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23 April 2014 Last updated at 11:58 ET

Russian Duma passes film swearing ban

Comic book shouting mouth

The Russian parliament's lower house has passed a bill that bans swearing from films, music and other works of art, it's been reported.

The measure would impose fines for swearing in films, plays, concerts and shows, the Itar-Tass news agency reports. In addition, members of the public could face penalties of up to 2,500 roubles (£42; $70) for swearing in public and officials would have to pay double.

The bill says a panel of experts will decide exactly what counts as a swear word. If the measure is approved by the upper house, it will be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin and take effect on 1 July 2014.

Earlier, the private TVC channel caused a stir by beeping out a word in the classic 1979 Soviet film Garage. The word "hrenovina" - a colourful expression for nonsense - was deemed too offensive for broadcast. But the film's director, Eldar Ryazanov, called the censorship "an act of idiocy".

Another law restricting the use of profanities in the media came into force in Russia in April 2013. The law envisages fines of up to 200,000 roubles as well as confiscation of equipment.

Still from "Garage" The Soviet comedy Garage is not known for rude language but has been censored for profanity

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Saudi Arabia approves female pilot

Hanadi al-Hindi Hindi was also the first Saudi woman ever to receive a pilot's licence

Saudi Arabia has issued its first flying licence to a female pilot, it appears.

Hanadi Al-Hindi, 35, has started flying small and wide-bodied luxury planes for the Kingdom Holding Company, owned by Saudi prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the newspaper Arab News reports.

Hanadi al-Hindi

Hindi was already a licenced pilot but until now she could not fly within in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - but the prince's support helped her to get the certification she needed.

"That was really difficult, being a pilot who cannot fly in her own country," she says.

Hindi tells the Saudi Gazette it was her father's dream for one of his children to become a pilot.

When she applied to Jordan's Middle East Academy of Aviation in 2001, managers there were so surprised they asked her father if he was happy for her to pursue what was seen as a traditionally male career.

The flying licence was given to Hindi even though Saudi Arabia has a ban on female drivers. Women have long campaigned against the policy but in October a government spokesman explicitly restated women were still not allowed to drive there.

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Jew asks to join Islamist party

A member of Justice and Development Party

A Jewish lawyer in Morocco is challenging the country's political establishment by asking to join an Islamist party, it is reported.

Isaac Charia says in a letter to Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane's Justice and Development Party (PJD) that he wants to know if Jews are welcome to join, adding that he hopes his request will not be seen as "a cynical act".

"The Islamic world has witnessed many fights in the name of religion in which many people were killed," Mr Charia tells Akhbar Al-Yaoum newspaper. "It's the time to stop mixing religion and politics, and struggle for real development."

He adds: "This is who I am. Will you accept me?" Mr Charia says he hasn't had any response so far, according to the Morocco World News website. There are an estimated 6,000 Jews in Morocco, a country of some 32.6 million.

The PJD took power in 2011 for the first time and is the first Islamist party to run Morocco, the Arab world's oldest monarchy. Mr Benkirane's coalition governs alongside conservative monarchists, liberals, socialists and former communists.

Moroccan Prime Minister Abdelilah Benkirane Moroccan PM Abdelilah Benkirane at the inauguration of a synagogue in the northern city of Fez

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'Putin coins' mark Crimea annexation

Special edition coin bearing an image of Vladimir Putin and the Crimean Peninsula The company refers to the new coin as "1kg of nobility"

Commemorative coins bearing an image of Russian President Vladimir Putin are being minted at a Russian factory to mark the Kremlin's takeover of Crimea, it appears.

Putin's face is on one side of the 1kg (2.2lb) coin while the other shows a map of the Crimean Peninsula, Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda reports. Factory director Vladimir Vasyuhin explains that by bringing the Crimean peninsula "back home", Putin had "demonstrated the qualities of a wise strategist and politician". In March, Russia formally took over control of Crimea from Ukraine, despite international sanctions.

The limited edition of 500 silver coins has been called The Gatherer of Russian Lands - a phrase traditionally associated with Ivan III - better known as Ivan the Great - who significantly expanded Russia's territories during his rule. The coins haven't been priced yet - some of them may be sold, although they won't be used as currency - and the factory says it is planning to present some of them to the Russian leadership.

This isn't the first time Putin has been featured on a coin, Russian website says. Ironically, in 2006 Ukraine launched a coin featuring the Russian president, marking 10 years of its national currency, the hryvnia. The coin was encrusted with precious stones and cost $500 (£300).

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China to get world’s fastest lift

Artist's impression of Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre An artist's impression of the Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre (right)

The fastest lift in the world is to be installed in a skyscraper currently under construction in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, it seems.

The lifts at the Guangzhou CTF Financial Centre, which will be ready in 2016, will be able to reach a speed of 72km/h (44mph), the South China Morning Post reports. This means it will take just 43 seconds to travel 95 floors up the 440m shaft.

The lift is being developed by Japan's Hitachi, which says it will have brakes capable of withstanding the tremendous heat that could be generated if a malfunction occurred. The company will install two of the superfast machines in the building, along with 93 "slower" lifts.

Reports suggest China accounts for as much as 60% of the global demand for lifts, stimulating stiff competition in the sector. At the moment, the world's fastest elevator is in the Taipei 101 tower in Taiwan, and moves at 60.6km/h, a Hitachi official says.

At 530m (1,739ft), the Guangzhou skyscraper won't be China's tallest building - that title goes to the 632m Shanghai Tower. The world's tallest skyscraper is the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, but it may be overtaken in 2019 by the proposed 1km-high Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

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Indonesia's transgender Islamic school

Transgender people pray at the school in Yogakarta Transgender people pray at the school in Yogakarta

An Islamic transgender boarding school has been reopened in the city of Yogyakarta on the Indonesian island of Java, it's reported.

The school, known locally as a Pesantren Waria, was the first of its kind in the country and first opened its doors in 2008 but closed when its founder died last month. It has now moved to a house belonging to Shinta Ratri, a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist.

The 35 students learn Islamic studies, and have a chance to work and earn money, The Jakarta Post newspaper reported. Previously, the school had a beauty salon and also hired out traditional wedding dresses.

"According to the Koran, we are not allowed to classify people based on economic, social, political, gender or theological values," Abdul Muhaimin, a leader of Indonesia's Brotherhood Forum of the Faithful, an organisation that encourages religious tolerance, said at the opening ceremony. "I hope the students here are strong as they must face stigma in society."

The Jakarta Globe has reported elsewhere that public opinion in Indonesia is strongly opposed to LGBT rights. It quotes the 2013 Global Divide on Homosexuality study by the Pew Research Center, which says 93% of people asked thought gay people should not be accepted.

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North Koreans in 'Emmental' training

Kim Jong-un on a food inspection Kim Jong-un displays an interest in food production

North Korea is to send a team of food production experts to France to learn the art of cheese making and improve the quality of dairy products back home, it has been reported.

The National Dairy Industry College (ENIL) in the eastern French city of Besancon is getting ready to host three North Korean experts, the La Lettre website reports.

Their several months of training, however, will concentrate on the production of only one type of cheese - Emmental. The website says the "cheese diplomacy" project was prompted by the North Korean leader's fondness for Emmental. This was apparently the favourite school snack of Kim Jong-un, who is reported to have studied in Switzerland. The main task of the North Korean experts is to implement their newly learnt skills at the Pyongyang cheese dairy, which has been unable to replicate the "requisite quality" of the cheese.

Neighbouring South Korea is a big cheese importer. According to US-based website Quartz, "South Korea's cheese binge is driving American milk prices to an all-time high". Pizza is huge in South Korea, the website explains, adding that the top-four pizza chains in the country are now sourcing cheese from the US.

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Finding freedom in a full-body suit

People wearing full body suits

From sex to childhood dreams, there are lots of reasons why some people in Japan are wearing tight-fitting head-to-toe spandex body suits, it appears.

The suits envelop the entire body - including the eyes - and are favoured by people who find the anonymity of the outfit liberating, the Japan Times newspaper reports. The costumes are called "zentai" - from "zenshintaitsu" - the word for a full body suit.

In Japan, many people "feel unable to find their role in society" and find solace by erasing their outward appearance, says academic Ikuo Daibo. Others, such as 36-year-old teacher Nezumiko, acknowledge a sexual dimension. "I like to touch and stroke others and to be touched and stroked like this," he says. Another member of Tokyo's Zentai Club explains: "I was always fascinated by hero costumes as a child."

The trend is apparently not limited to Japan. The Zentai Project group, whose website is based in Britain, says its members wear the suits "for the amusement of themselves and the public".

People wearing full body suits

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Cologne eviction 'hits tenants rights'

Karl-Heinz Gerigk

A man has been evicted from his home of 30 years in the German city of Cologne, after a legal battle which has turned him into a figurehead for tenants' rights, it appears.

