The American pirate who kicked off one of Hong Kong’s earliest major political scandals

Boggs accused a top colonial official, Daniel Caldwell, and another notorious pirate, Ma Chow Wong, of working together in secret to protect each others’ interests. Boggs claimed that Wong derived his power from Caldwell’s protection racket, and Caldwell profited handsomely financially — and professionally — in return. Caldwell reportedly turned over other pirates to law enforcement so he could rise in the colony’s professional ranks.

George Wingrove Cooke, The Times’ Special Correspondent in China, who covered the trial, dismissed Boggs’ allegations out of hand in his reporting.

But Hong Kong Attorney General T. Chisholm Anstey toook them more seriously, as he was tasked by the governor with investigating corruption upon his arrival in 1856.

That probe became one of Hong Kong’s earliest major corruption scandals involving official wrongdoing. Countless followed — the colony was notoriously rife with corruption until the 1970s, when the government formed its Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), an agency credited with reviving Hong Kong’s reputation for preventing corruption and government malfeasance.

While the Caldwell affair and Boggs’ role in it forced the colonial government to acknowledge the scourge of piracy, piracy itself was not new.

Pirates, by that point, had already been sailing throughout southeast China for hundreds of years.

Ransom and opium

The arrival of the British merchants in East Asia made piracy a particularly lucrative industry because of just how much opium was being sold to mainland China. Things came to a head in the 19th century.

China at the time was ruled by the Qing dynasty, whose leaders were deeply mistrustful of foreigners and overseas commerce. The empire restricted most foreign trade to Canton, and even evacuated villages from along the coast to stop influential, anti-Qing elements based in Taiwan from fomenting dissent.

But as foreign merchants flocked to Canton in the 17th century and shipping routes to the rest of Asia passed through the South China Sea, just south of the city, the opportunity for piracy grew.

While many pirates simply raided opium clippers and sold their contraband, ransom was also big business — it was even more profitable than robbery, according to some experts. Friends, family and business associates of victims often paid up quickly because the pirates roaming the South China Seas had a reputation for cruelty and grisly violence. According to a history of pirates published by a British captain named A.G. Course in 1966, Boggs allegedly of cut up the body of one wealthy prisoner to insure that colleagues or loved ones paid to free the rest of the people he held captive paid up. However, Boggs was never convicted for that crime.

British sailor John Turner also wrote about these brutal tactics after being held hostage on board a pirate ship in 1806. Taylor, the chief mate of a British ship called the Tay, was kidnapped in December that year, while sailing near Hong Kong and Macao and then held for ransom.

Turner later described how new victims were captured on a daily basis, but the treatment of one brought aboard in January “made an indelible impression” on him.

He watched horror as the pirates nailed a fellow captive’s feet to the ship’s deck while the prisoner was still alive. After plunging the two large nails through the other prisoner’s feet, the pirates beat the man with whips until he began vomiting blood. The victim was left on deck for a short time after,

The captive was then taken ashore, but whether he was alive or dead at the time, Taylor didn’t say. It wouldn’t matter. When the pirates reached dry land, the man was “cut to pieces.”

Taylor would go on to spend about five-and-a-half months in the captivity before his ransom was paid and his freedom was secured. Many more sailors would live through similar ordeals.

‘That handsome boy’

Boggs was hardly the most infamous of the pirates sailing in Chinese waters during the 19th century.

Cheng I Sao left her career as a prostitute to marry a pirate in 1801 and, a few years later, was reportedly commanding a fleet of 70,000 pirates aboard 1,200 vessels. Shap Ng Tsai, who supposedly led 3,000 men and 60 ships, and Chui A Poo were the most notorious pirates sailing around Hong Kong around the time of the Opium War.

But Boggs captured the public’s imagination because he was a young American with boyish good looks accused of grisly violence — including single-handedly killing 15 men on board one ship, while forcing the rest overboard, according to Cooke, the Times journalist.

