President Trump joined China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Nov. 9 in Beijing.

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President Trump joined China’s President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People on Nov. 9 in Beijing.

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The three UCLA basketball players President Trump helped spring from China this week looked shamefaced when they told reporters in Los Angeles they were guilty of shoplifting sunglasses in China. They added they were grateful to President Trump for raising their case with President Xi Jinping. Mr. Trump reportedly referred to them as “knuckleheads,” which will probably not deter pro teams from one day signing the suspended college basketball stars to big-time contracts.

President Trump didn’t raise human rights with China’s leadership. No U.S. president wants human rights to crimp the crucial economic relationship between the United States and China.

But President Trump wouldn’t have had to search far for the names of a few more people for whom he might have asked China’s president for a small personal gesture of compassion.

There’s Guo Quan. You won’t find much on him on any search engine in China. The government’s response to the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 was one reason he was moved to speak out against official corruption and authoritarianism. Guo was arrested for “subversion of state power” and has been in prison for nine years.

Ilham Tohti is a writer and activist for China’s Muslim Uighur minority. He was detained in January 2014 and imprisoned for life after a two-day trial for “separatism.” Tohti has won several prestigious human rights awards while in prison, but none of them can award him his freedom.

And there’s Jiang Yefei, a cartoonist who has drawn barbed portraits of Chinese leadership. He was jailed and tortured in 2008, then fled to Thailand with his family, where the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees granted him refugee status in 2015. But just days before they were set to move to Canada, officials of the Thai military government arrested Jiang and sent him back to China, and prison.

There are thousands of other political prisoners in China for whom President Trump might have asked for a gesture of kindness. Amnesty International says another 500,000 people are currently detained without charge or trial. They can be students, lawyers, bloggers, labor leaders, clergy, and workers who joined a march, signed a letter, read a banned book, or even just wrote an email that questions their government. You may wonder why President Trump didn’t also ask President Xi for a small act of mercy toward a few of his own country’s most courageous citizens.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/18/564970718/in-china-trump-helped-basketball-stars-but-not-human-rights?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Classroom dynamics

Two dozen third-graders wiggle in their seats. Their attention is on their teacher — up front. He has a question for them: How many know about condoms? About half of the class raise their hands. The students are fixed on his talk — a lesson on sexual education and gender equality.

Everyone inside the classroom in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second largest city, is captivated with this lesson. It’s the people farther away — across the small island nation — that are not happy about this.

The class was captured in a 3-minute public TV station’s coverage of the 80-minute course, in which the teacher wrote down “sexual intercourse behaviors between same-sex and opposite-sex” on the chalkboard. Students practiced using condoms on dildos. The coverage early this year was intended to showcase the class as an example of school children respecting gender differences and protecting themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.


Yu-hao Liu, a teacher at Ganghe Elementary School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s second-largest city, was captured on local news teaching his students sex ed.



PTS 台灣公共電視 via Youtube

But soon after the segment aired, complaints about the class surfaced — including from many anti-gay groups. Concerned citizens saw the screenshots circling on social media and urged others to call the Taiwan Ministry of Education, local authorities and the school to lodge a complaint. They say the class is inappropriate for 9-year-olds.

“A lot of the people who are opposing me are not even the parents of my students,” says Yu-hao Liu, the teacher who wrote the lesson at Ganghe Elementary School. He’s been teacher there for 16 years.

A few weeks before the class took place, Liu wrote a letter to his students’ parents letting them know about the lesson. “All the parents agreed and some even thanked me for doing this,” he says, “because they don’t know how to talk about this topic with their children.”

Liu, who is the author of the Taiwan’s first illustrated book about gay families, believes the critics are motivated by their disdain for the gay rights movement.

“The whole movement has developed to its extreme and there seems to be a growing amount of people in the society favoring same-sex couples’ rights to marry,” he says. “The opposition party needs a target to attack or an outlet for its anger.”

Taiwan has been on the forefront of protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. It is poised to legalize same-sex marriage in the next two years because of a constitutional court decision in May. In late October, Taiwan had its 15th annual pride parade, which drew about 123,000 participants from around the world. Many news outlets dubbed the event, “Asia’s biggest gay pride parade.”

Schools are equally progressive. In 2004, Taiwan passed a law that requires all schools to teach gender equity topics. The fact that they have a national mandate is a big deal, considering most countries have no clear policy on this issue. In the U.S., sex education at public schools varies from state to state. Just 24 states and the District of Columbia require sex education as of this year.

Despite these policies, Taiwanese society appears to have a hard time catching up the nation’s efforts in promoting gender equality. The controversy surrounding Liu’s lesson was one of several flashpoints for gender equity education this year.

