Disease record cell identified in new research

immunity archive
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Emory University researchers have discovered cells that contain records the body’s response to infections during early life in bone marrow. The cells, dubbed “historical record” cells by the researchers, are a rare type of highly diverse plasma cell.

Using proteomics and RNA sequencing techniques, the team proved that one of the subsets of the infection-recording cells under their lenses was exclusively responsible for producing the measles-and-mumps-specific antibodies in the blood of one of their study participants.

Like other plasma cells, these “historical record” cells undergo changes in their DNA, but the subset D cells are much more diverse than other plasma cells. The researchers think this is the case because their genes do not devote too much space to any single infection.

The cells are unusual among bone marrow cells. They have a rare “fried egg” appearance, containing bubble-like vacuoles or lipid droplets. They also have more condensed nuclei than other white blood cells.

The report, “Long-Lived Plasma Cells Are Contained within the CD19−CD38hiCD138+ Subset in Human Bone Marrow,” was completed by Drs. Iñaki Sanz, Eun-Hyung Lee, and a team of others.

By Sid Douglas

Below-zero fluid viscosity achieved by “doping” bacteria

Below-zero fluid viscosity achieved by "doping" bacteria
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New rheological research has created fluid viscosity in which the viscous resistance to shear disappears. Researchers at University Paris-Sud in France employed swimming bacteria and organized them to push past the dissipative effects of viscous loss to create a “superfluidlike” suspension.

The collectively organized “pusher swimmers” may be harvested to power tiny mechanical devices such as microfluid pumps, the researchers believe.

Paris-Sud’s Hector Lopez and his team studied fluid-bacteria mixtures, measuring their viscosity within a container that applied shear stress with a rotating outer wall.

They found that the use of swimming E. coli bacteria reduced the viscosity for low to moderate stress values. But when the team energized the E. coli with extra nutrients — “doping” them, as the researchers referred to it — the E. coli’s heightened swimming activity created below-zero viscosity similar to the viscosity of superfluids like liquid helium.

The secret to this swimming success is in the organization of organisms that force fluid to flow out from their tails. When their efforts are aligned collectively, their bulk “push” contributes to the velocity gradient of their liquid environment.

The report, “Turning Bacteria Suspensions into Superfluids,” was completed by Dr. Héctor Matías López, Jérémie Gachelin, Carine Douarche, Harold Auradou, and Eric Clément and published in Physical Review Letters.

By Sid Douglas

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New form of contagious cancer identified on eastern seaboard

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In a finding that scientists are calling “beyond surprising,” the decades-long series of outbreaks of leukemia among clams on the eastern North American coast has been attributed the spreading of cancer from one clam to another. The finding has prompted scientists to reassess the assumption that contagious cancers are rare occurrences in nature.

“I think the story is a great example of remarkable biology lying hidden right under our noses — we just have to go looking,” Dr. Stephen Goff of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Columbia University told The Speaker. “It reminds us that there are many surprising aspects of nature yet to be discovered. And today we have very powerful new tools that allow us to make these discoveries.”

The team based their conclusion — that a single incidence of cancer was the root of the decades of leukemia outbreaks that have occurred off of the American and Canadian eastern coasts — on findings that the genotypes of the tumor cells come from a single line of tumor cells, not from the host animals own cells. This “rogue clonal cell line,” as the researchers put it, grew, divided, and broke free from the ground zero Steamer clam to infect others.

 Dr. Stephen Goff
Dr. Stephen Goff

“That was the biggest surprise, for sure,” Dr. Goff told us. “An earlier, less exciting, surprise was the finding of the huge increase in the copy number of the Steamer retroelement in the tumors,” he added. “It’s the biggest increase in copy number of a mobile element in nature that I know of.”

