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Beijing residents discover blue skies, stars

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AFP PHOTO / Antony DICKSON / NEWSCOM

(Read caption) People walk on the paved grounds outside Beijing's Olympic "Bird's Nest" with a backdrop of blue skies and white clouds, August 15.

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As the 2008 Olympics pass their halfway point, Beijing residents looking upward have begun to notice something new. The sky has changed from a dull beige to a bright blue. At night, countless luminous points flicker through the darkness above.

Thanks to a combination of favorable weather and a massive government effort to curb the city's industrial pollution, Beijing reported its eighth straight day of "excellent" air quality on Sunday, the best the city has seen in a decade.

Xinhua, China's official news agency, reports that the city's air pollution index – which measures atmospheric pollutants and their health effects – showed a reading of 43, up from 23 the previous day but still within the "excellent" range of 1 to 50.

By comparison, a US east coast city would have an index level of about 10 to 20, according to The Wall Street Journal.

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