Natural wonder inaugurated
Table Mountain was formally inaugurated as one of the world’s new seven wonders of nature at a ceremony on Sunday, a move officials hope will bring major economic benefits to the area. The mountain, which towers over Cape Town, was crowned one of the natural wonders last year after a global poll that allowed anyone in the world to vote via telephone, text messages or social media networks. Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille said she expected the listing of Table Mountain to “bring tremendous direct economic and socio-economic benefits” to the city and the country. The impact has begun to show already, with officials saying they received a record number of visitors to the mountain last month.
Programmer escapes death
Authorities have suspended the death sentence for a computer programmer convicted on charges of running a pornographic Web site after he “repented for his actions,” his lawyer was quoted as saying on Sunday. Saeed Malekpour, an Iranian citizen and Canadian resident, was arrested in 2008 while visiting relatives in Iran, according to Amnesty International. Although authorities accused him of running a pornography site, Amnesty has said the charges appear to stem from a software program created by Malekpour that was used without his knowledge to post pornographic images. Such images are illegal in the Islamic republic. Malekpour’s lawyer, Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaei, told Mehr news agency that his client had repented for his actions after his death sentence, issued by the Revolutionary Court, was confirmed by the Supreme Court.
Rare hymn book to be sold
Congregants of one of the nation’s oldest churches have voted to auction off a 372-year-old hymn book that is expect to fetch between US$10 million and US$20 million at auction. Members of the Old South Church in Boston authorized the sale of one of its two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, which was published in 1640. It is among the first books ever published in North America, and only 11 copies remain. Board of Trustees Chairman Phil Stern says the church wants to continue growing its endowment and take care of some “critical capital needs.” He says although there was loud opposition to the sale, the vote was not close, with 271 votes cast in favor and 34 against.
Magician’s head set on fire
An American magician was recuperating on Sunday after a local television show host lit his head on fire with a flammable cologne. Wayne Houchin said he is receiving treatment for burns that doctors are cautiously optimistic will not result in scars. During an appearance on the Dominican Republic’s Closer To The Stars TV program on Nov. 26, guest host Franklin Barazarte abruptly doused the US magician’s head with Agua de Florida, a flammable cologne commonly used in Santeria rituals. A video of the incident shows the magician’s head bursting into flames as Barazarte runs his hands over Houchin’s hair. It is unclear why the TV host doused his head in the liquid and what ignited it. The incident was not broadcast on television, but a video of it has appeared on the Internet. Houchin said Barazarte’s actions were completely unexpected and he considers it a criminal attack.