Update to the China Bitcoin saga

Update to the China Bitcoin saga
JISHOU, HUNAN — I talked to customer service at Huobi today, and it seems enabling deposits with my Chinese bank card is not easy as one would think — all because of the lack of a Chinese national ID number. So, they will refund my 500 RMB ($73) deposit in two to three days. If Huobi’s coders don’t edit the backend to allow linking passport numbers to Chinese bank cards, I may be shut out of Huobi indefinitely. There’s really no point in using an exchange if you can’t, you know, exchange stuff. Meanwhile, I sent an email to BTCChina’s support staff to inquire if I would have similar difficulties trading on their exchange. I’m waiting for their reply. BTCChina has this message on their website now. As with Huobi, I had already provided BTCChina with all that when I first opened the account a couple of years ago. Huobi required me to do it all over again, because the name issue I explained yesterday. I’m hoping I don’t have the same hassles with BTC China. In the meantime, if I want to buy Bitcoin in China, I can still use LocalBitCoins.com or BitKan (a China-based P2P service). While these ...

China’s new regulations for Bitcoin exchanges are a PITA

China's new regulations for Bitcoin exchanges are a PITA
JISHOU, HUNAN — If you’re not into Bitcoin, you may safely skip this post. Otherwise, read on to learn of my frustrations in complying with China’s new requirements for Bitcoin exchange users. I have accounts with two Chinese Bitcoin exchanges, and previously had no issues at all registering those accounts and submitting orders using my Chinese bank cards. But national banking regulators have recently compelled the exchanges to comply with KYC (Know Your Customer) and AML (Anti-Money Laundering) regulations, ostensibly to protect customers and cut off possible criminal activity, but mostly to restrict capital flight. Over the weekend, Bitcoin prices had dipped into the $900 range, and I was betting that they would bounce back. Assuming that these new KYC/AML regulations were not yet in effect, I made a 500 RMB ($73) deposit to my Huobi.com account. And nothing happened. Huobi did not credit the deposit to my account. Yesterday, customer service informed me that I had to upload a photo of my passport and a photo of me holding the passport next to my face. So I did that. Several times. Each time, there was an error message. First, I got “the image is not clear,” so I submitted ...

Living your dream sometimes has unforeseen consequences

Living your dream sometimes has unforeseen consequences
JISHOU, HUNAN — Here’s a bittersweet anecdote from the world of teaching. Last week, I was looking for a TED talk about careers to show my students and found one by a dynamic guy named Scott Dinsmore, who founded an organization called Live Your Legend. Since TED speakers talk a mile a minute, courtesy of the 18-minute time limit, I included the English subtitles to help with their comprehension. The freshmen liked it, so this morning I shared it with the sophomores. During the break, I decided to visit Dinsmore’s website to check it out. Since China blocks YouTube and Vimeo, we couldn’t see the video on the main page in class. When I watched it after coming back to my flat, I got an unpleasant surprise. Scott Dinsmore was killed in a rockslide on Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania in 2015. Everyone else in the climbing party, including his wife, survived. He was 33. Now, if TED had bothered to note Dinsmore had died, I might have chosen a different video. As it is, I should tell my students that living your dream sometimes has unfortunate consequences, but that they should never hesitate to take risks. His message, which is ...

BBC reporters attacked by ‘thugs’ in Xinhua county, near Loudi, Hunan

BBC reporters attacked by 'thugs' in Xinhua county, near Loudi, Hunan
[CORRECTION ALERT: Xinhua is a county, not a township. I’ve corrected that error.] JISHOU, HUNAN — A BBC correspondent reported today that he and his team were attacked while attempting to interview a local woman about her petitions to the national government. The altercation occurred in a village of Xinhua county in the jurisdiction of Loudi, a city about three and half hours from Jishou. John Sudworth says a group of people prevented him from meeting Yang Linghua, a resident who planned to journey to Beijing to present her grievances to the national congress there. Then, Sudworth says he and his team were physically accosted and their equipment smashed. Then they were chased out of town. Eventually, uniformed police and local officials came out, and required Sudworth and the other journalists to sign a forced confession that they had conducted an “illegal interview.” Ms Yang was also detained, he says in his account. After we left the village, we were chased down and had our car surrounded by a group of about 20 thugs. They were then joined by some uniformed police officers and two officials from the local foreign affairs office, and under the threat of further violence, we ...