The ministry of education is seeking to revise the national guidelines — a common process that includes all subjects, not just gender equity. During a recent public hearing, parents spoke out, fearful that gender equity education is providing “wrong information” influences by same-sex marriage advocates.

Groups such as the Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance and the Alliance of Taiwan Religious Groups for the Protection of the Family have called the lessons “improper sex education” and say that the topics are given to children at “an unsuitable age.”

They have two main arguments: the lessons are not age appropriate and they focus too much on sex and same-sex relationships.

Are their arguments valid? The law – Gender Equity Education Act (GEEA) – says not really.

“The curriculum … shall cover courses on affective education, sex education, and gay and lesbian education,” reads Article 13 of the Enforcement Rules for the GEEA. In addition to sex education, classes should aim to develop students’ belief systems, emotions, and attitudes toward gender equality topics.

“Most of the opposing groups don’t have a problem with equality between the two sexes; they oppose the idea of diverse gender equity,” says Chiao-ling Yang, the coordinator of the Ministry of Education Curriculum and Instruction Consulting Committee on Gender Equity Education. “Basically, they are against the LGBTQ community.”

As to what really happens in a classroom, that depends on each individual teacher. The K-12 curriculum guidelines in Taiwan ask teachers to integrate the gender equity education into various subjects and offers examples based on students’ ages and needs.

“The reason I put out that course was that a student came to me and asked, ‘What are condoms?’ ” says Liu. “I revise my plan for gender equity education from semester to semester, based on my students’ needs.”

Even after the public outcry — and a lawsuit filed against him — Liu has received massive support from his own school, several advocacy groups and the local education bureau. The head of that governmental organization said the municipality would assist with a lawyer fee if the case proceeds.

But Liu says the current gender equity guidelines don’t go far enough. Schools are only required to “integrate” the related concepts into curriculum or activities and spend a total of four hours per semester in doing that. He’d prefer a designated class for sex education and gender topics.

“Many problems in the society are due to the lack of gender equity education,” Liu says, perhaps referring to a recent acid attack concerning an alleged gay couple at the National Taiwan University drew a lot of attention.

“The government is aware of the importance of addressing gender equity, but they don’t mandate a complete and exclusive time for teachers to teach it,” he says.

That means many teachers would probably skip such courses or use the time for other subjects, Liu suspects. “I don’t think I’m surrounded by many like-minded teachers.”

“Taiwan has really improved a lot in terms of gender equity education,” says Yang, who is part of the panel working on revising the national guidelines. “But all the progress doesn’t mean there will be no setbacks; especially when we are talking about social movement.”

Yu-Ning Aileen Chuang is NPR’s Business Desk intern. She hails from Taiwan.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/11/18/557368363/a-teachers-sex-ed-class-reveals-taiwan-s-struggles-for-pushing-gender-equity?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Toilet sign in Kyoto, Japan

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Toilet sign in Kyoto, Japan

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You are in a foreign country. And things are certainly looking a bit foreign.

Do you sit or squat? Can you toss toilet paper down the bowl or hole?

Let the signs guide you.

That is, if you can understand them.

Doug Lansky, author of the Signspotting series of books, knows how toilet etiquette signs can be mysterious, misleading and hilarious. His books include all types of funny warning and advice signs, but the topic of toilets is especially popular.

Lansky, who gave up a job offer at the New Yorker to travel the world, has seen his share of terrifying toilets. The worst? “A second-class Indian train toilet. The train is shaking, there is no light and it’s pretty clear everyone else has missed the target too. Plus, it’s your standard messy hole in the floor, but underneath it’s just train tracks whipping by. You have to be a really confident squatter.”

Ew.

Goats and Soda asked Lansky to share some thoughts on funny toilet signs around the world.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/11/18/564817838/toilet-signs-are-mysterious-and-mirth-inducing?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe looks on as he attends the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe binational Commission (BNC) last month.

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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe looks on as he attends the 2nd Session of the South Africa-Zimbabwe binational Commission (BNC) last month.

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Zimbabwe’s sidelined President Robert Mugabe, who has been under house arrest since a military takeover earlier this week, is refusing to step down, creating a potential crisis over his succession.

The military staged what it insists was not a coup, but rather a “bloodless correction,” on Wednesday, saying its aim was not to target Mugabe himself, but the “criminals around him who are committing crimes.” Several senior officials have been detained in the wake of the army’s move, according to the BBC.

Even so, negotiations are underway to get Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since it gained independence 37 years ago, to voluntarily resign. At 93, he is insisting that to be allowed to serve out his term until elections next year.

But in an indication of how much things have changed in recent days, NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports that the ruling ZANU PF party, long viewed as Mugabe’s personal fiefdom, is meeting Friday to work on a draft resolution that could lead to his impeachment next week.

Journalist Jeffrey Barbee tells Morning Edition that in the last few days, Zimbabwe has been “surviving on rumors.”

