Bret Stephens: The Capitulationist

Obama-Haim-Saban-AFP:Getty

The Obama administration refuses to negotiate openly, lest the extent of its diplomatic surrender to Iran be prematurely and fatally exposed.

Bret Stephens writes: For a sense of the magnitude of the capitulation represented by Barack Obama’s Iran diplomacy, it’s worth recalling what the president said when he was trying to sell his interim nuclear agreement to a Washington, D.C., audience in December 2013.

“We know they don’t need to have an underground, fortified facility like Fordo in order to have a peaceful program,” Mr. Obama said of the Iranians in an interview with Haim Saban, the Israeli-American billionaire philanthropist. “They certainly don’t need a heavy-water reactor at Arak in order to have a peaceful nuclear program. They don’t need some of the advanced centrifuges that they currently possess in order to have a limited, peaceful nuclear program.”

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

An Iranian worker at the Uranium Conversion Facility at Isfahan, 410 kilometers, south of Tehran. The conversion facility in Isfahan reprocesses uranium ore concentrate, known as yellowcake, into uranium hexaflouride gas. The gas is then taken to Natanz and fed into the centrifuges for enrichment. (photo credit: AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Hardly more than a year later, on the eve of what might be deal-day, here is where those promises stand:

Fordo: “The United States is considering letting Tehran run hundreds of centrifuges at a once-secret, fortified underground bunker in exchange for limits on centrifuge work and research and development at other sites.”—Associated Press, March 26.

[Read the full text here, at the Wall Street Journal]

Arak: “Today, the six powers negotiating with Iran . . . want the reactor at Arak, still under construction, reconfigured to produce less plutonium, the other bomb fuel.”—The New York Times, March 7.

Advanced centrifuges: “Iran is building about 3,000 advanced uranium-enrichment centrifuges, the Iranian news media reported Sunday, a development likely to add to Western concerns about Tehran’s disputed nuclear program.”—Reuters, March 3.

nypost-obama-islam-blind

But the president and his administration made other promises, too. Consider a partial list:

Possible military dimensions: In September 2009 Mr. Obama warned Iran that it was “on notice” that it would have to “come clean” on all of its nuclear secrets. Now the administration is prepared to let it slide.

“It was never especially probable that a detailed, satisfactory verification regime would be included in the sort of substantive framework agreement that the Americans have been working for.”

– The Economist

“Under the new plan,” The Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Laurence Norman reported last week, “Tehran wouldn’t be expected to immediately clarify all the outstanding questions raised by the IAEA in a 2011 report on Iran’s alleged secretive work. A full reckoning of Iran’s past activities would be demanded in later years as part of a nuclear deal that is expected to last at least 15 years.”

Verification: Another thing the president said in that interview with Mr. Saban is that any deal would involve “extraordinary constraints and verification mechanisms and intrusive inspections.”

Iran isn’t playing ball on this one, either. Read the rest of this entry »


BLOSSOM FIGHT! ‘Cherry Blossom is Chinese, Not Japanese,’ Claim Growers in China

Artfully Awear Cherry Blossom 5

Old literary references prove flower synonymous with Japan originated on Chinese soil, argues association, after South Korea has also laid claim to the species

Alice Yan reports: A group in China has weighed into the debate about the non-stop-panic-pearlsorigins of a flower synonymous with Japan, the cherry blossom, saying it was first found on Chinese soil.

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.”

He Zongru, executive chairman of the China Cherry Blossom Association, told a press conference that historical references proved that the flower originally came from China.

He’s comments came after media reports in South Korea earlier this month suggested that cherry blossom was first found in the country’s southern province of Jeju.

blossoms

”To put it simply, cherry blossoms originated in China and prospered in Japan. None of this is Korea’s business.”

“We don’t want to start a war of words with Japan or Korea, but we would like to state the fact that many historical literary references prove that cherry blossom originated in China. As Chinese, we are obliged to let more people know about this part of history.” he was quoted a saying by the Southern Metropolis News.

Tang Dynasty

He said the species spread to Japan from the Himalayan region during the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

Zhang Zuoshuang, an official at the Botanical Society of China, was quoted as saying that among the 150 types of wildly-grown cherry blossoms around the world, more than 50 could be found in China. Read the rest of this entry »


Japan is Paying to Have Japanese-Language Nonfiction Books Translated into English

JBOOKS

Government opens another front in public relations battle with China, South Korea

TOKYO— Peter Landers writes: Japan’s government is paying to have Japanese-language nonfiction books translated into English, with the first works to be produced under the program arriving in American libraries this month.

“Japan is among the top nations in the world in terms of books published, but unfortunately, they’re just published in Japanese. If they were known around the world, there are a lot of books that people would find really interesting.”