I’m back, and now dealing with China’s new Bitcoin restrictions

I'm back, and now dealing with China's new Bitcoin restrictions
JISHOU, HUNAN — While I was away, China’s central banking authorities decided to investigate (as they put it), China’s Bitcoin exchanges, resulting in all the exchanges sharply curtailing withdrawals of Bitcoin until further notice. As I have used Bitcoin as a way to move part of my salary (paid in Chinese yuan) to my bank in America, this new situation directly affects me. All is not lost, however, as I will detail below. One dilemma many expats face is moving money from one country to another. I am paid in Chinese yuan, and am permitted to transfer 70% of my very modest pay — by US standards — each month to the USA. At first, I used bank wire transfers, which required substantial paperwork, the assistance of a Chinese national’s bank account and relatively high fees. Then I learned I could create a Chinese PayPal account and send funds to my American PayPal account, paying about 4% in exchange fees. Not bad, but my experience with PayPal is, shall we say, less than positive. Beginning in 2013 I started using Bitcoin to move my money cross-border. I’d buy bitcoins with Chinese yuan, send the bitcoins to my Coinbase account, and ...

Some thoughts on Hiroshima, the city of peace

Some thoughts on Hiroshima, the city of peace
HONG KONG — Even before Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) won the election, I had planned to visit Hiroshima during my Japan tour. Now that he’s president, visiting this city is especially poignant. During the campaign, both Trump and his rival for the nomination, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), spoke casually of using nuclear weapons on ISIS and our other enemies, as if dropping them would solve all our problems. [See notes below for details.] Their comments made me cringe, as neither man seems to comprehend the horrors of nuclear weapons. If they did, they would never suggest using them in such an off-the-cuff manner. I wanted to visit Hiroshima to see how the city has rebounded from its utter destruction in 1945. Now, you would hardly know the city was once a pile of rubble. Ground zero is now occupied by a peace park, which is surrounded by high rise buildings. Hiroshima is a vibrant testimony to the strength of the human spirit. Rather than be depressed by my brief visit, I was uplifted. Hiroshima has moved on, choosing to stand for peace and reconciliation, not hate and retribution, despite the horrors the A-bomb brought on.. Everyone should read John Hersey’s Hiroshima. ...

A teacher grades Donald Trump’s remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F

A teacher grades Donald Trump's remarks about Black History Month, gives speech an F
HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) made some remarks Wednesday about Black History Month and (the bust of) Martin Luther King Jr. that have left many puzzled. For one thing, Trump appeared to believe Frederick Douglass (at left) was still alive, though he died 122 years ago. Less puzzling was the extent to which Trump took the opportunity to talk about himself and his campaign. In a speech of less than 800 words, he managed to address the topic of Black History Month and notable African-Americans less than half the time. To demonstrate what I mean, I’ve highlighted in red anything pertinent to the subject of Black History Month and struck out anything relating to Trump and his campaign and election. If this had been a homework assignment for a class of mine, I would have failed it, and required the student to rewrite it. It barely addresses the topic at hand, and the general tone is so casual and flip that it would lead one to believe the speaker not only knows very little about black history but that he doesn’t even care to. In my professional judgment, Trump barely spent five minutes preparing this talk. “Just a few ...

Winter holiday is here, and I’m in Japan! 4

Winter holiday is here, and I'm in Japan!
TOKYO, JAPAN — This year’s winter escapade is not to a warm, sunny location like Malaysia, but to the more wintry Japan — a joint effort by my son and me. He had some comp time available, and wanted to visit me in Jishou, but as I had planned to travel outside China during the Spring Festival, we settled on two weeks in Japan. Fun fact: this year, the Chinese New Year falls on my birthday. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which day that is. I gave my exams on Dec. 30, and spent the rest of the week reading them and calculating grades for my 150 students. I discovered two disturbing things: at least two of my sophomores had cheated on their exam and hardly any of the sophs had improved their listening comprehension marks over the last three terms. The cheaters flunked their exams, and the term. They will need to take a new test next term. I also get to read their classmates the riot act, as I suspect those two were just the unlucky ones who got caught. The sophomores’ failure to improve their skills much since they were freshmen is a bigger ...

