Food Shortages Cause Riot in Shanghai as Lockdown Continues

China’s Zero Covid program is coming under high scrutiny as Shanghai residents begin rioting against the draconian lockdown against its residents. Some residents have taken to running out of their confinement to beating by regulators, and many are actively seeking food. That being said, food shortage is rampant in the city, despite regulators’ attempt to bring food to its residents.

Shanghai has confirmed 1,006 infections with 24,000 asymptomatic cases in the past 24 hours, and many have been under lockdown since March 28. Authorities said Saturday that areas with no new cases in the last 14 days following another round of mass testing will see easing of restrictions. Nonetheless, people are growing angrier and hungrier, which is never a good mix in the business of running a state.

Will Covid measures become the straw that breaks the camel’s back that is Xi Jinping?

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2022 Beijing Olympics and Fake Snow

The Winter Olympics at Beijing have begun, and the athletes are competing in entirely fake snow. Normally, the Winter Olympics are held in locations that see high snowfall; average of at least 300 inches per year or more, given the nature of winter games and generally needing snow.

However, as seen on the Olympics footage, the mountains and surrounding landscape in Beijing are brown, showing no snowfall. Beijing does not often see high snowfall or accumulation.

Real snow and fake snow are both made of frozen water, but most athletes can tell the difference, and it has to do with the process of freezing.

Natural snow starts as a tiny ice crystal in a cloud, and as the crystal falls through the air, the ice crystal grows into a six-sided snowflake. Human-made snow simply freezes from a single droplet of water, which results in snow with billions of tiny spherical balls of ice. The color may be the same, but when it comes to snowing on it, the results are very different.

Human-made snow is very dense, almost like ice. Powder snow or natural snow, has a weightless feel, as it is made of more than 95% air.

Of course, natural snow has its downsides; it’s harder to slide down natural snow, so Olympics organizers may pour water and harden the snow.

But the downsides are equally bad. The hardened snow made entirely of man-made snow, can be too hard which can make jump landings difficult. It also makes speed control harder for skiiers due to its smooth top.

Already, several athletes have lost control during the skiing events. It wouldn’t be too big of a deal, except these are world class athletes. How much performance this will impact is not yet known.

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Jimin from BTS hospitalized due to appendicitis and Covid-19

Several members of BTS have been found Covid-19 positive including Jin, RM, and Suga from BTS. However, Jimin from BTS has experienced the most intense symptoms: he was hospitalized after experiencing appendicitis on top of covid-19 infection.

He had to undergo appendix surgery to deal with the problem. The surgery on Monday was successful, and Jimin is now recovering from the surgery. He is expected to remain in the hospital for a few more days to receive post-surgery treatment and for Covid-19.

South Korea has generally been successful with maintaining a lower Covid-19 infection rate; last updated figure shows nationwide infection of 17,532 on Sunday.

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First Korean-American Woman Confirmed to U.S. Court of Appeals

On Monday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm the appointment of Lucy H. Koh to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. She is the first Korean-American woman to be serving as a federal appellate judge in U.S. history.

Pres. Biden announced the appointment in September 2021. Most recently, Judge Koh served as a federal judge for the Northern District of California and previously served as California Superior Court Judge for Santa Clara County.

The Asian American community praised this confirmation.

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China Locks 30,000 People in Disneyland after 1 Positive Covid Test

According to reports, one woman either tested positive for Covid or came into contact with someone who had it prior to visiting Disneyland in Shanghai. The Chinese government officials then locked everyone into the park, which were about 30,000 visitors, and forced them to test negative before they were allowed to leave. AP reported that all 33,863 people at the park tested negative.

Disneyland is set to remain closed until Tuesday, and it plans to refund the tickets and notify the guests as soon as possible for confirmed date for reopening.

China is enforcing highly restrictive policies on its citizens as it continues to deal with Covid pandemic woes. For example, visitors must quarantine for three weeks upon arrival, two more weeks after recovery, and holding ships at port until all crew are tested. The massive testing done at Disneyland is just another one of those restrictions. At the moment, 14 of the provinces in China are affected by these measures. There are cinema closures in Beijing which some analysts believe will impact the new Bond movie “No Time to Die” to perform a little worse than expected.

As Beijing also prepares for the 2022 Winter Olympics, it is especially tight on keeping the lid on Covid-19. Thus, there are more than 14 million people currently under quarantine.

