Supertyphoon Hagibis gives new wind to Philippine disco band

MANILA (Reuters) – For a four-decade-old Philippine disco band, the namesake supertyphoon bearing down on Japan has brought a sudden rush of interest in its macho act.

Sonny Parsons (R), leader of Filipino boyband Hagibis, poses for a photo with fans at a fastfood restaurant in Manila, Philippines October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jerome Morales

Known as the Philippines’ “Village People”, all-male band Hagibis has been going since 1979. While some members have changed over time, it has retained its act featuring tight black trousers, leather jackets, open shirts, shades, moustaches and suggestive dance moves.

“Hagibis is getting indirect publicity worldwide,” said 61-year-old Jose Parsons Nabiula, who goes by his stage name Sonny Parsons and has been with the band since the start.

“It reminded everybody of my group’s existence… Some people are making fun of it, some people are very serious.”

Typhoon Hagibis is due to make landfall on Japan’s main island of Honshu on Saturday as the most powerful storm to hit the capital in six decades.

Google Trends showed that search interest had spiked this week in Hagibis the band as well as the typhoon.

Hagibis means speed and strength in the Philippine language Tagalog.

Tropical cyclones in the Western Pacific Ocean are given their identity in sequence based on names provided by 14 regional countries.

People had been joking about the vigor of Typhoon Hagibis and comparing that to the band, Parsons said.

Parsons said he hoped the inquiries and feelers pouring in for Hagibis would translate into bookings for a band that currently performs around twice in a month in the Manila area.

A former elected official, he now also juggles his performances with film-making and a construction business.

“Maybe after a month or two I will be expecting a lot of concert offers,” Parsons said.

Typhoon Hagibis looks on track to hit Japan a month after another destructive typhoon and Parsons said he was worried about the damage.

“I hope that Hagibis storm’s show happens in the middle of the sea,” Parsons said. “Definitely, people will absorb the wrath of typhoon Hagibis and I feel bad about it.”

Hagibis is best known for its members’ macho image and songs extolling the beauty of women. The group’s hit songs include “Katawan” (Body), “Legs” and “Babae” (Woman).

While the storm did not enter the Philippine territory, its extension brought scattered rain showers and thunderstorms in central and southern parts of the Southeast Asian nation.

Sonny Parsons (C), leader of Filipino boyband Hagibis, poses for a photo with fans at a fastfood restaurant in Manila, Philippines October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jerome Morales

Hagibis had used its renewed fame to warn Filipinos in Japan ahead of the storm’s landfall, Parsons said.

He hoped the band would get the chance to go to Japan after the typhoon.

“We will undo the sorrow and depression people experience,” Parsons said. “If the singing group will have a chance to go to Japan, we will help you forget the typhoon.”

Editing by Matthew Tostevin & Shri Navaratnam

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Squirrels’ stash of winter walnuts causes car chaos

Walnuts and grass hidden by squirrels are seen under the hood of a car, in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, U.S. in this October 7, 2019 image obtained via social media. Chris and Holly Persic via REUTERS

(Reuters) – Squirreling away supplies for winter took on a whole new meaning for a couple in the United States, after they discovered a hoodful of walnuts and grass in their car.

Holly Persic was driving to a library in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, when she noticed the car seemed strange.

“My wife called me from Northland Library and said that her car smelt like it was burning, and was making a weird sound,” Chris Persic said in a Facebook post that has since gone viral.

Holly opened the hood to find an engine full of walnuts neatly packed in grass, presumably stored there by squirrels over the weekend, when the vehicle had been parked in the open.

Chris spent almost an hour cleaning out “over 200 (not an exaggeration) walnuts and grass from under the hood”, he continued in the post.

The couple seemed to take the incident in their stride.

“There’s definitely an angry squirrel wife right now wondering where all the nuts went”, Chris said.

Reporting by Nur-Azna Sanusi; Writing by Karishma Singh; Editing by Alison Williams

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Owners present pets to Philippines priest for blessing

A pet dog dressed as a crowned Miss Universe is photographed at a pet fashion show celebrating World Animals Day in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines, October 6, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

MANILA (Reuters) – Elaborately dressed cats and dogs and even a palm-sized sugar glider were among the animals blessed outside a Philippine mall on Sunday in celebration of the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and World Animal day.

