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News Briefs

China Reports Annual Economic Growth of Nine Percent

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- HONG KONG

China’s economy grew a torrid 9.1 percent last year and prices accelerated, Chinese officials said on Tuesday, but they denied that the country’s economy was overheating.

The National Bureau of Statistics said that economic output jumped 9.9 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier. Joan Zheng, an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase, noted that the Chinese agency appeared to have revised upward its figures for year-to-year growth in the first and third quarters as well, to 9.9 percent and 9.6 percent.

Li Deshui, the director of the statistics agency, said at a news conference in Beijing that last year’s growth was the fastest since 1997, and predicted that the economy would grow more than 7 percent this year.

Li calculated that China had become a large consumer of raw materials, taking in 30 percent of the world’s coal production last year, 36 percent of the world’s steel and 55 percent of the world’s cement, and acknowledged that prices for steel and cement were on the rise.

Court Ruling Has Provincetown Gearing Up for Same-Sex Marriages

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- PROVINCETOWN, MASS.

After the tourists and the drag queens disappear for the winter, the pace of this Cape Cod village most years slows to a small-town lull. But on a recent afternoon, Dave Schermacher, a caterer here, stared down at a to-do list that spilled over two pages. Schermacher, who runs PTown Parties, had been busy since 6:30 a.m., already preparing for nine weddings next summer and fall.

“It’s off the wall,” he said, pouring a mug of half-decaf coffee (the real thing gets him too wired). “I have nine weddings to prepare menus for. I’m building a Web site and revamping my brochures. And I have to reserve chairs, glasses, dishes and silver now, or they’ll be all booked up.”

Since Massachusetts’ highest court ruled in November that gay couples have a right to marry under the state Constitution, Provincetown -- a clamorous beach community known for its gay friendly atmosphere and night life -- has been gearing up for an unlikely windfall: the wedding business. Already one inn, the Fairbanks, is offering a $195 “Pop the Question” special.

The court gave the state legislature 180 days to make provisions for same-sex couples, which some legal experts say may turn out to be civil unions, as in Vermont, rather than standard marriages.