Greenpeace: Heavy metals pollution in China makes 'Cadmium rice' a growing problem

Image: Greenpeace


Image: Greenpeace

Greenpeace this week released a report on soil and rice crops sampled in villages close to a concentration of heavy metals smelters in China's Hunan Province, "an area that ranks first in rice output and among the top five in nonferrous metals production." The results showed that both rice and soil near the industrial complex are contaminated by heavy metals, including lead. "12 out of all 13 rice samples contained excessive levels of cadmium." Read the "Cadmium rice" report at Greenpeace East Asia. Here's a related piece at the New York Times.

Chinese censor prosecuted for taking bribes to censor remarks companies and government officials disliked

Censorship invites abuse. In China, the widespread practice of Internet censorship means that lots of people are authorized to hand down censorship orders and lots more people naturally turn to censorship when something on the Internet bugs them. This week, Chinese authorities prosecuted an "Internet policeman" who took payments from companies in return for censoring unfavorable remarks about them on social media. He's accused of censoring more than 2,500 posts in return for over $300K in payments. He also collaborated with another official to censor critical remarks about government officials. It seems unlikely that Gu, the Internet policeman who was arrested, and Liu, his collaborator, were the only two censors-for-hire in the Chinese system.

Lest you think that this problem is uniquely Chinese, consider that when Wikileaks leaked the Great Firewall of Australia's blacklist, we learned that more the half the sites on the list didn't meet the censorship criteria. And when the Danish and Swedish blacklists were analyzed, it emerged that more than 98 percent of the sites blocked did not meet the official criteria for censorship. And in the UK, the national firewall once blocked all of Wikipedia.

China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases

NSA hacked Huawei, totally penetrated its networks and systems, stole its sourcecode


A new Snowden leak details an NSA operation called SHOTGIANT through which the US spies infiltrated Chinese electronics giant Huawei -- ironically, because Huawei is a company often accused of being a front for the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army and an arm of the Chinese intelligence apparatus. The NSA completely took over Huawei's internal network, gaining access to the company's phone and computer networks and setting itself up to conduct "cyberwar" attacks on Huawei's systems.

The program apparently reached no conclusion about whether Huawei was involved in espionage. However, the NSA did identify many espionage opportunities in compromising Huawei, including surveillance of an undersea fiber optic cable that Huawei is involved with.

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From Snowden to Decoded: spies in China


Jeffrey sez, "Paul French, who recently won an Edgar in the true crime category, uses the forthcoming US publication of Decoded, the first spy novel by a PRC author to be translated into English, as a jumping off point for a Los Angeles Review of Books 'China Blog' post on the ongoing allure of Asian settings for authors of fictional works of intrigue."

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Super Mario Brothers music performed on a Sheng

In this video, a young musician called Li-Jin Lee performs the Super Mario theme (complete with eerily accurate SFX on a Sheng, an ancient Chinese reed instrument) at the National Concert Hall in Taipei, as part of a lecture on the Sheng.

Taiwan Philharmonic (NSO) - "The Power of Sheng" w. Super Mario 超級瑪莉 (via Kottke)

Like a zombie, China's Jade Rabbit lunar rover hops to life again after malfunction


A photograph of the giant screen at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center shows photo of the Yutu, or "Jade Rabbit" lunar rover taken by the camera on the Chang'e 3 probe during the mutual-photograph process, in Beijing December 15, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Earlier this week, it looked like China's malfunctioning lunar rover might be headed for the junk pile. But the week ends with great news: "Yutu has come back to life!" spokesperson Pei Zhaoyu told a Chinese state-run news agency. The probe " went into sleep under an abnormal status," he added.

The rover isn't out of the space woods yet: While normal signal reception capabilities have reportedly been restored, the cause of the initial issues remains unclear -- as does whether they can be fixed. But Pei says Jade Rabbit "stands a chance of being saved now that it is still alive."
A well-linked roundup at the Washington Post.

Chinese-language Bing searches in the USA censored to match mainland Chinese results

Freeweibo, an anti-censorship organization that works on free speech issues in China, has discovered that the Chinese version of Microsoft's Bing search-engine censors its US version to match the censored results that would be shown within China. Search terms such as "Dalai Lama, June 4 incident (how the Chinese refer to the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989), Falun Gong and FreeGate" return results dominated by censored Chinese news outlets like Baidu Baike and Chinese state broadcaster CCTV. The same searches run on the English version of Bing return pages from Wikipedia, BBC, the New York Times, etc.

