Freed hikers: Iran held us because we’re American

Posted Sept. 25, 2011, at 8:04 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 26, 2011, at 9:45 a.m.

NEW YORK — Declaring they were detained because of their nationality, not their actions, two American hikers held for more than two years in an Iranian prison came home Sunday, ending a diplomatic and personal ordeal with a sharp rebuke of the country that accused them of crossing the border from Iraq.

Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer, both 29, were freed last week under a $1 million bail deal and arrived Wednesday in Oman, greeted by relatives and fellow hiker Sarah Shourd, who was released last year.

The three say they were hiking together in July 2009 in Iraq’s relatively peaceful Kurdish region along the Iran-Iraq border when Iranian guards detained them. They always maintained their innocence, saying they might have accidentally wandered into Iran.

The two men were convicted of spying last month. Shourd, to whom Bauer proposed marriage while they were imprisoned, was charged but freed before any trial.

NASA: 6-ton satellite hits Earth; location unknown

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA says it is not aware of any injuries or property damage from a defunct 6-ton satellite that has fallen from the sky.

The agency posted on its website that the spacecraft crashed through the atmosphere early Saturday morning somewhere over the north Pacific Ocean. An exact location was not known.

Most of it was believed to have burned up.

The Upper Atmospheric Research Satellite was NASA’s biggest spacecraft to tumble out of orbit, uncontrolled, in 32 years.

UARS was launched aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1991.

Bits of space junk re-enter the atmosphere often. No injuries have ever been reported from it.

Man with broken leg survives 4 days in Utah desert

SALT LAKE CITY — A North Carolina man crawled four days across the Utah desert after breaking his leg on a solo hike, inspired by a Hollywood movie about a man who cut off his own arm to save himself after being trapped by a boulder in the same canyon.

Amos Wayne Richards, 64, of Concord, N.C., is now recovering at home. He said he was inspired to hike Little Blue John Canyon after he saw the Oscar-nominated movie “127 Hours” but fell 10 feet during his trek on Sept. 8.

Canyonlands National Park rangers found Richards four days later. Along with the leg injury, he dislocated his shoulder but was able to work it back into place.

Saudi Arabia to allow women to vote

CAIRO — King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia surprised his ultraconservative nation Sunday by announcing bold reforms that for the first time give women the right to vote, run for local office and serve on the Shura Council, the king’s advisory board.

The measures by an aging monarch who has battled Islamic hard-liners for years will marginally improve the standing of women in a country that still forbids them from driving or leaving the house without their faces covered. The moves appear likely to enrage religious conservatives while advancing at least a veneer of change in one of the world’s most repressive states.

“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia [Islamic law], we have decided … to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from the next term,” the king said in a five-minute speech to his advisers.

He added: “Women will be able to run as candidates” in the 2015 municipal election “and will even have a right to vote.”

The announcement suggests that the ailing 87-year-old king seeks a legacy as a reformer, despite making only modest inroads on human rights. Abdullah built the country’s first coeducational university and has granted 120,000 scholarships to students, many of them women, to study outside the country. Each move was opposed by clerics and religious ultraconservatives in the royal family.

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