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The End of Freedom of the Press in China

What does President Donald Trump call newspapers? [He calls newspapers “enemies of the people.”]

What do readers think is meant by the phrase “speak truth to power”?

What are some examples of stories about wrongdoing written by journalists? [Such stories have been about police brutality, innocent people going to jail and environmental disasters. Others?]

Who is in power in China? [The Communist Party is in power.]

At least 48 journalists were in prison in China. That is more imprisonments than in any other country. True or false? [True.]

President Xi has said that the mission of the news media should be to spread positive energy and to love, protect and serve the Communist Party. What do readers think about this position?

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The front page of the Communist Party's flagship newspaper the People's Daily. Other newspapers reprint their content in at least 200 so-called independent Chinese-language publications. Photo Credit: Reuters.

President Donald Trump alarms many people. He calls newspapers “enemies of the people.” He says they print “fake news.” The way he speaks is vulgar and demeaning. He has no respect for others. Who knows what he would do if he had the power to do anything he wanted to?

But he does not have the power. To look at how power can end freedom, you should look at China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping makes Trump look like an amateur. Xi has the power to suppress the Chinese press and he is using it.

Why do we need a free press? The saying “speak truth to power” is the reason. Journalists write stories that reveal wrongdoing. The wrongdoing could be police brutality. It could be innocent people going to jail. It could be environmental disasters.

A Chinese journalist tells her story to an American reporter. She is Zhang Wemin. The police threaten her sources. The government shuts down her social media accounts. She says, “It is now dangerous to say you are an independent journalist.”

Journalists take on the people in power. In China, power is the Communist Party. Chinese journalists have revealed scandals that involve the party. The scandals include babies sickened by a formula.

Under President Xi, independent journalists have all but disappeared. The authorities have harassed reporters and put dozens of them in jail. The Chinese press is now full of upbeat portrayals of life in China under Mr. Xi.

Critics call it the Chinese “total censorship era.”

“We are almost extinct,” said a reporter who. Authorities detained him after reporting on corrupt politicians. He continued, "No one is left to reveal the truth.”

Mr. Xi has silenced independent voices. He has said that the mission of the news media should be to spread “positive energy.” It is to “love the party, protect the party, and serve the party.”

What about the 1.4 billion people who live in China?

A reporter said, “The government has made its citizens ignorant. The public’s eyes are blind, their ears are deaf, and their mouths have no words.”

Only official news sources can write about trade wars. Or news from around the world. Mr. Xi adds only the party has the power to talk about the Chinese government.

Not too long reporters were free to write about things like faulty vaccines. They could show shoddy buildings toppled by earthquakes.

But under Mr. Xi’s rule, journalists are harassed. At least 48 journalists were in prison in China as of December 2018. That is more in prison than in any other country.

Some journalists in China are persistent and aware of the risks of the job. One said, “Outside of China, journalists are fired for writing false reports. Inside China, they are fired for telling the truth.”

Source: The New York Times July 12, 2019

 

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Something Not Expected: Racial Recognition

What is an advantage of A.I. over humans? [A.I. can process large amounts of information and reach conclusions more quickly than humans.]

If A.I. concludes than a person’s words and patterns add up to hate speech, that person may find himself or herself removed from Facebook. True or false? [True.]

The Detroit police say they will try to match photos on licenses with those on mug shots only in cases of serious crime. What do readers think of this approach?

Where are photographs of many Americans already readily available? [A photograph of many Americans is already on their driver’s licenses.]

Many people who care about our rights, including our right to privacy, are wary of the matching of photographs from different sites. True or false? [True.]

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A map at Detroit police headquarters shows the camera locations throughout the city. Photo Credit: Brittany Greeson for The New York Times.

The Chinese government pioneered facial recognition. They built a data base of photographs of people. When they took a photo of someone, they could compare it to pictures in their files. They could identify the person in the photo. It made people reluctant to speak out.

Detroit, Mich. has cameras taking pictures when you buy gas or walk into a grocery store. The cameras have a problem. Sometimes, they mistake black women for men. An expert said that facial structure and hairstyles might be a factor.

The cameras use ‘artificial intelligence‘ (A. I.). A.I. means that machines and not human beings make decisions. A.I. works well, for example, when pilots use it to land a plane in the dark.

A.I. uses algorithms. It has formulas that put two and two together and arrive at four. What A.I. can do is process large amounts of information and reach conclusions.

An example is deciding what is “hate speech.” A.I. looks at millions of words and patterns. It may conclude that some words and patterns add up to hate speech. The person using those words and patterns may find him or herself removed from Facebook.

