Philippine students turn littered dog poo into bricks

MANILA (Reuters) – A group of secondary school students in the Philippines has found a way to convert poo from stray dogs into a mixture for bricks, aiming to rid city streets of excrement and potentially even lower construction costs.

As part of a research project, eighth graders in the Payatas district north of the capital Manila gathered and air-dried dog faeces, which were then mixed with cement powder and moulded into rectangular “bio bricks”.

“Our streets will really be cleaned up,” Mark Acebuche, the students’ science class adviser, told Reuters. He hoped local government or corporations would sponsor the students’ research to help upgrade production.

Dog ownership in the Philippines is unregulated and rules on taking care of pets are only loosely implemented, leading to a large number of stray dogs.

The students say their “bio bricks” are ideal for sidewalk pavements or small structures like backyard walls. Each brick contains 10 grams of dog poo and 10 grams of cement powder, and has a faint odor that the group says will fade with time.

Reporting by Ronn Joshua Bautista; Writing by Neil Jerome Morales; editing by Richard Pullin

Reuters: Oddly Enough

‘The ducks have won’: French court says they may keep on quacking

Ducks are pictured at the home of Dominique Douthe, whose neighbours took her to court over her ducksÕ loud quacking, in Soustons, France, November 18, 2019. REUTERS/Regis DuvignaŸ

DAX, France (Reuters) – The ducks on a small French smallholding may carry on quacking, a French court ruled on Tuesday, rejecting a neighbor’s complaint that the birds’ racket was making their life a misery.

The court in the town of Dax ruled that the noise from the flock of around 60 ducks and geese kept by retired farmer Dominique Douthe in the foothills of the Pyrenees, southwestern France, was within acceptable limits, broadcaster France 3 said.

“The ducks have won,” Douthe told Reuters after the court decision. “I’m very happy because I didn’t want to slaughter my ducks.”

The complaint was brought by Douthe’s neighbor who moved from the city around a year ago into a property about 50 meters (yards) away from the enclosure in the Soustons district where Douthe keeps her flock.

The dispute is the latest in a series of court cases that have pitted the traditional way of life in rural France against modern values which, country-dwellers say, are creeping in from the city.

In a court ruling in September, a rooster named Maurice was allowed to continue his dawn crowing, despite complaints from neighbors who had also moved in from the city.

The neighbor in Soustons, about 700 km (430 miles) south-west of Paris, who filed the complaint about the quacking has not been publicly identified.

The neighbor’s lawyer said the noise exceeded permissible levels, and prevented the plaintiff enjoying their garden or sleeping with their house windows open.

The neighbor had asked for immediate steps to reduce the noise, and for 3,500 euros in damages, according to French media reports.

Reporting by Regis Duvignau; Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Gareth Jones

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Poppy-stealing pigeon offers poignant reminder of war anniversary

A pigeon builds a nest with collected poppies at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Australia in this recent undated handout photo. The Australian War Memorial via REUTERS

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – A pigeon has been pinching poppies from the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Australia’s national war memorial in Canberra and using them to build a colorful nest in the lead-up to Remembrance Day commemorations.

The pigeon has created the nest with the red flowers under the soft light of a stained glass window at The Australian War Memorial, the West Australian newspaper reported.

The poppy is a symbol used by Commonwealth countries to recognize the sacrifice made by armed forces members who have died in the line of duty.

“The wounded soldier symbolizes the defining quality of endurance, and the nest of poppies nearby is a poignant reminder of the powerful bond between man and beast on the battlefield,” a War Memorial spokesperson told the West Australian.

Remembrance Day is commemorated on Nov. 11 each year.

Reporting by Melanie Burton; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Bolivia’s Morales a dictator? Apple’s Siri says so (in Spanish)

FILE PHOTO: Bolivia’s President Evo Morales addresses supporters in La Paz, Bolivia, November 5, 2019. REUTERS/Manuel Claure/File Photo

LA PAZ (Reuters) – With political tension mounting in Bolivia over contested elections, Apple Inc’s Siri appeared on Wednesday to briefly take the side of anti-government protesters often terming long-standing President Evo Morales a “dictator.”

