Daily Archives: May 23, 2012

15-year old girl kidnapped for Vatican police sex parties

Emanuela Orlandi, who was 15 at the time of her disappearance, was the daughter of a Vatican employee Photo: Rex

A teenage girl whose disappearance in Rome has remained a mystery for 30 years was kidnapped for sex parties by a gang involving Vatican police and foreign diplomats, the Roman Catholic Church’s leading exorcist has claimed.

Telegraph | May 22, 2012

By Nick Squires, Rome

Father Gabriele Amorth, who was appointed by the late John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist and claims to have performed thousands of exorcisms, said Emanuela Orlandi was later murdered and her body disposed of.

In the latest twist in one of the Holy See’s most enduring mysteries, he said the 15-year-old schoolgirl was snatched from the streets of central Rome in the summer of 1983 and forced to take part in sex parties.

“This was a crime with a sexual motive. Parties were organised, with a Vatican gendarme acting as the ‘recruiter’ of the girls.

“The network involved diplomatic personnel from a foreign embassy to the Holy See. I believe Emanuela ended up a victim of this circle,” Father Amorth, the honorary president of the International Association of Exorcists, told La Stampa newspaper.

Lux in Arcana: The Vatican Secret Archive Reveals Itself

The debate over who kidnapped Emanuela and what became of her has raged in Italy for three decades.

It has been suggested that she was taken by the leader of a notorious gang of criminals, who wanted to put pressure on Vatican officials to recover money that he had allegedly lent them.

Another theory is that she was abducted to be used as a bargaining chip for the release from prison of Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turkish gunman who tried to kill John Paul II in St Peter’s Square in 1981, reportedly on the orders of the KGB.

But Father Amorth, 85, dismissed the “international dimension”, saying that a Vatican archivist had also come to the conclusion that Emanuela was abducted for sexual exploitation.

A controversial and outspoken priest, Father Amorth has claimed that yoga is Satanic because it leads to a worship of Hinduism and that the Harry Potter books are dangerous because they encourage children to believe in black magic and wizardry.

Earlier this month investigators opened the tomb of Enrico “Renatino” De Pedis, the gang leader, in order to check long-standing claims that the remains of the teenager were buried alongside him.

They found his remains inside the tomb in the Sant’ Apollinare basilica in Rome and also, intriguingly, other bones in a crypt nearby.

Investigators said the unidentified bones probably dated from the early 19th century, but they are being analysed by forensic experts to see if any of them might belong to Emanuela.

In 2005, an anonymous caller to a crime programme on Italian TV claimed that the key to the schoolgirl’s kidnap lay in the tomb of the mobster, who was gunned down by rival gangsters in 1990.

Freemason list including former and present politicians criticised by Grand Master

Jurat Hodgetts said he felt a list of members should not be published. Image: Freemasons of the Province of Guernsey and Alderney.

BBC | May 15, 2012

The head of the Freemason movement in Guernsey has hit out the publication of a list of lodge members in the island.

The list was posted on an internet forum and includes the names of a number of former and present politicians, jurats and bailiffs.

Provincial Grand Master David Hodgetts said the publication of the list raised issues regarding data protection laws.

He said: “It shouldn’t be published and if somebody has published something, maybe they’ll be prosecuted.”

He added that he felt disclosure of membership should be optional.

The list of members was circulated on Twitter shortly after the general election in April.

Jurat Hodgetts said public perception of the group was misinformed, and stated: “I know there’s nothing evil about Freemasonry.”

He added: “We are in danger of being accused of trying to advance ourselves by saying we’re a Mason, and if we don’t say we’re a Mason then we’re secret and we’ve got something to hide.”

He said: “The thing about Freemasonry that people aren’t concentrating on is the fact that the only organisation that gives more money to charity is the National Lottery in the United Kingdom.”

He said: “We’re about trying to make ourselves better citizens, in fact we promise to do so.

“We raise money from our own pockets for charity – that’s what Freemasons are about.”

Guernsey’s politicians are currently not required to declare membership of the Freemasons.

Ancient Freemason order casts web wide seeking young blood

Grand Master Robert Parsons, seated, with Deputy Grand Master Stephen Mikalak in the Grand Lodge on North Tce. Picture: Naomi Jellicoe.

While Mr Parsons said it was  not a secret organisation, there were some things they kept to themselves.

adelaidenow.com.au | May 18, 2012

by Tom Bowden

GOOGLE “Freemasonry” and you’re likely to find a host of websites about conspiracies, secrecy and the illuminati.

