Thursday, December 29, 2011

800,000 overseas tourist visit Hainan in this year 2011

China's southernmost island region of Hainan is estimated to have received more than 800,000 overseas tourists this year, according to a local tourism official.
Meanwhile, with 13 direct round-trip flights between Hainan and Taiwan available each week, the number of tourists from Taiwan exceeds 100,000 this year.
The increase in abroad tourists has been partly attributed to the visa-free entry policy. Travelers from 26 countries, including Russia, Germany, the Republic of Korea and Malaysia, could join tour groups and register with authorities just one day ahead of their planned departure times.
Hainan has recently been building itself into a world-class travel destination, and tourism revenue has been bolstered by the increased number of tourists. Revenues this year are predictable to total around 32 billion yuan (5.06 billion U.S. dollars), according to statistics from the provincial tourism commission.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Five Killed in Latest Baghdad Bombing

BAGHDAD — A suicide bomber driving a car packed with explosives attacked a checkpoint in front of the Iraqi Interior Ministry on Monday morning, killing five, wounding 39 and roiling a country unsettled by a political crisis and a wave of deadly bombings just days ago.

As Baghdad’s rush hour was beginning around 7:30 a.m., the bomber tried to ram the car through one of the few entrances to a compound that houses the ministry, the country’s police academy, several jails and a hospital, according to officials.

Security officers opened fire on the car and the bomber detonated the explosives, killing two of the officers and three civilians, the officials said. Many officers were among the wounded.

“When the explosion happened it was so loud I couldn’t hear anything — I felt like I was in a different world,” said Ahmed Abed, 45, a taxi driver whose car was damaged in the attack. “What am I going to do now? I depend on this car for supporting my family.”

The Ministry of Interior has a symbolic importance in the ongoing political crisis that engulfed the country as the last American troops were withdrawing a little more than a week ago. The crisis began when a spokesman for the ministry, which is controlled by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, publicly accused the country’s Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashimi, of running a death squad.

In a televised news conference, the spokesman waved a warrant for Mr. Hashimi’s arrest in front of the cameras and played videotaped confessions of Mr. Hashimi’s body guards saying he was behind orders they received to kill government officials. The accusations were a tipping point in a widening rift between Mr. Maliki’s Shiite-led government and leaders of the country’s Sunni minority.

On Thursday morning, a series of explosions across Baghdad killed more than 60 people, marking the deadliest day in the capital in more than a year and underscoring the country’s tenuous security.

No group claimed responsibility for that attack or the one on Monday, but they were similar to others conducted by Al Qaeda in Iraq, the insurgent group accused of trying to plunge the country back into a sectarian conflict by pitting Sunnis and Shiites against one another.

The bombing on Monday came hours after the Iraqi government reached a potential breakthrough to relocate 3,400 Iranian dissidents living at a camp inside Iraq’s borders, potentially unwinding a standoff between Iraq and the camp’s residents. The exiles are members a paramilitary group that has tried to topple Iran’s government and is listed as a terrorist group by the United States. They were given refuge by Saddam Hussein during his war with Iran, but the current Iraqi government, with closer ties to Iran, has vowed to dismantle the camp in eastern Iraq.

Friday, December 16, 2011

US declares Iraq war over

BAGHDAD (AP) -- After nearly nine years, 4,500 American dead and 100,000 Iraqi dead, U.S. officials formally shut down the war in Iraq -- a conflict that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said was worth the American sacrifice, because it set Iraq on a path to democracy.

Panetta stepped off his military plane in Baghdad Thursday as the leader of America's war in Iraq, but will leave as one of many top U.S. and global officials who hope to work with the struggling nation as it tries to find its new place in the Middle East and the broader world.

Bombings and gun battles are still common. And experts are concerned about the Iraqi security force's ability to defend the nation against foreign threats.

In addition to the dead, the war left 32,000 Americans wounded and cost the U.S. more than $800 billion.

Still, Panetta said earlier this week, it "has not been in vain."

