World News in Brief

Chinese Quake Death Toll Rises
The large earthquake that struck China’s Sichuan Province this weekend has left at least 200 people dead and nearly 12,000 injured. Rescuers have finally managed to reach many of the rural areas affected by the quake, which measured 6.6 on the Richter scale. Up to 100,000 families could be left homeless after the disaster.

Boston Bomb Suspect May Never be Questioned
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect of the Boston Marathon bombings, remains in a serious condition in hospital. The 19 year old is apparently so seriously injured that communication is difficult, with interrogators facing the possibility that he may never be able to be questioned effectively.

Damascus Massacre Rocks Syria
Reports of a massacre in Syria suggest that hundreds might have been left dead, after violent clashes in the capital city of Damascus. Syrian forces loyal to the President Bashar al-Assad have attacked residents in the city suburb, with opposition forces claiming up to 250 have died, including women and children.

Burmese Police Filmed Ignoring Violence
Footage has emerged of Burmese police standing by as Buddhists attacked and killed a Muslim boy with a sword. The footage also shows police standing by while rioters  destroyed a Muslim shop in the country. It comes as the EU is set to lift sanctions against the troubled country.

Guantanamo Inmates on Hunger Strike
Military officials have said that 84 of the remaining 166 inmates at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp are on hunger strike. Inmates continue to protest against their indefinite confinement at the controversial centre, where prisoners are alleged to be subject to abuse and violent interrogation.

Tea grown in panda poo most expensive worldwide

Green tea grown solely in panda excrement will command high prices worldwide.  An entrepreneur in the southwest Chinese city of Chengdu plans to charge up to £2,000 per 500 grams for his product, which he claims says will make it the world’s “most expensive tea.”

An Yanshi says he chose to grow tea in panda poo after learning of its high nutritional value. “The digestive and absorption abilities of the panda are not good. . .They are like a machine that is churning out organic fertilizer. Also, they absorb less than 30 percent of the nutrition from the food and that means more than 70 percent of the nutrients are passed out in their faeces,” he said.

Because pandas only eat wild vegetation, An also claims tea grown from panda feces is truly organic.

He also says using his unique fertilizer eliminates environmental damages caused by chemical fertilizer. He hopes to promote use of animal dung by other farmers throughout China.

Some locals have expressed cynicism at An’s high prices. “It’s sold at such a sky-high price, perhaps this is just hype. I don’t think the most expensive tea in the country is sold at such a price” said 49-year-old Li Ximing.

An defended his decision to charge high prices for his tea, saying that a portion of his profits would be set up a fund used to support environmental projects.

Tibet Protest March across Edinburgh

Activists from Edinburgh joined the worldwide commemorations of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on Saturday with a march through the Scottish capital.

 This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in the country’s capital, Lhasa. The Uprising erupted on 10 March 1952, a decade after the Chinese invasion of the country.

One of the organisers of Saturday’s march explained their motivation was to denounce China’s violent regime, “China’s repressive policies since it occupied Tibet 60 years ago have created a crisis in Tibet, provoking an unprecedented wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. So far, 21 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet; eight since 6 January 2012. Marchers”.

Protesters departed from The Mound at 1.30pm and walked to the Chinese Consulate in Murrafyeld, where they left hundreds of flowers matching the colours of the Tibetan flag, alongside pictures of Tibetants who were killed or self-immolated since the Chinese occupation of the country.

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Armed with placards, flags, flowers and megaphones, they peacefully marched over George IV Bridge, down Victoria Street, along Grassmarket, Lothian Road and Shandwick Place, calling for support to bring human rights back to Tibet. Some of the banners read: ‘Let Tibetan voices be heard’, ‘Tibet is Burning’ and called for freedom for Tibet.

 

Marchers also handed out leaflets holding the Chinese authorities responsible for neglecting the basic rights of the Tibetan people stating, “The Chinese authorities have engaged in wholesale abuse of human rights of native Tibetants, while embarking on a campaign to eradicate Tibetan language and culture”.

Edinburgh University Tibet society also encouraged people to gather in Bristo Square on Saturday. A spokesperson for the society expressed their support, “We need to let the world know that Scotland will always stand in Solidarity with Tibetants in Tibet and will not stop until Tibet is free”.

Edinburgh Zoo prepares for panda-monium

by Pamela Paterson

Tian Tian, Edinburgh's future female panda.

