Mangoes sell for US$3,000
A pair of mangoes grown in the nation’s south sold yesterday for a whopping ￥300,000 (US$3,000), a record price for the fruit’s first auction of the season, Kyodo news agency reported. The “Taiyo no Tamago” (Egg of the Sun)-brand mangoes were set to be airlifted from Miyazaki in the far south to a department store in Fukuoka, where they were to go on sale, the agency said. To qualify as a “Taiyo no Tamago” mango, each fruit must weigh at least 350g and have a high sugar content, according to the Miyazaki Agricultural Economic Federation. Fruit is routinely expensive and it is not unusual for a single apple to cost upwards of US$3, while a presentation pack of 20 cherries can set you back US$100. However, all pale in comparison with the eye-watering US$25,000 price tag for a pair of cantaloupe melons auctioned in 2008.
Guard poisons children
A woman has been detained for killing two children at a preschool nursery and making 30 others ill with poisoned food, state media said. The woman — a security guard at the premises, angered over having to leave her living quarters — “put poison into a bag of snacks and left it in the classroom,” Xinhua said on Wednesday, citing police in Qiubei in Yunnan Province. Two girls aged four and five died, following the poisoning on March 19. Another five pupils were in a critical condition immediately after the poisoning, and a further 25 received hospital treatment. A Qiubei local official said yesterday that all the sickened pupils had been released from hospital. The suspect, 44-year-old Zhao Jianzhi (趙建芝), had admitted the crime, the Xinhua report said.
Mafia boss hospitalized
Jailed former Sicilian Mafia boss Bernardo Provenzano has been taken to hospital in Milan from a maximum security prison suffering from “neurological pathologies,” media reported on Wednesday. The 81-year-old, who was arrested in 2006 after 40 years on the run during which he communicated with his lieutenants by word of mouth or typewritten notes, is serving several consecutive life sentences. Provenzano’s detention in solitary confinement was extended last month, while the supreme court last week also rejected an appeal from his lawyers that he be released from prison due to ill-health. Nicknamed “The Tractor” for his propensity for violence and stubbornness, Provenzano became the uncontested head of the Cosa Nostra after the incarceration of his predecessor Toto Riina in 1993. Provenzano was the nation’s most-wanted man for many years.
More than 3,600 raped: UN
More than 3,600 women, children and men were subjected to rape and other sexual violence over a four-year period by the country’s defense and security forces or armed rebels, according to a UN report released on Wednesday. The report by the UN’s human rights office said the period from 2010 through last year “has been characterized by the persistence of incidents of sexual violence that were extremely serious due to their scale, their systematic nature and the number of victims.” About half the 3,645 attacks were by rebel groups and half by government forces, though the percentages varied year by year, the report said. The victims ranged in age from 2 to 80 years old, with 73 percent women, 25 percent children and 2 percent men, it said.
Contract killer confesses
A suspected contract killer charged in California with killing nine people confessed to investigators that he carried out up to 40 slayings in a career spanning decades, a prosecutor said. Errek Jett, the district attorney in Lawrence County, Alabama, said on Wednesday that Jose Manuel Martinez, 51, told investigators he carried out the crimes working as an enforcer for a drug cartel. Martinez was arrested last year shortly after crossing the border from Mexico into Arizona and sent to Alabama, where he awaits trial on one murder charge. Once word got out, a steady stream of investigators from across the country came to question Martinez, Jett said. Martinez targeted victims in Tulare, Kern and Santa Barbara counties between 1980 and 2011, said Tulare County Assistant District Attorney Anthony Fultz, who filed charges on Tuesday.
Glowing bay goes dark
Authorities announced on Wednesday they are investigating why a glowing bay that attracts thousands of tourists a year has grown dark in recent weeks. The popular Mosquito Bay on the island of Vieques is considered one of the nation’s top attractions and its waters glow thanks to microscopic plankton known as dinoflagellates that emit a blue-green light through a chemical reaction when disturbed. The bay went dark in early January because of rough seas. Cristina von Essen, with Vieques-based adventure company Black Beard Sports, said the bay went dark about three weeks ago and remained in that state for about two weeks. “It caught everybody by surprise,” she said. “Not just us, but all companies that run tours down here were struggling. Everybody was a little bit frustrated.”
Migrants ask Senate for help
About a dozen Honduran migrants who lost legs and arms after falling from trains during northbound journeys across Mexico asked the Senate on Tuesday to stop the government’s persecution of Central Americans, protect them from criminal gangs and contribute money to shelters for their care. The migrants say that drug gang members and other criminals frequently beat, stab or push them from moving trains during their journeys through Mexico to the US. Jose Luis Hernandez, the leader of the Association of Disabled Returning Migrants, said the group hopes to meet with President Enrique Pena Nieto to discuss their demands. Hernandez said there are 452 mutilated migrants from Honduras and more from other Central American nations. “We have hit bottom,” Hernandez said. “It is no longer even news when two people die on ‘The Beast,’ or that somebody fell under the train and lost his legs,” Hernandez said, referring to the train that travels through the south of the country.
Weed invades Colorado
Mini-storms of tumbleweed have invaded the drought-stricken prairie of southern Colorado, blocking rural roads and irrigation canals, and briefly barricading homes and an elementary school. The invasion of the tumbleweed, an iconic symbol of both the West’s rugged terrain and the rugged cowboys who helped settle it, has conjured images of the Dust Bowl of 80 years ago, when severe drought unleashed them onto the landscape. Officials have tried to attack the tumbleweed with snow blowers and rotary attachments on tractors used to cut crops like alfalfa. They have even tried to bale it for cow feed, but the weed clogs machinery and baling is too expensive to be economical.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
An Australian graduate student arrested for spying and expelled from North Korea last year said that he was threatened with a firing-squad execution and told not even US President Donald Trump could save his “sorry arse.” Among the crimes Alek Sigley was accused of committing was posting a picture of a toy tank on Instagram, which his interrogators told him was military espionage. Sigley, 30, was studying for a master’s degree in Korean literature at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang when he went missing in June last year, sparking alarm. A fluent speaker of Korean, he had written articles for several publications