Karl-Heinz Gerigk lost a court case to keep his flat after the owner said he needed it for himself, Spiegel Online reports. But many have come to see his case as an example of how long-established tenants are being pushed out of coveted inner-city areas to make room for wealthier residents.

A first attempt to evict Gerigk - widely known as Kalle - was thwarted in February when demonstrators blocked access to his flat. "It shows that this is a problem that affects many people," Gerigk says in a video. He was eventually evicted on Wednesday after police removed several protesters.

A local daily, the Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger, says the 54-year-old tenant is not an activist but a "perfectly normal neighbour". But it adds his fight has turned him into a "celebrity", receiving expressions of solidarity from around the country. About 50% of German households live in rented accommodation, well above the European average of 29%, according to the official German BundesBauBlatt journal.

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Actors urge India to 'vote secular'

Nandita Das and her husband Nandita Das says the letter speaks out against parties that have divided people along "communal lines"

An open letter from Bollywood film personalities urging people to support secular parties in India's general election has caused a stir, it appears.

The hashtag #BollywoodSplit became the top trend in India on Thursday as people debated whether popular actors and directors should be weighing in on politics. The letter, signed by 60 prominent people, says: "India's secular character is not negotiable!" according to NDTV. "Vote for the secular party which is most likely to win in your constituency."

The letter doesn't name parties, but seems to target the BJP - India's main opposition party - and its allies, says screenwriter Anjum Rajabali, who is spearheading the initiative. Directors such as Imtiaz Ali and Kabir Khan, and actresses Nandita Das and Aditi Rao Hydari are among those who signed the letter.

But the message has proved divisive. Film director Madhur Bhandarkar says in a tweet that the letter is "shocking". Another actor, Tusshar Kapoor, warns "the 'secular' card is being stretched a bit too far".

The letter appeared on the eve of India's biggest polling day, in which nearly 200 million people are eligible to vote. Mumbai, where the Hindi film industry is based, goes the polls on 24 April.

Imtiaz Ali Imtiaz Ali also signed the open letter

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Marathon speed crackdown in Belgium

Speed camera

Thousands of people have responded to a call for ideas about where to put speed cameras on Belgian roads, ahead of a marathon speeding crackdown, it seems.

In 11 days, more than 50,000 people sent in suggestions for check-point locations for Thursday's 24-hour anti-speeding operation, the newspaper La Libre Belgique reports, and their ideas were submitted to the online I Flash Too campaign. But police get the final say on where to carry out checks on Thursday, after considering all the options.

The most proposals came from the Dutch-speaking region, Flanders, where more than 500 check-points will reportedly be set up. But, amidst all the publicity, not many drivers are expected to be caught. "Whoever still allows themselves to be flashed is a fool," the newspaper De Standaard quotes a police officer as saying.

Campaigners say 300 people die in Belgium every year because of speeding. Meanwhile, road accidents in the EU claim nearly 30,000 lives every year, although recently the number of fatalities has gone down in most countries.

Thousands of suggestions for speed camera locations came in from the public

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Man 'earns living' from tattoo ads

Edson Aparecido Borim walks on a street in Tanabi

A Brazilian man who earns a living by selling space for tattoo adverts on his body is now looking for a customer for his forehead, it appears.

Edson Aparecido Borim already has 49 adverts tattooed on his chest, back and arms, the G1 news portal reports. He says it all started eight years ago with "a dare in a bar", but now the ads are his main source of income. "My goal now is to get a big company to tattoo my forehead, but it would have to be a good contract," he says.

He walks around bare-chested in the small town of Tabani in the state of Sao Paulo, but says he's not obliged to do so all the time. The Brazilian charges between 50 and 400 reals (£14-£110) a month for a tattoo, depending on its size and location on his body, and on the client. Borim says when clients do not pay or cancel an ad, he crosses them out.

"Skinvertising" caused a stir in the mid-2000s, when many companies experimented with it. The practice left behind a trail of ads for companies that do not exist any more, BuzzFeed reports.

Edson Aparecido Borim walks on a street in Tanabi

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Badger 'survives car grille ride'


A badger that became wedged in a car grille after a collision in Norway has survived, apparently without serious injuries, it's claimed.

The driver was travelling at 80km/h (50mph) on a motorway in southern Norway when his car hit the animal in the early hours of the morning, the Norwegian edition of The Local reports. When the driver stopped, he discovered the animal wedged into the front grille of his car and tried to prise it out with a stick, only to notice that it was still alive.

"After four or five minutes, the animal went down the road," says 50-year-old Borgar Kristensen. "It was not badly injured." The incident apparently happened a year ago, but Kristensen says he only sent a photo of the badger to Norway's VG newspaper after reading about a similar incident in Britain involving a small deer.

In that incident the muntjac, which got stuck in the grille of a car in Potters Bar near London, also survived, the Daily Mail reports. The DeerAware website says there are as many as 74,000 deer-related traffic accidents in the UK each year.

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'Soup for bed' offered to Ukrainians

Page from the UkrainianToEveryHouse website

Russian social media users are offering free lodging in exchange for a bowl of soup to Ukrainian women wanting to leave the country, it seems.

The new service, called Ukrainian To Every House, appears to connect Russian "guys" offering accommodation, and Ukrainian "girls" looking for a place to stay. It was launched on the popular VKontakte network by MDK, its largest user group with 4.6 million subscribers.

It is suggested that the women cook Ukrainian borscht soup, do housework, and offer money or even sex in exchange for the free bed, the Russian Tjournal social media news website says.

The project claims more than a dozen women have been matched through the website, and that it helps people "escape Banderite Ukraine". Western Ukrainians were sometimes called Banderites - after the wartime partisan leader Stepan Bandera - in Soviet-era propaganda. At one point, Bandera was allied with the Nazis.

Borscht soup

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Zig-zag road markings baffle drivers

Zig-zag street markers in Sao Paulo The yellow lines meet transport rules, officials say

Sao Paulo drivers say they are baffled by a double yellow zig-zag line in the middle of a busy road, but it is in accordance with traffic regulations, it appears.

The lines were supposedly put in place to expand the space where cars can wait or move forward at traffic lights, the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reports, but they have left locals confused and worried it could cause accidents. A YouTube video shows cars apparently trying to follow the lines. "It's very confusing, and the traffic is worse as well," a motorcyclist tells the TV Gazeta channel. "Whoever did this was drunk," another complains.

Taxi drivers have reportedly signalled an increase in accidents. The "little-used" lines have complicated the movement of vehicles in the area, the R7 web portal says.

But Sao Paulo's transit authority, the CET, says the road markings are normal and meet regulations. Correspondents say Sao Paulo's lane dividers sometimes expand to give turning drivers some extra room, but they admit the lines on Avenida Dr Francisco Ranieri in the city's north zone are rather odd.

Zig-zag street markers in Sao Paulo Sao Paulo's zig-zag lines usually look more like this turning lane

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MPs fight 'child noise nuisance' law

Children playing in a pool

In Austria, MPs are fighting to amend a law allowing people to take legal action over the nuisance caused by noisy children, it appears.

A group of liberal MPs has filed a bill to take noise coming from nurseries and playgrounds off a list of possible complaints, the newspaper Der Standard reports. The current law treats the sound of children playing alongside other noise pollution such as lawnmowers.

The rules have already been changed in the states of Upper Austria and Styria. But federal law still lets homeowners ask for compensation for nuisances caused by noise, smells, sewage or smoke, the paper says.

Lawyers representing children have reportedly welcomed the initiative. One of them, Anton Schmid, warns that real change will only come once "people's mindsets change". But legal provisions are "hugely important" for the authorities and judges, he says.

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One quarter of NZ citizens born abroad

Auckland city skyline Auckland is New Zealand's most cosmopolitan region

More than one million New Zealanders were born overseas, accounting for about 25% of the country's population, new census data says.

"People born overseas now make up more than a quarter of New Zealand's population," census official Gareth Meech tells the New Zealand Herald. It marks an increase from about 20% in 2001 and 23% in 2006, figures from Statistics New Zealand show.

Apparently New Zealanders now originate from a wider range of countries than before - with the number of people born in the UK diving from 66% in 1961 to just over 25% in 2013. It is now more common for Kiwis to have been born in Asia than in the UK, and India has replaced Australia as the third most common birthplace.

An influx of Asians over the last decade has also led to greater linguistic and religious diversity in New Zealand - with three times as many people speaking Hindi and twice as many speaking Chinese languages such as Mandarin.

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Canada Nation revives elk hunting

Elk in Canada

The people of Canada's Tsleil-Waututh Nation have hunted their first elk in 125 years, after the animal was recently re-introduced into the area, it seems.

Young hunters say they felt a sense of connection with their ancestors' traditions during the hunt, and afterwards they buried the animal's innards, made a tobacco offering and gave prayers of thanks, in keeping with hunting traditions, CBC News reports.

