x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Hot air and dust clouds

World leaders at the UN General Assembly indulged in remarkably long speeches, Sydney turned red as it was shrouded in dust, and an Indian probe found evidence of water on the Moon.

The Libyan leader Muammar Qadafi pauses during an hour-and-a-half long speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
The Libyan leader Muammar Qadafi pauses during an hour-and-a-half long speech at the UN General Assembly on Wednesday.

A summit on climate change organised for the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York saw President Hu Jintao of China promise to work to reduce his country's CO2 emissions, a move dismissed as "undignified" propaganda by President Václav Klaus of the Czech Republic. At the General Assembly, President Barack Obama called on leaders to play a bigger role in solving the world's problems, saying: "Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world's problems alone." His remarks were described as brave by former president Fidel Castro of Cuba. A speech by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran saw British, French and American delegates walk out before he had begun to speak. Mr Ahmadinejad was accused of anti-Semitism for attacking Israel. World leaders were restricted to 15 minutes at the podium, but the General Assembly, which was chaired by a Libyan diplomat, saw Colonel Muammar Qadafi speak for more than an hour and a half. Col Qadafi, who described President Obama as "our son", was introduced by Ali Treki, the president of the General Assembly, as "king of kings and leader of the revolution".

An American mother was told she would have to give up her unborn child because a fertility clinic had accidentally implanted her with another couple's embryo. Carolyn Savage will have to hand over the baby to another couple as soon as he is born. Mrs Savage, from Ohio, had undergone IVF treatment at a clinic and is due to deliver a baby boy later this month. She said: "We will wonder about this child every day for the rest of our lives."

Buzz Lightyear, the astronaut hero of Toy Story, returned to Earth after spending longer in space than any human. A model of the character spent 467 days in space, eclipsing the record set by the Russian astronaut Valeri Polyakov. Buzz was filmed at the International Space Station and floating in orbit on board the space shuttle Discovery as part of a Nasa project to encourage more children to study science.

A businesswoman from Dubai was murdered in a luxury New York Hotel. Andree Bejjani, 44, known to her friends as Sara, was found dead by a maid in a private apartment at the Jumeirah Essex House overlooking Central Park. Ms Bejjani had previously made several complaints to the hotel management after jewellery went missing. A hotel employee, Derrick Praileau, 29, has been charged with murder.

A massive dust storm shrouded Sydney and most of New South Wales in a choking cloud of red dust. The storm closed the international airport and forced the suspension of ferry services with landmarks such as the Sydney Opera House barely visible. Many residents wore face masks as protection, with a thick layer of dust coating buildings and the city's famous beaches. The storm was cause by an intense low pressure system which carried tonnes of dust from the state's interior, which has been badly hit by drought. There were also fears of a major bushfire. One weatherman said: "This is unprecedented. We are seeing earth, wind and fire together."

A brief meeting in New York saw Barack Obama urge Palestinians and the leaders of Israel to show a "sense of urgency" in negotiating a peace settlement. The talks turned out to be little more than a photo opportunity, as Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, shook hands for the first time. Mr Abbas has refused to start peace talks until Israel stops building Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Palestinian officials said he only attended the meeting out of politeness towards the US president.

An Indian teenager and her boyfriend were accused of killing seven members of her family with the help of poisoned chapatis. The girl, aged 19, feared she would be murdered because of her wish to marry a 20-year-old man from a forbidden caste. The couple sedated the relatives, including her parents and grandmother, by feeding them chapatis laced with sedatives, then strangled them. The killings took place in the northern state of Haryana, where elders from the Jat caste can enforce tribal traditions by ordering honour killings.

Farouk Hosny, Egypt's minister of culture, failed in his bid to become the next director general of Unesco. The election was won by Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian ambassador to France and Unesco, who will become the first woman to head the organisation. Mr Hosny, 71, had been accused of anti-Semitism and censorship by his opponents. He lost by 31 votes to 27, after five rounds of voting and claims that Egypt had put pressure on a number of African countries to vote for him.

India first lunar mission discovered evidence of large quantities of water on the Moon. Chandrayann 1 was equipped with a Moon Mineralogy Mapper provided by Nasa, which searches for water by picking up electromagnetic radiation. The unmanned mission also found that water could still be forming on the surface of the Moon and brings the possibility of establishing a permanent base on the surface closer.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, along with other dignitaries, offered prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to mark Eid al Fitr.

During the service, clerics stressed the importance of visiting relatives during Eid, as well as showing mutual respect and love for people. They also called upon Muslims to be moderate and to seek truth, justice and equality, and encouraged them to do good works, continuing with the spirit of Ramadan. Shops reported slower than usual business, blaming the economic slowdown, but beaches and parks were packed with families and workers enjoying the three-day break.

Police searching the home of an alleged Neapolitan Mafia boss in southern Italy found a two-metre-long crocodile in residence on the terrace. The 40kg reptile was said to have been used to intimidate victims who refused to pay their debts to the suspect, who has been placed under investigation for illegal possession of the animal. The crocodile, believed to be from South America, was fed a diet of live rabbits and mice, police said.

The first official day of school in the Emirates saw as few as one in 10 pupils turn up for some classes. Term was delayed in state schools because of Ramadan and Eid and it is still unclear how the lost time will be made up. Head teachers blamed parents for the low attendance, saying many kept their children away because they did not feel it was worth sending them to school for the last two days of the week.

* The National