Pet owners raised their furry friends as a priest sprinkled holy water on the menagerie.

“They are like humans to us, so we need to have them blessed and make sure they do not get sick, and continue being with me,” said Filipino dog owner Ram de Castro, while carrying his pet dressed in Miss Universe-inspired red evening gown.

More than 100 pets were brought in for this year’s religious and blessing ceremony.

Anna Padrilao, a cat owner, said it was only right that her pet gets blessed because he is also a creation of God.

“Animals should be treasured the same way as humans”, she said.

World Animal Day, a day of action recognized worldwide for animal rights and welfare, is celebrated on Oct. 4, the feast day of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Reporting by Peter Blaza; Writing by Karen Lema; Editing by Alison Williams

Reuters: Oddly Enough

A 70-year-old biking grandmother conquers Bolivia’s ‘Death Road’

Mirtha Munoz a 70-year-old runner participates in the Sky Race, Bolivia’s toughest cycling competition – Bolivia Skyrace – Yolosa, La Paz, Bolivia – October 5, 2019 Mirtha Munoz in action during the Sky Race. The route known as “The way of death” to reach 4000 meters in the Andean mountains REUTERS/David Mercado

LA PAZ (Reuters) – Bolivia´s “Death Road” might seem an odd place for a septuagenarian grandmother on two wheels.

The world´s most dangerous road spirals skyward nearly 11,000 feet, from the country´s lowland jungles to the snow-capped peaks of the Andes. Fog, rain, rockslides and sheer cliffs are main attractions. The road has likely claimed thousands of lives.

But for 70-year old Bolivian Mirtha Munoz, the oldest ever competitor in Bolivia´s 60 km (37 mile) Skyrace, an extreme bike racing competition, it was a natural extension of a passion she picked up years ago.

Munoz took up biking on the advice of her family and a psychologist friend after her son died unexpectedly.

“He told me … the bike could help me get through my pain, and to rebuild,” she said.

Saturday´s race was a pinnacle achievement, no pun intended.

“It´s a vertical climb, you go up and up and there´s no rest,” she told Reuters upon finishing the race.

Munoz, one of the race´s founders, says she enjoys more low-key bike-riding with her six grandchildren, though admits she hopes the eldest, now approaching 18, will soon follow in her tracks.

Reporting by Daniel Ramos and Reuters TV, writing by Dave Sherwood, editing by Chris Reese

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Italian astronaut to watch World Cup match from space

FILE PHOTO: Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, crew member of the mission to the International Space Station (ISS), waves as he boards prior the launch of Soyuz MS-13 spacecraft Baikonur cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, July 20, 2019. Dmitri Lovetsky

TOKYO (Reuters) – Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano will be cheering on his team from space when they take on South Africa in their pivotal Rugby World Cup clash.

Parmitano will be watching Friday’s Pool B match from the International Space Station as it orbits some 400 km above the earth.

Italy are looking to upset the Springboks and reach the knockout stages for the first time.

Parmitano, who has been in space since July, had a message for the Italian team.

“You are a team and have to work all together to reach your goal, which is that of winning,” he said in a video posted by the European Space Agency and the Italian Rugby Federation.

It is not the first time Parmitano has broken new ground in space.

In August he became the first person to DJ in space when he played a set from the ISS for a club in Ibiza.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Alison Williams

Reuters: Oddly Enough

China’s ‘national flag baby’ raises flag, captivates millions

XIAN, China (Reuters) – Feng Jianhan, 9, puts on his olive-colored army uniform, cap and white satin gloves each morning, and goosesteps across his living room.

Feng Jianhan, 9, poses for a picture in military uniform next to a Chinese flag that he raises every morning through rope and pulley at his home in Xian, Shaanxi province, China September 26, 2019. REUTERS/Irene Wang

As the national anthem plays in the background, he stands by a home-made pulley system, solemnly hoists the Chinese national flag and raises hand to cap in a salute.

Dubbed the “national flag baby” by Chinese media, the boy has captivated the country, appearing on videos and TV shows, especially in the run up to Communist China’s 70th anniversary on Tuesday.

“I’ve made raising the flag my daily habit,” said Feng. “Just like brushing my teeth or washing my face, you can’t not brush your teeth or wash your face.”

