Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Chinese children often raised by grandparents in countryside without their working parents

The flood of workers to the cities in China for low-wage jobs has left behind a large number of children sent back to the countryside to be raised by grandparents or other relatives, often not even speaking the same dialect of Chinese, according to a Washington Post story New Year’s Eve by William Wan, link here

One in five children are raised without their parents, despite the one-child policy (which is being loosened in slow steps).
All of this does seem to relate to China’s trade policy, employing workers, both men and women, at low wages.  The men and women often meet in the cities and have children that they send back “home”.  

Monday, December 30, 2013

Homeless men recruited to help clean Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant

Homeless men are being hired to help clean up the area around the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. This may include people made homeless by the quake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown.
RT News has a typical story here
I saw the headline on a billboard in the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington VA tonight. I thought it was rather stunning to see.
Older men, past sperm-bearing age, have been encouraged to work in the area, too. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

American worker captured in Pakistan says US has abandoned him

An American technician, Warren Weinstein, was abducted in Pakistan by elements of Al Qaeda more than two years ago, and says in a Christmas video that he feels abandoned by the Obama administration.

CNN has the story and video here,

The story again reinforces the danger to many American technical workers taking assignments in unstable parts of the world, particularly those with religious conflict.  How good you get volunteers to ever go?  

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Saudi blogger to be tried for apostasy, possible death penalty

CNN is reporting that Saudi blogger Raif Badawi has been forwarded for trial for apostasy by a judge in Saudi Arabia, a charge that can bring death.  Before media had reported that he had been sentenced to death for "insulting Islam".  The newest story is here.

Ensaf Haidir has apparently originally told reporters that her husband had been sentenced to death already.

Basawi had started the "Free Saudi Liberals" website in 2008.  

I do wonder if a tourist with visible blogs could be at risk if he entered Saudi Arabia, for example, for work.   

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

South Sudan topping CAR, Somalia, Syria, North Korea as among the worst countries in the world.

Is South Sudan going to displace the Central African Republic as maybe the worst place in the world?  Targeting of civilians?  Look at this story by Nicholas Kulish in the New York Times, here.
Countries are bad for different reasons.  Consider North Korea, Syria, Iran, Somalia, and then Uganda, which, despite the horrific law just passed there, sounds relatively more civilized.

No question, any country like this makes a haven for terrorists who could show up here.

The thinking seems to be, "it's my way, or no way." 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Horrific anti-gay law passes parliament in Uganda

On Friday, the parliament in Uganda passed the long anticipated anti-gay law.
The law would provide life imprisonment for homosexual acts when at least one partner has HIV, but also provides prison for those who counsel homosexuals (some news reports said that it punishes failure to report homosexuals). The death penalty was not included.
CNN has a typical news story here  and the comments are illuminating as to showing the variety of attitudes. Who wants to be proud of a "culture" based on poverty and cronyism? Anti-homosexual laws got introduced into Africa during colonialism, and Uganda seems to have been fired up by a few imported “evangelists”.
The proponents of the law claim it is necessary to protect “family life” and children in Uganda.  It sounds like a thinly veiled claim that if homosexuality is not persecuted, fewer men will want to have children and continue their families.  That sort of reasoning seems to have influenced the anti-gay “propaganda” law in Russia, where Putin is very concerned about low birth rates and emigration. 
I have reviews of two films on the Uganda situation on Sept. 15 and Oct. 25, 2013 on the Movies blog.  Uganda is said to have the worst legal environment, but other countries, like Nigeria, have oppressive laws.  At one time Nigeria actually had active branches of Metropolitan Community Church.  South Africa seems to be the only major country that has turned around. 

In India, the country's supreme court has overturned a ruling invalidating its sodomy laws, and said that this matter belongs to its parliament. 


CNN re-aired its "Wine to Water" Heroes project tonight, a water project set in South Sudan and Uganda.  The Nile River starts in Uganda.  It would be impossible for an LGBT person to be sent to work on a water engineering project or volunteer in a country like this.  Think about the implications if you put "2 and  together"/  

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Remember the Vietnam era draft? Vietnam still has human rights abuses on free speech

I was drafted in early 1968, went through a dubious period of Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC and even got recycled.  I was in Special Training when President Johnson announced he would not run on March 31, 1968.  I was still there, but about to move on, when Martin Luther King was assassinated. We believed in the domino theory then. My education kept me out of combat and out of Nam altogether.
We lost it all in 1975 (“The Killing Fields”), but Vietnam gradually developed markets, like China. But according to a Washington Post editorial on Dec. 14, Vietnam, like China, still punishes advocates of free speech.  The Post talks about Nguyen Thi Tram and the punishment doled to not only him but other family members, even a niece.  They do that in these cultures.
The link for the editorial is here.
Wikipedia attribution link for Basic Combat Training Reception Station picture. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

A quick visit to the Mandela memorial at the South African Embassy this evening

I did pay an outdoor visit to the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa on Massachusetts Ave. in Washington DC this evening around 5 PM. 

The embassy is under construction, so some of the administrative work is temporarily done in another building on International Drive near the Van Ness-UDC Metro Stop.  The media have not been clear on this.  But the commemoration statue is at the Mass. Avenue location.

Anderson Cooper’s show on CNN this evening reiterated the history of South Africa in the 1980s, under minority white-run apartheid, where in the black communities people could be detained and held without charge indefinitely for even organizing protests, and where spies or informants roamed to pick people up. Ted Koppel often covered this on Nightline in the 1980s on ABC.  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A quick visit to the United States Institute of Peace

There is a new facility on Constitution Avenue in Washington DC near the Lincoln Memorial and Federal Reserve, the United States Institute of Peace. 
The website is here and the facility seems to be open to the public for events.  There is a schedule of events there (a “Peace Game”, and symposia on Afghanistan and then the Congo – which Anthony Bourdain recently reported), but it isn’t clear if these are open or how one would attend.
The building is impressive and appears to have a lot of book libraries inside, as viewed from the street.