Twin Chinese girls separated as babies reunited on Good Morning America

Twin Chinese girls separated as babies reunited on Good Morning America
TOKYO, JAPAN — In 2007 two baby girls from Jiangxi province, China, each with medical issues, were given up by their birth parents for adoption to the same orphanage. It seems their birth parents brought them to the children’s home separately, which apparently led the orphanage to assume they were not related, despite looking like identical twins. Twins who were each adopted by American families, and who each never knew she had a twin until last month. Jennifer Doering wanted to give her daughter, Audrey, 10, a special Christmas gift — some information about her past. After some online sleuthing, Jennifer found a photo of baby Audrey sitting next to a mirror-image of herself. Even more sleuthing, and she located Gracie Rainsberry, Audrey’s twin and the daughter of Scott and Nicole Rainsberry. Though the two girls did some FaceTiming together, they had not met face-to-face until two days ago, in front of a nationwide audience on Good Morning America. Watch and make sure you have some tissues handy. The GMA team arranged for the families to do up New York City right with tickets to see the stage production of School of Rock and dinner at Planet Hollywood, and even ...

Beauty queen Anastasia Lin still being censored despite return to Miss World contest

Beauty queen Anastasia Lin still being censored despite return to Miss World contest
JISHOU, HUNAN — Changsha native Anastasia Lin, last year’s Miss World Canada, is still facing censorship for her outspoken criticism of China’s human rights record. Though the Miss World organization has allowed Lin, 26, to represent Canada in this year’s international pageant, her access to the press has been tightly controlled by the organization. Officials even interrupted Lin’s interview with a Boston Globe reporter a few days ago. Investors in the Miss World organization are mostly Chinese, according to news reports. Lin was crowned Miss World Canada last year, but China denied her a visa to participate in the international pageant held in Sanya, Hainan. Lin got as far as Hong Kong, but was told a visa to enter mainland China was not available. Organization officials allowed Lin to represent Canada in this year’s competition, which began last month. The finals will be held tomorrow evening at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland. A practitioner of Falun Gong, a spiritual movement considered dangerous by the Chinese government, Lin had made headlines with her sharp criticism of China’s suppression of Falun Gong, alleging the government was guilty of human rights abuses. Now, Lin is the star of a film ...

A very late ‘preview’ of my term

A very late 'preview' of my term
JISHOU, HUNAN — In September, I had planned to write about my new term. Now it’s almost December, and I’m finally getting around to it. Yeah, I was busy. I’ll go with that excuse. This term I have 20 classes a week (that’s 10 100-minute sessions), plus every other week I meet with five Ph.D. students for another session of oral English practice. This is a big change from the last few years, when I was loafing around with only 12 or 16 classes each week and scads of free time. Plus, we’ve switched to new textbooks. While much better than the previous ones, teachers reading this will already know that a new textbook means new class preps. So, I can’t rely on the lessons I had in the bag, so to speak, from the last four years of Listening Comprehension and Oral English. They’ve either been modified or tossed out completely. In addition, we’ve decided to combine the separate courses of Listening Comprehension and Oral English into one course. Effectively, there’s not much change, though. For each section of students, we meet two classes in the language lab (for listening) and two classes in the newly furnished seminar room ...

America safe for Chinese visitors now? I had no convincing answer 2

America safe for Chinese visitors now? I had no convincing answer
JISHOU, HUNAN — Yesterday we had English Corner, a regular event to give students a chance to practice their spoken English. During a lull in the activities, one student came over to ask me questions about the election of Donald Trump (R-Blowhard) as president. I’ll start with the last one, which floored me. “You know, I would like to study in the United States after I graduate. Will I as a Chinese be safe there?” Before Tuesday, I could answer this fairly confidently, “Yes, of course.” For the most part, students asking that question were not worried about prejudice against Asians, but about Americans toting guns everywhere. This time, though, the reason for the question was different, and not easy to address. Since Trump won, there have been scores of reports from across the USA about whites deliberately attacking African-Americans, Hispanics, Muslims, Asians, immigrants — anyone not obviously a white “American” — and telling them to die or leave. The worst incidents end up on the news, and that news finds it way around the world. Once perceived as a country of tolerance which welcomed people from all over the world, the United States now is perceived as a dangerous ...
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