Fireworks kill two
Two people were killed by exploding fireworks and 361 injured in New Year’s revelry despite multiple public awareness campaigns to encourage people to tone down the partying. A 49-year-old builder was killed by a rocket flying into his face and a 51-year-old restaurant owner died when a firecracker went off near his head as he was trying out a firework battery just before midnight, police said. Both accidents occurred in the Campania region in the south. A car apparently packed with illegal fireworks exploded in Naples on New Year’s Eve, severely injuring the two teenagers inside, police said. Dozens more were injured overnight in and around Naples, the capital of Campania, including a six-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy who were hospitalized with burns caused by explosions, but were later released. There were scores of injuries in other parts of the country too, with an 11-year-old Roma boy in Milan losing three fingers when an unexploded firecracker went off in his hand and one man losing the use of his hand due to a blast near Foggia.
Guantanamo pair retire
The last two Cuban workers at the Guantanamo Bay US naval base retired on Monday from jobs they began more than five decades ago. Harry Henry, an 82-year-old office supply technician, and Luis La Rosa, a 79-year-old welder, had worked at the US base since they were teenagers. They were among thousands of Cuban workers who once commuted to the base each day. The US imposed an economic embargo, as well as a hiring freeze, to put pressure on the island’s communist government in 1962. Over the decades, the ranks of daily commuters thinned until only Henry and La Rosa were left. Henry had worked at the base for more than 61 years and La Rosa for more than 53 years. They also served as couriers, carrying US government pension payments to other Cubans who had retired from the base. Because of its embargo, the US government has been left scrambling to find another way to make those payments.
New bank notes introduced
The nation woke up yesterday to a new year and new bank notes, which lop off three zeros in a bid to address high inflation that made the currency cumbersome to work with. Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda launched the new Kwacha notes by assuring the public that the move to rebase the currency was meant to address previous bouts of depreciation. What was 1,000 kwacha is now 1 kwacha. Previously, 10,000 kwacha was worth roughly US$2. The new currency will run side by side with old Kwacha notes until June 30. “Although the old currency will cease to be legal tender on 30 June, it will be available for exchange at the Bank of Zambia, commercial banks for a period of 36 months until 31 December 2015,” Chikwanda said.