France: Farmers kidnap park chiefs over wolf attacks

  • 2 September 2015
European grey wolves Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Farmers are demanding that wolves are culled to protect their livestock

Angry farmers in the French Alps held the bosses of a national park hostage overnight in an act of "bossnapping", demanding that more is done to protect their livestock from wolf attacks.

Guy Chaumereuil, president of the Vanoise National Park, was apprehended along with director Emmanuel Michau following a public meeting over the park's new charter, The Local news website reports. At least 50 farmers were involved in the non-violent action, which comes after some 130 wolf attacks against livestock so far this year led to anger that measures aren't being taken to prevent the slaughter.

Regional newspaper Le Dauphine Libere ran a live blog on the incident, in which local politicians voiced their sympathy for the farmers while urging them to end the stand-off. National Assembly member Philippe Meunier said that government measures to end the attacks have been "insufficient", and that "the state must authorise wolf hunting under controlled management as it already does for the regulation of the big game". After hearing demands that five wolves be culled by the end of the year, a released Mr Chaumereuil told Le Dauphine that he "understood the dismay" of his captors.

The act of "bossnapping" is not a uniquely French phenomenon, but rose to prominence in the country after a spate of incidents several years ago. While there's debate about the ethics behind the practice, a Bloomberg analysis says that it is an effective tactic in labour disputes, because workers have escaped prosecution and won substantial concessions from employers.

Image copyright RTL
Image caption Mr Chaumereuil told reporters that the farmers' action was "a problem for democracy"

Next story: Silent columnists protest media restrictions in Turkey

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Turkey: 'Silent' columnists protest media restrictions

  • 2 September 2015
The front page of Sozcu daily Image copyright
Image caption The paper says it has been repeatedly accused of insulting the president, a criminal offence in Turkey

Opinion columnists at a Turkish newspaper have submitted blank columns in protest against what they describe as the "pressure" put on opposition media outlets.

The Sozcu daily published a front page editorial decrying restrictions on press freedom under the headline: "If Sozcu stays silent, then Turkey stays silent". While columnists' faces appeared on the front page, the spaces beside them were left completely empty, something repeated on inside pages. The paper, which has been openly critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the government, said it wanted to highlight "increasing pressure" from the administration on both journalists and the judiciary. It notes that it has faced 57 court cases and 67 criminal complaints over its news stories in the past year, with 10 of its columnists sued over their articles.

Read full article Turkey: 'Silent' columnists protest media restrictions

UAE: Arabic version of Sesame Street re-launches

  • 2 September 2015
Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The programme will feature old favourites like Bert and Ernie, as well as specifically Middle Eastern characters

The Arabic-language version of children's television favourite Sesame Street is to return to TV screens across the Middle East after a 25-year hiatus.

The programme was the first authorised foreign version of the long-running American educational and entertainment show, and ran from 1978 until the Gulf War interrupted production in 1990. Iftah Ya Simsim - meaning Open Sesame - will return to 10 channels in the region this week, with familiar faces appearing alongside uniquely Middle Eastern characters, Gulf News reports.

Read full article UAE: Arabic version of Sesame Street re-launches

China: Company launches 'war criminal ice cream'

  • 1 September 2015
A close-up of the Tojo ice cream Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Tojo ice cream is available in several flavours, including blueberry, mocha and tiramisu

A Chinese ice cream company is marking 70 years since the end of World War Two with a special creation depicting the face of Japan's wartime prime minister, Gen Hideki Tojo.

The Shanghai-based Iceason chain wants 10,000 people to scoff the head-shaped snacks as a way of remembering China's war against Japan, the China Daily website reports. The 3D-printed ice creams aren't cheap though, costing 30 yuan ($4.70; £3) each. Tojo was Japan's prime minister between 1941 and 1944. He was later convicted of war crimes and executed by hanging in December 1948.

Read full article China: Company launches 'war criminal ice cream'

Russia: New laboratory to study mammoth cloning

  • 1 September 2015
People taking photos of the body of a 39,000-year-old woolly mammoth on display Image copyright AFP
Image caption One of the world's best-preserved woolly mammoths - 39,000-year-old Yuka - was found in Siberia's permafrost in 2010

Russia has opened a laboratory in Siberia devoted to the study of extinct animal DNA in the hope of creating clones, it's reported.

The new lab in Yakutsk - often called the world's coldest city - will "seek out live cells with a view to cloning", says Semen Grigoryev, director of the Mammoth Museum at the city's Northeastern Federal University. He tells Ogonek magazine that "the priority is to look into bringing back the mammoth", adding that the Beijing Institute of Genomics and South Korea's Sooam Biotech company, which has pioneered dog cloning, will be involved in the study.

Read full article Russia: New laboratory to study mammoth cloning

Dubai boatyard builds 'world's biggest dhow'

  • 31 August 2015
Dhow sailing past Dubai waterfront Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Old meets new in Dubai

A Dubai family boatyard hopes to revive the traditional dhow sailing ship by building the largest the world has ever seen.

The Al Falasi brothers plan to launch a dhow nearly 85 metres (280 ft) long and 12 metres (39 ft) wide in their native port of Jadaf, the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National reports. It is rare to find a dhow longer than 38 metres - especially in the Gulf, where the boats are not traditionally ocean-going. Most dhows have now been relegated to museum pieces or turned into floating restaurants, overtaken by more modern designs.

Read full article Dubai boatyard builds 'world's biggest dhow'

Chinese schools launch stock market classes

  • 31 August 2015
Shanghai classroom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Future traders?

China has seen weeks of share-price woes, but the southern province of Guangdong is planning for the longer term with stock market lessons for pre-teens.

The China Securities Regulatory Commission has asked 36 schools in one of the country's richest provinces to teach upper primary school students "how to manage money and trade stocks", according to the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper. This will involve about 10,000 students in a pilot programme, beginning next month. If successful, the new curriculum will expand to the rest of the province, the paper says.

Read full article Chinese schools launch stock market classes

Russia: Rubber bullets handed out to ward off bears

  • 28 August 2015
Angry-looking polar bear Image copyright Thinkstock
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.

Read full article Russia: Rubber bullets handed out to ward off bears

Vietnam: Family seeks royalties for national anthem

  • 28 August 2015
Vietnamese people singing the national anthem Image copyright Getty Images
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.

Read full article Vietnam: Family seeks royalties for national anthem

Switzerland: Special trains for Chinese tourists

  • 28 August 2015
Swiss trains Image copyright Otto Didakt / WikiMedia
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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