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Chart: American’s Biggest Inflation Concern

Source : Statista

Patriotic Fervour Erupts on Chinese Social Media Over Pelosi’s Visit

Patriotic Fervour Erupts on Chinese Social Media Over Pelosi’s Visit

Eduardo Baptista wrote . . . . . . . . .

The sight of the U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi arriving in Taiwan late on Tuesday was too much to bear for many mainland China internet users, who wanted a more muscular response from their government.

“Going to bed yesterday night, I was so angry I could not sleep,” blogger Xiaoyuantoutiao wrote on Wednesday.

“But what angers me is not the online clamours for ‘starting a fight’, ‘spare the island but not its people’…(but that) this old she-devil, she actually dares to come!”

China considers Taiwan part of its territory and has never renounced the use of force to bring the island under its control. But Taiwan rejects China’s sovereignty claims and says only its people can decide the island’s future.

Hashtags related to Pelosi’s visit, such as “the resolve to realise national reunification is rock solid”, went viral on China’s Weibo microblogging platform. By Wednesday, about a dozen of these patriotic hashtags had racked up several billion views.

Some bloggers even regarded Pelosi’s temerity as justification for an immediate invasion of Taiwan, with many users posting the term “there is only one China”.

Others said China’s military should have done more to stop her plane from landing, and thousands of users mocked a viral Weibo post published by an official People’s Liberation Army account last week that had simply read “prepare for war!”.

“In the future if you are not preparing to strike, don’t make these statements to deceive the common people,” said one user.

The highest level U.S. visit to Taiwan in 25 years has been furiously condemned by China, which has demonstrated its anger with a burst of military activity in the surrounding waters, and by summoning the U.S. ambassador in Beijing, and announcing the suspension of several agricultural imports from Taiwan. read more

Countering U.S. support for Taiwan is one of Beijing’s most important foreign policy issues, and state-controlled Chinese media has helped ensure public opinion firmly backs Beijing’s stance.

A livestream tracking the journey of Pelosi’s plane to Taipei by Chinese state media on China’s dominant chat app WeChat was watched by 22 million users on Tuesday.

But Weibo crashed before her plane landed, leaving users in the dark for about 30 minutes to an hour before and after Pelosi stepped onto the airport tarmac.

Without mentioning events in Taiwan, Weibo said on Wednesday the platform crashed because its broadband capacity was overstretched.

But the level of outrage on Weibo still hit fever pitch, with irate netizens calling for stronger military and economic countermeasures against Taiwan and the United States far outnumbering voices of moderation.

Still, there were people urging long-term patience in the face of mounting domestic challenges and unfavourable global sentiment towards China, as well as some for peace.

“If there really is a war, China will endure the suffering, currently the world powers have not really chosen team China, we would not get any help. Just like Russia, it would be a bit of a lonely war,” wrote one user.

Weibo, which censored calls for peace and criticism of Russia following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, did not promote hashtags that criticised the outburst of nationalist fervour in response to Pelosi’s visit.

Qin Quanyao, a Beijing-based blogger, wrote an essay on Tuesday on WeChat in which he noted the current online jingoism harked back to the time of late Chairman Mao Zedong, when primary school children sang songs about the “liberation” of Taiwan.

“From Weibo, WeChat to various online platforms, the atmosphere suddenly became tense, seemingly returning to the era of ‘we must liberate Taiwan’ when we were children,” he wrote.

Source : Reuters

China’s Gen Z Is Dejected, Underemployed and Slowing the Economy

The most educated generation in China’s history was supposed to blaze a trail towards a more innovative and technologically advanced economy. Instead, about 15 million young people are estimated to be jobless, and many are lowering their ambitions.

A perfect storm of factors has propelled unemployment among 16- to 24-year-old urbanites to a record 19.3%, more than twice the comparable rate in the US. The government’s hardline coronavirus strategy has led to layoffs, while its regulatory crackdown on real estate and education companies has hit the private sector. At the same time, a record number of college and vocational school graduates—some 12 million—are entering the job market this summer. This highly educated cohort has intensified a mismatch between available roles and jobseekers’ expectations.

