Bill Clinton’s charity to assist China’s AIDS victims

At least one US president seems to understand where US help is really needed. In just a few months, Clinton, together with Dr. Ho, has done more to focus world attention on China’s AIDS crisis than anyone else. I really miss our last legally elected president….


More AIDS activists arrested in China

With more and more positive news on how China is finally facing up to its AIDS cris, I was hoping we weren’t going to see more stories like this. Apparently that was a pipe dream.

At least six Aids sufferers and others living in a village in central China devastated by the disease have been arrested for seeking government help, their families and police said on Friday.

The six were detained on Tuesday and are being held in a jail in Shangcai county, Henan province, where many farmers contracted HIV/Aids from selling blood in unsanitary government-approved schemes beginning in the mid-1980s.

Five of them, from Wenlou village, had travelled to the provincial capital Zhengzhou to ask the government to carry out its promise of repairing Aids patients’ dilapidated homes, said Zhang Qiao, the wife of Cheng Fudong, one of the people arrested.

“Our home is broken down. Rain pours down from the roof. The government had repaired some of the homes in the village, but neglected the others,” said Zhang, who has Aids, along with her husband.

Another villager, Kong Wanli, was detained because he was among the most outspoken farmers in the village and had previously demanded government help,” his wife Wei Hong told reporters.

She said her husband was held because Prime Minister Wen Jiabao was planning to visit the village on Saturday.

Arrested for seeking government help, or to keep them away from Wen Jiabo — however you look at it, it’s revolting. Too bad this sort of thing is so commonplace it doesn’t lift an eyebrow.


Will China’s gender imbalance lead to war?

Sinophiles will want to read this book review on the history behind China’s (and to some extent India’s) ever-widening gender gap, and why one of the writers actually thinks the problem could lead to war.

In a new book, Bare Branches: Security Implications of Asia’s Surplus Male Population (MIT Press), Valerie M. Hudson and Andrea M. den Boer warn that the spread of sex selection is giving rise to a generation of restless young men who will not find mates. History, biology, and sociology all suggest that these “surplus males” will generate high levels of crime and social disorder, the authors say. Even worse, they continue, is the possibility that the governments of India and China will build up huge armies in order to provide a safety valve for the young men’s aggressive energies.

“In 2020 it may seem to China that it would be worth it to have a very bloody battle in which a lot of their young men could die in some glorious cause,” says Ms. Hudson, a professor of political science at Brigham Young University.

It presents differing viewpoints on how China’s going to deal with so many “surplus males,” but it’s obvious that for now, no one really knows.

Related post: It’s raining men in China


It’s not the America I left 3 1/2 years ago

The country is so engulfed in politics that all rational thought and reason have come to a standstill. The latest scandal: the huge Sinclair Broadcast Group, which delivers TV programs to 24 percent of America’s homes, has declared it will not air ABC’s Nightline this evening, when Ted Koppel will read the names of the US soldiers killed thus far in our piece-of-cake war in Iraq. Sinclair says naming the soldiers’ names is “disrespectful” and politically motivated.

Sinclair is deeply in the sack with Shrub. Not only is it a heavy campaign donor, but it has broken all the rules of journalism, demanding that reporters not criticize Bush and refusing to run political ads they see as overly critical. Get all the sordid details here. (Update: You can call Sinclair Broadcast Group at 410-568-1500 to let them know how you feel.)

This comment from a reader over at BuzzFlash says it all:

To the White House and Its Mainstream Propaganda PR Megaphone and Major GOP Contributor, Sinclair Broadcasting:

If it’s disrespectful to name all those servicemen who have been killed in action, what in the world are we going to do with the Vietnam Memorial?

And take a guess who wrote the following letter to Sinclair’s CEO:

I write to strongly protest your decision to instruct Sinclair’s ABC affiliates to preempt this evening’s Nightline program. I find deeply offensive Sinclair’s objection to Nightline’s intention to broadcast the names and photographs of Americans who gave their lives in service to our country in Iraq.

I supported the President’s decision to go to war in Iraq, and remain a strong supporter of that decision. But every American has a responsibility to understand fully the terrible costs of war and the extraordinary sacrifices it requires of those brave men and women who volunteer to defend the rest of us; lest we ever forget or grow insensitive to how grave a decision it is for our government to order Americans into combat. It is a solemn responsibility of elected officials to accept responsibility for our decision and its consequences, and, with those who disseminate the news, to ensure that Americans are fully informed of those consequences.

