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Putting out fire

The other day I was standing bumming around in our flat when I suddenly felt the smell of smoke. Since our corridor is not supposed to be any kind of nightclub, I kind of got annoyed, and opened the door to see if I could see someone smoking. I didnt. However, at the end of the corridor I saw an open door and I heard voices, so I guessed it came from there.

Dont get too upset now, its just smoke! I tried to calm myself with saying. But after a while the smell was everywhere in our flat and I started to get really pissed off. People over here smoke everywhere: at restaurants, in bars (no smoke ban here, no), in elevators, in taxis everywhere! If there is somewhere where I am NOT going to be a passive smoker, it has to be in my own apartment!

With that in mind I went over to the apartment with the open door. I kept very calm when I looked in and told them group of Chinese people that I they really should not be smoking inside, and if they insisted on doing so, at least they should close t…

Turned out cold again

Two women are well equipped for the chilly weather as they walk on a Shanghai street yesterday. A cold wind reduced temperatures to 3 degrees Celsius, with a maximum of 11 degrees, in sharp contrast to Sunday's springlike warmth. Temperatures are expected to drop to freezing point in some suburban areas tomorrow and weather officials are warning of icy roads with the cold front's impact likely to last for a week.

Migrant workers are easy prey to scams

SONGJIANG District police are warning male migrant workers against small ads and flyers that lie about being paid to get someone pregnant. Police said a victim surnamed Zhang was recently swindled 7,000 yuan (US$1,065) after he saw a flyer that said a 29-year-old wealthy widow in Hangzhou was trying to find a healthy man to give her a child. The man will be rewarded with a big sum of money. Intrigued, Zhang called the number on the flyer and a man who claimed to be the woman's lawyer gave Zhang a quick interview on the phone, then gave him the woman's number. After several calls, the woman agreed to meet Zhang but asked Zhang to send her some money to buy her train ticket and make-ups as a proof of his seriousness. Zhang was so hooked and did what he was told. He transferred 7,000 yuan to her account but he lost her contact soon after, police said. Police said the flyers were mostly posted around construction sites to allure migrant workers who are innocent and naive and in ne…

Making waves on the Bund

Two yachts sail on the Huangpu River along the Bund area yesterday, when local water authorities for the first time held a "Yachting Day" on the river. More than 10 yachts sailed along the scenic stretch of water.

Shanghai life's good

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Im finally back at a point where life in China feels really good again: the food tastes amazing, people are nice, and living in Shanghai feels fun and exciting.

When I got back here after our trip to Australia in the middle of January I really felt that I wanted to leave China, that I had had enough, and that I wanted to go somewhere new. But now I dont feel that urge anymore. I know I wont live here forever, but I am also not ready to give it all up yet. I think having highs and lows is natural, no matter where you live. Maybe its especially apparent when you live over here though.

I was having lunch with a western girl the other day. She is getting ready to move back to Europe in 4 months, and feels a bit torn about it. She told me that she felt ready to move back at this very moment, as she was now at a place where she really missed her hometown, but feared that she in 4 months time would change her mind again, and that when time was up, she wouldnt want to go. I understand her 100%.…

Inter fans meet a legend

Former Inter Milan goalkeeper Francesco Toldo poses with fans in the newly opened Interstore on Nanjing Road E. in Shanghai yesterday.

Volunteers sought to take on bird hunters

WILDLIFE enthusiasts are being asked to join efforts to protect birds on Chongming Island from hunters. The Chongming Wildlife Conservation and Management Center, which has fewer than 10 staff members, is recruiting volunteers to boost numbers. At least 44 migrant birds were killed by hunters at the Chongming Dongtan National Nature Reserve early this month, officials said. "We want to encourage more people to participate in the protection campaign," said Li Yongtao, deputy director of the center. According to the recruitment statement issued yesterday, the center will recruit 20 volunteers aged between 18 and 45. Outdoor experience and professional knowledge are required and islanders are preferred. The volunteers will be asked to tip off the center about illegal trade in wildlife and promote wildlife protection regulations among the public. They will also be invited to work with the center team to crack down on illegal hunting. Would-be volunteers are warned that the work …

Fall kills boy

A five-year-old boy died yesterday after falling from the sixth floor of a building in Putuo District at about 2pm. The boy's parents, from Henan Province, have a clothes business in Shanghai.

Crowds moan Yueju Opera master at funeral

Hundreds of people gathered at Shanghai Longhua Funeral Home this morning to bid farewell to famous Yueju Opera artist Yuan Xuefen, who died last Saturday at the age of 89. The crowd waiting to take a last look at their idol caused a little chaos when some people tried to push their way into the hall. Most of the fans attending the funeral were middle-aged and elderly people who have enjoyed Yuan's singing for decades. The funeral was set in simple style at Yuan's request. A big video screen showed clips of Yuan's works. Moaners signed their names on a banner and got a yellow flower before entering the hall to bid farewell to Yuan. Since the funeral hall could not hold so many people at one time, moaners were asked to queue up and enter the hall in groups. Still, some fans tried to squeeze into the hall and caused some chaos. A group of elderly women in their 80s patiently watched the big screen outside the funeral hall. They said they had been enjoying Yuan's works si…

Time management

Why are Chinese people often late for meetings and appointments? It doesnt really make sense if you look at their education system? Having such strict educational methods in schools, I dont think kids dare to come to class late (will they even be let in?). Is it instead so that since they are always in time when they are kids, they make up for that by being late as adults?!

