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Billionaire entrepreneur Richard
Branson has rejected media
suggestions that he had ignored
safety warnings about his Virgin
Galactic spaceship before it
crashed during a test flight.
One pilot died and the other
was badly injured on Saturday
when Space Ship Two crashed
in California’s Mojave Desert.
The US National Transportation
Safety Board (NTSB) is leading
an investigation into the cause of
Branson dismissed British news
reports suggesting that one of
the project ’s engineers had said
last week the rocket was not safe
and that he had been overruled
because Virgin Galactic, the
entrepreneur’s fledgling space
tourism company, was working to
a tight deadline to get passenger
flights up and running.
“ When you have any incidents
you get a lot of self-proclaimed
experts coming out, a lot of whom
know nothing about what they
talk about,” Branson told BBC
“If any of our rocket engineers
warned something wasn’t safe
to go we wouldn’t go. I’ve spent
30 years running three airlines
without incident,” said Branson,
whose London-based Virgin
Group name ranges from airlines
to gyms and cellphones.
“ We take safety very, very
carefully. Nobody said anything
to worry any of the team about
Christopher Hart, acting
chairman of the NTSB, said
investigators had determined
that Space Ship Two’s rotating
tail boom, a key safety feature for
re-entering the atmosphere, had
rotated early, but it was too soon
to say if that caused the crash.
He also said they could not
rule out the possibility of pilot
Branson and his son plan to fly
on the first commercial flight. It
had been scheduled for the end of
February or early March next year
but flights have now been put on
hold indefinitely pending a full
investigation into the crash.
About 800 people have already
paid or put down deposits for the
ride, which costs $US250,000,
and Branson said he had received
“ beautiful” letters of support after
the crash from some of those who
had signed up to the project.
warnings not ignored
Investigators look over the wreckage of the Virgin Galactic spaceship that crashed on Saturday.
Police say a three-year-old Ohio
girl is in critical condition after
being shot in the head by her four-
year-old brother, who found a gun
in a dresser.
The shooting occurred yesterday
in Lorain, about 48km west of
Cleveland. Police say the two
children were playing alone in a
bedroom when the boy found a
loaded .40-calibre handgun.
A police report says the father of
the three-year-old girl was holding
her in his arms when officers
arrived. The report says the four-
year-old boy was crying and that
he repeatedly told an officer he was
Police captain Roger Watkins
says the investigation will be turned
over to a county prosecutor’s office
to determine if criminal charges
will be filed. — AP
Boy, four, shoots three-year-old sister in head
A memorial to Apple Inc founder
Steve Jobs has been dismantled in the
Russian city of St Petersburg after the
man who succeeded him at the helm of
the company, Tim Cook, came out as
The 2m-high monument, in the shape
of an iPhone, was erected outside a St
Petersburg college in January 2013 by
a Russian group of companies called
Citing the need to abide by a law
combating “gay propaganda”, ZEFS said
in a statement today that the memorial
had been removed on Saturday — the
day after Apple chief executive Cook
had announced he was homosexual.
“ In Russia, gay propaganda and other
sexual per versions among minors are
prohibited by law,” ZEFS said, noting
that the memorial had been “in an area
of direct access for young students and
“After Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly
called for sodomy, the monument was
taken down to abide to the Russian
federal law protecting children from
information promoting denial of
traditional family values.”
President Vladimir Putin last year
signed a law prohibiting the spread of
“gay propaganda” among minors.
Putin says there is no discrimination
against gay people in Russia and the
law was needed only to protect young
people, although members of the gay
community say its passage has increased
problems for them.
ZEFS — or West European Financial
Union — groups companies offering
a range of products and ser vices in
areas such as real estate, construction,
advertising and microfinancing.
Cook said he had decided to come
out to help move for ward civil rights,
confirming a fact that had been widely
known in the Silicon Valley tech
community but was rarely discussed.
Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, was not
gay. — Reuters
Memorial ripped down after Apple head’s gay revelation
The body of the last missing victim
of Italy’s 2012 cruise ship disaster has
been found on board the wrecked Costa
Concordia, which is being dismantled
The body, found by employees of
Ship Recycling — the group charged
with scrapping the luxury liner — is
expected to be that of missing Indian
waiter Russel Rebello.
“The remains of the Indian waiter
were found inside a cabin on deck eight
of the ship,” La Stampa daily said on its
website yesterday, citing local sources.
Rebello had been the only one of
32 victims whose body had not been
The remains were discovered under
furniture that had been overturned
when the Concordia, which struck a
rock off the island of Giglio in Tuscany
in a night time accident nearly three
years ago, rolled onto its side.