The boy’s father, Feng Xie, said Jianhan’s habit started when he was a toddler. Upset one day, he stopped crying when he heard China’s national anthem playing on TV during a flag-raising ceremony.

Since then, his parents have played the national anthem and shown him recordings of flag-raising ceremonies to soothe him whenever he was crying.

As Jianhan grew, he wanted to enact the flag raising ceremony in his home and asked his parents for a uniform, a flag and a pulley system to raise it.

“We didn’t know where to buy them,” his father said.

But slowly, it all came together.

Material for the uniform came from bedding sold at an army surplus market; the flag from a flag seller, and the pulley system from a construction supplies store.

The boy now has bigger dreams.

“I want to raise the flag at Tiananmen Square in Beijing,” he said, in reference to the square in the center of the nation’s capital where a daily flag raising ceremony takes place.

Reporting by Irene Wang and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Neil Fullick

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Loo and behold! Japan’s high-tech toilets bemuse fans

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan may not win their home Rugby World Cup but they have already proved themselves world beaters when it comes to toilets.

A person presses a button on the control panel of a Japanese toilet, in Tokyo, Japan September 22, 2019. REUTERS/Lucien Libert

Going to the loo is a much more futuristic experience in the Land of the Rising Sun and touring fans have been fascinated by their visit to these high-tech “washlets”.

These Japanese toilets offer a wide variety of functions. Some open automatically when you approach them and many offer a warm seat for a bit of comfort on cold winter nights.

The numerous options on the control panel, however, can be confusing.

Two hours after landing at Tokyo’s Haneda airport, French fan Alex Weimer would not call his first experience a great one.

“There were something like 15 buttons in Japanese and I didn’t know which one to press. there were strange symbols with sprays going into every direction…” he said.

    “The flush was on the other side, I frantically pressed all the buttons and it made strange noises.”

It certainly is not to everyone’s liking.

“A bit too sophisticated for me. I just like the simple one, push the button without all the other experiences,” said All Blacks fan Brent York, although his friend Bernard James felt differently.

“I think when you first encounter them it’s a bit intimidating but we’ve been to Japan many times, now we’re used to them,” said James.

“Japan leads the way in toilets technology.”

Hygiene is very important in Japan. People wash their bodies before entering a bath and they take off their shoes when entering their home.

Washlets can be found everywhere in Japan — in public toilets, hotels and in people’s homes.

Known for being a tech-savvy population of over 126 million, the market for washlets is huge.

Slideshow (3 Images)

At toilet manufacturer Toto’s showroom in Tokyo, the latest toilet technology is on display. From the bog standard one to the most advanced, there’s a choice for everyone.

But it can be expensive. From a starting price of around 25,000 JPY (US$ 232) some go well over 1 million JPY (US$ 9,300).

In any case, come the end of the World Cup, some of the expected 500,000 visitors may be wishing they could take a little part of Japanese technology home with them.

Reporting by Lucien Libert; writing by Jack Tarrant; editing by Amlan Chakraborty

Reuters: Oddly Enough

From tree to chair without the carpentry: UK couple grows furniture

WIRKSWORTH, England (Reuters) – On a two-acre field in England’s Midlands, Gavin and Alice Munro are taking sustainability to the next level: they harvest trees which they train to grow into chairs.

The couple have a furniture farm in Derbyshire where they are nurturing 250 chairs, 100 lamps and 50 tables. It is their answer to what they see as the inefficient and carbon-heavy process of cutting down mature trees to create furniture.

“Instead of force-growing a tree for 50 years and then cutting it down and making it into smaller and smaller bits … the idea is to grow the tree into the shape that you want directly. It’s a kind of zen 3D printing,” said Gavin.

Part of the inspiration for the idea came when Gavin was a young boy. He spotted an overgrown bonsai tree which looked like a chair.

He was also born with a curved spine and as a child spent several years wearing a metal frame to reset his back.

“The (medical) staff were just brilliant. The nurses, the doctors, they would kind of combine kindness and competence in a way that really, really impressed me.

“I wanted to combine care and competence and hopefully this is what we’re doing here,” he added.

The 44-year-old began experimenting in 2006 when he tried to grow chairs on two small plots of land in the Peak District, also in central England.