The move is one of several nontraditional public-relations steps by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, which is trying to enhance Japan’s profile among U.S. opinion leaders and the general public as it engages in a public relations battle with China and South Korea.

“Some efforts have been overtly political. South Korea has created a website in seven languages to make its case that two islets claimed by both Tokyo and Seoul rightly belong to South Korea, and last year sponsored an exhibit in France on forced prostitution by the Japanese military during World War II.”

Japan’s foreign ministry has boosted its public diplomacy budget. Measures include spending $5 million to fund a professorship in Japanese politics and foreign policy at Columbia University. Another program, begun last year, sends Japanese people from various walks of life to places like Lawrence, Kan., and Lexington, Ky., to talk about life in Japan.

The books translated into English with Japanese government funds will carry the imprint “Japan Library” and be published by the government itself—a different approach from that of some other nations that subsidize private translations. Read the rest of this entry »


The Message is the Medium

Messaging Services Are Rapidly Growing Beyond Online Chat

“I PROPOSE, if and when found, to take him by his beastly neck, shake him till he froths, and pull him inside out and make him swallow himself.” It is not often that Silicon Valley’s denizens quote P.G. chat appsWodehouse. But this is what Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz, a venture-capital firm, expects the success of messaging services could do to both mobile and corporate software.

The most striking example so far of this process came on March 25th when Facebook announced at a conference in San Francisco that it has started to turn its Messenger service into a “platform” that can carry, and be integrated with, all manner of apps created by other software firms. So Facebook Messenger, which is itself an app for smartphones that run on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating systems, will then be competing with those operating systems’ services for buying apps and downloads. In plain language, it could become the app that ate Apple’s app store.

The prospect may surprise those who thought messaging apps were just another way for teens to share this week’s tragic news about One Direction (a pop group, apparently). But their continuing explosive growth suggests that they will be a
lasting phenomenon. According to Flurry, a market-research firm, the total number of users grew by more than 100% last year (which explains why old-style text messages seem to have peaked, see chart). Together the ten biggest messaging 20150328_WBC665apps, which include KakaoTalk, Viber and WeChat, now boast more than 3 billion users. WhatsApp, the leader of the pack, alone has 700m—a big reason why Facebook last year paid $22 billion for the firm, despite continuing to develop its own Messenger app.

As the number of users has grown, specialised versions of messaging apps have emerged. What made Snapchat popular was the ability to exchange pictures that vanish after a few seconds (and often contain nudity). Secret, Whisper and Yik Yak let users remain anonymous (including bullies, unfortunately). Telegram stands out because of its strong encryption (making intelligence services unhappy). And FireChat works without cellular service: users’ phones communicate directly, which was a popular feature during recent protests in Hong Kong. Read the rest of this entry »


Want Your City State to Become a Capitalist Success Story? Ban Spitting

Photo dated 19 December 1984 shows senior Chinese

It may be hard to measure just how much Singapore’s famed spitting crackdown helped – but it certainly didn’t hurt.

The governing philosophy of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew contained multitudes: a belief in the enriching power of the free market; a development agenda implemented by a strong central government at the expense of personal freedoms. Alongside these well-known themes, however, there was also this: absolutely never, under any circumstances, would there be public spitting in the Lion City.

“Many of the biggest admirers of Singapore’s rise have since followed in its footsteps and stepped up anti-spitting measures. In 2003, in the wake of the regional SARS outbreak, Hong Kong announced a “no-tolerance” policy, tripling the penalty for spitting to $300.”

In Singapore, anyone caught expectorating can be hit with a hefty fine of up to $1,000 and $5,000 for repeat offenders. That law is part of a raft of legislation that Lee put in place — on gum chewing, bird feeding, and flushing public toilets — that 51z84gsE3EL._SL250_reached deep into citizens’ daily lives and that remain a part of Singapore’s legal code today.

[Order Lee Kuan Yew’s book “From Third World to First: The Singapore Story – 1965-2000” from Amazon.com]

Lee’s strictures on spitting were designed to curb a habit fairly thoroughly ingrained in traditional Chinese culture. Here, for example, Deng Xiaoping meets with Margaret Thatcher with a spittoon in the foreground. The Chinese reformer was a lifelong spitter.

In the West, Singapore’s laws on personal behavior are seen as quirky eccentricities at best (that happen to be great listicle fodder: “If You Think the Soda Ban Is Bad, Check Out all the Things That Are Illegal In Singapore”) and the mark of an invasive nanny state at worst. These laws, however, are rarely considered as a component of Singapore’s much admired economic growth – but maybe they should be.

“The Shenzhen ban comes at a time when the politics of spitting as a dividing line between the ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’ world have grown increasingly fraught, given the growing clout of mainland China, a country of rampant spitters.”

