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Building a nation of avid readers


On the morning of April 23, which is World Book and Copyright Day, Chinese novelist Mai Jia posted a new article on his WeChat public account, recounting how people had “read together” with the help of the account over the past years.

Mai set up the account as a public reading and book-sharing platform several years ago. On the introduction page of the account, the winner of China’s Mao Dun Literature Prize wrote that he had planned to read 1,000 books with others in 20 years. As of Saturday, the account had more than 1.2 million followers.

The popularity of Mai’s public account is an epitome of how the love of reading proliferates across the Chinese society. Over the years, with the development of reading-related infrastructures and cultivation of a reading-friendly social atmosphere, more and more Chinese people are finding joy in turning the page.


In China’s Outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for National Economic and Social Development and Vision 2035, it is noted that the country will further promote nationwide reading to build China into a nation of avid readers. To cultivate the public habit of reading, the Chinese government as well as regional authorities have all rolled out supportive policies and measures to facilitate the development of reading infrastructure.

In Beijing, many readers have opted for a Xinhua Bookstore in Shunyi District to spend their reading hours. Situated in Wenyu River Park, the bookstore offers both a cultural atmosphere and a natural environment, hence becoming increasingly popular among avid book readers.

“With the help of Beijing’s special supportive funds for brick-and-mortar bookstores, we were able to develop this comprehensive cultural space with the park as its base,” said Zhang Xiumei, manager of Shunyi Xinhua Bookstore Co., Ltd.

China’s rural areas are also witnessing drastic changes in reading environments. In Anning, Yunnan Province, a rural book house established in a local neighborhood has become a favorite spot for local villagers when they are not occupied by farmwork.

The book house provides about 5,000 books for locals to read for free. “Before the book house was established, folks had to travel 60 kilometers to bookstores in urban areas for a book,” said Li Guizhi, a villager. “Now, everyone comes to the book house whenever there’s time. The answers to so many of their problems are found here.”

Currently, there are 587,000 rural book houses in mainland China. These, along with over 100,000 brick-and-mortar bookstores and 3,300 public libraries, provide great convenience for people to immerse themselves in quality reading.

Bao Dan, curator of a library in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, has experienced first-hand the public’s passion for reading. “On average, we greet 500 to 600 readers daily and lend around 15,000 books each month,” said Bao. “We close at 8.30 p.m., but some of the readers are so into reading that they immediately head to the 24-hour library nearby.”


People love reading for a lot of reasons. For many, reading is far more than just a pastime. It is also a way to gain wisdom and spiritual strength.

During the first session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), Chen Tianzhu, deputy editor of Chinese magazine Duzhe and an NPC deputy, shared a story about her pen pal Xiaoyu, who was a “left-behind child” whose parents worked far away from home.

To encourage the boy, who then suffered from loneliness and health problems, Chen recommended works such as “Ordinary World” and “The Temple of Earth and I,” both highlighting perseverance drawn from an arduous life journey.

“Xiaoyu has graduated from a normal university and is now a Chinese language teacher. He always says that reading delights his life,” said Chen.

Apart from providing those in need with solace and strength, reading is also vital to carry on China’s cultural tradition, foster a Chinese ethos and enhance its cultural strength.

Nowadays, classic books are more accessible to the public thanks to modern technology.

National Library of China released the Yongle Canon HD Images Database earlier this year, enabling the public to study the great ancient encyclopedia “Yongle Dadian,” which was commissioned by Emperor Yongle in 1403.

Based on high-definition images, the database adopts both GIS techniques and three-dimensional restoration techniques to vividly display the binding and layout of the encyclopedia. By using digital technology, ancient classics like it are better preserved for study and reading by the public and experts alike.

With all the aforementioned efforts, China is now taking great strides in cultivating the love of reading across the country.

According to a national survey on reading released Sunday, 81.8 percent of Chinese adults had the habit of reading in 2022. Their per capita reading volume of paper books was 4.78, while that for digital books was 3.3 in 2022.