“It seemed impossible that that handsome boy could be the pirate whose name had been for three years connected with the boldest and bloodiest acts of piracy,” Cooke wrote. “It was a face of feminine beauty. Not a down upon the upper lip; large lustrous eyes; a mouth the smile of which might woo (a) coy maiden; affluent black hair, not carelessly parted; hands so small and so delicately white that they would create a sensation in Belgravia.”

It is unclear is how — or why — Boggs ended up in China.

But by the early 19th century, what is clear is that the British wanted him locked up, and were offering a 1,200-dollar reward to do so. Yet who captured Boggs is still in dispute.

Captain Course’s history says another American named William Henry “Bully” Hayes, an opium smuggler, was responsible for capturing Boggs near Shanghai — and fetching the reward. Transcripts from Boggs’ trial published in local Hong Kong papers, however, quote the sworn testimony of Police Constable Charles Barker, who said he arrested Boggs at a bar on Bonham Strand in June 1857, in what is now Sheung Wan, one of Hong Kong’s hip neighborhoods popular with expatriates.

Either way, in 1857,then reportedly in his mid-20s, he faced trial for piracy and murder.

One witness said he saw Boggs take part in a pirate raid on an opium boat in which 24 men were killed, according to the trial notes. The American was convicted of piracy but acquitted of murder because no one could prove Boggs fired a fatal shot, despite multiple witnesses seeing Boggs firing at a man clinging to a rope tied to a boat.

Cooke, the reporter from the Times, alleged that jury was also “moved by his (Boggs’) youth and courage.”

Cooke’s dispatch from the trial was picked up and published by periodicals across the United States. While audiences across the world were no doubt drawn to the story’s dashing and dangerous main character, Cooke said he covered it because “this subject of piracy is of great importance.”

“Where I now write there are 200 junks (Chinese ships) lying in the harbor before me, and every one of them is armed with two heavy guns — some have 12,” Cooke wrote. “Probably one quarter of these are pirates, who live principally by piracy, and adopt the coasting trade only as a cover to their real profession.”

Caldwell’s downfall

Cooke didn’t take Boggs’ accusations of a government conspiracy seriously. He said Boggs’ defense was “false” and claimed the killing of the 15 men had been proven.

Anstey, the attorney general, disagreed.

“It was a most scandalous scene,” Anstey wrote to the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, in 1859, “especially because the demeanor of Mr. Caldwell under the infliction was clearly that of a guilty man.”

Thomas Chisolm Anstey.

Caldwell at the time was Registrar General and protector of the Chinese in Hong Kong, a position that gave him ample opportunity to work with, and perhaps even exploit, the local population. Those positions meant Caldwell advised the governor on domestic affairs and affairs relating to the local Chinese population.

Anstey believed Boggs’ claims were “too circumstantial to be entirely false” and thought it was his “duty to represent the scandal which had occurred in court.”

What followed was a three-year-long tit-for-tat, with Anstey and Caldwell accusing the other of wrongdoing. Caldwell called Anstey a vindictive monomaniac targeting him under the guise of stamping out corruption.

Anstey accused much of the Hong Kong colonial government of covering up for Caldwell, and in his letter to the Duke — which Antsey self-published in a pamphlet for the public to read — argued that the commission tasked with investing Caldwell was staffed with his supporters and that the report they filed failed to address the totality of Caldwell’s wrongdoing.

Prejudice was almost certainly a factor. Caldwell had spent a lot of time in Asia and was one of the few British men in Hong Kong at the time to marry a local woman. Anstey called her a “harlot” and Caldwell a “pirate” during a Legislative Council meeting.

By the end of it all, both men were out of jobs. Colonial Gov. Sir John Bowring quickly tired Anstey’s constant quarreling, short temper and impetuous nature, according to a dispatch he filed in 1858. Bowring suspended Anstey from his post in 1858. A year later, Anstey left Hong Kong for Bombay.
Sir John Bowring.
Bowring’s successor, Hercules Robinson, revived the commission on instructions from the Duke of Newcastle. It found Caldwell unfit for public service in 1861.

