Estonian police teddy bears will comfort children

  • 30 March 2017
Estonian police with teddy bears to comfort children Image copyright
Image caption Estonian police will use teddy bears to comfort upset children

Police cars in Estonia will soon be equipped with teddy bears to help comfort children at the scene of incidents, if a crowdfunding plan comes together.

A group of students were "stunned" to discover that children are involved in more than a thousand accidents a year at school, in the home, in playgrounds, or on the roads, and are often left "injured, in a state of shock, or just in need of comfort," the Jarva Teataja newspaper reports. So they set up the Traumamommik (trauma teddy) charity, which aims to put two teddies in each Estonian police car and border patrol vehicle by 1 June - which is marked as Children's Rights Day in many formerly Soviet-run states.

The police and border guards have readily agreed to the scheme - Paide town police chief Margus Toomsalu told Jarva Teataja that "incidents of domestic violence often mean that children need comforting". Traumamommik has set up the Kallikaru (teddy bear) site and an account on the Hooandja crowdfunding platform for anyone who wants to help. They need to raise 7,000 euros (£6,077/$7,550) by 28 April, and have already received more than 1,000, as well as the support of several companies.

Traumammomik considered using second-hand bears, but decided it would be better to opt for new ones for health and safety reasons, the paper says. The money will go to buy, clean, transport and store the bears, which the children are free to take home with them or swap for another at their local police station.

Image copyright
Image caption Plushies on patrol

Next story: French pensioners launch chips mutiny

Read full article Estonian police teddy bears will comfort children

French pensioners demand end to chip drought

  • 30 March 2017
Twice fried chips Image copyright YouTube

Pensioners living in a retirement home in France are so annoyed at not being served chips with their meals that they have complained to the mayor.

The residents of the Hubiliac home in Saint-Marcel, a town in the east-central Burgundy region, have missed their favourite side order because the fryer in the kitchen has been out of order since early 2015. With no end to the chip drought in sight, the pensioners have formally appealed to the management and the local council, which is responsible for maintenance of the care home, the local Journal de Saone-et-Loire newspaper reports.

Read full article French pensioners demand end to chip drought

Siberian police demolish truants' home-made pub

  • 29 March 2017
Unlicensed bar in Omsk Region, Russia Image copyright
Image caption The secret pub was built on waste land out in the country

Russian police in the Omsk region of Siberia have come across an improvised bar that some teenagers built to escape the cares of the school day.

They crafted a five-metre-square (54 sq ft) den in an out-of-the-way corner of rural Znamensky District, using materials they'd scavenged, Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports. "They installed a stove and wallpapered the walls," it reports with some admiration for the truants' "spirit of initiative".

Read full article Siberian police demolish truants' home-made pub

Iceland's pagans enjoy dramatic rise

  • 28 March 2017
Asatru procession, 2009 Image copyright Wikimedia/LenkaKovarova
Image caption An Asatru procession near Reykjavik

Iceland has seen a dramatic increase in the followers of its indigenous pagan movement in recent years, making Odin worshippers the country's fastest-growing religion.

National Statistics Bureau figures show that followers of the Asatru Association still lag far behind the established Lutheran Church, which accounts for 237,938 or almost 70% of the population and has remained stable for decades. But the total of Icelanders who revere Odin, Thor and the Goddess Freyja has leapt 50% since 2014 to 3,583, with more than twice as many male as female faithful, Morgunbladid newspaper reports.

Read full article Iceland's pagans enjoy dramatic rise

Iranian centenarian stands in local elections

  • 28 March 2017
Iranian election hopeful Feizollah Fathi says he is 107 years old Image copyright

A man surprised election officials in northwestern Iran when he turned up to register as a local council candidate and announced that he is 107 years old.

Feizollah Fathi told the Divandarreh County election board that he wants to run for the three-member council in his home village of Panjeh Sofla in order to "serve the people and highlight their problems", the Khabarone news site reports. This zeal for change extends to his 73-year-old wife Jahan Abdollahi, who has decided to run for office too.

Read full article Iranian centenarian stands in local elections

Turkmen Asian Games mascot gets makeover

  • 27 March 2017
Official mascot for Turkmen Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games Image copyright Government of Turkmenistan
Image caption The new Wepaly, complete with Akhal-Teke horse logo

Turkmenistan's mascot for this year's Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games is a traditional Central Asian Shepherd Dog called Wepaly, but autocratic President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has decided that the look isn't traditional enough and ordered a last-minute makeover.

He told a cabinet meeting that athletes visiting the country for the Games in September must have "every opportunity to get to know our splendid culture and venerable traditions, including such totems as the Akhal-Teke horse and the Alabai, " as the dog breed is known in Turkmenistan. "The symbols of the Games must therefore reflect our rich spiritual and material culture", the president added, ordering the Academy of Arts to give Wepaly a new look, the official TDH news agency reported.

Read full article Turkmen Asian Games mascot gets makeover

New Zealand minister challenged to fight over dirty water

  • 24 March 2017
Dr Nick Smith Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith announced a new water quality policy last month

New Zealand's environment minister has been challenged to a fist fight by a conservationist over the government's "swimmable rivers" policy.

Conservation trust manager Greg Byrnes posted an advert in the local paper calling on Dr Nick Smith to meet him for a boxing match at a swimming hole, the New Zealand Herald reports. Mr Byrnes says the spot is badly polluted, but still classed as suitable to swimming.

Read full article New Zealand minister challenged to fight over dirty water

Swedish hotel chain offers 'divorce refunds'

  • 24 March 2017
A Swedish couple on deck chairs overlooking the sea in Sweden Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption If the mini-break doesn't do the trick, divorcing couples can reclaim the cost

A Swedish hotel chain is offering a refund to couples who get divorced within a year of staying at one of its places.

The Countryside Hotels group initiative is actually meant to encourage spouses to spend time together and work on their relationship, the Swedish NWT news website reports. It's offering a "relationship guarantee" on mini-breaks at its hotels, so if things subsequently don't work out and the marriage ends within a year, then the chain says it will reimburse the cost of a two-night stay.

Read full article Swedish hotel chain offers 'divorce refunds'

Concern over tourists taking crystals from Iceland mine

  • 23 March 2017
A close up of large crystals in the mine Image copyright RUV
Image caption The mine was in operation from the 17th Century until the 1920s

A historic mine in Iceland may have to be closed to the public because visitors keep pinching its crystals, environmental officials have warned.

The Helgustadanama mine is famous for Icelandic spar, a type of transparent calcite which was historically used in scientific equipment. Tourist guides note that the area is protected and removing any spar is forbidden, but that message doesn't seem to be getting through to everyone.

Read full article Concern over tourists taking crystals from Iceland mine

Tonga gives away thousands of chicks in anti-fat drive

  • 22 March 2017
Cans of imported corned beef and other processed meat on a supermarket shelf in Tonga Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Tongans have developed a taste for imported meat over the traditional healthy diet of fish and vegetables

The authorities in Tonga are delivering thousands of free chicks and ducklings to communities across the country to encourage people to cut down on fatty imported meat.

The Pacific nation is trying to combat its well-documented obesity problem, blamed largely on the population's unhealthy dietary choices. At least 10,000 baby ducks and chickens have been sent to villages across the archipelago and a discount on animal feed is also being offered, the agriculture ministry says.

Read full article Tonga gives away thousands of chicks in anti-fat drive