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2 September 2014 Last updated at 11:28 ET

Lost wedding ring returned to owner

Erin Carrazzo and Mike Cogan Mike Cogan slipped Erin Carrazzo's ring back on her finger

A New York beachcomber has found a missing wedding ring and found its original owner after searching for her on social media.

Erin Carrazzo lost both her wedding ring and her engagement ring on holiday on New York's Fire Island, and posted later on Facebook that she hoped a "metal detector dude" would find it. Her wish came true when retired fireman Mike Cogan uncovered the rings when running his detector over Robert Moses Beach.

"It was very heavy and inscribed." Cogan says of the wedding ring, local news station NBC 4 New York reports, adding that he turned to Facebook to try to find the owner. "This isn't a kid's ring," he says. "This is platinum and these have to be real diamonds. I knew how empty she had to feel. I don't want anybody to feel like that."

The photos on Facebook were shared over 19,500 times, and eventually reached people who knew Carrazzo in the New York City neighbourhood of Flushing. Ten days later the they spoke on the phone and then met in person. "Getting in touch with her was as good as finding the diamonds," says Cogan, who slipped the ring back on Carrazzo's finger on the beach. Meanwhile, Carrazzo can't believe her luck. "I'm amazed how much good there is in the world," she says.

Missing rings

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Icelanders make insect snack bars

Bui Adalsteinsson and Stefan Thoroddsen

Insects are a staple food in parts of the developing world, but two businessmen from the unlikely location of Iceland are proposing to use them to make energy bars.

Bui Adalsteinsson and Stefan Thoroddsen say on their website they got the idea from a UN report suggesting the western world could benefit from using this abundant source of protein, and formed a company to make bars with ground-up bugs. They got funding from the Startup Reykjavik programme earlier this year, and have just announced the second prototype of their Crowbar on Twitter.

They tell the Nutiminn news site the insect "superfood" breaks down into amino acids that the body needs, and is also rich in calcium and vitamins. Crowbars "provide a realistic, sustainable choice of excellent nutrition in your pocket, whether you're taking a two-minute break from a challenging hike or need a boost between work meetings," the pair insist.

Stefan admits not everyone is likely to enjoy the flavour of insects, but told the IceNews site that Crowbars have the answer - "mixed with other ingredients like almonds, coconut and cacao, you can't really taste a lot of the crickets", which he describes as mild and nutty. They have presented their prototype bars at food tasting events in the capital Reykjavik, and hope to go into full production later this year.

First prototype Crowbar First attempt at a Crowbar

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Russians mock Putin kids TV idea

Igor Strelkov imagined on Good Night, Little Ones Rebel leader Igor Strelkov has been mockingly suggested as a possible inspiration for the new character

Russia's most enduring children's puppet show - Good Night, Little Ones - celebrates its half-century on television this month, and as a gift to its young viewers President Vladimir Putin has come up with an idea for a new cartoon character.

"At first the idea was rather unexpected," programme producer Alexander Mitroshenkov tells RIA Novosti news agency. "But when we examined it in detail we realised that it was a winner!" Meanwhile, social media users were quick to mock Mitroshenkov's enthusiasm. For example, a user called Dedushka Udava jeers at Russia media managers on the Vzgliad website for "grovelling to state officials" and asks how they can be allowed anywhere near children's education.

But online commentators are at their most creative in imagining what the new character will look like. Mitroshenkov says only that it will come from the same enchanted forest as the show's established puppets Khriusha the piglet and Stepasha the hare. Apparently, the new character will be inserted into the live action as a 3D animation.

Ever-topical social media users suggest the new playmate could be Igor Strelkov - one of the leaders of the pro-Moscow armed groups in eastern Ukraine, "straight from the Donbass forest". Or Sergei Kurginian, a prominent Putin loyalist who likes posing with rifles. Others propose Vatnichek - or Little Padded Jacket - an internet meme used to mock Russian ultra-patriots. The Ukrainian Obozrevatel website gathered several examples of their handiwork. All will be revealed at the beginning of October, Mitroshenkov says, when the real character will debut.

Sergei Kurginian and Vatnichek, satirical suggestions for children's TV Sergei Kurginian and Little Padded Jacket, possible forest friends

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Ancient college opens after 800 years

Nalanda University ruins

An ancient Indian university has reopened 800 years after it was destroyed in an invasion, it's been reported.

Nalanda University, in the eastern state of Bihar, was first established in the 5th Century during the Gupta dynasty. It was was said to have attracted thousands of scholars and thinkers from around the world but the site was destroyed in the 1193 AD by an invading Turkish army. The new campus is set to be spread over 443 acres (179 hecatares) about 15km (9 miles) from where the original university stood, the Times of India reports.

But the institution is reopening with just a handful students and about 11 members of staff, the Indian Express newspaper says. Vice-chancellor Gopa Sabarwal says: "Over 1,000 students from 40 countries have sought admission in Nalanda University. But only 15 students have been selected, including one each from Japan and Bhutan and others from India," More students will be enrolled in September she adds.

Meanwhile, construction on the new university campus is behind schedule. It's due to be finished in 2020 but work reportedly hasn't started yet, and courses are being taught in a local conference centre for the moment, the Hindustan times reports. Eventually, Nalanda will have seven schools and offer courses in science, philosphy and spirituality, and social sciences. The university is funded by the Indian government and backing from the 18 East Asia Summit (EAS) countries, including China, Singapore and Australia.

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Two-headed snake found in Turkey

Two-headed snake

A rare two-headed snake has been found by a farmer in north-eastern Turkey, it's been reported.

It was discovered in the Black Sea province of Giresun and is currently being kept under quarantine at a reptile house in the city of Antalya on Turkey's south-western coast, Turkish daily Radikal reports. Ozgur Ereldi, in charge of caring for the snake, says it needs to be constantly monitored because of its size and shape. "Since the snake has two heads, its neck is thinner than normal," he says. "Snakes swallow their prey in full and then digest it. If you feed the snake a big portion it might choke. Hence we feed this snake in small portions."

The young snake appears to belong to the Coluber genus of thin-bodied, fast-moving snakes commonly known as racers. Cuneyt Alpguven, who works at Antalya Aquarium's reptile house, says two-headed snakes are very rare and have little chance of surviving in the wild. "Being two-headed is a major disadvantage, because its anatomical structure makes it more vulnerable to attacks while it also draws the attention of predators."

At two weeks old, Alpguven says the snake is expected to grow to a length of 20cm (8in) within a few months, Hurriyet Daily News says. Earlier this month, the same newspaper reported the discovery of a two-headed dolphin washed up on a beach in western Turkey.

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Antwerp's 'selfie speeding signs'

screen grab of site to upload pictures Drivers get the 'Thank you very much' or 'You're going too fast' face based on their speed

Authorities in Antwerp, Belgium, are inviting people to upload a selfie and become a traffic sign - as a way to deter drivers from speeding.

Belgium already uses a system of "smiley" road signs to tell motorists whether they are speeding or not. But now citizens are invited to upload two photos of themselves, one with a happy face and another with a disapproving glare - to be flashed at errant motorists, the Belgian website Flanders News reported. As part of a joint awareness scheme by the city of Antwerp and the police, the photos will be displayed on interactive speedometers installed across the city.

There has been huge public support for efforts to tackle speeding on Belgium's roads. In April, tens of thousands of people responded to a call for ideas on where to place speed cameras ahead of a marathon speed crackdown by police. Campaigners say 300 people die in Belgium every year because of speeding.

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Scientists solve 'sliding rocks' puzzle

Sailing rock in Death Valley

Scientists have finally solved the mystery of how rocks can move across the flat ground of a dry lake bed in Death Valley, California.

Visitors have long been puzzled by the sight of boulder tracks criss-crossing a dusty bowl known as the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. But two researchers now say the rocks - which can sometimes be heavy and large - are propelled along by thin, clear sheets of ice on breezy, sunny days. They call it "ice shove". "I'm amazed by the irony of it all," James Norris tells the LA Times. "In a place where rainfall averages two inches a year, rocks are being shoved around by mechanisms typically seen in arctic climes."

The findings are based on a lucky accident by James Norris and his cousin paleobiologist Richard Norris - while they were studying the sliding rock phenomenon. They actually witnessed the boulders moving in December when they went to check their time-lapse cameras in the valley. "There was a pop-pop-crackle all over the place in front of us and I said to my cousin, 'This is it'," Richard Norris says in the science journal Nature. They watched some 60 rocks sail slowly by, leaving the well-known snaking trails in the ground. "A baby can get going a lot faster than your average rock," Norris notes. The rocks also don't slide around very often - scientists estimate only a few minutes out of a million - which is why the event has not been noticed before.

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Mohammed most common name in Oslo

Cute babies

Mohammed is now the most common name for men in Norway's capital city Oslo, it appears.

"It is very exciting," Jorgen Ouren of Statistics Norway tells The Local news website. A recent count of the city's population showed more than 4,800 men and boys in the city are called Mohammed, beating out other popular names like Jan and Per. Although Mohammed - with various spellings - has been the favourite name for baby boys in Oslo for the past four years, this is the first time it has also topped the men's list.

