"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Links - 25th April 2019 (1)

Why are boys still being discriminated against over vital HPV cancer jab? - "A series of protective jabs has been available for the past ten years to all schoolgirls but – scandalously – not boys, while older girls who missed out on the inoculation are entitled to take advantage of a ‘catch-up’ scheme. As a direct result, pre-cancers of the cervix have fallen by 80 per cent."

Xi Jinping’s Anti-Corruption Campaign: The Hidden Motives of a Modern-Day Mao - "As with the removal of term limits, the expansion of Xi’s anti-corruption initiative was a decisive power play. Since its inception in 2012, the campaign has found over 1.5 million government officials guilty of a variety of corruption-related charges. It is a defining part of Xi’s presidency as well as the principal reason why he has been able to consolidate his power so quickly and effectively... Most telling, though, are the two highest-ranking officials prosecuted: Xi’s main political rivals, Bo Xilai and Zhou Yongkang... This correlation between indictments of high-level political figures and their political benefit to Xi is indicative of the alternate use that Xi has found for his anti-corruption campaign. Interestingly enough, one of the criticisms made against Bo by a longstanding party chief was that Bo revived songs and culture representative of Mao’s Cultural Revolution. The very same ones that, ironically, are now a constant feature of Chinese television under Xi’s administration... Reports from multiple top party officials confirm that a group of six high-ranking party members attempted to overthrow Xi Jinping and seize control of the government. This revelation, surfacing amid Xi’s denials of any power struggles or divisions within the party, suggests that all is not as it seems within the Chinese government. After being accused of corruption and disloyalty, those involved were disciplined and quickly replaced with loyal longtime friends and associates of Xi’s: a trend prevalent throughout this campaign.Additional opposition to Xi was revealed by a recently published article by a Beijing law professor denouncing the recent abolition of the presidential term limit and criticizing many of Xi’s policies. It is a rare instance that disapproval of Xi is voiced publicly and by such a distinguished figure... While Mao targeted anyone whose opinions differed from his own, Xi is focused on the elimination of all political rivals and potential successors. The range of Mao’s crusade was much wider: he did not discriminate between friends and adversaries in his purge, while Xi has yet to implicate a single official for corruption that he sees as unthreatening and loyal to him personally. For this reason, Xi’s questionable prosecutions are more visible to the public eye than Mao’s were during the Cultural Revolution"

What Motivates Chinese President Xi Jinping's Anti-Corruption Drive? - "According to Willy Wo-Lop Lam, author of Chinese Politics in the Era of Xi Jinping, it was now or never. "There was a good possibility, in fact, that if high-level corruption continues, the people would rise up and overthrow the party," says Lam.To date, Xi's anti-corruption drive has led to the investigation and punishment of hundreds of thousands of government officials. Lam says Xi has used the campaign to eliminate key members of rival factions within China's Communist Party — the Shanghai faction, led by former President Jiang Zemin, and the Youth League faction, led by former President Hu Jintao."Xi Jinping has been successfully building up his own faction, the Xi Jinping faction, which has now displaced the Shanghai faction and the Youth League faction as the largest faction in the political party," Lam says."

Understanding Chinese President Xi’s anti-corruption campaign - "Xi’s enthusiasm to root out corrupt officials isn’t based on his own rectitude. Indeed, Xi’s family has inexplicably managed to accumulate over $1 billion in wealth... Corruption is built into the structure of China’s governing institutions. Xi’s campaign is more about managing the scope and consequences of corrupt practices than rooting them out altogether. As China scholar Minxin Pei has documented, corruption in China typically takes the form of organized schemes involving groups of bureaucrats and private business people to plunder state resources.Corruption fuels job promotions, the awarding of government contracts and the transfer of public assets into private hands at fire sale prices. Corruption in China is rooted in the blurred lines that come with a system combining weak rule of law, considerable autonomy on the part of local officials and an economic model featuring opaque relations between private enterprise and a large state-owned sector... If Xi were serious about rooting out corruption more thoroughly, deep institutional reforms would be required. In countries where corruption has been successfully addressed, these have included strengthened rule of law, greater judicial independence, democratic accountability, institutional transparency and greater space for media and civil society watchdogs... Yet Xi has shown little interest in these kinds of reforms, which would threaten the leading role of the Communist Party. Indeed, his attacks on rights lawyers, independent media and non-governmental organizations – precisely the groups that in other societies hold public officials to account – have pushed in the opposite directions... In The Dictator’s Handbook, political scientists Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith theorize that authoritarian leaders cannot rule without the support of other powerful players, such as military generals, business leaders and key intellectuals. Their demands must be met. Such leaders survive, therefore, by channeling rewards to those supporters most essential to the leader’s maintenance of power. Over time, however, the number of individuals attached to the ruling coalition tends to grow, as does the price that each member demands for support. We might call this the “too many pigs at the trough” problem.This may be sustainable if the economy is rapidly growing, but becomes more problematic once growth slows, as indeed it has in China in recent years. Because the monetary gains extracted by corrupt officials serve as dead weight from an economic perspective, corruption itself can become a source of worsening economic performance... All of this explains why newly installed leaders move quickly to cull the number of pigs at the trough, as Xi has done since taking power in 2012. By retargeting private rewards only to those whose support is truly essential and reducing the size of payoffs to the minimum necessary to avert defection, the leader thereby shores up his power position with a smaller and more manageable ruling coalition."

