|A Chinese New Zealander has been jailed for four years and seven months after admitting he was responsible for one of New Zealand’s most high-profile thefts.
Hui Gao, 31, also known as Leo Gao, fled the country with his then New Zealand girlfriend after stealing millions mistakenly given to them by the Westpac bank in 2009.
Gao’s former girlfriend, Kara Hurring, was sentenced to nine months’ detention and ordered to pay just under 12,000 NZ dollars (9,755 U.S. dollars) in reparations, when the pair appeared in Rotorua District Court on Friday, Radio New Zealand reported.
The pair fled to Hong Kong after the bank mistakenly loaded an overdraft worth 10 million NZ dollars into Gao’s bank account in April 2009.
Hurring voluntarily returned to New Zealand in February last year, but Gao was arrested in Hong Kong in September and extradited in December.
In June, Gao admitted seven counts of theft totaling more than 6 million NZ dollars, and a month earlier, a jury had found Hurring, 33, guilty of 30 charges of theft and money laundering.
On Friday, Gao’s lawyer told the court that Gao had succumbed to temptation and was remorseful, but was not in a position to pay reparations, according to the report.
Hurring’s lawyer told the court her culpability was limited to that of a secondary player.
The prosecution questioned the sincerity of Gao’s remorse, saying it was undermined by the fact that 8 million NZ dollars remained unaccounted for.
Court documents showed Westpac was seeking reparations of almost 4 million NZ dollars, according to Radio New Zealand.
Police had alleged that Gao had transferred the money into other accounts before he and Hurring left New Zealand.
In January, the New Zealand Police said the investigation, spanning more than two years, had also involved police from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong.
Whitney Houston Comes to Life in “Sparkle”
Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.
I’m June Simms. This week, we tell about the hit song “Call Me Maybe” and the young woman who made it famous.
We also tell about a show honoring the singer Whitney Houston.
But first, we hear about a new film that stars Houston and has songs she recorded just before her death.
(JORDIN SPARKS – “One Wing”)
JUNE SIMMS: “Sparkle” is a movie about a teenager who dreams of being a music star. She finds success but the path is filled with heartbreak. “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks plays the part of Sparkle. Her mother is played by singing great Whitney Houston, who died earlier this year. It is her last film. Christopher Cruise has more.
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: “Sparkle” takes place in Detroit, Michigan, in the late nineteen sixties. A local record company, Motown, was growing popular worldwide at that time. Sparkle is a teenager who longs for her songs to be a part of that success. She persuades her sisters to join her in a talent competition put on by a local club.
ANNOUNCER: “Well, coming up next to the stage is another girl group.”
SISTER: “Okay, I just go on out there and look pretty.”
SPARKLE: “But this isn’t what we rehearsed.”
SISTER: “You want to win this money, don’t you?”
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: With Sparkle’s songs, the sister act becomes a hit. But they have to act against their mother’s wishes in the process. She saw her own career dreams destroyed long ago.
SPARKLE: “Why would the Lord give me this gift if I wasn’t supposed to use it?”
MOTHER: “Sparkle, you can have a gift. It is how you use it.”
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: Whitney Houston plays Sparkle’s firm but loving mother. She also served as the movie’s lead producer. She died of an accidental overuse of drugs in February shortly after filming was completed.
Jordin Sparks, who plays, Sparkle, says Houston saw similarities to her own life in the movie’s story.
JORDIN SPARKS: “We never had the conversation about any of that stuff that she had gone through, but it was almost like she had this [attitude]: ‘yeah, I went through that and I’m here now and that’s okay and I’m going to keep going.’ And I thought that that was great to just not to be ashamed of anything that happens.”
(WHITNEY HOUSTON and JORDIN SPARKS – “Celebrate”)
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: “Sparkle” is a re-make of a nineteen seventy-six film of the same name. Just like that movie, gospel music and religious belief influence the characters’ stories. And both versions used mostly black singers and actors. But there are some differences between the two movies. The sisters is the first “Sparkle,” were raised in poverty in New York City’s Harlem area. In the re-make, the girls are brought up in a wealthier family in Detroit. Director Selim Akil sees it as a truly American story.
SELIM AKIL: “Motown was not exclusively black folks’ music. It was America’s music first and then it was the world’s music. Detroit was a metropolitan city, not just because of African Americans, but because of Americans. And to see these people as middle class and their community as prosperous is a part of Americana that all Americans should embrace.”
