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The Beijing Hour updated 20:00 2015/02/23
   2015-02-23 20:46:58   CRIENGLISH.com      Web Editor: wangweiwei







The Beijing Hour


Evening Edition



It's Spencer Musick with you on this Monday, February 23rd, 2015.

Welcome to the Beijing Hour, coming to you live from the Chinese capital.....

Coming up on our program this evening.....

China's chief prosecuting body vowing to set up an online bribery blacklist....

China's C919 passanger aircraft expected to roll off assembly lines this year...

One Chinese national dead and another injured following a knife attack north of Tokyo...

In Entertainment: "Birdman" taking the top honor at the Acadmey Awards in Los Angeles....

And in the second half of our program, we'll be bringing you a holiday-edition of "Frontline."

First, let's check in with what's happening with the weather...






Beijing will be clear tonight with a low of minus 6. Overcast tomorrow with a high of 5 degrees Celsius.

Shanghai will be rainy tonight with a low of 6. Tomorrow, cloudy with a high of 11.

Chongqing will be cloudy tonight and a low of 10. Tomorrow will be overcast with a high of 16.

Elsewhere in Asia,

Islamabad, rainy tomorrow with a high of 22.

Kabul, rainy, 7.

In Australia,

Sydney, thunderstorms, a high of 27.

Canberra, overcast, 24.

Brisbane, rainy, 30.

Perth will be overcast with a high of 38 degrees Celsius.



Top News



China vows to step up bribery blacklist


China's chief prosecuting body has vowed to improve the national online database of people convicted of bribery in support of its ongoing effort to combat corruption in the government and Party.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate says it will promote the use of the blacklisting system at the central level this year, and launch an online criminal record archive linked to job databases.

Launched in February 2012, the database names of convicted bribers available as a matter of public record.

Anyone discovered to be on the list will likely be disqualified for bidding on government projects and entire companies may even be forbidden from operating if found to be linked to those in the database.



China's C919 plane to roll off assembly lines this year


China's C919 large passenger aircraft is expected to roll off assembly lines this year.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, the plane's manufacturer, says it has completed basic assembly of the aircraft.

Earlier this month, the C919's vertical fin and the back end of the rear fuselage were delivered to the state-owned aircraft maker from domestic manufacturers.

The company has secured orders for 450 such planes from 18 customers.

With 168-seat and 156-seat layouts, the aircraft could present Boeing and Airbus with strong competition in the medium-range aircraft sector.



Two Chinese trainees attacked in Japan, 1 dead, 1 injured


One Chinese man has been killed and another one injured after a knife attack in the Ibaraki Prefecture north of Tokyo.

Chinese embassy officials say they have sent personnel to the cite of the incident for an on-the-spot investigation.

The two Chinese men, under a foreign trainee program, were attacked by a group of men, who were apparently not of Japanese nationality, late Sunday.

It's reported that the Chinese man killed was surnamed Sun, and is 33 years old.

The other, a 32-year-old trainee whose name wasn't immediately available, was slashed in the shoulder.

Police has found a kitchen knife with bloodstains near the crime scene.

An investigation is underway.



Cold front to hit north China


A cold front is expected to sweep northern China starting Tuesday, bringing snow to parts of the region.

The National Meteorological Center says temperatures could plunge by up to 10 degrees Celsius, and light to moderate snow is expected to hit the northeast.

Meanwhile, South China is bracing for rainy days from Monday to Wednesday with parts of the region facing moderate to heavy rains.

The expected snowy and rainy weather coincides with a peak of travel rush back to the workplaces after the seven-day Spring Festival holiday.



Iran to quit nuclear talks if pressures mount: negotiator


A senior Iranian nuclear negotiator says Iran will quit nuclear talks if the other parties aim to impose their wills on Tehran in the ongoing negotiations.

Abbas Araqchi says the talks should meet the interests of both Iran and the world powers involved.

