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
Mr Ai’s sister told the BBC that police had raided his
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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
Whatever the global figure turns out to be, there will be
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
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.
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
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
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
Some 20,000 North Africans are thought to have fled the
recent unrest sweeping the region, and Lampedusa has been
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
“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
Police say he went into a classroom with two revolvers and
lined people up before shooting them in the head at close
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
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
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
“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
“Education is one of the vital sectors that need help in
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
The Rafi peer theatre group, which is producing the local
version in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, hopes to
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
“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
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
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
“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
|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
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
“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
The BBC’s Mark Mardell in Washington says Mr Obama has put a
gloss on the measures, but they are a victory for the
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
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.
Are you in the US? What do you think to the deal reached on
the US budget? Send us your reaction using the form below.
|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
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
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 .
|Addressing international press
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
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
• 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
• 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
|Japanese killed in
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
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
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
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