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Open Thread – 1/11/2021

On Spice: Advice, Wisdom, and History with a Grain of Saltiness. Good mix of history and cooking advice.

Podcast up, Alina Chan on SARS-CoV-2 and “lab leak”.

In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom. Bad title.

Genomics of rare genetic diseases—experiences from India.

Large palindromes on the primate X Chromosome are preserved by natural selection.

The collapse of genetic incompatibilities in a hybridizing population.

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18 thoughts on “Open Thread – 1/11/2021

  1. “Citizens of China don’t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship or freedom from fear.”

    At the least, that is a gross exaggeration, bordering on bizarre. People criticise the government all the time and don’t suffer for it. People go to churches, mosques and temples all the time and, in the main, don’t suffer for it – certain mosques in the Uyghur Autonomous Region may have been associated with separatists and fundamentalists; they are the ones that have been knocked down; most of them have not been. People don’t live in fear – that is a ridiculous statement to anyone who is familiar with going to Mainland China, or who lives there, unless they are intent on being trouble makers. I have been in the Mainland many times and have never felt afraid of anything. I have a close family member living and working there, and she is not afraid of anything. I have good friends who are Chinese citizens living there, and they are not afraid of anything. I have felt nervous walking around LA and NYC, and scared shitless walking around Rio de Janeiro (and having to run to get away from mobs of guys who were intent on mugging me), but never in any Chinese city, except when crossing the road – that can be scary.

    In terms of day-to-day, probably one of people’s biggest concerns is food safety, which is a really big problem. You can tell if someone really knows much about living in the Mainland if they bring that up as one of their major concerns. If people want to criticise something about China, that is a valid criticism, and it really should not be that way.

    To be sure, surveillance is heavy – CCTV cameras are everywhere in the streets. But that has a positive side.

    As for Hong Kong being anaemic, sure it is. The riots in 2019 and pandemic in 2020 have caused the HK economy to fall off a cliff. The border with the Mainland remains closed, and the economy can’t hope to start to recover until it is open again. And we are still getting 30 to 50 known cases of Covid-19 per day, which is proving to be stubborn, and that is a worry heading towards Chinese New Year, when large extended family gatherings are the norm. In such a dense population and with everyone huddled indoors during the cold weather, it won’t take much to kick off a shitsturm, to use a Merkelism. Vaccination won’t begin here until some time next month, and the natives are not happy that HK has been so slow off the mark. If the HK government had its shit together, it should have been possible to vaccinate the whole population by the end of the first quarter; as it is, there is no hope of achieving that, which is really not excusable – it’s not like we’re short of money.

    Speaking of which, the relatively large outbreak in Hebei is similarly a cause for concern, with people starting to travel around the country in the lead up to the Spring Festival and despite the government’s pleading for them not to, so…watch that space, I guess, if you can tear yourself away from the world’s worst shitsturm in your very own country. No, I’m not crowing about that, and I derive absolutely no pleasure from it – it is horrifying me, just as much as it is horrifying people in the Mainland. Yes, they care, and no, they don’t want to see the USA suffering this way. They really don’t.

  2. Sandgroper, that’s not all. There are credible reports that Kaifeng Jews have suffered severe intrusions into their religious liberty in the last half-decade, with an escalation last year, including forceable closure of their religious and cultural institutions, and that almost all public evidence of the presence of Judaism in Kaifeng has been destroyed by the government. Kaifeng Jews were afraid to be identified as celebrators of Hanukkah last December because some of the non-Jews in town would turn them in.

    While Judaism is focused on a foreign country (Israel) and a small number of Kaifeng Jews did decide to move from China to Israel, it is not politically separatist or violent like the other one you mentioned. Judaism isn’t an approved religion in mainland China and nobody has constructed a China-oriented version of Judaism that might appease the authorities except for Eric Maroney’s fictional one. Although the authorities aren’t exactly wrong in classifying Kaifeng Jews as Han Chinese rather than as ethnic Yóutài considering they have intermarried so heavily with the locals over the centuries.

