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15 September 2014 Last updated at 11:36 ET

Retired man 'flies home-made planes'

Gyrocopter made by Jin Shaozhi from China

A retired doctor in eastern China's Zhejiang Province has been building home-made planes and flying them as a hobby, it seems.

Jin Shaozhi, 71, says he has been building model planes since he was a teenager and it's been his dream to learn how to fly. He's assembled and flown both fixed-wing planes and aircraft with rotating blades, the Want China Times website reports. "To a fan of model airplanes, the biggest dream is to actually fly a plane in the sky," he says adding that he received flight training eight years ago before building his first aircraft out of a mini-plane he bought in 2010.

His latest creation is the White Swan - a helicopter-like vehicle called a gyroplane. "Most of the parts are from hardware stores except for the engine, which is a second-hand item purchased from overseas," Jin says. Apparently, White Swan can reach a height of 1,000m (3,300ft) in theory, but Jin says he stays at 500m for safety reasons, the China Daily newspaper says.

As the authorities often ban private pilots from flying, Jin has to find remote places - such as newly paved roads not open to the public - to practice. It's not without its dangers: During one test flight, Jin had an accident and was called in by the aviation authorities for questioning. He then broke his leg in another crash-landing.

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Four-year-old sleepwalks over 5km

Honningsvag harbour, Norway

A four-year-old Norwegian girl has terrified her family by sleepwalking over 5km (3 miles) to a nearby town on a stormy night, wearing just her underwear and a pair of thin boots.

Police found the girl unharmed in the town of Honningsvag on the northern island of Mageroeya after locals called at 06:30 on Monday, the Finnmark Dagblad reports. Her aunt - who is looking after the girl and her three young siblings while their mother went on holiday - thought her niece was asleep in bed when the police rang. "I ran into the bedroom and was devastated when I saw that she wasn't lying in bed," she tells the Verdens Gang newspaper.

The girl apparently remembers dreaming that the house was on fire, putting on her boots and unlocking the front door, her aunt says. She probably went first to a nearby fish factory and then walked through an 800m (2,600ft) tunnel to get to Honningsvag. "She must've been out for several hours," the aunt says. "And in this weather, it's been really cold and miserable. The house was rumbling in the night, there's been such a strong wind."

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India floods hit cricket bat supply

Indian cricket bat maker

The supply of cricket bats in India may be at risk because floods in Kashmir have washed away so much of the willow wood they're made from, it's reported.

Manufacturers says the price of bats is about to go up because of an acute shortage of willow wood, the Hindustan Times reports. "Whatever willow they had in their yards has either been swept away or damaged by the flood waters," says Paras Anand, head of marketing for Indian bat maker SG. "It is bad news for the industry."

The problem may not affect elite players - who still use bats made from imported English willow - but will hit amateur and regional players who use the more affordable Kashmiri-made bats. The British introduced willow trees to Kashmir before World War Two and the cricket bat industry there now employs about 10,000 people. It is seen as second only to its English counterpart internationally.

Around 400 people have been killed and hundreds of thousands are stranded in their homes by the worst floods Kashmir has seen in half a century.

Wood is cut to be made into cricket bats in Kashmir

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Marathon with wine and cheese breaks

Participants run past Chateau Pichon-Longueville and its vineyards by Pauillac

An annual race in France, which calls itself the world's longest marathon, is attempting to ease runners' pain by offering them gourmet food and wine on the way to the finish line.

Le Marathon du Medoc - which takes place around Pauillac near Bordeaux on 13 September - sees runners dress up in Carnival-themed outfits to run the 26-mile (42.2km) circuit. Along the way they can tuck into a banquet of French delicacies from oysters to ice cream, washed down with glasses of fine wine.

Participants get a rather generous six-and-a-half hours to complete the race, allowing time for pit stops at various chateaux lining the route. The hardest part for the runners, the Zapaday website suggests, may be to stay on a straight path. "Above all, I'm going to take advantage of the festivities," runner 44-year-old Bernard tells regional paper La Depeche du Midi.