But some community elders disapproved of the modern hunting techniques, which included powerful rifles, a smartphone app to learn elk calls and cheering when the first elk was killed.

"This modern-day stuff, that jumping up and cheering," Chief Ernest George says. "You know, it's just their way of expressing. But, that was not the way we were taught." But the chief says he hopes that bringing back hunting will help the community's young people stay engaged with Tsleil-Waututh culture and tradition.

Elk were hunted out of Canada's lower mainland in the late 19th Century, but were brought back to the province of British Columbia about 10 years ago. They may only be hunted in limited numbers.

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'Monkey Christ' woman in music video

A woman photographs the restored Ecce Homo painting in Zaragoza, Spain

The elderly Spanish woman who made global headlines for her botched restoration of a fresco in a local church will star in the music video for a song she inspired, it's been reported.

The song by Angel Petisme tells the story of Cecilia Gimenez and the fresco from a more sympathetic angle, the Spanish musician tells the Heraldo de Aragon newspaper. Instead of ridiculing the 82-year-old over her work, the figure in the fresco thanks her for restoring it.

"Her story made me reflect. I felt a great deal of sympathy for her," Petisme says. Gimenez will play herself, while Petisme will be the figure in the painting. Gimenez reportedly suffered panic attacks after images of her work appeared in the media and across the internet. But she has since staged her own art exhibitions, the Local website reports.

In August 2012, Cecilia Gimenez turned her brush on a 100-year-old painting called Ecce Homo (Behold the man), but images of her work went viral and it was soon known as the "Monkey Christ". The quiet town of Borja now reportedly receives thousands of tourists who want to see the improvised restoration.

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Calligraphers to copy Buddhist texts

Shaolin monk

The monks of China's Shaolin Temple have called for 10,000 calligraphers to come and help them copy Buddhist scriptures by hand, it appears.

The temple, which was the birthplace of the Kung Fu martial arts discipline in the central Henan Province, has recently built a giant depository to keep sacred texts, the Xinhua news agency reports. It is 6m (20ft) high and has 520 drawers - and is apparently capable of storing 10,000 documents for as much as 1,000 years.

The monks have asked applicants to send in a sample of their work - the Heart Sutra written in regular script with Chinese brush. Shi Yanzhi, one of the temple's grand masters, says: "The activity will not only preserve classic Buddhist literature, but also help people cultivate themselves in line with Buddhism doctrines."

A woman enters a shrine at the Shaolin Temple in Henan Province, China

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Naples cedes pizza crown to Australia


An Australian chef has won this year's award for the best Pizza Margherita at the World Pizza Championship in Italy.

The annual competition, which took place this year in the Italian city of Parma, attracts hundreds of entrants from around the world. The international panel of judges decided the winner in the traditional Neapolitan pizza category was Johnny Di Francesco, who runs a restaurant in Melbourne, Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper reports.

But local pride was not all lost, as the Di Francesco family hails from Naples and the chef himself trained in the city's prestigious Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana. His recipe firmly follows tradition - and with good reason - as Neapolitan pizza won EU 'Traditional Speciality Guaranteed' status in 2010. This strictly defines the ingredients and manner of cooking - the pizza must be baked in a wood-burning stove and have a smooth, supple texture.

Italian honour was bolstered by the judges' decision that the best classic pizza is still made in Italy, in the south-eastern port city of Bari, to be precise. Chef Giulio Scialpi's creation of various cheeses, aubergine and anchovies won him the prize he "craved since first entering the championship in 2000". The two runners-up in this category were also Italian.

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Russia TV shows 'impostor' protester

Screenshot of a news bulletin on NTV with an activist in a hospital bed

A man who says he was injured in ongoing protests in Ukraine seems to have appeared on two Russian TV channels claiming to be two different people - a pro-Russia activist in one report and an anti-Russia protester in another.

In the first clip, aired on the state-run Rossiya 1 channel on Wednesday, a man calling himself Andrei Petkov is seen in a hospital bed complaining Ukrainian extremists attacked him and other peaceful protesters. One assailant demanded he remove his Russian St George's ribbon "before a bunch of girls chased him away", the man says.

But on the same day NTV, owned by Russia's Gazprom gas monopoly, showed a clip of what seems to be the same man - but with the slightly different name of Andrei Petkhov - saying he's a German citizen funding a training camp for radical right-wing anti-Russia activists. He seems to be wearing the same jersey and has the same bandaged nose in both reports.

It has caused a stir on social media, with some people suggesting the man might be an actor. "This is priceless!" says one comment on VKontakte, Russia's equivalent to Facebook. The writer adds: "Do you still believe the news on Russian TV?" But Russian bloggers were unimpressed. "A carnival on ice" is how Rustem Adagamov reacted. "They didn't even bother to change the decor". Meanwhile, Marat Guelman says: "I don't know what to say. It's funny, of course, but at the same time so shameful that I don't want to believe it's true".

Screenshot of a news bulletin on Rossiya 1 with an activist in a hospital bed

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Myanmar papers run black front covers

Daily Eleven's black front cover In December, a reporter from the Daily Eleven was also convicted for trespassing

Major daily newspapers in Myanmar (also known as Burma) have printed black front covers, apparently in protest against a jail sentence recently handed down to a journalist.

Friday's cover of The Daily Eleven newspaper is black above the fold, while the Mizzima Daily has a black panel running down the left side of the page. On its Facebook page, the Democratic Voice of Burma has posted a black cover image with the message "Journalism is not a crime."

The newspapers are protesting against a one-year jail sentence given to U Zaw Pe, a reporter for the Democratic Voice of Burma, on Monday. He was charged with trespassing and disturbing a civil servant after visiting the department of education in Magwe District to do an interview about a Japanese-funded scholarship programme, the Democratic Voice of Burma says.

"It is my job to interview," says Zaw Pe. "Prosecuting journalists... will prevent them from approaching government offices in the future. It will compromise the balance of news." He was sentenced along with U Win Myint Hlaing, reportedly the father of a student wanting to know more about the programme.

Several journalists have received similar convictions in recent months, raising questions over whether media reforms in Myanmar will be effective.

Democratic Voice of Burma's Facebook cover page reads "Journalism is not a crime! #FreeZawPhay" The Facebook cover page of the Democratic Voice of Burma joined the newspaper protest

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'Kiev Hitler poster' tweeted in Russia

Tweet of doctored photo showing an image of Adolf Hitler hanging on an official building in Kiev Residents in Kiev do not appear to have noticed this poster hanging on their city council

A doctored photo of an Adolf Hitler poster hanging from Kiev's city council building has been circulated by the head of a Russian TV station, apparently to suggest the prevalence of neo-Nazism in Ukraine.

"A portrait of Hitler has been put up on a building in Kiev, captioned 'Hitler the liberator'," tweeted Ashot Gabrelyanov, the chief of Life News TV. But the poster does not appear to have been seen by people in Kiev.

The image was circulated in February by Pravdivaya Pravda, an anti-West Twitter account based in Moscow, and retweeted by Konstantin Rykov, a pro-Kremlin media mogul. Both insisted the picture was not a fake, but the re-appearance of the photo has triggered more allegations of forgery.

Original poster hanging in Kiev Some see Bandera as a pro-independence hero but others view him as a fascist

"Ashot, this photosopped pic is several months old," said one user, while another tweeted what looks like the original photograph of the Kiev city council offices with a poster of Stepan Bandera on it. Bandera was a Ukrainian anti-Soviet resistance leader during and after World War II, but he is also accused of collaborating with the Nazis.

Later, the portrait of Bandera was replaced with a less controversial one of Ukraine's national poet Taras Shevchenko.

Russian media rhetoric on Ukraine has been belligerent amid fears of a full-blown military conflict following the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych by pro-EU demonstrators. The activists have been called nationalists, neo-Nazis and radicals by both the media and Kremlin officials, who say Moscow has a duty to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.

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MEPs in rap battle for youth vote

Members of the European Parliament hold a rap battle to engage youth voters

Members of the European Parliament have held a rap battle to engage youth voters in forthcoming elections, it appears.

Four teams, each made up of politicians and a professional freestyle hip hop artist, took to a stage in Brussels to discuss issues that they say matter to young Europeans - though rap. The teams represented the major European parties - the European People's Party (centre-right), the Socialists and Democrats, the ALDE (liberal) and the Greens.

"Vote for the EPP if you want money!" said the European People's Party at the start of round one, while the Greens rebutted: "It's not all about money, it's real political decisions." Over three rounds of minute-long raps, the MEPs went back and forth on issues ranging from Europe's borders and migration, to innovation and technology.

The European elections are due to be held on 22-25 May. Voter turnout in European elections has been decreasing over time, with just 43% of people turning out for the poll in 2009.