Just as Mai Jia once wrote, the reason why Chinese civilization is able to last so long, is because its cultural roots are preserved by reading. Today, this traditional habit is becoming an increasingly inseparable part of average Chinese people’s lives.

India’s Jamtara Fraud Module Busted, 22,000 SIM Cards Seized, Including Sri Lankan Ones


The Delhi Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of 31-old-man from West Bengal’s Murshidabad, who illegally procured Indian and international SIM cards in bulk, activated them, and then sold them to cybercriminals operating from Jharkhand’s Jamtara district and other parts of the country.

Officers aware of the arrest said they had seized nearly 22,000 SIM cards from the accused, identified as Nasim Malitya.

“It took us nearly six hours to count all the SIM cards. Nearly 16,000 of them were of three leading cellular service providers of India. International SIM cards from countries like Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka were also there,” said an investigator probing the case, on condition of anonymity.

Malitya’s arrest came after the Delhi Police busted a gang of cybercrooks operating from Jamtara and arrested five people involved in running a pan-India scam, in which they would impersonate customer care executives of various banks and e-commerce sites, and dupe unsuspecting customers.

“Apart from the 21,761 used and unused SIM cards that were recovered from Malitya, at least 12,500 pre-activated SIM cards were already provided to Jamtara’s cyber criminals over a period of one year. The cyber criminals were posting their mobile numbers on Google as the customer care helplines of banks of repute and several e-commerce sites,” said deputy commissioner of police (outer-north) Ravi Kumar Singh.

Hindustan Times

Pixstory: New head of CPC and Trincomalee Petroleum Terminals calls on CDS


Admiral Ravi Wijegunaratne (Retired)  former Chief of Defense Staff, now Managing Director Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and Chairman Trincomalee Petroleum Terminals Ltd  ( CPC-IOC joint venture)  called on General SHAVINDRA Silva, Chief of Defense Staff at his office. He thanked CDS for all the  Military support he extended for distribution of fuel to the public during difficult times.  Mementoes were exchanged to mail the occasion.

Philippines and U.S. Conduct Largest Ever Drills Near South China Sea 


The largest ever U.S.-Filipino military exercise began April 11 in the South China Sea, despite massive international protests. The Balikatan (shoulder-to-shoulder) 2023 has the participation of over 17,700 troops from the United States, the Philippines, and Australia and is set to last until April 28.

The annual military exercises have expanded tremendously, nearly doubling in size since the last series of drills, as the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sought to clear the way for an increased U.S. military presence in the country. The drills come at a time when tensions between China and the U.S., along with its allies in East Asia, are at their highest.

Meanwhile, Filipinos and peace advocates in the U.S. and the Philippines greeted the joint exercises on April 11 with protests. In Quezon City, progressive groups like Bayan, GABRIELA, and League of Filipino Students, among a dozen others rallied hundreds outside Camp Aguinaldo, the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, just hours before the exercises began.

Diaspora Filipinos and anti-war organizations in the U.S. also organized demonstrations against the exercises under the slogan of “Hands Off Philippines.” In New York City and San Francisco, activists gathered in protest and demanded the complete withdrawal of the U.S. military from the Philippines.

Speaking to Democracy Now!, Renato Reyes, Jr., the general secretary of Bayan, stated that Filipinos do not want tensions in the region to increase. “It is not in our interest to see the conflict escalate,” said Reyes. “We want peace in the region. We want respect for our sovereignty, for our sovereign rights. We don’t want incursions from China, but we don’t want to be used as a staging ground for U.S. military intervention and hegemony in the region.”

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

As Army and Rapid Support Forces Battle It Out, Sudanese Left Calls For Restoring the Revolution


As many as 60 people have been killed since fighting broke out between the Sudanese Army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) on April 15. Since the fighting started, the two forces have released differing accounts of who fired the first shot.

The RSF claims that the Army carried out a series of surprise attacks against their troops and bases in locations across the country. The Army maintains that fighting began after the RSF allegedly took control of the Presidential Palace, the seat of the junta’s chairman and army chief, General Abdel-Fattah Burhan. 