But the truth, according to the Freemasons, is that the group is about symbols, rituals, allegories and metaphors that help men live a better life.

South Australia and Northern Territory Grand Lodge Grand Master Robert Parsons and Deputy Grand Master Stephen Michalak say that far from being a secret society, the Freemasons simply has an image problem.

They are now focusing on ways to attract younger members keen to give back to their community.

“In the past, going back 10 or 15 years, I believe, in our attempts to attract men to Freemasonry, we’ve been too old-fashioned,” said Mr Parsons, who has been a Freemason since 1968.

“We have not kept up with the times inasmuch as the way to go about it,” he said.

“Now we are experiencing a good influx of men, both young and older, who are joining and it’s because we have changed our ways with technology.

“It’s about time that we did and up until about three years ago we were struggling – we’re still struggling as far as membership goes – but it has increased quite considerably over the past couple of years.”

Building foreman Jarrod Acres, 25, who joined two months ago, said he wanted to give back to the community.

“One comment that really resounded with me was that it makes good men great,” he said. “It’s the reason I joined a football club or the reason anybody joins any group is just  because they want to be  a  part of something bigger  than themselves.”

Disability employment service worker Peter Berekally, 29, said Freemasonry was not a religion but a secular and inclusive group of men.

“You’ve got this mentality where you want to help and I think that’s why many of us are attracted to masonry because it gives us the opportunity to channel that,” he said.

Freemasons have existed in South Australia since 1836. Prominent members have included former governor Sir Eric Neal, chief justices such as the first Grand Master, Sir  Samuel Way, and busi- ness leaders Owen Redman and Allan Scott.

At its peak, there were more than 27,000 registered South Australian Freemasons.

So exactly what are Freemasons and what do they do?

“We’re normal people,” Mr Parsons said.

“It’s just being with people that you know are like-minded – they have the same principles, the same family values and you know  when you meet a Freemason that he’s an honest and upright person.”

While Mr Parsons said it was  not a secret organisation, there were some things they kept to themselves.

“We are an organisation that has a few secrets, and that sort of expression has been used a great deal, and we keep that within our organisation,” Mr Parsons said.

“Those secrets are mainly methods of recognition and some signs that we use and, yes, there is that mystique.”

Mr Parsons said Freemasonry’s mystique was a blessing and a curse.

“This doesn’t do us any harm as long as we make it clear we’re not behind closed doors doing stupid things,” he said.

“Our organisation is about 300  years old and there have been rumours about Freemasons doing the wrong thing.

“But a lot of the religions of  old regarded us as a religion – and therefore competition for  them.

“There’s no truth in any of the things that you hear from time to time, as far as I’m aware – going back 200 years it might have been something, but I don’t know.”

The “craft” of Freemasonry involves ceremonial rituals – allegorical teachings of how to be a better father, husband and member of society.

Masons study three ritualistic degrees – the entered apprentice, the fellow craft and the master mason degrees.

Each degree relates to a step  of character development, says Mr Michalak, who has risen to the role of Deputy Grand Master in just 12 years.

“The first ritual talks a lot about the basics of life … and in the second degree we talk more about the intellect – the things that we as adults get involved in,” he said.

“The third degree is really about preparations for our last moments of life … and it reminds us to live our lives as best as we can as a preparation for that moment.”

Mr Michalak said the principles of Freemasonry were simple. “We use the symbolic tools of the stonemasons of old and these are metaphors of how we should live,” he said.

The set square reminds masons of the importance of squaring actions away, the chisel to smooth off a person’s rough edges and the compass represents a person’s “circle of attainment”.

TSA May Buy Even More Controversial Body Scanners

aviationpros.com | May 22, 2012

Despite the controversy over whether they pose a health risk, the Transportation Security Administration says it may purchase even more airport scanners that emit radiation to check passengers.

TSA spokesman Jonathan Allen said in coming months the agency plans to test software that would allow radiation-emitting scanners, known as backscatter units, to generate generic body images. Currently, these units generate naked images of passengers that resemble chalk etchings.

“When that software meets TSA’s standards and is successfully tested in an airport environment, TSA could purchase and deploy additional backscatter units,” he said.

The TSA says scanners are critical to its efforts to thwart potential terrorism attempts, in addition to making passenger screening more efficient. The agency stepped up its use of scanners after an al-Qaida operative attempted to detonate a bomb in his underwear aboard an Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight in December 2009.