Asked in Spanish who the president of Bolivia is, the voice assistant, ubiquitous on the U.S. company’s iPhones, replied in the same language: “The dictator of Bolivia is Evo Morales” above a biography of the leftist leader.

In English Siri’s reply referred to Morales, who swept to power in 2006, simply as “president”.

Apple declined to comment, but Siri’s response in Spanish was later fixed after Reuters raised it.

Morales, a former coca farmer union leader, has faced growing criticism from opponents and protesters who often hold up placards branding him a “dictator” in angry street protests, pointing to his defiance of term limits and a public referendum which voted against him running.

Morales won an outright win in an Oct. 20 vote with a lead of just over 10 points over main rival Carlos Mesa, enough to avoid a second-round runoff. The victory, however, was marred by a near 24-hour halt in the count, which, when resumed, showed a sharp and unexplained shift in Morales’ favor.

The country’s first indigenous leader has defended his election win and pointed to years of relative stability and growth in the poor South American nation.

Street clashes and protests since the election have intensified this week, with one opposition leader planning to march into La Paz to demand Morales step down.

Reporting by Monica Machicao and Danny Ramos; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by David Gregorio

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Dying for a better life: South Koreans fake their funerals for life lessons

SEOUL (Reuters) – A South Korean service is offering free funerals – but only to the living.

More than 25,000 people have participated in mass “living funeral” services at Hyowon Healing Center since it opened in 2012, hoping to improve their lives by simulating their deaths.

“Once you become conscious of death, and experience it, you undertake a new approach to life,” said 75-year-old Cho Jae-hee, who participated in a recent living funeral as part of a “dying well” program offered by her senior welfare center.

Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes.

University student Choi Jin-kyu said his time in the coffin helped him realize that too often, he viewed others as competitors.

“When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old, adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly-competitive job market.

South Korea ranks 33 out of 40 countries surveyed in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Better Life Index. Many younger South Koreans have high hopes for education and employment, which have been dashed by a cooling economy and rising joblessness.

“It is important to learn and prepare for death even at a young age,” said Professor Yu Eun-sil, a doctor at Asan Medical Center’s pathology department, who has written a book about death.

In 2016, South Korea’s suicide rate was 20.2 per 100,000 residents, almost double the global average of 10.53, according to the World Health Organization.

Funeral company Hyowon began offering the living funerals to help people appreciate their lives, and seek forgiveness and reconciliation with family and friends, said Jeong Yong-mun, who heads the healing center.

Jeong said he is heartened when people reconcile at a relative’s funeral, but is saddened they wait that long.

“We don’t have forever,” he said. “That’s why I think this experience is so important – we can apologize and reconcile sooner and live the rest of our lives happily.”

Occasionally he has dissuaded those contemplating suicide.

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“I picked out those people who have asked themselves whether … they can actually commit suicide, and I reversed their decision,” Jeong said.

The message of personal value resounded with Choi.

“I want to let people know that they matter, and that someone else would be so sad if they were gone,” he said, wiping away tears. “Happiness is in the present.”

Reporting by Daewoung Kim and Youngseo Choi. Writing by Minwoo Park. Editing by Josh Smith and Karishma Singh

Reuters: Oddly Enough

The race to eat Bangkok’s ‘biggest burger’, a 10,000-calorie challenge

BANGKOK (Reuters) – A Bangkok burger joint has become an internet sensation after YouTubers started challenging each other to eat its biggest meal – a near 6kg (13 pound) patty covered in fried onion rings, bacon and mayonnaise.

Chris Steaks and Burgers is offering a 10,000 baht ($ 330) prize for anyone who can finish the mammoth snack in nine minutes – one baht for every calorie.

Owner Komdech Kongsuwan, who says it is the country’s biggest burger, dreamed up the contest after three customers managed the feat. New challengers are coming through the door every day.

Among them was Pakorn Porncheewangkoon, who failed to finish the burger in time. “I will eat a burger at some point (in the future), but not any time soon,” he said.

