Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Population debate from right wing in the west leads to calls for "the right babies", fearing Islamic fertility

All the major media have been writing that China should ditch its one-child policy completely now. They admit (for example, Time) that the policy did help the “nation” raise its standard of living, but it isn’t sustainable, for decades.   Now China, like so many other countries, will become an elderly country.

There is an article in “Reality Check” by Eleanor J. Bader, Jan. 29, 2013, called “Stoking Fire: Islamophobia trumps ‘pro-life’ ideology”, link here. She discusses claims by Annilka Rydh, Joseph D’Agostino and Stephen Moser (“Population Research Institute”) and Daniel Pipes (“Mideast Forum”), who all basically claim (as Pipes writes) that western adults have become “too self-absorbed to have children”, leading to a gradual takeover of the west by Muslims who have many more children and young adults.  Even gay author Bruce Bawer has admitted this in a book “While Europe Slept” as did Phillip Longman in “The Empty Cradle” (2004).
Technology and the information age have tweaked how we see ourselves in relation to others, leading us often to be “alone together”, much focused on what we can accomplish by ourselves first.   

Natalie Angier has a couple of bug articles about families and demographics in the US in the New York Tiimes Tuesday Nov 26, link here. A sidebar article on p. D3, "Wanting marriage and pursuit of happiness" notes that single men used to be driven out of town in the 19th century unless they boarded with respectable families, and were regarded with suspicion as late as the 50s (really alter).  Marital fatherhood was viewed as a moral requirement as much as fidelity. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Iran deal generally accepted; young adults often skeptical of working overseas in developing countries

The media is hopping about the deal to let Iran have lighter sanctions in return for constraining its nuclear activities.  John Kerry sounded quite proud of the deal this morning.  CNN has a good summary of what you need to know, link here.
But the reason to contain Iran’s nuclear business is quite straightforward.  It could develop a nuclear weapon and launch missiles toward Israel, maybe further.  And indignant terrorists could try to craft a high-altitude EMP device and launch one off-shore covertly, although that is harder to do that the right wing usually says.
The indignation is an important idea, and I’ll go off track a bit with a recent conversation that I had lately. It does seem that young adults in the engineering area are aware of opportunities in developing countries, but they now regard going to some countries or parts of the world as highly dangerous, especially after the Kenya attacks.  The parts of the world that might need the benefits of water and other engineering projects supported by Matt Damon and others are often among the most unstable, the most under the spell of religious extremism (not always Muslim) and the most hostile to LGBT people or even women in leadership positions, so working there socially can be difficult.
Yet, without “volunteers”, cultural divisions, seeding resentment, keep growing.  Of course, the Peace Corps enters in here, but even the Peace Corps, while accommodating to gays for example, is now concerned when volunteers have high profiles in social media.

It's interesting, too, that I grew up in a time when there was a military draft, and sharing risk at one part of life (at least for men) was expected, unless "deferred".  This is a real "ask not".  

I’ll just say that in some social gatherings, shirt buttons aren’t safe. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

China causes academics, journalists in the US to self-censor

Here’s an attention-getting story in the Washington Post, p. A23, by Fred Hiatt, “How China censors Americans”.  The online title is more detailed, “Chinese leaders control media, academics, to shape the perception of China”, link here.
China has a history of denying visas to academics and sometimes journalists with a history of criticizing the policies of the country.  Would they deny entry to a blogger like me?
Some universities operate campuses in China, or have a lot of Chinese students, and feel an incentive to tow the self-censorship line. Journalists with relatives in China report that those extended family members are sometimes threatened.  
What’s more interesting is that, according to the story, Hollywood often alters scripts so they will be acceptable in China.  That may not matter for some kinds of films, but I wonder how it would affect the “independent” market.  If someone goes out and looks for investor money to produce a controversial film, are bean counters really likely to worry about how a movie will sell in authoritarian countries?  That could matter to me.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

China finally eases one-child policy, says it will close "reeducation academies"

There has been a lot of coverage of China’s one-child policy, and Friday the nation announced that it would ease the policy, allowing a married couple where either child was an only child to have two children.  There are many reports,  typical one being in Salon, by Katie McDonough, here
China also said it would close its “reform prison camps” where people – said to be petty criminals but often dissidents – can be held and ‘reeducated” without trial.  But it’s not clear if some of the people would not be sent to regular prisons.
It does seem strange that China has clung to its one-child policy while other countries, including Japan, struggles with aging populations and low birth rates.  China has its own demographic problems, having strengthened its “filial piety” laws in recent years.

The education camps had been around since the 1950s, and became the most notorious during Mao and the Cultural Revolution.  Communist ideology in the 1960s insisted that every person takes his turn becoming a peasant and experiencing what everyone else does (supposedly).  Authoritarian societies often push the idea that survival of a culture depends on disciplining those who are a little different.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Muslim teenage boys in Europe feel pressured to go to Syria to fight

Young men in Germany and perhaps other western European countries are responding to calls from radical Islamic imams to travel to Syria and join rebel groups righting Assad,  according to a story in the Washington Post Tuesday, November 12, 2013, by Michael Birnbaum and Souad Mekhennet, link here. Parents sometimes go to Syria to try to find them and bring them back.  It’s very interesting to me that radical Islamic culture is so strong that young men feel compelled to enlist to fight “other people’s battles”.   Yet, I can remember a little cultural pressure like that when I was growing up.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Typhoon Haiyan leaves apocalyptic damage to some of the Philippines

Monday morning, the Washington Post has a detailed story about the catastrophe left in the Philippines left by Typhoon Haiyan (o Yolanda), which crossed the nation on Nov. 8.  About ten percent of the country is heavily damaged. 

