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Beer with the prince: Liechtenstein marks 300th anniversary

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VADUZ (Reuters) – The tiny principality of Liechtenstein celebrated its 300th anniversary on Thursday as an island of peace and prosperity in an unsettled world — and a place where citizens can go drink a beer with their monarch.

Prince Hans-Adam II of Liechtenstein takes a beer from a waitress during a party celebrating the country’s 300th birthday in the gardens of Schloss Vaduz castle in Vaduz, Liechtenstein August 15, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

“It is a privilege for me to be able to do that,” said Johannes Allgaeuer, 26, after quaffing a cold one with Prince Hans-Adam II at a garden party outside his castle, perched above the capital Vaduz.

He noted that it was hardly as unusual as, say, an American meeting up with Donald Trump: “We are one big family here. We see a lot of one another. You run into one other a lot.”

What made Thursday’s state holiday so special was that it marked the 300th birthday of Liechtenstein, which nestles in the Alps between Switzerland and Austria and is the world’s sixth-smallest country, with a population of around 38,000.

Some Liechtensteiners had a problem with the ruling dynasty when Hans-Adam, whose wealthy family owns LGT Bank, threatened in 2003 to abdicate if his subjects did not grant him more constitutional powers in a spat over judicial nominees. He won the vote easily.

Now, most citizens solidly back the monarchy, said Manfred Frick, 39, dressed up in a brass band’s uniform.

“Politicians come and go, but the princely dynasty is here forever,” he said.

Prince Alois, the 51-year-old acting head of state and heir to the throne, struck the same tone in a speech to thousands of flag-waving compatriots assembled in an Alpine meadow.

“Our country is among the safest places in the world. The rule of law is firmly established. There is hardly any other country where the individual has as much say in politics,” he said. “We enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world,” he added, recalling the land was a poor backwater three centuries ago.

German is the official language, though residents mainly speak an Alpine dialect of it among themselves, rather than the formal version. The currency is the Swiss franc. Four out of five residents are Roman Catholic.

Along with Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, it is part of the European Free Trade Association of countries that belong to the European single market without being part of the EU.

The biggest employer is Hilti, a company that makes power tools. The economy is also boosted by financial services, and becoming a hub for crypto-currencies.

Alois, a graduate of Britain’s Sandhurst military academy, is the son of Hans-Adam and grandson of Franz Josef II, who moved the family from Vienna in 1938 to lands an ancestor had bought to gain a seat on the Holy Roman Empire’s council of princes.

The prince’s veto power makes the monarchy one of the few in Europe with political authority, although Liechtensteiners have the right to hold a referendum to revoke their confidence in the prince should at least 1,500 citizens support the idea.

Thursday’s official celebration caps a year of festivities that include a contest to pick an anniversary song. The winning entry was “This is Where I Belong”.

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Sporting expression ‘caught fire’ takes on literal meaning

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(Reuters) – The sporting expression “caught fire” took on a literal meaning on Sunday as several players at the BMW Championship, including Phil Mickelson, were affected by a fire at their hotel.

A lightning strike caused a blaze on the top floor of the Eaglewood Resort, which is adjacent to Medinah Country Club, within walking distance in a pinch.

That was good news for J.T. Poston, the winner of the Wyndham Championship earlier this month, who ended up walking to the course after his car was blocked in by emergency vehicles.

Mickelson arrived on wheels, but only after fretting he would not be able to return to his room to collect his clubs following the mandatory evacuation.

“I can’t get back into my room and may miss my tee time because I am without clubs and clothes,” he tweeted while he waited.

After more than an hour, the five-times major champion was allowed to retrieve his clubs and arrived at the course about 40 minutes before his tee time, not long enough for his usual full warm-up but in plenty of time nonetheless.

“Turns out my clubs acted as a fire retardant,” Mickelson tweeted. “Lucky me.”

Neither Mickelson nor Poston was in contention starting the final round.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Tony Lawrence

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Staring at seagulls can stop them stealing food, research shows

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FILE PHOTO: Seagulls fly over the Palace Pier in Brighton, southern England March 7, 2009. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s seaside towns are at war with their seagulls, urging visitors not to feed the birds in an effort to stop them snatching titbits like potato chips from tourists’ hands.

Warning signs deck promenade railings from Scarborough to Broadstairs and beyond but now research from the University of Exeter has suggested an easy way for holidaymakers to deter the gulls – just stare at them.

The research showed that with a human staring at them, herring gulls took 21 seconds longer to approach a bag of chips then when left apparently unobserved.

“Gulls are often seen as aggressive and willing to take food from humans, so it was interesting to find that most wouldn’t even come near during our tests,” said lead author Madeleine Goumas, of the Center for Ecology and Conservation at Exeter’s Penryn Campus in Cornwall.

The researchers tried to test 74 gulls but most flew away or would not approach. Just 27 approached the food and 19 completed the “looking at” and “looking away” tests.

“Of those that did approach, most took longer when they were being watched,” Goumas said. “Some wouldn’t even touch the food at all, although others didn’t seem to notice that a human was staring at them.”

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; editing by Stephen Addison

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Oh rats! Japan convenience store apologizes after viral rodent video

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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese convenience store chain FamilyMart apologized after video went viral on social media of rats scurrying about one of its stores in Tokyo’s popular Shibuya district, prompting it to close the outlet until further notice.

Video clips posted on YouTube and Twitter appeared to show at least six of the long-tailed rodents, with some descending from refrigerated display racks stocked with “onigiri” rice balls and bento meals before scampering down an aisle.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the authenticity of the video.

Public broadcaster NHK said it had been viewed more than 5 million times.

“We deeply apologise for making you feel uncomfortable and uneasy,” FamilyMart said in a statement on its website about an “unsanitary” rat video taken at one of its stores. The store is located in Shibuya, a company spokesman said.

“We take this case seriously,” the company statement said, noting that it had suspended business at the outlet since Monday while it investigates the cause.

FamilyMart will take disinfection and prevention measures and decide whether to reopen the store taking into consideration the surrounding environment, it said.

Reporting by Chris Gallagher; Editing by Paul Tait

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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