Thought for the day

"I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness. The dumbing down of America is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance." -- Carl Sagan, 1995, apparently having invented a time machine

A United Nations expert on slavery has found it “reasonable to conclude” that forced labour is taking place in the China’s far-western region of Xinjiang.

In a report released on Tuesday, the UN’s special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Tomoya Obokata, said that evidence pointed to forced labour “among Uygur, Kazakh and other ethnic minorities in sectors such as agriculture and manufacturing”.

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On Tuesday Russian President Vladimir Putin weighed on on major security issues ranging from the ongoing war in Ukraine to China-US tensions over Taiwan in a televised speech. Speaking before defense officials and regional think tank analysts at the Tenth Moscow Conference on International Security, among the most notable assertion of his is that NATO is moving "further east".

Chinese troops will travel to Russia to take part in war games along with India, Belarus, Mongolia, Tajikistan and other largely anti-Western countries, China's defense ministry said on Wednesday, adding redundantly that China's participation in the joint exercises was "unrelated to the current international and regional situation." (Narrator: it is related.)

China’s central government issued new “fertility-friendly” guidelines on Tuesday designed to increase the Chinese population, which is currently projected to contract sometime before 2025 following decades of the Chinese Communist Party’s one-child policy, the Global Times reported.

Relaying the edict on August 16, the Chinese state-run newspaper wrote:

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When the UK and the U.S. banned Russian oil imports, and the European Union approved sanctions that made it a lot harder to trade in Russian oil, media reports highlighted the argument that Russian could not possibly replace Europe with Asia as its biggest oil client.

What wasn’t so widely reported on was China and India’s dependence on imported oil, any imported oil compatible with their refinery setups, and how important prices were for both, given their size and import dependence. And both countries certainly took advantage of Western sanctions.

Arrangements are being made for Japanese national security adviser Takeo Akiba to visit China soon for talks with its top diplomat Yang Jiechi, the Jiji news agency said on Wednesday, citing unidentified government sources.

Akiba is likely to voice Japan's concern over China's military drills around Taiwan in the wake of a visit to the island by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and propose building stable and constructive Sino-Japanese ties, the agency added.

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Efforts by China and Russia to chip away at the U.S. dollar's dominance in global payments have gained urgency with the Ukraine war and tensions over Taiwan.

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June touted plans to create a new international reserve currency based on a basket of currencies of BRICS members Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.

The US expects China to ramp up its military, diplomatic and economic 'coercion' of Taiwan, its top envoy in East Asia said on Thursday, after Beijing's unprecedented drills around the island it claims as its own.

Daniel Kritenbrink's warning comes a day after Taiwain's military staged exercises to show its ability to resist Chinese pressure to accept Beijing's political control over the self-governing island, following new rounds of threatening drills from China.

The Commerce Department has done little to halt the export of technology-related products to China despite the White House and Congress pushing to restrict tech transfers that could benefit the Chinese Communist Party.

Last month FBI director Christopher Wray recalled at a speaking event in London that many Western companies were caught flat-footed at the moment of Russia's assault on Ukraine. "There were a lot of western companies that had their fingers still in that door when it slammed shut," Wray said of the Feb.24 massive military offensive.

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