Though his revelations were still upending in Hong Kong politics, Boggs was long gone by that point.

He had been released from prison about a year earlier on April 12, 1860, and deported to the US because he was sick “and it was not expected he would have lived much longer if kept in prison,” according to the colony’s legal records. Albert Smith, a traveler to Hong Kong, wrote that he saw Boggs in prison about a year after his convictions, where the American “complained terribly of his confinement, and said his chest was affected.”

Boggs slowly faded into history after his return to the US, while Anstey died in Bombay in 1873.

Caldwell died two years later. He was buried in a cemetery in Hong Kong’s Happy Valley, where is grave is today.

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Washington avoids government shutdown, but no stimulus vote until Sunday at earliest

Lawmakers voted Friday to give negotiators another two days to reach agreement on a massive economic stimulus to offset the pandemic and to provide annual funding for federal agencies, hours before the government was slated to shut down.

The vote on a two-day stopgap funding bill was 320 to 60 in the House, while the Senate, after some senators threatened to hold up the bill earlier in the day, approved it on a voice vote.

Congressional leaders had hoped to have an agreement hashed out today and avoid the need for an extension, but with some issues still in dispute, the second-ranking House Democrat said there would be no House vote on a deal until Sunday afternoon at the earliest.

“We are hopeful that they will reach agreement in the near future. They have not reached one yet. There are still some significant issues outstanding,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat. Even if a deal were reached Friday night, he said, it would take almost a day to get it into legislative form for a vote.

The emerging stimulus package would extend and revive some of the most popular parts of the CARES Act from March. It would include direct payments to households but at a $600 level instead of $1,200 level in CARES. It would extend pandemic-related jobless benefits and revive a federal add-on payment, this time at $300 a week. It would also revive the Paycheck Protection Program that gave forgivable loans to small businesses.

Under the current temporary funding bill signed into law in last Friday, government operations had been funded through to midnight this Friday, making an extension necessary to avoid a government shutdown. Lawmakers have an all-but-final bill to provide funding through Sept. 30, 2021, but are waiting to marry it with the coronavirus aid package still in negotiations.

On the stimulus, issues still under dispute Friday included the fate of Federal Reserve lending programs that Republicans supported in March but don’t now, and money for entertainment venues hit hard by pandemic lockdowns.

While leaders continued to talk behind closed doors, rank-and-file members, seeing the prospect of having to vote quickly on a bill combining $1.4 trillion in annual spending plus a $900 billion stimulus deal in a several hundred-page bill, were getting restless.

Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who had said he would object to Senate consideration of a temporary funding bill unless he had a better idea of what was going to be in the stimulus, rescinded his objection late in the day.

On the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell gave an upbeat assessment Friday night, saying both sides were committed to finalizing a stimulus.

“Alas, we are not there yet,” he said.

One major sticking remained language sought by Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, to restrict Fed lending programs used during the pandemic and prohibit similar programs ahead.

Toomey wants to make sure that the Fed can’t restart lending programs to for small businesses and can’t backstop the municipal and corporate bond markets without getting a fresh green light from Congress.

“We’ll establish in statute that no more loans can be made from these programs, which was exactly what is in the statute now. It was always intended to be a temporary facility to get us through a momentary crisis,” Toomey told reporters Thursday.

Rep. Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Richard Neal, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, called the provision “a poison pill.”

“An agreement on a coronavirus relief bill was within sight, but Senate Republicans are now holding up the entire package over this unacceptable provision designed to sabotage the economic recovery under the Biden Administration,” the pair said in a statement.

Sen. John Cornyn said the issue was also a big one for Republicans. “We got stuff we really want, too. Everybody’s gonna have to give a little bit,” he said.

Cornyn said another sticking point was an initiative dubbed “Save Our Stages,” aimed at getting money to shuttered entertainment venues. Some want to expand it to include museums and zoos, he said.

