‘Same’ is the new 'old'... or something like that:  China’s Communist Party rarely shares much about the secretive system that determines who holds power here.  All that has been known about the upcoming once-in-a-decade transition is that it would happen later this year. 

So when Party officials held a news conference in Beijing and used words like ‘transparency’ and ‘increased openness’, those listening were quickly intrigued and just as swiftly disappointed as officials went on to reveal pretty much nothing.  Read @AP’s summary here: http://bit.ly/PmHElX

Tales of two fugitives:  After eight years hiding in Vancouver, former banker Gao Shan has returned to China to face charges related to a $130 million fraud ring.  Why, and why now?  Good questions: http://bit.ly/PgcTAW  As a contrasting view, here is what the state-run China Daily says: http://bit.ly/OfRdng

Also, a huge manhunt in China to capture a bank robber accused of several murders ended when he was shot dead by police in Chongqing.  Here is the takedown according to Xinhua, the state news agency, however a warning before you open the link:  The Public Security Bureau sought to leave little doubt about the fugitive’s fate by releasing a photo that is graphic. http://bit.ly/Nm8u1e

Nature, altered: Dented eyes, shrunken legs, and infertility were discovered to be among the startling 'new' characteristics of the Pale Grass Blue species of butterflies in Japan.   Scientists believe the mutations are linked to radiation exposure following the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant last year.  The study, the first of its kind, is published by Scientific Reports (at nature.com http://bit.ly/QhDHxk) but also well-summarized here:  http://bbc.in/R9hzvP

An aide to Syria’s Bashar Assad is visiting China for talks with officials about the ongoing crisis.  Reuters reports the meetings are part of Beijing’s efforts to step up its diplomacy. China has twice vetoed UN resolutions to end the crisis, instead urging a ‘political solution’.  More of the Reuters story here: http://reut.rs/Naz0pS

In other ‘Visitors from Unpopular Regimes’ news, the uncle of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un is in Beijing for several days.  He is leading a delegation said to be discussing the economy and 'business' which is fueling speculation that Kim Jong Un himself will soon make his first visit to China:  http://yhoo.it/NwzUQ1

Huh?:  In northern Thailand, a senator ‘accidentally’ shot and killed his secretary with a 9mm Uzi submachine gun during dinner.  According to the Bangkok Post, he has yet to face charges: http://bit.ly/ROhZXB