Panetta and several other U.S. diplomatic, military and defense leaders participated Thursday in a symbolic ceremony during which the flag of U.S. Forces-Iraq was officially retired, or "cased," according to Army tradition. The U.S. Forces-Iraq flag was furled -- or wrapped -- around a flagpole and covered in camouflage. It will be brought back to the United States.

"You will leave with great pride -- lasting pride," Panetta told the troops. "Secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people to begin a new chapter in history."

During a stop in Afghanistan this week, Panetta described the mission as "making that country sovereign and independent and able to govern and secure itself."

That, he said, is "a tribute to everybody -- everybody who fought in that war, everybody who spilled blood in that war, everybody who was dedicated to making sure we could achieve that mission."

Iraqi citizens offered a more pessimistic assessment. "The Americans are leaving behind them a destroyed country," said Mariam Khazim of Sadr City. "The Americans did not leave modern schools or big factories behind them. Instead, they left thousands of widows and orphans."

The Iraq Body Count website says more than 100,000 Iraqis have been killed since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

A member of the political coalition loyal to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr saw another message in the U.S. withdrawal. "The American ceremony represents the failure of the U.S. occupation of Iraq due to the great resistance of the Iraqi people," said Sadrist lawmaker Amir al-Kinani.

Panetta echoed President Barack Obama's promise that the U.S. plans to keep a robust diplomatic presence in Iraq, foster a deep and lasting relationship with the nation and maintain a strong military force in the region.

As of Thursday, there were two U.S. bases and about 4,000 U.S. troops in Iraq -- a dramatic drop from the roughly 500 military installations and as many as 170,000 troops during the surge ordered by President George W. Bush in 2007, when violence and raging sectarianism gripped the country. All U.S. troops are slated to be out of Iraq by the end of the year, but officials are likely to meet that goal a bit before then.

The total U.S. departure is a bit earlier than initially planned, and military leaders worry that it is a bit premature for the still maturing Iraqi security forces, who face continuing struggles to develop the logistics, air operations, surveillance and intelligence sharing capabilities they will need in what has long been a difficult neighborhood.

U.S. officials were unable to reach an agreement with the Iraqis on legal issues and troop immunity that would have allowed a small training and counterterrorism force to remain. U.S. defense officials said they expect there will be no movement on that issue until sometime next year.

Still, despite Obama's earlier contention that all American troops would be home for Christmas, at least 4,000 forces will remain in Kuwait for some months. The troops will be able to help finalize the move out of Iraq, but could also be used as a quick reaction force if needed.

Obama met in Washington with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki earlier this week, vowing to remain committed to Iraq as the two countries struggle to define their new relationship. Ending the war was an early goal of the Obama administration, and Thursday's ceremony will allow the president to fulfill a crucial campaign promise during a politically opportune time. The 2012 presidential race is roiling and Republicans are in a ferocious battle to determine who will face off against Obama in the election.

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

When Apple pulls the veil off of its newest store on Friday, New Yorkers will get their first glimpse at the classical architecture-meets-computers retail space inside Grand Central Terminal.

Behind a temporary black facade, which has teased commuters for weeks with "arriving soon" messages, Apple has been negotiating aggressively and stealthily with contractors and government agencies to quickly secure a favorable deal. The Grand Central outlet is just one of several high-profile stores the company has been readying with characteristic covertness.

Interviews with nearly two dozen people involved in the development of upcoming and recently opened U.S. Apple Stores, including the one in Grand Central, provide a look at Apple's unusually furtive way of doing business. These people say Apple sometimes employs uncommon legal tactics, refuses to name itself in public documents and hearings, and has sworn city government officials to secrecy.

Apple's shrewd negotiating tactics are well known in other parts of its business. Nondisclosure agreements are strictly enforced with employees, contractors and partners, and punishment for disloyalty is swift and unforgiving.

For example, employees who leak internal memos may be fired as soon as they are discovered. When prototype iPhones were lost in bars in two consecutive years, police officers searched the homes of people suspected of possessing them.

But retail chains, especially those that sell electronics, aren't typically associated with controversy. And retail industry executives say Apple's demands for absolute secrecy in its store-development process are peculiar and unjustified.

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment for this story.