Representatives from P5+1 group and Iran are meeting in Geneva for fresh talks over Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

It has been well over a year since Iran and world powers agreed to come back to the negotiating table in 2013.

However, wide differences have prevented the sides from reaching a final deal.

The negotiators agreed in November 2014 to extend the deadline for another seven months, aiming to reach a political framework for a potential deal by the end of March.



France deploys aircraft carrier to aid fight against IS


France has reportedly deployed its lone air craft carrier in support of the fight against Islamic State (IS) militants in Iraq.

According to a foreign ministry statement released on Monday, the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier will be made available for support missions against IS militants at the soonest possible date.

The carrier is the largest Western European warship currently in commission, and is France's only nuclear-powered surface vessel. The ship can carry 20 to 25 aircraft, including Super Etendard strike fighter jets, Rafale M multirole fighter jets and Aster missiles.

The ship's deployment, during which it will provide airstrikes against Islamic State militants, is expected to last until May at the earliest.



South Korea Summons Japan Official over Disputed Islands Row


A Japanese embassy official has been summoned for a meeting in Seoul to hear South Korean representations regarding Japan's recent celebration of Takeshima Day.

Kanasugi Kenji-a, a minister at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, has been called in by the South Korean foreign ministry's Northeast Asian Affairs director-general Lee Sang-deok.

And he receives diplomatic documents which include the South Korean government's stern stance over the celebration.

The Japanese government sent a Cabinet Office parliamentary secretary, Yohei Matsumoto, to the tenth Takeshima Day event, held on Sunday in Shimane Prefecture.

During the ceremony, it is reported that Matsumoto said the islets are an "inherent part of Japan's territory under international law."

Meanwhile, South Korean demonstrators have taken to the streets to protest against Japan's claim over the disputed island in the East Sea, called 'Dokdo' in Korean.

Hwang Dae-young is an anti-Japanese protestor:

"Distorting the Dokdo history textbooks or Japanese politicians trying to use Dokdo in a political way - they should immediately stop their actions and stop distorting the history."

The two countries have been in a long dispute over the sovereignty of this set of islets.



China's volunteer astronaut to Mars may Drop Out if family objects



Li Dapeng, one of the two Chinese volunteers who have opted to take a one-way trip to Mars, says he will drop out of the project if his family objects to his ambitious plans.

CRI's Qizhi has more.


Li Dapeng is one of the two Chinese volunteers who have opted to go on a one-way trip to Mars as part of an ambitious international collaboration to set up a permanent base on the red planet.

He is a graduate of China Agricultural University with a bachelor's degree, and is now working at a local forestry bureau in Handan in North China's Hebei Province. He has no previous experience of being an astronaut.

But the young father in his 30's says he volunteered for this controversial project, because he believed that in future humanity had to find another home outside of Earth, and that he wanted to be a pioneer in this quest.

"How many opportunities does one have to spend billions of dollars? I want to make good use of this opportunity to explore other planets and expand the presence of mankind in the universe."

Mars One, a Dutch non-profit project co-founded in 2013 by Bas Lansdorp, a Dutch entrepreneur, aims to establish a permanent manned station on Mars. Crews of four will depart Earth for the planet every two years, starting from 2024.

Two Chinese are among the top 100 candidates for the Mars One project. Twenty four of them will be trained for the one-way trip to Mars.

The Mars One project has been controversial since its inception.

Some say they love the idea of humans exploring and setting up a camp on Mars, but others point out the unresolved ethical issues linked to the project, especially the fact that it is a one-way trip and the volunteers cannot come back to earth again.

Some people even accuse the project of being a con trying to swindle those who have pledged money on crowd funding platforms. The project is headquartered in a rented house in the Netherlands. But the organizers have promised to send up communication satellites, two rovers and several cargo missions to Mars before any people are sent.

