Category : Asia

(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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

(NYT) Coronavirus Weakens China’s Powerful Propaganda Machine

Exhausted medical workers with faces lined from hours of wearing goggles and surgical masks. Women with shaved heads, a gesture of devotion. Retirees who donate their life savings anonymously in government offices.

Beijing is tapping its old propaganda playbook as it battles the relentless coronavirus outbreak, the biggest challenge to its legitimacy in decades. State media is filling smartphones and airwaves with images and tales of unity and sacrifice aimed at uniting the people behind Beijing’s rule. It even briefly offered up cartoon mascots named Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man, characters meant to stir patriotic feelings among the young during the crisis.

The problem for China’s leaders: This time, it isn’t working so well.

Online, people are openly criticizing state media. They have harshly condemned stories of individual sacrifice when front-line medical personnel still lack basic supplies like masks. They shouted down Jiangshan Jiao and Hongqi Man. They have heaped scorn on images of the women with shaved heads, asking whether the women were pressured to do it and wondering why similar images of men weren’t appearing.

One critical blog post was titled “News Coverage Should Stop Turning a Funeral Into a Wedding.”

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Posted in --Social Networking, Blogging & the Internet, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Media, Politics in General

(NYT) C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.

The coronavirus almost certainly will begin spreading in communities in the United States, and Americans should begin preparations now, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.

In the event of an outbreak, communities should plan for “social distancing measures,” like dividing school classes into smaller groups of students, closing schools, canceling meetings and conferences, and arranging for employees to work from home.

“We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Dr. Messonnier said.

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

(NYT) Religious Groups in China Step Into the Coronavirus Crisis

Earlier this month, the hard-hit town of Caohe, near the center of the coronavirus outbreak in central China, received an unexpected gift: a large donation from a Taoist nunnery 550 miles away. Another Taoist temple, this one in Caohe itself, contributed tens of thousands of dollars worth of medical equipment to help those sickened by the virus.

“The moment believers heard the news, they called us and asked how to help,” said a nun who organized one of the fund-raising drives.

In temples, mosques and churches, China’s religious believers have jumped into the national battle against the coronavirus. They have offered prophecies and prayers, ceremonies and services, as well as donations totaling more than $30 million. Their efforts reflect the country’s decades-long religious revival, and the feeling among many Chinese that faith-based groups provide an alternative to the corruption that has plagued the government….

Read it all.

Posted in China, Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture

(Sightings) Infectious Religion–Religion and its surprising-but-not-unprecedented role in the spread of the coronavirus

The particular sighting of religion and the coronavirus has to do with a church in South Korea now connected with a surge in cases in the country. These cases have been linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. In an article in The New York Times by Choe Sang-Hun, “Shadowy Church Is at Center of Coronavirus Outbreak in South Korea,” we learn that certain practices of the church can spread the disease: no face masks or glasses allowed; sitting on the floor closely aligned with other congregants is required; mandatory church attendance even when sick; services are followed by members going out into the public to proselytize. Shincheonji teaches that illness is a sin and that members should attend to their mission work to proselytize people even if sick. Lee Man-hee, who, according to Choe Sang-Hun’s article, is an “88-year-old self-styled messiah,” founded the church. Given the size of the church, some 150,000 members, Lee has, thankfully, urged his followers to abide by the government’s instructions. Nevertheless, as the article notes, in a message to congregants, Lee forcefully argued that “This disease outbreak is the work of the devil, which is hellbent on stopping the rapid growth of the Shincheonji.”

There we have it, sightings of every trapping of religion: ritual practice, teachings, the authority (of whatever sort) of a founder; attributions of supernatural forces seeking to thwart the work of God; and everything wrapped in secrecy. Seen as a cult by mainline religions because of the command of the church on some members’ lives, the case in point here is that religion can aid the spread of actual disease. The question is whether or not this is just a particular case.