Full Grown field manager Ed Lound saws a tree which has been growing for six years into the shape of a chair in Wirksworth, Britain, September 11, 2019. Picture taken September 11, 2019. REUTERS/George Sargent

But in 2012, a year after they married, Gavin and Alice set up the company Full Grown and committed to the idea full-time.

Progress has been bumpy. One of their first attempts at a crop ended in disaster when it was trampled by cows and eaten by rabbits.

They have also had to discover the most effective way to shape a tree without stunting its growth. The couple has learned to guide shoots already heading in the right direction, rather than forcing shoots the wrong way against their will.

The labor and time involved in producing the organic pieces means they do not come cheap. Chairs sell for 10,000 pounds ($ 12,480), lamps for 900-2,300 pounds ($ 1,120-2,870) and tables for 2,500-12,500 pounds ($ 3,120-15,600).

The average chair takes six to nine years to grow – and another year to dry out. The longest commission the company has is for 2030. It is a chair for a customer’s retirement.

The plight of rainforests have stormed up the global agenda in recent weeks, as fires raged in the Amazon and the Congo Basin.

“You know the damage that we do with forestry. We’re only just starting to really understand that. This is kind of the opposite really, we use … ancient techniques that we used in the stone age,” Gavin said.

Ancient Romans, Chinese and Japanese are known to have shaped trees to customize their forms.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Gavin and Alice hope to be harvesting annually by 2022.

Long-term, they want to buy a farm they can use as an experimental hub. They also want to spread their knowledge through consultancy.

In the medium-term, Alice wants a new dining set. But it will take at least a decade to grow.

Editing by Mike Collett-White

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Philippines’ Duterte pestered again as gecko stalls speech

FILE PHOTO: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during his fourth State of the Nation Address at the Philippine Congress in Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines July 22, 2019. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez/File Photo

MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte just keeps getting bugged during his public speeches.

A noisy gecko was the latest wildlife contributor to an address by Duterte, interrupting the leader on Thursday evening just as he launched another tirade at human rights groups critical of his bloody war on drugs.

The reptile’s persistence caused laugher in the crowd of mostly soldiers, causing Duterte stop mid-sentence, turn to his left and pause for a while to see what the off-camera commotion was.

“You brought a gecko here?” he asked an official sitting behind him, drawing laughs.

Geckos are common across Southeast Asia. The small lizard-like reptiles are known for their ability to produce various loud sounds, from barks to chirps, to communicate or when threatened.

While activists accuse Duterte of cowing his opponents into silence, reptiles and insects have no qualms about pestering him during his often hours-long, televised addresses.

A big cockroach reut.rs/2Od6b4s crawled up his shoulder and down his shirt during a speech in May when he was lambasting an opposition party ahead of a national election. He joked the cockroach was its supporter.

Two months later, a fly kept buzzing around him and landing on his forehead, just as he was berating his rivals in the Catholic clergy. He said in jest that the fly was acting on their orders.

Reporting by Martin Petty; editing by Jane Wardell

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Alien enthusiasts descend on Nevada desert near secretive U.S. base

RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) – Scores of UFO enthusiasts converged on rural Nevada on Thursday for a pilgrimage of sorts to the U.S. installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, as law enforcement officials beefed up security around the military base.

Visitors descended early in the day on the tiny desert town of Rachel, a short distance from the military site, in response to a recent, viral social-media invitation to “storm” Area 51 on Friday, raising concerns by local authorities of unruly crowds overwhelming the community.

Situated about 150 miles (240 km) north of Las Vegas, the remote hamlet of just 50 year-round residents lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Thursday’s visitors established a small encampment outside Rachel’s only business – the extraterrestrial-themed Little A’Le’Inn motel and restaurant – parking themselves in cars, tents and RVs. Some tourists hung inflatable aliens from their campers.

One couple, Nicholas Bohen and Cayla McVey, both sporting UFO tattoos, traveled to Rachel from the Los Angeles suburb of Fullerton with enough food to last for a week of car-camping.

“It’s evolved into a peaceful gathering, a sharing of life stories,” McVey told Reuters, sizing up the crowd. “I think you are going to get a group of people that are prepared, respectful and they know what they getting themselves into.”

Music was scheduled to begin Thursday night and continue for two more days. It remained unclear if there would be a mass trek to the grounds of Area 51 on Friday.