Meanwhile, regional paper Sud Ouest says the 10,000 participants - 1,500 more than last year - is a new record. "We rejected 40,000 people," says Albert Duvocelle, the general secretary of the organising group. "If we had accepted all requests, this would be the biggest marathon in the world." Not quite, but it's close. The 2013 New York City marathon was the largest in history, Runner's World says, with over 50,000 participants.

Runners enjoy wine at a chateau during a food and wine break

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Mauritania adopts Western weekend

Mauritanians read newspapers on a main street in Nouakchott Mauritanian merchants have to make the most from Monday to Wednesday to do business with Europe

The west African country of Mauritania is moving its weekend to Saturday and Sunday to be more in tune with its European business partners.

"It's clear that not being on par with our trading partners is causing us huge losses," says Seyedna Ali Ould Mohamed Khouna, Mauritania's public service minister. With a Muslim majority, the country has traditionally started the weekend on Friday, and local newspaper Essirage fears there may be large protests when the switch takes effect on 1 October.

The government has tried to move the traditional weekend before. In 2005, ministers shifted to a Monday to Friday work week, saying the country's economy was losing $70m (£43m) per year without it.

Businesses say they benefitted from the change. "We had to get all our transactions done between Monday and Wednesday, because if they got left to Thursday, they would just get stuck as we wound down for the Mauritanian weekend," bank manager Moktar Fall said about the last switch. But the next president changed it back in 2007.

As one of the world's poorest countries, Mauritania wants to further exploit its oil and gas reserves. But other Arab states have accused it of compromising principles to improve its relations with the West.

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Kazakh officials disable WW2 exhibits

Badly damaged artillery gun in the town of Kyzylorda

Officials in Kyzylorda in southern Kazakhstan have reportedly disabled World War Two artillery pieces on display in a local park - possibly taking precautionary measures after pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine managed to restart an old tank sitting on a pedestal in the town of Konstantinovka.

The guns were part of a monument commemorating Kazakhstan's role in the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, but local news sources say the weapons were crudely disabled using a welder. "Their barrels bear visible scars and resemble badly cut sticks of salami," the Vremya newspaper laments.

Vremya says the authorities decided to act in the name of public safety after they found out that the museum exhibits could still fire shells, but adds that many residents are upset about the "ugly and barbaric" way in which the work was done.

Earlier this year separatists in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region managed to restart an old Joseph Stalin-3 tank and drive it away from the site where it had been standing as a civic monument, Russian RIA Novosti news agency says. Rebels installed heavy machine guns on the old vehicle and used it to attack a Ukrainian army post, claiming to have inflicted loses on the other side.

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Sable Island horses 'eviction threat'

Wild horses drinking water on Sable Island

A Canadian biologist has reignited a long-running debate over whether the famous wild horses that roam a remote Atlantic island should be evicted for endangering the local ecosystem.

About 400 horses wander undisturbed on Sable Island. But scientist Ian Jones of the Memorial University of Newfoundland says the horses are an "invasive species" causing desertification on the island. They eat too much of the vegetation and compacting the soil with their hooves, the National Post newspaper says. He insists they should be relocated to Canada's mainland to stop further damage to the environment.

But he faces firm opposition. Legend has it that the animals came to Sable Island centuries ago, swimming ashore after their ship was wrecked at sea. "It's a debate between this romantic idea of horses and conservationism and biology," Jones says. "But you have to differentiate between values and science." The public have opposed earlier attempts to remove the horses, even though it's more likely they were brought to the island as farm animals sometime in the 18th Century.

Other scientists also challenge his theory. Bill Freedman, a Dalhousie University biology professor, tells the National Post: "The horses have been on the island for centuries, and I believe the ecosystem is now in a steady-state condition with respect to their ecological effects."

A young foal rest on Sable Island
A family of horses on Sable Island

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Buddhist music 'boosts rice crop'

Chinese farmers claim soothing music makes rice fields green Chinese farmers claim soothing music makes rice fields green

Farmers in a village in East China's Fujian Province have claimed that Buddhist music playing in the fields has helped them to increase their rice production.

Output in Liangshan village went up by 15% after residents installed 500 lotus-shaped speakers in the rice paddies to engulf the crops in a wave of soothing mantras, the Global Times newspaper reports. Local authorities say the musical rice fields also yielded larger grains, while the silent paddies with no music suffered from pests.

