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Dubai’s next big thing? Perhaps $5 billion man-made ‘moon’…

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Dubai’s next big thing? Perhaps $5 billion man-made ‘moon’…

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Who says you cannot reach for the moon? A proposed $5 billion real estate project wants to take skyscraper-studded Dubai to new heights — by bringing a symbol of the heavens down to Earth.

Canadian entrepreneur Michael Henderson envisions building a 274-meter (900-foot) replica of the moon atop a 30-meter (100-foot) building in Dubai, already home to the world’s tallest building and other architectural wonders.

Henderson’s project, dubbed MOON, may sound out of this world, but it could easily fit in this futuristic city-state. Dubai already has a red-hot real estate market, fueled by the wealthy who fled restrictions imposed in their home countries during the coronavirus pandemic and Russians seeking refuge amid Moscow’s war on Ukraine.

And even though a previous booms-and-bust cycle saw many grand projects collapse, Henderson and others suggest his vision, funded by Moon World Resorts Inc., where he is the co-founder, might not be that far-fetched.

“We have the biggest ‘brand’ in the world,” Henderson told The Associated Press, alluding that the moon itself — the heavenly body — was his brand. “Eight billion people know our brand, and we haven’t even started yet.”

The project Henderson proposes includes a destination resort inside the spherical structure, complete with a 4,000-room hotel, an arena capable of hosting 10,000 people and a “lunar colony” that would give guests the sensation of actually walking on the moon.

The MOON would sit on a pedestal-like circular building beneath it and would glow at night. Henderson discussed the project at the Arabian Travel Market earlier in May in Dubai.

Already, artist renderings commissioned by Moon World Resorts have played with the location for his MOON — including at the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at a height of 828 meters (2,710 feet). Others have placed it at the Dubai Pearl, a long-dormant project now being destroyed near the man-made Palm Jumeirah archipelago, and on its unfinished sister, the Palm Jebel Ali.

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The Pearl and the Palm Jebel Ali represent two “white elephant” projects left over from the 2009 financial crisis that rocked the sheikhdom and forced Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, to provide Dubai with a $20 billion bailout.

Now nearly 15 years later, Dubai largely has turned around. Rents on average across Dubai are up 26.9% year-on-year, even with anti-price-gouging protections. Dubai saw 86,849 residential sales last year, beating a previous record of 80,831 from 2009.

“Dubai is in a completely different world compared to” 2009, said Lewis Allsopp, the CEO of the prominent Dubai real estate agency Allsopp & Allsopp. Launched products are “selling out on the spot.”

Inflation and interest rate hikes around the world have led to fears of a global recession. The UAE’s currency, the dirham, is pegged to the dollar, meaning it has followed lock-step the hikes imposed by the Federal Reserve.

But cash still remains king for Dubai buyers, with fourth-fifths of transactions paid in currency without financing in 2022, said Faisal Durrani, the head of Middle East research at real estate agency Knight Frank.

“You could argue that the interest rate hikes that are taking place, to an extent the market is a little bit shielded from that given the fact that so much of the transactional activity has been driven by cash,” Durrani said.

Other major projects are moving ahead.

Nakheel, the state-owned developer behind the Palm Jebel Ali, has relaunched development plans for it. The developer also unveiled a multibillion-dollar plan to build 80 resorts and hotels on the man-made Dubai Islands, though it remains largely empty and under the flight path of the nearby Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest for international travel.

The MOON project also includes space for a possible casino as well. Gambling remains illegal in the UAE, a federation of seven hereditarily ruled sheikhdoms on the Arabian Peninsula. However, major brands like Caesar’s Palace already exist or hope to build in Dubai. Wynn Resorts plans to build a $3.9 resort in Ras al-Khaimah north of Dubai with gambling to open in 2027 — meaning a change to the law is likely to come.

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Like other high-profile, eye-catching marvels, the MOON could fit well into “the legitimacy formula of Dubai’s ruling elite,” said Christopher Davidson, a Middle East expert who wrote the recent book “From Sheikhs to Sultanism.” Dubai also hosts the UAE’s space center, which has sent a probe to Mars and unsuccessfully tried to put a rover on the moon.

“They can be seen as a non-democratic elite but nonetheless believe strongly in science and progress — and that’s ultimately very legitimizing and a megaproject like this would seem to tick all of those boxes,” Davidson said.

