Russia: Rubber bullets handed out to ward off bears

  • 28 August 2015
Angry-looking polar bear
Image caption Polar bears are a common threat to residents of Russia's Arctic regions

Residents of a remote region is Siberia are to get rubber bullets to help them ward off polar bears.

The governor of Yamalo-Nenets district said the bullets would be handed out in Arctic coastal areas, which are particularly affected by the polar bear menace. Similar measures were taken last year with help from the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), Igor Koshin said, but the persisting threat from them shows that more needs to be done.

Not all of the bear aggression is unprovoked, the governor went on. "Unfortunately, people sometimes forget that they live on the Arctic coast, not in a megalopolis," he said, according to a report by the Nenets Information Agency.

Polar bears are a common threat in the area. Residents of Amderma, a village of 350 people, have been trying to ward off one particularly obnoxious polar bear for more than a month now, but the animal keeps coming back.

Also in Yamalo-Nenets region, staff at a remote weather station say they feel "besieged" by five aggressive polar bears. "They even sleep outside our building, and they fought among themselves recently," one employee said.

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Vietnam: Family seeks royalties for national anthem

  • 28 August 2015
Vietnamese people singing the national anthem
Image caption The government says the anthem was gifted to the nation, but the composer's son denies this

The Vietnamese government is locking horns with the family of the man who wrote the country's national anthem, in a dispute over royalties.

The Culture Ministry has told a music copyright agency to stop collecting royalties on "Tien quan ca" ("The Marching Song"), which has been the country's anthem since 1976, and of North Vietnam before that. The family of composer Nguyen Van Cao, who died in 1995, registered the song with the Vietnam Centre for Protection of Music Copyright last week, and are demanding royalties for all public performances except in schools and "important state ceremonies", Thanh Nien newspaper reports.

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Switzerland: Special trains for Chinese tourists

  • 28 August 2015
Swiss trains
Image caption Special trains have been laid on to avoid disturbing people who want peace and quiet

A mountain resort in Switzerland is launching special train services for Chinese tourists to defuse tensions with other visitors, it is reported.

Noisy throngs of Chinese tourists disturb those who visit Mount Rigi in the Alps in search of peace and relaxation, reports the Swiss newspaper Blick.

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Spain: 'Hermit wanted' at cliff-top sanctuary

  • 27 August 2015
A view of the sanctuary
Image caption Anyone who fancies life as a hermit will need to send in a CV and a photo - and speak Catalan

A medieval sanctuary in Spain has put out a job advert to fill a vacancy for a hermit.

Our Lady of the Rock, in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, took to Facebook to list the job's requirements. It says that the successful candidate must "leave all uncivil or immoral activity outside" and will be required to perform "all the proper duties of a hermit". These include guarding and looking after the ancient hermitage, which sits atop a rock overlooking the town of Mont-roig del Camp.

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Turkey: 'SpongeBob' castle mocked on social media

  • 27 August 2015
A photo of the castle before res
Image caption Social media users have been sharing an image of the castle before and after its restoration

The restoration of an historic castle in Turkey has raised eyebrows among social media users, who have compared its new look to the cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants.

Work has been going on to renovate Ocakli Ada castle, in the Black Sea town of Sile, for several years and was completed earlier this month, the Hurriyet Daily News reports. Its now looks brand new, with restored stonework, battlements and windows which, according to some netizens, resemble SpongeBob's face. The fortress sits on an island looking out to sea, and is thought to date to the Byzantine era. The manner of its restoration has now been questioned by the main opposition party in parliament.

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France: Feminist group 'renames' Paris streets

  • 26 August 2015
A street sign with Nina Simone's name in front of Notre Dame cathedral
Image caption The group chose the area around Notre Dame - or Our Lady - cathedral because "it's already quite feminine"

A feminist group has replaced street signs around central Paris to highlight how few of the city's public spaces are currently named after women.

Activists from Osez le feminisme focused their efforts on the area around Notre Dame cathedral on Tuesday evening, covering up the existing signs and giving them new female names, Le Figaro reports. The group says streets are named to reflect the history of a city, and women should be as well-recognised as men. "Only 2.6% of the roads in Paris are named after women," says the group's spokeswoman Marie Allibert.

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China: Prisoner amnesty proposed for WW2 anniversary

  • 26 August 2015
Prisoners sitting in rows in a prison yard for an event
Image caption The amnesty would only apply to people sentenced after 1 January this year, according to the proposal

China is considering a prisoner amnesty for war veterans as part of commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

A proposal presented to lawmakers lists four categories of inmates who would be released under the plan, including veterans of the Second Sino-Japanese War and China's 1945 to 1949 civil war, the Global Times reports. Inmates aged 75 or above and anyone unable to care for themselves due to physical disabilities would also be included, as would young people who committed crimes before they turned 18 and were sentenced to no more than three years behind bars. But anyone convicted of serious crimes including murder, corruption or "endangering national security" will remain locked up, Xinhua news agency notes.

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Tajikistan: Man fined over 'illegal' birthday party

  • 25 August 2015
A birthday cake
Image caption "Somehow, the cake got plastered on his face. No-one congratulated him on his birthday."

A man in Tajikistan has been fined for breaking the country's law against celebrating birthdays in public, it's been reported.

Birthday boy Isayev Amirbek posted photos on Facebook showing his visit to a cafe with a birthday cake, which were used as evidence that he had broken Article 8 of a law entitled "On regulation of traditions and customs in the Republic of Tajikistan". The law bans the celebration of birthdays anywhere except in the privacy of the family circle, the Top TJ news website reports. The social media post - complete with messages of congratulations from friends - landed him a fine of 4,000 somoni ($634; £400).

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Poland: Drought reveals Soviet WW2 plane in lake

  • 25 August 2015
Men working at the site of the wreck
Image caption Museum director Zdzislaw Leszczynski thinks the plane could be a Soviet IL-2 but says further analysis is needed to determine the exact model

The wreck of a Soviet World War Two plane has been found in a lake in Poland, with the remains of the crew still inside.

Falling water levels revealed the aircraft wedged in the mud in an oxbow lake in Kamion, about 70km (40 miles) west of Warsaw, the RMF radio website reports. The remains of the two crew members have already been removed from the site, and several parts of the plane itself have been recovered, the report says. "For now we have managed to find the instrument panel, the engine, a wheel and a well-preserved radio set," says Zdzislaw Leszczynski, director of the Vistula River Museum in nearby Wyszogrod. "The plane was so battered that it's impossible to determine which model it is for the time being," he says.

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Egypt: Calls for meat boycott over price rises

  • 24 August 2015
Egyptian women queue up to buy meat at a market stall
Image caption Egyptians have seen the cost of meat rise steeply in the past month

Egyptians have started a social media campaign calling on people to stop buying meat in protest against rising prices, it's reported.

They are hoping that a boycott will force traders to lower their prices, after beef reached 100 Egyptian pounds ($13; £8) per kilo in parts of the country, the al-Masry al-Youm website reports. On its Sunday front page, the paper described the campaign as "spreading widely", noting that posters supporting the boycott have appeared across the eastern Suez region, and local campaigns have also been seen in other parts of the country.

Read full article Egypt: Calls for meat boycott over price rises