The result is an increasingly disillusioned young population losing faith in private companies and willing to accept lower pay in the state sector. If the trend continues, growth in the world’s second-largest economy stands to suffer. The sheer number of jobless under-25s amounts to a 2% to 3% reduction in China’s workforce, and fewer workers means lower gross domestic product. Unemployment and underemployment also continue to impact salaries for years—a 2020 review of studies reported a 3.5% reduction in wages among those who had experienced unemployment five years earlier.

More young people taking roles in government may leave fewer jumping into new sectors and fueling innovation.

“The structural adjustment faced by China’s economy right now actually needs more people to become entrepreneurs and strive,” said Zeng Xiangquan, head of the China Institute for Employment Research in Beijing. Lowered expectations have “damaged the utilization of the young labor force,” he added. “It’s not a good thing for the economy.”

Pre-pandemic, 22-year-old Xu Chaoqun was prepared for a career in China’s creative industries. But a fruitless four-month job hunt has left him setting his sights on the state sector. “Under the Covid outbreak, many private companies are very unstable,” said Xu, who majored in visual art at a mid-ranked university. “That’s why I want to be with a state-owned enterprise”.

Xu is not alone. Some 39% of graduates listed state-owned companies as their top choice of employer last year, according to recruitment company 51job Inc. That’s up from 25% in 2017. A further 28% chose government jobs as their first choice.

It’s a rational response in a pandemic-hit labor market. All workplaces have been hit hard by China’s snap lockdowns and strict quarantine measures, but private companies were more likely to lay off workers. Beijing’s main employment-boosting policy has been to order the state sector to increase hiring.

President Xi Jinping may be relieved that the country’s unemployed youth are trying to join the government rather than overthrow it. During a June visit to a university in the southwestern China’s Sichuan province, he advised graduates to “prevent the situation in which one is unfit for a higher position but unwilling to take a lower one.” He added that “to get rich and get fame overnight is not realistic.”

The message is getting through: Graduate expectations for starting salaries fell more than 6% from last year to 6,295 yuan ($932) per month, according to an April survey from recruitment firm Zhilian. State-owned enterprises grew in appeal over the same period, the recruiter said.

But lower income expectations and talent shunning the private sector are likely to lower growth in the long term, challenging the president’s plan to double the size of China’s economy from 2020 levels by 2035—by which point it would likely overtake the U.S. in size.

The phrase “tang ping”—“lying flat”—spread through China’s internet last year. The slogan invokes dropping out of the rat race and doing the bare minimum to get by, and reflected the desire for a better work-life balance in the face of China’s slowing growth. As the unemployment situation has continued to worsen, many young people have adopted an even more fatalistic catchphrase: “bailan,” or “let it rot.”

That concept is “a kind of mental relaxation,” said Hu Xiaoyue, a 24-year old with a psychology masters degree. “This way, even if you fail, you will feel better.” When Hu started looking for work last August, she found it easy to land interviews. “But when it came to spring, only one in 10 companies would offer an interview,” she said. “It fell off a cliff.”

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) aren’t all unproductive behemoths. But the weight of economic evidence suggests they are, on the whole, less efficient and less innovative than privately-owned companies. China’s economic boom has coincided with a falling share of SOE jobs in urban employment—from 40% in 1996 to less than 10% pre-pandemic. That trend could now go into reverse.

Last year, China launched a regulatory crackdown on formerly high-flying sectors dominated by private companies that previously attracted ambitious young people. Internet companies were hit with fines for monopolistic behavior, real estate businesses were starved of financing and the private tutoring sector was almost entirely shuttered.

Regulatory filings show that China’s top five listed education companies reduced their staffing by 135,000 in the last year after the crackdown. The largest tech companies have kept their headcounts stable, and Zhilian says that there were more tech jobs advertised in the first half of this year than the same period in 2021. Even so, the sector’s allure has faded.

A graduate of the highly ranked Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, Hu was set for the tech sector—she interned at three internet companies including video-sharing giant Beijing Kuaishou Technology Co. But she has changed her mind. “People who are going to work for Internet companies are all worrying about themselves because they feel like they could be fired any time,” she said.

