Archive for the ‘World’ Category

Aung San Suu Kyi Released From House Arrest

November 13, 2010

aung san suu kyiMyanmar activist Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest Saturday, police outside her home said.

Witnesses said that they had seen Suu Kyi as crowds of supporters gathered near her home in Yangon.

At party headquarters in the same city, hundreds waited near her National League for Democracy.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has spent 15 of the past 21 years under house arrest because of her fight for democracy in the nation formerly known as Burma.

Security has been stepped up in Myanmar, but it was unclear whether that was because of the country’s first elections in two decades Sunday.

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Amazon.com Pedophile Guide Sparks Protests

November 11, 2010

amazon.com peodophileAn e-book for sale on Amazon.com entitled “The Pedophile’s Guide to Love and Pleasure,” was apparently pulled by the online retailer late Wednesday after shocked consumers across the nation called for a boycott.

The title, authored by Phillips Greaves, was published late last month, according to product details previously available on Amazon.com. It sold for $4.79 on the company’s Kindle Store.

“This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow,” a product description read. “I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught.”

The content led to hundreds of tweets criticizing Amazon for allowing the title to be sold and a Facebook page was created calling for a boycott of the Seattle-based company.

“This is totally unacceptable,” one Facebook posting read. “This is not about freedom of speech. This is a HOW TO GUIDE FOR PEDOPHILES! Shame on you Amazon.com.”

Another posting read: “They are screwing themselves over just in time for holiday shopping.”

Earlier Wednesday, Amazon stood by its decision to sell the e-book.

“Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable,” the company said in a written statement. “Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.”

Online child safety advocacy group Enough is Enough said it wasn’t surprised that someone would publish such a book. Selling the book lends the impression that child abuse is normal, the group said.

That doesn’t mean Amazon should be prohibited from selling it, countered Christopher Finan, president of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression. He said that Amazon has the right under the First Amendment to sell any book that is not child pornography or legally obscene. Finan said Greaves’ book doesn’t amount to either because it does not include illustrations.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has sold material that promotes illegal activity. It is currently accepting pre-orders for the hardcover version of “I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons” by Luca Rastello.

Nor is it the first time Amazon has come under attack for selling objectionable content in its store. In 2002, the United States Justice Foundation, a conservative group, threatened to sue Amazon for selling “Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers.” That title is still available through Amazon.

In 2009, Amazon stopped selling “RapeLay,” a first-person video game in which the protagonist stalks and then rapes a mother and her daughters, after it was widely condemned in the media and by various interest groups.

Burma Hit By Massive Net Attack Ahead of Election

November 4, 2010

Graph of net attack, Arbor Networks Huge amounts of traffic easily overwhelmed Burma’s links to the net

An ongoing computer attack has knocked Burma off the internet, just days ahead of its first election in 20 years.

The attack started in late October but has grown in the last few days to overwhelm the nation’s link to the net, said security firm Arbor Networks.

Reports from Burma say the disruption is ongoing.

The attack, which is believed to have started on 25 October, comes ahead of closely-watched national elections on 7 November.

International observers and foreign journalists are not being allowed into the country to cover the polls – which many Western leaders have said will not be free or fair.

It will raise suspicions that Burma’s military authorities could be trying to restrict the flow of information over the election period.

Cyber attack

The Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, as it is known, works by flooding a target with too much data for it to handle.

The “distributed” element of it means that it involves PCs spread all over the world. These networks of enslaved computers – known as “botnets” – are typically hijacked home computers that have been compromised by a virus.

They are typically rented out by cyber criminals for various means, including web attacks. They can be called into action and controlled from across the internet.

Burma links to the wider net via cables and satellites that, at most, can support data transfers of 45 megabits of data per second.

At its height, the attack was pummelling Burma’s connections to the wider net with about 10-15 gigabits of data every second.

Writing about the attack, Dr Craig Labovitz from Arbor Networks said the gigabits of traffic was “several hundred times more than enough” to swamp these links.

The result, said Dr Labovitz, had disrupted network traffic in and out of the nation.

He said the attack was sophisticated in that it rolled together several different types of DDoS attacks and traffic was coming from many different sources.

At time of writing attempts to contact IP addresses in the block owned by Burma and its telecoms firms timed out, suggesting the attack is still underway.

“Our technicians have been trying to prevent cyber attacks from other countries,” a spokesperson from Yatanarpon Teleport told AFP.

“We still do not know whether access will be good on the election day.”

Mr Labovitz said that he did not know the motivation for the attack but said that analysis of similar events in the past had found motives that ran the gamut “from politically motivated DDoS, government censorship, extortion and stock manipulation.”

