The Hexacoto

Listening to the sound of one hand clapping

Category: News

An order of Chinese puns, stuffed with conspiracies

It’s an interesting day when the president of China eating lunch sparks off a wave of conspiracy theories.

Chinese President Xi Jinping got in the queue with the lunch crowd and bought six steamed buns filled with pork and spring onions, a bowl of stir-fried liver, and a plate of vegetables, for a cost of 21 yuan.

On Weibo, some were marvelling at how the President himself was getting in the line, paid for the food himself, carried the trays himself, and obtained the food himself. Others wondered if his public obtaining of food had any symbolic meaning.

The New York Times reports:

While photos of the presidential lunch fill pages of Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media site, users are trying to “crack the code” of the three simple food items for signals regarding the president’s anti-corruption campaign.

According to one theory, the name of the steamed bun shop, “Qingfeng,” which means “celebrating the harvest” but sounds like the Chinese words for “clear wind” and evokes an honest government official who never takes bribes, suggests the qualities Mr. Xi wants all government officials to uphold as a standard.

Another says the stir-fried pig liver means that any government officials who demonstrate pig-like greed will be “fried,” which can mean to be fired in Chinese.

The green vegetables Mr. Xi ordered, called “jiecai,” sound like the Chinese phrase “beware of wealth” — a possible warning to all officials to resist the temptation of financial gain.

The translucent filling of fatty pork and spring onion signifies transparency. And it is no coincidence, says one theory, that the meal cost 21 renminbi, the sum of three times seven. This is because the Chinese saying “It doesn’t matter if three times seven is 21” means that whatever is going to happen is going to happen.

“President Xi is saying government officials must stay clean and transparent, otherwise they will all get fired!” concludes this theory.

“If you are a corrupt official, the president will finish you like he did his lunch!” said another Weibo user.

So basically, the essence of Chinese conspiracy theories lie in… puns? Wow.

Which is not that surprising, given that the language is full of homophones.

Neither rain nor snow shall keep the one wheel from ruling them all

15348[1]Some two weeks ago, Utah had a snowstorm, and the picture above was circulating around the internet. Where cars skidded and crash, that lone unicyclist calm rolled on.

So did NYC.

a_560x375[1]A unicyclist was seen rolling through SoHo last night in winter storm Hercules, like a boss.

Unicyclists: Clearly the master race

 

 

Are You Qualified to Be a Journalist in China? Take the Test

Previously, China was last seen refusing to renew the visas and press passes of nearly two dozen foreign journalists from American news organisations, leaving them uncertain as to whether they can continue reporting China’s issues from the ground. This has prompted chastisement from Vice President Mr. Biden himself.

Now, it seems that China has made its decision: for foreign journalists to remain in the country, they must show themselves understanding of what is expected of them and of journalism in the country — that the role of journalism is not to the truth, but a service to the people? The Chinese government has decided that foreign journalists will have to take tests to show they they know these concepts. From the New York Times:

What is the essence of the Chinese Dream? What did Marx and Engels ask of newspaper reporters? How do Chinese and Western views on journalism differ?

Those are some of the questions Chinese journalists can expect to be quizzed on when they renew their press cards in early 2014.

This is the first time that all Chinese reporters have been required to take a test as part of the annual press card renewal process. In theory, journalists need the press card to work legally in China, although some commercial media companies employ reporters without the certification. Those who fail will be permitted to take it again.

The goal of the test is to “educate and lead news gatherers to uphold the Marxist journalistic ideals more consciously, to better serve the people, socialism, the work of the party and the country,” according to the General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television.

Can you also be a journalist in China? Take the test to find out! Answers at the end.

1. What is the essence of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics”?

a. Social harmony.

b. Comfortable standard of living.

c. Comfortable standard of living for all.

d. The Four Modernizations.

2. Comrade Xi Jinping has said that the Chinese Dream is essentially the dream of __?

a. The people.

b. The working class.

c. The Communist Party of China.

d. All Chinese people around the world.

3. Comrade Xi Jinping said that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must take the road of __?

a. Socialism with Chinese characteristics.

b. Modernization.

c. Peaceful development.

d. Opening up and reform.

4. Comrade Xi Jinping said that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must unite the power of China, which is:

a. The power of the leadership of the Communist Party of China.

b. The power of the unity of all ethnicities of the Chinese people.

c. The power of the unity of the working class.

d. The power of the unity of all Chinese people around the globe.

5. The ultimate mission of socialism with Chinese characteristics is:

a. Opening up and reform.

b. Improving economic structure.

c. Raising GDP.

d. Emancipate and develop social productivity.

