Saturday, May 31, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Twitter treasure hunt in San Francisco
An anonymous tweeter in San Francisco has been hiding dollar bills around the city and posting pictures of their location to help people find them.
The first tweet - a picture of a vegetable patch - appeared on Friday. Since then, pictures of money hidden under plant pots, benches and parking meters have been posted, each with a clue as to their location. Sometimes the money is tucked away with only a famous landmark to suggest its whereabouts. The city's famous Golden Gate Bridge and Palace of Fine Arts have both featured in the game.
Each new message prompts people to search for the money, usually around $100 (£60). After just five days the account the @HiddenCashTwitter account has more than 120,000 followers, and as news of the game has spread, people who have located money have begun posting pictures of themselves clutching their find at the chosen spot.
San Francisco resident Forrest Hanson told the BBC's Newsday he found the money after a new picture showing the city's iconic bridge was published. "My friend and I jumped in our car and headed to Baker Beach, just West of the Golden Gate Bridge," he said. "There was a bridge, and a fence, and this bit of shrubbery... I happened to toe my foot in the sand in the right spot."
Hanson decided to return the gesture of goodwill, and offered the the money to two families who had children. "We figured this was already a good time for us, so we gave the money away," he says.
The person behind the account is believed to have made a fortune in the property market, and claims the project is "an anonymous social experiment for good". "There is nothing wrong with donating money to a traditional charity, but I also wanted to donate in a more spontaneous way," he told People magazine. "I want this to expand to other cities. I want this to become a movement," he said.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Frozen becomes fifth-biggest film in box office history
Disney's animated film Frozen has become the fifth highest-grossing film in box office history.
The Oscar-winning movie, which was released in the US in November, has taken $1.219bn (£723m) worldwide, overtaking Iron Man 3's total haul.
It now stands behind Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, with $1.34bn (£795m) in global ticket sales.
The feat comes two months after it was confirmed Frozen had become the highest-grossing animation in history.
The film's bumper haul has in part been due to its success in Japan, where Frozen has been number one at the box office for 11 consecutive weekends.
Some 15.6m tickets for the film - released as Anna to Yuki no Joou (Anna and the Snow Queen) - have been sold in the country, with many peoplereportedly watching both the original and Japanese dubbed version.
It is the third most successful Western movie in Japan, behind James Cameron's Titanic and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - known in the UK as Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - although it is predicted to overtake the latter film this week.
Frozen won two Oscars in March - best animated feature and best original song for Let It Go, sung by Idina Menzel.Top five highest-grossing films of all time
- Avatar - $2.78bn (£1.65bn)
- Titanic - $2.19bn (£1.3bn)
- Marvel's The Avengers - $1.52bn (£900m)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 - $1.34bn (£795m)
- Frozen - $1.219bn (£723m)
Source: Box Office Mojo
Monday, May 26, 2014
Japan girl group AKB48 attacked by male fan with saw
Two members of popular Japanese pop group AKB48 were injured after a fan attacked them with a saw.
Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, were meeting with fans in the northern city of Takizawa on Sunday when a man lunged forward and slashed them.
They sustained cuts on their hands and heads, reported Kyodo. A male staff member was also cut on his hand.
The group holds the Guinness record for being the world's largest pop group.
The police have arrested the 24-year-old man, identified as Satoru Umeta.
AKB48's manager was reported as saying the two girls' surgery was successful and they would be able to leave the hospital by Monday.
A Tokyo concert scheduled for Monday night and other fan events have been cancelled.
News of the attack was covered widely in national media. AKB48, which was founded in 2005, is hugely popular in Japan and other Asian countries.
AKB stands for Akihabara, the technology district of Tokyo, where the group has its own theatre. Members perform there almost every day.
The number 48 reportedly refers to the original number of members in the group, although it has since expanded.
The current line-up on the group's website, spread over four main teams and other smaller ones, lists 140 names.
Every year tens of thousands of fans vote on who gets to join the group from a pool of more than 200 candidates, in an event that is widely covered by national media.
Members have to abide by strict rules set by their management, and are not allowed to date.
The band made international headlines last year when one of its members, Minami Minegishi, shaved her head and apologised to fans in a video posted online. She had been caught spending a night with her boyfriend.
The incident sparked debate on whether pop idols in Japan have the right to lead normal lives.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
Brazilian anti-World Cup protests hit Sao Paulo
Riot police in Brazil have fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse thousands of people in the city of Sao Paulo who were protesting against the cost of hosting the football World Cup.
Some demonstrators hurled stones while other burned tyres and blocked roads.
They say they are angry that billions of dollars are being spent on next month's football tournament, rather than social projects and housing.
Protests are taking place in many other cities, including Rio de Janeiro.
Aerial images showed hundreds of people marching in rush-hour traffic on a main thoroughfare in the Brazilian city, which will host the final match of the World Cup on 13 July.
Police, teachers and civil servants, among others, have also been on strike across Brazil.
Continue reading the main story
Most people here will eventually support the World Cup when it gets under way, but it's cost a lot of money - $15bn (£10bn) - and most of that has been public money.
Brazil is still a developing country with many inequalities and high levels of poverty. And when you see brand-new stadiums popping up in a Sao Paulo suburb at the cost of millions, and around there are squatter camps full of people saying they cannot afford to live, then you can see where the conflict comes from.
What the government will be looking out for is a critical mass. If these protests are attracting 5,000-10,000 people every time, then they will become too difficult to police.
The BBC's Gary Duffy in Sao Paulo says that the scale of the protests will be watched closely by the government as an indication of the security challenges they may face during the tournament, which kicks off on 12 June.
