Category : Asia

A Prayer for the Feast Day of Channing Moore Williams

O God, who in thy providence didst call Channing Moore Williams to the ministry of this church and gave him the gifts and the perseverance to preach the Gospel in new lands: Inspire us, by his example and prayers, to commit our talents to thy service, confident that thou dost uphold those whom thou dost call; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Posted in Asia, Church History, Missions, Spirituality/Prayer

WSJ front page–Xi’s China ramps up drive to squelch dissent

On a summer day in 2016, a posse of men surrounded Lu Yuyu on a street in China’s southwestern city of Dali. He said they wrestled him into a black sedan and slid a shroud over his head. His girlfriend was pushed into a second car, screaming his name.

Mr. Lu had for years posted a running online tally of protests and demonstrations in China that was closely read by activists and academics around the world, as well as by government censors. That made him a target.

While China’s Communist Party has long punished people seen as threats to its rule, government authorities under Chinese leader Xi Jinping have engaged in the most relentless pursuit of dissenters since the crackdown on the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy protests, according to academics and activists.

“Over the past eight years under Xi, authorities have become hypersensitive to the publicizing of protests, social movements and mass resistance,” said Wu Qiang, a former politics lecturer at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

“Lu’s data provided a window into social trends in China,” Mr. Wu said, and that made him a threat to the party. China Labour Bulletin, a Hong Kong-based group that promotes worker rights, used Mr. Lu’s posts as the primary source for its “Strike Map,” an interactive online graphic tallying worker unrest.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Psychology

Marco Polo’s “China Forecast 2025” report says that by 2025, China’s technology ecosystem will have matured and be on par with Silicon Valley

The starring role that China plays in this drama makes understanding its general trajectory—from the economy to domestic politics and technology development to energy policy—of immense interest and import to the world, and particularly for its peer competitor the United States.

So what kind of China should be expected by 2025? That singular question animated this effort to forecast the country’s path forward over the medium term.

Our simple answer: A China that will be near-majority middle class for the first time, with increasing technological parity with Silicon Valley and a less carbon-intensive energy landscape, all under the aegis of a stronger Xi Jinping and his vision of governance. Achieving these outcomes will require trade-offs, in this case a China that will likely redouble on domestic priorities and moderate its appetite for global adventurism.

This view of a more capable yet more outwardly cautious China is based on a composite of four scenarios across specific functional areas, bounded by the timeframe through 2025. It is also predicated on several macro assumptions and key factors that are likely to determine China’s behavior over that time period. In other words, this forecast exists within a defined scope, the elements of which are explained below.

Read it all.

Posted in * Economics, Politics, China, Economy, Globalization, Politics in General, Science & Technology

Sunday [London] Times–German spy chief Gerhard Schindler: China is poised to dominate the world

China is close to “world domination” and Europe must wake up to the danger, a former head of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency has told The Times.

Gerhard Schindler, who led the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) from 2011 to 2016, said Germany needed to curb its “strategic dependence” on Beijing and ban Huawei from its 5G mobile phone network.

He also warned that Angela Merkel’s liberal approach to the 2015 migrant crisis had left Germany with a “large reservoir” of young Muslim men susceptible to violence and jihadist ideology, and that the true scale of the danger was only now becoming clear.

In his new book Wer hat Angst vorm BND? (Who’s Afraid of the BND?), Mr Schindler, 68, argues that Germany has hobbled its spy agencies with unnecessary red tape and neglected some of the most serious threats to its security.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Europe, Germany, Globalization

(WSJ) In Xi Jinping’s China, Nationalism Takes a Dark Turn

The wave of nationalism sweeping through China, amplified by party propaganda, the political ambitions of Xi Jinping and the country’s success in containing Covid-19, is taking a darker turn, with echoes of the country’s Maoist past.

Angry mobs online have swarmed any criticism of China’s leaders or a perceived lack of loyalty to the country. Targets are being harassed and silenced. Some have lost their jobs.

Among those who have been attacked this year are public figures who have raised questions about officials’ early handling of the coronavirus. They include a writer from Wuhan named Fang Fang, who wrote online about the struggles of local residents and accused government officials of being slow to respond to the outbreak.

Thousands of Chinese internet users called her a traitor. An anonymously written poster hung at a Wuhan bus station told her to “shave your head or kill yourself to atone for your sins against the people”—and a photo of it spread widely online. A famous tai chi master called on allies to assault her, using their “clenched fists of justice.”