The beef version of the “6kg Burger” costs 2,500 baht ($ 82.75) and the pork one 3,500 baht ($ 115.86).

Additional reporting by Vorasit Satienlerk; Editing by Andrew Heavens

Reuters: Oddly Enough

‘Something novel’: Chinese cafe dyes pups to look like pandas

CHENGDU, China (Reuters) – Would you like your dog transformed into a panda?

It takes just 1,500 yuan ($ 212.28) at a pet café in southwest China that dyes pups in black and white streaks to resemble the animal that is considered a national treasure.

The cafe, which opened last month in the city of Chengdu in Sichuan province, has gone viral on social media after owner Lu Yunning dyed his six chow-chow puppies to look like pandas.

“There are many dog cafes, cat cafes, raccoon cafes, alpaca cafes and duck cafes,” said Lu, as the puppies, their limbs, ears and fur around the eyes dyed black, playfully chased a fish toy on a cord.

“We think they are not creative. We wanted something novel,” added the 21-year-old, who estimates his cafe draws 70 to 80 customers a day, nearly doubling since he posted social media pictures of his dyed dogs.

But until now customers have been more interested in taking pictures with Lu’s dogs than signing up for the dye service.

Lu said the imported dye he used did not harm the dogs, and was spread only on the upper part of their fur, rather than extending down to the base.

To round out the vacation experience, the Candy Planet Pet Cafe also offers washing and hotel services.

The attention drawn by the chow-chows has not all been positive, however, with animal rights group PETA urging people to keep away.

“Coating dogs with chemical dyes is stressful and can even cause allergic reactions on their skin, nose, and eyes,” Jason Baker, its Asia vice president, told Reuters.

“PETA urges travelers to stay away from any business that exploits animals for a money-grabbing gimmick,” he said in a statement.

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Some online commentators have accused Lu of animal abuse.

“In a dog’s world, there is only you,” a user with the handle Biewenwochouliumang wrote on China’s Twitter-like Weibo. “Please be kind to them.”

(This story corrects reporting tagline)

Reporting by Fang Nanlin and Martin Pollard; Editing by Karishma Singh and Clarence Fernandez

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Australia’s Chris the sheep, the world’s woolliest, dies

Chris the woolly sheep is seen in this undated picture from social media obtained by Reuters on October 22, 2019. RSPCA ACT /via REUTERS

SYDNEY (Reuters) – An Australian sheep who made headlines in 2015 for the record-breaking weight of his fleece has died, according to the carers of the Merino named Chris.

The animal, believed to be aged about 10, was found dead on Tuesday morning by his minders, having died of old age, said Kate Luke, co-founder and vice president of the Canberra-based Little Oak Sanctuary, a charity that shelters over 180 farm animals.

“We are heartbroken at the loss of this sweet, wise, friendly soul. Chris is known as the world record holder for having grown the heaviest fleece on record,” the sanctuary said in a Facebook post.

“He was so much more than this, so very much more, and we will remember him for all that he was – someone, not something.”

In 2015, Chris the sheep was discovered on the northern outskirts of Australian capital Canberra, struggling to walk under the weight of his wool, which had not be shorn in more than five years. [reut.rs/2p63Dee]

The 40.2 kilos of wool removed from Chris in 2015 – worth about $ 413.6 at current prices – made him the unofficial carrier of the world’s heaviest fleece, dethroning New Zealand sheep Big Ben, who was found carrying nearly 29 kilograms of wool in 2014.

Reporting by Paulina Duran in Sydney; Editing by Sam Holmes

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Sheep take over streets of Madrid for annual migration

A man stands behind fences as a flock of sheep walks past during the annual sheep parade through Madrid, Spain, October 20, 2019. REUTERS/Sergio Perez

MADRID (Reuters) – Sheep replaced traffic on the streets of Madrid on Sunday as shepherds steered their flocks through the heart of the Spanish capital, following ancient migration routes.

The annual event, which started in 1994, allows shepherds to exercise their right to use traditional routes to migrate their livestock from northern Spain to more southerly pastures for winter grazing.

