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Briefs (right)

Under Chinese Law,
Not All Lives Are Equal

By Jim Yardley

He Qingzhi’s teenage daughter, Yuan, and her two friends lived on the same street near the Yangtze River, attended the same middle school and were crushed to death in the same traffic accident late last year. After that, the symmetry ended: Under Chinese law, Yuan’s life was worth less than the others.

He Qingzhi, 38, who has lived in this small town in central China for 15 years, was told that his neighbors were entitled to roughly three times more compensation from the accident because they are registered urban residents while he is only a migrant worker.

“I was shocked,” said He, as he sorted through legal papers in his apartment recently while his wife sobbed in the next room. “The girls are about the same age. They all went to the same school. Why is our life so cheap?”

Outraged, He and his lawyer are considering a lawsuit, saying the decision was discriminatory and that the family is entitled to full compensation under the Chinese Constitution. The problem with that argument is the Chinese Constitution. While more ordinary Chinese citizens like He are claiming legal rights and often citing the constitution, it is actually a flimsy tool for protecting individual rights.

Woman Dies
After Going on Disney Space Ride

By John Holusha

A 49-year-old woman who had become ill at Disney World after going on an amusement ride that simulates a space launching died Wednesday.

The woman, identified by the medical examiner’s office of Orange County, Fla., as Hiltrud Bleumel, a tourist from Schmitten, Germany, took the four-minute ride Tuesday, became dizzy and nauseated, and was hospitalized, Disney officials said. She soon became comatose.

Bleumel was the second person in less than a year to die after taking the ride, Mission: Space, on which passengers experience twice the force of gravity. Last June a 4-year-old boy collapsed while on the ride with his mother and sister. A subsequent autopsy showed that he had suffered from a rare, undiagnosed heart ailment.

It is not known whether Bleumel had some underlying medical problem that might have been worsened by the ride. An autopsy is scheduled for Friday, the medical examiner’s office said.

A representative of the park said in a statement Thursday that Disney engineers, monitored by state regulators, “completed a thorough inspection of the attraction” overnight Wednesday “and found it to be operating properly.” It reopened Thursday.

Mission: Space, in the Epcot section of the park, is so challenging that airline-type motion sickness bags are made available to riders, some of whom complain of dizziness and nausea after it is over. A warning sign posted outside the attraction cautions some people, including heart patients and pregnant women, not to ride.