CHRISTOPHER CRUISE: New Yorker Tika Sumpter and British actor Carmen Ejogo star as Sparkle’s sisters. Comedian Mike Epps has the un-funny part of an abusive boyfriend. And Derek Luke plays the loyal band manager who guides the sisters to success. The movie was shot in Detroit.
“Sparkle” brought in around twelve million dollars in its weekend opening of about two thousand movie theaters. The amount was lower than expectations. However, the movie cost only about fourteen million so it is almost guaranteed to be profitable.
(JORDIN SPARKS-“Look Into Your Heart”
Grammy Museum Honors Whitney
JUNE SIMMS: Whitney Houston fans can see the new film “Sparkle” in movie theaters. But there is another way they can remember the singer. The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles has opened an exhibit in her honor.
“Whitney! Celebrating the Musical Legacy of Whitney Houston” explores the life and career of the six-time Grammy Award winner. Her family helped organize the show. The collection includes rare pictures and videos. Visitors can also see costumes worn by Whitney Houston, record albums and objects from some of her shows.
Whitney Houston sold more than one hundred seventy million albums, singles and videos combined. She is also the only artist to ever have seven number one hits in a row on Billboard’s Hot One Hundred chart. She also starred in several movies, including “The Bodyguard” with Kevin Costner.
Whitney Houston began singing gospel music as a child. Here she performs “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” from the soundtrack of her last movie “Sparkle.”
Carly Rae Jepsen
JUNE SIMMS: Canadian singer/songwriter Carly Rae Jepsen’s huge summer hit is no longer number one on Billboard’s Hot One Hundred chart. “Call Me Maybe” fell from that position this week after nine weeks on top. The new number one song is Flo Rida’s new single “Whistle”.
Carly Rae Jepsen should not be too concerned because her single is no longer on top. It was number one longer than any other song this year. And her album, “Kiss,” has already received high praise from pop star Justin Bieber. Mario Ritter has more on Carly Rae Jepsen and her music.
MARIO RITTER: The song “Call Me Maybe,” was an Internet wonder before it was every other song heard on the radio. More than one million versions of the single were made and broadcast on YouTube. There is a version starring President Obama. Others star different Olympic teams and even Cookie Monster from television’s Sesame Street. But Carly Rae Jepsen says her favorite version is the one by Justin Bieber and some of his friends, including Selena Gomez.
Here is Jepsen performing “Call Me Maybe.”
The song tells about a girl who meets a young man and falls for him immediately. Jepsen sings: “hey I just met you / and this is crazy/ but here’s my number and call me maybe / all the other boys / try to chase me/ but here’s my number / so call me maybe.”
There is also an element or suggestion of déjà vu. Déjà vu is a French term meaning “already seen.” It is a strong feeling a person can have that something he or she is experiencing has happened to them in the past.
Carly Rae Jepsen suggests this idea when she sings, “before you came into my life / I missed you so bad.”
We leave you with a song that Carly Rae Jepsen performs with the group Owl City. “Good Time” will appear on “Kiss.” It can also be found on Owl City’s new album, “The Midsummer Station.”
JUNE SIMMS: I’m June Simms. This program was written by Caty Weaver. Alan Silverman provided additional reporting.
Join us again next week for music and more on AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.
Children’s Story: ‘Pecos Bill’
Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.
Today we tell a traditional American story called a “tall tale.” A tall tale is a story about a person who is larger than life. The descriptions in the story are exaggerated – much greater than in real life. Long ago, the people who settled in undeveloped areas in America first told tall tales. After a hard day’s work, people gathered to tell each other funny stories.
Pecos Bill was a larger than life hero of the American West. No one knows who first told stories about Pecos Bill. Cowboys may have invented the stories. Others say Edward O’Reilly invented the character in stories he wrote for The Century Magazine in the early nineteen hundreds. The stories were collected in a book called “The Saga of Pecos Bill” published in nineteen twenty-three.
Another writer, James Cloyd Bowman, wrote an award-winning children’s book called “Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time.” The book won the Newbery Honor in nineteen thirty-eight.
Pecos Bill was not a historical person. But he does represent the spirit of early settlers in the American West. His unusual childhood and extraordinary actions tell about people who believed there were no limits to what they could do. Now, here is Barbara Klein with our story.
Pecos Bill had one of the strangest childhoods a boy ever had. It all started after his father decided that there was no longer enough room in east Texas for his family.
“Pack up, Ma!” he cried. “Neighbors movin’ in fifty miles away! It’s getting’ too crowded!”
