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At least one person died following a series of small blasts outside a provincial office of the ruling Communist Party in Shanxi province, northern China, state media report.

The blasts in Taiyuan in Shanxi province appeared to have been caused by home-made bombs, Xinhua reported.

It said eight people had been injured and two cars damaged.

Photos posted on social media showed smoke and several fire engines at the scene of the incident, which happened around 07:40 local time.

No immediate explanation has been given for the incident. There have been occasions in the past where disgruntled citizens have targeted local government institutions.

Tensions are also high in the wake of last week’s incident in Beijing. A car ploughed into a crowd in Tiananmen Square in what the authorities said was a terrorist attack incited by extremists from the western region of Xinjiang.

Later this week, the Communist Party’s top officials will meet in Beijing to start a major economic planning meeting.

At least one person died following a series of small blasts outside a provincial office of the ruling Communist Party in Shanxi province

At least one person died following a series of small blasts outside a provincial office of the ruling Communist Party in Shanxi province

“Several small explosive devices went off at Taiyuan’s Yingze Street near the provincial party office,” Shanxi police said in a post on their verified microblog.

“Provincial leaders went to the scene immediately, and police are currently investigating the case,” the post added.

“Police officers found steel balls, circuit boards and similar explosive materials at the scene,” state-run news agency Xinhua said.

“The initial judgement is that the explosions were man-made.”

The explosive devices were hidden in roadside flower beds, according to Chinese state television.

However, two witnesses told Xinhua they saw a minivan exploding, sending car debris flying.

Eyewitnesses also told Xinhua they heard “seven loud blasts”, and saw a large amount of smoke at the site.

Photos posted on microblog Sina Weibo appeared to show cars windows and tyres that were damaged as a result of the blasts, as well as metal ball-bearings.

One of those injured was in a serious condition, state media said.

Taiyuan police said in a verified microblog post that two-way traffic was restored on Yingze Street at 10:30 local time.

Taiyuan, the capital of Shanxi, a province in north central China home to large-scale coal mining, is home to more than four million people.

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A classified file released by the FBI shows how the agency tracked Marilyn Monroe’s suspected ties to communism in 1956.

The agency documented an anonymous phone call to the New York Daily News that year warning that playwright Arthur Miller was a communist and Marilyn Monroe had “drifted into the communist orbit” after her marriage to him earlier that year.

The file is just one piece of the puzzle about what the FBI knew about Marilyn Monroe when she died in August 1962.

The Associated Press waging an ongoing campaign to have more of the FBI documents released by the agency, coinciding with the 50th anniversary Marilyn Monroe’s death.

The redacted document reveals that on July 11, 1956, the agency got a tip that an anonymous male caller phoned the Daily News to report that the actress’s company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, was “filled with communists” and that money from the company was being used to finance communist activities.

The caller said Arthur Miller’s marriage to Marilyn Monroe during a Jewish ceremony less than a months earlier was a “coverup”.

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller were both suspected of communist activities by the FBI

Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller were both suspected of communist activities by the FBI

Arthur Miller, the man said, “was still a member of the CP [communist party] and was their cultural front man”.

The FBI has long made portions of its documents about Monroe public, but most of them are heavily redacted.

However, the FBI claims it has lost its files on the actress and cannot release them.

Finding out precisely when the records were moved – as the FBI says has happened – required the filing of yet another, still-pending Freedom of Information Act request.

The most recent version of the files is publicly available on the bureau’s website, The Vault, which periodically posts FBI records on celebrities, government officials, spies and criminals.

The AP appealed the FBI’s continued censorship of its Marilyn Monroe files, noting the agency has not given “any legal or factual analysis of the foreseeable harm that might result from the release of the full records”.

Marilyn Monroe’s star power and fears she might be recruited by the Communist Party during the tenure of longtime FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover led to reports being taken on her activities and relationships, including her marriage to playwright Arthur Miller.

Marilyn Monroe’s file begins in 1955 and mostly focuses on her travels and associations, searching for signs of leftist views and possible ties to communism. The file continues up until the months before her death, and also includes several news stories and references to Norman Mailer’s biography of the actress, which focused on questions about whether Marilyn Monroe was killed by the government.

There have been two major government investigations into Marilyn Monroe’s demise – the original inquiry immediately after her death and another effort by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office in 1982. The second inquiry, released in December 1982, reviewed all files available investigative reports, including files compiled by the FBI on her death. The records, the DA’s office noted, were “heavily censored”.

That mention intrigued the man who performed Marilyn Monroe’s autopsy, Dr. Thomas Noguchi. While the DA investigation concluded he conducted a thorough autopsy, Thomas Noguchi has conceded that no one will likely ever know all the details of Marilyn Monroe’s death. The FBI files and confidential interviews conducted with the actress’ friends that have never been made public might help, he wrote in his 1983 memoir “Coroner”.

