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(Hong Kong) The last of China's eunuchs is dead. Sun Yaoting, born in 1902, was castrated by his father at age 8 so the lad might enter the ranks of China's powerful eunuchs who controlled daily life in the imperial palace. Sadly for Sun, however, just one month after the deed was done, China's last dynasty fell and the republic was born. When Sun died, he had lived 92 years, many of those spent with other eunuchs at various temples. Eunuchs were typically castrated with nothing more than applied chili pepper as an anesthetic.

(Yunyang) As Chinese citizens assume more of the conveniences of the West, for example plastic foam boxes for their fast food, they also inherit one of the plagues of the West - garbage glut. Take for instance how river boats on the Yangtze deal with large garbage bags full of the plastic waste: they simply toss it overboard. The foam box refuse - called "white pollution" in a phrase new to the Chinese tongue - is now seen floating down the nation's rivers, clogging its canals, and flying from windows of passing passenger trains.

(Beijing) Beer bottles are blowing up in China's coolers, a disaster being blamed on continually recycling often damaged bottles. The exploding beer bottle brouhaha has led to new standards imposing a strict life-span on the bottles of only two years from their original production date. Beer drinking has become a popular pastime for China's youth, making the country one of the world's largest beer consumers.

(Beijing) The evils of capitalism are to blame for the increase in Chinese wife and child beating, says China's Comprehensive Weekly newspaper. The All-China Women's Federation received 30,000 letters reporting family violence in 1995, ten times the number of just a year earlier. The newspaper surmises that market-oriented reforms and imports of "morally corrupt aspects of Western society" has brought about marked rises in social problems ranging from violent crime to prostitution, leading to a backlash against Western ideas and culture.

(Hangzhou) More than 100,000 trade mark infringements have been exposed in China over the past 10 years, according to the government departments monitoring such abuses. Some of the foreign trade mark fakeries have included bogus Coca Cola soft drinks, Adidas sports shoes, Crocodile garments, Sony video tapes, and IBM computers. China is beefing up its efforts to better protect trade marks, with 7,000 "trade mark law implementation personnel" at provincial, prefecture and county levels.

(Beijing) China and India are working out their differences on border issues, agreeing to exchange visits between high-level contacts in an "active, serious, down-to-earth and mutual-trust" spirit, says a Xinhua report. The two countries will also conduct joint expeditions with soldiers and civilians from both sides, and expand exchanges between military training institutions to help "maintain peace and tranquillity" in the border region.

(Beijing) Microsoft software has been spitting out insults to Chinese users of the Windows 95 operating system, much to the certain chagrin of chairman Bill Gates. It seems some Taiwanese programmers of the Chinese language version imbedded phrases like "communist bandits" and "Taiwan independence" that pop up under certain keystrokes from the program's built-in dictionary. Beijing officials have ordered a halt to sales of the offending software.

(Beijing) Chinese central government authorities are going to have to confess their incomes, under a plan to help stem the rising public resentment of corrupt officials. That means every yuan they pull in along with their regular salaries from any subsidies, benefits, inheritance, gifts and other sources including bribes and kickbacks, which can often tally far beyond their official pay.

(China) Lottery ticket sales started in China nine years ago to help raise funds to support welfare services. In that time, the ticket sales have tallied yuan worth $1.6 billion, while only generating $506,000 for welfare programs serving the handicapped, orphans, pensioners and mentally ill (if you can calculate the percentage of this minuscule cut, please send it here). Vice Minister of Civil Affairs Yan Mingfu says that limited welfare money will have to stretch even further to pay for new medical equipment and welfare facilities. The lottery does provide at least some more sweeping relief of a sort: the lottery organization employs about 100,000 people nationwide.

(New Delhi) Monsoons and floods have lately killed hundreds of people on the Indian subcontinent, now the deluge is threatening the few remaining one-horn rhinoceroses left on the planet. As park rangers take refuge from the rains, poachers may move in on the rhinos. Only 2,000 one-horn rhinos remain, now that a rhino horn can sell for up to $500 a pound. The horns are often used in traditional cures and remedies.

(Tianjin) The exact "wages of sin" may be debatable, but Chinese officials have come up with a rather precise "sin tax" for unmarried couples living together. That fee may total 1,000 yuan ($120) for cohabitating couples. Officials are also cracking down on "Cupid Clubs" with new regulations controlling the matchmaking business. "It's an invasion of privacy and infuriating," says one 20ish female student. Most unmarried couples would rather pay up than conform, she says. A new popular saying among Chinese young: "Marriage is the tomb of love."