I found an odd “smiley” cardboard picket on the street outside the Institute late Saturday.  I don’t know what it meant.

The organization should not be confused with The Washington Peace Center near Thomas Circle, link here, a group to revisit later. I've personally seen the Carter Center in Atlanta once, in 1994. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

WSJ highlights Mandela's former Marxist background and change of viewpoint

The Wall Street Journal offers an editorial Friday morning “Nelson Mandela: A would-be Lenin who became Africa’s Vaclav Havel”, link (paywall) here
The WSJ talks about Mandela’s rise in the African National Congress and that organization’s affiliation with the Soviets and communism.  Does that change the spin on Mandela?  In 1948, the National Party made apartheid and white privilege a matter of law.  White people who grew up in that world rationalized it, just as they rationalized slavery and segregation in US history.  Communism, on the surface, might have sounded like an antidote.
What seems monumental is Mandela’s forgiveness and his change of views, on what kind of revolution really works. 
There’s another moral point that drives home.  He spent 27 years in prison under horrible conditions.  I could not personally live through something like that.  If I were imprisoned wrongfully (a subject that will be explored by CNN’s film “An Unreal Dream”, the airing of which was postponed by Mandela’s passing) I think I would see my purpose and life destroyed, and simply want justice.  I could not see being “honored” for taking the fall for someone else’s evil.  Yet, it happens all the time.  Mandela probably understood this when he went to prison, because he had already become “revolutionary”.  I never did.  I would never accept the idea of sacrifice, and recovery later.  I would never accept the unusual kind of love that would have to be both taken and given.  Insularity, perhaps, is itself dangerous. 

On Sunday, Dec. 8, Bill Keller has a similar column on o, 8 of the Review Section, "Nelson Mandela, Communist", link here
Wikipedia attribution link for Capetown picture. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In some interior areas in China, the government does not allow home or personal Internet access at all

Christopher Beam has an intriguing article in the Dec. 9, 2013 "The New Republic" on p. 5, "Behind China's Cyber Curtian: Visiting the country's far reaches, where the government has shut off the Internet".  The online version doesn't seem to be up yet (except in an illegal copy site), and will have a paywall.  I usually pick up TNR in hardcopy when in a Barnes and Noble.
The writer describes a journey by bus in Sichuan Province in China, far inland, where people apparently cannot get Internet at all for home use, either wirelessly on cell phones or from cable.  These regions tend to be near Tibet, where the government fears more unrest.  Even so, real estate and corporate development goes on, without any expectation that citizens need to be able to go online.  It's like the 80s here.  
This would be a bigger problem when corporations transfer people to work here, especially from western countries.  

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Truck carrying radioactive waste stolen near Mexico City, a threat to the US?

A truck containing a small thumb-sized payload of radioactive Cobalt-60 was stolen near Mexico City today, according to many news sources.

NBC News has a detailed story by Pete Williams here.

In the US and western countries, payloads of radioactive materials are supposed to be moved under tight security and controls.  That isn't possible in Mexico.

Apparently the payload as medical.  There is no direct evidence that it was stolen to bring it into the US, and the thieves may not know what they have.  It would be intercepted at the US border.

Authorities said that it would difficult to make this into a dirty bomb, but perhaps barely conceivable.

The IAEA has a paper on the importance of sealing radioactive sources, here.

CNN has a story by Rafael Romo and others, with some discussion of past incidents, here.

The incident occurred early Monday AM, which could mean that there could have been enough time for the vehicle to be driven to the US by now.  It's not clear when border authorities were told.
The scenario reminds me of the 1975 film "Sorcerer" which I saw in NYC.

Update: Later this evening

Multiple media sources report recovery of the truck, and of the canister with radioactive materials in an unpopulated area near the site of the theft.  It is not completely clear whether all of the radioactive material has been recovered.

Sources claim that smaller thefts trucks carrying hazardous materials do in Mexico, and none have looked for the materials.  But Charles Krauthammer wrote on Fox News that it is conceivable Hezbollah could try a theft like this, and there is some indication a theft was planned.  Why was material like this carried without GPS and in an unsecured manner?

The US Department of Homeland Security (and Customs) is assisting Mexico with the police investigation.  

Monday, December 2, 2013

Is the Central African Republic the world's most unstable country?

On Sunday, December 1, 2013, at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC, the Interim Preaching Minister Dr. Stan Hastey spoke, in a sermon titled “Advent and Apocalypse”, about the Central African Republic (CAR). North of the Congo (itself covered so well this fall by one of Anthony Bourdain’s “Parts Unknown” episodes) and landlocked completely, but largely south of the Sahara, it is one of the most lawless places on Earth with one of the lowest per capita incomes (ranked 179 out of 187), despite abundant natural resources.  The conditions there are described as more disorganized than even those in Somalia or Rwanda (in the 1990s).  The country is apparently a leftover of French colonialism in the 19th Century. The capital Bangui, on the southern border, is described as one of the most dangerous in the world.

Because of lack of development, most of the power is hydroelectric, which ironically sounds like a good thing for the environment and sustainability. But not for the economy there now.
If this is a part of the world where “volunteers” are needed to build infrastructure, it’s easy to see why there are to step up.  

Wikipedia attribution link for CAR classroom.


Michael Gerson has an op-ed on the CAR in the Washington Post on Friday Dec. 13, "The Central African Republic needs our help", link here. It could become the next haven for international terrorists.

Update: January 9. 2014

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NBC News has a video on the Central African Republic.