“There’s almost no security on the streets. Everything is quiet,” he says.

Since his government was toppled, Mugabe has been holed up with his wife, Grace, in his “Blue Roof” compound in the capital, Harare.

Despite his house arrest, Mugabe’s motorcade on Thursday was seen leaving his home and proceeding to State House, where he was photographed meeting with military chief Constantino Chiwenga – the man who staged Wednesday’s takeover – as well as South African ministers sent to help mediate the crisis.

Later, Mugabe arrived at a university graduation ceremony in Harare to deliver a speech, his first public appearance since the takeover.

The army’s takeover came a week after Mugabe sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to make room for his wife to assume leadership of the ruling party and the country’s presidency.

After his removal, Mnangagwa, 75, who had been locked in an intra-party factional feud with Mugabe, fled to South Africa, from where he vowed to challenge the president’s authority.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/17/564751593/defiant-mugabe-refuses-to-step-down-as-zimbabwes-president?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Officers swore they saw the driver moving his fingers around on an instrument. The driver said no, that he was actually playing air bagpipe. He got off with a warning.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/17/564752448/police-in-new-zealand-pull-over-driver-playing-a-bagpipe?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Since National Front party leader Marine Le Pen lost the presidential election to Emmanuel Macron last May, she and her party have largely disappeared from the political scene.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/17/564763913/frances-national-front-fade-from-prominence?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Steve Inskeep talks to Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah about the state of the war in his country, and how he’s in favor of the Trump administration’s plan to put more boots on the ground.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/2017/11/16/564538141/afghanistans-chief-executive-is-hopefull-for-u-s-war-strategy?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

Yuri Ganus, director general of the Russian Antidoping Agency (RUSADA), at a news conference in Moscow.

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Yuri Ganus, director general of the Russian Antidoping Agency (RUSADA), at a news conference in Moscow.

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The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) says that Russia’s official sports drug-testing lab, which was suspended in 2015 following evidence of state-sponsored doping, remains “non-compliant.”

The finding throws into doubt whether Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in February.

That decision was set to be made at the next board meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) beginning Dec. 5.

Following the announcement at the meeting in Seoul of WADA’s independent compliance review committee, Russia’s Sports Minister Pavel Kolobkov said the criteria it had used to determine whether RUSADA should be reinstated was of a “political character.”

“I got the impression that the decision was made in advance,” Kolobkov told TASS news agency. “We believe that the state has fulfilled all of its obligations.”

At a news conference in Moscow, RUSADA’s Director General Yuri Ganus called the decision “lamentable.”

“Let me make it clear that for us, that was not a surprise,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that international sports organizations are subject to “relationships and dependencies” with a “controlling stake [in] the United States.”

A week ago, another four Russian cross-country skiers were found guilty of by the IOC of doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, bringing the total to six, according to Sports Illustrated.

As we reported in 2015, an investigation by WADA found evidence that the Russian anti-doping agency, RUSADA, enabled rather than caught athletes who were using banned substances.

As NPR’s Bill Chappell explained: “WADA says the lab had different fee systems for handling tests that showed proof of doping, with one price for handling a positive test they had been told to look out for – and a second, higher price for covering up test results they hadn’t been warned about.”

And, just last week, NPR’s Laurel Wamsley reported that WADA had obtained what was described as an “enormous backup file” from RUSADA covering all testing data from January 2012 to August 2015 — a period that covers the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where Russia was dominate.

RUSADA had been unwilling to hand over the data earlier, and according to The New York Times, it was obtained by WADA via a whistleblower.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/16/564537643/sports-doping-watchdog-says-russia-non-compliant?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A poster of resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic that read, “We are all with you,” hangs on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday.

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A poster of resigned Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri with Arabic that read, “We are all with you,” hangs on a street in Beirut, Lebanon, on Monday.

Hassan Ammar/AP

French President Emmanuel Macron’s office says that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who abruptly resigned earlier this month while on a visit to Saudi Arabia, has accepted an invitation to come to France.

Reuters reports that: “Macron invited Hariri and his family to come to France, apparently as a way to put an end to allegations that the prime minister is being held against his will.”

Hariri’s sudden resignation stunned Lebanon, throwing it into political chaos. Adding further confusion, Hariri has not returned home since his Nov. 4 announcement, prompting Lebanese President Michel Aoun to accuse Saudi Arabia of forcing him to resign and then “detaining” him, a charge the Saudis have denied.

On Wednesday, Aoun said “nothing justified” Hariri’s failure to return from Saudi Arabia.

Speaking to reporters in Germany, Macron said he had discussed the invitation with Hariri and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and that “we agreed I would invite [Hariri] to France for several days with his family,” according to The Washington Post. Macron added, “we need to have leaders who are free to express themselves.”

