On the horizon

China's olympic race ... against smog

Beijing is racing against time to hit its clean-air target of 227 days this year. The city is eager to present a clean face to the world when it hosts the 2008 Olympic Games. But economic growth is stymying its efforts.

By the end of September, Beijing had registered only 175 such days, meaning it needs clear air in 52 of the last 92 days of 2004 to meet the mark, the China Daily reported. At the beginning of October, the city's skies were smothered by smog so thick it forced the rescheduling of two shows by a visiting French aerobatics team.

While Beijing succeeded in cutting coal use in boilers by 5 million tons last year, industrial coal use increased by 3 million tons in the same period, the newspaper said. China, already the world's fastest growing car and energy market, has earmarked $7 billion of its total $37 billion Olympic budget to clean up the capital.

Norway goes seal hunting

Norway's Fisheries Ministry has invited foreigners on seal-hunt tours to help cull a growing seal population that Oslo says threatens fish stocks.

But some animal rights activists call the plan barbaric, and others fear it may scare off more visitors than it attracts. French movie star Brigitte Bardot sent an open letter to Norwegians, calling the hunt a massacre.

Norway defied an international ban by resuming commercial whaling in 1993, a year before hosting the winter Olympics.

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