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TOPIC: asia

Society

Play And Pay: Why Singapore's Education System Is Top Of The Class

For years, Singapore has topped education rankings and inspired other school systems. Among the keys to its success is a playful approach to education and highly paid teachers. But many worry about the pressure the system places on children.

SINGAPORE — Every year in mid-October, social networks are set ablaze in Singapore. Upset parents attack the Ministry of Education on Facebook, Twitter and other forums, accusing it of having organized tests that were too complicated for their children. They say their children came home from the math section of the PSLE – the Primary School Leaving Examination – in tears. The results come in late November.

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Ukraine Refutes Dugina Accusations, UK Migrants Record, Jupiter’s Auroras

👋 Dobrý deň!*

Welcome to Tuesday, where Ukrainian ridicule Russian accusations that it is behind the murder Darya Dugina last week, the UK sees a record daily number of migrants reaching its shores, and the James Webb Telescope wows us again. Meanwhile, Hong-Kong-based outlet The Initium looks at the weight of new religious groups in Japan in the wake of Shinzo Abe’s assassination by a member of the Unification Church.

[*Slovak]

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Old Witch Farce, No Fly Zone:  Specter Of Pelosi Taiwan Trip Raises Heat In Region

A phone call Thursday between Presidents Xi and Biden may have avoided adding tensions to U.S.-China relations, but now all attention will be back on the question of whether Nancy Pelosi lands in Taipei next month for a meeting that Beijing has been warning against and the Chinese media stirs the pot.

It's not quite "Nixon goes to China," but the question of whether U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will visit Taiwan is already stirring geopolitical tensions, and sparking rhetorical bluster from Beijing's official channels, as well as media and social networks.

Following The Financial Times' report on July 19 of a planned trip, Pelosi herself has still not confirmed whether she will be the most senior Congressional figure to make an official visit to Taiwan in 25 years. But that hasn't stopped continuous speculation and threats, and even insults, coming from mainland China.

The possibility of a visit also further complicated an already highly charged call Thursday between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping, the first since March.

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Mongolian Herbal Medicine, A COVID Revival Takes Root

Traditional medicines, once banned, have regained favor. Government and health officials are endorsing them alongside COVID-19 vaccinations.

ERDENET, ORKHON PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — The water steams, then bubbles to a boil. Bayarjargal Togmid takes the pot off the stove and stirs in a bright yellow grass, known as manjingarav.

“This plant is excellent against coughing,” she says. “I drink it now and mix it with water so that my children often gargle their throats and mouths with it. It is far more effective than regular medicines.”

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Society
Gwendolyn Ledger

Didi, The Chinese Food Delivery App Finding Its Tasty Niche In Latin America

Didi Food, a delivery startup that struggled in East Asia, has found a growing market in Latin American cities, where appetite for home deliveries has yet to be fully satisfied.

SANTIAGO DE CHILEBarranquilla and Soledad are the latest Colombian cities to join the Chinese delivery firm Didi Food's expanding market in Latin America.

The firm began exploring partners here months ago, but announced its "arrival" online in late June once it had a critical mass of eateries and partners registered with it. The application is available in other Colombian cities, as well as in Mexico, Brazil, Costa Rica, Chile and the Dominican Republic.

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Geopolitics
Dominique Moïsi

What Boris Johnson's Fall Says About The Troubled State Of Western Democracy

Boris Johnson's resignation is another example of the political crises in the democratic world. But that does not necessarily mean that dictators and despots will win.

-Analysis-

PARIS — Even Vladimir Putin could not save Boris Johnson. The invasion of Ukraine bought the Conservative Party leader a few weeks or even months. But enough was enough. The man who presented himself as the heir in line to Winston Churchill was only an actor, full of panache to be sure, but above all he was an inveterate liar. The illustration, next only to Donald Trump, of the political crisis in the democratic world.

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Coronavirus
Liang Yue and Yuan Huiyan.

