The Great Firewall of China

first_img One of the world’s wonders It took us pretty much a full day to get here, but we are finally in China ahead of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. It’s been seven years since I was last in this place and four since my last trip to this side of the world. I almost forgot how difficult it can be to sit on a plane for 14 hours. Having our photographer Ricardo Makyn along this time around made things a bit better. His mid-flight ‘bucks’ were rather amusing for a Chinese family sitting across from us, who must have feared for the poor soul, conquered by sleep, as his forehead teased his knees. It’s all on video. He’ll need to give a cut from his per diem or I will be sure to share it with the world. Flight time aside, there are more than a few reasons to get excited for the fast approaching World Championships. Things do, however, seem a bit haphazard, so far, and, in terms of media manuals and certain other pertinent information, nothing seems to be ready despite the fact that the championships start in a few days. This is a major departure from what pertained the last time I was around these parts for the 2008 Olympic Games. I also didn’t remember so many persons mistaking Jamaica for an African country either. “So where are you from?” “Jamaica.” “Oh, Africa!” “No.” “Close to Africa?” “No.” “Close to where?” “It’s in the Caribbean, close to the USA.” “Ah, OK. Caribbean.” The curious middle-aged woman inside the hotel lobby seemed just as confused at the end, as she did at the beginning of our conversation. She was the third person within the hour to make that mistake. Odd. Seems they don’t have maps in China. Now when you think China, you think a few things. Chopsticks and noodles will probably rank high on most persons’ lists, but the Great Wall of China is no doubt the country’s calling card. A 13,000-mile-long series of fortifications, which had its first blocks laid in the 7th century, is certainly impressive, but it is nothing compared to the Great Firewall of China! The likes of Twitter and Facebook were not too big a deal back in 2008 when I last visited China and Instagram wasn’t even founded yet. Back then, I used Yahoo, and though I noticed some lags when trying to access my email, I marked it down to a poor Internet connection. I got a mini scare when I tried to access my accounts, only to realise that they were all blocked! Can you imagine no Facebook, Gmail, Instagram … or worse, NO TWITTER?! “They are American, we block,” laughed the lady at check-in as I raised an alarm when my timeline turned up blank. The Chinese seem to be doing just fine with their own social media platforms though. Youku (Chinese YouTube), Sina Weibo (Chinese Twitter), Pengyou (Chinese Facebook) are the main ‘allowed’ options here. Yes, ‘map lady’ gave me a crash course. Who knows, maybe I’ll create a Chinese alter ego – ‘Lowe Chi’, and create some havoc on Sina Weibo while I’m here!last_img read more

PEARSE DOHERTY: IT’S BUDGET BOMBSHELL 2: VAT UP, PETROL UP, MOTOR TAX ROCKETS

first_imgDONEGAL was hit by a new tax bombshell today as the Government struggles to pay off the national debt – with a furious Donegal deputy Pearse Doherty launching a scathing attack on Taoiseach Enda Kenny.People in every walk of life in the county will face paying more indirect taxes with VAT going up to 23%.There are also hikes in a range of other taxes with motorists bearing the brunt as diesel and petrol also rise from midnight and massive road tax hikes. And for families struggling to heat their homes will find it harder next year as tax on home heating oil – the fuel used by most homeowners in Co Donegal“You are dashing the hopes of people who put faith in you,” said Pearse Doherty in the Dail.“You didn’t go after the high earners in this budget, because you are the high earners,” said the angry Donegal TD.Several Labour TDs including Patrick McNulty tonight vowed to vote against the Budget. He hit out at Leo Varadkar who questioned his decision. Deputy McNulty responded: “He told people to take a holiday. I won’t be. I will be standing by my constituents.”CHANGES AT A GLANCE:Income tax: No increaseVAT: Raised by 2% to 23%Universal Social Charge: Exemption raised to €10,000 – this affects 330,000 people Carbon Tax: Increased from €15 per tonne to €20 per tonneThis means:▪ 1.4c increase on Petrol▪ 1.6c increase on Diesel ▪ €17.32 increase on Fuel Oil (to rise in May)▪ €14.46 increase on Natural Gas (to rise in May)▪ No Carbon Tax on solid fuelsCigarettes: 25c increase on pack of 20Alcohol: No change in excise duty▪   Legislation planned on low-cost alcoholMotor Tax: Changes to apply from 1 January▪ Band A up €56 to €160▪ Band B up €69 to €225▪ Band C up €28 to €330Mortgage Interest Relief:▪ 30% for first-time buyers between 2004 and 2008▪ 25% for first-time buyers in 2012▪ 15% for non-first time buyers▪ €100 household charge waivedStamp Duty: No change to stamp duty on residential propertyCapital Gains Tax incentive: Applies to property bought by end 2013 and kept for 7 yearsCapital Acquisitions Tax: Up from 25% to 30%Capital Gains Tax: Up from 25% to 30%DIRT: Up from 27% to 30%Corporate Tax Rate: To remain at 12.5%50% Employer PRSI pension relief abolishedTax up 1% to 6% on transfer of Approved Retirement FundsPEARSE DOHERTY: IT’S BUDGET BOMBSHELL 2: VAT UP, PETROL UP, MOTOR TAX ROCKETS was last modified: December 6th, 2011 by BrendaShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:budget 2012Deputy Pearse Dohertylast_img read more