Corruption in China: Crocodile Meat, Jade, Piles of Cash

A new show in China, called “Always on the Road”, details the past lives and corruption of arrested Chinese government officials.  It talks about how they got away with the party boy life while preaching modesty and simple living.  The convicts themselves make appearances on the show and often they talk about their remorse.  One official talked about what a tragedy it was that he was in jail when he was just about to retire.

Some of the extravagance includes crocodile tails, expensive liquor, jade, and other bribes.  The show details how they got away with living like this in secret.  These once great and respected leaders are shamed on a public television show.  It is meant as a warning and to set a precedent for leaders to come.

President Xi Jinping makes frequent appearances on the show.  He is meant to act as the symbol and example of everything proper and honest.  His modest and simple way of life is meant to contrast the arrested officials.

Tension Between Hong Kong Factions


In Thursday October 20th’s issue of the New York Times there was an article about the prevention of pro-autonomy legislature members in Hong Kong from being sworn in. Three lawmakers, who are all in favor of Hong Kong having greater independence from China, all had their original oaths declared invalid. In their original oaths they had declared allegiance to a Hong Kong nation, and mispronounced China as “Shina.” This was seen as a slight against China’s sovereignty over Hong Kong. When they were scheduled to be sworn in pro-establishment lawmakers walked out of the session, eliminating the quorum necessary to proceed with business.

This article underscores the ongoing tension in Hong Kong between the younger generation (as represented by some of these newly elected pro-autonomy legislators) and the establishment position on relations with China. The government is obviously divided on the course that it wants to pursue in regards to this policy, and the younger demographic continues to gain ground in the legislature it could lead to a real break from China, politically. Hong Kong is currently a Special Administrative Region, meaning it has some autonomy on daily governance matters and a lot of special exceptions (particularly economic) but ultimately answers to the government in Beijing. It will be interesting to see how the matter is resolved in the coming decades.

For the present, the lack of stability in Hong Kong underscores the shifting landscape and views among the Chinese populous broadly. More and more citizens even on the mainland are becoming politically aware and involved, particularly in online social media. This threat in Hong Kong is sure to make Beijing nervous, and perhaps lead to stricter control of the media and other avenues to stop this type of blatant tension for autonomy from spreading to other regions of mainland China.

What will the government in Beijing do in response to this continued tension? How will it change the administration of other cities and regions within the PRC? How does the lack of control impact how China will interact with countries internationally?


Scotland Embraces Gay Politicians in a Profound Cultural Shift


Andrew Brown, with his husband Scott at their beach house in Elie, Scotland. Mr. Brown said Scotland’s rapidly changing attitude toward homosexuality had convinced them to abandon plans to move abroad.


Homosexuality was illegal in Scotland until 1980, and in England until 1967. Even as recent as 2000, billboards financed by a Christian millionaire fought to uphold a ban on schools’ talking about homosexuality. Today three of the five Scottish political party leaders, four ministers in the Scottish government, the representative of the right-wing Independence Party in Scotland, and the secretary of state for Scotland are openly gay.

Ms. Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives, a churchgoing Presbyterian who trained for Britain’s Army Reserve and once cheerfully described herself as a “flat-shoed, shovel-faced lesbian,” cut her hair shorter than it had ever been when she first ran for office. “I wanted to make sure people knew what they were getting,” she said. Since then, five other Scottish Conservative Party politicians have come out. The Church Ms. Davidson attends even flies a rainbow flag on its communion table.

“It’s a big cultural shift,” said Ms. Dugdale, who became engaged to her girlfriend this summer. “When you say you’re gay, people just shrug their shoulders. There is almost a feeling of ‘so what?’”

Scottland has legalized civil partnerships, gay adoption, and equal marriage. It has also passed hate-crime laws, explicitly including prejudice against transgender and intersex people. It is considered one of the most robust hate-crime laws in the world.