Hong Kong's Strict COVID Rules  Are Sparking An Exodus Of Foreigners

Enduring COVID restrictions are the final straw for many expats in Hong Kong. They're leaving by the thousands, threatening the city's reputation as a financial hub.

HONG KONG — “It's not the policy itself, but the lack of any rationale behind it that's made me choose to leave...” Steven (not his real name), an American senior executive of a strategic consulting firm who had been working in Hong Kong for seven years until April of this year.

More than two years on since the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hong Kong administration has been closely following mainland China's “Dynamic Clearing Policy”. The particularly strict social restrictions, vaccination policy and business operation limits, as well as the two to three weeks of quarantine imposed on arrival in the city, have pushed both local and international business circles to request the Hong Kong government to review the intangible and tangible economic costs behind the COVID-zero strategy.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Lorraine Olaya and Bertrand Hauger

Russia’s Deescalation Pledge Raises Int’l Eyebrows

👋 Dydh da!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Western leaders share their skepticism after Moscow promises to scale back its offensive in Ukraine, Israel is rocked by a third terror attack in eight days, and Pluto may host ice volcanoes (and a hidden ocean). Meanwhile, Persian-language media Kayhan-London looks at Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards and the role they may play in helping revive the country’s nuclear deal.

[*Cornish, UK]

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Geopolitics
Yann Rousseau

Why So Many Asian Countries Are Staying Neutral On Putin

Western countries want to isolate Russia on the world stage. But for many Asian countries, the war in Ukraine is distant geographically and economically, and represents an existential debate between dictatorships and democracies.

-Analysis-

TOKYO — Vladimir Putin could not have put it better than Zaw Min Tun, the spokesman of the junta in power in Myanmar. “Russia has taken the necessary actions to protect and strengthen its own sovereignty," Min Tun said the day after the invasion of Ukraine. "As a great power, it ensures the balance of world forces, which allows the preservation of peace.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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The war launched against Ukraine prompted a unanimous condemnation of Russia in Western countries and triggered a coordinated and rapid implementation of very severe sanctions. But the same cannot be said for Asia.

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China
Frédéric Schaeffer

China's Ski Boom Is Bigger Than The Olympics

In 10 years, skiing has exploded in China. The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing and the growing middle class have served as springboards for this craze. Are we seeing the beginnings of a great skiing nation or should we put on the breaks?

GUANGZHOU — Chunli traded in her bare feet for snowboarding boots: "I saw some videos on Douyin [TikTok in Chinese] and it made me want to try it. It looks so cool!"

With her board between her mittens, the young student valiantly heads for the snowy slopes. In Douyin, it is -6°C (21°F) all year long and the snow is always there. No wind or sun. As for the mountains, they are only displayed on the walls.

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Future
Dan Wu

Taiwan's Virtual "Tuck-Me-In" Platform Shows COVID Impact On Dating Apps

Do you long for bedtime stories told remotely? Or miss the companionship a voice provides? There's an app for that, which also responds to special COVID-19 needs of dating apps that allows for more direct online communication.

TAIPEI — PlayOne is a popular app in Taiwan that provides online partners for streaming video gaming and other chat functionality. But recently the app began to offer online companionship with a new option: “Calling to sleep.”

On this particular platform, a user can select the characteristics of their ideal companion to be nearby, virtually, when bedtime arrives. A range of features can be selected, including the go-to-sleep voice and appearance of the person who is there with you remotely as you drift off to sleep. The price? One sleep buddy says that he charges about $13 per hour.

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In The News
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

Booster Hope, Jimmy Lai Convicted, Oreo Wine

👋 Sveiki!*

Welcome to Thursday, where boosters appear to work on Omicron, Jimmy Lai is found guilty and there’s a mind-blowingly bad idea for a new wine. We also see how Ukrainians are measuring the Russian threat of an invasion.

[*Latvian]

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