So they loaded up a wagon with all their things. Now some say they had fifteen children while others say eighteen. However many there were, the children were louder than thunder. And as they set off across the wild country of west Texas, their mother and father could hardly hear a thing.
Now, as they came to the Pecos River, the wagon hit a big rock. The force threw little Bill out of the wagon and he landed on the sandy ground. Mother did not know Bill was gone until she gathered the children for the midday meal. Mother set off with some of the children to look for Bill, but they could find no sign of him.
Well, some people say Bill was just a baby when his family lost him. Others say he was four years old. But all agree that a group of animals called coyotes found Bill and raised him. Bill did all the things those animals did, like chase lizards and howl at the moon. He became as good a coyote as any.
Now, Bill spent seventeen years living like a coyote until one day a cowboy rode by on his horse. Some say the cowboy was one of Bill’s brothers. Whoever he was, he took one look at Bill and asked, “What are you?”
Bill was not used to human language. At first, he could not say anything. The cowboy repeated his question. This time, Bill said, “varmint.”
That is a word used for any kind of wild animal.
“No you aren’t,” said the cowboy.
“Yes, I am,” said Bill. “I have fleas.”
“Lots of people have fleas,” said the cowboy. “You don’t have a tail.”
“Yes, I do,” said Bill.
“Show it to me then,” the cowboy said.
Bill looked at his backside and realized that he did not have a tail like the other coyotes. “Well, what am I then?” asked Bill.
“You’re a cowboy! So start acting like one!” the cowboy cried out. Well that was all Bill needed to hear. He said goodbye to his coyote friends and left to join the world of humans.
Now, Pecos Bill was a good cowboy. Still, he hungered for adventure. One day he heard about a rough group of men. There is some debate over what the group was called. But one storyteller calls it the “Hell’s Gate Gang.”
So Bill set out across the rough country to find this gang of men. Well, Bill’s horse soon was injured so Bill had to carry it for a hundred miles. Then Bill met a rattlesnake fifty feet long. The snake made a hissing noise and was not about to let Bill pass. But after a tense minute, Bill beat the snake until it surrendered. He felt sorry for the varmint, though, and wrapped it around his arm.
After Bill walked another hundred miles, he came across an angry mountain lion. There was a huge battle, but Bill took control of the big cat and put his saddle on it. He rode that mountain lion all the way to the camp of the Hell’s Gate Gang.
Now, when Bill saw the gang he shouted out, “Who’s the boss around here?”
A huge cowboy, nine feet tall, took one look at Bill and said in a shaky voice, “I was the boss. But you are the boss from here on in.”
With his gang, Pecos Bill was able to create the biggest ranch in the Southwest. Bill and his men had so many cattle that they needed all of New Mexico to hold them. Arizona was the pasture where the cattle ate grass.
Pecos Bill invented the art of being a cowboy. He invented the skill of throwing a special rope called a lasso over a cow’s head to catch wandering cattle.
Some say he used a rattlesnake for a lasso. Others say he made a lasso so big that it circled the whole Earth.
Bill invented the method of using a hot branding iron to permanently put the mark of a ranch on a cow’s skin. That helped stop people from stealing cattle. Some say he invented cowboy songs to help calm the cattle and make the cowboy’s life easier. But he is also said to have invented tarantulas and scorpions as jokes. Cowboys have had trouble with those poisonous creatures ever since.
Now, Pecos Bill could ride anything that ever was. So, as some tell the story, there came a storm bigger than any other. It all happened during the worst drought the West had ever seen. It was so dry that horses and cows started to dry up and blow away in the wind. So when Bill saw the windstorm, he got an idea. The huge tornado kicked across the land like a wild bronco. But Bill jumped on it without a thought.
He rode that tornado across Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, all the time squeezing the rain out of it to save the land from drought. When the storm was over, Bill fell off the tornado. He landed in California. He left a hole so deep that to this day it is known as Death Valley.
Now, Bill had a horse named Widow Maker. He got that name because any man who rode that horse would be thrown off and killed and his wife would become a widow. No one could ride that horse but Bill.
And Widow Maker, in the end, caused the biggest problem for Pecos Bill. You see, one day Bill saw a woman. Not just any woman, but a wild, red- haired woman, riding a giant catfish down the Rio Grande River.
Her name was Slue-foot Sue. And Bill fell in love with her at first sight. Well, Bill would not rest until he had asked for her hand in marriage. And Slue-foot Sue accepted.
On their wedding day, Pecos Bill dressed in his best buckskin suit. And Sue wore a beautiful white dress with a huge steel-spring bustle in the back. It was the kind of big dress that many women wore in those days — the bigger the better.
