‘Harry Potter’ up for auction
Ever wondered what went through author J.K. Rowling’s mind when she wrote the first Harry Potter novel? Fans of books about the boy wizard will have a chance to bid on a unique first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, annotated by the author, at a charity auction this month, the English PEN organization said on Friday. The book contains Rowling’s handwritten thoughts and commentary about the book and the film adaptation, as well as 22 hand-drawn illustrations. It includes a 43-page “second thoughts” segment from the author, with phrases such as, “I wrote the book ... in snatched hours, in clattering cafe or 3 in the dead of night. For me, the story of how I wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is written invisibly on every page, legible only to me…”
Woman gets bionic hands
A woman who lost both hands, her left leg and right foot after contracting a flesh-eating disease has been fitted with prosthetic hands. Aimee Copeland, 25, was fitted with a pair of hands with 24 programmable functions that will improve her dexterity, her father, Andy, told reporters. Copeland contracted a rare infection called necrotizing fasciitis in May last year after falling from a zip line and gashing her leg. She spent two months at the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation clinic in Atlanta, Georgia, learning to move, eat and bathe without prosthetics. She spent part of the week at Touch Bionics being fitted for the prosthetics that her father said will be controlled by her muscle movements. “All four days she sent us videos of things she could do,” Andy Copeland said. “The second day she was moving water between cups. On the third day she was cutting a cucumber. On the fourth day she was doing more typical things, like applying makeup to her face and more personal things.” He said the hands were given to Aimee in exchange for serving as a Touch Bionics ambassador.
Slave labor ring uncovered
Police have uncovered a trafficking network involving Bangladeshis who were smuggled into the country with promises of good wages, but ended up doing slave labor. About 80 Bangladeshis working in slavery-like conditions were discovered in eight homes on the outskirts of Brasilia, Police Commissioner Dennis Cali said on Thursday, Agencia Brasil reported. No arrests have been made, but four suspected Bangladeshi smugglers have been identified, he said. The gang consisted of Bangladeshis who lured their countrymen with false promises of salaries of US$1,000 to US$1,500, and charged up to US$10,000 for smuggling them into Brazil, a federal police statement said.
Men sentenced for fatal drug
A court on Friday sentenced two officials from a pharmaceutical company to seven years in prison over the sale of an adulterated teething drug which killed 84 babies in 2008. Children between two months and seven years old died from renal failure after taking the painkiller, which was found to contain high levels of diethylene glycol, a poisonous solvent mostly used in brake fluid and as an engine coolant. Federal High Court Judge Okechukwu Okeke convicted Adeyemo Abiodun and Egbele Austine Eromosele of “conspiracy” and “selling dangerous drugs” to a Lagos-based pharmacy. They were charged in March 2009. He ordered the closure of Barewa Pharmaceutical Limited, the manufacturer of the drug, and its assets frozen. The judge said a lighter term had been given following pleas for mercy.
‘Lazy’ postman hoarded mail
A hard-partying village postman in Sardinia was too “lazy” to deliver post in the morning and instead hoarded about 400kg of it in his home, local residents and police said. “Residents had long been complaining to the police they were not receiving hundreds of important documents,” local policeman Gianni di Carlo said. “We went to his house and we found a huge amount of mail in his garage,” he said. Some of the mail dated back to as far back as four years ago. The 50-year-old postman in Mores, a village of 2,000 people in rural Sardinia, faces up to three years in prison for “stealing mail.” “He seemed like a nice guy, but he did have late nights and drink a bit too much. Maybe that’s why he was so lazy,” said Fidel, owner of a local hotel.
FBI finds sick images
The FBI found images of what appears to be a dead infant with the words “nepi-rape” scrawled on her bare belly during a child pornography investigation, US court records show. An FBI spokesman declined to say whether the agency believes the infant portrayed in the image is actually dead or if the photo was staged. He was also unable to say whether the agency had managed to find any of the victims portrayed in more than 1,000 pieces of child pornography discovered last month. The disturbing images were discovered after a child found a thumb drive on the ground of a park in the small town of Onsted, Michigan. Among the 1,039 pornographic images found on the thumb drive were 28 which depicted bondage or torture and 10 child pornography videos, including one which depicted bestiality. The child’s family turned the thumb drive over to police, who traced it back to Sean Gossman, who was charged with possession of child pornography.