In the beginning, using cameras let people know they were being photographed. That was to deter people from committing crimes. A person knew a camera was watching when he or she stole from a store.

The goal of facial recognition is to match your photo to the one on your driver’s license. These photos go to digital databases. A.I. can match a photo taken while you are buying gas to your driver’s license. For police, A.I. can help them match a photo of you robbing a store to your license or mug shot if you have an arrest record.

Are cameras good or bad? Many people say they are innocent and have nothing to hide. Of course, criminals do not like A.I.

Many people who care about our rights and our right to privacy are wary of the whole idea.

Now race and ethnicity have entered the picture. Detroit has cameras everywhere. There are green lights on the cameras, so there is no effort to hide their use. The police say the cameras work to reduce crime.

Detroit is a city with a large population of black people. The A.I. program used by the city has a problem with darker skin shades. An expert said, “Facial recognition software proves to be less accurate at identifying people with darker pigmentation. We live in a major black city. That is a problem.”

There is no easy answer. One big question is how will the police use the program? The Detroit police say they will try to match photos on licenses or mug shots in cases of serious crime. They say they would arrest no one in Detroit based on a facial recognition match.

You should know that facial recognition is coming your way.

Source: The New York Times July 8, 2019

 

 

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This Challenge Has No Easy Solution

Many migrants trying to enter the U.S. are fleeing violence in their countries. True or false? [True.]

The U.S. is a rich country that can afford to treat people in distress in a decent way. Do readers agree with this statement?

There are very few smuggling industries around the world. True or false? [False.]

President Donald Trump thinks that the harsh treatment of the migrants will discourage them from coming. What do readers think?

What is the reason given by most of the refugees applying for political asylum on the U.S./Mexican border? [Most of the refugees are citing crime in their Central American countries as their reason for fleeing.]

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Syrian refugees arrive after crossing from Turkey to the island of Lesbos, Greece. Photo Credit: AP/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Migrants are people who leave their homelands in search of a better life. Most of them are in search of jobs. Mexicans crossing the border into the U.S. are an example. A new type of migrant is arriving. Most of the Central Americans amassing on the American border say they are fleeing crime.

It is a fine line between the two groups.

Refugees are fleeing wars. Conflicts in Syria and Iraq drove hundreds of thousands of people out. Many headed to Turkey. Poverty and violence in Africa caused thousands to try to reach Europe.

In other words, massive numbers of people are on the move. If you are looking for the worst treatment of people you should look to Libya. The country is war-torn. Dozens of refugees recently died in a camp from a bombing. Factions in that country want to control the Libyan city of Tripoli. War traps refugees in the cross-fire.

Italy supports the Libyan coast guard. Its job is to keep African refugees from escaping to Europe. Last week Eighty refugees set out for Italy. Most drowned when their boat capsized.

Smuggling industries flourish all over the world. People will pay any amount to criminal gangs. They are willing to suffer robbery, assaults, and rape to restart their lives.

The United States faces a massive flow of migrants. They are coming from the ‘Northern Triangle’ (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador). President Donald Trump thinks that the harsh treatment of the migrants will discourage them. Trump is pressing Mexico to help him slow down or resettle the “caravans” heading north.

The U.S. is a rich country that can afford to treat people in distress in a decent way. Many observers say conditions at the border should offend everyone. Most of the refugees are applying for political asylum. They cite violence as the reason. But the requests are piling up and creating a backlog.

Wealthy nations can do much better in the way they treat people who are arriving on their borders. The underlying problem is violence and poverty in the home countries. Experts call that the “push.” For Africa and the Middle East, there is no quick answer.

In Central America, the U.S. can do a great deal to make life better and safer in those countries. Trump seems to want to punish these countries for creating migrants. That approach is unlikely to stem the flow of people.

So far, there are no political solutions to deal with this global human traffic.

Resource: The New York Times July 5, 2019

ups.

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Make Sure You Use HPV Vaccines

Almost every sexually active adult becomes at least temporarily infected with some strain of HPV. True or false? [True.].

The HPV vaccine reduces the chances of genital and anal warts infections and can lead to reductions in cervical cancer. True or false? [True.]

If the vaccines are given to enough young girls, they also help protect both unvaccinated girls and boys. How? [Others are protected because fewer people are carrying the virus.]

Cervical cancer is no longer a major killer in wealthy countries? Why? [Because Pap smears, biopsies and surgery are easy to get in wealthy countries.]

What is one cause of female mortality in poor countries? [Cervical cancer is a leading cause of female mortality, killing about 300,000 women a year.]

 

What activities can result in mouth and throat cancers caused by HPV? [These cancers can happen as a result of oral sex.]

