Moldova art exhibit illustrates $1bn banking fraud

  • 17 February 2017
People standing among the piles of fake cash in the library Image copyright Pro TV Chisinau
Image caption The installation aims to help people comprehend the scale of the fraud

An artist in Moldova has created a mock-up of $1bn (£800m) in banknotes to highlight the amount lost in the country's biggest banking scandal.

The 10 huge piles of fake $100 bills are on display at a library in the capital, Chisinau, each weighing a hefty 500kg (78.7 stone), the Pro TV news website reports.

They represent the $1bn that disappeared from three banks in 2014, equivalent to an eighth of the ex-Soviet republic's entire GDP. The money was transferred to shell companies abroad, a fraud that prompted months of anti-government protests in Europe's poorest country.

The exhibition is the work of artist Stefan Esanu who says he wanted to help people visualise how much money was stolen. "People have no idea what a billion means. It is like saying 'cosmos' but people cannot imagine what this really means," he tells the Report news website. The exhibition also includes interviews with 33 Moldovans on their impressions of the scandal.

Visitors to the library were struck by the size of the cash "mountains", each measuring 1.4m (4ft 7in) in height. "Can you imagine what a colossal sum of money has been stolen and how many things could have been done using it?" one man tells Pro TV. Another says he would like to see politicians visit the exhibition, "but they're not interested".

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Belarus sports writer eats own paper after losing bet

  • 17 February 2017
The journalist eating his newspaper soup Image copyright
Image caption Mr Fedorenkov told the assembled media that he made the promise in February 2016, and was eating an issue from that month

A sports editor in Belarus has kept a promise to eat his own newspaper after incorrectly predicting the fortunes of a local ice hockey team.

Vyacheslav Fedorenkov, who writes for the major Belarusian sports paper Pressball, had said that Dinamo Minsk wouldn't make it to the play-offs in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), an international league dominated by Russian teams. But the team proved him wrong, leaving Mr Fedorenkov to eat his words.

Read full article Belarus sports writer eats own paper after losing bet

Billion-dollar bear aids Japan quake zone

  • 16 February 2017
Kumamon Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Kumamon is a crowd-pleaser but he also has serious earning power

A chubby black bear is helping reconstruction efforts in an earthquake-affected region of Japan by earning a record amount through the sales of associated products.

Items featuring Kumamon, the red-cheeked mascot of southern Kumamoto Prefecture, pulled in 128bn yen ($1.1bn; £900m) in 2016, a 27% increase on the previous year, The Asahi Shimbun newspaper reports.

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Australian micronation 'prince' abdicates after 46 years

  • 15 February 2017
Prince Leonard in red robes and his late wife, Princess Shirley Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Prince Leonard (here with his late wife, Princess Shirley) says he wanted to step down while he could still be of help to his successor

A micronation in Western Australia has a new leader after its 91-year-old self-proclaimed "prince" stepped down due to ill-health.

Prince Leonard had presided over Hutt River Province, a private estate 500km (300 miles) north of Perth, since it announced it was seceding from Australia in 1970 in a row over wheat quotas. His position and regal robes have now passed to his son, Prince Graeme.

Read full article Australian micronation 'prince' abdicates after 46 years

Iceland police tell drivers to stop staring at sky

  • 14 February 2017
Tourists photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Want to gape at the Northern Lights? Pull over first

The Northern Lights are a spectacle many people travel to Iceland to see, but police are having to warn tourists not to try to view them while driving.

Officers in southern Iceland say that twice last week they had to pull over cars driving erratically, initially on suspicion that the drivers had been drinking. But on both occasions the entirely sober visitors were simply mesmerised by the appearance of the Aurora Borealis in the sky above them, Iceland Magazine reports. The site has dubbed it "driving under the influence of the Aurora".

