Wild driver sentenced
A 23-year-old man with dual US and Australian citizenship has been found guilty of manslaughter in the bizarre death of a taxi driver, according to court documents. Hong Kong-born Kelsey Mudd was convicted by a jury late on Wednesday following a trial in which he had pleaded not guilty to being responsible for the death of Wong Chi-ming in June last year. Mudd was accused of commandeering Wong’s cab and then embarking on a wild driving spree before smashing into a metal fence in the city’s financial district, killing the 58-year-old. The case grabbed headlines after video footage of the incident emerged showing Mudd inside the taxi with blood splattered on his face. Jurors also found Mudd — a student at California State University who was in the territory volunteering for a charity at the time of the accident — guilty of taking a vehicle without authority, dangerous driving and drunk driving.
City pays for cigarette butts
A northern city has come up with an innovative way to encourage residents to keep the streets clean — it is paying 5 fen (just under US$0.01) for every used cigarette butt they pick up. Authorities in Xianyang city, Shaanxi Province, launched the campaign in September and so far enthusiastic residents have handed over 7 million butts, the China Daily said. In return, the local government has paid out 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) for 2 million of the butts and still owes for the remaining 5 million. One person reportedly handed over 7,500 cigarette butts all at once — worth 375 yuan. However, some people are cheating by rooting around Internet cafes, restaurants and even dustbins to collect butts and get a reward, according to some media reports.
Swiss mockers shock nation
The government expressed “shock and disgust” on Wednesday after a video surfaced of a Swiss couple being mocked and insulted by a celebrant during their marriage ceremony at a luxury hotel. In the video, posted on YouTube several days ago, a couple can be seen seated opposite the celebrant as they renew their wedding vows at the Vilu Reef hotel, which charges US$400 a night for the use of its honeymoon suite. Speaking in the local Dhivehi language, the celebrant calls the couple “swine” amid a host of other insults during a hateful profanity-laced tirade littered with often bizarre personal and religious-tinged taunts. Foreign Minister Ahmed Shaheed said he was “horrified” to see the video. “I could not see the entire video because my children were around and I didn’t want them to hear the bad language that was used,” Shaheed told reporters when contacted in the capital of the atoll nation, Male. Vilu Reef general manager Mohamed Rasheed said the hotel had apologized to the couple who had the ceremony on Oct. 11 and had taken disciplinary action against those involved.
Twelve miners drowned
Twelve workers were killed and one injured in a flood in a colliery in the southwest, state media said yesterday, in the latest accident to hit the nation’s notoriously dangerous mining industry. The incident happened on Wednesday in Machang town, Guizhou province, when 50 miners were working underground, the Xinhua news agency quoted a spokesman for the provincial coal mine safety bureau as saying. A total of 38 workers managed to escape, the report said, adding that the mine managers had fled after the accident, but were caught yesterday.
Gulag stories to be released
A project by Russian and central European historians called “Sound Archives of the Gulag,” recordings of the stories of scores of deportees, will be available online in March, organizers said. The project has gathered about 160 accounts by people of their sorrowful experience of being deported to the gulag, the penal labor camps in the former Soviet Union, coordinator Marta Craveri said. The accounts are mainly from Poles, Lithuanians, Estonians and other nationalities of eastern Europe. At a presentation in Warsaw on Tuesday, Craveri said that once the countries of the former Soviet bloc entered the EU in 2004, “we became aware of the lack of knowledge of this past and thought that it was time to gather witness testimonies to create a virtual museum.”
Bond car sold for ￡2.6m
One of the world’s most famous James Bond cars — the specially equipped silver Aston Martin first driven by Sean Connery in Goldfinger — was auctioned off on Wednesday in London for ￡2.6 million (US$4.1 million.) The unique car, which boasts an ejector seat, machine guns, rotating license plates and other spy gear, was initially expected to go for more than ￡3.5 million.
“This is the only genuine, 007 James Bond car,” said Mick Walsh, editor-in-chief of Classic and Sports Car Magazine. It was bought by Harry Yeaggy, an US classic car collector who has a small private museum in Ohio. “We’d ride it around the streets of London tonight,” he told the BBC. He said it was likely the car would end up on public display, perhaps as the centerpiece of an upscale office complex in a city like Los Angeles or Moscow.
Mohammed tops name list
Mohammed was the most popular name for newborn baby boys in England and Wales last year, according to official data released on Wednesday. However, 12 different spellings of the name, each listed separately, meant that Oliver officially topped the poll. The name, given to 7,364 children, ended Jack’s 14-year reign at No. 1, with Harry, Alfie and Joshua rounding out the top five in the figures published by the Office for National Statistics. The two most common spellings of the Muslim name came in at 16th and 36th place, a total of 7,549 baby boys, making it the most popular name overall. The most common spelling, Mohammed, was the No. 1 name in its own right in the West Midlands region of central England which includes Birmingham, and No. 4 in London. Olivia remained the most common girls’ name with 5,201 children of that name, followed by Ruby, Chloe, Emily and Sophie. The highest climber in the girls’ top 100 was Maisie, up 29 places to No. 34. Austin showed the largest rise of any name in the top 100 for boys, surging from number 160 in 2008 to 100th place last year.