And it's not only in Norway that the name is gaining ground. The UK's Office for National Statistics says Mohammed was the most common name parents gave to baby boys in England and Wales in 2013.

Norwegian Muslims made up around 150,000 of Norway's 4.5 million people in 2012, the website On Islam says, mainly from Pakistani, Somali, Iraqi and Moroccan backgrounds. But Norway also has Europe's largest anti-Islam organisation, called Stop Islamization of Norway. It was set up in 2008 and is thought to have more than 3,000 members.

Outside the Norwegian capital, Filip is the most popular name for newborn boys, while Emma is the favourite for girls.

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Virtual girlfriends on China's Taobao

Woman chatting on her mobile

China's leading online shopping website Taobao is offering men the chance to buy the companionship of a girlfriend for as little as $2 (£1.20) a day, it seems.

The girlfriend service involves a hired employee calling or texting the customer to wake him up in the morning, say good-night before bed, and sympathetically listen to his complaints at any time of day, Taiwan's Want China website reports. "You just spend 20 to 30 yuan (£2-3) to make a single man's dreams come true!" one customer says. Female nurturing is not the only service on offer. A virtual boyfriend can also be hired, and customers can choose their type from a list of personalities - such as men in uniform, chief executive, handsome men and comforting men.

But being a virtual girlfriend can be quite tiresome, one employee Xiaomi says. She's lost sleep making early wake-up calls and always has to keep an eye on her phone. Most of the customers reportedly buy the service just for a day out of curiosity, but it appears to be a growing market. Virtual partners are just one of the unusual things on sale on Taobao - with drones, live scorpions and breast milk soap also available.

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'Cricket compost' tackles food problem

Fried insects on a plate

A Canadian university student seems to have come up with a novel way to grow his own food and compost his rubbish at the same time - using crickets.

Jakub Dzamba's invention allows you to raise and eat your own batch of crickets every two months, CBC news reports. He keeps his crickets in a clear plastic box in his kitchen, feeding them scraps of rubbish that might otherwise go onto a compost heap. The crickets are harvested by putting them in the freezer, where Dzamba says they are "euthanised" and can be cooked like any other frozen food.

Dzamba is introducing his home cricket farms at Montreal's Eating Innovation Conference, which focuses on entomophagy - or eating insects. Eating insects wasn't easy at first, he says. "You kill bugs all the time, but when you raise them and have them on your desk for two months, I just didn't have the heart to put them in the fridge and kind of euthanise them." But he's now very enthusiastic about the idea. "I think it can make the world a better place," he says.

Conference organiser Aruna Handa agrees. "They're very nutritious, with comparable protein to meat, more omega-3 fats than fish." A recent UN report urged people to eat insects as a way to combat world hunger and improve their nutrition.

Jakub Dzamba with his cricket farm

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Facebook slogan off menu in Vietnam

Vietnamese soups

A Vietnamese woman who opened a restaurant after raising funds on Facebook has reportedly been threatened with legal action by the technology giant for using their name.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Nhan, who owns the Nang Ganh restaurant in Ho Chi Minh City, has been advertising her business as "the first restaurant built on Facebook", Thanh Nien News reports. She managed to raise $30,000 (£18,000) from 160 people by posting her business plan on the social network. "My proposal got 100 responses overnight," Ms Nhan says. " I chose that slogan to pay tribute to those Facebook users."

But Nhan recently got a letter from Facebook's legal representative in Vietnam telling her she was misusing the company's intellectual property and threatening to sue her if she didn't come up with another slogan. Nhan says she was "surprised and embarrassed" by the letter, but she can't revamp her advertising yet as she's already spent a lot of money on signboards, leaflets, bags and menus featuring the disputed phrase.

Facebook says it's worried its reputation could suffer if the restaurant closed. "Facebook is very supportive of local businesses who succeed," says Nguyen Dieu Cam, who heads T&A Ogilvy, Facebook's media representative in Vietnam. But she says combining a trademark with the Facebook name could cause misunderstanding. "If anything happens to the restaurant, Facebook will be affected."

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Venice takes on 'love lock' trend


Venice is trying to discourage couples from attaching padlocks to the city's bridges as a symbol of love, claiming the old structures are too fragile to cope with the weight.

"It is important to make people understand that it is not a sweet gesture, the expression of a unique sentiment, but an action that is totally banal," writer Alberto Toso Fei tells the Gazzetta del Sud. He is behind a campaign called Unlock Your Love, which is distributing flyers in the famous Rialto, San Marco and Accademia areas. "Your love doesn't need chains," the leaflet says under a drawing of a heart-shaped open padlock. It also points out: "Venice doesn't need your garbage."

It's the second time Venice has tried to crack down on love locks. In 2011, the city focussed on people who sold the locks, but this time the campaign is targeting the couples using them. Meanwhile, workmen are removing some 20,000 padlocks from the wooden bridge, Ponte dell'Accademia, spanning the Grand Canal.

Love locks have grown into a global trend, with cities such as Paris and Sydney also trying to tackle the problem. Chicago has been systematically cutting off padlocks to stop them falling off and hurting someone when the city's moveable bridges are lifted for boat traffic, a local news website reports.

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Russian 'cat with your mortgage' offer

Customers select a cat in a Sberbank promotional video A promotional video makes the most of the bank's cat 'offer'

Russia's largest bank is apparently loaning cats to clients who buy one of their mortgage products - as a sign of good luck.

In what has all the marks of a publicity stunt, Sberbank - one of Russia's largest banks - says every new mortgage customer can choose the cat they want, and it will be delivered in time for their housewarming party, the TJournal website reports. The bank's slick website gives a choice of 10 breeds, and features a video showing the first happy clients receiving their cats. It's an advertising campaign thought up by a local agency, and reportedly features delivery vans with cat logos cruising the streets of Moscow.

The bad news for customers is that they won't be able to keep their feline. Terms of the offer say that the animal is only given so that it is the first to cross the threshold of the property - many Russians say a cat is sign of good luck to those moving into a new home - and is only available for two hours so the home-owners can take photos.

A screengrab showing cats on the Sberbank website Customers are given a choice of 10 cats on the promotional website

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China cracks down on star endorsement

Actor Jiro Wang Actor Jiro Wang has been known to endorse female sanitary products

Male celebrities in China may have to stop endorsing items such as female sanitary pads and lingerie under a law requiring them to try the products first, it seems.

A draft of the proposed law, submitted to Beijing's National People's Congress Standing Committee this week, says celebrities must test the goods before endorsing them or risk paying a fine, the South China Morning Post reports. Backers say the bill is designed to prevent "false advertising". In China, male star Jiro Wang is the face of the sanitary towel brand Freemore, while other male celebrities have endorsed bras, lingerie and female body wash, Chinese social media users say.

It's not just female products that might need new backers from the entertainment industry. One social media pundit asks if Tang Guoqiang, another famous actor, really has a bulldozer driving licence while promoting excavators, Beijing's China Daily reports. The state-run newspaper adds the draft law is needed because "celebrities endorsing under-qualified products and services have caused troubles in the past". Those making false recommendations "shall bear legal responsibilities", it says.

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Jamaica's Olympic ice hockey trials

Chris Stewart of the Buffalo Sabres previously played for the St Louis Blues (right) Canada-born Chris Stewart is one of several NHL players of Jamaican descent

Jamaica has held its first ever try-outs for a national ice hockey team in an attempt to emulate its Winter Olympic bobsleigh adventures, it seems.

Over 20 players turned up in Toronto, Canada, for the Jamaica Olympic Ice Hockey Federation trials led by Graeme Townshend, the first ever Jamaican to play in the National Hockey League, the Jamaica Observer reports. With more interested players expected to come forward in the coming months, Kingston-born Townshend, who played a total of 45 NHL games in the early 1990s, was upbeat about their chances: "If Jamaica can get a team in the World Championship or the Olympics that's something so outlandish I think it might actually work."

But the Jamaican efforts haven't gone unnoticed in Canada, where the Toronto Sun accuses them of "poaching" Canadian athletes of Jamaican descent to fill out its national ice hockey roster for the Olympics. Their plans face enormous hurdles - Jamaica would need to win a pre-qualifying tournament before the qualification rounds, and officials say an appearance at the 2018 Olympics in South Korea looks unlikely.

If the team eventually reaches the Olympics, they'd be following in the tracks of the country's Cool Runnings bobsleigh team that first qualified for the 1988 games, and took part in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Jamaica's bobsleigh team at the 2014 Winter Olympics Jamaica's bobsleigh team took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics after an online crowdfunding effort

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Lessing's library donated to Zimbabwe

Doris Lessing Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing died in 2013

More than 3,000 books from the personal collection of celebrated author Doris Lessing have been given to the city library in Harare, Zimbabwe, it's been reported.

The winner of the Nobel Prize for literature died in November 2013, and beneficiaries of her will had to decide what to do with Lessing's enormous collection of books. They agreed that books not needed for a special collection at the University of East Anglia should be sent to the Zimbabwe capital, the New Zimbabwe website reports.

Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni told the Zimbabwe Herald newspaper the gift was a "magnificent gesture" from someone who had taken "her love for this country beyond her death". He says: "We have every reason to feel special to have earned this much in her wishes - we are delighted and grateful as any city would be."

