Germany’s coal phase-out is one such sign that the region’s policymakers are keen to ensure strong leadership in the right direction, although such a radical transition is naturally not without its critics. While the idea of a Green New Deal for Europe – a “national, industrial, economic-mobilisation plan” – is nothing new, the emerging groundswell of public support for a large-scale transition to renewable energy is. For Brussels to achieve its ambitious climate goals of net-zero emissions by 2050, Europe’s energy infrastructure will need to be radically decarbonised, and the pieces for such a move are finally starting to fall into place.
Detractors have been quick to claim that decarbonisation is synonymous with de-industrialisation, as means of production with low carbon intensity would ruin the edge German companies have on their competitors. But as Europe’s energy transition gains momentum, such assumptions simply do not stand up to scrutiny anymore. It is a fact that investors and consumers alike are looking to pay a premium for “green” products that are produced with as small a carbon footprint as possible. And increasingly, they are finding themselves pushing against an open door. Earlier this year for example, MEPs announced they were looking to ease capital charges on banks’ green investments in a bid to drive investment into forward looking initiatives, such as electric vehicles and energy-efficient housing. Such global efforts to scale-up decarbonisation technology have led to innovations in the housing, energy and transportation sectors, but more investment is needed to ensure widespread adoption. Despite a persistent financing gap in low-carbon research and development initiatives, one thing remains clear: industrial decarbonisation is the next frontier for European development. Both a challenge and opportunity at the same time, failing to drive progress will have disastrous consequences may prove disastrous for the bloc’s industrial base. This is particularly true for Europe’s energy-intensive industries that need to combine ambitions for low carbon emissions and global competitiveness in their value chains. The use of innovative technologies, then, can achieve this double imperative in the chemical, cement, and non-ferrous metal sectors.
Particularly in primary aluminium production a number of technologies are being developed to reduce emissions and the energy used in the electrochemical processes. Inert, non-carbon anodes to reduce direct emissions are one such example, while wetted cathodes to improve electrical contact stand to reduce energy use in the production process by approximately one-fifth. Alternative materials are being developed in cement production as well to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint, with advanced grinding technologies and carbon-efficient concrete laying the foundation for a new era of manufacturing and construction. Yet the road to an industrial sector with zero carbon emissions is a winding one for a number of reasons. The sector’s heterogeneity means the number of crosscutting solutions is limited compared to other industries. Furthermore, industrial processes often inevitably produce carbon dioxide as by-product of chemical reactions, and these “process emissions” cannot simply be resolved with the same energy efficiency measures employed elsewhere. Finally, major retrofits in manufacturing plants are cyclical in nature, leaving a narrow window for reform.
But even then, offsetting solutions can be found to satisfy increasingly critical and demanding consumers. These lie in leveraging the EU’s trade connections, allowing EU downstream producers to benefit from other countries’ competitive advantages in raw material production. The aluminium sector displays this condition especially clearly. As a result of Europe’s production deficit, the EU needs to import the vast majority of its domestic aluminium – a figure that is slated to expand in years to come. But the downstream sector in need of primary aluminium can take advantage of closer trade within the European neighbourhood, where more low-carbon aluminium can be produced more easily.
The Norwegian, Icelandic and Russian aluminium industries are reliant on clean energy sources such as hydropower, which reduce emissions by up to 90% compared to coal. Rusal, for instance, exports some 1.6 million tonnes of the metal to the EU every year, and is using Siberia’s vast hydropower reserves to produce low-carbon aluminium. Some 90% of its output is produced this way, with plans to phase out the remaining 10% by 2020. Norway’s Norsk Hydro is another big aluminium exporter to Europe bent on greening its metal, which signed last year the longest corporate wind power contract to date. The 29-year long deal will provide clean energy from a wind plant in Sweden to its smelters in Norway. The aluminium sector is just one of many areas where greening of the value chain is in full swing. Because Brussels has renewed its push toward implementing the circular economy, more focus is not only placed on aluminium and its recycling, but other metals as well. The result, of course, is the mitigation of energy requirements and inevitable reduction of carbon emissions.
All naysayers notwithstanding, the data is rather clear: Europe’s industries must reduce their carbon footprint as a matter of urgency, and the window of opportunity for greener industries has never been more widely opened.
warned on a tour of the region in April that “predatory” lending practices and other “malign or nefarious” behaviour by Beijing had injected “corrosive capital into the economic bloodstream, giving life to corruption and eroding good governance”. As the Americans see it, Chinese companies are harming Latin America by investing mostly in the extraction and transportation of its precious raw materials. This, they say, has led to a greater dependence on commodities as opposed to US companies which focus on manufacturing and services. Many in Latin America share these concerns, but for others the difference between the long-standing American influence and the growing Chinese role is not so black and white. The Middle Kingdom may be seen as a 21st century coloniser, but it has also presented alternative investment options. The main problem, some argue, is that local governments across the continent have not been able to take full advantage. Latin America has for centuries grappled with different forms of foreign influence. The grievances and wounds created by hundreds of years of Spanish and Portuguese rule are today still present in the collective psyche, despite formal foreign control ending more than a century ago. The US then quickly became the hegemonic power, but its strategic control has been hard to sustain over the past two decades, partly because of China, whose growing economy has driven up demand for commodities. Trade between China and Latin America has surged, from US$12 billion in 2000 to almost US$306 billion last year, and China has become a major investor. The value of its loans – mostly for energy and infrastructure projects – has surpassed financing from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. But America and international financial institutions say transparency is lacking and the recipients of these loans face growing debt traps. Others bristle at what they see as attempts by China to leverage its newfound economic power for geopolitical gain. In recent years several nations, including Panama and the Dominican Republic, have severed diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which Beijing views as a renegade province.
