Train food cooked in filth
Food served on trains is prepared in filthy conditions with little regard for hygiene or health, a news channel said on Friday, citing a report by the state-run railways’ officials. CNN-IBN said it had obtained an internal report that said food was cooked in “dirty, smelly and waterlogged pantry cars” and in one instance, samosas, a popular snack, were kept in a basket with mops. The report also said passenger trains are infested with cockroaches, according to the English-language channel. “In the Shramjivi Express, the water used for washing coaches was also used for cooking and in the Bihar Sampark Kranti, samosas were found kept in a dirty basket along with mops,” the channel said, quoting from the report. The report was prepared after Indian Railways carried out a series of train inspections in February.
Man kills family, takes nap
A man slit the throats of his wife and three children then slept alongside their lifeless bodies before turning himself in, police said on Friday. Hasan Fadli, 41, went on the rampage on the Indonesian part of Borneo island after getting into a row with his wife about whether the family could afford to pay for their son’s circumcision. He used a spear-like device designed to harvest fruit from oil palms to kill his wife, 31, and children — a 12-year-old boy, a four-year-old girl and a two-year-old boy, police said. “He slept in the same bed as the bodies,” local police spokesman Hadi Pambudi said. In the morning, he “reported his crime to the security guard of the palm oil company where he worked,” the spokesman said. He was living with his family in a housing compound run by the company in a remote part of Central Kalimantan. Fadli said he heard voices before the attack, police said.
New mold named after royals
A newly discovered species of orange-colored mold has been named after soon-to-be king Willem-Alexander and his family, the scientists behind the move said on Friday. The mold was named after the Prince of Orange, the title given to the crown prince, “because what distinguishes this penicillin is its orange color, a very rare phenomenon,” Pedro Crous, head of the Dutch CBS-KNAW fungal research center, said in a statement. One mold has been called Penicillium vanoranjei (“of orange” in Dutch, in reference to the royal house of Orange-Nassau) and one P maximae, after his Argentine-born wife, Maxima. The other three are named P amaliae, P alexiae and P arianeae, after the couple’s three young daughters.
‘Doctor’ charged with assault
A Belgian ex-policeman masquerading as a doctor was charged and jailed on Friday for allegedly sexually assaulting at least eight female patients, prosecutors said. The 57-year-old man, who was not named pending trial, was also charged with illegally practicing medicine as an alternative “energy therapist” without a license, Verdun head prosecutor Yves Le Clair said. Police were alerted to the suspect when a Belgian woman and a French woman complained to authorities that they were touched sexually by the man during sessions in his clinic in Dun-sur-Meuse, near Verdun. Le Clair said eight alleged victims had been identified so far, all women aged between 40 and 60 who were stricken with illnesses not able to be cured by conventional doctors. The suspect had been forced to resign from the Belgian police service after being convicted in 2006 of breaking police confidentiality. He was put under investigation in 2007 by the Belgian police after starting a Web site offering to cure children of certain maladies. He was detained on Friday pending trial.
Pumas raised in apartment
A woman says she has been raising three pumas in her three-room apartment after fearing for their lives at the local zoo. Rasa Veliute, a 23-year-old volunteer at the zoo in Klaipeda, a Baltic Sea port town, says she took the cubs home four months ago after their mother began neglecting them. The pumas — also known as mountain lions or cougars — are named Kipsas, Gipse and Kinde. Veliute says they eat a lot of chicken and get along well with her East European shepherd dog. There is no law barring keeping the animals at home, and the zoo did not object to Veliute’s actions, but Veliute told reporters on Friday that the pumas have grown fast and will likely return to the zoo this summer.
Large ship tunnel planned
The government announced plans on Friday for what is being labeled the world’s first tunnel for large ships, aimed at helping them navigate a treacherous section of the southwestern coast. Unveiling a 10-year transportation plan, the government said it would earmark 1 billion kroner (US$175 million) for the construction of the Stad maritime tunnel, named for the peninsula notorious for high winds and heavy seas. The 1.7km passageway will be carved into a piece of the peninsula’s mountainside, linking two fjords, hallmarks of the Norwegian coastline. “The project will help increase safety and navigability” in the region, the government said. Estimated at a cost of 1.6 billion kroner, construction is expected to begin in 2018 at the earliest and take four years.
Columbus goes Abe
Ohio is being transformed into the Land of Lincoln this weekend. About three dozen Abraham Lincoln impersonators from around the US are meeting in Columbus for their 19th annual convention. The get-together will also feature some Mary Todd Lincolns. On Friday night, they were due to gather for a local high school production of Our American Cousin, the play Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater in Washington in April 1865. These are good times for tall, gangly, bearded men who get hired to portray Honest Abe at schools and various events. They say the Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln has increased demand for their services.