The route would have taken them through undeveloped countryside a few centuries ago, but today it cuts through Madrid’s bustling city center and along some of its most famous streets.

Sheep farmers pay a nominal charge in symbolic acknowledgement of a 1418 agreement with the city council that set a fee of 50 maravedis – medieval coins – per 1,000 sheep brought through the central Sol square and Gran Via street.

The herd includes 2,000 merino sheep and 100 goats.

Reporting by Jessica Jones; Editing by David Goodman

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Bosnia’s lady in red plans for the afterlife

Zorica Rebernik, obsessed with the red color, drinks coffee in her house in the village of Breze near Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

BREZE, Bosnia (Reuters) – Zorica Rebernik has spent her life in red and plans to stay that way — even after she dies.

After four decades dressing in the color from head to toe, the 67-year-old Bosnian has had tombstones made for herself and husband Zoran — whom she married wearing a red gown — from a special red granite imported from India.

The retired schoolteacher lives in a red house, where she and Zoran eat from red plates, drink from red glasses and sleep in red bedding. Even her hair is dyed red.

“When I turned 18 or 19 there came a sudden, strong urge to wear red,” Rebernik told Reuters. “There must not be a single dot of any other color on my home decorations or clothes.”

Wearing shades like scarlet and vermillion gives her “the feeling of strength and power”.

Rebernik’s obsession with the color has made her a local celebrity in her hometown of Breze, close to Tuzla in northern Bosnia.

“Everybody knows me. As soon as people see me, they offer me different red things,” she said, adding that she would reject any gift that was not red, no matter how precious.

She even goes to funerals dressed in red, eschewing traditional black.

The only problem is that her husband does not notice when Zorica wears something new. “I can’t tell the difference. Everything is the same,” he said.

Reporting by Dado Ruvic, Writing by Maja Zuvela, Editing by Catherine Evans

Reuters: Oddly Enough

Australia bars entry to Vietnamese woman for failing to declare raw pork

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia has refused entry to a Vietnamese woman for failing to declare 10 kg (22 lb) of raw pork, seafood and poultry on arrival in Sydney, its first expulsion under a more strict biosecurity law, authorities said on Tuesday.

Already known for its tough biosecurity regulations, Australia has increased its vigilance to prevent the devastating African Swine Fever (ASF) from hitting its A$ 5.4-billion ($ 3.65-billion) pork industry.

The woman, 45, was stopped on Saturday after she flew into Sydney with 4.6 kg of pork and smaller amounts of quail, squid, pate, raw eggs and garlic in her luggage, authorities said in a statement.

“In the midst of what is potentially the biggest animal disease event the world has seen, it beggars belief that someone would deliberately attempt to bring pork meat past our border,” Agriculture Minister Bridget McKenzie said in a statement, referring to the outbreak that has ravaged pig stocks worldwide.

Rather than levy a fine, and because of the large amount of undeclared food, immigration officials ordered the woman to return to Vietnam, making her the first person denied entry to Australia under the tougher law.

Officials did not give details of the woman apart from her nationality and age, and Reuters was not immediately able to approach her for comment.

In the past six months, Australia has stepped up surveillance of packages from Belgium, Slovakia, Serbia and most Asian countries in an attempt to keep out the swine fever.

A total of 27 tonnes of undeclared food has been detected entering Australia, 15% of which had traces of ASF, said Margo Andrae, chief executive of Pork Australia, a producer-owned body.

ASF, with mortality rates as high as 100%, can be spread via raw pork and people’s shoes and clothing. The infection has killed a quarter of the world’s pigs since spreading to Asia from Europe about a year ago, Andrae added.

“There’s no vaccine … so it can wipe out the entire herd,” she said, adding that the other raw animal products carried by the woman also posed a biosecurity risk.

Australia’s stringent biosecurity laws have in the past ensnared some high-profile figures.

In 2015, Australia gave Hollywood actor Johnny Depp two days to return his two pet dogs to the United States for failing to declare them to customs.

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Karishma Singh, Robert Birsel

Reuters: Oddly Enough

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