The World Today for December 10, 2019

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Cultural Revolution Redux

An Afghan-American teenage girl in New Jersey thought of a novel way to spread the word about China’s treatment of its minority Muslim community in Xinjiang, a remote region in the country’s far northwest. She posed as a makeup artist on the Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok.

“Then you’re going to put (the eyelash curler) down and use your phone … to search up what’s happening in China, how they’re getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there, separating families from each other, kidnapping them, murdering them, raping them, forcing them to eat pork, forcing them to drink (alcohol), forcing them to convert,” said Feroza Aziz, 17, in one of her videos, according to the Guardian.

Aziz recently claimed TikTok deleted her posts. The Beijing-based company denied the allegations.

The surreptitious messaging is one example of how news of the horrors occurring in Xinjiang has leaked into the limelight despite Chinese leaders’ efforts to conceal them. China allegedly has detained around one million ethnic Uighurs, who are Muslim, in camps in the region.

As explained in a National Public Radio story that also includes details about American efforts to condemn the detentions, Chinese leaders claim the camps are education centers designed to help local residents find jobs. But a reporter who visited the facilities called them “political indoctrination camps” where inmates have to repeat community slogans and take classes where they are told their religious beliefs are harmful.

Based on cables leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, human rights observers told the BBC that the Chinese are perpetrating a massive brainwashing scheme that aims to extinguish an entire culture.

Some say it’s a new twist on the Cultural Revolution that began in the mid-1960s, and which was later disavowed by China in the 1980s. Even so, the Uighurs have faced persecution by Chinese authorities for decades.

The International Criminal Court, which investigates war crimes and crimes against humanity, should get involved, argued Azeem Ibrahim, a professor at the US Army War College, in Foreign Policy.

The misuse of technology is key here. In addition to video surveillance and police checkpoints, Chinese researchers are taking Uighurs’ DNA to see if they can use that info to create an image of their faces, the New York Times reported. Critics fear it could empower Chinese officials to expand their campaign of racial profiling and subjection.

So far, old-school journalism appears to have had the best luck at countering the Orwellian use of technology. Reporters have been key in exposing China’s activities.

Some, like Gulchehra Hoja, a Washington-based journalist for Radio Free Asia, have suffered as a result. Chinese officials have thrown her brother in jail, harassed her parents and threatened other family members, she wrote in the Financial Times. Remarkably, her parents have told her to keep working.

Hoja’s parents know that, at this point, the truth will help them more than anything else.




Poor Sport

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia from major international sporting events on Monday as punishment for a series of state-sponsored doping-related offenses and attempts to cover them up, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The four-year ban will prevent Russia from competing in the upcoming summer and winter Olympics and other global events governed by the WADA code.

Russia also won’t be allowed to host any major sporting events as defined by WADA.

The agency previously banned Russia from competing internationally after doping allegations at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics came to light.

Russia was reinstated in the fall of 2018 under the strict condition that they hand over data from the Moscow lab at the heart of the Sochi doping scheme.

The verdict came after WADA investigators discovered fabrications in the laboratory data provided by Russia’s Anti-Doping Agency earlier this year.

“The Moscow data (was) neither complete nor fully authentic,” WADA said in a statement.

Russia has rejected accusations of state-sponsored doping and has vowed to appeal the decision.

Despite the ban, Russian athletes who pass WADA requirements can compete in global events as neutrals.


Enshrining Discrimination

Hundreds of protesters rallied in the streets of northeastern India Monday to oppose a proposed bill by the Indian government that would offer amnesty to non-Muslim illegal immigrants from three neighboring countries, the BBC reported.

The controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) seeks to provide citizenship to persecuted religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

The ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) argued that the law will protect minorities, but critics fear it attempts to marginalize the Muslim minority in India.

Meanwhile, the new law violates the constitution which prohibits religious discrimination against its citizens, opponents said.

The passage of the bill will be a test for BJP government which has a majority in the lower house but falls short in the upper house of parliament.

The lower house has passed the bill, but the latter needs to be ratified by both houses to become law.

In 2016, the CAB failed to become law after an upper house rejection due to anti-migrant protests in northeastern India.


A Vacuum

Lebanese businessman Samir Khatib withdrew his candidacy to become the country’s prime minister earlier this week, leading to speculations that former Prime Minister Saad Hariri might return to his job, Al Jazeera reported.

Khatib declared that he failed to receive enough backing from the Sunni Muslim establishment for the position, forcing President Michel Aoun to postpone a decision on a new prime minister to Dec. 16.

Hariri resigned on Oct. 29 following mass protests over the country’s severe economic crisis, which has been blamed on Lebanon’s ruling elite.

Following Khatib’s announcement, protesters denounced the potential return of Hariri – who officially withdrew his candidacy to be prime minister last month.

Hariri still serves as the country’s caretaker prime minister until a replacement can be found.

He previously said that he would return as prime minister only if he could lead a technocratic government to satisfy demonstrators.

His proposals have been rejected by groups including Hezbollah and Aoun, who insist that the government must include politicians.


Enter Sandman

A bad dream is an unsettling experience but it may have certain benefits, according to a new study.

The researchers proposed that individuals experiencing moderately frightening dreams may react better to scary situations when awake, the BBC reported.

Scientists scanned the brains of 18 subjects to analyze how the emotions experienced during dreams were linked with feelings during waking hours.

They also studied the diaries of more than 80 people who kept a record of their dreams.

Researchers found that when a person woke up from an unpleasant dream, the brain region that controlled their response to fear was more active. This suggests that the person would be more prepared to face something that frightens them during their waking lives.

“Dreams may be considered as a real training for our future reactions and may potentially prepare us to face real-life dangers,” said co-author Lampros Perogamvros.

The authors added, however, that a very scary nightmare will actually cause a “negative impact” that can continue after waking.

The study shows that there’s a strong correlation between the emotions people feel in both sleep and wakefulness.

The team hopes that dreams could be used as a form of therapy to treat anxiety disorders.

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