Church protests halt Georgia cannabis law

  • 18 September 2018
Georgian priests lead anti-cannabis march Image copyright Georgian Patriarchate
Image caption Priests led Sunday's protests

Georgia's government has halted moves to legalise medical marijuana cultivation after protests led by the country's powerful Orthodox church.

Parliament speaker Irakli Kobakhidze told reporters the authorities would not take any "hasty decisions" but rather try to get its message across to the public, the civil.ge news site reports.

"False information is being spread, so we need to pay particular attention to informing the public, and then take the decision together," he said, adding that opponents of the cannabis bill had "misled" Georgians into thinking it meant all drug restrictions would simply be dropped.

The interior ministry confirmed earlier this month that it wanted to approve the cultivation of medical cannabis strictly for export, emphasising that the sale of marijuana in Georgia itself "will remain a criminal offence", IPN news agency reported.

The row over the seemingly-innocuous bill blew up in the wake of a dramatic summer of protests over police drug raids that activists said targeted gay-friendly night clubs in the capital Tbilisi.

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Chinese city debuts 'bus-pooling' service

  • 18 September 2018
A man waiting for a bus in Beijing Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some 8m people take the bus per month in the Chinese capital

The Chinese capital Beijing is hoping to put an end to the frustrations of disgruntled bus passengers complaining about long waiting times, by introducing "public bus-pooling" to the city.

According to the Beijing Youth Daily newspaper, the local public transport authority is setting up a "quasi door-to-door" bus service, that will enable passengers to go online and detail what their individual needs are for a bus journey.

Read full article Chinese city debuts 'bus-pooling' service

Uzbek row over 'short skirts' in school

  • 14 September 2018
Teacher in Uzbek school Image copyright Uzbekistan TV 24
Image caption A social media storm prompted the education minister to speak out

Uzbekistan's education minister has defended female teachers after state television accused some of them of wearing "inappropriately short" skirts in class.

The Uzbekistan 24 TV channel's International Press Club talk show said some teachers and students "dress just as they like" and risk tempting teenagers to "gaze at the teacher's body" rather than attend to their studies.

Read full article Uzbek row over 'short skirts' in school

Russian army plans 'Game of Thrones' cathedral

  • 11 September 2018
Design of Russian army cathedral, 2018 Image copyright hram.mil.ru
Image caption Game of Domes: some Russians detect a Westerosi influence

The Russian armed forces plan to build their own cathedral in Moscow in record time, and are seeking donations.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu says the project has Orthodox Church and state backing, but will be funded exclusively by the generosity of the Russian public, the official Tass news agency reports.

Read full article Russian army plans 'Game of Thrones' cathedral

Tajik mosques repair Lenin statue

  • 7 September 2018
Lenin statue in Shahritus, Tajikistan, 2013 Image copyright Yuen Kim/YouTube
Image caption Shahritus Lenin before the fall

The media in Central Asia has been intrigued by the story that a group of Muslim clerics in southern Tajikistan have spent their congregations' weekly donations on fixing a statue of Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution that imposed 70 years of atheism on their country.

The imam-khatib prayer leaders of the mosques in Shahritus spent the collection money on putting the statue of the Russian Communist leader back on the plinth in the town centre, from which he was unceremoniously toppled two years ago, Radio Liberty's Radio Ozodi Tajik Service reported.

Read full article Tajik mosques repair Lenin statue

Finnish travellers warned about flawed passports

  • 7 September 2018
Latest Finnish passport Image copyright IDEMIA/YouTube
Image caption No problem with the cover

Police in Finland are calling on the public to check their passports to see whether they have defective watermarks, as this could cause problems when travelling.

The National Police Board also warned border guards to be on the look-out for the flaws, namely upside-down watermarks and mismatched page numbers, Finland's Yle national broadcaster reports.

Read full article Finnish travellers warned about flawed passports

Buffalo bottoms prove too much for Iranian TV censors

  • 5 September 2018
Buffalo in a riverbed Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Avoiding a bum steer: writers and directors are sharing their tales of images cut from state TV

You might expect Iran's state broadcaster to remove images of women eating cucumbers on television - but the backsides of buffaloes and the outlines of ears under headscarves?

Censors in the conservative Islamic republic have banned these from screens over the years and exasperated TV production staff are now taking to social media to laugh about them.

Ear, ear

Read full article Buffalo bottoms prove too much for Iranian TV censors

Israel expands smoking ban in public places

  • 4 September 2018
Men smoking in Jerusalem pub Image copyright Dan Porges/Getty Images
Image caption Water-pipe tobacco sales have shot up in recent years

Israel has ramped up its tough restrictions on smoking in public to include previously designated spaces.

Smoking tobacco is now prohibited in all government offices, courts, religious councils, hospitals and clinics, and the ban will also be applied to concerts, demonstrations and all open-air events attended by more than 50 people, the Ynet news site reports.

Read full article Israel expands smoking ban in public places

Pole-dancing at Chinese nursery school shocks parents

  • 3 September 2018
A poledancer at a preschool event Image copyright Global Times
Image caption Both parents and children watched a pole dancer perform at a Chinese preschool

A Chinese nursery has come under fire for having a pole dancer perform at its welcome ceremony, it's reported.

According to the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper, parents and children were invited to attend the opening ceremony of the Xinshahui Kindergarten in the southern city of Shenzhen on 3 September.

Read full article Pole-dancing at Chinese nursery school shocks parents

Uzbekistan tax officials to wear family ID badges

  • 28 August 2018
Sample identity card from the Bukhara Tax Service Image copyright Bukhara State Tax Service
Image caption The new cards have been ridiculed by some on social media

Tax officials in Uzbekistan are to be issued with new identity cards which include a photo of family members, it's been reported.

Management at the State Tax Service in the country's south-western Bukhara region have approved the new badges to remind officials that they have families at home waiting for them, should they be tempted to "tarnish the reputation of the service", the Kuz.uz news website reports.

Read full article Uzbekistan tax officials to wear family ID badges