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Skeptical comments

Posted in: Pandemic accord talks at loggerheads as time ticks away See in context

Since delegates started meeting last week, there has been talk about how their "global effort" is being stymied by "misinformation and disinformation." Leading, in fact, to INB's Co-chair, Roland Driece, to address what they will and will not address inside of it.

Perhaps delegates are missing an opportunity here. To write into both the Pandamic Agreement and Amendments to the IHR what WILL NOT be prescribed.

If, for instance, national sovereignty of countries will not be infringed upon, then say it 'shall never be infringed upon.' If it will not include any measure to somehow prescribe of enforce mandatory vaccinations and lockdowns, then say 'it shall not prescribe any such measures.' If it will not prescribe or encourage digital passports, then say it 'shall not prescribe digital passports or otherwise promote monitoring the movement of people.'

It may make delegates just a little more willing to agree. And whole populations a little more condifent in the process that is underway.

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Posted in: Can people with an irregular heartbeat drink coffee? See in context

[Dr. José Joglar] was the lead author of new guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association on diagnosing and treating atrial fibrillation, or AFib, published recently in Circulation.

The corrected version of the guidelines are available at https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIR.0000000000001193 .

[As we frequently, do, we invite readers to review the Author Relationship data within this, and many other, studies of this type].

As far as caffeine goes, the Guidelines state that “ studies have generally found that caffeine consumed in usual amounts is either associated with no heightened risk or a reduced risk of incident .” Further, “consumption have not shown either a harmful or protective effect.” But that “Several case reports have described a relationship between excessive consumption of caffeine (involving overdoses or highly caffeinated energy drinks) and AF in young, healthy individuals. Individuals should not begin or increase their caffeine consumption with the intent of reducing their AF risk.

They then caution that:

Patients often report that caffeine triggers their AF, although this has neither been supported by nor extensively studied in an objective manner. Current studies cannot exclude the possibility of individual-level idiosyncratic relationships between caffeine and AF. It is also possible that caffeine exacerbates symptoms of AF, or causes similar symptoms of palpitations, or enhances heart rhythm awareness.

Footnotes for all of the above omitted.

BUT please note a study that was just released this past week in the same publication.

Link to study:

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCEP.123.012145

Link to press release:

https://newsroom.heart.org/news/sweetened-drinks-linked-to-atrial-fibrillation-risk?preview=b827&preview_mode=True

This study suggests that adults who reported drinking large amounts of sugar- or artificially sweetened - drinks had a higher risk of atrial fibrillation when compared with adults who drank fewer such beverages. And also found that drinking moderate amounts of pure, unsweetened juice, such as orange or vegetable juice, was associated with a lower risk of AF.

The study could not confirm whether sweetened drinks caused AF, yet an association remained after the researchers accounted for a person’s genetic susceptibility to the condition.

One of the authors said that, based on their findings, “we recommend that people reduce or even avoid artificially sweetened and sugar-sweetened beverages whenever possible. Do not take it for granted that drinking low-sugar and low-calorie artificially sweetened beverages is healthy, it may pose potential health risks.” And that their “novel findings on the relationships among atrial fibrillation risk and sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages and pure juice may prompt the development of new prevention strategies by considering decreasing sweetened drinks to help improve heart health.”

It remains to be seen whether – and how – this study is incorporated into the next set of Guidelines. But note the statement by a reviewing expert, emeritus professor Penny M. Kris-Etherton, who said that “This is the first study to report an association between no- and low-calorie sweeteners and also sugar-sweetened beverages and increased risk of atrial fibrillation. While there is robust evidence about the adverse effects of sugar-sweetened beverages and cardiovascular disease risk, there is less evidence about adverse health consequences of artificial sweeteners. We still need more research on these beverages to confirm these findings and to fully understand all the health consequences on heart disease and other health conditions."

Both studies sound like screening opportunities for practitioners to incorporate within their practices.

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Posted in: McConnell endorses Trump for president See in context

159 years or age, combined, right behind that podium. Then pundits wonder, outloud, why young voters in this country just cannot relate to the leaders of today.

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Posted in: Man vaccinated for COVID 217 times reports no side effects: scientists See in context

Imagine how astonished the researchers were, to see him in line for a booster the very next day.

