India: Police enforce beef ban with cow 'mugshots'

  • 31 March 2015
An Indian Hindu devotee offers prayers to a sacred cow
Cows in parts of India now benefit from legal protection as well as religious reverence

Police in one Indian state have told cattle owners to submit photographs of their livestock to help them enforce a new ban on selling beef.

Officers in the city of Malegaon, in the western Maharashtra state, say the photos are needed for reference in case a criminal case arises under the recently introduced law, which bans the slaughter of all cows and sale and consumption of their meat, The Times of India reports. The Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Act came into force on 2 March after taking 19 years to become law. "We are keeping the photographs for verification purposes only," police official Mahesh Sawai tells the paper. "If someone alleges that some illegal activity has taken place and if the owner has a photo, it will be easy to establish the truth."

The call for photographic evidence comes after three people were charged locally for selling beef, the first case under the new law. While the slaughter of cows was banned in Maharashtra state in 1976, the new law bans the slaughter of bulls and bullocks as well. Beef from buffalo is still legal. Those convicted face a fine and up to five years in prison. The need for photographs hasn't gone down well with local livestock owners, the paper reports. "Cops are asking for photos of animals when there is no law that says we should send them pictures," says one city resident. The last official five-yearly census of livestock in India took place in 2012, and revealed a total bovine count of just over 21m animals in Maharashtra state, compared to a human population of around 112m.

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China: Spending cuts force officials into driving lessons

  • 31 March 2015
A security guard standing in front of hundreds of government cars due to be auctioned off
China's government recently auctioned off dozens of high-end vehicles in a crackdown on excess

Chinese officials are rushing to take driving lessons after the government cut spending on chauffeur-driven cars, it's reported.

Many officials don't have driving licences because they've always been ferried to work by chauffeurs, but since the government targeted "wasteful spending" in late 2014, the privilege has been reserved only for senior officials. That's left many mid-level staff without a ride, and prompted them to seek out driving instructors, Xinhua news agency reports. There have been a few bumps in the road, though. Instructors tell Xinhua that some of the officials - many of whom are in their 50s - have failed their driving tests because they're so accustomed to taking charge that they refuse to obey the rules of the road. "Some of them are too used to doing things their own way and they often ignore my instructions," says Song Bo, who gives lessons in the northeast province of Jilin. "It is painful to have them as students."

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Canada: Big freeze hits Newfoundland meat supplies

  • 31 March 2015
Bare shelves in the meat aisle of a Canadian supermarket
There wasn't much choice for some customers in the town of Gander

A particularly hard winter has hit meat supplies in eastern Canada, leaving some supermarket shelves bare.

Shoppers on the island of Newfoundland tweeted photos of empty shelves in the fresh meat aisle, and one supermarket said it was "dramatically behind on orders", the CBC news website reports. Earlier reports said shops had been running short of fruit and vegetables too. The delays have been put down to ice in the channel between mainland Canada and Newfoundland, causing disruptions to ferry services. While sea ice is normal in the region, this year has been worse than usual. "This is amongst the worst we've seen in about 30 years," Darrell Mercer of Marine Atlantic, which runs the ferry service, tells CTV News. He says the ice began forming in early February, more than a month earlier than last year, and has been building even since.

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Turkey: Beekeepers to get bear insurance

  • 30 March 2015
A brown
Sticky paws: Bees and their honey are a tempting snack for bears

Turkey's beekeepers can now get insured for bear attacks on their hives, it's reported.

Beekeepers in the country have been dealing with the financial burden of bears destroying their hives for years, but now they'll be reimbursed by a government-supported scheme, the Anadolu news agency reports. "No matter what they did, bears were able to damage the hives," says Bahri Yilmaz, president of the Turkish Beekeepers Union. "Some tried to hang the hives high up the trees. Some used live wires - nothing worked." The Agricultural Insurance Pool will pay out 175 liras ($65; £45) for each hive lost to a hungry bear, says Mr Yilmaz.

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Denmark: Calls for royal hunting rights to be scrapped

  • 30 March 2015
Queen Margrethe II and Prince Consort Henrik
Queen Margrethe II and her family have exclusive hunting rights in Denmark's best forests - for now

Being a member of a royal family comes with many perks, but having exclusive access to hunting grounds shouldn't be one of them, Danish politicians have said.

