Beijing to ban polluting cars

during smog alerts

BEIJING (Reuters): Beijing will next year ban highly polluting old cars from being driven whenever air quality alerts are issued in the city or neighbouring regions, the city’s environmental protection bureau said on Monday. China has adopted various measures over the years to reduce the blankets of smog which shroud many of the country’s northern cities in the winter, causing hazardous traffic conditions and disrupting daily life. As of Feb. 15, vehicles which don’t meet the government’s current standard on emissions - in practice those which are more than 10 years old - will be banned in Beijing’s main urban area whenever orange or red alerts are issued in Beijing or neighbouring Hebei province and Tianjin city, the bureau said. Vehicles breaking the restrictions will be fined 100 yuan ($14.50) every four hours they are on the road, it added. Cars at the National 1 or National 2 emissions standards, which the rules are aimed at, only account for 8 percent of the cars in the city, but they account for more than 30 percent of smog causing nitrogen oxide emissions, the bureau said.

The adjustment to regulations also said that schools would only be closed selectively during alerts, rather than the blanket approach that was used originally when Beijing issued its first ever red alert in December last year.

The government has been tweaking the new system since its introduction, working to unify it across the provinces of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, and in February raised the minimum threshold for issuing alerts.

The Beijing city government is also taking measures to reduce the emissions of vehicles driven in the city by using licence plate restrictions to limit the overall number of cars and providing generous subsidies to electric vehicle purchasers to promote fuel-replacement vehicles.





Germany to cull geese after

low risk bird flu found on firm

HAMBURG (Reuters): German authorities are preparing to cull 8,800 geese on a farm in the north of the country where a low risk strain of bird flu has been found, authorities said on Monday. Some 1,800 geese on a farm in Dithmarschen have a low risk H5 bird flu, said the environment ministry in the state of Schleswig-Holstein. Another 7,000 geese at a different location owned by the same farm are also suspected to have bird flu but it is not known whether this is the low risk type or the highly contagious H5N8 strain, the state ministry said. A series of European countries and Israel have found cases of H5N8 bird flu in the past few weeks and some have ordered that poultry flocks be kept indoors to avoid the disease spreading. Most outbreaks involve wild birds but Germany, Hungary and Austria have also reported cases in domestic duck and turkey farms where all poultry have had to be culled. A case was also reported on a farm in Denmark on Monday.

The contagious H5N8 strain has been found in wild birds in much of Germany over past days and the country’s government has tightened sanitary rules for farms and warned it may order poultry to be kept inside.

More outbreaks of a severe strain of bird flu in Europe are likely to occur in the next few weeks as wild birds believed to transmit the virus migrate southward, the deputy head of the world animal health body said.




Japanese factory boss trumps

mask sales of US president-elect

TOKYO (Reuters): Japanese factory boss Takahiro Yagihara can’t mask his mixed feelings about United States President-elect Donald Trump. While concerned by Trump’s campaign talk, where he raised the possibility of Japan acquiring nuclear arms, Yagihara has seen a spike in sales of rubber masks of the New York billionaire at his factory in Saitama prefecture. More than 600 masks which show Trump with a furrowed brow and open mouth were sold in October at the factory, west of Tokyo, with November sales on track to match it and staff left exhausted trying to keep up with demand, Yagihara said. “I don’t think anyone expected Mr Trump to win. Although I feel conflicted about his win,” Yagihara told Reuters on Monday. “Mr Trump’s masks sell. But again, Mr Trump’s presidency isn’t exactly good news for Japan, so I’ve been conflicted between those two ideas.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described Trump as a “trustworthy leader” after a meeting in New York last week following Trump’s election victory over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this month.

The move went some way to allay concerns among Japanese leaders about the 70-year-old real estate mogul, who had said he wanted allies like Japan to pay more for keeping US forces on their soil.

Yagihara, whose factory also make masks of Abe, Clinton and US President Barack Obama, said the handmade Trump masks could provide a useful aid at bonenkai, or year-end parties, where employees perform comedy skits.

“I hope Mr Trump’s many comments will be used in lighthearted jokes (while wearing the mask),” he said.