Revolution News, By Jennifer Baker, May 16
Linshui County, China – Tens of Thousands of residents of the southwestern county of Linshui gathered in the morning and marched about 3km. Photos posted by the protesters on social media also showed violent attacks by a police tactical team(SWAT)and the resistance that followed lasted all day and well into the night.
The residents want (need) to have a proposed railway linking Dazhou to Chongqing pass through their county in the centre of Sichuan. The county currently has no railway, waterway, or airport.
Rage built up last week after residents found out that the authorities favor another plan – that the railway stretching more than 200km will instead by-pass Linshui and be routed through the late paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s hometown Guangan, to the west of Linshui.
CNN, By Jethro Mullen, May 10
Super Typhoon Noul roared over the northeastern Philippines on Sunday, prompting evacuations and warnings of flooding and landslides in the mountainous region.
The storm, referred to as Dodong in the Philippines, hit land Sunday afternoon at the northeastern tip of the island of Luzon, near the small town of Santa Ana, according to PAGASA, the Philippine government agency that monitors the weather.
Noul’s outer bands had lashed Luzon’s eastern coast through the afternoon as it drew nearer, packing maximum sustained winds of about 260 kph (160 mph) and gusts as strong as 315 kph (195 mph).
“The wind and the rain are just steadily building up and they have been for the last couple of hours,” said storm chaser James Reynolds from Santa Ana as the storm approached.
Authorities said they relocated more than 1,200 residents of vulnerable areas to evacuation centers ahead of the typhoon’s arrival.
The London Review of Books, By Seymour M. Hersh, May 21
It’s been four years since a group of US Navy Seals assassinated Osama bin Laden in a night raid on a high-walled compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The killing was the high point of Obama’s first term, and a major factor in his re-election. The White House still maintains that the mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s army and Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance. This is false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account. The White House’s story might have been written by Lewis Carroll: would bin Laden, target of a massive international manhunt, really decide that a resort town forty miles from Islamabad would be the safest place to live and command al-Qaida’s operations? He was hiding in the open. So America said.
The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014. Gall, who spent 12 years as the Times correspondent in Afghanistan, wrote that she’d been told by a ‘Pakistani official’ that Pasha had known before the raid that bin Laden was in Abbottabad. The story was denied by US and Pakistani officials, and went no further. In his book Pakistan: Before and after Osama (2012), Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Centre for Research and Security Studies, a think tank in Islamabad, wrote that he’d spoken to four undercover intelligence officers who – reflecting a widely held local view – asserted that the Pakistani military must have had knowledge of the operation. The issue was raised again in February, when a retired general, Asad Durrani, who was head of the ISI in the early 1990s, told an al-Jazeera interviewer that it was ‘quite possible’ that the senior officers of the ISI did not know where bin Laden had been hiding, ‘but it was more probable that they did [know]. And the idea was that, at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been when you can get the necessary quid pro quo – if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States.’
You’ll no doubt recall the hue and cry when Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for his stand on nuclear non-proliferation and his attempts to engage the Muslim world. Both the right and left in this country had great sport at this — and here I’ll agree — premature awarding of a prize to a man with few signal accomplishments in foreign policy, apart from being “not Bush”.
Six years later and I think it’s time to give him the Prize for real this time. Think about this past year: for a man who started his administration hoping to hit singles and doubles in foreign policy (consumed as he had to be by the domestic economic crisis), he’s kind of knocked a couple out of the park, provoking admiration from aboard and from mainstream Americans, and consternation from the idiot fringe that will sit on perches and poop all day, parroting “Obama bad, BRAWK!” Read More
The Chinese government is currently implementing a nationwide electronic system, called the Social Credit System, attributing to each of its 1,3 billion citizens a score for his or her behavior. The system will be based on various criteria, ranging from financial credibility and criminal record to social media behavior. From 2020 onwards each adult citizen should, besides his identity card, have such a credit code.
