UAE pardons, frees jailed British academic
ABU DHABI/DUBAI • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday pardoned and released a British academic jailed for life on spying charges, granting a request for clemency after showing a video of him purportedly confessing to membership of Britain's MI6 intelligence service.
UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued the pardon, which was effective immediately, as part of a mass clemency of more than 700 prisoners to mark the country's National Day, a statement on state news agency WAM said.
Mr Matthew Hedges, a 31-year-old doctoral student at Durham University, had been in detention for more than six months.
NZ reports 2nd case of needle in strawberry
WELLINGTON • A needle has been found in a strawberry in New Zealand, police said yesterday, the second such incident to hit the country two months after a contamination crisis erupted in Australia.
The needle was found in a punnet sold in the small South Island town of Geraldine at the weekend, a New Zealand police spokesman said.
The supermarket owner, Mr Garry Sheed, yesterday said he has taken all strawberries off the shelves.
The needle scare started in September, when more than 200 incidents of needles found hidden in strawberries were reported in Australia.
Nasa spacecraft on course to land on Mars
LOS ANGELES • The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration's first spacecraft built to explore the deep interior of another world streaked towards a landing scheduled for yesterday on a vast, barren plain on Mars, carrying instruments to detect planetary heat and seismic rumblings never measured anywhere but Earth.
After sailing 548 million km on a six-month voyage through deep space, robotic lander InSight was due to touch down on the dusty, rock-strewn surface of the Red Planet at about 3pm Eastern Standard Time (4am today, Singapore time). If all goes to plan, InSight will hurtle through the top of the thin Martian atmosphere at 19,310kmh.