Saturday, June 16, 2012

Germans on edge as key Greek austerity vote nears

John Schoen /
Berlin travel agent Holger Schneider says business has slowed as the euro crisis has intensified. Consumers are worried about their savings, he said.
BERLIN - For  travel agent Holger Schneider, Europe’s financial crisis is finally hitting home.
Germans famously love to travel. But the deepening crisis on the continent -- and calls for greater German financial help from Greece and Spain -- has prompted many would-be vacationers to stay home and keep a tighter grip on their money.
“People give their money to the bank to save,” said Schneider. “But the banks give it to these weak countries and maybe the people will never get it back.”
So far, the recession that is sweeping across the rest of the continent has not arrived in Germany. That may help explain why opinion polls here show that Germans still oppose bailouts of Greece and Spain by roughly two to one.
“We are reading about the crisis in the newspapers and we’ve been hearing it in the media for years, but the average German has not experienced it,” said Frederich Heinemann, an economist at the Centre for European Economic Research. “We are not living in that crisis world.”
But as Greeks head to the polls Sunday in what has become a referendum on Germany’s insistence on painful reforms in return for continued aid to Athens, the mood has shifted. Now the crisis is seen to be encroaching on Germans' hard-won prosperity.
Germany grows weary of being Europe's crutch
This week’s headlines have grown darker and the outlook more dire as the Greek “contagion” appears to be spreading. Despite a 100 billion euro ($125 billion) agreement to bail out Spanish banks, Moody's Investor Service slashed Spain's sovereign credit rating to just one level above junk bonds.
Central banks around the world are reportedly ready to flood the global economy with cash to calm the financial markets if Greek voters fail to elect a government willing to adhere to spending cuts and strict economic reforms.
'Crisis winner' so far
Beyond the headlines, the crisis hasn’t yet touched Germans' everyday lives. If anything, it has helped maintain the momentum of the German economy, the flywheel of the eurozone’s growth since the crisis began two years ago. Capital is flooding into Germany as investors and depositors in Greece and Spain seek shelter from interest rates at levels not seen in 60 years. Cheap money has sparked something of a construction boom in Germany.  Dozens of cranes poke above the skyline in Berlin.
CNBC's Silvia Wadhwa reports German Chancellor, Angela Merkel tells CNBC that growth and austerity go hand-in-hand and Europe must have more integration.
“The average German has been a crisis winner,” said Heinemann.
But Germany’s relatively robust economy, the result of a half decade of painful reforms initiated a decade ago, is now at risk. Heavily reliant on exports, Germany finds itself increasingly vulnerable to weakening in demand for its products as the global economy enters another downturn.

Why so glum? Germans struggle to find joy, poll says

When asked about the current crisis, Germans frequently point to their own recent experience with economic stagnation and the painful solutions they adopted. In 2003, when the U.S. economy was beginning a recovery and unemployment stood at 5.8 percent, Germany’s economy was contracting and the jobless rate was heading for double digits. In response, then-Chancellor Gerhard Schröder initiated the so-called Agenda 2010 program that lifted restrictions on hiring and firing and pared back generous unemployment and retirement benefits.
The plan paid off.
After the global recession in 2007, German workers were largely spared the mass layoffs that sidelined millions of American workers and left the U.S. jobless rate stuck at painfully high levels. Today, as the rest of Europe slides into a deepening recession, Germans are living on an island of relative prosperity.
Economic reforms that worked for Germany before, however, can’t simply be cut-and-pasted onto its struggling neighbors. In Greece, for example, much of a widening budget deficit can be blamed on a tax system that would horrify a typically efficient German bureaucrat.
“In Germany we have a very intricate system of keeping books on the real estate market,” said Timo Klein, an economist with IHS Global based in Frankfurt. “Every property has the exact books going back decades and decades and with all kinds of information attached to that. This hardly exists in Greece -- which makes the real estate tax that is one of the austerity measures very hard to collect.”

Germans are quick with reminders of the generous aid they have already extended to their neighbors in need.  Berlin has been far and away the biggest contributor to the roughly 700 billion euros ($883 billion) raised so far for the various funding mechanisms used to extend financial lifelines to its eurozone neighbors.
And political and popular support for continued German financial aid to the southern economies rests on the premise that the money transfers are an investment in future growth -- not a handout. Today, many Germans have serious doubts that investment will ever pay off.