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ID cards prove fishermen 'not pirates'

Somali fishermen look at the Mogadishu harbour

Somali fishermen have been issued with official ID cards to help distinguish them from pirates, it's been reported.

At least 2,000 such cards have been handed out to fishermen in the Puntland region of Somalia in the last two months, the Ministry for Fisheries and Marine Resources tells Radio Ergo. One fisherman in Bossasso says he feels less afraid of being mistaken for a pirate when he is out at sea.

"We used to suffer a lot because we have been mistaken often for pirates," says Muse Abdalla Isse. "We have been mistakenly shot at or arrested by the forces [European Union naval forces in Somali waters]." He says that just days ago he was stopped by an EU naval patrol - but they let him go when he showed them his card.

Officials say about 4,000 fishermen have been registered in the programme, and everyone should receive their identity cards by the end of April.

Somali fishermen sit next to their boats

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Iran moderates as game 'kill targets'

Image from the video game Return of Mokhtar The player is taking aim at former presidential candidate Mehdi Karrubi

An Iranian video game has players turning their virtual guns against the country's moderate political leaders and their families, it appears.

The game Return of Mokhtar uses the likeness of Mir-Hoseyn Musavi and Mehdi Karrubi - who both ran for the presidency in the disputed 2009 election - as kill targets in the video game. Musavi and Karrubi lost the election to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and have been under house arrest since 2011.

Players can move through corridors and fire at images of Karrubi, Musavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard and other senior figures such as former President Mohammad Khatami.

The website Honar-e Nab-e Eslami (Pure Islamic Art), which launched the game, is known for producing such content. Another programme, called Shooting the Apostate allows users to digitally fire at Germany-based Iranian rap singer Shahin Najafi. He often sings on social issues and mocks extremists.

The game has sparked debate on social media, but there are conflicting reports over whether it is still accessible. At least one Iranian news website says the blogger who initially published it had taken it down.

Image from the video game Return of Mokhtar Here Mir-Hoseyn Musavi (left) is seen as one of the video game's targets

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Striptease club helps Crimea charity

A leg emerges from a red curtain

Striptease performers in the Russian city of Rostov are donating their day's wages to a children's holiday resort in Crimea, it appears.

Sergey Semkin, the owner of a striptease club called Province, says he was shocked to see a TV report of how run-down the camp had become - so he decided he would contribute, Novaya Gazeta reports. He adds that it is striptease dancers' wages that will be donated - not the tips which make up most of their earnings.

Artek, located on Crimea's subtropical south coast, is a famous Soviet-era institution which used to be a dream resort for generations of children in the former USSR. "I wanted to go there on holiday when I was little, but alas, this was not meant to be," Semkin says.

Novaya Gazeta says the donations from the striptease dancers follow in the footsteps of councillors, officials, teachers, library workers and doctors in Rostov region, who have all donated their wages to Crimea before.

View of gardens at Artek children's summer camp in Crimea

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Czech wolf returns after century away


A hidden camera has captured an image of a wolf crossing a wooded clearing in the Czech Republic, a hundred years after the predator disappeared from the area, it's been reported.

There have been some signs near the town of Doksy suggesting a wolf may be in the region, Radio Prague reports. But wolves haven't roamed free in Bohemia since the late 19th Century.

The wolf spotted in the woods of Czech Bohemia The wolf was not aware of the hidden camera

Right now, there is probably just one wolf or maybe a pair, says environmental expert Miroslav Kutal. The animal is likely to have strayed into Bohemia from the border regions of Germany and Poland, where the wolf population has been thriving.

But Kutal tells Radio Impuls the conditions in Bohemia - especially in former military zones and in the mountainous border regions - seem to be good for breeding. This is something to be encouraged, he adds, since wolves can regulate the deer population and draw tourists to the area. But the arrival of poachers could become a concern.

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Brazil athletes 'plan Donetsk escape'

Bernard on the pitch in Donetsk kit Bernard (right) is a member of the Brazilian national squad

Brazilian footballers with the Ukrainian club Shakhtar Donetsk have been guaranteed a safe escape route out of the country if the political situation deteriorates, it's been reported.

The club's owner, billionaire Rinat Akhmetov, is said to have raised the possibility of offering the players his private plane, in a meeting last week, the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reports. One evacuation scenario could see the footballers flown to London, friends and agents of the players told the paper, but there would be no promise of trading evacuated players to other teams.

Akhmetov is believed to have already told the players plane tickets would be available to them at Donetsk airport. Reports at the time suggested the Brazilian embassy was involved with those plans.

Brazilian media had reported earlier that some players were worried about developments in majority Russian-speaking Dontesk, the home region of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych and a hotbed of pro-Russian sentiment in Ukraine. In recent days, the city has seen turbulent pro-Russian rallies, and protesters captured local government offices demanding closer ties with Russia.

There are 12 Brazilians in the Shakhtar Donetsk squad, including one player, Bernard, who is on Brazil's national team.

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US scholar's Iran burial 'in limbo'

A woman at Imam mosque in Esfahan The old capital of Persia is known for its outstanding Islamic architecture and historic monuments

The burial of a prominent US scholar is in limbo, amid a backlash in Iranian media over the professor's request to be laid to rest in the central city of Esfahan, it seems.

Richard Frye, an expert in Iranian and Central Asian studies, died on 27 March at the age of 94 and his body is waiting to be transferred from Boston to Iran for burial. But the newspaper Kayhan, which is seen as a mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has objected, describing him as a "CIA agent".

In his will, Frye asked to be buried near the Zayandeh Rud river, where two other US scholars, Arthur Pope and Phyllis Ackerman, were laid to rest. The plan was approved by former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who also offered to give him an old house in Esfahan as a gift in 2010.

The house given to Richard Frye in Esfahan The house was apparently never actually given to Frye

"If we fail to fulfil the late Frye's will in Iran, we shall be damaging Iranian studies outside Iran," Mostafa Mohaqqeq-Damad, a university lecturer, told reformist newspaper Sharq. If no decision is reached by 8 April, Frye's body may be sent to Dushanbe in Tajikistan.

Frye helped establish the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, the first Iranian studies program in US.

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Family sees oldest message in bottle

A fisherman holds the world's oldest letter in a bottle The bottle turned up in a fisherman's net

Perhaps the world's oldest message in a bottle, cast into the sea near Germany 101 years ago, has been presented to the sender's granddaughter, it's been reported.

Last month, fishermen in the Baltic Sea pulled an old beer bottle out of the water, along with their catch. Inside they found a postcard, dated 17 May 1913, from a man called Richard Platz asking for his message to be forwarded to his address in Berlin, the Local website reports. The letter might be the oldest message in a bottle ever found.

Researchers at the International Maritime Museum in Hamburg were eventually able to track down Angela Erdmann, 62, who lives in Berlin. Platz was her grandfather. She visited the museum last week and was able to hold the bottle.

"That was a pretty moving moment," she tells German news agency dpa. "Tears rolled down my cheeks." Erdmann says she never knew her mother's father, who reportedly died in 1946 when he was 54 years old. But she says the discovery of his message has inspired her to find out more about him.

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Activists held for 'invisible signs'

Protesters hold out their hands as if they were holding posters

Six activists have been detained near the Kremlin in Moscow for holding "invisible posters" and calling for the release of other protesters detained earlier, it appears.

The group was detained on Sunday in Manezhnaya Square and were holding out their hands as if they were carrying invisible signs, the news website reports.

"Our invisible posters read: Free the 6 May prisoners!" one protester says in a video. "Because a man was detained earlier holding a poster you could see, we are now holding invisible posters." But the woman is taken away by police and she can be heard saying "You are breaking the law!" as she is dragged away.

The group was protesting against the earlier jailing of anti-Putin demonstrators - part of what is now called the Bolotnaya Square case - in which a group of activists were jailed for protesting against the inauguration of Vladimir Putin for a third presidential term.

On 6 May 2012, as many as 650 "Bolotnaya" demonstrators were detained and 28 sentenced. Protests are held in their name on the sixth day of every month.

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Couple trace diamond ring lost in sea

Engagement ring

A couple in New Zealand are hoping to claim back a unique engagement ring, which has reportedly been found six years after it was lost in the sea.

Vivienne and Jeff Ninnes say that 15 years ago, they designed the ring together, carefully choosing the main stone. But six years ago, on a beach holiday in Northland, the ring was lost in the waves while Vivienne was splashing in the water with her husband and children.

"I didn't realise I lost both the engagement ring and wedding ring until we got back to the house," she says, according to the New Zealand Herald. "We went straight back to the beach and looked. It was a heart-stopping moment when I realised they were gone."

It eventually surfaced when 83-year-old Bernard Patterson, an experienced beachcomber, was out testing his latest metal detector. He had the ring valued and gave it to police, who traced the ring back to the jeweller who made it. He recognised it immediately.