There is no valid reason for Sinclair to shirk its responsibility in what I assume is a very misguided attempt to prevent your viewers from completely appreciating the extraordinary sacrifices made on their behalf by Americans serving in Iraq. War is an awful, but sometimes necessary business. Your decision to deny your viewers an opportunity to be reminded of war’s terrible costs, in all their heartbreaking detail, is a gross disservice to the public, and to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces. It is, in short, sir, unpatriotic. I hope it meets with the public opprobrium it most certainly deserves.

John Kerry? A lefty columnist at the NY Times? Wrong. It’s from Senator John McCain, one of the last remaining voices of sanity over at the Republican Party. Is anyone listening? Does anyone else see how unrestrained partisanship is wiping out America’s brain cells? What will it take to restore even a modicum of sanity in a country that’s endured four years of Bush brainwashing?

Things are ugly here. I could blog 24/7 about the daily outrages I’m seeing, direct results of the scorched-earth mentality of the Bush-Cheney-Ashcroft axis of evil. The “kinder, gentler nation” envisioned by George Bush Sr. has been shelved, usurped by a self-righteous, arrogant country that believes anything that stands in its way, be it in Iraq or in the United States, should be bulldozed over. But they couldn’t be doing this alone; their partner in crime is the US media, which has deteriorated into a mindless, spineless sycophant that seems to exist only to hump George Bush’s leg. More on that topic to come.

Update: One of the constant thorn in the left’s side, Howie Kurz of the Washington Post, rejected rumors that Nightline’s controversial broadcast last nioght was about ratings.

Mr Kurtz scoffed at his colleague’s accusations that this was a ratings stunt.

“This isn’t going to get big ratings. This isn’t scintillating television. This is a moving gesture,” he said.

And he pointed out that several executives of Sinclair are donors to President Bush’s Republican Party and to Mr Bush’s re-election campaign.

“If there is anybody has a political agenda here, it’s the people who don’t want the American public to see this particular 30-minute reading of the names of the fallen,” Mr Kurtz said.


Photos of Iraqis being abused by US personnel

These are damned shocking, so be prepared.

I’ve been a fan of The Memory Hole for many months (I recommended it last August), and it should be one of your daily visits.


“Back in the USA”

I’ve added a “post-it note” to the above map of Asia, letting newcomers know that I’ve gone home. I don’t want to give up this site’s look and feel, and this was the best (and cheapest) solution I could think of.

Thanks Stacy.


China removing “all barriers” so rural laborers can work in urban areas….?

At least that’s what Xinhuanet is saying.

The government will remove all the barriers blocking rural laborers from working in the urban areas this year, including concerned regulations and systems, said Zheng Silin, the labor minister, at the China Employment Forum that opened here Wednesday….

….The official said the Chinese government has paid great attention to the employment of rural laborers and has taken it as an important step to raise farmers’ income and narrow the gap between rural and urban areas.

In order to promote the flow of laborers from rural areas to developed urban areas, the government has built an information network and strengthened the service of job agencies to organize an orderly flow of migrant workers across regions.

Even more dramatic, Zheng says the CCP will “reinforce law enforcement this year and harshly punish any violations of migrant workers’ rights.” Now, that’s a mighty big promise: as everyone knows, China’s migrant workers are subject to unbelievable outrages by unscrupulous employers, and they’ve rarely had anyone to turn to.

So what does it mean? More hot air, or is the CCP delivering a death blow to the hukou system and the exploitation of China’s migrant laborers? Unfortunately, past experience tempers any optimism I feel when I see stories like this. If it’s true, it would be wonderful. If not, it only confirms past prejudices. We’ll see, won’t we?


Stripsearched in China

Chinese interrogation (click to enlarge)

The New York Times describes HBO’s latest movie, Strip Search, as — are you ready? — “an intensely earnest, painfully wrongheaded film” that “tries to sound an alarm about the erosion of civil liberties under the Patriot Act by likening the detention of a Muslim immigrant in the United States to that of an American student in China.”

I really can’t think of a dumber plot for a movie. Based on what I know, I’ll take being detained in America any day, Patriot Act or not.

The problem is not just that this kind of melodramatic moral equivalency is silly and specious. (Dissent, terrorism — what’s the difference, really?) The most tendentious point in “Strip Search” is Glenn Close. As a federal investigator intent on wringing a confession from the Muslim suspect, the slithering star of “Fatal Attraction” is a hundred times more menacing and scary than any bullying Chinese military interrogator. One glimpse of Ms. Close in action (“But who am I, just a lowly cog in a rusting wheel,” she whispers silkily, “ignored, unappreciated”), and viewers can only conclude that even without air-conditioning or habeas corpus, a suspect is much better off in Communist China.