The military site was shrouded in secrecy for decades, stoking conspiracy theories that it housed the remnants of a flying saucer and the bodies of its alien crew from the crash of an unidentified flying object in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The U.S. government did not confirm the base existed until 2013, when it released CIA archives saying the site was used to test top-secret spy planes.

Rachel and its surroundings have nevertheless celebrated their place in UFO lore as a tourist draw. A 98-mile (158-km) road running through the area is dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, a purported hotbed of UFO sightings.

Dust blows through the desert as an influx of tourists responding to a call to ‘storm’ Area 51, a secretive U.S. military base believed by UFO enthusiasts to hold government secrets about extra-terrestrials, is expected in Rachel, Nevada, U.S. September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

“NO STOPPING IT”

In June, California college student Matty Roberts posted a facetious Facebook invitation exhorting the public at large to run into Area 51 on foot to “see them aliens.”

When more than 1 million people expressed interest, the U.S. Air Force admonished curiosity seekers not to breach the gates at the military base, which it said is still used to test combat aircraft and train personnel.

Roberts then teamed up with Connie West, co-owner of the Little A’Le’Inn, to plan a music festival in Rachel dubbed “Alienstock.”

In early September, however, Roberts disassociated himself from the Rachel event, saying it was poorly organized and he feared it could devolve into a public safety crisis. Instead, he helped stage an alternative Alienstock set to take place Thursday night in Las Vegas.

West said the event in Rachel would go on as planned.

About 40 miles (64 km) to the east, the small town of Hiko planned an event called “Storm Area 51 Basecamp” at a gift shop dubbed the Alien Research Center. Organizers promised musicians, artists and “prominent ufologists,” and by Thursday had sold 3,200 tickets, according to Linda Looney, the shop’s manager.

“This whole thing has been a shock to this little community,” she said, adding that organizers had hired 15 security guards and a private ambulance and ordered 80 portable toilets. “It’s going to be really cool. I’m excited.”

The influx of alien hunters prompted Lincoln County, which encompasses both Rachel and Hiko, to draft an emergency declaration that could be invoked to call in help from the state.

The sheriff’s office said visitors should expect “a large presence of law enforcement.” Authorities urged everyone to bring ample supplies of food, water and fuel.

Five sheriff’s patrol cars were posted on Thursday just outside the Area 51 gate, where a handful of people had come to take photos.

Slideshow (18 Images)

Despite a festive, peaceful mood back in town, the official Rachel website was decidedly unwelcoming.

“If any event still happens it is going to be a pretty sad affair with no bands, no food, very little infrastructure and a lot of unhappy campers,” it said.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Rachel, Nev.; Editing by Steve Gorman and Leslie Adler

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Alien enthusiasts gather in Nevada desert near secretive Area 51

RACHEL, Nev. (Reuters) – UFO enthusiasts began descending on rural Nevada on Thursday near the secret U.S. military installation known as Area 51, long rumored to house government secrets about alien life, with local authorities hoping the visitors were coming in peace.

FILE PHOTO: The back entrance to Area 51 is shown in Rachel, Nevada, U.S., August 16,2019. REUTERS/Rollo Ross

Residents of Rachel, Nevada, a remote desert town of 50 people about 12 miles outside the base, worried their community might be overwhelmed by unruly crowds turning out in response to a recent viral social-media invitation to “storm” Area 51.

The man behind the planned gathering, the date for which was never explained, worries about a “possible humanitarian disaster” in Rachel, which lacks a grocery store or even a gasoline station.

Nevertheless, dozens of visitors began arriving on Thursday outside the town’s only business – an extraterrestrial-themed motel and restaurant called the Little A’Le’Inn – parking themselves in cars, tents and campers. A fire truck was stationed nearby.

Area 51 was shrouded in secrecy for decades, stoking conspiracy theories that it housed the remnants of a flying saucer and the bodies of its alien crew from a supposed unidentified flying object crash in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. The U.S. government did not confirm the base existed until 2013, when it released CIA archives saying the site was used to test top-secret spy planes.

The documents, however, did not end suspicion about space aliens there.

Rachel and its surroundings have long celebrated their place in UFO lore as a tourist draw. A 98-mile (158-km) road running through the area is dubbed the Extraterrestrial Highway, a purported hotbed of UFO sightings.