Today, the Ninnes family are trying to get their ring back from the insurance company - to whom ownership of the ring was transferred after the claim was paid out. It may already have been sold.

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Clinics wait for depressed poll losers

A man dressed as the bull mascot at a rally for Indonesia's Democratic Party of Struggle Observers are waiting to see how the main opposition - the Democratic Party of Struggle - fare at the polls

Hospitals and medical clinics around Indonesia have been told to get ready to receive depressed losing candidates after parliamentary elections on Wednesday, it's been reported.

"Most of the legislative candidates who will be prone [to depression] are beginners who are not ready to lose," says Fadhilah Masjaya, a hospital director in the city of Samarinda, the Jakarta Post reports. "Some of them probably have spent 1 billion rupiah ($88,000) alone - then it's wasted and they become distressed," she adds.

Last month, Social Services Minister Salim Segaf Al-Jufri called on hospitals to prepare special wards for losing candidates. "We predict that there will be a lot of distressed legislative candidates," he said. "Therefore we've coordinated with local administrations and hospitals to prepare special wards."

It's reported that across the country, more than 6,600 people are competing for 560 seats in the House of Representatives. But when all local elections are taken into account, there are apparently 19, 699 seats up for grabs with 200,000 people vying for them.

After the last elections in 2009, Indonesian media ran several stories about candidates suffering from depression, public breakdowns and even killing themselves. Most cases were attributed to debt people had taken on while campaigning.

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No 'Nato base' on Falklands, locals say


Residents of the Falkland Islands have ridiculed claims from the Argentinian president that nuclear weapons were deployed in the area, joking that they were in fact penguins, not missiles.

Marking 32 years since the Falklands conflict with the UK at a ceremony at the Casa Rosada presidential palace, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner said the islands had been turned into a nuclear base for Nato, state-run news agency Telam reports. "This is the truth that they cannot continue to hide," she said.

In response, a group supporting residents of the Falklands tweeted a picture of King Penguins native to the islands. "Argentina recently intercepted this pic of our 'nuclear missiles.' - They turned out to be penguins," said the caption.

Britain has also denied Argentina's claims, saying they are "wholly false".

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Italian PM 'on TV five hours a day'

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi

Italy's new prime minister apparently has made so many media appearances in recent weeks that the Italian press are talking about Matteo Renzi's "occupy TV" strategy.

Between 17 and 31 March, Renzi was on Italian TV screens for an average of nearly five hours a day, La Stampa newspaper reports. Renzi's total appearances across TV channels was close to 70 hours, it adds.

The media blitz reportedly includes some 51 hours of news bulletin time given over either to Renzi's speeches (22 hours), or news reports about him and his work as prime minister (29 hours). In addition, Renzi spent more than 17 hours as a guest on Italian political talkshows, especially in the evenings.

A media expert tells the paper that it's no surprise that Renzi is the "unique propagandist" of his government, given that he's promised the country a dynamic and swift programme of reform very much based on his youthful, can-do political image.

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Baby accused of 'planning murder'

WATCH: The young boy accused of planning murder, and his lawyer

A nine-month-old boy has appeared in court in Pakistan on charges of planning a murder, threatening police and interfering in state affairs, it appears.

Baby Muhammad Musa Khan is one of more than 30 people facing charges after a police raid to catch suspected gas thieves in the city of Lahore, The News website reports. Police say the suspects tried to murder security officers by pelting them with stones. But the Times of India newspaper quotes the infant's father as saying the group was protesting against an electricity shortage.

The infant appeared in the courtroom sitting on his father's lap and clasping a bottle. He was given bail and the case has been adjourned until 12 April, reports from Lahore say. His father is also among the accused.

Infant in court in Pakistan

The murder charges against a baby have alarmed Punjab's Chief Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif. He has asked for clarification from the province's inspector-general of police and demanded "stern action" against the officials who registered the case.

The assistant superintendent who filed the charges has subsequently been suspended, The Nation website says.

Infant in court in Pakistan

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Darth Vader 'out' of Ukraine election

Ukraine's 'Darth Vader' election candidate

Ukrainian authorities have rejected a bid from a man calling himself Darth Vader, who wants to run in the presidential elections.

The man, who appears in the costume of the fictional character from the Star Wars films and is often accompanied by people dressed in other Star Wars outfits, was nominated for the presidency by the Internet Party of Ukraine. Earlier he told the party's congress that he wanted to turn Ukraine into "a galactic empire".

But the country's Central Electoral Commission says parts of Darth Vader's application were "questionable" and some paperwork was probably forged. Apparently, the man is really an electrician called Viktor Shevchenko, who changed his name to Darth Vader in March.

But at least one commission member suggests Darth Vader's campaign could be an attempt to discredit the upcoming election - possibly by Russia, which does not recognise the Ukraine's interim government. "It may seem like an innocent joke, but someone paid 2.5m hryvnyas ($227,000) for this joke," says Ihor Zhydenko, referring to the deposit that must be given along with the application.

Zhydenko adds that Darth Vader might run for the presidency in Russia, where he has received extensive media coverage. "They already have little green men," he says, referring to Russian troops in the Crimea region. "Such a commander-in-chief would be appropriate."

Twenty-three candidates have been registered to run in the snap presidential election in Ukraine on 25 May. The election was called after President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted following months of protests.

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First German woman submarine officer

Janine Asseln inside her submarine

The German Navy has recently appointed its first female submarine officer, it appears.

Janine Asseln, 27, serves as the 4th watch officer on the Type 212 U31 submarine, the newspaper Bild reports. She was appointed in January, but reportedly first had to earn the respect of her fellow crew members. "Of course they poke you a little bit and check whether you can do the job," she says.

As the only female member of a 28-strong crew, Asseln shares a bunk bed with a male colleague. "Everybody has their own sleeping bag," she says, demonstrating there is a curtain that can be drawn for privacy, in a video on the Sueddeutsche Zeitung website.

German women have only had full access to military careers since 2001, after a constitutional ban on serving in armed units was repealed.

Bild notes that Norway already has a female submarine commander. But it adds that in a few years, Janine Asseln may follow suit in Germany.

German submarines

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Angkor temples added to Street View

Google Street View image of Angkor temple

Cambodia's most famous ancient temple, Angkor Wat, can now be visited virtually on Google Street View, it appears.

More than a hundred historic sites in the area have also been made available with more than 90,000 panoramic images, Google says in a blog post.

The images show "how technology can change the way cultural treasures are preserved for generations to come", the search giant says. A Google Map view of Angkor Wat shows a dense network of paths accessible by Street View.

Two million tourists visit the Angkor complex every year, the Bangkok Post says. A decade-long project to restore one of the temples was completed in 2011.

The Angkor region was part of the powerful Khmer Empire, which once included parts of present-day Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. The temple complex was built between the ninth and 13th centuries by Khmer kings and is a UN heritage site.

Google Maps view of Angkor Wat area The images of Angkor Wat show a vast network of paths

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Iran Hajj pilgrims 'glued to the web'

Boys play on a table in a hotel lobby

Iranians travelling to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj pilgrimage are spending hours surfing the web, it's claimed, in an apparent effort to take advantage of freer access to the internet.

Some people are so glued to their screens they are in danger of missing out on religious sites, Iran's Supreme Leader's office for pilgrimage affairs says. It is "causing challenges for the minor pilgrimage and makes pilgrims lose the invaluable opportunity of hajj," the office laments.

The office has published a picture gallery of "extensive web browsing" in hotel lobbies - by Iranian youths in particular. But the 10-day trip offers people a rare opportunity to access popular websites without using anti-filtering tools.

In Iran, blocking or filtering of websites is routine - although reformists and conservatives alike use the web to mobilise supporters and spread information. Facebook and Twitter are supposedly banned, but some of the country's most senior leaders use them.

In 2012, an estimated 26% of Iranians had internet access. President Hassan Rouhani's government has pledged to boost internet speed and un-block some popular sites.

A boy plays on his tablet in a hotel lobby

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S Africans erase bad credit history

Two women apply for a loan in South Africa Many South Africans making rental applications or seeking work are rejected because of poor credit scores

Indebted South Africans will have negative information removed from their credit histories under a new "amnesty", but there is widespread confusion over whether their debts will be wiped out as well, it appears.

Under the law, which took effect on Tuesday, credit bureaux have two months to erase adverse credit information from their records. On the first day of the so-called amnesty, more than 1.6 million consumers benefited from the law, the IOL news website says.

But people will still have to pay off their loans, and their banks may still hold on to information the credit bureaux have been told to delete - although media reports express concern that many people do not realise this.

Lenders might also tighten loan application criteria to make up for lost information about future clients, the site says.

Nearly 10 million South Africans - almost half of people with financial records - are behind on payments or have seizure orders to their names, and they struggle to rent houses or secure work because of their poor credit histories, the AFP news agency says.