Germany's Pirate Party rides wave of popularity

“Greece has the sea and beaches and tourism and agriculture and maybe some specialized industries, but how can they come back without strong resources and production?” said Reinhard Schneil, a project coordinator at the Institute of Physics and Technology. “That’s what we're wondering: How can it work? You need Volkswagen and Mercedes, the chemical industries and so forth that are leaders in their markets to support an economy.”
With a meeting of European leaders meeting looms to discuss the Eurozone crisis, Germany is anxious it will end up paying more for the debts of other countries. In the lives of many Germans, debt is an alien concept. ITV's Richard Edgar reports.
Europe may be running out of time, in any case. Germany’s reforms took half a decade, but the financial markets are not that patient. Investors have driven up borrowing costs to unsustainable levels; yields on Spanish bonds this week topped 7 percent, a level widely seen as a financial point of no return in the current crisis. Capital has already fled Greece and Spain, leaving the banking systems at risk of collapse. No matter how well-designed and implemented, economies can't reform without a functioning banking system and a stable source of credit.
Borrow Germany's credit card?
Cheap credit was the root of the current crisis. When weaker southern economies joined the monetary union more than two decades ago, they gained access to lower interest rates on government borrowing. Much as a bank gives a subprime borrower a better rate when a prime borrower co-signs the loan, bond investors accepted lower rates because they believed the debts of weaker economies like Greece and Spain were now effectively backstopped by stronger economies like Germany and France.
Now, as Europe’s southern countries credit struggle to pay back investors, they are floating the idea of combining all eurozone borrowing with a single Eurobond. Greece and Spain are, in effect, asking to borrow Germany’s credit card. The answer, so far, has been a resounding “Nein!”
“Whatever Europe now is looking at for new solutions, one should not count on the Eurobond solutions,” said Heinemann.It will not happen.”

3 held in German crackdown on neo-Nazi extremists

This week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, reflecting the mood of German voters, repeated her opposition to the Eurobond proposal.
With the departure of former French president Nicholas Sarkozy, whose alliance with Merkel in support of austerity recently helped lose him his job, Germany has become even more ambivalent about its role as Europe’s economic and monetary fire brigade. Germans are proud of their domestic economic accomplishments; with 2003 reforms still fresh in the mind, they’ll frequently remind visitors that they “did their homework.”
And memories of two world wars brought by Germany’s past ambitions to dominate the continent are strong. Though the current conflict may be fought with bonds instead of bombs, Germans are extremely reluctant to be seen as reviving imperial ambitions of the past.
Bailout fatigue
German voters are also struggling -- after more than two decades -- with the thorny and often divisive issue of the massive domestic bailout that followed the reunification of East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin wall. A so-called “solidarity tax” on West Germans, which is expected to be in place until 2019, has shifted more than two trillion euros from west to east. But it has left some western cities, including the capital, deeply in debt and has sparked calls for a realignment of the transfers.
The policy has also produced a kind of “bailout fatigue” among some Germans, who are weary of subsidizing the rebuilding of regions of their own country. It’s hard enough to send your hard-earned savings to help friends and relatives, let alone someone who doesn’t even speak your language
“It’s is much less acceptable to Germans in the European level because it has already produced all kinds problems at the national level, said Heinemann. “At the European level it would pose all sorts of unacceptable problems because it is unacceptable to the voters.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the rest of the EU said Greece must continue with the economic reforms agreed to as part of its bailouts. ITN's Richard Edgar reports.
Though talk has recently shifted to expanding infrastructure investment to revive growth, the eurozone, like the rest of the developed world, is already deeply in hock. In just the past five years, the average debt levels of OECD countries has risen from 70 percent of GDP to over 100 percent.
“Austerity is never fun, but when you max out your credit card, it becomes a reality, “ said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff.
German popular opinion still supports efforts to keep the common currency intact -- as long as the solutions involve spurring weaker economies to implement reforms that will revive growth. Their motive is more than altruistic.
Germany can’t go it alone -- and the German people know it. As its southern neighbors fall into recession, demand for German exports is also falling. If Spain and Greece exit the euro and launch new, much weaker currencies, Greek and Spanish consumers will see their spending power for German products plummet. The cost of a BMW or Mercedes, priced in those weaker local currencies, would skyrocket.
Germany also can't be the sole financial backstop for the rest of the continent. Even if it had unlimited financinal resources, popular support for bailing out Europe only goes so far.
“Maybe we are a leading economy in Europe but we are not the only one,”said Schneider, the travel agent. “We alone cannot stand up for all of Europe. If the next chain breaks down we won't have the money for all European countries. Maybe for one two or three .. but it should find an end."

