x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Food, fame and freedom

UAE falcons soar in Kazakhstan, Susan Boyle collapses and North Korea's Kim Jong-il announces an heir.

One of the falcons sent to Kazakhstan by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi under the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme soars off into the wild.
One of the falcons sent to Kazakhstan by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi under the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme soars off into the wild.

Solar power made its debut as a major source of energy when the first panels were connected at the Masdar carbon-neutral city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. The 10 megawatt solar panel array can produce enough power for 3,500 homes and cost Dh185 million (US50.3 million). It will displace 15,000 tons of carbon, or the equivalent of taking 3,300 cars from the roads. Despite abundant sunshine, the UAE lags behind much of the developed world when it comes to generating solar energy. The most megawatts are currently produced by Germany.

The price of fame proved too much for the world's most improbable singing star. Susan Boyle, who catapulted to international celebrity after appearing on the TV reality show Britain's Got Talent was admitted to a private clinic for exhaustion after failing to win the competition. Police were called after the middle-aged Scottish spinster became abusive and then collapsed at her hotel after the final. Boyle, 48, was taken to the Priory clinic in north London but can still expect a lucrative recording contract despite coming second to a dance group.

The best view of the new Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix took a step closer to reality with the flooding of a new marina on Yas Island. The berths, overlooking the circuit, can accommodate up to 143 yachts, some as long as 66 metres. It took a month and nearly 700 million litres of water to fill the marina, ready for the race on Nov 1.

Authorities in China acted to stop restaurants serving a dish made from a chicken that had been killed by a bite from a venomous snake. "Snake-bite chicken" was served by several restaurants in Guangdong and Chongqing and had become popular because it was believed to have detoxing properties. Calls to ban the dish mounted after a video of a chef using a snake to kill the chicken was shown on YouTube.

Barack Obama went on what was billed as the world's most expensive date. The US president took his wife Michelle to dinner in New York followed by a Broadway show, accompanied by a posse of security guards. The White House refused to disclose the cost of the night out, which included flying from Washington on Air Force One and three helicopters, including two decoys. One estimate put the price of the president's date at $250,000 (Dh918,000), with Right-wing critics recalling President Obama's remarks on the campaign trail, when he said: "You can't get corporate jets. You can't go take a trip to Las Vegas, or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers' dime."

Air France suffered its worst disaster when a flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris crashed in the Atlantic several hundred miles from Brazil with 228 passengers and crew.

All contact with the Airbus 330 was lost after its automated maintenance systems transmitted multiple electronic failures as the plane flew towards an area of severe turbulence. Search aircraft spotted wreckage in the ocean the next morning. Among the dead were a descendant of the last emperor of Brazil and a Spanish woman living in Dubai who was flying to Europe to see her family after her honeymoon.

Scientists extended the time the Earth could be habitable by more than a billion years. Previous estimates suggested that all life would be extinct in 1.3 billion years as the temperature rises. Calculations by a team at California Institute of Technology show that changes in atmospheric pressure could regulate Earth, keeping it cooler and making life possible for 2.3 billion years.

After declaring protective bankruptcy, General Motors sold its Hummer division to a Chinese company. The American automobile manufacturing giant is restructuring, with debts of US$215 billion (Dh789bn) and will require a further injection of $40bn from the American government to survive. Hummer will be sold to the Sichuan Tengzhong Heavy Industrial Machinery although the civilian version of the military four-wheel drive vehicle will continue to be produced in the US.

China blocked a number of internet services, including Twitter and the photo sharing service Flickr, for the 20th anniversary of pro-democracy demonstrations in Beijing's Tiananmen Square. Security officials, some in plain clothes, also stopped foreign TV crews from filming in the square on the morning of the anniversary with many dissidents saying they were put under house arrest or ordered to leave the city.

An unknown number of people were killed in protests around the area in June 1989, in events symbolised by a photograph of a lone man halting a row of tanks. Hundreds of others may still be in prison. Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, said China should "examine openly the darker events of its past and provide a public accounting of those killed, detained or missing, both to learn and to heal".

A dish known as "Vampire" has become popular in the African county of Chad. The traditional recipe uses fried blood, along with stock cubes, onions and spices has made a comeback because the global recession has made meat too expensive in the poverty-struck nation. Modestine Danbe told the BBC that she bought buckets of fresh blood from an abattoir for about $1 (Dh 3.6). She was able to sell 40 plates of "Vampire" for two cents each, yielding her a profit of around $7 (Dh 26).

Nearly 70 falcons were released into the wild in Kazakhstan by the Environment Agency-Abu Dhabi. Under the Sheikh Zayed Falcon Release Programme, 1,189 falcons have been released back into the wild over the past 15 years. Ten of the falcons are fitted with satellite tracking devices.

The leader of North Korea designated his youngest son as the next leader of the secretive communist regime. Kim Jong-il was reported to have made the decision after North Korea successfully tested a nuclear warhead last week. According to briefings made to several South Korean news outlets by Seoul's intelligence agencies, officials in the north were told to support Kim Jong-un. Kim Jong-il has been in poor health recently and is believed to have suffered a stoke. Little is known about his youngest son, including the year of his birth, which is believed to be either 1983 or 1984.

He is known to have been educated in Switzerland under an assumed name, while the only known photograph shows him as a young boy. Signs that he would succeed his father came with news last year that he had been appointed head of the powerful National Defence Commission.

The launch of the UAE government's first satellite was set for July 25. DubaiSat-1 will blast off from a launch pad in Kazakhstan on top of a former Soviet Union modified intercontinental ballistic missile. The Dh184 million (US$50m) satellite will beam back high resolution images of the region that will be used for urban planning, disaster management and environmental planning. It is expected to stay in orbit for at least five years at an altitude of 700km. jlangton@thenational.ae