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Posted in: New York will send National Guard to subways after string of violent crimes See in context

“For people who are thinking about bringing a gun or knife on the subway, at least this creates a deterrent effect. They might be thinking, ‘You know what, it just may just not be worth it because I listened to the mayor and I listened to the governor and they have a lot more people who are going to be checking my bags,'" Hochul said at a news conference

Then Chevy Chase stumbled and tumbled onto the stage and announced, "Live from New York, it's Saturday Night!

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Posted in: Woman, parents indicted over beheading of man in Sapporo hotel See in context

I'll give full credit to the Sapporo police. I've lived in some locations where a grisly beheading like this could have, or would have, been airly dismissed by the locals as a suicide.

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Posted in: Marijuana use linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke See in context

For practitioners reading this article and this study, and considering measures to screen their patients for use? Perhaps also consider this study out last month from Drexel's The Well Center, looking at the relationship between cannabis use and the clinical severity among adults with binge eating.

The press release: https://drexel.edu/news/archive/2024/February/A-Closer-Look-at-Cannabis-Use-and-Binge-Eating.

From the lead: “We hope this research is helpful for clinicians treating patients with binge eating, as it can provide them with updated information about the prevalence of cannabis use in their patients. We recommend that clinicians screen for cannabis and alcohol use in all their patients and assess any potential problems the patient may be experiencing related to their substance use.

Conclusion? "These findings indicate that a notable subset of patients with BE use cannabis and experience cannabis-related problems, and that cannabis and alcohol use may be related for these individuals."

Links:

Advance online publication version: https://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpha0000706.

PubMed version: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38236224.

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Posted in: China sets ambitious 5% growth target for 2024; military spending to rise by 7.2% See in context

Corrected.

They can project anything they want. And can spit-and-polish their prideful business acumen until the cows come home to roost in the trees. But at the end of the day? Their business ethics are indescribably low and of short duration. Corruption is all too commonplace. Their total disregard for intellectual property rights of others is common knowledge by anyone over the age of 21. And international business really does know all-too-well the severe risks of doing business with the Party. Risks that really cannot be mitigated, no matter how much the Party promises otherwise.

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Posted in: Marijuana use linked to higher risk of heart attack and stroke See in context

Here is the press release:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2024/smoking-cannabis-associated-increased-risk-heart-attack-stroke.

And here is the study:

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.123.030178.

The only disclosure made, being that one of the four authors serves as a consultant to the WHO outside of the submitted work.

Conclusion? “Cannabis has strong, statistically significant associations with adverse cardiovascular outcomes independent of tobacco use and controlling for a range of demographic factors and outcomes.

Note a comment by one of the researchers, Professor of Medicine Salomeh Keyhani: “There is a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry that markets cannabis use as not only harmless, but good for you. It can be a challenging discussion to have with patients because there is evidence that cannabis has some therapeutic properties. However, as suggested by this study, cannabis use also has significant cardiovascular risks.”

We note, for the benefit of those patients who may be reluctant to discuss their usage to physicians during consultations, that the study found that cannabis use was independently associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes, for which the odds rose with the number of days per month that a person used it. Therefore, "Patients should be screened for cannabis use and advised to avoid smoking cannabis to reduce their risk of premature cardiovascular disease and cardiac events."

We also note that the study also examined the effects for those who had never smoked or vaped tobacco products, finding that JUST using cannabis was associated with both stroke, and with the combination of coronary heart disease, heart attack and stroke risks.

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Posted in: Some truths are self-evident: Joe Biden is too old, but who could possibly replace him? See in context

It does not seem to matter, for example, that in his incendiary comments about Biden’s age, special counsel Robert Hur took grossly inappropriate liberties in editorialising.

For a successful prosecution to be undertaken, this prosecutor - any prosecutor - would need to calculate the reasonably forseeable course of a trial against a defendant. One factor that is considered is whether, if charged, a defendant can be considered capable to understanding the nature of the proceedings and capable of assisting in one's defense. If charges are filed, then a court must determine the existence of such competency to stand trial. But if there are already indications that a defendant may NOT be competent, or capable of restoration, then a question of civil commitment arises for that purpose. For a decision over all the above, to be applied towards a famous defendant, let alone a seated POTUS? An explanation over why not to proceed was appropriate.