Damian Dovarganes / AP
David Buenrostro, Adrian James, and Jahel Ramos protest outside the Obama campaign offices in Culver City, Calif., Thursday, June 14, 2012.

Skepticism, joy among illegal immigrants over Obama decision

While some illegal immigrants and their advocates heralded the Obama administration’s announcement Friday that it would no longer seek the deportation of most undocumented youth, others expressed skepticism, saying it was a grab for Latino votes and wouldn’t make a big difference.

“We’ve been hearing for a long time that this administration is supportive of undocumented youth, he supports the Dream Act, always says it. But at the same time, we’re literally fighting deportation case after deportation case,” said Mohammad Abdollahi, one of the founders of National Immigrant Youth Alliance. Abdollahi said he was “very skeptical” of the announcement and didn’t “buy it at all.”

Abdollahi spoke with from the Obama campaign office in Dearborn, Mich., which he says he and other protesters had shut down recently in an effort to force Obama’s hand on the issue. Young illegal immigrants also have been occupying such offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the California cities of Oakland and Los Angeles.

Noting that they believed last year’s guidance to give prosecutorial discretion in deportation cases wasn’t helping illegal immigrants, Abdollahi said the new guidelines outlined in the government memorandum released Friday would not provide categorical relief for Dream Act-eligible youth and would be applied on a "case-by-case basis" by local offices who were "very set on deporting each and every one of us."

“If this administration wants to tokenize us, then give us something for it,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous that we have to get deported and he is still winning his Latino vote.”

Obama administration won't seek deportation of young illegal immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security announced that effective immediately the government would no longer seek the deportation of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and would allow them to apply for work permits if they meet certain criteria.

A senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters that as many as 800,000 undocumented immigrants stand to benefit from this change. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the shift represented neither immunity nor amnesty -- buzzwords for conservatives who oppose illegal immigration -- but instead represented an instance of "prosecutorial discretion" in which the government had re-evaluated its priorities in enforcing the law.
The announcement represented a major policy shift, and its political implications will be significant.

Cesar Vargas, who started DRM Capitol Group, LLC, to advocate for people in his position -- he illegally entered the country from Mexico when he was 5 years old -- welcomed Obama’s announcement: “We’re speechless.”

“A lot of the work that dreamers have been doing … it’s showing fruit, so we’re a little bit shocked, a little surprised and definitely excited,” said Vargas, 28.
But he also noted that while it was great that young illegal immigrants were no longer being targeted for deportation, he wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a “political announcement.” He said the White House had called his group and “assured us that it’s a very meaningful process that’s going to be set up.”
“Hopefully, he is serious and I think it’s great, but right now we are going to continue all our campaigns,” he added. “Obviously, he is giving us a reason to fight for him so we’re going to continue our pressure on Mitt Romney 110 percent right now … he (Obama) took a chance with us, you know, we’re going to stand by him.”

Obama immigration order poses dilemma for eligible illegal immigrants

The shift essentially accomplishes many of the legislative intentions of the DREAM Act, an immigration reform bill that had stalled in Congress due to Republican objections. President Obama favors the legislation, while presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he would veto that law.

In the memorandum to immigration enforcement officials, the government said it would not pursue immigrants who met five criteria: those who came to the United States under the age of 16, are no older than 30, are currently enrolled in school, have graduated high school or served in the military, have been in the country for five continuous years, and have a clean criminal record.

For Yelky Ramos, a 20-year-old recent college graduate who came from the Dominican Republic when she was 13, the change means she should be able to get a job. That will provide "great relief" to others like her, who have finished university, and provide an incentive to youth in high school, she said.

“We just hope that the way they’re going to implement it is going to be fair to the undocumented youth and it won’t be a trap in which people will be applying for this type of deferral and then find themselves … (in) legal proceedings that might lead to deportation,” she said.

The change won’t have an immediate impact on her parents since, who don’t have any status in the United States and are planning to return to the Dominican Republic.

“They know that immigration reform is very far from happening here in the United States with this political arena,” she said.

Chung-wha Hong, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, called the move an “amazing,” “historic” victory and said it would "lend huge momentum" to fixing the immigration system.

