Sex, drugs and toxic shrubs: the best reads of March
For all the shouting and nose-to-nose confrontations, visitors to Havana’s Parque Central might think they had walked into a brawl or counter-revolution … but here in the park’s Hot Corner, the topic almost always under discussion is baseball, Cuba’s national obsession.
At night, Salah Abbas Hisham wakes up screaming. Sometimes, in the dark, he silently attacks the boy next to him in a tiny Baghdad orphanage where 33 boys sleep on cots or on the floor. Salah, who saw both his parents blown apart in a car bomb, can never be left alone at night.
Colombian soccer champions America de Cali are first to admit cocaine dollars had a hand in their sporting heyday. But after years of paying the price, they’re trying to wipe the slate clean … Cali’s mayor is leading a campaign to have the team removed from a U.S. anti-drugs blacklist.
In a grimy part of eastern Paris an editorial conference is underway, similar to planning meetings in newsrooms everywhere, except this is being blogged live and readers can join in … The meeting is at Rue89 … one of the interactive sites to have appeared as a global crisis in the press squeezes French newspapers.
A shy 14-year-old girl plucked from obscurity by the White House has come to symbolize a battle over how to fix dilapidated U.S. schools. Ty’Sheoma Bethea’s story proves that one small act — in this case writing to President Barack Obama — can have a big impact. It also highlights a battle over how far the federal government should fund U.S. education.
All his life elderly Mexican farmer Gonzalo Cardenas has planted a stalky weed that grows wild in southern Mexico to form a sturdy live fence around his tropical fruit trees. Now it turns out the weed, jatropha, could be used to fuel jet planes.
The congregation at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral on Borneo island intones in Malay: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of Allah”. Now the government in this mostly Muslim Southeast Asian nation wants to prevent “Allah” being used by Christians.
When police arrested two Romanians for the rape of an Italian teenager in Rome, a paper owned by the family of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, reported: “The Romanian beasts have been caught.” Three weeks later, prosecutors admitted the “beasts” could not be guilty — DNA tests had ruled them out .
Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting’s eyes in old age — the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death. China’s last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the “Emperor’s slave”.
Abundant water from the Red Sea could replenish the shrinking Dead Sea if Jordan, Israel andthe Palestinians decide to commission a tunnel north through the Jordanian desert from the Gulf of Aqaba. The Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Conveyance project would supply the biggest desalination plant in the world.
It doesn’t look like a disaster area. Crab boats dart back and forth on this inlet of the Chesapeake Bay as they have for generations … But watermen aren’t pulling blue crabs out of the Bay … the U.S. Commerce Department declared the fishery a federal disaster last September.
When her children started missing school because of persistent diarrhea and vomiting, Pat Farnelli began to wonder if she and her family were suffering from more than a classroom bug. After trying several remedies, she stopped using the water drawn from her well in this rural corner of northeastern Pennsylvania, the forefront of a drilling boom in what may be the biggest U.S. reserve of natural gas.