Sex, drugs and toxic shrubs: the best reads of March

April 3, 2009

Cubans indulge baseball mania at Havana’s “Hot Corner”

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.

Iraq’s orphans battle to outgrow abuse

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 club tries to forget cocaine past

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.

Big French press find brand power helps online

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.

Shy teen spotlights battle over failing schools

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.

Toxic jatropha shrub fuels Mexico’s biodiesel push

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.

Malaysia Christians battle with Muslims over Allah

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.

Rape inquiry sheds light on racism in Italy

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 .

China’s last eunuch spills sex, castration secrets

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”.

The Red Sea might save the Dead Sea

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.

Development takes toll on Chesapeake crabs

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.

U.S. energy future hits snag in rural Pennsylvania

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.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see