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Posted in: Older U.S. adults should get another COVID-19 shot, advisory panel says See in context

One more slide from the meeting.

Percent of adults that reported that their healthcare provider recommends COVID-19 vaccine (2024 January) = 20.4%.

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Posted in: Older U.S. adults should get another COVID-19 shot, advisory panel says See in context

The panel's decision came after a lengthy discussion about whether to say older people “may” get the shots or if they “should" do so. That reflects a debate among experts about how necessary another booster is and whether yet another recommendation will add to the public's growing vaccine fatigue.

There were slide presentations.

The numbers I wanted to read?

The top eleven reasons (high to low), for physicians who reported NOT recommending COVID-19 bivalent boosters to eligible adult patients:

Patient will refuse booster vaccination;

Medical reason for not getting vaccinated;

Patients tired of hearing about COVID-19 vaccines;

High level of vaccine resistance in community;

Other;

Won't have severe COVID-19 symptoms;

Bivalent vaccine doesn't provide enough additional protection;

Vaccine unnecessary if they have had COVID-19;

Not enough time during visit to discuss vaccines;

Not enough time during visit to give vaccine;

Bivalent vaccine doesn't reduce COVID-19 severity in this age group;

[% of respondents selecting response options (n=744); source: CDC/RAND/Univ of Iowa Survey — February 2023; https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/acip/meetings/slides-2024-02-28-29.html]

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Posted in: Biden or Trump, hawkish economic approach on China to intensify See in context

POTUS, on Saturday, addressing the National Governor’s Association Dinner.

And, by the way, I served in times when we had very, very starnch - staunch differences. I mean, there were incredible differences, but we always - not always, but the vast majority of the time, we looked out for a compromise when the end of the - when the end of the day came.

And, you know, it seems to me that - I'll conclude by saying, I - I've spent a lot of time with Xi Jinping - someone whom I have a great deal of difference with. And I was - when I was vice president, President - my - my president was - told me that he wanted me to get to know Xi Jinping because it was clear he was going to be the head of Russia - of - of China and that he - we had a - we were having problems with Russia at the time and other countries as well. And so, what he said was, "Get to know him. He's going to be there." I - and he couldn't because he was the president, and he couldn't travel. So, I traveled 17,000 miles with him throughout the country - our country and - and in - in China, as well.

[CSpan].

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Posted in: Japan OKs bill to make crucial economic security info classified See in context

The part that will likely have the roughest time is the term, "Data related to . . ." As vague and ambigious as big as the sky above us. And begs the overall question over whether it will be artfully and skillfully described by lawmakers inside statute, or left to the government to improvise. The former will take more time to absolve, but will likely be received better by voters. The latter invites a bureaucracy to 'make it up as they go along,' for the sake of convenience. We await further word.

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Posted in: Forget about a job for life; today’s workers need to prepare for many jobs across multiple industries See in context

But in a rapidly changing world, the concept of a job for life has become as rare as a dial-up internet connection.

We briefly pause to consider a little reality.

The Gallup Organization issued a report about five months ago over if and how workers felt “engaged at work;” meaning whether workers felt they were “involved in and enthusiastic about their workplace.”

As contained in their report, only 5% of Japanese workers reported feeling engaged at work, while 73% of workers believed that they were not engaged at work.

Comparison purposes: Workers who felt engaged, the global average was 23%, and 18% among fellow OECD member countries. With the global not engaged was at the global rate of 59%.

A fluke? Well, no. Japanese worker engagement has remained consistently low; fluctuating between 4% and 8%. – next to numbers from other nations - since 2009, the first year data was collected.

It didn’t stop there.

Gallup also asked workers if they enjoy the work they do every day. The majority of Japanese who are employed for an employer -- 76% -- say they do, but this ranks Japan in the lowest third among 142 countries surveyed, and lags behind all other G7 countries.

Many individual respondents told Gallup that what they would like to see is more recognition, opportunities to learn, fair treatment, clearer goals and better managers.

Gallup explained:

[E]mployee engagement is strongly connected to people’s wellbeing. Those who are genuinely engaged are thriving at work and playing a key role in driving the organization toward its goals.

