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Olympics open with full variety of athletes; flag bearers relishing moment, athletes celebrate, ready for the big Games
China launched the 29th summer Olympics on Friday with a glittering opening ceremony combining 5,000 years of its history with a modern firecracker of a show.
The 91,000-strong crowd in the National Stadium, and more than a billion television viewers, earlier saw the hoisting of the Chinese flag which was carried into the stadium by children from China's 56 ethnic groups after 2,008 drummers had started the show.
Around 11,000 athletes from a record 204 nations will compete in 28 sports for 302 gold medals at the first Olympics in China and third in Asia, following Tokyo in 1964 and Seoul in 1988. read more »
The only people who didn't enjoy the awe-inspiring Opening Ceremony of the XXIX Olympic Summer Games had to be the folks with the London Olympic organizing committee. They host the 2012 Summer Games, meaning they have to follow the greatest show on Earth -- and, for my yuan, the greatest show in Opening Ceremony history.
If I were the Brits, I'd punt and go with Monty Python reruns. Unless they can top a gold medalist elevating and running on air around the entire circumference of National Stadium to light the torch. "I was very excited," torchbearer Li Ning said. "I could feel the strength rising from the depth of my heart. This was the result of one month's training. That moment means China is standing side by side with the rest of the world."
Seminal as it was, that moment was merely the last gasp-inducing scene in a show full of fireworks, flying and gravity-defying. For four sweaty hours, the Olympics literally levitated in the thick Beijing air. The 14,000 performers staged a tour de force of choreography, technology and can-do-ology for a country intent on using the Games as a springboard to new world prominence. read more »
I hope our wisdom will grow with our power and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be - Thomas Jefferson
I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
Among those featured in Time special issue "100 Olympic Athletes To Watch":
Dara Torres (United States) - 41, nine-time Olympic medallist in swimming and mother of a two-year old who has qualified for her fifth Olympic Games, something no other swimmer has ever done. The time in the 100m freestyle that got her a ticket to Beijing was 2.47 seconds faster than her Olympic effort in 1988, at age 21 - a lifetime in such a short race.
Liu Xiang (China) – 25. When Liu Xiang claimed victory in the 110-m hurdles in Athens, delivering China its first ever sprint gold, you could almost sense the alarm in the announcers' voices. Few had heard of this mystery athlete, much less knew how to pronounce his given name. What a difference four years make. In Beijing, Liu, 25, along with basketball star Yao Ming, will be the poster boy for China's mighty Olympic squad. His name (pronounced Sheeahng) means "to soar" in Chinese.
Governor Schwarzenegger orders pay cuts, lay-offs of state workers; Consequences, at individual level and society as a whole?
SACRAMENTO - On Thursday, July 31, California’s Republican Governor Schwarzenegger signed an executive order cutting the pay of up to 200,000 state employees to the federal minimum of $6.55/hour and firing over 10,000 part time and temporary workers until the state’s budget impasse is resolved. The order exempts public safety agencies but will have an immediate effect everywhere else: Hiring, overtime and contracting will be halted, and tens of thousands of employees will feel the squeeze. It covers 22,000 retired state employees who work under contract, temporary and part-time workers such as those who fill in at the Department of Motor Vehicles, seasonal employees and student assistants. The order affects the approximately 10,000 state employees in San Diego and Riverside counties. They work at Department of Motor Vehicles offices, highway offices, state parks and beaches, unemployment offices, fish hatcheries and agriculture inspection stations.
The state controller, who cuts the checks, has said he will not comply with it. State Controller John Chiang, a Democrat, sent a letter to Schwarzenegger on Thursday saying he will defy the order and issue employees their regular paychecks. He said the governor's executive order was based on "faulty legal and factual premises."
Controller John Chiang challenges the governor’s claim of legal authority in ordering the cut, and warns the move will cause payroll problems for months after a budget is finalized. Speaking to 100 union members outside the Ronald Reagan State Office Building in Los Angeles, Chiang called them "innocent victims of a political struggle." "The state of California, the elected leadership, cannot put the important public servants of California in harm's way," he said. "We put people first, we make sure we protect their interests, and that's why I have to tell the governor, with all due respect, I am not going to comply with this order." Even if he wanted to comply, Chiang said, it would take 10 months to configure the agency's outdated computer systems to do what the governor is asking.
The Democratic controller and the Republican administration also differ over the state's financial condition. Chiang maintains that California has enough money to meet all its expenses through September. If it's later determined that California has insufficient money, Chiang said he is authorized to borrow until a budget is approved. Chiang's refusal to comply sets up a potential legal skirmish between his office and Schwarzenegger's. If the administration decides to sue, Chiang said it would be a waste of taxpayer dollars.
Democratic and Republican lawmakers remain divided over how to close a $15.2 billion deficit, with Democrats favoring $8.2 billion in new taxes on corporations and the state's wealthiest residents. Republicans want a spending cap and oppose tax increases. Adding to the fiscal mess has been an unprecedented number of wildfires this year, costing the state far more for emergency response than it had budgeted.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer this morning criticized Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plan to cut state worker pay via executive order on Thursday. He listed four reasons that the plan is a bad idea: "legal challenges, logistical challenges, bad management, and no political punch".