“ … it’ll change the fundamental direction of where our country is going,” she added. “Now, we’re going towards the kind of reforms that will … really affect the lives and the futures of so many more people.”

Catholic hospitals reject birth control compromise

Group says church-affiliated employers should not have to cover contraception 

updated 6/15/2012 4:01:16 PM ET

Sharpening an election-year confrontation over religious freedom and government health insurance rules, the nation's Catholic hospitals on Friday rejected President Barack Obama's compromise for providing birth control coverage to their women employees.
The Catholic Health Association was a key ally in Obama's health care overhaul, defying opposition from church bishops to help the president win approval in Congress. But the group said Friday it does not believe church-affiliated employers should have to provide birth control as a free preventive service, as the law now requires.
The hospital group's decision calls into question a compromise offered by the president himself only months ago, under which the cost of providing birth control would be covered by insurance companies and not religious employers. While churches and other places of worship are exempt from the birth control mandate, nonprofits affiliated with a religion, such as hospitals, are not.
In a letter to the federal Health and Human Services department, the hospital group said the compromise initially seemed to be "a good first step" but that examination of the details proved disappointing. The plan would be "unduly cumbersome" to carry out and "unlikely to adequately meet the religious liberty concerns" of all its members, the group said.
While some liberal-leaning religious groups see no problem with the birth control rule, Roman Catholic bishops and conservative-leaning groups are treating it as an affront and calling it an attack on religious freedom. Institutions ranging from the University of Notre Dame to Catholic Charities in several states to the Archdiocese of Washington have sued to block the rule.
With the Catholic Health Association now voicing concerns, opponents gained a powerful endorsement. There was no immediate reaction from the Obama administration.
The association represents about 600 hospitals and hundreds of nursing homes and other health-related organizations, totaling 2,000 members around the country. One of every six patients is cared for in a Catholic hospital.
In its letter, the group said the government should either broaden the exemption for religious employers, or pay directly for the birth control coverage.
Starting next Jan, 1, in most cases, women will have access to birth control at no additional charge through their job-based coverage, as part of a package of preventive services that also includes HIV screening and support for breast-feeding mothers. Some employers, considered to be "grandfathered" in under the health care law, will not have to provide the coverage.
The requirement applies to all birth control approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That includes the pill, intrauterine devices, the so-called morning-after pill, and newer forms of long-acting implantable hormonal contraceptives that are becoming widely used in the rest of the industrialized world.
The morning-after pill is particularly controversial. It has no effect if a woman is already pregnant, but many religious conservatives consider it tantamount to an abortion drug.
As recently as the 1990s, many health insurance plans didn't cover birth control. Protests, court cases, and new state laws led to dramatic changes. Today, almost all plans cover prescription contraceptives — but usually impose copays.
The White House has struggled to find a solution that will satisfy women's rights advocates without offending people who object on grounds of religious freedom. While Catholic church teaching has long opposed artificial means of birth control, polls show the faithful use the pill nonetheless.
Obama in 2008 won the total Catholic vote, 54 percent to Sen. John McCain's 45 percent, but he lost the white Catholic vote, 52 percent to 47 percent, according to exit polls. Once reliably Democratic, Catholics are now swing voters, with white Catholics making up the majority of the group.

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Nik Wallenda completes tightrope walk across Niagara Falls


Mark Blinch / Reuters
Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda walks the high wire from the U.S. side to the Canadian side over the Horseshoe Falls in Niagara Falls, Ontario, June 15, 2012. 


Daredevil Nik Wallenda tightrope-walked his way into the history books Friday night. He became the first person in history to cross Niagara Falls on a wire.
ABC News, which broadcast the event during a special Friday, reports that tens of thousands of people were on the Canadian side of the falls to greet him when he arrived 25 minutes after he started. The two-inch wide wire allowed him to walk 200 feet in the air over Horseshoe Falls, the largest of the three falls. His feat fulfilled a lifelong dream of his and honored his great-grandfather, Karl Walleda, who fell during a tightrope-walking stunt in Puerto Rico in 1978.

“This has been everything that I’ve worked for, for a long time,” Wallenda, 33, told the media at a press conference after the feat, reports The New York Times .“And you know what? It’s as real as it gets now, isn’t it? There’s no turning back. It’s done, it’s official, it’s in the history books.”

The Times notes that Wallenda comes from a family of daredevils and first walked across a tightrope at age 2. Five of his ancestors have died trying to finish a tightrope stunt. In Friday’s stunt, he crossed 1,800 feet.

