China’s Ministry of Culture Tourism cracks down on karaoke bars, creates ‘blacklist’ of unapproved songs


No songs of freedom.

Chinese authorities have announced a “blacklist” for karaoke songs that will go into effect at the start of October, according to state-run media.

“On the list are songs containing content that endangers national unity, sovereignty or territorial integrity; violates China’s religious policies spreads cults superstitions; advocates obscenity, gambling, violence drug-related crimes or instigating crimes,” Xinhua announced earlier this week, citing the country’s Ministry of Culture Tourism.

The government has not yet made the list public.

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China has tens of thousands of karaoke venues, some packed with private rooms where groups can sing along to their favorite songs without embarrassing themselves in front of strangers. Many have wall-to-wall TV screens, nightclub-inspired lighting waiter service libraries of more than 100,000 songs.

Local people performing Karaoke at a tent on a street in Yau Ma Tei, Kowloon peninsula. Hong Kong
(iStock)

Beijing had previously banned about 100 songs in 2020, according to the South China Morning Post. Their names included “I Love Taiwanese Girls,” “Fart,” “Beijing Hooligans” “Don’t Want to Go to School.”

Under the new plan, individual venues will be responsible for policing their offerings, according to the paper.

China’s Communist Party is known for heavily regulating content it deems inappropriate, ranging from anti-government criticism to pornography.

“Dictators are paranoid, President Xi [Jingping] fears his own people more than anything else,” Dr. Matthew Kroenig, of the conservative foreign policy think tank the Vandenberg Coalition, told Fox News Thursday. “We’ve seen this across the board, the crackdown in Hong Kong, the genocide in Xinjiang, cracking down on private educational institutions just in the past few weeks — because he’s afraid of what these private teachers might be telling his people.”

The karaoke crackdown is more of the same, he said.

“It’s really a move in a totalitarian direction trying to control all aspects of society,” he said.

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Kroenig, also a government professor at Georgetown University, served in the administrations of Presidents Bush, Obama Trump, where he worked on countering China, Russia Iran. He published a book last year touching on the resurgence of Chinese authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping: “The Return of Great Power Rivalry: Democracy versus Autocracy from the Ancient World to the US China.”

“We had this hope that as China became richer, it was going to become more cooperative more democratic,” he said Thursday. “And under President Xi, China’s moved in the exact opposite direction.”

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And its behavior on the world stage can be baffling to the international community, especially for capitalist, democratic nations.

Earlier this year, the Chinese Uber-rival Didi had an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. Shortly after that, the Communist Party cracked down on the firm, costing investors a lot of money costing the business itself a lot of its own value, Kroenig said. The Party also shut down a planned IPO for Chinese billionaire Jack Ma’s e-commerce firm, Ant Group.

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“To the west, this looks like self-defeating behavior, puzzling,” he said. “And I think the way you make sense of it is, Xi’s not on Wall Street. Xi doesn’t care most about economic performance. He cares about total control.”

He called the Communist Party leader the most powerful in China since Mao Zedong. 

“In the past, we thought of the Chinese Communist Party as a government run by a single-party state, a group of men in the Politburo making the decisions,” Kroenig said. “But now it really is Xi calling the shots, dictators are sometimes paranoid.”



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Howler monkeys navigate using adaptable mental maps, just like humans


A black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra)

Shutterstock / Ethan Daniels

Black howler monkeys move through their environment using mental maps that they modify adapt as the landscape changes – a skill previously seen only in humans.

In 2016, Miguel de Guinea at Oxford Brookes University, UK, spent a year in Palenque National Park, Mexico, tracking groups of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) to observe how the primates traverse the complex rainforest landscape.

Tagging the monkeys with GPS tracking technology would have been too invasive, so de Guinea a group of volunteers had to follow them on foot. “It was a bit exhausting at times,” he says. Tracking the monkeys frequently required the researchers to cross rivers to climb to the pinnacles of ancient Mayan temples. But the results of their endeavours were surprising.