He also noted that the current wave of traffic was “significantly larger” than high profile attacks against Georgia and Estonia in 2007.

A380 Airbus Engine Fails…Quantas Passengers Lucky

November 4, 2010

Phew What Luck….on the world’s biggest commercial plane…

Passengers aboard a Qantas A380 Airbus have described their relief at landing unscathed after the plane’s engine disintegrated mid-flight.

By Bonnie Malkin Indonesian police officers carry a part of a Qantas jetliner that was found in the area, at the local police headquarters in Batam, Indonesia

Indonesian police officers carry a part of a Qantas jetliner that was found in the area, at the local police headquarters in Batam, Indonesia Photo: AP

Technicians look at the damaged engine of Qantas Airways A-380 passenger plane QF32 at Changi airport in Singapore

Technicians look at the damaged engine of Qantas Airways A-380 passenger plane QF32 at Changi airport in Singapore Photo: REUTERS

Qantas A380 superjumbo after a safe emergency landing at Changi airport, Singapore, following engine problems and shedding some debris over Indonesia's Batam island

Qantas A380 superjumbo after a safe emergency landing at Changi airport, Singapore, following engine problems and shedding some debris over Indonesia’s Batam island Photo: EPA

Indonesian police officers inspect parts of a Qantas jetliner that were found in the area, at the local police headquarters in Batam, Indonesia

Indonesian police officers inspect parts of a Qantas jetliner that were found in the area, at the local police headquarters in Batam, Indonesia Photo: AP

The flight, which originated in London and was destined for Sydney, was abandoned 15 minutes after take-off from Singapore when passengers heard a loud bang and saw smoke and sparks coming out of one engine.

The pilot then informed the cabin that the engine had been shut down and the aircraft was heading back to Changi Airport.

The A380, carrying 433 passengers and 26 crew, circled for an hour dumping fuel before it landed safely at Changi at 11.45am local time.

Once on the tarmac, it appeared that casing from the aircraft’s number two engine was missing and parts of the aircraft’s underside were blackened.

The incident has raised safety concerns over the world’s biggest passenger jet, with Qantas suspending flights of all six of its A380s indefinitely. Models owned by Air France, Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa will continue to fly.

Lars Sandberg, a DJ from Glasgow, Scotland, who was on the plane said he was “just happy to be alive”.

He told the BBC website: “Everything was going smoothly in the first 15 minutes and then there was a sharp bang. I thought some metal container fell down in the cargo area, but the carriage started to vibrate and there was a bit of smoke.

“I was sitting right next to engine two. People around me were visibly shaken and we all realised that whatever happened wasn’t normal. There was a mother with two children who was quite worried.”

He went on: “The landing was quite smooth, although the plane felt a bit heavy. When we landed there was fuel leaking from the plane, something ignited and blew the case of the engine.

“When we got off and saw the engine itself and the back casing burnt off, that was pretty scary. It was a nerve-wracking experience and I feel a little bit shaken up. I’m just happy to be alive and safe in the terminal building.”

Singapore-based businessman Mr Waschbusch posted a message on social networking site Twitter shortly after landing which read: “Just emergency landed back in Singapore after engine blew up at take-off and parts ripped through wings. Damn.”

He told Daybreak that passengers were shouting and crying with relief when the jet landed safely.

He explained: “There was immediately rapture, shouting and crying – it was an amazing sight.

“We didn’t quite feel safe at the moment of touchdown because you’ve got rolling all the way till the end of the runway, we then parked at the end of the runway and we were still leaking fuel from the engine, so fire-fighters came and had to take care of the fuel leak.

“The (engine) one on the left hand side kept running and they weren’t able to turn off that engine – so we were still half an hour or so when we were on the ground and still sceptical about what was going on and we just wanted to exit.”

When the Airbus was unveiled in 2005, it was hailed as the beginning of a new era in long haul air travel. Each double-decker A380 can carry up to 500 passengers and cut travel times from London to Sydney by several hours.

There have been no fatal incidents involving A380s since they were launched as the greenest, quietest – as well as the biggest – jetliner in the world.

However, earlier this year one of the planes operated by Qantas burst two tyres when landing in Sydney, and in September 2009 an A380 was forced to turn around in mid-flight and return to Paris.

The latest incident comes just days before Qantas was due to celebrate its 90th anniversary.

Alan Joyce, the chief executive of Australia’s national carrier, said the airline had opened an investigation into what went wrong but in the meantime was taking no risks.

“We have decided that we will suspend all A380 take-offs until we’re fully comfortable that sufficient information has been obtained about QF32,” he said in Sydney.