Volkskrant.nl, By Fokke Obbema, Marije Vlaskamp, Michael Persson, April 25
The regulations were announced last year, but have attracted almost no attention thus far in China and abroad. This week Rogier Creemers, a Belgian China-specialist at Oxford University, published a comprehensive translation of the regulations regarding the Social Credit System, which clarifies the scope of the system. In an interview with Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant he says: ‘With the help of the latest internet technologies the government wants to exercise individual surveillance’.
In his view this surveillance will have a wider scope than was the case under the former East German system: ‘The German aim was limited to avoiding a revolt against the regime. The Chinese aim is far more ambitious: it is clearly an attempt to create a new citizen.’
The intentions of the new system are not only economical, fighting fraudulent practices, but also moral. ‘This is a deliberate effort by the Chinese government to promote among its citizens “socialist core values” such as patriotism, respecting the elderly, working hard and avoiding extravagant consumption’, says Creemers. A bad ‘credit code’ can result in being not eligible for certain jobs, housing or credit to start a company. ‘On the labour market you might need a certain score to get a specific job.’
Via MathBabe: China announces it is scoring its citizens using big data
AFP, May 2
Havana – The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch “large scale cooperation” with Havana to support the island’s reforms.
In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to “a new level.”
Kishida, who traveled with a delegation of 30 Japanese business leaders, said Japan wants to launch a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” to support reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro.
He said the scheme was called “non-reimburseable financial assistance.”
“Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations,” Kishida said.
NBC News, May 1
Istanbul — Istanbul went into a security lockdown on Friday as thousands of police manned barricades and closed streets to stop May Day rallies at Taksim Square, a symbolic point for protests.
Citing security concerns, authorities shut down much of the city’s public transport and dispatched riot police to block Taksim off from demonstrators. A traditional rallying ground for leftists, the central square saw weeks of unrest in 2013.
Hundreds of flag-waving protesters gathered in the nearby Besiktas neighborhood, where they were held back by lines of police. Thousands of protesters also gathered to march in the capital Ankara.
Critics say President Tayyip Erdogan and the government have become more authoritarian ahead of June elections.
“This meeting is peaceful and is not armed,” opposition politician Mahmut Tanal, holding a pocket-sized book of the Turkish constitution, told Reuters in Istanbul. “People want to express their problems but the government doesn’t want those problems to be heard ahead of elections.”
AP, By Binaj Gurubacharya, April 25
A strong 7.5-magnitude earthquake has hit near Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu and the U.S. Geological Survey says it expects heavy damage.
Early reports from Kathmandu say some houses have been damaged and walls toppled.
There is no immediate word on casualties.
The quake hit around noon Saturday and was also felt in neighboring India as well as in Pakistan.
M7.5 – 35km E of Lamjung, Nepal
AFP, By Irakli Metreveli, April 23
Yerevan – The Armenian Church prepared Thursday to canonise up to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by Ottoman forces as tensions over Turkey’s refusal to recognize the killings as genocide reached boiling point.
The ceremony, which is believed to become the biggest canonisation service in history, comes ahead of commemorations expected to see millions of people including heads of state Friday mark 100 years since the start of the killings. The Armenian Apostolic Church announced the canonisation service for the “martyrs of the Armenian Genocide,” calling for a “prayerful participation in this historic event.”
The service will be held in Armenia’s main church, Echmiadzin, an austere fourth-century edifice believed to be the Christian world’s oldest cathedral. The ceremony will run from 1300 GMT and end at 1515 GMT to symbolize the year when the massacres started during World War I.
“Today’s canonisation unites all Armenians living around the globe,” Huri Avetikian, an ethnic Armenian librarian from Lebanon who arrived in her ancestral homeland to attend the service, told AFP.
The Independent: System Of A Down perform in Armenia for the first time to mark genocide’s 100th anniversary
NPR: System Of A Down, Armenia’s Favorite Sons, On Facing History
Reuters, April 20
Beijing – China’s central bank on Sunday cut the amount of cash that banks must hold as reserves, the second industry-wide cut in two months, adding more liquidity to the world’s second-biggest economy to help spur bank lending and combat slowing growth.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) lowered the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for all banks by 100 basis points to 18.5 percent, effective from April 20, the central bank said in a statement on its website www.pbc.gov.cn.
