Tags: Children, Culture, Society, today's thoughts
Actually, thought about this today. That it’s important …
Have often thought about that it’s important to give children a good foundation, a history lesson and a cultural background to stand upon that tells them about different enlightened persons who have come to earth through the ages, to guide people on how to be a good person. A good human being is the message that they have had. A person with high morals and who is thinking of others first, a person that is compassionate, merciful and good.
So play some beautiful traditional Christmas music for the kids at Christmas, talk about the birth and life of Jesus and hold a nice, harmonious and somewhat solemn atmosphere in the home for them to remember later in life
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
“Vast state financial resources have been used for a long time to persecute a spiritual group with many believers throughout China and the world. This is a barbarity indeed rarely seen in the history of mankind. A lawyer who does not stand up for their defense and uphold justice is not a real lawyer.” So wrote prominent mainland Chinese lawyer Guo Lianhui on his microblog on Dec. 7. His statement is also one indeed rarely seen in China, where defending Falun Gong, the spiritual group referred to by Guo, can be met with severe punishment.
Falun Gong is a qigong practice that became extremely popular in China during the 1990s before the Chinese regime launched a nationwide persecution in 1999.
Guo continued his post by explaining that some of the core charges used against Falun Gong—that it’s a “heterodox religion,” or in the commonly rendered translation of the Chinese term, an “evil cult,”–lack any legal basis. The labels are “obviously not legally binding, nor can they be used on a legal basis,” Guo said.
Guo made himself internationally known in 2010 when he characterized a proposed Chinese law that sought to permit local governments to seize business or private property at will as, “If the local government can make a law regardless of the Constitution, then why is there a Constitution?”
In his blog this month, Guo expressed with certainty, “Falun Gong is not a cult and even existing Chinese law does not label Falun Gong as a cult.”
In an attempt to codify the persecution of Falun Gong and other religious groups, Chinese authorities drafted an article 300 in the People’s Republic of China’s Criminal Law, which refers to “the crime of organizing and utilizing a cult organization in undermining implementation of law.”
The basis of this law has been rejected by legal analysts, however. Yiyang Xia, the senior director of policy and research at the Human Rights Law Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., writes that “The Chinese government never legally banned Falun Gong and there is, in fact, no law on the books prohibiting this religious practice.”
Guo, the Chinese lawyer, said in his post that Falun Gong practitioners distributing literature about the persecution of their faith in China is not breaking the law, either.
Guo said that he has received pressure from Chinese judicial authorities to stop defending Falun Gong. He said that he believes defending the innocent is the charge of the attorney.
Editor’s Note: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands—the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution—is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing to participate in the persecution any longer. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.
Related Articles: Persecution of Falun Gong Softening, Says Chinese Lawyer
Tags: archaeology, Culture, environmental issues, Society, sustainable development, today's thoughts
There has been much speculation and even some scaremongering going on about the Mayan calendar, but it’s nothing to worry about. The biggest threat is probably ourselves and how we treat our planet …
When it’s time to move into the fifth solar cycle we’ll see what happens. I think it will be a transition to something else, something better in the long run. But if we want it to happen, man must stop destroying his habitat and raising his moral …
I’m posting some links that I think are worth reading and is explaining a bit more about the Mayan calendar. Click on the headline to get access to the article.
By Alex Johnston
Epoch Times Staff
2012 doomsday prediction? The Dec. 21, 2012 date is likely wrong for the end of the Mayan calendar, a professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara said.
The calendar, which was created thousands of years ago by the Mayan civilization in Central America, stops at the Gregorian date of December 21, 2012. Many people have speculated that catostrophic events could occur when the date comes, which the Roland Emmerich film detailed in 2012.
Professor Gerardo Aldana, an associate professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara, said that the date could be inaccurate by 50 to 100 years or even more.
By Belinda McCallum
Epoch Times Staff
Ninth-century hieroglyphs painted by a Mayan scribe in Guatemala are records of lunar and perhaps planetary cycles, forming the oldest known Mayan calendar.
The city of Xultún was discovered almost a century ago in the remote rainforest of the Petén region and covers 12 square miles. It was once home to many thousands of people, and monuments were constructed from the first centuries B.C. Only 56 structures have been counted and mapped among thousands more.
Epoch Times Staff
A second reference to the Mayan December 2012 prophecy has been publicized, and is carved on a piece of brick found at Comalcalco in southern Mexico.
Previously, only one ancient glyph has been referred to on a stone tablet at nearby Tortuguero.
Known as the Comalcalco brick, the inscription is about 1,300 years old, and is thought to have been laid facing inward or concealed with stucco, implying it was not meant to be seen.
Tags: Body & Mind, Food, health
How to cook beans, chick peas and lentils: Another good way to stop flatus from beans, chick peas and lentils is to first cook them for 5-10 minutes, pour out the water, add new water and when 10 minutes is left to cook them you add salt.
Do you suffer from chronic abdominal pain, bloating, gas, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and constipation? If so, there’s a good chance the diagnosis is irritable bowel syndrome IBS.
This condition is one of the most commonly diagnosed problems in North America. However, most people are treating it the wrong way, destroying their bowels with laxatives. It’s smarter to use natural therapy.