As in many things, the particular does in fact—sadly—illustrate the general point. A provocative story in Science, “Does Religion Influence Epidemics?” by Elizabeth Pennisi (August 23, 2011), noted that David Hughes, evolutionary biologist at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, gave a lecture at the 13th Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (2011) in Tübingen, Germany, on why biologists should treat religion as a serious topic. Hughes’ initial observation is that some of the world’s religions arose at the same time as infectious diseases, along with the flourishing of cities. Disease and religion, oddly enough, mutually shaped one another.

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Posted in Health & Medicine, Religion & Culture, South Korea

(BBC) Coronavirus: Rapid spread raises fears of global pandemic

On Monday Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait and Bahrain reported their first cases, all involving people who had come from Iran.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had warned that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was “narrowing”.

Paul Hunter, professor of health protection at the University of East Anglia in the UK, echoed his fears, saying the spike in cases outside China was “extremely concerning”.

“The tipping point after which our ability to prevent a global pandemic seems a lot closer after the past 24 hours,” he said on Monday.

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Posted in China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

Bishop Rennis S Ponniah writes his diocese about their Christian Witness amidst the outbreak of the Coronavirus

OUR WITNESS IN A TIME OF ADVERSITY

Together with our nation, we are facing a time of adversity because of the coronavirus. How should Christians respond?

I. Firstly, we are to PROCLAIM CHRIST’S LORDSHIP
1. We are to find strength in God’s word and in the fellowship of God’s people to believe that the Lord our God is on the throne.

2. The good times and the hard times are all in His hands.

3. God is not the source of the coronavirus but He can harness it to serve His saving purposes. God weeps with those who suffer because of the outbreak. But He is also sovereign over the pestilence and He can use it to reveal who He is – that He is a God who protects, heals and delivers. Because God is love.

4. He is our Covenant-keeping God who promises to take His people through every crisis and accomplish His purpose. Our lives are in His hands.

5. The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ has made Him the Lord of the nations. Jesus Christ is Lord over Singapore. He is Lord over our Deanery countries. We must proclaim it in our prayers and in our times of worshipping together. Christ is sovereign over this outbreak. He is turning the nation God-ward, and He is building the values and social cohesion of the nation.

6. Let us therefore proclaim Christ’s Lordship over our nation and let us trust Him to work out His good and saving purposes.

II. Secondly, we are to PRAY FOR GOD’S MERCY…

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Latest News, - Anglican: Primary Source, Health & Medicine, Singapore

(NYT) With 4 Deaths in Iran and More Cases on 3 Continents, Fears of Coronavirus Pandemic Rise

An alarming surge of new coronavirus cases outside China, with fears of a major outbreak in Iran, is threatening to transform the contagion into a global pandemic, as countries around the Middle East scrambled to close their borders and continents so far largely spared reported big upticks in the illness.

In Iran, which had insisted as recently as Tuesday that it had no cases, the virus may now have reached most major cities, including Tehran, and has killed at least four people, according to health officials. Already, cases of travelers from Iran testing positive for the virus have turned up in Canada and Lebanon.

The number of cases also soared in South Korea, with the sudden spread tied to a secretive church where hundreds of congregants attended services with numerous people infected with the virus.

The United States now has 34 cases, with more expected, and Italy experienced a spike from three cases to 17 and ordered mandatory quarantine measures.

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Posted in China, Death / Burial / Funerals, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(CBC) WHO director says world must act fast to contain COVID-19

The window of opportunity to contain wider international spread of the coronavirus is closing, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Friday, and countries must act fast if they are going to control it.

Asked whether the outbreak is at a “tipping point” — after new cases appeared in, or were traced to, Iran — WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he still believed it could be stopped.

“Although the window of opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak, we still have a chance to contain it,” he said, adding that China’s “serious measures” in Wuhan and Hubei province could help contain the coronavirus. However, he noted that the outbreak “could go any direction.”

He encouraged countries around the world to keep working on containment while also stepping up measures to prepare for the possibility of more widespread transmission.

“What I’m saying is — it’s in our hands now. If we do well within the narrowing window of opportunity … we can avert any serious crisis,” Tedros said.

