Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Tougher laws and enforcement needed to stamp out free-for-all on Shanghai roads

BEFORE the term “lao si ji,” literally old driver, became a popular pun for a hardened philanderer, it used to be an honorary title bestowed on skilled drivers.

Like me.

Although I only started to sit behind the steering wheel about two years ago, I believe that these two years of intensive practicing, training and adaptation on Shanghai’s highly risky roads have turned me into a “lao si ji.” Well, quite.

In order to earn that badge of honor, one simply has to be vastly resourceful and extremely responsive to every possible risk on the road. For example, since many Chinese drivers have the annoying habit of never bothering to signal when making a lane change, it is strongly advised to place one’s foot constantly on the brake, to be on alert for a potential rear-end collision.

During my days as a novice driver, I encountered several situations in which I had to hit the brake violently to avoid crashing into the cars that suddenly cut in ahead of mine. Fuming, I could not help letting loose a torrent of abuse.

Once during the evening rush hours, I was inching forward on an off-ramp from the Yan’an Elevated Highway. Without signaling or approaching the median line, a man driving a Toyota sedan on my right suddenly swerved left. I gasped, slammed on the brake and narrowly escaped hitting the sedan.

Road rage

In an outburst of road rage, I pulled up beside the Toyota, glared at the driver and honked once to protest. He didn’t even stare back. He couldn’t care less. Obviously he is an expert at this willful escapade.

Before long, I realized that there are plenty more of such douche bags on Shanghai’s roads, and since they cannot be made to see how rude they are, the choice left is either to tolerate their derring-do, or as the old adage goes, if you cannot beat them then join them.

On several occasions I did find myself joining this sorry bunch after reconciling myself with the fact that those who don’t signal actually have a good reason for not doing so. Only a handful of motorists, at least in my own experience, showed their civility by yielding to cars signaling for a lane change.

Over time, this led to bewilderment, followed by disillusionment. Despite having spent time to regurgitate the traffic rules to pass the written test for the driver’s license, many seem to give little thought to these rules in reality.

Instead, to be able to survive China’s roads, one of the cardinal principles appears to be to unlearn what is learnt at the driving school and make impromptu changes where necessary. For example, even the forbidden practice of overtaking a slow car from the right side is sometimes an option. Forget about road civility, this is a mere afterthought.

It is with mixed feelings that I salute the recently updated traffic regulation, said to be the strictest ever to be adopted in Shanghai.

On the one hand, I do believe that the laws must be made to have teeth to deal with public hazards like the Toyota driver; to crack down hard on illegal driving behavior that makes Shanghai’s roads a free-for-all where the only rule that applies is “who dares wins.”

On the other, I am less optimistic than some about the odds of the new regulation succeeding in drilling some much-needed sense of civility and road manners into the minds of daredevils.

And this paradoxical mentality became even more agonizing following my recent trip to Germany and Austria. During the eight-day trip, I drove some 2,000 kilometers. Despite the fatigue resulting from long hours of driving — I once drove non-stop for about 450 kilometers from Munich to Vienna — I remained mentally at ease throughout the journey.

Since sections of the German Autobahn, or expressways, are exempt from speed limits, it’s common to see cars hurtling at over 200 kilometers per hour. And I remember being told by a German friend, beaming, that the recklessness often seen in Chinese motorists is nowhere to be found on German roads.

Paradox

To put his assertion to the test, I once hit the gas pedal to take my diesel-powered Volkswagen Golf Variant to over 180kph, only to slow down when my ashen-faced wife begged me to in a trembling voice. Although my palms were sweaty from an adrenaline rush and from gripping the wheel a bit too tightly to avoid lane departure, my mind was fairly relaxed. I even had time to take in the pastoral beauty of the Bavarian countryside and breathe in the crisp March air adulterated with a thick smell of cow manure.

It’s no exaggeration to say that it’s safer to drive 200kph on German motorways than 60kph on Shanghai’s elevated highways. This appears to be born out by statistics. According to a 2015 WHO report, Germany has one of the world’s lowest road fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants: 4.3 compared to China’s 18.8.

The key to understanding the paradox between general road safety and the (partial) absence of speed limits lies perhaps in the German conformity to order and rules.

