Twenty-two Chinese dairy firms will pay 160 million dollars into a compensation fund for families of babies that died or fell ill after drinking tainted milk, state media said Monday.
Families of children who died after being given the adulterated formula will each receive 200,000 yuan (29,000 dollars) from the fund, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Parents of infants who were hospitalised will get between 30,000 and 50,000 yuan, it said.
Half a dozen babies dead
At least six babies in China died this year and another 294,000 fell ill after drinking milk laced with the industrial chemical melamine, which is normally used to make plastic.
Melamine was mixed into the watered-down milk to make it appear richer in protein. But the chemical caused severe kidney problems and urinary tract problems in babies who drank the tainted milk powder.
The scandal, which emerged in September after initially being covered up, shook the foundations of a Chinese food industry that was already beset by repeated safety problems.
It quickly became a global concern after contaminated Chinese milk products were found abroad.
According to the China Business News, the new fund will come into effect from January and pay for medical treatment and operations for diseases caused by the tainted milk.
In total, the firms will pay out more than 900 million yuan (130 million dollars) in cash and set up a 200-million-yuan medical fund to cover bills for any lingering health problems, the China Business News reported.
The China Daily said a total of about 13.5 billion yuan would be needed to compensate all the victims.
China Life, the country\’s largest life insurer, has been appointed to manage the fund, the China Business News said, adding the government had ordered the firms to pay the compensation.
Amount of money criticised
However, one lawyer representing victims of the scandal said the amount put forward by the milk companies was not enough to provide for all the victims, and criticised the whole compensation process.
“I have seen only the news reports, but from what I have seen the amount of money being put forward is not enough, the payments will be too low,” said Li Fanping, who is representing the families of about 100 victims of the scandal.
“This compensation plan has not been an open process. The victims and consumers were not allowed to participate. They should have the right to go through a judicial process to seek compensation and it is not clear if this will happen.”
Numerous lawsuits demanding compensation for victims of the scandal have so far not been accepted by Chinese courts.
Suspects\’ trial begins
Lawyers for victims have said the government had warned them not to sue, possibly fearing a slew of potentially costly lawsuits that would also attract bad publicity.
The trials of six suspects accused of manufacturing, trading or adding melamine to dairy products began Friday last week, earlier Chinese reports said.
Four more people linked to the scandal went on trial Monday, the official Xinhua news agency said.
Ugandan Lord\’s Resistance Army rebels have killed almost 200 people in northeast Congo, a UN agency says, although rebels issued a swift denial.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its report that the rebels had killed 189 people and torched 120 houses during the bloody campaign in Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, LRA deputy peace delegation chairman Justin Labeja told news agency AFP by telephone that “the accusations that LRA has killed 200 people in DRC are totally untrue. LRA has not killed anybody.”
Labeja, a long-time confidant of LRA leader Joseph Kony, said the group “is still committed to negotiating with the Ugandan government as long as there are guarantees and the International Criminal Court warrants are suspended.”
Troops from DR Congo, Uganda and southern Sudan have been working together since mid-December to find Kony, who is wanted by The Hague-based tribunal for war crimes.
The vice-governor of Orientale province, Joseph Bangakya Angaze, told AFP by telephone that local authorities would ask the Congolese government today to include the Central Africal Republic in the joint mission.
Peacekeepers \’shot Ugandan soldier\’
Ongoing military operations and the LRA\’s continued presence in northeast DR Congo have made security conditions in the region “extremely volatile” and much of the region inaccessible to aid workers, OCHA said.
In a development which only added to the region\’s volatile state, another UN agency operating in DR Congo, the mission in the country known as MONUC, said Monday that a Ugandan soldier had been shot dead after a UN peacekeeper accidentally fired his machine gun.
The Ugandan solider died from his injuries and his body has been immediately flown home, MONUC said in a statement, adding that a full inquiry would be carried out into the accident.
Ugandan army spokesman Captain Chris Magezi had earlier told AFP in a telephone interview that his forces would hunt down LRA members while protecting civilians.
“We have developed a two-pronged approach to stop these senseless killings: We guard civilian settlements while another force pursues the rebels,” Magezi said.
“We are deploying enough forces to increase pressure on the rebels,” he added.
Rape, murder and massacre
Kony\’s rebels are accused of having raped and mutilated civilians, forcibly enlisting child soldiers and having massacred thousands during two decades of conflict.
The Ugandan army have also accused the rebels of hacking to death 45 people in a church in the northeast on Friday.
“Our pledge to those who have been killed is to hunt for the killers and put them out of action so that they do not kill more people,” Magezi said, adding local civilians should report to them on rebel movements.
LRA spokesman David Nyekorach Matsanga on Sunday dismissed the allegations relating to the church killings as a “propaganda campaign by the Uganda army.”
Ongoing peace talks
Uganda and the LRA have been engaged in peace talks led by the government of south Sudan for more than two years.