Leading ballerina dies
One of America’s finest ballerinas and the muse and wife of legendary choreographer George Balanchine has died, aged 88. Maria Tallchief died on Thursday in Chicago, where she had founded the short-lived Chicago City Ballet, her family announced. She had previously been the dazzling prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet from 1948 to 1965, working with Balanchine, who was also briefly her husband. “My mother was a ballet legend, who was proud of her Osage heritage,” daughter Elise Paschen said in a statement, referring to Tallchief’s Native American background. Born in 1925 to a father from the Osage tribe and a mother of Irish-Scottish descent, Tallchief was one of the first Native American ballerinas to achieve such prominence with major companies. Her pride in her heritage led her to refuse pressure common at the time to change her name to a more marketable, Russian-sounding version — for example turning Tallchief into Tallchieva.
Forgotten daughter perishes
A father is accused of forgetting his daughter in a vehicle for seven hours, resulting in her death. The Guam Attorney General’s office says Anthony Morcilla has been indicted in the death of his two-year-old daughter. Morcilla was arrested on Wednesday last week after allegedly forgetting to drop off the toddler at daycare and leaving her in the vehicle while he was at work. She was pronounced dead at the hospital. The Pacific Daily News reported on Friday a grand jury rejected a manslaughter charge and instead indicted him on charges of negligent homicide, leaving a child unattended in a motor vehicle and child abuse.
ICC probes own staffer
The International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has opened a formal investigation into allegations by four people who say they were subjected to sexual abuse by a court staff member working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The war crimes court said on Friday it is “profoundly concerned by these grave allegations” and had taken steps to protect the alleged victims. It said the investigation was aimed at “establishing the facts underlying the allegations and fairly determining any possible responsibilities.” It is not clear whether the allegations will lead to a prosecution, and if so, where it would take place. The court said it would turn the inquiry’s findings over to ICC “judges and relevant parties to the proceedings concerned” — presumably meaning legal authorities in the DRC. The Coalition for the ICC, an umbrella organization of civil society and human rights groups that support the court, said in a reaction that members had been “deeply shocked and concerned” to hear of the allegations.
Fan meets Seger after coma
The first words of a 79-year-old woman as she emerged from a five-year semi-coma in Auburn Hills, Michigan, were: “I want to go to a Bob Seger concert.” And now her wish has come true. The Flint Journal reports that Evie Branan cheered, threw her hands in the air and danced during Seger’s concert on Thursday night at The Palace of Auburn Hills. She also met Seger and his family, talked with crew and band members and received VIP treatment. After suffering a stroke that left Branan unable to speak, move or eat on her own, she became a resident of Willowbrook manor’s long-term care unit. She awoke from the semi-coma on May 7, 2011.
Madonna critics reprimanded
President Joyce Banda has “reprimanded” aides who issued a scathing attack on Madonna that fueled a very public spat with the pop star, a source at the presidency said on Friday. She “reprimanded officers in the State House press department for issuing the statement without consulting her,” an official in Banda’s office said on condition of anonymity. Banda’s State House on Wednesday issued a four-page statement suggesting Madonna demanded VIP treatment, engaged in emotional blackmail, exaggerated her charity work and was a worse guest than Chuck Norris or Bono. It was, the statement said, “strange and depressing” that the singer seemed to want “Malawi to be forever chained to the obligation of gratitude” for having adopted two Malawian children. Madonna reacted angrily to the statement, accusing the government of peddling lies about her charity work.
Expelled Jews welcomed
Parliament unanimously passed a law on Friday offering citizenship to descendants of Jews persecuted and ordered expelled in the 15th century. The legislation sought to repair the effects of a decree issued in 1497 that ordered all Jews out of the country unless they converted to Christianity. A deputy in the ruling coalition, Jose Ribeiro e Castro, called the law’s passage a “historic day.” “We want to once again welcome all those who never should have had to leave,” he said. The expulsion order for the country’s Jews — followed by a 1506 massacre of 2,000 converted Jews in Lisbon, then a Portuguese Inquisition as fearsome for those deemed non-Christian as the Spanish one — was long seen as a black mark in the European country’s history. In 1989, then-president Mario Soares asked forgiveness for the persecutions their forebears suffered.
Teacher assigns Nazi report
A high-school English teacher in Albany, New York, could face disciplinary action for giving a writing assignment that asked students to make a persuasive argument blaming Jews for the problems of Nazi Germany, Albany school district officials said on Friday. School spokesman Ron Lesko said administrators were discussing what official action the 10th-grade teacher at Albany High School could face for the assignment given to students on Monday. The assignment, first reported onFriday by the Albany Times Union, asked students to research Nazi propaganda, then assume their teacher was a Nazi government official who had to be convinced of their loyalty. The assignment told students they “must argue that Jews are evil.” A third of the students refused to complete the assignment. The teacher’s assignment told students they “must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich.”