Friday 19 January 2018

Portrait of the Week

Chinese man detained following social media post, man as old as the teddy bear dies, Berlusconi guilty of bribery, and Pope decries 'dung of the devil'

With the benchmark Shanghai stock index falling more than 30 percent in less than a month, wiping out around 3.2 trillion USD of value, Chinese government officials have cobbled together rescue measures aimed at propping up the market
With the benchmark Shanghai stock index falling more than 30 percent in less than a month, wiping out around 3.2 trillion USD of value, Chinese government officials have cobbled together rescue measures aimed at propping up the market

Chinese authorities arrested a man who allegedly spread rumours about people in Beijing jumping off buildings in response to a stock-market crash, state television reported last Sunday. The 29-year-old man, surnamed Tian, was detained for "disorderly behaviour".

He allegedly wrote on social media on July 3 that "there are people, because of the stock-market crash, who have jumped off buildings in Beijing's Financial Street", a commercial development in downtown that houses many financial institutions. The post in question could not be found on Sunday, and may have already been deleted by censors, who strictly control what can be said on Chinese social media.

China's Shanghai Composite Index has lost around 30pc of its value over the past three weeks, a dramatic end to an equally breathtaking rally that saw it more than double in just seven months, fuelled by official interest-rate cuts.

On Tuesday, Japanese media said that Sakari Momoi, who was recognised as the world's oldest man and credited healthy eating and getting plenty of sleep for his longevity, had died at the age of 112. Born in February 1903, Momoi was from an area of Fukushima that was hit hard by the tsunami and nuclear meltdowns of four years ago.

In the year of his birth, the teddy bear was introduced and Orville Wright carried out the first powered, heavier-than-air flight.

Named the world's oldest man in August 2014, Momoi, a former teacher who spent his days practising calligraphy and taking part in recreational activities at the hospital where he lived, donned a suit and tie for a ceremony to receive a plaque from Guinness World Records. I want to live two more years," Momoi said at the time.

The world's oldest man is now likely to be Japanese Yasutaro Koide, born in March 1903, a little over a month after Momoi. US resident Susannah Mushatt Jones, 116, is the world's oldest person.

The oldest Irish-born woman died last week in Syracuse, New York. Kathleen Rollins Snavely, who was 113, passed away on Monday. She was born in Feakle, Co Clare, in 1902 and emigrated to the US in 1921.

About 800 million people still live in dire poverty and suffer from hunger, despite the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) being the most successful anti-poverty push in history.

The number of people living in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25 a day, has more than halved, to 836 million from 1.9 billion in 1990, the UN said on Monday, in a report analysing eight development goals set out in the Millennium Declaration in 2000.

"Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.

But progress has been uneven across regions and countries, the UN said, and the new sustainable development agenda should focus on inequalities to improve the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable people.

World leaders are due to adopt a set of new development objectives - known as the Sustainable Development Goals - at a UN summit in September. The new goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

On Wednesday, Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was found guilty of bribing a senator to switch factions in a move which helped topple the then government in 2008.

The court in southern Italy sentenced Berlusconi to three years in jail and banned him from holding any public office for five years, a judge said in a ruling shown live on television.

The four-times prime minister denied the charges. However, he will not have to serve his sentence because a statute of limitations kicks in later this year before any appeal can be held, preventing the courts from pursuing the case further.

Berlusconi lost his parliamentary immunity when he was ejected from the senate in 2013 following a conviction for tax fraud. Despite remaining head of his once-triumphant Forza Italia party, he is struggling to revive his political fortunes.

Pope Francis on Thursday urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a "new colonialism" by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the "sacred rights" of labour, lodging and land.

In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born Pope also asked forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic Church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the "so-called conquest of America".

Quoting a fourth-century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money "the dung of the devil", and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.

Repeating some of the themes of his landmark encyclical Laudato Si on the environment last month, Francis said time was running out to save the planet from perhaps irreversible harm to the ecosystem.

On Friday, it was revealed that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has agreed to make a landmark visit to Pakistan next year, signalling a warming of ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours after a year of tensions.

Modi accepted the invitation to attend a 2016 meeting of South Asian leaders in Islamabad during talks with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the margins of a security summit in Russia, foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said.

Experts warned the trip could yet fall through, but if Modi goes, it would be the first time an Indian leader has visited the country since Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004. The move demonstrates a readiness to engage with India's long-time rival despite the hawkish stance Modi's government has often taken.

The leaders also agreed on Friday to work together to rein-in regional militancy, scheduling rare meetings between national security advisers and heads of border security, as well as helping expedite the trial of those charged with the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. Modi and Sharif shook hands for about 15 seconds, smiling, before sitting down for talks.

Sunday Independent

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