Astronauts will have to cope with intense radiation and hazardous temperatures based on existing technology after their landing. Communication with Earth will also be problematic as radio signals can take up to 21 minutes to reach here from Mars.

Given these risks and the danger of this project, Li's family is trying to convince him to drop the idea.

Li says he may opt out if his family objects strongly.

"I think I would continue to be part of the project though I might drop out half way if my family voices strong disapproval at the very end since the company has claimed that as long as you are not on aboard, you will have the right to opt out."

How will Li Dapeng make a choice between his family and his lofty cause? Only time will tell.

For CRI, I'm Qizhi.



China's Medicare Reforms Still An Uphill Battle 5'55



With the Chinese lunar new year underway, we're continuing our series of special reports highlighting some of the significant changes which have taken place in China through 2014. The year saw new progress in China's medical reforms as its medical insurance program now covers more than 95 percent of the population. But the overall situation remains tough, drawing public complaints.

Cao Yuwei finds out what has been achieved and what loopholes need to be closed.

Reporter: Limited progress versus fundamental challenges. But as it is New Year's Day, allow me to start with the good news.

China's basic medical insurance system was put into place in 1998. It involves three types of insurance policies focusing on the needs of urban employees, unemployed urban residents and rural residents. The system has evolved to cover more than 1.3 billion people in just 16 years. Almost all-inclusive now. It's average reimbursement rate is about 70 percent.

Zhang Mingjie, a 25-year-old white-collar worker in Lhasa, says she has benefited from the convenience provided.

"I was once operated for appendicitis. The total hospital bill came to 19,700 yuan. But since I had medical insurance, I only paid a fraction of it, or just 1,500 yuan."

That's less than 8%. Affordable.

It's also a similar case with Zhang Mingjie's mother, Zhao Rutao, and grandfather as rural residents in North China's Hebei province. They, too, saved a lot thanks to the insurance policy.

"We pay for the medical insurance once a year and get a card as certificate. With this card, our expenses for hospitalization and medicines can be reimbursed. The reimbursement proportion is now over 50 percent. Years ago that was lower. My father stayed in hospital in November, which cost us 2,840 yuan. More than half of it was reimbursed."

Sounds like bit of happiness for almost everyone. But in case of bigger problems, the benefits are smaller.

Nine provinces and municipalities in China introduced a critical illness insurance scheme in 2012. It covers 22 diseases. When the self-paid part exceeds the local per capita annual income, 50 percent of the self-paid part can be reimbursed through the critical illness insurance policy.

Different medical insurance schemes mean to guarantee that everyone can afford medical treatment. It also prevents families from falling into poverty due to high hospital bills.

But as the critical-illness insurance program exists only in several regions, many people living in poor and remote areas still have to either bear the huge costs or stay away from hospital.

Why so? What sounds ironic is that government has spent much more on public healthcare and the people don't really feel the benefits.

According to the latest Annual Report on Health Reforms released in December, China invested one trillion yuan, or about 160 billion US dollars in the healthcare system in 2014. That's two-thirds more than the average annual figure in the previous five years.

During the five-year-long medical reform process, government investment in healthcare grew by 20 percent each year. But the Annual Report admits that patient's medical burdens have not become any lighter. So where has the money gone?

According to the annual report, the government now does pay a much larger proportion of the total healthcare expenditure, but patients and families are also paying much more due to price hikes of drugs and services.

The reason? The report points to a focus too much on providing universal access to healthcare by building more hospitals as opposed to making it more affordable. Another fraction has been wasted importing more expensive branded drugs instead of cheaper ones. In other words, the money didn't rightly go to the doctor and nurses. Then the hospitals somehow have to rely on more expensive medicine, facilities and services. Or simply, administration corrupts in, taking away money; and market also joins in, writing off the benefits from the real beneficiaries.

To solve these problems Professor Gao Huajun, an expert on social security and welfare at the Beijing Normal University, discusses ways to improve the coverage of the medical insurance scheme.

