BEIJING (AP) — A Chinese aluminum company targeted by protests over pollution fears in a northern Chinese city says its production facilities conform to the highest international environmental standards, but that it hasn’t decided whether to proceed with a massive investment in a new plant.
Video footage circulating on social media purportedly from the protest in the northeastern city of Daqing near the border with Russia showed more than 200 people chanting and holding banners outside the city government headquarters. Several dozen police officers stood guard outside the building.
The 46 billion yuan ($6.7 billion) plant proposed by aluminum producer Zhongwang Holdings would create more than 30,000 jobs, according to a government statement about the project forwarded by Zhongwang’s media manager, Jiang Qihan.
Zhongwang and the Daqing government agreed to cooperate on the plant in 2011, and it is slated to produce 2 million tons of high precision aluminum and aluminum alloy per year, according to the statement.
In a separate statement, Zhongwang said it was a maker of aluminum products and did not engage in either mining or smelting, the most heavily polluting parts of the production chain.
“Zhongwang is a socially responsible company committed to environmental protection and innovation,” the statement said. “As a mid-stream player, our production complies with international standards,” it said, adding that most of its production facilities were imported from overseas and met “international environmental requirements.”
Since the Daqing project remained in the planning stages, the protests would not affect current operations, the statement said. A decision on whether to proceed with the plant would be made based on an “internal study and other factors,” it said.
Hong Kong-listed Zhongwang describes itself on its website as the “second largest industrial aluminum extrusion product developer and manufacturer in the world and the largest in Asia.” Founded in 1993, it has more than 90 production lines with a total annual production capacity of 1.2 million tons, it said on its website.
Protesters on Tuesday chanted “Boycott Zhongwang; refuse pollution,” according to footage of the demonstration.
A woman who answered the phone at the Daqing police hotline said that residents worried about possible pollution protested in front of the Daqing government building Tuesday morning, and dispersed in the afternoon. She refused to identify herself.
“Everyone in Daqing is against the project,” she said.
A man in the publicity department of the Daqing Public Security Bureau said he had no immediate comment.
Daqing has been hit hard in recent years by the shrinkage of the state industrial sector as the region’s oil fields are pumped dry. The surrounding province of Heilongjiang is part of China’s rust belt that has seen large population outflows as young people leave for rosier economic opportunities to the south.
Tackling the problem of pollution remains a serious challenge for the Communist Party that erodes its legitimacy among the people.
The Daqing city government said that it attached great importance to economic growth and “even more importance” to the environment and residents’ concerns. It said it was paying attention to people’s concerns and was inviting national experts to assess the environmental impact of the project. It said it would organize seminars and other discussion forums for residents to express their views.
It added that any “illegal gatherings, defamation, starting rumors and disturbing social order would be dealt with according to the law.”
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The 3-year-old birthday boy was in his pajamas, about to go to sleep on a cot inside a shelter packed with hundreds of evacuees affected by a damaged California dam.
With just three hours left on his big day, a group of California Highway Patrol officers showed up at the Chico shelter with a makeshift celebration: an ice cream cake, a balloon, a Captain America figurine, and of course, a song.
“We decided you needed a cake on your birthday. Happy birthday!” Officer Logan Callahan tells the boy as he places a cardboard crown on his head, according to a Facebook Live video that’s gotten more than 61,000 views and 1,100 shares since it was posted Monday night.
The video wasn’t part of the plan, said Callahan, a public information officer in CHP’s Chico office. It was taken by a community member who happened upon the scene and started shooting.
Callahan realized it was the boy’s birthday earlier in the day Monday when he was walking around handing out stickers to children staying at the shelter. The boy’s father mentioned that he and his wife had planned to make their son a cake.
“I’ve got a son that’s 2-and-a-half, and this young man is turning 3,” Callahan said. “I figured, ‘What would I want for my kid if he were in that situation?’ “
Mike Wrobel, who took the video, said other evacuees joined in singing “Happy Birthday” and seemed touched by the moment.
“It sure was a bleak setting. But I was grinning ear to ear, as was everyone else,” Wrobel said. “It was a little bit of joy in a situation filled with a lot of sadness.”
Neither Wrobel nor Callahan know much about the boy or his parents, just that the boy’s name is Junior. Wrobel was hoping to reconnect with them Tuesday to show them the video he took and how many people were enjoying it.
Nearly 200,000 people were ordered evacuated Sunday over fears that a damaged spillway at a Lake Oroville dam could fail and unleash a wall of water. The evacuees were allowed to return home Tuesday after two nights of uncertainty, but they were warned they may still have to again flee to higher ground on a moment’s notice if hastily made repairs to the battered structure don’t hold.
WARRI, Nigeria (AP) — Nigeria lost between $50 billion and $100 billion in oil revenues to militant attacks on installations last year, the country’s petroleum minister said Tuesday.
At their worst point, the attacks cut production to 1.2 million barrels a day — a loss of 1 million barrels a day, Ibe Kachikwu said in a video posted on social media.
