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Time stands still in Japan's village of scarecrows Reuters 23/03/2015

In the tiny village of Nagoro in southern Japan, 150 life-sized scarecrows created by Tsukimi Ayano pose in houses, fields, trees, streets and the local school which now lies empty. At 65, Ayano is among the youngest residents of Nagoro, home to just 35 people. Sometimes, her scarecrows are made to order, usually in the likeness of young people, who have left Nagoro to work in nearby cities, or of residents who have died. They have now become a tourist attraction and “bring back memories” for the people of Nagoro.

India bets on mobiles in battle on maternal, child deaths Reuters 23/03/2015

India is betting on cheap mobile phones to cut some of the world's highest rates of maternal and child deaths, as it rolls out a campaign of voice messages delivering health advice to pregnant women and mothers in rural areas where health workers rarely visit. Over the last 18 months, almost 100,000 rural families have signed up for the voice message project. Poor sanitary conditions and stark poverty prevail in many villages in India, which recorded 50,000 maternal deaths in 2013. Preventable hazards such as pneumonia, or poor nutrition, cause most deaths of mothers and babies.

Decades after war, Vietnam and the U.S. battle a legacy of bombs Reuters 16/03/2015

Unexploded landmines and bombs have killed 42,000 people and wounded 62,000 in Vietnam since its war with the United States ceased in 1975. Three in every 10 casualties were children and the country’s Quang Tri province remains one of the world's most dangerous places. Since 1995, the United States has spent $80 million in helping clear war-era bombs that leave survivors blind, deaf or missing limbs. But clearing efforts could take generations. Just 2.5 million square meters have been reclaimed in Quang Tri during the last 15 years ago. Reuters reports.

Hot water clue to life on Saturn moon Reuters 16/03/2015

Scientists have found that Enceladus, a small moon orbiting the giant ringed planet Saturn, is likely to possess an ocean containing hot water under its icy crust, raising the prospects that it could host life. The ocean, likely to be sandwiched between the moon's rocky core and its ice-covered surface, is believed to be at least as big as the USA's Lake Superior. Scientists are working on follow-up missions proposed for both Enceladus and Europa. However, it will take decades for scientists to collect more concrete evident to confirm the existence of living organism in Enceladus. Reuters reports.

Photo series: Tiny living spaces Reuters 09/03/2015

The saying “less is more” can be applied to many things, but for those forced to live in tiny spaces, home isn’t always where the heart is. As housing crises continue throughout the world, many people are forced to downsize out of necessity. In wealthy cities, low income families live in cramped apartments as small as 28 square foot. But for some, tiny homes can be a welcome avenue for simple and satisfying living. This Reuters photo series explores the pros and cons of tiny living spaces, whether it’s a mini mobile home or a caged-bed in Hong Kong.

Afghan men don burqas, take to the streets for women's rights Reuters 09/03/2015

A group of Afghan men have marched through the capital, Kabul to draw attention to women's rights by donning head-to-toe burqas that for many people worldwide have come to symbolize the suppression of women. The hardline Taliban forced women to wear burqas in public during their rule in the 1990s and concern is growing in Afghanistan and among its allies that gains for women made since the 2001 U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban are at risk. Several of the men said wearing a burqa felt "like a prison". They carried signs reading: "equality," and "Don't tell women what to wear, you should cover your eyes".

As heroin trade grows, a sting in Kenya Reuters 09/03/2015

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had spent years infiltrating "Akasha organization", which the DEA believes is part of a heroin supply chain that stretches from the poppy fields of Afghanistan through east Africa to the cities of Europe and the United States. Their November raid on the gang was part of a wider effort by the DEA and Kenya to counter the growing power of drug cartels operating in east Africa. The operation,came at a crucial time. Law enforcement agencies are worried that a record opium harvest in Afghanistan will flood global heroin markets this year.

In New Orleans, training a lost generation while feeding the next Reuters 09/03/2015

Liberty's Kitchen is throwing lifelines to young people on the verge of being swallowed by poverty and crime in New Orleans. Some of its trainees, aged 16-24, are homeless. Many have criminal records. Most have dropped out of school. Now they are completing training programs in hospitality that promise to transform their lives. Through Liberty's Kitchen, they are also providing healthy, fresh meals for some of the city's poorest school children. Liberty's Kitchen is among a growing group of social enterprises nationwide focusing on job training and operating food-oriented businesses.

SUGAR IN FOCUS: Aussie actor gets sugar rush from low-fat health foods Reuters 02/03/2015

An Australian actor who set out to expose hidden sugar in health food said he gained 8.5 kg (19 lb) and a paunch after a 60-day low-fat diet, including yogurt, cereal, muesli bars and juices. Damon Gameau's new documentary, "That Sugar Film", studies the effect of consuming what it says is the average daily sugar intake for Australian adults - the equivalent of 40 teaspoons - on the human body. "That Sugar Film", featuring cameos by actors Hugh Jackman and Stephen Fry, opened in Australian cinemas this month and will be released in Britain in March.

Reunions and ransoms Reuters 02/03/2015

In Thae Chaung village, a teeming camp for displaced Rohingya Muslims in western Myanmar, it's easy to overlook the internet huts. The raw emotion they generate is much harder to ignore. They are filled with dusty laptop computers that allow Rohingya, a mostly stateless people living in grim conditions in Rakhine State, to contact relatives who have left on boats for Thailand and Malaysia. The huts also provide a chilling insight into the human traffickers who prey upon the boat people and the families they leave behind. Reuters reports with a stunning selection of photos taken by Reuters’ photographer Minzayar.

