National / International News

China tells party officials to stop smoking in public

Marketplace - American Public Media - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:56

The new Party directive says smoking, “damages the image of the party and the government.”

So does rampant corruption – but smoking seems to be a more manageable vice among China’s ruling elite.

"The leadership wants local officials to change their style and become closer to the people," says Wu Yiqun, who helps head an anti-smoking NGO in Beijing. "Part of this is setting a good example by not smoking."

But old habits die hard.

When I approach three well-dressed smokers in their 50s outside a tobacco shop in Shanghai with my microphone, one of them drops his cigarette and dashes off. The second one retreats into the shop, and the third one, Gu Ziheng, takes a long drag of his cigarette before explaining the other two were "leaders," dodging the question of whether they’re government officials.

Gu thinks this smoking ban is a good idea. "To build a civilized society, you need economic support as a foundation," he says, conjuring Party talking points, "China’s developed into a stronger nation, so it must take care of its image."

As Gu says this, his friend who dashed off peeks his head out from behind a wall, and whispers loudly enough so we all can hear: “Don’t say anything bad about the party!”

Gu and I both nod, the man disappears, and we resume the interview.

Gu tells me this smoking ban has a lot to do with Xi Jinping’s crackdown on corruption. "Now - in China, you have high-end, and low-end, cigarettes," Gu explains, exhaling smoke. "Smoking high-end cigarettes means you’re corrupt."

Local officials in China have been caught using public money to buy expensive cigarettes as gifts to other officials. After Gu puts out his cigarette, his friend who retreated to the tobacco shop comes out with a red, shiny carton of Chunghwa cigarettes. They’re certainly not the highest-end cigarettes.  But Chunghwas, which cost a hundred dollars a carton, are commonly used as bribes in China.

As I stare at the candy apple red box, both men say awkwardly “we bought these with our own money.”

The third man remains partially hidden behind the wall, avoiding the microphone, unable to enjoy a smoke.

Family issues plea over gun murder

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:51
The family of a 20-year-old man who died after being shot in Liverpool make an appeal on the third anniversary of his shooting.

East US battles major snow storm

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:33
Thousands of flights are grounded in the US as a major snowstorm hits eastern states, dropping 53cm (21 inches) of snow in Massachusetts.

Sales creating 'frenzy' at the shops

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:20
A "shopping frenzy" has gripped the capital since Christmas say business leaders, with others around Wales reporting "guarded confidence" for 2014.

DOJ Expected To Defend Health Law's Contraceptive Mandate

NPR News - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:19

The Justice Department will answer a challenge to a provision in the law requiring most employers that offer health insurance to include birth control at no cost. A group of Catholic nuns objects to the provision, and they won a temporary reprieve from Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

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Smith and Haddin punish England

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:14
Steve Smith's century and 75 from Brad Haddin help Australia to 326 all out on the first day of the final Ashes Test.

Cardiff chairman says sorry to fans

BBC - Thu, 2014-01-02 23:13
Cardiff chairman Mehmet Dalman says sorry to fans for the controversy surrounding Malky Mackay's sacking as manager.

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