The importance of the region was acknowledged last year when Beijing invited Latin American and Caribbean countries to join its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative – a global trade strategy that aims to expand economic links through ports, roads, airports, pipelines and other infrastructure projects. China’s foothold can also be seen on the streets of cities across the region. In Ecuador, a country of more than 16 million which some say has been a laboratory for Sino-Latin American investment, Chinese characters can be found sewn into the white covers on seat headrests inside new long-distance buses. In the capital, Quito, Chinese-made CCTV cameras are perched on street corners and inside buildings. The devices have been installed across the country since 2011, when Ecuador introduced a monitoring system to public spaces that includes facial recognition technology. According to the local authorities, the system has proved a powerful tool in combating crime, but experts suggest the images captured have also been used for surveillance and intelligence gathering. The adoption of Chinese technology elsewhere on the continent has given rise to similar human rights concerns:
Despite many of these projects having been met with opposition from locals, Chinese interest in the region shows no sign of slowing. “We have found most projects in Latin America have faced a local backlash because of environmental concerns about pollution and harm to residents and livelihoods,” Argentinian scholar Ariel Armony and Mexico-based researcher Enrique Dussel Peters wrote in an essay published last year. The pair, along with Shoujun Cui – director of the Research Centre for Latin American Studies at Beijing’s Renmin University – produced the book Building Development for a New Era: China’s Infrastructure Projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“For example, there have been concerns about the environmental impact of Sinopec’s oil refineries in Moín, Costa Rica. The national secretary of the environment objected to the first evaluation for serious omissions,” Armony and Peters wrote, referring to China’s state-owned oil and gas enterprise. “The beginning of construction for the Condor Cliff and La Barrancosa hydroelectric dams in Santa Cruz, Argentina, without an environmental impact assessment, led to the Argentine Supreme Court ordering the suspension of the projects.”
The movement’s legacy has resonated through recent Chinese history. China’s recent naval parade in Qingdao, with Japan’s participation, was rich in symbolism. At the end of the first world war, former German concessions in Shandong, including Qingdao, had not been restored to China. Instead, Western powers acceded to the demands of Japan, which had seized the territories during the war – despite the contribution made by the Chinese Labour Corps in the war on the side of the Allies.
The situation was exceedingly complex. China’s entry into the war had perhaps been too little, too late. Japan had made secret treaties with some Western powers, as well as Chinese warlords. China was a country divided into north and south. Beijing’s communication with its delegation to Paris was confused. Under the circumstances, the Chinese delegation made heroic, though futile, attempts to argue China’s case, in impeccable French and English. In Paris in 1919, the very young Republic of China was trying to find its footing. But even though it was on the winning side, it was treated like a third-class citizen at the conference. Fast-forward a century, and world leaders gathered in Beijing last month for the Belt and Road Forum. But there was no high-level representation from Japan, the villain of 1919, or the United States, the white knight who had failed to deliver at the Paris Peace Conference. The May Fourth Movement presented China with Western models that were polar opposites – the US and the Soviet Union – but meant wholesale westernisation in either case. However, Liang Qichao, a leading public intellectual and reformist of China who had advocated the country’s entry into the first world war, toured Europe at the time of the Paris talks as a private citizen and returned with prescient insights into China’s development path.
Liang was sceptical of both capitalism and socialism. He believed China should forge its own path fusing East and West, with improved education as a key foundation. What he did not anticipate was that China would eventually embark on its successful economic transformation, without any grand ideology. The tragic consequences of the Treaty of Versailles in Europe are well known. The harsh conditions imposed on Germany fuelled the second world war. While the treaty was too harsh on Germany, it was too indulgent to Japan, whose unchecked imperial ambitions led to the second Sino-Japanese war and huge casualties in Asia. In China, the anti-Confucian radicalism unleashed by the May Fourth Movement would cause grave suffering even after 1949. A century on, the mistakes of Versailles have been largely undone in Europe, albeit at huge cost. After the second world war, the US redeemed itself for president Woodrow Wilson’s failures in 1919 with the Marshall Plan in Europe. Germany and France are now the best of friends. Germany is viewed as a more credible world leader than the US. Yet, Versailles has left an indelible mark on China, the only country at the Paris Peace Conference that refused to sign the treaty. The injustice and humiliation were seared into the national psyche. China did learn to distrust international communities that would sooner serve the interests of old boys’ clubs than newcomers’.
