February 11, 2002



loftus and browdeI'm not a big fan of organized religion, or major spiritual movements in general, but this is an interesting story. U of T engineering student Jason Loftus, a Canadian, and a New York software engineer named Levi Browde are in Chinese custody tonight, having been arrested in Tiananmen Square yesterday for carrying around a laptop and trying to show random Chinese people on the street this video (14 MB download). Both are practitioners of the Falun Gong movement, which has been brutally repressed in China.

A little backstory: the Chinese government has justified their crackdown largely on the basis of the alleged self-immolation of five people in Tiananmen Square, pretty much the only violent act that has ever been associated with this explicitly non-violent spiritual movement (whose teachings, by the way, explicitly forbid suicide). As the video shows, there are all kinds of inconsistencies with the Chinese story and the horrific footage that saturated state-run television as that crackdown got underway, so much so that many now believe the whole thing was staged, and the participants were entirely non-willing, possibly not even Falun Gong, killed to produce the TV images the state required.

You can believe that if you want, or not. As a conspiracy theory video, this one lies somewhere between the Waco black helicopters stuff the white supremacists used to send me and Stone's JFK... if this were a non-despotic government we were talking about. I may dismiss out of hand claims the Osama tapes were faked, but I've got a lot higher readiness to believe this one for some reason. And even if it isn't, to be carted away by the cops for just trying to get people to watch it is pretty much against everything Western civilization stands for, I figure. Loftus and Browde clearly took their lives in their own hands, in the hopes the Western media would be alerted to a possible other side to this story, and pressure the Chinese a little harder to stop killing their own people for meditating a lot. Hopefully, these two will just be thrown on a plane back home, soon, but in the meantime I've had my conscience pricked, re the Orwellian horror that modern China amounts to. A sincere thanks for the reminder, guys.

Posted by BruceR at 05:20 PM



Den Beste challenges us to come up with significant European innovations in the last 50 years. Well, I mostly know war stuff, so here's what I've thought of so far:

1) The "Bullpup" automatic rifle (now part of the American OICW);
2) The Infantry Fighting Vehicle (there were Marders and BMPs long before there were Bradleys);
3) The V/STOL jet (ie, the Harrier);
4) And while we're on aircraft, the Concorde;
5) Composite tank armour (Chobham, etc.);
6) The sea-skimmer anti-ship missile (Exocet).

Not saying it's a long list yet, or that anything on it is particularly earth-shaking, but they were genuine European innovations all.

Posted by BruceR at 01:11 PM