Dr. Linda Lee, professor of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins University, says that when patients complain of IBS symptoms, she first rules out serious disease such as stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, and bowel malignancies. These more serious problems are more likely to be present if patients also complain of weight loss, being wakened by pain, or seeing blood in the stool.
Dr. Lee usually starts treatment by cutting out foods that may be difficult to process and are upsetting the GI tract. For instance, some people may be sensitive to even small amounts of gas production.
As we get older, the body manufactures less lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, a carbohydrate present in milk products. These unabsorbed carbohydrates reach the colon where bacteria ferment them and produce gas. This solution, cutting down on milk products, can make a huge impact on abdominal discomfort.
Lee adds that if lactose intolerance isn’t the problem, she then checks to see if the symptoms are due to celiac disease, an allergy to gluten. This protein is present in many grains.
The GI tract can also have difficulty absorbing other carbohydrates such as fructose. Patients with this problem should avoid soda and packaged goods such as cookies.
Do you love beans but know they are notorious for producing large amounts of flatus? So you make a point of saying “no” to beans, fearing that you might expel flatus at a most inconvenient time? If that’s the case, there’s a unique way to circumvent this embarrassment.
Dr. Lee says that beans contain raffinose. It’s the culprit for such eruptions. But she adds that beans are a healthy food and that there’s no reason to remove them from your diet. Rather, there’s a simple way to destroy the gas beans produce. Just soak beans in water with a little baking soda. This draws out the raffinose. Then toss out the water.
Have you ever wondered why mints are traditionally offered after meals? She says the best natural one is peppermint. Artificially flavored mint candy won’t work, but peppermint oil supplements may help IBS patients.
What about the use of friendly probiotic bacteria? Studies show that some people are helped by this approach. But there are so many unregulated products on the market that it’s hard to assess their effectiveness.
Yogurt contains organisms that may ease symptoms and is a good alternative to probiotic bacteria. In fact, yogurt can be taken by those suffering from lactose intolerance, as it contains bacteria that break down lactose.
Lee is also an advocate of mind-body therapy, as many patients with IBS suffer from anxiety and depressive disorders. She reports that there is some evidence that biofeedback, acupuncture, and listening to relaxing CDs used during hypnosis can help to tame an uptight bowel.
There is no doubt that anxiety has a major effect on bowel function. On one occasion, Napoleon Bonaparte required a soldier for a dangerous assignment. The story goes that he ordered several soldiers to face a firing squad. He chose the one who, in the face of death, showed no tendency to move his bowels.
In our pill-plagued society, I’m in favor of anything that circumvents medication and poses no risk. But remember to see your doctor when you notice a change in bowel habits.
Some people leave this planet prematurely because they want to believe bleeding with a bowel movement is due to hemorrhoids. But it could be a bowel malignancy. Never procrastinate when problems occur. Saying you’ll do it “one of these days” usually means none of these days.
Tags: Body & Mind, Children, psychology, technology
Physical therapy moves to the cloud under the Fifth Element project
The ambitious Fifth Element project aims to support the more than 60 million people who suffer from autism by using none other than the Microsoft Kinect, originally designed for video games on the Xbox 360.
The Fifth Element project is being led by Italian Ingenium, a four-man team with a passion for technology. Their project is already being used in rehabilitation centers, and is poised to spread across the globe in the next several months.
Kinect is a player-recognition system. Resembling a large webcam, the Kinect is placed on top of a television set and detects a player’s movements, which can then be used as commands for a video game. Yet, thanks to Web-based remote assistance services, even those who cannot physically access a rehabilitation center can learn and undergo therapy using Kinect.
“It’s a simple idea, and we can immediately see its potential impact on people,” said Matteo Valoriani, a 26-year-old student at Politecnico di Milano (Polytechnic University of Milan), and a creator of the Fifth Element project.
Matteo came up with the idea in December 2011 during a friendly chat with a friend who works in physical therapy. The friend told him how difficult it was for rehabilitation centers to meet with autistic children in need.
Specialized technology for similar purposes is very expensive. Yet, with Fifth Element, all that’s needed is a television, an Xbox 360, and a Kinect. The program itself is also simple, creating an interactive platform with standard images, voice, and text.
Each game and activity is developed with a specific therapy in mind.
Every game can be directly customized by the therapist to use different features and different levels of difficulty. The therapist can also change settings for the game remotely while interacting with the child over the Internet and from anywhere in the world.
After a session is completed, it can be saved so that parents can reuse it with their child on their own time.
“We are working to allow the child to see the therapist on screen real time, and they can interact on the screen thanks to the Kinect,” said Valoriani.
The Fifth Element project won the July Health Awareness Award during the Microsoft Imagine Cup 2012, out of 350 students from more than 200 countries. Willing the first prize at the competition in Australia helped the team get global attention for the new concept.
Connecting with the Kinect
The Fifth Element also gives autistic children the opportunity to connect with other autistic children—children who are often isolated from others. Controlling the game is also simple, since it’s based on actual movements. “It doesn’t seem like you are having control of an object,” Valoriani said. “It seems like you are the object.”
The game creates virtual characters that children can recognize as their digital avatars, and they can use the avatars to develop relationships with other children. “In some cases, it happens that the child teaches another child how to play,” said Valoriani, who is noticeably pleased with the results.