Your libido fluctuates with your physical and emotional state, and the condition of your relationship. When this happens we often fret about our sexual prowess, but it is perfectly normal, and fixable. This week, we examine the issues surrounding female sexual dysfunction, which are not discussed enough and may be poorly understood, meaning many women feel unprepared and on their own when they experience it. Sexual inhibition or lack of sexual interest in women has many causes – anxiety, depression, stress, physical illness, medication, lack of sleep, relationship issues, age, hormone-based contraceptives, hormonal imbalances, a history of unfulfilling sex, past incidents of shaming about sex. Sexual functioning requires a balance between neurotransmitters and hormones. If there is even the slightest imbalance, a woman’s appetite for sex will drop. Relationship issues such as lingering anger or resentment, lack of communication, or an absence of trust can also lower sexual desire.
“Women in long-term relationships can often experience a loss of desire, as they may crave more eroticism, variety, or spark in their sex lives ... Feeling desired by one’s partner is an important turn-on for many women,” says Dr Kristin Zeising, a clinical psychologist and certified sex therapist at MindnLife, a Hong Kong-based private psychology practice. “A history of feeling shamed for sexual expression can impact desire and cause a woman to be more inhibited. Historically and culturally speaking, female sexuality is often stigmatised ... Other factors include past sexual traumas, religious upbringing, or even unsatisfactory sex, and women feel uncomfortable discussing these issues with their partner for whatever reason,” Zeising adds. Loss of interest in sex is widespread, and affects between 25 per cent and 50 per cent of women, depending on which part of the world they live in, she says. Asian and Middle Eastern women are more likely to experience a lack of sexual desire, and sexual problems such as an inability to reach orgasm, Zeising says.
“Women of all ages and cultures can experience a lack of desire at some point in their lives, so it’s quite normal and common. Women aren’t meant to always want sex, in whatever context or situation. In some cases, a woman may not desire sex on a regular basis – or at all – and they are perfectly fine with that. “However, it’s when a woman is feeling like her body has changed, or when their partner desires sex more than they do, that a depleted sexual appetite becomes problematic.” Many middle-aged women are vulnerable to low sexual functioning. They find that, as they age, their hormone levels drop and their bodies may need more stimulation than they previously did. “As oestrogen levels drop, the vaginal tissue thins and dries out, and this can make sex painful enough to put women off the act altogether,” Zeising says. “For many women, the reduction of oestrogen alone explains a nosedive in libido. But other aspects of menopause may also leave them feeling unsexy and not desiring sex, like mood swings, hot flushes, weight gain, and anxiety about ageing.” When that happens, she says, women should talk to a gynaecologist about medication and other solutions to make sex more comfortable. Zeising says feeling positive about ageing and about a partner tends to outweigh the physiological effects of declining hormone levels.
Seven steps to stimulate your sex life:
● Schedule sex; create a space to allow sex regularly and build up the anticipation:
● Re-frame how you think about sex to reduce anxiety;
● View sex as a team sport by emphasizing mutual pleasure over performance;
● Tell your partner what you like and what you need from them;
● Give yourself permission to reap pleasure from the act of sex;
● Focus on the emotional pleasure and satisfaction gained from sex with your partner;
● Use your imagination; map out a sexual fantasy to share with your partner.
KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 --The spectacle of Julian Assange, bearded and haggard, resisting arrest while London police officers dragged him through the street, punctuated the end of seven confounding years inside the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he lived with his cat in a small corner room as the world's most famous self-proclaimed political refugee.
Assange, 47, has long fashioned himself as a crusader for revealing secrets. The Internet group he founded, WikiLeaks, published caches of classified US government communications, as well as e-mails hacked by Russian intelligence clearly intended to damage the presidential candidacy of Mrs Hillary Clinton. Though arrested on Thursday (April 11) morning by the British for skipping bail, Assange was immediately charged in the United States for conspiracy to hack a government computer. To supporters, Assange is a martyr and champion of free speech. To the US government, he is a pariah and a lackey of the Kremlin. But it was the hardened opinion of Ecuador's government that perhaps mattered most. He had become an unwanted houseguest. At the tiny red-brick embassy, he continued to run his Internet group, conducted news conferences before hundreds of fawning admirers from a balcony, rode his skateboard in the halls, and played host to a parade of visitors, including Lady Gaga and Pamela Anderson, a rumoured lover who brought vegan sandwiches.