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Posted in China, Globalization, Health & Medicine

(Guardian) How Hindu supremacists are tearing India apart

The onslaught on JNU marked the middle of a season of nationwide protest, provoked by a new law. The Citizenship Amendment Act, passed by parliament on 11 December 2019, provides a fast track to citizenship for refugees fleeing into India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Refugees of every south Asian faith are eligible – every faith, that is, except Islam. It is a policy that fits neatly with the RSS and the BJP’s demonisation of Muslims, India’s largest religious minority. To votaries of Hindutva, the country is best served if it is expunged of Islam. The act was both a loud signal of that ambition and a handy tool to help achieve it.

Since December, millions of Indians have turned out on to the streets to object to this vision of their country. The government has fought them by banning gatherings, shutting off mobile internet services, detaining people arbitrarily, or worse. After protests flared at Jamia Millia Islamia, an Islamic university in Delhi, cops fired teargas and live rounds, assaulted students and trashed the library. As demonstrations spread across the state of Uttar Pradesh, police raided and vandalised Muslim homes by way of reprisal. Detainees in custody were beaten; one man reported hearing screams in a police station all night long. (In various statements, the police claimed to be acting in self defence, or to prevent violence, or to root out conspiracy.) At least 20 protesters died of bullet wounds. Police officials denied firing at the crowds, even though the police carried the only visible guns at these rallies.

Still, the protests have persisted well into February. At Shaheen Bagh, a neighbourhood in south-eastern Delhi, hundreds of thousands of people have turned up over nine weeks to take part in an indefinite sit-in. The BJP has taken a ruthless view of all this dissent. On one occasion, Yogi Adityanath, a Hindu cleric who is chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, said: “If they won’t understand words, they’ll understand bullets.” One of Modi’s ministers used “Shoot the traitors to the nation!” as a call-and-response at a rally – the same slogan the ABVP had raised in JNU.

In its 72 years as a free country, India has never faced a more serious crisis. Already its institutions – its courts, much of its media, its investigative agencies, its election commission – have been pressured to fall in line with Modi’s policies. The political opposition is withered and infirm. More is in the offing: the idea of Hindutva, in its fullest expression, will ultimately involve undoing the constitution and unravelling the fabric of liberal democracy. It will have to; constitutional niceties aren’t compatible with the BJP’s blueprint for a country in which people are graded and assessed according to their faith. The ferment gripping India since the passage of the citizenship act – the fever of the protests, the brutality of the police, the viciousness of the politics – has only reflected how existentially high the stakes have become.

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Posted in Ethics / Moral Theology, Hinduism, India, Religion & Culture

(RNS) A daughter’s duty: From Boston, a Uighur woman champions her father’s release in China

Samira Imin can’t stop thinking about the times her father took her horseback riding.

She remembers how her father, a prominent Uighur publisher and historian named Iminjan Seydin, would always spoil her and shelter her from her mother’s scoldings. She thinks of the time she went out alone as a teen living in China’s Xinjiang region and became lost, and Seydin began frantically calling around to find her, then cried when she finally returned home.

“He was like a mountain to me, so strong,” said Imin, who works as a research assistant at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. “He was always my protector.”

Now, months after she learned that Chinese officials were holding her father in a detention camp for Uighur Muslims before arresting him over charges of extremism, Imin says it’s her turn to become her father’s protector and bring him back home.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., China, Islam, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture

(WSJ) Document Shows Chinese Officials’ Calculations in Waging Xinjiang Campaign

A spreadsheet compiled by Chinese authorities responsible for tracking ethnic-minority Muslims catalogs detailed personal information—including whether they regularly pray at a mosque, possess a passport or have friends or relatives in trouble with the law.

The 137-page document, a copy of which was shown to The Wall Street Journal and other news organizations, holds records from one county in Xinjiang, a northwestern region where human-rights groups say as many as a million people have been detained in re-education camps in recent years.

Xinjiang, on the doorstep of Central Asia, is home to millions of Turkic-speaking Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities.

Officials in Xinjiang describe the camps as vocational-training schools. In December, the region’s governor said all students had successfully “graduated.” The spreadsheet appears aimed at helping decide who would stay in custody and who would be let go, often for “management and control” at home.

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Posted in China, Islam, Religion & Culture