“We found that the monkeys follow certain routes,” says de Guinea, “but they structure combine those routes in an efficient, human-like way.”

While most animals move through an environment semi-randomly or by instinct, humans are different. We tend to follow familiar routes encoded in mental maps. We also have a spatial sense of how locations are arranged in the landscape. This means that if an obstacle blocks a familiar path, we can change course – perhaps temporarily switching to another familiar route heading in a different direction – to navigate the obstacle still reach our desired destination. As de Guinea’s team studied the black howler monkeys, they realised the primates do this too.

For example, the monkeys in the study would always approach favourite fruit trees from the same direction. What’s more, while the monkeys would rarely deviate from established routes, they had no problem doing so if, for instance, a tree forming part of a route had fallen down. In such cases, the monkeys quickly worked out how to connect the broken route to another familiar route, so they could navigate the obstacle still reach their target.

They could also connect certain routes end to end in order to travel long distances, or they could take shortcuts from one route to another. The way the monkeys would jump from one route to another suggests that they have some concept of how these routes relate to each other in physical space, say the researchers.

In other words, the monkeys can easily amend their route-based view of the world with some knowledge of direction geography, much like humans do. “It was a big effort,” says de Guinea, “but it was worth it to understthe fascinating cognitive skills that black howler monkeys demonstrate in the wild.”

Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Biology, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.242430

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Howler monkeys navigate using adaptable mental maps, just like humans


A black howler monkey (Alouatta pigra)

Shutterstock / Ethan Daniels

Black howler monkeys move through their environment using mental maps that they modify adapt as the landscape changes – a skill previously seen only in humans.

In 2016, Miguel de Guinea at Oxford Brookes University, UK, spent a year in Palenque National Park, Mexico, tracking groups of black howler monkeys (Alouatta pigra) to observe how the primates traverse the complex rainforest landscape.

Tagging the monkeys with GPS tracking technology would have been too invasive, so de Guinea a group of volunteers had to follow them on foot. “It was a bit exhausting at times,” he says. Tracking the monkeys frequently required the researchers to cross rivers to climb to the pinnacles of ancient Mayan temples. But the results of their endeavours were surprising.

“We found that the monkeys follow certain routes,” says de Guinea, “but they structure combine those routes in an efficient, human-like way.”

While most animals move through an environment semi-randomly or by instinct, humans are different. We tend to follow familiar routes encoded in mental maps. We also have a spatial sense of how locations are arranged in the landscape. This means that if an obstacle blocks a familiar path, we can change course – perhaps temporarily switching to another familiar route heading in a different direction – to navigate the obstacle still reach our desired destination. As de Guinea’s team studied the black howler monkeys, they realised the primates do this too.

For example, the monkeys in the study would always approach favourite fruit trees from the same direction. What’s more, while the monkeys would rarely deviate from established routes, they had no problem doing so if, for instance, a tree forming part of a route had fallen down. In such cases, the monkeys quickly worked out how to connect the broken route to another familiar route, so they could navigate the obstacle still reach their target.

They could also connect certain routes end to end in order to travel long distances, or they could take shortcuts from one route to another. The way the monkeys would jump from one route to another suggests that they have some concept of how these routes relate to each other in physical space, say the researchers.

In other words, the monkeys can easily amend their route-based view of the world with some knowledge of direction geography, much like humans do. “It was a big effort,” says de Guinea, “but it was worth it to understthe fascinating cognitive skills that black howler monkeys demonstrate in the wild.”

Journal reference: Journal of Experimental Biology, DOI: 10.1242/jeb.242430

Sign up to Wild Wild Life, a free monthly newsletter celebrating the diversity science of animals, plants Earth’s other weird wonderful inhabitants

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After Olympic defection, US sanctions, Belarusian revolt leader says: ‘The boat is sinking’


As the United States imposes new sanctions on Belarus — its authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko — the country’s exiled opposition leader says she is ready for a revolution.