For me (and many people that I know) it was the opposite way around. I was a pretty good kid, but a rebel teenager. I often came late to class. In high school, I had no what-so-ever time management when it came to catching the bus each morning to school (it was a 40 min bus ride, so I kind of had to be on time otherwise I would be very late for class). Ive given my poor folks so much headache over the years, running down the stairs every the morning, yelling for dad that he needed to give me a ride to the bus (I lived about a 15 min bike ride from the bus stop too, so my non-existent time management skills were not …

Evacuees arrive home

FORTY Chinese construction workers and technicians arrived in Shanghai by aircraft yesterday afternoon, before moving on to their hometowns in neighboring Jiangsu Province, after being evacuated from Libya. Another 43 of their colleague arrived at Beijing yesterday morning. The men, mostly in their 30s and 40s, were hired by the China Building Technique Group Co, a construction company specializing in overseas projects. The company arranged buses to take the men home to be reunited with their families last night, following their arduous and dangerous journey. Weary and unshaven, Shi Jian, a construction worker, was the first of the group to emerge from the airport waiting lounge. "It's great to be back," he said. The 41-year-old said he just wanted to see his family as soon as possible. While safe home after four days' traveling, the memory of the chaos in Libya is still fresh in the men's minds. "I have no intention of returning to work there, regardless of…

Free checks to avoid congenital deformity

PRE-PREGNANCY check will be offered free all over Shanghai starting this year after successful trials to prevent congenital anomalies, Shanghai Population and Family Planning Commission said today. Shanghai carried out the pre-pregnancy check trial in 2007 and extended it to 11 districts last year. About 16 percent of the 7,000 or so couples who planned to have a baby were detected to have a risk of congenital anomalies last year and were given guidance on treatment and lifestyle change. Starting this year, all couples who are registered residents in Shanghai for more than six months, including migrants, can receive a free pre-pregnancy check, including health education, risk assessment and consultation for pregnancy and child delivery. Couples can apply for the check at their community population service stations. Some districts will also offer congenital deformity consulting at the marriage registration office, the population officials added.

Poll: migrant kids need help to integrate into city

THOUGH 90 percent migrant kids feel happy about their new life in Shanghai, their integration into the local community is low, according to a study released yesterday. A survey based on 500 migrant children in the city's Minhang District where many migrants live shows that most of them have limited access to the community resources and are living in shabby conditions. But these children have high expectations for the future. Nearly 70 percent of them said they wanted to become teachers or doctors or nurses after growing up. Waiters, cleaners and vendors -- the most common occupations for their parents -- are listed the last choices they can accept. Only 6.1 percent of the kids are living in their own houses and 44 percent are living in rented houses with a monthly rent below 500 yuan (US$76.0). About 61.7 percent don't have a kitchen in their houses and 38.1 percent have no private bathroom. About 40 percent of them share the same bedroom with whole family. The survey also fou…

Visitor inflation

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Nothing beats having your friends in town!

Its getting warm out there which is lovely! This spring is going to be fast and furious there are so many things planned for the upcoming month that I believe my next free weekend, when I can bum around and do nothing, will be in May. This is of course both good and bad. We have lived in China for more than 4,5 years now, and considering that time we havent had that many visitors, until now, all of a sudden, when everybody wants to come at the same time!

We just had friends here from London, and on Saturday a new couple from Finland is coming. When they leave theres another one, and then my parents, my boyfriendsdad, and then we have a weekend in Moganshan and then I believe it should be summer?!

We are turning into real visitors pros. My London friend actually asked us if we had considered opening a travel agency for couples coming into Shanghai for a visit. We have made a little travel kit for each couple, which includes metro cards, sim card,…

Getting the Belt

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Every person's wardrobe should have well-made, classic pieces. A trench coat, a pair of boots and the perfect white tee are just a few. Fortunately in Shanghai,if you know where to look, well-made doesn't necessarily mean expensive. In the case of another wardrobe staple, the brown leather belt, this remains true. We found a fantastic leather worker at 401 Jianguo Lu, a little bit east of Wulumuqi Lu. We picked out a sumptuous top-grain leather and a sturdy brass buckle (for buckles, nothing beats good ol' brass!). And off he went fixing it into our perfect belt that we'll probably wear for decades. It looks like an investment piece, but all we had to invest was a little bit of ingenuity and hanging out with a sweet old Chinese man as he banged and chiseled away at his workstation. Oh, and we also invested RMB200, which is about how much you'd pay for a plastic leather belt with a cheap metal buckle at any fast fashion store in Shanghai.from www.shanghaistylefile.c…