Fang Fang later issued a plea to her fellow citizens on the Twitter -like platform Weibo: “China cannot return to the Cultural Revolution.”

Chinese politics researchers say surging nationalism is in part a natural response to the country’s rising stature around the world. Some Chinese people say their feelings are rooted in genuine pride for their country.

The government has also taken a heavy hand in stoking the sentiment.

Read it all.

Posted in China

(Nikkei Asia) Minxin Pei–The four albatrosses weighing down Xi Jinping

Xi Jinping may be in denial, but it has become increasingly clear that his risky bets have plunged the country into a deepening geopolitical hole.

Since he became the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in late 2012, Xi has launched several major initiatives abroad and escalated political repression at home.

As a result, Xi now finds himself weighed down by four cumbersome albatrosses; the South China Sea dispute; the Belt and Road Initiative; Xinjiang; and Hong Kong. Unless he reverses course, Xi will face an increasingly unified Western coalition threatening the survival of his regime.

To be sure, there are different reasons behind each of these liabilities. Both BRI and the South China Sea are classic examples of strategic overreach that can be traced back to when Xi assumed the top CCP leadership post in late 2012, when the prevailing view in Beijing was that China should seize the opportunity to assert its growing power and influence while the West was still reeling from the 2008 global financial crisis.

Even though China was growing more assertive before Xi’s rise, under his leadership Beijing has not only adopted more confrontational tactics — such as its militarization of a chain of artificial islands in the South China Sea — it has sought to construct a Sino-centric order as a credible competitor to the existing U.S.-led order. To quote Xi, the world should have a “China option.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General

(FT) Suicides rise after Coronavirus puts squeeze on India’s middle class

Even before Covid-19 hit, white-collar workers were under immense pressure as India’s growth stalled. Suicides among professionals have climbed for two consecutive years, averaging 23 a day in 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

“It’s the uncertainty that causes the maximum distress,” said Lakshmi Vijayakumar, a psychiatrist and suicide expert in Chennai, who added that the pandemic had led to significantly more suicides among professionals. “They are burnt out and Zoomed out,” she said. “There is the fear of infection and financial insecurity.”

The pandemic has compounded India’s economic challenges, with millions losing their jobs. The country’s economic output shrank by 24 per cent in the three months to June compared with the same period last year, the steepest fall among the world’s largest economies.

While casual labourers are beginning to pick up more work, middle-class professionals are still struggling.

Read it all.

Posted in Economy, Health & Medicine, India, Personal Finance, Psychology

(LA Times) Largest study of COVID-19 transmission highlights essential role of super-spreaders

A team of Indian and U.S. researchers examined data from 575,071 individuals who were tested after coming into contact with 84,965 people with confirmed cases of COVID-19. That’s an average of seven contacts per case, and a cohort more than 10 times larger than in a previous study from South Korea that mapped how the virus was transmitted.

“It’s the largest epidemiological study anywhere on COVID by far,” said the lead author, Ramanan Laxminarayan of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, in New Delhi.

Laxminarayan and his colleagues found that just 8% of people with COVID-19 accounted for 60% of the new infections observed among the contacts. Meanwhile, 7 out of 10 COVID-19 patients were not linked to any new cases.

The finding underscores the essential role of super-spreaders in the COVID-19 pandemic: One individual or event, such as in a poorly ventilated indoor space, can trigger a high number of new infections, while others might not transmit the virus at all.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, Singapore

(SA) Jesus made “a sinner and a killer” in Chinese textbook

Disturbing reports from China say Communist Party officials have rewritten the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8, claiming Jesus stoned the woman to death.

The incident in John 8:3–11 is a powerful testament to Jesus’ forgiveness and his divinity. The account says a mob had surrounded a woman accused of adultery. After facing down the crowd seeking to stone her, Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (v7).

After the crowd leaves, Jesus stands up and says: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (v10-11).

Reports from Roman Catholic sources and carried by the religious liberty group Bitter Winter say this event in the gospel has been drastically changed in a textbook published by the University of Electronic Science and Technology Press. The book is reportedly used in ethics and law courses in Chinese secondary vocational schools.

Read it all.

Posted in Books, China, Christology, Religion & Culture, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) How South Korea Successfully Managed Coronavirus

South Korea appears to have cracked the code for managing the coronavirus. Its solution is straightforward, flexible and relatively easy to replicate.

