News in Briefs | Issue 25

World Watch

Frankfurt, Germany 
Construction work has unearthed the skeletons of 200 French soldiers from the army of Napoleon Bonaparte. The soldiers are believed to be from Napoleon’s Grand Army retreating from Russia in 1813. They probably died from battle wounds or typhus. More than 30 skeletons have been excavated, with more occuring over the next few weeks.

China will soon have an amusement park dedicated entirely to British-themed teddy bears. The site will cover nearly 1000 acres in a district south of Beijing, and at its heart will be a teddy bear museum. Costing US$7.8m, the park is a joint venture between the UK-based Great British Teddy Bear Company and a Chinese architectural firm, which hopes to attract 250,000 visitors annually.

A refugee father who was tripped by a Hungarian camerawoman while holding his son is to start a new life in Spain. Osama Abdul Mohsen, who coached a football team in Syria, will now work at a sports school near Madrid. Miguel Angel Galan, the director of the CENAFE football school in Getafe, on the outskirts of Madrid, said officials had decided to “help a fellow coach”.

Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, has read out the wrong speech at the opening of parliament. Mugabe read out a speech that he gave during his state-of-the-nation address on 25 August, when he was heckled by opposition MPs. Tensions were high ahead of the speech, and the state broadcaster cancelled its live feed fearing further disruptions. 

Copenhagen, Denmark
Copenhagen has approved funding for more than 23,000 new trees to be planted next year as part of its quest to become the world’s first carbon-neutral capital city. The city council has earmarked US$560,000 of its 2016 budget to the project, with a long-term goal of planting 100,000 new trees in the Danish capital over the next decade.

Florida, United States
A woman living in a mobile home that was “booby trapped” with more than 3714 swords, knives and other bladed weapons has been arrested. Police said blades were hanging from the ceiling of her mobile home about 50 miles north of Tampa. When officers arrived, she barricaded herself inside and then lunged at an officer with a sword-like weapon.

Russia summoned Poland’s ambassador to protest at the removal of a Soviet-era statue in a Polish town on the 76th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland, highlighting increased tensions between the neighbours. Following communism’s collapse, Poland embraced democracy and joined the European Union, and has recently been among the fiercest critics of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea.

Belfast, Northern Ireland
Civil engineering students from Queen’s University Belfast and local school children have set a new world record after designing and building a footbridge made entirely from Meccano. The temporary bridge, spanning over 100 feet across Belfast’s Clarendon dock, has been recognised by representatives from Guinness World Records as the world’s largest Meccano structure.


“I ended up feeling sick, dizzy and hallucinating, everything I saw was green. And I had a massive erection that would not go away. The paramedics were very professional but you could see they were trying not to laugh. The doctors and nurses told me off.”

Daniel Medforth

A 35-year-old British man landed himself in hospital after he took 35 Viagra pills in one hour, resulting in constant erections for five days. Daniel Medforth was dared to take the pills and did so “for a laugh”. After being sent home from hospital, he was forced to spend several days in bed as the erections continued.

“The mandate that the Greek people have given is a crystal clear mandate to get rid of the regime of corruption and vested issues. We will show how effective we will be. We will make Greece a stronger place for the weak and vulnerable, a fairer place.” 

Alexis Tsipras 

Greece’s left-wing leader, Alexis Tsipras, has emerged triumphant from a snap general election after securing a dramatic victory over his conservative rival, despite a turbulent first term in office. Some had said that the race was too close to call after he accepted a crushing Eurozone austerity programme during his first term. Although Tsipras’s Syriza party did not gain an outright majority, it will immediately set about forming a stable government.

“We need to get to the negotiation. That is what we’re looking for and we hope Russia and Iran, and any other countries with influence, will help to bring about that, because that’s what is preventing this crisis from ending. We’re prepared to negotiate. Is Assad prepared to negotiate, really negotiate? Is Russia prepared to bring him to the table?”

John Kerry — US Secretary of State

US Secretary of State, John Kerry, says Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “has to go”, but that the timing of Assad’s departure should be decided through negotiation. Speaking after talks in London with Philip Hammond, British secretary of state for foreign and commonwealth affairs, Kerry called on Russia and Iran to use their influence over Assad to convince him to negotiate a political transition.

“The Syrian people have lived through war, they are very traumatised. We cannot go back to Syria, we have spent days on the road and don’t know if at the end we will have a home. Every day we are told something different — that this border is closed or open — and no one knows what is true anymore.” 

Iman — Syrian refugee

Chaos continues to reign across the European Union’s peripheries as tens of thousands of refugees attempt to find their way through a bottleneck of closed Balkan borders toward northern Europe. More than 20,000 people streamed into Croatia in less than 48 hours after Hungary sealed its border with Serbia on Thursday. Croatia is only a stopping point for most people, but they became stuck after Hungarian and Slovenian authorities attempted to stop people from using their countries as a corridor to Austria and Germany.

Facts & Figures

322km per hour - The speed airbags explode at.

“Naked” - Means to be unprotected, “nude” means unclothed.

12 letters - The number of letters in the Hawaiian alphabet.

211 - The fastest typist can type at 211 words per minute.

Papaphobia is the fear of popes.

440 hours - The world record for rocking non-stop in a rocking chair.

230 years - The number of years of peace in the last 3500 years.

Fingernails - Grow nearly four times faster than toenails.

This article first appeared in Issue 25, 2015.
Posted 11:57am Sunday 27th September 2015 by Magnus Whyte.