Edinburgh Zoo is gearing up for the arrival of two Giant Pandas
that are being sent from China for a 10 year stay in Scotland.

Tian Tian and Yang Guang are currently in quarantine in China preparing for their 5000 mile journey to Scotland, where they will stay in a purpose-built enclosure in the zoo. It is hoped the pair will breed, helping to conserve the species which is in rapid decline. Pandas are notorious for their unwillingness to reproduce. Their future keeper Alison Maclean, who has just visited the pandas in China, believes that they will let her know if and when they are ready to take the plunge. She said, “Although they’ve both bred before, our two pandas haven’t met yet, so I’m looking forward to introducing them when the time is right.”

She added, “The conservational implications of this 10 year project are huge. It’s about working together globally to conserve this iconic species and contributing to the breeding programme.”

According to Ms Maclean, the Scottish climate is perfect for pandas, as they prefer cool, damp environments and do not like excessively hot weather. She said, “I’m particularly looking forward to seeing how they react to snow – they’re supposed to love it and are well used to it in the area of China they are from.”

The date has not yet been fixed for the panda’s arrival. The zoo is paying up to £600,000 a year for the privilege of keeping the pandas, not including the bill for the endless supply of bamboo needed to feed them. The zoo plans to grow a small amount of bamboo themselves (around 15%) and import the rest from a German supplier. Pandas eat up to 20, three-metre, bamboo stems every day.

The excitement is slowly building as the Scottish public awaits the special arrivals, whose enclosure includes bullet proof glass and a ‘love tunnel’. Ms Maclean, who has spent the past three weeks getting to know Tian Tian and Yang Guang, believes visitors will immediately fall in love with the pair. She says, “They’re actually enchanting – from how they sit down, to how they hold things, how they eat and how they take everything in around them. I think when people actually see them they will be mesmerised.”

Human rights concerns overshadow UK-China trade agreements

By Patrick McPartlin

David Cameron has today called on China to consider political reform to complement the country’s recent trade agreements with Britain, the most notable being the agreement between engine maker Rolls-Royce, and China Eastern Airlines, in a deal worth £750m. Following his pleas yesterday for China to improve their human rights record, Mr Cameron is said to have raised the individual case of recently jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, whilst the artist Ai Weiwei, currently under house arrest by Chinese authorities, called on Mr Cameron to make a statement condemning China’s human rights record. It is unclear as to how in-depth the talks between Mr Cameron and the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao were, but human rights groups and pro-democracy campaigners are urging Mr Cameron to focus more on China’s less than exemplary human rights record, and less on trade.

China has long since attracted criticism regarding its human rights system. Organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, along with the U.S. State Department have all accused China of restricting civil liberties, including freedom of speech, freedom of press and freedom of movement. Additionally, the country has courted controversy with its ‘one-child policy‘, and the ongoing use of capital punishment. However, continued pressure from the West may mean that China will have to re-examine its approach to human rights. Mr Cameron was keen to stress that despite the main focus of his whistlestop tour of China being on improving trade agreements – currently only 2% of China’s imports are British – human rights was also an issue that he would be discussing with the Chinese president Hu Jintao, and Premier Wen.

Ahead of the G20 summit in South Korea, in which China’s economic activity is due to be scrutinised, Mr Cameron said that he hoped it would be a natural progression from improved economic freedom, to greater political freedom in China, adding that he was “convinced that the best guarantor of prosperity and stability is for economic and political progress to go in step together.”

Despite Mr Cameron’s first visit to China as Prime Minister being centred on improving trade relations, the issue of Chinese human rights is one that has long since caused worldwide controversy, and will continue to do so in the future. However, the tentative steps made in encouraging China to adopt a more democratic approach could be the start of a long road to humanitarian recovery.

Raising a glass to political reform?: David Cameron and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao

Government Launches New Chinese Language Initiative

David Cameron on his visit to China Picture courtesy of Hindu.com

by Paul Foy

The government has announced that it is to launch a programme to train 1000 new Chinese language teachers over the next five years.

The announcement coincides with Prime Minister David Cameron’s visit to Beijing alongside Michael Gove MP, the Education Secretary, and a large business delegation. The trip is part of an effort to forge closer commercial ties with China.