6. Comrade Xi Jinping points out that, in order to realize the Chinese Dream, we must carry forward the Chinese spirit, which includes: (May choose more than one.)

a. The spirit of the nation with its core in patriotism.

b. The spirit of the our time with its core in reform and innovation.

c. The spirit of rule of law with its core in democratic politics.

d. The spirit of tradition with its core in honesty and honor.

7. How can news and media workers improve their ability of leading public opinion? (May choose more than one.)

a. Insist on principles of the party.

b. Insist on being people-oriented.

c. Keep on innovating and reforming.

d. Strengthen cultivation of talents.

8. “Prime Minister Zhu Rongji looked stern, and pointed out solemnly: ‘Whoever promotes Taiwan independence will not end up well!’ His words rang in our ears and shook our hearts.” What is good about this quote?

a. It vividly sums up the speaker’s view.

b. It gives the facts in a nutshell.

c. It is concise.

d. It provides a smooth segue.

9. What is the most basic principle of news ethics in our country? What is the most basic principle of Western news ethics? (May choose more than one.)

a. The principle of social responsibility.

b. The principle of serving the people.

c. The principle of journalistic professionalism.

d. The principle of freedom of the press.

10. What is the most important difference between our news ethics and that of Western developed countries?

a. Our news ethics belong to the theoretical system of socialism ethics; news ethics of Western developed countries belong to the theoretical system of capitalism ethics.

b. The most basic principle of our news ethics is wholeheartedly serve the people; the most basic principle of news ethics of Western developed countries is freedom of the press.

c. Our news ethics emphasize the people; Western developed countries emphasize the media’s social responsibilities.

d. Our news ethics emphasize the principles of the party; Western developed countries emphasize that individuals should be independent of political parties.

Answers:

1. a; 2. a; 3. a; 4. b; 5. d; 6. a, b; 7. a,b,c,d; 8. a; 9. b,d; 10. b

Read the full article on the Times here.

Touching story, beautiful journalism

nytimesprojPhoto credits New York Times, from the Invisible Child

It is not very often that a piece of journalism moves me, and I can say that the Invisible Child, a project that follows the lives of Dasani, her parents, and seven other siblings, as they struggle with poverty and the trap that is shelter housing. Immediately, Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc comes to mind, where she took over 10 years to follow the story of two women as they struggle with love, drugs, and prison.

However, Invisible Child is no mere tear-jerker, even as its tales are raw and moving in its simplicity, and the attention to detail makes the scenes real to the reader. Invisible Child expertly weaves together some of the very complex ills that plagues New York City into one coherent story, namely:

  1. The bad the homeless situation in NYC is. With 22,000 children homeless in the city, this is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. It also talked about how mayor Bloomberg exacerbated the situation with his policies when he took office.
  2. g2

    Infographics credit to New York Times

    Income inequality, neighbourhood inequality, and the encroaching gentrification that hems the poor in, as they squeeze them out.

  3. The ongoing tensions between public schools and charter schools, as the latter are often better equipped with computers and equipment, attracting richer students, even as they share the same grounds with the public school. This leads to worries of segregation and discrimination of the poorer-off public school students.
  4. The helplessness of the poorer trapped in their poverty, as they are beholden to drug habits, stuck in their social immobility due to a lack of skills, lack of financial responsibility education such as knowing the importance of saving, etc.
  5. The injustice and deplorable conditions shelter residents have to put up with, from those who are supposed to help them. Shelters subject their residents to unsanitary and downright unsafe conditions (story talks of a baby who died because there was no air-conditioning), as well as the constant fear of sexual assault that goes on in these places.
  6. The resilience of the human spirit we see in the protagonist, Dasani. Even as the story paints her a fighter, it also shows her clinging on to her childhood as she is forced to grow up to take care of her seven younger siblings, and at times, her parents.

I would highly recommend anyone to read this piece of amazing journalism, and it has truly made me proud to have embarked on this journey. Even though my path to journalism has yet to take off, it is shining pieces like these that pull me through, in hopes that one day I too may make a difference by telling stories like these.

I would also recommend people read the author’s notes, as they are highly informative and show how the stories is pieced together, especially given the multitude of statistics in the story.

So many questions asked, no answer provided

Singapore bus death triggers riot

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Photo credit AFP, taken from BBC News

Most people who have a connection to Singapore would probably have known that on the 9th December, 2013, a riot broke out. Initial reporting from Singapore media Channel News Asia reported on the incidence plus with an advisory to stay away from the scene, stating the number of participants (about 400) and whether there were casualties or not.