Lessing's executors say that Book Aid International, a charity the author supported, has been asked to help transport the donation. Throughout her life, Lessing fostered several programmes in Zimbabwe to aid literacy through libraries and studying. Lessing lived in Zimbabwe from 1924-1949, when it was known as Southern Rhodesia. She returned there in 1956, but was declared a "prohibited migrant" by the government for her anti-settler sentiments and left-wing political views, New Zimbabwe says.

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Mass tattoo removal ahead of army duty

A man has a tattoo removed

Doctors in the United Arab Emirates are expecting to see a surge in numbers of young men getting tattoos removed, as the body art won't be permitted under a new law introducing national service, it's been reported.

With the first round of recruitment under way, many eligible men between the ages of 18-30 are falling foul of the military's ban on body art, The National newspaper reports. It's not unusual for young Emirati men and women to get tattoos, even though they've been forbidden by Muslim scholars, and one dermatologist expects many young men to undergo laser removal before they report for duty. "They have usually been applied at home using non-sterile instruments: rarely are they done professionally in ink parlours," says Dr Hassan Galadari. "Tattoos may fall out of popularity among UAE youth with the introduction of national service."

Nearly 10,000 Emiratis are being considered for the first batch of conscripts - including all 2014 high school graduates, apart from academic high-achievers. But only 7,000 recruits will begin training in January because of limited capacity at the training camps, the National said last month. The penalty for avoiding national service is 50,000 dirhams ($13,600; £8,200) and up to a year in prison, with the maximum fine doubled if the recruit injures himself on purpose or fakes illness to try to escape, the UAE government says.

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Malta's private migrant rescue boat

The MOAS Phoenix I vessel Phoenix I can deliver water, first aid and life jackets to migrant vessels in distress in the Mediterranean

A private ship patrolling the Mediterranean to help immigrants in distress has made its first rescue, but the people saved were local fisherman - not migrants - it's been reported.

The Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas) picked up a Maltese fisherman and his five-year-old son, whose craft was drifting off the island's east coast after its engine failed, the Times of Malta reports. Moas' 40m vessel - the Phoenix I, equipped with RIB dinghies and drone helicopters - had just left Valetta's Grand Harbour on its first 20-day mission when the situation came to their attention.

Maltese philanthropists Regina and Christopher Catrambone, who are funding the operation, say they are the first civilians trying to assist migrants at sea, Malta Today reports. Moas was set up in response to the October 2013 Lampedusa shipwreck tragedy, when around 360 African migrants died after their boat sank off the coast of the Italian island. Deaths are often reported in the area, and just last weekend nearly 4,000 people were rescued. The Phoenix I and its drone helicopters will watch for craft leaving north Africa for Europe, and offer water, food, life-jackets and first aid if necessary.

Aware of criticism that they could be encouraging migrants, the Catrambones say they are simply heeding a call by Pope Francis to save lives. "No one deserves to die at sea," they say.

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China: Cartoons foster 'ethnic solidarity'

An Uighur man walks past soldiers Tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese has prompted a military presence in Xinjiang province

The authorities in China are sponsoring a TV cartoon to ease ethnic tensions in troubled Xinjiang province, it is reported. But cultural differences between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese mean it is difficult to agree on title music, as well as notions such as time travel and pet characters.

The 3D cartoon retraces the story of the Fragrant Concubine, an Uighur princess who married an 18th Century Chinese emperor in a politically important union, reports the Global Times newspaper, which also shows images of the characters.

The cartoon, called Princess Fragrant, is part of the Xinjiang administration's efforts to "boost ethnic solidarity", the state-run daily says.

But the project hit problems from the very start. It took the cartoon's director, Deng Jianglei, more than a year to find someone to compose title music and lyrics.

"The musician has to be accepted both by the communities of Han and Uighur people, which means he or she has to be familiar with two different cultures and musical styles, which is difficult," he told the Global Times.

Concepts such as animal characters are also a problem. The introduction of a snake and then a squirrel character in Princess Fragrant aroused objections from Uighur artists in the team.

"Snakes are regarded as evil in Islamic culture, and Uighur families seldom keep pets, unlike Han people," says Hong Qi, a half-Uighur musician chosen to compose the cartoon's theme music.

But the director eventually insisted on using an animal character "for the sake of the market", the Global Times reports.

Transcending time and space with time machines is a common plot device in cartoons, but local Uighur artists were strongly against the concept, the paper adds.

As work on the cartoon continues, Sheng Jun, an official at the Xinjiang Bureau of Culture, insists that its creators get all the sensitive details right. "It is similar to fighting a war in the realm of ideology. If we don't pass on positive energy, the opposite side would occupy the battlefield," the official says.

Chinese soldiers marching in front of a mosque in Xinjiang China has boosted security across restive Xinjiang province following violence in the Muslim-dominated area

Xinjiang, which is about the size of Iran, is the traditional home of Muslim Uighurs. They speak a distinct language and have different customs to the majority Han population elsewhere in China.

International attention turned to Xinjiang in July 2009 when bloody clashes between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the region's main city, Urumqi. Further outbreaks of violence followed, including an attack in May at a market in Urumqi, that left at least 31 people dead. Chinese officials often attribute attacks in Xinjiang to Uighur separatists.

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Boy held for 'killing pet dinosaur'

Model Dinosaur on the street

A high-school student in the US state of South Carolina has been arrested and suspended from school over a writing assignment in which he claimed to have killed his neighbour's pet dinosaur, it's been reported.

Alex Stone, 16, says he was told to write something in the style of a Facebook status update for a project at Summerville High School. But when he allegedly wrote: "I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business," worried teachers called the police, local news station WCSC reports. Officials questioned Stone and searched his schoolbag and locker but didn't find any weapons. But police say the boy was difficult during questioning, and he was arrested and charged with disturbing the school, the SF Gate website says. Stone was also suspended for a week.

The boy's mother, Karen Gray, says she thinks the school overreacted. "I could understand if they made him rewrite it," she says in an interview with NY Daily News, adding the school didn't call her to explain what was happening. Meanwhile, her son says he's frustrated and would prefer to be home-schooled from now on. "I regret it because they put it on my record, but I don't see the harm in it," he says.

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Army takes over Miss Uganda contest

Ugandan armed forces on parade The UPDF is moving into farming and beauty pageants

The Ugandan army has said it plans to take over the country's Miss Uganda beauty contest, it appears.

Kampala's presidential adviser on the military Gen Caleb Akandwanaho - who is widely known as Salim Saleh - says the move is intended to "attract young people into the agricultural sector", adding that it may help to solve the "problems of hunger and poverty among the youth of the country," the Daily Monitor newspaper reports. Akandwanaho explains that the military is also in the process of taking control of the country's agricultural production scheme, which is meant to move farmers over from subsistence to commercial farming. To achieve the transition, more people need to get interested in agriculture, he says.

But the move by Uganda People's Defence Force into commercial agriculture and beauty contests has raised a few eyebrows. One minister is warning army officers newly trained in agriculture not to become involved in corruption. Social media users think the beauty contest decision defies logic. "So how is this going to work? Will the girls be perched on top of tractors?" one post asks.

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Darwin's barnacles found in Denmark

Charles Darwin Darwin sent the barnacles as appreciation for items loaned by a Danish colleague

A collection of barnacles sent by Charles Darwin as a gift to a colleague 160 years ago have been found in Denmark, it's been reported.

Copenhagen's Natural History Museum of Denmark had hoped to find an item Darwin had borrowed from his Danish colleague Japetus Steenstrup, but correspondence between the pair revealed the existence of the unusual present, the Copenhagen Post reports. According to the museum's Hanne Strager, the father of the theory of evolution didn't just return some samples of acorn barnacles borrowed from Steenstrup, but also sent back a box with an additional 77 barnacles to the Dane as appreciation for his help - a fact Strager hadn't noticed until she studied correspondence between the two.

Only 55 of the 77 arthropods sent by Darwin in 1854 have been found, but they're due to be put on display as part of a large exhibition, the museum says. "To display a gift from one of the world's greatest scientists is something unique for a museum," Strager says, "Here we have a personal relationship with exactly the man behind biology, and perhaps the greatest scientific breakthrough: the theory of evolution."

Some of the barnacles sent from Darwin to Japetus Steenstrup The barnacles are to be put on display at the museum

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Libya 'floating hotel for MPs'

cruise ship This picture was tweeted by Good Morning Libya when the boat was spotted in Tobruk

The Libyan government appears to have hired a cruise ship to serve as a "floating hotel" for politicians and journalists ahead of a vote of confidence on the interim government.

The boat, which was recently spotted in the port of Tobruk, was hired as a temporary residence for members of the newly-formed House of Representatives - but the politicians have refused to move in, the Libya Herald reports. But other reports say the ship will house members of the press and other guests attending the vote.

"The floating hotel is a special ship which will host the parliament's escorts and journalists," says Faraj Najem, head of the Parliamentary Settlement Committee. "The deputies will stay at the Dar Essalam hotel in Tobruk, and not on the ship." He says the boat was hired because Benghazi doesn't have enough hotels for everyone.

