Smog Suspends Flights in Beijing

Thick haze shrouding Beijing forced authorities to cancel flights and close expressways, state media reported Monday. The Beijing Capital International Airport canceled more than 200 incoming and outgoing flights and delayed more than 125 others Monday afternoon, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The state-run China Daily newspaper, citing Beijing’s weather officials, said melting snow made the air wet and caused heavy fog that “crippled traffic, delayed flights and created obstacles in the highways in many places of North China since Saturday.”

Last month, when many official reports in Chinese state-run media referred to the air as being filled with “fog,” the government acknowledged that the haze was due to smog. While “fog alerts” are declared, “Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environment Affairs, said the hazes that have been smothering Beijing are really ‘smog,’” the state-run China Daily reported in November.

Online monitoring from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing described the air quality as “hazardous” at numerous intervals throughout the day Sunday and Monday. Beijing’s municipal environmental protection authority said Monday’s air pollution was “moderate,” Xinhua reported. Chinese state media reports warned of traffic gridlock and poor visibility, but they did not mention health concerns.

Experts have blamed the thick haze on rapid urbanization and industrialization. Beijing, for instance, burned some 27 million tons of coal in 2010, according to state-run media. Pollution is more acute because of the sheer size of the city’s population (17 million) and the rapid speed of its economic growth, experts say.

 

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New Zealand is World’s Least Corrupt Nation

New Zealand is perceived as the least corrupt nation on earth, and Somalia and North Korea are seen as the most corrupt, a German watchdog organization said in a report released this week. The United States ranked 24th least corrupt on a “corruption perceptions index,” the fourth-best in the Western Hemisphere. Canada ranked 10th, the Bahamas is 21st and Chile is 22nd.

In addition to Somalia and North Korea, which are tied for last at No. 182, the bottom of the list includes Myanmar, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Sudan,Iraq, Haiti and Venezuela.

The report was prepared by the independent, nonpartisan Transparency International organization, which says it drew its conclusions based “on different assessments and business opinion surveys carried out by independent and reputable institutions.”

The information used to compile the index includes “questions relating to the bribery of public officials, kickbacks in public procurement, embezzlement of public funds and questions that probe the strength and effectiveness of public-sector and anti-corruption efforts,” Transparency International said.

Perceptions are used, the organization said, because corruption is a hidden activity that is difficult to measure.

The index uses a scale of 0-10 to measure perceived corruption, with zero representing highly corrupt and 10 being very clean. New Zealand, the highest-ranked nation, has a 9.5 score. Somalia and North Korea, the lowest-ranked, have 1.0.

The United States scored 7.1, while Canada is 8.7 and Chile is 7.2. Haiti, the lowest-ranked nation in the Western Hemisphere, scored 1.8. Next-worst is Venezuela with 1.9. The complete report, released Thursday, can be seen at www.transparency.org.

 

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