That is all very well, but I think as with any credible news medium, not only is reporting what happened sufficient, but some sort of investigative journalism as to why the riot happened is required, isn’t it? Even as things have died down, there is scarcely any definitive work as to the cause of the unrest. Soon, alternative news sources began filling in the gaps where state media had failed to furnish what the people wanted to know.

People on Reddit provided a time breakdown of the chain of events, as did some blogs, although their sources referenced each other. Of course, vitriol against the prevailing ruling party started pouring in on these threads, drowning out possible discussion as to why the riot started.

The Real Singapore, another alternative news source, started editorialising, which in itself isn’t too bad, but TRS having a streak of being anti-PAP, their contribution was a rehash of a populist anti-immigrant stance that disenfranchised Singaporeans had with the PAP’s lax immigration policies. I quote:

On the surface, this could easily be put down to the foreign workers being more rowdy and less law-abiding than Singaporeans but in reality everyone has a boiling point and people are not naturally very violent or blood-thirsty.

The big difference might be that we are taught from young to be fearful of the government and listen to authority.
When foreign workers come to Singapore, they do not have the same “training” and can become more rowdy more easily.
This is particularly a problem when the government brings these FTs (FT: “Foreign Talent”/i.e. immigrant workers) here in large numbers and they bring with them their values and cultures and do not learn from Singaporeans how they should act here.
Last night, this was clearly a problem with a large, rowdy riot breaking out.
Many netizens commented that the photos and videos looked like they were not taken in Singapore and further raised concerns that if this is happening, it is not a far stretch to say that other problems such as higher crime rates and more occurrences of rape might be happening soon too.

Effectively turning the discussion into a “These foreigners are not as well-trained/subservient (double jab at 0our over-policing AND at lacking discipline standards of those overseas?) us, and hence are prone to violence and lustful acts.” The author further adds:

These people must have been stressed out and otherwise frustrated with their lives to so eagerly break out in a huge riot.
This could be due to work-related factors such as long work hours, low pay, no welfare and other forms of exploitation from their bosses. Singapore has many reported cases of foreign worker exploitation so this is really not an unrealistic possibility.
Singapore has no effective workers’ unions and so workers’ complaints and concerns are very rarely heard.
When people are oppressed in such a way with no way to vent their frustration or get recourse, they will eventually boil over. All their frustration and stress is like fuel awaiting a spark to ignite the flame. Perhaps this is what happened yesterday evening.

That still does not shed any more light as to how whatever transpired that night, merely speculation that unfair work conditions and pent-up frustration formed the powder; how, then, was the accident the spark that ignited the riot?

Rather than we all just sit here twiddling thumbs, throwing blind guess, why isn’t anyone interviewing the rioters? Surely the rioters would know best why they were rioting? Without any actual word from those involved, all these theories require a leap of logic from “overworked, unpaid, labourers” to “bus accident killing a fellow national leads to a riot.”

Someone should be asking these questions, to the rioters and by-standers:

  • Did you witness the accident?
  • If yes, what did you witness? How did the accident happen?
  • Did the deceased seem intoxicated? Was the bus driver driving recklessly?
  • Who was the first person who discovered the accident?
  • How did the crowd of Indian nationals gather at scene? Did someone call upon them?
  • Did anyone else other than the Indian nationals gather at the scene?
  • If he called upon the others to gather, why did he do that?
  • Who called for the ambulance/police?
  • What happened while people were waiting for the ambulance/police? Was there a crowd by the time they arrived?
  • How did the police handle the situation? What words were exchanged? Did they physically move people around?
  • Who started the fire? Why did he start it? At what juncture did the smashing and torching start?
  • What were being yelled during the riot?

I’m sure there are a lot more questions that can be asked, all of which would answer a lot more questions than the “coverage” we’ve received so far.

The whirligig of unemployment

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Image credit to NY Times

Jenner Barrington-Ward says that she has been told, “point-blank to my face, ‘We don’t hire the unemployed.’ ”

If there’s a statement that makes no sense, it’s the quote from above. What’s the point of creating jobs, if not to give to those who are unemployed and looking? Where are these jobs going? The news report that unemployment is slowly ticking down, but the majority of those unemployed aren’t seeing any marked improvements in their joblessness situation.

