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Saudi Arabia invites Iraq's PM to visit in big sign of thaw

Saudi Arabia's King Salman has invited Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi to visit the kingdom, Abadi's office said on Monday, in the biggest sign yet of improving ties between the countries after decades of tension. Abadi's office gave no details about the invitation or possiA[degrees] ble visit, which would be his first as PM, including when it might take place. But the invitation caps months of better cooperation between Riyadh and Baghdad since the PM replaced Nouri al Maliki last summer.

Iraq and Saudi Arabia have found new room to cooperate with each other in the fight against the Islamic State group, which both see as a threat, but longA[degrees]held suspicions persist. Saudi Arabia hopes Abadi will do more to include Iraqi Sunnis in the government than Maliki did, and will prove more able to distance himA[degrees] self from Iran, Baghdad's main ally and Riyadh's biggest regional foe.

Riyadh said last year it would reopen its Baghdad embassy soon, after closing its doors in August 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait, but ensuring the mission's security is complicating the process, diplomats say. Since a USA[degrees]led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, Saudi Arabia has regarded Baghdad's leaders as little more than puppets for Tehran, someA[degrees] thing relayed in numerous US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.

10 happiest countries in the world are all in Latin America for the first time in a decade, according to the 2014 Gallup Positive Experience Index. Paraguay placed first out of 143 countries, with its people reporting the most positive emotions on a daily basis. Gallup researchers released the results for the UN's third annual International Day of Happiness on March 20. To gauge happiness levels around the world, researchers interviewed about 1,000 people in each country, either in person or over the phone. The ten happiest countries are Paraguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Venezuela, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Nicaragua. The US tied at 15th place with 11 other countries.

2.4bN people have untreated tooth decay across the globe, a study in the Journal of Dental Research suggests. Experts say it is alarming it has been neglected to this level -- despite known ways to both treat and prevent it. They warn that dental decay can lead to severe pain, infections, days off work and problems with childhood growth. The analysis shows it is not just a childhood problem. Scientists say it should be seen as an adult disease too.

160 people die of preventable rabies every day. A report by the Global Alliance for Rabies Control says around 59,000 people die every year from rabies transmitted by dogs, with the poorer regions of the world worst affected. The report authors said more should be done to vaccinate dogs, particularly in lowA[degrees]income countries. Rabies is a fatal viral infection which is almost 100 per cent preventable. The infection can infect all mammals, but domestic dogs cause more than 99 per cent of all human deaths from rabies, the report said. Most developed countries have eliminated rabies from their dog populations. But in many developing countries, rabies is still present in domestic dogs and is often poorly controlled.

136 year record was set in 2015 as the warmest first quarter since recordedA[degrees]keeping began in 1880, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. March 2015 was the warmest March since 1880. That gives 2015 a stab at trumping the hottest year on record A[degrees] which was 2014. The ten warmest years on record have occurred in the past 17 years. And though the rise in the last ten years has been gentle by comparison, since 1910, the clear trend has been up, according to NASA's Global LandA[degrees] Ocean Temperature Index.

He Peiqi poses for photographs next to a replica of Chongqing city that he made out of coins in Chongqing municipality, China.

Greece warns it is set to default on debt loan repayment

Greece threatened to default on e1/41.6bn of debt repayment due on internaA[degrees] tional bailout loans next month, claiming it does not have the funds to satiA[degrees] sfy creditors at the same time as paying wages and pensions. The Greek Interior Minister Nikos Voutsis insisted the country was near to financial collapse. In an interview with Greek television station Mega TV, he said Athens needed to strike a deal with its European partners within the next couple of weeks or it would default on repayments to the IMF that form part of its e1/4240bn rescue package.

Voutsis said, "This money will not be given and is not there to be given." His comments came as Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis repeated his warning that the entire euro project would be undermined without a deal that proved acceptable to the Greek people. Varoufakis told a TV show that the SyrizaA[degrees]led Greek government has now 'made enormous strides at reaching a deal', and that it is now up to the European Central Bank, IMF and EU to do their bit and 'meet us oneA[degrees]quarter of the way'.