Is the Chinese Corporate Anti
-Corruption Campaign Genuine?
- "specific affiliations with the investigated formerleaders increases investigation likelihood, whileconnections with the current leaders decrease investigation likelihood, indicating possible politicalfavoritism. Chinese firms in general exhibit little overall decrease in measures of potential corporatecorruption, with the exception of heavily scrutinized entertainment expenditures."

The Belt and Road Initiative Is a Corruption Bonanza – Foreign Policy - "When former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak was ousted from office in May 2018, it’s possible that no one was more dismayed than officials in Beijing... an explosive Wall Street Journal report exposed the most damning evidence yet: minutes from a series of meetings at which Malaysian officials suggested to their Chinese counterparts that China finance infrastructure projects in Malaysia at inflated costs. The implication was that the extra cash could be used to settle 1MDB’s debts. According to the report, Najib, who has denied any part in corruption, was well aware of the meetings.If true, the report puts tangible proof behind widely held suspicions that China exploits corrupt regimes to propel its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)... Many countries that receive BRI investments suffer from high levels of corruption. On the TRACE Bribery Risk Matrix, most rank in the lower 50 percent, and 10 are among the riskiest 25 countries in the world. They often have opaque legislative processes, weak accountability mechanisms, compliant media organizations, and authoritarian governments that don’t permit dissent... In no part of China’s lengthy declaration of the BRI’s principles is any attempt made to discourage corruption. And according to a report by Transparency International, no charges have ever been brought in China against a company, citizen, or resident for corrupt practices committed overseas."

China's ranking declines in Transparency International's latest Corruption Perception Index - "China’s global ranking has moved down 10 places and its CPI score has declined by two points in 2018"
Clearly Xi's campaign is not working

Forgotten Singapore: evicted islanders grieve for lost 'paradise' - "From the 1960s on, residents of Singapore's idyllic southern islands were forced out of fishing villages and into high rises. A documentary finds many still grieving for their old way of life... most of the islanders had been hopeful Lee's People's Action Party would affect change. They'd been promised amenities such as a police post, community clinic and Malay school. Within a decade, they didn't even have an island."

China database lists 'breedready' status of 1.8 million women - "An open database in China contains the personal information of more than 1.8 million women, including their phone numbers, addresses, and something called “BreedReady” status"

Data Leak Reveals China Monitoring 364 Million Social Media Accounts - "There were chats from teenagers. Direct messages that were supposed to be private... Gevers discovered a Chinese company called SenseNets accumulated a database of 2.5 million people using its facial recognition software and left it wide open to intruders, without even rudimentary password protection. The database included ID card numbers, home addresses, birthdates, and the precise location of the individual ever time a SenseNets camera noticed them.Gevers spent a day quietly monitoring the database and watched 6.8 million location hits pile up, fed into the system by cameras at police stations, hotels, public parks, Internet cafes, and mosques. Most of this surveillance data came from Xinjiang province, where China is oppressively controlling the Uighur Muslims.“Knowing when someone is not in the office or at home can be useful for simple burglar crimes, but also social engineering attacks to get into buildings,” he noted."

Pop Music Lyrics Average a Third-Grade Reading Level - "a great many of our most popular songs are written at just a third-grade reading level. That's the conclusion reached by an analysis of 225 songs that spent at least three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts over the last 10 years... Perhaps more surprisingly when it came to song lyrics, country music pulled the other genres to above a third-grade level, averaging a 3.3 reading level while pop and rock tied at 2.9 and R&B/hip-hop ranked lowest at a grade level of 2.6... Since 2005, the intelligence level of lyrics has steadily declined, moving from a high of about 3.5 in 2006 to its present low of about 2.7."


Free speech is under threat over Islamophobia | Comment | The Times - "I try to avoid the term Islamophobia. Anti-Muslim hatred is much better, since it focuses on prejudice against Muslim people and their life chances. I speak as someone who has defended the rights of Muslim people for decades but who also defends freedom of expression.From personal experience, I know how the smear of Islamophobia is used to silence debate and critics. In 1994, I protested against the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. It had endorsed the killing of LGBT people, women who have sex outside of marriage and Muslims who turn away from their faith. I was denounced as Islamophobic"

Muslims demand full legal protection from Islamophobia - "Muslim organisations are urging Theresa May, Jeremy Corbyn and all other party leaders to adopt a newly proposed working definition of Islamophobia in an attempt to put pressure on a reluctant Home Office to follow suit."

Islamophobia: The new tool to silence liberal Muslims - "Islamophobia has become a synonym for blasphemy by means of which Islamists smear dissent and hound liberal Muslims... he recent European Court of Human Rights’ affirmation of the conviction of an Austrian woman who criticized Islamic tradition and its prophet has made the matter more worrying.Her remarks were considered to have gone “beyond the limits of a critical denial” of religious sanctity. The decision was highly criticized by human rights activists, scholars and victims of Islamic blasphemy laws around the world who described the ruling as infantilizing towards Muslims, while also making Islam immune to criticism. The ruling marked a conspicuous blow to efforts to decriminalize blasphemy as a ‘crime’ since the decision came down in the midst of ongoing efforts to remove the ‘crime’ of blasphemy from the Irish constitution and the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Pakistani Christian embroiled in a false case of blasphemy who remains in hiding because of Islamist threats to her life."
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