The team is continuing their research, pushing to understand more about how the cancer became contagious. It is not yet known where the disease began not how the disease transmits between clams.

clam cancer
Locations of clam collection sites along the eastern coast

“We are actively seeking answers to the following questions: What are the mutation(s) that allow the tumor line to do this? Did the Steamer element cause these mutations? When did the original tumor arise? How long has it been spreading? Is this line restricted to the species of origin (the soft-shelled clam) or can it spread to other species? Do other species have similar tumor lines of their own?”

The transmissible cancer studied by the team is not the only known wild case, but the existence of transmissible cancer in nature has previously been considered a rare occurrence.

“We would normally expect this to be rare,” Goff told us. “We know of only two other examples in all of nature: the facial tumors of the Tasmanian Devil, and a canine venereal tumor — both are discussed in the paper, and you can read their histories. We think examples like this are rare — in vertebrates — because the adaptive immune system would recognize an invading tumor cell as foreign and reject it. The Devils do not reject these tumors for a special reason: the animals are almost all genetically identical, having gone through a small bottleneck — they almost went extinct. The dog tumor is special in lacking the surface markers that would mediate the rejection.

“But we suspect these transmissible cancers could well be more common (than we would ever have imagined) in invertebrates. They have only a primitive innate immune system, and the tumor cells must be able to evade this system and invade the new host.

Steamer clam
Steamer clam

“For this to happen, the tumor has to have evolved to be able to exit from one diseased animal, find its way into a healthy animal — in this case, in the sea — and colonize the new animal. It’s an extreme version of metastasis, where a tumor sheds cells that seed new locations within an individual. Here the tumor is moving into an entirely new animal — not just within an animal.

“The recent research expands our conception of transmissible cancers — they exist not only on land but in a marine environment as well — and this has prompted the researchers to suspect that contagious cancers are more common in nature than we had thought.”

The report, “Horizontal Transmission of Clonal Cancer Cells Causes Leukemia in Soft-Shell Clams,” was completed by Michael J. Metzger, Carol Reinisch, James Sherry and Stephen P. Goff, and was published in the journal Cell.

By Sid Douglas

Images by the research team. Clam photo by Michael J. Metzger

Cleanliness really is close to Godliness, according to new research

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People are unaware that various innocuous-sounding things are actually affecting them on a regular basis, according to new research by Bayer College of Medicine. Newspapers, radio and tv can influence the way people act by using words that trigger powerful emotions, the researchers found–clean words cause clean thoughts, which produce ethical actions, and dirty words produce disgusted thoughts and immoral actions.

“People don’t know it, but these small emotions are constantly affecting them.” said Vikas Mittal, J. Hugh Liedtke Professor of Marketing Adjunct Professor of Family & Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine, and lead researcher on the study.

“What we found is that unless you ask people, they often don’t know they’re feeling disgusted,” Mittal said. “Small things can trigger specific emotions, which can deeply affect people’s decision-making. The question is how to make people more self-aware and more thoughtful about the decision-making process.”

This is because disgust is an emotion that causes people to protect themselves–that is, focus on their self.

However, lessening disgust causes people to behave more ethically again. This can be done by causing people to think of clean things–cleaning products such as Kleenex or Windex, for example. When disgust is lessened, the likelihood of cheating goes away.

The study involved two sets of randomized experiments with 600 participants. The researchers randomly disgusted their participants in three ways.

In one, participants evaluated antidiarrheal medicine, diapers, cat litter, feminine care pads and adult incontinence products. In another experiment, participants wrote out their most disgusting memory. In a third, a disgusting scene from the film “Trainspotting” was played for the participants. The scene shows a man diving into a dirty toilet.

The disgusted participants engaged in consistently self-interested behaviors at a significantly heightened rate.

After the participants were disgusted, another set of experiments was conducted.

The researchers had some participants evaluate cleaning products–disinfectants, body washes, household cleaners. These participants were returned to a normal level of deceptive behavior.

Managers could use this information to understand how to impact decision-making and cause ethical or unethical behavior, Mittal said. He commented on office cleanliness and cleanliness in the workplace in general.

