Swedes urged to deposit 41m invalid banknotes

  • 26 August 2016
A small pile of old 50-krona notes Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption It's time for Swedes to check their pockets for now-invalid currency like this 50-krona note

Swedes are being urged to deposit millions of old banknotes which are still in circulation despite a looming deadline to redeem them.

Sweden's central bank, the Riksbank, says that 41 million old notes - in denominations of 20, 50 and 1,000 krona - are sitting in people's wallets and piggy banks, even though they've not being legal tender since June. In total they're worth 1.3bn Swedish krona ($155m; £117m), the bank says. The new designs that replaced them were introduced last year.

The deadline for people to deposit the old notes into their accounts is 31 August - after that they can only be redeemed via the Riksbank, where people will be charged a fee and may face extra checks under money-laundering legislation.

Swedes will see more new notes and coins introduced in October, and the central bank wants people to start using up the old versions now, to avoid a repeat of the current situation. It says 1.6 billion coins will become invalid in June 2017.

Despite all the new currency, The Local points out that Sweden is a largely cash-free society, with only 2% of all payments made in cash. But a Riksbank spokesman said in March that, notwithstanding the popularity of electronic payments, the bank expects cash to "stick around until the 2030s".

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Sweden's new notes are being phased in gradually - Hollywood icon Greta Garbo features on the 100 krona note

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Shanghai mulls removing English from street signs

  • 25 August 2016
A major street in Shanghai with road signs in both Chinese and English Image copyright iStock
Image caption Some expats are worried about negotiating Shanghai's streets without the help of English signs

The authorities in Shanghai are considering whether to remove English from road signs, to the alarm of some foreign residents.

Many of the city's signs feature either English or pinyin, a writing system that turns Chinese characters into words using the Roman alphabet. But Shanghai's Road Administration Bureau has started a public consultation on whether that should change. In a lengthy survey on the city's highways, one question asks if signs should use only Chinese characters in future. The survey itself is also written entirely in Chinese.

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China jaywalkers given instant road safety lesson

  • 24 August 2016
A view of a police officer inside the classroom with people sitting at desks Image copyright Huaihai TV
Image caption Jaywalking can cost an hour of your time in Xuzhou

A city in eastern China is teaching jaywalkers a lesson about road safety by setting up makeshift classrooms near major intersections.

Anyone caught dodging the traffic in Xuzhou, Jiangsu province, is taken to one of the roadside rooms straight away and taught about traffic laws by local police officers, the China News Service reports. It says classrooms have been set up near the train station and on other busy roads, and the lessons replace the usual cash fines.

Read full article China jaywalkers given instant road safety lesson

Fruit smugglers 'upgrade' Russian border road

  • 23 August 2016
Russian road upgraded by smugglers, Smolensk Region Image copyright Rossiya 1 TV
Image caption Smugglers have created a passable route from Belarus without being challenged

Smugglers have secretly improved a country road near the Russia-Belarus border so they can drive lorries full of contraband EU fruit past Russian customs officials, it's reported.

Alexander Laznenko of the Smolensk Region Border Agency tells Tass news agency that the smugglers used heavy earth-moving equipment at night to "widen and raise the gravel track, and put in more turning and passing points" - right under the noses of the local authorities.

Read full article Fruit smugglers 'upgrade' Russian border road

Nose-picking ban for Philippines police

  • 23 August 2016
Dozens of police officers walk in file in Manila. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Any urge to snap a selfie while at work must be suppressed

Police in the Philippines have been warned not to take selfies or pick their noses while on duty, it's reported.

A memorandum issued by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) reminds officers not to do anything that might create a negative impression among members of the public, the Philippine Star reports. As well as leaving their noses alone, officers in the capital, Manila, have been told not to play online games, smoke or chew gum during their shifts. The list also specifies that any bodily itches must remain unscratched, and officers should avoid "unseemly posture" such as standing on one leg, the paper says.

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Project connects Moscow pensioners to students abroad

  • 22 August 2016
An elderly women rides an escalator in a Moscow metro station. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The initiative aims to increase elderly Muscovites' social interaction

Students learning Russian around the world are being offered the chance to improve their language skills by chatting online to pensioners in Moscow.

The new scheme, called Lingualink of Generations, aims to reduce loneliness among elderly people in the Russian capital using video chat service Skype, the Moskva 24 news website reports.

Read full article Project connects Moscow pensioners to students abroad

Thai university creates Pokemon-style parasite app

  • 19 August 2016
Promotional poster for the app featuring its home screen Image copyright Khon Kaen University
Image caption The app invites users to hunt parasites instead of Pokemon

A Thai university has created a Pokemon Go-inspired app with an educational aim - to raise awareness about potentially lethal parasitic diseases.

The mobile app, called Parasite Hunt, challenges players to seek out various beacons using hints on their smartphones, and then scan a code to reveal a virtual parasite, The Nation website reports. It's been developed for a science fair at Khon Kaen University in north-eastern Thailand, home to a centre for tropical disease research.

Read full article Thai university creates Pokemon-style parasite app

China staff fined for not liking boss's Weibo posts

  • 18 August 2016
A close up of a person holding 100-yuan notes Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Workers said that one colleague had been fined 150 yuan ($23; £17) in a month

Employees at a travel company in eastern China have been fined for not commenting on their boss's social media posts, it's reported.

More than 200 members of staff at the business in Jinan were slapped with penalties of 50 yuan each ($7.50; £5.70) under the policy, the official Beijing Youth Daily reports. Workers were told to comment on CEO Zhang Ming's Weibo microblogging account, where he posts a mix of company updates and motivational quotes. Those who didn't were "punished accordingly", marketing manager Zhao Ruxin tells the paper, adding that it was done to improve the work ethic of younger staff.

Read full article China staff fined for not liking boss's Weibo posts

Tokyo monitors heatstroke risk for 2020 Olympics

  • 17 August 2016
People wait to cross the road as they use umbrellas and hats to shade themselves from the sun in Tokyo Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Scorchio: Tokyo summers can be sweltering

Officials in Tokyo are setting up monitoring devices around the city to determine the risk of heatstroke during the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The environment ministry experiment will measure heat and humidity along the planned marathon route and at the new stadium site, as well as the strength of sunlight bouncing off the road and pavements, the NHK news website reports. The first monitors will be installed near the Imperial Palace gardens this month, with more being added next year. The devices will turn the data into heatstroke warnings, ranging from "caution" to "strict vigilance" and "danger", the report says.

Read full article Tokyo monitors heatstroke risk for 2020 Olympics

Egypt state TV orders female hosts to lose weight

  • 17 August 2016
Khadija Khattab Image copyright Channel 2
Image caption Khadija Khattab wants viewers to judge whether she deserves to be suspended over her appearance

Egypt's state broadcaster has suspended eight of its female TV presenters and told them to go on a diet, sparking uproar among women's rights groups.

The Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU) has given the women one month to slim down before they can appear on air again with an "appropriate appearance", the Al-Yawm al-Sabi website reports. The ERTU has a female director, Safaa Hegazy, a former state TV anchor herself.

Read full article Egypt state TV orders female hosts to lose weight