(Hong Kong) Greenpeace environmentalists are accusing the United States of using Asia as a dumping ground for American rubbish. Greenpeace hung a banner proclaiming, "USA, Don't Dump on Asia" from a ship toting some 200-tons of refuse originating in Atlanta. "The U.S. has been dumping waste in Asia for more than 10 years ... and now we think they should take it back," says a Greenpeacer.

(Beijing) Bureaucrats in China will have to play "musical jobs," switching their posts every five years as part of a drive to reduce corruption among well-entrenched officials. The Ministry of Personnel is using the rotation plan among other steps to combat the "pervasive corruption," which will affect the top four ranks of China's six-rank civil service system.

(New York) The United States comes in second place -- behind Canada -- in a United Nation's study of overall quality of life. The study examines factors including health care, education, and basic purchasing power. Coming in third through fifth place were Japan, the Netherlands and Norway. The quality-of-life ranking of developing states, from the best on down, include first-place Hong Kong, followed by Cyprus, Barbados, Bahamas, South Korea and Argentina. Coming in last are Mozambique, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Mali, Somalia, Sierra Leone and Niger. The report also finds that rich people around the world are getting richer, while the poor become even poorer -- 1.6 billion people in the world are worse off then they were 10 years ago. The report finds that the planet's 358 billionaires have more assets than the combined incomes of the home countries to 45 percent of the world's people.

(London) Seahorses throughout the seven-seas have been saddled with a demand that may lead to their extinction: Asian appetites for aphrodisiacs and medicines made from more than 20 million seahorses each year. Fishermen in India, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam often find seahorses as their only source of income, which can fetch up to $1,200 per kilogram in Hong Kong. China alone imports an estimated 20 tons of the seahorses a year. "Seahorses are now at risk all over the world ... the trade is large and apparently unsustainable," says an Oxford University oceanologist. Part of the problem is certainly the seahorse's fidelity to its mate; if one of a seahorse couple is caught, the other refuses to ever mate again.

(Beijing) The United States-style of democracy is inferior and in a downward spiral, says China's state-controlled People's Daily newspaper. The Communist Party newspaper says the U.S. model is a democracy for the rich where "money is the lubricant of elections," ensuring only the wealthy emerge as winners and the masses are increasingly left behind. China's socialist democracy has a "basic superiority" over the U.S. system the article concludes, without mentioning that China holds no general elections under a constitution that names the Communist Party as the sole ruling power.

(Beijing) Pick a key and warm up the vocal cords -- a nationwide competition is underway in China to find the top 30 amateur karaoke singers, to help boost the nation's exploding entertainment market. More than 100,000 song and dance halls have sprouted across the land. Karoake competitors can perform one of a hundred selected pop and folk songs. The contest is sponsored by China National Culture and Art Association, and the Shaghai Automobile Sales Corporation.

(China) A new book detailing United States "intervention" in China's affairs has become a best-seller in the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The book, titled "A Depiction of Trials of Strength Between China and the United States," is seen as a counter-attack against U.S. "interventionist pressure." The book proffers China's take on conflicts with the U.S. over Taiwan, textile trade, human rights, copyright protection, and arms sales. Chai Zemin, the first Chinese ambassador to the United States since normalized relations with China, was an editorial advisor on the book.

(Beijing) Amnesty International is condemning China's "massive" state execution of at least 1,000 people over the last year, including executions for non-violent offenses such as theft and hooliganism. China's government imposed a "Strike Hard" campaign last April, in an effort to "rectify public order." The blitz has led to the arrest of tens of thousands, and the thousand executions. Condemned prisoners are often paraded at large public rallies, before they're shot with a bullet to the back of the head. "The crackdown is a strong and useful means to solve social order problems," says a Chinese official.

(Hong Kong) A new anti-discrimination commission has proposed that women workers in Hong Kong should be required to wear skirts to work. Why? It's only fair, commission members argue, "because men do not have the choice of wearing trousers or a skirt."

(Beijing) Youngsters in both China and Taiwan are very optimistic about their futures, despite tensions between the two lands. China has refused to rule out military force to reunify the proclaimed "rebel province" with the mainland. Still 89 percent of mainland students and 92 percent of Taiwanese youngsters say they believe their futures will be "great," according to a poll conducted by the Taiwan Normal University and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

(New Delhi) Tibet's exiled spiritual leader The Dalai Lama is now protected around-the-clock by armed guards and driven in a bullet-proof Mercedes Benz, following intelligence reports of a possible assassination attempt against him. The Dalai Lama and his 100,000 followers fled Chinese occupied Tibet in 1959 and leads a government-in-exile from a base in India.

