The World Today for October 24, 2016
NEED TO KNOW
‘The Return of Correct Thinking’
It’s a heady time for China’s thought leaders.
As WikiLeaks – via Russian hackers, allegedly – exposed Hillary Clinton’s sidelining of Bernie Sanders from within the Democratic Party and Donald Trump keeps hitting new lows, China is doubling down on Marxism.
China is creating a “social credit system” that will score people on Communist Party loyalty, traffic violations, and the health and welfare of their elderly parents, the Washington Post reported.
Authorities will then use that score to determine whether people can afford mortgages, send their children to select schools, start a business or qualify for a specific online dating service.
The newspaper described the motto of the new system, citing a quote from a high-level policy paper: “If trust is broken in one place, restrictions are imposed everywhere.”
The system echoed the government’s push for more pro-Marxist curricula in Chinese universities, a marked contrast from the past few decades of encouraging studies of laissez faire market economics. The Economist labeled the trend as “The return of correct thinking.”
One might argue that Facebook, credit rating agencies and inherited wealth in the West amount to the same system that China uses.
But the outcome is different between the two. Democracy can be ugly. But the freedoms of speech, religion and the press often make up for those flaws.
In China, the party is calling for its propaganda department to work harder.
“The effect of guiding art and literature to serve socialism and the people was not obvious enough, and the news propaganda is not targeted and effective enough,” said a recent party inspection, according to Deutsche Welle.
The ultimate goal, according to the Wall Street Journal, is a power grab masked as an idealized future socialist utopia where the only option is “total loyalty” to Communist rule.
Just before the major party congress Monday, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the Chinese to show their commitment. “In our Long March of today, we must strengthen the party’s leadership, persist with strict party discipline.”
Meanwhile, the Chinese people appear to want to go shopping. A budding industry of “daigou,” or Chinese freelancers, are buying baby formula, skin lotions and other Western products in Australia and then exporting them to China, the BBC reported.
The daigou say they are fulfilling demand and earning more money than if they were, say, working in a restaurant.
The good Marxists in Beijing, meanwhile, are now cracking down on the cross-border online shopping.
WANT TO KNOW
Some of the world’s biggest banks are preparing to move operations out of Britain due to ongoing uncertainty over the United Kingdom’s future relations with the European Union – adding a new cost to the expected financial blow of the UK’s so-called “Brexit.”
“Most international banks now have project teams working out which operations they need to move to ensure they can continue serving customers,” the chief executive of the British Bankers’ Association wrote in the UK’s Observer newspaper.
Such a move would be a serious blow to the British economy, where the financial sector employs more than two million people and makes up almost 12 percent of gross domestic product, Reuters noted.
The kernel of the problem is the so-called “passport” that allowed London-based banks to offer services in the 28 countries of the EU. If Britain fails to negotiate continued access to the single market – which for the EU is linked to the thorny issue of curbing migration – some bankers fear this advantage will be revoked.
Honor and Desperation
Two explosions rocked the Japanese city of Utsunomiya, as an apparent suicide bomber blew himself up and injured three others.
Japanese media reported that a 72-year-old former military officer may have set his house on fire, blown up his car and then killed himself with an explosive device in a nearby park, according to CBS News.
With around 30,000 people taking their own lives every year, Japan has one of the highest suicide rates of any country in the world. After a similar case in 2015, the BBC noted several theories to explain the phenomenon, including the increasing isolation of the elderly and the historical tradition of “honorable suicide,” such as the ritual seppuku of the Samurai warriors or the kamikaze pilots of World War II.
But young people, too, face increasing pressure as steady jobs have given way to short-term contract work. The fastest growing suicide demographic is young males – suicide is already the single biggest killer of men in Japan aged 20-44.
Killing on Deadline
The Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes against the Houthi rebels in Yemen just hours after a temporary 72-hour ceasefire agreement expired Sunday, even as the United Nations special envoy for Yemen had called for the truce to be extended for another 72 hours.
The failure to extend the ceasefire notwithstanding, there were signs that an end to the conflict may be easier to negotiate in Yemen than in Syria, as the warring sides honored the truce enough to allow UN personnel to deliver food and humanitarian supplies to several previously inaccessible areas, Bloomberg reported.
As in Syria, the involvement of outside interests in Yemen has complicated the conflict – with the Saudis backing the Sunni Muslim government and Iran backing the Shiite Houthi rebels.
Tales from the Count’s Crypt
Bran Castle, the 14th-century fortress more famously known as “Dracula’s Castle,” hasn’t had any overnight guests since its owners, the Habsburg royal family, were expelled by Romania’s communist regime nearly 70 years ago.
But on Oct. 31, two people will be permitted to sleep in velvet-trimmed coffins in the count’s crypt. In fact, they’ll spend the night completely alone in the castle secluded in Romania’s Carpathian Mountains as the winners of a promotional contest held by vacation rental site Airbnb.
They’ll be greeted at the Transylvanian castle’s doors by Dacre Stoker, great grandnephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker, and have the chance to tour the castle’s 57 rooms and its labyrinth of dark corridors and lofty towers by daylight.
The guests can even discover a secret passage to a grand dining room where they’ll enjoy a candlelit “blood-enriching meal” prepared exactly as described in Stoker’s novel. Afterwards, they’ll descend to the castle’s crypt and fall asleep to creaks of a Transylvanian night and the sounds of wolves roaming outside, said Airbnb.
The winners must obey some house rules, however: Garlic, silver jewelry and cross-shaped items are strictly forbidden. Mirror selfies are also frowned upon. And there’s no heating or Wi-Fi.
But with organizers hinting that Count Dracula himself might make an appearance, castle guests should have plenty to do even without internet.