In June, California college student Matty Roberts posted a facetious Facebook invitation exhorting the public at large to run into Area 51 on foot to “see them aliens.”

When more than 1 million people expressed interest, the U.S. Air Force admonished curiosity seekers not to breach the gates at the military base, which it said is still used to test combat aircraft and train personnel.

‘ALIENSTOCK’

Roberts then teamed up with Connie West, co-owner of the Little A’Le’Inn, to plan a music festival in Rachel dubbed “Alienstock” to entertain the expected crowds.

In early September, however, Roberts disassociated himself from the Rachel event, saying it was poorly organized and he feared it could devolve into a public safety crisis.

Roberts instead helped stage an alternative Alienstock set to take place Thursday night 150 miles (240 km) away, in Las Vegas. Beer brand Bud Light signed on as a sponsor and designed limited-edition, green beer cans featuring alien heads.

About 40 miles (64 km) east of Rachel, another small town, Hiko, Nevada, planned a separate event called “Storm Area 51 Basecamp” at a gift shop dubbed the Alien Research Center. Organizers promised musicians, artists and “prominent ufologists” and by Thursday had sold 3,200 tickets, according to Linda Looney, manager of the shop. “This whole thing has been a shock to this little community,” she said on Thursday, adding that organizers had hired 15 security guards and a private ambulance and ordered 80 portable toilets. “It’s going to be really cool. I’m excited.”

The expected influx of alien hunters prompted Lincoln County, encompassing Rachel and Hiko, to draft an emergency declaration that could be invoked if needed to call in help from the state.

Self-professed alien fan Stephen Ray said had traveled to the region with a friend from Colorado only to encounter a heavy law enforcement presence that was keeping visitors away from the base. 

“I don’t think we’ll be able to storm it this time,” he said in Hiko.

FILE PHOTO: The exterior of the Alien Research Facility gift shop in Rachel, Nevada, U.S., August 16,2019. REUTERS/Rollo Ross

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office said visitors should expect “a large presence of law enforcement.” Authorities urged everyone to bring ample supplies of food, water and fuel.

The official website of Rachel was likewise discouraging, and urged would-be revelers to stay away.

“If any event still happens it is going to be a pretty sad affair with no bands, no food, very little infrastructure and a lot of unhappy campers,” it said.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Rachel, Nev.; Editing by Steve Gorman and Dan Grebler

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Rugby: Tattooed Samoans don skin suits to avoid offending Japanese hosts

(Reuters) – Samoan players will wear their hearts on their sleeves – but keep traditional Pacific islander tattoos under wraps with skin suits during the World Cup in Japan to avoid offending their hosts.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – Autumn Internationals – England vs Samoa – Twickenham Stadium, London, Britain – November 25, 2017 England’s Maro Itoje in action Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs/File Photo

For the Japanese, tattoos have long been associated with members of ‘yakuza’ crime syndicates, and inked tourists may be met with disapproval and sometimes banned from gyms, bathhouses or traditional hot-spring resorts.

But tattoos are also a fundamental part of the Pacific identity back home for the Samoans.

“We have to respect the culture of the land we are in wherever we go. We have our own culture as well but we are not in Samoa now,” team manager Va’elua Aloi Alesana told the World Cup website here

“There are some training venues that have allowed us to show our tattoos and some places where we can’t, and for those places, we’ve been given ‘skins’ to wear to cover our tattoos.”

“The extra skins are only for when we go to the (swimming) pools though. At the training we can wear our normal clothes.”

Last December, World Rugby advised both players and supporters to cover up tattoos during the tournament.

Samoa coach Steve Jackson called in Japanese cultural experts ahead of the tournament to ensure players appreciate the local culture.

“It’s quite normal in our culture,” Samoa captain Jack Lam said. “But we are respectful and mindful to what the Japanese way is. We will be making sure that what we are showing will be OK.”

Samoa, ranked 16th in the world, face Russia in their opening pool stage match on Sept. 24. They will also meet Scotland, Japan and Ireland in Pool A.

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson

Reuters: Oddly Enough

If marathons weren’t hard enough already: strap a tree to your back

NAIROBI (Reuters) – This Sunday in South Africa, an accountant, an entrepreneur and a boxing executive are among 20 friends running the Cape Town marathon – with saplings strapped to their backs.

