Costa Rica: President adds a piglet to the palace

  • 29 June 2015
President Solis holding the piglet while standing next to the young girl who handed it to him
Costa Rica's pig farmers are unhappy about cheap imported meat and want government support for domestic producers

Costa Rica's president has welcomed an unusual new addition to his household - a two-week-old piglet named Daniela.

A young girl handed the piglet to President Luis Guillermo Solis during a rally by farmers outside the presidential palace in San Jose, and the president says he plans to keep it, the Efe news agency reports. Daniela can rest easy now that she's a presidential piglet - Mr Solis says she won't end up on the dinner table, but instead will be "the first pet of the republic". He likened the piglet to US President Barack Obama's pets, and the turkey that is traditionally pardoned at the White House each year. "If Obama has dogs and a turkey, then I will have a pig," he joked.

The squealing piglet was given to the president so that he understands what it takes to raise a healthy animal, farmer Arnoldo Zuniga tells the Amelia Rueda news website. Costa Rica's pig farmers say that their industry is in crisis over the import of cheap foreign meat, which they say does not meet hygiene standards. Hundreds of agricultural workers gathered outside the palace last week to call for the renegotiation of trade agreements to better protect domestic producers.

As for Daniela, she's a bit too young to settle into the presidential palace just yet. The piglet has been returned home to the central province of Cartago for the time being, so she can continue to be suckled by her mother.

Next story: Villagers use toy cartoon cat in rain ritual

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Thailand: Japan's Doraemon cartoon cat in rain ritual

  • 29 June 2015
Villagers with the wooden cage with the toy inside
The Doraemon toy took the place of a real cat inside the wooden cage

Villagers in drought-affected northern Thailand have used a toy of a popular cartoon cat to perform a rain ritual - in case anyone complained about them using a real animal, it's reported.

Ordinarily, a live cat would be used as part of the ritual to pray for rain, but locals were worried about being accused of animal cruelty, the Thai Rath website reports. Instead, they turned to the Japanese manga character Doraemon - a time-travelling robotic cat - which was duly loaded into a wooden cage and carried around the village in Phrae province. Farmers in the area grow corn, but a lack of rain means many are struggling to irrigate their crops.

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Turkey: Town sees nine sinkholes in three months

  • 26 June 2015
Local men looking into a sinkhole
One expert says recent heavy rain has made the area's sinkhole problem even worse

A town in central Turkey has seen nine sinkholes appear in just three months, it's reported.

Some of the holes which have emerged around Karapinar, in the province of Konya, are about 70m (230ft) deep, the Daily Sabah website reports. Many are on or near agricultural land, causing particular disquiet among farmers. But residents are worried that future sinkholes could swallow up homes. It's thought they're being caused by limestone dissolving underground, the Radikal website says.

Read full article Turkey: Town sees nine sinkholes in three months

Malaysia: 'Modesty trousers' for childbirth on sale

  • 26 June 2015
The trousers on mannequins
The trousers keep women covered from their waists to their ankles while in labour

A company in Malaysia has created full-length trousers for women to wear when they are in labour.

The trousers are aimed at Muslim women who are concerned about exposing parts of the body which are meant to be kept covered according to some interpretations of Islam, known as "aurat", the Malay Mail website reports.

Read full article Malaysia: 'Modesty trousers' for childbirth on sale

Germany: TV show films 'German only' bus experiment

  • 25 June 2015
A shot from the hidden camera of the bus conductor asking two women to move
The bus passengers didn't know that the conductor and the people asked to move were actors

Signs saying "reserved for Germans" have been put up in a German bus as part of a televised experiment to test people's response to apparent discrimination.

The provocative stunt in the northern city of Essen involved actors - some black, some in headscarves - resisting requests by another actor dressed as a bus conductor for them to leave the "German area" and sit at the back of the bus, local newspaper Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung reports. Signs posted around the front of the vehicle said specific seats were reserved "for those with a valid German identity card", and one told "foreigners and asylum seekers" to use only the back rows. The scenario - apparently inspired by pre-civil rights era racial segregation in the southern United States - was filmed using hidden cameras for the local TV channel WDR, with the bus company's permission.

