Co-founder of Hawke's Bay charity Limitless Hope Kevin Swannell has denied assaulting his wife Kiri Swannell with a running chainsaw and threatening to kill her. The 43-year-old engineer, an established advocate for the region's...
The Federal Government's new foreign interference laws have only just been introduced but lawyers, universities and media companies already have concerns.
More than 30,000 people have been to see the works of Banksy in Auckland and the exhibition has proved so popular opening hours are being extended.The Aotea Centre will be open from 10am to 10pm on February 2 and 3 before closing...
Australian Open quarter-finalist Tennys Sandgren deletes several years of tweets following questions about his social media connections with alt-right activists, and ahead of today's clash with fellow underdog Hyeon Chung.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has welcomed the breakthrough in the revised TPP after talks in Tokyo which will see the deal signed by 11 countries next month in Chile.And New Zealand First leader Winston Peters has announced that...
The Roar's golden days of old look miles away after a terrible Asian Champions League loss to Filipino side Ceres, which includes farcical scenes as players' numbers peel off the back of their shirts.
Two people visiting an Auckland prison were arrested after they were allegedly found with 19g of methamphetamine, more than $11,000, shotgun shells and booze on Saturday.The pair were busted during a routine prison checkpoint operation...
Police are seeking sightings of a Hamilton woman who hasn't been seen for more than a month.Elenoa Phillips, 48, was reported missing on January 8, but was last seen leaving her home address in Hamilton on December 4, 2017, at 10pm.She...
Thefts of plants from gardens at a Christchurch park have disappointed a community group.More than half the plants council staff put into Abberley Park on December 18 have been stolen in less than a month, Friends of Abberley Park...
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has arrived at Ratana Pa, fronting on last night's agreement over the revised Trans-Pacific Partnership before the brass band marched her and her entourage to the marae for a powhiri.Labour and Ratana...
Rotorua can claim to be the home of the #smearyourmea campaign sweeping the country.Not only was the phrase, which translates to "smear your thing", coined by Korowai Aroha in Rotorua years ago, the face of the current campaign...
Police are calling for help tracking down a group of illegal spotlighters who fired shots near campers, damaging a ute, in Southland, on the weekend.Police said in a statement this morning they were taking the incident, which took...
Police have named the man who died when his scooter collided with a rubbish truck in Whanganui on Friday. He was Whanganui man Isaac Oldale, 23. The crash happened at 11.13am on January 19. Oldale received a serious head injury...
On a bitterly cold morning, the Songhua River flows quietly under a thick layer of ice. The peace is broken by the harsh sound of electric saws.Liu Changyi and his peers are cutting giant blocks of ice from the frozen river. Each block weighs hundreds of kilograms and has a uniform size of 1.6 meters long, 0.8 meters wide and 40 or 50 centimeters thick.They use hooks to lift the blocks out of the river and drag them to the shore where forklifts load them onto trucks bound for the winter wonderland of Harbin, capital of northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province.Harbin has gained international attention for its increasingly popular winter extravaganza, the International Ice and Snow Festival, which features massive, elaborate ice sculptures, competitions and winter sports. Every winter, tourists inundate Harbin, increasing consumption, creating jobs and stimulating the local economy.“The festival provides jobs for around 1,000 ice cutters like me,” said Liu. “I can earn 400 yuan (US$62.5)a day.”This winter, the city has seen record numbers of bank transactions and airport passengers. Visitors are finding it difficult to find hotel rooms and taxis.“We opened the theme park earlier this year,” said Jia Lianqi, general manager of Harbin Ice and Snow World, the park at the center of the festival.“Ice and snow provide an opportunity for people to make money,” Jia said. The theme park is only open for two months each year but provides more than 10,000 seasonal jobs for local residents.Till last Thursday, the park had received more than 550,000 visitors, up 20 percent year on year, and earned more than 150 million yuan in revenue since it opened on December 18.“In the past, businesses were unwilling to invest in Heilongjiang because it was too cold,” said an entrepreneur. “But now they are attracted by the ice and snow.”In 1963, Harbin held its first ice lantern fair. Diverse winter activities gradually began to appear since then, and the first ice and snow festival was held in 1985.Strong consumer demand has boosted the winter tourism in China. A China Tourism Academy report forecast that the number of tourists will grow by 15 percent annually to reach 340 million in winter 2021-2022, from about 170 million in winter 2016-2017.Winter tourism revenue will increase from about 270 billion yuan in 2016-2017 to 670 billion yuan in 2021-2022, an annual growth rate of 20 percent, the report estimated.The neighboring provinces of Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are also vigorously promoting winter tourism by setting up ice and snow parks, ski resorts and skating rinks. “In the peak period, I had work opportunities in three or four cities in Jilin and Liaoning within half a month,” said Li Chunyi, an ice sculptor from Harbin.Sun Zhiming, an economist from the Jilin Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said winter industries have become a pillar of growth for the economy of northeast China, which has been plagued by a decrease in energy and heavy industries. As spring approaches, the ice will vanish. “It will reappear next winter. The natural resources we hated before now create wealth,” said Liu.