On Thursday, Anderson sent out a batch of Twitter messages attacking the arrest as a "vile injustice" and called Britain and the US "devils and liars and thieves". In interviews with The New York Times in 2016, as part of a long look at his ties to Russia, Assange denied any link to Russian intelligence, in particular regarding the leaked Democratic e-mails. Mrs Clinton and the Democrats were "whipping up a neo-McCarthyist hysteria about Russia", he said. There is "no concrete evidence" that what WikiLeaks publishes comes from intelligence agencies, he said, even as he indicated that he would happily accept such material. Small as they were, Assange's living quarters at the embassy, close to the lavish self-indulgence of Harrods, the famous department store, did not cramp his desire to remain in the limelight. Assange had an office equipped with a bed, sunlamp, phone, computer, kitchenette, shower, treadmill and bookshelves. Three years ago, one person familiar with the set-up called it "a gas station with two attendants". Mr Vaughan Smith, who had been a long-time supporter of Assange and helped put up his bail money, said: "Julian's a big bloke, with big bones, and he fills the room physically and intellectually." "It's a tiny embassy with a tiny balcony," he added, "small, hot and with not great air flow, and it must be jolly difficult for everyone there." But from there, Assange for years held court for admirers and famous curiosity seekers, among them footabll star Eric Cantona, and Mr Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit radio host and former head of UK Independence Party.
Still, Assange's isolation was wearing on him, a friend said on Thursday, especially the long, lonely weekends in an essentially empty embassy he could not leave. Even his friends have described him as difficult, a narcissist with an outsized view of his importance and a disinterest in mundane matters like personal hygiene. He was becoming deeply depressed and wondered about simply walking out, the friend said, speaking on condition of anonymity. And relations with his hosts were becoming deeply strained, even adversarial. A copy of a 2014 letter from Mr Juan Falconi Puig, then Ecuador's ambassador to Britain, to the Foreign Ministry, seen by The New York Times, outlined the growing resentment between the diplomats and Assange over his behaviour at the embassy. Among Mr Falconi's top concerns was Assange's penchant for riding a skateboard and playing football with visitors. His skateboarding, Mr Falconi said, had "damaged floors, walls and doors". The ambassador said the football games had destroyed embassy equipment. When an embassy security agent stopped the game and took away the ball, Assange "began to shake, insult and push the agent", reclaimed the ball and then "launched the ball at his body". The letter said Assange had invited a television reporter to interview them at the embassy and had showed the visitor off-limits parts of the building. At one point, according to the letter, Assange used the alarm setting on a megaphone "to attract the police" to record them for the show. "This last action, in the middle of the night, was a clear attempt to annoy the police," Mr Falconi wrote.
Another time, the letter said, Assange "violently hit the embassy control room door" demanding in a "threatening manner" that one of the guards come out to speak to him. The guards came out, only to be harassed by Assange, who yelled and shoved them, Mr Falconi wrote. Assange's long presence in the embassy, long after the Ecuadorean president who granted him political asylum had been replaced, finally became too much for the Ecuadorean government. President Lenin Moreno, elected in 2017, explained the decision on Twitter and in a video. "In a sovereign decision, Ecuador withdrew the asylum status to Julian Assange after his repeated violations to international conventions and daily-life protocols," he said. He accused Assange of having installed forbidden "electronic and distortion equipment", accessing the embassy's security files without permission, blocking the embassy's security cameras and mistreating its personnel, including guards.
"Posing the question 'Does Islam have a place in the Netherlands?' in our national political debate shows that questioning elementary rights of immigrant communities has become mainstream."
ROTTERDAM, March 26 -- Last week's provincial elections in the Netherlands saw the far-right Forum voor Democratie (FvD), or Forum for Democracy, make significant gains in the upper house of the Senate.
Winning most votes and 13 seats - more than Prime Minister Mark Rutte's party - the result surprised observers. FvD previously had no seats in the 75-member house. The Dutch went to the ballot box just two days afteran attack in Utrecht in which three people were killed. In the aftermath of the violence, all parties apart from FvD suspended their campaigning. The party is led by 36-year-old Thierry Baudet, who was quick to blame the government's migration policy for the assault. "This is a combination of an honour killing and a half-terrorist motive," he told supporters at a rally afterwards.
Dutch prosecutors say they plan to bring "terrorism charges" against a man of Turkish origin for the attacks. FvD, which currently holds two seats in parliament, opposes immigration and advocates for "Nexit": the Netherlands leaving the European Union. Baudet talks about a "Dutch First" economic and cultural ideology which shares parallels with US President Donald Trump's "America First" rhetoric. In his victory speech on Wednesday, Baudet blamed the establishment for what he described as the decay of Dutch culture. "We are standing amidst the debris of what was once the greatest and most beautiful civilisation the world has ever known," he said, blaming universities, journalists and politicians for undermining the potential of the Netherlands on the world stage. Baudet has become known in the Netherlands for his hardline views. He has spoken out against immigration, the EU and last year said in an interview that women were less ambitious than men. Laura van der Sanden, who lives and works in Amsterdam, says she is taken aback by the results, particularly given the perceived liberal Dutch mentality. "I'm surprised," she said. "Actually, it's more accurate to say that I'm disappointed." Professor Jan Jaap de Ruiter at Tilburg University, who lives in Utrecht, says that while some people are shocked by the success of FvD, there were signs of its rise before the attack in the city. "The polls already indicated he was going for a major win," he said, suggesting Baudet's ability to position himself as an intellectual while advocating for populist policies has encouraged people to vote for his party. "Baudet is very well versed, his victory speech was full of references to classical literature and poets. "It attracts some people because he's talking about a Netherlands which is independent and not part of the European Union. He conjures up this nostalgia for a Netherlands which has never really existed."
