Jan 03

China Watch Blog has learnt that marijuana users celebrated on Wednesday as Colorado became the first US state to allow retail cannabis sales, putting it in the vanguard of efforts across the country to legalise the drug.

The western state famous for its ski resorts and breathtaking mountain vistas has issued 348 retail licences — including for small pot shops — that can sell up to 28 grammes of pot to people aged 21 or older.

Washington state on the Pacific Coast will follow Colorado several months from now, when it also allows stores to begin selling cannabis.

Iraq war veteran Sean Azzariti was the first person to legally purchase cannabis for recreational use in the United States.

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Sep 20

China Watch Blog has learnt that for the first time, municipal and thought leaders around the USA will gather to chart a path to ensuring all children get the play they need to thrive.

Play is critical to the physical, social, emotional, cognitive and creative development of children. But play is disappearing in homes, schools and communities. A healthy balance of active play is falling victim to TV, video games, structured schedules, declining recess time, and a lack of access to safe play spaces.

The 2013 Playful City USA Leaders’ Summit: Investing in Children Through Play, will be held in Baltimore, Md., from Monday, Sept. 23 to Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. A national platform of KaBOOM! and sponsored by The Humana Foundation, the Summit is meant to drive investments in play infrastructure, policies and programming.

“We know that play can transform children – from sedentary to physically active, bored to mentally active, and solitary to socially active. When we make sure that our children’s lives are filled with play, we all benefit: our communities will be healthier and happier today, and our society will be stronger and more resilient tomorrow,” says Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM!.

This invitation-only Summit will bring together city, non-profit, Foundation, business and national thought leaders from across the country to advance collective efforts to ensure that all children get the play that they need to become healthy and successful adults.

The select group of more than 150 speakers and participants includes The Honorable Kathleen Sebelius, The Honorable Arne Duncan, American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown, The Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson, and Mayors from cities large and small across the nation.

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Aug 27

China Watch Blog has learnt that Chinese geologists confirmed today that they have discovered a large gold deposit with estimated reserves of 21 metric tons in south China’s Guangdong Province.

It is the third such gold deposit in the province and has a potential value worth billions of yuan, sources with the Guangdong Geological Bureau said.

The deposit is located in western Guangdong and its main body measures about 800 meters long, sources said.

In addition to the gold, the deposit also has reserves of silver of about 26 metric tons, according to the bureau.

Two other gold deposits, each with reserves of over 20 tons, were found in Guangdong in the 1980s and 1990s.

Guangdong is one of China’s major gold producers. As of 2010, there were five gold mining companies in the province, with annual investment in the gold market of up to 100 billion yuan (US$16.13 billion).

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Aug 04

China Watch Blog has reports that the United States issued a worldwide travel alert on Friday warning Americans that al Qaeda may be planning attacks in August, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.

The State Department travel alert was based on the same intelligence that prompted it to close 21 US embassies and consulates on Sunday, August 4, chiefly those in the Muslim world, a US official told Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity.

“The Department of State alerts US citizens to the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa, and possibly occurring in or emanating from the Arabian Peninsula,” its statement said.

“Current information suggests that al Qaeda and affiliated organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks both in the region and beyond, and that they may focus efforts to conduct attacks in the period between now and the end of August,” it added, saying the travel alert would expire on August 31.

Among the most prominent of al Qaeda’s affiliates is Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based group whose attempted attacks included the Christmas Day 2009 attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.

US security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the threat was related to AQAP but there was not a specific target. They also said that it was aimed at Western interests, an assessment later confirmed by the senior US military officer.

“The intent is to attack Western, not just US interests,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told ABC News in an interview to be broadcast on its “This Week” programme on Sunday.

“There is a significant threat stream and we’re reacting to it,” he said, adding that the kind of potential attack was “unspecified.”

Britain said it would close its embassy in Yemen on Sunday and Monday. “We are particularly concerned about the security situation in the final days of Ramadan and into Eid,” Britain’s Foreign Office said in a statement, referring to the Muslim holy month which ends on Wednesday.

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Jul 27

China Watch Blog reports Pacnet, the operator of Asia’s largest privately owned submarine cable network, is conducting a sweeping security audit across its operations after Edward Snowden’s claim of a major security breach at the company.

Jim Fagan, president of Pacnet’s managed services business, said the action was initiated after the Sunday Morning Post reported last month that computers at the company’s Hong Kong headquarters were hacked by the US National Security Agency (NSA) in 2009.