LA leads pack for attacks
Los Angeles has earned the dubious distinction for the second year in a row as the US city with the most dog attacks on mail carriers, the US Postal Service said. California’s biggest city accounted for 69 such attacks in fiscal 2012, which ended in September, compared with 42 attacks each in Seattle, Washington, and San Antonio, Texas, which tied for second place. Chicago ranked third with 41 attacks. The Postal Service said there were 5,879 dog attacks on postal carriers in the US that year. In 2011, Los Angeles led the pack with 83 dog attacks on mail carriers, but the city has placed in the top 20 for many years, Postal Service spokeswoman Eva Jackson said on Thursday. San Diego and Houston ranked second and third, respectively, in 2011, Jackson said.
Doctor ‘waterboarded’ child
A woman who lived with a pediatrician accused of waterboarding her 11-year-old daughter has agreed to plead guilty to child endangerment charges and testify against him. In accepting a plea offer from prosecutors, Pauline Morse agreed on Friday to plead guilty to three misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child and to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against Melvin Morse. Melvin Morse, 59, has written a best-selling book and achieved national recognition for his research into near-death experiences involving children. Police suggested in an affidavit that he may have been experimenting on the girl last year, a claim he denies.
Taxi driver exonerated
A taxi driver who endured a six-month lawsuit after overcharging a passenger by US$0.06 has finally had his name cleared by a Hong Kong court. Tam Hoi-chi (譚開志) walked free after his case was thrown out on Thursday but was left questioning the city’s justice system. “I want to know why the opposite side, for the reason of this small amount, would want to sue me,” Tam, 57, told reporters outside the court afterward. He stood accused of “taxi overcharge” according to the Hong Kong judiciary’s Web site. The case was brought to court even though rounding up to the nearest dollar is a common practice amongst the city’s taxi drivers. Tam had overcharged a female passenger HK$0.50 (US$0.06) on a HK$136.5 fare, local newspaper the South China Morning Post reported. She had handed over HK$200 at the end of the journey in October last year and received HK$63 in change, but did not immediately ask for the 50 cents. She later made a complaint to the police, the Post said.
Man held over bomb hoaxes
A man has been arrested for allegedly making fake bomb threats against several domestic flights bound for Shanghai, Chinese officials said yesterday. It was the second time in a week that Chinese flights were grounded because of fake bomb threats. Another man was arrested on Thursday for allegedly making such calls the previous day. The Civil Aviation Administration of China said a 43-year-old man surnamed Ji (季) from the eastern city of Yancheng was arrested on suspicion of making prank calls on Friday afternoon and spreading fake terror information relating to several Shanghai-bound flights. It did not say what might have motivated the man to act. Yancheng police confirmed the arrest but did not to give details. The aviation administration said that spreading fake terror information is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Octogenarian tackles Everest
An 80-year-old Japanese mountaineer has begun his ascent of Mount Everest, his Web site said, in a bid to become the oldest man to reach the roof of the world. In a voice message recorded on his Web site, Yuichiro Miura said the expedition was setting off on Thursday for a climb that was expected to take a little more than a week. Miura is trying to get back a Guinness World Record that he first held in 2003 when he became the oldest man to climb Everest. The title is currently held by Nepal’s Min Bahadur Sherchan, who set foot on the 8,848m summit in May 2008 when he was 76. Veteran adventurer Miura came to worldwide attention in 1970 when he became the first person to ski down Everest. His parachute-aided descent was documented in the 1975 film The Man Who Skied Down Everest.
Eight killed in violence
Eight people, including a police officer, his wife and two children, were killed near Baghdad yesterday while gunmen kidnapped 10 security force personnel, officials said. Gunmen broke into the home of the administrator for the Rashid area, south of Baghdad, killing one of his guards, an Iraqi Ministry of the Interior official said. They then moved to the nearby house of Iraqi Captain Adnan al-Obaidi, a police officer in an anti-terrorism unit, and killed him, his wife and their two children, the official said. A medical official confirmed the toll. Gunmen also shot dead the Imam of a Sunni mosque near the city of Basra, police and a Sunni endowment officials said.