School math answers only a scan away with Croatian app Reuters 02/03/2015

A Croatian computer expert has developed a free app that scans and solves maths equations. PhotoMath has been downloaded more than 11 million times since its introduction in October and now averages about 1.5 million users every month. The creator has received scores of emails from grateful students, parents – and even teachers. "As a means for [students] to check their work it’s unrivalled ... They are far more likely to 'listen' to an electronic device," said one British teacher.

In Japan, women amputees step out of the shadows Reuters 23/02/2015

Despite an estimated 80,000 people in Japan using prosthetic limbs, there remains a stigma of amputation in a country that still holds negative views about disability. Prosthesis maker Fumio Usui hopes to change public opinion and give amputees a new lease of life with his range of designer prostheses. “They make you forget about disability," he said at a fashion show for his new collection. "I want to show that prostheses can be cool and sometimes even cute," added 33-year-old amputee Sato as she modelled a prosthetic leg painted with cherry blossoms and gilded Japanese fans. "It would be great if people felt that prostheses could be fashion items.”

Gay Catholic group gets VIP treatment at Vatican for first time Reuters 23/02/2015

A prominent American Catholic gay rights group has been given VIP treatment for the first time at an audience with Pope Francis, a move members saw as a sign of change in the Roman Catholic Church. A pilgrimage of 50 homosexual Catholics attended the audience in St. Peter's Square and sat in a front section with dignitaries and special Catholic groups. "What this says is that there is movement in our Church, movement to welcome people from the outside closer to the inside," said Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, which ministers to homosexual Catholics and promotes gay rights in the 1.2 billion-member Church.

Lebanon hosting more than 1,500 street children: study Reuters 23/02/2015

More than 1,500 children are living or working on Lebanon's streets, nearly three-quarters of them Syrian and most scraping a living by begging or roadside vending, reveals a recent study. These children earned an average of less than $12 per day and more than half were aged between 10 and 14 years old. The number of children begging in Lebanese cities is one of the most visible signs of the country's refugee crisis. Lebanon hosts more than 1.5 million Syrians from the civil war next door, the highest refugee population in the world per capita.

Moon objects found in astronaut Neil Armstrong's closet Reuters 16/02/2015

A treasure trove of objects that were supposed to have been left behind after the first moon landing have turned up in the closet of Neil Armstrong, the first man to step onto the lunar surface. The items were discovered by the astronaut’s wife and include a camera that was mounted in the window of the Eagle lunar module to record the landing and two waist tethers. They are now part of a temporary exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum.

Women firefighters extinguish stereotypes in India's land of child brides Reuters 16/02/2015

Married before her 18th birthday, Nirma Chaudhary could have ended up like thousands of other child brides in India's desert state of Rajasthan - forced to quit school to be a wife and mother. But thanks to a government initiative aimed at empowering women, she is now one of Rajasthan's first female firefighters. In a region where child marriages are widespread, recruiting women in positions traditionally held by men is also helping to dismantle a harmful practice which affects generations. “Now they see that girls can study and achieve the same as men ... there are other girls that come to me to ask me about how they can also join the fire department," said Nirma.

Ex-supermodel Waris Dirie says FGM can end in her lifetime Reuters 09/02/2015

Supermodel turned campaigner against female genital mutilation Waris Dirie has said she is optimistic that FGM could be eradicated in her lifetime. "FGM breaches all human rights and has no place in any 21st century society," said Dirie, who underwent FGM in Somalia when she was 5 years old and whose sister bled to death after being cut. An estimated 140 million women and girls worldwide have undergone FGM which involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia. Dirie’S Desert Flower Foundation aimS to save 1 million girls across Africa from the "barbaric" ritual in the next few years.

Urban roller skating fights for survival as U.S. rinks close Reuters 09/02/2015

While mainstream roller skating has been on a long decline, a new generation of skaters travel a circuit of rinks around America to compete and show off their moves. The indoor skating scene in Chicago is intense and vibrant, but it is also threatened as roller skating rinks close down in many big cities. And those that survive are financially strapped. But some say the culture is getting stronger as styles evolve and more people take up the sport. "It's an outlet. It's a lifestyle," says one skater. "When I started skating I wasn't getting into trouble anymore. It becomes a family."

After 44 years, Miami orca may edge closer to freedom Reuters 02/02/2015

Lolita, a killer whale that has lived in a tank at Miami's Seaquarium for 44 years, could move a step closer to freedom. After decades of campaigning, animal rights activists hope U.S. officials will include the orca on a list of endangered whales that frequent the waters where she was captured, off Washington State. That decision could trigger a lawsuit by activists who want to fly 7,000-pound (3.2-tonne) Lolita across the country and prepare her for release into the wild. But Officials at Miami Seaquarium say Lolita would not survive in the wild after so many years in captivity.

Nigerians face killings, hunger in Boko Haram's 'state' Reuters 02/02/2015

Boko Haram says it is building an Islamic state that will revive the glory days of northern Nigeria's medieval Muslim empires, but for those in its territory life is a litany of killings, kidnappings, hunger and economic collapse. The Islamist group's five year campaign has become one of the deadliest in the world, with around 10,000 people killed last year. Those who have escaped Boko Haram violence say the rebels do little for them beyond forcing them to adopt their brand of Islam on pain of death. In a hard-hitting report and photo series, Reuters’ Julia Payne speaks to survivors and aid workers about the terror and devastation of the group’s onslaught in Nigeria.

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