Improved quality of life pledged as leadership shifts

China’s government pledged to repair the country’s ravaged environment and boost public services under its new leadership, an acknowledgment that quality of life was sidelined during the outgoing administration’s decade of breakneck economic growth.

In a policy speech opening the national legislature’s session Tuesday, soon-to-retire Premier Wen Jiabao detailed problems that had grown in recent years and were being left to his successors: a sputtering growth model; poisoned air, waterways and soil; a vast and growing rich-poor gap; and rampant official corruption.

The new leadership will seek to assuage a public looking beyond pocket-book issues, empowered by the Internet and increasingly vocal about the need for change. Wen acknowledged the responsibility he and other retiring leaders have for leaving so many problems, even as they have guided China to prosperity.


Airstrikes hit rebels fighting to control strategic city

Syrian jets bombed opposition-held buildings Tuesday in the strategic northern city of Raqqa, a day after rebels overran the onetime regime stronghold and captured its provincial governor. A toppled statue of President Bashar Assad’s father was defaced with graffiti reading, “Tomorrow will be better.”

The rebels continued to battle pockets of government troops in Raqqa, struggling to crush the remaining resistance in the city of 500,000 people on the Euphrates River. If successful, it would be the first major city they would completely control in the civil war.

But government airstrikes and intermittent clashes raised doubt about whether the rebels would be able to maintain their hold on Raqqa.


Dancer among 3 detained in attack on Bolshoi director

Police detained and questioned three people, including a principal Bolshoi Ballet dancer, as suspects in the acid attack that almost blinded Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi’s artistic director, a crime that cast a shadow on the iconic company and exposed bitter infighting among its dancers.

Principal dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, detained Tuesday, was reportedly suspected of masterminding the attack. Police also brought in Yuri Zarutski, 35, believed to be Filin’s assailant, as well as Andrei Lipatov, a man suspected of driving Zarutski to and from the attack, according to the Interior Ministry website.

A masked assailant threw sulfuric acid at Filin outside his home Jan. 17, searing his face and neck with third-degree burns and damaging his eyesight. Filin is in Germany receiving treatment.