“The A380 is a fantastic aircraft. This issue of an engine failure is one we have not seen before. We are obviously taking this very seriously, because it was a significant engine failure.”

Rolls-Royce, which manufactures the engines, would be involved in the investigation, he said.

However, Mr Joyce said the incident would not affect pending orders for the aircraft.

“We have orders for over 20 aircraft. Those aircraft will continue to arrive,” he said.

There are 37 A380s in service around the world, flying 26 routes.

Aviation experts have said that despite the fact that no one was injured during the incident, it was very serious.

Péter Marosszéky, senior visiting fellow in the Department of Aviation at the University of New South Wales, said it was “a fairly massive internal failure”.

“This type of incident has been seen previously but it was a long time ago and with much older planes than the A380,” he said.

“This is probably the most serious incident involving the A380 since it began flying in commercial service,” said aviation expert Tom Ballantyne, chief correspondent of Orient Aviation magazine.

There was initial confusion after early reports said that the A380 Airbus had crashed in a western Indonesian town.

Witnesses said that they had heard a loud explosion as a Qantas aircraft flew overhead and pieces of fuselage were found on the ground.

Pictures of metal, some the size of a door bearing the red and white of the “flying kangaroo” logo, flashed on MetroTV, with people milling around.

“I heard a big explosion at around 9:15am and saw a commercial passenger plane flying low in the distance with smoke on one of its wings,” Rusdi, a local resident, told MetroTV.

“The debris started falling on my house.”

However, the Australian national carrier quickly denied that any of its planes had crashed, saying that QF32 had suffered engine problems and had been forced to turn around.

Qantas has never had a fatal jetliner accident in its 90-year history.

The incident took place as it emerged that Jetstar, Qantas’s budget airline, had to divert one of its aircraft into Changi Airport earlier this week.

Jetstar Flight JQ 28 from Phuket to Sydney, operated by an Airbus A330-200 aircraft, was diverted without incident into Singapore Changi because of a problem with the autopilot.

Jetstar said that the aircraft, which was carrying 288 passengers, had “a normal landing” into Singapore.

The A330-200 aircraft is undergoing inspection by Jetstar engineers based in Singapore.

A spokesman for Lufthansa said it had no plans to ground its three A380 aircraft but that it would do so if advised of any concerns by the manufacturer.

An Airbus spokesman said the company would assist Singaporean authorities with their investigation.

The Most Powerful Women on Earth

November 4, 2010

Power, almost indefinite source of it that comes with high offices has a rider – greater responsibilities. Men have always held such post, but women aren’t far behind.

Don’t believe us, here’s the list of women who hold the top offices in the country’s political set up. Click on to know more.

The most powerful women on earth

Julia Gillard
Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard is seen at the Australia’s Labor Party conference at Darling Harbour. She then studied at the University of Adelaide but cut short her courses in 1982 and moved to Melbourne to work with the Australian Union of Students. She graduated from the University of Melbourne with Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees in 1986. In 1987, Gillard joined the law firm Slater & Gordon at Werribee, Melbourne, working in industrial law. In 1990, at the age of 29, she was admitted as a partner.

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner looks up during a ceremony at Casa Rosada Presidential Palace in Buenos Aires. She is the widow of former President Néstor Kirchner. She is Argentina’s first elected female President, and the second female President ever to serve (after Isabel Martínez de Perón, 1974-1976). A Justicialist, Fernández served one term as National Deputy and three terms as National Senator for both Santa Cruz and Buenos Aires Provinces. A native of La Plata, Buenos Aires, Fernández is a graduate of the National University of La Plata. She met her husband during her studies, and they moved to Santa Cruz to work as lawyers. In May 1991, she was elected to the provincial legislature.

Pratibha Patil

Pratibha Patil

President of India, Pratibha Patil, smiles before her meeting with chief of India’s ruling Congress Party Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. Pratibha Patil started her professional career as a practicing lawyer at the Jalgaon District Court. At the young age of 27 years, she successfully contested her first election to the Maharashtra State Legislature from the Jalgaon Assembly constituency. Subsequently she was continuously elected four times as MLA from the Edlabad constituency until 1985. Thereafter, she served as a Member of Parliament in the Rajya Sabha from 1985 to 1990 and later elected as a Member of Parliament to the 10th Lok Sabha in the 1991 General Elections from the Amravati constituency. She enjoys the unique distinction of not having lost a single election that she contested to date

Laura Chinchilla

Laura Chinchilla

Costa Rica’s President-elect Laura Chinchilla smiles before a meeting with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo inside the presidential house in Tegucigalpa. She is the first female President of Costa Rica. She was one of Óscar Arias Sánchez’s two Vice-Presidents and his administration’s Minister of Justice. She was the governing PLN candidate for President in the 2010 general election, where she won with 46.76% of the vote. She is the sixth woman to be elected president of a Latin American country. She was sworn as president of Costa Rica on May 8, 2010.