Henderson’s plan would go a step further than other globe-shaped projects, such as the MSG Sphere, a $2.3 billion dome blanketed by LED screens, that is set to open in Las Vegas later this year.

His structure would be fully spherical, and could be illuminated alternatively as a full, half or crescent moon.

The brightness may not go down well with potential neighbors — plans to build another MSG Sphere in London were halted after residents protested the significant light pollution and disruption the structure would cause.

“It’s hard to please everybody,” Henderson acknowledged. “You might need dark curtains.”

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Associated Press writer Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

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Amazon won’t have to pay hundreds of millions in back taxes after winning EU case

LONDON (AP) — Amazon won’t have to pay about 250 million euros ($273 million) in back taxes after European Union judges ruled in favor of the U.S. e-commerce giant Thursday, dealing a defeat to the 27-nation bloc in its efforts to tackle corporate tax avoidance.

The ruling by the EU’s top court is final, ending the long-running legal battle over tax arrangements between Amazon and Luxembourg’s government and marking a further setback for a crackdown by antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager.

The Court of Justice backed a 2021 decision by judges in a lower court who sided with Amazon, saying the European Commission, the EU’s executive branch, had not proved its case that Amazon received illegal state support.

“The Court of Justice confirms that the Commission has not established that the tax ruling given to Amazon by Luxembourg was a State aid that was incompatible with the internal market” of the EU, the court said in a press release.

Amazon welcomed the ruling, saying it confirms that the company “followed all applicable laws and received no special treatment.”

“We look forward to continuing to focus on delivering for our customers across Europe,” the company said in a statement.

The commission said it “will carefully study the judgment and assess its implications.”

The case dates back to 2017, when Vestager charged Amazon with unfairly profiting from special low tax conditions since 2003 in tiny Luxembourg, where its European headquarters are based. As a result, almost three-quarters of Amazon’s profits in the EU were not taxed, she said.

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The EU has taken aim at deals between individual countries and companies used to lure foreign multinationals in search of a place to establish their EU headquarters. The practice led to EU states competing with each other and multinationals playing them off one another.

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Why Was Sam Altman Fired? Possible Ties to China D2 (Double Dragon) Data from Hackers

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Theories are going around the internet why Sam Altman was fired. On an insider tech forum (Blind) – one person claims to know by third-hand account and how this news will trickle into the media over the next couple of weeks.

It’s said OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models, which includes GPT-4. This data was obtained through a hidden business contract with a D2 shell company called Whitefly, which was based in Singapore. This D2 group has the largest and biggest crawling/indexing/scanning capacity in the world 10x more than Alphabet Inc (Google), hence the deal so Open AI could get their hands on vast quantities of data for training after exhausting their other options.

The Chinese government became aware of this arrangement and raised concerns with the Biden administration. As a result, the NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed that OpenAI had been using data from D2. Satya Nadella, the CEO of Microsoft, which is a major investor in OpenAI, was informed of the findings and ordered Altman’s removal.

There was also suggestion that Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board. This lack of candor ultimately led to his dismissal and is what the board publicly alluded to when they said “not consistently candid in his communications with the board.”

To summarize what happened with Sam Altman’s firing:

1. Sam Altman was removed from OpenAI due to his ties to a Chinese cyber army group.

2.OpenAI had been using data from D2 to train its AI models.

3. The Chinese government raised concerns about this arrangement with the Biden administration.

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4. The NSA launched an investigation, which confirmed OpenAI’s use of D2 data.

5. Satya Nadella ordered Altman’s removal after being informed of the findings.

6. Altman refused to disclose this information to the OpenAI board.

 

We’ll see in the next couple of weeks if this story holds up or not.

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How CEO Jonelle Procope Saved Harlem’s Apollo Theater

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How CEO Jonelle Procope Saved Harlem’s Apollo Theater

NEW YORK (AP) — Jonelle Procope’s 20-year tenure as president and CEO of The Apollo Theater evolved into an era of prosperity and expansion, markedly different from the tumultuous, cash-strapped decades that preceded it.

Sure, the early years were a struggle, as the New York City landmark, where music legends from Billie Holiday and Stevie Wonder to D’Angelo and countless rappers graced the stage, dealt with financial difficulties and a shifting business model. And she had to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic when the hub of its Harlem neighborhood was closed for two years.

However, when Procope steps down at the end of June, she will leave her successor Michelle Ebanks – the Essence Communications executive who was named her replacement last week – with the proceeds of a nearly $80 million campaign raised to complete a renovation and expansion of the historic theater by 2025. Though the bulk of that money came from donations, it also includes $15.7 million in support from the city of New York and a $10 million grant from the state.

