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U.S. Labels Chinese Language Education Group a Diplomatic Mission

However, in recent years, American teachers and administrators have debated whether teachers in the Confucius Institutes or their educational material help disseminate Chinese government propaganda. In 2014, the University of Chicago ended its contract with the Confucius Institutes, and several other universities have done the same since. As a result, the number of institutes has dropped from above 100 at their peak.

Republican lawmakers, notably Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who promotes aggressive policies against China, have urged American schools to break ties with the institutes.

A 2018 report on Chinese government and Communist Party influence operations in the United States done by the Hoover Institution and the Asia Society had details on the work and structure of the Confucius Institutes. It said the organization in Beijing that oversees the institutes, the Hanban, which is under the Education Ministry, has ties to the Communist Party’s Central Committee. The Hanban typically gives a $150,000 start-up grant to an American university, with grants of $100,000 and $200,000 per year afterward, the report said. It gives $50,000 in initial funding to secondary schools and $15,000 per year afterward.

“Most troublesome are two provisions in the Hanban contracts with U.S. host institutions: One forbids the C.I.s from conducting any activities that contravene Chinese law, while the other requires that the enabling contract remains confidential, making oversight by the academic community difficult,” the report said.

In summarizing its findings on the programs, the report said that “because C.I.s have had positive value in exposing students and communities to Chinese language and culture, this report does not generally oppose them. But it does recommend that more rigorous university oversight and standards of academic freedom and transparency be exercised over C.I.s.”

Outside the Confucius Institutes, many teachers and students of the Mandarin Chinese language at American universities have for decades used textbooks from mainland Chinese publishers that have lessons with overt government or party propaganda. American teachers and students have rarely objected to the material. For many university students, it has been easy to tell that the material is propaganda.

In a telephone call with reporters, David R. Stilwell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, said on Thursday that the U.S. government would work with American educational institutions with a goal of “looking for other opportunities for Chinese language training and instruction,” but he did not give details.

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Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong quits pro-democracy group as China passes security law – National

Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong said on Tuesday he is stepping down as leader of his democracy group Demosisto, just hours after local media reported that Beijing had passed national security legislation for the Chinese-ruled city.

Read more:
Chinese lawmakers pass controversial security law for Hong Kong: reports

Wong has said he will be a “prime target” of Beijing’s national security law, which critics fear will crush freedoms in the former British colony.

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“If my voice will not be heard soon, I hope that the international community will continue to speak up for Hong Kong and step up concrete efforts to defend out last bit of freedom,” Wong wrote in a tweet.

-With a file from Global News

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Miss Hitler contestant jailed for belonging to terror group

A former Miss Hitler contestant from the UK who joked about gassing synagogues and using a Jew’s head as a soccer ball has been sentenced to prison along with her ex-partner for belonging to a terrorist group, according to reports.

Fuhrer femme fatale Alice Cutter, 23, and Mark Jones, 25, were convicted in March of belonging to the far-right group National Action, which was founded in 2013 and banned three years later after it celebrated the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox, the BBC reported.

Cutter, 23, received a sentence of three years behind bars, while Jones, 25, was hit with a term of five and a half years during appearances at Birmingham Crown Court.

The residents of Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire were convicted along with neo-Nazi “diehards” Garry Jack, 24, and Connor Scothern, 19, who face four and a half years and 18 months, respectively.

Jurors were shown messages in which Cutter exclaimed “Rot in hell, bitch” after hearing of Cox’s murder at the hands of far-right sympathizer Thomas Mair, according to Sky News.

Cutter, a waitress who entered the Nazi beauty pageant as Miss Buchenwald — a reference to the World War II death camp – has denied ever being an NA member, despite attending its rallies, where banners stating “Hitler was right” were displayed.

Mark Jones

Jones, a former member of the British National Party, was a “leader and strategist” who played a “prominent and active role,” the court heard, Sky News reported.