The country has averaged about 77 new daily cases since early April and recently suppressed a spike in infections. Adjusting for population, that would be the equivalent of about 480 cases a day in the U.S., where new daily cases have averaged about 38,000 over the same period. Total deaths in the U.S. due to Covid-19 just surpassed 200,000.

South Korea halted virus transmission better than any other wealthy country during the pandemic’s early months. It was about twice as effective as the U.S. and U.K. at preventing infected individuals from spreading the disease to others, according to a recent report from a United Nations-affiliated research network. South Korea’s economy is expected to decline by just 0.8% this year, the best among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s forecasts for member nations.

The key to South Korea’s success came from blending technology and testing like no other country, centralized control and communication—and a constant fear of failure.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Politics in General, South Korea, Theology

(CNN) The unlikely rise of Yoshihide Suga, the son of a farmer who is expected to become Japan’s next Prime Minister

Suga is the son of a farmer, and he’s known as a pragmatic, behind-the-scenes deal maker. He grew up in the rural Akita prefecture, and moved to Tokyo after high school. He then worked a series of odd jobs — including one at a cardboard factory and another at the famed Tsukiji fish market — to save money for university, which he went on to attend part time while working.

Suga entered the fast-paced, punishing world of Japan’s salary men after graduation, but it didn’t last. Politics was what shaped and impacted the world, and that’s what he wanted to do.

So he decided to run for city council in Yokohama. Though he lacked connections and political experience, he made up for it with gumption and hard work. He campaigned door-to-door, visiting about 300 houses a day and 30,000 in total, according to the LDP. By the time the election rolled around, he had worn out six pairs of shoes.

Read it all.

Posted in Japan, Politics in General

(WSJ) Masks Could Help Stop Coronavirus. So Why Are They Still Controversial?

As countries begin to reopen their economies, face masks, an essential tool for slowing the spread of coronavirus, are struggling to gain acceptance in the West. One culprit: Governments and their scientific advisers.

Researchers and politicians who advocate simple cloth or paper masks as cheap and effective protection against the spread of Covid-19, say the early cacophony in official advice over their use—as well as deeper cultural factors—has hampered masks’ general adoption.

There is widespread scientific and medical consensus that face masks are a key part of the public policy response for tackling the pandemic. While only medical-grade N95 masks can filter tiny viral particles and prevent catching the virus, medical experts say even handmade or cheap surgical masks can block the droplets emitted by speaking, coughing and sneezing, making it harder for an infected wearer to spread the virus.

Although many European countries and U.S. states have made masks mandatory in shops or on public transport, studies show that people are reluctant to wear them unless they have to.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Hong Kong

(NYT) China Is Collecting DNA From Tens of Millions of Men and Boys, Using U.S. Equipment

The police in China are collecting blood samples from men and boys from across the country to build a genetic map of its roughly 700 million males, giving the authorities a powerful new tool for their emerging high-tech surveillance state.

They have swept across the country since late 2017 to collect enough samples to build a vast DNA database, according to a new study published on Wednesday by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a research organization, based on documents also reviewed by The New York Times. With this database, the authorities would be able to track down a man’s male relatives using only that man’s blood, saliva or other genetic material.

An American company, Thermo Fisher, is helping: The Massachusetts company has sold testing kits to the Chinese police tailored to their specifications. American lawmakers have criticized Thermo Fisher for selling equipment to the Chinese authorities, but the company has defended its business.

The project is a major escalation of China’s efforts to use genetics to control its people, which had been focused on tracking ethnic minorities and other, more targeted groups. It would add to a growing, sophisticated surveillance net that the police are deploying across the country, one that increasingly includes advanced cameras, facial recognition systems and artificial intelligence.

Read it all.

Posted in Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Politics in General, Science & Technology, Theology

(Wa Po) State Department rebukes China as one of the worst abusers of religious freedom

A State Department official singled out China on Wednesday as one of the world’s worst offenders of religious freedom, saying it backslid the most last year as thousands more people of faith were subjected to imprisonment and forced labor.

The accusation by Sam Brownback, the ambassador of international religious freedom, represented the latest salvo in an exchange of recriminations between Washington and Beijing. In recent months, tensions have grown as the two countries have sparred over the coronavirus, Hong Kong, press freedoms and trade. China has accused the United States of hypocrisy amid nationwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other African Americans who have died in police custody, and the Trump administration’s response to massive demonstrations.

