Nation 2  



China omits Ai Weiwei references from transcript

China’s foreign ministry has removed all references to the detained artist Ai Weiwei from an official transcript of a government news conference.
Eight questions raised by journalists concerning Mr Ai - a fierce critic of the government - were omitted.
Mr Ai was detained at Beijing airport on Sunday. Officials have said he is under investigation for suspected “economic crimes”.
Mr Ai’s sister told the BBC that police had raided his workshop again.
The artists is a vocal critic of the Beijing government, complaining about a lack of basic freedoms and often incorporating these political themes into his work.
There had been no word on his detention until the Chinese authorities broke their silence on Thursday, saying Mr Ai was under investigation “on suspicion of economic crimes”.
Eight out of 18 questions asked at the news conference on Thursday had been left off a transcript posted on the foreign ministry’s website on Friday, Hong Kong broadcaster RTHK reported.
There was no explanation by the foreign ministry.
Meanwhile, Mr Ai’s sister, Gao Ge, said his workshop in Beijing had been raided for a second time by police “this time targeting the finance office”.
She also expressed her concern for her brother’s health.
“It’s been so many days, more than 150 hours has gone, and he has so many illnesses... We know nothing about his condition,” Ms Gao told the BBC’s Chinese service.
A number of governments, including the US, Britain and Germany, have raised concerns about Mr Ai’s detention.
But China’s foreign ministry on Thursday insisted the case had “nothing to do with human rights or freedom of expression”.
In the last couple of months, dozens of activists have been taken into custody or house arrest, none of them as open in their criticism as Mr Ai.
Ai’s tangles with authorities

  • Supported online campaign to compile names of children who died in 2008 Sichuan earthquake - many in schools whose construction was allegedly compromised due to corruption
  • In August 2009, beaten up by police in Sichuan while trying to testify for dissident Tan Zuoren
  • Although a co-designer of Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Olympics stadium, he later disavowed the project, condemning China’s hosting of the Games as “fake and hypocritical”
  • His frequently censored blog was read by 10,000 people a day until shut down by authorities in May 2009
  • Ai Weiwei is a “maverick” who “chooses to have a different attitude from ordinary people toward law”, the Global Times said on Wednesday.
New York set to be big loser as sea levels rise

BBC: New York is a major loser and Reykjavik a winner from new forecasts of sea level rise in different regions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in 2007 that sea levels would rise at least 28cm (1ft) by the year 2100.
But this is a global average; and now a Dutch team has made what appears to be the first attempt to model all the factors leading to regional variations.
Other researchers say the IPCC’s figure is likely to be a huge under-estimate.
Whatever the global figure turns out to be, there will be regional differences.
Ocean currents and differences in the temperature and salinity of seawater are among the factors that mean sea level currently varies by up a metre across the oceans - this does not include short-term changes due to tides or winds.
So if currents change with global warming, which is expected - and if regions such as the Arctic Ocean become less saline as ice sheets discharge their contents into the sea - the regional patterns of peaks and troughs will also change.
“Everybody will still have the impact, and in many places they will get the average rise,” said Roderik van der Wal from the University of Utrecht, one of the team presenting their regional projections at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) meeting in Vienna.
“But places like New York are going to have a larger contribution than the average - 20% more in this case - and Reykjavik will be better off.”
Of the 13 regions where the team makes specific projections, New York sees the biggest increase from the global average, although Vancouver, Tasmania and The Maldives are also forecast to see above-average impacts.
Gravity trap
One peculiarity of the projections is that areas closer to melting ice sheets will experience a smaller sea level rise than those further away.
This is because ice sheets such as those on Greenland or Antarctica gravitationally attract the water.
This pulls the water towards the coast, effectively making it pile up to an extent that can be measured in centimetres.
If the ice begins to melt, it raises the average sea level simply by entering the sea; but the gravitational pull is now smaller, so locally the sea level may go down.
“So if the Greenland sheet melts more, that’s better for New York; but if Antarctica melts, that’s worse for New York - and it’s equally true for northwestern Europe,” Professor van der Wal told BBC News.
The effects are particularly pronounced for Reykjavik, the closest capital to Greenland, which is projected to receive less than half the global average sea level rise.
Ice sheet question
Roderik van der Wal is one of scientists working on the sea level projections that will be included in the next IPCC assessment, due out in 2013-4.
Before then, other scientists are likely to have completed more regional models that can be put into this mix
“We’re right at the beginning of making regional projections, and at this point there is still a lot of uncertainty,” commented Stefan Rahmstorf, a sea level specialist from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.
“But it is clear that some parts of the world will feel sea level rise much more quickly than other parts; and an additional factor is land movements.
“In some places such as a lot of the Scandinavian coastline, the land is rising so fast that they will not have any problem with sea level rise in the near future, whereas in other places the land is subsiding - that includes some of the world’s big delta cities.”
Just before the last IPCC report came out in 2007, Professor Rahmstorf published research showing that sea levels had been rising faster that climate models predicted.
Since then, he and others, using various techniques, have concluded that somewhere between half a metre and two metres is likely by the end of the century.
He came to the EGU with a further analysis putting the likely range at 0.75-1.9m - the range reflecting uncertainties in how ice sheets may melt, and in how society may or may not respond to the findings of climate scientists by controlling greenhouse gas emissions.