There's no scientific consensus on the effect music has on plants, but researchers at the China Agricultural University have backed the experiment, saying certain sound waves - such as those found in the rhythmic chanting of mantras - can stimulate the pores on a plant's leaves to help absorb more sunlight. "Only positive music aids growth, while rock music would probably harm it," a local agriculture officer says.

Not everyone agrees with this assertion. Last year, Chris Beardshaw, one of Britain's leading gardeners, announced that playing a constant diet of heavy metal helps flowers to bloom. He said an experiment he conducted showed that a continuous playlist of Black Sabbath songs worked wonders on a greenhouse full of plants.

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French ex-minister in 'rent backlog'

Mr Thevenoud allegedly forgot to pay rent because of an "administrative phobia" Mr Thevenoud allegedly forgot to pay rent because of an "administrative phobia"

France's former trade minister - sacked just last week for tax irregularities - has now been accused of not paying his rent for three years because of an "administrative phobia", it's been reported.

Thomas Thevenoud was told he would be evicted from his Paris flat in the affluent Left Bank neighbourhood because he had missed so many payments, the Le Canard Enchaine newspaper says. But it was only when the landlord heard about his tenant's tax issues that he decided to ring the interior ministry and tell his story.

The satirical weekly, which specialises in investigative journalism, says the politician blamed his rent backlog on forgetfulness and an "administrative phobia". But he says he has now paid off his debts and found a new place to live.

Last week, Thevenoud was fired from the French cabinet for "problems of conformity with his taxes" only nine days after he was appointed as trade minister. He has had to leave the Socialist Party over the incident but insists he won't resign from parliament.

This is not the first time the politician has attracted unwanted headlines. Last year he was photographed playing online Scrabble on his tablet during a parliamentary debate on gay marriage.

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Auto-lock traps suspected car thief

The suspected thief spent nearly two hours trapped in the vehicle The man spent nearly two hours trapped in the vehicle he was allegedly trying to steal

A man has been arrested in South Africa after the auto-lock system of the car he allegedly broke into self-activated and trapped him inside.

The man used a jamming device to get into the vehicle, which was parked near the North Gauteng High Court in the capital city Pretoria, The Star newspaper reports. "I just saw him getting into the car after the woman walked away," a witness says. "It seems the doors locked him inside and he couldn't get out."

Apparently the man started to panic and asked passers-by for help, saying he was one of the city's many car guards. The police were called in, but the man was stuck inside for more than an hour-and-a-half before the owner returned and unlocked the vehicle.

Car theft is a big problem for South Africa. Reports say that 8.5bn rand ($776m; £482m) worth of vehicles are stolen in the country every year. Almost 30% are taken to neighbouring countries, and the rest are resold in South Africa after being "cloned" in car "chop shops".

"Cloned vehicle and cross-border syndicates are a growing concern," says Hugo van Zyl, head of the South African Insurance Crime Bureau, "thanks to our porous borders and the fact that crime prevention stakeholders aren't yet pooling resources effectively."

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Zombie game draws 2,000 in Spain


More than 2,000 people have taken part in a survival game simulating a zombie apocalypse hitting a small Spanish town.

Resembling a scene from the zombie classic Walking Dead, players roamed the streets of Collado Villalba by night trying to elude people dressed as zombies, the El Pais newspaper reports. The rules are simple - you're eliminated from the game if one of the slow-moving "un-dead" characters touches you between 23:00 and 07:30 local time. Meanwhile, actors in full battle gear simulate a military response by the government.

Events like this one in the small town near Madrid have become wildly popular since being launched in 2012, newspaper El Mundo says. Organiser Diego de la Concepcion says he got bored with the existing forms of adventure games and wanted to "create real adventure". He says he's fully booked for 2015, and even has bookings for 2016. But he admits some players get frustrated when they're "infected" and eliminated within minutes, but insists this only makes things more "real".

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Russian company sues over food ban

Moscow supermarket, 18 Aug 14 The sanctions have stopped fish imports from Western countries

A Russian fish-processing firm has filed a lawsuit against sanctions brought in by its government, saying the ban on Western food imports is ruining its business.

