28.02.09 to 06.03.09 Strong winds created sandstorms across the Emirates, while Hilary Clinton spoke of her 'unshakable' support for Israel.
Kicking up some dust
Nasa released images of the UAE showing sandstorms that followed the highest February temperatures since 1974. The plumes of dust pushed far out to sea by 65kph winds were captured by the Terra satellite using a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or Modis.
Members of a Hollywood delegation visiting Tehran were told to apologise for "30 years of insults and slanders" aimed at Iranians in films. The art adviser to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, told the delegation from the Academy of Arts and Sciences, which is responsible for the actors, that his country's filmmakers would not work with Americans until they said sorry. Javad Shamaghdari said: "The Iranian people and our revolution have been repeatedly unjustly attacked by Hollywood." Among the films which have upset Iran is 300, the story of the Spartans' heroic battle against Persia, which showed the invaders as bloodthirsty savages, and The Wrestler in which star Mickey Rourke tears the Iranian flag.
Shoppers will be able to save up to 30 per cent on basic grocery items as part of Gulf Consumer Protection Day later this month. The Consumer Protection Department has sanctioned discounts on around 1,000 items that include chicken, milk powder, toothbrushes, orange juice, cheese and tissues. The department has been working with supermarkets to sell certain goods at cost price after inflation hit 12.2 per cent last March. The prices will return to normal after the offer period, but some retailers say they will try to keep some of them lower afterwards.
Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, spoke of her "unshakeable" support for Israel on her first visit to the Middle East.
At the same time, she reiterated Barack Obama's support for a two-state solution to the Middle East problem and backed the president of the Palestinian Authority. The secretary of state also called the demolition of homes in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem a "deep concern". Mrs Clinton also visited Egypt and said that two senior US officials would be heading for Syria to discuss "a number of issues".
An aid conference for Gaza saw US$4.8 billion (Dh17.6bn) for reconstruction pledged by international donors. The Palestinian Authority had hoped to raise $2.7bn at the conference in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. The United States pledged $900 million, of which a third was earmarked for Gaza, with the rest intended as support for the Palestinian Authority. The European Commission also promised 440 million euros while Gulf nations added another $1.65bn, including $174m from the UAE and $1bn from Saudi Arabia. Other countries offering aid included Japan, Brazil and Turkey.
The conference also saw the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, describe the closing of Gaza's borders as "intolerable", with a call to Israel to permit delivery of materials needed to rebuild the 14,000 homes, 219 factories and 240 schools it had damaged or destroyed. "Construction materials and spare parts are needed to repair damaged water and sanitation systems," the secretary general said. "There is no concrete or steel to build homes or shelters."
Israel has said it will keep crossings closed until it is satisfied aid materials will not supply Hamas or be used to make rockets.
The children of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, are not allowed to have iPods, according to their mother. In an interview with Vogue magazine, Melinda Gates said there was a ban on their three children, Jennifer, 13, Rory, 10 and Phoebe, seven, owning any products made by rival firm Apple. Mrs Gates, 44, admitted that she had some regrets about the ban. "Every now and then I look at my friends and say 'Ooh, I wouldn't mind having that iPhone,'" she said.
Public transport in the capital will be transformed within 10 years with the announcement of completion dates for a metro system and a network of trams. According to Abdulla al Otaiba, the chairman of the Department of Transport, trams will start operating in 2014, with the metro completed two years later. The department has already asked consultants to prepare a feasibility study for the 131km project, with details of a major overhaul of transport in Abu Dhabi due to be released next month. The bus network will also be further expanded, with around 1,360 new buses due to be operating across the emirate by the end of the year. Other options being considered by the government are bus lanes and a congestion charge to deter motorists from driving into the city centre.
Planners are also examining the possibility of a railway to Dubai, whose metro is due to open later this year.
Pakistani authorities were still hunting gunmen responsible for an attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore. Up to 14 gunmen took part in the attack, which left six policemen and a driver dead and injured eight members of the squad on their way to play in a Test match.Security services were said to have tracked four of the attackers to one part of the city, while there were reports that some Pakistani officials were blaming a plot by India to block Pakistan from becoming joint host for the 2011 Cricket World Cup. The attack has raised serious doubts about future international sporting events in the country.
An asteroid that could have devastated a city missed the Earth by just 72,000km. The rock, estimated to be between 21- and 46-metres across, is thought to be similar in size to an object which hit Siberia in 1908, exploding with the force of 1,000 atom bombs and destroying 80m trees over 2,000 sq km. Labelled as 2009 DD45, the latest asteroid passed Earth only a fifth of the distance from the Moon and just twice the height of orbiting satellites.
Dubai's police chief said greedy businessmen had contributed to the economic downturn. "What is a reasonable percentage of profit which should be gained by a trader? There has been a big case of exploitation from people and the phenomenon has become totally unnatural," Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said at a meeting. Gen Tamin called for controls on rents, prices and hotel rooms, saying: "To secure a lasting trade industry, prices should be affordable and reasonable."
Aston Martin unveiled a new £1 million (Dh5.2m) sports car at the Geneva Motor Show. The new One-77 will be restricted to a limited edition of only 77 models and will be aimed at wealthy collectors. The car has a six-litre engine and an output of 700 horsepower. It can reach 96kph in 3.5 seconds and has a top speed of 320kph. One US reviewer described it as: "What James Bond would drive if he were wealthier."