Activist and treegrower Siyabulela Sokomani takes a selfies as he prepares for the start of the Cape Town marathon, in South Africa September 15, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The group are promoting the planting of native trees amid a nationwide push to replace invasive species with indigenous one to cope with drought and climate change.

Last year, Cape Town suffered its worst drought in a century, nearly running out of water and forcing authorities to enforce severe water rationing and set up public water points.

Spooked businesses put $ 3.7m into a fund to eradicate invasive water-hungry trees around Cape Town, a move that would top up reservoirs with billions of liters of water.

Activist and treegrower Siyabulela Sokomani, who is running carrying a wild olive, said the group of friends is raising cash to plant 2,000 trees in Khayelitsha, one of Cape Town’s biggest townships, where many of them come from.

The 34-year-old entrepreneur attended school there and was inspired by a teacher who started an environmental club.

“There were no trees in the township where I grew up,” he said. Now Sokomani has tattoos of his favorites – the Coral Tree, Speckboom and Acacia – twining across his shoulder.

The Speckboom is a favorite at Sokomani’s Shoots and Roots nursery. Spekboom can grow almost anywhere and absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere faster than most other trees in dry conditions, the United Nations says.

Last year Sokomani went back to his school to plant 67 trees on Mandela Day, symbolizing the 67 years that Mandela spent in public service. He co-founded Township Farmers in 2017 to teach children about agriculture and plant trees in schools.

From 2001 to 2018, South Africa lost 1.34 million hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 22% decrease since 2000, according to Global Forest Watch, a monitoring organization run the Washington-based thinktank World Resource Institute.

Editing by Toby Chopra

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Thieves steal $5 million gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace

LONDON (Reuters) – Burglars have stolen a fully-functional 18-carat gold toilet from Britain’s Blenheim Palace, where it had been installed as an art exhibit, police said on Saturday.

The toilet, valued at more than $ 5 million, was part of an exhibition of work by Italian conceptual artist Maurizio Cattelan which opened two days ago at the stately home 60 miles west of London, a major tourist attraction.

The toilet, named “America”, was previously on display in a cubicle at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, where more than 100,000 visitors were able to use it.

Thieves with at least two vehicles broke into the palace, the birthplace of World War Two leader Winston Churchill, and removed the toilet some time before 5 a.m. (0400 GMT), Thames Valley Police said.

“Due to the toilet being plumbed in to the building, this has caused significant damage and flooding,” Detective Inspector Jess Milne added in a public statement.

Police said they had arrested one 66-year-old man in connection with the theft, but had not recovered the artwork.

Blenheim Palace said it was saddened by the loss of the “precious” artwork, which it said and that the rest of the exhibition would reopen on Sunday.

Last year, while the toilet was at the Guggenheim, the Washington Post reported that President Donald Trump turned down an offer from the museum to temporarily install the toilet for his personal use in the White House.

Reporting by David Milliken, Editing by Christina Fincher

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Rugby: Octopuses predict Japan will beat Ireland but not reach knockouts

TOKYO (Reuters) – Two octopuses in Obira, on the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido, have predicted the hosts of the Rugby World Cup will not progress from their pool when the tournament begins later this month.

The two molluscs selected the result of each of the host’s pool matches by moving to certain areas of a children’s pool, divided into sections representing each team and the possibility of a draw.

Despite predicting a surprise win over world number one Ireland, the two octopuses anticipate Japan will lose their remaining three matches to Russia, Samoa and Scotland.

If this outcome were to come to pass, it would mean the Japanese team’s head coach, Jamie Joseph, and the Brave Blossoms would have failed to achieve their aim of progressing to the knockout stages for the first time.

It is not the first time an octopus from Obira has predicted sports results but Japanese rugby fans will be hoping it is not as successful as last time.

Last year, an octopus named Rabiot correctly predicted the outcome of all three of Japan’s matches at the Russia 2018 soccer World Cup.

After the tournament, Rabiot was sold at market meaning two new molluscs were needed on Friday and both were given the name of the previous psychic cephalopod.

Japan begin their World Cup campaign against Russia in Tokyo on Sept. 20.

Paul the oracle octopus won global fame in 2010 by accurately picking the outcome of a string of Germany’s soccer World Cup matches that year.

Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Robert Birsel

Reuters: Oddly Enough