■ Olive oil good for headaches
A stroke of good luck has helped scientists explain one of the mysteries of the Mediterranean diet, a world-famous regime credited with promoting cardiac fitness and longer life. Olive oil, one of the diet's mainstays, contains a painkilling compound similar to an ingredient found in over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, they say. The compound has been found to inhibit cyclooxygenase (COX) enzymes, which play a key role in causing inflammation, they report in this week's issue of the British journal Nature. The widely-used painkiller ibuprofen has a similar pharmacological action. The discovery came accidentally, thanks to a trip to Italy by US-based biologist Gary Beauchamp, of the Monell Chemical Senses Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
■ La Tomatina revellers see red
Some 40,000 people crowded into the southeastern Spanish town of Bunol this week to take part in its annual tomato fight. The event, La Tomatina, drew tourists from Asia, Australia, Britain and the US who helped themselves to ammunition from trucks parked in the main square loaded with 130 tonnes of the ripe fruit. Hostilities lasted an hour, leaving the streets running with juice and facades stained red before combatants headed to the river or municipal showers to clean up. The festival, held on the last Wednesday of August, has its origins in a battle between friends in the 1940s.
■ Soweto stages its first wine festival
Soweto, South Africa's most famous township staged its first ever wine festival this week, challenging racial perceptions and aiming to popularize the drink in a society more traditionally associated with beer, organizers said. For the first time ever, South African township residents had direct access to some of the country's finest vintages, including those produced by 12 black wine producers, said organizer Thami Xaba. "We want to change perceptions that only whites drink wine and what better place than have it in Soweto," Xaba said at the announcement of the festival.
■ Mayor plans skirt restrictions
A district mayor in Budapest has proposed a dress code for City Hall employees under which only women with "pretty legs" can wear short skirts, the Hungarian press reported this week. Gyorgy Mitnyan, the conservative mayor of the city's 12th district, is also seeking to ban skirts that are shorter than 2cm to 3cm above the knee. Under his proposal, both male and female employees would have to wear blazers or suits and leather shoes all year long.
■ Turkmenistan aims for heaven
The ex-Soviet Central Asian republic of Turkmenistan claims to have joined the ranks of the world's space powers by sending a container into Earth's orbit carrying a spiritual guide written by the country's idiosyncratic leader, newspapers reported. "The book that conquered the hearts of millions on Earth is now conquering space," said the official daily Neitralnyi Turkmenistan. President Saparmurat Niyazov's work Rukhnama was launched this week in a container aboard a Russian rocket that blasted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan on a mission to place two Japanese research satellites into orbit.
■ Firefighter gets down and dirty
A firefighter burnt up the competition at the World Bog Snorkeling Championships this week in one of Britain's most bizarre sporting events. Iain Hawkes, 26, beat off the challenge of nearly 200 hardy souls who braved the driving rain and miserable cold at the 20th annual event in Llanwrtyd Wells, central Wales. Hawkes snorkeled through two lengths of the dirty 55m long trench cut through the murky Waen Rhydd peat bog, overcoming mud, weeds and creepy crawlies, egged on by a 300-strong crowd. After four years of trying, his one-minute, 46-second thrash through the stinking trench earned him the world title which he vowed to defend next year.
For tourists visiting Hualien, Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) is the first order of business. But if you find yourself in the city with half a day to spare — your train back to Taipei will leave mid-afternoon, say — it’s hardly worth busing out to Taroko Gorge. Instead, borrow or rent a bicycle or a scooter, or hail a cab, and set out for one of these attractions. At only one of these places is there an admission charge. CISINGTAN SCENIC AREA A literal translation of Cisingtan (七星潭) would be “Seven Stars Pond,” but there’s no pond here, just the vast Pacific
The remake of Mulan struck all the right chords to be a hit in the key Chinese market. Disney cast beloved actor Liu Yifei (劉亦菲) as Mulan and removed a dragon sidekick popular in the animated original to cater to Chinese tastes. Still, the movie drew decidedly mixed reviews after its coronavirus-delayed release in China last week, with thousands panning it online. The movie was rated 4.9 out of 10 by more than 165,000 people on Douban, a leading Web site for film, book and music ratings. Negative comments and jokes about the film outnumbered positive reactions on social media. Mulan has
Sept. 21 to Sept. 27 If word got out that you were planning a wedding during the Martial Law era, the “Committee for the improvement of Folk Customs” (改善民俗實踐會) might knock on your door. Each borough in Taipei had at least one “agent” who kept a pulse on community happenings. They would visit the family planning the wedding with a letter from the mayor, touting the benefits of being frugal and not wasting money on lavish ceremonies, even encouraging the families to donate money for scholarships. The authorities also discouraged them from hiring musicians and dancers, who were often loud and
Every day before she starts her shift at a government hospital in Singapore, Farah removes her hijab — the Islamic veil she has worn since a teenager. Although minority Muslim women can freely wear the hijab in most settings in Singapore, some professions bar the headscarf — and a recent case has triggered fresh debate on diversity and discrimination in the workplace. Now Farah has joined a growing number of Muslims — who account for about 15 percent of Singapore’s 4 million resident population — calling for the ban to end, with an online petition gathering more than 50,000 signatures. “They told me