Instead, Hu landed a position at a research institute within state-owned China Telecom Corp. “The working hours of my future job will be 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the workload will be quite light. Internet companies are too consuming,” she said.

As well as the movement of talent towards state-owned companies, there’s another mechanism at work that can damage long-term growth. Studies by from the US, Europe and Japan have shown that the longer young people are unemployed at the start of their careers, the worse their long-term incomes, an effect known as “scarring.”

That’s the risk facing Beiya, who was laid off from an e-commerce company this year. The 26-year-old, who gave only one name because she feared that talking about losing her job could hit her employment prospects, missed out on a role with TikTok parent company Bytedance Inc. because of her limited experience.

“I’m a good candidate with potential but they want to see me in two years,” she said. “But how can I get the experience if no one gives me a job now?”

The state sector already employs around 80 million people and the figure could grow by as much as 2 million on a net basis this year, according to Lu Feng, a labor economist at Peking University. “But compared with total demand for jobs, it’s still relatively small,” he said. “We still need private firms to hire.”

That will only happen if the economy grows. To meet its employment goals, economists say China needs GDP to increase between 3% and 5% this year. Economists are predicting growth closer to 4%—with the outlook highly uncertain due to the prospect of more lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “Lack of clarity on an exit strategy from the Covid-Zero policy makes companies wary of hiring,” said Chang Shu, Bloomberg Economics’ chief Asia economist.

Beijing has launched a version of the job-support programs seen in Europe during the pandemic, offering tax rebates and direct subsidies to companies who promise to retain workers. But the amounts involved are small: The incentive for hiring a new worker is just 1,500 yuan. Provincial subsidies for graduates who start businesses are also small—just 10,000 yuan in the prosperous Guangdong region.

Even if China can return to strong growth in the second half of this year, the youth unemployment problem will persist—the rate has been rising since 2017, reaching 12% pre-pandemic. Economists attribute that to two factors: urbanization and a mismatch between the education system and employers’ needs.

The hundreds of millions of workers who moved from the countryside to cities used to return to their villages during labor market slumps, acting as an economic shock absorber. Now, younger migrants increasingly stay put when they lose their jobs, pushing up urban unemployment.

“A lot of them are not even raised in rural areas. So they regard themselves as urban people,” says Peking University’s Lu. “The constraints for the government have changed substantially, it’s tougher than in the past.”

Second, the annual number of graduates in China has increased tenfold over the last two decades—the fastest higher-education expansion anywhere in the world, at any time. The share of young Chinese people attending college is now almost 60%, similar to developed countries.

The number of vocational graduates lags far behind those receiving academic degrees. Such is the stigma around vocational education that students rioted last year when told their university was being rebranded as a vocational school. Highly educated young people are rejecting factory jobs. “That’s the basic matching problem. It is huge in this country,” said Lu.

That’s left manufacturers complaining about shortages of skilled technicians. “There are not a lot of people applying for those jobs, such as electrician or welder,” said Jiang Cheng, 28, an agent for electronics factories in central China.

Other sectors are oversubscribed. According to a 2021 study of 20,000 randomly selected jobseekers on Zhilian’s website, some 43% of the job applicants wanted to work in the IT industry, while the sector accounted for just 16% of recruitment posts.

Half of jobseekers had a bachelor degree, but only 20% of jobs required one. “There is now compelling evidence of over-education,” the study’s authors wrote, warning that the misalignment “could have profound influences on both individuals and the nation.”

In the longer term, it’s possible that government intervention may get the private sector hiring again, while education reforms and market forces can smooth the misalignment in the labor market.

China is easing its regulatory campaigns, and a vocational education law passed this year aims to improve standards. A study by Wang Zhe, an economist at Caixin Insight, found college majors that attracted a wage premium in 2020 became more popular in 2021. As applicants’ academic choices adapt to demand in the jobs market, mismatches stand to ease.

But the share of graduates from China’s nine top-ranked universities joining the private sector has fallen since the pandemic, according to research from Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. That suggests ideological shifts, and not just market forces, are at play. Some graduates at top universities are adopting “ cadre style,” according to online forums where they seek tips on where to buy the black zippered windbreakers favored by Xi.