The State Department used Wednesday’s annual Report on International Religious Freedom to increase the crescendo of criticism of China, which has been designated a “country of particular concern” on religious freedom since 1999.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Religion & Culture, Religious Freedom / Persecution

([London] Times) China plans free childcare and tax cuts as birthrate falls to 70-year low

China may cover much of the cost of childcare, from birth to college graduation, to help reverse a decline in the birthrate.

In advance of the National People’s Congress, the rubberstamp legislature that convenes on Friday in Beijing, an influential policy advisory body has suggested that wide-ranging financial support be offered to families to address the falling birthrate in the world’s most populous country, including providing income tax cuts for new parents.

“In recent years the birthrates have plummeted, and the subsequent social and economic problems have become more severe by the day,” the China Democratic League said. It is proposing a series of subsidies to help with childcare costs and even payments to grandparents so they are rewarded for helping young parents to look after their offspring.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in Anthropology, Children, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Marriage & Family, Politics in General

(BGR) A South Korean Study finds that people who test positive for coronavirus after recovering are not infectious

However, countries like China placed them in quarantine to observe them. Similar reports came from other countries as well, including Korea, where the local CDC reported in mid-April that hundreds of patients had tested positive again. The medical authority observed the evolution of the new patients in the weeks since then, and delivered the best possible preliminary news about coronavirus reinfections: It’s not a relapse.

The KCDC officials published the findings of the study online, revealing that it investigated 285 “re-positive” cases, as well as their 790 contacts. Of those, 27 contacts were positive, 24 of which were cases that were previously confirmed. The other three were cases that were exposed to a religious group or a case in their families, so there is a high likelihood that they were infected by someone other than the “reinfected” individual.

The study says that it took 45 days on average from initial symptom onset to test positive a second time, or 14.3 days from discharge. As many as 44.7% of the patients had symptoms including cough and sore throat, the report says. 60% of them were tested for screening, regardless of symptoms.

The doctors also discovered neutralizing antibodies in all re-positive cases as well as the newly confirmed cases, which is a marker of COVID-19 immunity.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Science & Technology, South Korea

(Economist) The financial world’s nervous system is being rewired–And it is not America that is doing it

China has gone furthest. In 2015 it launched cips, an interbank messaging system to ease international payments in yuan. It uses the same language as swift, allowing it to talk to other countries’ payment systems. For now just 950 institutions use it—less than 10% of swift’s membership. But “what matters is it’s there,” says Eswar Prasad of Cornell University.

The real revolution is happening in low-value transfers. Like swift, the network of American card schemes is tricky to displace. Member banks and merchants trust each other because they adhere to tested rules. They also like the convenience of the schemes’ settlement platforms, which compute “net” positions between all banks that they square up at the end of the day. So rival schemes struggle to make a dent. In 2014, fearing sanctions could block it from using American schemes, Russia created its own, which now accounts for 17% of domestic cards. But its 70m tally is dwarfed by Visa and Mastercard’s 5bn. Size is not a problem for UnionPay, China’s own club. Just 130m of its 7.6bn cards were issued outside the mainland, however, where it is mostly used by Chinese tourists.

A mightier threat comes from a state-led revamp of domestic payment systems. Eager to reassert control over key infrastructure, some 70 countries have rebuilt their local plumbing to enable near-instant bank transfers at the tap of a screen. Europe is the most advanced, having fused local networks into a bloc of 35 countries and more than 500m people. South-East Asia is also trying to stitch its systems together. On March 5th India and Singapore connected theirs for the first time.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Economy, Globalization, Science & Technology, The Banking System/Sector

(1 News NZ) China’s ambassador to Australia says calls for inquiry into Covid-19 origins are ‘dangerous’, could spark boycotts

China’s ambassador to Australia told a newspaper that the Australian government’s pursuit of an independent international inquiry into the coronavirus outbreak could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting the country, as well as sales of major exports including beef and wine.

Ambassador Cheng Jingye told The Australian Financial Review in an interview published today that Australia’s push for an inquiry was “dangerous” and predicted it would fail to gain traction among global leaders.

“Resorting to suspicion, recrimination or division at such a critical time could only undermine global efforts to fight against this pandemic,” Cheng said.

Cheng did not accept that the virus had started in a “wet market” in the city of Wuhan, saying the scientific jury was still out on its origins.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Foreign Relations, Health & Medicine

(Science Magazine) COVID-19 vaccine protects monkeys from new coronavirus, Chinese biotech reports

For the first time, one of the many COVID-19 vaccines in development has protected an animal, rhesus macaques, from infection by the new coronavirus, scientists report. The vaccine, an old-fashioned formulation consisting of a chemically inactivated version of the virus, produced no obvious side effects in the monkeys, and human trials began on 16 April.

