Indonesia wants gay-themed emojis removed

  • 11 February 2016
WhatsApp emojis showing same-sex couples and families Image copyright WhatsApp
Image caption WhatsApp and other platforms are being asked to remove any LGBT-themed emojis

Indonesia wants social networking sites to remove any emojis representing same-sex couples, it's reported.

One popular messaging app, Line, has already dropped all LGBT-themed emojis, after saying it had received complaints from users. Now the Indonesian government is asking major players like Facebook and WhatsApp to follow suit and remove the icons for users within the country, the pro-government Republika newspaper reports. "No social media may show items that smack of LGBT. Because we have our own rules, like religious values and norms, which they must respect," information ministry spokesman Ismail Cawidu is quoted as saying.

Homosexuality is legal in Indonesia, but prevailing conservative attitudes in the Muslim-majority country make open discussion of sexuality controversial. Mr Cawidu did not specify what would happen if companies refused to remove the emojis.

But one human rights group says any such censorship will promote intolerance. "It brings to the public the message that LGBT is something which must be opposed, and then the public, through various organisations, will enact such opposition, says Ismail Hasani, research director at the Setara Institute. "Public opinion in our country is predominantly anti-LGBT, but it is deplorable that the government follows this opinion."

In January, Indonesia's higher education minister, Muhammad Nasir, said gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people should be barred from university campuses if they engage in "public displays of affection".

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Advice for Germans on coexisting with wolves

  • 11 February 2016
Two wolves play in the snow Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wolves are returning to Germany a century after going extinct

The German government is opening a centre to collect information and offer advice about the country's growing wolf population.

The new agency will monitor the animals' movements across Germany and consult local authorities on how to deal with dangers posed by the predator, an environment ministry statement says. It's planning to spend 425,000 euros (£333,000) over three years on the centre, located in the eastern Saxony town of Goerlitz, the NDR public broadcaster reports.

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German 'hoax map' fights migrant myths

  • 10 February 2016
A screengrab of the map Image copyright Maps
Image caption The map's creator says feedback has so far been overwhelmingly positive

A German woman is trying to debunk false rumours and stories about migrants by creating an online "hoax map".

The map pinpoints locations where supposed incidents or crimes are said to have taken place, noting the date alongside a brief summary. It then provides a link to a subsequent news report in which the claims have been investigated and found to be false. There are 187 points marked across Germany so far, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reports. While sometimes the original stories - which often go viral on social media - are the result of information being taken out of context, often they are completely made up, the website notes.

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Japanese scientists to recreate first settlers' voyage

  • 10 February 2016
Scientists in a straw boat on an earlier trip Image copyright National Museum of Nature and Science
Image caption Researchers previously tried out a straw boat in the waters off Japan in 2014

A team of scientists is planning to recreate the perilous ocean journey that brought early human settlers to Japan.

The researchers, led by the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, have launched a crowdfunding campaign to build either a primitive boat made of bundled grass or a bamboo raft of the kind believed to have been used by the first settlers, The Japan Times reports. They're hoping the make the first voyage between Yonaguni and Iriomote - two outlying islands in Japan's extreme southwest - in July this year. The Asahi Shimbun newspaper says that the team is planning to cover the 75km (46.6 mile) stretch of water in 25 hours using millennia-old technology.

Read full article Japanese scientists to recreate first settlers' voyage

Slovenian town goes ahead with beer fountain plan

  • 9 February 2016
Mayor Janko Kos speaking to the media Image copyright Savinjska TV
Image caption Mayor Janko Kos says the fountain will attract beer-loving tourists

A small Slovenian town is pressing ahead with plans to build a fountain which spouts beer instead of water, despite opposition from some councillors.

The project in Zalec, which is known for its hop plantations, is being described as the first beer fountain in Europe, and has made headlines in neighbouring Croatia and further afield in Serbia. The fountain doesn't yet have a completion date, but future visitors will find a variety of Slovenian beers on offer, and pay six euros for three 30cl (10.5 fl oz) helpings served in a commemorative mug, Slovenia's Dnevnik news website reports.