Given my observation, almost every vehicle would spontaneously leave the fast lane on an Autobahn after overtaking a car in front; you can literally careen down the road at the sight of inverted yellow triangular signs that suggest you have the indisputable right of way; and whenever I slowed down on urban roads, trying to follow the GPS directions, no German driver ever honked at me or intimidated me with high beam headlights. They just followed patiently behind. When their patience did wear thin, they overtook me at a safe distance. By the way, they were more willing to yield to cars that signaled.

In my opinion, one of the most admirable aspects of German traffic is that the rigidity of the rules enforced is softened by a dose of flexibility for personal touch — civility shown to pedestrians is reciprocated with a nod, a smile or a thumbs-up. Respect begets respect.

Culture shock

I experienced a culture shock (or should it be reverse culture shock?) in the first days upon my return to Shanghai. During the morning madness I tried to play the German card in a lane change.

To my dismay, I signaled for 10 seconds, but no cars slowed down to let me pass. In a sign of cussedness, some even revved up the engine and zoomed past me.

Seeing that the German ways didn’t work, I switched back to the Chinese mode: I swerved to force my way into a column of vehicles.

It is reported that Shanghai’s updated traffic regulations include clauses that oblige motorists to yield to pedestrians when making a left/right turn.

For this clause to work, however, stricter law enforcement is critically needed in addition to a public awareness campaign. Until we have a police officer deployed at every intersection to ensure compliance, allow me to be mildly skeptical about the effects of the rule.

In a similar vein, until many drivers learn to treat other “lesser beings” on the road with a little more respect and dignity, they are unworthy of the “lao si ji” title, however skilled they might be.

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)

Turkey’s opposition calls for vote to be canceled after ‘irregularities’

TURKEY’S main opposition party yesterday called on the country’s electoral board to cancel the results of a landmark referendum that granted sweeping new powers to the nation’s president, citing what it called substantial voting irregularities.

An international observer mission who monitored the voting also cited irregularities, saying the conduct of Sunday’s referendum “fell short” of the international standards Turkey has signed up to. It specifically criticized a decision by Turkey’s electoral board to accept ballots that did not have official stamps, saying that hurt the fight against fraud.

Turkey’s electoral board confirmed the “yes” victory in the referendum and said the final results would be declared in 11-12 days.

The state-run Anadolu agency said the “yes” side stood at 51.4 percent of the vote, while the “no” vote had 48.6 percent support.

The margin could cement President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power in Turkey for a decade and is expected to have a huge effect on the country’s long-term political future and its international relations.

“I suspect the result was narrower than Erdogan expected,” said Howard Eissenstat, associate professor of Middle East History at St Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

“Erdogan has ruled with a narrow victory before. He does not see a narrow victory as anything less than a mandate.”

Erdogan, 63, initially sounded conciliatory in his remarks, saying the result was a victory not just for those who voted “yes,” but for “the whole 80 million, the whole of Turkey.”

But his more abrasive style quickly returned.

“There are those who are belittling the result. They shouldn’t try, it will be in vain,” he told cheering supporters in Istanbul. “It’s too late now.”

Opposition parties still cried foul. Bulent Tezcan, deputy chairman of the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, cited numerous problems in the conduct of the vote.

An unprecedented electoral board decision to accept as valid ballots that didn’t bear the official stamp led to outrage.

Normally for a ballot to be considered valid, it must bear the official stamp on the back, be put into an envelope that also bears an official stamp and be handed to the voter by an electoral official at a polling station. The system is designed to ensure that only one vote is cast per person and to avoid the possibility of ballot box-stuffing.

The board announced on Sunday, however, that it would accept unstamped envelopes as valid after many voters complained about being handed blank envelopes.

“There is only one way to end the discussions about the vote’s legitimacy and to put the people at ease, and that is for the Supreme Electoral Board to cancel the vote,” Tezcan said.

Tana de Zuleta of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitored the vote, said the ballot decision undermined important safeguards against fraud and contradicted Turkey’s own laws.

The monitoring group described a series of irregularities, including a skewed pre-vote campaign in favor of the “yes” vote, the intimidation of the “no” campaign and the fact that the referendum question was not listed on the ballot.

De Zuleta said that overall, the procedures “fell short of full adherence” to the standards Turkey has signed up for.

Electoral board head Sadi Guven rejected claims of foul play, saying none of the ballot papers declared valid was “fake” or fraudulently cast.

Guven said the decision was made so voters who were by mistake given unstamped ballot papers would not be “victimized.”

“The ballot papers are not fake, there is no (reason) for doubt,” Guven said.

Tezcan said any decision that changes Turkey’s political system to such a vast extent should have been passed with an overwhelming endorsement.

“This is not a text of social consensus but one of social division,” Tezcan said.

The referendum approves 18 amendments that will replace the parliamentary system with a presidential one.

The changes allow the president to appoint ministers, senior government officials and half the members of Turkey’s highest judicial body, as well as to issue decrees and declare states of emergency. They set a limit of two five-year terms for presidents.

The new presidential system takes effect at the next election, currently due in 2019. Other changes will take effect sooner, including an amendment that scraps a clause requiring the president to be impartial, allowing Erdogan to regain membership of the ruling party he founded‚ or even to lead it.

A Poem Made Of Hymns and Worship Songs

{The Sea Calls Us Home}

Hello Readers,

The words fail to come to my fingers, my friends. They swirl in my head but don’t look right on paper. Like a misspelled word or a painting turned sideways. I want to write a poem, but I do not have the words to one. I can not write because what I have been saved from is overwhelming. I have a debt paid for that I can not explain in the simple words I know.

But that’s alright. The words will come. Until then, I can only rehash the words I know to be true. The words that have given me so much comfort.

Take heart, we are not in control.

there is power in the name of Jesus.

though satan should buffet, though trials should come…

make my life a prayer to you.

amazing grace,

how

sweet

the

sound

it is well, it is well

amazing…

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Until The Streetlight Turns On

Elletrik Writing

When the front door opened, it’s like walking out of the doctor’s office, or peeling the sticky paper wrapper off of a lollipop. The feeling of released happiness always hung in the air whenever he opened the front door and said “Go outside to play”. And as she dashed out the door, her dad would never fail to call out “Come back home when the streetlight on the corner turns on!” As her skinny legs raced down the cracked sidewalk, Jace would nod to herself. When the sky got dark, the big light on the tar-smeared pole would glow with hazy yellow light, and that was when she knew to go back home.

Jace’s dingy shoes made the tall grass whisper as she walked into the neighbor kids’ yard where she always played with them. She had lots of shoes. Some were sparkly, but her favorites were the ones that…

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More nervousness in asparagus, milk and meat?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘BUND’)

More nervousness in asparagus, milk and meat?

February 3, 2017 | Environmental poisons, chemistry, agriculture, wild bees

Once again, the EU allows more neonicotinoids in food. This time, the limits for the nerve vapor acetamiprid in asparagus, milk and meat have been increased drastically. There is no parliamentary scrutiny.

Asparagus can now contain 80 times as much acetamipride as before. The BUND calls for the ban on the nervous system. (Jai79 / pixabay.com)

Only in September, the EU Commission had increased the limit values ​​for the neonikotinoid acetamipride for various foods such as tomatoes and wheat . Now the practice of creeping poisoning continues: this time, the basic foods are milk and meat as well as asparagus.

The permitted amount of the nerve vapor acetamipride increases by 80 times for asparagus, 25 times for pork (see infographics)! Such increases must not be voted on in Parliament – no, the Member States decide to do so, and the Commission then merely provides information on the change made.

The EU is responding to such pressure from the large farmers’ associations and the pesticide industry. The governments are therefore accepting that our food should contain more and more poison. Three neonotinoids have already been partially banned since 2013 because of their dangerous nature for bees. The BUND calls for a comprehensive ban on all neonicotinoids without loopholes. Agriculture Minister Schmidt must urgently work at EU level.

More information

Neonikotinoids in food

Neonikotinoids in food

To overview

North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME)

North Korean Official Threatens ‘Weekly’ Missile Tests as White House Condemns Launches

2:20 PM ET

A North Korean official said the country will continue to test missiles regularly, as both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence warned the country against such launches.

“We’ll be conducting more missile tests on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis,” North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Han Song-Ryol told the BBC, warning that an “all-out war” will result if the United States takes military action.

A North Korean test missile failed on Sunday. Last week, Trump dispatched a strike fleet toward the Korean peninsula.

During a visit to the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea this weekend, Pence warned North Korea to stop its “reckless” development of nuclear weapons.

“The era of strategic patience is over,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “President Trump has made it clear that the patience of the United States and our allies in this region has run out and we want to see change. We want to see North Korea abandon its reckless path of the development of nuclear weapons, and also its continual use and testing of ballistic missiles is unacceptable.”

“Gotta behave,” Trump said Monday at the White House when asked if he had a message for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

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United Nations: North Korea Threatens U.S. With Nuclear War

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

United Nations (CNN) Only at a North Korean press conference at the United Nations, can you hear a diplomat say he hoped journalists had a good holiday weekend and then warn of possible thermonuclear war.

North Korea has consistently issued threats of war toward the United States in recent decades, but the Trump administration’s announced end of a “strategic patience” policy with Pyongyang has upped the ante in terms of warnings and bellicose rhetoric. North Korea’s UN deputy representative, Kim In Ryong, on Monday unleashed at a hastily called UN press conference a torrent of threats, war scenarios and rhetoric aimed at the United States.
The press event was held hours after US Vice President Mike Pence visited the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. Pence warned North Korea not to test the resolve of the United States “or the strength of our military forces.”
In New York, North Korea returned verbal fire. North Korea’s UN ambassador condemned the US naval buildup in the waters off the Korean Peninsula, plus the US missile attacks on Syria.
Kim said, “It has created a dangerous situation in which thermonuclear war may break out at any moment on the peninsula and poses a serious threat to world peace and security.”
While reporters at the United Nations have heard similar rhetoric from North Koreans before, Monday’s forceful wording was on a higher level
The deputy ambassador, reading from a statement, told reporters, “The US is disturbing the global peace and stability and insisting on the gangster-like logic that its invasion of a sovereign state is ‘decisive, and just, and proportionate’ and contributes to ‘defending’ the international order in its bid to apply it to the Korean Peninsula as well.”
Kim said his country is ready to react to any “mode of war” from the United States. Any missile or nuclear strike by the United States would be responded to “in kind,” said the North Korea representative.
The USS Carl Vinson carrier-led Navy strike group was sent to the Korean Peninsula. North Korea’s UN representative said the maneuvers show the “US reckless moves for invading the DPRK (North Korea) have reached a serious phase.”
The United Nations is clearly worried. Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told journalists, “We’re obviously deeply concerned about the rising tensions that we’ve seen in the Korean Peninsula. We call on all to redouble their diplomatic efforts. “
The North Korean deputy ambassador was asked to respond to President Donald Trump’s comment that North Korea should “behave better.” He declined, instead wrapping up numerous questions about US policy and Pence’s visit to the DMZ into a long series of criticisms of the United States.
He denounced the United States for introducing into the Korean Peninsula — what he called “the world’s biggest hotspot” — its “huge nuclear strategic assets, seriously threatening peace and security of the Peninsula and pushing the situation there to a brink of war.”
North Korea staged a failed missile launch over the weekend. Dujarric said, “I think the latest launch that we saw over the weekend from the DPRK was troubling. We call on the DPRK to take all the steps necessary to deescalate the situation and return to a dialogue on denuclearization.”
North Korea is upset that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on the situation later this month, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson presiding.
Pyongyang again said it has sent letters demanding its own hearing at the Security Council for alleged US abuses, but they have been ignored by a council which has seen numerous council resolutions violated by North Korean missile and nuclear tests.
To add to the list of warnings, the North Korean diplomat said his country would hold the United States accountable “for the catastrophic consequences to be entailed by its outrageous actions.”
Journalists were asked to give their names on a sheet passed around by the North Koreans, but the sign-up sheet was left behind apparently when the news conference concluded.

More than half of American adults have tried marijuana, poll finds

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ABC NEWS)

More than half of American adults have tried marijuana, poll finds

 

(ABC NEWS) — A majority of American adults have tried marijuana at least once in their lives, according to a new Marist poll that was conducted in partnership with Yahoo.