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Winx still recovering and won’t produce her first foal unti 2022 at earliest

Winx, racing’s all-time great champion, won’t be able to produce her first foal for at least another two years.

The mighty mare is still convalescing after tragically losing her filly foal by I Am Invincible eight weeks ago.

After having a complication-free 11-month pregnancy, Winx was slightly overdue when she went into labour only for her foal to be still-born.

Winx has been given the necessary time to recover from her ordeal but it is now too late in the breeding season for her to be served by a stallion again.

Instead, Winx will be allowed to continue her recovery and be prepared for the spring breeding season next year.

This means that all going well, Winx will give birth in the spring of 2022 with the foal ready to race in the 2024-25 season.

For Winx’s owners — Debbie Kepitis, Richard Treweeke, and Peter and Patty Tighe — the frustration of having to wait up to five years before watching one of her foals make the racetrack is tempered by the knowledge that no risks are being taken with their champion mare’s health and well-being.

Winx, who was trained by Chris Waller, was retired after the 2019 Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Royal Randwick, when she scored her 33rd win in succession including a world record 25th at Group 1 level. She earned more than $26.4 million in prizemoney, also a world record.

Meanwhile, Winx’s former stablemate, Savacool has her final race start in the Group 2 $250,000 The Agency Villiers Stakes (1600m) at Royal Randwick on Saturday.

What makes Savacool’s Villiers bid all the more remarkable is that the mare is currently in foal to The Everest winner Yes Yes Yes.

Savacool, winner of six races, including the Listed Rowley Mile and $550,000 prizemoney, was served by Yes Yes Yes during the spring and has raced consistently since, including a third placing in the Listed Ladies Day Cup and sixth in the Listed ATC Cup at her last two starts.

In early TAB Fixed Odds betting on the Villiers, Savacool is rated a $26 chance. Through The Cracks is the $5 favourite with Criaderas pressing at $5.50.

Meanwhile, the Australian Turf Club will pay special tribute to recently-retired Randwick trainer Pat Webster on Villiers Day.

Webster trained on the track for more than 50 years and won the Villiers in 2016 with Happy Clapper.

“Pat Webster holds not only a special part of Royal Randwick history but is also one of the most respected and admired me in Sydney racing,’’ ATC executive general manager James Ross said.

“Along with his wonderful achievements on the track, Pat has given so much to the racing industry through the Racing Mates program and has helped to guide jockeys and others through tough times.’’

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NASA Says SpaceX Crew Dragon Launch Will Occur in Feb. at the Earliest

The space agency confirmed the delay after Elon Musk tweeted that it was “about a month away.”

In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking. | NASA/SpaceX
In this illustration, a SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft approaches the International Space Station for docking. | NASA/SpaceX

NASA has confirmed that the first test flight of SpaceX’s human-rated Crew Dragon spacecraft won’t take place in January, announcing on Thursday that the launch would occur “no earlier than February.” The space agency said that more time was needed “to complete hardware testing and joint reviews.”

The uncrewed test flight, named Demo-1, was originally set to launch on Jan. 17, but SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently tweeted that it would be pushed back by at least a few weeks. No official date has been rescheduled.

“About a month away from the first orbital test flight of crew Dragon,” Musk tweeted on Jan. 5.

He added that the first flight is expected to be a challenge. “Yes, will be extremely intense,” he wrote. “Early flights are especially dangerous, as there’s a lot of new hardware.”

It’s a crucial moment for SpaceX, which received a contract valued at $2.6 billion back in 2014 to complete the development of its commercial crew vehicle. Boeing is also working on its own human-rated spacecraft, called CST-100 Starliner, under a 2014 contract worth up to $4.2 billion. (Boeing hasn’t released a test date yet for its spacecraft, but it’s bound to be close as NASA has already announced the first few Boeing and SpaceX crews.)

RELATED: A City on Mars: Elon Musk Details SpaceX’s Plan to Colonize the Red Planet

NASA wants to have U.S. spacecraft available again as soon as possible in order to reduce its dependence on the Russian Soyuz — the only spacecraft now capable of flying humans up to the International Space Station.