While the system is built to allow interaction regardless of distance, it can also be used by two children in the same room, or at a rehabilitation center under the supervision of the therapist.
Parents also have a level of control. They can update the statistics on the child’s progress, which the therapist can use as notes for the next treatment. The data is saved for other doctors who may do therapy for the child.
At the center of Benedetta d’Intino of Milan and the association Astrolabio, doctors have welcomed the experiments and have helped refine the system through feedback. Much of this refinement is used to improve interactive activities and to quickly develop new games.
The system’s custom platform, Azure, gets better every week, and its uses are already being considered for uses in other fields—including in education.
Valoriani says the name, Fifth Element, is based on the ancient theory of the five elements that constitute the world.
“We happen to live in a world where we have more technology than we need,” said Valoriani. “In the past, research was done until there was a realization that a project could move no further due to technological boundaries. Today it is totally different—we have the technology, but we don’t know how to use it.”
Tags: CCP, China, Gao Zhisheng, human rights, human rights lawyers, persecution of dissidents, Society
A letter purporting to be from Gao Zhisheng, the well-known Chinese human rights lawyer detained for defending persecuted groups in China, was sent to family members recently, saying that they should not visit him in the remote province of Xinjiang. But the note has raised suspicions, with relatives convinced that Gao didn’t actually write it.
Gao’s family told The Epoch Times that the letter—received on the eve of the 18th National Party Congress in November—was inscribed with two red wax thumbprints. It merely said “hello to each family member,” but maintained they should not visit, making them more worried for his safety. His brothers said they would visit him by the end of the year.
“After receiving this letter, it made us more nervous and doubtful,” Gao’s wife, Geng He, told The Epoch Times. “His elder brother felt uneasy since he had never seen the thumbprints before and said they were very unusual.”
“In the past, we have always contacted each other by telephone and rarely by letter.” His brother has never seen Gao Zhisheng’s handwriting, so he can’t tell whether the letter really is from him, she added.
Gao has been detained several times by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), but last disappeared in early 2009. One of his brothers said he received a document early this year, saying that Gao was detained in Xinjiang.
Gao renounced the CCP in 2005 and, after writing about and defending cases involving practitioners of the persecuted Falun Gong meditation discipline, was continually harassed by Chinese security forces before being detained and severely tortured.
On Dec. 22, 2006, Gao was given a suspended prison sentence of three years for allegedly “inciting subversion of state power.” He and his family were placed under house arrest, before his wife and children fled China in 2009 to reside in the United States.
Gao has been subjected to torture and other human rights abuses while in detention, and wrote an open letter in 2007 exposing some of this misconduct by his captors. Sun Yong, a member of the Chinese Human Rights Protection Group, said Gao is “said to often be abused” because he “understands the nature of the Communist Party, and thus suffers the most suppression.”
Geng He, Gao’s wife, maintains that Chinese Communist authorities are afraid Gao’s family would tell the international community of his situation if they visited him, which is why the letter appeared saying Gao did not want to see them.
She added that Gao Zhiyi, his brother, has continually told the Yulin City Public Security Bureau, located in Shaanxi Province—where Gao is from—that he wanted to see his brother in detention. Specifically, Gao Zhiyi told Chinese authorities he would visit during the 18th National Party Congress period, and “that is why authorities manipulated this letter and sent it to Gao Zhiyi,” preventing him from doing so, Geng He said.
“The authorities have never allowed us to see Gao Zhisheng; we are very anxious about his safety,” Gao Zhiyi told The Epoch Times.
“The [Chinese regime] has said that we can only see him with an approval document issued by the local police station,” he said, adding that the family would still attempt to visit him despite the length and cost of the trip.
Repeated Visitation Refusals
When Bo Xilai was removed as Communist Party head of Chongqing on March 15, Gao’s family got a phone call from the authorities that day, saying they could visit him, provided they did not tell anyone. Gao Zhiyi and his father-in-law were only allowed to visit Gao Zhisheng in the Shaya Prison in Xinjiang for a half-hour, after spending two years apart not knowing whether he was still alive, Geng He told The Epoch Times.
But she said that since March, no one in his family has been able to see her husband. She again turned to authorities in Europe and the United States to place pressure on the Chinese regime and allow visitation rights.
In August, Gao’s family lawyers, Beijing lawyers Li Xiongbing and Li Subin, attempted to meet with him, but were turned away.
The authorities declined visitation, saying Gao Zhisheng was himself a high-level lawyer and did not need legal representation, that the letter sent by his brother Gao Zhiyi did not meet the authorities’ requirements, and that Gao did not actually want to meet with his family or lawyers—a narrative that the recent missive appears designed to support.
Read the original Chinese article.
Related Articles: Imprisoned Chinese Lawyer Gao ‘Is Not Forgotten’
Tags: astronomy, Science
Over the past few months our planet has been impacted by an increasing number of solar explosions that have erupted from the sun’s surface.
Even though next year’s predicted solar maximum–the period of greatest activity in the sun’s 11-year cycle–is expected to be smaller than its predecessor a decade ago, the impact on society over the coming months could be worse than in the past.
The main reason for this is that there has been an increase in society’s dependence on space-based services that are severely influenced by these disturbances.
The effect that space weather has on our everyday lives resides in our reliance on technology, in particular electricity grids, radio communications and satellite-based services.
