Sneezin' In The Rain: The Evolutionary Curse Of A Newfound Monkey Species In Burma

Atchoo! Swiss researchers have identified a new species of snub-nosed monkey living in the forests of northern Burma. It's upside-down nostrils seem to cause it to sneeze its way through the entire rainy season

A golden snub-nosed monkey, cousin of the sneezer (suneko)
A golden snub-nosed monkey, cousin of the sneezer (suneko)


In the local dialect, the monkey is referred to as mey nwoah, meaning "monkey with an upturned face." Its wide nostrils that look like they are upside down also has some Internet jesters pointing out a resemblance with post-plastic surgery Michael Jackson. For the record, the scientific term for this beauty is Rhinopithecus strykeri, but you may call it the Burmese snub-nosed monkey.

A team of researchers from the University of Zurich's Anthropological Institute and Museum discovered the new primate, though they were unable to snap a picture of the monkey before it ran away. Suffice to say that it said to resemble its cousin, the golden snub-nosed monkey (pictured above), but even a tad uglier.

Still, people from the northwest region of Burma say that if you want to find the monkey, you first need to wait for the rainy season to come, then you can just follow the sneezes. Because when rain falls into the monkey's open nostrils it is believed to cause it to sneeze, so much so that they often spend soggy days with their heads tucked between their knees, atchooing away.

Other species of snub-nosed monkeys had already been found, but until now there had been no reports of the animals in Burma.

The discovery of a new species is a cause for celebration. Unfortunately, scientists estimate that only 260 to 330 of these monkeys remain. As such, they already qualify as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Well the Burmese snub-nosed monkeys still around: Bless you!

Read the full story in French by Lucia Sillig

Photo – suneko

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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Chinese Students Now Required To Learn To Think Like Xi Jinping

'Xi Jinping Thought' ideas on socialism have been spreading across the country since 2017. But now, Beijing is going one step further by making them part of the curriculum, from the elementary level all the way up to university.

Children from Congtai Elementary School, Handan City, Hebei Province

Maximilian Kalkhof

BEIJING — It's important to strengthen the "determination to listen to and follow the party." Also, teaching materials should "cultivate patriotic feelings." So say the new guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The goal is to help Chinese students develop more "Marxist beliefs," and for that, the government wants its national curriculum to include "Xi Jinping Thought," the ideas, namely, of China's current leader.

Xi Jinping has been the head of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for almost 10 years. In 2017, at a party convention, he presented a doctrine in the most riveting of party prose: "Xi Jinping's ideas of socialism with Chinese characteristics in the new age."

Behind this word jam is a plan to consolidate the power of the nation, the party and Xi himself. In other words, to make China great again!

Communist curriculum replaces global subjects

This doctrine has sent shockwaves through China since 2017. It's been echoed in newspapers, on TV, and screamed from posters and banners hung in many cities. But now, the People's Republic is going one step further: It's bringing "Xi Jinping Thought" into the schools.

Starting in September, the country's 300 million students have had to study the doctrine, from elementary school into university. And in some cities, even that doesn't seem to be enough. Shanghai announced that its students from third to fifth grade would only take final exams in mathematics and Chinese, de facto deleting English as an examination subject. Beijing, in the meantime, announced that it would ban the use of unauthorized foreign textbooks in elementary and middle schools.

But how does a country that enchants its youth with socialist ideology and personality cults rise to become a world power? Isn't giving up English as a global language the quickest way into isolation?

The educational reform comes at a time when Beijing is brutally disciplining many areas of public life, from tech giants to the entertainment industry. It has made it difficult for Chinese technology companies to go public abroad, and some media have reported that a blanket ban on IPOs in the United States is on the cards in the next few years.

photo of books on a book shelf

Books about Xi-Jinping at the 2021 Hong Kong Book Fair

Alex Chan Tsz Yuk/SOPA Images/ZUMA

— Photo:

Targeting pop culture

The regime is also taking massive action against the entertainment industry. Popstar Kris Wu was arrested on charges of rape. Movies and TV series starring actor Zhao Wei have started to disappear from Chinese streaming platforms. The reason is unclear.

What the developments do show is that China is attempting to decouple from the West with increasing insistence. Beijing wants to protect its youth from Western excesses, from celebrity worship, super wealth and moral decline.

A nationalist blogger recently called for a "profound change in the economy, finance, culture and politics," a "revolution" and a "return from the capitalists to the masses." Party media shared the text on their websites. It appears the analysis caused more than a few nods in the party headquarters.

Dictatorships are always afraid of pluralism.

Caspar Welbergen, managing director of the Education Network China, an initiative that aims to intensify school exchanges between Germany and China, says that against this background, the curriculum reform is not surprising.

"The emphasis on 'Xi Jinping Thought' is being used in all areas of society," he says. "It is almost logical that China is now also using it in the education system."

Needless to say, the doctrine doesn't make student exchanges with China any easier.

Dictatorships are always afraid of color, pluralism and independent thinking citizens. And yet, Kristin Kupfer, a Sinology professor at the University of Trier, suggests that ideologically charged school lessons should not be interpreted necessarily as a sign of weakness of the CCP.

From the point of view of a totalitarian regime, she explains, this can also be interpreted as a signal of strength. "It remains to be seen whether the Chinese leadership can implement this so thoroughly," Kupfer adds. "Initial reactions from teachers and parents on social media show that such a widespread attempt to control opinion has raised fears and discontent in the population."

Die Welt
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