November 25, 2021

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Red Halo

CHINA

If communists practiced canonization, Chinese President Xi Jinping would be a candidate for sainthood.

The honchos of the Chinese Communist Party recently “exalted” 68-year-old Xi as a “historical leader” of the country, Axios reported. Only the founder of the people’s republic, Mao Zedong, and the leader who inaugurated China’s successful version of capitalism in the 1980s, Deng Xiaoping, share the same honor.

The anointing occurred during the party’s 100th anniversary. The event had a triumphalist atmosphere. “The Chinese people have shown the world that the Chinese nation has achieved the tremendous transformation from standing up and becoming prosperous to growing strong,” a communique issued after the meeting said.

Since Chinese leaders scrapped a previous two-term limit for presidents in 2018, Xi is now set to claim a third term in office in late 2022, the Washington Post reported. The newspaper cited a heroic profile of Xi in the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece. “Every scientific judgment, every assessment of the situation, every decision to reverse the situation — all needed great political courage and wisdom,” wrote the People’s Daily. “At the helm of this weighty ship was one man.”

But Xi’s China is arguably terrifying, say longtime observers of China.

As the Associated Press explained, the US Holocaust Museum recently issued a report that claimed China was perpetrating crimes against humanity against the Uyghurs, a Muslim ethnic group in Xinjiang. One Radio Free Europe correspondent wondered why the international community was not condemning Xi and China more forcefully for the horrors of Xinjiang’s concentration camps.

China has also deployed mass surveillance technology that uses artificial intelligence, blockchain technology and cloud computing to oppress the Uyghurs, too, Radio Free Asia added.

But totalitarianism can be banal, too. The Atlantic described a recent controversy involving video games to illustrate how Xi exerts social control. Chinese officials have placed limits on youngsters playing too many video games. When a tech company suspected that an online player who self-identified as 60 years old but played at 3 a.m. was really a teenager who was flouting the law, they were able to use facial-recognition software to confirm that the player was indeed a senior.

Meanwhile, Xi dreams of China becoming a great power that dictates global geopolitical and economic conditions rather than one that must follow the US-led international order, argued Harvard University International Affairs Professor Tony Saich in the Guardian. He views the US and the West in decline as China and the East rise. Saich expected more crackdowns in Hong Kong and more interest in merging independent Taiwan with the mainland.

That’s not saintly behavior.

THE WORLD, BRIEFLY

Changing of the Guard

GERMANY

Three German political parties reached an agreement to form a new government Wednesday, with Olaf Scholz of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) set to replace Angela Merkel as chancellor, CNN reported.

The deal came after nearly two months of negotiations following September’s elections, which saw Merkel’s Christian Conservatives lose to the SPD.

The new government will be made up of the center-left SPD, the Green party and the pro-business Free Democrats (FPD) in the country’s first three-party coalition. To become chancellor, Scholz will first have to be elected by parliament in a vote set for early next month. The parties’ rank-and-file also have to formally approve the deal.

Wednesday’s agreement also marks the end of the Merkel era – the chancellor has led Europe’s largest economy for 16 years, according to the Washington Times.

Scholz, who is expected to win the parliamentary vote, will face serious challenges in office, including skyrocketing numbers of Covid-19 cases. Health officials are warning that hospitals in some German states could run out of beds for intensive care patients.

The incoming chancellor will also face diplomatic uncertainty in the European Union, aggression from Russia and Belarus, as well as rule-of-law violations from bloc members Poland and Hungary.

His predecessor is remembered for steering the bloc during its debt and migrant crises as Europe’s top crisis manager. German and EU officials have been speculating as to whether the new chancellor will step up to the role of EU leader – or leave it to someone else.

The Long Way Back

COLOMBIA

Former Colombian officials and rebel leaders welcomed a decision by the United States to remove the former guerilla group, FARC, from a list of terrorist organizations, a move that signals American support for a 2016 fragile peace agreement that ended 52 years of conflict in Colombia, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Officials said the decision will become official on Nov. 30 to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the historic peace deal between the Colombian government and FARC – known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Since its founding in 1964, FARC rebels fought the Colombian government and were responsible for attacks on towns, as well as summary executions and thousands of kidnappings of civilians – including US citizens. The US placed the group on its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 1997.

But after the 2016 peace accord, thousands of fighters laid down their arms, enrolling in schools and working on small farms. Some FARC leaders also became lawmakers, while others have joined a special judicial system investigating crimes committed by combatants.

Former FARC commander, Senator Julian Gallo, thanked the Biden administration for its decision. Even so, the Colombian government has yet to comment on the move.

The removal of the designation will now allow the US to fund programs that include former rebels.

But even as the peace deal enters its fifth year, FARC critics and victims’ families questioned the US move, saying that the former rebels have failed to admit to all their crimes or paid reparations.

No Babies Allowed

UNITED KINGDOM

British politicians demanded a change in parliamentary rules Wednesday after a lawmaker was told she couldn’t bring her baby into the lower house of Parliament, the Associated Press reported.

The controversy began when Labour lawmaker Stella Creasy received a letter from the House of Commons reprimanding her for bringing her three-month-old son to a debate.

Creasy said that she had previously brought her son and her older daughter to Parliament without any issues. However, new parliamentary rules issued in September say that legislators “should not take your seat in the chamber when accompanied by your child.”

The lawmaker criticized the rules, saying that they created “barriers to getting mums involved in politics, and I think that damages our political debate.” Green Party lawmaker Caroline Lucas called the rules “absurd,” adding that babies were “far less disruptive than many braying backbenchers.”

British lawmakers are entitled to paid maternity leave for six months and a proxy vote, but some have said it’s difficult to get funding for adequate maternity cover, according to the BBC.

Following the criticism, House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle asked a parliamentary committee to look into the matter.

DISCOVERIES

Crab Lockdown

Crab mating season is a big thing on Australia’s Christmas Island, according to USA Today.

This month, the entire island went into a “Crab Lockdown” in order to allow millions of red crabs to migrate to the coast to reproduce. Wildlife officials said that major roads and highways were shut down to allow the crustaceans to roam freely.

Many residents and business owners also reported seeing crabs near their storefronts and in their yards.

Despite the inconvenience, the community doesn’t mind and has even contributed to helping the creatures make their way to the beach. One community even built a bridge to help crabs cross a congested road.

The annual migration usually falls between October and November and it is tied to the lunar schedule. Once the crabs reach the coast, they mate with the females to produce eggs which then develop in burrows for a week or so.

The little eggs then emerge during the high tides between the last quarter and the new moon.

Red crabs are mainly found on Christmas Island and their population is believed to be about 50 million.

The annual migration is also an important tourist attraction that draws nature-lovers from all over the world, according to Parks Australia, the organization that manages the country’s six national parks.

COVID-19 Global Update

Total Cases Worldwide: 259,564,121

Total Deaths Worldwide: 5,175,864

Total Vaccinations Worldwide: 7,490,290,010

Countries with the highest number of confirmed cases worldwide as of 4 a.m. ET*

  1. US: 48,091,937 (+0.23%)
  2. India: 34,544,882 (+0.03%)
  3. Brazil: 22,043,112 (+0.06%)
  4. UK: 10,029,005 (+0.43%)
  5. Russia: 9,303,751 (+0.71%)
  6. Turkey: 8,654,142 (+0.32%)
  7. France: 7,586,187 (+0.43%)
  8. Iran: 6,092,822 (+0.08%)
  9. Germany: 5,595,678 (+1.43%)
  10. Argentina: 5,319,867 (+0.04%)

Source: Johns Hopkins University

*Numbers change over 24 hours