Mary McAleese

Mary McAleese

Ireland’s President Mary McAleese inspects the honour guard during a welcoming ceremony in Riga. Mary Patricia McAleese is the eighth and current President of Ireland. Prior to becoming president she was a barrister, journalist and academic.

McAleese is Ireland’s second female president and the world’s first woman to succeed another woman as an elected head of state. She was first elected president in 1997 and won a second term, without a contest, in 2004. Her birth in Belfast means she is the first President to have come from Northern Ireland. She is a member of the Council of Women World Leaders. In 2009, Forbes named her among the 100 Most Powerful Women in the world.

Angela Merkel

Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel smiles during a news conference following a meeting with representatives of German economic associations at the International Trade Fair in Munich. Merkel is the first female Chancellor of Germany. In 2007 she became the second woman to chair the G8, after Margaret Thatcher She played a central role in the negotiation of the Treaty of Lisbon and the Berlin Declaration. In domestic policy, health care reform and problems concerning future energy development have thus far been major issues of her tenure.

Dalia Grybauskaite

Dalia Grybauskaite

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite holds a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt (not pictured) at Rosenbad, Prime Minister’s office, in Stockholm. She is a Lithuanian politician and was previously Lithuania’s Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Finance Minister, and European Commissioner for Financial Programming & the Budget. Often referred to as the “Iron Lady”, Grybauskaite is Lithuania’s first female head of state.

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir

Powerful women

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is the current Prime Minister of Iceland. A long term politician, she was previously Iceland’s Minister of Social Affairs and Social Security from 1987-1994 and 2007-2009. She has been a member of the Althing (Iceland’s parliament) for Reykjavík constituencies since 1978, winning re-election on eight successive occasions. She became Iceland’s first female Prime Minister on 1 February 2009, the world’s first openly LGBT head of government of the modern era. Jóhanna is a social democrat and Iceland’s longest-serving member of Parliament.

Jadranka Kosor

Jadranka Kosor

Jadranka Kosor is a Croatian politician and former journalist. She is the current Prime Minister of Croatia, having taken office on July 6, 2009, following the sudden resignation of her predecessor Ivo Sanader. She is Croatia’s first female Prime Minister since independence. Kosor has published four books, two of poetry and two related to the Croatian War of Independence and also worked briefly as a correspondent for the BBC.

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the 24th and current President of Liberia. She served as Minister of Finance under President William Tolbert from 1979 until the 1980 coup d’état, after which she left Liberia and held senior positions at various financial institutions. She placed a distant second in the 1997 presidential election. Later, she was elected President in the 2005 presidential election and took office on 16 January 2006. Sirleaf is the first modern, and currently the only elected, female head of state in Africa.

Tarja Halonen

Tarja Halonen

Tarja Kaarina Halonen is the 11th and current President of Finland. The first female to hold the office, Halonen had previously been a member of the parliament from 1979 to 2000 when she resigned after her election to the presidency. In addition to her political career she had a long and extensive career in trade unions and different non-governmental organizations.

Halonen is a graduate of the University of Helsinki, where she studied law from 1963 to 1968. She was active in student politics and served as the Social Affairs Secretary and Organization Secretary of the National Union of Students from 1969 to 1970. In 1971 she joined the Social Democratic Party and worked as a lawyer in the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions until she was elected to parliament in 1979. Halonen served in the parliament of Finland for six terms, from 1979 to 2000, representing the constituency of Helsinki.

Doris Leuthard

Doris Leuthard

Doris Leuthard is a Swiss politician and lawyer. Since 1 August 2006, she has been a member of the Swiss Federal Council and head of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (the Swiss economics minister). She was elected President of the Confederation for 2010. Leuthard was a member of the Swiss National Council from 1999 to 2006 and President of the Christian Democratic People’s Party (2004-2006). Following the resignation of Joseph Deiss from the Swiss Federal Council, Leuthard was elected as his successor on 14 June 2006. She received 133 out of 234 valid votes, and became the 109th member (and fifth woman) of the Federal Council. In 2009, Leuthard was elected Vice President of the Swiss Confederation, virtually assuring her election as president in 2010.