35,000,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollars could be exchanged for US$1 as President Robert Mugabe's government discarded its virtually worthless national currency.

The southern African country started using foreign currencies including the US dollar and South African rand in 2009 after the Zimbabwean dollar was ruined by hyperinflation. At the height of the country's economic crisis, prices were rising at least twice a day. A statement issued earlier by the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, John Mangudya, said customers who held Zimbabwean dollar accounts before March 2009 could approach their banks to convert their balance into US dollars. Bank accounts with balances of up to 175 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars were paid US$5. Those with balances above 175 quadrillion dollars were paid at an exchange rate of US$1 for 35 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars.

UAE executes woman convicted of US teacher's murder

The UAE on Monday executed an Emirati woman convicA[degrees]ted of the jihadist A[degrees]inspired murder of a US school teacher in an Abu Dhabi shopping mall, state media reported. Alaa al Hashemi, 30, was executed at dawn on Monday after President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan approved the death sentence issued last month, the official WAM news agency said. It cited prosecutors at the state security court but did not say how the execution was carried out.

Alaa had been sentenced to death after being found guilty of stabbing to death Ibolya Ryan, 47, in a shopping complex on December 1, 2014. She was also convicted of placing a handmade bomb outside an EgyptianA[degrees]American doctor's home in Abu Dhabi on the same day, although the device failed to explode. Alaa was found to have used an Internet account to spread information that was likely to 'jeopardise' the UAE, according to the verdict. She was also found guilty of having sent funds to Al Qaeda in Yemen.

Mexico drug kingpin 'Chapo' Guzman escapes prison in tunnel

Mexico's most notorious drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman escaped from a high security prison in a tunnel built under his cell, the government said, his second jailA[degrees] break in 15 years and a major embarrassment for President Enrique Pena Nieto. The kingpin slipped out of the prison through a tunnel more than 1.5km long which led to a building site in the local town, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido told a news conA[degrees] ference on Sunday.

Guzman, who bribed his way out of prison during a previous escape in 2001, was seen on video entering his shower area at 8.52pm on Saturday, then disappeared, the National Security Commission (CNS) said.

The drug lord, who is also wanted by US prosecutors and once made it on to Forbes' list of billionaires, was gone by the time guards entered his cell in the Altiplano prison in central Mexico and found it empty, the commission said.

800athletes had given blood samples that were 'highly suggestive' of doping or 'abnormal' among more than 12,000 blood tests provided by 5,000A[degrees]plus athletes between 2001 and 2012. The Sunday Times and the German broadcaster ARD/WDR said at the weekend that they had been given access to these results and of the 800 cases, 415 were Russian athletes, while 77 were Kenyans. Both the countries have hit back over the claims.

17 hours and 35 minutes flight announced by DubaiA[degrees]based Emirates will be the world's longest regularly scheduled nonstop flight. The daily service between Dubai and Panama City will begin on February 1, 2016. It will traverse a distance of approximately 13,800km. The flight will best the current longest nonstop flight A[degrees] Qantas Airways service between Sydney and Dallas takes just less than 17 hours A[degrees] by 17km.

Saudi Arabia to cut spending after oil price decline

Saudi Arabia will cut spending and delay some state projects after the recent decline in the price of oil, Finance Minister Ibrahim al Assaf said. Talking to broadcaster CNBC Arabia, he said the country was in a good position to manage low oil prices. Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporting country, has maintained its production levels despite a collapse in the price. Oil is trading at less than US$50 per barrel, half the price of a year ago. "We have built reserves, cut public debt to nearA[degrees] zero levels and we are now working on cutting unnecessary expenses while focusing on main development projects and on building human resources in the kingdom," he said in the interview.

Some areas of the economy will still receive investment, he said, as the country tries to improve industries outside eneA[degrees] rgy. "Projects in sectors such as education, health and infrastructure are not only important for the private sector but also for the longA[degrees]term growth of the Saudi economy," he said. He did not give details of where cuts would happen. It may issue bonds, or Islamic bonds known as sukuk to finance some spending, he said. The kingdom has more than US$600bn in reserves it can draw upon should expenditure outstrip income from oil exports.