  3. How credible are these credible reports? I have read reports written by Western writers who have been to Kaifeng searching for the Kaifeng Jews (I have personal reasons for being interested, in an entirely benevolent sense), who have said that the very thin remnants of Judaism are barely recognisable. I wouldn’t know one way or the other, having never been there to look for them myself. But yeah, from the descriptions I read, the remnants sounded entirely innocuous and not people that anyone would have any particular reason to pick on.

    The thing to be aware of, which people get wrong all the time, deliberately or otherwise – the ‘government’ is not some single hive mind. The Chinese bureaucracy is huge and labyrinthine – very much bigger than the CCP, which has only 92 million members in a country of 1.4 billion. It’s entirely possible that someone somewhere has taken it upon him/herself to do something that has not been sanctioned at high level, for whatever motive.

    If what you have said is true, and it is a really big if from what I knew about the remnants of Judaism in Kaifeng, then I would regard it as deeply regrettable. But then my first question would be who exactly in the bureaucracy was responsible for it, and at what level. It’s not like Xi Jinping would personally order such a thing, or even that the CCP collectively would – that would be farcical. The people concerned would be far too few and much too harmless to bother with.

    Besides which, it’s a generalisation but a pretty good one – Chinese people have a high regard for Jews.

  4. @Walter Sobchak
    “Sandgroper: are you a paid shill or a useful idiot?

    That’s the conclusion I reached reading his first post.

  5. Sandgroper seems to be a Westerner. If so, then its not particularly surprising to see him being pro-China. I think it is just natural with that country rising, many Westerners will become fascinated with China. You don’t necessarily have to be a paid shill or a useful idiot. However with rising geopolitical tensions, the loyalties of such people becomes an issue, and they will have to at some point pick a side.

  6. In recent decades, especially the last two, the Kaifeng Jews reconnected with the wider Jewish world and met foreign Jews from Western countries who, in some cases, helped many of them learn Rabbinical Judaism properly. Why is that perceived as a big threat by the Chinese authorities to the extent that they can’t even run their museum or mikvah anymore? Yet it is.

  7. @Robert Ford
    That was fascinating.

    I laughed out at the interpretation of the Annunciation:
    “there’s this young, attractive man in her bedroom and he is telling her that she is going to conceive without a man”.

    When all you have is a hammer, I guess…

  8. >recording podcast with @johnhawks now…

    Sounds cool, is there a past John Hawks episode on the insito podcast list or is this the first one?

  9. @Robert – I wonder if they can tell the completely politically/ideologically disinterested people like me. We’re the ones who look perpetually bored and irritated by all of the political horse manure constantly flying around.

  10. Razib, I did enjoy the podcast with Richard Hanania, particularly his dating of when the Great Awokening happened. And lots of the other stuff, like how Trump was a one-off and won’t be repeated, with Republicans reverting to the mean.

    A few weeks ago my wife asked me if there would be a civil war in the USA. Everyone here was talking about it, with a certain amount of trepidation. I said no, it will never happen – maybe a few outbreaks of violent behaviour, but not a civil war. Well, yay me. I have to guess right once in a while.

    A lot of it went over my head, though, due to lack of familiarity with the minutiae of American politics, and all of the names – I know a few of the more obvious ones, but not a lot of the others.

    I would have appreciated his views on what will happen at the end of Biden’s first term (assuming he stays healthy that long) – does he try to carry on for a second term, at a pretty advanced age, or does Harris take over? Or someone else, in which case who? Surely Bernie is now consigned to history.

    Can someone please explain to me what LD.W means? I have tried looking it up, but can’t find a meaning that fits the context.

  11. @DaThang – No. There is a very good Insitome podcast with Chris Stringer, but not John Hawks. The one with Stringer is worth catching.

  12. https://phys.org/news/2021-01-foraging-humans-mammals-birds-similarly.html – “Foraging humans, mammals and birds who live in the same place behave similarly”

    “For example, when obtaining food, there are environments where humans get a significant proportion of their calories from hunting. In these locations it was shown there are much larger proportions of carnivorous mammals and birds than elsewhere. Similar associations were also identified for reliance on fishing, how far to travel to gather food, whether or not to store food, and whether or not to migrate between seasons—with each behavior found to be more common in humans, other mammals, and birds in some locations than in others.”

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