The Fed Puts China in a Bind
Christopher Balding, BLOOMBERG
Last week, when the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates, it was a sign for many investors that things were getting back to normal. For China, facing large-scale capital outflows and a declining currency, it was a sign of a serious problem. For the past decade, China has maintained a “soft peg” of the yuan. This “soft peg” has worked, for the most part, because the US and China have had relatively synchronous business cycles and broadly similar monetary policies. But now their economies are diverging in important ways.
Smog Refugees Flee Chinese Cities as “Airpocalypse” Blights Half a Billion
Tom Phillips, THE GUARDIAN
Tens of thousands of “smog refugees” have reportedly fled China’s pollution-stricken north after the country was hit by its latest “airpocalyse” forcing almost half a billion people to live under a blanket of toxic fumes. Huge swaths of north and central China have been living under a pollution “red alert” since last Friday when a dangerous cocktail of pollutants transformed the skies into a yellow and charcoal-tinted haze.
Cuban Refugee Landings Are Up, And So Are Stops at Sea
David Goodhue, MIAMI HERALD
Over the past two years, there has been a marked increase in Cubans trying to flee the island nation 90 miles south of Key West. The federal government measures migration numbers in 12-month fiscal years beginning Oct. 1. Captain Jeffrey Janszen, commander of Coast Guard Sector Key West, estimates a 60 percent jump in Cubans trying to reach the United States by sea from FY 2015 to FY 2016—7,411 people compared to 4,473. The trend for FY 2017 is looking similar.
Martyrs Under Communist Regime in Laos Beatified
Catholic martyrs of various nationalities have been beatified in Laos, in the first such gesture toward communist regime victims in south-east Asia. A website statement by the French-based Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, to which six martyrs belonged, said all 17 martyrs had died at communist hands from 1954 to 1970 before Laos came under full control of the Maoist Pathet Lao regime in 1975.
US Increases Sanctions on North Korean UN Diplomats
The US Treasury Department tightened sanctions against North Korean diplomats to the United Nations, requiring banks to get special permission before granting them accounts, the agency said in a notice posted online Tuesday. The United States removed an exemption in the broad economic sanctions against Pyongyang that had allowed US banks to service North Korean diplomats without getting specific permission from the Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Russian Blogger Convicted, Imprisoned for Post Criticizing Syria Intervention
RADIO FREE EUROPE
A Russian blogger has been convicted and imprisoned for a post harshly criticizing the government’s military operation in Syria that prosecutors say was sympathetic to terrorism. A court in the central Tyumen region on December 20 found Aleksei Kungurov guilty of “publicly justifying terrorism” for the blog post and sentenced him to two and a half years in a penal colony.
Taiwan Loses Diplomatic Ally in Move Welcomed by Beijing
Nomaan Merchant, ASSOCIATED PRESS
Taiwan on Wednesday condemned the African island nation of Sao Tome and Principe’s “abrupt” move to break their diplomatic ties, while rival China welcomed the defection of one of the self-governing island’s small number of allies. Just 21 countries and governments now have official ties with Taiwan. Most of the world and the United Nations do not formally recognize the island as a condition of maintaining relations with China, which considers Taiwan a part of its territory.