Now, after the marriage ceremony Slue-foot Sue got a really bad idea. She decided that she wanted to ride Widow Maker. Bill begged her not to try. But she had her mind made up.
Well, the second she jumped on the horse’s back he began to kick and buck like nothing anyone had ever seen. He sent Sue flying so high that she sailed clear over the new moon.
She fell back to Earth, but the steel-spring bustle just bounced her back up as high as before.
Now, there are many different stories about what happened next. One story says Bill saw that Sue was in trouble. She would keep bouncing forever if nothing was done. So he took his rope out — though some say it was a huge rattlesnake — and lassoed Sue to catch her and bring her down to Earth. Only, she just bounced him back up with her.
Somehow the two came to rest on the moon. And that’s where they stayed. Some people say they raised a family up there. Their children were as loud and wild as Bill and Sue were in their younger days. People say the sound of thunder that sometimes carries over the dry land around the Pecos River is nothing more than Pecos Bill’s family laughing up a storm.
(MUSIC: “(There’ll Never Be Another) Pecos Bill”)
This tall tale of Pecos Bill was adapted for Special English and produced by Mario Ritter. Your storyteller was Barbara Klein. I’m Steve Ember.
New Zealand is not for the faint hearted. Just ask the guys and gals who’ve been mule kicking, cannonballing and miller flipping off peaks in the first ever Burton ‘High Fives’ snowboarding competition. With a little tech magic from Nokia, this cool event showcased the Kiwi’s passion for hardcore sports perfectly. But what makes this island country such a magnet for the madly adventurous?
It dares you!
Temperate climate all year round, a third of its glorious land marked for conservation, but less than four million people. Not just filmic in the Frodo Baggins sense – it screams ‘I dare you’ thrills from every sun-buttered stone. Add history – that mighty Maori heritage and the influx of nineteenth century gold-seeking Europeans crafting skis to get around. Then spectacular caves littered with glow worms and sulphurous pools secreted in the woods. Perfect.
Upside down on elastic – really?
It’s fine, as 1980s entrepreneurs Henry Van Asch and AJ Hackett, who developed the bungy/bungee, will tell you. Want to jump 400 metres off Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown? No problem. The whole concept was inspired by a myth from Vanuatu (not in New Zealand) of an abused wife tricking her husband into jumping after her. She had vine and he did not. Some Vanuatu people land-dive still, as a harvest ritual. No fatal trickery in modern bungy though – the ‘vine’ is latex – just great opportunities for bouncy scream-inducing leaps. Both North and South Islands offer it.
You better roll with it
Remember a big white ball called Rover, that followed The Prisoner in sinister fashion? Well you can be inside something similar and zorb your way around – but this one is transparent. OK, so you may not see a complete inventory of landscape clearly – those beaches, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests will be going round and round as you do. Invented in New Zealand, you can also do liquid zorbing, where water is added, or hydro-zorbing, where you roll on a lake. What’s not to like?
You can always do white water rafting in New Zealand. Or take a spin in a jet boat. The country is at one with water, with its ‘outdoor-can-do’ sportsy attitude. Last century, farmer Bill Hamilton developed the jet boat to navigate through even 3cm of shallow water, to reach inaccessible land. But if you’ve been there, done that, then black water rafting is the thing. While if you like alliteration and small spaces, then fun and adventure in Hagga Honking Holes in Waitomo is ideal. New Zealand also offers spelunking (deep water diving within caves) and cave abseiling for the claustrophobia-adverse.
The fun never stops
New Zealand has an adept way of not simply showing you their country, but making you use it. Mountain? Cycle up it. Rocky slide called Bealey Slide in Arthur’s Pass National Park? Try scree running. Glacier? You can go by helicopter to the best known – Franz Josef. There, you can see a frozen waterfall and walk on top of ice, staring at the drop below and squeezing your way through crevasses.
Like a savvy cook plundering every bit of the chicken for a meal, New Zealanders use every geographical asset they have. Feast on it all – it’ll make your heart beat faster.
Some artists in my class yesterday
Had a class yeterday and the boy, Lewis, had just finished a drawing class so I asked him what he could draw, he said anything. They are both off to High School when the summer holidays finish.
I thought for a while and decided he should draw a portrait of myself and to add a bit, Christina, the other student should try as well. She was very keen to draw me.
Girls first, so Christina decided that I look like an apple and may be quite correct about that, but Lewis was very kind and made me look like a handsome, and very young man.
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