Despite the progressive changes, there remain problems to address. Bullying in schools is still a problem, especially for transgender teenagers. Hate crimes against L.G.B.T. individuals are up by 20 percent over the last year (which reflects the fact that reporting rates have increased).

what are  your opinions about embracing L.G.B.T. individuals? Does it require you to compromise? Have you ever befriended an L.G.B.T. individual? If so, what did your experience teach you?

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#SuchaNastyWoman and What It Meant

The debate on October 19th was typical for many voters. It was marked by two candidates clawing at each other for 90 minutes, a few concrete answers and many pivots away from direct questions. For voters tired of a campaign between candidates that have been constantly fighting each other in an unprecedented and vitriolic way, there was nothing new. Nevertheless, policies were discussed and some positions were stated. Overall highlights form the evening included Trump’s refusal to pledge acceptance of the upcoming election results, Hillary’s dodge of the “pay to play” question with regards to Clinton Foundation donors, and Moderator Chris Wallace’s determination to get solid answers from two slippery individuals.

However, in the midst of a seemingly innocuous answer about the future of Social Security, Hillary inserted a barb about Trump’s ability to evade certain federally-instigated financial obligations. Trump, as one of what TIME magazine cited as 48 interruptions, muttered “Such a nasty woman.” Clinton carried on without blinking an eye at the taunt, but the remark was immediately taken up by female voters, from Twitter hashtags to T-shirts.


Clinton’s female base has been marked mostly by women who dislike Trump rather than endorse Hillary, but that remark, combined with a solid stance on abortion and equal pay, has injected new vigor into her campaign. Women everyone interpreted Trump’s remark as a feminist rallying cry. That is the epithet capable, strong-willed women are claiming as their own self-identifier. While this is a positive response to a negative remark, it is still another testament to the nastiness (and not the good kind) of this campaign. Clinton was more vicious than she has been in the past, and did her best to needle Trump enough to get him to lose control, and by many reports she succeeded. It’s possible more voters were turned away by the incessant vitriol on all sides than were gained by yet another misogynistic gaffe. Whatever future the end result of this campaign will propend for our country, at least women now know being a #nastywoman means whatever you make it mean.

Read more about the effect of this remark here:

It Takes a Village

Intelligence agencies in western nations have a growing concern for youth; radicalization usually occurs in earlier years. Social media, disenchantment with American politics, and the rise of xenophobia have contributed to rising radicalization rates. However, in war torn areas, the youth are anything but susceptible to terrorist rhetoric.

Children, aging 10 to 17, have been fleeing the middle east. Alone. Walking across mountains, hiding in trunks, taking dangerous boat rides across borders, these children brave incredible hardship as they attempt to escape the reaches of extremism.

France’s makeshift child immigrant camp, The Jungle, will be torn down shortly. The conditions of the camp are not suitable for children. The camp houses 1,300 immigrant kids. Some children will be sent to their parents in Britain, while most will be housed by the French government.

What is the best way to ensure these children are taken care of? Is the immigrant crisis just an opportunity to re-invent the foster care system? Which countries have a responsibility to provide for the children’s needs?


War Crimes Inquiry in Aleppo

From Katherine Hayes:

UN Human Rights officials are looking to create a resolution calling for investigations into human rights developments and war crime claims in Syria. This comes in the midst of the Russian cease-fire, interesting as Russia is presumably responsible for the majority of civilian casualties in eastern Syria. UN official Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the official calling for war crime investigations, was quoted as saying, “no hypothetical advantage in global gamesmanship could possibly outweigh this pain and horror… every party should know they will be held accountable for the international crimes they commit.” Mr. al-Hussein called upon the Security Council to refer the conflict to the International Criminal Court, backed by Britain, the US, and other countries wanting an end to the Syrian conflict.

Another interesting development comes from the UN special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, who offered to escort rebel Syrian fighters to another province if the Syrian government allowed other fighters and civilians to remain in Aleppo and govern themselves. This is an interesting possibility, but one that does not seem very likely to engage both sides of the conflict.