The workers, members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000, were dressed in purple and chanted in protest against the governor's move. "People are going to get put out of their homes," said Debra Martin, a union steward. The group is filing a lawsuit to fight the governor's executive order. Derek Pettersen, 21, a student who was working full time this summer for the Commission on Teacher Credentialing in Sacramento, was told not to show up Thursday. "It's not my fault that the budget hasn't been signed yet, and I'm the one paying for it," said Pettersen, who will forgo $1,600 if he remains unemployed for all of August. "I don't really understand why I had to lose my job temporarily because someone else isn't doing their job."
Photos courtesy of Al Seib/LA Times, AP /Rich Pedroncelli, and California State Controller's Office
Ten years after it was introduced, France bids au revoir to the compulsory 35-hour work week as part of economic reforms
PARIS: Ten years after it was introduced, France has ended the compulsory 35 hour work week. Legislators in France have voted to allow companies to sidestep the 35-hour workweek by negotiating individual overtime agreements with their employees. The new legislation, which was passed by Parliament late Wednesday night and which will take effect in September, is the boldest step yet in stripping what many view as an emblematic labor law, without quite getting rid of it. While the workweek limit is as good as buried, every hour beyond 35 that is worked will be considered overtime and will therefore be more expensive.
Labour Minister Xavier Bertrand denied that people would have more working hours imposing on them and said now "everything will be negotiated company by company." Under the new legislation no one in France can work more than 48 hours in a given week, including overtime. Right now, despite the current law, many French employees work longer than 35 hours a week but accumulate time off or overtime. They actually average 41 hours, compared with 41.7 in Germany, 43.1 in Britain, 41.3 in Italy and the EU average is 41.9. In terms of paid annual leave, the French are in the mid-range in Europe with 25 days holiday as guaranteed non-working days.
The new legislation opens the way for company-specific negotiated agreements between employers and labor unions about the number of hours a week and days a year an employee works. The new limits are more generous than before: For manual workers who are paid by the hour, the weekly maximum limit rises to 48 hours, in line with European Union legislation. For white-collar staff members, paid by the day, the annual maximum of days they can be asked to work will rise to 235 days from 218. Also up for negotiation is the amount of time an employee gets in compensation for the extra hours worked, as opposed to being paid for the overtime.
The new changes are likely to affect small and medium-sized businesses most. Many large companies benefited from the additional flexibility that the 35-hour week provided by allowing them to annualize work time, making staff members work more in high season and less in low season without having to pay costly overtime. Blue-collar workers have periodically complained that this practice ended up reducing their income.
But most employees, and particularly those with comfortable incomes and a preference for additional time off, have grown attached to the shorter workweek. Professionals, whose salaries are calculated on a daily basis rather than hourly, fear that they will lose a dozen extra holidays a year that they had enjoyed in compensation for working more than the legal 35 hours a week. Their dismay at the changes was on display Wednesday afternoon when hundreds protested outside the Senate building, sporting banners with slogans like "There is life after work." And the union that represents white-collar employees and management staff, CFE-CGC, published an open letter in French newspapers complaining about the changes.
The new legislation also includes rules to make labor unions more representative. Any union participating in negotiations on work time needs to have obtained at least 10 percent of the vote in company elections. But any union representing 30 percent or more of the internal vote is allowed to sign a binding agreement with management.
Photos courtesy of The Economist, Reuters/Charles Platiau, and AFP
Planned Ron Paul rally blossoms into 3-day mini-convention due to unprecedented response, moves to larger venue at Target Center
(CNN)— Former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul is moving forward with plans for his own rally during the Republican National Convention —and is moving his location to a larger arena to accommodate the unprecedented response.
The three day event called ‘Rally for the Republic’ will officially launch Paul’s new political action group: the ‘Campaign for Liberty.’ When planning for the event began earlier this year, it was originally scheduled to take place at the University of Minnesota, but due to a “strong initial response,” it was moved to The Target in Minneapolis, which can house up to 18,000 people. The GOP holds its convention across the river in St. Paul.
"The Rally for the Republic will send a powerful, positive message to the Republican Party that there is an army of grassroots activists across the country ready to work with them if steer back to their traditions of limited government and personal liberty," said Campaign for Liberty spokesman Jesse Benton.
Paul, who has often voiced his differing policy views from presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, has made it clear in past interviews with CNN his supporters won’t be in Minneapolis to interfere or cause problems for the Republican Party. “We’re not going to disrupt them,” Paul told CNN last month. “We’re not going to demonstrate as much as present a positive case for values that we believe should be the Republican values.”
From August 31 through September 1, the former presidential dark horse will hold a series of grassroots leadership and training events culminating with a “celebration of traditional Republican values,” where Grover Norquist, Tucker Carlson, Gov. Gary Johnson, Barry Goldwater Jr. and Bruce Fein are expected to speak.
The Texas congressman, who opposes the Iraq war and is a libertarian on economic issues, drew an avid following during the Republican primaries. He won 1.2 million votes and raised nearly $35 million. His campaign said the Campaign for Liberty, formed June 16 when he ended his presidential bid, has attracted over 71,000 members.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images