China's Wen sees struggle to control inflation

HONG KONG/BEIJING (Reuters) – Premier Wen Jiabao signaled for the first time that China would struggle to meet its 4 percent inflation target this year.
Wen, who is traveling in Europe, was quoted by Hong Kong media on Monday as saying that while he sees the Chinese economy growing above 8-9 percent this year, it was hard for China to keep inflation under 4 percent in 2011.

"China's financial situation will still be among the best in the world this year, with economic growth kept above 8-9 percent, and CPI controlled under 5 percent," Wen told Hong Kong television media during the England leg of his Europe tour.
Although Wen's latest comments are not as upbeat as his remarks on Friday when he said China's inflation is firmly under control this year and should cool steadily, they are unlikely to alter investor bets on China's monetary policy outlook.
Many economists have long expected China to breach its inflation target for the year given that the inflation rate is well above the 4 percent mark since January, and is expected to peak at 6 percent in June or July.
A Reuters poll of economists in June showed a median forecast for China to increase benchmark lending and deposit rates by another 25 and 50 basis points respectively this year.
Copper prices lost ground on Monday on concern that inflation pressures may prompt top buyer China to tighten credit further and persistent worries about the euro zone debt crisis.
Judging by a recent stream of comments from Beijing, the market's bias toward tighter policy in China appears to be in step with that of the Chinese government.
Vice Premier Li Keqiang said on Saturday that fighting inflation is still China's top priority, effectively rebutting arguments among some investors that China may hurt its growth if it over-tightens policy at a time when its economy is already easing.
Wen also took a stab at worries that China's economy risks a hard landing on Friday when he said China is "fully capable" of keeping its economy growing briskly.
Writing in an opinion piece in the Financial Times, Wen said: "There is concern as to whether China can rein in inflation and sustain its rapid development. My answer is an emphatic yes.
China's central bank on its part has made clear that its focus is squarely on inflation.
It raised banks' required reserve ratio to a record 21.5 percent earlier this month, hours after official data showed China's inflation quickened to a 34-month high of 5.5 percent in May.


Souris River crests in North Dakota, surging past 1881 mark

North Dakota's Souris River crested this weekend but not before reaching historic levels, surging past a record set more than a century ago.
The river peaked at slightly more than 1,561.7 feet above sea level late Saturday or early Sunday, 4 feet above the record level it reached in 1881. It had swamped an estimated 4,000 homes, although it is now expected to drop roughly 2 feet by midweek, said Jeff DeZellar, spokesman for the St. Paul District of the Army Corps of Engineers.
"This is a new, historic record," said Bill Prokopyk, spokesman for the North Dakota National Guard.
The river's peak was roughly 1½ feet lower than what had been predicted. The water's rapid rise had led to the evacuation of roughly 10,000 to 12,000 residents in the city of Minot, and the construction and reinforcement of earthen levees up and down the river. Although the Souris is expected to drop, officials said that it will be a while before the waters fully recede and months until the affected communities get back to normal.
"The average flow in the river is around 100 cubic feet per second," DeZellar said. "That's almost no water, so it's going to take a long long time to get back to normal in terms of river flows and the recovery obviously is going to be months, for sure.''
Local and state officials, along with the National Guard and Army Corps of Engineers launched a huge effort to safeguard communities and get local residents to safety. Besides continuing to work to protect a bridge in Minot, the Corps of Engineers built temporary levees and reinforced those already in place in the smaller downriver communities of Velva and Sawyer, where the river is forecast to peak in the next few days. Some levees also were covered with plastic for protection, DeZellar said.
State health officials also ordered residents of Minot, Minot Air Force Base and eight other communities to boil water.
"It's a precaution,'' said Dean Lenertz, spokesman for the Minot Fire Department. "Some river water did enter through a plug that was leaking.''
Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said city officials were "not completely sure at this point" that the town's water supply was unsafe.
"It has not been fully tested … to show that it is contaminated," Zimbelman said. "There is just a concern at this point, so we're taking precautions."
A flooded pedestrian bridge in Minot also threatened to damage a levee, and members of the National Guard tried to remove it. "The hazard has been reduced to a manageable level," Prokopyk said, and "the levy's integrity is preserved."
North Dakota National Guard soldiers had been keeping tabs on the overpass, covered by water, to make sure it didn't come apart and clog the river. It had been capturing debris and was threatening to erode nearby levees.

Thunderstorms to end brief heatwave

Thunderstorms are set to bring the short-lived heatwave to an abrupt end, forecasters warned.
Sunday marked the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures rising above 28C.
And although Monday will see the mercury tipping as much as 30C, by evening the hot weather could be broken by thunder and heavy showers.
Forecaster Paul Mott of MeteoGroup, the weather division of the Press Association, said: "It's certainly the hottest day of the year - temperatures in St James's Park in central London reached 28.4C (83.1F).
"And the weather will get even hotter, at least in the south eastern areas of the UK. There will be plenty of sunshine over England and Wales, although the North West will be a bit cloudier.
"But there will be a breakdown in the weather in the evening and on Tuesday, with heavy showers and localised thunder storms spreading east across England.
"And by Wednesday the heat wave will definitely be over. If anything it will be a bit colder than average, 20C (68F) in London and down to 15C (59F) elsewhere."
London parks were packed with scantily clad sun worshippers today, taking advantage of the blue skies.
But those heading to the coast may have been disappointed to find temperatures as low as 15C. In Brighton, beach goers made do with temperatures of 19C (66F), although the mercury will rise to 24C (75F) on Monday.
Andy Murray, first on Centre Court tomorrow for a last-16 showdown with Frenchman Richard Gasquet, will be glad to play his match before the weather turns.