This week, the CIA thwarted a similar plot in Yemen, although U.S. counter-terrorism officials are investigating whether scanners would have detected the new bomb since it had no metal parts, according to The Associated Press.

The TSA relies on two kinds of scanners: the backscatter machines, which use radiation, and millimeter wave scanners, which are considered safer because they do not.

The backscatter machines are installed at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood and Orlando international airports. The millimeter wave scanners are used at the Palm Beach and Miami international airports.

In November, the European Union banned the backscatter units, fearing they held potential to cause cancer in some passengers. That prompted Broward County officials to question whether they should be allowed at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Broward Mayor John Rodstrom, a frequent flier who refuses to go through scanners, said he was disappointed the TSA is considering buying more backscatter scanners.

“I find it unfortunate in the respect that radiation cannot be in any way good for you,” he said. “Given that they have an alternative, and why they won’t embrace that alternative, is beyond me.”

TSA administrator John Pistole said the agency has conducted “intense research, analysis and independent testing” and concluded the units pose no danger.

He said a person could receive 5,000 airport screenings every year without exceeding the radiation does limit set by the American National Standards Institute/Health Physics Society.

“This would require an average of 15 screenings a day, every day, for a year,” Pistole wrote in a letter to Kent George, director of the Broward County Aviation Department. “In fact, the average person receives more radiation from the natural environment each hour than from one screening by a backscatter system.” .

Some medical experts disagree, saying that the ionizing radiation of the units creates a risk for women genetically predisposed to breast cancer and people over age 65.

Among the experts is Dr. Edward Dauer, head of radiology at Florida Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. He said ionizing radiation breaks down electrons and DNA, which can cause death or cancer.

His concerns were echoed by to a group of scientists from the University of California, San Francisco. They note the cosmic radiation that infiltrates airliners is absorbed by the whole body and less dangerous than ionizing radiation of the scanners, which only goes skin deep.

Passengers can opt to bypass the body scanners but then are subject to a secondary screening and possibly a pat-down. Allen said about 1 percent of air travelers avoid the scanners, and don’t have to cite a reason why.

In all, the TSA has installed about 700 body scanners at 180 U.S. airports. Of those, about 245 are backscatter machines, in use at about 40 airports. About 455 are millimeter-wave scanners in use at about 140 airports.

Allen said in September 2011, the TSA ordered 300 millimeter-wave scanners but no backscatter machines.

Starship dreamers launch 100-year mission with DARPA grant

USS Enterprise Wikimedia Commons

Washington Post | May 22, 2012

By Brian Vastag

Humanity’s journey to the stars is beginning with . . . a modest government grant.

The dreamers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency last week announced an award of $500,000 to a former astronaut to launch an effort to — someday — send explorers to another star system.

It’s a huge job, impractical with existing technology. That’s why the 100 Year Starship Study project will start by building a community of space enthusiasts, engineers, technologists, futurists, scientists and dreamers to chip away at a panoply of technical, financial and social challenges — while seeking funds to keep the effort afloat.

“The first step is to get the seed money to grow into something more while also getting the public engaged,” said Mae Jemison, the former astronaut whom DARPA chose to head the effort. “It has to become something that has its own momentum.”

In 50 years of space exploration, humans have hardly made it out of the driveway of our home planet. NASA’s trips to the moon took three days each way. Mars, the next planet over, is nine months distant by robotic flier. At the speeds attained on those trips, the journey to the nearest neighboring star would take tens of thousands of years.

A starship, then, will need giant engines that draw more power than we know how to produce, said Les Johnson, a NASA scientist who has worked on designs for robotic probes to travel outside our solar system. “There’s no law of physics that says it won’t work,” he said. “Maybe if we get creative in our engineering we can do this.”

In its grant solicitation, DARPA wrote that it wants to “foster a rebirth of a sense of wonder” while encouraging research that will pay dividends here on Earth.

In Jemison, the agency tapped not only a space traveler — in 1992 she became the first woman of color to leave Earth, on the space shuttle — but a physician, engineer, entrepreneur and champion of science education. Her vision: Generate excitement for a grand human ad­ven­ture.

“It’s got to be a global aspiration,” said Jemison.

Her first organizational challenge is getting a 100 Year Starship conference off the ground in Houston this September. Within a century, she wants the project to fund and foster the technologies needed to build a starship.