Spitting has long been against the law in Singapore, a vestige from the days when, as the New York Times put it in 2003, “British colonialists tried in vain to quell what the port’s Chinese immigrants once considered as natural as breathing.” The city-state didn’t begin enforcing laws on the behavior until 1984. But when Singapore did decide to crack down, it meant it: The government fined 128 people for spitting that first year and another 139 in 1985. Read the rest of this entry »


Gaming Regulators: Virtual Chinese Still Need to Have Hukou and Obey One-Child Policy

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‘The regulators require the birth system in our games to meet the regulations of birth-control policies.’

Let’s say you load up The Sims (China Edition). You make your little character. What’s the first thing he should do? Register for a hukou, of course. And then get a national ID card. A bit down the road, if he gets married, he’d better not think of having a second child without paying a social-compensation fee. Aren’t video games fun?

According to an article on MarketWatch, this scenario isn’t as ridiculous as it seems. The folks at MarketWatch spoke to a Chinese game developer who ran into issues with authorities who believe that video games should reflect the laws and regulations of the PRC.

“The regulators require the birth system in our games to meet the regulations of birth-control policies [in China],” says the developer, who had to make changes after his game originally allowed for characters to have multiple children. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTOS] This Road in China Got Covered in Almost 15,000 Pounds of Live Catfish

Thousands Of Kilograms Of Catfish Scatter In Kaili

editor-commen-desk

We’re back with more catfish! I discovered and posted a link to small item about this here, yesterday, but was disappointed to not find any additional reporting on it, but most of all, disappointed to find no photos. Thankfully, images are coming in. A story about a gigantic catfish-in-the-streets catastrophe is obviously a lot less fun without pictures.

ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images

ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images

When the door of a delivery truck in the southern Chinese province of Guizhou swung open, 15,000 lb. of catfish came spilling out, covering the road in a flopping, scaly mess.

Remarkably, with the help of community members and the local fire department, a two-hour rescue effort was undertaken and the shipment was not wasted, according to the Shanghaiist. Their task was arduous but simple — workers basically sprayed the fish with water to keep them alive while others picked them up and returned them to the truck…(read more)

TIME  –  Shanghaiist

ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images

ChinaFotoPress—Getty Images


Vintage Ad: Teijin Tetron テイジンテトロン Pleated Skirt Advertising – Japan – 1961

1961-japan-skirt-ad

テイジンテトロン プリーツスカート:広告-1961年

Teijin Tetron テイジンテトロン pleated skirt advertising – Japan – 1961

taishou-kun – tsun-zaku –  – 


Clinton Foundation Takes $2 Million From Chinese Company Suspected of Helping North Korea

koread-money

CBS News reports on another troubling foreign donation to the Clinton Foundation:

One donor – Rilin Enterprises – pledged $2 million in 2013 to the Clinton Foundation’s endowment. The company is a privately-held Chinese construction and trade conglomerate and run by billionaire Wang Wenliang, who is also a delegate to the Chinese parliament. Public records show the firm has spent $1.4 million since 2012, lobbying Congress and the State Department. The firm owns a strategic port along the border with North Korea and was also one of the contractors that built the Chinese embassy in Washington.

Wang-Wenliang

That contract is a direct tie to the Chinese government, according to Jim Mann, who has written several books on China’s relationship with the U.S.  With “embassy construction, one of the most important tasks is making sure that there are no bugs there,” he said. “So you want to have the closest security and intelligence connections with and approval of the person or company that’s going to build your embassy.”

hillary-clinton-hollywood-money

The tie to the Chinese government is troubling enough, but the CBS News report doesn’t elaborate upon the firm’s ties to North Korea. The port owned by Rilin in Dandong, China has long been suspected of helping North Korea evade western sanctions. Not three days ago, the Washington Post published this report on it:

DANDONG, China — The textile factories producing “made in China” goods from compounds just across the Yalu River from North Korea offer a glimpse into a hidden world that is helping North Korea’s economy to thrive….(read more)

Weekly Standard


Alyssa Abkowitz 沈丽莎: Sex Toys and ‘Er Nai’: Inside China’s Unfolding Sexual Revolution

buccone1

Alyssa Abkowitz reports: In 1989, sexologist Li Yinhe conducted a famous survey that showed 15% of Chinese respondents said they had premarital sex. Today, that figure is about 71%, according to local figures. “China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom,” said Zhang Lijia, author of the forthcoming novel “Lotus,” which looks at prostitution in modern China.

“China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom.”

Ms. Zhang was speaking to a mostly younger crowd at Beijing’s Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday. She was joined by Jemimah Steinfeld, author of “Little Emperors and Material Girls,” which focuses on China’s sex and youth culture, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, who has been called the Stephen Hawking of sex for writing “The Origins of Sex,” which looks at the western sexual revolution of the 18th century.