“At the basic level, if you have environments that are cleaner, if you have workplaces that are cleaner, people should be less likely to feel disgusted,” said Mittal. “If there is less likelihood to feel disgusted, there will be a lower likelihood that people need to be self-focused and there will be a higher likelihood for people to cooperate with each other.”

“If you’re making important decisions, how do you create an environment that is less emotionally cluttered so you can become progressively more thoughtful?”

The report, “Protect Thyself: How Affective Self-Protection Increases Self-Interested Behavior,” was authored by Mittal and Karen Page Winterich, associate professor of marketing at Penn State’s Smeal College of Business, and Andrea Morales, a professor of marketing at Arizona State’s W.P. Carey School of Business, and will be published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

By Sid Douglas

Munduruku Indians occupy Brazil government building, threaten “conflict of unimaginable proportions”

Munduruku indians occupy Brazil government building (4)
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A band of Munduruku Indians occupied a Brazilian government building in Itaitiba city, Para state, Friday, demanding that the government address the problem of loggers and gold miners incurring on their traditional land. The tribe held the building’s staff hostage peacefully, but threatened “a conflict of unimaginable proportions” if the government did not take action and the invaders persisted, which, they said, the government would be responsible for.

“We want [politicians in] Brasília to quickly demarcate our land,” said the chief Juarez Saw Munduruku, “because we look after this land much better than the Brazilian government bodies do.”

As the chief said this, around 40 Munduruku Indians cried “Sawe!”–an exclamation of appreciation, solidarity, celebration or battle cry in Munduruku tradition, as reported Agencia Publica, who accompanied the tribe to the building.

Munduruku indians occupy Brazil government building

The occupation of the Funai (Brazilian government body responsible for indigenous affairs) building was an escalation of ongoing tensions regarding the tribe’s traditional land.

Previous to the occupation, The Munduruku had published a letter about the imminent conflict between the gold miners and the tribe. The later stated that if the demarcation process was not accomplished, Funai would be “provoking a conflict of unimaginable proportions between the Munduruku and the invaders.”

The Munduruku are demanding the demarcation of Sawre Muybu, land that has been occupied by the tribe for centuries and which is marked for demarcation by Funai technicians. However, the process has been stopped in Brasilia, the federal capital of Brazil.

Munduruku indians occupy Brazil government building (5)

The previous (interim) president of Funai left office in September without fulfilling a promise she had made to the Munduruku to publish a report that the Munduruku are stressing in their demands.

According to a report, the territory has been ready for demarcation for more than a year, but the report has not been published by the federal government.

Demarcation would legally prevent the construction of a hydroelectric plant that will flood three villages, because the constitution of Brazil prohibits the removal of indigenous tribes.

Munduruku indians occupy Brazil government building

Because demarcation has not been undertaken by the government, the Munduruku decided to demarcate their territory on their own. Four miles have already been opened in the forest. The occupation of the Funai building was precipitated by the discover that more than 300 miners were exploring the boundaries of Munduruku territory–a location considered sacred to the tribe. The miners said that they would not leave until after the land was demarcated.

The tribe made statements that they would occupy the building and hold its staff hostage so long as there was no effective answer from Brasilia. Brazil’s justice minister was reportedly to be contacted by Funai’s president in Brasilia, according to Agencia Publica, who was with the Munduruku inside the building.

Munduruku indians occupy Brazil government building (3)

However, after around seven hours without any indication that the government would give an answer, the tribe left to return to self-demarcation.

The Munduruku expressed concern, however, that the action would generate a retaliation from the miners and loggers present along the borders of their territory.

“If we get into a conflict with the invaders, the government will have to take responsibility,” said a representative of the women of the Munduruku, Maria Leusa Cosme Kaba.