Power company moves to ease bill concerns

SHANGHAI'S power supplier has offered on its website to give household analyses of power consumption if -residents believe that their bill is inaccurate. Although Shanghai Electric Power Co Ltd explained that one cause of the higher electricity bills was the unusually cold weather, but skepticism about new electricity meters remains among many residents. Some have started to monitor their meters to check if there is a malfunction. The company said they would provide relative statistics and information if residents want to compare the bill from the new meter with the one from the old meter. If there are still doubts, they would send professionals to analyze appliance usage in the households and give advice. The company said last week that residents can get a third-party company to check their meters and will repay the 10 yuan (US$1.52) fee if there is a problem with the meter. If there is a fault found on the company's side which caused the higher bill, the company will refund …

Revised city dog regulation effective May 15

AFTER a long and heated debate over pet dog raising, the city passed its canine-owning regulation this afternoon. The new code will take effect on May 15. Clauses involving the one-dog policy, license application, the ban on raising attacking dogs and certain punishments have been revised based on opinions of lawmakers and local citizens. Under the new regulation, people living in downtown areas and new urban centers such as Lingang and Jiading can only raise one dog per household. And they have to give away the additional ones to friends or relatives or adoption agencies, except for those already owning two or more licensed dogs. A license is required for canine owners and dogs have to be vaccinated against rabies regularly and go through annual checks. One will be fined between 200 yuan (US$22) and 1,000 yuan or have the dog taken away for breaking the regulation. But the regulation does not detail the license fee and certain management expenses, which will be cut by half annually i…

27-vehicle pile up as Shanghai hit by fog, 3 dead

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Yesterday morning at around 7am a massive pile up occurred on the Donghai Bridge connecting Shanghai to the port of Yangshan. Three people were killed and another 15 injured when a chain collision involving 27 vehicles resulted from Shanghai's worst fog in six months.

Visibility at the time of the accident was said to be less than 100 meters. Traffic resulting from the collisions eventually stretched for nearly 30 kilometers back towards Shanghai, and initially caused delays as rescue workers rushed to the scene. Helicopters were called in, but were ultimately unable to help because of the fog.

Most of the vehicles involved were container trucks. Two truck drivers and a bus driver lost their lives in the accident; the rest of the injured are in stable condition. Shanghai police had reduced speed limits on the highway to 50 km/h in anticipation of the fog the night before.

More fog is expected in the city today and tomorrow. Drive safe!

Photos from Xinmin and Netease.

When to be spontaneous and flexible -and when not

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When not to be spontaneous and vague: Swedish weddings

Yesterday I met a Swedish girl who just got engaged, after her boyfriend proposed to her during the CNY. She was over the moon about everything: the romantic engagement (he proposed while they were scuba diving in Thailand and she almost drowned when she saw the ring, nodded yes! and forgot to breathe). They are planning to have the wedding this summer in Sweden and she told me that she was surprised by the lack of flexibility showed by her friends back home.

As they live in China, they obviously had to pick a date during their summer holiday, so lets say mid July. All of their Chinese friends thought it was great and many of them are going to fly over just for the wedding. You would think that in Sweden, where 90% of the population is having a holiday around that time, it wouldnt be any problems when it comes to attending a wedding, but think twice, because apparently it is:

-How can you pick a wedding date during the peek holiday …

Plates on camera

CITY traffic police said more than 60 cameras will be used to detect vehicles with the license plates of other provinces being driven on local elevated roads illegally. They can only travel on highways outside peak times.

Laundry a la Shanghai

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Owner sues her own company for salary

A district court has rejected a lawsuit filed by a Hong Kong woman who asked a company she invested to pay her salary. Judges of the Qingpu District People's Court ruled that the woman surnamed Lau actually controlled the company's operation and wasn't its employee. So she had no right to ask for salary from the company. Lau came to Shanghai in 2009 to develop business. Due to the strict criteria for overseas investors to open a company in the mainland, Lau asked to use the name of a local friend surnamed Wang to register a company and Wang agreed. The company was registered in December 2009. Wang was its legal representative and held all the shares in the legal documents, while Lau was the real investor and business manager. Wang got no reward from the company. Lau later signed a labor contract in the company's name with herself and appointed herself as the administrative manager with a monthly salary of 11,000 yuan (US$1,672). But she didn't take the salary and p…

3 killed, 15 injured as 26 vehicles pile up in fog

HEAVY fog caused a 26-vehicle highway pile-up this morning at 7am, killing three people and injuring 15 others, four of them in critical condition, on the city's Donghai Bridge in the Hangzhou Bay. Most of the vehicles involved in the chain collision were cargo vans and container trucks, witnesses said. All the three dead victims were on a vegetable delivery van. Traffic police rushed to the scene immediately to ease the massive congestion on the 34-kilometer-long bridge that links downtown with Yangshan Deep-Water Port in the East China Sea. Police blocked part of the bridge to deal with the accident. The 15 victims were sent to different hospitals both in the Nanhui Area and downtown. Four were reported in serious condition. Thick fog began to descend on the city's coastal area from 10pm yesterday, grounding flights and voyages, the local port authorities said. About 100 flights at Pudong and Hongqiao airports have been delayed or cancelled this morning and hundreds of ships…

Three dead in Shanghai bridge pile-up

THREE people are dead and an unknown number are injured after a pile-up involving more than 10 vehicles on a cross-sea bridge in Shanghai early today. One of the injured was seriously hurt in the accident, which happened in heavy fog at about 7 am on the East China Sea Bridge, said a statement from Shanghai police. The 32.5-km bridge links Shanghai with Yangshan Isle in Hangzhou Bay. Police are investigating the cause of the accident.