Dilma Rousseff

Powerful women

Brazilian presidential candidate from the ruling Workers Party (PT) Dilma Rousseff waves after the results of Brazil’s general election in Brasilia October 3, 2010. Rousseff placed first in Brazil’s presidential election on Sunday, but failed to win an outright victory in the first round. She is an economist, politician and President-elect of Brazil. She was appointed Chief of Staff by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in June 2005 becoming the first woman to assume the position. Rousseff was Lula’s designated successor and the winning candidate in the 2010 presidential election.
Images – Reuters

A World Full of Holes

November 3, 2010

Big, small & ugly — these holes have caused many a traffic jam and damage to the residents. Sink holes are increasingly becoming a fashion, the latest being the one in central German town of Schmalkalden.

A world full of holes

The residents of the quiet, central German town of Schmalkalden got a huge early morning surprise Monday when a crater nearly 100 feet across and 70 feet deep opened up in the middle of a residential area, according to several news reports. None of the town’s citizens were injured.

A world full of holes

Wolfgang Peter, a resident, said he was awakened by a roaring sound at 3 a.m., reported Der Spiegel, a German news magazine. “First I heard the rushing of water and then it sounded as if a dozen gravel trucks were being emptied,” Peter said, adding that when he went outside to investigate he suddenly found himself standing on the edge of a giant crater right next to his house.

A world full of holes

The Associated Press reports that 25 people and six houses were evacuated from the scene. Although authorities have yet to determine the exact cause of the hole, most news reports indicate it was natural causes and not mining that led the soil to collapse.

A world full of holes

A spokesman for the Environment and Agriculture Ministry in the Thuringia State, which contains the town of Schmalkalden, told Der Spiegel that the region is prone to landslides because of its geological makeup.

A world full of holes

The spokesman pointed out a similar case in the town of Tiefenort where five houses became uninhabitable when a crater more than 6-and-a-half feet deep opened up in January.

A world full of holes

Authorities plan to fill the hole with gravel, the AP reports.

A world full of holes

Cars are seen parked in their garages next to the crater in the eastern German town of of Schmalkalden on November 1, 2010. 25 residents were evacuated from the area but no was was injured.

A world full of holes

Aerial view shows the crater in the eastern German town of of Schmalkalden on November 1, 2010. 25 residents were evacuated from the area but no was was injured.

One in Four Young Australians Now Has a Tattoo

November 3, 2010

I’m inked therefore I am: Why tatts have left a mark on Gen Y

By Brittany Stack

  • One in four young Aussies have tattoo
  • Designs are getting bigger and brighter
  • No stigma attached and parents get it 

An image of a Japanese Koi fish painted in orange ink on the arms, an Italian love phrase scrawled across the ribcage, or praying hands on the chest are hits with 16- to 30-year-olds across Sydney.

Most parents hate them and recruitment agencies tell young job-hunters to cover them or risk missing out on a job – but Generation Y’s love affair with tattoos is exploding.

The Sunday Telegraph spent a day in popular tattoo parlours at Bondi and Penrith, west of Sydney, seeking to answer the question on an older generation’s lips: why?

Matthew Sammut, 21, got his first tattoo last Wednesday – a colourful replica of the graphics illustrating the video game Street Fighter now covers his right arm from shoulder to wrist.

tattoo

Kate Perriman, 29, got her first tattoo aged 21 – a cherry blossom on her back. Now 40 per cent of her body is covered in tattoos. “It is artwork, another form of expressing yourself.” Picture: Tim Hunter Source: The Sunday Telegraph

An hour into his five-hour, $750 session at Penrith’s Wicked Ink, the fitter from Fairfield was wincing in pain.

But Mr Sammut, whose 16-year-old brother is covered in tattoos, said it was worth it.

“It’s artwork, and it looks cool,” he said.

“My mates all have sleeve tattoos. It’s a big thing these days, and I really wanted one.”

Mr Sammut said “plenty of guys” in his industry were “covered in ink” and he wore protective clothing on the job.

“So I’m not worried about the tattoo for work,” he said.

Tattoo experts say A-listers including Angelina Jolie, Megan Fox, David and Victoria Beckham and NRL stars such as Benji Marshall and Todd Carney have helped make inking acceptable.

The indelible markings are now so commonplace that youngsters are pushing the boundaries, opting for the biggest, brightest designs to cover an entire arm or leg, the neck, chest, back or torso.

The tattooed generation say that despite obvious styles and trends, tattooing is art – a way to express their individuality.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle estimates about one in three Australians in their mid-30s has a tattoo.

He says Gen Y is the first generation in which tattoos have become mainstream.

“Tattooing is ubiquitous, and we haven’t seen a whole generation get tattoos in such prominent ways, then move through their 50s and 60s,” Mr McCrindle said.