Murmansk Fish Combine, based in the Arctic port of Murmansk says it relies on shipments of fresh fish from Norway and has been forced to halt production because of the ban, the Russian news agency Itar-Tass reports. The company wants the Russian supreme court to say the measure, which came into effect in August, is partly illegal.

"If the sanctions aren't lifted soon it's possible we'll no longer be able to resume business," director Mikhail Zub says, adding the court should at least make sure the live fish his business needs are excluded from the sanctions list.

Visitors inspect the wares at a a fish stand at the Agrorus '14 exhibition in St Petersburg on 27 August 2014 Inspecting fish in a St Petersburg market

But local prosecutors in Murmansk have already inspected the factory and declared the plant doesn't really have to stop work, Russian news agency Interfax says.

In early August, the Russian government banned a range of food imports from countries that have placed sanctions on Moscow over the Ukraine crisis. The move was designed to hurt food producers in the West, but it's also hit Russian consumers - prices for frozen fish and other food in Moscow's major supermarkets are reportedly up by 6%.

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TV mix up Susan and Condoleezza Rice

Composite image of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (l) and US National Security Adviser Sudan Rice Condoleezza Rice (left) and Susan Rice are not related

China's state broadcaster has welcomed visiting US National Security Advisor Susan Rice by mixing her up with near-namesake former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, it seems.

A report by English-language news channel China Central Television - or CCTV - which reported Susan Rice's arrival had a picture of Condoleezza Rice on the studio screen, the South China Morning Post newspaper reports. Internet users pointed out the mistake after the 50-second clip was posted on CCTV's YouTube account. It has since been removed. A later video on the same subject uploaded on the broadcaster's site on Monday has the correct pictures of Susan Rice.

Said to be one of President Barack Obama's closes aides, Susan Rice was appointed US ambassador to the UN after he was first elected. She was promoted to her current post in his second term. She's in China for three days to discuss preparations for Obama's planned visit to China in November with top political and military leaders. And no, she's not related to Condoleezza Rice.

CCTV shows a picture of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice instead of US National Security Adviser Susan Rice on 9 September The wrong Rice - Condoleezza Rice's picture on the CCTV report

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Russia 'reopens USSR draft cases'

Russians dressed as World War-II-era Soviet soldiers on parade in the Red Square in Moscow in 2006 Soviet military glories are often revived for Russian parades

Russia appears to be reopening criminal investigations against Lithuanians who refused to serve in the Soviet armed forces after the country declared independence nearly 25 years ago.

The Lithuanian prosecutor-general's office says Russia has asked for legal assistance over Lithuanians who defied orders to do their Soviet military service in 1990-91, the Delfi news portal reports. But the request was denied, a spokeswoman says, since it does not involve a criminal offence in Lithuania. The news has prompted Lithuanian security services to strongly advise the relevant people not to go to Russia or other non-EU and non-Nato countries for now. Doing so could "jeopardise the personal safety of citizens", they say.

After Lithuania declared independence from the USSR in March 1990, more than 1,500 young men obeyed a call from pro-independence leaders not to join the Soviet military, according to official figures. Almost everyone went into hiding, but dozens of people were jailed or forcibly drafted. Outstanding cases were dropped after the USSR's collapse.

There is reportedly rising concern among Lithuanians that Russia is adopting a more assertive stance towards former Soviet countries. Adding to the tensions, a Russian national was arrested in March in Lithuania in connection with the 1991 attack by Soviet forces on the Vilnius TV tower, in which 14 people died.

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Japanese man starts trek over Africa

Masahito Yoshida in Alexandria, Egypt, at the start of his trek across Africa Only a bit over 10,000 km to go: Yoshida on the Alexandria seafront

A Japanese man is walking with a cart 11,000km (6,800 miles) across the length of Africa - only a year after completing a round-the-world trek in the same manner.

Masahito Yoshida, 33, of Tottori left the Egyptian port city of Alexandria on Sunday on his journey to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, the Japan Times newspaper reports. He's taking everything he needs - around 100kg (220lb) of water, food, cooking utensils and a tent - in a two-wheeled cart that he pulls behind him.