Italy and France agree North Africa migrant patrol

BBC: France and Italy have agreed to launch sea and air patrols to stop African migrants from reaching Europe, ending a diplomatic row between the two nations.
Italy angered France by giving short-term visas to thousands of migrants who had already reached Italy - many of them Tunisian with French ties.
France agreed to drop its objections as part of the deal to set up patrols.
Meanwhile, Italy has deported its first group of migrants from the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
A plane carrying 30 Tunisians took off from Lampedusa on Thursday afternoon.
However, reports said two boats carrying hundreds of migrants arrived on the island on Friday.
Lampedusa lies about 120km (75 miles) off the Tunisian coast, and is the first port of call for migrants hoping to reach Europe.
Some 20,000 North Africans are thought to have fled the recent unrest sweeping the region, and Lampedusa has been swamped.
Italy has struggled to find a solution, so decided this week to offer six-month visas to the migrants, allowing them to travel anywhere in the EU.
France strongly objected to Italy’s move, and French border patrols have been turning the migrants away.
In response, Italy had threatened to have France thrown out of the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone.
But the countries’ interior ministers thrashed out their differences in a meeting in Milan on Friday.
French minister Claude Gueant said he was now in “complete agreement” with his Italian counterpart Roberto Maroni.
He said neither country had a duty to host the migrants, and they had agreed to encourage the migrants to return voluntarily to Tunisia.

Brazil mourns Rio school shooting victims

The first funerals have been held in Brazil for the 12 children killed by a gunman in a Rio de Janeiro school on Thursday.
A police helicopter dropped rose petals from above as hundreds of mourners crowded into a local cemetery.
The gunman, a former pupil at the school, killed himself after being wounded by police.
Brazil has been left in shock by the killings, and three days of national mourning are being observed.
Relatives wept as five of the victims were buried at a hilltop cemetery in Realengo, the poor suburb in western Rio where the shootings took place.
“This miserable man destroyed our family,” said Jackson da Silva, godfather of murdered 13-year-old schoolgirl Laryssa Silva.
“He had no heart. What he did was horrific”.
Mourning families were joined by police and politicians, as well as medical staff who attended the victims.
Eleven children are still in hospital after the attack, some of them in serious condition.
The killings were carried out by Wellington Menezes de Oliveira, 23, who had been a pupil at the Tasso da Silveira school.
Police say he went into a classroom with two revolvers and lined people up before shooting them in the head at close range.
Security video footage shows children running down hallways to escape as he reloaded his guns.
He shot himself in the head after being shot in the leg by a policeman, officials said.
The 12 children killed were between 10 and 13 years old, and all but two were girls.
A rambling suicide note was found on the killer’s body.
In it, he gave no motive for the killings, but left detailed instructions on how he wanted to be buried and asked God for forgiveness.
Police say Menezes de Oliveira destroyed his home computer before the attack to conceal how he had planned it.
People who knew him described him as a quiet man with no friends who spent a lot of time on the internet.`