Turnout in the provincial elections was slightly higher than four years ago at 54 percent, although lower than in general elections. Diederick van der Wijk, cofounder and director of Refugees Forward - an organisation which helps refugees in the Netherlands to develop business ideas, says that FvD plays on people's fears. "FvD provides the traditionally powerful the false hope that this process of emancipation by immigrant communities can be stopped, and that the old boys can maintain their positions of power. The Dutch should rather embrace this transition into a more natural and sustainable balance of economic and political power." He said that the Netherlands should address how immigration is discussed in public debate. "Forum voor Democratie's rise is a big punch in the face for immigrants of first, second and third generations who work hard to make a contribution to Dutch society and climb up the ladders in their professional careers. Anas Ragheb, a Syrian who has settled in the Netherlands, is a social entrepreneur. He said that the narrative around refugees in the country has also contributed to FvD's success. "There is too much talk in the media about refugees being jobless and staying on welfare for longer than four years," he said.
"The consequences of this victory for the Forum voor Democratie are huge on the community of newcomers. The hate speech and Islamophobia will increase and society will be polarised." When the Senate is seated in May, Prime Minister Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, which has now lost its majority in the upper house, will now need to work with the opposition groups. "We are going to have to get to work. We have to talk with other parties so we can continue to lead this country well," he said on Wednesday after the results.
Geert Wilders's far-right Freedom Party, which shares some parallels with FvD, lost four seats in the elections going from nine to five. Kafui Adjogatse, a Briton who works in international development in Amsterdam, is concerned about how FvD and Baudet have managed to gloss over their hardline views. "They've repackaged a lot of nativist, racist and harshly anti-immigration rhetoric in what is seemingly a sleek and sophisticated exterior," he says, "but ultimately they're racists in suits."
OTTAWA, March 21 -- The bodies are piled up like cordwood, yet the Trudeau Liberals insist they have done no wrong and, please, turn the page – look at our budget, gaze at your navel, anything, but stop looking at LavScam.
If the Liberals have done no wrong, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insists beyond credence, then how is the body count explained? It’s a veritable massacre. Justice Minister and Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould, fired and then resigned. Treasury Board President Jane Philpott, resigned. Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick, resigned. Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s principal secretary and fast friend, resigned. How many is that? Four bodies for doing nothing wrong? And they are not just any bodies. These are front-line casualties, two top-ranking cabinet ministers. And Wernick is the chief bureaucrat in all the land, the boss of all bosses in the federal civil service. And, Butts, of course, was Trudeau’s puppet master, the brains in the PMO, his best friend since their days at McGill University, and the man everyone outside the hearing range of Trudeau referred to as PM Butts. They all had gold seats at the power table. Anyone who had the misfortune to tune in to their favourite news channel saw the House of Commons become a circus Tuesday as the screams and insults from Opposition MPs drowned out Finance Minister Bill Morneau as he attempted, in vain, to read his last budget before October’s election.
So, he literally “tabled” it, set the physical copy on his desk, lifted the embargo, and left the Commons to conduct post-budget interviews out of range. The outraged Opposition had every right to be ranting and raving, of course, not so much because the budget stunk but because the Liberal puppets who had majority control on the emergency justice committee used that power to permanently shut down the probe into the LavScam scandal. There was nothing more to see, they claimed. It was time to move on, they said in unison, as journalists covering the fiasco looked behind the curtains to see if Gerald Butts was still directing the show from his hidey-hole.
On Wednesday, the Conservatives under Andrew Scheer moved it up a notch, writing a letter to the chair of the Commons’ ethics committee – yes, another committee – to hold a televised hearing Thursday to “examine developments in the accusations against the Prime Minister and his closest political allies that they conspired to stop the criminal trial of a company accused of bribery.” That company, of course, is Quebec-based SNC-Lavalin – hence LavScam – which had the Trudeau inner circle twisting itself in knots trying to get Wilson-Raybould to convince federal prosecutors to pass on a criminal trial, and give SNC-Lavalin a sweetheart plea agreement that could see it heavily fined but escaping the hardball of criminal court. Wilson-Raybould refused, she got turfed and demoted, and then quit cabinet. The result was LavScam. Butts rolled his own head out the door as the required sacrificial lamb. Philpott quit cabinet in principle, and in solidarity with Wilson-Raybould, and Wernick submitted his pink slip as the boss of bosses. And then there was the sudden slap to Trudeau’s face Wednesday when Whitby, Ont. MP Celina Caesar-Chavanne, who has accused the PM of hostile treatment, and who had verbally backed Wilson-Raybould and Philpott, packed her bags in the Liberal caucus and left to sit as an Independent. So, there’s the fifth body. Yet nothing wrong allegedly happened, despite political blood flying every which-way and the first probe shut down by the Liberal bobbleheads who controlled the so-called “emergency justice committee.” The Liberals must think Canadians are suckers. They’re playing us as fools.
HONG KONG, March 15 -- Every morning, before daybreak, workers living in the outer boroughs of China’s major cities board a series of busses and trains to reach the city centers to provide the overlooked services that keep the city running.