Conversely, not engaged employees are those who are investing time but not energy or passion into their work. They put in the minimum effort required and are minimally productive. They are more likely than engaged workers to be stressed and burned out.

While all of these are likely related, enjoyment is specifically how someone feels at work; satisfaction is how content they are; and engagement is how involved and enthusiastic they are with their workplace.

In the words of Jon Clifton, the CEO of Gallup: "What can leaders do today to potentially save the world? Gallup has found one clear answer: Change the way your people are managed.

https://news.gallup.com/opinion/gallup/510257/japan-workplace-wellbeing-woes-continue.aspx

https://www.gallup.com/workplace/349484/state-of-the-global-workplace.aspx

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Posted in: What do you think is the most recognizable logo in the world? See in context

Most recognizable in the world?

Yin-yang.

I don't think that any others really comes close, with the possible exception of Islam's Star and Crescent, Christianity's Cross, and the Hindu symbol Om.

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Posted in: Half of Japanese firms see another Trump presidency as risk, poll shows See in context

There was more.

Reuters also asks about business in Japan.

Of those who responded as reported above, they were also asked the question, how are current business conditions at your company. 26% said good, 60% said not so good, and 14% said bad.

Business conditions in three months time: 24% good, 66% not so good, and 10% bad.

And the Chinese market over the next five years time: 4% somewhat optimistic, 34% neutral, 50% somewhat pessimistic, and 12% very pessimistic.

Reuters is usually very thorough when it comes to business.

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Posted in: Countries reaching beyond borders to silence dissidents: Human Rights Watch See in context

The report details 75 cases of governments in more than two dozen countries -- including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Belarus and Cambodia -- carrying out "human rights abuses... to silence or deter dissent" over the past 15 years.

Odd paragraph, in its choice of four countries.

It gets even odder when you go to HRW's PR for this story, distributed to the wires. Let's look at the countries they cited as an example:

The report includes over 75 cases previously documented by Human Rights Watch committed by over two dozen governments, including Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belarus, Cambodia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Türkiye, Turkmenistan, and the United Arab Emirates. The cases are not exhaustive but instead offer a snapshot of cases across four regions.

https://www.hrw.org/news/2024/02/22/governments-target-nationals-living-abroad

The story has a link to this report.

https://www.hrw.org/report/2024/02/22/we-will-find-you/global-look-how-governments-repress-nationals-abroad. Lets take a country from the above example. Maybe China?

"The Chinese government maintains surveillance of the Chinese diaspora around the world, including pro-democracy students and academics." Plus "students and faculty were harassed and intimidated, including by threats of physical violence or being doxxed (having their personal information posted online). Students and academics are broadly aware that such surveillance takes place, and many take steps to self-censor."

They also describe how the Chinese government "pursues censorship and surveillance of its citizens abroad through [a popular social media app] that includes messaging, financial services, and several other functions."

We also find the tactics described in the report being used to continue its campaign of repression of Uyghurs, in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China.

But also cite a case of how they allegedly abducted the China-born Swedish citizen and book publisher Gui Minhai from his home in Thailand.

Keep up the good work, HRW.

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Posted in: Research shows lasting effects of smoking after quitting See in context

@ virusrex.

Well, your comments are, as usual, insightful and helpful for readers. And you have helped inspire inside of me several areas of inquiry over the selection process in this study, along the line with with reducing variables.

First, no mention of the subjects’ exposure to passive smoking [secondhand smoke exposure], a Group 1 carcinogen. Which we have indications for their potential mutagenic properties, plus an overall tumor mutational burden remains largely unknown. Anyone who has ever visited France is well aware of ubiquitous presence of secondhand smoke exposure. And the compounds implicated in this study being widely found within secondhand smoke (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK219569/).

We also come to environmental factors, such air pollution. Which we understand to be a factor leading to various diseases, for various reasons, but also now understood to be implicated in negatively affecting the body’s immune system. Metropolitan France is a big place, with variables as to pollutants.

Next is dietary intake of common anti-mutagenic foods and drinks. Some of which are frequently found on French plates on a regular basis. And have acknowledged impacts on the body’s immune system. Leading us, naturally, to alcohol. Specifically wine. And not at a level of “abuse” of any type, but mearly adult background intake. Whose mutagenic, anti-mutagenic, and cytotoxic properties remain little understood. But implicated in a negative manner towards overall impact on the immune system. And has a presence which is also ubiquitous inside French society. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6165118/). And https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276149194_Antimutagenic_and_immunomodulatory_properties_of_quercetin_glycosides_Antimutagenicity_and_immunomodulation_of_quercetin_glycosides.