Researchers from Sinovac Biotech, a privately held Beijing-based company, gave two different doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to a total of eight rhesus macaque monkeys. Three weeks later, the group introduced SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, into the monkeys’ lungs through tubes down their tracheas, and none developed a full-blown infection.

The monkeys given the highest dose of vaccine had the best response: Seven days after the animals received the virus, researchers could not detect it in the pharynx or lungs of any of them. Some of the lower dosed animals had a “viral blip” but also appeared to have controlled the infection, the Sinovac team reports in a paper published on 19 April on the preprint server bioRxiv. In contrast, four control animals developed high levels of viral RNA in several body parts and severe pneumonia. The results “give us a lot of confidence” that the vaccine will work in humans, says Meng Weining, Sinovac’s senior director for overseas regulatory affairs.

“I like it,” says Florian Krammer, a virologist at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who has co-authored a status report about the many different COVID-19 vaccines in development. “This is old school but it might work. What I like most is that many vaccine producers, also in lower–middle-income countries, could make such a vaccine.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Corporations/Corporate Life, Health & Medicine

(The Immanent Frame) “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord”: Secular Christianities on Hong Kong’s Civic Square

Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
Sing hallelujah, sing hallelujah,
Sing hallelujah to the Lord.
—Linda Stassen-Benjamin (1974)

I was in Chicago on June 12, 2019 when my friend, a Christian theologian from Hong Kong, sent me a Facebook Live video of Civic Square, the site outside the government offices that got its name from a 2012 protest against a bill to revise Hong Kong’s education curriculum to feature nationalistic Chinese themes. Civic Square was also where the 2014 Umbrella Movement began. The crowd that gathered there in June of last year was singing the evangelical chorus “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord.” The word on the street, my friend said, was that Christians were trying to calm the police attired in riot gear. A day of protests was expected against the second reading of a bill to amend the extradition law to allow for any requesting foreign jurisdiction, including the Chinese mainland, to request the return of “fugitive offenders” to face legal repercussions for their crimes. The fear was that it would be used to repress critics of Beijing.

The popular interpretation of what was happening at that moment was that the singers had to be Christian. And, of course, they probably were. They would, after all, be the only ones who would think of singing an evangelical chorus from the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s that has become globally popular in contemporary evangelicalism; in fact, I have even heard it sung by Roman Catholics at mass. Indeed, the activist pastor Timothy Lam told Reuters reporters at the time that the singing, which lasted eighteen hours into the day, was an attempt to relieve the tensions between the police and the protesters who would try—and succeed—in blocking the Legislative Council chambers that day so that the reading would not be able to happen. Hong Kong Free Press goes as far as to speak of a 72-hour prayer meeting that had been planned around the demonstrations. During a press conference held by Protestant and Catholic clergy planning on confronting the Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor with the police violence that ensued over the day, one pastor reported hearing a police officer shout at a protester, “Ask your Jesus to come down and see us!” Following such reports, the New York Times interviewed Christian participants in the singing and protesting that day who thought Lam should repent of her sin and return to a path of just governance.

I was not in Hong Kong for the protests. But it did not take long for the news media I was reading and the live feeds and online forums I actively followed to show that “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” began taking on a life of its own. Within a week, Shanghaiist ran a headline declaring the anthem had become the “unofficial anthem of the anti-extradition protest movement,” though the piece’s attempt to figure out who the Christians were rendered unclear the question of whether the Christians it described were making statements or leading the singing. As far as the song itself went, some explained that they joined because religious gatherings are, by legal definition, not a riot. With its catchy lyrics able to call back in popular memory the events of June 12, it became increasingly difficult as the protests dragged on for the entire year and then some to determine whether all singing hallelujah to the Lord in Hong Kong were actually worshippers of that Lord. In time, a perverse, non-Christian Cantonese imprecatory adaptation of the Christian chorus also gained in popularity: Send Lam Cheng Yuet Ngor to the Lord.

Situated at what is arguably the founding moment of these 2019 protests, the popularity of “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” unveils, I claim, the possibility that the relation between “populism” and the “political” in Hong Kong is that the protests could over time be framed as the work of a praying public, instead of, say, a religious community going public.

Read it all.