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

“Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket. For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

– Zhang Lijia

Only several decades ago, “Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket,” Ms. Zhang said, referring to the 1980s, when women started to wear makeup and shorter skirts. “For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

china-mistresses

“Er nai, as modern-day Chinese mistresses are called, are deeply entwined in business practices, because having multiple mistresses is a sign that a man has the pull to seal a deal.”

Today, sex is everywhere in China, from adult stores on nearly every corner in Beijing to young entrepreneurs, such as one interviewed by Ms. Steinfeld, who wants to import quality sex toys because he thinks Chinese sex toys are faulty. (This could be a tough road, as the majority of sex toys are made in China and exported around the world, Ms. Zhang said).

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“There are women who have lovers just for fun too. Male prostitutes are far more expensive here because they have more work to do.”

Judging from the panel discussion, progress is mixed. As Beijing looks to pass its first domestic violence law, cleavage is being banned on television. One of the most popular items sold at roadside sex shops is hymen repair kits. Read the rest of this entry »


Hong Kong Separation Anxiety

NPC-Beijing-WSJ

Beijing Assails Student Democrats as Revolutionaries

China’s Communist Party frequently rails against “splittists,” with the usual targets being the freedom- and independence-minded people of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. Now China’s parliament is adding Hong Kong to its enemies list, using the pretext of last year’s pro-democracy marches.

“In his annual Policy Address in January, Mr. Leung attacked his critics for harboring secessionist sentiments, citing as evidence the undergraduate magazine of Hong Kong University, which published an article on ‘Hong Kong people deciding their own fate’ and a book called ‘Hong Kong Nationalism.'”

“The movement and the expression for independence of Hong Kong will not be tolerated,” third-ranked leader Zhang Dejiang declared last week in the Great Hall of the People. Days before, General Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of the general staff, told a state magazine that last year’s street protests were “a Hong Kong version of a color revolution,” akin to the popular movements that toppled several post-Soviet governments a decade ago.

“Mr. Leung was widely ridiculed for the feebleness of the charge, yet now top leaders in Beijing are echoing it.”

These aren’t the first time such charges have been leveled. In October, during the first weeks of Hong Kong’s 75-day demonstrations, a commentary in the official People’s Daily argued that the protesters’ true aim was independence, while senior Politburo member Wang Yang warned of “color revolution.” But Beijing then muted such claims—at least until Hong Kong Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying revived them. Read the rest of this entry »


BOOM: Shanghai in 1987 and 2015


Chinese Tycoon Wang Jianlin Blames ‘Western Schooling’ for Son’s Comments About Wanting a Girlfriend With Big Boobs

two-coconuts2

Wang Jianlin blames Western education for his son’s controversial remark that potential girlfriends needed to be “buxom”

Wang, one of the richest men in China, used an interview on state television on Tuesday evening to publicly defend his son, whose remark caused a furore on social media and led to condemnation by a state news agency. He also said he preferred to stay away from politics and said businessmen should “refrain from bribes”.

Wang said his son, Wang Sicong , had spent years studying overseas and had got into the habit of speaking whatever was on his mind.

chinese-subtlety

Tycoon takes to TV to defend offspring who caused uproar by saying he preferred ‘buxom’ girlfriends; his overseas schooling is to blame

The younger Wang was lambasted after making the remark on Valentine’s Day, with the state-run news agency Xinhua publishing a 1,287-word commentary condemning his remarks.

His father, who runs a property and cinema empire, said he was always ready to “take a hint” from others and not “speak carelessly”, but his son was more direct and had not learnt Chinese subtlety.

“He is smart. He went overseas to study at grade one and he has a Western-style of thinking,” said Wang.

blame-west

“Maybe after spending five or eight years in China, he will truly become Chinese.”

Wang Sicong, a board member of his father’s Wanda Group and the chairman of the private investment firm Prometheus Capital, is well-known for his outspoken comments on social media.

He made his latest eyebrow-raising remark after helping to raise more than 500,000 yuan (HK$630,000) for charity by auctioning the chance for a member of the public to watch a film with him.

Wang Jianlin’s son Wang Sicong, a board member at his father’s company, was chastised by state media and the public for a ‘crude’ comment about women. Wang Sicong said it was made in jest. Photo: SCMP Pictures

The senior Wang said he wanted his son to succeed in his own right in business, but would give him only two opportunities. “The third time he fails, he comes to work at Wanda,” he said.

The tycoon’s comments appeared to question Western customs and values, echoing remarks by government officials in recent months.

Education Minister Yuan Guiren said last month that universities must tightly control the use of text books from overseas that spread “Western values”. Read the rest of this entry »


China’s Box-Office Expected to Hit 2 Billion During the New Year Holiday

china-newyears-movies

Driven by the ‪‎Spring Festival‬ period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum

The ‪Chinese New Year‬ is approaching an end, but the country’s ‪movie‬ industry boom seems to have just begun, thanks to record high box-office sales during the New Year holiday.