These people in the service industry include maids, food delivery drivers, package and mail delivery drivers, construction workers, sanitary workers, and many others, untold millions who are practically invisible yet indispensable. Mingying He 何明瑛 is one such worker, rising every morning at 4 am from her home in Beijing’s Daxing district inside Beijing’s Fifth Ring Road to catch the earliest bus and a series of metro transfers to eventually arrive at her client’s home in the central Wangjing district. As relayed to Jiemian News’s (界面新闻) online story platform Zhengniu Story 正牛故事, Ms. He spends four to six hours on her daily commute. She works from 7 am until 9 or 10 pm with no breaks. Ms. He is a domestic worker, toiling every day to cook, clean, and care for her many clients.
Domestic workers globally operate in a nexus of vulnerability due to the demographic they belong in, society’s view of the work they do, and the nature of the work itself. An often overlooked sector, worldwide demand for domestic work has rapidly increased in response to increased demand for women in the workforce and the rollback of social programs supporting families. One factor enabling China’s meteoric rise has been the ready availability of cheap labor. Most reporting on this topic has focused on factory workers, and less attention has been paid to how cheap labor has affected China’s service industry. As China develops, its service industry has quickly eclipsed other sectors. According to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, in 2018 the total import and export value of the service industry was $4.7 trillion. Because of the low cost of labor, the cost of services like delivering packages or take-out is incredibly cheap. This labor facilitates daily life in major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai. But there is scarce reporting on the laborers themselves, the human element.
Who are China’s maids?
Who are the workers in the service industry in China? Migrant workers — those moving from rural to urban areas in search of better employment opportunities — do the majority of the low-wage labor, and in particular make up the majority of the country’s domestic workers. According to Economic Daily, 88.6 percent of domestic workers come from China’s rural areas. A unique aspect of domestic migration in China is the hukou (household registration) system in place, which regulates migration by requiring citizens to seek approval from authorities to move from rural to urban areas and controlling entitlement distribution. A paper published in The Journal of Economic Perspectives by Hongbin Li, Prashant Loyalka, Scott Rozelle, and Binzhen Wu posit that the hukou system’s purpose today is not to necessarily limit migration, but to create a scenario where migrants come to cities without access to entitlements such as in-network health insurance providers, subsidized housing, and well-funded public schools. This function creates a dual-tiered entitlement system, with generous benefits awarded to the small number of urban residents and a much less generous package given to rural citizens. In a 2017 piece published in Health and Human Rights, author Jason Hung finds that migrants are excluded from the protection of various employment laws. In practice, people are allowed to move, but cannot take their citizenship with them. According to the ILO Country Office for China, migrant women arrive in first-tier cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou) mostly from rural provinces such as Anhui, Henan, Hunan, Shanxi, and Yunnan. I say women because the ILO finds that more than 80 percent of workers globally and 90 percent of workers in China are women. The age of workers trends older, as younger women are more likely to have higher education levels and are less likely to accept the working conditions. Less than 14.1 percent of domestic workers have completed education past high school. While there is little data about individual workers, some reports have found that salaries range from $500 to $1,000 per month, depending on their job. Categories of workers include hourly workers (钟点工 zhōngdiǎngōng), nannies (保姆 bǎomǔ), mother and child health (母婴护理 mǔyīng hùlǐ), and elder-care (养老看护 yǎnglǎo kānhù). More specialized workers will be paid much higher rates. According to a 2009 survey done for the ILO’s investigation into the conditions of work and employment for domestic workers, 81.4 percent of domestic workers did not have legal residence in the cities where they worked, excluding them from protection by most labor laws and resulting in less than 10 percent of workers experiencing equal labor protections.
How does this contribute to vulnerability?
Study upon study has shown that domestic workers operate in a nexus of overlapping factors leading to increased risk of exploitation, physical and emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Female-dominated industries are less likely to be as strictly regulated as male-dominated industries, as work that women do is not seen as “real work.” The characteristics of the women in the field — low-income women with low education levels — also exposes them as targets for abuse. Oftentimes, domestic workers are unaware of their rights, or fear retaliation if they report abuse (a fear that’s justified, as the law in China does a poor job protecting women and tilts toward mediation rather than punishment; also see: domestic violence law). Another aspect of the increased vulnerability stems from the fact that the work usually happens in private homes, and therefore in its very nature is hard to regulate compared to other occupations. A consequence of this is that the government is reluctant to recognize the household as a worksite and individual families as employers. Without this recognition, families that employ domestic workers are not held to the same standard as other employers and most certainly are not expected to meet certain requirements, such as paying a portion of health insurance, providing a portion of housing fees, and other labor regulations.