Kony, a semi-literate former altar boy, took charge in 1988 of a regional rebellion among northern Uganda\’s ethnic Acholi minority.
He has repeatedly refused to sign a peace deal with Kampala because of the International Criminal Court arrest warrants against him and his lieutenants, despite Uganda inking the final peace agreement concluded in April.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and nearly two million displaced in two decades of fighting between the Ugandan government and the LRA, which is notorious for abducting children as soldiers and sex slaves.
BEIJING (Reuters) – Fears of a prolonged recession in China have triggered a sharp increase in divorce inquiries addressed to lawyers and financial advisers, state media reported Monday, with timing a key issue.
Wealthy spouses were keen to strike a deal while asset values were low, the China Daily quoted the director of the China Divorce Service Centre, Shu Xin, as saying.
“While facing tough financial times is not usually the main reason couples split, it can serve as the last straw for already strained marriages or add new concerns to divorces under way,” the newspaper said, quoting “marriage advisers.”
Ming Li, who works for China\’s first marriage and finance firm, Shanghai Weiqing, said: “Many questions are about how to avoid paying off debts after the divorce and the number of such telephone inquiries has increased from 200 to 300 in recent months.”
But China University of Political Science and Law professor Wu Changzhen said it may be too early to know the impact of the financial crisis on divorce rates.
“It seems the rates may have dropped since the downturn, because divorces are expensive,” he was quoted as saying.
“It has become extremely difficult for couples wanting to divorce to sell their homes at a reasonable price and to maintain two separate households.”
According to a separate story carried on the China News Service website (南宁夜网.chinanews广西桑拿,), the number of people seeking divorce advice increased by 30 percent in the second half of this year.
Most of the inquiries were about how to protect property, it said.
There were 2.1 million divorces in China in 2007, nearly seven times the figure of 1980 when nationwide economic reforms were launched, the China Daily quoted the Ministry of Civil Affairs as saying.
(Reporting by Beijing newsroom; Editing by Nick Macfie)
One of America\’s leading Republicans has stoked a bitter racism row by handing out copies of a CD featuring a song called Barack the Magic Negro.
Chip Saltsman, who is seeking to become chairman of the Republican National Committee, sent its members a recording by conservative comedian Paul Shanklin as a Christmas gift.
The 41-track disc included the controversial song – sung to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon – which began life on conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh\’s radio program.
Its title is a reference to an opinion piece written by David Ehrenstein for the Los Angeles Times, which argued that voting for Obama helped white voters alleviate their guilt over the racial wrongs of the past.
Other tracks on the CD lampooning liberal targets are titled We Hate the USA, The Star Spanglish Banner, Love Client 9 – about former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer\’s prostitution scandal – and Down on the Farm with Al Gore.
Saltsman\’s decision to send out the CD has been condemned by the current chairman of the RNC, Robert Duncan, who said it was highly inappropriate.
\’Lighthearted political parody\’
“The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party.
“I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.”
But Saltsman was unrepentant, insisting the track was not racist.
“Paul Shanklin is a longtime friend, and I think that RNC members have the good humour and good sense to recognise that his songs for the Rush Limbaugh show are lighthearted political parodies,” he said.
In the past, Limbaugh has insisted that the song was a parody to prove a point about liberal white voters.
“I can tell you think the term \’Negro\’ is inappropriate, that it\’s old hat and shouldn\’t be used, that it\’s divisive and this sort of thing, and you may have a point,” Limbaugh told a caller objecting to the song in March 2007.
“But remember what we do on this program: We illustrate absurdity by being absurd.”
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has been charged with assault and affray over a brawl outside a UK bar that left a disk jockey hospitalised with facial injuries.
Merseyside Police announced the charge early on Tuesday – 24 hours after Gerrard was arrested in Southport while celebrating Liverpool\’s emphatic 5-1 victory over Newcastle.
Gerrard, who scored twice in the match on Sunday, was feted as a hero of the win that extended his side\’s lead atop the English Premier League.
A police spokesman said Gerrard was charged with assault and occasioning actual bodily harm in connection with the fight at the Lounge Inn.
In the altercation outside the bar, a 34-year-old DJ had a tooth broken and sustained cuts to his forehead, although he was later released from hospital.
Club DJ injured
Southport, a prosperous seaside town, is known as somewhere where footballers from nearby Premier League clubs such as Liverpool go to socialise.
Gerrard, 28, who has played 70 times for England since making his international debut in 2000, is a local hero on Merseyside.
Born in the Liverpool suburb of Huyton, he has only ever played professional club football for Liverpool, for whom he made his debut in 1998.
Three years ago he inspired the team to come from 3-0 down at half-time to beat Italian side AC Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul, as Liverpool reclaimed European club football\’s most prestigious trophy.
Last year Gerrard signed a contract keeping him at Anfield until 2011 and this October saw him score his 100th goal for Liverpool.