Eye protection exercises: Fake science or eyesight saving tool?

In 1972 "eye protection exercises" (眼保健操) were introduced to schools across the entire nation to combat the mounting rate of myopia. The exercises comprise a set of massage moves supposedly based on the Chinese traditional medicine theory of 'channels', the same basis for acupuncture and reflexology. If you believe the theory, pressing the right channels with your fingers alleviates eye strains and prevents short-sightedness.

Today's The Beijing News printed a big photo showing pupils in Xisi North Fourth Alley Elementary school showcasing the moves of a modified set of "eye protection exercises" that is on trial in Beijing before rolling out to other provinces.

According to the newspaper article, a very important standard to evaluate the teacher's work is the rate at which their students are found to develop short-sightedness. Which may explain why the teachers are keeping a very close eye on their pupils to make sure that they do the "eye exercises" properly.

One teacher was quoted as saying that "most moves can be seen and monitored, but the "grab the land with your toes" section can not be seen, so you have no way to know if they are really doing it." The "grab the land" moves are done with the feet.

In each class, a model student was assigned to demonstrate the right moves to the rest of the students, while teachers corrected the students who could not do it in the right way. But sometimes, even the teachers got confused. "I am not very sure about the exact location of the Fengchi channel (风池穴)" said one teacher. Despite the videos and graphic guidance they have, the teacher hoped she could get more specific instructions.

For many people, the "eye exercises" are a nostalgic memory of school days, but they are attacked by skeptics as nothing but pseudoscience.

The most prominent among them, FANG ZHOUZI, is a science activist who made his reputation for exposing academic fraud and corruption. Fang has argued that there is no clinical or statistical evidence showing that the "eye exercises" have any effect on reducing myopia rates. Instead, they increase the chance of eye infection. Critics also charge that the Ministry of Education are making a profit from frequently modifying the moves of the "exercises" and forcing schools to buy tapes and video disks of the new versions.


European leaders agree on financial deal

Nicolas Sarkozy: Solid financial sector vital for healthy economy.

PARIS, France (CNN) -- The leaders of 15 European nations agreed on Sunday to shore up troubled banks as part of a broad plan to ease the global financial crisis.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the plan would refinance banks, guarantee interbank lending and ensure that troubled banks do not fail. It also will protect individual depositors' accounts and ease some regulations to give banks more flexibility.

The refinancing of the banks and the guaranteeing of interbank loans are good until the end of 2009.

"What we want is to give back banks the means to lend, to support the economy to enable households to borrow for mortgages or consumption and give companies the means necessary to invest for growth," Sarkozy said. "We cannot have a healthy economy and sustainable growth unless we have a solid financial sector."

Sarkozy announced the agreement after a meeting of leaders of the Eurozone countries, which use the euro currency. Sarkozy also holds the rotating European Union presidency.

European officials say the plan is not a gift to bank management and that managers, who contributed to the crisis should be held responsible. The refinancing will be made at market rates and will consider the financial health of the banks.

Each country will take slightly different approaches, because they have different laws and banking regulations, but their actions will be compatible.

"We have a tool kit and we will see what suits whom in order to achieve what we are setting out to achieve, which is to make sure that we don't have an economic crisis in addition to the financial crisis. We need to get things moving again, shifting again. And when things have calmed down, we'll go back to our basic training and responsibilities," Sarkozy said.

The leaders wanted to work quickly to reassure investors before the markets open on Monday.

Sarkozy said France, Germany and Italy will hold Cabinet meetings on Monday and will announce concrete plans.

"These measures will be implemented in France without delay," Sarkozy said.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown met with Sarkozy and other leaders before the summit and told reporters there was "common ground now about what needs to be done" to soothe the financial markets.


On Wednesday, officials from the Eurozone countries will present their plan to the rest of the European Union at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium. Sarkozy said that they would then urge the United States to hold an international summit to manage the crisis.

"The crisis didn't come from Europe. It began in the U.S. It has now become a worldwide crisis, and the issue of European structural institutions may be put on the table at some stage, but right now, we're dealing an emergency. And we have to reform urgently an international financial system that needs to be reformed,"he said.

World leaders vow to battle economic crisis

The IMF's Dominique Strauss-Kahn: Future action will be needed by world economic powers.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- World leaders, warning of a global economic downturn, pledged Saturday to work together to find solutions to what is unfolding as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.