As reported in the New York Times, those who have been retrenched or jobless for an extended period of time find themselves stuck in a rut:

For Ms. Barrington-Ward, joblessness itself has become a trap, an impediment to finding a job. Economists see it the same way, concerned that joblessness lasting more than six months is a major factor preventing people from getting rehired, with potentially grave consequences for tens of millions of Americans.

What’s the psyche behind not giving people who have been jobless for a while the jobs they are seeking, if they are qualified? The Times speculate that these people tend to be in poorer health, or they might have some sort of strained relations, possibly being a liability on the company. This is a system of employment that holds little pity for those they have kicked out, because it does little to take them back in once they’re out.

As pointed out in the article, leaving these people out in the cold has consequences on the economy, such as “lost production, increased social spending, decreased tax revenue and slower growth.”

But companies who are not hiring are not seeing it that way, are they? They are more concerned with their own financial stability, and the additional hiring of anyone is an additional payroll they have to pay out, and many companies are so concerned with their frugality, that the national-scale impact of their austerity is left to the worries of someone else. But if everyone else is doing that (“I can’t afford to hire anyone; I’ll let someone else the hiring to bolster the economy”), therein lies the eventual self-immolation — no one hires, less people have spending power to buy products, companies see a drop in revenue, they cut down on hiring and perhaps even lay off more people to maintain “fiscal health,” cycle repeats.

“Quitting journalism”

In recent viral video news, Marina Shifrin, who worked as a content editor at Next Media Animation, Taiwanese news animation company responsible for animated news hits such as US-Sino Currency Rap Battle or the one on US airport security body scans, quit her job with a bang, by releasing the above-embedded video.

Shifrin also wrote a post on her blog about her departure, and how journalism is “dead” to her.

I dropped everything for work. I spent hours in the office perfecting my headlines, my voice overs, my stories. But as the workload increased, I found I could no longer keep up. I tried. I came in earlier, I stayed later, I worked on weekends. Scared I wasn’t pulling my weight, I went to my boss and told him how I felt.

“Make deadlines, not art,” was his response.

After I admitted that I could not hit the deadlines needed to put out our long-form, satirical news pieces, I was moved to our serious stories. Guess what I figured out? Journalism is the worst! I mean if you’re not reporting about which Kardashian is pregnant, then you’re reporting about a baby that was shot in the head.

I understand Shifrin’s frustration with writing what she calls “fluff” pieces — after all I once tried writing for Buzzfeed, and it was the most excruciating animated-gif-laden piece I’ve ever produced, and was not proud of it when it was finished. However, what I don’t get is if she can’t keep up with journalism deadlines, where news is produced every day, what was she expecting journalism to be when she decided to embark on that journey in college? Was she not expecting a breakneck pace of work?

J-school tends to give the impression that people have the luxury of time to slowly craft and follow a story, but at least through internships and having to produce content daily, journalism students should know that a lot is expected of them in the span of a day. Shifrin’s beef with her boss’s rather reasonable expectations of her to make deadlines is rather unfounded.

Also, did she not know what she was getting into when she entered Next Media Animation? Perhaps she did, and thought she could outlast the content NMA produces. But she calls having found NMA “different.”

It was for an animation company where I was free to make jokes and put my personality into my writing. I loved it! I found the perfect combination between comedy and journalism. I was having my cake, eating it AND going in for seconds.

She apparently knew what she was getting into, and the whole “NMA produces only fluff” stand seems rather dubious at best.

Her quitting has attracted coverage from quite a few major sites: Wall Street Journal sees her dramatic exit as the product of Millennials’ cynicism, Huffington Post sees it as internet win, and Gawker merely touts it as a young person unable to news aggregation and quitting.

From a Singapore popular opinions site, The Real Singapore has also picked up on the story and wrote their own scathing take on Shifrin’s resignation. They called it a quitting in the “most narcissistic, viral way possible.” They also wrote:

This is the big villain of Shifrin’s piece, the boss who wanted her to hit “deadlines” instead of crafting the “art” of her journalism. Well guess what? Journalism isn’t art.

This is why there is no respectable journalism in Singapore; even sites such as The Real Singapore, which purports to deliver news and journalism as an alternative to the mainstream Singapore media, don’t even respect journalism themselves.

I’ve gone through school to study journalism and how to be a journalist, I want to be a journalist. But it is very easy for many to dismiss journalism as being art, or even fail to see how it can possibly be art. I don’t see how the connecting of the lives of others around the world in as succinct a piece as possible isn’t a form of art.