His route will take him through Sudan, Ethiopia and Tanzania along the way - a journey encompassing deserts, savannah grasslands and high mountains. "I am excited about meeting people and animals in places that will be passed by if you travel by train or bus," Yoshida says.

If he makes it, Yoshida will have added another continent to his current tally of four. The 44,000km round-the-globe trip he finished in June 2013 took him across Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Yoshida overcame immigration bureaucracy, theft, and several bouts of heat stroke to complete the journey in 1,621 days. "Sure, there were times that I thought my life was in danger," he says. "But I was also touched by the kindness of people." His goal is to cross every continent on foot.

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China boy finds 3,000-year-old sword

Chinese TV shows off the bronze sword found by an 11-year-old boy in Jiangsu Province, China, on 6 September

A Chinese boy has made the discovery of a lifetime by stumbling across a 3,000-year-old bronze sword in a river in Jiangsu Province.

Eleven-year-old Yang Junxi says he touched the rusty weapon's tip while washing his hands in the Laozhoulin River, in Gaoyou County, the state news agency Xinhua reports. After pulling it out he took it home, where it quickly became a sensation for curious locals, before the family decided to send the blade to officials for examination. "Some people even offered high prices to buy the sword," Junxi's father Jinhai says. "But I felt it would be illegal to sell the relic."

Archaeologists have dated the 26cm (10in) weapon to either the Shang or Zhou dynasties - the dawn of Chinese civilisation - based on its material, size and shape. Lyu Zhiwei of the Gaoyou Cultural Relics Bureau says that while the sword appears to be of both decorative and practical use, its form suggests it was the status symbol of a civil official rather than a sword for fighting.

The authorities are now planning a major archaeological dig in the river, once part of a system of ancient waterways that developed into today's Grand Canal. Junxi and his father have been given a reward for handing in the relic.

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Bosnia map to fight 'litter plague'

Mostar's Ottoman-era Old Bridge

Residents of the historic Bosnian city of Mostar are so fed up with the lack of bins that they're creating their own online map to help tourists find somewhere to put their rubbish, it's reported.

Locals complain that the streets of the old centre are often covered in litter, and say tourists wandering around in search of a bin have become a common sight in the town famous for its soaring 15th-Century Ottoman-era bridge, Al-Jazeera Balkans reports. "There's a problem, and it's huge," says shopkeeper Selma Jelovac. "Every evening five people ask me why there are no rubbish bins." One tourist jokes that she'll have to take her empty bottle back to her home town nearly 300km (180 miles) away because she can't find anywhere to throw it.

Apparently it's all part of a wider political problem that goes back years. Mostar has three utility companies, and all say purchasing new bins is the council's responsibility. Residents in one district say household rubbish is piling up outside their homes, the local news website Bljesak reports.

Until 2004, the city of Mostar was divided into six municipalities under a deal between ethnic Croats and Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) at the end of the civil war of the 1990s. But Berislav Juric of Bljesak thinks this legacy is no longer an excuse. "Rubbish bins are something that humans in 2014 should have under control," he tells Al-Jazeera.

Interactive map of rubbish bins in Mostar

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Thai PM says coup critics cursed him

Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha (left) with other officers after an audience with King Bhumibol Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha led a coup in May

Thailand's military leader and premier, Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, has accused critics of using black magic against him, it's reported.

In a high-profile speech on Thursday, Prayuth says he'd been warned of attempts to cast a spell on him, the Bangkok Post newspaper reports. "Today, I have a sore throat, a pain in the neck," he says, speaking to officials at the Royal Thai Army Club in Bangkok. "Someone said there are people putting curses on me."

The general also says he performed a purification ritual to ward off possible evil influences - but hadn't counted on the side effects: "I had so much lustral water poured over my head, I shivered all over," he explains. "I'm going to catch a cold now."

In May, Prayuth led a coup against the elected government, saying he needed to restore order after months of mass protests. But opponents say the military is suppressing democracy and they are defying a ban on public gatherings. Prayuth addressed his critics: "If you still want to fight on and go underground, bring it on. If you resort to performing rituals, just bring it on."

Magical symbolism has long played a role in Thai politics. During the last big wave of protests in 2010, anti-government demonstrators splattered buckets of their own blood outside the PM's residence as priests cast a curse on the authorities.