Funny assumption or just inappropriate?

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In China, it's all about being a twosome!

Yesterday and male colleague and I decided to change our lives and join a gym. We didnt make any appointment but simply showed up at a place that weve heard is good. A sales girl was soon by our sides, showing us around, throwing out funny little comments that we politely laughed about. Something that will never fail to astonish me is how Chinese people react when you tell them that youve been doing sports all of your life. For me its such a natural thing, and if I ever get kids I know Ill encourage them to try all kinds of sports until they find something they like and want to do. Chinese kids are obviously busy with their heavy load of homework.

Anyway, once we had done the compulsory tour we sat down to discuss the membership fee.

-So, you want a yearly membership bla bla bla, the grils started, drawing figures on a piece of paper (another thing that I dont quite understand here: what is this obsession with writing down prices on paper o…

Meters are fine

LOCAL quality inspection authorities said yesterday that new electric meters installed in Shanghai homes would not cause higher electricity bills, after complaints from residents. The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Supervision tested 750 so-called "dubious" electric meters.

Electric meters not the cause for soaring bills

LOCAL quality inspection authorities said today that new electric meters installed in Shanghai homes would not cause higher electricity bills. The Shanghai Bureau of Quality and Supervision tested 750 "dubious" electric meters. About 97 percent of them were qualified and the remaining had some defects but nothing to do with fee charging. Some Shanghai residents complained earlier that after a replacement of electric meters, their electricity bills ballooned last month. Power companies blamed the unusually cold weather in January as the cause for a surge in electricity consumption and costs.

Metro delayed after someone pulled emergency brake

THOUSANDS of passengers were stranded in a train on Metro Line 1 for up to 10 minutes during the rush hour this morning after a passenger pulled the emergency brake, Metro operator said. The passenger pulled the emergency brake as his or her coat got stuck between the carriage doors, said the operator in its microblog. The train stopped at the People's Square Station at about 8:35am. Service resumed at 8:44am after the driver restarted the train, Metro operator said, adding that the passenger has not been found. It reminds people not to pull the emergency brake when something like this happens. Clothes can be pulled out slowly or they call Metro hotline for help.

Writer gets his share of trouble

SHANGHAI writer Yu Qiuyu is in trouble again. But this time it's not about money he promised to earthquake victims, it's about how an upcoming listing that could make him very rich overnight. The 65-year-old writer is under increasing online questioning about his stake in state-owned Shanghai Xujiahui Commercial Co, which is due to list on the Small and Medium Enterprise Board in Shenzhen tomorrow. The retailer raised 906 million yuan (US$138 million) by issuing shares at 12.95 yuan each. The stock is expected to jump to 30 yuan after the debut, which will boost Yu's wealth by as much as 150 million yuan on account of his 1.5 percent stake. Yu bought his stake, equivalent to 5.19 million shares, for 2.41 million yuan in 2001, making him the 10th biggest shareholder in the retail group. The unusually low price drew criticism that the author took advantage of the shares restructuring of Xujiahui Commercial Co a decade ago. In 2001, the company cancelled its staff's 24.5 …

Opera master dies, 89

In this file photo, Yueju Opera master Yuan Xuefen performs a scene from "Romance of the West Chamber," a story of young lovers consummating their love without parental approval in ancient China. Yuan died of a disease yesterday at her home in Shanghai. She was 89. Yuan, born in Zhejiang Province, the birthplace of Yueju Opera, started performing at age 11. She is credited with leading the reform of Yueju Opera during the 1940s. After she retired in 1985, she became an honorary director of the Shanghai Yueju Opera House.

Summer lovin

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I'm starting to feel a little bit better after a health week from hell. This wknd came right on time! And what to do on a wknd when you're supposed to take it easy, relax and when you don't have any visitors in town? Well, plan our summer holiday of course! Right now we are looking at tickets to go to London for a long wknd. We just had friends from London visiting us here in Shanghai and they did a good job promoting the city. I actually lived in London for 6 months after I graduated from high school. I shared a flat with 7 (!) other people close to Marble Arch tube station. Although I would never, ever do that today, it was probably one of the best things I could have done back then. I had so much fun and learned so much about myself (such as: never share a flat with people that you don't know!).
Except for London we also obviously have to go to Sweden and Finland. Ah summer... Still so far away, but nothing wrong with dreaming, right?!
I have a mad crush on Finland …

Passenger peak at railway stations

PASSENGERS arrive at the Shanghai Railway Station. A traffic flow peak was recorded at the city's railway stations yesterday after Thursday's Lantern Festival marked the end of the 15-day Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations. With spring semester at universities starting in a few days, more and more students, along with migrant workers, are returning to the city.