While our reliance on electric power is obvious, our reliance on radio communications may not be.
By “radio communications” I don’t just mean walkie-talkies and two-way radios. Military organizations around the world, including Australia’s defense forces, heavily utilize ground-based radar surveillance for routine border protection, and have done so since the end of the second world war.
An additional aspect of our current technology that is strongly influenced by space weather events is satellite communications. This not only includes both satellite phones and TV broadcasting, but also satellite positioning services, such as the Global Positioning System (GPS).
The direct effects of space weather events on our satellite communications are twofold:
1) Satellites are subjected to high radiation doses from the space environment that can cause hardware faults and failures.
2) Satellite-transmitted radio signals are manipulated by the layer of partially ionized gas in Earth’s upper atmosphere–the ionosphere.
One example in which satellites succumbed to the sun’s wrath was the loss of two Canadian telecommunications satellites that were subjected to an intense geomagnetic disturbance in 1994. The satellites were replaced at a cost of about US$400 million.
Earth’s ionosphere is a dominant source of error in GPS positioning due to its effects on radio signals passing through the atmosphere. The commercial “SATNAVs”, and more recently smartphones, that people commonly use for navigation across town are accurate to within a few tens of meters, and therefore a drop in accuracy using these devices during geomagnetic storms may not be obvious.
But industries that conduct high-precision (centimeter-level) positioning operations, such as surveying and exploration mining, are strongly impacted by space weather disturbances.
Drag and Drop
A less direct space weather effect on our technological infrastructure is the dramatically increased level of atmospheric drag experienced by low-Earth orbiting satellites as the upper atmosphere swells due to the increased heating during geomagnetic storms.
Low-Earth orbit satellites reside (generally speaking) at altitudes lower than 2,000km and a large portion of those are Earth Observation Satellites (or EOS for short).
Many Australians would be unaware of how much our government departments and organizations rely on EOS in their day-to-day operations. The Federal Government spends about A$100 million per year on EOS data acquisition.
The services provided with this data contribute A$3.3 billion towards the annual Australian gross domestic product (GDP). This means the government gets more than a 30-fold return on its EOS data investment, despite not owning any EOS currently in orbit.
So even though Australia owns very few orbiting satellites, its economy is actually rather heavily reliant on space-based services.
An example of the adverse impact that satellite data gaps have on Australia is the LANDSAT EOS data loss due to retiring and malfunctioning satellites.
This costs Australia an estimated A$100 million in the first year–the federal government’s entire yearly investment–with flow-on effects expected in subsequent years until replacements are launched.
Lost in Space
Readers may remember back to 1989 when a large geomagnetic storm destroyed power transformers in Canada, and caused widespread blackouts and circuit trips across Northern America.
But one problem caused by this geomagnetic storm that was far less publicized at the time was that around 1,500 orbiting objects were completely lost by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Composing the vast majority of these lost objects were space debris or “space junk”.
The rest were operational satellites worth millions of dollars. One of the lost objects was later found to be orbiting at an altitude 30km lower than it was prior to the storm. It took NORAD more than seven days to find all of the objects again and to resume normal operations.
From the LANDSAT example above, it is easy to see how vulnerable the Australian economy is to the loss of EOS, due to collisions with space debris, in particular during the days following a large geomagnetic disturbance.
Space weather prediction is a challenging task that a number of organizations around the world specialize in. Those organizations include, but are not limited to, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in the USA, the Solar Influences Data Analysis Center in Belgium and the Australian Space Forecast Center–the space weather branch within the Bureau of Meteorology.
The importance of the work these organizations do is significantly increasing as we become more heavily reliant on technology into the future.
It is therefore important that space scientists and space weather forecasters internationally remain focused on studying these impacts in the context of providing accurate forecasts for individuals and industries that rely on these technologies.
The next solar maximum will be a testing time.
This article was originally published by The Conversation.
Related Articles: Huge Sunquakes Triggered by Solar Eruptions
Tags: Body & Mind, health, Nature, psychology, Science, sustainable development
If you want to improve your creative thinking, it might be good advice to take a hike.
Researchers from the University of Utah and the University of Kansas discovered that people scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after hiking in the wilderness for four days without cell phones or other electronics.
“This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been formally demonstrated before,” said study co-author David Strayer in a press release.
“It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature.”
The 56 study participants went on hiking trips during which no electronics were allowed. Twenty-four of them took the creativity test before starting the trip, and 32 were tested during the trip after four days of backpacking.
The creativity test involved answering word association questions. On average, those who took the test after hiking answered 6.08 of the 10 questions correctly, while the ones who hadn’t hiked yet only answered 4.14 of the 10 correctly.
The results didn’t make it clear whether the hikers benefited from exposure to nature, a break from technology, or both. Many studies have shown the benefits of being in nature, and it could be that the outdoor environment had a beneficial effect.
“It’s equally plausible that it is not multitasking to wits’ end that is associated with the benefits,” said Strayer.
The part of the brain thought to be used for creative thinking gets tired from constantly multitasking with technology. A vacation from computers and phones may have been just what the participants needed.
“Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention,” explained the researchers. “By contrast, natural environments are associated with gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish.”
The research was published in the journal PLOS ONE on Dec. 12.
