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25/10/2010

China's Great Wall crumbles as tourism soars

BADALING, China (AFP) – Empty gin and whisky bottles, crumpled beer cans and tattered food boxes are piled up after a rave in China -- perhaps not so unusual, except that the garbage is on the fabled Great Wall.

The filthy remains of the full-moon techno party, which drew several hundred foreigners to one of the sections of the wall at Badaling, about 60 kilometres (35 miles) from Beijing, left Colombian tourist Francisco Garcia in a sad mood.

"It's very bad for the environment," Garcia told AFP, summing up a major problem facing Chinese authorities -- how to preserve the UNESCO World Heritage site while allowing visitors to take advantage of its majestic beauty.

The sun rises, gently illuminating the impressive structure snaking over the hills. In a lookout tower, nine brightly-coloured tents have been set up for intrepid campers who spent the night in the early autumn chill.

"We've found nails in the Wall between the stones, put there by campers for their tents," said Wang Xuenong, a former curator of the Shanhaiguan section of the wall, and a lecturer at Beijing's prestigious Tsinghua University.

But he added: "There is no clear ban on sleeping on the wall."

William Lindesay, a Briton who has spent nearly a quarter-century working on wall conservation, says he thinks camping at a World Heritage site is simply "unacceptable".

"People are relieving themselves all over it. In the past few months, I have come across big camping groups, pitching 10 or 15 tents and leaving their garbage from dinner and breakfast the following morning," Lindesay told AFP.

Parts of the wall -- which welcomes 10 million visitors a year -- are covered with graffiti, with names and phrases scrawled in English and French.

At Badaling, one of the most popular sections of the wall due to its proximity to the Chinese capital, "you have to walk several kilometres before you can find a brick that has not been carved into," Lindesay said.

The Englishman -- awarded one of Britain's highest honours for his conservation work -- says he fell in love with the Great Wall in 1987, at a time when China was still mainly closed to foreigners.

"I trekked 2,500 kilometres along the remains of the wall -- 78 days of travel, with great difficulty, nine arrests and one deportation!" he recalled.

"For me, it was a turning point. I discovered that the wall is an amazing thing... it is not only a building, it is a landscape," said the 53-year-old Lindesay, who was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Since 1998, he has taken groups of volunteers from his association, the International Friends of the Great Wall, to help remove hundreds of kilogrammes (pounds) of garbage from the structure.

He then showed his photos of the destruction to the Beijing Municipal Administration of Cultural Heritage -- to give them what he called a "wake-up call".

"The garbage was just the tip of the iceberg -- it was just highlighting that the Great Wall, an icon of China, a World Heritage site, was suffering from great neglect," Lindesay said.

At Badaling, soaring tourism has led to an explosion in souvenir stalls, food counters and parking lots which detract from the beauty of the site. Elsewhere, factories have been built at the base of the wall.

The structure has been used for all sorts of events -- from motorcycle jumping to catwalk shows -- and as a backdrop for numerous television and film productions.

The wall, which runs through 11 provinces for a total of more than 8,800 kilometres, is not continuous but a series of sections built from the third century BC to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

"It's impossible to manage, there are too many provinces! There is no one department r the protection of the Great Wall," Wang noted.

Well before campers and ravers hit the wall, the structure suffered irreparable damage -- first, pathways were cut through it for farmers, then came roads and railways. Local residents have stolen many a stone from it.

"Locals have built entire houses with stones from the wall," Wang said.

More than a quarter of the wall has disappeared for good, and most of what remains is "very broken down", according to Lindesay.

"Only 550 kilometres are in very good condition -- that is, the wall has a structure, with towers still intact," he said.

Measures have been taken to limit the damage, and some tourist amenities such as parking lots destroyed. Regulations now forbid any new construction within 500 metres of the site.

But Lindesay says more must be done.

"Ordinary, slow government efforts are not good enough. There has to be a special effort, a directive from the central government that this is part of the national heritage," he said.

"It's a story of disappearing history. Once it's gone, it's gone."

15:43 Publié dans Passions | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : monde, frivol, avis, 78120, alc

23/10/2010

After New York sell out, Rammstein may tour U.S.

NASHVILLE (Billboard) – German goth/industrial band Rammstein has dreamed of playing Madison Square Garden for years.

But considering that the band hasn't performed in the United States since 2001 -- and that it's completely under the radar of the mainstream concert business -- conventional wisdom would say that landing a date at the storied arena would be one hell of a long shot.

Or maybe not. Not only is Rammstein booked for a December 11 show at the New York venue, the act sold out in about 30 minutes.

Rammstein will also play two sold-out nights December 6-7 at the 20,000-seat Palacio de los Deportes in Mexico City before jetting up to Montreal for a December 9 gig at the 21,000-seat Center Bell hockey arena. It will also headline the annual Big Day Out festival in Australia in January.

