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Asian shares mixed

HONG KONG: Asian shares were mixed on Thursday as fears about Europe’s debt crisis deepened after Germany, considered the pillar of the eurozone, failed to sell all its bonds in an auction.
While some markets managed to eke out small gains thanks to bargain-buying, the ongoing woes in Europe as well as the slowing global economy pushed investors to the sidelines.
Tokyo fell 1.38 percent by the break as it played catch-up with regional losses on Wednesday, when it was closed for a public holiday.

Hong Kong lost 0.44 percent and Shanghai gave up 0.68 percent. But Seoul rose 0.22 percent and Sydney was 0.41 percent higher.

A German government bond auction Wednesday drew some of the weakest demand since the introduction of the euro, signalling diminishing investor appetite even for the safest eurozone assets.

Berlin only managed to draw bids of 3.9 billion euros for its six billion euro 10-year bond auction, indicating that investors are now sceptical about even the safest assets in the eurozone.

The failure comes days after Moody’s warned that France’s weak growth and exposure to European debt could see it lose its cherished AAA debt rating, which would send its borrowing costs soaring. (AFP)

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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.”

Some schools reopen in quake-hit Indonesia city

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Some schools reopen in quake-hit Indonesia city

PADANG, Indonesia (Reuters) – Markets reopened and some children attended school in the shattered port city of Padang on Monday, but no hope remained for some inland villages which would be left as mass graves.

Relief workers said there was little chance of finding anyone else alive in the ruins five days after a 7.6 magnitude quake hit the Indonesia island of Sumatra.

An official said three hamlets on the foothills of the Gunung Tigo mountain wiped out by landslides would be turned into mass graves.

“Instead of the extra cost of evacuating the corpses, it’s better to allocate the money for the living,” Ade Edward, the head of the West Sumatra earthquake coordinating desk was quoted by Kompas newspaper as saying.

While aid and international rescue teams have poured into Padang, a city of 900,000, help has been slow to reach remoter inland areas, with landslides cutting many roads.

When rescuers arrived they found entire villages obliterated by landslides and homeless survivors desperate for food, water and shelter.

“I am the only one left,” said Zulfahmi, 39, who was in the village of Kapalo Koto, near Pariaman, about 40 km (25 miles) north of Padang, with 36 family members when the quake struck.

“My child, my wife, my mother-in-law, they are all gone. They are under the earth now.”

Health officials said five villages had been buried in torrents of mud and rock torn out of the lush green hills by the force of the quake.

“In the villages in Pariaman, we estimate about 600 people died,” said Rustam Pakaya, head of the Health Ministry’s crisis centre. Pariaman, closer to the epicentre, is one of the worst-affected areas.

“In one of the villages, there’s a 20-metre-high minaret, it was completely buried, there’s nothing left, so I presume the whole village is buried by a 30-metre deep landslide.”

FEARS OF DISEASE

On Sunday, people were still digging at the landslide sites with wooden hoes, but the chances of finding anyone alive beneath the wet, compacted red earth appeared hopeless.

For the survivors, aid was still urgently needed.

“We haven’t had any food except instant noodles for four days. There are lots of injured and we need medical help,” said Hery, an official in Sungai Limau. A noticeboard by his office listed the names of the dead, with ages ranging from one to 95.

Indonesia’s health minister, Siti Fadillah Supari, estimated the death toll could reach 3,000, adding that disease was becoming a concern, especially in Padang city, where a pervading stench of decomposing bodies hangs over the ruined buildings.

“We are trying to recover people from the debris, dead or alive. We are trying to help survivors to stay alive. We are now focusing on minimising post-quake deaths,” she told Reuters.

But a spokesman for the national disaster agency said that the toll may not be so high. “The death toll could reach over 1,000 but I don’t think it will go far higher than that,” spokesman Priyadi Kardono said.

SCHOOLS

Some children returned to school on Monday in Padang as the city attempted to return to some form of normalcy.

“The building is safe enough but we have no power and water doesn’t always come out of the tap. Most students came today and we have class as usual,” said Tri Raswati, 17, at High School No. 3 in East Padang.

But at another school children were turned away, because of the danger of collapse in a nearby building.

Indonesia’s disaster agency said about 180,000 homes and 20,000 buildings had been damaged in the quake, with most government offices destroyed.

Padang lies on one of the most active faultlines in the world, but a geologist said the city had been ill-prepared and remained at risk of being wiped out in the next decade by a more powerful earthquake.

“I think Padang is totally unprepared. Generally, the existing structures are not designed to be quake-proof and that’s why the devastation is so great,” said Danny Hilman Natawidjaja from the Indonesian Science Institute.

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