Statistics show that across the country there were over nine million Chinese going to the movies during that period. On the first day of the Spring Festival, there was a record high intake of 356 million yuan or about $57 million at the ‪‎box office‬. That’s about 44 percent up on the same day last year.

Even on New Year’s Eve, a time traditionally devoted to family reunions, home banquets and the grand CCTV gala, Chinese moviegoers still spent 21 million yuan ($3.5 mln) in the country’s cinemas.

audience-china

By Sunday, box offices for the Spring Festival holiday reached 924 million yuan ($154 mln), a 42.15% increase from last year. Industry experts say that China’s movie market is expected to gross nearly 2 billion yuan ($300 mln) during the period.

There were 7 new movies released on the first day of the Chinese New Year, which could be one reason for the high sales.

The costume action movie “Dragon Blade” starring Chinese Kungfu star Jackie Chan leads the box office charts, creating about one third of the total income. It’s followed by Chow Yun-Fat’s family comedy “The Man from Macao II” and fantasy adventure “Zhongkui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal”.

china-movies

Rao Shuguang, the secretary-general of the China Film Association, says the recorded growth is also partly to do with the increased number of screens across the country, now at over 24,900.

Driven by the ‪‎Spring Festival‬ period, one of the golden times for Chinese productions, China’s domestic movies are gaining more momentum. Last year, Chinese domestic box-office revenue hit $4.7 billion, ranking the second largest in the world. Made-in-China movies accounted for 55 percent of the total. Read the rest of this entry »


Amanda Foreman: ‘It Was Horrifying To Realize That Every Aspect of Women’s Beauty Was Intimately Bound Up With Pain’

foot-binding-smithsonian-collage

Why Footbinding Persisted in China for a Millennium

Despite the pain, millions of Chinese women stood firm in their devotion to the tradition

Amanda Foreman writes: For the past year I have been working with Britain’s BBC television to make a documentary series on the history of women. In the latest round of filming there was an incident that haunts me. It took place during a segment on the social changes that affected Chinese women in the late 13th century.

“The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women.”

These changes can be illustrated by the practice of female foot-binding. Some early evidence for it comes from the tomb of Lady Huang Sheng, the wife of an imperial clansman, who died in 1243. Archaeologists discovered tiny, misshapen feet that had been wrapped in gauze and placed inside specially shaped “lotus shoes.” For one of my pieces on camera, I balanced a pair of embroidered doll shoes in the palm of my hand, as I talked about Lady Huang and the origins of foot-binding. When it was over, I turned to the museum curator who had given me the shoes and made some comment about the silliness of using toy shoes. This was when I was informed that I had been holding the real thing. The miniature “doll” shoes had in fact been worn by a human. The shock of discovery was like being doused with a bucket of freezing water.

“As I held the lotus shoes in my hand, it was horrifying to realize that every aspect of women’s beauty was intimately bound up with pain.”

Foot-binding is said to have been inspired by a tenth-century court dancer named Yao Niang who bound her feet into the shape of a new moon. She entranced Emperor Li Yu by dancing on her toes inside a six-foot golden lotus festooned with ribbons and precious stones. In addition to altering the shape of the foot, the practice also produced a particular sort of gait that relied on the thigh and buttock muscles for support. From the start, foot-binding was imbued with erotic overtones. Gradually, other court ladies—with money, time and a void to fill—took up foot-binding, making it a status symbol among the elite.

Lui Shui Ying (right) had her feet bound in the 1930s, after the custom fell out of favor. (Jo Farrell )

Lui Shui Ying (right) had her feet bound in the 1930s, after the custom fell out of favor. (Jo Farrell )

A small foot in China, no different from a tiny waist in Victorian England, represented the height of female refinement. For families with marriageable daughters, foot size translated into its own form of currency and a means of achieving upward mobility. The most desirable bride possessed a three-inch foot, known as a “golden lotus.” It was respectable to have four-inch feet—a silver lotus—but feet five inches or longer were dismissed as iron lotuses. The marriage prospects for such a girl were dim indeed.

“First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape…”

As I held the lotus shoes in my hand, it was horrifying to realize that every aspect of women’s beauty was intimately bound up with pain. Placed side by side, the shoes were the length of my iPhone and less than a half-inch wider. My index finger was bigger than the “toe” of the shoe. It was obvious why the process had to begin in childhood when a girl was 5 or 6.

