20.12.08 A roundup of the week's main events, including the Emirate's Good Samaritans, internet problems and the camel beauty contest.
Beauty and the beastly gridlock
From more than 42,000 nominations of unsung heroes from across the emirate, the Abu Dhabi Awards were given to a chosen few. They ranged from a 12-year-old South African, Cameron Oliver, who became the younget recipient ever for his campaign to raise awareness of the plight of camels eating the plastic littering the UAE's deserts, to a posthumous award for Darwish bin Karam, who began teaching at the age of 13, spending his life educating those from low-income families. Other recipients included the late British explorer Sir Wilfred Thesiger; Margit Muller, a falcon hospital stalwart; the educational pioneer Rashid al Dhaheri; Fahad Jaber, a graphic designer; the architectural heritage expert Amal al Qubaisi; and Canadian doctors Thabit and Maleeha Mehr.
Smoke billowed from one of the UAE's oldest cinemas. The 740-seat Al Nasr cinema in Dubai closed last year and was empty when the fire started on Sunday. Before the building had stopped smouldering, entrepreneurs had approached the owners with offers to develop the site.
The Middle East's internet has been on a go-slow since the failure of three critical undersea cables linking Europe and Egypt eight days ago. Etisalat has tried to manage the limited capacity by restricting access to download-intensive sites like YouTube. For those whose surfing habits reflected an excess of both time and bandwidth, the sudden withdrawal symptoms made some act like it was their umbilical cord that had been cut rather than a underwater cable.
With millions of dirhams at stake, not to mention a dhow-load of prestige, the camel beauty contest at the Al Dhafra Festival at Madinat Zayed was always going to be a serious affair. Around 24,000 camels and 2,000 people from around the region will take part in the festival, which runs until Jan 4. A light Asayel camel belonging to Sheikh Zayed bin Hamdan was judged the most beautiful in its class after an assessment by a panel of judges from the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The design of Atlantis, The Palm hotel is being reassessed after a shark at a sister resort was able to jump from the aquarium and onto a waterslide used by patrons. A reef shark at the Bahamas Atlantis made its way onto the Leap of Faith slide, where it was found by resort staff. The shark's escape occurred before the resort had opened for the day and it died shortly after being returned to its aquarium. Netting was installed to prevent reoccurences and staff at Atlantis, The Palm have assessed the design here to see if more can be done to stop a similar incident.
Violence flared again between Israel and Gaza almost as soon as the six-month truce with Hamas expired, with around 50 rockets fired from Gaza followed by retaliatory attacks from Israeli forces. With the foreign minister Tzipi Livni and Likud party leader Benjamin Netanyahu trying to outposition each other as they vie for the Israeli premiership, hopes for a new long-term truce seem dim despite the intervention of Egyptian mediators, who had engineered the original truce, convincing both sides to abide by a one-day halt in hostilities.
A year and a half after being arrested, charged and held in jail by Australian authorities for suspected involvement in terror attacks in London and Glasgow, a doctor has been exonerated by a judicial inquiry. The Indian-born Dr Mohammed Haneef, 29, is now working in Umm al Qaiwain, Dubai, where he said he was seeking an apology but not compensation for his treatment. The inquiry led to recommendations for changes to Australian antiterrorism laws. Australia's Liberal party, now in opposition, has refused to apologise.
The UAE will get a defensive shield of surface-to-air missiles as part of a $3.3bn (Dh12.1bn) deal with the United States. Some reports estimated that more than 200 Patriot missiles, specifically designed to destroy other missiles, will be sold to the UAE by the American arms manufacturer Raytheon, which has been providing high-tech products to the Emirates for 25 years. The threat of attacks on the UAE is deemed to be low, but tensions in the region have risen over a standoff between Iran and the United Nations over its nuclear enrichment plans.
A study published in the British Medical Journal says headbanging to heavy metal music is a cause of head and neck injuries, which will probably be a surprise only to those who have spent too much of their youth shaking their long locks to the loudest of rock. Andrew McIntosh, an associate professor at the School of Risk and Safety Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Australia, said flailing one's head with a 75-degree range of movement to music of 146 beats per minute can cause anything from mild head injury to headaches and strokes. The study suggested the risk could be mediated by wearing protective headgear or listening to adult-orientated rock. Celine Dion was not suggested as an option.
Billions of dirhams are being raised to help pay for Dubai's new metro system by allowing more than a third of the network's 47 stations to be named after private companies. First Gulf Bank Station, Sharaf DG Station and Mall of the Emirates Station will be among the stops for passengers when the first metro line opens in September. Officials said the deals would be worth Dh1.8 billion, more than 10 per cent of the overall Dh15.5bn cost of the project.
California might be the richest state in the US and, if it were a separate nation, would be one of the world's 10 biggest economies. But as one of the focus points of the housing slump and credit crunch, the governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is warning the state faces running out of money early in the new year because of a looming US$42bn (Dh154bn) budget shortfall. Attempts to find a bipartisan solution ended in finger-pointing rather than answers.
The start of a Dh5bn (US$1.36bn) construction upgrade of Al Salam Street in the Tourist Club area of Abu Dhabi caused gridlock as thousands of drivers grappled with new road closures and a neighbouring network of newly one-way streets designed to take the load. Work will continue around the clock on the project, which includes tunnels and other improvements designed to double Al Salam Street's capacity to 6,000 vehicles an hour. The problems are a taste of things to come, with disruptions to continue until the scheduled completion date of spring 2010.
The homeless in Milan are in for an unexpected treat after Italian police seized a 40kg shipment of Beluga caviar from smugglers. A police spokesman said the captured shipment, valued at about Dh2m ($500,000) but banned in Italy because it breaches laws to protect endangered species, would be fed to the poor rather than thrown away. firstname.lastname@example.org