Maid loots home when family on New Year trip

A maid has been detained for allegedly stealing her employer's possessions worth more than 200,000 yuan in Changning District, city police said today. The suspect surnamed Xu was hired by the victim's daughter, police said. But Xu, 35, knew the family well and visited their home before, police added. Xu forged the door key and stole a safe and other possessions from the house when the family were on holiday trip during the past Spring Festival, police said. When the family returned on February 7 they found the home burglarized and called the police. Police soon found it was an inside job. Officers said Xu left the city by plane on January 27 and suddenly returned on February 2. She left again to her hometown on February 3. The victim's daughter told the police that Xu once asked them if they would go out during the holiday. Shanghai police arrived in Xu's hometown in southern China on February 9 and began investigation.Xu gave herself in on February 12 and was brought …

Parents trawl Metro searching for abducted child

DISTRAUGHT parents and police are searching Shanghai's Metro trains for a beggar girl who resembles a child abducted from northwest China's Gansu Province. The parents of the missing girl had their hopes raised recently when they saw a photograph of a young beggar posted by a Shanghai blogger and were struck by her likeness to their daughter. If the search reunites the family, it will be the first success in the city for a national microblog campaign to rescue children abducted and forced to work as beggars. The child's parents arrived at Shanghai this week, accompanied by Gansu police. Peng Jucheng, the father of the missing girl, named Feifei, said: "I will do everything I can until I find the child in the photograph." Feifei was four years old when she went missing in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu, in November 2009. Her family has reportedly spent 30,000 yuan (US$4,554) searching for her. A possible breakthrough came when they saw a photograph of a child begga…

Fewer syphilis patients reported last year

THE number of newly diagnosed syphilis victims in Shanghai dropped last year for the first time since 2004 -- when the city started publishing figures on the infectious disease in an effort to contain its spread. According to a report released today by the Shanghai Health Bureau, the city had an unprecedented low incidence of infectious diseases last year with a drop in most infectious diseases except AIDS, thanks to greater efforts in health inspection and education. Officials said sexually-transmitted diseases like syphilis and AIDS are on rise in the country, prompting the government to step up disease prevention and public education. The number of registered syphilis patients in Shanghai increased from 4,232 in 2004 to 10,481 last year, the report showed. The incidence rate rose from 31.42 for every 100,000 residents in 2004 to last year's 76.

Shanghai facing pension problem

Shanghai is said to be planning to make up its social security fund gap with proceeds from land auctions and state-owned enterprises.

The local authority is researching the feasibility of taking part of the proceeds from state-owned enterprises and the sale of land plots to make up the funding gap, but no details are available, the China Economic Weekly magazine reported yesterday, citing unnamed sources from the local reform and development commission and local state-owned assets supervision body.

Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau said yesterday it was unaware of the issue.

The social security fund gap means that money currently paid into the fund by workers and companies is not enough to pay for retired people's pensions.

Shanghai Party Secretary Yu Zhengsheng said in January that the city was putting in more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.5 billion) a year from its fiscal revenue to make up for the shortfall.

Shanghai allocates about 10 percent of its city-level fiscal…

Bring on the new generation

Some week or so before I got sick I met with a fellow female expat: a middle-aged, immaculately dressed business queen, that had already climbed much higher than me on the career ladder.

As we sat there, drinking our coffees, I realized how little she in fact knew about China. Shed been here for quite some years, but not by her own choice, and that came through in our conversations. She didnt say anything racial against Chinese people, but it was just the way she spoke of Chinese, as if they were a lower class of citizens. And when I gently tried to turn the conversation, or share some good stories of some of my great Chinese friends, she wouldnt listen. In her world, having local friends was not even something shed consider.

Fair enough. Her choice. Her loss. And shes more successful than me. At least at this moment.

But when I left the caf I couldnt help but thinking that women, or people like her, are going to become a distinguished breed in China. Think in 20 or so years time: when a…

Shanghai police cracking down on illegal sex drugs

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In November 2008, illegal Chinese-made sex pills made headlines when ten men in Singapore died rather gruesome deaths after taking them. For the two years following, Shanghai authorities have struggled to reign in the counterfeit Viagra market but have been held back by a bureaucratic loophole: vendors claim that the drugs are herbal in nature and thus a health supplement and not a drug (and so out of the FDA's reach.) Now, armed with new intellectual property rights legislation, a joint government force has begun a crackdown on these potentially fatal little blue pills.

These fake pills are potentially deadly, especially to elderly users, because they contain sometimes twice the amount of silenafil, Viagra's core ingredient. Silenafil works by expanding blood vessels and can cause dizziness, irregular heartbeat and fainting when taken in high amounts.

Located on Fangbang Lu near Yuyuan Garden, the illegal sex drug market operates under the guise of porn DVD hawkers. They've…

Searching through Shanghai's unprotected heritage: Baoshan and Hongkou

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Yesterday, Shanghai Daily reported that there were 155 historically significant homes in the city that are currently unprotected. These houses were previously used by Shanghai's most influential politicians, industrial tycoons, scholars and such, but are now in a dilapidated state (though, luckily, not yet torn down). Interestingly, many Chinese newspapers printed out exactly which 155 homes these were, so I thought I'd document them.