By Sid Douglas

Photos: Marcio Isensee e Sá

Ontario’s plan to cut pesticide use proposes to be North American first

Ontario's plan to cut pesticide use proposes to be North American first
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In what would be the first move toward cutting back pesticide use in North America, the Ontario government is planning to curb agricultural pesticides linked with honeybee deaths as part of a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan. The plan seeks to battle the use of neonicotinoid pesticides, which the province’s Environment Commissioner has called the biggest threat to ecological integrity since DDT–which was banned in Canada in 1972.

“Improving pollinator health is not a luxury but a necessity,” said Environment Minister Glen Murray of the move.

“Taking strong action now to reduce the use of neurotoxic pesticides and protecting pollinator health is a positive step for our environment and our economy.”

Bee populations in Ontario and Quebec have plummeted in recent years. According to the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, which has about 3,100 members, Ontario experienced 58 percent over-winter losses in 2014–three times the average of all other Canadian provinces and about 20 percent more than in 2012-2013.

But the plan is not sitting well with the province’s grain farmers.

“A reduction at this level puts our farmers at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the country and the rest of North America,” commented Barry Senft, the CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario, a group that includes corn, soybean and wheat farmers, which has, according to its spokespeople, been investing in multi-year research to mitigate the risks of pesticide use on bee health.

However, a recent Health Canada report found that the majority of the bee deaths in Ontario and Quebec in 2012 had been caused by insecticides, and suggested that this was likely due to pesticide-laced dust during planting.

Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller recently called neonicotinoid pesticide use the biggest threat to ecological integrity since DDT, a pesticide that was banned in Canada in 1972.

“All the science is not done, but everything that I have before me… suggests to me that this is the biggest threat to the structure and ecological integrity of the ecosystem that I have ever encountered in my life, bigger than DDT,” said Miller.

The plan to curb bee killing pesticides is part of a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan. The plan includes an 80 percent reduction in total acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean by 2017. It also plans to cut the over-winter mortality rate for honeybees to 15 percent by 2020.

“The province’s goal to reduce the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15 per cent by 2020 will bring the industry back to the pre-neonicotinoid average winter loss and will support a thriving, sustainable beekeeping industry going forward,” said Tibor Szabo, president of the Ontario Bee Keepers’ Association.

Over the next two months, the Ontario government will be seeking information about the new rules from the industry, organizations, researchers and individuals.

If the plan is finally approved, the rules will be in place by the beginning of July.

By Sid Douglas

Photo: Cory Barnes

Leading geoengineer is “terrified” of own technology

Leading geoengineer is "terrified" of own technology
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A leading geoengineer has admitted that he is “terrified” of geoengineering technology. Dr Matthew Watson, principal investigator for the Spice project, said that humans may have to admit having failed as planetary stewards, commenting on his own and others’ technology–used to reduce the amount of sunlight reaching the earth though manipulation of the atmosphere–science that, experts openly own, is not understood in terms of costs and benefits and which they suspect will be neither “magic bullet or Pandora’s box.”

“Personally, this stuff terrifies me,” said Dr Matthew Watson of University of Bristol, principal investigator for the Spice project (Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering), one of several teams at the forefront of geoengineering science.

“It’s a watershed for our relationship with the Earth and with nature. It fundamentally changes the way seven billion people are going to interact with the world, and I’m not sure the system is going to be controllable in the way we want.”

“I’m easily terrified,” qualified Watson. “I think if we ever deploy SRM (Solar Radiation Management) it will be the closest indication yet that we’ve failed as planetary stewards. I believe that.”

SRM is a process by which water droplets or sulphur particles are used to reduce the amount of solar radiation that reaches the Earth, and the Spice project is looking at ways of simulating the cooling effects of volcanoes.

After major volcanic eruptions, the Earth is cooled because rays from the sun do not reach the surface of the planet.

However, the Spice experiment, despite being one of the first projects to take geoengineering out of the laboratory, was cancelled earlier this year over alleged conflicts of interest.

The Spice project was planning to test SRM by deploying a weather balloon that would inject 150 litres of piped water into the atmosphere.