"If we do well in preventing diseases and providing primary health care services, fewer people will get ill and the government can actually save money spent on the medical insurance system."

Then the existing critical illness insurance policy. Profession Cai Jiangnan from the China Europe International Business School, recommends that the program is treated and implemented separately based on the different incomes of different regions.

"I think that in economically-developed regions, critical illness insurance can be included in the basic medical insurance, because they have abundant funds for basic medical insurance and use part of the money to cover serious illness, and their premium is higher. But in less-developed regions, it's good for residents to have two forms of insurance."

Now to tackle the very key issue, make investment in the right way, to improve public health and medical services, rather than spending on administration.

The central government, along with the healthcare sector, must plug the many loopholes in the healthcare system through various reforms. But it's proven to be an uphill battle.

For CRI, I'm Cao Yuwei.



Australia to toughen citizenship laws to combat terrorism


Australia plans to toughen its citizenship laws and tackle those inciting hatred under new measures targeting domestic terrorists.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott's announcement of the country's new anti-extremism strategy came a day after a report on the deadly Sydney cafe siege in December was released.

Two hostages were killed when self-styled cleric Man Haron Monis, a refugee from Iran, seized control of the Lindt café and held 18 hostages at gun point for over 17 hours.

Abbott says the new laws will suspend or revoke the citizenship of dual nationals involved in acts of terrorism.

"We cannot allow bad people to use our good nature against us. The government will develop amendments to the Australian Citizenship Act so that we can revoke or suspend Australian citizenship in the case of dual nationals."

People born in Australia could also lose some privileges if they break anti-terror laws.

Officials have warned that the country faces a growing security threat from radical Islamists.

The new legislation would also target so-called "hate preachers", referring to groups that incite religious or ethnic hatred.

Dozens of Australian nationals are thought to be fighting with Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.



Death toll in Bangladesh ferry accident rises to 65


The death toll in Bangladesh's ferry accident has risen to 65 as rescuers found 24 more bodies inside the hull of the ferry early Monday.

Forty-one bodies were recovered late Sunday night.

The ferry, carrying around 150 people, sank after being hit by a cargo ship in the Padma river in western Bangladesh on Sunday noon.

Some of the passengers were able to swim to safety.

Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have expressed their shock at the loss of lives, and consoled families of victims.

Ferry and boat accidents are common in Bangladesh, which is crisscrossed by about 250 rivers. Ferries are still a key means of transport in the country. Many of the ferries are often overcrowded.



S. Korea's forex trading volume falls to four-year low in 2014


New statistics suggest that the foreign exchange trading volume among South Korean banks fell to its lowest point in four years in 2014.

This is due to an increase in overseas securities investment, which reduced foreign exchange transactions among banks.

Data from the Bank of Korea shows daily foreign exchange trading among banks, which handle foreign currencies, averaged 44.4 billion U.S. dollars in 2014, down 3.4 percent from a year earlier.

This is the lowest that figure has been since 2010 when the daily average foreign exchange trading amounted to 41.9 billion dollars.

At the same time, daily foreign exchange transactions on spot slid 8.4 percent from a year earlier to 16.7 billion dollars in 2014

Foreign exchange trading in the inter-bank market decreased 8.2 percent from a year earlier to 20.8 billion dollars in 2014.

Transaction of foreign currencies between local banks tumbled 9. 6 percent in 2014 from a year earlier, but those between local branches of foreign banks increased by 2.5 percent.



Highlights from the 87th Academy Awards


Turning to the world of entertainment:

"Birdman" has captured Hollywood's top honour at the Academy Awards in Los Angeles on Sunday, where the jazzy, surreal comedy about an actor fleeing his superhero past won best picture at a ceremony punctuated by passionate pleas for equality.

"Birdman (or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)" also won best director for Mexican filmmaker Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, best original screenplay and best cinematography.