I was curious to know more about these houses, where they are and who they contained. Perhaps if we all had an idea of the history behind some of these places, we'd better know which ones to vouch for. Below is all the information I could find. There are a couple of gaps, but hopefully someone who's relying on more than just Google, Baidu and a cursory knowledge of famous Shanghainese will be able to fill them in later.

Since there's a huge amount (more than I can go through in a day at least), I'll focus on some districts a day fo…

City's vision to become tourism hub

SHANGHAI has pledged to build itself into an international tourism city over the next five years by developing more tourism attractions, providing incentives for inbound travelers and giving financial support to encourage locals to travel out of the city, said the Shanghai -government yesterday. The city is planning to develop wide-ranging tourist attractions to meet the needs and wants of people from different cultural backgrounds and spending brackets. Downtown districts will create international shopping centers, Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) destinations and sightseeing centers. Fashion and tradition will combine to display Shanghai's special regional culture to tourists, officials said. In the suburbs, ecological tours, industrial tours, theme parks and beach resorts will be among the top attractions. Water travel packages will also be developed on the Huangpu River and Suzhou Creek, including night skyline trips, cruise ship tours and water sports.…

Mistress bankrupts shop owner who is now jailed for frauds

A car maintenance workshop boss has been sentenced by a Shanghai court to 13 years in jail for defrauding more than 800,000 yuan (US$121,396) by various means in order to satisfy his greedy mistress. When the man surnamed Li stood in the court, he blamed his crime on his mistress who had disappeared, and asked to sell an apartment he bought for her to compensate the victims. Li, in his 50s, came to Shanghai a few years ago to run a car repair shop and left his wife at home in Jiangsu Province to take care of their children. Li felt lonely in the city and began to live with a pretty woman in her 20s. While revitalizing Li's life, the young woman kept asking for expensive clothes, cosmetics and even for an apartment and a car. The demand was far beyond Li's means though he had a good income. To keep the mistress, Li began to swindle money out of his customers. In December 2007, he offered to buy a car plate for a customer surnamed Zhang claiming he had good connections and accep…

Not the most romantic Valentine's Day...

Im back, after yet another unintentional blog break. This year is definitely not the year of good health of me: on Saturday night I got a stomach cramp and since then Ive been bed bound. Valentines Day was spent crawling from the bed to the bathroom, vomiting and feeling as if my last moment had come.

Since I had a stomach ache for 3 days I decided to visit the hospital, just in case it would be the appendix (I know, I know, when the appendix is giving you problems you are probably so sick that you cannot even crawl, but still). The doctors took me very seriously (or is it just so that since most hospital over here are profit-driven they always wanna prescribe you loads of medicine/put you through surgery?) and ordered me to take a blood test etc. Now, at the sound of blood test I immediately started to feel queasy. I dont know what it is, or why, but ever since I had a small operation when I was 12, Ive been terrified of blood and needles (my mom and the doctors realized this some day…

Worry over drug

SHANGHAI Food and Drug Administration officials said yesterday they will tighten supervision over the use of nimesulide, an anti-inflammatory drug. Thousands of side effects and even several deaths have been reported involving Chinese children who took the drug. Local pediatric hospitals said nimesulide, a prescribed medicine, is not a priority fever drug in clinical practice because it is harmful to the central nervous system.

New traffic lights sync with real-time vehicle flow

MINHANG District police are upgrading traffic lights in major intersections to improve traffic efficiency and safety, they said yesterday. The new control system can change traffic lights according to real-time vehicle flow instead of switching at fixed intervals. Police said it would greatly improve traffic control and reduce congestions. Traffic lights at 99 crossroads will be controlled by the new system. Meanwhile, traffic direction boards will be erected at intersections between Humin and Guangtong roads; Xinsong and Xinfu roads, Humin and Chunshen roads, Qixin and Gudai roads; and Humin and Xinjian roads to provide real-time traffic information in the area, showing motorists directions, time estimation and congestion alert. The whole project of installing new traffic lights will be finished by the end of June, Minhang police said.

Blood microblog

SHANGHAI Blood Administration Office yesterday launched a microblog at http://t.sina.com.cn/shblood to improve communications with the public. The microblog will give in-time reports on blood shortage issues in the city, answer questions, provide information and share donors' stories and pictures.

4 foreign thieves deported after one year in jail

FOUR aliens from East Asia had been deported after serving one year in jail for theft, the Exit-Entry Administration of Shanghai Public Security Bureau said today. The four men and their two leaders who are still in prison were convicted last May and fined 2,000 yuan (US$303) each. In January 2010, the gang targeted some clothes stores on Huaihai Road and Nanjing Road W. and stole nearly 100 sets of clothes valued at about 40,000 yuan. They stuffed clothes in specially designed bags to foil the store's alarm system. The two gang leaders were sentenced to three years and six months in jail and were fined 10,000 yuan each. They will also be deported after their jail term is over, the administration said.