Even in the current environment, Kay Lou, 25, would be a leading candidate for any number of private-sector jobs. She has a masters in law from top-ranked Tsinghua University and has interned for a legal firm, an Internet giant, a securities brokerage and a court.

In the end, she won a government position in Zhejiang province—where some roles attract as many as 200 applicants.

“I felt my work wasn’t meaningful,” she said. “I became increasingly opposed to the capitalists’ pursuit of wealth after I read Marx, so in the end I chose to become a civil servant.”

Source : BNN Bloomberg

Top Rights Experts Urge Repeal of Hong Kong’s National Security Law

wrote . . . . . . . . .

Independent UN-appointed human rights experts who have urged China to repeal Hong Kong’s 2020 national security law (NSL) after claiming that its use had led to the arrest of children, said on Wednesday that they welcomed pledges to replace it with a more transparent and consultative process.

Chinese and Hong Kong officials have said the law, imposed “overnight” by Beijing in June 2020, was necessary to restore and safeguard stability after anti-government and anti-China demonstrations erupted in 2019.

Definition unclear

The UN Human Rights Committee underscored the shortcomings of the National Security Law (NSL), including its lack of clarity on “national security” and the possibility of transferring cases from Hong Kong to mainland China.

“There was a lot of discussions on recent legislation, including Hong Kong National Security Law. I think there was a constructive discussion on those issues and the committee did raise its concerns,” said Photini Pazartzis, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, at a press conference in Geneva.

The panel urged Hong Kong to repeal the national security law and, in the meantime, refrain from applying it.

“The Committee was deeply concerned about the overly broad interpretation of Hong Kong National Security Law, the NSL, which was passed by the National People’s Congress of China without consultation with the Hong Kong’s public,” said vice chair, Christopher Arif Balkan.

Dozens of child arrests

He added that since it was introduced in 2020, the NSL had reportedly led to the arrests of “over 200 people, including 12 children.”

The Committee monitors the application of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by State parties. It released its findings on Hong Kong following a scheduled review in Geneva.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is a signatory to the Covenant for investigation, prosecution, trial and execution of penalties, but mainland China is not.

“Once a State party has subscribed to the Covenant, there is an obligation that those rights are paramount.

“In other words, your local legislation cannot derogate from those rights. There are human rights, after all, universal rights,” explained Mr. Arif Balkan. “China is not a party to the ICCPR. But then China can implement the NSL within Hong Kong. So that creates a lacuna for residents of Hong Kong,” he added.

Hong Kong returned to Chinese rule in 1997 with the guarantee of a high level of autonomy, including freedom of expression. Representatives of the semi-autonomous territory informed the Committee that they were contemplating new national security legislation. The Committee members said they hoped the law could be amended for the better.

Promises broken

“They gave us assurances, that there would be transparency, consultation in enacting a new security law,” said Mr. Arif Balkan.

The UN Human Rights Committee published its findings on Hong Kong, China, among other countries, after the closing of its 135th session on Wednesday in the Swiss city.

The findings contained the Committee’s main concerns and recommendations on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as positive aspects.

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It has been ratified by 173 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Source : United Nations

Can You Totally Avoid Catching COVID? These “NOVIDs” Share Their Secrets.

Hannah Docter-Loeb and Emma Wallenbrock wrote . . . . . . . . .

Well over half the U.S. population had caught COVID by February 2022. That majority has only gotten bigger in the months since as contagious, immune-system-evading variants continue to circulate.

Yet, despite COVID’s pervasiveness, there are some people who have managed to avoid it—the “NOVIDs.” We know because their number includes some of our colleagues. We found other people via social media who claim to have avoided infection with the virus to the best of their knowledge. Many of the people whom we spoke to had one thing in common: the ability to work from home. They also tended to be cautious, though many also do plenty of socializing.

While there’s some—or a lot—of plain and simple chance involved in staying negative, those who have done so offer us a look at what it takes to remain uninfected (for now), as the pandemic wears on.

