Month: July 2016

Protests in China over fraudulent investment schemes

A report on Chinese protests against a fraudulent investment company stealing millions of yuan by B+D editor Mitchell Blatt.

On July 16, law enforcement officers were stationed outside the iapm mall on Huaihai Road in Shanghai and an ambulance was parked in front of the door. Exactly one month ago, the chief financial officer of Jinxing Investments (Shanghai Uprosper Asset Management Co) Ji Jianhua appeared at the firm’s offices and admitted that the firm’s boss was nowhere to be found.

Ever since then investors have been protesting. Inside the mall, which is home to luxury brands like Prada and Givenchy, a line of officers stood at attention in front of the escalators. Mall officials in blazers and ties milled around. A crowd of spectators had gathered at the edge of the second, third, and fourth floors, looking down into the atrium.

A group of retired Chinese people came marching out into the first floor, carrying signs, some with images of Xi Jinping, and waving Chinese flags. A protest. In Chinese, wei quan—“protecting [our] rights.”

”Come out, boss, and return my hard-earned savings!”
”Jinxing committed fraud, the common people suffer; Honest Judge Gongbao, uphold justice.”
[Under a picture of Xi Jinping]: “Weiquan is actually truly maintaining stability.”

Over ¥400 million Chinese yuan (US$60 million) have been stolen from about 2,500 investors who were attracted by street fliers and seminars. When it opened in November 2015, Jinxing/Uprosper Assets promised to be a safe investment option dedicated to “creat[ing] the top service brand in supply chain finance industry in China.” On its website it claimed to have partnerships with Chinese state-owned banks like China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Its boss, a 37-year-old man named Wang Jian, held glitzy events at 5 star hotels and invited celebrities like 2008 and ’12 Chinese gold medalist boxer Zou Shiming to his offices. On its opening day it held a flamboyant ribbon-cutting ceremony with a dragon dance and flowers gifted by Shanghai district administrative governments.

Read article at ChinaTravelWriter.com blog.

Trump ally Gingrich says maybe U.S. shouldn’t even defend NATO allies that hit military spending target

Former Republican Speaker of the House and shortlist finalist for Donald Trump’s VP selection Newt Gingrich said on CBS News this week that NATO allies “ought to worry about our [U.S.] commitment.”

This came after Trump said he would consider only defending a NATO ally from Russian incursion “if they fulfill their obligations to us.” Trump has often accused American allies of not paying their fair share. In many cases, he has used made-up numbers to make his argument. For example, he said of South Korea, “They don’t pay us.”

In this case, Trump didn’t set out specifics about NATO, but many NATO countries have come under criticism for spending well below the target of 2% of GDP on defense. Only five of the 28 members meet the goal. Those countries are the U.S., Greece, the UK, Estonia and (since 2015) Poland.

Asked specifically about whether the U.S. would defend Estonia, which borders Russia, from an attack, Gingrich said,

“Estonia is in the suburbs of St. Petersburg. The Russians aren’t gonna necessarily come across the border militarily. The Russians are gonna do what they did in Ukraine. I’m not sure I would risk a nuclear war over some place which is the suburbs of St. Petersburg. I think we have to think about what does this stuff mean.”

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Moral ambiguity and coffee in London, with Laura Canning

I didn’t plan or expect to meet Laura this time when I was in London, infact I didn’t plan my second trip to London within a week 17250363anyway. Considering what is happening in the political circles in UK (and broadly, Europe) planning seemed to me an exercise in futility.  So when I met her in the holga-ish Cafe Nero in Buckingham Palace road after two whole days of covering the coronation of the new UK PM, I was distinctly under-dressed as a classic political correspondent with shabby army green t-shirt, jacket, scarf and jeans, increasingly aware of the uncomfortable dark moist growing patch near my armpit. Thankfully I had deospray in my laptop bag, as the person who greeted me with a copy of her first published novel was in a proper burgundy dress, smelling fresh and soinding Oirish; capable of giving a seven hour Sun-dried man enough complex for the rest of the day. We proceeded, appropriately in my opinion, to talk about her novel and lead character Lisa (a working class, domestically abused, societally neglected early teen, on her way to drugs, larceny, prostitution and “freedom”), on a day Britain had her second Conservative female Prime Minister.

