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In our news wrap Friday, the world is once again ringing in the new year under the cloud of the pandemic. Colorado's governor has shortened a truck driver's prison sentence for causing a deadly highway pileup, after his original 110-year sentence drew public outrage. The World Food Program suspended its operations across Sudan's North Darfur province after attacks on its warehouses in the area.
In the day's other news: The world is once again ringing in the new year under the cloud of the pandemic.
Some celebrations were scaled back, while others were undeterred. In North Korea, thousands watched fireworks along the river in Pyongyang. London's Big Ben was set to chime at midnight for the first time after three years of renovations.
And, in Australia, fireworks lit up the sky over Sydney, in spite of the country recording its highest daily case numbers.
Dian Mead, Melbourne Resident:
We have never, ever been here before. We have never done it. And we just thought, we will take the risk and just see how it is. We have got masks. We're triple-vaxxed, and we're just going to wing it.
Back in the U.S., New York City prepared to hold its celebrations in Times Square, but only 15,000 revelers will be allowed to watch the ball drop. And they must also show proof of vaccination.
More than 500 homes in Colorado have likely been destroyed after wildfires blazed through Boulder County. The flames first ignited yesterday outside Denver and have since forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate. So far, no one has died, but at least seven people were injured. The governor declared a state of emergency.
We will have more on this after the news summary.
In a separate development, the Colorado governor has also shortened a truck driver's prison sentence for causing a deadly highway pileup, after his original 110-year sentence drew public outrage. Rogel Aguilera-Mederos will now serve 10 years in prison. The governor called the 2019 crash a — quote — "tragic, but unintentional act."
The World Food Program has suspended its operations across Sudan's North Darfur province, following attacks on all three of its warehouses in the area. Hundreds of armed looters stole more than 5,000 metric tons of food there this week. The halt in aid will impact around two million people in need of food.
Former South Korean President Park Geun-hye was released from prison today after being pardoned by her successor. The former president had served nearly five years of her 20-year prison sentence for bribery and other crimes. She'd been hospitalized due to health problems for the last month. The current president said Park's pardon is meant to promote national unity.
The number of journalists killed on the job this past year was one of the lowest death tolls in 30 years. The International Federation of Journalists said 45 reporters and media workers died while working in 2021. That is down from 65 deaths the previous year; 33 members of the media were murdered in targeted attacks this year. The most dangerous country for journalists was Afghanistan.
On Wall Street, stocks edged lower on this final trading day of the year. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 60 points to close at 36338. The Nasdaq fell 96 points, and the S&P 500 slipped 12.
And two passings to note tonight.
Legendary actress and beloved comedian Betty White died overnight at her home in Los Angeles just weeks shy of her 100th birthday. White's trailblazing career in television spanned more than 60 years. She was best known for her roles on the hit sitcoms "The Golden Girls" and "The Mary Tyler Moore" show.
We will look back on her career later in the program.
And Boston Celtics Hall of Famer Sam Jones died last night in Florida. Known for his sharp shooting, Jones won 10 NBA titles during his 12-year basketball career, rather. He was also a member of the NBA's first starting lineup to include five Black players. Sam Jones was 88 years old.
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