Remains to be outlined how much was factored in, surrounding all of the above. But if you can suggest to us with confidence that researchers meticulous enough to eliminate all other “confounding factors,” (including meds and vaccines) would have certainly done so for the above, then I, at least, will need to agree with you. But this study, either way, still remains an interesting read for those interested in immune responses.

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Posted in: Brazil calls for U.N. overhaul at meeting of G20 ministers in Rio See in context

I guess Brazil and its friends will have a chance to make their case in September. September 22, 2024 through September 23, 2024, to be precise. When the UN is set to hold it’s Summit of the Future. Towards which the UN explains the aim to be twofold: accelerate efforts to meet our existing international commitments and take concrete steps to respond to emerging challenges and opportunities.

How?

This will be achieved through an action-oriented outcome document called the Pact for the Future. The Pact will be negotiated, and endorsed by countries in the lead-up to and during the Summit in September 2024.

And then?

The result will be a world, and an international system, that is better prepared to manage the challenges we face now, through Multilateral governance [generally understood in the past to be coordinating and mandating relations among three or more nations / states in accordance with certain agreed-upon principles].

More details to follow. And Brazil must wait its turn.

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Posted in: Research shows lasting effects of smoking after quitting See in context

Here is a link to the study and the associated press release.

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-023-06968-8

https://pasteur.fr/en/home/press-area/press-documents/smoking-has-long-term-effects-immune-system

I followed both, due to some interest in this study, and some curiosity over our all-important yet complicated immune system to have a ‘memory’ of past exposure. And these researchers link long-term effects of smoking on such immune responses, to be linked to differences in/on DNA inside an apparent addition of a member of the methyl group. With the potential to modify the expression of genes involved in immune cell metabolism. Thus changing the way a the genome is read in the cell.

But I keep coming back to several things. Both admitted limitations. That I just keep coming back to.

First one is “the absence of a replication cohort to validate these findings.”

The other: “our analyses were conducted on a population of similar genetic background.

Specifically: 1,000 healthy donors “of the same genetic background (Western European) . . . restricted to individuals whose parents and grandparents were born in Metropolitan France.” With “no history or evidence of severe, chronic or recurrent [disease],” and also no “pregnant and peri-menopausal women.”

But also no “recent use of drugs, recent vaccine administration and recent use of immune modulatory agents.

So there! It is proper to present all, for readers to be able to weigh and determine for themselves, what they think of this study and it’s implications.

Many thanks.

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Posted in: Children are expensive – not just for parents, but the environment − so how many is too many? See in context

Sorry, but this op-ed is rhetorically a trap towards accepting the author's worldviews. Asking for couples to view having children inside of an ethical dilemma narrative that furthers the author’s worldview. As if people thinking of having a family and raising children inside of a family, of their own, haven’t already figured out for themselves the spectrum of ills associated with being inside of today’s society? I hardly think so.

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Posted in: Back in the day, being woke meant being smart See in context

Please consider my comment, the first paragraph, to read as follows:

Sorry, I must disagree with the good "p[two star symbols used in original]rofessor" on this one. (By the way, I hope the two star symbols in his title doesn't show that this whole article was AI produced).

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Posted in: Back in the day, being woke meant being smart See in context

But for GOP lawmakers and conservative talk show pundits, such as DeSantis, “woke” is a pejorative word used to describe those who believe that systemic racism exists in America and remains at the heart of the nation’s racial shortcomings.

Ronald E Hall is a professor of Social Work, Michigan State University.

Sorry, I must disagree with the good "professor" on this one (by the way, I hope the two s doesn't show that this whole article was AI produced).

Those that would use labels? Do so for the express reason of framing the narrative of their supporters and opponents surrounding their worldviews.

If they could, they would make people wear stickers that say 'Us = Good' and "Them = Bad." They cannot. So some '__ism' labels need suffice for the time being. But, no, this doesn't need to happen.