Scraps of the waiter’s uniform were
found intact despite being underwater
for so long, it said.
The hulking vessel, about twice the
size of the Titanic, sank on the night of
January 13 with 4229 people from 70
countries on board.
Earlier this year it was finally removed
from the island and towed to Genoa to
Its captain Francesco Schettino is
on trial for manslaughter, causing a
shipwreck and abandoning the ship
before all the passengers had been
evacuated. — AFP
A 16-year-old schoolboy has been
jailed for at least 20 years on for stabbing
a teacher to death in front of her class in
a murder that shocked Britain.
Will Cornick was 15 when he stabbed
popular teacher Ann Maguire seven
times with a kitchen knife as she taught a
Spanish class at Corpus Christi Catholic
College in Leeds, northern England, in
After attacking her, he sat back down
at his desk and said “good times” as
his horrified classmates looked on,
prosecutor Paul Greaney told Leeds
Cornick had previously spoken of
his deep hatred of Maguire, a 61-year-
old who had been due to retire within
Judge Peter Coulson told Leeds
Crown Court that the boy ’s pride in his
actions and lack of remorse were “truly
Coulson jailed him for life, with a
minimum of 20 years to be spent behind
bars before he can be considered for
release on licence.
The judge added that “it’s quite possible
that day may never come”.
Cornick, who pleaded guilty to murder,
had spoken of wanting to attack other
teachers including a pregnant woman “so
as to kill her unborn child”. His identity
was initially kept secret due to a court
order, which was lifted overnight.
Cornick was described by fellow
pupils and teachers as an academic high
achiever from a middle-class family and
a quiet loner.
His parents are “at a loss to understand”
what their son did, Greaney said.
In a victim impact statement read to
the court, Maguire’s husband Don spoke
of the loss of his “beautiful, vivacious,
generous, caring” wife.
“I’m still a dad but cannot help my
children understand, cannot help them
come to terms, cannot help them lessen
the pain ... I can no longer be a dad,” he
said. — AFP
British boy jailed for killing teacher
A provocative Israeli artist who posted
on-line a video of herself defecating on
the Jewish State’s national flag has been
placed under house arrest.
Natali Cohen Vaxberg, who has gained
notoriety for similar stunts, was detained
for questioning yesterday and placed
under house arrest in Tel Aviv until
Thursday for defiling a national symbol,
a police spokeswoman said. Police are to
decide whether to press charges.
Cohen Vaxberg’s video, entitled “S..t
instead of blood ”, features her in a
bathroom squatting over and defecating
on various national flags, including those
of Israel and the Palestinians.
Cohen Vaxberg, who is described by
local media as holding extreme-left-wing
views, earlier in 2014 courted controversy
in another video filmed at Jerusalem’s
Holocaust museum. In that video she
gives a speech posing as the Holocaust
itself and saying it was the “ best thing”
to happen to Jews because it led to the
creation of Israel and the persecution of
Palestinians. — AFP
Israeli artist defecates
on flags in video
Perhaps it was ner ves before being
serenaded by crossdressing Eurovision
singer Conchita Wurst, but UN chief
Ban Ki-moon fell into the trap of
confusing Austria with Australia during
a visit to Vienna.
“ I thank in particular (Austrian)
President (Heinz) Fischer and the
government of Australia,” Ban told
reporters at a UN conference of
developing landlocked countries hosted
by the Austrian capital.
He later corrected himself and
apologised in the news conference,
saying: “ There are no kangaroos in
Austria. Sometimes this happens, I hope
Later, Wurst raised the roof for Ban
and several hundred UN staff, belting
out Cher’s Believe and Rise Like a
Phoenix, the song the bearded drag
queen sang to win the Eurovision Song
Contest earlier this year.
Wurst has used her Eurovision fame
to promote a message of tolerance, with
performances in front of the European
Parliament and at LGBT (lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender) events around
Europe. — Reuters
They say the best things come in
threes, and reports indicate that is true
for Stevie Wonder.
is expecting triplets with his 40-year-
old partner Tomeeka Robyn Bracy,
according to the New York Post.
They will bring the veteran crooner’s
kid count to 11 by five different women.
His eight children range in age from
one to 39.
“I don’t know that he set out to have
11 children, including triplets at his age,
but it’s not like he isn’t happy about it
or he can’t afford children,” Page Six
quoted a “family source” as saying.
Wonder has been married twice before,
and already has one child with Bracy.
Stevie Wonder expecting triplets at 64
UN chief mistakes Austria for Australia
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