In the midst of the cease-fire, reports state that very few citizens in Aleppo have chosen to leave the city to become refugees. This temporary pause in the fighting, which Russia has agreed to for a minimum of four days, is not enough to take care of months of siege. Humanitarian efforts are at a standstill amidst fears the cease-fire will not last long enough to get necessary supplies to the civilians, and to conduct emergency medical evacuations.

Was this call for an investigation a strategic move on the UN’s part as a way to possibly stall the conflict, in hopes of catching Russia and Syria’s attention at a time of relative calm? Is this possible investigation likely to do anything to help end the five-year conflict?

Read more here:

Trump Claims he will Accept any Election Result (if he wins)

Throughout his campaign, Donald Trump has said some pretty outrageous things that have offended many and scared many voters away. It probably surprised many Americans when Trump said he would accept any election result. Of course, he followed that civil statement with, “if I win.”  Essentially, he won’t accept any election result unless he comes out on top. Clinton responded in a much more civil manner when she stated that throughout history, there have been many close elections, but part of the agreement is that the candidates accept the outcomes of America’s decision and move forward. Trump said right after his previous statement, “Bottom line, we’re going to win.” However,  the polls are not currently in his favor which makes people wonder to what lengths he will go to become president if the polls favor Clinton on election day. Trump’s supposed unwillingness to abide by the result of the election has caused a stir among informed voters who wonder if he thinks he is above the law.

Nazi Sympathizer Attacks Police in Bavaria

On Wednesday, a man with membership in a pro-Third Reich “fringe group” attacked police in the German state of Bavaria. He had refused to pay taxes and, according to The New York Times, “drove away officials who had tried to collect them from his home.” His behavior led officials to revoke his gun ownership, and went to collect them. Upon the police’s arrival, he began shooting, injuring four.

Recently, the National Democratic Party of Germany (or NPD) has experienced some success in Germany and is considered by some to be the “new Nazi party.” The NPD is very anti-immigrant and, with the current climate of fear in Europe, this may explain its success. Is it possible that we will see history repeat itself, to a lesser extent?

Read more here.

Clinton Strategy ON-POINT

“Clinton Pushes into Bastions Of the GOP: Trying to Crush Trump and Aid Democrats” – October 17th, 2016. Authors: Matt Flegenheimer and Jonathan Martin.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign, according to the authors in the article, is planning its most ambitious push to grab votes from Donald Trump. While they are placing focus on new states that haven’t been tapped much in the past by Democrats, Clinton aims to win overwhelmingly with specific groups of voters. In the final stretch of this election season, this is the time to make a move. There are states such as Arizona where the Clinton campaign plans to expand and push anti-Trump messages on race and immigration. This is a late last push for voters, but it might just work.

Personally, I think this is smart. The tactics of Trump have been to mostly excite his base of supporters which are mostly white. This leads to the alienation of smaller minority groups, which have been growing in size and power. By alienating this group, he is somewhat serving a large portion of the electorate to the opposition on a silver platter. Thus, if Hillary Clinton can take advantage of this situation and climate of the electorate, she will win.


Recapturing Mosul

In an effort to recapture Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, the Iraqi government is hoping for the best but expecting the worst. The conflict is already anticipated to last several weeks and even several months. This alone will cause major destruction to Mosul without probable bombs being placed all over the city by ISIS members. Several cities recaptured from ISIS have been left with billions of dollars of damage with an additional millions of dollar needed just to remove the bombs. This will be one of the largest conflicts with ISIS. Iraqi and Kurdish ground troops have moved in with the US supporting the troops in the air.

I wonder how many civilian causalities are predicted for a battle this big for a city this large? With ISIS being such an extremist group, who has never cringed at the possibilities of civilian casualties, will not make the situation any better. The hope is that this event will be liberating one. I can imagine that the destruction and causalities will be better then the alternative: ISIS control over Mosul. But I can only wonder what those people have been going through since ISIS stepped through their door.