* * * * * * *

I have a fairly weak immune system since I live with a chronic illness (imagine the sickly kid who missed a lot of school, catches every cold), so I have been cautious from the start.

My mask is on any time I go into a store, ride public transportation, or am generally indoors with strangers. I eat at restaurants or go to bars if there is an outdoor space or decent ventilation, like big open windows or those garage-style doors some places have, but I skip places that don’t fit that criteria. I have visited a few friends’ homes, usually to spend time outside.

I think a lot about the variables of where I am going and who else is going to be there, and then make decisions. In 2021, I went to Disney World. Disney was limiting capacity to 30 percent and using its serious hospitality skills to enforce masking, but I drove down from Brooklyn because there wasn’t any vaccination requirement to fly. Months later, I felt comfortable flying to the U.K. because everyone had to have tested negative within 72 hours to be on the flight.

I did have one morning where I woke up convinced that I had finally caught COVID. It was Jan. 2 and I was still feeling terrible after partying too hard (outdoors) in Edinburgh on New Year’s Eve. Turned out I was just hungover, dehydrated, and too old to party that hard anymore. — Daisy Rosario, senior supervising producer, Slate

* * * * * * *

The main reason I think I have avoided it is relative physical isolation. I live alone and I was 100 percent at home for the first 18 months [of the pandemic], then the 10 months or so since then have been at about 80 percent at home, so my physical proximity to people has been limited. Until a few months ago I would be masked whenever in a public building, but now I only do so in medical settings. I was vaccinated from around March 2021 and have since had a second jab and booster. I think I am probably due for another booster anytime now.

I have had a few close calls. Each time I have taken a test to check and it has come back negative. A couple of times I have taken PCR tests at the local testing center, but more often I took the lateral flow tests that were given out for free by the NHS and took these before going to places where I might be in contact with others. I feel fortunate to have avoided this so far, but the isolation and uncertainty over the past few years have certainly taken a negative toll on my mental health. — Charles Ward, from Hemel Hempstead, England (as told to Emma Wallenbrock)

* * * * * * *

As a college student, it feels almost inevitable that you’ll catch COVID-19. Think 300-person lecture halls peppered with fits of coughing. Think poorly ventilated parties with suffocating peer pressure to unmask. And think about the countless casual interactions—in the dining hall, library, or gym—where you might reasonably forget to keep your guard up. I can’t think of a single close friend who hasn’t caught the virus. But I’ve somehow managed to slip through the cracks, probably because of my “responsible dumb luck.”

I try to be careful. I’m double-vaccinated and boosted. I almost always mask up indoors. I avoid large group settings as best I can. But I’ve also had so many close calls that I wonder when my luck will finally run out. My college roommate tested positive for COVID the day after I moved out. A close friend stayed at my house for two days, and we ate indoors at a restaurant, drove in the same car, and watched a movie together. He tested positive on day three. A girl I chatted with for four hours on a date texted me a few days later that she was positive. And these are just the close calls that I’m aware of! —Simar Bajaj, from Fremont, California (as told to Emma Wallenbrock)

* * * * * * *

We live in an affluent suburb of D.C., a very expensive neighborhood, but we live here comfortably by virtue of my father’s post as a bureaucrat at the Pentagon since the early ’80s, when housing prices were much more reasonable. There is ample outdoor space, public parks, and quiet tree-lined streets. I’ve always just accidentally had very good mental health and the ability to be content with a small social circle. We took the pandemic seriously from the beginning and all our friends did the same. We updated our behaviors when public health guidance changed.

With all these privileges, the pandemic has felt like a bit of a blessing. I work at a progressive company with excellent benefits and the ability to work remotely productively, even more productively than at the office. I now have more time to spend by myself and with my family and greater autonomy in how I do my work. —Jonathan Zuckerman, website developer, Slate

I do COVID research for a living. I still take COVID very seriously because I see the impact of it. My stance now is that if people want to take on personal risks, that’s their choice to make but they have an obligation not to pass their infections on to other people. I still wear a high-grade mask when I’m in grocery stores or the post office—community spaces where people have to be and are at high risks of COVID—to limit my risk to other people. I will go to restaurants or the occasional bar, depending on how I’m feeling or if I have events coming up that I want to make sure I’m negative for. I’ve definitely put myself in situations where I could have been exposed to COVID and as far as I’m aware I haven’t gotten it yet. I have volunteered for a lot of studies that look at antibody levels, and no one has seen any unexplained spikes in my antibody levels that could have been explained by an infection that wasn’t detected.

