x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Space rat and groundhog

Iran's successful launch of a rocket, with passengers that included a rat, had the West anxious, Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of wintry weather, and two cubs were born to rare striped hyenas on Sir Beni Yas Island.

The motor of the Iranian-engineered satellite rocket, Kashgovar 3 (Explorer), is unveiled in Tehran on Wednesday before the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, centre left.
The motor of the Iranian-engineered satellite rocket, Kashgovar 3 (Explorer), is unveiled in Tehran on Wednesday before the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, centre left.

Six people went on trial in France charged with causing the Concorde crash 10 years ago in which 113 people died. The accused include two engineers from Continental Airlines, after French prosecutors said a piece of titanium that fell off one of the US airline's planes had contributed to the crash. The strip of metal was believed to have burst the Concorde's tyre, throwing debris into the wing and fuel tank which erupted in flames. The plane, carrying 100 passengers and nine crew from Paris to New York, failed to gain enough thrust to sustain flight. It crashed into a hotel near Charles de Gaulle airport, killing four members of the hotel staff. All defendants have pleaded not guilty. The trial is expected to last four months and cost more than US$4.2 million (Dh15.4m).

There was nothing unusual about the hundreds of football fans who packed nine pubs across Britain to watch Manchester United take on Arsenal in the Premier League - except perhaps for their thick retro spectacles. The match itself broke new ground not for Manchester's on-field skill (although they did win), but because it was the first time any football match had been shown in 3D. It was part of a promotion by Sky TV, which plans to roll out a special 3D TV channel this April, and show at least one football match in 3D a week.

France refused to grant a man citizenship because he called his wife "an inferior being" and forced her to wear a burqa, authorities said. The Moroccan, who was not named, needed citizenship to live in France with his French wife. Defending the ban, Francois Fillon, the prime minister, said the man did not embrace the values of France. "This case is about a religious radical: he imposes the burqa, he imposes the separation of men and women in his own home and he refuses to shake the hands of women." The decision comes a week after a parliamentary commission recommended a partial ban on face veils. The bill, which still has to be voted in, would prohibit women wearing face veils in public places, such as hospitals and on public transport.

Two rare striped hyenas were born on Sir Bani Yas island, the wildlife safari park. The cubs were born as part of a special breeding programme as the striped hyena is extinct in the UAE and described as "near threatened" in the rest of the world. Their mother and father, Phiri and Arnold, were raised by staff in breeding centres and relocated to Sir Bani Yas Island in 2008, where they were taught how to survive in the wild and to be self-sufficient.

It will be at least another six weeks before spring comes to the northern hemisphere, after Punxsutawney Phil, a slightly overweight groundhog, delivered his annual weather prediction. According to the 124-year-old tradition, if Phil, allegedly the original prognosticating rodent, sees his shadow and darts back into his den, it is another six more weeks of winter weather, but if he does not, then spring is on its way. Phil's handlers, or the inner circle, declared that this year he had again "seen his shadow", as he has about 90 per cent of the time. About 12,000 people had shown up to watch the ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, including some from Chile and New Zealand. It was also the first year in which Phil's prediction had been put on Twitter and Facebook.

Iran launched a rocket into space carrying a rat, two turtles and worms. The launch was supposedly part of Iran's space research programme, but has the West worried it is working on a weapons-delivery system. Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the launch was the first step towards Iranian scientists controlling all of the skies. Just a day earlier, Mr Ahmadinejad said Iran would agree to a deal to export its uranium overseas for further processing which would allow it to use the fuel for medical and energy purposes, but not for weapons. However, Iran has been sending conflicting messages over its nuclear programme, and the West remained sceptical of its intent.

Honesty paid off for a Sudanese worker in Ajman who punched in his bank PIN to find that instead of the Dh5,000 salary transfer he was expecting that month, he was staring at a bank balance of Dh5 million. Instead of taking the money, Hashim Mohammed called his employer - the local government - and the bank to alert them to the mistake. To reward the public health inspector, Mr Mohammed was given an extra month's salary, which he said would help his family back in Sudan.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in The Netherlands ruled that there was no reason the Sudanese president, Omar Hassan al Bashir, could not be tried for genocide. An arrest warrant had already been issued for Mr Bashir on seven counts of committing war crimes, but a panel initially threw out the charge of genocide. However, an appeals court ruled that there was enough evidence to prove Mr al Bashir had instructed his forces to annihilate three ethnic groups, the Fur, the Masalit and the Zaghawa. If a genocide charge were brought, it would be the first such action by the ICC against a serving head of state.

Dubai is waging war on the people who paste millions of flyposters on walls and lampposts advertising everything from massages to flats. Those caught putting up posters will face fines of up to Dh400. Hundreds of volunteers have joined in the campaign to tear down the flyers, with all the paper collected being recycled. The Government is concerned that many of the posters are advertising illegal activities, such as prostitution. It has employed a number of undercover officers to pose as customers to catch the perpetrators.

A 12-year-old Saudi girl said she did not want to divorce a man 70 years her senior a day before a court was due to rule on the case. The girl, whose mother had brought the marriage to the attention of human rights groups and the court, said she voluntarily agreed to wed the 81-year-old man, who had been hand-picked by her father. Reports in Saudi Arabia said the girl's father arranged the marriage last September for a dowry worth US$25,000 (Dh91,700). There is no minimum age for marriage in Saudi Arabia, but the case caused controversy in the conservative country, with human rights activists saying the girl was too young to make her own decision.

It will be at least another six weeks before spring comes to the northern hemisphere, after Punxsutawney Phil, a slightly overweight groundhog, delivered his annual weather prediction. According to the 124-year-old tradition, if Phil, allegedly the original prognosticating rodent, sees his shadow and darts back into his den, it is another six more weeks of winter weather, but if he does not, then spring is on its way. Phil's handlers, or the inner circle, declared that this year he had again "seen his shadow", as he has about 90 per cent of the time. About 12,000 people had shown up to watch the ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, including some from Chile and New Zealand. It was also the first year in which Phil's prediction had been put on Twitter and Facebook.

Amid a mammoth global recall over faulty accelerators on at least eight models, Toyota admitted it had also received a number of complaints about the Prius, its flagship eco-friendly car. The Japanese motor company said it had received 180 reports of braking problems related to the newest Prius model, including drivers complaining of brakes momentarily failing at low speeds, especially on slippery surfaces. The problem seen in cars bought after January has now been identified by the company and a solution found. Toyota has already recalled more than eight million vehicles worldwide to repair defective accelerator pedals. The cost of the recall is estimated at US$2 billion (Dh7.2bn). cbiggs@thenational.ae