Related Articles: Daydreaming Can Find Solutions to Complex Problems
Tags: books, CCP, China, human rights, Kilgour and Matas, organ harvesting, persecution of dissidents
JERUSALEM—On a recent trip to Jerusalem, lawyer and human rights activist David Matas was in town for merely 48 hours, but still made time for an interview after a long day of meetings. His deep well of energy seems to come in part from his enthusiastic commitment to fighting for human rights.
In 2009 Matas, a Canadian, co-authored Bloody Harvest: Organ Harvesting of Falun Gong Practitioners in China with David Kilgour, a former Canadian secretary of state. The book was an updated and extended version of a 2006 report under the same title that horrified the world with its revelations of systematic murder for huge profits from organ transplant sales by China’s medical community. Among other revelations, it established the veracity of allegations that disappeared Falun Gong practitioners were being murdered for the price of their organs.
Each year in China 1,000 death row prisoners are killed for their organs … 500 come from Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Eastern Lightning House Christians, and 8,000 come from Falun Gong practitioners.
Illegal organ transplants from donors of unknown origin purchased for huge sums by foreign patients remains a major human rights crisis in China. Without a national system for voluntary organ donation, China mysteriously has a tremendous number of readily available organs for transplant available on demand. According to research done by the Falun Dafa Information Center (FDIC), of the tens of thousands of organ transplants performed in China annually, records of voluntary donations only number in the hundreds.
That means Matas’s work is far from done.
Having spent the last few years building interest in the subject through “Bloody Harvest” and connecting with professionals in the medical transplant community, Matas published this year a second book on the topic, State Organs: Transplant Abuse in China. He co-edited the book with Dr. Torsten Trey, the founding member and executive director of Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH). The book is a collection of 12 essays by authors from four continents.
Matas is also the author of other books on topics that include anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism, as well as Nazi war criminals in Canada. But his two most recent books on illegal organ harvesting in China target a very specific—and urgent—problem.
“What I found was a real community of concern among the transplant profession,” Matas said of bringing together authors for the essays in his new book. He adds that part of that concern stems from the impact that China’s unethical transplant practices have on the worldwide transplant community’s reputation—sometimes impacting funding efforts.
Matas, who travels frequently for both his work as a lawyer and a human rights activist, says he constantly multi-tasks on different issues he is involved with. He sees publishing the new book on organ harvesting as “another way to get the message across.”
His sense of urgency around the issue is well-founded. According to estimates from research he and others have done, each year in China 1,000 death row prisoners are killed for their organs, 500 transplants come from living donor relatives, 500 come from Uyghurs, Tibetans, and Eastern Lightning House Christians, and 8,000 come from Falun Gong practitioners.
To this end, the book’s essays examine China’s systematic abuse of medicine for illegal organ transplants. It includes pieces by Arthur L. Caplan, head of the Division of Bioethics at the New York University Langone Medical Center; Jacob Lavee, director of the Heart Transplantation Unit at Sheba Medical Center in Israel; Gabriel Danovitch, Medical Director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program at UCLA’s School of Medicine; and more than a dozen others.
One key point Matas wants to make with the new book is that the desire to stop organ harvesting is much bigger than he and his past co-author. “Both David Kilgour and I are not young, (and) are both doing other things,” said Matas. “It [fighting against organ harvesting] cannot rest with us. The message of this book is that the constituency is bigger than us.”
One aim Matas has in continuing to raise the issue is that individual countries will enact legislation to make it either required for doctors to report a patient who got a transplant overseas or for governments to prosecute individuals who got such an operation illegally. So far, attempts at such legislation have been limited, but Israel is one of the few countries where restrictions do exist.
What I found was a real community of concern among the transplant profession.
—David Matas, editor ‘State Organs’
The Israeli Organ Transplant Law forbids transplant tourism (the practice of patients traveling overseas to get organs from foreign donors) from Israel. The law also promotes national self-sufficiency in organ donation. The enactment of the law was a direct result of “Bloody Harvest.”
Today, Matas sees the best place for pressure to come from is inside the transplant profession itself. That includes working on getting the World Medical Association to evict the Chinese Medical Association (CMA). But progress so far is slow, since the CMA consists of every type of medical professional in China, not just those involved in transplants.
“If the transplant professionals in China stopped doing [illegal organ harvesting], that would end it,” he said. “The [transplant] profession [inside and outside of China], through peer pressure, can stop it.”
In the meantime, Matas continues to focus on promoting his new book, which is close to selling out its first print run. He is also encouraging those who read it and others who hear about the issue of organ harvesting in China to “do what they can do.”
“Write a letter, talk to a neighbor, go to a rally,” he said of efforts that individuals can make. “What you’re dealing with is human rights—so you don’t know who it’s going to hit and when.”
As for putting others in the spotlight with his new publication, Matas believes by taking on more on more of a supporting role, it will actually benefit the issue.
“People will say, ‘I saw you on TV, but I can’t remember what you said,’” notes Matas of his work since his 2009 book and the many subsequent congressional hearings, public rallies, and events he took part in to speak on the issue. “Other people need to be involved.”
With additional reporting by Matthew Robertson
Tags: Society, today's thoughts
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
A Chinese Catholic bishop–ordained by the Vatican as the auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in the summer–had his official title taken away by the Chinese Communist Party, drawing the ire of Catholic associations and the Holy See.