Google's Chinese-language competitor displays much more parity between the Chinese and English editions -- the Chinese Google results for controversial subjects include Chinese articles from the BBC and Wikipedia.

Microsoft will not comment on the matter.

Update: Microsoft has commented:

"Bing does not apply China's legal requirements to searches conducted outside of China," Bing Senior Director Stefan Weitz notes in a prepared statement. "Due to an error in our system, we triggered an incorrect results-removal notification for some searches noted in the report, but the results themselves are and were unaltered outside of China.

As of 10PM Pacific on 12 Feb, many of the "controversial" search terms still generate results pages dominated by Chinese state media.

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Stretchy, slinkoid sculptures made from fan-folded cut paper


Artist Li Hongbo produces gorgeous sculptures made from meticulously cut sheets of fan-folded paper, stacked tightly so that the pieces appear to be made of solid composite or stone. But when Li pulls at them, they stretch and slide most gloriously, turning into slinkoid paper-chains that are pure visual hilarity.

A special report on Arrestedmotion showcases some of the best of Li's work, which is on display at the Klein Sun Gallery in NYC.

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China's love affair with "Take Me Home Country Roads"

Jeffrey sez, "The nice responses to my essay on 'Hotel California', has emboldened me to send a follow up on the curious life in China of another American song from the 1970s. Namely, the one that finds John Denver waxing nostalgic about West Virginia."

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Stamping Chinese banknotes with censorship-busting QR codes


An anonymous anti-censorship group is stamping Chinese banknotes with a QR code and the message "Scan and download software to break the Internet firewall." The stamps encode a URL for Freegate, a firewall-busting service. The stamps are widely suspected to be the work of Falun Gong, an outlawed religious sect that has a long history of supplying anti-censorship technology inside of mainland China, both to supply access to its own censored websites and to advertise the virtues of its belief-system to Chinese Internet users who are more interested in beating censorship than religion.

The money-stamping story has been big news in China, even attracting reportage in state-run media, where the comment-sections are full of Chinese Internet users complaining that the photos of the stamped money are too low-rez to be scanned in.

This isn't the first time that anti-corruption messages have been circulated through defaced currency: Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's fame runs the Stamp Stampede, which stamps messages condemning the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which opened the floodgates of unlimited, anonymous political campaign spending.

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Lunar panorama stitched from Chinese Chang'e lander images

Jeffrey sez, "Our esteemed interplanetary panorama enthusiast, Andrew Bodrov, has done it again (previously, this time being the first to stitch a 360 from the new Chinese moon lander!

Lunar panorama: Chang'e 3 lander (Thanks, Jeffrey!)

Shanghai hotel provides smog-masks for guests


Redditor Mthomaseddy snapped this photo of the elegantly packaged "gas mask" (apparently an air-filter mask, not something to be used in gas-attacks) that was waiting in his room at the Shanghai Fairmont when he checked in. China's pretty damned smoggy these days.

Shanghai hotels know how to pamper you (via Super Punch)

The best business card in the world

If The New York Times were for sale, it would have an interesting billionaire bidder: Guangbiao Chen, said to be China's most influential person, most prominent philanthropist, moral leader, earthquake rescue hero, well-known and beloved Chinese role model, most charismatic philanthropist, top low carbon emission and environmental protection advocate, and foremost environmental preservation demolition expert. [via Business Insider]

Guardian blocked in China

The Guardian has been blocked in China since Tuesday, though no one (apart from China's censors) knows why. Cory 8

2013 sent Chinese science fiction into orbit


In the 1950s, America's burgeoning space program goosed the science fiction writers and fans who'd already been enthusiastic and optimistic about space, sparking a frenzy of onward-and-upward-looking fiction. China's 2013 moonshot and taikonaut programs have had a similar effect on Chinese culture. Jeffrey Wasserstrom's "year in Chinese science fiction" is an eye-opening and exciting look at the way that Space Race 2.0 is creating science fictional narratives in China, and the English-language opportunities to peer in at it (like Tor Books's forthcoming translation of Liu Cixin’s bestselling "Three-Body Trilogy"):

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