Weighing Syria, Gaza Rebuilding, Fake Panda Pregnancy

Urgent rebuilding in Gaza is estimated to cost at least $367 million, according to the UN.
Urgent rebuilding in Gaza is estimated to cost at least $367 million, according to the UN.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko cancelled a trip to Turkey over what he described as “Russian troop deployments” in eastern Ukraine. His decision comes amid reports of a Russian “invasion” and the gathering of special OSCE meeting in Vienna. Writing on Twitter, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt claimed that “an increasing number of Russian troops are intervening directly in fighting on Ukrainian territory.” The latest development suggests that the “roadmap to ceasefire” Poroshenko promised after his meeting with Putin two days ago is off the table.

In an interview with Russian media, a Donetsk rebel leader said that 3,000 to 4,000 volunteer “Russian civilians” have joined them to fight against Ukraine government forces and. He also characterized claims of a Russian invasion as an attempt to justify military defeats. Read more from RT.

Urgent rebuilding in Gaza is estimated to cost at least $367 million, according to the United Nations, following weeks of bombings by Israeli forces.

European leaders are considering their options in Syria, as White House officials in Washington insist that President Barack Obama wouldn’t need Congressional approvalto strike ISIS terrorists there.

This morning, French President François Hollande called on the international community to “arm opposition forces who are fighting ISIS,” adding that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad “cannot be a partner in the fight against terrorism” because “he is the de facto ally of jihadists.” In a speech to foreign ambassadors, Hollande also called for “exceptional support” for Libya, where ongoing fighting between militias has plunged the country into chaos.

Meanwhile, the British press published conflicting reports on Prime Minister David Cameron’s position, with The Times suggesting he is “reluctant to be drawn deeper” into the Syrian conflict. The Guardian, however, reported that at next week’s NATO summit in Wales Cameron will tell Obama that he’s keeping Britain’s options open.


The Pakistani capital of Islamabad is preparing for what a protest leader has called a “deciding day” in their bid to bring down Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after talks between the government and opposition leaders collapsed, Reuters reports. For two weeks, the country has seen mass protests against Sharif, who is accused of fraud in last year’s elections. According to Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the prime minister cancelled a planned visit to Turkey to deal with the crisis at home.

“I haven’t got mad, but I’m going to get even,” The Independent quoted bitter Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone as saying. He vowed revenge after being forced to pay a $100 million settlement to have bribery charges against him dropped.

Japanese health officials confirmed that three young people have contracted dengue fever, the country’s first cases in almost 70 years. They believe that the infections originated from a mosquito in a central Tokyo park, and authorities said they would disinfect the areas where the patients were bitten. Read more from AFP.

Here’s a little Baltimore soul and funk to start your day.

Neuroscientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have discovered how the brain associates emotions with memories. In experiments on mice, they were able to erase feelings of fear using a laser light. Read the full story from Wired.

As Die Welt’s Von Holger Kroker reports, Nepal has commissioned meteorologists and geologists to remap the wind systems, mountains and valleys on the “Roof of the World” to help predict natural disasters. “Improved protection is absolutely vital as evidenced by the events of May 5, 2012,” the journalist writes. “A gigantic rock slide from the face of the 24,688-feet Annapurna IV made its way into the valley and into Seti River, causing a chain of tidal waves that killed 72 people. Even 50 kilometers further downstream, in Pokhara, boulders and uprooted trees were washed ashore.”
Read the full article, A High-Tech Map Of The Himalayas Could Save Your Life.

French football legend Michel Platini has announced he won’t run against Sepp Blatter for the FIFA presidency and will instead seek a new term as head of European football governing body UEFA. This comes months after Platini insisted he was the only man who could bring a “breath of fresh air” to FIFA, which Blatter has led for the past 16 years, a tenure marked by multiple corruption scandals. For more on those, we offer this Le Monde article translated by Worldcrunch.

The world's first live broadcast of a panda cub delivery was canceled this week — not because something went wrong, but because Mama Panda wasn't actually pregnant. She faked it.

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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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