Non-existent day dawns
The Pacific island nation is poised to leap into the future, axing today — Dec. 30 — as it switches time zones to be closer to its major trading partners in Australasia. The plan to jump across the international dateline will take Samoa from being one of the last places to see the sun each day to being among the first. The dateline — which runs through the middle of the Pacific — currently runs to the west of Samoa, meaning that it is 11 hours behind GMT and is one of the last places on Earth to see out the day. Carols, prayers and a speech from Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi in the last hour of Dec. 29 were to lead Samoa up to midnight and then straight into Dec. 31. “In doing business with New Zealand and Australia, we’re losing out on two working days a week,” the prime minister said, explaining the change. “While it’s Friday here, it’s Saturday in New Zealand and when we’re at church Sunday, they’re already conducting business in Sydney and Brisbane.” The switch reverses a decision made 120 years ago to move to the east of the international dateline because most of Samoa’s trade at the time was with the US and Europe. Guests staying in Samoa’s hotels this week will not be expected to pay for a day that does not exist, but employers must still pay staff for the Friday that never was.
Boy escapes tight squeeze
An infant was attacked by a python which wrapped itself around his body and attempted to suffocate him, his terrified mother said yesterday, recalling his “blood-curdling scream.” The two-year-old boy was chasing a ball around his Port Douglas backyard in the nation’s tropical north when the snake struck, biting his leg before looping itself around his body, his mother told the Cairns Post. “I heard this blood-curdling scream,” she said. “The snake was biting his leg and was wrapped around his whole body, to his chest. It started constricting.” She was unable to pull the snake from her son, but neighbors who heard her cries came to his rescue and managed to lift the snake off. The boy suffered four bite wounds, but the snake was not poisonous and he was released from hospital after 24 hours’ observation.
Man handed death sentence
A court in the south sentenced a man to death yesterday for setting off explosives at a tax office which killed four people, media reported. The blast in July of last year in Changsha, capital of Hunan Province, also injured 17 people, Xinhua news agency said. Suspect Liu Zhuiheng fled the scene of the attack and was caught a few days later in the neighboring region of Guangxi, the report added. “His actions were his way of venting anger over his business losses,” Xinhua said, without elaborating.
Romance goes viral
After watching an emotional video of Timothy Tiah propose to his girlfriend, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest hailed it as a heartwarming coda to the year. Singer Christina Perri confessed that it made her cry. Celebrity endorsements have helped the creatively crafted clip rack up nearly 4 million views online within a week. The video has turned Tiah and his now-fiancee into unexpected role models for numerous young romantics worldwide. The 27-year-old Internet entrepreneur told The Associated Press this week that it was a surreal twist for him because he has long been allergic to the idea of marriage. The video shows Tiah surprising his girlfriend at an Italian restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.
BBC list causes outrage
The BBC has caused outrage by choosing a panda as one of its 12 women of the year. The selection of Tian Tian (甜甜, “Sweetie”) was made by the BBC magazine for its Faces of the Year published yesterday. Twitter users complained that rather than being selected for their achievements, one in four selected women included those involved in marriages, such as Pippa Middleton, sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, Charlene Wittstock, who married Prince Albert of Monaco, and Spanish billionaire the Duchess of Alba. This month’s choice was Tian Tian, a giant panda at Edinburgh zoo. The animal is on loan from Beijing. Freelance journalist Bob Chaundy, whose name appears at the bottom of the BBC’s Web page, agreed it was an odd choice, but denied he had made the selection. He told the Guardian the selection was put together by BBC editors and that he only wrote up their choices. Responding to the debacle, Chaundy tweeted: “I didn’t choose the BBC women faces of the year subjects, just wrote them. Two black eyes from wife though. Pandamonium!”
Better pong than bong
It may not be the most conventional way of tackling crime, but an English city council has claimed success after using pig dung to eject teenagers from a woodland where they used to drink and take drugs. Elderly residents of Middlesbrough had complained that young people were smoking cannabis and drinking alcohol in a woodland area near the Coulby Newham housing estate. In response, officials thinned out the trees so the area was more visible from paths and then spread a thick layer of pig manure on the ground — which has proved highly effective in deterring wayward teens. “Following complaints, an inspection of the area revealed it was being used to drink alcohol and take drugs, as paraphernalia known as bongs [used to smoke cannabis] were found,” a council spokesman said. “Feedback from the residents indicated that, although there was a slight whiff in Willowbank, they would much rather have a pong than a bong.”