Temple to remain a political time bomb

Thailand's defiant decision to pull out of the World Heritage Convention late on Saturday in protest over Cambodia's management plan for Preah Vihear Temple could be another ticking bomb for the new government.
"The next step to withdraw from the World Heritage Committee will be the responsibility of the next government," Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva told a press conference at Suvarnabhumi Airport.
He had called Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya to meet for 10 minutes at the airport's VIP room before the press conference.
"From now Unesco can consult with Thailand over the next process and Thailand will insist that any activity to recover the disputed areas must be approved by Thailand. We do always ask Cambodia to withdraw troops from the Preah Vihear Temple as it would violate the convention and the intention of the committee," he said.
Noppadon Patama, a legal adviser to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra and former foreign minister, derided the decision to withdraw from the World Heritage Convention, saying it would cause trouble for the country.
"There is another way to protect our sovereign rights that is better than resignation from the convention," he said in a comment called "What has Suwit done in Paris?" on his Facebook page.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti, head of the Thai delegation negotiating with the World Heritage Committee in Paris, announced at 11.55pm on Saturday that his delegation had informed the World Heritage Committee that Thailand had withdrawn its membership to the convention. He said the Thai delegation had to make the move after the committee ignored Thailand's concern that consideration of the management plan would complicate the Thai-Cambodian border dispute.
"So, I think that we should not take a risk. If we take a risk, the vote of the committee may affect us and affect our sovereignty. I talked to the delegation and we agreed to withdraw as a member of the World Heritage Convention," Suwit said.
However, academics have called into doubt the legality of the caretaker government's decision, saying the Constitution does not allow a caretaker government to make any legally binding decision until the next government is appointed.
"It is still a question whether the caretaker government has the authority to make any legally binding decision after the House dissolution," said Panas Tassaneeyanont, a legal expert and former senator.
"The withdrawal from the World Heritage Convention will not take effect as the caretaker government does not have the authority to legally bind the next government," he said. "The new government will later cancel the previous government's decision."
According to Article 35 of the World Heritage Convention, such a move must be notified by a signatory in writing, sent to the director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).
The withdrawal would take effect 12 months after receipt of such a notice. It would not affect the financial obligations of the state until the date on which the withdrawal takes effect.
Abhisit insisted that Suwit's decision had followed the Cabinet resolution.
Akkharaphong Khamkhun, a lecturer at Thammasat University's Pridi Banomyong International College, said Suwit's announcement was hollow because it was done by the caretaker government.
Adul Wichiencharoen, a former member of the National World Heritage Committee, said he supported Suwit's response, as Thailand was in danger of losing territory if the committee accepted the Cambodian plan.
Panthep Pourpongpan, spokesman for the People's Alliance for Democracy, which has been camping out at Government House to protest against the listing of Preah Vihear Temple, said the announcement was a victory for the country.

23 hurt as Pa. school bus overturns on interstate

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A school bus transporting children to camp overturned on a rural Pennsylvania interstate Sunday afternoon, injuring nearly two dozen people and closing the northbound highway lanes for hours.
Pennsylvania State Police said the bus from Cumberland Valley Christian School in Chambersburg collided with a passenger vehicle on Interstate 81 at about 4:40 p.m. near Chambersburg.
All of the occupants of both vehicles were taken to hospitals.
State police said 17 adults and children were taken to Chambersburg Hospital, and six other patients were taken to Waynesboro Hospital.
Summit Health spokeswoman Jessica Walter gave slightly conflicting numbers of victims, saying 18 adults and children from ages 9 to 12 were taken to Chambersburg Hospital, and seven other patients were taken to Waynesboro Hospital.
Troopers and Walters said all were reported to be in stable condition and there were no life-threatening injuries. The injuries were described as "minor to moderate."
Trooper Tom Pinkerton said it was too soon to know if any charges would be filed.
"However, preliminarily, the driver of the Cadillac is the person that contributed to this crash," Pinkerton said.
He said the students had been traveling to Men-o-Lan Christian Camp in Quakertown, but the Chambersburg Public Opinion, citing a pastor associated with the school, said their destination was a church camp in Elizabethtown.
The state police said in a statement Sunday night that 79-year-old Edward Shaffer, of Hagerstown, Md., passed the bus on the left and took evasive action from an oncoming vehicle. Officials say he is believed to have over-corrected his vehicle, causing it to rotate sideways in front of the bus.
Troopers say the bus driven by 52-year-old Joseph Henderson, of Chambersburg, hit the passenger side of Shaffer's Cadillac. Shaffer's vehicle went into a ditch on the right side of the road. The bus partially entered the ditch, struck a guard rail and rolled onto its roof.
Three children and Shaffer had to be extricated from the vehicles.
Pastor Mike Sanders of the Open Door Church in Chambersburg said injuries appeared to include some broken bones, bumps and bruises.
"I'm just thankful that the extent of the injuries is what it was," Sanders told the newspaper.
Fire companies and ambulances from several stations responded and state police said other motorists helped remove passengers from the bus.
Vehicles on the heavily traveled interstate were detoured to the next exit.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Yemen president to appear in media within 48 hrs

(Reuters) - Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh will make a media appearance within the next 48 hours, his media secretary said on Sunday.
"The president will appear within the next 48 hours despite our fear that the burns on his features and on different parts of his body will be an obstacle given that his appearance will not be as the media expects it," Ahmed al-Sufi said in a statement.