A supporter (C) of deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pours a canister of human blood onto the gates of the Government House in protest in Bangkok on 16 March 2010 Thai protesters performed a blood curse ritual against a previous government in 2010

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'Arab Big Ben' dwarfed in building boom

Aden's "Big Ben" tower Aden's Big Ben dates from 1890

Residents in the Yemeni port city of Aden are alarmed at what they say is a threat to one of the city's much-loved landmarks - a British, colonial-era clock tower dubbed Big Ben apparently modelled on its London counterpart.

Locals in the neighbourhood of Tawahi are pleading with the city council, urging them to address uncontrolled development around the tower, the Yemeni channel Al-Sahat TV reports. They fear the landmark - on a hill overlooking the port - will be "buried by chaotic building" and tourists won't be able to find the "London Big Ben", as the presenter put it.

Only two years ago the clock was put back into use after a quarter of a century of silence. It was built by a British company in 1890, during the colonial era, and was christened the Arab Big Ben or Big Ben of the East.

But it fell into disuse after Aden joined newly independent Yemen in 1960, and again in 1983, before being restored in 2012 to locals' delight. "When the clock stopped working, people were at a loss," Tawahi resident Hussein Omar told the Al-Shorfa daily. Its return "symbolises a greeting to a new future for Aden, just as it greeted visiting ships to the historic port of Aden," he says.

Skyline of Aden How Aden looked during British colonial rule

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Ice bucket dare for Belarus leader

Belarusian Dmitry Dayneko doing the Ice Bucket Challenge

A Belarus boy may be fined for daring President Alexander Lukashenko to an ice bucket challenge, reports say.

Dmitry Dayneko uploaded a video of himself doing the popular online challenge and nominating the country's long-serving president to follow suit.

But he was soon called in to the local youth affairs office and his school in Berezino and told off, the Belarusian service of Radio Liberty reports.

Police said everyone in the video would be fined unless they took it down.

Dimitry says he was told he'd "done something against Lukashenko". But he says: "It was just a stunt. It's just a game. We just wanted to start things off, to see what happens, maybe we'd be lucky."

Belarus' government keeps a wary eye out for any signs of opposition, and Dmitry says the officials mentioned "getting a call from the capital". His parents weren't impressed either, it seems. "They said I was stupid, that I shouldn't have challenged Lukashenko. That's all," he says.

Millions of people have joined in the ice bucket challenge, in which they pour water - often with ice cubes - over themselves and challenge others to do the same, usually to raise money for the treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko addressing the UN General Assembly in 2005 Ready for the Ice Bucket Challenge? Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko

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Rare pygmy hippo born in Swedish zoo

Olivia is a new-born hippopotamus in Parken Zoo, Sweden

A Swedish zoo has published pictures of its latest addition - a rare baby pygmy hippo that staff have already dubbed "Michelin Man" because of her appearance.

Olivia only weighed 6kg (13lb) when she was born a month ago in Parken Zoo, Eskilstuna, to female Krakunia and male Anton, the Aftonbladet newspaper reports. "She is the cutest little fatty you can imagine," Jennie Westander, a zoologist at Parken zoo, tells the paper. Olivia was born under an international breeding programme, and after spending two years with her mother, will be sent off to another zoo in Europe.

Pygmy hippos - an endangered species native to West Africa - look like the more well-known hippopotamus amphibius, but common hippos are about twice the size and weigh four times as much as most of their pygmy relatives. There are fewer than 3,000 of the mammals thought to be remaining in the wild.

Olivia is a new-born hippopotamus in Parken Zoo, Sweden
Olivia is a new-born hippopotamus in Parken Zoo, Sweden

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Saudis 'must drive to get married'

Woman walks past wedding dresses in Saudi shop The Saudi authorities are concerned about a rising divorce rate

Saudi Arabia may start requiring people to prove they have a driving licence as a condition for getting married, apparently in order to limit the rising number of divorces.

Under plans being studied by the kingdom's justice ministry, possession of a driving licence could become a prerequisite for finalising a marriage contract, the Arab News daily reports. Couples may also be asked to attend mandatory "marriage training" before tying the knot.