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Had enough of Covid-19? Nipah is Next.

As the world continues to struggle with the Covid virus (delta variant this year), the scientists are now warning of a resurgence of a different virus.

Although first discovered in 1980s, it first entered human culture in 1998, it arrived in central Malaysia by air, inside furry bats that lived on the fruit trees swaying over pig farms. But The bats dropped some of their half-consumed meals, which the pigs consumed. Then, the pigs coughed and transferred it to the pig workers.

Within 8 months, 105 Malaysians or about 40 percent of those infected, died of the virus, now dubbed Nipah. It caused fevers, brain inflammation, and comas.

It was then traced back to bats for disease investigation. Nipah erupts annually in Bangladesh, killing people at even greater rate as the country increased industrialization. Sometimes, the virus even broke out in India.

This week, the WHO identified Nipah as the Disease X that could potentially cause human epidemics. Up to 75 percent of new infectious diseases impacting humans right now are related to wild animal source, as human population gets closer to wildlife and raise livestock; the livestock becoming the link between wildlife and humans in transferring dangerous diseases.

Initially, the Nipah outbreak had been linked to mosquitoes, so mosquitoes were exterminated; however, pigs were continuously exported, and those outside of Malaysia got sick. Eventually, the scientists realized they’d found a new paramyxovirus that affected the pigs.

When the investigators arrived in Malaysia, the local folks explained the fearful sound of pigs coughing, dubbed “one-mile barking cough” that one could hear a mile away, coming closer and closer to one’s own piggery, before one would also get sick.

To deal with this outbreak, the Malaysian government performed a massive culling, killing one million pigs that spring; it did stop the disease temporarily. However, ultimately, as humans get closer to wild habitats and wildlife, this is only a higher possibility every year. Recently, scientists revealed that more than 47,000 wild animals were sold in markets in Wuhan, China, in the two years prior to the Covid-19 outbreak. Bats unlike other mammals do not have struggle with these quite horrific viruses, which scientists believe is due to their ability to fly, which suppresses inflammation.

Unlike other animals, bats being mammal can pose a problem for other mammals, such as pigs, dogs, and even humans due to the genetic similarity, making humans vulnerable.

Malaysia is therefore, very alert about Covid-19 because they don’t want to deal with Nipah like outbreak again.

Nipah does not yet have a vaccine or treatment.

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Taliban Justifies No-Shave Order in Southern Afghanistan as being faithful to Islam

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On Monday, the Taliban issued an order to forbid shaving or trimming of beards in the southern provinces of Helmand, and threatened to punish barbers that violated this directive. The order was issued by the vice and virtue department and directed it to areas in Lashkar Gah, provincial capital of Helmand, justifying it as being in line with Sharia law, which is the law as defined in the Islamic holy scriptures called the Quran.

Punishment was promised but not specified; those breaking the order would be punished with no right to complain.

Since overtaking Afghanistan upon U.S. and NATO’s departure, the Taliban has set an interim government, with many hardline leaders from the previous reign in late 1990’s; of course, there are no women leaders.

Since the Taliban ousting in 2001, men have been shaving or cleanly trimming beards in Afghanistan.

The current outlook of Taliban rule doesn’t seem to be looking too well; just last weekend, the Taliban hung a body from a crane in the main square of Herat, which is a third-largest city in Afghanistan. A bystander who witnessed the event recounted the event, stating that four bodies were brought to the square, and three were taken to other parts of the city for public display.

The barbers are speaking up and asking Taliban to reconsider this order, to “give freedom to people to live the way they want, if they want to trim their beard or hair.” Barbers in the area are already seeing reduction in income.

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Scientists develop solar cells for windows

Most agree that solar power is the next “big thing” when it comes to energy. With potentially infinite amount of energy that can be generated thanks to the Sun with relatively limited negative impact on the climate change, solar power has been something heavily in development.

However, as it has been until now, solar panels require an excessive amount of space and silicon, which is currently known to be the most efficient material for solar panels, is not transparent. This is a problem as based on energy use distribution, cities consume the most amount of energy but lack the space to generate that electricity based on current capabilities.