John Tadrosse, the owner of Bondi Ink, said celebrities had glamorised tattoos, which were no longer associated only with motorcycle gangs.

He said many young Australians viewed tattoos as a way in which they could express their “star quality”.

“The exposure tattooing is getting is huge, and it’s appealing to young people,” Mr Tadrosse said, while filming a reality television show about Bondi Ink.

“It’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s surf culture. All the movie stars are getting tattoos now.

“And they’re not little tattoos, they’re huge.

“We did Nate Myles from the Roosters – and then his mother and his sister came in to get tattoos.”

Mr Tadrosse said there was no longer such a stigma attached to tattooing or tattoo parlours. “It’s not bad to walk into a tattoo shop any more,” he said.

Vanessa Morgan, the editor of Inked Australia/NZ magazine, said reality television shows in the US – including LA Ink and Miami Ink – had “demystified the whole experience” of getting a tattoo, making it more appealing to young people.

“Previously, people were worried about walking into those alleys and into something they didn’t understand,” Ms Morgan said.

“Now they understand and aren’t scared of the process.”

Ms Morgan reckons about 25 per cent of under-30s have at least one tattoo.

“Even parents understand it now, so they’re not so worried about their kids going out and doing it,” she said.

Despite the wider acceptance of tattoos, Kelly Services recruitment agent Emma McClure said the agency advised those seeking jobs in the corporate world to cover up their tattoos.

Mr McCrindle said the growth of the tattoo-removal business indicated there would be regrets down the track.

“I think it’s approaching ubiquity and will start to wind back a little,” he said. “We won’t see generation after generation now getting tattoos.”

What girls want

Feminine floral and swirl patterns

Lettering or flowers on the feet

Large roses and tiger lilies

Lettering that follows the contours of the body

The most popular placement is the ribcage, feet, biceps and neck

What guys want

Religious iconography such as the Virgin Mary

Oriental designs such as Koi fish

Biomechanical and robotic designs

Mexican skulls depicting the Day of the Dead and gangster-style tattoos

The most popular placement is covering the back and arms

via The Sunday Telegraph

China’s Boom Town… With No People

November 3, 2010

Chinese City Has Many Buildings, but Few People

By DAVID BARBOZA

ORDOS, China — By many measures, this resource-rich city in northern China is a fabulous success.

It has huge reserves of coal and natural gas, a fast-growing economy and a property market so sizzling hot that virtually every house put up for sale here is immediately snapped up.

There is just one thing largely missing in the city’s extravagant new central district: people.

Ordos proper has 1.5 million residents. But the tomorrowland version of Ordos — built from scratch on a huge plot of empty land 15 miles south of the old city — is all but deserted.

Broad boulevards are unimpeded by traffic in the new district, called Kangbashi New Area. Office buildings stand vacant. Pedestrians are in short supply. And weeds are beginning to sprout up in luxury villa developments that are devoid of residents.
Pics: Adam Dean for The New York Times

A worker built a pathway in front of a construction site in the exclusive Jinxia Hill gated compound where most of the complexes are already sold but lie uninhabited in Ordos, Inner Mongolia.

“It’s pretty lonely here,” says a woman named Li Li, the marketing manager of an elegant restaurant in Kangbashi’s mostly vacant Lido Hotel. “Most of the people who come to our restaurant are government officials and their guests. There aren’t any common residents around here.”

City leaders, cheered on by aggressive developers, had hoped to turn Ordos into a Chinese version of Dubai — transforming vast plots of the arid, Mongolian steppe into a thriving metropolis. They even invested over $1 billion in their visionary project.

But four years after the city government was transplanted to Kangbashi, and with tens of thousands of houses and dozens of office buildings now completed, the 12-square-mile area has been derided in the state-run newspaper China Daily as a “ghost town” monument to excess and misplaced optimism.

As China’s roaring economy fuels a wild construction boom around the country, critics cite places like Kangbashi as proof of a speculative real estate bubble they warn will eventually pop — sending shock waves through the banking system of a country that for the last two years has been the prime engine of global growth.

Just Tuesday, China surprised analysts by slightly raising a benchmark lending rate, apparently to dampen speculation in the property market. But within China, analysts doubt the small increase in lending rates will slow the incredible building bonanza that is reaching even remote regions, like this one.

Kangbashi was projected to have 300,000 residents by now. And the government claims that 28,000 people live in the new area. But during a recent visit, a reporter driving around for hours with two real estate brokers saw only a handful of residents in the housing developments.

