Tag Archives: Taiwan

‘Love Wins’: Thailand Set to Be First Southeast Asian Nation to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage

“While there is no doubt that the legalization of marriage for LGBTI couples is a key milestone for Thailand, much more must be done to guarantee full protection,” said one campaigner.

By Brett Wilkins. Published 6-18-2024 by Common Dreams

LGBTQ+ activists celebrate the Thai Senate’s passage of a bill legalizing marriage equality outside the Government House in Bangkok on June 24, 2024. (Photo: Irish Embassy Thailand)

LGBTQ+ advocates around the world on Tuesday cheered the Thai Senate’s passage of a bill legalizing same-sex marriage, a move that—if approved by the country’s king as expected—would make Thailand the first country in Southeast Asia to do so.

The Bangkok Post reported Thai senators voted 130-4, with 18 abstentions, in favor of a bill to legalize same-sex marriages in the country of 72 million people. The Thai House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation in March. The legislation would become law if it passes further review by the Senate and the Constitutional Court and is approved by King Rama X. Royal assent is a formality that will almost certainly be granted.

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‘Hidden Killer’: Experts Urge Action After Study Shows How Air Pollution Causes Lung Cancer

“If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first,” said Charles Swanton, who led the research team.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-11-2022 by Common Dreams

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jänschwalde lignite-fired power plant—which is to be taken off the grid and shut down by 2028 as Germany phases out coal. Photo: Julia Seeliger/flickr/CC

Experts emphasized the importance of more ambitiously addressing air pollution from fossil fuels after the presentation of a new breakthrough on lung cancer in Paris on Saturday.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL) shared their findings—part of the TRACERx lung study funded by Cancer Research U.K.—at the annual conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“Our study has fundamentally changed how we view lung cancer in people who have never smoked,” said Cancer Research U.K. chief clinician Charles Swanton, who led and presented the research.

The way air pollution causes cancer differs from cigarettes and sunlight. Tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light damage the structure of DNA, creating mutations that cause cancer. Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs, affecting cells that carry mutations.

“Cells with cancer-causing mutations accumulate naturally as we age, but they are normally inactive,” Swanton explained. “We’ve demonstrated that air pollution wakes these cells up in the lungs, encouraging them to grow and potentially form tumors.”

The team analyzed 463,679 individuals from England, South Korea, and Taiwan, and examined lung tissue samples from humans and mice following exposure to particulate matter, or PM2.5—air particles that are no larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

They found higher rates of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer—and other types of cancers—in people who lived in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 pollution. They also found that, at least in mice, blocking a molecule which causes inflammation and is released in response to PM2.5 exposure prevents cancers from forming.

“According to our analysis, increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers of the mouth and throat,” noted Emilia Lim, co-first author and postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL. “This finding suggests a broader role for cancers caused by inflammation triggered by a carcinogen like air pollution.”

“Even small changes in air pollution levels can affect human health,” she said, adding that 99% of the global population lives in areas that exceed annual World Health Organization (WHO) limits for PM2.5, “underlining the public health challenges posed by air pollution across the globe.”

The WHO—when updating guidelines on air quality last September for the first time in over 15 years—warned that “the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognized as the single biggest environmental threat to human health.”

While most of the human population is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution—which is tied to other health issues including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, and heart disease—research has repeatedly shown it’s often worse in the poorest communities.

One 2021 study found that air pollution reduces the average global citizen’s life by over two years. Citing an estimate that it is tied to more than eight million deaths worldwide per year, Swanton called air pollution a “hidden killer,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Swanton stressed in a statement that “the same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health via an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells.”

“The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe,” the scientist said. “Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and these new data link the importance of addressing climate health to improving human health.”

“It’s a wake-up call on the impact of pollution on human health,” he told The Guardian. “You cannot ignore climate health. If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first.”

Tony Mok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was not involved in the study, similarly said in a statement that “as consumption of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with pollution and carbon emissions, we have a strong mandate for tackling these issues—for both environmental and health reasons.”

Like the scientists who conducted the study, Mok also pointed out how it could help with the prevention of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

“This research is intriguing and exciting as it means that we can ask whether, in the future, it will be possible to use lung scans to look for pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs and try to reverse them with medicines,” Mok said.

“We don’t yet know whether it will be possible to use highly sensitive EGFR profiling on blood or other samples to find nonsmokers who are predisposed to lung cancer and may benefit from lung scanning,” he added, “so discussions are still very speculative.”

Suzette Delaloge, head of the cancer prevention program at France’s Gustave Roussy institute, was also not involved in the research but discussed it with AFP in Paris this weekend.

“The study is quite an important step for science—and for society too, I hope,” she said, noting that it was “quite revolutionary, because we had practically no prior demonstration of this alternative way of cancer forming.”