Libya's interim government was formed in May. The country has been hit by instability since long-time ruler Col Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in October 2011. Recently, Libya has been wracked by violence as different armed groups compete for influence.

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Interpol building raided five times

Gloved hand with crowbar

The high-security building housing Interpol's South Africa office has been burgled for the fifth time in three weeks.

The thieves made off with laptops, cameras and other electronics, and in one incident they may have entered the building using internal access cards, the Times Live website reports. A spokesman for Hawks, the anti-corruption unit that suffered the break-in, confirmed the incident but added: "At this stage it does not appear to be serious."

Police think the burglars want the expensive equipment. "The people involved in the first burglary may be involved in the latest incident," says police spokesman Solomon Makgale. "It is highly unlikely that those behind the burglaries are interested in the information contained on the laptops but are rather more interested in making quick cash."

But a crime intelligence source says the repeated break-ins could be a sign the thieves are looking for specific information - and simply haven't found it yet. Police say that some laptops stolen in the first burglary have surfaced in a local pawn shop.

Criminologist Rudolph Zinn says he's concerned that serial break-ins were possible in the first place, and that Interpol could respond by limiting what information employees in South Africa can access. "If it's this easy to break into this building multiple times one needs to ask what other unauthorised access has occurred," he says.

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UAE map says Oxford Circus dangerous

Oxford Circus Oxford Circus is among the "more dangerous" areas

Piccadilly and Oxford Circus are among the "places to avoid" in a new official safety map of London for tourists visiting from the United Arab Emirates.

The safety advice for the capital was published on the UAE foreign ministry website after attacks on UAE nationals in London, The National daily reports. Areas that the map classes as "more dangerous" include tourist hotspots such Soho and Oxford Street - where Selfridges, a well-known department store "which attracts many Emiratis" is located.

Further out from the centre, Shepherd's Bush market and Queensway are singled out as being "less safe". The foreign ministry warns of fraud, theft and pick-pocketing, and says its advice is based on information from the Metropolitan Police website.

Several UAE residents say they'll take the advice seriously. "You have to follow the guidelines from the government," says Mohammad Al Awadhi. Meanwhile, 29-year-old Mona Al Ali, thinks people from the Gulf may be targeted in particular. "They might not be too discreet with their jewellery when they travel and they wear nice clothes."

The warning comes after two incidents involving UAE nationals in London. In April, three women were attacked by a burglar with a hammer in Cumberland Hotel, near Marble Arch, and a couple were threatened with guns in a Paddington flat two weeks later.

UAE foreign ministry map of London dangers ... as is Piccadilly Circus

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Norway books 'first drunk Segwayer'

People on Segways

Norwegian police have booked what's likely to be the country's first drink-driving Segway user - a mere month after a national ban on the devices was lifted.

The man was arrested in a smart restaurant area in central Oslo after several witnesses reported him for "strange behaviour" as he struggled to balance on his Segway, the Aftenposten daily reports. Police suspected him of being drunk in charge of a Segway and took him in. They are still awaiting the results of a blood test, but Finn Erik Groenliveien - head of Oslo traffic police - is already concerned Segway users may think rules about drinking and driving don't apply to them.

"I really hope we're not risking having lots of drink-drivers on two-wheeled vehicles," Groenliveien says. "These are treated like any other vehicle when it comes to the limit on blood alcohol." Police inspector Jan Guttormsen says it's the first case he's heard of. "I'm not surprised, but disappointed they don't appreciate the danger."

Before 1 July "self-balancing vehicles" were banned in Norway because their top speed of 20km/h (12mph) meant they would've been classed as mopeds, and the roads administration didn't think they were safe enough. But the government legalised them anyway, hoping the vehicles will help "revolutionise traffic patterns".

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Thousands 'look for leader's mobile'

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov speaks at the opening of a mosque in the Palestinian town of Abu Ghosh in March 2014 Rarely out of the headlines: Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov

More than 1,000 people have been questioned by police into the night, apparently after Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov - known to be a prolific Instagram poster - mislaid his mobile phone at a feast.

At the end of a museum opening party, where Kadyrov was a guest, organisers announced the regional strongman had lost his mobile and bodyguards started moving through the crowd in search of it, human rights group Memorial says. Later, more than 1,000 people were reportedly called out to a police station for questioning - and were asked about where they were standing and whether they had seen any "ownerless items".

Kadyrov has dismissed Memorial's account as a "barefaced lie". In a post on his extremely popular Instagram account he said the phone in question belonged to the head of a dance troupe at the event, and has been safely returned to her. "I've no idea how many people they questioned," he says. "Whether it was a thousand or tens of thousands, it means they were doing their work." He adds: "As for my telephones, they are both in front of me, have a strong connection and show no signs of going missing."

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Drone drops mobiles into Greek jail

Thinkstock The drone was carrying a stash of mobile phone equipment instead of a camera

A remote-controlled helicopter carrying a box of mobile phones has reportedly landed inside the grounds of a jail near the central Greek town of Larissa.

The toy aircraft flew over the prison fence - which is topped with barbed wire - but was soon spotted by a guard when it landed in a patch of open space inside the prison. It was handed over to bomb disposal experts, who found five mobile phones inside a cardboard box strapped to the aircraft, the daily Ekathimerini newspaper says.

Along with the phones were five charging cables, six Sim cards and two sets of headphones, the Greek news agency ANA-MPA reports. But even though the prison's security was alerted immediately, guards didn't find anybody in the surrounding area and continue to search for the person who was controlling the helicopter.

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Tickets for world's tallest clock

Abraj Al-Bait clock tower

The world's tallest clock tower is to open to the public later this year, it's been reported.

The 601m (1,971 ft) Abraj Al-Bait tower, overlooking the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca, will allow paying visitors to see the inside workings of the clock after the Hajj pilgrimage finishes in October, the Arab News reports. Entry to the clock tower will be by ticket only, local officials say.

While hundreds of thousands of people visit Mecca every year for pilgrimages, the tower has apparently revived secular tourism in the city. "The Clock Tower revived our business during the last three years," says Abbas Subhi, the marketing manager of one of the hotels in the Clock Tower complex. "Most visitors come only to stay in our roof to enjoy the panoramic view of the Grand Mosque," he says.

The Abraj Al-Bait tower was built on the orders of King Abdullah to be the tallest clock tower in the world, and briefly held the title of the world's tallest building - now held by the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. The dials of the clock are 39m across - more than five times the diameter of the 7m dials on the clock at the top of London's Elizabeth Tower, commonly known as "Big Ben".

Abraj Al-Bait clock tower

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Robot ends 6,000km Canada hitch-hike

Picture of HitchBOT

A robot sent out to travel across Canada by hitch-hiking has completed its 6,000km (3,728-mile) trip - apparently in one piece.

HitchBOT reached Canada's Pacific coast at Victoria, British Columbia nearly three weeks after leaving Halifax in Nova Scotia, far away on the Atlantic coast, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports. "I'm on a boat," one of HitchBOT's last tweets says. "Well, a ferry to be exact. Victoria, I'm on my way." An arrival event is due to be held on Thursday.

The robot was made by a group of Toronto researchers as an experiment in human-robot interaction and artificial intelligence technologies. Built from an old beer-cooler bucket, foam pool noodles, wellies, solar panels and a computer, it uses GPS technology to send its creators details and pictures of its location. "This project asks: can robots trust human beings?" researcher Frauke Zeller of Ryerson University says.

David Smith of McMaster University tells the Toronto Star newspaper it took only two minutes for HitchBOT to be picked up after being left on a roadside in Halifax on 27 July. Since then, its journey - which included attending a wedding in the province of British Columbia - has gathered more than 30,000 followers on Twitter and over 40,000 likes on Facebook. "We're elated," Smith says. "It's been really great fun and to me it seems like it brought people together in a really interesting way."

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'Swiss-made food for Swiss soldiers'

Swiss soldier "An army marches on its stomach"

The Swiss armed forces have promised that servicemen will only be given food produced in Switzerland or in accordance with Swiss food standards, apparently in response to animal rights concerns about imported fare.

New rules coming into force next year say bread, dairy and meat produce must be sourced inside the small Alpine country, the Neue Zuercher Zeitung newspaper reports. Fish can come from abroad but must meet international sustainability standards. Ration packs will also be Swiss-made as far as possible, although things like coffee will still have to be imported.

The patriotic diet will reportedly cost the military an extra $1.7m (£1m) a year, up from the current $72m. With a daily food budget of only 8.50 Swiss francs ($9) per soldier or airman a day, the army uses a lot of imported produce. But servicemen have complained about being served chicken from Hungarian batteries with poor animal rights standards.

The change has won applause on social media. "Only 8.50 francs per soldier per day! Now I know why I had to send my nephew food packages to his training camp," one Twitter user jokes. Switzerland still has compulsory military service, and more than 90% of its servicemen are conscripts.

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Singapore tourists 'told to shut up'

Man making a "Shh" sign

Singaporeans travelling to the nearby Indonesian island of Batam have been ordered to be completely silent while queuing for immigration, or face being sent straight back home, it's emerged.

