South Korea: Envoys' spouses show off cooking skills

  • 25 May 2015
US Ambassador's wife Robyn Lippert with husband Mark and Seoul-born baby Sejun
US Ambassador's wife Robyn Lippert showed Korean readers a typically American dish

A South Korean newspaper has launched a series introducing readers to international cuisine through the wives - and husbands - of foreign ambassadors working in the country.

So far, the Joongang Ilbo "Cooking with Her Excellency" series has introduced its readers to diverse cuisine from countries such as Belgium, the Philippines and Serbia, saying that "ambassadors are expert entertainers and their spouses are often skilled at introducing the cuisine of their homeland to their foreign hosts". Robyn Lippert, wife of US Ambassador Mark Lippert who was injured in a knife attack in March, chose surf'n'turf as her American dish, and in return was shown how to cook traditional Korean grilled rib dish tteokgalbi by a local chef. The Lipperts have been praised since their arrival in Seoul last October for immersing themselves in the local culture and for speaking Korean in public.

The title of the "Cooking with Her Excellency" series doesn't change, even when "Her Excellency" is Peter Bullen, husband of the current Irish Ambassador, Aingeal O'Donoghue. He chose fish chowder to represent his country, telling the paper that Irish cuisine is "healthy, home-style cooking with lots of stews, homemade breads and potatoes", while making sure that both Guinness and Irish whiskey get a mention.

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Russia: Armoured cars offered for wedding couples

  • 25 May 2015
Kurganets-25 armoured personnel carriers drive through Red Square during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow
Armoured personnel carriers tend only to be seen in Moscow for military parades

A Moscow wedding agency is offering newlyweds an armoured personnel carrier to hire instead of a "boring" limo for the marriage ceremony, it's been reported.

While armoured vehicles are usually only seen on the streets of Moscow for military parades, 100,000 rubles ($2,000; £1,300) gets you a trip to your restaurant or registry office of choice, plus all the necessary permits, the NTV channel reports. "Everything depends on the route to a registry office. If you're going to drive along the streets of central Moscow, then the rental of an armoured vehicle will be more expensive," an agency manager told NTV. If you want to save money, the cheaper option is to avoid the city centre altogether and keep to the outskirts, he said. One police traffic department told Ekho Moskvy radio that armoured vehicles are considered "large equipment" and therefore need special permission from the authorities, as well as coordination with police.

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Fiji: Police chief fights off raiders with chair

  • 22 May 2015
Bernadus Groenewald (L) greets a police officer during Fiji's 2014 election
Fiji's police chief (left) got a taste of front-line action during a function in a restaurant

Fiji's chief of police was involved in the fight against crime first-hand, armed only with a folding chair, it's been reported.

The Pacific nation's South African-born police commissioner Bernadus Groenewald squared up to the ugly face of crime while at a function in a restaurant in the capital Suva, Radio Australia reports. While Suva was celebrating with a parade for the country's world champion rugby sevens team, a balaclava-clad gang burst into the restaurant, demanding cash and valuables. Groeneweld told the radio that "police instinct took over and I grabbed a folding chair" and told them to leave.

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NZ government pledges millions to save the kiwi

  • 22 May 2015
A western brown kiwi
There are fewer than 8,000 western brown kiwi among a total kiwi population of around 70,000

New Zealand is to give millions of dollars to protect the kiwi following stark warnings that the country's national bird could become extinct.

While budget announcements are usually dull affairs, New Zealand's conservationists have expressed their delight that the government is to set aside NZ$11.2m ($8.3m; £5.3m) to halt the worrying decline in kiwi numbers. According to TV3, Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says more needs to be done to save the "famous and precious" bird which makes up part of the country's identity. "If we don't do more now to halt their decline, we risk losing wild kiwi forever," she told the New Zealand Herald.

Read full article NZ government pledges millions to save the kiwi

Russia: Food shop tries to trick Moscow police

  • 21 May 2015
The shop's billboard in a Moscow street
Ordinary citizens see a billboard advert for Italian foods

Last year, Russian banned imports of meat and cheese from the European Union, but one Moscow delicatessen has come up with a novel way to advertise its remaining wares, it seems.