“Though the growth in the first quarter met the official target of around 7 percent for 2015, the slowdown in several areas, including industrial output and retail sales, has caused concern,” said a report published by the official Xinhua news service covering the announcement.
The latest cut, the deepest single reduction since the depth of the global crisis in 2008, shows how the central bank is stepping up efforts to ward off a sharp slowdown in the economy.
“The size of the cut is more than expected,” said Shenwan Hongyuan Securities analyst Chen Kang.
“It’s going to release around a trillion yuan (in liquidity) at least.”
PTI, April 3
LUCKNOW – Drones will soon perform a special task in the state capital apart from functioning as eyes in the sky with the Lucknow Police planning to use them for dispersing mobs.
These little unmanned mini-choppers are already in use in various sensitive parts of Uttar Pradesh for taking aerial snaps, but for the first time the hi-tech gadget will be used to control unruly crowds.
“We have purchased five drone cameras with capacity of lifting two kg weight. They can be used to shower pepper powder on an unruly mob in case of any trouble,” Senior Superintendent of Police Yashasvi Yadav told PTI here today. […]
Lucknow Police will probably be the first in the country to have such hi-tech surveillance gadget, he said, adding drones will assist not only in checking crimes but also in keeping a track of criminals.
New York Times, By Hari Kumar & Ellen Barry, April 5
New Delhi — India used small boats this weekend to ferry some of its citizens to a naval destroyer anchored near Aden, Yemen, as an operation to evacuate about 4,000 Indians from Yemen’s war zone entered a difficult phase.
The Indian ship was not able to dock in Aden because of shelling, so the small boats carried people in groups of about 30, said Syed Akbaruddin, the spokesman for India’s External Affairs Ministry. About 2,000 Indians have now been transported out of Yemen, but the deteriorating conditions there mean that no more evacuations from Aden will be possible, he said.
“It’s been a hard task, and as the situation worsens, the time available to us lessens,” he said. “Difficult situations now are becoming more difficult as time passes.”
The big topic of conversation in Thailand is martial law. Technically it’s gone, but in reality it’s still there.
AP, April 1
On Wednesday, Thailand’s junta lifted martial law, which was imposed in the run-up to their May 22, 2014, coup – but then quickly replaced it with another set of draconian laws innocuously called “Article 44.” But make no mistake – 10 months after staging the coup, a military junta is still ruling Thailand, essentially with absolute power.
The move is the junta’s latest cosmetic change aimed at putting a softer face on a military ruled country, according to scholars, jurists and rights groups who called the development a PR stunt and a sleight of hand aimed at helping restore Thailand’s image abroad while keeping the junta firmly in control at home. Others wondered half-jokingly if the government of former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha pranked the country with an April Fool’s joke.
“Martial law may be lifted, but Thailand remains deeply sunk in unchecked military rule,” Verapat Pariyawong, an independent political analyst and Harvard-educated lawyer said in a statement, noting that the announcement came Wednesday in “ironic fashion on April Fool’s Day.”
US statement says of UK membership that it is ‘worried about a trend of constant accommodation’ of China, in a rare public breach in the special relationship.
The Guardian, By Nicholas Watt, Paul Lewis & Tania Branigan, March 12
The White House has issued a pointed statement declaring it hopes and expects the UK will use its influence to ensure that high standards of governance are upheld in a new Chinese-led investment bank that Britain is to join.
In a rare public breach in the special relationship, the White House signalled its unease at Britain’s decision to become a founder member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) by raising concerns about whether the new body would meet the standards of the World Bank.
The $50bn (£33.5bn) bank, which is designed to provide infrastructure funds to the Asia-Pacific region, is viewed with great suspicion by Washington officials, who see it as a rival to the World Bank. They believe Beijing will use the bank to extend its soft power in the region.
The White House statement reads: “This is the UK’s sovereign decision. We hope and expect that the UK will use its voice to push for adoption of high standards.”
Since last week’s catstravaganza featured Japanese cats, and since today’s Naked Capitalism links featured a Tibetan tiger rug (with cat, below), perhaps a few more cats from non-Japanese Asia might be fun: