China’s Caribbean Connection
November 12, 2020
The Good News
“If it’s wrong when they do it, it’s wrong when we do it.” ― Noam Chomsky
China’s Caribbean Connection
(Pierre Michel Jean via Getty Images)
In recent years, the Chinese government has quietly sought to expand its footprint and influence in the Caribbean through government grants and loans, investments by Chinese companies and diplomatic, cultural, and security efforts. Jamaica has emerged as an anchor of Chinese activity in the region, having borrowed some $2.1 billion over the past 15 years for infrastructure — building roads, bridges, a convention center, and housing. China has made grants that have financed a children’s hospital, schools, and an office building for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to name a few. Chinese firms directly invested more than $3 billion into Jamaican projects like bauxite mining and sugar production.
In addition to having extended more than $6 billion in low-interest loans throughout the region, China has donated equipment to military and police forces, and maintained cultural outreach programs. The pandemic provided Beijing the opportunity to strengthen these relations further by donating or selling personal protective equipment. In what has been termed ‘mask diplomacy,’ the government sent large shipments of test kits, masks, and ventilators to help governments like Haiti’s response to the pandemic.
While most Caribbean nations lack the sizable reserves of minerals and other raw materials that might have drawn China’s interest, what does interest the Chinese is the strategic importance of the region as a hub for logistics, banking, commerce — and security value, because of its proximity to the US. “There are a lot of reinforcing reasons that go beyond balance sheets,” said one strategic studies expert. “China understands intuitively the strategic importance of that space.”
But China’s global push for business and allies has generated criticism in the US and Western Europe, which have called Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative predatory. The Trump administration particularly has viewed China’s growing presence, and its potential to challenge Washington’s influence in the region, with concern and suspicion. Last year the administration began pushing its own development programs, including “Growth in the Americas,” an investment initiative that many analysts viewed as a direct response to China’s diplomatic and trade efforts in the Caribbean and Latin America. In October, an administration delegation visited Suriname, Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic to promote American private sector investment.
Bolsonaro Throws A ‘Sissy’ Fit
(Andressa Anholete via Getty Images)
- What started as a brief closing speech to a group of Brazilian tourism executives on Tuesday turned into half an hour of attacks on the press, science, and president-elect Joe Biden by Brazil’s right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro. “We are all going to die one day. Everyone here is going to die. There is no use in running away from that, running away from reality,” he said as he urged the populace “to stop being a country of sissies [maricas].”
- Bolsonaro has been heavily criticized for his reaction to the virus, which has been to downplay the pandemic’s deadliness while blaming governors for state lockdown effects on the economy. The president called the press covering the evening’s event at the Planalto Palace “vultures,” “fake news,” and “a joke.” “They’re starting to scare the Brazilian people over a second wave,” he said. “We have to f—— face it. That’s life. We have to face it with our chests up and fight.”
- As of November 10, Brazil has reported more than 5.6 million cases and over 160,000 deaths due to Covi-19. It is one of the worst-affected countries in the world. Bolsonaro is a diehard loyalist to President Trump, and remains one of the few world leaders yet to recognize the results of last week’s US presidential election. (Vice)
India Has Netflix But No Chill
- India’s government, run by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has pushed through a new order stating that all online news, social media, and video streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are to be subject to state regulation, raising fears of increased censorship of digital media.
- The government will also oversee news appearing on Facebook and Twitter. The regulation will likely be passed into law by parliament this week. Internet freedom in India has declined for the past three years and watchdogs worry the order signals the end of the digital realm as one of the final bastions of creative and journalistic dissent in India.
- The order follows months of campaigns by rightwing groups to bring streaming platforms under the same censorship rules as television and film. Streaming services have exploded in popularity in India, with upwards of 25 million Netflix subscribers. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Recordings reveal WHO’s analysis of pandemic in private (ABC)
- Xi Jinping’s Strength Is China’s Weakness (NYT, $)
- Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers to resign en masse (NBC). Law don’t live here anymore.
- U.S. aide warns Brazil, without evidence, of Huawei 5G ‘Big Brother’ surveillance (Reuters)
- Critics, protesters call removal of Peruvian president a legislative coup (WaPo, $)
- Finally back in Bolivia: ‘We’re in power now’: Evo Morales makes gleeful return to town he fled (Guardian)
- Everyone Knew About Theodore McCarrick (NYT, $)
- Facing Military Debacle, Armenia Accepts a Deal in Nagorno-Karabakh War (NYT, $)
- Nuclear options: To Save the Iran Nuclear Deal, Think Bigger (Foreign Affairs)
- Two injured in Jeddah blast targeting WWI remembrance event at cemetery (CNN)
- A ‘Terrifying’ Coronavirus Surge Will Land in Biden’s Lap (NYT)
- Don’t Get Too Excited About the Coronavirus Vaccine (NYT)
- Why do COVID death rates seem to be falling? (Nature)
- The Real Danger Posed by Coronavirus-Infected Mink (Scientific American)
The Climate Is Heading South, But So Are People
- Science tells us that climate change will eventually make parts of the US uninhabitable. New data from the Rhodium Group shows that the damage from climate change will wreak havoc on the southern third of the US, erasing more than 8 percent of its economic output. But instead of moving away from areas in climate crisis, Americans are still flocking to cities like Phoenix, Houston, and Miami.