U.S. President George W. Bush and finance officials from the Group of Seven, Group of 20 and the International Monetary Fund -- gathering in the nation's capital -- vowed vigilance in helping economies around the world on the road to recovery.

Concerns about the solvency of banks and financial institutions in recent weeks "had pushed the global financial system to the brink of systemic meltdown," said Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director.

Strauss-Kahn said steps taken so far by the United States and European nations hadn't been fully effective and that more would be necessary in "the coming months."

For his part, Bush did not announce any new actions to stem the financial panic gripping the world, but reiterated measures world leaders are taking to strengthen financial systems.

"We recognize that the turmoil in the financial markets is affecting all our citizens," Bush said early Saturday morning. "All of us recognize this is a serious global crisis that requires a serious global response for the good of our people."

Both Bush and U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson spoke about the latest step being contemplated by the United States -- injecting much-needed capital into banks.

"In recent weeks, financial market turmoil intensified throughout the world and credit markets froze, causing a chain reaction resulting in non-financial companies experiencing difficulty in financing normal business operations," Paulson told an IMF meeting.

The Bush administration is considering whether to use the authority granted in the $700 billion rescue plan enacted on Oct. 3 to take ownership stakes in financial institutions to stabilize and restore confidence in them.

Other countries are also taking action to inject liquidity, protect citizens' savings and strengthen financial institutions in their own nations, he said.

Finance leaders from the world's top economies, the Group of Seven, pledged Friday night to take steps to keep leading institutions afloat, unfreeze credit, and ensure banks have enough capital to kick start lending and safeguard depositors' funds and restart the secondary markets for mortgages and other securitized assets.

Bush said that it is vital that countries work together so that their actions don't undermine others. He pointed to the emergency interest rate cut enacted this week as an example of a coordinated effort.

He plans to expand discussions beyond the G-7 ministers -- representing the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan -- to the leaders of the G-20 emerging market and industrialized nations.

"We're in this together, we'll come through this together," the president said.

But Bush warned that it will take time to see the results. So far, all the measures world leaders have taken have done little to calm jittery markets.

"The benefits will not be realized overnight," he said.

Bush made a surprise visit Saturday at a G-20 meeting of finance ministers and central bankers.

Officials of the G-20 issued a statement late Saturday saying that the "global implications" of the crisis required international cooperation.

The G-20 is made up of rich and emerging nations that produce 90 percent of the world's economic output. The meeting in Washington came at Paulson's request. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was also in attendance.

IMF backs G-7 commitment

The IMF endorsed the G7's commitment to do everything possible to jumpstart the world's economies.

The IMF's Monetary and Finance Committee said in a statement that it "recognizes that the depth and systemic nature of the crisis call for exceptional vigilance, coordination, and readiness to take bold action."

Strauss-Kahn, of the IMF, said the downturn could be worse than anticipated.

"The world economy is now entering a major slowdown as a result of the most severe shock to mature financial markets since the 1930s, adding to pressure on global economies from high prices for oil and other commodities," Strauss-Kahn said.

The International Monetary and Finance Committee -- the steering arm of the IMF-- began its 18th fall meeting Saturday. The 185-nation IMF was created in 1945 to coordinate international financial stability efforts, aiming to avoid financial collapses.

The World Bank, which is a similar organization with a slightly different mandate, also started its fall meeting Saturday. It focuses on longer-term aid for troubled countries, investing in such things as infrastructure development.

Week of fear

The meetings in Washington cap a week in which fear gripped financial markets worldwide. The Dow Jones industrial average had its worst week ever, falling just over 1,874 points, or 18 percent. Wall Street lost roughly $2.4 trillion in market value during the week, according to losses in the Dow Jones Wilshire 5000, the broadest measure of the market.

Since the mid-September collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked the latest chaos in the financial markets, Bush has repeatedly tried to reassure the Americans.

"We can solve this crisis -- and we will," said Bush, in a speech at the White House Friday, his 27th commentary on the nation's financial health.

"Here's what the American people need to know: The U.S. government is acting, and we will continue to act, to resolve this crisis and return stability to our markets," he said.


The government has started taking a number of steps to attack the crisis, Bush said Friday. These include helping homeowners to refinance into more affordable mortgages; cutting the target for the federal funds rate; unveiling a plan to support the market for commercial paper; and offering government insurance for money market mutual funds.

The plan will authorize the Treasury to buy bad mortgage-related investments from finance companies, unfreezing the credit markets by freeing up banks and finance firms to lend once again.