There is a significant increase in demand for Mandarin to be taught in secondary schools in Britain, with many parents recognising China’s emergence as an economic powerhouse, and seeing the language as of greater importance that the French, German and Spanish classes, traditionally offered in schools.

The shortage of Chinese language teachers is currently the most serious obstacle to meeting the rapidly increasing demand for the opportunity to learn Chinese, and the government is hopeful that the programme will be the first step towards resolving this.

Teachers will be trained up through a combination of short courses in UK universities, as well as a special summer training course at Beijing University.

The announcement comes amidst some controversy, after it was revealed that Prime Minister Cameron risks upsetting the Chinese Government, by championing the virtues of democracy and human rights in a speech he is due to give to students at Beijing University later today.

The speech, which has not be shown to, or given clearance by Chinese officials, and will unlikely be reported in the Chinese media, has been defended by those at 10 Downing St.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Cameron said : “Of course we shouldn’t be lecturing and hectoring but it is right we have a dialogue on these things,”.

In the speech, Cameron will tell the students: “All the time the government is subject to the rule of law. These are constraints on the government, and at times they can be frustrating when the courts take a view with which the government differ, but ultimately we believe that they make our government better and our country stronger.”

The British delegation caused further upset as Ministers insisted on wearing Remembrance Day Poppies at a banquet last night. Chinese officials informed the Ministers that it was inappropriate to wear the poppies, due to the opium wars. The ministers explained the significance of the poppies to Britons, and continued to wear them.

Scottish MSPs fighting to get David Cameron’s attention

by Sofia Gonçalves

David Cameron is going on a trip to China this month, to meet with the Chinese President, Hu Jintao, and the cross party group of Tibet is meeting today at the Scottish Parliament to decide what measures to take in order to get the Prime Minister’s attention to environmental issues in Tibet.

Iain Thom, secretary of the cross party group, said in a meeting arranged by the students of  Tibet Society of the University of Edinburgh: “at the Scottish Parliament we are set up to develop links with Tibet. The environmental issue is one of the key issues. Tibet is like a watershed. It supports two billion people. It is where the rivers in China rise. The water comes from rainfalls in the monsoon. Up to 90% of the flow comes from glaciars and it is released in the summer. Climate change is a very sensitive response for nature forcing and China is building a major hydro-electrical damn. Jeffrey Bolton said that the Chinese are considering to get a major river change to stop the water from going to Nepal and going to China, instead.”

Mr Thom added “We invited the Prime Minister over some time ago. Coming to Scotland would be important to see what we are working on. we want to put pressure on David Cameron to stand up for Tibet during his visit to China.”

As to the visit of the British Prime Minister to China, an article of the BBC, published in July this year, mentioned “Downing Street said the two leaders had agreed strongly on the need to increase trade between the UK and China.” There is an interest of developing the ties and the trade between the two countries.

The Tibet society of the University of Edinburgh is also making efforts to aid the situation in Tibet by supporting the charity association Ropka, holding weekly meetings and raising awareness especially amongst students.

Inside Russia’s mind.

By Ahmed Asif

What seemed like a good friendship between two nations is now beginning to turn sour. Iran and Russia have long enjoyed a mutual relationship and good trade relations yet Iran’s nuclear program has witnessed the relationship somewhat deteriorate. The Russians along with China have been Iran’s only allies among the United Nations Security Council members over its disputed nuclear program and ambitions. However with recent sanctions being imposed on the country with the backing of its two close allies the question begs to be asked, with Iran’s crucial allies playing to different tune over its program is it now likely that the Iranians will indeed reluctantly sit at the negotiating table? [Read more...]

Chinese perspectives on US companies feeling unwelcome

By Jingjiao, Chenyu amd Amy

Our Chinese reporters Jingjiao and Chenyu talk to presenter Amy Sutherland about the story in the news today that American companies are feeling increasingly unwelcome in China.

Listen now:


Meet Usain ‘Bolts’.

James Bradley.

A new Olympics is being planned by China next year for robots.

The event will be held in the north-eastern city of Harbin.

Harbin is home to the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT) which already boasts a successful robotic football team.

The competition is only open for humanoid robots, which means that to enter the robots must be human shaped, with two legs and two arms.

This is a change from many other robot competitions which sees a multitude of differently shaped robots depending on the task needing done.