On Monday night, Procope will be honored, alongside hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and basketball superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, at The Apollo’s Spring Benefit for her service.

“It’s been a privilege and an honor,” Procope told The Associated Press in an interview. “In many respects, I think I take more away than what I gave. It really has made me a whole person.”

That said, she admits protecting The Apollo and building it into what it is now – the largest African American performing arts presenting organization in the country – has basically been her life throughout her tenure.

“It’s been 20 years of 24/7 Apollo,” said Procope, 72. “Frankly, I haven’t had space in my brain to really think about ‘What do you want to do next?’ So I’m excited to have a moment to be reflective and to think about the things that turn me on, what I am passionate about, what are things that I’m curious about.”

Charles E. Phillips, chairman of the Apollo’s board, has said Procope turned around the once-bankrupt theater almost single-handedly. “Jonelle has led the Apollo through an unparalleled period of growth,” Phillips said in a statement, adding that she also “forged partnerships globally, strengthened the Apollo’s finances, broadened a uniquely diverse audience, and navigated the institution through a challenging pandemic.”

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John Goerke, director of guest experience at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, said the preservation of The Apollo Theater has been among the top priorities in American music history. The Apollo – especially through its still-running Amateur Night, captured on the TV series “Showtime at The Apollo” – has launched the careers of legendary performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald to Lauryn Hill.

“The venue is history you can see in real time,” he said. “You can literally go there and experience history with all the artists who have performed at The Apollo. They are telling the story of America.”

Procope said she had just started on the Apollo Theater board with opera legend Beverly Sills, then the chairwoman of Lincoln Center, when Sills referred to the Apollo as “the Lincoln Center of Uptown.”

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh, that sounds a little hokey,’” Procope said. “But we all understood what she meant. And the question was: Why shouldn’t there be a performing arts center for Harlem and the Uptown community? So that was always a vision.”

That vision of creating the Apollo Performing Arts Center is becoming reality, with the first phase opening last year with two new small theaters, meant for small concerts and theater workshops.

However, that was only possible after The Apollo fixed its finances. Once America became less segregated, the 1,500-seat main theater was no longer able to economically compete for concerts from major Black stars who were able to fill large arenas like Madison Square Garden.

That competition led to The Apollo losing millions each year and eventually going bankrupt in 1984. Though the theater became a nonprofit in 1991, run by The Apollo Theater Foundation, as recently as 2002, it struggled with financing for its ambitious shows.

When Procope took over in 2003, the former corporate lawyer methodically began The Apollo’s turnaround.

She credits the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone for providing The Apollo with one of its first major grants, which allowed her to hire a team to create a new business plan that balanced high arts entertainment and commercial programming.

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“We were able to gain the confidence of the public and the philanthropic community,” she said. “We began to get grants from what I would call ‘blue chip foundations’ – Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, Sherman Fairchild (Foundation) and a number of others. That, for me, showed the confidence that they had in the Apollo leadership and what the Apollo was doing.”

Those donations allowed The Apollo to launch its educational programs, which served more than 20,000 students and their families annually before the pandemic, and make much-needed repairs. It could soon afford to expand its artistic ambitions, as well as its physical space.

Procope is excited about the upcoming expansion for The Apollo that will create a café in the lobby where the community can gather every day, even when there aren’t shows in the theater. That expansion, expected to open in 2025, formalizes what has become a tradition in Harlem, where people gather at The Apollo to grieve and celebrate the lives of major performers after they die.

It happened as recently as last month following the death of Tina Turner, but has been an Apollo phenomenon for years –- following the deaths of James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Michael Jackson, among others.

“The Apollo and its marquee has become synonymous with those moments – when people don’t know what to do with their grief, so they’ve turned to The Apollo,” Procope said. “The Michael Jackson period was just incredible. The people wrapped around 125th Street, coming into the theater just to listen because we played his music. People were on the stage and some danced in their seats. It was a sort of release.”

For Procope, that showed how The Apollo, which turns 90 in January, had become a “beacon of hope” for Harlem once again. And she does not take stewardship of that hope lightly.

She said she waited to step down until she was sure it was safe.

“The Apollo has had a few different lives,” Procope said. “It’s had its fits and starts, but it has endured. And what I do know for sure is: This time, it’s here to stay.”

_____

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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

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