Analysts estimate there could be as many as a dozen other Chinese cities just like Ordos, with sprawling ghost town annexes. In the southern city of Kunming, for example, a nearly 40-square-mile area called Chenggong has raised alarms because of similarly deserted roads, high-rises and government offices. And in Tianjin, in the northeast, the city spent lavishly on a huge district festooned with golf courses, hot springs and thousands of villas that are still empty five years after completion.

It might all seem mere nouveau riche folly were it not for China’s national goal of moving hundreds of millions of rural residents to big cities over the next decade, in the hope of creating a large middle class.

But determining whether the Ordos-style expansion and re-engineering of old cities is being driven by smart planning or propelled by speculative madness is a prime challenge for Beijing policy makers.

Fearing inequality and social unrest, China’s national government has struggled to rein in soaring property prices and stem the threat of inflation, even as ambitious local officials continue to draw up blueprints for new megacities.

And if government-run banks balk at providing additional loans to developers, underground, gray-market lenders are only too happy to step in.

Patrick Chovanec, who teaches business at Tsinghua University in Beijing, says the building boom is driven by frenzied investors — not the housing needs of millions of migrating workers.

“People are using real estate as an investment, as a place to store cash — they treat it like gold,” Professor Chovanec said. “They’re stockpiling empty units. This is going on in cities of virtually every size.”

But here in Ordos, in north China’s sparsely populated Inner Mongolia region, there is little second-guessing. Cranes are everywhere, as construction moves ahead on a $450 million financial district in Kangbashi, a site that will feature six high-rise office towers.

Property development here is so hot that last year, housing sales in Ordos reached $2.4 billion, up from $100 million in 2004, according to government statistics. During that span, the average square-foot price of commercial and residential property has risen by 260 percent, to $53.

“This is a city of the future,” Li Hong, a government official, said during a recent tour of Kangbashi. “We are going to build this into a center of politics, culture and technology. That is our dream.”

But the future has not yet arrived, despite Mr. Li’s best efforts to persuade a visitor otherwise.

“You can see there’s real energy here,” he said one afternoon, looking out onto the mile-square town commons, even though only a few dozen people — presumably government workers — could be seen on the vast square, where towering bronze sculptures honor the Mongolian warrior Genghis Khan. The vacant amenities surrounding the square include a theater, an opera house and an art museum.

Only a few minutes earlier, Mr. Li escorted a reporter through an empty 500,000-square-foot convention center and a 12-story office tower that had dark hallways, locked doors and just a few scattered souls.

“The media who said this was a ghost town came and took photographs at 6 or 7 in the evening,” said Mr. Li, noting that many government workers continue to commute from the old town because of the lack of stores and restaurants in the new area.

City leaders may be basing their optimism on the financial windfall in recent years for Ordos, which sits atop one of the world’s biggest reserves of coal, whose price has soared along with China’s voracious energy appetite. Formerly impoverished, the region now has a growing number of coal millionaires and the nation’s highest gross domestic product per capita ($19,679) , with Land Rovers a leading symbol of Ordos’s newfound affluence.

“I started my company in 1988; before that, I was a low-level government official,” said Zhang Shuangwang, 66, chairman of the Yitai Group, one of the region’s biggest privately owned coal and transport companies. “Back then, I had a team. The government gave us $7,500 and then loaned us $60,000 and said, ‘Do whatever you want.’ We bought a coal mine.”

Two decades later, Mr. Zhang is a billionaire, and Wall Street is courting his $4 billion company to help one of its units prepare a public stock listing.

In 2004, with Ordos tax coffers bulging with coal money, city officials drew up a bold expansion plan to create Kangbashi, a 30-minute drive south of the old city center on land adjacent to one of the region’s few reservoirs. Because land auctions are a major source of fiscal income in China, part of the plan’s allure was the prospect of elevating the value of property in an undeveloped area.

In the ensuing building spree, home buyers could not get enough of Kangbashi and its residential developments with names like Exquisite Silk Village, Kanghe Elysees and Imperial Academic Gardens.

Some buyers were like Zhang Ting, a 26-year-old entrepreneur who is a rare actual resident of Kangbashi, having moved to Ordos this year on an entrepreneurial impulse.

“I bought two places in Kangbashi, one for my own use and one as an investment,” said Mr. Zhang, who paid about $125,000 for his 2,000-square-foot investment apartment. “I bought it because housing prices will definitely go up in such a new town. There is no reason to doubt it. The government has already moved in.”

Asked whether he worried about the lack of other residents, Mr. Zhang shrugged off the question.

“I know people say it’s an empty city, but I don’t find any inconveniences living by myself,” said Mr. Zhang, who borrowed to finance his purchases. “It’s a new town, let’s give it some time.”