Signs showing a picture of a raised finger over a pair of lips have recently gone up at the immigration hall at the Batam Centre ferry terminal, the Straits Times daily reports. Travellers say they're being abruptly told to take the next ferry back to Singapore if caught talking in the queue. Another report says about 50 Singaporeans are being turned away every week for speaking too loudly.

"I was there for a holiday - why couldn't I open my mouth?" one rejected Singaporean tourist tells the Straits Times. "I was just chit-chatting with my friend." Another traveller says she saw a woman turned back even though the rest of her family had already been let through, while a Singaporean Twitter user reports: "We got scolded! They think they are managing a library."

The silence is needed to keep order and ensure tourists can hear officers' instructions, says Batam immigration office chief Irwanto Suhaili. The one-hour journey to Batam is popular with Singaporean day-trippers, and a return ticket costs about $40 (£24).

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Smuggler who 'ate money' sentenced

Some of the cash recovered

A Venezuelan man has been sentenced to three months in prison in Jamaica after being found guilty of swallowing more than $100,000 in cash.

Eddy Alberio Mancipe was stopped as he tried to board a flight from Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay to Trinidad, The Gleaner newspaper reports.

Officers became suspicious while questioning Mr Ortega, 41, and he was later arrested. He complained of sickness and was taken to hospital, where over two days he passed 80 plastic packages containing the $103,500 (£62,000), which he had been trying to smuggle off the island. As he had already been held in police custody for eight months before being charged and sentenced this week, he was "deported with immediate effect", the agency says.

Financial Investigation Division chief Justin Felice says Jamaica will step up port and airport checks, adding "This is the first instance that we have found cash being smuggled from Jamaica in such a fashion. It is indicative of how far persons will go in an effort to evade detection by law enforcement tasked with combating money laundering".

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Malaysian police book 'vulgar' driver

Summons with obscenity blocked out

A man in Malaysia has found himself in jail for a week, with a hefty fine to pay, after scrawling an obscene word on a traffic ticket.

Police stopped gravestone mason Lim Pei Jye outside the "I Love U" cafe in Jalan Batu Ferringhi, Penang Island, after he'd run a red light, and issued him with a court summons. But the "enraged Mr Lim scrawled an offensive word, referring to one's mother's private parts, on the ticket", reports The Malay Mail. Police officer S Thanesran told a court in George Town, Penang State, that Mr Lim wrote the obscenity in the signature column reserved for acknowledging receipt of a summons. The officer promptly charged the 41-year-old under Section 509 of the Malaysian penal code for "using sounds, gestures or words to insult the modesty of a person".

Defence lawyer Muhammad Arif Shaharuddin said his client was suffering from stress after divorce proceedings, and was sorry for what he'd done. Public Prosecutor Muhammad Hafiz Hashim was unimpressed, arguing instead for a deterrent sentence, as divorce was "no excuse for humiliating a policeman who was just doing his job". Magistrate Dianne Nigrad Nor Azahar agreed, and fined the father of two £944 ($1,500). But he got off lightly with only a week in jail, notes The Malay Mail, as Section 509 carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

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Monastery tempts Chinese IT workers

A Buddhist monk in Beijing checks his mobile phone

A monastery in China is offering courses for "troubled" IT workers, it appears

The Longquan Monastery in Beijing is advertising an "IT Dhyana Camp" for employees in the city's internet and technology companies, state-run Xinhua news agency reports. "Dhyana" is the Sanskrit word for "meditation", and technology professionals are taking part in the free course which insists that applicants follow the temple's rules of simple lodging and a vegetarian diet. According to Xinhua, participants will be deprived of their phones and other digital gadgets for the duration of the three-day course, and they'll be taught meditation, Buddhism and farm work.

Master Xianxin from Longquan Monastery tells Xinhua that many of the 400 applicants for the course are suffering anxiety and pressure relating to the fast pace of life and technological advances, and are looking for both clarity and new personal goals. "Many people today lack self-awareness," he says. He's also certain that Buddhism should embrace the internet: "We don't see an inevitable clash between Buddhism and technology. Instead, new technology can assist with the spread of Buddhism."

According to Xinhua, some Buddhist masters have a "huge" online following in China, offering guidance and wisdom to internet users. Academic Jiang Hong told the news agency that Buddhism and other religions are becoming more popular thanks to improved living conditions. "Chinese society has reached a stage where many people no longer lack basic necessities and want to pay more attention to their spiritual needs," he said.

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Clenched fist to foil Ebola

P M News President Jonathan watches Lagos Governor Babatunde Fashola sanitise his hands

The governors of Nigeria's 36 states have started greeting one another with clenched fist salutes - not out of revolutionary fervour, but to avoid transmitting the deadly Ebola virus.

President Goodluck Jonathan summoned the governors and regional health commissioners to an emergency meeting in the capital, Abuja, to discuss how to stop the spread of Ebola, and the governors "opted to greet one another with clenched fists", This Day newspaper reports, quoting the official News Agency of Nigeria.

The health ministry's Ebola awareness programme is discouraging Nigerians from shaking hands to avoid further infection, and the clenched fist is the latest in a series of changes people are making to avoid physical contact. MPs stopped shaking hands earlier this week, and even the Catholic Church has reviewed its 'Sign of Peace' gesture of shaking hands with your neighbour during Mass.

Three people have died of Ebola in Nigeria since it arrived in late July, and 10 more have been diagnosed with the disease. Many Nigerians who had initial contact with carriers have been quarantined, and several others are under observation, the paper says. At their meeting with the president, the governors agreed to set up seven laboratories nationwide to test for Ebola, and upheld a decision to ban the movement of corpses from state to state without a waiver from the federal ministry of health and proper safeguards.

Scientists at Aberystwyth University have established that shaking hands is one of the most effective ways of passing on bacteria, and recommend 'fist-bumping' as a much less risky way of greeting if people don't want to avoid physical contact altogether.

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Russia's Atlantis rises again

Mr Nolotelnov lays flowers at Mologa

Stalin ordered the flooding of the historic city of Mologa to make way for a giant reservoir in 1935, but now the 'Russian Atlantis' has risen from its watery grave - to the delight of its former inhabitants.

The city on the River Volga dates back to the 12th Century, and was a major trading post between the Baltic Sea and Asia. But the Soviets decided Mologa had to go to make way for the Rybinsk Reservoir and hydroelectric power station. The 130,000 townspeople were forced out, and the city gradually disappeared beneath the waters in the 1940s. Nearly 300 people refused to go and were left to drown, Soviet secret police files have confirmed.

The former inhabitants and their descendants sail to the site every year to pray and cast wreaths on the water. But a mild winter and hot summer have seen water levels drop dramatically, exposing remnants of the former Cathedral of the Epiphany and surrounding streets. The reservoir authorities allowed Nikolai Novotelnov, who had to leave Mologa when he was 17, to walk on his native turf again, Russia's TV Tsentr reports.

There is little to see beyond the cathedral foundations and the outlines of the streets, but Mr Novotelnov described the pre-war scene to television reporters. "Here was the inn, over there was the Voikov school and the flour store. Communist Street ran that way, towards the district administration building, the chemists, and my house," he told reporters. He laid flowers at the metal navigation marker that stands on the cathedral site and gathered brick fragments for his fellow Mologans.

Cathedral remains, Mologa The last of Mologa

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Little Mermaid gets a Seoul 'sister'

The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen

South Korea's capital Seoul is to get a "sister" copy of Copenhagen's Little Mermaid as part of a statue exchange between the two cities, it's been reported.

A replica of the century-old statue, which attracts over 1.5 million visitors to the Langlinie promenade in the Danish capital, is to be placed on the banks of the Han River in Seoul, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reports. In return, the Danes will receive a statue that represents the South Korean capital, although it's currently unclear what that will be.

The statue exchange is the result of a meeting between the mayors of the two cities in Denmark this week, with Seoul's Park Won-soon saying that the Danish offering will be the "Little Mermaid's sister."

Park's Danish tour has had a distinctive Hans Christian Andersen feel to it. He's also agreed with Odense mayor Anker Boye to create a theme park bearing the Odense-born fairytale writer's name, Korea Bizwire says. Seoul's city government will consult with the Danish city over designs of buildings and attractions.

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New York bans 'tiger selfies'

New York has banned posing with big cats in photos Getting close to tigers is now an offence in the state of New York

The state of New York has effectively banned the popular trend of taking "selfie" photos with tigers or big cats by saying people are no longer allowed near dangerous animals at zoos, circuses and carnivals.

The new law comes after the online-dating app Tinder saw a surge of photos - mainly of men - posting profile pictures of themselves next to tigers and other big cats. The phenomenon has come to be known as the "tiger selfie" - local website Politics on the Hudson reports. A report earlier this year from the Wall Street Journal estimates that one in 10 photos on Tinder has a tiger in it - perhaps because the men want to appear adventurous to potential partners.

But assembly member Linda Rosenthal, who sponsored the bill, tells the Daily News website the measure is there to stop animals from being exploited. Wildlife activists say tiger selfies encourage people to take cubs from big cats who are later neglected, mistreated and abandoned when they grow up. Similar laws are already in force in states such as Mississippi, Arizona and Kansas.