I definitely feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. When we have these huge waves of COVID, I always tell people, “You’re not guaranteed to get it in this wave, but in our lifetime I think everyone will very likely get COVID unless we make drastic changes about transmission.” I feel like it is inevitable but I try to be really conscientious of it. I won’t risk passing it on to other people should I get infected.

The joke that I and other people who work in health care make is that, being in the hospitals all the time before vaccines were available, we were “microdosing COVID.” If I have had a COVID infection, it’s never manifested as symptoms or a positive test.

I think, having worked on so many COVID-related studies, there is some aspect of COVID we’re yet to learn about that will explain situations like mine or those of other people who are befuddled as to why they haven’t gotten infected. I look forward to learning those things, but for now I’m going to keep operating the way I’ve been operating. — Laurel Bristow, from Atlanta (as told to Hannah Docter-Loeb)

* * * * * * *

I don’t do things anymore. I work from home, and I don’t go anywhere on a regular basis beyond the park and the grocery store. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been to a movie theater a total of two times. I occasionally go out to a restaurant but almost exclusively ask for outdoor seating. I wear a KN95 mask every time I step out of my apartment and diligently test myself before going anywhere where I’ll be around people outside of my household.

I’ve been lucky to evade catching COVID so far. I know for many people it isn’t that easy, whether they have a medical emergency, are raising children, or just don’t have the option to work remotely. Even so, I don’t feel lucky. Mostly, I feel tired. Seeing strangers at the grocery store without a mask, talking about their vacation plans, coughing and sneezing without covering their mouths (seriously, adults are doing this), it makes me feel like I’m spending all this energy for no reason.

But I’ve watched COVID ruin so many lives, including the lives of people I love. I know three people who are still dealing with long-term effects from COVID, one of whom has developed other chronic health conditions as a result. I also know plenty of people with unrelated health conditions that make getting COVID (and, for some of my friends, even getting vaccinated) especially risky. So I’d rather be this careful for the rest of my life than know I’m not doing my best to keep my community safe. — Shivani Ishwar, data and analytics designer, Slate

* * * * * * *

“The biggest change since COVID hit is how much smaller my life has gotten.” — Megan Chialastri

Even after my first round of COVID shots, I felt most comfortable in places that required proof of vaccination to enter, so my experience at many bars and restaurants was pretty limited. I switched to a more expensive gym that required vaccines. Over time, though, I’ve let my guard down further and further. Going to the movies is one of my favorite things in the world, and I’ve continued to do that with varying degrees of masking (because I love theater snacks). I just got back from a bus trip to NYC, where I saw three Broadway shows (and wore a mask in all theaters).

While I stay up on my vaccinations and mask up most of the time indoors, sometimes I forget, and my personal practices are only as good as the practices around me. Hardly anywhere requires vaccination anymore, so if I want to exist outside of my one-bedroom apartment, there’s inherently a risk.

The biggest change since COVID hit is how much smaller my life has gotten. Going out seems more exhausting. I get anxious in bigger crowds. I’ve had more of a tendency to keep to myself, which is possibly the reason I’ve stayed clear. — Megan Chialastri, from Philadelphia (as told to Emma Wallenbrock)

* * * * * * *

I’m retired, I’m in my late 60s, and my husband is 10 years older than me and is a cancer survivor. I’m living in a situation that’s of higher risk for somebody in my household. I’m also a retired nurse and have been pretty acutely aware of just how devastating this virus is from the very beginning. I myself had gallbladder surgery in my 50s and ended up with complications and in the ICU with severe lung impairment. I had a fear of any kind of severe respiratory illness. When COVID was exploding pre-vaccine, people were dying of severe lung injury. That set me up for being pretty paranoid about the possibility of contracting the virus.