Railway shelter opens for late-night arrivals

AN underground garage at Shanghai Railway Station has been opened to provide shelter for rail passengers arriving late at night when the Metro is closed. This initiative by city traffic authorities follows complaints that thousands of late-night passengers have to hang around for hours until the subway starts running. The garage, at the south square of the railway station and close to Metro Line 1, is open to passengers from 1am to 5am, officials said. People using the facility will be guided to the subway shortly before Line 1 opens at 5am, the city Metro operator said. Many people are currently returning to the city after the Spring Festival holiday. Ding Guiru, a 49-year-old Anhui Province native, told a local evening newspaper that "she could not afford the taxi fares" and the only way she knew to go to suburban Songjiang District is by the subway. At times, more than 5,000 passengers are waiting outside the station, playing cards or dozing on their luggage or a companio…

Bob Dylan playing in Shanghai? Maybe but Usher, Infected Mushroom, and The Eagles are

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According to ISIS magazine, Bob Dylan's doing a run through Asia and Shanghai is on his list of touring cities. Is this great news? You betcha and we'd be really psyched up about it except for one little thing. Last year at this time, Dylan was also scheduled to play on the mainland and his tour dates got scrapped by the government. However, if the information we've got coming through the grapevine is correct, the musician will be performing on April 8th at the Shanghai Grand Stage.

We'll have to wait and see whether things go through this time but for right now, we have plenty of international acts to be excited about. There's The Eagles tour on March 9 and the Usher concert just a few days after that on March 12 - those big names will be performing at the Mercedez-Benz Arena. Also, March 5 will be your chance to catch psychedelic trance-electronic group Infected Mushroom at M2. Ticket details for Infected Mushroom still to be announced...in the meantime, check out…

Xinjiang trade increases

FOREIGN trade has increased rapidly in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region during the past five years, regional authorities said yesterday. From 2006 to 2010, the region's foreign trade amounted to US$76 billion, up more than 230 percent from the 2001-05 period, said He Yiming, director of the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Department of Commerce. Foreign direct investment in Xinjiang totaled US$870 million in the past five years, more than triple the 2001-2005 period. "In the past five years, Xinjiang has taken advantage of its location to strengthen economic links with neighboring countries and explore markets in central, western and southern Asia, as well as Russia," He said. He said Xinjiang still had potential to develop markets in neighboring countries, especially Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, as those countries shake off the effects of the global economic downturn.

New Choc on the Block: Café Godiva

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Being true chocoholics (remember our chocolate death match between Whisk and hof?), we jumped at a chance to try the newest place in town - Café Godiva. Get ready to drool!

Godiva chocolates are supposed to be some of the best in the world. It certainly is one of the most prolific luxury chocolatiers, with over 450 retail outlets around the world. This was the first time we had heard of them actually opening a cafe though.

Over the last few months, Godiva entered the Chinese market, first by opening a store at the Grand Gateway Mall in autumn, followed by their first ever chocolate cafe concept store at Xintiandi, which we went to.

So how does Café Godiva measure up to the other Shanghai chocolate contenders? We reviewed it by stacking some of their desserts against the deliciousness already on offer in the city.

Though we had the manager advise us to get the dark version of the classic hot chocolate (45RMB) (as the Milk takes away the richness of the chocolate, suppo…

World of Warcraft, Starcraft-themed park planned for near Shanghai: Is it real?

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In case the China-made World of Warcraft wasn't enough for you - there is a chance you could get yourself to a World of Warcraft theme park sometime soon... heck, there'll be a Starcraft world thrown in to boot! The internet has been buzzing with news about a new amusement park called Joyland (website here) that's just itching to put you next to a Protoss on your next rollercoaster ride.

Sounds too good to be true, right? And after a search of the internet for Joyland, I'm not completely convinced it is. Then again, I'm not completely convinced it's not. First, the facts everyone seems to agree on (which, incidentally, is what's on the Joyland website) - there will be several parts of the theme park - besides the Universe of Starcraft and Terrain of Warcraft areas, there's also a kiddy-themed Mole World, a Chinese RPG looking area called World of Legend, and a 'Mysterious Island.'

Sina Entertainment quotes a 'Korean media …

Locals rally round father selling art for son's surgery

LOCALS yesterday came to the aid of a jobless father trying to sell artwork on Shanghai's streets to help his seriously ill son. Hui Xueqing, from Xuzhou, Jiangsu Province, hoped selling paintings and paper-cutting would raise money for his 25-year-old son, who suffers kidney failure and needs organ transplants. But he was driven away by urban management officials hours after he illegally set up a stand before the Moore Memorial Church, near People's Square, yesterday. However, Hui's luck took a turn for the better as a passing artist offered his studio in Minhang District as a temporary sales venue and accommodation. And two local college students volunteered to open a Taobao e-commerce store to help Hui raise the 250,000 yuan (US$37,879) needed for his son's medical treatment. "It is not the city's size but its love capacity that counts, and this means a lot to me," said Hui. Hui's son was diagnosed with diabetes in 1995. To meet medical bills, Hui …

