Majority of Chinese newborns are second children

BEIJING (AFP): Over half the babies born in China in the first eight months of 2017 were second children, official media reported Tuesday after the relaxation of the longstanding one-child rule. The number of parents choosing to have a second child has surged since Beijing loosened strict caps on family size in January 2016 to try to rejuvenate the ageing labour force. Some 52 percent of the 11.6 million babies born between January and August have an older sibling, said the state news agency Xinhua, citing Wang Peian, deputy head of the National Health and Family Planning Commission. That compares to about 45 percent in 2016, when 18.5 million babies were born in hospital, the highest since 2000, according to the report.

Last year's baby boom was thought to be partly due to the relaxation of the one-child policy, but also because 2016 was the lunar year of the monkey - considered a particularly auspicious zodiac sign to be born under.

Since the late 1970s the world's most populous country had restricted most couples to only a single child, with violators facing fines and even forced abortions.

But concern about an ageing population and a shrinking workforce saw the country loosen the policy at the beginning of 2016.

While some parents had long been allowed more than one child, the change allowed every family a second.

Wang said China plans a range of new policies to support the second child agenda, including on tax, housing and employment.

The report said China had allocated some 2.9 billion yuan ($440 million) to build maternity and pediatric hospitals last year and plans to add 140,000 more obstetricians and midwives by 2020.

 

 

 

SpaceX launches Korean satellite, sticks rocket landing

MIAMI (AFP): SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket Monday carrying a South Korean communications satellite to boost broadband coverage for southeast Asia and the Middle East, and stuck its 19th rocket landing in two years. The tall, white rocket roared into the blue sky over Cape Canaveral, Florida at 3:34 pm (1934 GMT), propelling Koreasat-5A toward a geostationary orbit some 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) from Earth. The satellite is designed to replace an earlier version, called Koreasat 5, which launched in 2006. The satellite was successfully deployed, SpaceX confirmed about 45 minutes after lauch.

Minutes after launch, the rocket separated and the tall portion, called the first stage, fired its engines and maneuvered its grid fins to guide itself back to an upright landing on an ocean platform.

Less than nine minutes after takeoff, the scorched rocket touched down on a droneship marked with an X and labeled "Of Course I Still Love You."

"A little toasty but the Stage 1 is certainly still intact on the droneship," said a SpaceX commentator, as video images showed the rocket standing upright on the platform.

Monday's launch marked the 16th for SpaceX so far this year.

Headed by space enthusiast and solar energy entrepreneur Elon Musk, SpaceX is working on re-using rocket parts after launch - rather than jettisoning them into the ocean as is the typical practice.

So far, the company has managed to land 12 rockets on ocean platforms and seven on solid ground.

The goal is to save money and eventually bring down the cost of space travel.

 

 

 

Creepy Japan video invites people to live in 'zombie town'

TOKYO (AFP): A remote Japanese town is hoping to entice brave souls to come and live among them with a ghoulish video game spoof featuring flesh-eating zombies - just in time for Halloween. The misty village of Kosuge, located in the mountains some 90 kilometres (55 miles) west of Tokyo, has just 700 inhabitants. With many younger villagers leaving to work or study in the cities, local authorities have concocted a cunning plan to try to lure new residents. A creepy short promotional film introduces Kosuge's leafy vistas, but with a chilling twist as inhabitants dressed in blood-soaked zombie outfits lurch toward the camera as if in a gory video game.

As the living dead roam the deserted streets in search of fresh meat, even the town's mayor makes a cameo appearance in the five-minute film, walking into a wall to mimic a video game flaw, according to a voice-over.

A classroom of zombie schoolgirls is shown groaning in response to a teacher's question, before the character behind the camera introducing the viewer to the spooky village is attacked by a bear in woods.