Geoengineering is a science that is not fully understood. Scientists are still working out the potential hazards associated with blocking the sun’s rays from reaching Earth.

Among the hazards being considered is the risk of disturbing the delicate balance of land and sea influences. Disruption can lead to drought and extreme rainfall in different parts of the world.

Risks associated with the use of sulfur particles are also being considered. Sulphur particles have been linked to the destruction of atmospheric ozone. A depleted ozone layer has been associated with increased incidence of skin cancer and damaging effects on plants and animals.

Although Dr Watson did not suspect that SRM would be used within the current decade, he said he believed its use may be inevitable.

“Unless we’re very wrong about climate change or quickly change our ways, at some point we’re going to have to ‘go outside’,” said Watson, commenting on current trends in global warming. It is estimated that by 2100, global temperatures may increase almost 4C.

“That’s going to have a profound effect on the planet,” said Watson.

Leading geoengineer is "terrified" of own technologyThe Spice project is one of three projects being considered as a tax-funded solution to global warming at an upcoming meeting of experts at the Royal Society in London.

Another proposed solution involves spraying sea salt into low clouds. The brighter, more reflective clouds will capture and bury more carbon underground, raising levels of sea plankton, which absorb carbon. Another proposal involves the use of reflective materials to better bounce the sun’s rays back from the Earth’s deserts.

All of the proposed geoengineering solutions are considered to be too expensive still. Climate Geoengineering Governance (CGG) investigator Professor Steve Rayner, from Oxford University, said of the technology, “Mostly it is too soon to know what any of these technology ideas would look like in practice or what would be their true cost and benefit. But it’s almost certain that geoengineering will be neither a magic bullet nor Pandora’s Box.”

By Sid Douglas

Photos: NASA, University of Leeds

China $12bn deal for Nigerian coast railway–China’s biggest overseas contract

China $12bn Deal for Nigerian Coast Railway--China's Biggest Overseas Contract
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A railway stretching over 850 miles (1,400 km) along the Nigerian coast is being taken on by China. Chinese officials announced this week that the $12bn contract was China’s biggest ever overseas contract.

China $12bn Deal for Nigerian Coast Railway--China's Biggest Overseas Contract (1)The project is being undertaken by China Civil Engineering Group Co., Ltd. (CCECC), a subsidiary of China Railway Construction Corporation Limited. The railway will cross 10 Nigerian states, including NIgeria’s oil-producing delta, and will include 22 railway stations. The train will be designed for speeds of 120 km/h.

Officials at CCECC have said that the line could eventually be included in the proposed ECOWAS Railway, that would link the entire economic community of western African states.

Africa has seen uninterrupted growth for almost two decades. China, with a cooling domestic economy, is taking on infrastructure in Africa’s developing regions. In order to help African nations pay for the projects, China is launching new financing plans.

China $12bn Deal for Nigerian Coast Railway--China's Biggest Overseas Contract (1)Transportation projects are among the biggest sectors for Chinese investment, although well below energy projects.

Analysts have noted that these transportation projects often connect inland regions to the coast, drawing obvious comparisons to China’s own three-decade growth boom, which began with the development of coastal manufacturing hubs served by ports that transported goods between China and the rest of the world.

The massive reserves accumulated by China during its growth are now being used to bankroll similar development outside its borders.

While economic expansion in the developing world is increasing demand for infrastructure–the value of which has been estimated as high as $78 trillion by 2025–this growth is expected to be funded by public finance groups such as the World Bank and its upstart rival the Asian Development Bank, as well as by private investment.

China announced last month that it would join BRICS countries to form the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, which will serve 20 other Asian countries. Chinese officials said that China would pay half of the funding for the bank’s $50 billion start.

China $12bn Deal for Nigerian Coast Railway--China's Biggest Overseas Contract (1)China also announced this month $40 billion in funding for the Silk Road project that will connect major Asian cities and break the “connectivity bottleneck” in the region.