“We started an investigation soon after seeing that report because the security of our network and our customers’ data is paramount,” Fagan said.

“When that security gets called into question, you want to go back and look at things.”

He added: “We’ve never seen the documentation behind that report, so we really didn’t have much to go on. From that perspective, I can’t confirm or deny whether that [security breach] happened.” Snowden, the fugitive former US intelligence contractor, alleged that hundreds of computers in the city and on the mainland were targeted by the NSA over a four-year period.

British newspaper The Guardian and The Washington Post also reported Snowden’s claim that certain US mobile network operators helped the NSA collect the phone data of their customers.

Fagan said Pacnet, which changed senior management and reorganised its business last year, had “never been involved with any of that” [surveillance].

“We’ve engaged third-party security firms to do a forensic analysis of our network and our servers. This process will see if there is any evidence of a breach in 2009,” Fagan said.

He declined to identify the firms, but expected the audit to be completed in a few months.

“Our security policies and protocols are also being reviewed, so we can get recommendations to improve it,” he said. “When we finish this process, we will talk to our customers about what we’ve found and what we’re doing.”

Snowden said Pacnet’s computers in Hong Kong were successfully hacked by the NSA, but the operation has since been shut down. His data on Pacnet was based on information including dates, domain names, internet protocol numbers and other operational details.

Pacnet owns and operates the EAC-C2C fibre-optic submarine cable network that spans Hong Kong, the mainland, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore.

It also runs the EAC Pacific submarine cable system, part of the Unity cable network, which connects Japan and the US.

Snowden is still in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport after arriving there from Hong Kong on June 23.

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Jul 21

China Watch Blog has learnt that organizations are increasingly relying on the collective power of teams to meet today’s business demands, but many teams aren’t living up to their full potential.

While teambuilding and sensitivity training workshops abound, they typically deliver little in the way of long-term impact, often because they overlook an essential factor driving team performance: thinking.

“With knowledge workers, you can’t develop and maintain an exceptional, consistently high-performing team without focusing first on what drives the team’s behaviors and actions at the root level,” says Ann Herrmann-Nehdi, CEO of Herrmann International.

“From our more than 30 years of research on the brain and business performance, we’ve found that when people come together, their ability to communicate, problem solve, and get the most from their diverse experience and perspectives starts with understanding how they prefer to think, both as individuals and as a group.”

Thinking style data, which reveals a number of important clues about how a team works, can be assessed and used as a starting point for discussions and activities, she says. Once team members understand the importance of a breadth of thinking and how each person’s thinking adds value, they are able to view differences in a nonjudgmental way, and they have new context for how to tackle the challenges that inevitably arise.

To make sure the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts, Herrmann-Nehdi says teams need to consider:

• To what degree does the team prefer analytical, structured, interpersonal or conceptual styles of thinking?

• How do these different modes of thinking affect team dynamics, process flows, idea generation and problem-solving approaches?

• How do they contribute to desired outcomes, and where are there gaps in our thinking?

• How can we use diverse thinking to move from conflict to creative contention?

In addition, leaders, OD professionals and others can apply the data to strategically align thinking resources with business objectives and challenges.

“When managed well, cognitive diversity has been proven to pay off,” Herrmann-Nehdi says. “A six-year study with the USDA Forest Service using the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument® (HBDI®) assessment and Whole Brain® framework found that teams with a balance in terms of thinking preferences are more effective—they consider more options and make better decisions—and they’re more efficient than homogenous teams.”

The new white paper, Are Teams Broken? Or Just Not Using Their Heads? Team Thinking in a New Light, (at http://www.hbdi.com/Resources/WhitePapers/index.php) discusses how to apply the latest research on thinking and team effectiveness to achieve specific business objectives. The free download also provides tips for using a thinking-based framework to overcome common team challenges.

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Jun 23

China Watch Blog has learnt that the United States has said that if Hong Kong doesn’t act soon on its request to extradite former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden it will complicate bilateral relations, according to the Reuters news agency.

A Reuters report has quoted an unnamed senior Obama administration official as saying a delay would also raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law.

The outgoing White House National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, was quoted by CBS as saying that US law enforcement officials are in talks with Hong Kong authorities about extraditing Snowden, who’s been charged with leaking US secrets about government surveillance.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post has said Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong from Hawaii last month, has not been detained and contrary to media reports, he isn’t under police protection. It said the whistleblower is in a “safe place” in Hong Kong.

