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 Now there's political pressure for those exclusive hunting right to be withdrawn, and for the land to be available to anyone who wants to use it, which would also help raise money for the treasury.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.

The list of royal hunting grounds hasn't changed since 1947, and the rights were first enshrined in law way back in 1849. In recent years the family has used only about a third of the nearly 64,000 hectares (247 sq miles) of land reserved for them, according to a DR investigation. Environment officials say recent signals from the royal household suggest they could now be open to a negotiation over public use of the land.

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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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Bulgaria: Plovdiv adopts 'qualified buskers only' rule

  • 26 March 2015
A street in central Plovdiv
Plovdiv has brought in new busking rules ahead of becoming a European Capital of Culture

Anyone wanting to busk in the centre of Bulgaria's second city will now have to prove they're qualified.

Musicians in Plovdiv, in central Bulgaria, will only be allowed to play on the city's main thoroughfare if they've got a music education diploma, the national public broadcaster BNT reports. The city has been chosen as a European Capital of Culture for 2019. The council says it's following the lead of several other cities, including Madrid, which introduced an audition process for street musicians in 2013. The Spanish capital requires performers to face a panel of judges before they are granted a license, but does not demand an official qualification.

Read full article Bulgaria: Plovdiv adopts 'qualified buskers only' rule

Russia: Toy shop releases KGB-themed adverts

  • 25 March 2015
A still from the advert showing the children questioning their parents
The boy tells viewers: "Good parents take their children to Lubyanka"

A Russian toy shop has launched an advertising campaign which seems to be based on a KGB interrogation.

The Central Children's Shop is located on Lubyanka Square, the same place as the former Soviet secret police headquarters and prison - commonly referred to simply as Lubyanka. Playing on that association, the shop's tongue-in-cheek adverts show a brother and sister questioning their parents in a darkened room. In one video the little boy paces around with a wooden hammer before telling his parents: "You have left us no choice. We'll have to up the pressure." A quick wink to his sister sets off a full-blown tantrum from the girl, prompting the father to demand a lawyer, while the mother falls to her knees saying: "I can't bear this!"

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Saudi Arabia: Genetic tests lead to 165,000 break-ups

  • 25 March 2015
A Saudi couple in Riyadh
About 60% of couples break things off after receiving their test results, according to medical officials

Thousands of couples have called off their engagements in Saudi Arabia as a result of mandatory pre-marital health checks, it's reported.

In the past year, about 165,000 couples have decided not to get married after receiving test results showing "genetic incompatibilities", the Saudi Gazette website reports. The tests are mandatory for couples who are planning to tie the knot, and screen for a number of diseases, including sickle-cell anaemia and HIV. Dr Mohammad al-Saidi, from the health ministry, says the aim is to reduce the risk of parents passing on illnesses or genetic disorders to their children.

Read full article Saudi Arabia: Genetic tests lead to 165,000 break-ups

South Korea: Kingsman movie 'boosts dapper suit sales'

  • 24 March 2015
A still of actors Colin Firth and Taron Egerton in the film Kingsmen
In the film, Colin Firth's tailored suit has the added advantage of being bullet-proof

British actor Colin Firth has been credited with boosting the sale of formal menswear in South Korea.

The actor's dapper appearance in the recent spy spoof Kingsman: The Secret Service has gone down so well with cinema-going Koreans that they're keen to emulate it, the Chosun Ilbo website reports. Mr Firth is kitted out in double-breasted suits in the film, and his spy ring operates from a shop on London's Savile Row - renowned as the home of bespoke British tailoring. The AK Plaza department store group saw sales of double-breasted suits rocket by 64% in February - when the film hit screens in South Korea - compared to the same period in 2014. And it's a similar story among online retailers, the website reports. One online shop says all men's suit sales are up, but the biggest increase was seen in "formal dressy attire", which rose by 38% on the same period last year.

Read full article South Korea: Kingsman movie 'boosts dapper suit sales'