Since then, there has been heavy gunfire in several cities, including near the Presidential Palace and the airport in Khartoum city. The violence has spilled over into residential areas, as the two are vying for control of strategic areas and facilities such as airports and bases. Civilians have been advised to stay inside, but civilian casualties have already been registered.

The violence between the two groups was sparked over disagreements regarding the timeline for the integration of the autonomous RSF into the army’s command chain. The issue of integration was a key aspect of a deal that Sudan’s ruling junta was to sign with right-wing civilian forces to share power with the latter.

Pro-democracy groups opposed the deal, fearing it would lead to the army retaining control with civilian faces, the same situation as before the October 2021 coup.

Speaking to Peoples Dispatch a few hours before the fighting broke out, the Sudanese Communist Party’s Foreign Relations Secretary, Saleh Mahmoud, said “Both the forces, the army, and the RSF, have a mutual interest in escalating armed conflict so that it can be used as a reason to not hand over power to the civilian forces.”

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Peace in Yemen One Step Closer After Historic Prisoner Exchange


The Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen and the rebel Houthis completed a three-day prisoner exchange on April 16. Close to 900 prisoners have been exchanged between the two warring sides through mid-April. The exchange is the result of an agreement reached in Switzerland in March as part of a round of ongoing peace and reconciliation talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia—the primary supporter of the Yemeni government. 

The historic peace talks are seen as a result of the rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia brokered by China. A resolution toward ending the years-long war in Yemen was reportedly one of the key issues in the Saudi-Iran rapprochement.

The prisoner exchange has been widely recognized as an important step towards peace in a war that has already claimed over 1.5 million lives, according to the Houthi-backed administration in Sana’a, and displaced millions. As a consequence of the Saudi-imposed blockade, millions of people, including at least 2.2 million children, have also suffered from acute malnutrition and hunger.

UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, who helped broker the prisoner exchange agreement in Switzerland, commented, “This release operation comes at a time of hope for Yemen as a reminder that constructive dialogue and mutual compromises are powerful tools capable of achieving great outcomes. Today, hundreds of Yemeni families get to celebrate Eid with their loved ones because the parties negotiated and reached an agreement. I hope this spirit is reflected in ongoing efforts to advance a comprehensive political solution.”

from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

IMF urges tighter fiscal policy to help tame inflation


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday urged fiscal policymakers to adopt tighter fiscal policies to help central banks fight inflation.

“Amid high inflation, tightening financing conditions, and elevated debt, policymakers should prioritize keeping fiscal policy consistent with central bank policies to promote price and financial stability,” the IMF said in a blog as it released its latest Fiscal Monitor.

The report argued that many countries will need a tight fiscal stance to support the ongoing disinflation process — especially if high inflation proves more persistent.

“Tighter fiscal policy would allow central banks to increase interest rates by less than they otherwise would, which would help contain borrowing costs for governments and keep financial vulnerabilities in check,” said the blog, authored by IMF economist Francesca Caselli and her colleagues.

Meanwhile, the IMF noted that tighter fiscal policies require “better targeted safety nets to protect the most vulnerable households,” including addressing food insecurity, while containing overall spending growth.

According to the newly released Fiscal Monitor, following 2020’s historic surge in public debt to nearly 100 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) because of economic contraction and massive government support, fiscal deficits have since declined.

In the last two years, global debt posted the steepest decline in decades and stood at 92 percent of GDP at the end of last year, which is still about 8 percentage points above pre-pandemic projections.

“Reducing debt vulnerabilities and rebuilding fiscal buffers over time is an overriding priority,” the blog noted. In low-income developing economies, higher borrowing costs are also weighing on public finances, with 39 countries already in or near debt distress.

The IMF called on policymakers to step up efforts to develop “credible risk-based fiscal frameworks” that reduce debt vulnerabilities over time and build up the necessary room to handle future shocks.