Family consultant Abdulsalam al-Saqbai says the idea came about after a previous attempt to stem divorces - a government medical test to check the couple's health and fitness - didn't work out. Saqbai says there turned out to be no correlation between the test results and divorce and separation rates.

The Saudi authorities say the divorce rate has risen sharply in recent years, and are worried about the impact on the kingdom. Government statistics quoted by the Saudi media suggest most divorces are blamed on the husband's refusal to let the wife continue to work after marriage, or on issues relating the husbands' control of his wife's salary.

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Wroclaw ordains first rabbis since WWII

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier addresses Wroclaw Jewish congregation German foreign minister addresses congregation

Four rabbis have been ordained in the Polish city of Wroclaw - the first such event since World War II.

The rabbis and three cantors - singers who lead parts of religious services - were ordained as part of a German-Polish commemoration of the outbreak of war, the Gazeta Wroclawska newspaper reports. "We are witnessing an event that would have been inconceivable a few years ago," says German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. "Almost on the precise anniversary of Germany's criminal attack on Poland 75 years ago, Germans and Poles are expressing their joy together at the rebirth of Jewish life in Wroclaw."

At Wroclaw's White Stork Synagogue - the only one that survived Nazi destruction - Jewish community leader Alexander Gleichgewicht replied: "We, the modern Jews of Wroclaw, and guardians of the tradition of the Jews of Breslau, welcome you." As the German city of Breslau, it had a large Jewish population dating back to the 12th Century - and the first major Jewish theological seminary in Europe. But the community of about 20,000 people in 1933 was wiped out to a few thousand by 1945.

Rabbi ordination in Wroclaw, Poland

Anti-Semitic policies in Communist Poland forced almost all the remaining Jews to emigrate, leaving fewer than a hundred in the city by 1990. Since then the Jewish community has seen some revival, but still numbers few more than a thousand. New Rabbi Jonas Jacquelin tells German Deutsche Welle radio the symbolism of the ordination was paramount: "Here, where they tried to exterminate us, new rabbis are being ordained to continue passing on the Jewish tradition, from generation to generation."

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Lisbon metro fits missing brakes

Lisbon Metro train

The underground railway in the Portuguese capital Lisbon has promised to finish fitting emergency brakes on all its trains in the next few weeks.

This follows an investigation by the i newspaper that shows Lisbon Metro has been running trains for two years without the electromagnetic brakes needed to make emergency stops. The company says it detected a mechanical fault with the system in 2012, and deactivated the brakes so it could make repairs.

But the paper reports train speeds in tunnels has dropped from 60km/h (37mph) to 45km/h. Industry sources say this is because drivers are giving themselves more time to stop in stations safely without the emergency braking option. The company later confirmed this, insisting the main braking system was enough to guarantee safety - as long as trains are moving at the lower speed.

As for the two-year delay in repairing the brakes, i journal uncovered mistakes in the delivery of parts, and problems with the compatibility of some components. The Prosecutor-General's Office has an open preliminary investigation, and the IMTT transport regulator says it is "closely monitoring the measures the company is taking". The Metro management says it has now put the proper emergency brakes on 60% of its trains, and expects to complete the job soon. As only 80% of its trains run at any given time, this means "day-to-day, the vast majority of trains already have the brake system fitted", Lisbon Metro assures passengers.

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Thousands dig up clams on China beach

Thousands of people dig for clams on a beach in Shandong, China

Striking images have emerged on Chinese media of thousands of people digging for clams on a long stretch of beach in Shangdong Province, south of the capital Beijing.

The beaches were previously used as private clam farms, but the government recently opened up about 4km (2.5 miles) of coastline for public access, Chinese website NetEase News reports.

Over the weekend, as news spread, residents - as well as fish farmers and merchants - reportedly rushed to the beach to dig up clams lying in the wet shellfish beds.

"The number of people here is likely more than that of clams at its peak," one fisherman tells reporters at the beach, the Shanghaiist blog says.

Thousands of people dig for clams on a beach in Shandong, China
Thousands of people dig for clams on a beach in Shandong, China
Basket of clams

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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 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.

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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