US to fund $20m remake of Sesame Street for Pakistan

BBC: The United States is funding a Pakistani remake of the popular TV children’s show Sesame Street.
In a new effort to win hearts and minds in Pakistan, USAID - the development arm of the US government - is donating $20m (£12m) to the country to create a local Urdu version of the show.
The project aims to boost education in Pakistan, where many children have no access to regular schooling.
The show is to be filmed in Lahore and aired later in the year.
“The programme is part of a series of ventures that is aimed at developing the educational infrastructure in the country,” Virginia Morgan, a spokesperson for USAID, told the BBC.
“Education is one of the vital sectors that need help in Pakistan.”
The show will be set in a village in Pakistan - rather than the streets of New York - with roadside tea shop and residents sitting on their verandas.
The remake will star a puppet called Rani, the six-year-old daughter of a peasant farmer, with pigtails and a school uniform, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper.
Targeting five to nine year olds, the series will run on Pakistan national TV and regional language channels.
Sesame Street is not entirely alien to Pakistani audiences - the original version ran on local TV during the 1990s.
But it could only be understood across the limited, Westernised section of
Pakistani society.
The Rafi peer theatre group, which is producing the local version in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, hopes to change that.
In an interview with a local edition of Newsweek, Imraan Peerzada‚ a writer for the new series‚ said the protagonist was a brave and daring girl.
“She will represent what little girls have to go through in this gender-biased society,” he said.
He said her journey would inevitably touch on Pakistan’s ongoing fight with militancy, but would not directly refer to religion.
“We don’t want to label children‚“ he said. “The basic learning tools of literacy‚ numeracy‚ hygiene‚ and healthy eating have to be in place first.”

1,800 monitor lizards seized by Thailand customs

BBC: Customs officials in Thailand have seized 1,800 protected lizards said to be destined to be sold as food.
The Bengal monitor lizards, stuffed into blue mesh bags and hidden behind fruit, were found in southern Thailand near the Malaysian border.
Lizard meat is valuable and seen as a delicacy in parts of Asia.
Global trade in the monitor lizards is banned and they are protected by law in Thailand and Malaysia.
The Bengal monitors are related to other members of the monitor family, including the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, which can grow to 3m (10ft) long.
One Thai customs official said this batch of monitor lizards was a record haul and suggested they were destined for Chinese kitchens.
“They are from Malaysia and transported through southern Thailand and north-eastern Laos to China for eating,” Seree Thaijongrak told the AFP news agency.
“We knew there was a monitor lizard racket... this time it’s the largest seizure ever,” he said.
Trade in the lizards is banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

US Congress agrees last-minute budget deal

BBC: Republicans and Democrats have reached a deal on the US budget, an hour before a deadline that would have forced the government to close many services.
They have passed a stop-gap spending bill which will allow the government to keep running while the wider budget plan is finalised.
The parties have agreed to slash about $38bn (£23bn) from spending for the year until 30 September.
President Barack Obama said the cuts would be difficult but necessary.
“Some of the cuts we agreed to will be painful,” he said.
“Programmes people rely on will be cut back. Needed infrastructure projects will be delayed. And I would not have made these cuts in better circumstances.”
He said it was the “the biggest annual spending cut in history”, but said America needed to start living within its means.
The BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington says Mr Obama has put a gloss on the measures, but they are a victory for the Republicans.
Our correspondent says the battles yet to come over the 2012 budget and long-term plans to cut the deficit are likely to be much more difficult.
Announcing the deal, House Speaker John Boehner, a leading Republican, said it had been a “long fight”.
“We fought to keep government spending down because it really will create a better situation for job creators,” he said.
Without an agreement by midnight on Friday, the government would have been forced to shut down, barring some 800,000 government employees from working.
The last US government shutdown came in 1995 amid a dispute between the Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton’s White House.
The shutdown lasted for 20 days and was estimated to have shaved one percentage point off US economic growth for one quarter of the year.
During the current stand-off, talks were stalled for days as Republicans - urged on by the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement - pushed for larger budget cuts than Democrats were willing to concede.
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US criticises China’s ‘worsening’ human rights record

BBC: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has criticised China for what she calls its worsening human rights record.
She expressed concern over reports of Chinese intellectuals and activists being “arbitrarily detained” in recent weeks - including the arrest of prominent artist Ai Weiwei on Sunday.
She was speaking as the State Department released its annual report on human rights around the world.
The survey assesses the state of human rights in 194 countries.
The State Department also highlighted serious violations in Iran, Iraq, Burma, North Korea, the Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
‘Courage and determination’
Unveiling the report in Washington on Friday, Mrs Clinton said the US was deeply concerned by recent reports of arrests - including Mr Ai’s.
“Such detention is contrary to the rule of law and we urge China to release all of those who have been detained for exercising their internationally recognised right to free expression and to respect the fundamental freedoms and human rights of all of the citizens of China,” she said.
As it covers 2010, the report does not focus on the revolutions that have swept across the Middle East and North Africa this year, toppling long-time authoritarian leaders in Tunisia and Egypt as well as sparking uprisings in Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.
But Mrs Clinton said the US was “particularly inspired by the courage and determination of the activists in the Middle East and North Africa and in other repressive societies who have demanded peaceful democratic change and respect for their universal human rights”, AFP reported.
In the introduction to its 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Report, the state department said: “At this moment, we cannot predict the outcome of these changes and we will not know the lasting impacts for years to come.
“The United States will continue to monitor the situations in these countries closely, knowing that the transition to democracy is not automatic and will take time and careful attention,” it added.