Posted in Hong Kong, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) China’s Progress Against Coronavirus Used Draconian Tactics Not Deployed in the West

U. S. and European leaders are looking at China’s progress in curbing the coronavirus pandemic to guide them on how to beat the virus within their own borders.

They may be drawing the wrong lessons, doctors and health experts say.

The cordon sanitaire that began around Wuhan and two nearby cities on Jan. 23 helped slow the virus’s transmission to other parts of China, but didn’t really stop it in Wuhan itself, these experts say. Instead, the virus kept spreading among family members in homes, in large part because hospitals were too overwhelmed to handle all the patients, according to doctors and patients there.

What really turned the tide in Wuhan was a shift after Feb. 2 to a more aggressive and systematic quarantine regime whereby suspected or mild cases—and even healthy close contacts of confirmed cases—were sent to makeshift hospitals and temporary quarantine centers.

The tactics required turning hundreds of hotels, schools and other places into quarantine centers, as well as building two new hospitals and creating 14 temporary ones in public buildings. It also underscored the importance of coronavirus testing capacity, which local authorities say was expanded from 200 tests a day in late January to 7,000 daily by mid-February.

The steps went beyond what’s envisioned in many hard-hit Western cities. As a result, many doctors and experts say the recent lockdowns in the U.S. and Europe may slow the rise in new infections—if properly enforced—but still won’t be enough to stop it or prevent many hospitals from being overwhelmed, as they were initially in Wuhan.

“A lot of the lessons have been lost,” said Devi Sridhar, professor of global public health at the University of Edinburgh. “A lockdown helps buy time: The only way it will work is if you actually backtrack and start figuring out who has the virus.”

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

([London] Times) Chinese scientists destroyed proof of virus in December

Chinese laboratories identified a mystery virus as a highly infectious new pathogen by late December last year, but they were ordered to stop tests, destroy samples and suppress the news, a Chinese media outlet has revealed.

A regional health official in Wuhan, centre of the outbreak, demanded the destruction of the lab samples that established the cause of unexplained viral pneumonia on January 1. China did not acknowledge there was human-to-human transmission until more than three weeks later.

The detailed revelations by Caixin Global, a respected independent publication, provide the clearest evidence yet of the scale of the cover-up in the crucial early weeks when the opportunity was lost to control the outbreak.

Censors have been rapidly deleting the report from the Chinese internet.

Read it all (subscription).

Posted in China, Health & Medicine

(ERLC) The church must be a refuge in the midst of fear

COVID-19 is a great opportunity for witness. Our communities are full of scared people. Depression, anxiety, and suicide are all likely to spike in the next few weeks. I can guarantee you of this: COVID-19 comes paired with a mental health epidemic. Bereft of community, the outdoors, work, and school, individuals and families will face an unprecedented assault on their minds. The Church must respond. We must make our services physically safe places, adopting a higher standard of hygiene than wider society, so that we can provide a refuge of mind and spirit to scared people.

Since COVID-19 is especially dangerous to elders, churches can seize the opportunity to deliver food and basic supplies to older people in their communities so that they don’t have to go out. This will save lives, minister to the spirits of these dear brothers and sisters, and be a witness to all of their watching neighbors.

Since COVID-19 will lead to school cancellations, Christian families can organize parent-shares for small groups of kids, and use these as opportunities for discipleship in the home, which has proven to have an immensely fruitful effect.

Since COVID-19 will cause many people to be afraid, Christians can, when appropriate, meet friends for dinner or coffee and talk about fear, and the God who casts out all fear. We can explain that we’re just as afraid as everyone else, that we aren’t really very brave people: but Christ died for us. Whom then shall we fear? COVID-19? Hardly.

Since shortages of basic commodities are a guarantee, Christians can set an example of community support. Our churches can pool masks, soap, and other supplies from members, distributing as needed. Our church supplies a week of masks to everyone who shows up on Sunday morning, while many of our church families, including my own family, have more-or-less resolved to share our supplies until there is nothing left. When they have two dollops of hand soap left, Christians give the first one away.

This is the witness of our ancestors in the faith since time immemorial; this is the path they have walked; this is how we love our neighbors. We love our neighbor as ourselves, even laying down our lives for them.

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Hong Kong, Parish Ministry

(CT) 7 Lessons from Singapore’s Churches for When the Coronavirus Reaches Yours

The COVID-19 virus has spread from Asia to Europe and North America rapidly over the past week, bringing with it a level of panic and angst—everywhere from the supermarket to the stock market to the local church—not seen in recent times. The global tally is now more than 125,000 infected and more than 4,600 dead.

