Iraq implements terror alert system

Heh. Simply too funny (in a horrifying kind of way).

Thanks for the link, Tian!



There are several new posts by Chinese university students over at WOW (We Observe the World). It’s so interesting to me, hearing them talk about subjects as controversial as corruption in Chinese sports, or their first visit to Tibet. I’m still waiting for their thoughts on the US election.


AIDS in China update

This was once the topic I wrote about more often than any other, but I stopped following it so closely some months ago, when I got the impression that China was finally getting serious about the tragedy and cleaning up its act. And in some ways I know they have. But after Ellen of Crackpot Chronicles pointed me to this article, I’m forced to wonder whether all those stories I was reading about education programs for the rural workers really amount to anything.

Stigma and discrimination form the main barrier to China’s HIV/AIDS prevention, said a UNICEF health official here Saturday.

Overcoming stigma and discrimination is crucial to China winning the war against AIDS, said Koen Vanormelingen, chief of the Health and Nutrition Section of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office for China.

In China and in the rest of Asia, social and cultural discrimination prevents people from wanting to know more about AIDS, and makes it especially hard to stop the spread of the disease.

A recent investigation by Horizon Market Research, a leading survey company in China, shows that nearly 19 percent of Chinese people have never heard of AIDS, almost the highest percentage in the world. In some regions of central China’s Henan Province, where unsanitary blood sales have caused a serious increase in HIVinfection, the local people do not even know the term AIDS, and just call it a “mysterious disease.”

In addition, for many people, HIV/AIDS is considered a disgraceful condition. Those infected with HIV are usually considered morally bad, and are therefore despised by others.

Stigma and discrimination are also very dangerous in that they may push the HIV-affected group to criminality and other behavior which destabilizes society, said Vanormelingen.

It’s a damned depressing piece. It sounds like we are right where we started when I wrote my first long post about this nightmare. Nineteen percent of the population has still never heard of AIDS? I would have believed that back in 2002, but now, after so many highly touted moves by the government to alert the at-risk population, could we really still be stuck on square one?

Ellen also alerted me to an article in the WaPo that says the AIDS problem is worsening and seeping from the drug users into the general population.

President Hu Jintao was shown on state television Tuesday shaking hands with AIDS patients for the first time, as a report warned that the disease is spreading in China from high-risk groups such as drug users to the general population.

The number of people contracting the AIDS virus in China is rising, according to a report by a U.N. agency and the Chinese Cabinet’s AIDS commission released on the eve of World AIDS Day….

“The party and the government are all concerned about you,” Hu added. “I hope you will have confidence in your treatment by cooperating with the hospital and trying to have an early recovery.”

It was the first time China’s president was shown meeting AIDS patients and part of a government campaign to show it cares. Premier Wen Jiabao set the new tone in December 2002, when he was photographed shaking hands with ordinary Chinese stricken with the disease.

The new joint U.N.-China report warned, however, that the epidemic is spreading to the general population.

I am glad that Hu did what he did, though I’m not happy that’s it’s taken two decades to happen. The key question is, as long as AIDS victims are stigmatized and marginalized and, in effect, punished for their bad fortune, how can China expect them to seek treatment? How can they expect to win? As we in America know, silence really does equal death when it comes to AIDS, and the more they try to push it down, sweep it under the rug, the worse it will get.

I was so optimistic after reading of Bill Clinton’s and Dr. David Ho’s efforts to de-stigmatize AIDS in China last summer, and it looked like it was working. Reading the latest reports, it’s hard to feel so sanguine.


Depleted uranium in Iraq

This is simply too scary to believe. Everyone should see it, though it’s probably not a good idea to show it to the kids.

How could they not love us? Yikes.


Iraq is in the bag

Great photos of the Bagmen of Iraq over at Zona Europa.


What better way to win over the hearts and minds of your everyday Iraqis?


A modest proposal….

It looks like Danwei may have found the cure to China’s population problem. Check out this Swiftian photo!!


Beijing’s airport to be world’s largest

They must be a global superplayer; after all, they’ll soon have the world’s biggest airport.

A new airport being built by the Chinese government in time for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be the world’s biggest and be “truly awesome”, according to its British architect, Lord Foster.

In further evidence of the Chinese obsession with building bigger, faster and higher than any other country, the plans for Beijing Airport will outdo both the current biggest, Hong Kong’s, and Heathrow, which is set to double in size when Terminal 5 is finished.

It will also take less than three years to complete, Lord Foster said. That compares with Terminal 5, which was put before a public inquiry in 1995 and approved in 2001 but which is not expected to open until 2008.

In this case I have to give some credit to the CCP, which has trimmed down the grandiose project a bit because, “They have been keen to present a more modest image in recent months, reducing the scale of plans for the Olympic stadia and saying they wish to focus more on poverty reduction.”