Nestlé plans investing Rs. 10 billion in Sri Lanka

Nestlé, the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company, invested Rs. 560 million in inaugurating an expansion of its Malt Beverages line at their state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Kurunegala, which currently produces over 90% of their products in Sri Lanka.
This investment is the first phase of a master plan for massive expansion and development in the country by Nestlé Lanka, where the company announced that, commencing 2011, Rs. 10 billion would be invested in dairy development and manufacturing capacity expansion in the Beverages and Culinary areas over the next few years.
The new plant at Nestlé Lanka’s manufacturing facility was inaugurated by Chamal Rajapaksa, Speaker of Sri Lanka Parliament, in the presence of Anura P. Yapa, Minister of Environment; Athula Wijesinghe, Chief Minister – North Western province; Pierre Schaufelberger, Vice President – Nestlé Zone AOA, Switzerland and Alois Hofbauer, Managing Director for Nestlé Lanka PLC.
“In line with our philosophy to Create Shared Value, it is a fundamental Nestlé belief that investments have to be good for the country as well as the company; creating long term value for the countries we operate in creates long term value for all stakeholders.
“Nestlé sees a lot of opportunity in Sri Lanka and believes in its potential. Accordingly, we have stepped up our investment in the country. With our long term investment plans for Sri Lanka, we are taking a far-sighted view of business development to stimulate significant local development here,” said Pierre Schaufelberger, Vice President, Nestlé Zone AOA.
Alois Hofbauer, Managing Director for Nestlé Lanka PLC said that close to Rs. 10 billion had been invested in the country by Nestlé so far, where close upon Rs. 1.1 billion was invested in dairy development and capacity expansion in the company’s Kurunegala factory in 2010.
“This is approximately 5% of our 2010 sales and significantly higher compared to earlier years. In 2011, we will further accelerate our investment by doubling our commitment in these same areas to Rs. 2 billion” he said.
He added that almost one-third of the total Rs. 10 billion investment plan would relate to dairy development and dairy based products, highlighting the company’s commitment to doubling local fresh milk collection in support of the country’s vision to significantly increase domestic dairy production over the next five years.
As the largest private sector collector of fresh milk in the country with the largest number of milk chilling centres, many dairy development initiatives were in place by the company to achieve that objective, . Hofbauer noted. The Food and Beverage giant is also the world’s largest exporter of coconut milk powder.
“All our future plans are in line with our ambition to enhance the lives of Sri Lankan consumers with great tasting and nutritious products at affordable prices and uphold our consumers trust in us as a Nutrition, Health and Wellness Company. These investments will help us deliver our promise of ‘Good Food, Good Life’ by delighting consumers with great tasting products of superior nutritional quality and enabling us to Create Shared Value for all stakeholders, particularly for communities where we operate,” said . Hofbauer.

Addressing international press in London

Unprecedented economic resurgence in Sri Lanka, says GL

External Affairs Minister Prof G. L. Peiris, held a press conference at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London on Tuesday and a cross-section of the British and international media was present.

In his introductory remarks Minister Peiris highlighted that Sri Lanka has made swift and significant post-conflict progress, and that the country is experiencing unprecedented economic resurgence and stability. In illustrating this point, Minister Peiris drew attention to some salient developments:
The number of IDPs has been reduced from the original over 290,000 to around 10,000. These remaining persons will be resettled as soon as demining is completed.
• More than 50% of the areas mined by the LTTE have been cleared.
• Of the over 11,500 ex-LTTE combatants who surrendered at the end of the conflict, other than the hardcore against whom there is legally admissible evidence, the rest will be released following rehabilitation.
• As a positive outcome of the ongoing process of transforming ex-combatants into productive citizens, 170 ex-combatants, including ex-child-soldiers sat the GCE O’level exams, 40 sat the GCE A’Level exams, and two entered Medical College.
• More than 500 Tamil-speaking police officers have been recruited in the Northern and Eastern Provinces in the last five months, in recognition of the language-related challenges faced by the people in these areas.
• All the High Security Zones in Jaffna have been dismantled following the recent opening up of Victoria Road in Jaffna.
• On the economic front, the second highest post-independence economic growth in the country was recorded in 2010, when the economy grew by 8%.
• As a result of the post-conflict boom, banks in the North and the East recorded the best all-island performance in the issuance and recovery of loans granted last year for livestock and agriculture development.
Minister Peiris explained that in addition to the above highlights, Sri Lanka had given priority to post-conflict reconciliation, and the process of negotiating a solution to the outstanding political issues.