Such as with the ‘Robogames’ which sees a multitude of differently shaped robots taking part in competitions.

According to Hong Rongbing a professor for HIT there events will include; dancing, combat, athletics as well as some non traditional events such as cleaning and medical care.

He went on to say that the aim of the competition is to push forward innovation and make robots more flexible and more intelligent.

The competition will test the robots on their ability to do tasks as well as gauging their intelligence and movement.

Over 100 teams are expected to enter the competition with over 20 countries being represented in over 16 events.

There have been an influx of different robot orientated competitions in the last few years, with a robotic world cup, and even an ‘exotic’ robot competition which replaces traditional sports and tests robots on their ability to mix drinks and smoke cigarettes.

There are even robot driving events where cars are programmed to drive through certain conditions over lengths of road to gauge their performance.

However the robot Olympics will have face their strongest competition from the ‘Robo games’ which has been seen as the highest form of organised competition for robots in the last few years.

China to strengthen ties with outcast neighbour North Korea

by Christian McBride

China has committed to strengthening ties with it’s politically outcast neighbour North Korea. This can be seen as a move on the part China to keep a potentially volatile neighbour close to them in  to avoid potential future aggravation. North Korea having recently driven forward in its missile test program, having successfully test launched missiles theoretically capable of reaching well into Japan, China and Russia against the will of the UN it can potentially grow into a threat if left out of the political community.

This should not be seen so much as Communist countries banding together as they had done under the 20th centuries communist bloc. The older communist alliances were bound together by ideology where as Dr Luke March, a political lecturer at Edinburgh University specialising in Soviet and post Soviet relations, observes that “North Korea is some what an aging communist dinosaur, clinging to a ‘retro’ style of communism, where as in China it’s pretty much a capitalist country with a communist party in power, it’s just a label.” However other regional powers have pressed on Beijing to use crucial control over supplies on energy and other resources to North Korea in order to curtail Pyongyang’s missile development program.

This development does give rise to some political heat in the wake of recent actions by India and South Korea undercutting recent easing of tensions with North Korea. But recent actions have gone towards the easing of Nuclear tensions.

photo courtesy of coxandforkum

photo courtesy of coxandforkum

Napping Found to Raise Diabetes Risk

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Regular napping is dramatically raising the risk to develop diabetes, according to new research.

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham has found that people who sleep for short periods during the day are up to 26% more likely to evoke type-2 diabetes.

“There is an obvious link between sleeping for short periods and type-2 diabetes, even with other factors taken into account”, said Dr Shahrad Taheri, from the University of Birmingham.

Other contributing factors are the weight of the subjects and unhealthy life styles. These were confirmed by the study, in addition to poor night time sleep.

The research examined the sleeping habits of 16,480 older people in China. A large proportion of the group, 68%, took regular naps and the research found that napping just once a week increased the likelihood of developing the condition.

Dr Taheri said the study was satisfying. He said: “Our research provides us with an additional insight on the risk factors behind type-2 diabetes”.

“As the number of people with type-2 diabetes keeps increasing, it is crucial that we do everything we can to help prevent people from developing the condition.”

The results of the study is due to be presented at Diabetes UK‘s annual professional conference in Glasgow on Wednesday March 11.

Napping found to raise diabetes risk

By Vibecke Gudmundsen

Regular napping is dramatically raising the risk to develop diabetes, according to new research.

The study conducted by scientists at the University of Birmingham has found that people who sleep for short periods during the day are up to 26 per cent more likely to evoke type-2 diabetes.Day time nap

“There is an obvious link between sleeping for short periods and type-2 diabetes, even with other factors taken into account”, said Dr Shahrad Taheri from the University of Birmingham.

Other contributing factors are the weight of the subjects and unhealthy life styles. These were also confirmed by the study, in addition to poor night time sleep.

The research examined the sleeping habits of 16,480 older people in China. A large proportion of the group, 68 per cent, took regular naps, and the research found that napping just once a week increased the likelihood of developing the condition.

DiabetesDr Taheri said he is satisfied with the study. He noted: “Our research provides us with an additional insight on the risk factors behind type-2 diabetes”.

“As the number of people with type-2 diabetes keeps increasing, it is crucial that we do everything we can to help prevent people from developing the condition.”

The results of the study is due to be presented at Diabetes UK‘s annual professional conference in Glasgow on Wednesday.

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