Denmark's royals have long enjoyed the right to hunt freely in 214 of the country's best forests, with the cost being borne by the nature agency Naturstyrelsen, the Copenhagen Post reports. The area reserved for royal use accounts for almost one third of Denmark's state-managed forests, and the agency provides personnel, vehicles and buildings for the royals to use, according to the state broadcaster DR. Now there's political pressure for those exclusive hunting right to be withdrawn, and for the land to be available to anyone who wants to use it, which would also help raise money for the treasury. "This abuse of state funds must stop," Per Clausen, an MP with the leftist Red-Green Alliance tells DR. "The royal family must pay for their own hunts." One Socialist People's Party MP says it's "high time" the royals' hunting rights are taken away.

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New Zealand: Hemp smoothie ads pulled over drug slogans

  • 30 March 2015
A tractor cutting hemp
Hemp can be cultivated in New Zealand but its use in food is strictly regulated

A New Zealand sandwich shop is in hot water over adverts for a hemp smoothie which played on the plant's association with marijuana.

The Habitual Fix chain has been told to remove its advertising for the drink, which included slogans like "Just ask your dealer" and "Don't panic, we also do munchies", the New Zealand Herald reports. The smoothies, which contain hemp oil, cucumber, mint, yoghurt and apple juice, were being sold in a cup emblazoned with a cannabis leaf and were advertised as having positive health benefits, the website says. Now the Ministry of Primary Industries has told the company to remove all drug references and health claims from the adverts.

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Russia: MPs find love across the political divide

  • 27 March 2015
Maria Maksakova-Igenbergs and Denis Voronenkov after their wedding
Members of the State Duma, Russia's parliament, have been congratulating the happy couple

Two Russian MPs have tied the knot despite being from rival political parties.

Communist MP Denis Voronenkov and his new spouse, Maria Maksakova-Igenbergs from the ruling One Russia party, exchanged vows in Moscow on Friday - the first ever marriage between parliamentarians from different parties, the LifeNews website reports. The newlyweds headed straight back to work after the ceremony, with the bride still in her wedding dress. "There are political differences but they are not a hindrance, they will spice up our life," Mr Voronenkov told his colleagues as they were congratulated in parliament.

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Japan: Work earlier in summer months, says PM

  • 27 March 2015
A Japanese worker rubbing his eyes while crossing a road on the way to work
Workers in Japan often put in long hours and take little holiday time

Japanese government employees should get to work earlier in the summer to improve their work-life balance, the country's leader has said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants civil servants to avoid working overtime and spend more time at home during the longer summer days, the Kyodo news agency reports. His cabinet is launching a campaign to encourage "a change of lifestyle in summer", suggesting people get to the office between 07:30 and 08:30 local time in July and August - an hour or two earlier than normal - and that they clock-out at about 17:00 in the afternoon. Mr Abe says it will improve efficiency and allow people to spend more time with friends and family after work. Officials say it will also help men to get involved with child-rearing - something the government is keen to encourage.

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Russia: Child classics 'removed from library' - official

  • 27 March 2015
An original black and white illustration of Tom Sawyer
Tom Sawyer was a little too adventurous for one Russian education authority, according to reports

A village in Russia has removed several classic books for children from a library for allegedly being harmful to their development, a government official has said.

Vladimir Tolstoy, a member of Russia's Public Chamber, told a session of parliament that he had been sent a list of books that were "banned" by the education council in the village of Kharbatovo, in the southern Irkutsk Region, the Interfax news agency reports. Titles including Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and Thumbelina by Hans Christian Andersen were on the list, Mr Tolstoy said, adding that it was apparently done in accordance with a law aimed at protecting children from "harmful information", which came into force in September 2012. Local education officials have since denied the reports, saying no such instructions were issued and no books had been seized.

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Italy: Palermo police find cannabis farm in sewer

  • 26 March 2015
Police display the confiscated cannabis plants
A ideal microclimate had been created it the sewer with heating, lighting and a huge air conditioner

An underground cannabis farm has been found in a sewer system underneath a residential street in Palermo.

Officers in the Sicilian capital found 77 cannabis plants being grown in tunnels beneath a suburb in the north of the city, the Giornale di Sicilia website reports. The subterranean hothouse is accessed through a shed located at street level, but police say they had to wind their way through a series of narrow tunnels before finding the plants. They also discovered a heating system designed to create an ideal microclimate, lights for each plant and a huge air conditioner, the report says. The area where the farm was found - known as Zen - is an economically deprived part of Palermo. A married couple who live on the street have been charged in connection with the find.

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