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Turkish shops sell refugee 'boat kit'

Greek coastguards help refugees disembark from a rescue boat  Greek coastguards help refugees disembark from a rescue boat

Traders in the western Turkish coastal city of Izmir have started selling life vests and other vital equipment - apparently intended for refugees wanting to illegally cross the Aegean Sea to Greece.

The shops in the neighbourhood of Basmane - which has seen a large influx of people fleeing from Iraq, Somalia and Syria - are stocking the necessary equipment and local officials tell the Hurriyet daily newspaper that Izmir has become a "hub for migrants wanting to illegally cross into Greece". The paper reports that some 5,789 migrants have been caught by the Turkish coast guard in 2014 alone.

Many people attempt the dangerous sea journey from Turkey to Greece and accidents are frequent. In the latest incident, four people drowned when a boat carrying migrants from Eritrea and Afghanistan sank off the Turkish Aegean coast in July on its way to the Greek island of Lesbos. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that by the end of the year, Turkey will have to accommodate over 1.3 million refugees fleeing conflict zones in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia.

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Denmark opens 'free' supermarket

Young woman at the supermarket Tryvertising is thought to be an innovative way of reaching customers

Shoppers in the Danish capital will soon be able to buy groceries without paying for them - if they write a review about the products.

Copenhagen's first "free" supermarket is scheduled to open in a few days, The Copenhagen Post reports. Once customers register online with Freemarket, they place an order and pick everything up at the shop.

But shoppers have to review their products quickly - they might have their profile shut down if they take too long, or have to pay a fine if they want it reopened. Freemarket also charges 19 kroner (£2.02; $3.40) a month to pay for the "physical operation" and has a monthly limit of 10 products.

"Experienced consumers switch off or even get angry about the commercials, ads, banners and pop-ups foisted on them," says Cutting Edge PR. "'Tryvertising' is an innovative way to reach them." The concept isn't unique to Denmark, but has been gaining popularity as companies try to harness the power of customer reviews online. Big brands from the car to coffee industries have been offering perks such as free use of cars at hotels or complimentary coffee to commuters at bus stops in the same spirit.

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Colombia bullfighters on hunger strike

Bullfight in Medellin in January 2014 Bullfights are still held outside of Bogota, such as here in Medellin

Colombian bullfighters have gone on hunger strike to push for bullfighting to resume in the capital Bogota, two years after the mayor effectively banned it.

Eight bullfighters have been striking for more than a week in tents outside the city's only bullring, La Santamaria, the El Tiempo newspaper reports. "We don't want food - we're hungry for bull!!!" says a banner hanging above their picket line. The bullfighters reckon 35,000 jobs have been affected by the closure of the stadium and that the city's been deprived of $1.6m (£1m) in income.

Mayor Gustavo Petro effectively ended bullfighting in the city when he cancelled the bullring's lease in June 2012. He said he wanted public places to be used for activities of "life, not death". The constitutional court was supposed to rule on the issue last year, but a final decision has been repeatedly postponed.

The issue of bullfighting - associated in the minds of many Colombians with country's traditional landowning elite - has been passionately debated on Colombian social media. Many Colombians say it's cruel, but defenders insist it has significance as art. A 2004 law protects bullfighting as a form of artistic expression, but many Colombian mayors - under pressure from animal rights campaigners - have used loopholes to stop it.

Protesters holds up a placard against bullfighting in Medellin during elections in February 2014 The number of Colombians campaigning against bullfighting as a form of cruelty to animals is growing

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Greece to drop 'eternal students'

Greek students protest against plans to overhaul the country's university system in 2013 Plans to reform universities and cut funding are often met with protests

Greece's new education minister says he wants to put an end to the problem of "eternal students" - tens of thousands of people who have been enrolled at university for years without graduating.

Andreas Loverdos has ordered anyone who has spent longer than 11 years on courses that should last five years or less to be struck off all university registers in September - and he insists there'll be no extensions "for petty political reasons", Greek newspaper Ekathimerini reports. Loverdos says this could affect as many as 180,000 people, some of whom have been "studying" since the 1950s. OECD figures say fewer than 20% of Greeks graduate from university.

Loverdos insists the move shouldn't come as a surprise, saying that in 2007 a law was passed setting a 10-year deadline on obtaining a first degree. The university system was also reformed in 2011 - apparently to little effect. "Everybody has had a long enough time to prepare," the minister says. Although he admits these long-term students don't actually cost the state much money, he thinks cleaning up the records will help accurately assess universities' needs.

Greek higher education was badly hit by the country's economic crisis, which left students facing poor job prospects and triggered an exodus of Greeks to seek to work or study abroad. The country's universities are highly politicised and frequently wracked by staff strikes and protests against government spending cuts.

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India radio sacks presenters over 35

Radio show being produced at All India Radio in 2005. All India Radio wants journalists to prove they are not "mature and boring"

India's national public radio broadcaster appears to have sacked around 100 presenters for being over its new age limit of 35.

All India Radio says it had to bring in the new age rules because the station needed to "infuse freshness in presentation of programmes". The Kolkata-based broadcaster initially set the cut-off at 30 years - but then raised it to 35. The measure was then put on hold by an employment tribunal until 8 August - but the journalists in question were dropped the day after the freeze expired, the Hindu daily reports.

Most of the journalists affected have worked at the station for many years and say they are shocked. "It is absolutely irrational to terminate our services just because we have crossed 35," Avantika Ghosh, of the station's Broadcasters' Welfare Association, tells The Times of India. "There is no scientific reasoning that says that once a person crosses 35, the voice modulation ceases to sound good."

All India Radio has responded by saying it will allow presenters to stay on if they pass a test to prove they don't sound "too mature and boring", according the Kolkata paper The Telegraph.

Although outstripped in recent years by India's booming television sector, radio is still an important medium, particularly in rural areas. Publicly-run All India Radio - which broadcasts in 23 languages - faces growing competition from a proliferation of new private stations.

Radio repair man in India Radio still plays a big role across much of India

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N Korea currency 'drops Kim Il-sung'

North Korean 5,000-won banknote showing Kim Il-sung in 2009 How the 5,000-won note looked in 2009...

North Korea has dropped Kim Il-sung from its highest-denomination banknote, completely erasing the revered founder's image from its currency, it seems.

A new 5,000-won note introduced at the end of July no longer features current leader Kim Jong-un's grandfather, the South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports. Instead, it now has a picture of what North Korea officially regards as his birthplace - Mangyongdae - on the front, and a Pyongyang museum that displays gifts from foreign leaders on the other.

The note - officially worth $40 (£23), but thought to be be less than $1 on the black market - was already the last to bear Kim Il-sung's features after he was dropped from the 1,000- and 2,000-won notes in 2009. That was part of a much more far-reaching currency reform that reportedly prompted widespread anger inside North Korea, and is widely seen as a political disaster. This latest change could be aimed at flushing out privately hoarded money reserves, South Korean politicians say.

As for the dropping of Kim Il-sung, the Daily NK website says it could mean that Kim Jong-un is signalling that he's now fully in control since coming to power in 2011, and may even be showing an openness for economic reform. Alternatively, North Korea might just be preparing to introduce a new 10,000-won note in response to inflation - which would again feature Kim Il-sung.

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Belarus 'breeds blue and pink spuds'

"Blue potatoes"

Shoppers in Belarus may soon be tempted by new breeds of potato with luridly blue and pink flesh, it's reported.

It's all part of a wider national effort by Belarusian scientists to develop new kinds of spuds with non-traditional colours, the Minsk Novosti news website says. There'll be blue, pink and purple potatoes that will taste as good as the more common white-yellow ones, according to Ivan Kalyadka, who heads the Research Centre for Potato Cultivation and Horticulture at the Belarusian Academy of Sciences.

Now that the nine-year breeding process is complete, the new kinds of potato are currently undergoing state testing. After that they'll be given the green light for full-scale cultivation, the report says. Their creators hope to use them in a variety of products, including crisps, chips and instant mashed potatoes. The potato is central to Belarusian cuisine, used in dishes such as draniki (potato pancakes) and babka (potato bake).

Non-traditionally coloured spuds have in fact been developed elsewhere, including the "Adirondack Blue", bred by potato breeders at Cornell University in the US. It's not known whether the new Belarusian breeds are similar to existing types, or entirely new creations.

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Site tracks UK passport backlog

UK biometric passport Delays to passports have hit tens of thousands in the UK and around the world

A Hong Kong-based journalist frustrated at delays to British passport applications has set up a website to publicly track how long it takes to process hers - and she wants others to join in.

Laura Ma's website - which says No in big letters at the top - has a counter totting up the days, hours, minutes and seconds since she applied for her passport on 1 August. It also invites readers to share the time they've been waiting for their passport.

Britain's passport system has been hit by huge delays after a change in the way applications are processed. The UK's Passport Office says it is dealing with the highest demand for passports in 12 years. In July, the number of delayed passports was put at over 30,000, and hundreds of UK passport workers went on strike over pay and staffing.