'Apple is not typical'

As buzz grew about work on a Grand Central Apple Store, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls the station, spurned many interview requests -- even months after the store was unveiled at a public meeting in July. A New York Times editorial published in August lamented that procuring any details about the project "was like trying to uncover a state secret."

When reached by phone in October, MTA spokeswoman Marjorie Anders told CNN in response to a question about the soon-to-open Apple Store, "We're not talking about that." Why? "Because Apple doesn't want us to."

Is this typical?

"No, but Apple is not typical," Anders said. Further questions, she said, would need to be submitted in a formal Freedom of Information request, a government process that can take months to yield documents.

Grand Central is a historic landmark, meaning each project must go through an approval process. Apple asked for its architects to deal directly with New York's State Historic Preservation Office -- a role that's supposed to be handled by the MTA -- so the process was completed promptly, said Beth Cumming, a director for New York's State Historic Preservation Office.

Similar maneuvers are being used at other stores. Officials in Berkeley, California, referred questions about a new Apple Store to the city's formal public-records division. They offered two brief reports, one of which Apple did not list its name on.

"We generally don't talk about our customers," said Berkeley spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross in a phone interview in September. "We're obviously glad that Apple is here and hope they will stay for a long time."

At a shopping mall in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, Washington, where Apple already has a store, the computer company is opening a new one on the floor above, where clothing and jewelry stores used to be, according to public documents.

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Monday, December 05, 2011

APPLE has lost a request in the US for a court order in its attempt to block sales of Samsung's 4G smartphone and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet computer, according to a ruling that was posted on a court docket and then removed.

The iPad maker, in its lawsuit filed in a federal court in San Jose, California, sought an order blocking Samsung from selling its Galaxy line of mobile devices in the US based on claims they violate Apple patents.

The lawsuit is part of a legal battle between the companies being fought in 10 countries, including Australia, where the High Court on Friday granted Apple a further delay of court orders overturning an earlier ruling which banned the device from sale.

Samsung said in a statement that the US federal court ruling confirmed its long-held view that Apple's arguments lacked merit.

"In particular, the court has recognised that Samsung has raised substantial questions about the validity of certain of Apple's design patents," the statement said.

The two companies have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other, Samsung said. The conflict began in April, when Apple filed the San Jose lawsuit claiming the South Korean company's Galaxy devices copied the iPhone and iPad.

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Friday, December 02, 2011

Mayan tablet does not predict end of the world in 2012, says expert

The end is not quite nigh. At least that is the conclusion of a German expert who says his decoding of a Mayan tablet with a reference to a 2012 date denotes a transition to a new era and not a possible end of the world as others have read it.

The interpretation of the hieroglyphs by Sven Gronemeyer of La Trobe University in Australia was presented for the first time on Wednesday at the archaeological site of Palenque in southern Mexico.

His comments came less than a week after Mexico's archaeology institute acknowledged there was a second reference to the 2012 date in Mayan inscriptions, touching off another round of talk about whether it predicts the end of the world.

Gronemeyer has been studying the stone tablet, which was found years ago at the archaeological site of Tortuguero in Mexico's Gulf coast state of Tabasco.

He said the inscription described the return of the mysterious Mayan god Bolon Yokte at the end of a 13th period of 400 years, known as Baktuns, on the equivalent of 21 December 2012. Mayans considered 13 a sacred number. There is nothing apocalyptic in the date, he said.

The text was carved about 1,300 years ago. The stone has cracked, which has made the end of the passage almost illegible.

Gronemeyer said the inscription referred to the end of a cycle of 5,125 years since the beginning of the Mayan Long Count calendar in 3113 BC.

The fragment was a prophecy of the then ruler Bahlam Ajaw, who wanted to plan the passage of the god, Gronemeyer said.

"For the elite of Tortuguero, it was clear they had to prepare the land for the return of the god and for Bahlam Ajaw to be the host of this initiation," he said.

Bolon Yokte, the god of creation and war, was to prevail that day in a sanctuary of Tortuguero.

"The date acquired a symbolic value because it is seen as a reflection of the day of creation," Gronemeyer said. "It is the passage of a god and not necessarily a great leap for humanity."

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