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China finds $84bn local government debt irregularities

National Audit Office said breaches included “irregular credit guarantees”, “irregular collateral” and “fraudulent and underpayment of registered capital”.

There are growing concerns about the amount of bad loans being held by local governments.Official figures show they held debt of 10.7tn yuan ($1.7tn; £1.1tn) in 2010.

“The State Council is studying proposals to enhance local government debt management and to address fiscal and financial risks,” the audit office said in the report.
‘Again and again’
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A lot of the local debt will be absorbed by the central government”
Michael Pettis Peking University

Local governments have been borrowing money from Chinese banks to fund projects aimed at maintaining economic growth.

According to the China Banking Regulatory Commission, local governments took up 80% of total bank lending in China at the end of 2010.

However, analysts said that although the lending had helped to spur investment and boost growth, it was now weighing on local governments.

“Whenever you look at lending that spurs growth miracles, it starts off with an increasing ability to pay the debt,” Professor Michael Pettis of Peking University told the BBC.

“But in every case that ability fades. That is the process that is happening in China,” he explained. “We are going to see stories like this again and again.”
Easing burden?

In October last year, China allowed four local governments to sell bonds for the first time in 17 year. It was hoped the sale would help them pay their loans.

However, the central government put a limit on the amount of bonds the local governments could issue despite the fact that there was a lot of interest among investors.

According to the Xinhua news agency, Shanghai’s bond sale received bids for three times the amount of bonds on offer.

As a result, many of the local governments still have sizeable debts and while the central government may let them raise money, it may also have to take further measures to solve the problem, analysts said.

“A lot of the local debt will be absorbed by the central government,” said Mr Pettis of Peking University.

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Apple pitches $499 iPad, takes on Amazon

Apple pitches $499 iPad, takes on Amazon

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc CEO Steve Jobs took the wraps off a sleek tablet that it called the iPad, pitching the new gadget at a surprisingly low price to bridge the gap between smartphones and laptops.

A buoyant Jobs took the stage at a packed theater on Wednesday to show off the 9.7-inch touchscreen tablet, which looks like a large iPhone, and to introduce a new iBook electronic reader service that will compete with Amazon.com Inc’s Kindle.

The iPad is Apple’s biggest bet on a new product since the iPhone three years ago, and seeks to tap an unproven market for tablets. Analysts, while impressed by the iPad’s seamless functionality, also pointed out that consumers already have smartphones and laptops for their mobile computing needs.

Jobs described the iPad as a “third category” of devices, a do-everything media gadget that can surf the Web, and play movies and video games. He also left little doubt that Apple was going after the e-book market that Amazon had popularized.

“If there’s going to be a third category of device, it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone; otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Jobs, who still appeared thin following his liver transplant last year.

“Now Amazon’s done a great job of pioneering this functionality with their Kindle. And we’re going to stand on their shoulders and go a bit further,” he said.

Famous for his skills as a pitchman, Jobs, dressed in his trademark blue jeans and black turtleneck, created plenty of drama as he waited until late in the event to discuss the cost of the iPad, which analysts had expected to be up to $1,000.

Apple elected to price it for as little as $499 for 16 gigabytes of storage, starting in late March. An extra $130 is needed to equip the iPad with third-generation (3G) wireless capability. Higher-capacity models will sell for $599 and $699.

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Stephen Lawrence: Gary Dobson and David Norris to be sentenced

Gary Dobson and David Norris were found guilty by an Old Bailey jury after a trial based on forensic evidence.
They will be sentenced as juveniles because they were under 18 at the time of the attack, which happened in south-east London in April 1993.Police say the investigation could be reopened if new evidence emerges.
Dobson, 36, and Norris, 35, can expect to receive sentences considerably shorter than would an adult convicted of the same crime under today’s laws.The BBC’s Home Affairs Correspondent Matt Prodger says they could serve minimum prison terms of around 12 years each.
Scientists found a tiny bloodstain on Dobson’s jacket that could only have come from Mr Lawrence. They also found a single hair belonging to the teenager on Norris’s jeans.
Acting Deputy Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, who ordered the 2006 cold case review that led to the convictions, acknowledged that police believe there were five people involved in the murder, but there are currently no “live” lines of inquiry.
“If there was an opportunity to bring the other people who were involved in that night to justice, we would do so,” she said.
Give up others’
In a statement read by his lawyer outside the Old Bailey on Tuesday, Stephen’s father, Neville Lawrence, said the convictions were a moment of joy and relief – but he could not rest until all of those who killed his son were brought to justice. He described the investigation and preparation of the case as “faultless”.
He later told Channel 4 News: “I’m praying that these people now realise that they’ve been found out and say to themselves, ‘yes I did this awful deed, but I wasn’t alone in that action that night and there are other people also guilty of what I’ve done’ and name them.
“I hope before the sentence is passed, they will talk and give the rest of these people that killed my son up.”In an exclusive interview with the BBC’s Panorama, Stephen’s mother Doreen Lawrence said: “I don’t forgive the boys who killed Stephen. They don’t think they have done anything wrong.
“They took away Stephen’s life and there is nothing in their behaviour or anything to show they regret what their actions have done and the pain it has caused us as a family.”Prime suspects’
The original failed investigation into the murder led to the Metropolitan Police being branded as institutionally racist.
Stephen Lawrence was 18 when he was stabbed to death near a bus stop in Eltham, south east London, in April 1993.
Police identified five men who were later named in a damning public inquiry as the “prime suspects”.
By that time, there had already been a catalogue of police errors and two failed prosecutions, one brought by Stephen’s parents.

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