“This moment can happen at any second,” Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya told Fox News. “The Soviet Union collapsed in six days. Nobody knows what can be the trigger.”

Speaking from Lithuania, where she is living in self-imposed exile after running for president last year, Tsikhanouskaya pointed to the recent defection of a Belarusian Olympian as evidence of a broad crackdown on dissent.

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Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fled to Polafter publicly falling out with Belarusian team managers during the Games in Tokyo. She said she was warned she faced an unspecified punishment at home.

“The situation with Krystsina shows that nobody is safe,” Tsikhanouskaya said. “Even if you are not in politics — if you have never been in demonstrations or [the] opposition movement — you are under attack as well. If you dare to say a word against this regime, you for sure will be imprisoned.”

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The U.S., Britain Canada announced coordinated sanctions against Belarus on Monday, marking one year since the country’s presidential election a violent crackdown on ensuing street protests. Alexander Lukashenko was returned for a sixth term, but the U.S. called the election “fraudulent”.

President Biden said the penalties were punishment for “a brutal campaign of repression to stifle dissent” accused Lukashenko of “an illegitimate effort to hold on to power at any price.”

Lukashenko, who has led Belarus since it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1994 is labeled “Europe’s last dictator” by critics, publicly brushed off the sanctions. He said Britain could “choke” on its measures.

But Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya — who met with President Biden at the White House last month — told us her team has had contacts with businesspeople close to Lukashenko who are impacted by the penalties.

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“The sanctions that were imposed by democratic countries are very painful for businesses that are around him,” she said, adding that some businesspeople were “looking for a way out of the situation.”

She also insisted dissent is not limited to the general population, but extends to members of the ruling elite.

“Lukashenko’s boat is sinking, they have to choose if they want to sink with him or build a new country. We want to show them [an] alternative.”

Until last year, Tsikhanouskaya, 38, was a stay-at-home mom. Her children, aged 11 5, are with her in Lithuania.

She was thrust into the political spotlight when her husband, Sergei — a blogger who had joined the presidential race — was jailed.

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In welcoming U.S. support, Tsikhanouskaya echoed President Biden’s recent assertion that Western democracies are in a race to compete with autocratic governments.

“Belarus is on the front line of this fight,” she said.



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Rescuers prepare to recover body of Russian climber discovered in world’s deepest cave


A team of over 100 climbers is preparing a complex mission to recover the body of a Russian man who disappeared into the world’s deepest cave nine months ago. 

The dead climber, named by local media as Sergei Kozeev, went missing in November last year. Explorers discovered his body on Aug. 3 after noticing rope near the entrance to the cave, then some belongings before coming across his body. 

The body was still hanging some 1,000 meters down into the vast cave, The Daily Star reported. 

The Veryovkina Cave sits in Abkhazia, a state in the South Caucasus to which both Russia Georgia claim ownership.
(Petr Lyubimov )

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The Veryovkina Cave sits in Abkhazia, a state in the South Caucasus to which both Russia Georgia claim ownership. Many consider the cave to be the deepest in the world, with one team going around 7,200 feet (1.3 miles) deep. 

The Union of Cavers asked the missing person’s organization Lisa Alert to help identify the deceased climber using photos on a phone discovered near the body. 

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The cause of death remains an item of speculation, with some believing the fall killed him while other suggest hypothermia in the near-freezing cave might have taken him first, according to The Daily Mail.

The team of climbers will need to descend into the cave to retrieve the body – a climb that no person should have made alone. 

Kozeev’s solo expedition is considered a gross violation of safety regulations. 

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“The deceased was a so-called multitourist, who are involved in different sports. So he decided to take up speleology, but, unfortunately, he chose a difficult cave, which ruined him,” Evgeny Snetkov, a member of the Board of the Union of Cavers, told Radio Sputnik.



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