We got vaccinated as soon as that option was available. I’ve masked from the beginning, and as we’ve learned more about the efficacies of different types of masks, I’ve gone from a variety of cloth masks to KN95s, and if I’m out at all in an indoor setting, I always wear a good N95 that is tight-fitting. I firmly believe that masking is your first line of protection.

But the strategies have primarily been social isolation. I’ve always had a tight circle of friends and we used to do carefree socializing, and we just don’t do that anymore. I have the ability at this point in my life to have my groceries delivered, to order in—I have enough financial security to make those things happen. I’m discouraged by our public health response and I think it’s unfortunate that people are forced into a self-protective mode. — Mary Herrick from Portland, Oregon (as told to Hannah Docter-Loeb)

* * * * * * *

I have no idea how my house (me, another adult, a 5-year-old) has avoided COVID. We’re up to date on our shots, but a lot of people who fit that description have had it! We live in a small college town located in a rural county and have not traveled much since the pandemic—none of us has gotten on an airplane. Neither of the adults in the family has a job that requires physical presence, and I think that might be the biggest factor here. However, the child has been back in preschool for about a year—sometimes masking, sometimes not, in accordance with the county’s reported transmission levels.

All in all, it seems like a crapshoot. I have thought so many times, “This is IT.” Somehow, it never has been. — Rebecca Onion, senior editor, Slate

* * * * * * *

The principles I lived by are all pretty much what we were told throughout: Wash your hands when you get home and all those other times. Don’t sweat outdoor transmission (I did wear my mask while biking around at first). I wear my mask indoors in every public space—grocery stores, bodegas, always on the subway. My one dicey exception was the gym, where enforcement was extremely lax once you were past the front desk, and then nonexistent from late summer ’20 onward except for one relapse in the bleak, bleak delta variant days. I’d skip the gym when infection rates went up and then would go back when they seemed to slow, weighing my deep moodiness that exercise could dispel against the possibility of getting sick. When I’d leave New York, I’d kind of watch for what people in L.A. or Colorado were doing (wearing masks less, as it was summer), so just living in a pretty well-masked place (masked up for good reasons—it’s crowded here) probably did most of it for me. I watched a lot of TV, saw people outside, let what I think constituted “my life” drain and then trickle back bit by bit. — Ben Richmond, senior director of operations for podcasts, Slate

* * * * * * *

I feel like we’re ducking and dodging it like Neo in The Matrix. My wife has become somewhat of a mask guru and knows how to find the highest-quality ones in bulk online. Our two kids (6 and 3) will wear them without argument. The general rule in our family at this point is to wear them indoors and in crowded spaces outdoors.

It hasn’t been perfect, though. We had some close calls, especially in 2021. We traveled as a family to places like Florida (to see my parents) and Hawaii (a nonrefundable trip purchased in 2019 that we had already rescheduled once) right before delta came raging in. My wife and I took a weekend trip to San Francisco just for a quick change of scenery and were back in the safe confines of our home before omicron exploded. And then there was the carnival of sinus and ear infections this spring that accosted our entire household and got so bad that we couldn’t believe it wasn’t COVID. (It wasn’t. The amount of rapid and PCR tests we took was insane.) My most recent trip was a solo weekend excursion to Las Vegas to provide moral support to my brother in the World Series of Poker. I figured if there was ever gonna be a place for it to finally happen, it would be there. Masks don’t exist in Vegas for the most part. I still wore mine. I PCR-tested a few days after returning home and was in the clear. — Derreck Johnson, designer, Slate

* * * * * * *

As far as I know, I’ve never had COVID, mostly because, at every turn, I’ve been both lucky and privileged. Lucky that I was a senior in high school in 2020 and never found myself a pawn in the politics of K–12 school reopening and masking policies. Privileged that the college I started at in September 2020 has kept up a mask mandate and a testing program of twice-weekly PCRs for all students. Lucky that I haven’t caught COVID from working my food service jobs. Privileged that I don’t have to rely on those jobs for my livelihood, that my parents work white-collar office jobs and have been able to work from home for two years.