The video announced a 20-point plan to end decades of insurgency through investment in social and infrastructure development in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Militants say careless oil production has impoverished residents by destroying agriculture and fishing grounds.
Kachikwu promised to work with state governments, communities and multinational oil companies to bring oil business opportunities to residents of Nigeria’s southern oil-producing states. His plans include building oil refineries.
“Nothing is as sad for people who produce resources to not have access to those resource opportunities,” he said.
Kachikwu stressed the “need to pull people from militancy and pull them back into schools.”
But he also said the government, operating on a budget strained by low international oil prices, cannot continue a 2009 federal amnesty program paying 30,000 former militants. The program included paying ex-militants to guard the installations they once blew up.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s government last year tried to end the program, which brought renewed attacks.
Kachikwu suggested having Nigeria’s states institute amnesty programs, but it was unclear where the money would come from. Nigeria is suffering its worst recession in 25 years.
Halting the militancy has “defeated every regime … a problem that seems to be intractable, seems to be never-ending,” Kachikwu noted. But he said Buhari’s government remains “very bullish” about resolving it.
Many militants want action to replace months of talks.
“The 20-point agenda is a welcome development, but it is high time the Nigerian government backs up its talk with action … not mere talks without actions that have being going on for donkeys of years,” Pastor Nature Dumale Kieghe, a former militant leader, told The Associated Press.
Faul reported from Johannesburg.
ATLANTA (AP) — More than a week after the Falcons fell victim to the biggest comeback in Super Bowl history, an Atlanta zoo has named a cockroach after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.
Zoo Atlanta says on its Facebook page that it had a bet with Rhode Island’s Roger Williams Park Zoo that called for the loser to name a baby animal after the winning team’s star quarterback. Both zoos figured the loser would be pretty bitter about the game, so they agreed the animal in question would be a Madagascar hissing cockroach.
The zoo introduced a whole family of cockroaches in a video Monday , including a tiny Tom Brady.
Brady and the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to defeat Atlanta 34-28 in overtime to win the team’s fifth Super Bowl title.
LONDON (AP) — A report based on a translated Islamic State group document says the extremists consider mainstream media to be an effective weapon for spreading its radical message.
The International Center for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence in London said Monday that IS has a three-pronged media strategy to gain support that includes launching media “projectiles.”
The report by senior researcher Charlie Winter is based on “Media Operatives,” a 55-page document published online by Islamic State last year.
Winter, who translated the document from Arabic into English, said the extremists have three interwoven strategies: use media to project an attractive, positive alternative that offers something to replace the status quo; use media to repudiate the alleged lies told by so-called “crusader nations”; and use media to project spectacular events, like the assaults on Paris and Brussels and the filmed beheading of captives.
He said the group’s media operation has flagged as it has lost ground in Iraq and Syria in the last year.
“They are operating at below half capacity compared to this time last year and videos are few and far between,” he said. “But it manages through its propaganda to tell a very different story to true believers.”
The report finds effective use of mainstream media, “if leveraged correctly,” can have more “far-reaching” power than the most powerful bombs, the militants believe.
NEW YORK (AP) — Verizon, in a major reversal, has joined other carriers in offering an unlimited data plan.
As recently as January, Verizon’s chief financial officer said unlimited plans were “not something we feel the need to do” even though rivals had made inroads against Verizon by offering them. Verizon stopped offering such plans to new customers in 2012 and has been trying to push longtime customers off those old plans through rate hikes.
The arrival of the iPhone and other smartphones made unlimited plans more of a rarity as carriers saw opportunities to make money by charging customers based on how much data they use.
But Sprint and T-Mobile recognized in unlimited data an opportunity to snare customers from heavyweights Verizon and AT&T. Because carriers must poach each other’s customers to grow, the competition has intensified.
AT&T also started offering unlimited plans after discontinuing them, but they are available only to customers who also subscribe to DirecTV, which AT&T owns. Its prices are similar to Verizon’s for a family; Verizon is cheaper for an individual.
Verizon’s new unlimited plan replaces several higher-data plans and starts at $80 for one person, not counting fees and taxes. (Existing customers can keep their plans.)
For a family of four, unlimited costs $180 at Verizon. To compare, Sprint just launched a new promotion for new customers that costs $90 a month for four lines, and T-Mobile, which includes taxes and fees in its total price, is $160. AT&T costs $180 for four but also requires a TV subscription.
Verizon is trying to differentiate itself by letting customers watch high-definition video with the unlimited plan, while competitors run streaming video at DVD-level quality.
T-Mobile responded Monday by saying that it would include HD video as well starting on Friday. Before, customers had to pay extra for HD streaming.
T-Mobile also said that, like Verizon, it would offer 10 gigabytes of high-speed data for a mobile hotspot, so that people can connect on laptops or tablets on the go. After that, slower 3G data will be available for a hotspot.
Of course, like all so-called unlimited plans, Verizon’s is not really unlimited. If customers use more than 22 gigabytes of data in a month, their speeds may be slowed if the network is busy.