What does it all mean? It’s complicated. On one hand, from a gender perspective, working in the maid industry represents a great opportunity for women: The availability of affordable labor allows women to escape the “double day” of both unpaid labor within the home and paid labor in the workplace. It also represents an opportunity for rural women, who have few other employment options and can drastically improve their socioeconomic status by working in cities as maids. Take, for example, two women from opposite sides of this story. Liu Qing (pseudonym) is a young mother of a two-year-old son, originally from Wuhan but with a Shenzhen hukou, and lives in Shanghai with her husband, who works in law. I interviewed Liu Qing in January 2018 as part of a project on the economy of care work in China. Liu runs her own business teaching art classes to young children, and though her schedule is more flexible than some, she still needs help taking care of her son while both she and her husband are at work. Liu’s situation is reflective of the situation that many Chinese find themselves in, with grandparents unwilling or unable to help them, and parents unwilling or unable to stay at home. In fact, Liu Qing’s parents helped her defray the cost of a yuèsǎo 月嫂, a specialized nanny to help women who recently gave birth and who stay for roughly a month, rather than moving from Wuhan to Shanghai to help her daughter.
On the other side, with the rapid rise in demand for workers, the average salary for domestic workers has risen to rival that of recent college graduates (granted, benefits typically included in salaries are excluded). Women like He Mingying, who have no economic future working in their hometowns have found opportunities through migration to big cities. In He’s hometown of Chifeng, Inner Mongolia, she and her husband’s business selling vegetables was not economically viable. With her children already grown, they decided to seek greater opportunities by moving to Beijing. Although her life is by no means easy, maid work is one of the few routes available to her, and is quite lucrative.
Understanding the pros and cons of the industry, and understanding that little pressure can be exerted on the state to encourage better regulation of the industry, what is there to do? The place to begin is to examine one’s own life: do you hire a maid? How much do you know about her? Do you pay her the same wage that you might pay a worker coming to do a “more technical” job such as fixing a window or a sink? The biggest things you can do is value and respect the women in your employ. See yourself as an employer; your maid or nanny is not a part of your family, but someone who makes her livelihood providing you with labor. Workers in this industry are rendered invisible in the eyes of the state, and their labor is systematically devalued. By treating your worker fairly and recognizing her labor, you are doing your part to undermine the system in place.
Pay them well and above all, treat them with respect.
ROTTERDAM, March 14 -- If you've ever expressed the least bit of skepticism about environmentalist calls for making the vast majority of fossil fuel use illegal.
You've probably heard the smug response: “97% of climate scientists agree with climate change” — which always carries the implication: Who are you to challenge them?
The answer is: you are a thinking, independent individual--and you don’t go by polls, let alone second-hand accounts of polls; you go by facts, logic and explanation.
Here are two questions to ask anyone who pulls the 97% trick.
1. What exactly do the climate scientists agree on?
Usually, the person will have a very vague answer like "climate change is real." Which raises the question: What is that supposed to mean? That climate changes? That we have some impact? That we have a large impact? That we have a catastrophically large impact? That we have such a catastrophic impact that we shouldn't use fossil fuels? What you'll find is that people don't want to define what 97% agree on--because there is nothing remotely in the literature saying 97% agree we should ban most fossil fuel use. It’s likely that 97% of people making the 97% claim have absolutely no idea where that number comes from. If you look at the literature, the specific meaning of the 97% claim is: 97 percent of climate scientists agree that there is a global warming trend and that human beings are the main cause--that is, that we are over 50% responsible. The warming is a whopping 0.8 degrees over the past 150 years, a warming that has tapered off to essentially nothing in the last decade and a half.
Even if 97% of climate scientists agreed with this, and even if they were right, it in no way, shape, or form would imply that we should restrict fossil fuels--which are crucial to the livelihood of billions.
Because the actual 97% claim doesn’t even remotely justify their policies, catastrophists like President Obama and John Kerry take what we could generously call creative liberties in repeating this claim. On his Twitter account, President Obama tweets: “Ninety-seven percent of scientists agree: #climate change is real, man-made and dangerous.” Not only does Obama sloppily equate “scientists” with “climate scientists,” but more importantly he added “dangerous” to the 97% claim, which is not there in the literature. This is called the fallacy of equivocation: using the same term (“97 percent”) in two different ways to manipulate people. John Kerry pulled the same stunt when trying to tell the underdeveloped world that it should use fewer fossil fuels:
And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain. . . 97 percent of climate scientists have confirmed that climate change is happening and that human activity is responsible. . . . . they agree that, if we continue to go down the same path that we are going down today, the world as we know it will change—and it will change dramatically for the worse. In Kerry’s mind, 97% of climate scientists said whatever Kerry wants them to have said. Bottom line: What the 97% of climate scientists allegedly agree on is very mild and in no way justifies restricting the energy that billions need. But it gets even worse. Because it turns out that 97% didn’t even say that. Which brings us to the next question:
2. How do we know the 97% agree?
To elaborate, how was that proven? Almost no one who refers to the 97% has any idea, but the basic way it works is that a researcher reviews a lot of scholarly papers and classifies them by how many agree with a certain position. Unfortunately, in the case of 97% of climate scientists agreeing that human beings are the main cause of warming, the researchers have engaged in egregious misconduct.