The poll found that 52 percent of U.S. adults have tried marijuana at least once and 56 percent of Americans find the drug “socially acceptable.”

While eight out of 10 Americans strongly support legalizing medical marijuana, there is a clear divide over the legalization of recreational marijuana; Forty-nine percent of American adults support legalization while 47 percent oppose it.

Dr. Donald Abrams, an oncologist at University of California San Francisco who has studied marijuana, said the high percentage of people in favor of medicinal marijuana is not surprising.

Many “have had family members or friends who have benefited from the use medicinally,” Abrams said. “I hear it all the time.”

The poll comes as more states are legalizing both recreational and medicinal marijuana. California was the first state to legalize medical marijuana in 1996 and today 29 states have laws providing for medicinal marijuana or cannabis and eight states have passed laws legalizing recreational use of the drug in some form.

Despite more people having access to the drug, just 14 percent of Americans over the age of 18 say they use marijuana regularly or at least once or twice a month. The poll also finds that a stigma is still associated with the drug.

Overall, 70 percent of poll respondents believe their parents would be unhappy to learn they were using marijuana recreationally.

In comparison, the poll found that 58 percent of parents think their children would disapprove if they found out their mother or father enjoyed marijuana recreationally.

Just 39 percent of parents say their children have tried or currently uses marijuana.

 

That number is almost true in reverse, with just 36 percent of Americans saying at least one parent has tried or regularly uses marijuana.

Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the non-profit Drug Policy Alliance, which focuses on drug policy reform, said some parents may hide recreational drug use over concerns they will set a bad example.

“You go to someone’s house … you have the parents share a joint and down the hall the teenager will share a joint and neither will know,” he said.

Nadelmann said that changes in how marijuana is ingested may also contribute to how people view the drug.

“As marijuana has been accepted medically, it’s less about the marijuana high,” Nadelmann said, pointing out that people may now increasingly see elderly family members use the drug to help cope with a variety of ailments.

Americans do have concerns about the health risks of marijuana, but those concerns pale in comparison to concerns over cigarettes and alcohol. Fifty-one percent of Americans think consumption of marijuana is a health risk. However, far more Americans say drinking alcohol regularly (72 percent) is a threat to health over regular marijuana use (20 percent.)

More Americans also think that regular tobacco use (76 percent) is far more risky than regular marijuana use (18 percent.)

The poll was done by surveying 1,122 adults between March 1 through March 7 of this year. The Marist Poll was sponsored and funded in partnership with Yahoo. Results are statistically significant within ±2.9 percentage points.

© 2017 ABC News

Let’s Put a Stop to All Violence

Damon Ashworth Psychology

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Violence Against Women Worldwide

In 2012, in the Republic of Guinea, a country located on the west coast of Africa, 92% of women and 66% of men that were surveyed agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons:
  • she has burnt the food,
  • she has argued with him,
  • she has gone out without telling him,
  • she has neglected the children, or
  • she has refused to have sex with him.

These findings were quite alarming to me, especially because 2005 research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicated that a higher rate of violence occurs when it is accepted or justified. For example, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where 64% of women are victims of violence by men, 76% of women also agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the five above reasons (ICF…

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For Anyone Who Has Ever Struggled With Thoughts of Suicide and Death

Damon Ashworth Psychology

sweet-ice-cream-photography-189491.jpg

Suicide

In Australia in 2015, there were 3,027 deaths due to suicide for the year. This equates to 12.7 per 100,000, or 8.3 deaths by suicide each day.

76% of those who died by suicide were male, a ratio of more than 3:1. This ratio stays pretty steady for nearly all age groups, with males always committing suicide at a higher rate than females.

According to the World Health Organisation, a person commits suicide somewhere in the world every 40 seconds. Guyana has the highest suicide rate of any country in the world, with 44.2 per 100,000, but South Korea (28.9 per 100,000), Sri Lanka (28.8 per 100,000), Lithuania (28.2 per 100,000) and many other countries are also way too high. Based on the 2012 WHO findings, Australia was the 63rd highest country with 10.6 deaths by suicide per 100,000.

The most alarming thing about these findings is that our…

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