(Hong Kong) The US Federal Bureau of Investigation (aka FBI) is pushing plans to open an office in Beijing, coinciding with the handover of Hong Kong to China in mid-1997. An official with China's Public Security Ministry says the FBI wants to open a branch "as quickly as possible" because of the handover. A US consular official says the FBI office has no relation to the Hong Kong transition.

(Beijing) Western business names are undermining the Chinese national culture, says the official China Daily, and the government has ordered that some 2,000 businesses with "names containing vulgar, feudalistic, bizarre, absurd and Western-sounding color" must find new monikers to call themselves. The government reviewed 20,000 names of nightclubs, stores, restaurant and other business. Many businesses ordered to change their names were trying to take advantage of the "prejudice of status conscious people" who prefer products from the West, says the report.

(Beijing) Everything old is new again, at least it's becoming more so in the Chinese leadership. The number of young officials (those under age 45) in higher government posts has more than doubled since 1991. Almost three-fourths of all Chinese government and Communist Party officials are now below 45. There are more than 28 million of the younger officials nationwide. The Communist Party has been cultivating and promoting younger "trans-century" officials to lead the country into the millennium, reports the Xinhua news agency.

(Beijing) China is appealing for help from abroad to deal with the country's environmental blight. Environmentalists blame increased malignant tumors and respiratory diseases on factories' noxious fumes and sewage pumped into the air and waterways. Among the world's 10 most polluted cities, five are found in China. China cannot accomplish the staggering cleanup alone and welcomes more support from agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, says a Chinese environmental protection official.

(Beijing) More than 49 million Chinese couples have pledged to have only one child throughout their lives, says the Xinhua news agency -- a promise that has helped stem the country's booming population growth. China has set a maximum population goal of 1.3 billion come 2000, after it passed its original 1.2 billion mark five years early in February 1995. Beijing imposed a strict one-child policy in the late 1970s, after two decades of Chairman Mao Zedong promoting big families to make China strong.

(Bonn) Where does China stand in a survey of 54 different countries for the most corrupt? Well, not at the bottom. That was reserved for Nigeria, followed by Pakistan and Kenya. China came in at 50th place, in the vicinity of Russia (47th) and India (46th). Coming in at first place as the least corrupt country is New Zealand, followed closely by Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Canada and Norway. A few other corruption ratings, from worse to best behaved: Italy (34th), France (19th), Japan (17th), United States (15th), Germany (13th), and Britain (12th). "Much of the corruption in the developing countries is the direct result of corrupt multinational corporations," says Peter Eigen, director of the Berlin-based anti-corruption group Transparency International.

(Beijing) China's ruling communists have taken aim at one of America's most familiar icons of state: Mickey Mouse. The leaders say Mickey -- and his cartoon comrade, Donald Duck -- have too strong a hold on the hearts of Chinese children. A homegrown counter measure will be a new cartoon house backed by the Central Committee, producing 62 comic books by the end of the year, "with both national characteristics and rich content," says the director of the Cartoon Editing Department of the Beijing Children Publishing House.

(Beijing) China will reap a predicted $58-billion from tourism over the next five years, says the official China Daily. Eight million overseas tourists visited China in 1995 spending $8-billion, forecast to grow to $9-billion in 1996. Some of the country's top tourism cities include Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Dunhuang.

(AsiaInfo China Daily News) China needs a lift -- thousands of them, actually. Though 300 Chinese companies produced 30,000 elevators last year, the yield still falls short of the total need. China must import some 9,000 medium and high-class elevators each year to meet demand. On the up side, China is expected to manufacture 200,000 elevators during its 9th Five-Year Plan period.

(Beijing) China has more than four-million people living on 433 offshore islands, says a committee assigned to count such things. Beyond the more inhabited islands, the country has more than 6,500 islands each larger than an area of 500 square meters. That's not even counting the islands of Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. The eight-year survey suggests that many of these islands have rich potential including deep-water harbors, aquatic farming, and tourist appeal.

(Beijing) The Chinese government has launched a nationwide campaign to improve the lives of the country's women, following the lead of the 1995 World Conference on Women held in Beijing. Among the campaign's goals heading into the new millennium: involve women more in state decision-making, protect women's labor rights, attack crimes against women (e.g., abduction & prostitution), and provide more aid for women living in poverty. Local governments are developing area-specific plans to help women in their regions.