Shijian-13, China’s first high-throughput communication satellite, has been put into service after completing a key laser communication test, China National Space Administration said yesterday.The high-orbit satellite has finished a two-way high-speed laser communication test between the satellite and ground, the first of its kind in the world, the administration said.Serving users in China, the satellite will connect communication base stations in remote areas and meet the needs of distance education, digital news gathering, and emergency communication, said Li Feng, chief satellite designer at China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.Shijian-13, launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province in 2017, has a transfer capacity of 20 Gbps and a designed orbital life of 15 years.The satellite, named Zhongxing-16 after it was put into service, will provide better Internet access on planes and high-speed trains with a maximum download capacity of 150 Mbps and upload capacity of 12 Mbps, according to the statement.High-throughput communication satellites can form a communication network with larger transfer capacity and higher transfer speeds compared with ordinary satellites.
China is using AI technology, including pattern recognition, to identify users who express suicidal thoughts on microblog site Weibo in order to prevent suicide attempts.Zhu Tingshao, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted a two-year study of online suicidal ideation and set up an AI account to help those who are suffering. “Suicide hotlines and intervention centers are the most prevalent methods for suicide prevention. Yet only 20 percent of people with suicidal inclinations are willing to seek help. Therefore, web-based research is significant,” said Zhu.According to a paper published last December in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, in 2016, Zhu’s team recruited 4,222 microbloggers who had expressed suicidal thoughts in a bid to find language patterns the AI could learn from.“We used AI technology such as natural language processing and deep learning to collect language patterns from suicidal users. Then our AI account sent direct messages to them online, offering comfort and advice while protecting their privacy,” Zhu said.Many people contemplating suicide share their worries online rather than telling a specialist. Zhu said his account is quite useful in identifying people who express suicidal thoughts online.The account has reached more than 20,000 users with suicidal thoughts and has provided online counseling since July 2016. “We need to track the troubled souls first and detect how urgent their psychological situation is. For those who have strong tendencies, we tell them what their problems might be and send them a list of hotlines and professional intervention centers,” said Zhu.Such AI technology has proved efficacious. Scientists often receive replies thanking them for help during tough times. Zhu said his team has upgraded the AI tool four times. “Many don’t know they have psychological problems, and some online psychological quizzes are often misleading. We hope this AI tool can help more Weibo users, not just suicidal ones,” said Zhu.
Chinese Minister of Education Chen Baosheng yesterday promised to increase public spending and support for preschool education.The ministry will set a standard for public spending on state-run kindergartens and subsidies for private kindergartens for each child, Chen told a national education conference.Measures will be adopted to guarantee salaries and benefit for preschool teachers and to increase their professional qualifications, he said.The government will encourage and support private kindergartens that provide affordable services and spend more money building new kindergartens and expanding existing ones in rural areas, less-developed regions, suburbs and regions where demand increases because of the relaxed birth control policy.The government will tighten supervision of kindergartens to prevent malpractice, Chen said. “We will try our best to prevent child abuse in kindergartens. Once discovered, offenders will face severe consequences,” he said.Two high-profile child abuse cases by preschool teachers last year — in Beijing and Shanghai — shocked the nation, highlighting the shortage of preschool education and qualification of teachers. With China’s implementation of the two-child policy, the demand for preschool education will see a sharp increase from 2019 and reach its peak in 2021.
CHINA will target institutional barriers and deeply embedded interests in reform this year, said a statement from a Communist Party of China reform leading group yesterday.
Priority should be given to reforms in key areas including state-owned enterprises and state-owned assets, monopoly sectors, finance and taxation, property rights protection, rural revitalization, social security, opening-up, and ecological conservation, according to the statement issued after the second meeting of the Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform of the 19th CPC Central Committee.
President Xi Jinping, also general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, chairman of the Central Military Commission and head of the group, presided over the meeting.
Xi highlighted the importance of reform in 2018 and called for new breakthrough with strengthened innovation and concrete efforts.
Reform should be more systematic, holistic and coordinated to seek material progress in fundamental areas, the statement said.
