The giant devil catfish, or goonch, found in the rivers of Southeast Asia, can measure nearly seven feet long and can weigh more than 200 pounds.Credit…Zeb Hogan, UNR Global Water Center
By Rachel Nuwer
“Some of the most astonishing creatures on Earth hide deep in rivers and lakes: giant catfish weighing over 600 pounds, stingrays the length of Volkswagen Beetles, six-foot-long trout that can swallow a mouse whole.
There are about 200 species of so-called freshwater megafauna, but compared to their terrestrial and marine counterparts, they are poorly studied by scientists and little known to the public. And they are quietly disappearing.
Following an exhaustive survey throughout the Yangtze River basin, researchers this month declared the Chinese paddlefish officially extinct. The paddlefish, last seen alive in 2003, could grow up to 23 feet long and once inhabited many of China’s rivers, but overfishing and dams decimated their populations.
The paddlefish may be a harbinger for many other giant fish. According to research published in August in Global Change Biology, freshwater megafauna have declined by 88 percent worldwide in recent years.”
Mr. Sharma is an author, global investor and contributing opinion writer.
A driverless delivery robot crossing the road in Tianjin, China, in November.Credit…China Network/Reuters
“Landing in Shanghai recently, I found myself in the middle of a tech revolution remarkable in its sweep. The passport scanner automatically addresses visitors in their native tongues. Digital payment apps have replaced cash. Outsiders trying to use paper money get blank stares from store clerks.
Nearby in the city of Hangzhou a prototype hotel called FlyZoo uses facial recognition to open doors, no keys required. Robots mix cocktails and provide room service. Farther south in Shenzhen, we flew the same drones that are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. Downtown traffic flowed smoothly, guided by synced stoplights and restrained by police cameras.
Outside China, these technologies are seen as harbingers of an “automated authoritarianism,” using video cameras and facial recognition systems to thwart lawbreakers and a “citizen score” to rank citizens for political reliability. An advanced version has been deployed to counter unrest among Muslim Uighurs in the inland region of Xinjiang. But in China as a whole, surveys show that trust in technology is high, concern about privacy low. If people fear Big Brother, they keep it to themselves. In our travels along the coast, many expressed pride in China’s sudden rise as a tech power.
China initiated its economic miracle by opening to the outside world, but now it is nurturing domestic tech giants by barring outside competition. Foreign visitors cannot open Google or Facebook, a weirdly isolating experience, and the trade deal announced Wednesday by President Trump defers discussion of those barriers.”
One concern he and others cite is the country’s “99 percent conviction rate” in criminal cases.
By Nobuhisa Ishizuka
Mr. Ishizuka is executive director of the Center for Japanese Legal Studies and a lecturer at Columbia Law School.
The exterior of the Tokyo District Court.Credit…Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images
“In the 13 months between the arrest of Carlos Ghosn, the former chief executive of Nissan, and his fleeing Japan amid allegations of improper compensation and misuse of corporate assets, the Japanese criminal justice system has been put under a microscope.
Critics in Japan have raised concerns for years, in particular about the broad powers granted to prosecutors. All of those powers have been on full display in Mr. Ghosn’s case: His pretrial detention was repeatedly extended, he was held for hours of questioning without a lawyer present, and he was repeatedly denied bail — something that is usually granted only to defendants who are prepared to confess. (He was eventually granted bail with strict conditions.) Aside from a few reforms, like the introduction of videotaped interrogations, the Japanese legal system has continued unchanged for decades. Wide prosecutorial powers have been generally accepted by the Japanese people as appropriate and effective, given extremely low crime rates in Japan.
Western concepts of justice are deeply rooted in the principles of individual liberty, checks on official power and the rule of law. In the West, these ideals are embraced and believed to be universal. The Japanese concept of justice, in contrast, is rooted in regulating individual conduct according to norms that define the relationship of the individual to society. And these norms are defined by a history that predates Western legal concepts by thousands of years.”
“OLD TOWN, Maine — During the deepest part of last winter, a van pulled off the highway and followed the two-lane road that skims along the Penobscot River, coming to rest beside the hulk of a shuttered pulp mill. The van’s door slid open and passengers climbed out: seven Buddhist monks from China.
Andrew Edwards, a mill superintendent from the nearby town of Lincoln, led them to a room where he had stockpiled the things they had requested for the ceremony: oranges, limes, apples and seven shovels, one for each monk.
Snow lay deep on the ground, two feet of gritty, frozen crust, and he remembers worrying a little about the visitors. “They were in their, I don’t know what they’re called, their Tibetan outfit,” he said. “With the sandals and whatnot.”
He stepped back and watched as the monks wandered from the boiler houses to the limekiln to the pulp mill, chanting, burning candles and gently tapping a gong.”