Read full article Germany: TV show films 'German only' bus experiment

Italy: Grandfather completes middle school aged 91

  • 25 June 2015
Nicola Torello alongside schoolchildren
Nicola Torello (centre) says he likes to keep busy, and still goes swimming twice a week

An Italian grandfather has finally finished middle school at the age of 91, it's reported.

Nicola Torello went to school every day from 17:00 to prepare for his final exams, the Chieti Today website reports. And his hard work has now paid off: the elderly student received full marks in his maths exam and English speaking test, as well as for an essay on Alessandro Manzoni, one of Italy's most famous writers. Mr Torello spent his life working as a tailor, but drew on a range of experiences for his school work - one essay recounted his time as a 19-year-old soldier serving in Greece during World War Two.

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Ukraine: Kiev poster campaign seeks better metro manners

  • 24 June 2015
The poster showing a woman standing while three men sit, either asleep or avoiding her gaze
The artists say they want men to be more considerate on public transport

An art group in Kiev is campaigning for better manners on public transport through a series of posters which they're sharing on social media.

The group's main focus seems to be persuading men to give up their seats to women, using posters which parody the sort of notices seen in metro carriages, the Nash Kiev news website reports. One poster shows a group of hip young men studiously avoiding the eye of a bag-laden woman. Another shows the reverse - three women gazing adoringly at a man who stands while they sit comfortably. "Let us all revive the little traditions that we somehow lost on the road to civilisation," the artists say in a statement.

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Canada: Albertans told not to release 'invasive' goldfish

  • 24 June 2015
Four goldfish from a pond in Alberta on a measuring ruler - the largest is 25cm (10in) long
Goldfish seem to be thriving in Alberta's storm ponds, but the government wants them gone

Officials in western Canada are urging people not to release their pet goldfish into the wild because they're surviving and multiplying at an alarming rate.

Environmental officers in the province of Alberta say they've found goldfish the size of dinner plates in the region's storm ponds. Forty of the fish were pulled from a single pond in the north of the province earlier this year, the CBC News website reports. "That's really scary because it means they're reproducing in the wild, they are getting quite large and they are surviving the winters that far north," says Kate Wilson from Alberta's environment department.

Read full article Canada: Albertans told not to release 'invasive' goldfish

Russia: Omsk bus drivers to obey road rules 'in protest'

  • 23 June 2015
A bus in traffic in Omsk
Some Omsk residents hope the unusual protests will help to sort out some of the city's traffic problems

Minibus drivers in a Russian city have said they'll start observing traffic rules in protest against a recent fare reduction, it's reported.

Drivers in the Siberian city of Omsk are unhappy about a cut in the bus fare from 22 roubles ($0.40; 26p) down to 18, and as a result have decided to stop bending the rules for the convenience of passengers, the Lenta news website reports. Russian minibus drivers are notorious for their unwillingness to observe traffic laws, often letting passengers off wherever they like, rather than at recognised bus stops. The local Omskinform news agency says that a sign has appeared inside the minibuses stating: "Since the passenger fares are 18 roubles again, passengers will be put down ONLY at official bus stops." The fare cut was ordered by a local court, which said a previous increase had been unjustified.

Read full article Russia: Omsk bus drivers to obey road rules 'in protest'

Russia: Homeless Moscow video blogger finds fame

  • 23 June 2015
Yevgeny Yakut talking to the camera in one of his videos
Yevgeny Yakut is hoping his videos will attract advertisers - and their roubles

A homeless man is fast becoming an internet sensation with his video blog of life on the streets of Moscow, it's reported.

Yevgeny Yakut moved to the Russian capital in search of a better life, but soon found himself one of the many homeless people in a city known for its housing shortage and high cost of living. But he thinks he's found a way out. "I was warming myself in a railway station, when I saw a television report on bloggers making money through advertising," he tells the TV channel Moscow 360. A young passer-by got chatting to him about the idea, and agreed to be Mr Yakut's cameraman, using a smartphone to record his friend's wittily stoic accounts of the daily struggle to "find food, a place to sleep, and keep out of the way of the police".

Read full article Russia: Homeless Moscow video blogger finds fame