He said he was not offering Hariri “exile.”

As we reported earlier this month, in his resignation announcement from Riyadh, Hariri “lashed out at Iran for meddling in the affairs of ‘the Arab world,’ saying that Lebanon would ‘rise as it had done in the past’ and ‘cut off the hands that wickedly extend into it.’”

Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, became president late last year as part of a deal that gave some concessions to rival Hezbollah, a Shiite group backed by Iran.

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/16/564540453/lebanons-saad-hariri-reportedly-accepts-invitation-to-visit-france?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world

A man snaps a selfie in Bharuch, India.

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A man snaps a selfie in Bharuch, India.

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How far would you go to snap the perfect selfie?

For some people, the answer is clearly: too far.

Take India, for example.

In July, a 28-year-old man sneaked into a restricted safari area at the Bannerghatta Biological Park in Bengalurum with his friends. He held his camera up to get a photo of himself with an elephant. The animal trampled him to death.

That same month, four people were trying to take a selfie on a cliff at Nagoa Beach. As waves crashed into the cliff, they fell in the Arabian Sea and were swept away. All of them drowned.

India’s authorities are out to quash risky selfies, joining other countries like Russia (which has created signs and campaigns to promote safe selfie-taking) and Spain (which has banned people from taking selfies during the annual running of the bulls).

The Mumbai police has identified 16 accident-prone zones in the city where selfie-related deaths were rising. They are trying to raise awareness about the risks of selfies at places like Mumbai’s iconic seafront at Marine Drive and the popular Girgaum Chowpatty Beach. The was created in the wake of a selfie-related accident in January 2016, when three young women slipped while taking a selfie and fell into the water in Bandra, a beachfront neighborhood in Mumbai. A passer-by saved two of them; the third drowned — and their rescuer is also believed to have drowned.

And in June the mobile giant Samsung sponsored a YouTube video in which Nitin Gadkari, India’s minister for shipping, road transport and highways, urges people to use their mobile phones responsibly.

These dire selfie warnings come on the heels of a study published last year: Me, Myself and My Killfie. The title of the report uses the word “killfie” to describe selfies taken under circumstances dangerous enough to kill you.

To find these “killfies,” researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) in New Delhi rounded up newspaper reports and data on selfie deaths worldwide.

Because the study relies on media accounts, it’s not a definitive tally of deaths by selfie worldwide. “There is very little empirical data [on selfie-related deaths] at the moment,” says Rajendran Narayanan, a social scientist based in Trichy, India, and former dean of arts at Bharathidasan University who did not work on the report.

In this photograph taken on June 15, 2015, young Indian students take ‘selfies’ on Marine Drive promenade in Mumbai.

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In this photograph taken on June 15, 2015, young Indian students take ‘selfies’ on Marine Drive promenade in Mumbai.

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The results of the study, however, are indicative of a larger trend, he notes. “While the act of taking a selfie in itself isn’t harmful or dangerous, taking a selfie in a dangerous location is,” he says. “As a society, we need to be aware of this.”

The research team found accounts of 127 reported deaths by selfie between 2014 to 2016, with more than half in India. Among the causes of death: taking selfies with wild animals, on railway tracks and in moving vehicles.

Deaths caused by taking a selfie with a gun were reported in the U.S. and Russia but did not appear to be an Indian phenomenon.

The researchers didn’t just want to keep count of selfie deaths. They wanted to create a tool to identify hazardous areas for selfie-taking.

“We analyzed the data of thousands of dangerous locations in India and across the world,” says Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, a computer scientist at IIIT. The team also studied photos posted to social media with the hashtags #dangerousselfies and #extremeselfies to identify potentially hazardous selfie settings. They used the research to build an app called Saftie, which launched in June and is currently is available for download for free on Android phones. (Saftie is a mash-up of “safety” and “selfie.”)

The app sends users a text message when they are near a location that poses a threat to selfie-takers. Users will also be notified if they are at the locations where the 127 selfie deaths from the the study occurred.

The developers hope that users can build on its resources. Anyone with access to the app can contribute. If three people mark a location as risky, the app will add it to the list of danger spots. This system helps safeguard the app from pranksters.

Ultimately, the researchers just want people to be safe when taking a selfie. Perhaps the Mumbai police said it best. Just before this year’s monsoon season in June, they warned people not to take selfies in the heavy rains.

They wrote on Twitter: “Don’t make ‘taking a selfie’ mean ‘taking your own life.’ “

Kamala Thiagarajan is a freelance journalist based in Madurai, South India. Her work has appeared in The International New York Times, BBC Travel and Forbes India. You can follow her @kamal_t

Article source: https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/11/14/563255936/india-declares-war-on-unsafe-selfies?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=world