(Beijing) More than 1,000 public toilets have been renovated or enlarged in this capital city over the last year -- much to the delight and comfort of street-strolling citizens and tourists. "The new public toilets all have novel appearances, complete facilities, a high degree of hygiene and sanitation ... public toilets are an important indicator of a city's degree of civility," says an official report.

(Hong Kong) WIVES WANTED: that's the plea of one company seeking sweethearts for its thousands of male staff. The Fourth Navigational Engineering Enterprise in Hong Kong is advertising for "unmarried Guangzhou women of 22 to 28 years ... with good behavior and good looks," offering in return its male employees with "salaries and fringe benefits including housing." The company employs more than 3,800 men but only 463 women under 35. The men are so devoted to their work, they haven't been able to think of personal issues, says the company.

(Beijing) Young members in the Chinese Communist Youth League now total 63.7 million. Of those, more than one-million members have joined the Chinese Communist Party over the last year. The Youth League has been targeting recruiting efforts toward young people who have proven themselves adept at their posts or in helping to create a market economy.

(Beijing) China's new dictionary of journalism defines the media as a tool of the proletariat, existing to espouse the communist cause. China has no independent newspapers, television or radio stations. The book is "essential to journalists" who need to be reminded that the press must publicize the Communist Party's "political line and policies unconditionally," says a Chinese news agency.

(Beijing) Chinese officials are acting to help the country's 60-million disabled people, especially the three-million disabled who live in extreme poverty. The plans aim to reduce the unemployment among the disabled by ten percent, and increase the total of disabled children attending school. The drive has a hero in Deng Pufang, son of Deng Xiaoping, who is also president of the Federation of the Disabled.

(Beijing) China is soon to launch a nationwide Internet network called "Chinanet," with 31 nodes covering the country's 30 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions. The network has two high-speed outlets in Shanghai and Beijing to connect to the Internet, reports the Chinese "People's Posts and Telecommunications News."

(Beijing) Personal Ad: Single green female striped turtle seeks suitable male of the species for urgent mating to stave off extinction. That's the message from herpetologists along the Yangtze River hoping to find a match for a spinster turtle of the dwindling breed. Only three females exist in captivity, without any possible mates left in sight. Any foreign owners of a male striped turtle are urged to come forward.

(Hangzhou) A "super Buddha" statue will soon be rubble under government order, since it had been built without permission. The statue is one of the more recent of its kind, standing some 24 meters (78 feet) high and 18 meters (59 feet) wide. China is home to about 65 ancient Buddha statues more than 13 meters (45 feet) high, some of them as much as 1,000 years old. Many of the more recent giant Buddhas are shoddy imitations simply built to make money, says the president of the local Buddhism Association.

(Beijing) Tax collectors in China's capital city are looking to take in some 23.4 million yuan ($2.82 million) in bicycle taxes this year, says the China Daily Business Weekly. An estimated 5.2 million cyclists will pay the 4.5 yuan ($.054) tax, an increase of 100,000 people over last year. Collectors credit the increase to an improved collection system. The majority of China's 1.2 billion people get about by bicycle.

(Shanghai) Mary Kay Cosmetics, the pink-hued American ambassador of multi-level marketing, is peddling its beauty wares to women in China's cities of Shanghai and Hangzhou. Mary Kay's "beauty consultants" there number about 2,600 right now, but are expected to total some 8,000 by year's end, with expansion plans reaching to 30 other cities and a new factory for Mary Kay's products. You won't see the company's trademark pink Cadillacs rolling down congested Chinese roads, but top Mary Kay sales people will be rewarded with pink mobile phones.

(Seoul) Merchants in South Korea are using clever packaging to counter the long-held taboo against such sex-talk as, ahem, condoms. Rather than face the stigmatization of standing in line with a brightly marked box of condoms, squeamish shoppers (especially women) can buy the prophylactic in the guise of cigar boxes, compact discs, wedding bouquets, miniature Volkswagen Beetles, even a basket of walnuts. Ironically, South Korea is one of the world's largest exporters of condoms, about 200 million a year.

(Shennongjia) Tourists are flocking to China's Hubei province to seek out "Big Foot," a mysterious red-haired, ape-like creature standing about two-meters (6-feet 7-inches) high, who has been spotted by a handful of witnesses in the area. Scientists have spent the past year in a search for the "wild man" to no avail. Yet the big find is the coin spent by hundreds-of-thousands of Big Foot fans. What to do? Of course, hold an international Big Foot festival, already scheduled for May.