I wish I had HBO, because the movie sounds like an unintentional hoot.


Three Gorges Dam showers China in filth, sewage and poison

Once again, I have to give kudos to Conrad for correctly envisioning the Three Gorges Dam many months ago as “the world’s largest open-air latrine.” Looking at this article, I’d say it’s even worse than that. [Link requires registration. It’s worth it.]

WANZHOU, China – When this city decided to dam a tributary to the mighty Yangtze River, the city fathers searched for a suitable name for the beautiful artificial lake they said would form. They settled on Goddess Lake.

They planned a tree-lined park along its shores, a tranquil respite from city life. Little boats would ply its waters.

Six months after Goddess Lake began filling up, it’s become a cesspool filled with pig blood, dead fish, raw sewage, dye and runoff from tanneries.

“Can you see the sewage pipe dumping into the lake over there?” taxi driver Lu Yongheng asked. He pointed to effluent cascading into the lake, which is a few hundred yards from the Yangtze River.

Similar stories of environmental degradation are unfolding along the Yangtze upriver from the Three Gorges Dam. As the huge dam and smaller dams along the river’s tributaries block the water, the flushing and self-cleaning action of the Yangtze River basin has slowed.

Reservoirs are becoming sewers, filled with trash and smelly water. Local officials refuse to shut down polluting factories, fearful that unemployment will rise. Edicts from Beijing on controlling industrial waste go unheeded.

This was predicted by nearly every respectable expert, like Simon Winchester, who in his great travelogue The River at the Center of the World warned that this stinking mess was inevitable. The dam, he said, was an aberration that would turn China’s most spectacular vistas into an uncontrollable heap of shit.

And what’s at the heart of it? The same greed, the same rush to cash in that’s causing so many Guangdong factory workers to sacrifice their fingers and limbs.

The environmental deterioration that accompanies the $22 billion project shows how local authorities can thwart the toothless dictates of Beijing, and how zeal to sustain China’s economic growth often trumps concerns about pollution.

The central government has ordered hundreds of factories along the river closed because they were heavy polluters. But local officials have balked.

It’s a real conundrum. I can appreciate the position the local officials are in: If they were to close the factories, their constituents would be jobless. But shouldn’t this have been taken into consideration before the project went online?

Things are poised only to get worse. We are about to witness the spectacular rape and pillage of the once indomitable and splendid Yangtze, reduced amid the Three Gorges to a rotting, excrement-filled hole. An immense, overflowing Chinese toilet.


CIA may start tracking blogs; SARS in China is pointed to as example of “blog power”

It’s nice to know blogs are now seen as worthy of monitoring by the big US intelligence agencies. No, not the “Last night I saw a movie with Johnnie and then colored my hair blue” type of blogs, but the political blogs that wield influence, like Salam Pax and, I presume, superbloggers like Instapundit and Daily Kos.

People in black trench coats might soon be chasing blogs.

Blogs, short for Web logs, are personal online journals. Individuals post them on Web sites to report or comment on news especially, but also on their personal lives or most any subject.

Some blogs are whimsical and deal with “soft” subjects. Others, though, are cutting edge in delivering information and opinion.

As a result, some analysts say U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials might be starting to track blogs for important bits of information. This interest is a sign of how far Web media such as blogs have come in reshaping the data-collection habits of intelligence professionals and others, even with the knowledge that the accuracy of what’s reported in some blogs is questionable.

Of course, it was the graf about blogs and SARS in China that caught my eye. Too bad it has an error.

Blogs last year also provided information during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome. In China, where the SARS (news – web sites) outbreak began, the government at first said little. But health officials and reporters were able to get a sense of what was happening through blogs, as well as from e-mail and cell phone text messages sent to people outside China. This might have spurred China’s blog crackdown.

Were people in China blogging about SARS? I guess they were, it seems so long ago. The reporter’s error, however, is that China began blacking out blogs before the word “SARS” came into existence. It was in January 2003 that the Cyber Nanny clamped down on Blogspot, which at the time was by far the most popular blogging service. The bigger wave of blog blackouts has been quite recent, long after the noise over SARS had simmered down.

That aside, it’s fascinating to read how US spies around the world are tuning into blogs for information.