Posts tagged ‘Agence France-Presse’


China tourism: Crossing the new glass bridges – BBC News

Tourism sites in the central Henan and Hunan provinces have been constructing vertigo-inducing skywalks in a bid to attract visitors.

And it seems to have worked, attracting thrill-seeking tourists and locals, all wanting a chance to experience a bird’s eye view of the Chinese countryside.

One of them is student Li Shu Zhen, 19, from Hangzhou city.

She shared with the BBC her experience of climbing the Brave Man’s Bridge in Pingjiang county, Hunan province.

“You look down and feel a sense of fear, but you quickly recover from that and enjoy the scenery,” she said.

“It was beautiful, almost as if one was walking on air.”

Yoga has been one of the stranger activities performed on the Brave Man’s Bridge

An eating challenge was held on this bridge in Yueyang country – although you might lose your appetite if you look downT

he fully transparent bridge, which measures 300m long (984ft) and 180m high, first opened to the public in September.

It is one of the more popular bridges, with events – like mass yoga displays – often being staged on it.

Local officials say that glass panels were designed to withstand high winds and earthquakes, as well as the “weight of 800 visitors”.

Glass bridge fever has also spread to neighbouring Taiwan, where a 179m-high bridge opened in Nantou county.

Construction has already begun on a second glass bridge above Zhangjiajie valley in Hunan province

‘Even if the glass breaks’

Construction on the latest bridge, touted as the world’s longest glass-bottomed walkway, is also nearing completion.

Standing at 300m high and stretching 375m, the bridge will hang above the Zhangjiajie grand canyon, also in Hunan province.

Gearing up for the bridge’s 2016 opening, officials have even enlisted the public’s help in naming it.

One of its engineers, Yang Guohong, from state-owned China Railway Major Bridge Reconnaissance and Design Institute, said contractors had taken extra safety precautions.

“No matter how the tourists jump on the bridge, it will still be fine,” he told the People’s Daily newspaper.

“The steel structures beneath it are incredibly dense, so even if the glass breaks, visitors won’t fall through.”

Would you dare to walk across?

But architects who spoke to the BBC said that such glass bridges were often “primarily a novelty, built as visitor attractions rather than commuter bridges”.

Architect Keith Brownlie, who was involved in a glass bridge for The London Science Museum, said that the appeal was “thrill”.

“It is the relationship between emotionally driven fear and the logical understanding of safety,” he said. “These structures tread the boundary between those two contrasting senses and people like to challenge their rational mind in relation to their irrational fear.

“Others felt that the bridges symbolised extravagance, especially in China.

“In architecture, glass has always been associated with luxury and often as a display of wealth,” said bridge designer Ezra Groskin.

“Glass floor panels, used in the creation of invisible architecture, are not a new phenomenon. However its use is often restricted due to cost and practicality.”

A terrifying incident last October sent visitors fleeing in fear after a section of a glass bridge in Yuntai mountain, Henan province, cracked

Shattered nerves

But how safe are China’s glass bridges?

An incident in October sent terrified visitors fleeing in fear after part of a glass skywalk in Henan province’s Yuntai Mountain Geological Park cracked, despite only being open for two weeks.

Park officials closed the walkway immediately, later saying there was “no reason for worry” and that the cracks had “no impact on safety”.

But experts questioned the use of glass in an exposed mountain environment.

“While a glass structure designed by a competent engineer and manufactured by a specialist contractor has no greater risk in terms of structural integrity than any other building material, glass can be prone to localised shocks,” noted architect Adam Holicska.

“The use of it in a mountain environment where there is a potential risk of rock impact can make it a questionable choice.

“Architect Keith Brownlie added that the cleaning of glass panels and lack of slip resistance should also be considered in such an environment.”One issue with glass decks is the problem of grip,” he said. “Glass is slippery and so anti-slip properties must be provided,”

The glass-bottomed Brave Man’s Bridge in Hunan province connects two mountains

“Please, no more such bridges,” commented a user on China’s popular micro-blogging site Weibo. “Judging from this incident, it is only a matter of time before more serious accidents and deaths occur.

“But glass bridge enthusiasts remain undeterred.

“I still would not hesitate to visit other glass bridges soon,” Ms Li admitted.

Other netizens on the site also expressed similar opinions.

“I am confident that officials will step up additional measures after that happened,” said one Weibo user.

“Thankfully deaths were avoided but one bad incident should not put one off from conquering such a spectacular bridge.”

Another compared it to other bridges of the world: “If Sydney’s Harbour Bridge experienced a crack, I doubt government officials would close it down. So we should not let such an episode affect our opinions about our unique Chinese structures.”

Source: China tourism: Crossing the new glass bridges – BBC News


The Brics Are Harming Each Other’s Trade, and India Is Largely to Blame – India Real Time – WSJ

Like most families, the Brics bloc isn’t as happy as it looks from the outside.

Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, whose leaders begin a two-day summit today in Russia, are responsible for a growing share of the world’s trade-distorting policies but an even larger portion of trade-liberalizing ones, a new report finds.

However, the temporary nature of some of the market-opening measures means that overall these countries are still discriminating significantly against their trade partners—many of which are fellow emerging markets.

