Russians to vote on covering up Michelangelo's David
- 28 July 2016
A copy of Michelangelo's David 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."
Its officials apparently tried to convince the woman that Russia's former imperial capital contained many such statues and residents are accustomed to their state of undress, but to no avail. "Children are around, looking at this giant nude man. Is that normal?" she responded, and warned she'd take the matter further. She was even unfazed by school director Maksim Pratusevich's assurance that his students were "sufficiently cultured and educated" not to be shocked by the Renaissance masterpiece.
Her determination may yet win out, it seems. An official of the Michelangelo - Creation of the World exhibition told the RIA-Novosti news agency it "couldn't ignore the criticism". Under the "Dress David" initiative, city residents will first be asked to suggest clothes for the statue, and will then vote in a 16-23 August poll on what to put him in, with one option being to just "keep him as he is".
New app connects Russian Orthodox Church to believers
- 27 July 2016
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.
Italy broadband plan for Unesco World Heritage Sites
- 27 July 2016
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.
China museum cats spared eviction after online campaign
- 26 July 2016
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.
Tonga 'serious' about Winter Olympics ski squad
- 26 July 2016
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.
'Distracted' Austrians get road-crossing workshops
- 25 July 2016
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.
New Zealand aims to become predator-free by 2050
- 25 July 2016
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".
North Korea's Kim Jong-un loses access to Swiss watches
- 22 July 2016
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.
Fur flies over New Zealand cat ban
- 22 July 2016
New Zealanders hoping to move into a new housing estate north of the city of Wellington will have to agree to an unusual condition of purchase - no pet cats.
Many cat owners have faced the grisly experience of their feline companion coming home with a gift of a dead bird or animal, and it's for this reason that a new housing development in Kapiti is to completely ban pet cats, Radio New Zealand reports. The homes in question are near to a nature reserve, and it's feared that the location will prove too much temptation for pet cats to hone the hunting skills that domestication has never quite managed to suppress. There's already a fence to keep dogs away from the reserve, but it's not capable of deterring felines, the radio says. Local councillor Guru Nathan told the Newshub website "If cats got into the sanctuary the result would be devastating" to insects, lizards and birds living there.
Chinese woman's book choice brings celebrity status
- 21 July 2016
A Chinese woman's choice of book in a set of posed photographs has gone viral in both her home country and Russia after internet users discovered its unusual title.
The set of photographs shows a young woman reading a book with a blue cover, all set against blue props and a powder blue background. It's when viewers on Chinese social media noted the title of the Russian-language book - Repair Guidebook for Excavator E-505 - that the mockery began, the China Daily newspaper reported.