A French woman has won a disability grant after telling a court she suffers from an allergy to electromagnetic radiation from gadgets. Marine Richard, 39, was told she may claim e1/4800 (US$895) per month for three years. Electromagnetic hypersensiA[degrees] tivity (EHS) is recognised by the WHO, though it says the causes are unclear. Marine had resorted to living in a remote area in the mountains of France with no electricity. She said she had been affected by everyday gadgets such as phones. Typical symptoms reported include headaches, fatigue, nausea and palpitations.

1in2 Syrians have been forced to flee by war. One of every five displaced persons in the world is Syrian. Protests against the government in Syria in 2011 soon devolved into chaotic war. The fighting and rise of the Islamic State forced 10.6mn people from home A[degrees] about half of Syria's preA[degrees]war population. Most Syrians who have left their homeland registered as refugees with the United Nations. Three in four Syrian refugees did that in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan.

1Bn users logged on to Facebook in a single day for the first time last week, company founder Mark Zuckerberg said. One in seven people on Earth used Facebook on Monday, he said in a post. Facebook has nearly 1.5bn users who log in at least once a month, but this was the most in a single day.

Facebook 'unfriending' can constitute workplace bullying, Australian tribunal finds A woman in Australia who unfriended a colleague on Facebook after a dispute at work was found by a tribunal to have committed workplace bullying. The Fair Work Commission, a workplace tribunal, said the decision by Lisa Bird, a real estate agent sales administrator, to unfriend her colleague Rachel Roberts showed a 'lack of emotional maturity' and was 'indicative of unreasonable behaviour'. The incident occurred after Rachel, a property agent, complained to the agency principal that her properties were not being adequately displayed in the store window. Lisa, the wife of the principal, then accused Rachel of being a 'naughty little school girl running to the teacher'.

Rachel left the office crying and then checked to see if Lisa had comA[degrees] mented on the incident on Facebook, only to find that the latter had unfriended her. Rachel said she had been bullied and was left with depression and anxiety -- a claim the tribunal accepted.

Myanmar ruling party chief concedes defeat

The acting chairman of Myanmar's ruling party conceded defeat to Aung San Suu Kyi's opposition on Monday and said he would accept the result of the country's first free national election in 25 years. "We lost," Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) leader Htay Oo said. The vote count was still under way and no results had been officially announced, but preliminary reports from around the counA[degrees] try indicated a wide margin of victory for Aung San's National League for Democracy (NLD)."We have to find out the reason why we lost," Oo, a close ally of President Thein Sein said.

Oo said he was surprised by the scale of his defeat in his own conA[degrees] stituency in Hinthada, considered the heartland of the USDP's rural support base. "I wasn't expecting it because we were able to do a lot for the people in this region," he said. "Anyway, it's the decision of the people."

US$16.5tn will be needed over the next 15 years to leave the world with any chance of meeting the hugely ambitious climate change targets agreed in Paris over the weekend. The enormity of the task ahead began to emerge as analysts started to translate what the new global warming and carbon emissions goals would mean in reality. Research by the International Energy Agency found that US$16.5tn would have to be found by 2030 if countries are to meet their pledges to cut carbon emissions. Most of the money would be needed to replace coal and gasA[degrees]fired power stations with emissionsA[degrees]free sources of energy such as wind, solar and nuclear. A major portion would also be used to reduce the overall amount of electricity used in homes and businesses by improving energy efficiency.

100 times lighter than Styrofoam and made of 99.9 per cent air, microlattice is the world's lightest metal. The material was developed by scientists at HRL Laboratories in Malibu, California, which is coA[degrees]owned by Boeing and General Motors. The material is made up of a network of tiny hollow tubes. In an effort to save fuel, aerospace and automotive companies constantly strive to make their materials as lightweight as possible without sacrificing structural integrity. Boeing showcased the material by demonstrating how a small piece of metal microlattice could be balanced on top of a dandelion seed head.

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Publication:The Week (Muscat, Oman)
Geographic Code:7IRAQ
Date:Dec 31, 2015
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