“Saying.” I certainly hope it’s true, but one can’t avoid the fact that they’re now committed to building the world’s tallest skyscraper, the world’s largest dam, the world’s longest bridge and the world’s biggest airport. I just wish they’d announce they were launching the world’s most ambitious distribute-the-wealth project. Then they might really gain some of the international respect they so desperately crave. (And I don’t mean welfare — just paying their people for the fruit of their labor and lessening the unsustainable unconscionable division between the haves and have-nots.)

Meanwhile I’m glad to hear they’ll be doing away with the current Beijing airport, which ranks among the drabbest and shabbiest on earth., at least for a major capital city.


China’s factory workers standing up for themselves?

Thanks to the two different readers who pointed me to this great article in the Washington Post on the new militancy of many factory workers in China who are refusing to simply take what they’re given.

Heralded by an unprecedented series of walkouts, the first stirrings of unrest have emerged among the millions of youthful migrant workers who supply seemingly inexhaustible cheap labor for the vast expanse of factories in China’s booming Pearl River Delta.

The signs of newly assertive Chinese workers have jolted foreign and Chinese factory owners, who for the last two decades have churned out everything from Nikes to baby dolls with unbeatably low production costs. Some have concluded that the raw era in which rootless Chinese villagers would accept whatever job they could get may be drawing to a close, raising questions about China’s long-term future as world headquarters for low-paid outsourcing.

“One dollar, two dollars, it used to be they didn’t care,” said Tom Stackpole, originally from Massachusetts, who is quality control director here for Skechers USA Inc. and has been involved in shoe manufacturing in southern China for a decade. “That has passed.”

Stella International Ltd., a Taiwanese-owned shoe manufacturer employing 42,000 people in and around Dongguan, faced strikes this spring that turned violent. At one point, more than 500 rampaging workers sacked company facilities and severely injured a Stella executive, leading hundreds of police to enter the factory and round up ringleaders.

“We never had anything like that before,” said Jack Chiang, Stella’s chief executive.

This poses a huge dilemma for a government whose very existence is founded on its standing up for the workers. As the article notes, due to the ultra-intrusive approach the CCP takes to business, they have their tentacles inextricably entwined in the very businesses against whom the poor workers are making demands. So do they go against their own financial self-interest — and against their rich supporters who profit handsomely from these businesses — or do they choose to go against those they’re supposed to protect? And, of course, if labor costs in the Pearl River business zone soar, that can pose a big threat to China’s greatest commodity, dirt-cheap labor.

The growing assertiveness of factory workers has posed a particular political problem for the governing Communist Party, which ideologically should champion poor laborers struggling against capitalist managers. But local governments have become shareholders in many of the factories, steering officials toward the management side of labor relations.

“The government is the largest boss in the area,” said Liu Kaiming, a labor analyst and director of the Institute of Contemporary Observation in nearby Shenzhen.

This is just one more headache for a government that faces staggering challenges, but how it’s resolved will be extremely interesting to watch. No doubt they’ll try to negotiate some give-and-take that will cause minimal pain to all involved — but someone’s going to be left unsatisfied, and my guess is it’ll be the workers.

People have been saying for years that the “two Chinas” phenomenon would be the government’s undoing. They’ll figure out a short-term solution as they always do, but this is really the mega-ton elephant lurking in the corner of China’s living room, the one no one wants to talk about though everyone knows it’s there.


New Bush billboard brings back memories of China

Chairman Bush has apparently found his own Little Red Book.


Via Patriot Boy.


Holiday break

I’m taking it easy, eating, shopping, reading, watching old movies, thinking about life and death and love and the essential folly of human existence. Not really in the mood to blog, and there’s nothing in the newspapers that’s made my adrenaline race yet this holiday weekend. Meanwhile, if you’re bored and want to read a truly sensational column, try this one on for size. It’s Friedman’s best column yet, and by the last few sentences you should be sufficiently enraged to volunteer for the Democrats so we win the country back. Utterly devastating, and uncharacteristically angry for Friedman.


If I can’t be The Man, then I at least want to be the owner of a Hummer – with American flag decals all over the back bumper, because Hummer owners are, on average, a little more patriotic than you and me.

Yes, I want to drive the mother of all gas-guzzlers that gets so little mileage you have to drive from gas station to gas station. Yes, I want to drive my Hummer and never have to think that by consuming so much oil, I am making transfer payments to the worst Arab regimes that transfer money to Islamic charities that transfer money to madrassas that teach children intolerance, antipluralism and how to hate the infidels.

And when one day one of those madrassa graduates goes off and joins the jihad in Falluja and kills my neighbor’s son, who is in the U.S. Army Rangers, I want to drive to his funeral in my Hummer. Yes, I want to curse his killers in front of his mother and wail aloud, “If there was only something I could do …” And then I want to drive home in my Hummer, stopping at two gas stations along the way.