However, scientists have now developed a new transparent solar panel based on organic or carbon-based material to be used as window-friendly solar panels. Published in the science journal, Nature Communcications, the panel uses molecules that move photogenerated electrons to the electrodes, called non-fullerene acceptors. These acceptors when incorporated with sulfur, can reach efficiencies of 18% but have a short lifespan.

However, Yongxi Li (first author) have since figured out how to strengthen the non-fullerene acceptors; specifically, it would need to block off UV rays by adding a coating of zinc oxide, a sunscreen component on the side facing the Sun.

Then, the researchers added carbon-based material called IC-SAM as a buffer to solve this issue, and added another buffer layer in a form of fullerene shaped like a soccer ball.

Then they tested this new panel, from 1 sun to 27 suns, and temperatures as high as 65 degrees celsius. Result? These new solar cells would function at 80% efficiency after 30 years based on declination of performance.

Furthermore, these materials can be prepared as liquids, so the manufacturing and transportation costs might be incredibly lower than the current silicon-based solar panels. Thus, it might increase feasibility for wide scale use in large skyscrapers, but also on residential properties.

It is an exciting day for solar power and global energy self-sufficiency.

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Aftermath of the Afghan Exodus and What’s Left

Effective August 31, 2021, the U.S. and NATO forces have officially left Afghanistan, leaving the country back in the Taliban’s hands. Taliban celebrated their victory and return to power.
That being said, the U.S. still has some homework left over. There are still Americans in Afghanistan. Out of the 250,000 Afghan folks that assisted the U.S. forces, more than 100,000 are still in Afghanistan.
During the White House briefing today, a question arose as to the rescue plan for those remaining in Afghanistan after the August 31 deadline. The Chief of Press gave somewhat of an ambiguous answer but promised that anyone who has helped the U.S. that wants to come to the States would be given chances to do so, along with any American still stuck in Afghanistan.
Last Thursday, 13 U.S. service members and hundreds of Afghans were killed when a suicide bomber detonated the bomb at the gate of Kabul International Airport. Pres. Biden has promised that the U.S. would retaliate against ISIS-K for the attack and did so briefly after the attack.
Since the withdrawal began, Pres. Biden has seen a significant drop in approval rating, both in the execution of the withdrawal and in the quick overtaking of Afghanistan by the Taliban despite billions of dollars that had gone into training the Afghan military.
Many Americans are questioning the purpose of the Afghanistan campaign; some are even comparing it to the Vietnam war. The hardest struck are the Veterans of the Afghanistan-Iran conflict, who are now wondering why they went to a 20-year war where the result was the Taliban’s quick return and takeover of Afghanistan.
There are stories of U.S. citizens and green card holders being turned away at Taliban checkpoints and being beaten; it is unclear as to whether all U.S. citizens and green card holders have made it out safely.
With ISIS-K’s attack last Thursday, it is truly questionable as to whether the U.S. even succeeded at wiping out the terrorist threat to the safety of U.S. democracy.

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Al-Qaeda Congratulates the Taliban Day after Taliban’s Denouncement

The Taliban recently submitted an official statement denouncing their links with all Al-Qaeda groups and promised that Al-Qaeda would not be present in Afghanistan or pose a threat to the U.S.; however, a day after this announcement, Al-Qaeda’s South Asian branch congratulated the Taliban on the military victory on a statement on Monday. The announcement was written in Urdu and praised the Taliban for winning against the United States, going as far to claim it as a “highly sacred moment” for Muslims around the world.

Al-Qaeda also called for more to come out to join the jihad in defending themselves against the “invaders.” Al-Qaeda’s letter also explained that while it cannot win against West-backed democratic process, it would win out on the field. Two other groups associated with Al-Qaeda also released messages of support for the Taliban: The Global Islamic Media Front (propaganda organization) and Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Sahel region of Africa. The Global Islamic Media Front called it vindication of the power of religious conviction, whereas Jama’at Nasr Al-Islam wal Muslimin simply congratulated the Afghan people.

Taliban maintains that there are no Al-Qaeda presence in Afghanistan and that it would not be protecting Al-Qaeda within its territories; however, the United Nations estimates Al-Qaeda has presence in at least 15 provinces, while Al-Qaeda in the Indian subcontinent has operated under Taliban protection for quite some time.

In the meantime, the Biden administration is being pressured to stay in Afghanistan past the deadline of August 31, 2021 to guarantee that all American soldiers and any vulnerable refugees can come over to the United States.

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