A Soyuz flight with two astronauts on board underwent an aborted launch on Oct. 11 due to a deformed rocket sensor, sending the crew hurtling (safely) back to Earth. Russia quickly resolved the problem and subsequently launched the Expedition 58 crew on Dec. 3, but the incident shows the value of having an independent set of spacecraft to bring astronauts up to the space station. Even if one spacecraft type is grounded, launches may continue.

Developing new spacecraft is always difficult. But with human-rated flight, there are additional challenges to consider. Just ask the people behind the space shuttle, who contended with a system that shed re-entry tiles after each flight.

RELATED: SpaceX and Boeing’s New ISS Crew Vehicles Will Also Serve as Emergency ‘Lifeboats’

Former NASA chief historian Roger Launius told Seeker that there is no firm metric defining what a “human-rated” spacecraft is. The Federal Aviation Administration has an objective set of rules for aircraft, but spacecraft remain more difficult to define as astronaut-friendly, he noted. And sometimes even the space agencies get it wrong.

“NASA said that the shuttle was going to be safed for ‘four nines,’ or 99.99% of the time it would be safe, and that’s great,” Launius said. “Well, it wasn’t. They lost two shuttles in 135 flights.”

The Space Shuttle Columbia launching in April 1981. | NASA

The causes of both of NASA’s shuttle disasters are complex — so complex that the agency took about two years to run flights again after fatal disasters in 1986 and 2003. Investigation boards pointed to a range of technical factors or failures in the shuttle systems. There also were human factors; examples included rushing launch dates, or managers deciding to “normalize deviance” (meaning, if a small failure happens often enough without an issue, mission managers accept that as the norm).

“[NASA] also said at one point that [the shuttle] was going to be as safe as an airline, which it never approached even close to,” Launius added. “Two airplane crashes out of 100 flights would be unacceptable in the aviation world.”

An infinite amount of money to spend on spacecraft development might help ensure human safety, but that’s not possible. So space agencies and their spacecraft manufacturers must make clever calculations: running statistics to see how often components will fail, testing as many individual components as possible, and implementing redundant systems, among many other measures.

NASA is working very closely with SpaceX to ensure that the contractor is doing everything possible to meet safety and reliability for astronauts in order to reliably transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Failure isn’t an option.

“It’s one thing to lose a payload that isn’t alive,” Launius remarked, “but it’s another thing to lose humans.”

While NASA and SpaceX have expressed hope that a human crew might fly in 2019, Launius suggested that the safety checks could likely push a crewed launch date back further.

“I could see this thing stretching out for a year or more,” he said.

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The earliest coronavirus vaccines may not protect you from getting infected

Desperation for a way to keep economies from collapsing under the weight of Covid-19 could mean settling for a vaccine that prevents people from getting really sick or dying but doesn’t stop them from catching the coronavirus.

Although a knock-out blow against the virus is the ultimate goal, early vaccines may come with limitations on what they can deliver, according to Robin Shattock, an Imperial College London professor leading development of an experimental shot.

“Is that protection against infection?” Shattock said. “Is it protection against illness? Is it protection against severe disease? It’s quite possible a vaccine that only protects against severe disease would be very useful.”

As countries emerge warily from lockdowns, leaders are looking to a preventive shot as the route to return to pre-pandemic life. Fueled by billions of dollars in government investment, vaccines from little-known companies like China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. and giants like Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc are in development.

At least one of the fastest-moving experimental shots has already advanced into human trials after showing an impact on severe disease — but less so on infection — in animals. Experts say such a product would probably be widely used if approved, even if that’s as much as it contributes, until a more effective version comes to market.

“Vaccines need to protect against disease, not necessarily infection,” said Dennis Burton, an immunologist and vaccine researcher at Scripps Research in La Jolla, California.

