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Thousands seek that special someone in Shanghai

SHANGHAI: The odds favored the men as thousands gathered to look for love in Shanghai at the eastern Chinese city’s largest-ever matchmaking party, paying for the privilege of searching for their other half.

Census data shows a rise in the percentage of older single women over the last decade, while the percentage of older single men has fallen, according to the China Daily — which experts said might be due to increasingly choosy women unwilling to settle for men with inferior education and living standards.

Organizers said there were three women for every two men, with 6,000 tickets sold to single woman and 4,000 to men.

“These days, girls are much more self-sufficient and independent,” said Zhou Juemin, president of the Shanghai Matchmaking Association, which organized the two-day event at the weekend.

“Also, there’s a lot of work pressure in society nowadays, so many girls are busy with their jobs and perhaps tend to consider career advancement above marriage — so some of them are no longer young.”

Long queues of singles waited for their turn for five-minute chats with the opposite sex in the ultimate blind-date event.

“If your standard of living is lower than mine in every aspect, but if we can relate well to each other, I wouldn’t mind — because if we relate well, there would be good chemistry,” said 27-year-old Zue Tianwei.

“Then the issues of social order would no longer be a problem. I guess it depends on how strong my feelings are.”

Many men, for their part, said they were willing to shrug off traditional thinking that once made marrying a woman of higher educational and living standards unacceptable.

“Regarding girls who have a higher education level or standard of living, I wouldn’t mind pursuing them because this is a two-way thing,” said Li Jianxun, a 27-year-old native of central China who has lived in Shanghai for two years.

“As long as the feelings are mutual, it is still possible to interact and get to know each other.”

Hopefuls from nearby provinces travelled to Shanghai to take part, among them some who had already married and divorced.

A few, bolder than others, held up signs to distinguish themselves from the crowd. One said, “I wanted to fall in love early, but it’s already late.”

Around 3,000 parents also tagged along, with Organizers allocating a special corner for them to advertise information on their unmarried children. Some kept an eye out for suitable future in-laws.

Qi Xiong, who helped his son by taking pictures to keep track of potential matches, said he still felt that men should not look for wives with higher social status than themselves.

“Generally speaking, if you are a girl and your education level or income is too high, we’re more likely to oppose it,” he said, noting that a simple university degree was sufficient.

“A huge difference in education levels would make it difficult to communicate. If both parties begin at the same starting line, and want to achieve success in the future, they can work at it together.”

William Hague to urge reform on visit to Burma

William Hague is visiting Burma, the first British foreign secretary to do so for more than 50 years.

He is expected to use meetings with the country’s leaders to press for the release of more political prisoners.
His visit is the latest in a series by top diplomats from around the world, amid steps towards reform by the new government in Burma.
Burma held its first elections in 20 years in 2010, replacing military rule with a nominally civilian government.
Since then the new administration has freed pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and begun a process of dialogue.
Last month she formally registered her National League for Democracy as a political party, after boycotting the 2010 polls because of electoral laws that prevented her taking part.

In December US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Burma, in what was seen as an endorsement of the reform process – although Western observers say much more is needed.
‘Political freedom’

Speaking ahead of his arrival in the capital, Nay Pyi Taw, William Hague welcomed the “encouraging” steps taken by the government.

“I am visiting the country to encourage the Burmese government to continue on its path of reform, and to gauge what more Britain can do to support this process,” he said.

Mr Hague is the first British foreign secretary to visit Burma since 1955.

In Nay Pyi Taw he will hold talks with President Thein Sein, a former top general who stepped down to contest the polls as a civilian.

He will then travel to Rangoon, Burma’s commercial capital, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, representatives of some of Burma’s ethnic minority groups and dissidents.

Ms Suu Kyi’s party plans to contest by-elections in April that could see her elected to parliament. Her party secured a landslide victory in polls in 1990 but was never allowed to take power.

The new government has released some political prisoners in recent months but between 600 and 1,000 journalists, dissidents and monks who led anti-government protests in 2007 are thought to remain behind bars.

Mr Hague said he wanted to see more progress on reform.

“Further steps are needed that will have a lasting impact on human rights and political freedom in Burma,” he said.

“In particular, we hope to see the release of all remaining political prisoners, free and fair by-elections, humanitarian access to people in conflict areas, and credible steps towards national reconciliation.”

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Iowa caucuses: Romney pips Santorum

 He finished just eight votes ahead of former senator Rick Santorum in the Midwest state of Iowa.
Ron Paul came third, while Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann settled into a second tier of candidates.
Rick Perry indicated he was suspending his campaign after finishing fifth.
The caucus meetings were the first time voters had a say in the race to face Democratic President Barack Obama in November’s presidential election.

Tuesday’s contest launched months of caucuses and primary elections in 50 states, Washington DC and other territories, culminating in the Republican National Convention in August where the party nominee will be formally anointed.
Iowa was not expected to settle the contest – John McCain, the eventual Republican nominee in 2008, came fourth in the state’s caucuses that year – but it will help shape the race for the White House.

The BBC’s Mark Mardell says that in the end, this result has to be good for Mitt Romney, achieving it in a state he hadn’t bothered to fight until the last few weeks.
‘Game on!’
Hours after caucuses closed, Iowa party chairman Matt Strawn announced that Mr Romney had won by just eight of the 122,255 votes cast.
“Governor Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes and senator Rick Santorum received 30,007 votes. Congratulations to governor Mitt Romney, winner of the 2012 caucuses. Congratulations to senator Rick Santorum for a very close second-place finish,” Mr Strawn said.
Earlier in the evening, Mr Romney kept his sights firmly trained on Mr Obama rather than engaging his Republican rivals or claiming victory.
“The gap between his promises four years ago and his performance is as great as anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said, before crying: “On to New Hampshire!”
As early results came out pointing to a close race, Mr Santorum declared “Game on!” He praised his faith and his family in a speech which marked his own entry to the national spotlight.

Mr Paul, a Texas congressman, finished third and vowed to continue onto New Hampshire, which holds a primary election next week.
“This momentum is going to continue,” he told a jubilant crowd of supporters. “We will go on, we will raise the money.”

Negative advertising
Finishing fifth, Texas Governor Rick Perry said he was returning to his home state in order to “determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race”.Former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich, who saw a brief lead evaporate under a barrage of negative advertising last month, pledged to remain in the race and challenge Mr Romney, “a Massachusetts moderate”.
“We are not going to go out and run nasty ads,” said Mr Gingrich, who finished fourth.
“But I do reserve the right to tell the truth. And if the truth seems negative that may be more of a comment on his record than it is about politics.”
Mrs Bachmann, a Minnesota congresswoman who won the Iowa straw poll last summer, finished sixth, and urged voters not to let the media anoint a Republican nominee based solely on the Iowa results.
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was on the ballot, but did not campaign in Iowa.

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