But there are fears the credit information amnesty might only encourage people to get deeper into debt.

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App helps boycott of Russian goods

A man uses the Boycott the Occupiers app to see where a packet of milk has come from

A smartphone app to help identify - and boycott - goods made in Russia is becoming popular among Android users in Ukraine, it appears.

The app, called Boycott the Occupiers, says it can find out where a product is made - whether in Ukraine, Russia or elsewhere - by scanning the product barcode with the phone's camera. It has already been installed between 10,000-50,000 times.

"The app will advise you if you should buy the product or boycott it," the app description says on Google Play. But the website, which is often critical of the Kremlin, quotes experts warning it could "lead to increased tensions between Moscow and Kiev".

The app claims it can also detect Russian companies trying to appear to be Ukrainian or Western, such as the fashion brand Carlo Pazolini or the Greenfield tea merchant.

Russian media analyst Anton Nosik tells the app will "cause huge damage to Ukraine's image in Russia". But he adds: "From the point of view of Russian policy in Crimea, it's a godsend!"

Meanwhile, Russian MP Oleg Mikheyev says: "I would advise the smart alecs who make these apps to stop buying Russian gas and other fuels."

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Man denied vote over 'political' shirt

Demonstrators hold up banners showing a family of four The Manif pour tous has been leading demonstrations against France's gay marriage law

A man in France has been turned away from a polling station for wearing a "political" outfit, it seems.

The man, known as Bruno, was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the silhouette of a four-member family - but was told he couldn't vote unless he got changed, the centre-right newspaper Le Figaro reports. The family image is the emblem of the Manif pour tous (Demo for all), an umbrella group opposed to France's same-sex marriage law.

He "is banning me from voting because I have this T-shirt", Bruno complains in an exchange with an election official that was captured on film. The official retorts: "I have not banned you from voting, I have asked you not to express any political opinion in the polling station."

The incident has prompted contrasting reactions in French media. Le Figaro says Bruno's situation "seems far removed" from cases in which judges have ruled against the expression of political opinions in polling stations.

But a blog post from left-leaning weekly Le Nouvel Observateur says Bruno signalled his intention to vote against candidates committed to equal rights for same-sex couples, so "his message was political".

Rules on political apparel in polling stations vary. Britain does not allow it if there is a risk of intimidating voters and Germany bans clothing expressing support for a party. In 2012, the US state of Arizona abolished restrictions on what voters can wear.

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Media 'tease' readers for April Fools

People wait to get on a Tokyo subway train It's hoped sour smells at Tokyo metro stations might stop people rushing for already crowded cars

Commercial flights to Antarctica, an openly gay writer chosen as a Kenyan ambassador, and "scent alerts" planned for Tokyo metro stops, are just a few of the fishy stories spotted in foreign newspapers on April Fools Day.

The Japan Times told its readers on Tuesday that stations on Tokyo's central loop metro line will soon get "scent alerts" to remind distracted commuters that it's time to get off. Foul smells might even be deployed on the platforms to deter passengers from approaching already overcrowded carriages, the suspicious article says.

Meanwhile, Brussels Airlines, the Belgian national carrier, announced it was opening a new scheduled flight route between Brussels and Antarctica. The airline called it a "first in the history of aviation", but Dutch newspaper De Volkstrant strongly suspects the plan is tongue-in-cheek.

In neighbouring Germany, regional daily Hildesheimer Allgemeine Zeitung reported that a local premier wanted to introduce paid postage for emails. "The idea: to refill public coffers, email too is to be made subject to postage," the paper says. But the story later appeared in a special April Fools live ticker, put together by the best-selling newspaper Bild.

A cat sitting on the grass Should cats be penalised for killing too many birds?

What about a tax on pet cats to help protect singing birds? Switzerland's Der Tages-Anzeiger suggested Zurich councillors were in favour of such a move, only to admit in a separate story that it was just a prank.

And in Kenya, a story in The Star newspaper claimed that openly gay writer Binyavanga Wainaina had been appointed as the country's ambassador to Uganda - where a law was recently passed that toughened penalties against gay people. But The Star admits Wainaina's appointment "might have something to do with the fact that today is April Fools Day."

Binyavanga Wainaina Binyavanga Wainaina is openly gay and one of Kenya's most well-known writers

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Bali 'quiet' on Hindu day of silence

An empty street patrolled by traditional guards on Nyepi in Bali Traditional guards patrol the streets to make sure people stay at home on Nyepi

Tourist areas and economic centres usually bustling with activity on the Indonesian island of Bali were deserted on Monday, as its Hindu population observed a day of silence, it appears.

Foreign tourists were required to stay in their hotel compounds, and the island's airport as well as sea ports were closed, the Jakarta Post newspaper says. Campaign rallies for the legislative election on 9 April were also reportedly put on hold.

Nyepi marks the start of a new year according to the Balinese lunar calendar. Nobody works or travels, as it is traditionally a day of introspection and fasting. A special group of guards are usually the only people out on the streets - making sure everybody else stays at home.

But this year, two tourists were apparently found walking near their hotel early in the morning. Claiming they did not know the rules, they were "only reprimanded", the newspaper says.

Nyepi is "perhaps the most important of the island's religious days and the prohibitions are taken seriously", the website says.

An empty street patrolled by traditional guards on Nyepi in Bali

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Israel's 24-hour bird-watching race

Migrating starlings in southern Israel Starlings are among the birds migrating through Israel

Israel is hosting a 24-hour contest in which teams of bird-watchers race to record the largest number of bird species migrating through the south of the country, it's been reported.

This year, 22 teams with members from nine countries are participating in the Champions of the Flyway contest, the Jerusalem Post reports. They will explore a triangular area of land stretching from Eilat in the south, to Arava junction in the north-east and Nitzana in the north-west.

Southern Israel is considered to be "one of the world's most spectacular migration hot spots", the event website says. Hundreds of millions of birds reportedly fly over Israel during their migration, stopping in the area for anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. But millions of birds also fall prey to hunting in the region.

One of the competing teams has published photos of white storks, a yellow wagtail and a pied bushchat in the region of the contest. But it has also posted graphic images of trapped birds in southern Europe.

The winning team will be awarded the title "Champions of the Flyway".

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Nine-hour show to air in France

Still image from Tokyo Reverse TV programme Ludovic Zuili is actually walking backwards - and had to take dance lessons to make it look natural

A French public TV channel is broadcasting a nine-hour programme of a man walking backwards through Tokyo - and nothing else - it appears.

A trailer of the film, Tokyo Reverse, follows a man as he walks through the streets of Japan's capital, but with a twist: Ludovic Zuili, 28, is walking backwards for the entire programme, the newspaper Le Monde reports. The concept has been called Slow TV and has already been hailed as a "small revolution" for French viewers.

The film, to be aired by France 4 on 31 March, is shown back to front so Zuili seems to be walking normally through a world moving back in time. To make his movements seem natural, he took dance classes, Le Monde journalist Veronique Lorelle says on her blog.

Slow TV is a genre of marathon programming in which an ordinary event is filmed, often live, in its entirety. In Norway, more than half the country tuned in to watch a six-day ferry journey through the fjords. A burning log fire and knitting were previous Slow TV subjects.

Fans say it gives viewers a chance to get deeply interested in details which might otherwise be missed in a world all about speed. "Long live French-style Slow TV!" Lorelle writes.

Simon Bouisson and Ludovic Zuili film Tokyo Reverse

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DR Congo city gets traffic cop robot

Traffic cop robot Two robots have already been installed in capital city Kinshasa

An "intelligent" traffic cop robot has been installed in the city of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo, it appears.

Local residents seem enthusiastic about the robot, which replaces Lubumbashi's traffic police and also has surveillance cameras to observe traffic offences, regional broadcaster Nyota says. It comes the year after two similar solar-powered robots were set up at intersections in the capital city Kinshasa, attracting attention at the time.

However, there are some worries about whether the robots will be maintained properly, given that many of Lubumbashi's traffic lights have fallen into disrepair, UN-sponsored Radio Okapi reports.

The structure was developed by the organisation Women Technologies, which aims to encourage female engineers in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Head of the group, Therese Izay Kirongozi, now hopes other countries will follow suit. She would, for example, like to see these "robots Made in Congo" in New York. "That's my dream. I dream big," she recently told Radio Okapi.

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Police crackdown on kite flyers

People flying a kite in Lahore, Pakistan

Police in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad have arrested dozens of kite-flyers and seized thousands of kites in March, it's been reported.

Parents have been asked to stop their children from kite flying, as the popular pastime is now "totally banned" in the district, the Associated Press of Pakistan news agency reports.

Kite flying has apparently been banned in the province of Punjab for the last four years. The ban was imposed because of the number of people who were said to have died in accidents caused by the sharp thread used for flying kites, Dunya News TV says.

