Pair of Japanese mangoes sold for $2,500 in auction

TOKYO (AFP): A deep pocketed Japanese department store shelled out an eye-watering 300,000 yen ($2,500) Monday for a pair of mangoes, a record price for the second year in a row.

After the hammer fell at an auction in far-southern Miyazaki, the successful bidder airlifted the fruit to its luxury shop in Fukuoka, where they went on sale at a bargain 210,000 yen, according to the Miyazaki Agricultural Economic Federation. The mangoes - top-of-the-range “Taiyo no Tamago” (Egg of the Sun)-brand - were the first to go for auction this year, an occasion that usually attracts inflated prices. To qualify as a “Taiyo no Tamago” mango, each fruit must weigh at least 350 grams (12 oz) and have a high sugar content.

While $2,500 is steep for a pair of mangoes, fruit is routinely expensive in Japan and it is not unusual for a single apple to cost upwards of $3. This year’s must-have luxury fruit is a particular brand of strawberry, with a single berry currently selling for around $415. However, all pale in comparison with the tear-inducing $25,000 price tag for a pair of cantaloupe melons auctioned in 2008.

Japan woman ‘knifes husband over toilet stink’

TOKYO (AFP): A Japanese woman allegedly attacked her husband with a kitchen knife because of the terrible smell he had left in the toilet, police and reports said Monday.

Emi Mamiya, 29, was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after apparently slashing her husband’s face with the knife, police said.

Mamiya was reportedly incensed by the smell left behind after her 34-year-old partner emerged from the stall. Her anger was further fuelled when he tried to help their 3-year-old son use the toilet “without washing his own hands first”, she said, Jiji Press and other local media reported. “The toilet stinks so much that the child cannot even use it,” Jiji reported her as saying.

India court suspends ban on diesel vehicles

NEW DELHI (AFP): An Indian court Monday suspended its ban on diesel vehicles more than 10 years old after New Delhi authorities complained they were struggling to comply with the order in the world’s most polluted capital. The National Green Tribunal last week announced a slew of measures to try to curb air pollution in Delhi including ordering older vehicles off the roads and cracking down on illegal construction projects in the capital and surrounding satellite towns. Citing diesel vehicles as a major source of Delhi’s toxic haze, the country’s environment court ordered the city government to implement the ban within 20 hours. But lawyers for the Delhi government appealed to the tribunal for more time, saying essential services such as garbage collection by mostly older trucks have been thrown into disarray.

“The court agreed and stayed its order for two weeks. No vehicles will be impounded during this period,” Zubeida Begum, lawyer for the government, told AFP. “Transportation of eatables to the capital has been hit hard, so has the garbage collection,” she said.

Thousands of commercial trucks travel through Delhi every night, many of them on their way from one state to another because of a lack of bypasses on India’s dilapidated highways.

According to local media reports, some 40,000 diesel cars have been effected by the court’s ban in the capital and more than 90,000 in adjoining towns.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month launched a new index to monitor air quality levels in Delhi but environmentalists criticised a lack of initiatives to curb the pollution.

The government is under intense pressure to act after the World Health Organization last year declared New Delhi the world’s most polluted capital.

At least 3,000 people die prematurely every year in the city because of air pollution, according to a joint study by Boston-based Health Effects Institute and Delhi’s Energy Resources Institute.

On Monday, the tribunal said the ban would be suspended until May 1 while it sought submissions from authorities on ways to ensure the ban was implemented effectively.

In November, the tribunal also ordered all petrol vehicles older than 15 years to be taken off the capital’s roads in a bid to lower toxic air levels.

China’s party expels dead official  over corruption

BEIJING (AFP): China’s ruling Communist party has expelled from its ranks a former provincial vice-governor who died while under investigation for corruption, it said Monday.

Ren Runhou, former vice governor of the northern province of Shanxi, “passed away of illness while under investigation” the party’s disciplinary agency said on its website. The inquiry into Ren began last August and respected news outlet Caixin reported he died a month later from cancer, aged 57. The party announced that Ren had been “stripped of his party membership”, on the grounds that he had embezzled public funds and accepted bribes to seek promotions for others. “The nature [of his case] is vile and the circumstances grave,” the statement by the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) said.

Property amassed by Ren from his suspected embezzlement and bribery will be transferred to judicial officials, according to the CCDI.

Since coming to power in 2012 China’s President Xi Jinping has vowed a crackdown on endemic graft by Communist party cadres. The ruling party’s internal investigations operate without any legal oversight, and since 2007 more than 15 officials have reportedly died from abuse while under such probes.

SpaceX to send cargo ship on sixth supply mission

WASHINGTON (AFP): SpaceX is sending its unmanned Dragon cargo ship on its sixth official supply mission to the International Space Station on Monday, should the weather behave itself. The US space transport company will also seek to recycle the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on an ocean platform soon after launch, set to take place from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 4:33 pm (2033 GMT).

The latest weather forecast is for a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions at liftoff time. If it does not launch Monday, the next chance will be Tuesday at 2010 GMT.

After the launch, SpaceX will make another attempt to guide the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket back to a controlled landing on an ocean platform, part of the California-based company’s goal of making rockets one day as reusable as planes.

In January, the rocket attempted a controlled maneuver to land on a barge in the Atlantic, but collided with it instead and broke into pieces.

Since NASA retired its Space Shuttle, Russia’s Soyuz is the only spacecraft that can ferry astronauts to and from the orbiting International Space Station. Private company Space X’s Dragon is the only re-entry cargo craft.

Boeing and SpaceX are developing reusable astronaut carriers for NASA, which is also working on the Orion craft it hopes will take humans to Mars.

If all goes well, Dragon will make it to the ISS Wednesday. It should be guided into the station by European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti.

SpaceX officials are feeling upbeat because of some technical improvements to help in the event of strong winds, and the positive weather outlook.

“I guess together the improvements of the vehicle, the first stage of Falcon 9 and the improvements of the drone ship, I will up my probabilities (of success) to 75 percent, maybe 80 percent at this point in time,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president and chief engineer at SpaceX, told reporters.

The ISS crew can’t step out for groceries so Dragon is bringing a two-tonne order of food and water from NASA, and even an espresso machine. There are also materials for future research on the effects of weightlessness.

After a five-week stay docked with the ISS, Dragon will leave the station and head home to Earth loaded with no longer needed scientific equipment, garbage and other items. This marks SpaceX’s sixth ISS supply mission for NASA out of a total of 12, under a $1.6 billion contract.