Hospital 'refused medicine' claim

POLICE said a fight at Shanghai's Xinhua Hospital, in which a surgeon was stabbed in the chest, was over the hospital's refusal to provide medicine for a patient who died because relatives could not afford it, according to Oriental Outlook magazine. At least six medical staff were injured in the January 31 incident and five of the patient's relatives have been detained by Yangpu District Police. The magazine reported that an official with the Shanghai Public Security Bureau, who was not named, said the hospital decided to stop providing medicine to the patient without seeking the permission of his relatives, who had said they could not afford the medical expenses. The hospital halted offering medicine for two days before the patient died, and this aroused extreme feelings of hatred in the relatives who then assaulted hospital staff, according to the magazine. Relatives of other patients who witnessed the assaults told the magazine that the relatives had spent all their mon…

Public have a say over bus routes

ALTOGETHER 283 bus routes will be changed or established this year to streamline the city's bus system, Shanghai transport authority said. The authority is inviting local residents to make suggestions to its draft plan. The authority said some bus routes would be merged while new ones would be created to let more people commute easily between home and work and have easy access to Metro stations. The draft plan can be seen on Shanghai Municipal Transport and Port Authority's official website, www.jt.sh.cn. Suggestions should be made before February 21. Details are available in Chinese on the official website and suggestions concerning bus routes can be emailed to shgj2011@yeah.net.

Travelling during CNY -heaven!

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I got a big surprise when I flew back to China on Feb 3, during the Chinese New Year, and realized that the plane was almost empty. When we were about to take off from Helsinki the captain came out to the cabin, and said: OK people, welcome to your private jet that will take you to Shanghai! with a big smile.

We were a total of 33 passengers on a huge Finnair plane that has a capacity of hundreds of people. Although I see myself as a social creature, I have to admit that it was F A N T A S T I C to be on a plane with so few people! The air stewardess were super friendly, giving us extra snacks and telling us that we could move around as much as we wanted (but then gently stopping a passenger that was on his way to business class). One little Chinese boy got so excited he wanted to try every single free seat in the plane (!) and ran around and made a mess.

Once we landed in Shanghai it was the same thing: no lines to the immigration counters, and the bags came after 5 minutes.

I had frie…

'Few child beggars have been abducted'

THE Ministry of Public Security said yesterday that children abducted by human traffickers and sent to beg on the streets formed only a small percentage of child beggars. In most cases, children were taken to beg along with their parents or relatives. The ministry urged police authorities across the country to closely cooperate with civil affairs, urban management and health departments in apprehending people who force children to become beggars. More than 9,300 kidnapped children in China have been rescued since April 2009, after a nationwide campaign was launched to crack down on human trafficking, the ministry said. The ministry encouraged the involvement of the public in providing clues to help police rescue minors, especially those being abused and forced to beg on the streets. Meanwhile, a legal expert said yesterday that most children begging in Shanghai have been put on the streets by their own families or even rented out to "professional" beggars. Trace children A m…

Bus robbery gang face charges for stabbing 4 passengers

SIX gangsters, who allegedly stabbed four passengers on a bus when their theft was thwarted, were arrested today on charges of robbery. The four wounded passengers were honored by Shanghai Government on January 10 for heroism in trying to stop the six men from stealing two women. The six offenders, all from Sichuan and Chongqing in southwest China, told Minhang District prosecutors that they usually got on a bus from both doors to sandwich those who wanted to get off. "We go out for business together and select targets on the bus," said Che Shuiquan, one of the members. "As soon as one of us made it, we would all get off to look for the next target. We don't share stolen items. They go to the person who stole them." These thieves always carried knives which gave them courage. When the "business" was done, the gang would leave in a rented minibus, the prosecutors learned. Police found five of the six offenders had theft records. The gang came to the Zh…

Lost at home

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Can something be more crystal clear? I don't think so!

One thing that amazed me in Sweden was how badly equipped Stockholm city is for foreigners! All signs are in Swedish and thats not always easy to understand. Like, how is a non-Swedish-spoken person going to understand that utgng means exit?! Im so used to China where there are signs for a lot of things in both Chinese/English, and sometimes even pictures.

Fortunately Swedes are pretty nice if you ask them for directions if you are a foreigner. If youre a Swede asking the wrong kind of Swede though naaaah, not so much! So, sometimes when Im in Sweden and get lost I ask people for directions in English. Works like a charm!

Speaking of getting lost, I have to admit that I feel kind of lost when I am in Sweden. For instance, I never know how to order food in restaurants. Youre supposed to sit there and wait, and then discreetly give the waiter a meaningful look that says yes, Id like to order now! and then the waiter is supposed to…

Six children rescued in beggar campaign

SIX children abducted by human traffickers and forced to beg on the streets for their captors have been rescued as a result of an online campaign. The microblog initiative launched last month asks the public to photograph child beggars and post their pictures online in a bid to reunite abducted children with their parents. Some child beggars have been snatched from their parents and forced into begging. The blogs at t.sina.com.cn and t.qq.com, created by Yu Jianrong, a professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, have gathered 154,000 followers and 1,200 photographs have been posted. And by Tuesday, six abducted children had been rescued after someone recognized them. Their pictures were viewed by 570,000 web users, according to China National Radio. But the campaign has also created concerns after child beggars "vanished" from the streets of Shenzhen City in south China once their photographs were published. Their disappearance has raised fears that the children may…