China currently holds more reserves than any other country–$3.8 trillion. China holds eight times as much reserves as the US, and three times as much as Japan, the next largest holder. China’s reserves have been sharply and steadily increasing since the early 2000s.

By Sid Douglas

Photo: China Civil Engineering Group Co., Ltd.

Indonesia Continues “Virginity Tests” for Female Police

Indonesia Continues "Virginity Tests" for Female Police
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The Indonesian government continues to conduct mandatory “virginity tests” on all female applicants to the country’s national police force, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch. The longstanding practice continues in accordance with police regulations and despite claims by officials that the inspections–including the “two-finger test”–are no longer applied. Human Rights Watch in their report stated that this practice was in violation of international law, in addition to other criticisms.

“The Indonesian National Police’s use of ‘virginity tests’ is a discriminatory practice that harms and humiliates women,” said Nisha Varia, associate women’s rights director at Human Rights Watch. “Police authorities in Jakarta need to immediately and unequivocally abolish the test, and then make certain that all police recruiting stations nationwide stop administering it.”

The “virginity tests” take place as a matter of law, Human Rights Watch reported. Article 36 of the Chief Police Regulation No. 5/2009 on Health Inspection Guidelines for Police Candidates requires all female police academy applicants to undergo an examination for “obstetrics and gynecology.” This examination continues to include, according to senior police women interviewed by Human Rights Watch, a “virginity test,” and, according to interviews conducted in six major Indonesian cities in 2014, the test had been applied to all women who were in the academy.

The tests take place in violation of international law, Human Rights Watch alleged.

“’Virginity tests’ have been recognized internationally as a violation of human rights, particularly the prohibition against ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment’ under article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and article 16 of the Convention against Torture, both of which Indonesia has ratified,” stated Human Rights Watch in their report.

The tests also contravene National Police principles, which state that recruitment must be “nondiscriminatory” and “humane.”

Indonesia Continues "Virginity Tests" for Female PoliceIndonesian officials have claimed that the tests are no longer applied. Other claims have been made that steps are being taken to remove the tests, but, according to Human Rights Watch, the rights group has seen little evidence that could support any such claim.

The National Police website continues to state, “In addition to the medical and physical tests, women who want to be policewomen must also undergo virginity tests. So all women who want to become policewomen should keep their virginity.”

Married women are ineligible for the police force.

Indonesia is not the only country with well-documented policies of “virginity tests.” Other nations known for the practice include Egypt, India and Afghanistan. Neither are “virginity tests” only conducted on police applicants in Indonesia; school girls are also subject to the tests, which Human Rights Watch have criticized as being not only discriminatory and degrading, but also subjective and unscientific.

“So-called virginity tests are discriminatory and a form of gender-based violence – not a measure of women’s eligibility for a career in the police,” Varia said. “This pernicious practice not only keeps able women out of the police, but deprives all Indonesians of a police force with the most genuinely qualified officers.”

By Sid Douglas

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaBFLwD934U#t=39″]VIDEO[/su_youtube]

China to Thailand: We Want Our Refugees Back

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The Chinese government is asking Thailand to send back a group of mostly Uighur Muslim refugees that were found by Thai authorities in Thailand’s Songkhla province. The Chinese consul is asking Thailand to repatriate the group, who are offering little information about their identities–although some have claimed to be Turkish–and has dismissed concerns that have been raised about possible mistreatment the refugees might face if returned to China.

“They have been uncooperative and refused to communicate at all,” said Qin Jian, Chinese consul in Songkhla.

The refugees are thought to be fearful of mistreatment if they were to return to China, and have offered little information about their identities. Qin stated that there were no grounds for such concern.

“If they do not have criminal records back in China, there will be no prosecution,” said Qin.

The group of 200 mostly Uighur refugees were found by Thai authorities in March. They are presumed to have been trafficked to a remote camp in Thailand’s Songkhla province. The refugees have claimed to be Turkish, but Qin stated that there had been no confirmation of Turkish identity since the Turkish embassy met with the refugees.