The Associated Press reports that the Sarasota, Fla. native and father of three has his own tactics to stay calm during his tightrope-walking feats. As a Born-Again Christian, he prayed, talked to God and quoted scripture as he walks across the tightrope.

People have walked across the Niagara Gorge in the past, but none since 1896 as all tightrope acts have been turned away. Wallenda, who spent two years convincing U.S. and Canada officials to let him do it, was the first to walk directly over the falls.

The event was sponsored by ABC, which invested $1.3 million in the spectacle, notes the AP. The network insisted that he have a tether that will keep him from falling into the water if he falls off the wire.

He did tell the media after it was over that it was hard to focus on the wire, but he still felt peace. “It’s breathtaking...It was absolutely amazing to have that view,” he said, reports the NY Times.

Geoff Robins / AFP - Getty Images
Tightrope walker, Nik Wallenda the first walk across Niagara Falls in over a century, braving winds and heavy spray in his historic feat.

Gruesome photos put spotlight on China's one-child policy

Family photo
Photos of Feng Jianmei on her hospital bed after a forced abortion have been circulating on the web. The photos were taken by her sister who in turn contacted the media about the story. The photos originally appeared in a local newspaper report online and then they were picked by netizens and distributed online.
Updated at 10:33 p.m. ET: China state media says city officials have apologized to Feng Jiamei and suspended three officials, the BBC reported.
Xinhua news said the Ankang city government will urge the county government to review its family planning operations, according to the BBC report.
BEIJING – Feng Jianmei  says she was manhandled by seven people, some of them local family planning officials, some of whom she didn’t know.
Feng, 22 years old and seven months pregnant, was dragged out of her relative’s home, carried and shoved into a van that headed straight to a hospital on June 2, she told NBC News in phone interview.
She was blindfolded, thrown on a bed, and forced to sign a document that she couldn’t read with the blindfold still on her eyes. Then two shots were injected into her belly. Thirty hours later, on the morning June 4, she gave birth to a dead baby girl.
Feng is one of the many Chinese women who have been forced to have abortions under China’s strict one-child-only policy started in late 1970s to contain the country’s fast growing population, which has now topped 1.3 billion people.
One-child policyChina’s long time Communist leader Chairman Mao Zedong originally encouraged women to have as many children as possible during the Cold War-era when human power was believed to be an important force if war broke out. But the country’s rulers soon found it too difficult to feed the huge population – so they adopted a harsh policy that allows urban citizens to have only one child, and rural couples to have two, if the first child is a girl.  
The policy has been carried out for more than three decades despite public opposition, from human rights activists to ordinary people. Thousands of years of Chinese culture fostered the belief that “more children is more blessing,” especially in remote and rural areas where the elderly lack adequate social benefits and depend on children as they grow old.
Government family planning officials are also under pressure to make sure their constituencies follow the quota of babies allowed. When there’s no clear law telling them what they can and cannot do, forced abortions, often on late-terms pregnancies, have become the norm, particularly for the poor who are unable to pay the hefty fines to have additional children.   
Advocates on behalf of these women are usually ignored or face government repression. For example, Chen Guangcheng, the famous blind lawyer and human rights activist, represented victims of family planning abuse in Shandong Province. Chen was jailed for four years for his advocacy and put under house arrest until he recently escaped illegal detainment and fled to the U.S. last month.
More on Chen Guangcheng
There are no official figures of how many women in China unwillingly terminate pregnancies every year. “All Girls Allowed,” an organized founded by former 1989 student protest leader Chai Ling, claims there are 1.3 million forced abortions annually.
‘How can I agree to do that, as a mother?’
Feng Jianmei didn’t realize she wasn’t allowed to have a second child (her first daughter was born in 2007) since everyone else around her was permitted to have a second child. Both she and her husband Deng Jiyuan took for granted that they would have the same right.  But the family planning office in Zengjiazhen, a small town in Shaanxi province in the heart of China, thought differently.  
Through a rigorous and rigid household registration system designed to control population movement, the central government classifies all its citizens as either city dwellers or rural peasants.  The registration, also known in Chinese as hukou, determines not only a citizen’s residence but also what kind of social services individuals are eligible for.
It is very difficult to change one’s hukou although there are many ways, including marrying a person with a different registration status, applying for a new status through one’s job, or paying an enormous sum of money.