The sellout at the Garden makes the prospect of a proper U.S. tour more intriguing, says Michael Arfin, the band's U.S. booking agent.

"The goal was to see what kind of demand there really is," he says. "It has been made really clear to us that thousands of people were unable to get tickets, and it's great to see that there is a market here for the band, and our goal is to build that."

Rammstein's biggest album here, 1998's "Sehnsucht," has sold 1.2 million units to date, while its last album, 2009's "Liebe Ist Fuer Alle Da," debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 93,000, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Although Arfin initially thought a Garden show was beyond Rammstein's reach, he came around after watching the band succeed in other parts of the world. "There seems to be an underground growth here, the mystique grew quite a bit," he says. "The longer they were away, the more popular they became, and the more demand was created."

The band, which is known for its elaborate stage sets and pyrotechnics, went all in.

"One of the most interesting aspects about this is these guys themselves were willing to risk an incredible amount of money to bring 10 semis of gear over here for one show to try to present this production to the American audience," Arfin says. "They risked it, put it all on the line to try to do this, and we all succeeded."

Still, Arfin believes that Rammstein should proceed with caution in this country.

"There is a fine line on the appropriate play for the band, what makes sense and how to present them properly," he says. "The band needs to be seen in a certain setting, a certain type of venue, with their production. They're not coming over here to play a ballroom tour or secondary markets. Everything is planned very clearly with a long-term goal of how to get this to the next step."

04:05 Publié dans Passions | Lien permanent | Commentaires (0) | Tags : clamart, 92240, et, new, la

20/10/2010

Arrests of 4 teammates followed NY police shooting

THORNWOOD, N.Y. – Four Pace University football players were arrested, and one of them was subdued with a stun gun, in the chaos after police fatally shot a teammate outside a suburban New York bar, officials said Tuesday.

One of the teammates broke a storefront window, Mount Pleasant Police Chief Louis Alagno said. The other three wouldn't move away from the shooting scene and were interfering with medical aid, Westchester County police spokesman Kieran O'Leary said.

The arrests followed the killing of Danroy Henry, 20, of Easton, Mass., by officers who fired through the windshield of his Nissan Altima after police were called to a disturbance that spilled out of Finnegan's Grill in Thornwood, about 25 miles north of New York City and 1 1/2 miles from Pace's campus.

The circumstances of the shooting early Sunday, a few hours after the homecoming game, are in dispute. Police say Henry sped off, hitting two officers, after a policeman knocked on his car window. The father of a passenger denies an officer was hit and claims Henry thought he was following police instructions.

Amateur video from after the shooting appears to show an unruly crowd, with people screaming and someone trying to revive a person on the ground.

On the Pace campus in Pleasantville, school officials prepared to rent buses to take students to Henry's funeral in Massachusetts, said spokeswoman Cara Cea. Arrangements had not been made public.

"It seems like the outpouring is just tremendous here," Cea said.

A call to the Henry family home was answered Tuesday by a recording asking people who knew Danroy Henry "to let everybody you know, tell every single person, how much of an influence Danny had on you or the good things he did and the person he was. Just let everyone know he's not the kind of person that they're going to try to make him out to be."

Alagno said Joseph Romanick, of Slidell, La., was charged with third-degree criminal mischief after breaking a window in the shopping center containing the bar. O'Leary said Daniel Parker, of Lauderhill, Fla.; Joseph Garcia, of Floral Park, N.Y.; and Yves Delpeche, of Brooklyn, were charged with disorderly conduct and obstruction.

Parker and Delpeche also were charged with resisting arrest, and Delpeche had to be subdued with a stun gun, O'Leary said. All are 22 and were released pending a Nov. 4 court appearance. Police had no information about their lawyers.

District Attorney Janet DiFiore pledged Tuesday to get to the bottom of the case.

"We never rush to judgment," she said. "In the end we will learn about the exact circumstances and events that led to the tragic death of that young man."

Asked whether a police account would carry more weight than a student's, DiFiore said only that every statement would be "carefully analyzed." The size of the crowd outside the bar on Sunday has been estimated at 150, and the district attorney said every witness with information would be approached.

Her spokesman, Lucian Chalfen, said DiFiore spoke Tuesday with Henry's father, Danroy Henry Sr., "as a parent and as a D.A." and told him the investigation would be thorough and would take time.

Alagno said 14 investigators were devoted to the case Tuesday — four from the Mount Pleasant force and 10 from the state police.

"They are actively seeking leads and interviewing individuals at several locations," the chief said.

Without elaborating, he said some forensic evidence was being processed and analyzed. The chief said none of the officers involved had ever had brutality complaints.

The officers who fired at the car have been identified as Pleasantville Officer Aaron Hess and Mount Pleasant Officer Ronald Beckley.