The thread is often coated with abrasive material, such as crushed glass mixed with rice glue, to cut the strings of other people's kites, according to the blog.

But the ban has also been linked to extremist groups who oppose the Basant spring festival traditionally associated with kite flying. Last year, a plan to revive kite flying in Punjab during Basant was dropped after the Jamat-ud-Dawa group said the festivities were un-Islamic, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

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Syria first lady in Mother's Day video

Asma al-Assad talking to Syrian mothers Mrs al-Assad is the subject of sanctions imposed because of her husband's role in the Syrian conflict

The wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has appeared in an emotional Mother's Day video, in which she consoles mothers whose sons have gone missing in the country's civil war, it seems.

The 20-minute video, However Long It Takes, was posted on the Syrian Presidency Facebook page. For the first 10 minutes, the video cuts between six Syrian mothers who speak about their sons - soldiers, civil servants, students - and the circumstances in which they vanished.

British-born Asma al-Assad appears about 10 minutes in, welcoming a group of around 20 mothers to what seems to be the presidential palace overlooking Damascus. She then stands in front of a microphone and speaks to the mothers as they cluster around her, sometimes sobbing, sometimes reaching out to touch her.

The speech starts out on a sombre note, saying she feels the mothers' pain, the torment of not knowing what happened to sons who simply went out of the house and never came back. But Mrs Assad moves to a more uplifting tone, saying: "Syria is like you… tired but steadfast. Like you," she says, "Syria is proud and will rise with the sun of the future."

Mrs Assad promises that everyone will work for as long as is necessary for the return of those who have disappeared. Mother's Day is celebrated in Syria on 20 March, while most other countries mark it on 30 March.

Asma al-Assad has been known for her interventions in support of her husband, amid accusations that his regime has killed thousands of people in the unrest. She is also the subject of Western sanctions imposed because of the war in Syria.

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Russian club hires cancer footballer

Grigory Simonyan on a hospital bed Grigory Simonyan is originally from Moscow

A young man with brain cancer has reportedly been hired by Chechnya's main football club, apparently after the leader of the Russian region became sympathetic to his case.

Chechnya's regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, also honorary president of the Terek Grozny football club, says he could not "stay away" after learning of Grigory Simonyan's illness. Kadyrov says on his widely-followed Instagram account, he told the club to pay for the 18-year-old's cancer treatment.

"After Grigory is cured - God help us - he will start playing for Terek," Kadyrov writes. Soviet Sport, a major sports newspaper in Russia, says Simonyan will have a medical check-up in Germany to decide the course of treatment as soon as his contract is signed.

Simonyan's case has been well publicised in the Russian media. Earlier, the Championat sports news website said he was diagnosed in September and underwent an operation shortly afterwards. It also tried to raise 5 million roubles (140,000 dollars or 84,000 pounds) for further treatment.

Terek Grozny is currently 13th in the Russian Premier League. In 2011, the club hired Ruud Gullit, formerly a Dutch football star and Chelsea FC coach. But he was sacked five months later, after Kadyrov warned him over the club's poor performance.

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Italy puts official cars on eBay

Alan Johnston: "Would you buy a used car from an Italian politician?"

Italy's new government is selling off hundreds of executive cars used by government officials, in an online auction on eBay, it has been reported.

Bidding on the vehicles is open until 16 April, and shortly after the first cars were posted, offers appeared to be coming in at a brisk rate. Around 1,500 non-essential cars will eventually be sold off, reports the La Repubblica newspaper.

A list of 151 car makes and models for sale has been posted so far - among them are dozens of BMWs, Alfa Romeos, and Lancias. There are also a few surprises, namely nine high-powered Maseratis owned by the Defence Ministry, and a couple of Jaguars.

The initiative is championed by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who says the official vehicles have come to be seen as a symbol of wasteful government spending, according to La Repubblica. He had previously held similar auctions when he was mayor of Florence, and promised to do the same at the national level shortly after becoming premier.

In one of his first posts as the Democratic Party secretary, Renzi tweeted: "Why should an undersecretary have an official car? The undersecretary should go by foot," the newspaper says.

Interior shot of a BMW being sold by the Italian government The cars up for auction include BMWs, Maseratis and Jaguars

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Sea ice 'hurts' elephant seal breeding

Elephant seals Elephant seals on a beach in the US

Elephant seals living close to Antarctica might find it harder to breed in the face of rising sea ice, it seems.

"When there's more sea ice the population is likely to go down and in years when there's less sea ice the population is likely to go up," marine biologist John van den Hoff tells the Reuters news agency. Scientists say the number of breeding female elephant seals on Macquarie Island near Antarctica has dropped nearly 25% between 1988 and 2009.

Sea ice is also affected by the combination of colder winds and warming seas, van den Hoff says, because it drives up the readings of a key weather variability index called the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). Higher SAM readings appear to correlate with lower elephant seal birth rates.

Scientists suggest the changing weather patterns may be linked to a hole in the ozone layer and rising greenhouse gas emissions. But the trend may not be all bad news for elephant seals, as lower sea ice levels elsewhere around Antarctica might provide better breeding conditions for other elephant seal colonies.

"It is still too early to say whether elephant seals will be climate change winners or losers," van den Hoff says.

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Internet bill progresses in Brazil

A woman walks holding a Brazilian flag behind her

A pioneering bill protecting individual rights and freedoms on the web has been approved by Brazil's Chamber of Deputies, in what is being seen as a significant step towards becoming law.

Known as the Marco Civil - or Bill of Rights - it would enshrine freedom of expression, the right to privacy and the principle of web neutrality. The measure must still be approved in the Brazilian Senate before it can be signed into law, the Latin Post news website reports.

Supporters of the bill are celebrating the development. "Oh my God, I'm so, so happy," says Carolina Rossini, project director at New America Foundation, who has campaigned for Marco Civil for many years. "Last night I had a whole bottle of wine by myself," she tells the Daily Dot website, which covers internet-related news.

The Marco Civil bill was first officially drafted in 2009, and went through a long process of approval and consultation with web users, telecom companies and government agencies, the Latin Post says.

Reports say the bill's most important clause protects net neutrality - which would require internet service providers to treat all data equally and not set higher or lower speeds for different internet content or services. It also guarantees freedom of expression online, better protection of personal data and implicitly limits central control of the internet, they say.

The inventor of the world wide web, Sir Tim Berners Lee, says the bill "ushers in a new era", where citizens' rights are protected by digital bills of rights. In a statement issued on the eve of the vote on 25 March, Sir Tim called Marco Civil "the best possible birthday gift" for the web's 25th anniversary in 2014.

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Online slang ban in Chinese province

A man looks at a computer screen in a Chinese internet cafe

Popular turns of phrase coined by internet users in China have been banned from official documents in central Henan Province, it's been reported.

Words and phrases such as "diaosi", which translates to "underprivileged losers", or "nu han zi", meaning "tough women", and "xi da pu ben", signifying "news so exhilarating that everyone is celebrating and spreading it around the world", will also be banished from textbooks in the province, state-run China Daily newspaper reports. The directive takes effect from 1 April, it says.

The move seems to have split online opinion, with some 40% of users on Weibo, the Chinese micro-blogging platform, and WeChat, a popular instant messaging service, saying they support the regulation, a poll by China National Radio shows. One user says: "Internet phrases are not in line with the preciseness and strictness of official documents. It's inappropriate to insert them."

But another 40% oppose the new rule. A netizen nicknamed Milk argues: "Internet phrases reflect a certain era and its distinct culture. If they are not allowed to be used, how can future generations study our history?"

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Owner 'forgot' luxury boat for years

Police inspect an abandoned boat The boat was left with its keys tied to the railings

A wealthy man has come forward to claim a luxury boat that has been floating in a Swedish harbour for at least two years, after he apparently forgot all about it.

The boat's Norwegian owner says he intended to sell the vessel in 2012 - and was under the impression that he had, Expressen GT newspaper reports. The boat, said to be worth as much as $108,000 (£65,000), was moored in the Swedish town of Stromstad, close to Norway's southern border. The keys were tied to the railings for all to see.

Eventually, police issued a Facebook appeal for any information about its owner. The appeal was picked up by Norwegian media, including national broadcaster NRK, especially after items such as newspapers and a diary on board the US-made Rinker 342 Fiesta Vee suggested there was a Norwegian link.

Finally on 26 March someone stepped forward, saying he was the owner and had simply forgotten about his boat. "You have to be very wealthy to be able to forget about a boat in this price range," Swedish police inspector Tomas Andersson told the paper.

The owner now has to collect the boat and also pay harbour dues for the past two years, "a cost he can apparently afford", the newspaper says.

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'Male' kangaroo has baby in Siberia

A baby kangaroo in Hanover Zoo A baby kangaroo peeps out of its mother's pouch

A kangaroo in a Siberian zoo who was thought to be male has surprised everyone by delivering a baby, it appears.