"The thinking behind the website is to boost awareness of the backlog," Ma tells the South China Morning Post. Ma, 26, holds three passports - she was born in Hong Kong, acquired British citizenship as a child and has since become a naturalised citizen in in Canada. She had to send off all her documents to renew the UK passport. "It means I will have no travel documents whatsoever for as long as it takes for them to process everything," she says.

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Mexican Christ statue has human teeth

Statue of the Lord of Patience in Mexico

The statue of the Lord of Patience in the parish of San Bartolo Cuautlalpan, Mexico, has always looked ghastly.

His tortured look, blood streaming down his neck, open wounds on his face, hands and knees send shivers down your spine. But it turns out that the statue is even more realistic - and macabre - than previously thought. Specialists restoring the 18th Century artwork have discovered that the statue's eight teeth used to belong to an adult human, Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History has announced.

"The teeth were probably donated as a token of gratitude," suggests head restorer Fanny Unikel. Elsewhere in Mexico, parishioners are known to have volunteered their hair to make wigs for saints, as well as clothing or money. But the teeth and nails of statues are usually made of bones and animal horns. "It's the first time human teeth have been found in a sculpture," says Unikel.

As unique as it is, the director of Mexico's National School of Restoration, Conservation and Museology says the find isn't surprising. "The statue is a very convincing depiction, so naturally, if someone could lay hands on this kind of teeth, he would use them." Unikel adds, in a museum video, the teeth are in perfect condition, even for a centuries-old sculpture. She rules out the idea that they belonged to a holy person. "Relics would be used in a different way to stress their significance."

X-ray of the sculpture with teeth visible The teeth can be seen in an x-ray of the scultpure

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Court battle over IVF mix-up babies

Twin babies

Twin babies born this week in Italy are at the centre of an unprecedented custody battle after an apparent blunder at a fertility clinic in Rome.

The biological parents of the children are hoping that the courts will rule in their favour after the their embryos were implanted into a different couple during an in vitro fertilization procedure at the end of last year, the Italian edition of The Local news website reports. The biological parents's own IVF treatment ended in failure, but DNA tests later showed that they were the biological parents of twins being carried by another woman. The babies were born this week by caesarean section, adding a further complication to the court process, La Stampa newspaper says.

But the unnamed couple have an uphill task on their hands, since Italian law recognises the woman who gives birth to a child is their legal mother. And the birth parents are adamant that they won't be parting with the babies. "We are happy. Very happy: our children are born, they're very well and we have already registered their birth," says the birth mother, named only as Francesca. "No one will be able to take them from us," she tells La Stampa.

The case highlights the high emotions that surround IVF treatment, with one lawyer involved in the case saying it would be "very distressing" for both couples. Speaking to the BBC last year, Lisa Jardine, former chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority in the UK said private clinics are in the business of "marketing hope" to would-be parents, and that two thirds of couples have to come to terms with the heartbreak of failure.

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McDonald's ad denies 'Israel link'


McDonald's in Malaysia is pleading against a planned boycott of its products over alleged links to Israel, saying it is not linked in any way to "any political activity, violence or oppression".

In a full-page advertisement in a local newspaper, the fast-food giant says that taking action against it will only hurt its 12,000 Malaysian employees - over 85% of whom are Muslim - the Malay Mail Online reports. McDonald's has recently been facing accusations that it has been helping to fund Israeli attacks on Gaza. The chain is also having to deny rumours it will give away free burgers and drinks on Friday. "We would like to clarify that the notices on free McDonald's food posted on Facebook were not issued by McDonald's, and we are unable to honour it. It is a hoax produced by an irresponsible party," the company says in a statement.

A pro-Palestinian rally in the capital Kuala Lumpur saw calls to boycott a list of products and companies including McDonald's, and similar calls are circulating on social media. Two protests have also been held outside the McDonald's outlets in Malaysia this week. A majority of Malaysians are Muslim and sympathy for the Palestinian cause is widespread. Earlier this year, a survey by the Anti-Defamation League found nearly two-thirds of Malaysians admitted to having anti-Jewish attitudes.

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Colombia gets own Christ the Redeemer

Piece of Christ statue being assembled in Colombia

Traffic in the Colombian city of Floridablanca has come to a standstill as a giant statue of Jesus Christ - that is hoped to rival the iconic monument in Rio de Janeiro - has been delivered to the town in pieces.

Bystanders have been tweeting pictures of the statue parts, which are destined to stand in the EcoParque El Santisimo (The Blessed EcoPark) due to open next year, the Colombia Reports website says. "In #Santander #EcoParque #PaNaChi the Christ of Juan José Cobos at 40m will be higher than the Corcovado in Brazil," tweets onlooker Karina Alvarez.

District governor Richard Aguilar Villa also tweets enthusiastically about the project, saying: " The #ElSantísimo monument is made of nine pieces in total. The view from the project will be spectacular!" The sculpture will reportedly stand 131ft (40m) tall when finished. The pieces of the Christ statue are arriving over two weeks, each weighing four tonnes. Its creator, Juan Jose Cobos, says the statue has taken more than 20 people two years to create.

But not everyone is impressed. A YouTube video showcasing the park and statue has been viewed more than 3,500 times but has only one comment: "What a waste of money." And many on Twitter ask why so much has been spent on the statue, rather than tackling a serious drought that has has affected the region and which is expected to continue for months.

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China plans 'Christian theology'

A Chinese priest during Mass

China says it may try to create a theology based on Christianity - that integrates the religion with Chinese culture and is compatible with the country's socialist beliefs, it's been reported.

Wang Zuoan, a senior official for religious affairs, says China supports the development of Christianity within the country. But "the construction of Chinese Christian theology should adapt to China's national condition," the state-backed China Daily website reports. His comments came at a conference for Sinicization of Christianity in Shanghai.

It's thought there are about 23 million to 40 million Protestants in China - 1.7% to 2.9% of the total population - and that each year, about 500,000 people are baptised as Protestants. But China's ruling Communist Party is officially atheistic and relations with the church have sometimes been strained. People are only supposed to worship in places approved by the government, but many underground churches operate in China too.

In Wenzhou - sometimes called China's Jerusalem, where more than one in 10 people are Protestant - state authorities are cracking down on what they say are illegal church buildings, taking away or threatening to remove crosses at more than 130 Protestant churches and demolishing some entirely, the Taipei Times says. It cites experts and church leaders saying they believe the authorities are alarmed by the quick growth of Protestantism in the area, and are trying to suppress it.

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Nude female cyclist told to get dressed

Shoes of a woman on a bike Apparently the mysterious naked cyclist wore nothing but trainers

Police in Austria have warned a young woman to stop shopping naked while on her cycling holiday, it seems.

Austrians are generally relaxed about nudity in parks and on beaches, but not so elsewhere. People complained that the blonde woman had dropped by a petrol station and tobacco shop in the town of Pernitz, Lower Austria, wearing "little more than white trainers and a friendly smile". Apparently, whenever people approached her she fled, the Oesterreich tabloid reports.

Austrian papers have been trying to track down who the woman is. The Kurier got a tip-off through a YouTube clip that went viral from the nearby town of Pottenstein, showing the same woman leaving a cake shop - also in the nude. The shopkeeper couldn't see what all the fuss was all about. "She's dropped by two or three times, I don't think it's a big deal," says Gabriela Leithner. "She's not done anything wrong. We had a naked man in here the other day," she laughs.

But Pernitz police chief Harald Windbichler is less amused. When he almost stumbled over the nude cyclist on a country road while carrying out a routine speed check, he gave her a verbal warning for "breach of public decorum". The policeman let her ride on, but told her that she faces a 1,000 euro (£794; $1,340) fine next time. "You could buy an entire wardrobe for that", mused Oesterreich.

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Crimea ditches Ukrainian mobile network

Crimean mobile phone shop

Ukraine's largest mobile phone network is ending its service in the Crimean peninsula - the region annexed by Moscow in March - amid a controversy over what prompted the move.

MTS-Ukraina says it's being forced out of Crimea, accusing Crimean authorities of cancelling its coverage in the regional capital, Simferopol. It's appealing to the other major Ukrainian networks - Kyivstar and Astelit - to provide emergency roaming for customers in Crimea "who have been illegally deprived of our services", the Novosti Kryma site reports.

But Crimea's communications chief, Dmitry Polonsky, says the carrier is quitting of its own accord, the Ukrainian Centre of Investigative Journalism reports. He's advised customers switch to Russian companies - on the same day that the Kremlin announced a certain K-Telekom will be providing services in Simferopol. Back in May, Russia transferred MTS-Ukraina's Crimean frequency bands and 3G coverage to K-Telekom, Vedomosti newspaper reports.

There are several K-Telekoms in Russia, and it isn't clear which one would start operating in Crimea. Russian and Western analysts think the firm could be one owned by Russia's own MTS mobile network - which also happens to be the parent company of MTS-Ukraina. Crimean reporter Roman Nikolayev thinks "it all sounds like noise to hide the fact that Russia's MTS is gradually taking over the equipment and customers of its Ukrainian filial MTS-Ukraina, through a second identity" and has suggested this could be a way for MTS to avoid US sanctions for operating in occupied Crimea. Neither Russian company has commented.