Be it “woke” or “cultural literacy,” or “political correctness,” or any of the other classics, the purpose behind label making is to round up those opinions and views of 'them' for whom you do not agree with – or are getting in the way of your political views – put them all in a box, close the lid, put a label on it, and ignore it entirely as being extreme. Or worse: seek somehow to banish them from ever getting out of the box to be able to speak their views.

But it does a disservice to those who we teach in schools, everywhere, to use labels. Teaching those who must develop their own understanding of the world around them, while taking an active interest in - and a genuine concern for – how it should run. Forming attitudes and understandings that are necessary for participation in a constructive and meaningful life, WHILE acknowledging and appreciating what we do have in common: independence, patience, and tenacity to grow in wisdom, to meet situations, while learning to make wise choices.

Stated differently, the strengths of what we have in common can – and should – be built upon, and encouraged to grow. For the betterment of all.

Sorry, I have never agreed with any philosophy that insists that you need to tear down society in order to build it back up again. And such should be resisted, since I suspect that when you tear down the one aspect of society, the others will follow suit.

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Posted in: China new year holiday spending surges past pre-pandemic levels See in context

Domestic spending on entertainment, dining and travel soared during this year's "Golden Week", which officially ended on Saturday, according to a statement from Beijing's Ministry of Culture and Tourism on Sunday.

Chinese travelers made 474 million trips across the country during the eight-day break, up 19 percent from 2019, the ministry said -- the world's largest annual migration.

And domestic spending on tourism came in at 632.7 billion yuan ($87.9 billion), up 7.7 percent from 2019, the ministry said.

A good time was had by all, in this Year of the Dragon holiday, right?

Well . . . not exactly all.

RFA reported in January that Xinjiang authorities were forcing Uyghurs to participate in upcoming Lunar New Year celebrations, by learning Chinese dances and playing Chinese songs, while the region continues to try to recover from a 7.1-magnitude earthquake. And RFA reports that a crackdown in neighboring Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture continues to force integration among Han Chinese, ethnic Kazakhs and Uyghurs to engage in New Years cultural activities that highlight characteristics of Chinese culture against the ethnic and cultural aspects of those groups.

Happy New Year?

https://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/lunar-new-year-01302024164617.html

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Posted in: Taliban refuses to join U.N.-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan See in context

Taliban-led foreign office refused to attend the meeting in Doha when the U.N. rejected its demand to act as Afghanistan's sole official representative, [the UNSG] said on Monday.

From DW we learned a little more about this. According to their anonymous source, aside from the condition that they be invited as official representatives of Afghanistan, they also insisted that leaders of rival militias – specifically the National Resistance Front (the NRF) be excluded. But also insisted that there be no criticism be directed towards them during the discussions. “We do not want to attend the conference where we are not formally invited as the state, and where a group of overseas Afghans, largely associated with Western-funded projects and rival armed militias like the NRF are invited to critique our governance.”

This is set against a backdrop of a region with many shards of suspicion and distrust going on at the same time.

For example, The Taliban accuse Pakistan of being a safe harbor to the armed guerrela faction, the IS-KP. In turn, Pakistan accuses the Taliban of supporting the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an guerrela insurgency that is attacking Pakistani army and police on a regular basis. Taliban also accuses Tajikistan of ignoring the activity of recruiting, training and harboring IS-KP recruits for attacks in Afghanistan.

To help complete the picture: There are dozens of heavily armed trans-national jihadist groups operating within the region from Afghanistan. Some identify with ethnic Uyghur, Uzbek, and Tajik groups, which in turn are considered terrorist organizations by China and Russia, and are attacked when found. In fact, any government that tries to satisfy western ideas of ethnic diversity and inclusion face those doubts that inviting them to share power will along the armed groups, and the trouble that results from having them in-country. China is said to have a large contingent of heavily armed police on the borders to stop all of this from flooding into their barely-stable ethnic regions.

Meanwhile India is watching Afghanistan carefully, as evidence exists that the Taliban tolerate the presence and operations of Laskhar-e Tayyiba and Jaish-e Muhammad. Two particularly violent and extreme pan-Islamist groups that have attacked India for some time now.

Countries in the neighborhood, in turn, do not trust Taliban assertions that they do not allow any of this to happen on their soil. Believing that Taliban efforts for recognition and money from the international community are stronger if they are seen as the voice of reason in a region that believes them to be the number one player in supplying all shapes and sizes of armed militancy.