"It has a lovely face and a beautiful little tail," Barnaul Zoo, says, describing the young kangaroo on its website. "Because birth for kangaroos is a very mysterious and long process, it went unnoticed by staff zoo," it adds.

The baby kangaroo, known as a joey, was about 15cm (6in) in size when it was discovered on 22 March, suggesting it was born some time ago. Kangaroos are about the size of a cherry when they are born, and can then spend several months in their mother's pouch before they start venturing out.

The mother was identified as a male at another zoo, before she arrived in Barnaul, and she had already been given the name Chuck. But in light of the discovery that she is indeed a female, zoo director Sergey Pisarev says, "His mother probably needs to be renamed," the Itar-Tass news agency reports.

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Leader's haircut for N Korea students

Kim Jong-un with soldiers

Male university students in North Korea are now required to get the same haircut as their leader Kim Jong-un, it is reported.

The state-sanctioned guideline was introduced in the capital Pyongyang about two weeks ago, Radio Free Asia reports. It is now being rolled out across the country - although some people have expressed reservations about getting the look.

"Our leader's haircut is very particular, if you will," one source tells Radio Free Asia. "It doesn't always go with everyone since everyone has different face and head shapes." Meanwhile, a North Korean now living in China says the look is actually unpopular at home because people think it resembles Chinese smugglers. "Until the mid-2000s, we called it the 'Chinese smuggler haircut'," the Korea Times reports.

It seems that haircuts have been state-approved in North Korea for some time - until now people were reportedly only allowed to choose from 18 styles for women and 10 for men. Earlier, North Korea's state TV launched a campaign against long hair, called "Let us trim our hair in accordance with the Socialist lifestyle".

However, there are conflicting reports over the haircut mandate, with the NK News website reporting that recent visitors to Pyongyang did not notice a change in hair styles.

Late leader Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea for 17 years, sported a bouffant hairstyle, reportedly in order to look taller.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this story said, according to reports, the haircut guideline applied to men rather than university students.

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Outrage as radio station burns cash

AMP Radio presenters hold the box of ash after the money has been burned After the fire: AMP Radio hosts display the box containing the ash from incinerated banknotes

There is outrage in Canada after a radio station burnt 5,000 Canadian dollars ($4,472, £2,710) in cash as part of a contest for listeners, it seems.

AMP Radio in Calgary dubbed the contest the "ultimate social experiment", CBC News reports. But it has received complaints from people saying the money should have gone to a good cause.

"You decide whether to vote #BANK and maybe win the money," the station's Facebook page says, "Or vote #BURN to see the money go up in flames." It explains the burn option, saying: "If you aren't guaranteed to win, why should anyone else?"

AMP Radio says 54% of people voted to burn the money - which it proceeded to do, posting a video of the process online.

AMP Radio presenters with a table of money The presenters with the money before it was burnt at a crematorium

Many people listed good causes that could have used the money. "There are women and children in women's shelters that are fleeing domestic violence... and people want to joke about burning $5,000. Shame on you!" one listener says.

Another argues: "Good marketing tactics, but ethically it's a real shame." When one listener said she "hated" the station, AMP Radio responded: "Well... buh bye then I guess?" It is now holding another contest, which invites listeners to choose whether a further 10,000 Canadian dollars should be banked or burnt.

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Algerian leader in N Korea parody

Screenshot of a doctored image of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and Algerian leader Abdelaziz Bouteflika "North Korea - Algerian Korea" says the newspaper's rhyming caption

A doctored image comparing Algeria's long-time president with the North Korean ruler has appeared in the press after the president said he would run for office again.

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was photoshopped to look like Kim Jong-un - complete with his suit and distinctive hairstyle - in a picture by private newspaper Le Matin. The picture appeared beside a letter from the president, in which he says serving Algeria is his "sole reason for being" and he "decided not to disappoint" those citizens who have been calling on him to stay at the helm.

Bouteflika, 77, has been in power since 1999, securing landslide election victories in 2004 and 2009. But in 2013 the president suffered a stroke and spent four months in Paris, and has rarely appeared in public since then.

The government announced he will be standing for a fourth term in elections in April 2014. Opposition figures point to his fragile health and say Bouteflika cannot lead Algeria for another five years.

Kim Jong-un has been running North Korea since December 2011, and his late father, Kim Jong-il, was in charge for 17 years before that. His grandfather, Kim Il-sung, is seen as North Korea's "eternal president" even though he died in 1994.

Algerian opposition

Previously in Altered Images

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Mystery cash gifts appear in mailboxes

Japanese post box

Dozens of people in two Japanese cities have been surprised to find unexplained cash and gift vouchers in their mailboxes, reports say.

On 20-21 March, a total of 760,000 yen ($7,437, £4,511) was deposited in the letter boxes of 30 households at an apartment complex in Ikoma, 380km (236 miles) south-west of Tokyo. The largest single bundle reported so far is worth 137,000 yen ($1,340), the Mainichi newspaper says.

Some people found coins wrapped in flyers in their parcels, while other residents received gift vouchers. But Ikoma police say more than half of recipients refused to accept the mystery presents, with some of them saying the gesture was "creepy".

There is no indication of who left them, and police are treating the cash as lost-and-found items. Authorities are checking CCTV footage and the voucher serial numbers in an effort to find out where they came from.

About 10 days earlier another 30 households were targeted with cash parcels - this time in Kawasaki, a city just south of Tokyo.

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Staff 'speechless' at flamingo deaths

Flamingo at Frankfurt zoo

The mysterious killing of 15 flamingos at Frankfurt Zoo has shocked staff and puzzled police, it appears.

The birds were killed over two consecutive nights, with their bodies found on Friday and then Saturday. Some had their heads cut off or torn off, while others were stabbed to death, reports Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Zoo director Manfred Niekisch calls this a "shocking incident" and staff are "speechless". It is not clear who or what killed the birds, but stab wounds suggest it was done by humans. Police have referred to "one or several previously unknown perpetrators" and Niekisch believes animals such as foxes or raccoons could have played a role.

Strangely, very little blood was found at the scene. Police say they are considering whether the birds were stolen from the zoo and killed, before their bodies were returned. In 2007, three flamingos at the same zoo died in a similar manner. The seven-year-old case is still unresolved.

The flamingo killings in Frankfurt leave the German media guessing. "Who would do such a thing?" asks Die Welt daily. "Psychopaths? Was it a completely out-of-order test of courage among young people? Or was it Satanists?"

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Calls for Ukrainian city 'to join' UK

Campaign slogan saying "Donetsk is an English city" "Donetsk is an English city", campaigners in eastern Ukraine say

Some residents in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk have launched a tongue-in-cheek campaign to join the UK, because the city was founded by an industrialist from Wales, it appears.

"Donetsk residents! English brothers! The decisive moment has come!" says the online appeal (which makes no distinction between England and Wales), according to Novosti Donbassa website. The campaign appears to parody Crimea's recent referendum on joining Russia, which has resonated across eastern Ukraine.

The heavily industrialised city was established in the late 19th Century as a foundry run by John Hughes, a native of Wales. Locals called him John Yuz, so the town was initially named Yuzovka.

"We demand a referendum on returning Yuzovka to its historical fold as part of the UK! Glory to John Hughes and his city! God save the Queen!" the campaign adds.

A miner in Donetsk Donetsk has been a heavily industrialised mining city since the days of John Hughes

Ukraine's fifth-largest city is a hotbed of pro-Moscow sentiment in Ukraine and the home of ousted President Viktor Yanukovych - who has now fled to Russia.

Donetsk has seen violent clashes over Ukraine's ties with Russia, in which at least one person has died. Kiev claims pro-Moscow rallies in eastern Ukraine involve "provocateurs" from Russia and even members of Russian secret services.

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Director waits decades for citizenship

Muhammad Khan receives his citizenship

A well-known film director who was born in Cairo has been granted Egyptian citizenship after being denied for years.

Muhammad Khan, 72, received his new nationality at home, when presidential media adviser Ahmad al-Muslimani delivered a presidential decree. Khan was born in Cairo to an Egyptian mother and Pakistani father, and has lived there since the 1960s. But until 2004, Egyptian citizenship could only be inherited from one's father.

"The most difficult moment I face is when I present my British passport in Cairo airport," Khan tells the BBC. "When the staff member ask me about my nationality, I do not know what should I say and I reject such a question. I am an Egyptian." But Khan has used a British passport all these years.

Khan's films include Al-Harif (Street player, 1984), Zawjut Rajul Muhum (Wife of Important Man, 1987) and Ahlam Hind wa-Camilia (Dreams of Hind and Camilian, 1988).

Screenshot from Factory Girl Khan received his Egyptian citizenship as his latest film, Factory Girl, launched

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