A man in the US was sentenced by a judge to spend a day wearing a sign in public that read, “I AM A BULLY!”, after years of targeting his neighbours with abuse and ill-treatment. Edmond Aviv regularly spouted racial slurs at his neighbours who adopted disabled African-American children. His sign read: "I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in.” The 62 year old was greeted by a boisterous stream of honking cars, jeers and insults.
A new measure to segregate gay, lesbian and transsexual prisoners in Turkish prisons has been met with anger from rights activists. The Turkish government say the new rule is to protect openly homosexual inmates from attacks and harassment while in jail. But critics have slammed it as homophobic and another example of the authorities being unable to deal with homosexuality, which although not illegal, remains taboo in Turkey.
France’s far-right National Front party has said it will prevent schools from offering special lunches to Muslim pupils in the 11 towns where it won elections recently. Many schools substitute beef or chicken for pork to cater for Muslim children whose religion forbids them from eating meat from pigs. However, the National Front leader Marine Le Pen has said this goes against France’s secular values – where religion is forbidden to enter the public sphere by law. France is now home to five million Muslims – the largest minority group in Europe.
For the second time in three years, car-manufacturing giant Mazda has had to recall thousands of cars in the USA due to spiders setting up home inside the engine because they like the smell of gasoline. The problem first occurred in 2009, when Yellow Sac spiders were found to be weaving webs inside a vent in the engine, blocking the fuel-flow and damaging fuel tanks – some 65,000 Mazda6 sedans were recalled. It was thought the problem was fixed but a recent recurrence has left engineers scratching their heads as to how the spiders get inside.
Campaigners in Greece are demanding reparations for the loss of lives and damage caused by Nazi Germany during World War II. Backed by opposition parties, the National Committee to Claim German Debt are seeking some 162 billion euros for hundreds of villages razed to the ground, 20,000 civilians executed, and vast sums looted from the Greek central bank. This comes at a time when Greece has been bailed out of the financial crisis to the tune of 237 billion euros – with much of the bill being footed by Berlin. Critics of the campaign say it is fuelled by wounded pride.
It boasts a helicopter landing pad, glorious views of the Avila mountain range, and large balconies for weekend barbecues. Yet this 45-storey skyscraper in the center of Venezuela's capital Caracas is no five-star hotel: it is a slum, probably the tallest anywhere in the world. Dubbed the “Tower of David”, it was supposed to be a shining new financial centre, but was seized by squatters in 2007 when left uncompleted. Now, 3000 people call it home, with residents building makeshift apartments in empty office spaces, paying rent to the mini-government that has sprung up in the tower to maintain order. To some it is a safe haven, to others it is a symbol of lawlessness.
Spain has said that a referendum on independence in Catalonia would be unconstitutional. A sovereignty claim approved by Catalonia last year has been struck down by a court, with the Spanish government firmly opposed to Catalonia seceding. However, a recent opinion poll shows there remains a large groundswell of support for independence with over half the population wanting to leave Spain.
A scrap metal dealer in the US stumbled upon a fortune after he discovered a Faberge Egg worth $20 million dollars at a junk market. From 1885 to 1916, Peter Carl Faberge famously made 50 gold and jewel encrusted Easter eggs for the Russian aristocracy but many were sold off after the Russian Revolution. The recently found egg was almost melted down before the American man discovered its real worth.
South African President Jacob Zuma has been slammed by an anti-corruption watchdog for spending $23 million of the nation’s money on a home makeover. A damning report revealed the state-funded upgrade on Zuma’s residence included a swimming pool, cattle enclosure and amphitheatre. The report added that funds for inner-city regeneration projects had to be diverted to his home upgrade after costs spiralled out of control. The report said that at no point did Zuma raise misgivings about the scale of work on his residence.
Israel has approved building plans for 184 new homes in two Jewish settlements in the West Bank, land that Palestinians say belongs to them. Israel captured the disputed territory during the 1967 Middle East war but the annexation was not recognised internationally and Israeli settlements there are widely regarded as illegal. The fact that Israel continues to build on the territory is a major stumbling block in peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
Malaysia has banned a comic book starring the Japanese superhero Ultraman, sparking criticism and ridicule from those who view the move as the latest sign of excessive censorship in the Muslim-majority country. An offending line in the book compares Ultraman to “Allah”, the Malay word for God. The word Allah has been at the centre of controversy in Malaysia recently following a court ruling last October that banned a Catholic newspaper from using the term.
According to the UN, Asia-Pacific nations are failing to halt the loss of natural forests and grasslands resulting in massive environmental problems such as desertification and climate change. Other negative impacts include people being robbed of their livelihoods and rural farmers forced to find work in urban areas. For example, data from WWF show the greater Mekong region lost a third of its forests in the 35 years to 2009, even though deforestation rates have slowed somewhat in recent years.
The UN has warned that South Sudan is heading for a humanitarian crisis if the current conflict prevents crops being planted over the next three months. Violence erupted in the world’s youngest country last December between troops backing President Salva Kiir and soldiers who remain loyal to his sacked vice president, Riek Machar. Thousands of people have been killed during fighting so far, and if crop planting is affected over the coming months then millions could be left without food.
A Christian ministry has raised $150 million to build a replica of Noah’s Ark in America. Creationists, who reject the theory of evolution and preach the creation of Earth by God as depicted in the Old Testament, will build a theme park in Kentucky showcasing a 510-foot-long Ark. Ironically, Creation Museum founder Ken Ham was helped by a science adversary called Bill Nye to achieve his dream.
Former US president turned painter George W Bush is to have his artwork featured in an exhibition called “The Art of Leadership: A President’s Personal Diplomacy”. It is not known exactly what the subjects of his paintings are - he is previously known to have painted dogs and self-portraits - but Bush’s art will supposedly provide an insight into his unique relationships with other world leaders.
Many thousands of civilians were killed, injured or remain missing as a result of the 25-year civil war in Sri Lanka between government forces and separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The conflict ended in 2009 but a UN human rights chief has criticised the government’s failure to investigate war crimes on both sides, and called for an international inquiry.
A Romanian politician has introduced a bill to parliament that would see dolphins granted the same rights as humans. Due to their highly developed intelligence, Remus Cernea wants dolphins to be recognised as “non-human persons” making them equal with humans before the law. If passed, the bill would see a ban on dolphins being used in entertainment shows and dolphin killers given the same sentences as murderers.
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) has urged Hungary to reconsider plans to erect a monument commemorating the German occupation in 1944 and to seek greater dialogue with the country's Jewish community. Hungarian Jewish groups have condemned the monument as part of an official drive to obscure Hungary’s controversial role in the holocaust when some citizens aided the deportation and murder of Jews during World War Two.
Japanese composer Mamoru Samuragochi caused a storm of controversy recently when he announced that he paid someone else to write his music after going deaf – including his best known work, the “Hiroshima symphony”. Known as the “Beethoven of Japan”, Samuragochi has further complicated the story by revealing his hearing returned three years ago.
Europe's media freedom watchdog told Britain it believed political pressure applied to The Guardian newspaper over its handling of leaked intelligence data could have a "chilling effect" on independent journalism. The Guardian began publishing the leaks of NSA contractor Edward Snowden in June 2013, revealing vast government spying at home and abroad. The UK government threatened the Guardian with legal action for damaging national security and forced Guardian staff to destroy computers containing files supplied by Snowden - acts condemned as harassment and intimidation.