“On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe’s suicide <<very probable>>,” Thomas Noguchi wrote.

“But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death.”

China’s President Hu Jintao has opened a Communist Party congress that begins a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning on corruption.

Addressing more than 2,000 delegates, Hu Jintao said that a failure to tackle the issue “could prove fatal to the party”.

China faced unprecedented opportunities and challenges, he said, and the nation should “aim higher and work harder”.

His speech kicks off a week-long meeting that will see a new set of leaders unveiled.

Security is very tight across Beijing, with many dissidents detained or under house arrest, rights groups say.

Hu Jintao told delegates at the Great Hall of the People that China had to adapt to a changing domestic and global environment.

“We must aim higher and work harder and continue to pursue development in a scientific way, promote social harmony and improve the people’s lives,” he said.

China’s development should be made more balanced and sustainable, he said, and the “serious challenge” of corruption should be addressed.

“If we fail to handle this issue well, it could prove fatal to the party, and even cause the collapse of the party and the fall of the state,” he said.

Anyone who broke the law would be brought to justice, “whoever they are and whatever power or official positions they have”, he said.

The months leading up to the congress have seen China’s political leadership rocked by a scandal involving Bo Xilai, the former Chongqing party leader once seen as a candidate for top office.

His wife, Gu Kailai, has been jailed for murdering a British businessman and he is expected to face trial on corruption-related charges.

Across China, meanwhile, recent cases of official corruption have stoked public anger and there have been a series of high-profile mass protests focusing on land grabs and environmental issues.

On the internet, thousands of people have left comments appealing for better measures to fight corruption on official websites launched for the congress by the three major party mouthpieces – Xinhua news agency, People’s Daily and China Central Television (CCTV).

Economic growth has also slowed in recent months and the wealth gap is an issue of great concern, as is China’s ageing population.

Hu HJintao said a new model for economic growth was needed to respond to domestic and global changes.

“On the basis of making China’s development much more balanced, coordinated and sustainable, we should double its 2010 GDP and per capita income for both urban and rural residents [by 2020],” he said.

China’s President Hu Jintao has opened a Communist Party congress that begins a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning on corruption

China’s President Hu Jintao has opened a Communist Party congress that begins a once-in-a-decade power transfer with a stark warning on corruption

Amid rumbling regional tensions over territorial rows in the East China and South China Sea, Hu Jintao said the nation should “resolutely safeguard” maritime rights and become a maritime power.

“Active and prudent efforts” should be made to reform the political structure, he said, without giving details.

The congress – for which no formal schedule has been revealed – will last a week and will be keenly observed for any indications of the leadership’s future plans.

During the congress a new central committee is selected. It then chooses the country’s highest decision-making body, the Standing Committee of the Politburo.

The process takes place behind closed doors, with the make-up of the top bodies in reality decided ahead of time.

The current Standing Committee has nine members, of whom seven including Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are expected to step down.

The other two members, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, are expected to become party leader and deputy respectively. Xi Jinping is also expected to take over from Hu Jintao as China’s president in March 2013.

Ahead of the congress there has been speculation that the number of seats on the committee will be reduced from nine to seven.

Analysts say there has also been division at the very top of the leadership, with two rival factions jostling for position and influence.

Vice-Premier Wang Qishan, propaganda chief Liu Yunshan, party organization chief Li Yuanchao and Vice-Premier Zhang Dejiang are thought to be the front-runners.

But the exact composition of the committee will not be clear until it is formally announced next week, likely on 15 November at a plenum expected to follow the congress.

In Beijing, more than 1.4 million volunteers have been brought in to help out with security for the congress.

Transport restrictions are in place, street vendors have been told to close and even the flying of kites has reportedly been banned.

Rights group Amnesty International says more than 130 political dissidents were unlawfully detained or placed under house arrest ahead of the meeting.

Chinese Communist Party in numbers:

• Ruled China since 1949

• 83 million members in 2011

• 77% of members are men

• Farmers make up one third of membership

• 6.8 million members work for the Party and state agencies

• Funded by government grant and membership dues

• Private businessmen allowed to join since 2001

• Seven of country’s richest men attending congress

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Cao Haibo, a Chinese internet cafe worker who posted pro-democracy articles online, has been sentenced to eight years in prison, his lawyer says.

A court in the south-western city of Kunming jailed 27-year-old Cao Haibo for “subversion of state power”, said his lawyer, Ma Xiaopeng.

Cao Haibo had set-up web chat groups on social issues, said a US-based rights group.

The case comes shortly before China’s once-a-decade power handover at this month’s Communist Party congress.

In the run-up to the opening of the congress on 8th of November, authorities have clamped down on the work of political activists and dissidents in China, analysts say.

Cao Haibo was detained at his home in Yancheng in October last year after he set up a website and online chat groups advocating democracy and constitutional government, said Human Rights in China.