The newspaper also said it had seen evidence of an extensive cyber-spying programme by the United States against China. It said Washington hacked major mainland telecoms firms, to get hold of text messages, as well as the Hong Kong computers of Pacnet, which owns many fibre-optic cable networks in the region.

Legal experts say America’s attempts to extradite Snowden will result in a protracted legal battle in Hong Kong that could last years. Legislator and barrister, Alan Leong, said he thought the legal fight could last between three and five years, at the very least.

Separately, Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, formerly the city’s top official overseeing security, who is also a pro-Beijing lawmaker and Legco member, has urged Snowden to leave Hong Kong.

Ip said the administration was “obliged to comply with the terms of agreements” with the US government, which included the extradition of fugitives, AFP reports.

“It’s actually in his best interest to leave Hong Kong,” she said, adding that she did not know whether the government had yet received an extradition request. “I doubt it will happen so quickly,” she said.

Both the US consulate and Hong Kong government declined comment so far.

“To extradite someone will probably require a lot of process in Hong Kong,” Law Yuk-kai, director of the city’s Human Rights Monitor watchdog group, said.

“Anybody here in Hong Kong should be protected under international standards. We hope anybody here will be dealt with fairly and their rights are respected.”

Snowden, a former technical assistant for the CIA, worked for the NSA as an employee of various outside contractors, including Dell and Booz Allen Hamilton.

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Jun 03

China Watch Blog reports that a Chinese city’s plan to fine mothers who have a child out of wedlock has sparked criticism that the policy is discriminatory and could lead to an increase in abandoned babies.

One expert said Monday that it was the first time that out-of-wedlock children had been expressly singled out for penalty by one of China’s municipalities, which have flexibility in how they enforce China’s population-control policies.

It also came just days after the rescue of a young unmarried mother’s newborn from a sewer pipe in eastern China prompted discussion over the stigma that single mothers face, AP reports.

“If the policy is approved, there could be more `sewer babies,’ because when mothers can’t afford the cost, they might think about throwing their babies away,” said Chen Yaya, a gender equality researcher at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences.

Said another expert, the city’s policy was unfair in that it would only punish the mother while the father will get away without any penalties. “Blaming the woman and not the man, who has an equal responsibility to the child born out of wedlock shows the city is led by male chauvinists.”

On Friday, the government of Wuhan city in central Hubei published online a draft updated family planning policy which it says is aimed at keeping the city’s birth rate at a low level.

The policy says that “the parties” should pay the fee in cases of births that are out of wedlock or when one side knowingly has a child with someone who has a spouse. It has been interpreted in state media as mainly targeting unmarried mothers and women who have affairs with married men. The public has a week to comment on it.

“It looks like the policy is targeted just at women from my understanding,” Chen said.
She said unmarried mothers already faced discrimination, including being barred from receiving maternity benefits from the government.

Unmarried mothers also face stigma because premarital sex traditionally has been frowned upon. In the case of the baby found in the sewer in Zhejiang province on May 25, his mother told police she got pregnant after a brief affair, couldn’t afford an abortion, hid her pregnancy from family and neighbors and had concerns about whether she would be able to raise the child.

Police also said she told them the baby slipped into the sewer accidentally shortly after its birth — an account they later said they accepted.

Wuhan’s proposed rule would be the first time that bearing a child when unmarried has been spelled out as a separate offense, said Yuan Xin, a professor of population studies at Renmin University.

“In fact, a lot of family planning regulations have included unmarried childbearing under illegal childbearing. They were just not specified as a separate term as is the case this time with Wuhan,” he said.

“We need to distinguish between the legal and moral aspects” and define what a family is nowadays, said Yuan. “Let’s say I am single, and I want to have a child. Is that wrong? No, it’s not, so is it considered a family? Having a baby with a married man, is that considered a family? All these details need to be specified.”

Babies resulting from an unmarried relationship or an affair with someone who is already married will provoke a “social compensation fee,” an official at the family planning committee of Wuhan city in central Hubei province said Monday. He refused to give his name, as is common with Chinese officials.

Social compensation fees are levied on people who break China’s strict family planning policy, which restricts many urban couples to one child. The fee depends on the province and the whim of the local family planning bureau, and the children are denied education and health benefits.

Hubei province, in which Wuhan is located, sets its social compensation fee as three times the average annual disposable income.

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May 10

China Watch Blog has learnt that French logistics student Pauline Bourderiou is about to sit her final examinations, helped on her way by a four-month internship at Impatex Freight Software, the UK’s leading freight and Customs software supplier.