The trailer, which has already been widely shared online, ends by asking viewers if they want to try Kosuge village "for real" - although whether the blood-curdling spoof will be enough to tempt any new visitors beyond horror buffs remains to be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mass seal deaths in Russia's Lake Baikal

MOSCOW (AFP): Around 130 dead seals have washed up on the shores of Russia's Lake Baikal, authorities said Tuesday, as they launched a probe into the latest problem to hit the world's deepest lake. The Baikal seal is the smallest in the world, and exactly how and when the species colonised the ancient Siberian lake is still a mystery. "There were about 130 animals found dead" over the past few days, said environmental ministry spokesman Nikolai Gudkov. "We took water samples to understand whether we can talk of water pollution as the reason," he told AFP, though results have not yet been processed. Scientists have also taken biopsies of the animals, he said. The animal is not endangered and Gudkov said the species' population has actually increased in recent years, growing to around 130,000.

Preliminary theories about the die-off did not suggest pollution is the reason, he added.

Lake Baikal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has thousands of endemic species, has been suffering from a string of detrimental phenomena over recent years.

These include depletion of fish stocks, death of endemic sponges and explosion of growth of Spirogyra algae unnatural to the lake which scientists say is caused by pollution.

 

 

 

 

China's Xi meets Zuckerberg, Cook in Beijing

BEIJING (AFP): Apple's Tim Cook and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, state media said Tuesday, as the Communist Party pushes for a larger role in private firms. The meeting came days after Xi secured his position as China's most powerful leader since Mao and as Facebook seeks to gain entry to the massive market. "As a beneficiary of and contributor to economic globalisation, China's development is the opportunity for the world," Xi told the annual gathering of advisers to Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Under Xi, the Communist Party has increasingly tightened its grip on state-owned companies and has asked foreign firms to include party cells in their offices.

The move has raised concerns that the party may try to create alternative power structures within companies and potentially exercise control over management decisions, as it has in the case of state-owned enterprises.

Of the more than one hundred thousand foreign-funded companies in China, 70 percent had set up party organisations by the end of 2016, according to Qi Yu, deputy head of the party's Organisation Department.

Foreign companies regularly complain about the lack of access to Chinese markets and Zuckerberg in particular has made a big show of courting the country's top leadership in hopes of convincing Beijing to relax its ban on Facebook.

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur has been photographed with a collection of Xi's writings and happily jogging across Tiananmen Square in choking pollution. He has also given a lecture in China in halting Chinese.

The company has recently begun staffing up on the mainland, but appears to have made little progress in convincing Beijing to change its mind, a prospect that seems even less likely as the country tightens social media controls.

Tsinghua University's business school has attracted a bevy of A-list advisers from the worlds of tech and finance, including Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, and Tesla's Elon Musk, as well as China's own leading entrepreneurs, such as Alibaba's Jack Ma.

 

 

BEIJING (AFP): Apple's Tim Cook and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg met Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing, state media said Tuesday, as the Communist Party pushes for a larger role in private firms. The meeting came days after Xi secured his position as China's most powerful leader since Mao and as Facebook seeks to gain entry to the massive market. "As a beneficiary of and contributor to economic globalisation, China's development is the opportunity for the world," Xi told the annual gathering of advisers to Tsinghua University's School of Economics and Management, according to the official Xinhua news agency. Under Xi, the Communist Party has increasingly tightened its grip on state-owned companies and has asked foreign firms to include party cells in their offices.

The move has raised concerns that the party may try to create alternative power structures within companies and potentially exercise control over management decisions, as it has in the case of state-owned enterprises.

Of the more than one hundred thousand foreign-funded companies in China, 70 percent had set up party organisations by the end of 2016, according to Qi Yu, deputy head of the party's Organisation Department.

Foreign companies regularly complain about the lack of access to Chinese markets and Zuckerberg in particular has made a big show of courting the country's top leadership in hopes of convincing Beijing to relax its ban on Facebook.

The Silicon Valley entrepreneur has been photographed with a collection of Xi's writings and happily jogging across Tiananmen Square in choking pollution. He has also given a lecture in China in halting Chinese.

The company has recently begun staffing up on the mainland, but appears to have made little progress in convincing Beijing to change its mind, a prospect that seems even less likely as the country tightens social media controls.

Tsinghua University's business school has attracted a bevy of A-list advisers from the worlds of tech and finance, including Blackstone's Stephen Schwarzman, Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein, and Tesla's Elon Musk, as well as China's own leading entrepreneurs, such as Alibaba's Jack Ma.