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Trump Has Last Laugh, World Left Crying

No one is counting on the United States anymore
No one is counting on the United States anymore
Stuart Richardson

Yesterday, as he announced the United States' withdrawal from the historic Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump appeared particularly eager to deride the perceived exploitation of America in past international negotiations.

"We don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won't be."

No, Mr. President, no one is laughing today. Following Trump's stunning announcement to abandon the climate change accords, world leaders were virtually unanimous in criticizing the decision. Most spoke in the customary, measured tones of diplomacy. British Prime Minister Theresa May was "disappointed," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the reversal "extremely regrettable." But newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron took another tack, concluding his remarks on the withdrawal with a call (in English) to "make our planet great again," a not-so-subtle parody of Donald Trump's campaign slogan.

Of course, American presidents are accustomed to mockery and cheeky contempt. Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, made headlines in 2006 when he called then-President George W. Bush "the Devil" during a UN speech. President Obama, too, attracted considerable, low-brow ridicule while in office, particularly from Russia. Yet America expects this sort of behavior from her enemies, not her friends.

The United States' allies have recently become bolder in their rejection of the current administration. In addition to Macron, Nordic leaders apparently trolled Trump during a photo opportunity earlier this week. This flippant form of diplomacy suggests that even as the world distances itself from Trump's America, it is somehow also behaving more like it.

But more importantly, the substance of these condemnations may signal a momentous shift in international politics. On Sunday, Angela Merkel called on Europe to "take our fate into our own hands' in one of the most pointed rebukes of the current U.S. administration. The Chancellor's words suggest a momentous turn for Europe and a new calculus for diplomats around the world. Simply put, no one is counting on the United States anymore. Italy, Germany, and France have already stated that they would not renegotiate the Paris Agreement per Donald Trump's request. The newfound determination may be encouraging, but a climate pact without Washington is no joke.

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A Refuge From China's Rat Race: The Young People Flocking To Buddhist Monasteries

Unemployment, stress in the workplace, economic difficulties: more and more young Chinese graduates are flocking to monasteries to find "another school of life."

Photograph of a girl praying at a temple during Chinese Lunar New Year. She is burning incense.

Feb 20, 2015 - Huaibei, China - Chinese worshippers pray at a temple during the Lunar New Yeat

Frédéric Schaeffer

JIAXING — It's already dawn at Xianghai Temple when Lin, 26, goes to the Hall of 10,000 Buddhas for the 5:30 a.m. prayer.

Still half-asleep, the young woman joins the monks in chanting mantras and reciting sacred texts for an hour. Kneeling, she bows three times to Vairocana, also known as the Great Sun Buddha, who dominates the 42-meter-high hall representing the cosmos.

Before grabbing a vegetarian breakfast in the adjacent refectory, monks and devotees chant around the hall to the sound of drums and gongs.

"I resigned last October from the e-commerce company where I had been working for the past two years in Nanjing, and joined the temple in January, where I am now a volunteer in residence," explains the young woman, soberly dressed in black pants and a cream linen jacket.

Located in the city of Jiaxing, over a hundred kilometers from Shanghai, in eastern China, the Xianghai temple is home to some 20 permanent volunteers.

Unlike Lin, most of them only stay for a couple days or a few weeks. But for Lin, who spends most of her free time studying Buddhist texts in the temple library, the change in her life has been radical. "I used to do the same job every day, sometimes until very late at night, writing all kinds of reports for my boss. I was exhausted physically and mentally. I felt my life had no meaning," she says.

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