When Shifrin says she “quits journalism,” it really makes one wonder if she’s meant for journalism in the first place. Pursuing journalism has always been akin to some sort of willing self-debasement — one expects to lose time, friends, and relationships to journalism. But being a journalist is about despite knowing these and still staying on, because one really loves the news. That’s really why anyone would willing put themselves through such torture.

Surviving journalism is all about being in the right news sector.

Finger on the pulse of the shutdown

Photo credits to Doug Mills/The New York Times

For those who are confused why the shutdown happened, here is a New York Times graphic showing the spending bill that was bounced back and forth between the Senate and the House, and the lack of resolution on the future budget led to the shutdown.

For those who are curious as to which agencies specifically are affected and how many people will be furloughed, here’s a CNN searchable interactive list of all agencies affected, with numbers of furloughed listed as well.

P.S. When I first saw that NY Times picture (posted above), I thought I saw a picture of a guard precariously balancing on guard rails.

Only in America: Government shutdown edition

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Approximate two hours ago, at midnight, as the U.S. congress was unable to reach a resolution in passing the budget, a shutdown of the government happened, furloughing some 800,000 government workers and shuttering some non-essential agencies and services.

That is repeated ad nauseum; what’s interesting is: how are the two polarised news sources — MSNBC on the left, and Fox News on the right — reporting this brouhaha?

For those not in the know, the Republican-held House in the Congress has been largely blamed for being unwilling to pass the budget without trying to force through language that aims to strip the Affordable Care Act, also popularly known as “Obamacare,” from the bill.

Fox News has reported that lawmakers have “missed the deadline,” emphasising that the shutdown would “limit access to national monuments, parks,” and how the shutdown might impact travellers.

MSNBC, on the other hand, of course, was all “First shutdown in 17 years!” and various iterations of how the shutdown is impending doomsday.

Nigerian grad student uses science to prove gay marriage is wrong

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Photo from Nigerian news site This Day

A University of Lagos post graduate student, Chibuihem Amalaha, from Imo State has used science to prove that gay marriage is improper among other breakthroughs.

A post-graduate student from the University of Lagos has proved without a doubt that gay marriage is wrong. According to him, “In the area of physics, I used physics with experiments, I used chemistry with experiments, I used biology with experiments and I used mathematics to prove gay marriage wrong.”

I have taken the liberty of summing up his scientific experiments showing that gay marriage is wrong.

  • A bar magnet has two opposite poles: North and South. If you put two North or two South poles of the magnets together, they will not attract but repel instead. Men and women are opposites, therefore “a man will attract a woman because of the way nature has made a female.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • “if you use your biro and rub it on your hair, after rubbing, try to  bring small pieces of paper they will attract because one is charged while the other one is not charged. But if both of them are charged they don’t attract, which means that man cannot attract another man because they are the same, and a woman should not attract a woman because they are the same. ” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • In chemistry, there are “acids” and “bases (alkali)” which are opposites. Pouring an acid over a base results in a chemical reaction — you get salt and water. Pouring an acid over an acid or alkali over alkali results in no reaction, just as “a man on top of a man will have no reaction.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • Electrolysis proves that people of the same sex cannot be attracted to each other. Amalaha found out that “negative ions will be attracted to the positive ones while the positive ions will be attracted to the negative ones” and concluded that “a man cannot be attracted to a man as negative ion is not attracted to the negative electrode instead negative ion is attracted to the positive electrode.” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • A cock copulates with a hen, a lion copulates with a lioness. Animals of the same gender do not copulate. Sperms fertilise eggs. If “even lower creature understand so much, how come  human being made in the higher image of God that is even of higher creature will be thinking of  a man having sex with another and woman having sex with another woman?” Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.
  • Mathematical commutativity and idempotency proves gay marriage wrong. If 2+3=5 and 3+2=5, then A+B and B+A will result in a “change.” If men are “A” and women are “B,” then a man and a woman will result in a reaction and change (commutative). However, if you have 2 “A’s” or 2 “B’s” together, you get the same result: A+A=(2)A, B+B=(2)B, and no change has occurred. Ergo, gay marriage is wrong.

One can only imagine the countless hours he spent, sitting in a lab, trying to get magnets to attract and repel each other, rubbing biros on his head trying to attract paper, and observing chickens fornicate.

Amalaha concludes, “So these are the principles I have used to prove gay marriage wrong in physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and by the grace of God I am the only one that has proved this in the whole world.”

Amalaha’s other achievements also include that mathematical number Pi is not 22 over 7, and proving “that watching television in the dark impacts negatively on one’s eyes and by God’s grace, I was the first person to use scientific instruments to prove it in the whole world.”