I’ve been fairly conscientious too; I wear a mask in all public indoor spaces, including public transportation. When omicron hit I abandoned cloth masks for KN95s. And I just plain don’t get out much. But I know people who’ve been just as privileged and conscientious as me who’ve nevertheless gotten it. I’ve avoided it. It’s just plain, dumb luck. (Knock on wood.) — Anna Kraffmiller, from Waltham, Massachusetts, as told to Emma Wallenbrock

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When I think about why I haven’t had COVID yet, I tend to bounce between three explanations. At the “self-congratulatory” side of the spectrum, I feel proud of myself: I have been cautious, and not getting sick is my reward. In the middle is “I’m just lucky.” Maybe some people are immune to COVID. And then at the other side of the scale is: I’m just really unpopular. Everyone else testing positive at the same time is a little bit like seeing a group of friends post photos to social media from a hangout you weren’t invited to.

All of this, of course, comes with a caveat: I haven’t had COVID so far as I know. I’ve been sick a couple of times in the pandemic — once I even lost my sense of smell. But I persistently tested negative, and other respiratory viruses can interfere with your ability to smell too.

But I suspect I’ll test positive the day this article is published.

Source : Slate

Chart: The People Most Likely to “Borrow” Their Neighbours’ WiFi

Source : Statista

Bridesmaids Go Professional in China

Fan Yiying and Gu Peng wrote . . . . . . . . .

Xie Yuke has attended over 40 weddings in the past two years and is now making a living from it.

The 22-year-old has flown more than 140,000 kilometers and traveled around China working as a professional bridesmaid.

It’s a fast-growing industry in China and is “expected to grow by 25% to 30% a year,” Cao Zhonghua, an expert at the Chinese Traditional Culture Promotion Council, told state broadcaster CCTV Wednesday.

COVID-19 travel restrictions have made it hard to find friends able to travel to weddings, while some couples complain they can’t find friends that are up to the standard.

A bridesmaid needs to be unmarried, Xie told Sixth Tone on Monday, and it’s important not to be taller than the bride. For aspiring professionals, 155 cm-173 cm is a good height, she said.

“The epidemic is a double-edged sword,” Xie said. “On the one hand, some couples are delaying their weddings, and on the other, many brides’ friends cannot travel due to the epidemic,” she added. Overall, it’s helped the industry.

It’s currently the off-season due to the hot weather in many parts of the country, and she expects the peak season to occur during the National Day holiday in October.

Before becoming a professional, Xie was a bridesmaid for relatives three times. She’s critical of her performance as an amateur: she didn’t know the process, and she didn’t know how to organize games to set the mood.

A couple of years ago, however, she saw an ad for professional bridesmaids and decided to give it a try.

At a wedding, Xie usually pretends to be the bride’s best friend or a classmate. The couple generally cover the travel and accommodation costs. A typical daily rate is between 500 and 2,000 yuan ($74-$296).

When she’s working, Xie gets up at 4:30 a.m., gets dressed, and does light makeup for herself. Then she goes with the bride to take photos, change clothes, provide entertainment, and toast guests until the banquet ends at around 8 p.m.

Professional bridesmaid and groomsman agencies have emerged as a result of the growing demand. The founder of a rental bridesmaid and groomsman service company based in Hangzhou said that the number of registered members on its platform had grown from a few thousand in February when it was just established to some 50,000 at present, state broadcaster CCTV reported Wednesday. On average, the platform has received 10-20 orders per day during the past month.

Xie met her current boyfriend at a wedding, where they were working as a professional bridesmaid and best man. He’s promised to make her the happiest bride. “We will hire 24 groomsmen and bridesmaids,” Xie told Sixth Tone.

Source : Sixth Tone

Map: Where the Contraceptive Pill Is Available Over-the-Counter

Source : Statista

Chart: In 2023, Global Emoji Count Could Grow to 3,491

Source : Statista

Charts: Sweden Family Support Expenditures Higher Than Most Developed Countries

Sweden’s birth rate downward trend was halted and stabilized

Source : Nikkei