Read full article Iceland police tell drivers to stop staring at sky

Rome theatre uses 'suspended coffee' tradition for tickets

  • 14 February 2017
A view of the theatre from the outside Image copyright Google Maps
Image caption The initiative at Teatro delle Muse is called "Theatre and Coffee... on hold for you"

A theatre in Rome has taken the tradition of "suspended coffees" - where a person buys an extra drink for someone less well-off - and applied it to tickets.

The initiative will run for just over two weeks at the Teatro delle Muse, where people buying tickets for a variety show will be able to purchase an extra seat at a reduced price to leave at the box office for someone else, Il Messaggero reports. The aim is to use a small charitable gesture to make the theatre accessible to everyone. The comedy show, called You Are Not Neapolitans, starts on 16 February and the donated tickets will be offered for its entire run.

Read full article Rome theatre uses 'suspended coffee' tradition for tickets

South Korean police in terrorism poster gaffe

  • 13 February 2017
South Korean veterans hold a framed portrait Ahn Jung-Geun during a rally marking the 100th anniversary of his death Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption South Korea marked 100 years since Ahn's execution with rallies in 2010 - his distinctive hand shape can be seen here in the framed portrait

A police force in South Korea has faced criticism after using the iconic handprint of a Korean independence fighter on posters warning about terrorism, it's reported.

The posters were put up in a shopping centre in the Bupyeong district of Incheon, a city just west of Seoul. They feature two hands with the words "Stop! Terrorism" underneath, followed by a plea for people to remain vigilant, the Korea Times reports. But the handprint used is that of Ahn Jung-geun, a Korean nationalist who in 1909 assassinated prominent Japanese statesman Hirobumi Ito, the former resident governor of Japanese-run Korea.

Read full article South Korean police in terrorism poster gaffe

Uzbek film blocked over lack of Morgan Freeman

  • 10 February 2017
Morgan Freeman giving a thumbs-up to the camera Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Morgan Freeman - not coming to Uzbek cinemas any time soon

The release of an Uzbek action movie has been blocked for using images of US actor Morgan Freeman in its advertising, even though he doesn't appear in the film.

The movie, called Daydi (Rogue), was due to be shown in cinemas this week until Uzbekistan's film licensing body stepped in. It says that while Freeman features prominently on posters for the film and fleetingly in the trailer, he's nowhere to be found in the full-length feature submitted for licensing approval. It accuses production studio Timur Film of breaching consumers' rights by trying to whip up demand for tickets with promises of a big movie star. Timur Film hasn't yet commented.

Read full article Uzbek film blocked over lack of Morgan Freeman

Japan city tackles language barrier with quirky signs

  • 9 February 2017
Three of the signs showing different levels of spicy food - each has a man with different sized flames coming out of his mouth Image copyright Morioka Regional Development Bureau
Image caption It's hoped the signs will make life easier for visitors - particularly those with delicate taste buds

Officials in northern Japan are trying to reach out to foreign visitors by using comical signs to inform them about local customs and food.

The signs are in use in the city of Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, where officials hope they will make visitors who don't speak Japanese feel more welcome, The Japan Times reports.

Read full article Japan city tackles language barrier with quirky signs

Cancer charity seeks help for sunburn-prone Danes abroad

  • 8 February 2017
A screenshot from one of the videos with the presenter on the left behind a desk and the sunburnt choir on the right Image copyright Danish Cancer Society
Image caption Presenter Mikael Bertelsen relays the message in five languages - each time the choir simply sings "ow ow ow ow ow"

A Danish cancer charity is asking residents of foreign holiday destinations to look out for pale-skinned visitors who may be at risk of sunburn, and has launched a playful campaign to raise awareness.

The Danish Cancer Society is spreading its "Help a Dane" message through a multilingual series of videos parodying a government-style announcement. Each one sees TV presenter Mikael Bertelsen solemnly address the people of France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Thailand in their own languages, while flanked by a choir of sunburnt and swimsuit-clad Danes. The five countries are the top destinations for Danish tourists heading abroad.

Read full article Cancer charity seeks help for sunburn-prone Danes abroad