Monday, February 06, 2017

Fences and Neighbors

The arrest of Xaysana Keopimpha, the suspected mastermind behind several drug rackets in Southeast Asia, has raised fears that Thailand has become a "superhighway" for drug trafficking.

If you want to see what a “Muslim ban” really looks like, start paying attention to Australia / Alex MacKinnon, Quartz

Watching the most powerful man on earth publicly embarrass one of the United States’ staunchest allies for attempting to uphold a diplomatic agreement has captivated many on both sides of the Pacific. But you shouldn’t play Australia the victim: Our inhumane immigration policies are arguably the groundwork for Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.” But in Australia, politicians don’t need walls and visas revocations to keep unwanted visitors out—they have a moat.

Pirates, cyclones and mud: Bangladesh's island solution to Rohingya crisis / Reuters

While most experts dismiss the scheme as impractical, a Bangladeshi minister told Reuters this week that it was determined to push ahead, adding authorities would provide shelters, other facilities and livestock.

Local administrators, however, say they have not been informed, and when Reuters visited the island the only signs of activity were a few buffalo lazily grazing on the yellow grass along its shores.

"We have only heard bad things about the Rohingya. If they work with the pirates and get involved in crime - we don't want them here," said Mizanur Rahman, 48, the administrator of Might Bangha village, the closest settlement to Thengar Char.


Whatever Mahathir’s true motives, controversy over his stance on Chinese investment is the latest snag in the coalition’s efforts to unseat Najib – efforts that have faltered despite the unpopularity of the prime minister, who is fighting corruption allegations regarding the state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Najib was drawn into the crisis surrounding the fund when it was revealed that US$681 million in transfers were made to his personal bank accounts in 2013. He says they were “personal donations” from the Saudi royal family and has denied all wrong-doing.

Against this backdrop, China has been a white knight for Najib, buying up assets in the troubled 1MDB by outbidding everyone else, fuelling opposition concerns that the Chinese are buying influence.

Smoker's corner: Are we ready for CPEC? / Nadeem Paracha, Dawn

I’m not sure whether by the time this column goes into print, Pakistan’s name too would be put on Trump’s ban list. But even if it’s not, the state, government and people of Pakistan must seriously become aware of the most recent hypothesis which is predicting the rise of China as a leading superpower in the event of Trump’s (rather belligerent) attempt to isolate the US from a number of countries.

I say this because Pakistan is now at the epicentre of China’s economic influence and growth in the region. China has positively recognised and responded to the many pecuniary openings available in a growing economy such as Pakistan, despite the fact that these opportunities are often overshadowed in local and international media by the perception of Pakistan being politically unstable.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the result of China’s pursuit to utilise these untapped investment opportunities available in Pakistan. China believes that the economic outcome of this investment would have a positive impact on Pakistan’s economy, which, in turn, would result in political stability.

Does contemporary Japan need religion? / Michael Hoffman, Japan Times

That aside, postwar life was materialist, and it was good. At least it felt good. Its current twilight, says Aera, moves many to nostalgia. At its height, it was simple and (deceptively, perhaps) full. You worked hard at school, passed rote-learning tests, got into a respected university, made useful connections, joined a respected corporation and prospered. The corporation demanded a lot in return — unquestioning, unwavering devotion — but most people gave it willingly.

Then things went wrong. The economic bubble burst in the early 1990s. A “religion” called Aum Shinrikyo went on a terrorist rampage in 1995; two years later, the Great Hanshin Earthquake devastated Kobe; in 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated Tohoku. You didn’t need to see the hand of God in all this to wonder whether forces other than economics, crackpot theology and geology weren’t at work. Religion is not always dogmatic certainty; it can feed also, maybe better, on unanswered, unanswerable questions.

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