Still Susceptible

There are drawbacks, though. While holding the potential to save lives, such vaccines might lead to complacency in lockdown-weary nations, said Michael Kinch, a drug development expert who is associate vice chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“My guess would be that the day after someone gets immunized, they’re going to think, ‘I can go back to normal. Everything will be fine,’” he said. “They’re not going to necessarily realize that they might still be susceptible to infection.”

Covid-19 is already thought to be spread by people without symptoms, and a symptom-preventing vaccine may create even greater numbers of them.

Vaccines are among the most effective weapons against infectious disease, and prevent up to 3 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. Yet few, if any, are 100% effective in all people who get them. For example, about 3% of people who get measles vaccine develop a mild form of the disease, and can spread it to others.

130 Shots

In their attempts to confront a rapidly growing threat, developers are turning to technologies that have never been used successfully in humans. More than 130 shots are in the works for Covid-19 prevention, according to the World Health Organization.

Vaccines work by presenting the immune system with a form of a germ — or a key part of it — preparing the body to respond when a real exposure occurs. When that happens, immune proteins called antibodies glom onto the virus, halting its entry to cells. Sometimes vaccines ramp up immune T-cells, which don’t do as much to prevent infections, but can slow and eventually stop their progression.

The Drugs and Vaccines That Might End the Coronavirus Pandemic

A common approach to raising levels of antibodies is with injection of a virus that’s been inactivated or killed. About nine of these are in experimentation: One, made by China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd., led to high levels of Covid-targeted antibodies in monkeys.

Another shot developed at the University of Oxford uses an innovative approach in which Covid genes are inserted into a different, harmless virus. Those make proteins that are recognized by the immune system, which raises defenses against a real infection.

About a quarter of the experimental shots listed by the WHO, including two already in human studies, follow the same approach as the Oxford vaccine. One of the advantages of the technology is its speed. AstraZeneca, which is partnering with Oxford, has said it will begin delivering doses for the U.K. as soon as September, and will have doses for the U.S., which helped fund development, the following month.

Over the weekend, AstraZeneca and four European Union countries said they reached an agreement to distribute hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine.

Antibody Levels

How the shot affects infections and infectiousness still isn’t clear. William Haseltine, a former HIV researcher at Harvard University, pointed out in a blog for Forbes that animals had roughly the same amount of viral genetic material, called RNA, in their systems, whether or not they’d received shots. Levels of antibodies against the virus weren’t as high as in very protective vaccines, he said.

However, clinical signs of severe infection, like high breathing rate and pneumonia, were better in vaccinated monkeys. That might still make such a shot useful, according to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“That vaccine doesn’t look like it’s a knockout for protecting against infection, but it might be really very good at protecting against disease,” Fauci told the medical news website Stat.

The vaccine will be a success whether it heads off infections or severe symptoms, AstraZeneca Chief Executive Officer Pascal Soriot said in a BBC interview. The vaccine’s progress to advanced studies was approved by an independent scientific panel, and the company is waiting to see how it performs, a spokesman said.

Fauci’s NIAID is partnered with Moderna Inc. on a Covid vaccine test whose primary goal is to show their vaccine prevents people from developing symptoms, the company said June 11. Preventing infections is a secondary goal.

Successful preventives must also bar onward transmission, said Daniel Barouch, a researcher at the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard University. Effective shots may allow some cells to become infected, but control the growth of the virus before it can be passed on to others, said Barouch, who is developing a vaccine with Johnson & Johnson.

Preventing Illness

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering options for a vaccine that prevents illness.

“We would potentially consider an indication related to prevention of severe disease, provided available data support the benefits of vaccination,” FDA spokesman Michael Felberbaum said in response to questions. “For licensure we would not require that a vaccine protect against infection.”

Licensed vaccines including some against whooping cough have not been demonstrated to protect against infection with the pathogen that causes the disease but have been demonstrated to protect against symptomatic disease, Felberbaum said.

The notion of using imperfect vaccines and therapies is “fine,” Kinch said. “That’s just practicality. And we may follow those up with more-perfect. There will never be a truly perfect vaccine.”

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