The Don Giulio Salumeria on ritzy Malaya Bronnaya Street was one of several shops to suffer from the ban - itself retaliation for Western sanctions over fighting in Ukraine - so it turned to an advertising company. The agency devised a street-level billboard that boasts "Banned Italian delicacies in Moscow" - until the police approach. It then switches to a fake ad for traditional Russian dolls, the Ad Index website reports. The ad showing policemen scratching their heads at the billboard to the amusement of passers-by has been seen nearly 95,000 times within two days of appearing on YouTube, and delighted many viewers.

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China: Restaurant offers jobs to learning disabled

  • 21 May 2015
Hu Yanping and her staff outside the Forrest Gump restaurant
Hu has taken on twelve staff with the help of a provincial government grant

A restaurant, said to be the first of its kind in China, is offering training and jobs to people with learning disabilities, it's reported.

The Forrest Gump restaurant- named after the film starring Tom Hanks - is the brainchild of Hu Yanping, who has reportedly adopted over 100 children with learning difficulties since her own son died in 2001, the People's Daily newspaper reports. Hu has offered jobs to a dozen people after they completed their training at the establishment in the city of Changchun, in north-eastern China's Jilin province. Hu, known to her employees as "Forrest Gump mama", offers a monthly salary of 300 yuan ($48; £30), which rises as her employees become more experienced.

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Russia: Muscovites scramble to protect parking spaces

  • 20 May 2015
Cars in a traffic jam in central Moscow
If you make it out of a Moscow traffic jam, the next challenge is where to park your car

Moscow's apartment-dwellers are increasingly splashing out on parking barriers to stop people from taking advantage of their free spaces, it's reported.

Residents who can park for free within their private courtyards are securing the entrances at their own expense, the Moscow Times reports. People living at one apartment block tell the paper that they clubbed together to raise the 130,000 roubles ($2,600; £1,700) to install a barrier and a little booth for a guard. They also pay for the guard's 30,000 rouble-a-month salary out of their own pockets.

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Denmark: Copenhagen auctions 7,000 retro street lamps

  • 20 May 2015
The street lamps hanging above a Copenhagen street
Out with the old: The lamps have illuminated Copenhagen's streets for decades

Copenhagen city council is auctioning off 7,000 of the city's old street lamps to the general public.

The council is replacing almost half of its street lighting as part of an energy-saving drive, including all of the iconic dome-shaped "Copenhagen lamps", the news website reports. They were designed by the municipal architect's office in 1977, and restored versions have now become fashionable as indoor lighting in private homes. "It's a piece of Copenhagen's history that's being put up for sale for people's enjoyment," council official Steffen Rasmussen tells the website.

A view of the lamp from underneath
The council says some of the lamps will be given to charity

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Lebanon: Jokes over Hezbollah leader's lemonade advice

  • 19 May 2015
Hassan Nasrallah drinking from a glass during a TV speech
Refreshing: Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah says lemonade is all he needs to power through long speeches

Lemonade may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, but its leader swears by it to get him through his notoriously long speeches.

Rumours have been circulating over the health of the group's secretary-general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, with speculation that the drinks he constantly sips during speeches are actually medicine. But Sheikh Nasrallah recently shrugged this off by insisting there was nothing more than lemonade in his glass. Extolling the soft drink's benefits, he said it "helped in delivering speeches" and advised all orators to have some handy, the al-Akhbar news website reports.

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Uzbekistan: Burning buses cause anger in Tashkent

  • 19 May 2015
The burning bus
Burning up: Local people have been blaming the fires on poor maintenance

Residents in Tashkent have been venting their frustration over a spate of fires on the city's buses, it's reported.

The most recent incident occurred on a bus travelling down a main street in the Uzbek capital on Friday, the website reports. Photos show flames rising up the back of the Mercedes-Benz bus, apparently coming from the engine compartment. Another news site says it was the tenth bus fire in Tashkent since March 2013. The city transport company, Toshshahartransxizmat, says another bus fire at the end of April was caused by a short circuit in the vehicle's wiring. But Uzbek netizens think it's more likely to be poor upkeep causing the engines to overheat.

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