Referring to reconciliation, Minister Peiris explained the work of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), which was established with a view to healing the wounds created in the minds of the people due to the conflict, and to bring about unity among the people of Sri Lanka. The Minister said that the government was already implementing the interim recommendations of the Commission through the Inter-Agency Advisory Committee (IAAC).
With regard to political talks, Minister Peiris said that three rounds of talks had already taken place, and the process was ongoing. The next round of talks is scheduled at the end of this month.
In responding to issues raised by the participants, Minister Peiris said that the Government had placed high emphasis on the quality of resettlement, and the assistance provided to IDPs included loans for productive livelihood, housing assistance, irrigation for farming, upgrading of farm products, and overall infrastructure development.

The private sector had actively participated with the Government in creating employment opportunities for civilians in the North and East. On tourism development, the Minister explained that all parts of the country were now open to tourism, and the long-neglected tourist sites in the North and the East were being upgraded, and experiencing an upsurge in tourist arrivals.
In conclusion, Minister Peiris recalled the long-standing relations between Sri Lanka and the West and the United Kingdom in particular, and invited British businesses to explore opportunities in Sri Lanka against the background of stability security and the favourable development and economic climate.

Japanese killed in tsunami remembered

A series of religious ceremonies was held at the Minobusan Preschool at the Dharmayatanaya, Botalegama, Kirimetiyana recently to remember the thousands of Japanese men, women and children killed in the tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 this year, transfer merit to them and also to invoke blessings for the speedy recovery of all affected by this calamity. The children of the preschool, their parents, and people in the neighborhood participated in the religious observances held under the direction of Ven. Medawachchiye Wimadhamma Thera, Director of the preschool. The Maha Sangha who conducted the ceremonies was led by Ven. Madakumburumulle Vijita Nayake Thera, Viharadhipati of Sri Suddhammawansaramaya, Kirimetiyana. (Below) A section of the participants.

Pakistani High Commissioner meets Dy. Minister of Transport

The High Commissioner of Pakistan Seema Ilahi Baloch met with Rohana Dissanayake Deputy Minister of Transport on April 6. During the meeting various issues of importance in context of bilateral relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka were discussed.
Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in 1948, the two countries have consistently maintained close, cordial and mutually supportive relationships.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka being located in the South Asian region and being members of various regional and international bodies like UN, the Commonwealth, NAM and SAARC are mutually important for each other. The relationship between Pakistan and Sri Lanka is based on mutual trust and commonality of interest in maintaining regional peace, security and stability. Pakistan has always supported the unity, territorial integrity and sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Both countries have shared common perceptions on almost all regional and international issues and are working together on all these forums for shared values and interests.
Pakistan is the second largest trading partner of Sri Lanka within the South Asian region. The level of bilateral trade between Pakistan and Sri Lanka increased as a result of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Trade between the countries increased from US$ 150 million to over US$ 300 million during the last three years, as it doubled within a short period of time with the positive support gained from the FTA.
The links between Pakistan and Sri Lanka date back to the dawn of Buddhism. The archaeological sites in Taxila, adjacent to Pakistan’s capital city Islamabad, are a living testimony to this fact. Ghandara trail was a part of the Silk Route and many Buddhist pilgrims from different countries visit these sites on this historical route.


Sajith Premadasa, deputy leader of the UNP and deputy Opposition Leader, who has initiated many projects to upgrade and enhance infrastructure and livelihoods of all communities living in Hambantota district, inaugurating a preschool worth Rs. 1.2 million at Madayamalalanda in the Ambalantota division of the Hambantota district constructed through his Hambantota Development Initiative


District Governor Lion S. Jeyavathsalan at the Lions UN day at Nairobi, Kenya The Lions day at United Nations was celebrated at Nairobi with the participation of Lions and Lion Ladies from more than 60 countries. The Lions Clubs International was represented by the International first Vice President Lion Dr. Wing - Kun Tam. The Vice president of Kenya Kalangi Musiuyoka was the chief guest. District Governor Lion S. Jeyavathsalan of District 306B1, Sri Lanka attended the ceremony