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.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation said that eight people were being questioned over the raid after restaurant customers wrote down the number plate of a taxi being used as an escape vehicle by the fleeing suspects. After being struck on the head and injured by a full wine bottle, Groenewald said he hoped the restaurant owner would allow him to keep it as a memento. Released from hospital with 13 stitches in a head wound, he told Radio Australia that he was already back at work.

Despite being praised in the local press as one of the "Heroes of the Night", he said he only reacted to the invasion because he is a trained police officer, and urged Fijians not to do the same for their own safety. Instead he challenged the public to come forward about similar incidents, because, in his own words, Suva has become "pestered" by armed robberies over the last six months. The most up-to-date government statistics show a steady rise in crime between 2009 and 2012, with theft increasing three-fold during that period.

Next story: NZ government pledges millions to save the kiwi

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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.

Read full article Russia: Food shop tries to trick Moscow police

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.

Read full article China: Restaurant offers jobs to learning disabled

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.

Read full article Russia: Muscovites scramble to protect parking spaces

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 DR.dk 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

Read full article Denmark: Copenhagen auctions 7,000 retro street lamps

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.

Read full article Lebanon: Jokes over Hezbollah leader's lemonade advice

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 Kun.uz 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.

Read full article Uzbekistan: Burning buses cause anger in Tashkent

Switzerland: Rail company deploys 'lawnmower sheep'

  • 18 May 2015
The sheep grazing as a train passes by
The Skudde sheep were at risk of extinction in the 1970s and are now a protected breed

When train passengers in Switzerland look out of the window this spring they may spot the state railway company's newest recruits - a flock of Skudde sheep.

The animals are acting as four-legged lawnmowers for Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), helping to keep the grass along its tracks tidy, The Local website reports. They're particularly handy on steep embankments, which mechanical lawnmowers find harder to reach. Switzerland's famous railway system covers more than 3,000km (1,864 miles) of track, with many routes crossing mountainous terrain. The sheep are kept safe while they graze thanks to netting and electrified rope fencing, SBB says on its website. Anyone wanting to follow their progress can do so via an online map, which is updated with the flock's most recent location.

Read full article Switzerland: Rail company deploys 'lawnmower sheep'

New Zealand: School defends using 'intolerant' pamphlet

  • 18 May 2015
A view of the school from the car park
The school says it is inclusive and the material does not reflect its own views

A secondary school in New Zealand has defended using a conservative Christian sex education pamphlet during a health class.

The pamphlet, titled Safe Sex, describes women who have pre-marital sex as "cheap prostitutes" and says unwed couples who live together are "habitual and irresponsible fornicators", the 3 News website reports. Published by the US-based Bible Baptist Publications, the material also claims "death and hell" await anyone having gay sex. It was handed out to 15-year-olds during a health studies class at Papanui High School in Christchurch. A mother who complained about the pamphlet says there wasn't enough context provided in the lesson, something the school has apparently put down to a substitute teacher taking the class.

Read full article New Zealand: School defends using 'intolerant' pamphlet