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Ban on Saudi unions with some expats

Marriage rules from Makkah newspaper Saudi newspaper Makkah summarises the new marriage rules

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has announced tighter regulations for men wanting to marry foreigners, and has banned them from marrying expat workers from four specific countries, it seems.

Bridegrooms must give the police a marriage proposal and ID signed by their local mayor - which will then be sent to the government for consideration - says Mecca Police Chief Assaf Al-Qurshi. The suitors must be aged over 25 and wait at least six months after a divorce, the Makkah newspaper reports. For married men, "He should attach a report from a government-run hospital proving his wife is suffering from a chronic disease... or is sterile." Meanwhile married men with healthy wives need to have written proof their spouse will let the wedding take place.

But men are apparently banned altogether from marrying expat workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh, Chad and Burma. Unofficial statistics say that Saudi Arabia, which already has a very large foreign workforce - some estimate it at nine million people or 30% of the population - has about 500,000 female residents from those four countries.

The move has raised eyebrows in the Gulf and Pakistani press. Comments on the the Pakistani Dawn newspaper site range from accusing the kingdom of racism to suggesting "our women are safe now". And the Saudi Gazette asks why women from these four countries are singled out in particular. The Saudi government has not commented officially on the report.

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Mongolia switches to digital TV

Analog TV

Television channels in Mongolia are switching their terrestrial broadcasting to digital, and plan to complete the transition within two years - quicker than their hi-tech neighbours Japan and South Korea managed.

Like viewers elsewhere, many Mongolians are unsure about the change-over and want to know whether they can still watch their favourite programmes on analogue sets, the Ulan Bator Post newspaper reports. The head of the official broadcast authority, Tsagaan-Ovgoniy Jadambaa, decided to answer questions at a public meeting in Genghis Khan Square in central Ulaan Baatar, broadcast live nationwide.

Jadambaa says the analogue signal will not be switched off until January 2016, but advises people to buy a set-top box or a television that supports the new digital system. He says Mongolia has opted for the European standard DVB-T2 because it "will allow viewers to receive high-definition channels direct". Japan operates a similar system called ISDB-T, while South Korea and China have chosen to use different standards.

The broadcast authority will install 10 transmitters in Ulan Bator and 244 others in the provinces by the end of August, giving the whole country full digital coverage by the time the analogue signal ends. "Japan and South Korea were able to do a complete transition in five years. Mongolia will do it in two," he told viewers in the live broadcast. Television companies in trial areas report that digital broadcasts are already operating normally, the newspaper says.

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Norway's tiniest pub opens in Arctic

Britt Kramvig and Marry Ailonieida Somby at Raketten Raketten bar's first customers

A hot dog stand in Norway's far north has turned itself into the country's tiniest pub - just in time for this week's Chess Olympiad.

The Raketten (Rocket) kiosk is an historic landmark in Tromso city centre, and has been serving sausages to hungry locals since May. Now its owners have relaunched it as a bar. At only 4.6 square metres (50 square feet) it has little room inside for more than a small kitchen, but the terrace can seat up to nine, reports Nordlys newspaper.

Despite being well inside the Arctic Circle, Tromso's drinkers prefer a chilled light ale with their hot dogs, though the Raketten also offers a sherry for visitors looking for something warmer to wash down their wieners. The local Mack brewery has come up with a special craft beer for the Raketten, and sausage maker Mydland has produced a wurst to the bar's own recipe. As there's only room for one tap, the owners have imported the latest US technology to deliver the beer fast - another first of its kind in Norway.

The first customers were local author Marry Ailonieida Somby and academic Britt Kramvig, who enjoyed the location and fare. "I think it will be good," Somby says. "It's lovely to sit here and watch the crowds go by. You won't miss anything on the Main Square or High Street."

Raketten opening times

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Japan tackles Snapping Turtle menace

Snapping turtle in Japan

Japan is reportedly facing a surge in its population of snapping turtles - threatening some of the country's fragile ecosystems as well as its people's fingers.

Snapping turtles originally come from the Americas, but turned up in Japan as pets in the 1960s, Kyodo news agency reports. Some turtles must have escaped to the wild, as there were an estimated 1,000 turtles roaming the Chiba Prefecture 10 years ago. The turtles have been classed in Japan as an invasive species and are eating up fish, bird and weed stocks, and chewing their way through fishermen's nets.

Last month, fishermen caught 44 of the mighty amphibians in rivers feeding the local Lake Inba, and the environment ministry has taken a total of 3,000 into captivity so far. But scientists say this isn't enough. Biologist Hideaki Kato of Shizuoka University says: "By the time an increase in the population of snapping turtles is noticed, it is likely to have done considerable damage to the ecosystem already". He thinks authorities should focus on destroying the turtles' eggs - they lay 20-30 a time, The Japan Times reports.

But it is difficult to find people willing to tackle the turtles. They can be up to a metre long and weigh 35kg (77lb), and can apparently cause serious harm with their bite. Local authorities are already reporting cases of children being bitten, the paper says.

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Swiss nurseries seek male staff

Father and son play with colourful block

Swiss nurseries have embarked on a recruitment drive for male staff after a dramatic drop in job applications.

Jeannette Good, head of nursery group ABB, tells the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper: "We were flooded with CVs not so long ago, but now we have a shortage of qualified staff." Men make up less than 10% of nursery staff, and the official Kibesuisse childcare agency is targeting a campaign to encourage more to train as care workers.

Zurich city council recently scored some success in recruiting foreign workers, filling several hundred places with qualified German staff. Kibesuisse says foreigners and migrant workers are free to apply, but the paper wonders whether a clear referendum vote in February to limit migration from the EU to Switzerland with new quotas might scupper this.

Kibesuisse's Stefanie Knocks also admits there are deep-seated problems with recruiting to nurseries. "Pay is low, and it's both physically and psychologically demanding work," she says, adding that there are social barriers to getting men into the industry. Some male care workers endure teasing from friends, she says, not to mention malicious gossip about men who want to work with small children.

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Siberian Republic campaign taken down

Campaign poster for autonomous Siberia "Let's Show Moscow Siberia!"

Campaigners who want more autonomy for resources-rich Siberia have had their pages blocked on Russia's most-popular social network.

The prosecutor-general's office ordered the Vkontakte site to block the March to Federate Siberia page, which now carries a message saying: "Access is limited on the orders of the law-enforcement agencies." The page was shut down after discussion of the campaign began to build online, with some people comparing it to protests in Kiev that brought down Ukraine's pro-Russian government earlier this year.

The Vkontakte page called Enough of Feeding Moscow! says it wants to create a Siberian Republic with its own government that "can stand up for the region's interests" in Moscow. The campaign, which has been endorsed by writer and artist Artur Solomonov, says more of the money from Siberia's enormous oil, gas and mineral resources should be be spent for the benefit of local people - especially those who live in harsh Arctic and tundra conditions.

It calls for a march in Novosibirsk, Siberia's informal capital, on 17 August, the TJournal media website reports. Nearly 2,000 people have agreed to join the march so far.

Online media in Russia and Ukraine picked up the story, and soon politicians joined the debate. Opposition MP Ilya Ponomarev - the only politician to vote against Russia's annexation of Crimea - tweeted in favour of the march, declaring "Siberia is Ours". Other supporters, such as artist Artem Loskutov, are drawing parallels with the separatists in eastern Ukraine - who enjoy the encouragement of the Russian government and media.

Autonomous Siberia Vkontakte page blocked Vkontakte page blocked

But MP Nikolai Valuyev, loyal to President Vladimir Putin, dubbed the march the "first attempt of global efforts to promote separatism in Russia". Vkontakte began to see demands that the authorities investigate the campaign - some pointed to a law passed last month by Putin that imposes tough penalties for promoting "separatism" online.

Within days the prosecutor-general's office acted, and the Vkontakte page was gone - along with an interview Loskutov gave to the liberal website Slon. But the Siberians appear undaunted. They have set up another VKontakte page, while it lasts, have asked the mayor of Novosibirsk to have their demonstration, and are continuing their campaign on Facebook - beyond the reach of the Kremlin censors.

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'Web rehab' weans children off devices

Indian girls play with a tablet

A centre has been set up in the Indian capital, Delhi, reportedly to help young people suffering from "internet addiction".

The Centre for Children in Internet and Technology Distress is teaching around 60 children to "discover the joys of traditional games and physical interaction", says Rahul Verma of the Uday Foundation. Parents have turned to the centre because their children are choosing to spend time alone on their smartphones instead of playing outside or with friends. Sometimes children refuse to eat or sleep, or compulsively check the popularity of their social media posts, the Hindustan Times reports.

The centre encourages group play, yoga and reading as well as games. Its walls are decorated with posters of outdoor fun with messages such as: "Life was much easier when Apple and Blackberry were just fruit." Doctors in Delhi are registering a sharp increase in children spending too much time online. The respected National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, which opened a similar centre in India's IT hub Bangalore a few months ago, estimates web overuse is causing 73% of teenagers there some psychiatric distress.

Meanwhile, several parents told the paper their children had benefited from counselling at the centre, and are no longer neglecting their studies or becoming aggressive if the WiFi goes down.

Wall at Delhi Centre

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