The United States introduced tougher screening for travellers from 14 mostly Muslim nations, after a Nigerian man tried to blow up a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day with explosives hidden in his underpants. Under the new rules, all citizens of Afghanistan, Algeria, Lebanon, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen and Nigeria will receive a pat down and an extra check of their carry-on bags before boarding flights bound for the United States. Several countries, including Nigeria, objected to being blacklisted, saying such a list discriminates against an entire nation, will not prevent further attacks and will only widen the chasm between Islam and the West. The restrictions do not apply to American citizens, although those who travel frequently may be subject to extra checks.
A British dating website expelled thousands of members from its cybercommunity for having gained weight over the holiday period. BeautifulPeople.com - which describes itself as an "exclusively beautiful community" said there had been complaints from other members about photos of "fatties" who no longer fit that bill. An online vote was held and 5,000 members were asked to leave the site. "Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded," said founder Robert Hintze, although some suspected it was just an elaborate publicity plug.
Meanwhile, a health club in weight-obsessed Britain was criticised for putting up a sign warning overweight people that they would be eaten by aliens. The sign, which was intended to encourage people to join the gym, read: "Advance health warning! When the aliens come, they will eat the fatties first." Needless to say, it did not spur a flood of memberships.
A Nasa space telescope found five new planets beyond our solar system in its hunt for a star that could support human life. None of the five new planets were particularly Earth-like - either too warm, between 2,200-3,000°F (hotter than molten lava), or too big (all were larger than Neptune). Regardless, scientists were excited about the new discoveries, named Kepler 4b, 5b, 6b, 7b and 8b after the Kepler telescope that spotted them. All five zip around their stars completing an orbit at least once a week; one has the density of packing foam. All are orbiting different stars that are on the verge of dying. The Kepler telescope was launched last month and will remain active until 2012. It is expected to take three years to locate and verify an Earth-size planet.
Thousands of UAE nationals, residents and tourists packed pavements and cafes to catch a glimpse of a spectacular firework display that launched the opening of the world's tallest tower in Dubai - a long-awaited addition to the emirate's skyline. But there was a surprise. What had been called the Burj Dubai was renamed the Burj Khalifa in a nod, Dubai said, to the unity between the emirates, but which many saw as a show of appreciation to Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, for his recent financial support.
A Somalian man armed with an axe and a knife broke into the house of the Danish cartoonist whose sketches of the Prophet Mohammed sparked riots across the Muslim world five years ago. The attacker was shot and wounded by police after the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, pushed a panic alert at his home. Police said the man had links to al Qa'eda, and Mr Westergaard, who had locked himself in his bathroom with his five-year-old granddaughter who was with him at the time, said the man had been calling for "revenge" and "blood" as he tried to smash his way into the house.
Not long after announcing a temporary retirement from golf following a slew of revelations of extramarital affairs, Tiger Woods appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine, bare chested and holding a dumbbell in each hand. The golfer had said he wanted "to focus my attention on being a better husband, father, and person" and appealed to the press for privacy. The magazine, which features photographs of Woods by the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, has not confirmed when they were taken, though it does say the "raw, never before seen" photoshoot took place before the golfer's fall from grace.
Nearly one in four Emirati university students may suffer from depression, a rate at the upper end of global levels, a new study shows. The two-year research project was meant to find links between thinking patterns and depression to better prevent the condition. But while studying 450 students at Zayed University, researchers also found a "surprisingly high" rate of depression. The study found that 20 per cent of the students were likely to be suffering from "moderate" depression and three per cent showed "severe" depressive symptoms. "The results were very surprising," said Dr Justin Thomas, an assistant professor for natural science and public health at the university, who led the study.
Can't get an iPhone? Never mind, Google may have the answer. The internet search giant launched its own brand of mobile phone, the Nexus One, that will give users easy access to the internet. It is the first time Google - which makes its money from web advertising - has stepped into the consumer hardware arena, and according to executives, the justification is simple: more and more people are accessing the web through their mobile phone. The phone looks much like Apple's iPhone, with a touchscreen, five-megapixel camera, GPS and compass. Google says that all accessories are voice activated meaning that anything from a tweet to an e-mail can be composed simply by talking into the phone. In the US, it is being priced at US$179 (Dh656) with a two-year mobile phone plan, or $529 without.
A Japanese whaling ship and the eco-friendly speedboat trying to prevent its annual hunt clashed on the icy Antarctic seas, causing the conservationists's boat to be "sliced in half". Sea Shepherd, a marine conservation group, said its stricken boat, a 24-metre catamaran made of fibreglass, was rammed by a 490-tonne harpoon ship protecting the Japanese fleet. Japanese fisheries officials insisted that the boat had been hit accidentally as it sought a confrontation. The speedboat's six crew were rescued.
Slovakia was forced to apologise after a test of airport security went awry. The Slovaks admitted to "a silly and unprofessional mistake" that had allowed a passenger to unknowingly carry bomb parts in his luggage on a flight to Dublin. The passenger, a Slovak, was detained for several hours by Irish authorities before being let go. Slovakia had planted the explosives in the luggage of several passengers as a test of its airport security, but one bag was able to go through undetected by sniffer dogs. According to Slovak authorities, the captain of the Dublin-bound flight was alerted to the fact he was carrying RDX explosives, as were airport authorities in the Irish capital, although the airport denies this.
The UAE announced sweeping legislation to restrict smoking across the country. The new law would ban smoking in "closed" public places and on public transport as well as in a car where there are children under the age of 12. Businesses that fail to follow the rules would be shut down and individuals could face a jail term of up to two years and a fine of Dh1 million. All imported cigarettes would have to carry health warnings, and all forms advertising, promotion or sponsorship for any tobacco products would be banned. But what caused the most concern was news shisha cafes would be moved out of residential areas.