Artist plans mock 'Pray for Sweden' event at embassy

  • 23 February 2017
The event was to take place at the Swedish embassy in Copenhagen Image copyright Wikimedia/Leif Jorgensen
Image caption People are being invited to gather at the Swedish embassy at 17:00 local time

A mock vigil is planned in Copenhagen on Friday to show solidarity with Swedes over an event that never happened.

Many people were baffled when US President Donald Trump suggested during a rally on Saturday that a security incident had occurred in Sweden the night before - none more than Swedes themselves, as it was a fairly uneventful evening. The White House later said Mr Trump was referring to rising crime in general, but his comments were still widely mocked.

Danish artist Artpusher has organised the ironic memorial at Sweden's embassy in Copenhagen to honour the "victims" of the non-existent incident, in what he says is a protest against misinformation and fake news.

"Following the terrible attack on our sister country Sweden reported by US President Trump, the Nordic countries now stand united," the Pray For Sweden Facebook page reads, adding that the "love-filled" event has been approved by the Danish police.

Artpusher tells The Local that the vigil is not an anti-Trump protest. "This is about being able to make your own mind up and make a decision based on facts. This is bigger than Trump," he says. "I don't have money or power, but I can try and use humour and irony to make people aware of things."

Read full article Artist plans mock 'Pray for Sweden' event at embassy

Moscow to demolish 8,000 Soviet-era housing blocks

  • 22 February 2017
A women watches as excavator and workers demolish a five storey Khrushchyovka building in Moscow Image copyright EPA
Image caption Moscow has already demolished some of its Khrushchyovka buildings - this one was brought down in October

Moscow city authorities are to tear down about 8,000 blocks of flats built in the 1950s and 1960s in a major clearance programme that will involve rehousing 1.6 million people in the coming years, it's reported.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin told a council meeting on Wednesday that the decision follows a positive review of an earlier, more modest demolition of about 1,700 of the low-rise prefabricated buildings known throughout the former Soviet states as "Khrushchyovkas", Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reports.

Read full article Moscow to demolish 8,000 Soviet-era housing blocks

German council asks veggie event to serve sausages

  • 22 February 2017
A still from the news report, where the ahle wurst sausage is on a chair at the council meeting Image copyright Hessenschau
Image caption Hessenschau journalists had some fun with the story, even pulling up a chair for an ahle wurst at the council meeting

A German city council is kicking up a fuss over a vegetarian street festival because it won't be serving local meaty delicacies.

Councillors in Kassel, in the central Hesse region, want the event's organisers to ditch its veggie theme and allow stalls to sell popular regional sausages, including the cured ahle wurst, the Hessenschau website reports. The festival is being organised by environmental group UmweltHaus to mark Earth Day on 23 April.

Read full article German council asks veggie event to serve sausages

'Time-saving' toilet finder app for Japanese workers

  • 21 February 2017
The entrance to toilets in a Tokyo station Image copyright iStock/Tuayai
Image caption Pretty vacant: Locating a toilet is only half the battle - next comes the wait for a free cubicle

If you waste too much of your working day looking for an empty toilet cubicle, then a Japanese company may have come up with a solution.

According to telecom operator KDDI, Japanese employees spend far too much time waiting for a lavatory to become available, so it has developed an app which shows the nearest vacant loo, the Japan Times reports. In a move that might cause privacy concerns for some office workers, the company says that sensors on cubicle doors are linked to a central computer system, allowing real-time updates of how many cubicles are available in an office block, and - most importantly - where.

Read full article 'Time-saving' toilet finder app for Japanese workers

New Zealand garden gnome thefts 'fund meth trade'

  • 21 February 2017
Garden gnomes and ornaments Image copyright Tommy Livingston/
Image caption Just say gnome: Police say it's unclear if the homeowner had bought the ornaments or received them in exchange for meth

It's not often that garden gnomes get caught up in a drug-related crime spree, but police in New Zealand say a spate of thefts from gardens is likely to be linked to the trade in methamphetamine.

Officers in the North Island region of Hawke's Bay found more than 300 stolen outdoor ornaments at a property that was having its power cut off after running up a huge bill, the news website reports. Sgt Cam Donnison says that often a missing gnome is the result of "drunken high jinx" or youngsters pulling a prank, but that this was an organised operation.

Read full article New Zealand garden gnome thefts 'fund meth trade'

Japan police offer martial arts classes for tourists

  • 20 February 2017
File photo of two people practising kendo Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Visitors can opt to learn judo throws or the art of kendo, which involves striking the opponent with a bamboo sword

A Japanese police force is offering martial arts classes to foreign tourists in a bid to build trust and improve officers' English proficiency, it's reported.

The initiative is taking place in the city of Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, and follows a trial involving international students, The Mainichi newspaper reports. Starting in March, foreign tourists will be invited to spend an hour learning the principles of judo and kendo, a martial art practised with bamboo swords. They'll be taught by police officers who hold black belts, the website says, and it's hoped the instructors will be able to converse in English, as happened in the trial.

Read full article Japan police offer martial arts classes for tourists

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.

Read full article Moldova art exhibit illustrates $1bn banking fraud

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.

Read full article Billion-dollar bear aids Japan quake zone

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