Churches in Singapore, which Billy Graham affirmed as the “Antioch of Asia,” have already weathered the anxiety now sweeping the world. On February 7, the nation-state’s government raised its national risk assessment level from Yellow to Orange, indicating “moderate disruption” to daily life—and in particular to large gatherings of people.

March 7 marked the one-month anniversary of Singapore—which has seen 166 cases but zero deaths—going Orange. This means that for the past month, local churches—which account for about 1 in 5 Singaporeans—have been forced into an extended period of self-examination, reflection, and action.

The process has not been straightforward, with a senior pastor afflicted with the coronavirus (and subsequently discharged), entire denominations suspending services, church-based preschools closing, and very public online disputes—in a nation that strictly enforces religious harmony—on how the situation is being handled by church leaders.

To help churches in the United States, Italy, Brazil, and other countries now facing decisions that churches in China, Korea, and Singapore have been grappling with for weeks, here are seven lessons the Singaporean church has learned over the past month…

Read it all.

Posted in Health & Medicine, Parish Ministry, Singapore

(IBT) Indonesian Singles Propose ‘Marriage Without Dating’

Frustrated after a string of break-ups, Dwita Astari Pujiartati quit the casual romance circuit and turned to a growing trend among Indonesian singles — marriage without dating.

The 27-year-old professor exchanged resumes with prospective suitors — helped by a Muslim cleric-cum-matchmaker — until she was contacted by a long-lost acquaintance who also wanted to give contact-less dating a whirl.

There was no hand holding or kissing. The pair didn’t even meet in person for almost a year, chatting on the telephone instead.

“Once we felt ‘the click’, (my now husband) asked my parents if he could propose to me,” Pujiartati said.

The practice known as taaruf, or introduction, is derided by critics as old fashioned and more fitting to conservative Gulf nations like Saudi Arabia than relatively liberal Indonesia, the world’s biggest Muslim majority country.

But Pujiartati saw it as a way to ditch dating that went nowhere and be a devout Muslim at the same time by avoiding pre-marital touching and sex.

Read it all.

Posted in Indonesia, Marriage & Family, Young Adults

(NPR) WHO Official Says Coronavirus Containment Remains Possible

“China has 31 provinces, thousands of cities,” notes Aylward. “And it was only a few cities where they took those draconian measures. In the vast majority of them, they … really went back to fundamentals of public health.”

These included ensuring that there was enough testing capacity to quickly identify cases, isolating infected patients, tracing anyone who had contact with them and, when necessary, placing those contacts in quarantine facilities so they wouldn’t get infected by the sick person or spread the disease further. Also, in places where clusters of cases were emerging, authorities prohibited mass gatherings.

“That’s how they stopped it in the areas with over 1.3 billion people,” says Aylward. “We spent two weeks on the ground looking at the data. Every other province [beyond Hubei, where Wuhan is located] had hundreds, if not thousands, of cases, not unlike the situation you see in European countries or in the U.S. These are massive provinces with tens and even a hundred million people in them.”

In short, Aylward says, “it wasn’t a lockdown everywhere. That’s the wrong way to portray China’s approach to the disease. And that’s leading to some fundamental confusion and failure to do the right things.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(WSJ) One Doctor’s Life on the Coronavirus Front Lines. ‘If We Fail, What Happens to You All?’

A few days later, a technician in the imaging department discovered he had been infected. Sick patients began pouring in. Soon dozens of staff were sick at Zhongnan, and other Wuhan hospitals, as well.

Most days, Dr. Zhang reviewed chest X-rays, a relatively low-risk job. Some days, she’d don a hazmat suit and tend to patients herself.

Worried she might bring the virus back home, and overloaded with work, she began sleeping on an office sofa. She barely had time to eat and shower.

She figured her parents, who lived in her home, could take care of her daughter. Her husband was living and working hundreds of miles away and unable to join them after authorities announced a strict quarantine of Wuhan in late January.

Then Dr. Zhang’s 69-year-old mother admitted to feeling sick. Dr. Zhang convinced her parents to get tested for the virus. For her mother’s first visit to the hospital, Dr. Zhang had her meet nearby, so her mother could put on protective gear before going in.

Both parents came up negative using the nucleic acid test, a finicky diagnostic tool test that regularly produced false negatives. Their CT scans told a different story.