Thaddeus Ma Daqin has not been seen since July, when he was placed on house arrest after publicly resigning from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), an entity that the Vatican does not recognize, according to Catholic news websites.
“Yes, he has been removed,” a spokesman with the Shanghai branch of the CPCA told the AFP news agency, without elaborating further.
Ma was the first Catholic bishop to publicly quit the CPCA. He said his ordination could no longer be part of the CPCA, drawing applause from the congregation.
Ma was later placed under investigation, and officials said he was “resting.”
Savio Hon Tai-fai, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Archbishop, described Ma’s title removal by the CPCA and the official Bishops’ Conference of China as an “abuse of power,” reported the Catholic news service AsiaNews.it.
“This so-called ‘Bishops’ Conference has never been recognized by the Holy See,” Savio Hon told the website.
“No conference in the world has the power to appoint or remove a bishop, least of all this ‘so-called’ conference, which is not recognized by the pope,” he added. “This is a clear case of abuse of authority. Anyone involved in this act will have to explain why they have decided to cause such harm to the Church and the communion of the Church, both in China and in the world.”
A spokesman with the Vatican said he is deeply worried about Ma’s current situation, and the apparent abuse of power carried out by Chinese authorities.
Related Articles: Vatican-Named Bishop Goes Missing in China
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
The Real Hu Jintao Stands Up
Since then, much ink has been spilled about who is the real Hu. At the 18th Party Congress held last month, Hu gave his final answer: Hu Jintao is a loyal adherent of the CCP who always put the Party’s interests first.
Only in the last few months of his tenure did Hu Jintao seem to emerge from out of the shadows of the previous Party head, Jiang Zemin. In any case, prior to the Party Congress, Hu Jintao was undoubtedly in charge, and in the Congress’s conclusion, Hu’s handiwork was put on display.
At the Congress’s first plenum on Nov. 15, the new members of the Politburo Standing Committee—the seven men who run China—were announced.
Some people were surprised that candidates they believed could bring positive change to China were not selected. Some were disappointed that those who were selected included hard-line communist ideologists, a propaganda czar, and a North Korea-trained bureaucrat.
The source of the respective surprise and disappointment is the hope that people in China and the West had continued to invest in Hu Jintao, right up until the end of his reign.
Who Is Hu?
Hu Jintao, as is common with those of his generation, grew up witnessing the brutality of the communist rule of China. Hu’s father died in depression and disgrace after he was accused and jailed as a capitalist during the Great Cultural Revolution.
Twenty-five years ago, Hu tried to invite the local officials of his hometown to a dinner so his father’s case could be reassessed and name rehabilitated. None of them came.
Hu must be very grateful that the Party did not hold his father’s case against him, but instead trusted him with all kinds of important positions: chairman of the All-China Youth Federation, general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Youth League of China, Party chief of Tibet, and most recently, secretary general of the Party and chairman of China.
Like many in today’s China, Hu Jintao must have developed Stockholm syndrome, a psychological condition in which the victim develops an emotional bond with a perpetrator who, while holding the power of life and death over the victim, shows the victim what he or she takes to be kindness.
Acting out of such pathological gratitude, Hu has never disappointed the Party. When he was the Party chief in Tibet, he wore a helmet and stood up in a tank, taking a position in the front lines of the crackdown he had ordered on the Tibetans. Hundreds of Tibetans are said to have been killed.
Ruling in Fear
Despite wishful thinking in both China and the West about what Hu might do, he contributed little to change China into a modern civil society.
Hu Jintao probably never developed ownership of the Party he putatively led because of his family origin. He always feared making a wrong move and being perceived as disloyal to the Party.
Like many in today’s China, Hu Jintao must have developed Stockholm syndrome.
Hu witnessed what had happened to Jiang Zemin’s predecessor, Zhao Ziyang, who was held under house arrest for decades after he refused to support the Party’s massacre of the pro-democracy students in Tiananmen Square.
He also saw what happened to Zhao’s predecessor, Hu Yaobang, who died soon after being removed in disgrace and humiliation after advocating independent thinking. Both were Party chiefs at the time of their demotion.
Hu therefore learned his lesson and stayed carefully within the Party line. He basically made no effort to change and every effort to maintain Party policies.
During his tenure, the brutal persecution of Falun Gong practitioners that his predecessor Jiang Zemin initiated in 1999 has continued until this very day. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, millions of practitioners have been detained and tortured, thousands killed by torture and abuse, and tens of thousands killed through forced, live organ harvesting.
Hu followed Jiang’s strategy of nipping in the bud any potential threat to the regime’s power by the use of any means necessary. As a result, Hu’s cost of creating a “harmonious society” was very high. In 2011, the Chinese regime spent more on internal security (US$110 billion) than on national defense (US$106 billion).
Consider the results of this spending: The number of mass incidents—large-scale protests or riots against the regime—has gone up rapidly. In 2005, the last year for which there are official statistics, the regime recorded 87,000 mass incidents. According to professor Sun Liping of Tsinghua University there were 180,000 mass incidents in 2010. Other estimates are much higher.
During Hu’s 10-year tenure, China’s economy eventually showed how unsustainable it is. Labor costs have risen, natural resources have been depleted, buildings and houses have been overbuilt, environmental pollution has become more and more extreme, and the quality of goods has become poorer.