As a girl, Jemison was entranced with space journeys, real and imagined. She was 12 when she watched Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, and she counts Nichelle Nichols, who played Lt. Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series, as one of her heroes. (Jemison herself appeared on an episode of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”)

“I’ve always thought the public never lost fascination with space,” Jemison said of the post-moonshot era. “They just felt left out.”

Johnson said a small but dedicated set of space enthusiasts has been mulling starships for decades. Most notably, the British Interplanetary Society published plans for a notional starship called Project Daedalus in 1978.

Paul Gilster, a writer and futurist who keeps close tabs on such work in his blog Centauri Dreams, likened the 100 Year Starship to megaprojects such as European cathedrals and Egyptian pyramids, whose construction spanned generations. “We need to acknowledge we won’t see the end [of the project] ourselves,” he said.

Public interest is sure to grow, Gilster added. He pointed to the discovery of hundreds of planets outside our solar system. “We’re entering what I call the golden age of exoplanets,” he said. “We should know within two years whether there are rocky worlds around Alpha Centauri,” the star nearest our sun.

Finding these alien worlds naturally leads to the next question: How do we get there?

In beating out 20 competitors for the grant, Jemison tapped a group of scientists and engineers already studying how to travel to the stars. They call themselves Icarus Interstellar, and one of their advisers, planetary scientist Ralph McNutt of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, called the 100 Year Starship “an opportunity to get beyond the realm of science fiction.” He likened our current space vehicles to “dugout canoes.” But someday, he said, we’ll have the equivalent of ocean liners in space.

“I think it’s a great idea,” NASA’s Johnson said. “If we’re ever going to get to another star, we’ve got to start sometime.”

Darpa, Venter Launch Assembly Line To Massively Accelerate Genetic Engineering

Darpa’s “Living Foundries” program is looking to “transform biology into an engineering practice.” Photo: VA

The process, once established, ought to massively accelerate the pace of bio-engineering

Wired | May 22, 2012

By Katie Drummond

The military-industrial complex just got a little bit livelier. Quite literally.

That’s because Darpa, the Pentagon’s far-out research arm, has kicked off a program designed to take the conventions of manufacturing and apply them to living cells. Think of it like an assembly line, but one that would churn out modified biological matter — man-made organisms — instead of cars or computer parts.

The program, called “Living Foundries,” was first announced by the agency last year. Now, Darpa’s handed out seven research awards worth $15.5 million to six different companies and institutions. Among them are several Darpa favorites, including the University of Texas at Austin and the California Institute of Technology. Two contracts were also issued to the J. Craig Venter Institute. Dr. Venter is something of a biology superstar: He was among the first scientists to sequence a human genome, and his institute was, in 2010, the first to develop an entirely synthetic organism.

“Living Foundries” aspires to turn the slow, messy process of genetic engineering into a streamlined and standardized one. Of course, the field is already a burgeoning one: Scientists have tweaked cells in order to develop renewable petroleum and spider silk that’s tough as steel. And a host of companies are investigating the pharmaceutical and agricultural promise lurking — with some tinkering, of course — inside living cells.

But those breakthroughs, while exciting, have also been time-consuming and expensive. As Darpa notes, even the most cutting-edge synthetic biology projects “often take 7+ years and tens to hundreds of millions of dollars” to complete. Venter’s synthetic cell project, for example, cost an estimated $40 million.

Synthetic biology, as Darpa notes, has the potential to yield “new materials, novel capabilities, fuel and medicines” — everything from fuels to solar cells to vaccines could be produced by engineering different living cells. But the agency isn’t content to wait seven years for each new innovation. In fact, they want the capability for “on-demand production” of whatever bio-product suits the military’s immediate needs.

To do it, Darpa will need to revamp the process of bio-engineering — from the initial design of a new material, to its construction, to its subsequent efficacy evaluation. The starting point, and one that agency-funded researchers will have to create, is a library of “modular genetic parts”: Standardized biological units that can be assembled in different ways — like LEGO — to create different materials.

Once that library is created, the agency wants researchers to come up with a set of “parts, regulators, devices and circuits” that can reliably yield various genetic systems. After that, they’ll also need “test platforms” to quickly evaluate new bio-materials. Think of it as a biological assembly line: Products are designed, pieced together using standardized tools and techniques, and then tested for efficacy.

The process, once established, ought to massively accelerate the pace of bio-engineering — and cut costs. The agency’s asking researchers to “compress the biological design-build-test cycle by at least 10X in both time and cost,” while also “increasing the complexity of systems that can be designed and executed.”

