World briefs: Chinese cities fail air tests

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BEIJING -- Only three of the 74 Chinese cities monitored by the central government managed to meet official minimum standards for air quality last year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection announced this week, underscoring the country's severe pollution problems.

The dirtiest cities were in northern China, where coal-powered industries are concentrated, including electricity generation and steel manufacturing. The ministry said in its announcement, which was posted on its website Tuesday, that the air quality standards were met on only 37 percent of days in 2013. Beijing, with 20 million people, did so on only 48 percent of days, the ministry said.

The report underscored the immense challenges facing ordinary Chinese as they try to pressure Communist Party leaders to change growth policies and enforce regulations that would lead to cleaner air.

On Wednesday and Thursday, the air monitor at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing rated the air as "hazardous," which meant people should avoid all outdoor activity.

Couple sentenced for abuse

DOHA, Qatar -- Matthew and Grace Huang, an American couple accused in the death of their daughter by depriving her of sustenance for four days, were each sentenced Thursday to three years in prison followed by deportation, in a case that has drawn close attention here and in the United States.

They were allowed to leave the courtroom after the verdict, and their lawyer said they would appeal the judgment, a process that would most likely begin in May.

The Huangs have denied the charges and said that they were victims of a gross miscarriage of justice. The sentence Thursday was read to a packed courtroom. The exact charge on which the two were convicted was not clear.

Mobs attack aid workers

YANGON, Myanmar -- Buddhist-led mobs tore through streets hurling stones at the offices and residences of international aid workers in Myanmar's western Rakhine state Thursday, prompting the evacuation of almost all non-essential staff, residents and officials.

There were no immediate indications anyone was hurt in the violence, which started in the state capital, Sittwe, late Wednesday and picked up again early Thursday, with angry crowds swelling in size from several hundred to more than 1,000.

At least one building was looted and three cars damaged, aid workers said on condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation. State-run television said a commission would be formed to investigate the incident.

Strike grounds flights

BERLIN -- Hundreds of flights were canceled at airports across Germany on Thursday after ground crews, baggage handlers and other public workers walked off the job to press their demands for higher pay.

At Frankfurt airport alone, one of Europe's busiest, 550 takeoffs and landings were canceled. Lufthansa, Germany's largest airline, said it had canceled 600 flights across the country, about a third of its total.

In all, workers at seven airports -- Frankfurt, Munich, Duesseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne, Stuttgart and Hannover -- participated in the strike. Most of the flights canceled were those within Europe.

In addition to airports, public-service workers in preschools, hospitals, libraries, and scores of other areas took part in the one-day warning strike.

-- Compiled from news services


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