Hu’s core belief in communist ideology has made business people and wealthy families nervous. The exodus of the wealthy fleeing China is exploding. Nearly half of China’s millionaires are thinking about leaving the country, while 14 percent have been or are in the process of applying for emigration, according to a Hurun Research Institute and Bank of China report.
Hu, however, did one thing that won him praise from the public and even from the West: He did not hold onto power for an additional two years as head of the military as his predecessor Jiang Zemin did.
Hu hardly deserves credit for this. He retired because he had to. He was never able to establish himself as the paramount leader as Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin did. All in all, he was only a humble servant to the Party, never good enough to rule the Party.
Expelling Bo Xilai
Hu Jintao was selected by Deng Xiaoping because of his proven loyalty to the Party’s interests. After Wang Lijun, Bo Xilai’s police chief in Chongqing, attempted to defect in February, Hu learned of a coup Bo Xilai was plotting to seize power after the 18th Party Congress. This discovery gave Hu the ammunition he needed to take Bo down.
However, Hu was already at odds with Bo because of Bo’s behavior in ruling Chongqing.
Hu did not oppose Bo because Bo started a Mao-style social and political campaign in Chongqing, but because Bo’s actions broke the code of behavior of Party officials, which is to follow instructions from the top.
Hu expelled Bo from the Party and decided to subject him to a criminal trial because Bo was a threat to the stability of the Party leadership.
Hu’s Political Testament
In Hu Jintao’s official farewell, his opening speech to the 18th Party Congress, he gave clear political instructions to the next leadership: no return to a closed Maoist society, which would lead to the demise of communist rule as happened in other parts of the world, and no embrace of democracy and political freedom either, which would mean the end of the one-party dictatorship.
Hu Jintao could not bring new life to the Communist Party.
Hu did his best to protect the regime’s interests and keep the angry masses from having a revolution. He succeeded, even if just barely.
In his first public appearance after retirement, Hu once again expressed his loyalty to the Party by visiting the site of the Zunyi Conference. During the Long March, the CCP Politburo met in January 1935 in the city of Zunyi in Guizhou Province in southwestern China.
Recent military defeats had intensified an ongoing struggle for power within the Party. The result of the meeting was that Mao triumphed and left ready to take over military command and become the leader of the Communist Party.
Hu Jintao was paying homage to the beginning of the line of dictators that he obediently continued for 10 years.
However, everyone, including Hu, knows the Chinese regime is in crisis. Hu could not bring new life to the Communist Party, but he did prolong its process of dying.
Now it is the turn of Xi Jianping, Hu’s successor. Xi and his team are scrambling to find ways to keep the old monstrosity going while the clock keeps ticking.
Michael Young, a Chinese-American writer based in Washington, D.C., writes on China and the Sino-U.S. relationship.
Editor’s Note: When Chongqing’s former top cop, Wang Lijun, fled for his life to the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu on Feb. 6, he set in motion a political storm that has not subsided. The battle behind the scenes turns on what stance officials take toward the persecution of Falun Gong. The faction with bloody hands—the officials former CCP head Jiang Zemin promoted in order to carry out the persecution—is seeking to avoid accountability for their crimes and to continue the campaign. Other officials are refusing any longer to participate in the persecution. Events present a clear choice to the officials and citizens of China, as well as people around the world: either support or oppose the persecution of Falun Gong. History will record the choice each person makes.
Tags: CCP, China, human rights, persecution of dissidents, Society
The Chinese Communist Party says it’s considering a new internal guideline that would prevent the more ostentatious displays of privilege that are often enjoyed by cadres as they execute their duties and travel the land: masses of visitors to greet and send them off, flower bouquets, armed guards aplenty, banners crying their good works, meetings with sumptuous catering, and even red carpets. All that would be off the menu, officially, if the policy is adopted.
“The work style of leading cadres, especially high-level cadres, has an important impact on the atmosphere of the Party, the mood of the government, and even the general mood of society,” the report said, dispatched by state mouthpiece Xinhua and also on China Central Television, the Party’s on-air mouthpiece.
The guideline was brought up by new Communist Party chief Xi Jinping in a Dec. 4 meeting of the Politburo, a powerful 25-member body that sits under the Standing Committee and controls the country’s policies. Matters of Party “work style” are nowhere to be found in law, so the statements may best be understood as promises and guidelines.
The proposed guidelines are meant to “closely connect the Party with the masses,” and appear to be part of the new leader Xi’s campaign to rein in some of the Communist Party’s practices that infuriate the public.
Despite the stated purpose of cutting back on Party ritual and pomp, the instructions were still delivered in jargon-heavy communist dialect.
Eight items of “work style” would be targeted. Specifically, cadres should: reduce instances of closing off traffic for official autocades; have state media report meetings based on their “news value” rather than simply for the fact that they were held; “generally speaking” not publish books or write inscriptions on public monuments; and live in a “diligent and thrifty” manner with regard to vehicles, housing, and other aspects of life; they would also no longer send out substanceless work reports and presentations and when traveling abroad, not have exchange students come out to welcome them; travel lightly on official investigation and research trips, and not hold banquets; and not hold ribbon-cutting and groundbreaking ceremonies unless given approval.