No doubt, Darpa’s making some big asks of the scientists tasked with this research. And not everyone’s convinced they’ll pull it off. “The biology will fight them,” Daniel Drell, a program manager with the U.S. Department of Energy, predicted last year. Which suggests it might be a few years, at least, before Darpa’s bio-creations try to fight us.

TSA breaks 16-year-old diabetic girl’s $10,000 insulin pump

Many travelers find airport screening an annoying and frustrating experience but for 16-year-old Savannah Barry, a recent trip proved both humiliating and potentially life-threatening.

MSNBC | May 22, 2012

By Rob Lovitt

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes four years ago, the Colorado teenager says TSA screeners forced her to go through a full-body scanner in Salt Lake City last week, breaking her $10,000 insulin pump in the process.

According to Sandra Barry, Savannah’s mother, her daughter was coming home from a school trip when screeners required to her to go through a full-body scanner despite the fact that the girl had a doctor’s note describing her condition and stating that she should be given a pat-down rather than subjected to screening machines.

“Believe me, being 16 and female, she probably doesn’t want the pat-down but she knows that this is what’s required,” Sandra Barry told msnbc.com. “She tried to advocate for herself and they just shut her down.”

Upon hearing of the situation, the elder Barry called Animas, the maker of Savannah’s pump, and was told that they couldn’t guarantee that the screening machine hadn’t damaged the pump and that her daughter should take the pump off as soon as she landed.

“It was hard to pick her up and tell her she had to disconnect immediately,” said Barry, who says the family has filed a formal complaint with TSA but has only received an e-mailed response requesting a conference call to discuss the incident.

For Barry, the issue goes beyond the specific incident involving her daughter. “It’s bigger than diabetes — there are other people with other medical conditions that need to opt for the pat-down,” she said. “That’s why we’re questioning the education and training of these agents.

“It’s not a one-time thing and we’re going to keep putting the pressure on them.”

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, TSA said “the passenger has reached out … regarding her screening experience and TSA has attempted to contact her in response.”

Missing girl buried in murdered mobster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties

Emanuela Orlandi, 15, went missing in Rome in 1983. Pietro Orlandi, Emanuela’s brother said it was time for the Vatican to come clean about what it knows of Emanuela’s disappearance

Daily Mail | May 22, 2012

By Nick Pisa

The Catholic Church’s leading exorcist priest has sensationally claimed a missing schoolgirl thought to be buried in a murdered gangster’s tomb was kidnapped for Vatican sex parties.

Father Gabriel Amorth, 85, who has carried out 70,000 exorcisms, spoke out as investigators continued to examine mobster Enrico De Pedis’s tomb in their hunt for Emanuela Orlandi.

Last week police and forensic experts broke into the grave after an anonymous phone call to a TV show said the truth about Emanuela’s 1983 disappearance would be ‘found there’.

And although bones not belonging to the mobster were recovered they have not yet been positively identified as hers.

However Father Amorth, in an interview with La Stampa newspaper, said: ‘This was a crime with a sexual motive.

‘It has already previously been stated by (deceased) monsignor Simeone Duca, an archivist at the Vatican, who was asked to recruit girls for parties with the help of the Vatican gendarmes.

‘I believe Emanuela ended up in this circle. I have never believed in the international theory (overseas kidnappers). I have motives to believe that this was just a case of sexual exploitation.

‘It led to the murder and then the hiding of her body. Also involved are diplomatic staff from a foreign embassy to the Holy See.’

Today there was no immediate response from the Vatican to Father Amorth’s claims.

But Vatican officials insisted they had always co-operated with the investigation into Orlandi’s disappearance – a claim that her brother has often disputed.

Father Amorth is a colourful figure who in the past has also denounced yoga and Harry Potter as the ‘work of the Devil’. He was appointed by the late Pope John Paul II as the Vatican’s chief exorcist.

It is not the first time Father Amorth has raised eyebrows with his forthright views – two years ago he said sex scandals rocking the Catholic Church were evidence ‘the Devil was at work in the Vatican.’

In 2006, Father Amorth, who was ordained a priest in 1954, gave an interview to Vatican Radio in which he said Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Russian dictator Josef Stalin were possessed by the Devil.

According to secret Vatican documents recently released the then wartime Pope Pius XII attempted a ‘long distance exorcism’ of Hitler but it failed to have any effect.

Charismatic mobster De Pedis, leader of a murderous gang known as the Banda della Magliana, was gunned down aged just 38, by members of his outfit after they fell out.

