Forces good and bad

The British premier is accused of bullying his staff, shocking child soldier statistics emerge from Yemen, and a Royal Family member joins Abu Dhabi's finest.

At least 42 people were killed when torrential rains turned streams into gushing rivers that coursed through the Portuguese island of Madeira, destroying houses, roads and bridges. Another 32 people have been reported missing. Emergency services struggled to cope with the scale of the disaster, the worst on the island since 1993. An appeal for doctors and nurses had to be made over local radio as telephone lines had been brought down.

Abu Dhabi's car-clogged streets are to be carved up into smaller neighbourhoods, with better pavements and more public transport to make the capital more pedestrian-friendly, planners have pledged. According to the Urban Street Design Manual, a 130-page Government document that will shape urban planning in future, trams and a Metro system will help wean people away from cars.

The National Bullying Helpline, a British charity that deals with employees who feel they have been unfairly treated, said it had received several complaints from within the office of Gordon Brown, the British prime minister. This followed allegations in a book published by a British political journalist that Mr Brown was volatile and often abusive to his staff. One aide told the author Andrew Rawnsley that Mr Brown had thrown a Coke can, among other things, at him. Facing terrible ratings in the run-up to a general election, Mr Brown has been trying to show a gentler, more human side to his personality.

One of the first comics to feature Superman sold for US$1 million (Dh3.67m). Neither the seller nor buyer of the 1938 Action Comics No 1 revealed their identity, but the website behind the sale,, said the buyer was a well-known New York collector. The comic, which has Superman on the cover lifting up a car, originally sold for 10 cents.

High-resolution satellite images from Google Earth showed in clear detail for the first time a patch of desert in the US state of Arizona that has been used as a military scrapyard for thousands of decommissioned aircraft. The 6,700 sq km facility is officially known as the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, but has been dubbed "The Boneyard" by the press. About 80 per cent of the 4,200 aircraft there, including B52 Flying Fortresses, F14 Tomcats and the A10 Thunderbolt "tank busters", are used for spare parts.

China watchers were disappointed after a micro-blogging site registered in the name of Hu Jintao, the country's rather dour president, was removed. The site had been created on the website of the People's Daily, the Communist Party's mouthpiece. Within hours, thousands had registered to receive its live feed. But before Mr Hu had posted his first message, it was taken down. One explanation for its appearance was that a recent upgrade had led to the automatic creation of mini-blog sites for anyone who had registered their name in the paper's chat room. Mr Hu had himself registered for an online conversation with the public last year.

Palestinians warned of a new intifada after Israel added two West Bank religious sites, venerated by Muslims, Christians and Jews, to its national heritage list. The inclusion of the Cave of the Patriarchs, known by Muslims as the Ibrahimi Mosque, and Rachel's Tomb, known as Bilal Ibn Rabah mosque, led to days of protests by Palestinians, who burned tyres and threw stones at checkpoints. Palestinian leaders warned that the move would jeopardise the moribund peace process, and both the UN and the US criticised Israel for a "provocative" act.

An American woman was sentenced to 15 months' hard labour for trading two children for US$175 (Dh642) in cash and an exotic bird. Donna Louise Greenwell had contacted the couple - Paul James and Brandy Lynn Romero - after spotting their advertisement offering a cockatoo for sale. She offered to sell them the children, a four-year-old girl and five-year-old boy, for $2,000, but dropped the price to $175 in cash when the bird was thrown in. Both children were in Greenwell's care after their biological parents had left them with her. Greenwell's lawyer told the court that his client was only trying to place the children for adoption, but that she had gone about it in the wrong way.

Sudan's president, Omar al Bashir, declared the six-year conflict in Darfur over after signing a peace agreement with the main separatist group, the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM). Other rebel groups, however, rejected the peace deal and were subjected to a fierce attack by the Sudanese army. The Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) said the government attacked its stronghold in the mountainous central Jabel Marra region with helicopter gunships and fighter jets. Aid groups said the fighting had led to 100,000 people fleeing their homes. JEM and the SLA took up arms against the government in 2003, accusing it of leaving the area underdeveloped and marginalised.

Dubai identified another 15 suspects who it said were part of a Mossad hit squad that assassinated Mahmoud al Mabhouh, the Hamas militant leader, in the emirate last month. The 15 held Australian, Britain, Irish, German and French passports. Dubai Police have now identified 26 people they believe were involved in Mr al Mabhouh's hotel room killing on January 19. Most of the new suspects had travelled on passports in the name of people who lived in Israel and held dual nationality. None of the people named in the passports knew their identity had been stolen. Police said the suspects had used 14 credit cards, some issued in the US, to book hotels and air tickets.

A Yemen-based child rights group said hundreds of children had been killed or used as soldiers in fighting between government forces and Houthi rebels since August 2009. Seyaj Organization for Child Protection said 187 children had been killed, 402 used by Houthis as soldiers and another 282 recruited by pro-government local militia. In addition, 89,000 children had been forced to flee their homes with their families. Most of child deaths were caused by shells or gunfire but about about 30 per cent of them were due to starvation after food supplies were cut off, the group said.

Three Google executives were convicted of breaking privacy laws after footage of an Italian boy with Down syndrome being bullied was posted on YouTube. The case, the first of its kind against an internet search engine, raised concerns over freedom on the web. Lawyers for California-based Google argued that regulating content would be impossible as it would involve previewing thousands of hours of footage each day before it was uploaded on to sites such as YouTube.

After four and a half years of training, Sheikh Ahmed bin Nasser, the grandson of Sheikh Zayed, graduated from the Abu Dhabi Police College, along with 303 fellow trainees. Sheikh Ahmed, 24, whose father was a policeman, joined as a lieutenant. Four of the graduates were women. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior and UAE Deputy Prime Minister, Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed and several other members of the Royal Family, as well as ministers and dignitaries, attended the graduation ceremony.