It called for innovation at grassroots level and concrete measures against formalities.
Leading officials should lead by example in reform and more efforts are required in research and supervision of reforms, according to the statement.
At the meeting, a plan on the group’s work for this year and guidelines for a series of reform measures were approved.
A guideline on improving treatment of skilled workers was adopted at the meeting in an effort to motivate their proactivity and creativity.
Participants at the meeting stressed adherence to the principle of “wholeheartedly relying on the working class,” calling for concerted efforts of the government, enterprises and society to improve treatment of skilled workers.
Belt and Road guideline
Senior leaders agreed to give more pay for more work and to those who are more skilled, according to the statement.
Chinese leaders also approved a guideline on establishing a mechanism to appropriately solve trade and investment disputes among the Belt and Road countries according to law.
A dispute settlement mechanism that connects litigation, mediation and arbitration will be created on the basis of China’s current judiciary, arbitration and mediation agencies, and by absorbing and integrating legal service resources home and abroad, according to the statement.
Members of the group called for equal protection for both Chinese and foreign parties’ rights to create a stable, fair and transparent law-based business environment.
China will tighten the examination of transferring intellectual property rights to foreigners, particularly those concerning state security, according to a regulation adopted at the meeting.
Chinese individuals and organizations, who would like to sell their IPR to foreign counterparts, will be subject to strict review and cases concerning state security will be under stricter supervision.
The scope, content and mechanism of such reviews will be tightened, according to the statement.
China asked local officials to take prime responsibility of safety incidents in workplaces, according to a regulation adopted at the meeting.
Local officials must understand that development cannot be attained at the cost of workplace safety, said the statement.
Local officials are required to improve inspection and supervision, examination and investigation on work place safety, and perfect the incentive and punishment system on the issue.
Other measures outlined at yesterday’s meeting include reform of Confucius institutes, basic pension schemes, management of important scientific data, and supply of generic drugs.
A court in central China’s Henan Province yesterday overruled an appeal filed by the family of a smoker who died of a heart attack after an argument with a man who asked him to stop smoking in a lift.
The Intermediate People’s Court of Zhengzhou said the behavior of the defendant Yang Jun was “lawful” and was an act “safeguarding public interest.”
The court overruled earlier rulings, rejected the plaintiff’s compensation claim, and asked the plaintiff to pay litigation costs of over 14,000 yuan (US$2,180). The family of the elderly smoker had claimed more than 400,000 yuan from Yang, after the smoker died of a heart attack following the argument with Yang last May.
The smoker’s family subsequently sued Yang, claiming the argument had played a role in triggering the heart attack.
Last September, the People’s Court of Jinshui District ruled that Yang’s behavior did not lead to the smoker’s death but ordered Yang to pay the family compensation of 15,000 yuan.
The family appealed against the court’s decision to the Intermediate People’s Court of Zhengzhou. The court heard the appeal last November but pronounced the final judgment yesterday.
The case has attracted nationwide attention, as many criticized the initial ruling against Yang and acclaimed the final judgment.
“Yang showed a citizen’s responsibility by trying to stop a smoker in the lift. If the court asks citizens who exercise their lawful rights to pay compensation, it will dent their enthusiasm to ensure the public interest is safeguarded,” said Hu Yaping, a deputy to Henan’s provincial people’s congress.
There are an estimated 300 million smokers and 740 million people exposed to secondhand smoke in China. Although there is no national law on indoor smoking, a regulation in 2011 banned smoking in indoor public spaces including lifts.
The country has banned some tobacco advertisements, increased taxes and put forward regional smoking bans since it ratified the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in 2003.
As of 2016, 18 cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, had smoking bans.
“The final ruling is support for national tobacco control and for those who get up the courage to say no to secondhand smoke,” said Jiang Yuan, an officer with Tobacco Control Office under the Chinese Center For Disease Control And Prevention.