Detectives investigating the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi, 15, in 1983, believe De Pedis is linked to her kidnap and the body of the Vatican employee’s daughter has never been found.

Last month the diocese of Rome, on orders from the Vatican, granted investigators permission to open up the tomb in the Sant’Apollinare basilica close to Piazza Navona in the centre of Rome.

At the time of his funeral there were raised eyebrows when despite his criminal past church chiefs allowed De Pedis to be buried in the crypt of Sant’Apollinare.

At the time it was said the burial was given the go ahead because prison chaplain Father Vergari told bishops that De Pedis had ‘repented while in jail and also done a lot of work for charity,’ including large donations to the Catholic Church.

De Pedis, whose name on the £12,000 tomb is spelt in diamonds, was buried in Sant’Apollinare church after he was gunned down in 1990 in the city’s famous Campo De Fiori.

He and his gang controlled the lucrative drug market in Rome and were also rumoured to have a ‘free hand’ because of their links with police and Italian secret service agents.

The disappearance of Orlandi reads like the roller coaster plot of a Dan Brown Da Vinci Code thriller with a touch of The Godfather thrown in for good measure.

Twelve years ago a skull was found in the confessional box of a Rome church and tests were carried out on it to see if it was Orlandi after a mystery tip off but they proved negative.

In 2008 Sabrina Minardi, De Pedis girlfriend at the time of Orlandi’s disappearance, sensationally claimed that now dead American monsignor Paul Marcinkus, the controversial chief of the Vatican bank, was behind the kidnap.

Monsignor Marcinkus used his status to avoid being questioned by police in the early 1980’s probing the collapse of a Banco Ambrosiano which the Vatican had invested heavily in.

The collapse was linked to the murder of Roberto Calvi dubbed God’s Banker because of the Vatican links and his body was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London in June 1982.

His pockets filled with cash and stones and it was originally recorded as a suicide but police believe he was murdered by the Mafia after a bungled money laundering operation.

At the same time as Minardi made her claim a mystery caller to a missing person’s programme on Italian TV said the riddle of Orlandi’s kidnap would be solved ‘if De Pedis tomb was opened’.

Following Minardi claims the Vatican took the unusual step of speaking publicly and dismissed her claims about American Monsignor Marcinkus, who died in Arizona four years ago.

Communist Chinese conglomerate buys AMC to form world’s largest cinema chain

Under the new U.S.-China deal, more IMAX or 3D films are being allowed into China

CNN | May 21, 2012

By Kevin Voigt

(CNN) — China’s Dalian Wanda Group and AMC Entertainment announced Monday a $2.6 billion deal to take over the U.S. theater group, forming the world’s largest cinema chain, according to a new release on the deal.

The move is the latest in a raft of deals between U.S. entertainment companies and Chinese firms, linking the world’s largest theater market with the world’s fastest growing.

“This acquisition will help make Wanda a truly global cinema owner, with theatres and technology that enhance the movie-going experience for audiences in the world’s two largest movie markets,” said Wang Jianlin, chairman and president of Wanda.

Wanda, a private company that previously operated solely in China, generates $16.7 billion in annual revenue from its commercial development and entertainment businesses, the company said. The group owns 86 theaters with 730 screens in China.

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“As the film and exhibition business continues its global expansion, the time has never been more opportune to welcome the enthusiastic support of our new owners,” said Gerry Lopez, chief executive officer and president of AMC.

AMC operates 346 multiplex theaters, largely in North America, with a total of 5,034 screens. Headquarters of AMC, a privately held company, will remain in the Kansas City area and day-to-day operations, including the process for film programming, will remain unchanged, the release said.

In a deal last February, China agreed to increase the quota of 20 foreign films per year — most of them from the U.S. — to add an additional 14 IMAX or 3D films each year, and nearly doubled the cut foreign film companies can take from Chinese box office to 25%.

In April, The Walt Disney Company China, Marvel Studios and DMG Entertainment of Beijing announced a production deal in which “Iron Man 3” will be co-produced in China. That follows the February announced that a $330 million joint venture between DreamWorks Animation, China Media Capital (CMC) and two other Chinese companies to establish a China-focused family entertainment company, Oriental DreamWorks.

Last month came revelations, first reported by Reuters, that the Securities and Exchange Commission sent inquiries to 20th Century Fox, Disney and DreamWorks about whether Hollywood studios were paying bribes to get a foothold in the China theater market.