(Taipei) How does Taiwan's military stack up against its restless neighbor across the strait? Like this:

    Tawian: 468,000 regular troops; 1,475 light and battle tanks; 4 submarines; 22 destroyers; 430 combat aircraft.
    China: 2,930,000 regular troops; some 10,000 light and battle tanks; 52 submarines; 18 destroyers; 4,970 combat aircraft.

(Manila) A Philippine Air Force commander is warning that China is a looming threat to peace and stability in Asia, and even the combined forces of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) could not stand up to Chinese forces. (ASEAN includes the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and Vietnam.) China's armed forces totaled 3.03 million in 1994, ASEAN's combined forces tallied to about 1.5 million. The military advantage gives China the leverage to dominate any neogtiations or discussions in the region, the commander says.

(Beijing) China is encouraging more foreign certified public accountants to open branches to help develop the country's accounting market. So far 15 foreign CPAs have set up 35 representative offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang and other major cities.

(China) The Chinese language is rich with nuance and folklore woven deep in its roots. One example, the "World Wide Web" translated into Chinese characters: "Ten thousand dimensional web in heaven and net on earth."

(Hong Kong) After receiving two unsuccessful bullets to the head, the condemned woman turned to the executioner and begged for one more bullet to end her misery. The third and lethal shot finished the death sentence for the woman, who along with 13 others was executed for crimes including murder and auto theft. More than 10,000 citizens rallied in a south China sports stadium to witness the execution, reported Hong Kong's pro-China New Evening Post.

(Hong Kong) The Walt Disney Company is moving to capture a share of China's expanding recording industry, seeking out Chinese talent to record songs from the company's vast music library. Disney has already sold more than a million soundtrack cassettes of "The Lion King" in China, priced at only $1.00 each to compete against the country's music pirates. "There's no reason why China shouldn't have albums selling 15 million to 20 million units," said a Disney executive.

(Beijing) China has formed a new sex education center to study the socially-taboo subject. "A long-term lack of correct knowledge about sex has made it a mysterious and sensitive topic in China," said the head of the new National Research Institute for Family Planning. Sex education is making headway in China over recent years: more than 30 books and television programs on some 20 stations nationwide have tackled the subject.

(Beijing) Deng Xiaoping is the star of a new comic book, offering an alternative to the stuffy tomes explaining the Chinese take on socialism. The comic book explains in simple terms "the basic ideas of Deng Xiaoping's theory of building socialism with Chinese characteristics," says a promoter.

(China) Big Bird, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, the Cookie Monster and other Sesame Street stars will be making many millions more of young friends when they take to the Chinese airwaves. The well-known and much-loved U.S. television show will be produced in 130 half-hour Chinese episodes to air on Shanghai television and across the country. Sesame Street has been licensed in some 120 countries since it first broadcast in the United States in 1968.

(Beijing) China boasts more than one million millionaires ... measured in yuan, that is. (One million yuan equals $120,500.) However, more than 70 million Chinese live below the poverty line, earning less than 300 yuan ($36) per year. China has a plan to bring 10 million people out of poverty over each of the next seven years.

(Beijing) In a move sure to make many US cable subscribers turn a greener hue, China is launching the world's cheapest pay television channels -- costing just one yuan ($0.12) a month for poor people, and three yuan for the rich. China Central Television will provide channels offering music, cartoons and movies.

(Australia) Romance-minded Asians may have to look elsewhere for their aphrodisiacs, now that the Australian sex industry -- in an effort to boost its image -- is working to ban the export of bull penises, considered a sex aid by many Asian men. "They are about as much use as the bull's tongue" -- which isn't much, says an industry spokesman.

(Hong Kong) US and Chinese television moguls have begun filming on a joint documentary project, "Contemporary China." The ten one-hour segments will air on PBS and Chinese TV stations. The first two shows will cover the development of China's car-making industry, and "To Get Rich is Glorious," about the improving standard of living in China.

(Beijing) Chinese doctors have implanted brain cells into the head of an 18-year-old retarded girl, significantly raising her level of intelligence, they say. Just 23 days after the cells were implanted, she began to show the cognitive and motor skills of a 10-year-old, considerably advanced over her level prior to the operation.

(China) More than 14,000 rats have met their maker over the last two years, due to the predatory success of just one dog. The small dog has caught as many as 40 rats in one day on the pig farm where he resides in Pulandian city near Dalian.

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