One of the main papers behind the 97 percent claim is authored by John Cook, who runs the popular website SkepticalScience.com, a virtual encyclopedia of arguments trying to defend predictions of catastrophic climate change from all challenges. Here is Cook’s summary of his paper: “Cook et al. (2013) found that over 97 percent [of papers he surveyed] endorsed the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.”
This is a fairly clear statement—97 percent of the papers surveyed endorsed the view that man-made greenhouse gases were the main cause—main in common usage meaning more than 50 percent. But even a quick scan of the paper reveals that this is not the case. Cook is able to demonstrate only that a relative handful endorse “the view that the Earth is warming up and human emissions of greenhouse gases are the main cause.” Cook calls this “explicit endorsement with quantification” (quantification meaning 50 percent or more). The problem is, only a small percentage of the papers fall into this category; Cook does not say what percentage, but when the study was publicly challenged by economist David Friedman, one observer calculated that only 1.6 percent explicitly stated that man-made greenhouse gases caused at least 50 percent of global warming. Where did most of the 97 percent come from, then? Cook had created a category called “explicit endorsement without quantification”—that is, papers in which the author, by Cook’s admission, did not say whether 1 percent or 50 percent or 100 percent of the warming was caused by man. He had also created a category called “implicit endorsement,” for papers that imply (but don’t say) that there is some man-made global warming and don’t quantify it. In other words, he created two categories that he labeled as endorsing a view that they most certainly didn’t. The 97 percent claim is a deliberate misrepresentation designed to intimidate the public—and numerous scientists whose papers were classified by Cook protested:
“Cook survey included 10 of my 122 eligible papers. 5/10 were rated incorrectly. 4/5 were rated as endorse rather than neutral.”
—Dr. Richard Tol
“That is not an accurate representation of my paper . . .”
—Dr. Craig Idso
“Nope . . . it is not an accurate representation.”
—Dr. Nir Shaviv
“Cook et al. (2013) is based on a strawman argument . . .”
—Dr. Nicola Scafetta
Think about how many times you hear that 97 percent or some similar figure thrown around. It’s based on crude manipulation propagated by people whose ideological agenda it serves. It is a license to intimidate. It’s time to revoke that license.
ROTTERDAM, March 11 -- Only a fool would cheer the banning of Tommy Robinson by Facebook and Instagram.
It doesn’t matter if you like or loathe him. It doesn’t matter if you think he’s a searing critic of the divisive logic in the politics of diversity or Luton’s very own Oswald Mosley in Jack Wills clobber. The point is that his expulsion from social media confirms that corporate censorship is out of control. It speaks to a new kind of tyranny: the tyranny of unaccountable capitalist oligarchs in Silicon Valley getting to decide who is allowed to speak in the new public square that is the internet.
Robinson, having already been thrown off Twitter and Patreon, was unceremoniously cast out from Facebook and Instagram yesterday. He had one million followers. So we are not talking about some bedroom-bound imbecile who says mad things to 27 fellow losers on Twitter, but about a public figure, someone who commands an audience and enjoys political influence. His crime, in the eyes of Facebook’s and Instagram’s community-standards cops, was to nurture ‘organised hate’ towards Muslims. He used ‘dehumanising language’ and made ‘calls for violence’, the social-media giants decreed. And therefore he had to go.
There are many disturbing things about this latest act of Silicon Valley silencing of an awkward public voice. The first is the apparent involvement of Mohammed Shafiq, CEO of the Ramadhan Foundation. Yesterday Shafiq boasted about having met with Facebook representatives to encourage them to ban Robinson over his ‘brainwashing’ of his followers into feeling ‘racism’ towards Muslims. This is the same Mohammed Shafiq who once attended an event with Hassan Haseeb ur Rehman, a Pakistani cleric who praised the murder in 2011 of the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, by a radical Islamist who despised Taseer for his opposition to Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and his calls for the Christian ‘blasphemer’, Asia Bibi, to be released from jail. Shafiq also called for the anti-extremist campaigner Maajid Nawaz to be dumped as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats after Nawaz committed the speechcrime of tweeting a cartoon of Jesus & Mo. All of which raises a question: why is Facebook reportedly taking advice from someone like that? Does it also meet with campaigning Christians and jot down which critics of Christ they would like to see removed from its website?
The other disturbing thing is the growing power of internet corporations to police public speech. Not content with banning the likes of Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos, and feminists like Meghan Murphy who criticise the politics of transgenderism, and various white nationalists, now the social-media giants are going after right-wing political activists whose views they don’t like. Alongside Robinson it has been reported that some leading UKIP activists have had their Facebook accounts suspended. This has a very strong whiff of political censorship. It is perverse and dispiriting to see ostensible leftists and progressives whoop with delight as corporate tech giants suspend or censor political undesirables. First because since when was the left in favour of the exercise of property rights against people’s rights? In their applauding of Silicon Valley’s censorious rampage these left-wing anti-fascists sound an awful lot like right-wing libertarians. They are effectively saying, ‘Hey, these are private companies, so they can ban whoever they want to’. Suddenly their traditional concern with reining in the unaccountable power of big business goes out the window and they find themselves standing with the bosses against the individual.