Wearing a plain dress padded with a bustle and framed with a corset, Wang Xueqing sits by a blazing fireplace knitting a sweater with a poodle curled up beside her. It has been two years and four months since the 36-year-old retreated to the remote village of Xindong in southeast China’s coastal province of Fujian to lead a life imitating European oil paintings.An hour north of the city of Quanzhou, a winding road leads to her cottage in the woods. The blue walls are covered with ivy and the little garden is filled with flowers. Wang has decorated her two-story home with ceramic pumpkins, rabbits, goblins and photos of herself dressed like the women depicted in 19th century European pastoral paintings.Above the door of the cottage is a sign reading “Cinderella” in English.Growing up in the Fujian fishing town of Hui’an, Wang never attended a day of school. She only began to study Chinese characters at the age of 19, while working at a factory in the south China metropolis of Shenzhen, the country’s manufacturing center.As the eldest daughter, she was sent to work at age 6 to help support her family. She spent hours shucking oysters, or threading shells on strings to be placed in the sea for oysters to grow on.“Reading opened the door to an entirely new world for me. For the first time, I realized life could be so beautiful. I devoured every book I could get my hands on, from traditional Chinese literature to Jane Austin novels,” she said.Later, she became enamored with the paintings of Jean-Francois Millet and Johannes Vermeer, and tried to recreate the costumes portrayed in their works.“I was so fascinated by the tranquil life in rural Europe,” said Wang, her eyes alight with excitement. “I wanted to live the reclusive life portrayed by Austin and Millet.”She said her yearning for a simpler life grew during her years of tedious work on the assembly line. However, Wang did not make the move until she turned 34, when she was hurt by an unrequited love. Heart-broken, she decided to retreat into the woods for “healing.”She found a deserted and dilapidated 100-year-old cottage, buried in a thick growth of weeds. She decided to stay there and renovate it.Huang Liangshui, the village Party chief, was astonished when Wang arrived in Xindong alone, asking to rent the deserted cottage. With only 10,000 yuan (US$1,500) on her, Wang started renovating it herself, from carrying building materials to woodworking.Bit by bit, she repaired the leaking roof, built a sheep pen, and reclaimed a vegetable plot from the wasteland.She also made costumes and took pictures of herself dressed like the women in world-famous paintings such as “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” “The Milkmaid” and “The Gleaners.”Wang could often be seen posing in front of a camera, while carrying straw in her arms or standing beside a herd of cattle, which took her neighbors by surprise. She lived in seclusion until a former colleague visited her and shared some photos on the Internet, making her an online sensation overnight.Curious visitors started to pour in from all over the country. Some stayed at the cottage, admiring it as a haven from the weariness of urban life.However, Wang’s lifestyle perplexed the villagers. Many would wonder “why so many full-bellied have nothing better to do than visit a mentally-disoriented person.”“I soon realized I could make a living with my unorthodox lifestyle instead of washing dishes in restaurants,” she said. “But I had to improve my service. So I cleaned up the house daily and made costumes in various designs.”Brisk and eloquent, Wang has the charisma to attract and inspire followers. She now charges visitors 288 yuan for photos wearing her costumes, and 200 yuan to spend the night in her cottage. The cash helps in supporting her cherished lifestyle.It has also led to some people accusing her of creating “commercial hype” — her reclusive life proving to be “good business.”“I earn a living with hard work and skill. It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” she said.Wang is now teaching herself English from smartphone apps. “I want to travel the world some day, especially to the Louvre and view the great paintings.”
HONG Kong’s famous skyline was engulfed in smog yesterday and residents were urged to stay indoors.
The winter months regularly bring worse air quality to Hong Kong and other parts of the region due to wind direction and weather conditions.
But as acrid air shrouded the city’s skyscrapers, harbor and surrounding hills, residents said they were afraid for their health.
“It feels stuffy and airless. It’s more difficult to breathe,” said Elsa Choi, 32. “I’m not sure if masks could filter out (the particles). I won’t go outside as much.”
The air quality in Hong Kong was categorized as “unhealthy” on the World Air Quality Index.
Readings of damaging fine particles known as PM 2.5 hit an average concentration of 198 micrograms per cubic meter.
The World Health Organization recommends a maximum average exposure of 25 micrograms per cubic meter in a 24-hour period.
In Beijing, where pollution has reached hazardous levels in the past, the average reading was 25, categorized as “good.”
The government said that pollution in Hong Kong was higher than normal and that the risk to health was “very high,” as it warned residents to avoid outdoor activities.
Schools were urged to take “appropriate measures” to safeguard students’ health.
The environment bureau blamed the smog on a mix of light winds, preventing dispersion of pollutants, and sunshine which it said worsens the problem. But campaigners said authorities should not simply look to the weather.
“We know that there is a weather factor but we also know that roadside air pollution comes from traffic,” said Patrick Fung of NGO Clean Air Network, who said there should be traffic controls on high pollution days.
A clean air plan was introduced in 2013, and the environment bureau has said roadside pollutants have dropped by up to 74 percent in the past 20 years. But the number of days where pollution readings were categorized as a high health risk in 2017 was almost double the number in 2016, according to statistics, although it was an improvement on 2014 and 2015.