The Washington Post reports the worst destruction in Tacloban, a city of 200,000, on the East side, with 10000 dead and widespread looting and breakdown of order.  That city was within the band where sustained winds exceeded 115 mph.  But some towns in the 60-115 area were also destroyed, including Coron and Busuanga. 

The country is more exposed to extreme tropical weather than the US because it is much closer to the Equator.  I remember the country seemed like a curiosity as a boy, as it appeared on board games like Global Pursuit.  Haiyan may be the largest hurricane ever to develop on Earth (three times the area of Katrina), and could have covered an area the size of Texas.  It is not clear if it comes from climate change. The country seems to have a much weaker infrastructure than Japan.  
But severe hurricanes at that latitude do develop later in the fall, and have occurred in December.  It’s unlikely that a storm of this size could strike the Atlantic or even the Gulf this late.  However, Hurricane Hazel generated 90 mph winds in the DC area in October 1954;  I remember that storm as a boy, but it was not particularly destructive in north Arlington.

CNN called Haiyan stronger than Katrina and Sandy combined, and reports gusts hitting land of over 230 mph, like an F4 tornado.  Anderson Cooper narrates this video.

The Washington Post coverage by Chico Harlan and Carmela Cruz is here. NBC News has detailed coverage (by Dr. Nancy Snyderman and others) and slide show here and reports over 56,000 homes destroyed on the island of Panay.
The media does list many relief organizations.  Can churches organize on-the-ground relief trips?  Only the largest organizations have been able to do this for Haiti, and this is likely to be true of this disaster. Right now, this is a job for military humanitarian missions, starting with Navy hospital ships.  But a catastrophe can be a great equalizer.  The Philippines did have problems with the presence of Al Qaeda after 9/11.  

I must say that during some portions of my own adult life, people have sometimes talked about immigrants from this country with some degree of flippancy.

The film "La Source" about relief in Haiti (Movies blog Oct. 26, 2013) seems relevant.

I'm told by business contacts that the areas well south of the path of the eye of the typhoon are functioning and have power and services, despite some damage.

Wikipedia attribution link for Philippines map. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Will Britain impose a "license to publish"?

Does Brtiain need a First Amendment?  Kenan Malik argues what sounds like common sense in a New York Times piece here Sunday
The British government wants to force newspapers to join some kind of voluntary guild, and the government wants to use an arcane “legal instrument” called a “royal charter”, which sounds pretty much like a “license to publish”, a concept that sounded legitimate when the printing press was invented.  (I had discussed this in my 1998 “Our Fundamental Rights” booklet).

If this kind of thinking can affect established publications, what about amateur bloggers? 
All of this follows the “phone hacking” scandal, where Murdoch and others played NSA in reverse, proving that private interests can watch politicians and celebrities. 

Friday, November 8, 2013

European Court rules on asylum for LGBT people from African countries with harsh anti-gay laws that are enforced

The European Court of Justice (ECJ), in the Netherlands, has ruled gay and lesbian citizens from any African country that regularly imprisons people for homosexual conduct or even speech or even appearances, can seek political asylum in any EU country.
The mere presence of a “sodomy law” would not automatically guarantee that asylum could be caught unless the country enforced the laws.  The countries that seem to be most at issue include Uganda and Nigeria.
ThinkProgress has a story by Andrew Butterfield here
A good question would come up with Islamic countries.

Many states in the United States had sodomy laws, which were made unconstitutional by the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.  A few states (most of all Texas) considered very draconian anti-gay laws in the 1980’s with the AIDS epidemic.  In a few states, the individual states laws are still technically on the books even in spite of the Lawrence decision.  

Update: Nov 12

The International Business Times reports that the UK has become overzealous in asking immigrants seeking political asylum for being gay to prove they are gay with graphic materials, in this story by Palash Ghosh, "Do Ask, Do Tell: UK Authorities asking 'gay' asylum seekers to prove sexual orientation, link here

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Northern Nigeria apparently showing aggressive persecution from radical Islam

Today I saw a poster ad on the Washington DC Metro mentioning violence in northern Nigeria against Christians by a group called “Martyr for Muslim Belief” (as a recall).  The website “persecution” mentions a group called Boko Haram. The applicable stories on their blog seem to be here. I wasn't in a good position to photo it without rudeness.  

Nigeria is said to have passed a Uganda-style anti-gay law, but it's not clear whether it comes from Islamic or radical evangelical forces. 
It’s interesting to see this ad so soon after a major piracy incident off the west Nigeria coast and reports that American crew were taken ashore.  Little media coverage has occurred in the past week.