[read the full text here, at The Smithsonian]

First, her feet were plunged into hot water and her toenails clipped short. Then the feet were massaged and oiled before all the toes, except the big toes, were broken and bound flat against the sole, making a triangle shape. Next, her arch was strained as the foot was bent double. Finally, the feet were bound in place using a silk strip measuring ten feet long and two inches wide. These wrappings were briefly removed every two days to prevent blood and pus from infecting the foot. Sometimes “excess” flesh was cut away or encouraged to rot. The girls were forced to walk long distances in order to hasten the breaking of their arches. Over time the wrappings became tighter and the shoes smaller as the heel and sole were crushed together. After two years the process was complete, creating a deep cleft that could hold a coin in place. Once a foot had been crushed and bound, the shape could not be reversed without a woman undergoing the same pain all over again. Read the rest of this entry »


Apple’s Titan Car Project to Challenge Tesla

WSJ-appl-car

Apple Has 100s Working on Design of a Minivan Like Vehicle 

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Mike Ramsey report: Apple Inc. has revolutionized music and phones. Now it is aiming at a much bigger target: automobiles.

The Cupertino, Calif., company has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. The project, code-named “Titan,” initially is working on the design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of the people said.

“There are products that we’re working on that no one knows about. That haven’t been rumored about yet.”

– Chief Executive Tim Cook, to Charlie Rose, in September

An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

Apple ultimately could decide not to proceed with a car. In addition, many technologies used in an electric car, such as advanced batteries and in-car electronics, could be useful to other Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad.

Apple often investigates technologies and potential products, going as far as building multiple prototypes for some things that it won’t ever sell. Any car would take several years to complete and obtain safety certifications.

But the size of the project team and the senior people involved indicate that the company is serious, these people said. Apple executives have flown to Austria to meet with contract manufacturers for high-end cars including the Magna Steyr unit of Canadian auto supplier Magna International Inc. A Magna spokeswoman declined to comment.

Apple’s industrial design team is staffed with several people who have experience at European auto makers. Last year, Apple hired Marc Newson, a famous industrial designer and close friend of the company’s design guru, Jony Ive. In the past, Mr. Newson created a concept car for Ford Motor Co.

Apple hopes to put its stamp on the electric vehicle market in the same way it did the smartphone with its iPhone, said a person familiar with its work. Even though Apple defied expectations of slowing growth with a 30% rise in revenue in the quarter ended December, the company is under constant scrutiny of where its next breakthrough product will come from.

Last year, Apple hired Marc Newson, a well-known industrial designer and close friend of the company’s design guru, Jony Ive. In the past, Mr. Newson has created a concept car for Ford. Photo: Getty Images

Last year, Apple hired Marc Newson, a well-known industrial designer and close friend of the company’s design guru, Jony Ive. In the past, Mr. Newson has created a concept car for Ford. Photo: Getty Images

Earlier this week, Mr. Cook said at an investor conference that he does not believe that companies naturally start to slow as their revenue grows. He said this was “dogma” and that Apple didn’t believe in putting limits on what it was capable of.

A side benefit of the project, according to one of the people, is that it has persuaded many Apple employees who were thinking of leaving the company to stay and work on an exciting new endeavor without the pressure of churning new products every year.

Other Silicon Valley giants are looking at autos. Google Inc. has been working on a self-driving car for years. The head of Google’s autonomous vehicle project said last year that the company aims to forge a partnership with auto makers to build a self-driving car within the next few years. A self-driving car is not part of Apple’s current plan, one of the people familiar with the project said. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Internet Power! China’s Internet Censors Now Have Their Own Theme Song

cyberspace-spirit

‘Like a beam of incorruptible sunlight, touching our hearts’

Josh Chin and Chun Han Wong report: When China is truly proud of something, it writes a song. During the Cultural Revolution, the oil workers who helped turn China into a crude exporter got their own song. More recently, China’s aircraft carrier and the relationship between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife have been lauded with jingles.

This week, China’s Internet censors got their own musical tribute — or, rather, they wrote one for themselves.

According to a report posted Thursday to the website of the state-run China Youth Daily, the Cyberspace Administration of China choral group this week unveiled a new song, “Cyberspace Spirit,” glorifying the cleanliness and clarity of China’s uniquely managed Internet.

The song, an orchestral march built around a chorus that proclaims China’s ambition to become an “Internet power,” opens with lyrics describing celestial bodies keeping careful watch over the sky. From there, the lyrics conjure more vivid imagery, comparing the Internet to “a beam of incorruptible sunlight” that unites “the powers of life from all creation.”

The Cyberspace Administration of China is the government agency in charge of managing the country’s Internet, including the complex filtering system known as the Great Firewall.

