Dusseldorf residents told to pay for Nazi-era road

  • 29 July 2016
A street sign saying: Auf'm Rott Image copyright Die Welt
Image caption People living on Auf'm Rott in southern Dusseldorf were not expecting to be billed for work done in 1937

Homeowners on a street in Germany have been told they must foot the bill for their road's construction - even though it's been there for nearly 80 years.

Residents on Auf'm Rott, in suburban Dusseldorf, went to court after city authorities told them pay an average of 10,000 euros ($11,000; £8,400) per household for what looked like a long-established road, Die Welt reports.

The bills included a conversion from the Nazi-era Reichsmark currency into euros for the original road surface, first laid in 1937, which is being dubbed "Hitler asphalt" by the German media. The figures were also adjusted for inflation.

While homeowners were perplexed, a court has now confirmed that they must cough up the cash. It determined that while construction began in the 1930s, the road was only officially completed in 2009 when pavements were added. For the intervening period it was considered to be under development.

In Germany, residents have to pay a "development contribution" to the local authority for things like new roads, cycle paths and street lighting.

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Booze ban for China region's civil servants

  • 28 July 2016
A waitress pours a bottle of wine at a banquet Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Drying out: Official functions will be mostly alcohol free in Anhui province in future

A province in eastern China has become the latest to crack down on civil servants' boozy working lunches by banning them from touching alcohol during official duties.

Business meetings conducted over a meal can often be alcohol-heavy in China, but in Anhui province they'll be sober affairs in future, the People's Daily website reports. Drinking is now banned during the workday and at all official activities, be it conferences or deal-making dinners. It's being described in Chinese media as the "most stringent ever" implemented in the province. The only exceptions will be for events relating to foreign affairs, or those aimed at attracting investment.

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Russians to vote on covering up Michelangelo's David

  • 28 July 2016
A local TV station shows a copy of Michelangelo's David erected in St Petersburg. Image copyright Sankt Peterburg TV
Image caption The statue has been erected in front of a Lutheran church

A copy of Michelangelo's David recently put on show in central St Petersburg may be dressed up because a resident objected to its nakedness.

Organisers of a sculpture exhibition in the city say they'll ask residents to decide whether to cover up the 5m (16ft) plastic statue, after a local woman complained to the children's rights ombudsman that it was an eyesore and a bad influence on pupils at a nearby school, the Lenta website reports. "How could you put this bloke without any trousers on in the centre of St Petersburg, next to a school and a church?" the ombudsman's website quotes the letter as saying. "This giant spoils the city's historic appearance and warps children's souls."

Read full article Russians to vote on covering up Michelangelo's David

New app connects Russian Orthodox Church to believers

  • 27 July 2016
An Orthodox priest checks his mobile phone during a march in Red Square Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption The new app is the Orthodox Church's latest foray into technology

The Russian Orthodox Church is to launch a new messaging app in order to help priests to keep in touch with believers.

It's being made by the same designers behind the Church's dedicated social network, Elitsy, which was launched in 2014. The app, which is currently in development, will "satisfy the needs of the faithful for interaction and continuous contact between parishioners and the Church", according to Elitsy's press service, cited by Tass news agency. It adds that the app has the blessing of the Church's leader, Patriarch Kirill.

Read full article New app connects Russian Orthodox Church to believers

Italy broadband plan for Unesco World Heritage Sites

  • 27 July 2016
Tourists looking at the ruins of the forum at Pompeii. Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ancient history, modern technology: Pompeii is among the sites due to get wi-fi access

Italy has announced plans to provide high-speed internet access at tourist attractions across the country, including all 51 of its Unesco World Heritage Sites.

Major seaside resorts, historic cities and entry points such as airports and stations will join the Unesco sites as the first to be connected under a trial scheme in early 2017, La Repubblica reports. The government ultimately wants to create a nationwide wi-fi network, which users can access via a single personal login. The paper notes that it will allow data to be collected on where tourists are spending their time.

Read full article Italy broadband plan for Unesco World Heritage Sites

China museum cats spared eviction after online campaign

  • 26 July 2016
One of the cats with a temple building in the background Image copyright Xi'an Beilin Museum
Image caption This cat doesn't know it, but thousands of people saved it from an uncertain future

A group of stray cats facing eviction from a Chinese museum has been spared after social media users rallied to the animals' defence.

The cats hang out around the Xi'an Beilin Museum, housed in a former Confucian temple in central China. While the museum is home to a vast collection of stone monuments, its official account on microblogging site Weibo often chronicles the lives of its feline residents, with two adult cats and two kittens featuring in recent posts.

Read full article China museum cats spared eviction after online campaign

Tonga 'serious' about Winter Olympics ski squad

  • 26 July 2016
Tongan skier Kasete Naufahu Skeen Image copyright Royal Tonga Ski Federation
Image caption London-born Kasete Naufahu Skeen hopes to compete in the Giant Slalom and Super Giant Slalom in the Winter Olympics

The Pacific nation of Tonga is hoping to send a team of skiers to the 2018 Winter Olympics, and says they believe they can challenge for medals despite a lack of snow.

A team of four is already in training for the 2018 Games in South Korea, after the country was admitted to the International Ski Federation (FIS) last month, Radio New Zealand reports. With the world perhaps expecting another novelty "Cool Runnings" story, officials say that's not the idea.

Read full article Tonga 'serious' about Winter Olympics ski squad

'Distracted' Austrians get road-crossing workshops

  • 25 July 2016
A woman in Vienna walking along while looking at a mobile phone Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Watch out: Walking while engrossed in a smartphone can be an accident waiting to happen

Austrians are being offered workshops focusing on how to cross the street safely in the smartphone age.

Organised by the Austrian Road Safety Board, the workshops warn people that there can be legal repercussions for pedestrians - not just drivers - in the event of a traffic collision if they were preoccupied with their phone at the time, public broadcaster ORF reports. The workshops also highlight other possible distractions, such as smoking, eating or drinking while on the move.

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New Zealand aims to become predator-free by 2050

  • 25 July 2016
A pair of possum in a tree
Image caption Possums were introduced to New Zealand in 1837 to establish a fur trade, but their days may be numbered

New Zealand has set a goal of eradicating all non-native predators within 35 years in order to protect the country's indigenous wildlife.

The clock is ticking for stoats, rats and possums, as Prime Minister John Key wants "every single part" of New Zealand to be free of the creatures by 2050, the New Zealand Herald reports. Mr Key says the animals kill 25 million native birds each year, and getting rid of them will be "the most ambitious conservation project attempted anywhere in the world".

Read full article New Zealand aims to become predator-free by 2050

North Korea's Kim Jong-un loses access to Swiss watches

  • 22 July 2016
Kim Jong-un, seen at a recent factory visit looking at imitation leather products Image copyright KCNA
Image caption Kim, seen inspecting a factory making imitation leather, will have to look elsewhere for his watches

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's liking for expensive Swiss timepieces appears to have fallen foul of UN sanctions.

The Swiss government has put an end to the export of luxury watches to North Korea, and have totalled zero for the last two months, US-backed Radio Free Asia reports. The North Korean Supreme Leader is often photographed wearing an expensive timepiece, and it's long been thought that they've reached the country despite United Nations sanctions. The UN bans the export of luxury items to North Korea due to its nuclear and ballistic missile projects. Kim and his sister Kim Yo-jong - now a senior party official - were both educated in Switzerland, and the Supreme Leader is known to be interested in some aspects of Western culture.

Read full article North Korea's Kim Jong-un loses access to Swiss watches