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Love and money fuels global Valentine’s Day ardour

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, February 14, 2011 16:59 EDT
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BANGKOK — Love swept around the world Monday as the amorous mixed traditional chocolates and roses with new and more determined ways to demonstrate their ardour on Valentine’s Day.

Seven enchanted but exhausted couples smooched their way to a new world record in Thailand with the longest continuous kiss lasting more than 32 hours — and kept going.

The contestants broke the previous world record of 32 hours seven minutes and 14 seconds set in Germany and were vying to become the last ones locking lips for a prize of about $3,250 cash and a diamond ring, organisers said.

In Spain, the economic cost of Valentine’s Day threatened to drown out the sighs and sweet nothings.

There, romance is suffering because the economic crisis is forcing hard-up couples to cut back on Valentine’s Day, according to Spanish consumer federation poll.

A total 48 percent of adults will not be buying any presents for their sweethearts, a sharp rise from the 5.0 percent in 2008, before the country slumped into recession.

Gays in Belarus chose the day to hold their first officially sanctioned rights protest in the capital Minsk. Even then, human warmth was in short supply. The eight protestors outside the justice ministry were closely watched by 10 people, apparently plain clothes police.

There was even room for a little brotherly love in London, as Britian’s Prince William chose brother Harry to be his best man when he marries Kate Middleton on April 29.

“It means I get a sister, which I have always wanted,” said Harry.

True love knows no bounds, as demonstrated by those couples still grimly hanging in there late Tuesday for the kissing record in Pattaya.

Couples kissed their way through the night without stopping even when sipping liquids through straws or going to the toilet with their partner.

They were forbidden from sitting down — except when going to the toilet.

Such was the ardour on display that Somporn Naksuetrong, head of a local business in the beach resort of Pattaya which hosted the event, said: “I’m worried for our contestants. They looked really tired. We’ve already prepare medical services ready for them.”

He said he was particularly concerned about one 51-year-old woman and her 37-year-old husband.

“The wife is weary but not giving up. She is exhausted but she wrote a note to us saying they will be the last couple. I think they will stay until they collapse,” Somporn said.

The earth moved on Valentine’s Day on the Mediterranean holiday island of Cyprus, legendary birthplace of the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite.

A quake measuring 3.9 on the Richter scale struck the resort city of Limassol at 5:54 am (0354 GMT), the Cyprus Geological Survey said, followed by an aftershock measuring 3.4.

There were no casualties or damage.

Traditional symbols of love like roses and chocolates were nowhere in sight on the historic Tumski bridge spanning the river Oder in the Polish city of Wroclaw.

The bridge — a favourite haunt of lovers — is covered in padlocks, thousands of them in various sizes and colours and all symbolizing undying love.

“We throw away the key and our love lasts for centuries,” said Jola, a university student who clamped a Valentine’s Day padlock on the bridge with her boyfriend Maciej.

The romantic ritual of “love padlocks” has also caught on in other European cities, particularly in Paris, Rome, Kiev and Riga.

Young Iraqis sought to turn the day into one of patriotic fervour, holding a Valentine’s Day rally to call on their leaders to love the war-battered country rather than rob its resources.

“We do not want Valentine’s Day to be only one day of love but a celebration for reform, democracy, citizenship and freedom,” said Karnas Ali, a young engineer who answered the call from three Facebook groups to attend.

In Pakistan, students flouted Muslim tradition and brought Valentine’s cards and flowers — not for each other, but for the detained self-confessed killer of one of the country’s most liberal politicians.

Supporters of Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri gathered outside the high-security prison in Rawalpindi, hours before he was to appear before an anti-terrorism court.

They handed over flowers and cards to jail officials who said they would give them to Qadri.

Valentine’s Day is increasingly gaining a foothold in Muslim countries, where conservatives disapprove of the occasion as a Western import.

Indonesia’s top Islamic body has dropped its fears over outbreaks of “free sex” and dismissed it instead as a harmless fad.

“We the clerics fully understand that the Valentine’s Day celebration here is just a trend among young people,” Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) secretary-general Ichwan Sam told AFP.

“It’s just a way of expressing love by youngsters. It will fade away as time goes by.”

Islamic officials in Malaysia however warned Muslims against celebrating something “synonymous with vice activities”.

Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
AFP journalists cover wars, conflicts, politics, science, health, the environment, technology, fashion, entertainment, the offbeat, sports and a whole lot more in text, photographs, video, graphics and online.
 
 
 
 
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