The local family planning office decided that Feng wasn’t allowed to have a second child because she didn’t have the necessary permit – apparently she had failed to relocate her hukou to Zengjiazhen when she moved from her original province of Inner Mongolia.
But the couple says they had no idea their plan to have a second child was connected with Feng’s hukou.
They were given another option that would solve the problem: pay a fine of $6,400. But that was an impossible amount for the couple to afford – Deng is a migrant worker and Feng is a farmer.
“I told you, $6,400, not even a penny less. I told your dad that and he said he has no money,” the family planning official wrote to Deng in a text message that has been made public. “You were too careless, you didn’t think this was a big deal.”
Feng’s sister received the same warning;  if they couldn’t afford to help pay the fine, it was only a matter of time before her sister had to get rid of the baby, whether she wanted to or not.
Things came to a head on June 2, but according to the local government, Feng agreed to the abortion.
The Zhenping Population and Family Planning Bureau released on June 11 an official stamped document, which says  that “after government cadre’s repeated persuasion, Feng Jianmei agreed to have an abortion at 15:40 on June 2.”
“No, I didn’t agree to do it,” Feng told NBC News. “How can I agree to do that, as a mother?”
She sobbed when asked what happened next, and said she was too upset to think about it. She said all those officials who kidnapped her disappeared after the abortion, and she’s still suffering from a constant headache.
Two appalling photos of her were taken and posted online that show her lying in bed, looking weak and helpless, with a dead and bloody baby next to her. The photos were taken by her sister who in turn contacted the media about the story. The photos originally appeared in a local newspaper report online and then they were picked by netizens and distributed online.
‘If this evil policy is not stopped, this country will have no humanity’
Forced abortions in China are not new, but Feng’s story spread rapidly via social media, and outrage was immediate and unanimous. On Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site, netizens left thousands of angry comments, although many of the posts were quickly deleted by government censors. 
“The purpose of family planning was to control population, but now it has become murder population,” wrote Li Chengpeng, a well-known Chinese writer. “It was a method to contain population, but now it is a way to make money. When you can make money by killing, what else are you afraid to do? A seven-month baby can think already. I want to ask the murderer, how do you face your own mother when you go home? If this evil policy is not stopped, this country will have no humanity.”
Zhao Chu, another writer, called it pure murder. “This is not about enforcing the policy, it is about depriving someone’s right to live. We avoid the nature of it by using a medical word ‘enforced abortion.’ For so long family planning seems like something completely irrelevant of human life. It’s like coal mining or digging mushrooms. Human life has become lifeless indexes, some cold, meaningless numbers.
“Also, pushed by heavy fines, the controversial policy has become profit-oriented activities that everyone hates. The worst victims are those of low-class rural people who have no power to fight. Their tears and cries are not heard by so called mainstream society and the victims become worse than the untouchables,” said Zhao.
Many called for the one-child policy to be outlawed. “We feel so sorry for the dead baby girl, we criticize those so-called law enforcers. But we should rethink the 30-year-long family planning policy. It’d be worth it if this could help to change the policy! We keep our eyes open!” commented user A-Kun on his Weibo page.
Even Hu Xijin, chief editor of Global Times, one of China’s most pro-government newspapers, criticized the forced abortion on his Weibo account.
“I strongly oppose the barbarous forced abortion to this 7-month-pregnant mother. Time has changed and the intensity of enforcing family planning has changed. We should promote civilized family planning,” Hu wrote.
But he added that he didn’t think the whole policy should be abolished. “Don’t use Hong Kong and Japan as an argument to deny China’s population policy. Those places are small and developed early, fed by the whole world’s resources. But the world resources cannot afford to feed a China with billions of people.”
‘This has damaged the image of family planning work’
NBC News tried to contact both town and city level family planning offices in Zengjiazhen and Ankang, but the calls went unanswered.  
A report from Xinhua, China’s official government news agency, released on Thursday said that the Shaanxi Provincial Family Planning Committee has sent an investigation team to Zengjiazhen and requested local government to have the responsible parties held accountable.
“This has damaged the image of family planning work, and had an adverse effect on the society. The committee will resolutely prevent such things from happening again,” the Xinhua news report said.
Feng’s conversation with NBC News was interrupted three times by what she said were government cadres entering her hospital ward to talk.
When asked what she would do next or whether they will seek legal help, she uttered an answer in a very low voice: “I have no idea.”