Shark attacked with camera
A scuba diver who came face-to-teeth with a shark used a camera to fend off the animal when it came at him with its teeth bared — and he has the frightening video to prove it. Scott MacNichol, 30, was shaken up but uninjured after a porbeagle shark apparently mistook his camera equipment for food on Saturday while diving near Eastport, off the eastern tip of Maine. He estimated the shark was 2.4m long and weighed about more than 130kg. MacNichol was filming the ocean floor under empty salmon pens as part of an environmental assessment for Cooke Aquaculture.
Oil drum killer convicted
A 68-year-old jeweler whose clients have included Donald Trump and Yoko Ono was convicted on Wednesday of murdering his wife by incinerating her in an oil drum. Werner Lippe had confessed to the killing three times, but then recanted and testified to his innocence. His defense stressed that no trace of the body was found and an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict. Jurors at Lippe’s retrial spent eight hours deliberating over two days and asked to hear each of Lippe’s recorded confessions. Lippe said in his confessions that he knocked out his wife with a board on Oct. 3, 2008, then burned her up in a backyard “burn barrel.”
Campaign flier causes flap
A North Carolina state legislator is apologizing after a campaign flier meant to tout his support for US troops featured a photo of World War II re-enactors dressed as German soldiers. The political consulting firm that produced the campaign piece for Democratic state Representative Tim Spear said on Wednesday it is solely responsible for the mistake. The campaign planned to send the flier to about 10,000 homes in Spear’s coastal district. It said the legislator is “Covering Our Soldiers’ Backs.” However, the photo showed the backs of four advancing re-enactors dressed in German army uniforms. Account executive Mike Brown at MSHC Partners said the firm’s art department thought the photo captured Spear’s message, but no one noticed it showed the wrong kind of troops.
Longest captive snake dies
An Ohio zoo says the longest snake living in captivity has died. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium says workers found the 136kg, 7.3m python on Wednesday morning dead from an apparent tumor. The snake was named Fluffy. It held the Guinness World Record as the longest snake living in captivity. It was about as long as a moving van and as thick as a telephone pole. The 18-year-old reticulated python had drawn large crowds since the zoo got it in 2007. Reticulated pythons are named for the cross-hatching patterns on their skin and average 3m to 6m long.
Sleepwalker shoots himself
Police say a Colorado man who told police he woke up to a “bang” and realized he suffered a gunshot wound to his knee likely shot himself while sleepwalking. The Daily Camera reports that 63-year-old Sanford Rothman of Boulder told investigators he had no clear recollection of the incident early on Tuesday. No one else was in Rothman’s home at the time. Boulder police Sergeant Paul Reichenback said Rothman keeps a 9mm handgun near his bed and takes prescription medication for pain. Police say no alcohol or illegal drugs played a role in the incident. Rothman was treated at a hospital and released.
Bedbugs spread to UN
New York’s bed bug epidemic has struck the UN headquarters, which confirmed on Wednesday that the dreaded insect has been detected. The blood-sucking bugs have been found at landmarks such as the Empire State Building, department stores such as Bloomingdales, big name hotels and Carnegie Hall in recent months and authorities have warned the problem is worsening. A spokesman said the insects were found on Friday last week inside the library and one week earlier on the upper floors of the headquarters. An infestation last year led to an outer building being fumigated.
‘CONFESSED’: A court in Beijing said that former CCP member Ren Zhiqiang abused his power at a state firm and embezzled almost US$7.14 million of public funds A Chinese tycoon who called Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) a clown and criticized his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic was yesterday jailed for 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds. Ren Zhiqiang (任志強) — once among the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) inner circle — disappeared from the public eye in March, shortly after penning an essay that lambasted Xi’s pandemic response. His outspokenness had earned the former chairman of state-owned property developer Huayuan Group the nickname “Big Cannon.” Yesterday’s verdict said that Ren embezzled almost 50 million yuan (US$7.4 million) of public funds and accepted bribes worth 1.25 million
AUSTRALIAN SITE: China has had a contract with SSC’s Yatharagga station since at least 2011, but the last time it used it was in June 2013. No final date has been given China would lose access to a strategic space tracking station in Western Australia when its contract expires, the facility’s owners said, a decision that cuts into Beijing’s expanding space exploration and navigational capabilities in the Pacific region. The Swedish Space Corp (SSC) has had a contract allowing Beijing access to the satellite antenna at the station since at least 2011. The station is located next to an SSC satellite station primarily used by the US and its agencies, including NASA. The Swedish state-owned company said it would not enter into any new contracts at the Australian site to support Chinese customers after
OFF BORDER ISLAND: The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel wearing a life jacket and leaving behind his shoes, indicating an intentional move, Seoul said North Korean soldiers shot dead a suspected South Korean defector at sea and burned his body as a COVID-19 precaution after he was interrogated in the water over several hours, Seoul military officials said yesterday. It is the first killing of a South Korean citizen by North Korean forces for a decade, and comes with Pyongyang at high alert over the COVID-19 pandemic and inter-Korean relations at a standstill. The fisheries official disappeared from a patrol vessel near the western border island of Yeonpyeong on Monday, the official said. More than 24 hours later, North Korean forces located him in their waters and
The scarcity of commercial flights landing at Sydney Airport has been a disaster for airlines and workers, but for hobby pilots the COVID-19 pandemic has provided the opportunity of a lifetime. The quieter-than-usual runways mean that private pilots have been given the chance to land at the international airport for the first time. When Sydney Flight College club captain Tim Lindley put out a call, he received an overwhelming response. He eventually organized for 14 light aircraft to fly into Sydney airport on Sunday. “For a lot of the pilots involved, including myself, it was a childhood dream to land in a big