“This opens a huge door, both for knowledge but also for new ways to prevent” cancer, added Delaloge. “This level of demonstration must force authorities to act on an international scale.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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The glaring problem with a recent multinational pledge against nuclear war

Five of the world’s most powerful countries took a stand against nuclear weapons. So why are they modernising and increasing their stockpiles?

By Paul Rogers.  Published 1-8-2022 by openDemocracy

A ballistic missile and launcher in a military parade, North Korea, 2013 | Stefan Krasowski, CC BY 2.0

Last Monday, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the US, Russia, China, France and the UK – signed a joint pledge to reduce the risk of nuclear war. The pledge states that:

“We affirm that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.  As nuclear use would have far-reaching consequences, we also affirm that nuclear weapons—for as long as they continue to exist—should serve defensive purposes, deter aggression, and prevent war.  We believe strongly that the further spread of such weapons must be prevented.” Continue reading

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Amid Years of Funding Cuts to Public Health, First US Case of China’s Coronavirus Detected

Public health advocates say state, local, and federal agencies are underprepared to cope with the spread of a new infectious disease.

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 1-21-2020

Coronavirus. Photo: CDC

Officials in Washington State reported Tuesday that a resident was diagnosed with the coronavirus which was first detected in Wuhan, China last month, leading federal public health agencies which have suffered billions of dollars in cuts in recent years to issue warnings and post information about the illness.

“This is an evolving situation and again, we do expect additional cases in the United States and globally,” Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told the Washington Post. Continue reading

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China Rejects Hague’s South China Sea Ruling as “US-Led Conspiracy”

Ruling in favor of the Philippines, tribunal court “cut the legal heart out of China’s claim” to the disputed marine region

By Lauren McCauley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 7-12-2016

Chinese dredging vessels seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this video image taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the U.S. Navy, May 21, 2015.

Chinese dredging vessels seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this video image taken by a P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft provided by the U.S. Navy, May 21, 2015.

An international tribunal at the Hague overwhelmingly rejected China’s claims to the South China Sea on Tuesday, in a move that observers say is likely to stoke tensions between the Asian powerhouse and its primary rival, the United States.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), China’s actions have violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines, which brought the case to court. Further, the court ruled that China’s practice of dredging sand to build artificial islands on the region’s disputed reefs has caused “severe harm to the coral reef environment.”  Continue reading

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The Rehabilitation Of Chiang

Chiang Kai-shek. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Chiang Kai-shek. Photo public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Over the last sixty years, one of the constants of life in mainland China has been the demonization of Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of China from 1926 to when the Communists took power in 1949. He was portrayed as an imperialist and an enemy of the people  both for his leadership of China during that time and for his leading of Nationalist forces against the Communists during the Chinese civil war.

After Chiang was expelled from the mainland, he ruled what was then known as the Republic of China (what we know as Taiwan) until his death in 1975. During most of his time as President of the Republic, the Taiwanese government was recognized as the official Chinese government by the U.S. After Nixon’s trip to China in 1972, the tension between mainland China and Taiwan began to ease, but Chiang was still seen both officially and in popular Chinese culture as an enemy of the state.

However, over the last few years, he’s slowly but surely becoming part of mainstream culture in China. His image is used to sell various goods, and restaurants are named after him. For its part, the Chinese government has softened the official view of Chiang and the KMT (Nationalists) by painting them as misguided patriots instead of enemies of the state. But, why the change? Politics, of course.

Since the Chinese first started becoming the economic powerhouse it is today, relations with Taiwan have become even warmer. And, during this time, China’s relations with Japan have grown much colder. In the Chinese media of today, Chiang and his KMT troops are painted as patriots bravely fighting the evil Japanese invaders instead of as corrupt and greedy officials living off the labor of the hardworking Chinese people.

Ironically enough (or maybe not), Chiang’s legacy’s seen differently in Taiwan by some. Chiang ruled Taiwan with an iron fist, and imposed martial law that lasted for nearly forty years – twelve years after Chiang’s death. Student protesters in Taiwan see the thawing of the relationship with China as possibly leading to the return of the repressive government that the country had under Chiang.

Recently, students from seven Taiwanese high schools united to commemorate the anniversary of the ending of martial law, and demanded that the statues of Chiang that festoon school campuses on the island be removed. Tung Lee-wei, 16, a first-year student at Cheng Kung Senior High School in Taipei and one of the campaign’s organizers, said; “Just because students are used to seeing his statues doesn’t mean they think the statues are right.”

By watching how the Chinese view Chiang, we can tell how the Chinese government feels in respect to Japan and Taiwan. But, by watching the students in Taiwan and their rejection of the memoralizing of Chiang and other policies of the Taiwanese government, we have to wonder what the thawing of relations between China and Taiwan will lead to,

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