Read full article Slovenian town goes ahead with beer fountain plan

New rules for human pyramids in Japanese schools

  • 9 February 2016
Japanese children building human pyramids Image copyright Alamy
Image caption There are thousands of insurance claims each year over human pyramid-related injuries

Authorities in Japan are drawing up new guidelines for schools in an attempt to cut the number of accidents involving human pyramids.

The new regulations are intended to prevent serious injuries - and the subsequent insurance payouts - resulting from what's known as kumitaiso, the building of human pyramids in gymnastic displays, the Kyodo news agency reports. Education Minister Hiroshi Hase told reporters that new rules on the activity, which is a popular feature of school sports days, would be in place by the end of March. Mr Hase, a former professional wrestler, said: "It involves the lives of children, and some of the casualties reported have led to serious injuries."

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Health and safety catches up with German public fridges

  • 8 February 2016
One of the public fridges in Berlin Image copyright AFP
Image caption Organisers fear that the public fridges supplying food to the needy may have to be withdrawn

Advocates of public food-sharing fridges are up in arms in Berlin at new health and safety rules that look likely to end the practice.

The city's food safety authorities say the fridges, in which people can leave leftover food for the needy, pose a health risk and have imposed tighter hygiene guidelines in which the fridges are classed as food businesses, regional broadcaster RBB reports. Apparently, food inspectors had reported "unhygienic conditions" in some of the fridges, including non-packaged bread and torn packaging. Organisers now fear Berlin's 25 public fridges will have to close, with one in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg district already shutting shop, according to RBB.

Read full article Health and safety catches up with German public fridges

Anger as Israel company 'prices staff by ethnicity'

  • 8 February 2016
Woman cleaning Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The unnamed company claims European cleaners are "harder working"

A flyer for a cleaning company in Tel Aviv has sparked anger and soul-searching after pricing its staff on the basis of their ethnicity, it seems.

Israeli journalist and political blogger Tal Schneider posted a photograph of the leaflet to her Facebook account with the statement "Blatant racism permeates Israel, pricing workers by race", The Times of Israel reports. The leaflet appears to show different pricing levels based on the ethnic origin of cleaners, with an African cleaner rated at 49 shekels ($12.60; £8.70); while an East European cleaner is priced at 52 shekels without Israeli citizenship and 69 shekels ($17.75; £12.25) with full documentation.

Read full article Anger as Israel company 'prices staff by ethnicity'

Swiss city bans 'noisy' silent discos

  • 5 February 2016
File image of a silent disco reveller Image copyright AFP
Image caption City authorities say that silent discos are not necessarily silent

The Swiss city of Lausanne has banned outdoor silent discos, saying that they are too noisy.

Event organisers had hoped to hold two silent discos - where music is relayed to headphones worn by participants rather than be played on loudspeakers - on rooftop terraces in the Flon area of the city, The Local news website reports. However, after taking on board complaints from residents following earlier silent discos, Lausanne's business regulation department turned down the application for the parties which would have let revellers dance in silence until 5 o'clock in the morning.

Read full article Swiss city bans 'noisy' silent discos

Siberians donate valuables for DiCaprio 'Oscar' statue

  • 5 February 2016
A sculptor works on the planned award for Leonardo DiCaprio Image copyright
Image caption The award will be cast in gold and silver and be at least 30cm tall

Russian fans of the actor Leonardo DiCaprio are casting a statuette in gold and silver to show their love for the film star.

No matter the result of the Academy Awards on 28 February - where DiCaprio is nominated for Best Actor for his role in The Revenant - he will be assured at least one award thanks to his fans in eastern Siberia, state-run TASS news agency reports. Around 100 locals in Yakutsk have donated gold and silver, which will be melted down and cast into a statuette of a man holding a choron, a traditional Yakut three-legged goblet. According to TASS, the goblet will be in gold, while the figure will be silver, "a metal sacred to the people of Yakutia with powers to purify and protect its owner."

Read full article Siberians donate valuables for DiCaprio 'Oscar' statue