Her debut novel “Taste the Bright Lights” (which I read in the next twenty four hours on my way back to Nottingham) is contemporary urban drama, tracing fourteen year old Lisa “growing up” in Northern Ireland. Imagine Chetan Bhagat’s early writing, meeting “This is England”, just more gritty, grimy, and grainy…a jarring experience, like watching a slow quaint mutiny unfolding, being shot in sepia lens. It shares occasional debut novel characteristics, like overuse of certain typical urban colloquial words, and it’s not an easy read, and not only because of the sheer powerful narrative force, but because of the moral ambiguity that reigns within.

It is in spirit of that moral ambiguity, I asked Laura these questions for Bombs and Dollars, published below unaltered and unabridged.


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What difference a year makes…

So, I posted this on FB today.

When Churchill had a dinner with Sir William Harcourt, just prior to the First World war, in the course of the conversation, Churchill asked him, what is going to happen. Sir Harcourt replied, “My dear Winston, the experiences of a long life has convinced me, that nothing ever happens.”

When Churchill retired after Second World war, Churchill wrote about this dinner and said, “since that moment, as it seems to me, nothing has ever ceased happening” .

It started with this meme I made, a year back, jokingly, somewhat drunk, back in Kolkata. Ukraine

After almost five years in New Zealand, and on my way to UK to start my research. In a comparatively saner world, with just a funny little war about to start in Europe (and that’s not my PhD I’m talking about, although the subject is related) which now seems like aeons away. People were laughing about it, and everyone thought it won’t last long. It’s Europe after all, post-modern and liberal. Wars, interventions, annexations, refugees and nationalist civil strife in Europe are history.

To rephrase Churchill, reflecting upon Europe in the last few months, “nothing has ever ceased happening” since then.

 

Book Review: Stuart Stevens imagines a contested convention rattled by terrorist attacks

The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, Steven’s second political thriller

With Donald Trump still campaigning erratically as usual, #NeverTrump still holds onto an outside hope that the delegates could be unbound and the convention next week contested. Whatever happens, it will certainly not be as exciting as the fictional Republican National Convention in Stuart Stevens’ new novel The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear.

The novel takes place in a country eerily similar to the United States of the past eight years, with an exaggerated version of the 2008 financial crisis and fears of civil unrest and terrorism, featuring a primary contest between a wonkier version of a Donald Trump or Tom Tancredo character and a “higher energy” version of a John Kasich or Susan Collins character. Campaign manager J.D. Callahan, whose features seem to based somewhat on those of Stevens himself, has a few days to secure the nomination for his client, Hilda Smith, the Collins-esque northeastern moderate, while withstanding temptations and family pressures in the hometown he fled from, New Orleans.

In The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, Stevens imagines what a convention that took place during a small-scale terrorist insurgency might look like. He also portrays some of the “rat-fucking” tactics and dirty tricks political strategists might play on each other during the ordinary course of a hard fought campaign. Much is made of the identity of the political strategist; as one who is hired to help a candidate win at all costs, what of personal standards and values?

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Trump’s trend of bigotry can’t be easily excused

Donald Trump on July 2 tweeted an image of Hillary Clinton in front of a pile of money with the quote “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” inside the outline of a Star of David. As usual with acts of bigotry from Trump, Trump’s defenders are out in full force to defend him.

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“That’s not a Star of David, it’s just “a star”,” Mary Ann Arlotta wrote on Facebook.

“I’m fairly certain that same shape is on Microsoft PowerPoint,” Rhea Paseur wrote.

Mark Ross wrote, “Some call it the satanic star while others call it the Star of David.” (The pentagram, aka “the satanic star,” has five sides, but anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists do consider the Star of David to be a “Satanic Hexagram.”)

This is becoming a familiar pattern in the Trump campaign: Trump does something bigoted and/or incredibly stupid. Trump fans, whom Trump joked would support him if he killed someone on 5th Avenue, display their gymnastics abilities by defending him.

As Facebook user Kevin Wos wrote, in an explanation that anyone with the faintest understanding of history doesn’t need to read, “Oh yeah, because a Star of David combined with images of money and talk of corruption couldn’t possibly be a dog whistle for the far right. Nope, not anti-Semitic at all!”

The issue, furthermore, comes down to reputation and track record. People are granted a number of mistakes. Trump deleted this tweet afterwards and reuploaded the same image with a circle in the place of the Star of David, so one might be charitable if it was the first time he said or did something bigoted against a minority ethnic group.

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