 

The number of American men with HPV-related throat cancer was larger than the number of American women with cervical cancer. True or false? [True.]

Millions of doses of the HPV vaccine have been given in the U.S. and worldwide. There is no pattern showing that the vaccine caused any dangerous or lethal outcomes. True or false? [True.]

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A woman receives the HPV vaccine in Shanghai. Credit: Imaginechina, via Associated Press.

There are more than 100 strains of human papillomavirus (called HPV). Almost every sexually active adult becomes at least infected for a time with some form of HPV. Just a handful of the strains cause cancer or warts. Some vaccines protect young women and girls against HPV.

The HPV vaccine reduces the chances of infection from genital and anal warts. Experts say the vaccine also will lead to a big drop in cervical cancer.

The vaccines are effective. Given to enough young girls, they also help protect both unvaccinated girls and boys. That is because fewer people are carrying the virus.

In wealthy countries, cervical cancer is no longer a major killer. That is because Pap smears, biopsies and surgery are easy to get. In poor countries, cervical cancer is a leading cause of female mortality. It kills about 300,000 women a year.

The HPV vaccine is also expected to lower rates of death from mouth and throat cancers caused by HPV. These cancers can happen as a result of oral sex. These cancers are much more common among men than women.

A study found that the number of American men with HPV-related throat cancer is more than the number of American women with cervical cancer. Due to the vaccine, precancerous cervical lesions fell by half among teenage girls and a quarter among women aged up to twenty-four.

The World Health Organization recommends that all girls aged 9 to 14 get the HPV vaccine. Wealthier countries often offer the vaccine to both boys and girls in a wider range of ages.

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control recommends the HPV vaccine for all males and females starting at age 11 and up to age 26.

About 100 countries around the world now recommend HPV vaccination, at least for girls.

Anti-vaccine activists have spread many false rumors about the HPV vaccine. For example, they charge that the HPV vaccine increases girls’ sexual appetites or causes sudden death, paralysis, or premature menopause. More than 100 million doses of the vaccine have been given in the United States. More than 270 million have been given worldwide. There is no pattern showing that the vaccine caused any dangerous or lethal outcomes.

Source: The New York Times June 27, 2019

 

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Water in Cans May Be Coming Your Wa

PepsiCo wants customers to try a new product that it says will help the environment. What is the product? [The product is its Aquafina brand of water to be sold in aluminum cans.]

What percent of the aluminum bought by consumers every year is reused? [67 percent.] And what percent of single-use plastic items is recycled? [9 percent.] 

Many customers already drink seltzer, craft beer and wine from cans. What liquids do readers already drink from cans?

If water in cans is a little cheaper than water in a plastic bottle, people could learn to love it. What do readers think?

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PepsiCo said that it would test-market canned Aquafina water as an alternative to plastic bottles.

What is next? Some say it is water in a can. The same as beer and soda come in cans.

“Something like that would scare me,” one woman said after buying a bottle of Mountain Dew. “You see juice in a can, not water. You see water in a bottle.”

That is the challenge to PepsiCo. It wants customers to try a new product. It says the new product will help the environment.

Pepsi said that it is starting the program early next year. Its Aquafina brand of water will be test-marketed in aluminum cans.

The company said many kinds of fizzy water already came in aluminum containers. But drinking non-fizzy water from a can would be “a newer behavior” for many people.

Many people have turned against single-use plastic items. Much of such items end up in landfills or floating in oceans. Only 9 percent of all the plastic ever made has been recycled. By contrast, 67 percent of the aluminum bought by consumers every year is reused.

Pepsi will also put its Bubly sparkling water in cans.

Customers already drink seltzer, craft beer, and wine from cans. Pepsi also plans to sell its carbonated water, Bubly, in cans.

Another company is selling Boxed Water. Its water contained in paper containers that look like milk cartons. It has something of a cult following.

And Ever & Ever, a new brand packages water in bottle-shaped aluminum cans with screw tops.

People drink a lot of bottled water. An expert said Pepsi’s packaging move is a low-risk experiment. Pepsi will be looking at how customers react.

The challenge Pepsi faces recently was on full display in the bottled-water aisle at a Target store in Brooklyn.

A man in the store said he stocks up on Poland Spring bottles of water at a BJ’s Wholesale Club. He said that something about the idea of drinking water from an aluminum can felt strange to him. He said, “I need to see the contents of the water. I need to see there’s nothing inside.”

Water is about the only liquid drink not sold in cans today. Who knows? It could catch on. Make water in cans a little cheaper than water in plastic bottles, and people could learn to love it.

Source: The New York Times June 27, 2019

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