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China detains 18 over 'violent' chemical protests in Maoming
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) April 03, 2014

British PM skips morning jog because of pollution
London (AFP) April 03, 2014 - British Prime Minister David Cameron abandoned his normal early morning run on Thursday because of high pollution levels in London.

A combination of local emissions, light winds and pollution from continental Europe, compounded with dust blown from the Sahara, has prompted health warnings about poor air quality across southern and central England.

Asked about the pollution levels in a BBC interview, Cameron said: "It is unpleasant, and you can feel it in the air."

He said: "I didn't go for my morning run this morning. I chose to do some work instead. You can feel it.

"But it's a naturally occurring weather phenomenon. It sounds extraordinary, Saharan dust, but that is what it is."

He advised people to listen to the official public health advice urging those with lung or heart problems to avoid strenuous physical activity outdoors.

Data from Britain's environment ministry showed pollution levels were "very high" -- ten on a scale of ten -- in London and nine in parts of eastern England on Thursday morning.

Ellie Highwood, professor of Climate Physics at the University of Reading, said a combination of factors was to blame.

"The current pollution episode is the result of tiny particulates (atmospheric aerosols) that come from traffic, fossil fuel burning, agricultural practices and, more unusually, dust from the Sahara," she said.

The pollution is expected to reduce on Friday as fresher winds sweep across the country, officials said.

Chinese police have detained 18 people over large rallies opposing a chemical plant in Maoming, state-run media reported Thursday, as locals said the protests had entered a fifth day.

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Maoming, in the southern province of Guangdong, for days of protests, some of them met with violence from police, locals told AFP.

Maoming's city government said it had detained 18 people for "assembling a crowd to disturb public order", the state-run People's Net reported, citing local authorities.

The charge is often used to detain protesters in China.

The Maoming residents have been rallying against a plant producing paraxylene (PX), a chemical used to make fabrics. Proposals for PX plants, often perceived as a health risk, have sparked large protests in several other Chinese cities in recent years.

Photos and video posted on social media websites this week, which could not be verified, showed hundreds of people holding placards with messages opposing the plant.

They also showed police officers beating protesters, as well as cars and shop fronts left in flames.

One Maoming resident who declined to be named told AFP that police had fired rubber bullets towards protesters. City officials denied claims posted online that several people had been killed.

More than 10,000 police have been deployed in Maoming during the rallies, a local resident surnamed Dong told AFP.

Hundreds resumed protesting on Thursday, he said, but without further violence.

"Since the leaders were arrested, things have become quiet," he said.

Information about the protests is hard to verify, with online reports swiftly censored. But they sparked smaller rallies in other cities in Guangdong, according to reports.

Tens of thousands of protests are thought to occur across China every year, but are tightly controlled by the ruling Communist party, which is wary of any social unrest.

There have been an increasing number of large-scale environmental protests in recent years, especially in urban areas.

Local authorities in the coastal city of Xiamen cancelled plans for a PX plant after thousands took part in a protest in 2007.

A huge protest in the northeastern city of Dalian in 2011 prompted authorities to announce the closure of another factory, although it was apparently still operating two years later.


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England issues health warnings over air pollution
London (AFP) April 02, 2014
High air pollution levels across England prompted the government to issue health warnings on Wednesday. The pollution, a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara, was forecast to be highest in southeast England, central England and Wales. Asthmatics were warned to keep their inhalers handy as they could be prone to attacks, while the elderly and people with lung or he ... read more

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