Drink driver busted again
A man drove to a police station to ask to get back his license, which he had lost for drink driving, but he was immediately arrested for having a blood-alcohol level far above the legal limit, police said on Wednesday. The 47-year-old rolled up in his car at the police headquarters in the eastern town of Plauen on Tuesday, just after the three-day Christmas holiday. “He asked inside where his driving license was, which he had had confiscated days before due to drink driving,” a statement said. Noticing he was again intoxicated, officers ordered a test which revealed a blood-alcohol level of 296 milliliters, nearly six times the legal limit. “The culprit is now facing charges of drink driving as well as driving without a licence,” police said.
Court ruling cheers Hindus
A court has decided not to ban a religious text central to the global Hare Krishna movement, rejecting claims that the text is “extremist” and ending a case that has angered Hindus around the world. Prosecutors in Tomsk had argued that the Russian translation of Bhagavad Gita As It Is promotes “social discord” and hatred toward nonbelievers, causing an outcry in India. Prosecutors had asked the court to include the book on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, which bans more than 1,000 texts, including Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
Dead teen was on road trip
A US teenager who was found dead on Christmas Eve in Mexico had gone to see his girlfriend the day he died and didn’t tell relatives, perhaps fearing they wouldn’t let him go, according to prosecutors’ documents obtained by reporters in Morelia on Wednesday. The charred remains of 18-year-old Alexis Uriel Marron of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, were found along with the bodies of two friends in the trunk of a burned-out car in Michoacan state. The car belonged to one of the friends. Two uncles identified Marron through crowns on his teeth and clothing that hadn’t burned, the documents said. The prosecutors’ office said the car holding the remains of the three young men was found on Saturday on the side of a rural road in Michoacan, a state that has been plagued in recent years by violence linked to the drug trafficking trade. Prosecutors were looking into robbery as a possible motive because none of the three men’s possessions were found in the car.
Humane Society kills cat
Outraged donors have threatened to pull their support for the Humane Society after it euthanized the cat of a former heroin addict because he couldn’t immediately pay US$400 for its medical care. The Arizona Republic newspaper reported that Daniel Dockery’s nine-month-old cat, Scruffy, was put down because of the money issue, not because of cuts it got from a fence. Dockery said he reluctantly surrendered the cat to the Humane Society on Dec. 8 after staff declined to take a credit card from his mother over the phone or wait 24 hours for her to wire him cash. They told him the cat would be treated only if he signed over ownership, he said. Dockery searched for the cat for three weeks at agency shelters and repeatedly asked staff what had happened. He learned on Tuesday that the cat was euthanized a few hours after he brought her in.
‘NYT’ makes mistake, twice
In today’s digital age, it is easy to send out an e-mail by mistake — even for a company that’s in the business of communication. The New York Times thought it was sending an e-mail to a few hundred people who had recently canceled subscriptions, offering them a 50 percent discount for 16 weeks to lure them back. Instead, Wednesday’s offer went to 8.6 million e-mail addresses of people who had given them to the Times. That was the first mistake. The second came when the Times tweeted this: “If you received an email today about canceling your NYT subscription, ignore it. It’s not from us.” However, the Times did send the original e-mail, Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy said.
Stolen ring ends honeymoon
Police in Burlington, Vermont, say a man proposed to his girlfriend with a stolen engagement ring. The girlfriend said yes, but the ring landed him in jail. Police in Vermont say 25-year-old Ryan Jarvis is charged with stealing the US$3,200 ring from a jewelry store. WCAX-TV reports that Jarvis was looking at jewelry when he asked to see the 1-carat white gold solitaire ring on Monday afternoon. Police say they received tips that led to a Facebook posting by Jarvis’ girlfriend in which she showed off the ring. Police say she didn’t know the ring was stolen. Officer Jesse Stewart says Jarvis confessed. It was unclear whether he had a lawyer.