“When I saw it, I knew,” Dr. Zhang said, recalling her mother’s first chest scan. “My heart sank.” Her father, who had been reluctant to get tested, had a lung infection that turned out to be even worse, though he showed no obvious symptoms at the time.

Read it all.

Posted in China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(Science Mag) China’s aggressive measures have slowed the coronavirus. They may not work in other countries

Chinese hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 patients a few weeks ago now have empty beds. Trials of experimental drugs are having difficulty enrolling enough eligible patients. And the number of new cases reported each day has plummeted the past few weeks.

These are some of the startling observations in a report released on 28 February from a mission organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese government that allowed 13 foreigners to join 12 Chinese scientists on a tour of five cities in China to study the state of the COVID-19 epidemic and the effectiveness of the country’s response. The findings surprised several of the visiting scientists. “I thought there was no way those numbers could be real,” says epidemiologist Tim Eckmanns of the Robert Koch Institute, who was part of the mission.

But the report is unequivocal. “China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” it says. “This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”

The question now is whether the world can take lessons from China’s apparent success—and whether the massive lockdowns and electronic surveillance measures imposed by an authoritarian government would work in other countries. “When you spend 20, 30 years in this business it’s like, ‘Seriously, you’re going to try and change that with those tactics?’” says Bruce Aylward, a Canadian WHO epidemiologist who led the international team and briefed journalists about its findings in Beijing and Geneva last week. “Hundreds of thousands of people in China did not get COVID-19 because of this aggressive response.”

Read it all.

Posted in China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(CT) Recent Praise for Modi on India’s ‘Incredible’ Religious Freedom Doesn’t Match Our Research

…Modi’s record on religious freedom since becoming the leader of India has not been something to be proud of. His silence when minorities in India have been targeted and lynched by right-wing mobs has been telling. The worst sufferers of the wrath of extreme Hindu nationalists have been India’s Muslims—the targets of cow vigilantes and much hate speech—but Christians have not been far behind. The fundamental freedoms promised by the constitution of India to religious minorities are being constantly eroded, and persecution is a daily reality for many Christians in India.

Radicals affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) movement and its family of organizations—including Modi’s BJP—have been making concerted efforts to attack Christians both physically and socially. Groups such as Bajrang Dal and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, which believe in the ideology of Hindutva as promoted by the RSS, have disrupted worship services in churches, beat up pastors and other Christians, engaged in vandalism and destruction of property, and have pressured many Christians to recant their faith and forcibly convert to Hinduism.

The lack of police action, and in too many cases the cooperation of the police with the radicals, has resulted in a culture of impunity, emboldening the oppressors to attack without fear of any consequence. This has resulted in a sense of insecurity felt by many Indian Christians. It does not help that responsible leaders of Modi’s party, including state and union ministers, routinely engage in hate speech against Christians and other minorities. This only bolsters the radicals, who view this as open encouragement to target minorities.

According to the Religious Liberty Commission of the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), which has been documenting incidents of persecution against Christians since 1998, incidents targeting Indian Christians have risen steeply since 2014, when Modi came to power. The commission recorded 147 verified cases of persecution in 2014; 252 cases in 2016; 351 in 2017; and 325 in 2018. The EFI commission will soon release the data for 2019.

Read it all.


I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Islam, Law & Legal Issues, Office of the President, Other Churches, President Donald Trump, Religion & Culture, Violence

(Stat News) A single coronavirus case exposes a bigger problem: The scope of undetected U.S. spread is unknown

The discovery that a California woman was likely infected with the novel coronavirus by a previously unrecognized case in her community is proof of an enormous problem the country is facing at the moment, according to public health experts. It’s clear that the virus is spreading undetected in the United States — but how broadly it’s spreading is an utter mystery.

Before Thursday, a perfect storm of problems in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s development of test kits — and the agency’s reluctance to expand its recommendation of who should be tested given the limited availability of kits — meant very little testing has been done in the country. As of Wednesday, the CDC said that 445 people had been tested — a fraction of the number of tests that other countries have run.

The new case in California makes it clear the virus is spreading undetected in at least one area of one state. The woman is not believed to have traveled outside the country and had no contact with a known case. As her condition worsened — she is on a ventilator — health officials in California asked the CDC to test her for the virus. Because she had not been to China and had not been a contact of a known case, the agency said no.

Read it all.

Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Globalization, Health & Medicine