The Oscars host Neil Patrick Harris gave the 87th Academy Awards a humorous tone that sought to celebrate Hollywood, while also slyly parodying the all-white slate of nominees for major awards this year.

"Tonight we honour Hollywood's best and whitest - I mean brightest."

Julianne Moore won her first Oscar as best actress for "Still Alice."

One of the highlights of the show was Patricia Arquette advocating for wage equality after accepting the Oscar for best supporting actress in "Boyhood", during an emotional outburst at the end of her carefully scripted speech.

"To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else's equal rights, it is our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America."

For his portrayal of physicist Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease at the age of 21, Eddie Redmayne has won the Academy Award for best actor for "The Theory of Everything."



All 486 trapped miners rescued in S. Africa


All 486 mineworkers trapped in a gold mine in South Africa have been brought to safety.

The Harmony Gold Mining Company says no injuries have been reported.

The mineworkers were trapped more than two km underground after a fire broke out Sunday morning at the mine southwest of Johannesburg.

Health checkups will be provided to the mineworkers to determine whether any have suffered smoke inhalation or dehydration.

Counselling will be offered as well.

Accidents have been frequent at the mine. There have been at least nine deaths at the facility in the past three years.



S. Korea to strongly tackle DPRK's provocations during joint drills with U.S.


South Korea's Defense Ministry says its military will strongly deal with possible provocations from North Korea when the South conducts joint annual war games with the United States.

South Korean officials say the "Key Resolve" and "Foal Eagle" are annually-held military exercises of "defensive" nature.

Pyongyang has called for the suspension of joint war games between Seoul and Washington this year in return for its suspension of nuclear tests.

The US and South Korean sides have nonetheless refused to cancel the exercises.

The South Korean defence ministry said last week that the US was planning to send a larger number of soldiers than it did last year to the exercises, but did not provide a specific number.

About 12,700 American troops participated last year.



Hundreds of trucks stranded next to highway in Iraq


Hundreds of trucks carrying cooking oil have been waiting for thirteen days to unload outside the city of Kirkuk, in Iraq.

The trucks can't unload their supplies as the warehouses in Kirkuk are full of goods which can not be delivered due to the security situation in the country.

Osman Sherif Qader is the General Director of the Kirkuk warehouse:

"There is no problem here, but the security situation between Kirkuk and Baghdad is not stable, because fighting has been going on there since last week, and so truck drivers aren't able to drive to Kirkuk. And that's what's causing the delay here and the long queue of trucks. Until the empty trucks arrive from Baghdad, we can't unload these vehicles."

He adds officials in Baghdad have told him that the road will re-open in three to four days.

At the same time, Turkish drivers waiting to unload their trucks say they have run out of food and are worried about their safety.



Liberia reopens borders as Ebola infection rate falls


Liberia has reopened its borders with Sierra Leone following a reduction in the number of Ebola cases being reported in the country.

Liberia was the worst-hit country by the Ebola outbreak. Its borders were closed last year and an overnight curfew was imposed as part of a declared state of emergency.

Liberians welcomed the move to reopen the country's border with Sierra Leone.

"Since the closure of the border, I have not been happy at all. We the young people suffered the most; we used to go into the bush to look for food because there was no way to get food."

Earlier, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf also lifted the nationwide curfew.

The number of new infections in Liberia have dropped to one-tenth of the level seen when the virus was at its peak.

But the latest data from the World Health Organization show that 120 to 150 new cases are still reported each week in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

More than 9,300 people have died since the outbreak of the virus early last year.



That's it for this edition of the Beijing Hour. A quick recap of your headlines:

China's chief prosecuting body vowing to set up an online bribery blacklist....

China's C919 passanger aircraft expected to roll off assembly lines this year...

One Chinese national dead and another injured following a knife attack north of Tokyo...

On behalf of all the Beijing Hour staffers, this is Spencer Musick in Beijing hoping you'll join us for our next edition of the Beijing Hour, to open a window to the world together.










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