However, dozens of men from the group were identified as Uighurs. Others, Qin suspected based on their appearance, were also Uighur.

The group is currently being cared for at Songkhla detention center.

The Uyghur American Association (UAA), based in Washington, DC, has asked the Thai government to allow the refugees access to the United Nations refugee agency. The group could request asylum of the UN, according to UAA.

“Uighurs have been forcibly returned to the hands of their persecutors in the past with dire results,” said UAA president, Alim Seytoff.

Read more: 2,000 Possibly Killed in Muslim Uyghur Riot in Xinjiang, China

Seytoff said that the increasing number of Uighurs seeking refuge in countries outside of China was an indication of the repression faced by Muslims under the Chinese government.

In recent months, violence in Xinjiang, the westernmost province of China, has left hundreds dead and has seen an escalation in charges for crimes of illegal practicing of religion, separatism and terrorism.


By Sid Douglas

China: Two Child Policy Coming

China: Two Child Policy Coming in Two Years
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According to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Vice Director Cai Fang, China will fully relax their one-child policy in two years. The government has already conducted an experiment to allow some couples to have a second child, and that experiment has led to a decision to expand the two-child policy to all Chinese.

“People wish to choose the number of children they want to have, and they should be given the choice–at least for two children,” said Fang at in interview Thursday, “We will fully relax the policy.”

The Chinese government relaxed its one-child policy last year, allowing couples to have two children if either parent was an only child. Six months later, only three percent (700,000 couples) of all eligible couples applied for a second child.

Cai said that relaxing population control would not significantly increase the Chinese population. Currently, China’s fertility rate is 1.66–considerably below the 2.1 rate needed to sustain a given population.

China is also experiencing a labor shortage, and that shortage is expected to increase–labor supply will increase only 6.2 percent annually up to 2020, according to Cai. A large labor supply is part of the reason for China’s three decades of rapid economic growth.

By Sid Douglas

Obama: “We Are Not in Favor of Tibet’s Independence”

Obama: “We are not in favor of Tibet’s independence"
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US President Barack Obama signed a long-term climate change deal with China that will cap emissions and increase renewable energy in ways that will require a complete overhaul of the Chinese economy, as well as increase US efforts. During the APEC meetings the president also made statements on the Chinese territory of Tibet, which has been protesting for independence from China for decades and has been the subject of extensive and continuous human rights abuses, according to all human rights groups. The president stated that the US was “not in favor of Tibet’s independence.”

In Beijing Wednesday, Obama urged the Chinese authorities to “take steps to preserve the unique cultural, religious and linguistic identity” of the Tibetan people, but said that he recognized Tibet as part of China.

“We are not in favor of Tibet’s independence,” said Obama at a press conference in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

China views the longstanding and broad desire of Tibetans for independence and the return of their outlawed spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, as separatist and criminal. The Dalai Lama is officially a state terrorist in China, and any mention of the leader, possession of images bearing his likeness, or songs related to him are all illegal for Tibetans, many of whom have received lengthy jail terms for refusing to give up their beliefs and affiliations.

In exchanges with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, Wednesday, Obama said that China had evolved a lot in their regard for human rights.

Nine major human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, signed a letter in October urging the president to consider China’s actions and attitude in Tibet as a barrier to bilateral relations during his APEC visit.

The two largest economies–and the two largest polluters–in the world signed what has been called a “landmark” carbon emissions deal at APEC. The US committed to cut emissions 26-28 percent by 2025, representing an acceleration of existing goals by 17 percent.

China, for its part, stated that it “intends” to begin to cut carbon emissions in 2030 and will make “best efforts” to make 2030 the peak year for carbon pollution in China. China will also increase the share of non-fossil fuels energy consumption to around 20 percent by 2030, according to the deal.

By Sid Douglas