Any resolve to bring humanitarian help to the miserable people of Afghanistan must take all of the above into account.

The problem that is the Taliban will likely not be solved in our lifetimes.

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Posted in: S Korean government orders doctors back to hospitals See in context

Consider, for just a moment, what is happening on the ground in South Korea.

A ped doctor I spoke to at a conference last year told our table that physician salaries are static and negotiations for pay increases are going nowhere. All the while the government is, more and more, seeking foreign recent practitioners to work on the cheap. He said historically the government just doesn't value them, and sees them as disposible. He said that he was tired of it all, and was seriously thinking of accepting a professorship at a medical school in Australia.

As many things in life, the definition of the problem depends on who you ask.

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Posted in: French mayors face violence and intimidation from xenophobic far-right groups See in context

Opposition to immigration is a driving force, led by small extreme-right groups that are often backed by national politicians.

Consider, for a moment, that the "small groups" that are "backed by national politicians" are established political parties. Depending upon location, they lead in the opinion polls, largely because they are the voice that speaks against the flood of incoming refugees. Plus they are the primary political opposition against the current president and his coalition government. And are blocking some of the most important legislation sought by the ruling party.

Immigration is what the EU says is a core fundamental European value. That is above debate, challenge or change. And those who would reverse it are radicals extremists opposed to the core values of Europe and France.

And must be stopped.

The trend is that European countries are right now moving to ban politician parties and any who would suppport the parties financially. There are a host of laws, both submitted and under construction, that will effectively criminalize the opposition parties.

And this story comes from a country that has just passed a law making it a criminal offense for someone to encourage others to not accept medical treatments that are considered appropriate by the government according to prevailing medical standards. Criticism of the treatments themselves is also illegal. One scholar even opined that it could possibly apply to someone out of country if the words could be heard or read by a French citizen while in France.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité? Not today.

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Posted in: Japan drops to 26th globally in annual pay for IT workers See in context

It would be of most interest, to study some links between the hiring, layoffs, and force-reductions of IT professionals - especially security experts - to the rate of hacking and data theft. And also, since much of corporate business previously decided to out-source this to the lowest bidder, whether quality DOES matter when it comes to hackings and data theft.

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Posted in: Saving the news media means moving beyond benevolence of billionaires See in context

The time has come to dramatically scale up these projects, from millions of dollars to billions, whether through “media vouchers” that allow voters to allocate funds or other ambitious proposals for creating tens of thousands of new journalism jobs across the country.

Whatever you want to call this - "media voucher," “news voucher” or “public interest voucher” - Those that would try this will immediately run into the BIG elephant in the room: Perceptions by those "voters" of the industry and its honesty, ethics, and whether it deserves public trust.

The numbers are grim.

Gallup told us last month that the Honesty and Ethics rating for journalists in the US is at an all-time low of 19%.

Let's be frank: Like it or not, multiple studies over the years clearly show that the public thinks the industry is disturbingly biased in what they select to cover (and not cover), and unnecessarily adds the slanted editorial viewpoints of reporters, editors and publishers in what they serve up to the public. WHILE unapologetically serving up the market brands and worldviews of their big corporate owners.

So the first major hurdle is to convince you, me, everyone that these vouchers will somehow make news entities - many of which are owned by the largest of the large multi-media corporations in existence around the globe today - to somehow improve both ethics and honesty?

Some maybes? Maybe (A) the entity, before receiving voucher money, agrees in advance to detach itself from corporate influence that corporate ownership nearly always brings? and / or (B) maybe the entity receiving the monies will be policed by the government, to ensure honesty and ethics, and detachment over undue influence?

Nope. Sorry. Frankly, none of this will happen. As the industry will deem it a violation of a freedom of the press.

Plus: To think to use the politician-written tax code, somehow, to bring people to support via vouchers the very industry that is reporting on those same politicians who wrote the tax code? Anyone else see the problem here???

So, end of the day: Without some proof that honesty and ethical practices will follow, why should any voter / taxpayer give the industry ANY money, without serious reforms? If the industry wants more voluntary-paid customers of their product, they should start reforming . . . or end up going the way of the dinosaur.

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