditions” he faced led to “severe mental distress,” and amounted to cruel and unusual punishment that violated the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment.

He is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, though the docket suggests Kelly is seeking $100 million.

The jail did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Known for the 1996 Grammy-winning hit “I Believe I Can Fly,” Kelly was convicted last September on one count of racketeering and eight counts of violating the Mann Act, which bars transporting people across state lines for prostitution.

Prosecutors said Kelly exploited his stardom and wealth over two decades to lure women and underage girls into his orbit for sex, with the help of his entourage.

Kelly said he was also put on suicide watch after his conviction.

Ghislaine Maxwell, another inmate at the Brooklyn jail, was placed on suicide watch on June 24, four days before being sentenced to 20 years in prison for aiding financier Jeffrey Epstein’s sexual abuse of underage girls.

Maxwell’s lawyer said the British socialite had been given a “suicide smock” and deprived of clothing, toothpaste and soap though she too was not suicidal.

Friday’s filings did not say what specific conditions Kelly faced.

Kelly still faces an August trial in Chicago federal court on child pornography and obstruction charges, and various state charges in Illinois and Minnesota.

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