Noting that low-income countries face “particularly severe challenges,” the IMF said international cooperation is “crucial” to helping these countries resolve unsustainable debt burdens in an orderly and timely manner.

Eighty-Seven Percent of Service Workers in the U.S. South Were Injured on the Job Last Year


A March survey of 347 service workers in the U.S. South found that a shocking 87 percent were injured on the job in the last year. The workers surveyed came from eleven states across the “Black Belt,” or Southern states with historically large Black populations. Workers organized under the Union of Southern Service Workers filed a landmark civil rights complaint against the South Carolina Occupational Safety and Health Administration (SC OSHA), alleging that the agency “discriminates by disproportionately excluding Black workers from the protection of its programmed inspections.”

The survey, conducted by the Strategic Organizing Center, laid bare the shocking reality of the service industry in the U.S. South, composed of principally Black workers. More than half of survey respondents reported observing serious health and safety hazards at work.

The survey data indicates that workers often fear retaliation to avoid enforcing safety rules themselves, something they shouldn’t have to do in the first place. Service workers need OSHA agencies, whose jobs are to step in to enforce safety regulations.

But in South Carolina, their statewide OSHA plan is not doing its job, workers say. As USSW reports in their complaint, “SC OSHA neglects key industries whose workforce is 42% [Black] employees while focusing the vast majority of its programmed inspections on industries made up of only 18% [Black] workers.”

In conjunction with their complaint, USSW workers went on a one-day strike across three states—Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina—yesterday to fight the dangerous trend of unsafe service industry workplaces.

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Tens of Thousands of Indian Farmers and Workers Converge in New Delhi for Massive Rally


On April 5, tens of thousands of farmers and workers from across India came to the capital New Delhi to protest the central government’s anti-farmer and anti-labor policies. The rally was held at the Ramlila Maidan grounds.

The rally was jointly organized by some of India’s biggest organizations representing farmers, workers, and agricultural laborers—All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), and All India Agriculture Workers Union (AIAWU), respectively.

The protesters demanded relief from inflation, a legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) on major crops, a minimum wage for all workers at Rs 26,000 ($317) per month, debt relief, a pension for all farmers above the age of 60, repeal of the four anti-labor codes, and the withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020, among other measures.

Unions have highlighted several issues plaguing Indian farmers such as stagnant wages, price rises, unemployment, job insecurity, and low returns for farm produce. According to a joint statement, 100,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last eight years. The unions also have raised alarm over the unprecedented increase in the number of suicides by daily wagers—112,000 in just three years from 2019 to 2021. Particularly since the historic farmers’ movement in India in 2020-21, farmers across the country have played a key role in protests against the government’s policies.

Protesters accused the Modi-led government of creating a livelihood crisis for all sections of the working class. KN Umesh, CITU National Secretary, told NewsClick that the fight might be multipronged, but the campaign generated much confidence among workers.

“Wherever we went, people said they were fed up with this government and it should go,” he said. “[The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party] may have a majority in Parliament, but people are on the streets.”

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

Latin American and Caribbean Governments Agree to Join Forces Against Inflation


On April 5, the leaders of 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries took part in a virtual summit against inflation called by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). The summit sought to form an alliance to jointly face the inflation crisis affecting the region.

In addition to President AMLO of Mexico, the countries represented were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, Belize, Colombia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

During the meeting, political leaders discussed joint solutions to face high food prices and shortages in the region, as well as to strengthen regional integration and trade. They expressed their will to unite efforts to guarantee economic growth and development that promote inclusion, equity, and sustainability of food and nutrition security for people, and to face inflationary pressures on the basic food basket and essential goods and services. They also committed to strengthening their economies and productive sectors through inclusion, solidarity, and international cooperation.

In this regard, the leaders signed a joint declaration and agreed on actions to “advance the definition of trade facilities as well as logistical, financial, and other measures that will allow the exchange of basic food basket products and intermediate goods under better conditions, with the priority of lowering the costs of such products for the poorest and most vulnerable population.”

Credit Line: from the Peoples Dispatch / Globetrotter News Service

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