Bao Beibei contributed research.

via The New York Times

Airline Gives Out Free Electronic Cigarettes That Have The Taste But Not The Tobacco (Yeuch)

November 3, 2010

cigarettexBlu Cigs

Smoking on planes again? One cigarette company, blu Cigs, maker of electronic cigarettes, hopes so.

By Charisse Jones

You can do a lot of things on an airplane. E-mail a friend, watch TV, even lie in a bed if you’re flying overseas in first class. But you can’t smoke.

One company hopes to change that. Blu Cigs, maker of electronic cigarettes that offer the taste but not the tobacco found in a regular cigarette, is partnering with a charter jet company to provide free samples to passengers. It hopes some commercial airlines will consider following suit.

“Definitely it’s the first step,” Jason Healy, president of Blu Cigs, says of the partnership with Global Exec Aviation of Long Beach. “It’s largely to gather feedback … and just highlight the fact it’s an option.”

Smoking was prohibited on all commercial domestic flights and international flights to and from the U.S. in June 2000, according to the Transportation Department. It wasn’t banned on charter flights, but charter companies must provide a seat in a non-smoking part of the plane to anyone who asks.

The department has not taken a position on whether the smoking ban applies to e-cigarettes, spokesman Bill Mosley says.

Electronic cigarettes are battery-operated atomizers that warm up a flavored liquid that then produces vapor. The user gets bursts of nicotine and the feel of a regular cigarette, but there’s no smoke or odor.

The FAA and other industry officials say it’s up to individual carriers whether to allow the tobacco-free devices on board. For now, commercial airlines don’t appear to be budging.

“We have no plans to offer e-cigarettes, and we currently do not allow their use in-flight,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins says.

Neither does American Airlines, spokeswoman Mary Frances Fagan says. “We have no plans to allow any cigarettes on our aircraft,” she says.

Jason Holi, an operations manager for Global Exec Aviation, says that the airlines might want to give electronic cigarettes a try.

A key factor in why he welcomed them onto the private jets managed by his company was the loss of a customer who would have paid $300,000 for a trip to South Africa but backed out when he learned he couldn’t smoke during the flight.

“We’re in a customer-service industry,” Holi says. “If I have a passenger who’s a white-knuckle flier but a heavy chain smoker, I want to make it as accommodating as possible for him.”

Still, he says he understands that airlines have a wider audience to please, and some fliers might object even if their fellow passengers are puffing vapor rather than smoke.

“When you’re in an enclosed environment with … so many different opinions,” he says, “that would create a problem.”

Via: USA TODAY

Chinese Army Conducts Live Military Exercises in Tibet

October 28, 2010

Beijing, Oct 28 : Chinese military has conducted its first-ever live military exercises involving air force, artillery and electronic warfare divisions near the foot of the snow-capped mountains on the Tibetan plateau, close to the Indian border.

The exercises aimed at testing the endurance of the soldiers at the altitude of over 4,700 meters was completed successfully with troops overcoming the effects of physical and mental health problems caused by coldness and oxygen deficits, said a report posted on China Tibet Online, website attached to the state-run People’s Daily.

Chinese Army conducts live military exercises in Tibet

This is the first time that Tibet Military Command of the People’s Liberation Army conducted its first air-ground live ammunition drill, it said, without mentioning the date. Troops of air force, armour, artillery and electronic warfare divisions participated in the exercise. The exercises will have a very significant role in exploring training patterns in mountainous and cold areas as well as improving combat capabilities, it said.

The exercises came amid reports of China rapidly expanding its infrastructure with extensive railway network connecting all most all parts of remote Tibet with mainland China, which could provide logistic ability to PLA to move its troops easily to the Indian border overcoming the adverse hilly terrain of Tibet.

China is also poised to open its fifth civil airport in Tibet next month at Xigaze, located close to the Indian border. Xigaze Peace Airport, located in Xigaze Prefecture, 48 km from Xigaze City, is 3,782 meters above sea level. The sprawling prefecture shares land links with Nepal, Indian and Bhutan borders.

Chinese Army conducts live military exercises in Tibet

China has also recently begun work to extend the world’s highest rail link connecting Lhasa to Xigaze, the home of successive Panchen Lamas, the second most Tibetan spiritual Buddhist leader.

In the past five years, China has invested heavily in building transport infrastructure in Tibet, pouring money into construction of highways, railways and airports to stimulate Tibet’s weak economy and tourism.

The heavy infrastructure development in the Himalayan region, made India to open an airbase besides improving the transport infrastructure in and around Arunachal Pardesh, which China claims as its part.

Source: Agencies