Friday, October 25 2019

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The last resort, North Korea style

Kim Jong-un has ordered the destruction of all facilities built by South Korea at the Mount Kumgang tourist zone, apparently because of Seoul’s refusal to break ranks with the US. The North Korean leader visited the resort, opened in 1998 and initially operated by the two nations and seen as a way of improving cross-border ties, and declared that “all the unpleasant-looking facilities” designed by South Korea should be torn down, state media reported. In their place, North-style “modern service facilities” would be built. Trips over the border came to a sudden end in July 2008, after a North Korean soldier shot dead a South Korean tourist who had strayed into a restricted zone. With ties warming, discussions had begun about South Korean tourists returning to Mount Kumgang. But that ended as North Korea has accused Seoul of failing to meet its commitments to improve relations. – © Telegraph Media Group Limited (2019)

Anger at ‘grab-a-crab’ claw machine

A Singapore restaurant has suspended a bizarre promotional stunt where customers use an arcade-style machine with a mechanical claw to catch live crabs after it sparked an uproar online. A video of the pink machine, containing the creatures and emblazoned with a picture of a smiling red crab under the phrase “Come and catch me”, went viral this week. Similar to machines where people pick up soft toys, customers use a joystick to move the claw over the creatures before lowering it to try to grab one. If successful, the customer can have the Sri Lankan crab cooked on the spot free of charge, choose to take it home, or leave it at the House of Seafood to eat another time. – AFP

A tete-a-tech with the Mona Lisa

The Mona Lisa is conspicuously absent from the Louvre’s retrospective of Leonardo da Vinci, but the world-famous Florentine makes up for it by holding court in a virtual reality experience. Organisers of the show left the masterpiece in its usual home, the Salle des Etats, fearing crowd-control problems. Instead, visitors can enjoy a virtual “tete-a-tete” with Madonna Lisa del Giacondo, who comes to life in the eight-minute immersion experience. But be prepared for a few surprises. For one thing, what appears today to be the young woman’s hair is actually a gossamer veil – a symbol of virtue – with most of her hair tucked into a tight black cap, leaving just two hanging tresses. You’ll also note the 24-year-old Lisa was quite svelte for a mother of five, a fact no longer apparent in the timeworn, heavily varnished painting, in which she appears somewhat plump. – AFP

Hash-dealing ‘Robin Hood’ eggs on protesters

A week into daily demonstrations that have gone on into the early hours, the Lebanese may be in need of a pick me up – and the country’s most famous drug dealer offered just that. Nouh Zaiter, a hashish dealer on the run from Lebanese authorities, delivered a blunt message in support of anti-corruption protests that have crippled the country. The self-styled Lebanese Robin Hood released a video on a local news site calling on protesters in the eastern Baalbek region to demonstrate on Thursday evening. “I hope that everyone who goes to the protests brings a Lebanese flag with them,” he said, in an address laced with anger. “I hope that every oppressed and deprived person goes to the square,” he said, wearing a baseball cap backwards, a hoodie and a chain around his neck. – AFP

Wild idea may bee sweet salvation

The staggering decline of honey bee colonies has alarmed experts across the US, but an unconventional apiculturist in California thinks he has found a way to save them. Michael Thiele has championed an approach he calls the “rewilding” of honeybees, allowing them to live as they did for millions of years – in natural log hives high above the ground. “We can do this very, very simple thing – return bees into their natural nest environment, into their natural biosphere,” said German-born Thiele at his home in Sebastopol, California. Thiele’s method consists of hollowing out logs and strapping them high on tree trunks to mimic bees’ hives before they were domesticated. He also sometimes suspends them from barn rafters or perches them high on wooden tables for a similar effect. – Reuters

Airbnb for ex-prisoners an easy cell

Spare rooms are no longer just for guests and Airbnb. The lucrative room-letting business has inspired a new way of housing ex-inmates as the US tests a raft of innovations to ease prisoner release, when a place to call home is a top priority yet often the hardest thing to find. Ex-prisoners say the freedom and security they get from a room of their own is a huge turnaround after a decade-plus in crowded jails, and an opportunity to start afresh. Since August 2018, the Homecoming Project has been matching people due to leave prison with local hosts with spare space in Alameda County, outside San Francisco. Researchers, advocates and policymakers increasingly say that safe and stable housing is critical to helping prisoners adapt to life in the outside world – and to staying there. – Reuters

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