Truck driver jailed, fined
A truck driver was fined 2.7 million yuan (US$440,000) — 100 years’ average income for city dwellers — and jailed for three years after his overloaded vehicle caused a bridge to collapse, reports said yesterday. The sand-laden truck owned by Zhang Wenjun (張文軍) weighed 160 tonnes when he tried to cross a concrete bridge in Huairou on the outskirts of Beijing and the structure gave way, Xinhua news agency reported. The Intermediate People’s Court in the capital imposed the penalty on Zhang, Xinhua said, reducing his original fine of 15.6 million yuan levied by a lower court. According to official statistics, the average income for urban residents stood at 26,959 yuan last year. Zhang’s wife said the family depends solely on him and that he has a son, daughter and mother to support, adding that they cannot afford to pay the fine, the Beijing Times said.
Live baby almost cremated
A Chinese baby boy who had been declared dead was saved from being cremated alive when he started crying at a funeral parlor, media reported yesterday. The parents of the critically ill boy, who was less than one month old, had agreed to end his medical treatment at Anhui Provincial Children’s Hospital, hospital sources told Xinhua news agency. A death certificate was issued before the baby was sent to a funeral parlour in Hefei, the provincial capital — only for staff there to be alerted by crying on Wednesday. It was unclear how long he had been at the funeral parlor, or when his cremation had been due. The baby was immediately sent back to the hospital, the Beijing News reported yesterday. A doctor was suspended, a nursing worker laid off and an investigation launched into the incident.
Excited voter gives birth
A woman, excited to be voting for the first time, went into labor and gave birth at a polling station during elections. Parbati Bhandari said on Wednesday she was so keen to take part in polls on Tuesday to elect a constituent assembly that she walked 30 minutes to a polling station just six days before her due date. “As this was my first time, I was excited to vote, but about an hour after I reached the polling station I had sudden pain in my lower belly,” the 20-year-old housewife said by telephone. Fortunately, the polling booths were set up inside local government offices that included a small health center. Bhandari gave birth at the center to a healthy baby boy on Tuesday afternoon — then she cast her vote. Bhandari said she was “overwhelmed” to have become a mother on the same day as elections for the assembly charged with writing Nepal’s post-war constitution. Her husband has suggested she name their son “Nirwachan” (Nepali for election). “I was extremely happy to give birth on this historic day, but seeing a constitution completed ... will make me even happier,” she said.
Darwin’s frog may be extinct
A frog named after Charles Darwin has gone extinct because of a deadly amphibian skin disease, scientists believe. Darwin’s frogs were named after the father of evolution, who discovered them in 1834 in Chile during his voyage around the world on the ship HMS Beagle. They are notable for having evolved to escape predators by looking like a dead leaf and the fact that the males carry young tadpoles around inside their vocal sacs. Researchers think the northern Darwin’s frog, one of two species, has been killed off completely by a fungal disease called chytridiomycosis that infects their skin.
Stranded man returns home
He has been turned down by planes, trains and even a cruise ship in his quest to return home — and his family says it is because he has been deemed “too fat” to travel. Now, Kevin Chenais’ long and fitful journey is coming to an end. Chenais, who weighs 230kg, says he has been repeatedly refused transport over the past two weeks as he sought to get home to France from the US. P&O Ferries finally offered to take him in an ambulance across the English Channel on Wednesday, the final hurdle keeping him from his home near the Swiss border. Chenais’ mother was outraged by the treatment her son allegedly received, saying he was discriminated against because of his weight. “It’s not the fault of my son to be big. He has a genetic illness,” Christina Chenais said. The odyssey began when British Airways refused to honor his return ticket from the US, where he spent months receiving medical care for a hormone imbalance. Virgin Atlantic airlines stepped in to fly him to London. From London, Chenais had planned to take the Eurostar train home. However, Eurostar refused to allow him on board because of safety rules governing travel through the Channel Tunnel. The ferry company took Chenais and his family across the English Channel late on Wednesday to Calais.
Selling citizenship postponed
Malta has indefinitely postponed implementing a law to sell its citizenship — and entrance into the EU — for 650,000 euros (US$850,000) following a massive outcry on the Mediterranean island. The government backpedaled even after Parliament passed the legislation and President George Abela signed it, an indication that Prime Minister Joseph Muscat was feeling the heat from the opposition, unions and ordinary Maltese — and some negative international media reports. The proposal would have allowed foreigners to buy a Maltese passport without any residency or investment requirements, thus gaining coveted entrance and residency in any of the other 27 EU member states.
Military to go vegetarian
The military said on Tuesday it plans to put its troops on a vegetarian diet once a week in a bid to fight a new kind of enemy — climate change. The army said its new “meatless Mondays” are meant to cut its consumption of ecologically unfriendly foods whose production contributes heavily to global warming. “It’s a step to protect our climate. The idea is to serve food that’s respectful of the environment,” spokesman Eystein Kvarving told reporters. The diet has already been introduced at one of the country’s main bases and will soon be rolled out to all units, including those serving overseas, said the army, estimating it would cut its meat consumption by 150 tonnes per year. “It’s not about saving money,” Kvarving said. “It’s about being more concerned for our climate, more ecologically friendly and also healthier.”
Man reunites with 1967 bike
A man has been reunited with his now-vintage motorcycle nearly 50 years after it was stolen. Donald DeVault received the 1953 Triumph Tiger 100 on Wednesday. The 73-year-old DeVault learned two weeks ago that California authorities had recovered his motorcycle at the Port of Los Angeles. The bike was about to be shipped to Japan when customs agents who checked the vehicle identification number discovered it had been reported stolen in February 1967. The bike was valued at US$300 in 1967. Today, it is worth about US$9,000.