The finding, documented by the Global Trade Alert project of the London-based Centre for Economic Policy Research, highlights some of the awkward contradictions in the effort to unite the Brics.

“On the one hand, the Brics have sought to bolster trade between themselves with more generous credit lines for exporters and the like,” writes the report’s author, Simon Evenett, a professor of economics at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. “On the other hand, the Brics are responsible for a third of the instances of the harm to each other’s commercial interests. This cannot make sense.”

Global Trade Alert monitors trade-distorting moves such as tariffs, investment restrictions, “buy local” requirements for public procurement and export-promotion tools such as tax incentives and trade finance. GTA says its dataset includes more than 4,500 trade-related policies enacted globally since the financial crisis, more than double the number tracked by the World Trade Organization.

The GTA database documents three major spikes in protectionism since 2008. Over that period, the Brics governments have implemented a total of 1,451 policies that favor domestic commercial interests over foreign ones, or 32% of such measures world-wide. The Brics countries have since unwound just a fifth of these, suggesting that protectionist walls weren’t raised merely as temporary crisis-fighting measures. The Brics account for 17% of world trade.

Within the bloc, India stands out as an offender. According to GTA, the country is second only to the European Union both in the number of discriminatory measures imposed since November 2008—452 against the EU’s 604—and in the number of product categories affected by such measures—1,174 against the EU’s 1,220, both out of a possible 1,229.

Rich-country protectionism is still alive and kicking, the report shows. Of the 2,733 economic policies that harmed at least one Brics member, a fifth came from a member of the G-7 group of nations—the U.S., Canada, Japan, Germany, France, U.K. and Italy—or Australia. Nearly a third, however, came from fellow Brics nations.

All told, a greater share of G-7 policies were discriminatory, but the Brics’ protectionism affected a broader range of products. China was the most-common victim, with 2,153 foreign measures hitting its commercial interests.

The Brics also account for an increasing share of reforms world-wide to lower obstacles to foreign firms and investors, the report finds. But 28% of these liberalizations have already lapsed, compared to the global average of 15%.

Some economists say developing countries, in order to kick-start industrialization, need to shield and nurture local firms until they’re ready to compete on world markets. But Mr. Evenett argues that condoning “special and differential treatment” for poor countries doesn’t straightforwardly protect them against rich countries’ discrimination—it also provides cover for developing countries to step on other developing countries’ toes. China is the only one of the Brics whose exports haven’t stagnated over the past four years.

Hence, “a less selective approach to tackling crisis-era protectionism would seem to be in order,” Mr. Evenett writes. “The frequency with which Brics commercial interests are harmed by beggar-thy-neighbor interests ought to make the Brics champions of the monitoring of protectionism by international organizations.”

via The Brics Are Harming Each Other’s Trade, and India Is Largely to Blame – India Real Time – WSJ.


India’s Victory Over Polio Has an Unexpected Consequence – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s aggressive eradication of polio established the template for moving a disease from endemic to eliminated and has been lauded by the World Health Organization.

But in the process, a rise in the prevalence of another polio-like condition, acute flaccid paralysis, has been recorded.

Known as AFP, the condition is the sudden onset of muscle weakness or the inability to move limbs, and can be a tell-tale sign of polio, but is also a symptom of other diseases, including transverse myelitis, which causes injury to the spinal cord, Guillain Barre Syndrome, a nerve disorder, and Japanese Encephalitis, a mosquito-borne virus.

Since 1997, children in India who present with AFP are immediately tested for polio to comply with polio-eradication protocol and doing so has been one of the foundation stones for eradication.

Just this month, more than 200 young patients in the country’s most-populous state Uttar Pradesh, suffering from AFP were tested for polio. They didn’t have the virus, the federal Health Ministry said in a statement.

Such surveillance has resulted in a huge rise in reported cases of AFP.

In 2003, when polio was endemic in India, 8,500 cases of AFP were recorded. So far in 2015, a year after India was declared polio free, there have been nearly 18,000 reported instances but none linked to polio.

Often the cause of AFP remains unknown.

via India’s Victory Over Polio Has an Unexpected Consequence – India Real Time – WSJ.


India’s Maharashtra state bans black magic after killing

BBC: “The Indian state of Maharashtra has enacted emergency laws banning black magic and superstition, one day after a prominent campaigner was killed.

In this Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 photo, people pay last respects to anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar who was killed in Pune, India

Anti-superstition activist Narendra Dabholkar, 71, who campaigned for the law, was shot dead in the city of Pune on Tuesday by unidentified gunmen.

Many businesses closed to protest against his killing and chanting demonstrators marched through the city.

He spent decades campaigning against what he called “fraudulent” practices.

Critics accused him of being anti-religion in a country where mysticism and spirituality is venerated.

But in an interview with the Agence France-Presse news agency two years ago he rejected such charges.

“In the whole of the bill, there’s not a single word about God or religion. Nothing like that. The Indian constitution allows freedom of worship and nobody can take that away,” he said.

“This is about fraudulent and exploitative practices.””

via BBC News – Narendra Dabholkar: India’s Maharashtra state bans black magic after killing.

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