He adds that, with both the World Cup and a presidential election this year, many groups have spotted an opportunity to exert maximum pressure on the government.
The demonstrations began earlier in the day in Sao Paulo, with one of the biggest protests in the city's Itaquera district near the Arena Corinthians stadium, which will host the tournament's opening match.
Protesters there demanded housing, and not stadiums, be built in accordance with Fifa standards, in reference to world football's governing body.'No panic'
"Our goal is symbolic," said Guilherme Boulos, the head of Homeless Workers Movement.
"We don't want to destroy or damage the stadium. What we want is more rights for workers to have access to housing and to show the effects the Cup has brought to the poor."
The government has tried to downplay the scale of Thursday's unrest, arguing it was not related to the World Cup.
"From what I've seen, these are specific claims by workers. I've seen nothing that is related to the (World) Cup," Brazilian Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo said.
"There's no reason to panic ahead of receiving three million Brazilian tourists and 600,000 foreign tourists (for the tournament)."Army deployed
The planned protests coincide with a range of strikes, including one by the police force in the north-eastern state of Pernambuco.
The army has been deployed there to provide additional support after some robberies and looting, as the strike enters its third day.
Recife, the state capital, is due to host five matches during the World Cup.
Recent protests in Brazil have been much smaller than those which took place in June last year in various cities.
More than a million people took to the street then over poor public services, corruption and the high cost of hosting the World Cup.
The wave of protests prompted Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to propose a referendum on political reform.
She also pledged to invest 50 billion reais ($25bn, £16bn) in public transport, one of the protesters' main grievances.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Eurovision's 'bearded lady' winner divides Russia
In his spare time, Communist MP Valery Rashkin likes climbing mountains. Back in the USSR he was a champion alpinist.
Today, though, Mr Rashkin faces an uphill battle of a different kind: to liberate Russia from the Eurovision Song Contest.
"I watched the results of last Saturday's Eurovision with deep pain," Valery tells me. "Giving first place to a bearded lady is a slight on humanity and suicide!"
The bearded lady in question is Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst. At the Eurovision final in Copenhagen, Conchita triumphed with 'Rise Like a Phoenix'.
In the corridors of Russian power, though, she sank like a lead balloon. Russian officials have cited her as an example of Europe's moral decay.
Continue reading the main story
Oleg Nilov, MP, referring to Russia's Eurovision entryThey didn't like our girls because they had braids, not beards”
Minutes after the result was announced, nationalist MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky ranted to Russian TV viewers: "This is the end of Europe. It's rotted away. There are no more men and women. There is just 'It'!"'Sensible values'
If Valery Rashkin has his way, this will be the end of Russia's participation in Eurovision.
He has submitted an official request with the government to pull his country out of the contest and create an alternative competition called 'The Voice of Eurasia'. Mr Rashkin claims that "dozens" of Russian MPs back his initiative.
"I'm convinced that all sensible people, who love children and their motherland, will support this idea," he assures me. "The new contest will promote completely different values. Certainly not the values of transsexuals, lesbians and homosexuals."
One of the Duma's most devout anti-Eurovision deputies is Oleg Nilov.
In parliament this week, Mr Nilov claimed that "dark forces" had prevented Russia's entry, the 17-year-old Tolmachevy twins, from winning.
"They didn't like our girls because they had braids, not beards," he alleged, then promptly burst into song, with an impromptu performance of the Russian folk tune "Black Crow".'Russian Openvision'
But why is there such disharmony in the Duma over a song contest?
Last year President Putin signed a law that restricts the spread of information about "non-traditional sexual relations".
Moscow argues the legislation is necessary to protect under-18s and to promote traditional family values in Russian society.
One of the architects of the law was Vitaly Milonov, a member of the St Petersburg city council. He has vowed to prevent Conchita Wurst coming to Russia to give concerts.
"We should not allow this sick man to have concerts here," Mr Milonov tells me. "All this gay propaganda is disgusting. You buried Eurovision. Where the Eurovison song contest was there is now a big grave with the name of Conchita Wurst on it.
"Perhaps next time we should enter a singing bear, or perhaps a dancing troupe from the Russian intelligence service. In fact it's useless for us to send singers to your contests. We cannot expect fair play."
In place of Eurovision, Vitaly Milonov proposes a programme of "traditional songs and poetry about true love." He suggests a title for it: "Russian Openvision".
It is not only politicians who have been protesting.
There has been a campaign against Conchita in the Russian blogosphere, too, with Russian TV and pop stars posting images of themselves shaving off their beards in protest at Austria's victory.
Continue reading the main story'Respect the winner'
Filip KirkorovWriter of Russia's Eurovision entryPerhaps the result is a protest against our views in Russia”
And yet, if you look at how the Russian public voted in the Eurovision final, a very different picture emerges.
Russian televoters loved Conchita Wurst and ranked her third. It seems the public is less outraged by a bearded lady than parliament thinks it ought to be.
Vitaly Milonov dismisses the results of the voting as "fake".
But even on Russian state TV's live post-Eurovision chat show, there were studio guests voicing support for the Austrian singer, expressing views not normally heard on state television.
"Why do we always have to look for someone to hate?" asked one member of the audience.
In a live link-up from Copenhagen, even the writer of this year's Russian entry, Filip Kirkorov, declared: "Let's respect the winner. It doesn't matter if they have a beard or not. If they're a man or a woman.
"Perhaps the result is a protest against our views in Russia. Perhaps it should make us consider whether we should be so extreme in our attitudes towards sexual minorities and to people of different nationalities."