- Even so, the data shows that the warming climate will alter everything from how we grow food to where people can plausibly live — likely turning migration into an imperative rather than a choice. Ultimately, we will be headed to a resorting of the map not seen since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, with millions of people displaced by flooding, fires, and scorching heat. (ProPublica)
Green Fuel In The Golden State
- As the lightest and most abundant substance in the universe, one might be surprised to discover that hydrogen can be used as a clean fuel alternative. Some may remember George Bush famously filling up his minivan from a hydrogen fuel pump in 2003, but since then American dreams of a hydrogen economy have dimmed due to a lack of buy-in from producers and consumers alike.
- But as decarbonization becomes a more central issue in the face of climate change, some experts are beginning to take the hydrogen revolution more seriously. A recent McKinsey and Company study revealed that the hydrogen economy could support 700,000 jobs and generate $140 billion in annual revenue by 2030 — with the potential to meet 14 percent of total American energy demand by 2050.
- That’s why one state has set out to become the nation’s hub for hydrogen-fueled innovation. Through vehicle license fees and the state’s energy commission, California has dedicated $20 million in annual funding to hydrogen projects — putting it on pace to spend $230 million on the burgeoning fuel source by 2023. These infrastructure projects include building fueling stations to fill up the roughly 7,500 hydrogen vehicles currently on the road in the Golden State.
- Hydrogen-powered vehicles operate similarly to their electric counterparts, but use fuel cells rather than batteries to convert hydrogen gas into electricity. Especially enticing for lawmakers in California is that this process only emits water vapor, making these hydro-vehicles a key component to curbing climate change.
- Using this omnipotent resource to fuel our transit seems like a relative no-brainer, and it seems like the big brains agree: “Almost any objective analysis for getting to zero emissions includes hydrogen,” said Jack Brouwer, director of the National Fuel Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine. (NYT)
Additional USA News
- Biden’s go-to guy. Biden’s choice of Klain signals a return to DC tradition (WaPo, $)
- Biden Plan To Lower Medicare Eligibility Age Faces Hostility From Hospitals (NPR)
- Doug Emhoff prepares to break new ground as America’s second gentleman (Guardian). The first of his kind.
- Why the US needs a Department of Climate to fight climate change (Vox)
- Unemployment Benefit Cutoff Looms for Millions at Year’s End (NYT, $)
- Not so smooth transition: White House tells agencies not to cooperate with the Biden transition (WaPo, $)
- Trump Forms PAC in Hopes of Keeping Hold on G.O.P. (NYT, $)
- QAnon Struggles After Trump Election Defeat (NYT, $)
- AOC wants to cancel those who worked for Trump. Good luck with that, they say. (Politico)
- The Florida Project: Democrats’ 2020 Losses in States Will Haunt the Party (Atlantic, $)
- How ‘Obamagate’ and Hunter’s ‘laptop from hell’ fizzled (Politico)
- Brace yourselves. The next Donald Trump could be much worse (Guardian)
Scaring Bears With A Monster Wolf
- Tired of bears encroaching on your village? Traditional scarecrows just not doing the trick? Take it from the residents of Takikawa, a northern island town in Japan, and try using an electronic, red eyed, “monster wolf” to scare away those mammalian menaces.
- The cyber-wolf — which howls whenever it senses motion — was the brainchild of two Japanese universities aiming to protect humans and livestock from repeated visits from bears. Since the “monster wolf” project started in 2016, more than 63 bots have been scattered across Japan. Yuji Ota, head of the local machinery firm that constructs the cyber-wolves, says that the village wanted “to let the bears know, ‘Human settlements aren’t where you live,’ and help with the coexistence of bears and people.”
- According to David Thau, the Global Data and Technology Lead Scientist of Global Science at the World Wildlife Fund, humans are only beginning to tap into the possibilities of using robots to help man and beast coexist. “Many of these applications are very new and not yet widely deployed, making it exciting times for any conservation minded roboticists,” Thau said. “We’re using technology to monitor biodiversity and environmental health as well as helping reduce illegal exploitation of wildlife and reduce human/wildlife conflict.” (Vice)
- An oral reef: Could Listening to the Deep Sea Help Save It? (NYT, $)
- ‘It’s the screams of the damned!’ The eerie AI world of deepfake music (Guardian)
- Brain Scientists Explore the How of When (NYT, $)
- We’re calling the border collie: Who’s a clever dog? Canine ‘genius challenge’ to be livestreamed (Guardian)
- Charles Darwin’s hunch about early life was probably right (BBC)
- Hanson Is Facing a Mutiny From Its Own Fans (Vice)
- The racial wealth gap is not about expensive shoes. It’s about systemic racism. (WaPo, $)
- Apps Are Now Putting the Parole Agent in Your Pocket (Wired). Cops in your pocket.
- Two Years Without Health Insurance (and What I’m Doing Now) (Mr. Money Mustache)
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