During her stay with Impatex, Pauline has worked behind the scenes on the company’s 24/7 Help Desk to learn about the company’s software and the UK Customs system. She also translated Impatex’s Integrated Customs for Europe (ICE) and NetFreight software screens into French. In her final two months, she assisted in finding a French distributor for NetFreight, and also represented the company on its stand at a trade exhibition.

Pauline’s placement was arranged by Wiltshire College, where she has been studying in the UK; they publicised the availability of French interns through BIFA’s member newsletter. Wiltshire College operates an exchange scheme with IUT Laval, Pauline’s local business college close to her home near Le Mans, France.

In June, Pauline will sit her examinations for the “Licence Gestionnaire Import-Export” – equivalent to a bachelor’s degree in Import and Export; she will also receive an HNC in Business. In April, she sat and passed the Cambridge University Certificate in Business English.

To date, Pauline has spent two years studying international trade, with work placements in Spain and France that involved translation, organising and attending overseas exhibitions, identifying potential international distributors, supply chain analysis and accounting.

Says Pauline: “My last work placement in a logistics department in France, gave me the desire to follow my study in Import-export. For me, logistics is a really interesting sector because the aim is to coordinate all activities in the areas of procurement, production, handling, packaging, packing, storage, distribution and delivery.

“I was really pleased to do my work placement at Impatex; there is a really good atmosphere at work and everybody has been very welcoming when I arrived. This work placement gave me more knowledge about export and import documents, and how the UK trades with other countries using its software to prepare and manage their exports and imports. I learned how Customs works in England; it is quite unique, and different than French Customs.”

Pauline has her sights set firmly on a career in logistics; and although she favours a French company in the wine or foods sector, she is not against working in other countries or businesses: “I love travelling : it is the reason why I chose to study International trade. I would like to work as an export sales manager, because I really enjoy the contact with customers and it is a really important place within the logistics process.”

Adds Impatex MD Peter Day: “It has been a real pleasure helping Pauline with her studies, and she has also been a tremendous assistance to our business. We wish her very well for the future: she will be a real credit to whoever is lucky enough to employ her.”

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May 06

China Watch Blog has learnt that from the kindergarten room to the boardroom, it’s commonly believed that a person’s perception of their potential will affect their behavior. This theory suggests you just think positive and somehow, magically, you’ll manifest the needed skills. But Al Bolea’s Applied Leadership Seminars turn this belief on its head.

“My position is that behavior drives potential,” says Bolea. “There’s been a great deal of research by contemporary psychologists and neuroscientists confirming this. Simply stated, when a person becomes aware of their behavior and changes it to adopt the behaviors of great leaders, they will become a great leader.”

People begin their leadership journey when they embrace the idea that their behavior determines their future potential, Bolea continues. This redefined potential-behavior relationship shines a new light on everything else in an organization.

While Al Bolea travels around the globe presenting this transformative approach to applied leadership, this summer a lucky few will have an extraordinary opportunity for personal and professional growth: the Alaskan Experience. From August 11 – 16, 2013, the Executive Leadership Retreat will combine topics from the Applied Leadership Seminars and guided fishing in the pristine waters of Alaska’s Inside Passage.

Spectacular natural wonders, stimulating leadership inquiry, team fishing in a rigorous environment, and evening dinners with gourmet Alaskan specialties offer a rare opportunity for leadership teams to re-envision their organization’s future.

Attendees will initially stay at the Cape Fox Lodge in Ketchikan, Alaska, then travel by sea plane to the Waterfall Resort, one of the finest remote sport fishing destinations in the world. Waterfall attracts anglers of all skill levels, from novice to avid, celebrities and professional athletes. The resort on Prince of Wales Island is the ideal all-inclusive Alaskan resort with a one-to-one staff-to-guest ratio.

Al Bolea offers Applied Leadership Seminars year-round. Designed as team experiences, they are ideal for groups of 12-16 attendees. Teams will gain new leadership tools and build greater cooperation among the members, achieving lasting personal and professional transformations. Eleven seminar options range from 5 days in length for “Leadership Transformation” to a 1 day seminar for “Being A Leader.”

The founder and architect of the Applied Leadership Seminars, Al Bolea is an executive leadership coach with clients in many industries. He is the former CEO/GM of Dubai Petroleum and a retired BP executive. His industry career spans almost forty years, including assignments in the US, UK and Middle East. He lectures at the University of Houston, and is the Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Leadership at the University of Alaska.

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