x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A week of chicks and balances

Scientists gave the houbara bustard a new shot at life, a three-year-old boy was arrested on terrorism charges and Iceland's Met Office kept us guessing.

A houbara bustard chick, born from a chimeric chicken, is shown off by scientists from the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai.
A houbara bustard chick, born from a chimeric chicken, is shown off by scientists from the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory, Dubai.

Sudan's electoral commission declared Omar al Bashir the winner of the country's presidential election with 68 per cent of the 10.1 million votes cast. The Carter Centre, which is run by the former US president Jimmy Carter, and the European Union, said the election was not up to international standards. Mr al Bashir has ruled Sudan since mounting a bloodless coup in 1989 to oust the winner of the previous election, which was held in 1986.

The bustard houbara, an endangered species, is difficult to breed. Chickens, however, breed like mad. Now scientists in the Emirates are keeping the houbara's numbers up with a two-step dance. First, they inject bustard cells into chicken embryos. When the resultant "chimeric chickens" mate, they produce purebred bustards, which can grow up to lead happy and productive lives.

Queen's anthem We Are The Champions played at the funeral in Jebel Ali of Christophe Hissette, the 29-year-old Belgian who died when his racing car hit a wall and caught fire at Dubai Autodrome. "He was always the star, superman, who everybody wanted to be like but could not. For me, the biggest trophy was the friendship that grew between us," said Bassam Kronfli, a fellow racer.

A report by the US-based pressure group Human Rights Watch said that about 400 men had been tortured and beaten at a secret prison operated by the office of the prime minister Nouri al Maliki. Mr al Maliki's government denied knowledge of the prison. The site was closed after the country's human rights ministry investigated it.

Two men died when a hot-air balloon crashed in the desert north of Al Ain in high winds. The dead are Mukesh Shah, 56, a Mumbai businessman, and Jean-Pierre Chamignon, 53, a Frenchman who adored flying. A crewman, Hilary Mtui, 27, from Tanzania, suffered brain damage. "My heart goes out to the victims' families and, of course, to our crew member who is in hospital," said Peter Kollar, the director of the company that operated the balloon. In 1995, three tourists to New Zealand died when a balloon piloted by Mr Kollar was blown into the South Pacific.

Eduard Tara, 41, an accomplished Romanian haikuist, won the Japan-European Union English Haiku Contest with "Unfolding a map / the cherry petals connect / Europe and Japan". The contest coincided with a visit to Tokyo by Herman van Rompuy, the European Union president, whose first book of haiku was published two weeks ago. Mr Rompuy concluded his press conference with the Japanese prime minister by saying: "The sun is rising / sleeping yet in Europe / still the same sun". Mr Tara's prize is a trip to Matsuyama, the home of modern haiku. Mr Rompuy, alas, returns to Belgium.

An oil slick off the coast of Louisiana threatened the worst environmental disaster in the US since the Exxon Valdez tanker ran aground in Alaska in 1989. Oil began escaping under the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion destroyed the Deepwater Horizon platform on April 22, killing 22 workers. A massive slick covering hundreds of square kilometers could devastate wildlife reserves along the coast and ruin commercial fisheries. Attempts are being made to set fire to the oil to reduce the pollution.

The Chennai Super Kings won the championship of cricket's wildly popular Indian Premier League, defeating the favoured Mumbai Indians by 22 runs. As the match finished, the league's mastermind and commissioner, Lalit Modi, was suspended for alleged corruption involving franchise bids and a broadcast deal.

After five years, the restoration of the façade of Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre was completed. Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, had ordered that the job be finished before May 9, the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Now all that is left is the inside, which officials promise will be done by 2011. The original deadline was 2008. The Bolshoi is so central an image of Russia that it appears on the 100-ruble note.

A three-year-old boy was arrested for suspected terrorism offences in France. The child, identified only by his first name, Daniel, is the son of a north African migrant who was also detained over links with radical groups. The pair had been visiting a leisure centre in the Paris suburb of Juvisy when they were stopped by police in what was claimed to be a routine traffic inspection. After being formally detained, the boy was eventually handed over to his mother two hours later. Social workers said that Daniel was in a "severely traumatised state" as a result of the ordeal, adding: "He's a terrified little boy. The whole thing has been an absolute nightmare for him."

The Eyjafjallajokull volcano continues to erupt, though not nearly so explosively as in recent weeks. According to a midweek assessment by the Icelandic Met Office, "There are no measurable indications that the summit eruption of Eyjafjallajökull is about to end." However, the ash is coarser than before, and less suited to forming massive clouds in flight paths.

According to www.weather.com, the week's high in the capital, through Thursday, was 40°C, suitable for wearing a hat. The coming week's high is predicted as 38°C. The high for the year so far was 42°C on April 9. * The National, with agencies