China’s 19th Party Congress: Political Precedent and the Politburo Standing Committee
Andrei Lungu, The Diplomat
China’s political system has two problems. The first is its secrecy. The second problem, though, is very different: the simplified, hyperbolic caricature often presented in the West, where Chinese politics is usually depicted as a totally unpredictable fight for power. In this view, political events in China are simply the result of a power struggle between different factions and our lack of information makes any guesses all but useless. But, while lacking transparency, Chinese politics is actually quite predictable, even more so than a democratic system is.
Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan home to mysterious misbehaving communist cadre
Stuart Lau, South China Morning Post
One of the 13 Communist Party members to be barred from China’s most high-profile political assembly later this month on the grounds of “improper behaviour” comes from the Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan division, according to a study of official documents by the South China Morning Post. Unlike the 12 other members disqualified from the nearly 2,300-strong 19th national party congress, his or her identity is unknown, highlighting the ruling party’s secretive approach towards the three territories where the Communist Party is not a duly registered legal entity.
Were US Diplomats in Cuba Victims of a Sonic Attack—or Something Else?
Adam Rogers, Wired
Last week the US Department of State recalled non-emergency personnel and families home from the embassy in Havana, citing injuries and illness among 21 people—“hearing loss, dizziness, headache, fatigue, cognitive issues, and difficulty sleeping” according to a statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Those 21 people weren’t just cultural attaches. Some of the hardest-hit victims were US intelligence operatives, according to an AP story on Monday. Most of the reporting on this story so far has talked about some kind of a “sonic weapon” or “sonic attack,” maybe a side-effect of a surveillance technology. The problem is, physicists and acousticians don’t know how ultrasound (high frequency) or infrasound (low frequency) could do what the State Department says happened to its people. That leaves two possibilities: a new, sci-fi sound gun or something else. Here’s a hypothesis for the something else: poison.
Prices halved for holidays to Cuba as island feels impact of Trump and Irma
Claire Boobbyer, The Telegraph
Massive discounts are available to travellers eyeing up a Cuban holiday this winter amid a souring relationship with the US and damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Online travel agent Expedia, UK operator Steppes, and Cuban hotels and B&Bs, are among those offering savings on trips to the communist island. Expedia has launched a Cuban sale with discounts of up to 65 percent on hotels and private guesthouses, while Steppes is giving customers 10 percent off all Cuban holidays booked before the end of the year, along with a free meal voucher at renowned restaurant La Guarida.
Inside North Korea, and Feeling the Drums of War
Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times
Far more than when I previously visited, North Korea is galvanizing its people to expect a nuclear war with the United States. High school students march in the streets in military uniform every day to denounce America. Posters and billboards along the public roads show missiles destroying the U.S. Capitol and shredding the American flag. In fact, images of missiles are everywhere—in a kindergarten playground, at a dolphin show, on state television. This military mobilization is accompanied by the ubiquitous assumption that North Korea could not only survive a nuclear conflict, but also win it.
Russia Targets NATO Soldier Smartphones, Western Officials Say
Thomas Grove, Julian E. Barnes, and Drew Hinshaw, The Wall Street Journal
Russia has opened a new battlefront with NATO, according to Western military officials, by exploiting a point of vulnerability for almost all allied soldiers: their personal smartphones. The aim, they say, is to gain operational information, gauge troop strength and intimidate soldiers. US and other Western officials said they have no doubt Russia is behind the campaign. They said its nature suggests state-level coordination, and added that the equipment used, such as sophisticated drones equipped with surveillance electronics, is beyond the reach of most civilians.
Russia would back Venezuela against US, Maduro says
During a visit to Moscow, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Wednesday that he was confident Russia would come to Venezuela’s aid if the South American country were to face intrusions from the Trump administration. “I am sure, even if we do not ask, we will be given even more support to boost Venezuela’s defense capacity and sovereignty,” Maduro said during an energy forum.
ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
October 5th, 1936: Birthday of Václav Havel, Czech playwright, dissident, and president.