Recently, the government has grown bolder in advocating China’s brand of Internet management. In November, it hosted a World Internet Conference in the eastern canal town of Wuzhen, where Lu Wei, the minister in charge of CAC, promoted the need for rules on the Internet. A few months later, another official surprised some by openly praising China’s censorship system for helping foster Chinese tech companies….(read more)

Below is China Real Time’s rough translation of the lyrics:

在这片天空日月忠诚的守望 Keeping faithful watch under this sky, the Sun and the Moon

为日出东方使命担当 Undertaking this mission for the break of dawn [in the East]

创新每个日子拥抱着清朗 Creating, embracing everyday clarity and brightness

像一束廉洁阳光感动在心上 Like a beam of incorruptible sunlight, touching our hearts

团结万物生长的力量 Uniting the powers of life from all creation

奉献地球村成为最美的风光 Offerings to the global village become the most beautiful of scenery

网络强国 网在哪光荣梦想在哪 Internet Power! The Web is where glorious dreams are

网络强国 从遥远的宇宙到思念的家 Internet Power! From the distant cosmos to the home we long for

网络强国 告诉世界中国梦在崛起大中华 Internet Power! Tell the world that the China Dream is lifting Greater China to prominence

网络强国 一个我在世界代表着国家 Internet Power! One self represents the nation to the world

在这个世界百川忠诚寻归海洋 In this world, all rivers loyally seek to return to the sea

担当中华文明的丈量 Bearing the measure of Chinese civilization

五千年沉淀点亮创新思想 5,000 years settle and give light to creative new thinking

廉洁就是一个民族清澈荡漾 Incorruptibility is the clear rippling of a nation

我们团结在天地中央 We unite at the center of Heaven and Earth Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Courtesy, Hong Kong Style: How to Politely Say ‘No’ in Cantonese

Smile and give them a pen

kamenoblog shares this language insight:

Last night my Cantonese professor taught my class how to politely refuse someone.

Instead of directly saying no, Cantonese speakers can give a subtle hint by giving an unwanted suitor a pen.

The words for “pen” and “no” sound similar in Cantonese. However, both words use different traditional Chinese characters:

筆 means “pen”

不是 (“bat si”/”m hai”) means “no”

Source: Milk Tea & Pudding


LA Supermarket Sells Raccoons As Food, Health Officials Not Amused

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TEMPLE CITY (CBSLA.com) — The Health Department has taken action after a local supermarket’s frozen foods section featured an unusual item.

Inspectors from the LA County Health Department visited the Metro Supermarket in Temple City on Tuesday, after being informed that the market was selling raccoons as food.

"I've tried grilled raccoon, and I have to say, it's really not bad."

“I’ve tried grilled raccoon, and I have to say, it’s really not bad.”

Employees at the market declined to appear on camera, but did show entire raccoons, frozen, bagged, and selling for $9.99 per pound. The employees say raccoon is considered a delicacy in China.

Customer Christina Dow was at the market, and upon seeing the frozen raccoons, filmed the scene on her cell phone. She shared the video on social media.

ARKive image GES068267 - Northern raccoon

“I’ve tried lobster, it’s actually quite good”

“The way it’s packaged in the store, it’s so real, and it’s so fresh, and you don’t see chickens with their feathers and blood all over them, and their expression, with their tongue hanging out,” Dow said.

5a raccoon

Dow also went on to contact the LA County Health Department, who says that selling raccoons as food may indeed be perfectly legal, depending on the origins of the meat. Read the rest of this entry »


[BOOKS] Did Christianity Create Liberalism?

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Samuel Moyn writes: A generation ago the political philosopher Larry Siedentop published an essay called “Two Liberal Traditions,” its title a nod to his teacher Isaiah Berlin’s celebrated lecture “Two Concepts of Liberty.” An American, Siedentop had traveled to the University of Oxford in the 1950s to study under the great Cold War liberal, and later he taught there for decades.

“How, against its original purposes, was the Gospel’s message brought down to earth?”

In his still mandatory essay, Siedentop persuasively argues that Anglo-American liberalism has never been the sole version of the tradition. There is also, Siedentop contends, a characteristically French approach, more historicist and sociological than conceptual and normative in making the case for modern liberty. Great nineteenth-century French thinkers such as Benjamin Constant, François Guizot, and Alexis de Tocqueville generally cast liberal values such as individual freedom as complex social achievements won over long periods, to be treasured and fostered precisely because they reflect collective advancement, not merely moral truth.

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“There was a time before the individual, and Siedentop spends his first few chapters dwelling on it: the ancient world, in which individuals were wholly subordinated to family structures. No matter that admirers from the Renaissance and Enlightenment appealed to the classical past in order to attack Christian oppression, Siedentop says: they ignored the fact that no ancient society embraced the value of individual freedom.”