His trial was held in secret in May because the Kunming Intermediate People’s Court said it involved state secrets, his wife, Zhang Nian, was quoted as saying.

Cao Haibo was detained at his home in Yancheng in October last year after he set up a website and online chat groups advocating democracy and constitutional government

Cao Haibo was detained at his home in Yancheng in October last year after he set up a website and online chat groups advocating democracy and constitutional government

Zhang Nian said the court had presented evidence that her husband had “created an online discussion group, and published articles on foreign websites”.

She added that the trial had not been held in open and told the Associated Press that she was urging him to appeal.

“All he did was express his opinions on the internet. I think it is excessive of the court to give him such a harsh sentence for that,” she said.

Kunming Intermediate Court has so far not commented on the case.

 

Gu Kailai, wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has gone on trial charged with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood.

Gu Kailai is accused of poisoning Neil Heywood in 2011 in Chongqing, where her husband was the Communist party head.

State media has called the case against her and an aide “substantial”.

The country is preparing to install a new generation of leaders, and Bo Xilai had once been seen as a strong contender for one of the top jobs.

Bo Xilai was sacked in March and is currently under investigation for unspecified “disciplinary violations”.

Some Chinese leaders are said to welcome the demise of such an openly ambitious colleague, but the case still needs careful handling for fear it might taint the Communist Party itself.

Gu Kailai, wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has gone on trial charged with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood

Gu Kailai, wife of former high-flying Chinese politician Bo Xilai, has gone on trial charged with murdering British businessman Neil Heywood

Gu Kailai, 53, who is a well-known lawyer, is being tried in the city of Hefei.

Dozens of uniformed and plain-clothes police were stationed around the court building, at which a convoy of black cars was seen arriving on Thursday morning.

British diplomats are being allowed to witness the trial but journalists will not be attending. Gu Kailai is being represented by state-appointed lawyers.

Neil Heywood’s body was found at a hotel in Chongqing in November 2011, and the death was recorded as a heart attack at the time.

But four months later Bo Xilai’s right-hand man, police chief Wang Lijun, fled to a US consulate to allege murder and a massive cover-up.

Gu Kailai and her aide Zhang Xiaojun are now accused of killing Neil Heywood, who is said to have been a business associate.

State media said Gu Kailai and her son Bo Guagua fell out with Neil Heywood over “economic interests” and that she was worried about “Neil Heywood’s threat to her son’s personal security”.

“The facts of the two defendants’ crime are clear, and the evidence is irrefutable and substantial,” a Xinhua news agency report said.

Gu Kailai and her husband have not been seen in public since April, when the investigation was announced.

Bo Guagua, 24, is believed to be in the US after graduating from Harvard University.

“As I was cited as a motivating factor for the crimes accused of my mother, I have already submitted my witness statement,” he wrote in an email to US broadcaster CNN on Wednesday.

“I hope that my mother will have the opportunity to review them,” he wrote.

“I have faith that facts will speak for themselves.”

Discussion of the case has been very limited in Chinese media. In the week leading up to the trial, no reports have been observed in state press.

Comment also appears to be tightly controlled on the internet, with an increasing number of keywords related to the case apparently blocked.

“I have noticed that in China’s weibo (Twitter-like microblogging sites) and the internet, there are people expressing the view that she should be given a fair trial,” said Lijia Zhang, a Beijing-based writer and journalist.

“I have to tell you that she’s not a very popular figure here. But some people do believe she’s the victim of a political struggle among the very top leaders.”

Seven members of the politburo Standing Committee are due to retire later this year. Bo Xilai, now sacked from his official positions, had been tipped for the top until his fall from grace.

Bo Zhiyue, of the National University of Singapore, said China’s leaders were keen to make the focus of the case criminal, rather than political.

”Bo Xilai is a controversial figure. The central leadership may be divided over how to handle Bo Xilai. I think they have some consensus over how to deal with Gu Kailai,” he said.

He added that there were signs she would be treated with a degree of leniency, pointing to the suggestion in state media that Ms Gu was in some way trying to protect her son.

Jin Xiaopeng, a Beijing-based lawyer, said he believed that “due to Ms Gu’s special status, the most she will get is a suspended death sentence”.

It is not known whether Bo Xilai or Wang Lijun will appear at the trial.

Bo Xilai scandal:

• 6 February: Chongqing police chief Wang Lijun flees to the US consulate in Chengdu

• 15 March: Bo Xilai is removed from his post in Chongqing

• 20 March: Rumors suggest Bo Xilai could be linked to the death of British businessman Neil Heywood

• 10 April: Bo Xilai is suspended from party posts and his wife, Gu Kailai, is investigated over Neil Heywood’s death

• 26 July: Gu Kailai and Bo family employee Zhang Xiaojun are charged with killing Neil Heywood

• 9 August: Gu Kailai goes on trial for murder