The items were read off, one after another, for over eight minutes on CCTV—the text flashing onto the screen.
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Tags: environmental issues, Science, Society, sustainable development
A team of scientists supported by the National Science Foundation NSF has identified for the first time a clear 1,500-year cycle in the far North’s surface atmosphere pressure pattern. Called the Arctic Oscillation AO, the cycle greatly influences weather in the Northern Hemisphere.
Lead researcher Dennis Darby, a geological oceanographer at Virginia’s Old Dominion University, used the findings to describe a worst-case scenario in which the cyclical pressure pattern could combine with man-made climate change to exacerbate severe weather and flooding trends.
The findings were published Nov. 11 on Nature Geoscience’s website. Darby coauthored the paper with a team of scientists from Old Dominion and Kent State universities and the University of Southern California (USC).
Coauthors are Joseph Ortiz, a geological oceanographer from Kent State; Chester Grosch, a physical oceanographer and computer scientist from ODU and Steven Lund, a geophysicist from USC.
William Wiseman, a program director in the Arctic Natural Sciences Program in NSF’s Office of Polar Programs, said the new research is innovative in its approach to separating human influences on climate from naturally occurring events.
“Separating the effects of human contributions to climate variability from those due to natural variability is never easy,” he said. “Darby and his colleagues, using clever analyses of sediment data, have noted an important long-term variation in sediment transport that is consistent with variability in the Arctic climate on similar time scales. This work adds one more piece of information to our understanding of a very complex system.”
Working from a 20-meter-long sediment core raised offshore of Alaska from waters 1,300 meters deep, the researchers could detect varying amounts of iron-rich sand grains ice-rafted from Russia over the last 8,000 years. The core was originally recovered from the flank of Barrow Canyon by an NSF-funded oceanographic cruise on which researchers Lloyd Keigwin, Julie Brigham-Grette and Neil Driscoll were co-investigators.
Darby and his colleagues were able to show through geochemical analysis that some of these Russian grains came from the Kara Sea, which is off the northern Russia landmass east of the northern tip of Finland. This is more than 3,000 miles from the core sample site, and the authors say Kara iron grains could have only arrived at the Alaskan coast by drifting in ice. Furthermore, the ice floes would only move from the Kara to offshore Alaska during strong positive AO conditions.
When the AO index is positive, surface pressure is low in the polar region. This helps the mid-latitude jet stream blow strongly and consistently from west to east, thus keeping cold Arctic air locked in the polar region. When the AO index is negative, there tends to be high pressure in the polar region, weaker zonal winds and greater movement of frigid polar air into the populated areas of the middle latitudes.
Measurements taken by instruments in modern times clearly show relatively short-term fluctuations in the AO, with profound impacts on weather and climate. “But how the AO varies during the Holocene (roughly the last 12,000 years) is not well understood,” the authors write in Nature Geoscience.
Darby said that time-series analysis of the researchers’ geochemical record reveals a 1,500-year cycle that is similar to what other researchers have proposed in recent decades, based on scattered findings in paleoclimate records. But he and his colleagues are the first to find a high-resolution indicator of the Arctic record that resolves multidecadal-through-millennial-scale AO cycles, he said.
“Our record is the longest record to date to reconstruct the AO and documents that there is millennial scale variability in the AO,” Ortiz said. “The sedimentation rate at our site is also sufficient to statistically differentiate between a 1,000-year cycle and a 1,500-year cycle, which helps us to understand the dynamics of the response of the climate system to external forcing during the Holocene geological period.”
The 1,500-year cycle is distinct from a 1,000-year cycle found in a similarly analyzed record of total solar irradiance, the authors write, suggesting that the longer cycle arises from either internal oscillation of the climate system or as an indirect response to low-latitude solar forcing.
“The AO can remain in a rather strong negative or positive mode for many decades,” the research team writes in the Nature Geoscience article. “When it is positive as suggested by the upswing in the Kara series during the last 200 years, then the additional warmth due to the entrapped Arctic cold air masses during winters could exacerbate the mid-latitude signature of anthropogenic global warming resulting from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. When the AO is strongly negative as seen in the winters of 2009-11, the Northern Hemisphere experiences prolonged intervals of colder than normal conditions. Because the maximum amplitudes of the AO as recorded in the Kara (iron) grain record in recent decades is less than a third of the amplitude in the past, the full range of variability in the AO is not likely recorded in the instrumental records of the last few decades.”
Darby does his detective work by analyzing sediments, mostly from core samples that have been collected when researchers drill a hollow tube into the floor of the Arctic Ocean or nearby seas. The work is made possible by an iron-grain chemical fingerprinting technique he developed that enables him to determine the landmass where the grains originated. This provides evidence about winds and currents—and therefore the overall weather patterns—that brought the grain to its resting place.
Even if natural cycles are responsible for some recent warming trends, this doesn’t let humans off the hook for polluting the atmosphere, Darby said. Human influence may combine with natural cycles to increase global warming.
Darby’s research is not directly involved in weighing human contributions to climate change, such as increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere brought on by combustion.
“We’re looking for natural conditions that are helping to cause this global warming and sea level rise,” Darby said. “There seems to be a natural pacing to climate change. If you don’t know what changes are naturally occurring over the long haul, you don’t know how to deal with conditions over the short term.”
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