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In China, suspected school food poisoning case swept under the rug

A  version of this story was published by Journalists for Transparency for a special series titled ‘SPOILED: Corruption from Farm to Table’.

LANZHOU, China—There were so many students in the hospital that morning that Li had trouble finding her own daughter.

“They put four to five children to a single bed. They just didn’t have enough beds to fit all of them,” says Li, who requested only her surname be used.

Her second-grade daughter was one of 244 primary school students in the central Chinese province of Gansu that fell ill in April 2013 after eating a government-subsidized school breakfast. The students, from five different schools in Gansu’s poor, remote Anding District, were stricken with severe diarrhea, vomiting and stomach pains.

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9 things to know before dating German men

What’s it like dating German men?

Having lived half a decade in Deutschland I’ve had my fair share of experiences – some grand, others regrettable – and can offer, cautiously, a Yankee perspective on the general question that will have generalized answers*. So please forgive (and indulge) me.

9 things to know before dating German men

Equality above chivalry
If you want an equal partnership – make Germany your first port of call. Here, all’s fair in love and equality. Rent and restaurant bills are split down the middle. You’ll seldom find doors held open for women. And it is extremely rare that a man will offer you the last seat on public transport. (Seriously. You’d be amazed at how many times I’ve seen pregnant women left standing).

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2. Personalities: East vs. West vs. Bavaria
Just as American Northerners scoff at Southerners, Germany has its own regional rivalries and personalities. Here it is in three very broad brush strokes: Continue reading


Did you use protection, Mom?

The sex talk.Unexpectedly, I found myself illustrating precautionary measures before she walked out the door.

“Let me know when you’re home and be safe.”

“I will, don’t worry! I love you,” she assured me – a genuine attempt to appease my anxiety.

Like most parents, I swallowed mixed emotions that brew when a daughter goes on a first date: proud of how beautiful and independent she’s become, but restlessly suspicious of the man she’s with.

But I wasn’t a parent. She was my divorcee mother, and I, her overprotective daughter.

Signing as witness at my mother's wedding ceremony in 2013.

Signing as witness at my mother’s wedding ceremony in 2013.

In the last decade, the traditional parent-child relationship with my mother has been upturned, embellished with anecdotes that rival cumbersome remakes of Freaky Friday.

It’s not because I’m habitually controlling. It’s because of the real dangers facing dating divorcees: sexually transmitted infections (STIs) have more than doubled amongst middle-aged and senior adults from 2002 to 2012, according to the medical journal BMJ.

Thankfully, mother waited years until after her divorce to start dating. She was a selfless, devout Catholic committed to her children, providing any additional comfort when she could to me and my brother. So when non-biblical male names suddenly dropped in conversation while I was in college – my deeply furrowed eyebrows fashioned stern gazes of concern and distrust.

It was time to have ‘the talk.’

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Honey Grace Minaves follows a herd of hundreds of Filipina women, all navigating their way through a maze of back alleyways in Hong Kong’s Central district. Eventually they turn into the narrow lobby of an unmarked building, where Honey Grace patiently waits her turn to squeeze into one of the small elevators.

A dozen pint-sized Filipinas cram into the lift that would be a tight fit for five grown men. The elevator ascends past floor after floor, each with a distinct theme: shoe warehouses, consignment shops, beauty pageant rehearsals, and – for Honey Grace – a hair salon.

“I don’t have a boyfriend, that’s why I cut my hair,” says the raven-haired woman as her hair is styled.  “I cut my hair so that I can find someone.”

Honey Grace is one of tens of thousands of Filipina domestic helpers in Hong Kong who pamper themselves in hopes of finding love on Sundays – the one day of the week when they are usually off.

But one day a week is not enough time for romance, and the women are resorting to online dating sites to be courted.

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Germany’s Reichert wins Hong Kong’s safe and clean harbour swim race

Reporting by Stephanie Burnett

Christian Reichert of Germany won Hong Kong’s cross-harbour swim race yesterday in a meet that event staff and swimmers called the safest and cleanest yet.

Reichert outshined his teammate and race favourite, Thomas Lurz, in the 1.5-kilometre open water race to become champion. It was the first time both swimmers took part in the Hong Kong meet.

“The race was great – it was perfect,” said Reichert.

2013 World Cup marathon champion Lurz attributed his fourth place result to a stomach virus he developed in China last week.

At 33 years old, Lurz is now considering retiring from professional swimming and expects to make a final decision in December, he said.

Clean and safe water

This year’s finishing line was moved from Sai Wan Ho to Quarry Bay to achieve better swimming conditions and to avoid pollution and injuries, according to several staff members.

This is the third time the cross-harbour race was held since 2011, after a 33-year hiatus. The annual swimming competition was suspended in 1979 due to excessive pollution.

Grace Fong, a 59-year-old local competitor, said the water in this year’s race was the cleanest yet. She was 17 when she completed her first cross-harbour swim meet, but said the experience was marred by pollutants in the water.  “[When I was 17] there was lots of oil in the water. When I finished I had black oil all over my body. Now you can see it’s much better here,” she said.

A flexible pontoon dock was built by the Hong Kong Sea School to prevent injury to swimmers climbing ashore at the finish line, said Will Wong, maritime study instructor of the Hong Kong Sea School.

Last year, approximately 80 swimmers suffered abrasions as they climbed onto the rocky shore, according to Ma Chun Wah, member of the Auxiliary Medical Services attending to the event.

Male swimmers cautious while swimming with women

However not all swimmers thought the race set-up was ideal. Some male swimmers criticised the simultaneous mixed-sex racing format because they felt energy had to be spent on being overcautious.

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