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Expo extravaganza

The World Expo opens in Shanghai. A spate of school killings worries citizens. Syphilis spreads and an AIDS activist flees. Shanghai commissions its own (red) Wall Street bull, while Mickey gets crucified.

 Top News: Shanghai finally opened the much-awaited World Expo. The opening ceremony, which was supposed to be a low-key affair, ended with spectacular fireworks erupting off of the Oriental Pearl Tower.

The Expo is not all fun and games. Shanghai has asked many bars and clubs to now close at 2 a.m. and the city’s infamous counterfeit DVD shops have been forced to operate covertly. In addition, the attendance expectation, 70 million visitors, is not likely to be met. Instead only 25 to 30 million visitors will attend leaving the government with a Rmb4 billion shortfall in revenue.

Severe storms and tornados hit Chongqing in southwestern China, leaving at least 39 people dead and over 150 injured. Tornados are rare in China, but this system was caused by a major heat wave from the south colliding with a northern cold front.

Despite increased security measures, seven children were stabbed to death in a Shanxi province school by a man who then killed himself. Authorities believe that he was a copy cat killer after a spate of school killings has recently afflicted Chinese schools. Since Mar. 24, 2010, at least five school attacks have occurred by deranged men, leaving at least 15 dead and over 70 injured.

Air pollution has become so severe in Hong Kong that a leading anti-pollution activist has left the city for health reasons. 69-year-old professor at Hong Kong University’s School of Public Health Anthony Hedley is moving to the Isle of Man, because the city’s high pollution level is aggravating his health after his recent battle with cancer. In April, the city’s pollution level reached record highs.

In an attempt to make some air cleaner for breathing, the Chinese government will institute a ban on smoking indoors. Starting in Jan. 2011 smoking in workplaces and public transport, as well as other unspecified indoor spaces, will be illegal. There are no details on how the law will be enforced.

The International Olympic Committee has stripped a Chinese gymnast of her Sydney Olympic bronze medal after it was found that she was only 14-years-old during the 2000 competition. Gymnasts must be 16-years-old for Olympic competition, and the action has brought worries that a similar move could happen with China’s 2008 Olympic gymnastics team.

North Korean president Kim Jong-il visited China and met with senior Chinese officials. However, state media has refused to report on the visit despite the fact that several western news outlets have been following the trip.

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou is coming under fire for saying that the island nation would never ask for America to fight for Taiwan. Many on the island, including the opposition DPP party, felt the statement showed that Ma was not interested in U.S. military assistance. He contends that he was expressing that the island is strong enough to defend itself.

Syphilis cases in infants have increased 12-fold in China in the past five years, according to a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine.  The report says that no other country has seen such a quick rise since the invention of penicillin and, in Shanghai, syphilis is now the most widespread communicable disease.

Work in stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS has also taken a hit in China. Leading activist Wan Yanhai, founder of the Beijing-based Aizhixing Institute, has moved his family to Philadelphia in order to escape harassment and intimidation by Chinese authorities. He hopes to continue his work from the U.S.

On the bright side, China has now lifted its 20-year-old entry ban on foreigners with HIV/AIDS. The move coincides with the opening of the World Expo and the State Council explained that the original ban was enacted when little was known about the disease.

China’s online population has topped the 400 million mark and 346 million people now have broadband access. However, soon those netizens could be forced to disclose their real names when using the Internet. The law has not been passed yet, and last time public outrage forced it to be shelved.

Money: While Wall Street is being vilified stateside, Shanghai has decided to embrace it. The city has commissioned Italian-American sculptor Arturo Di Modica to create its own bronze bull statue to be placed on the Bund. The Chinese version, however, will be younger, stronger, and a shade of red, according to the sculptor.

China’s auto industry is also grabbing some foreign prestige. Hangzhou-based Geely bought Volvo from Ford for $1.8 billion and raised another $900 million to keep the company afloat. While the deal is certainly ambitious, some analysts believe it is also foolish.

Elsewhere: For art lovers, Shanghai’s Expo is a goldmine. The famed Little Mermaid statue is on display at Denmark’s pavilion, the first time it’s been shown abroad. The Iranian pavilion is selling very expensive Persian rugs. The U.K. Pavilion itself is a piece of art. While the New Zealand pavilion has Maoris performing the Haka.

For those looking for something a little more controversial, head to Beijing Yintai Shopping Mall to take a look at its crucified Mickey Mouse sculpture.