This line of thought suggests that history and experience are central to the making of liberal values and not simply the storehouses of wisdom for conservatives, better known for appealing to the past. Unlike their Anglo-American counterparts from Thomas Hobbes to John Rawls, Frenchmen did not rely on the thought experiment of the social contract to motivate allegiance to liberal norms. Thus their approach, as Siedentop describes it, is an indispensable counterpart to the usual focus in our own liberal tradition, 41ncnodwApL._SL250_which prizes normative justification rather than a story about how we came to defend liberal values, through what institutions and practices.

[Check out Larry Siedentop’s book “Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism” at Amazon]

Of course, a lot turns on how believable the narrative is. In his new book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, Siedentop tries his own hand at telling how modern freedom came about. Channeling the project of the French tradition, he leans heavily on the almost-forgotten Guizot, the political theorist and government minister whose History of Civilization in Europe (1828) Siedentop in effect revives and updates. (If readers have any recollection of Guizot, it is probably because in the opening lines of The Communist Manifesto Karl Marx denounces him as a leading statesman of a conservative entente that had brought stability but not justice to post-Napoleonic Europe.)

There are a few powerful components to Siedentop’s rehabilitation of the French tradition. The most important follows that tradition’s most promising move, which is to treat modern individualism as a historical product rather than a natural fact. There was a time before the individual, and Siedentop spends his first few chapters dwelling on it: the ancient world, in which individuals were wholly subordinated to family structures. No matter that admirers from the Renaissance and Enlightenment appealed to the classical past in order to attack Christian oppression, Siedentop says: they ignored the fact that no ancient society embraced the value of individual freedom. “They failed to notice,” Siedentop comments mordantly, “that the ancient family began as a veritable church.”

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This history may be news to Anglo-Americans liberals, who routinely take the individual as a natural given. In the social contract, individuals are a premise, not a product. In economics, the satisfaction of individual preferences is the self-evident goal, but this is never explained or justified, even though it is an astonishingly rare commitment across the sweep of time. Siedentop wants to treat such first principles as the result of a history that made liberalism conceivable in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »


Censorship: So what’s blocked in China?


The Legend of Zheng Shi: Badass Lady Pirate

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According to legend, the greatest pirate ever to have lived may have been a woman by the name of Zheng Shi

According to legend, the greatest pirate ever to have lived was a woman known by several names, including Zheng Yi Sao, Zheng Shi, Cheng Shih, Madame Ching, and more.

It all started with a fateful meeting with a pirate by the name of Zheng Yi. In the 1800s, he and his crew were busy ravaging the region now known as Guangdong when they happened to capture a brothel girl that caught Zheng Yi’s attention. Although she agreed to marry him, she did so under the condition that he would share his treasure and power with her. He agreed. Through diplomacy and business deals with Zheng Yi’s rivals, his wife Zheng Shi (as she would come to be known, meaning the widow Zheng), managed to help put together a fleet of around 1500 ships, a force to be reckoned with. In addition, she made several strategic offers of protection to villages in exchange for tribute.

Although Zheng Yi died in 1807, Zheng Shi would not fade into the historical background. In fact, upon Zheng Yi’s death, Zheng Shi, was quick to put Zheng Yi’s first mate to work (presumably to stave off doubts that might come from a woman running the show). After taking over, Zheng Shi’s power and influence only continued to grow. Zheng Shi’s navy, The Red Flag Fleet, was said to have over 1800 ships and 60,000 men at it’s height (about 30 times more than all of the different factions of Caribbean pirates put together) (the global dispatch).

Although she achieved great wealth and power, Zheng Shi’s reign over Southern China and the South China Sea was not entirely a reign of terror. There was a strict and somewhat ruthless code of conduct that all of the crew were forced to abide by:

  1. If you disobey an order, you get your head chopped off and body thrown in the ocean.
  2. If you steal anything from the common plunder before it has been divvied up, you get your head chopped off and body thrown in the ocean.
  3. If you rape anyone without permission from the leader of your squadron, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown in the ocean.
  4. If you have consensual sex with anyone while on duty, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown in the ocean and the woman involved would get something heavy strapped to her and also tossed in the ocean.
  5. If you loot a town or ship of anything at all or otherwise harass them when they have paid tribute, you get your head chopped off and your body thrown into the ocean.
  6. If you take shore-leave without permission, you get your head chopped off and body thrown into the ocean.
  7. If you try to leave the organization, you get your head… ha, just kidding, in this case you get your ears chopped off.
  8. Captured ugly women were to be set free unharmed.  Captured pretty women could be divvied up or purchased by members of the Red Flag Fleet.  However, if a pirate was awarded or purchased a pretty woman, he was then considered married to her and was expected to treat her accordingly. If he didn’t, he gets his head cut off and body thrown in the ocean.

Finally, Zheng Shi and her Red Flag Fleet were such a thorn in the Qing emperor’s side that he decided to send the Imperial Navy after her. Read the rest of this entry »


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