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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Chinese World of Warcraft crime-boss sentenced to two years


The leader of a clan of Chinese Warcraft fences has been sentenced to two years in prison and been fined $8,000 for buying stolen World of Warcraft logins, then logging into the accounts and selling off all their virtual gold and assets. They reportedly attacked 11,500 accounts and netted $10,800.

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Replace bank chiefs with small dogs: Chinese top economist


China's former chief economist has excoriated the nation's banking system, which charges high fees and maintains a greedy-large gap between its deposit interest and lending interest rates.

Such a business provides no value, and is merely parasitic on the people: "With this kind of operational model, banks will continue making money even if all the bank presidents go home to sleep and you replaced them by putting a small dog in their seats."

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How is China's lunar mission going? Here's a rover postcard from the moon.


"The Chang'e 3 lander took this photo of the rover Yutu on December 22, 2013. The rover had completed a semicircular tour of the lander and was departing the lander due south. This version of the image has been white-balanced and color-corrected." Image: CNSA / Gordan Ugarkovic

Planetary Society blogger Emily Lakdawalla has posted a roundup of what China's lunar rover Yutu has been up to on the Chang'e 3 unmanned space exploration mission. Lots of pictures.

Auctioning a conceptual copy of Banksy's thrifted "Banality of the Banality of Evil" to benefit 826 Valencia


A San Francisco artist commissioned a Chinese artist to make a copy of "The Banality of the Banality of Evil" -- a painting that Banksy thrifted, added a Nazi to, and shop-dropped back into the thrift store. The copy, called "The Banality Of The Banality Of The Banality Of Evil," is now being auctioned to support 826 Valencia, a literacy for kids program in San Francisco.

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Severed hand grafted to ankle, reattached to wrist a month later


When Xiao Wei's right hand was severed in an industrial accident, doctors at a hospital in Changde, China, grafted it to his ankle. The blood supply from his ankle kept the hand alive and viable on the seven-hour journey to a larger hospital with better facilities, where it was removed a month later from his ankle and reattached to his wrist. It's not clear whether he'll regain the use of his hand, but doctors are hopeful.

Severed hand saved after being attached to man’s ankle [Metro]

(via JWZ)

(Image: Rex)

Shareholder sues IBM for spying on China, wiping $12.9B off its market cap

A pension fund with a large stake in IBM is suing the company for colluding with the NSA and lobbying for the right to spy on Chinese customers. The Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension & Relief Fund claims that the company's behavior resulted in a $12.9 billion drop in its market cap.

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Bunnie Huang explains the nuts-and-bolts of getting stuff made in Shenzhen

In this talk from Maker Faire New York, Bunnie Huang of Chibitronics gives an amazing run-down of the on-the-ground reality of having electronics manufactured in Shenzhen, China. It's a wild 30 minutes, covering everything from choosing a supplier to coping with squat toilets and the special horrors awaiting vegetarians in the Pearl River Delta. There are some dropouts at the start of the video that you'll need to scroll past, but it's well worth the hassle.

Getting it Made: Stories from Shenzhen (via Make)

China air pollution from space

Speaks for itself, doesn't it? NASA:

When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on December 7, 2013, thick haze stretched from Beijing to Shanghai, a distance of about 1,200 kilometers (750 miles). For comparison, that is about the distance between Boston, Massachusetts, and Raleigh, North Carolina. The brightest areas are clouds or fog. Polluted air appears gray. While northeastern China often faces outbreaks of extreme smog, it is less common for pollution to spread so far south.