“Following proscription [of National Action], you weren’t prepared to dissociate yourselves from the vile ideology of this group and therefore defied the ban and continued as members,” Judge Paul Farrer told the four.

Cutter, Farrer said, was a “trusted confidante” of one of the NA’s leaders, as well as being in a “committed relationship” with Jones.

Before sentencing, public prosecutions chief Max Hill described the group’s members as “diehards” who “hark back to the days of not just anti-Semitism, but the Holocaust, the Third Reich in Germany.”

A fifth person, Daniel Ward, 28, of Birmingham, last year pleaded guilty to being a member of the group and was sentenced to three years in prison.

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NHL, NHLPA looking at mid-to-late May for players to return to small group activities

The NHL, in the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic, is looking ahead in its return to play plans to Phase 2, which would involve small group activities for players in NHL team training facilities.

“Provided that conditions continue to trend favourably — and, subject to potential competitive concerns as between disparately situated markets — we believe we may be able to move to Phase 2 at some point in the mid-to-later portion of May,” the NHL and NHLPA said in a joint statement released on Wednesday night.

The precise date of the transition to Phase 2 from Phase 1, which involves a period of self-quarantine, is to be determined. Specific guidelines for players and hockey personnel will be provided once it becomes clearer when Phase 2 would start.

The Return to Play Committee, which includes Maple Leafs captain John Tavares, will continue to meet regularly to discuss plans for the eventual return of the game.

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Using Technology in Small Group Teaching

Throughout my six years of small group teaching experience I have regularly used power point and you-tube as visual aids and the basis of learning activities. However, last semester, following the lead of colleagues working on active learning in the Dept. of Politics at the University of Sheffield, I adopted Turning Point and Padlet in my Second Year Undergraduate Contemporary US Foreign Policy seminars. Turning Point is a form of audience response software that enables you to poll students through an interactive power point presentation. Students respond using the free smart phone app, and the results are displayed on screen. Padlet is a virtual bulletin board – easily embedded in your online learning environment – to which your students can post content. Think of it like them jotting down their responses on post it notes, and you collecting these in to display for the class. Both Turning Point and Padlet are free for students to access, and they don’t have to create an account of their own, although you as the instructor will need one. My institution has a Turning Point licence, and I made use of the free version of Padlet which allows for 12 padlets.

Firstly, when employing technology or any learning activity it is important to ensure that it serves your learning objectives. Do not get distracted by the bells and whistles or possibilities of the technology, remember instead that it is a means to an end. In the context of my seminars they were a means to facilitate focused peer reflection and discussion. Secondly, you need to carefully think through the structure of your lesson plan and whereabouts you will use the technology and for how long. I tended to use Turning Point to ask 2-3 multiple choice questions at the start of each seminar as a warm up activity, before putting students into pairs to discuss their responses and the results of the room. Including discussion this took 10-15 mins of a 50-minute session. Padlet was used for students to record and present their responses to the group task, and so unlike Turning Point, was bolted onto an existing activity.

I had initially considered Turning Point only worthwhile in a large group lecture setting or for running a revision quiz. However, it has proved both popular and effective for engaging in students in small group settings of 12-20 students. Firstly, it enables students – particularly those lacking confidence – to genuinely express themselves. Polling is anonymous at the click of a button, so they aren’t put on the spot in front of their peers, and until the results are displayed nobody knows which way the room will vote which mitigates against group think. As such, Turning Point can provide a “safe” way to gauge all knowledge and opinions and can help the more reticent contribute. Secondly, it provides a structured moment of reflection in response to a direct question – they must respond and pick a position or response. The outcome be that their own individual response and the results of the room, then serves as guide to future discussion. I tended to follow up with discussion of the results in pairs, but it could also be used to identify what students want or need to discuss more about a seminar topic.

The benefits of Padlet are in my view the same irrespective of whether it is a seminar of 20 students of a workshop with 90. It focuses student group discussions because they must first agree and then type up a concise response to the exercise – they can’t just “talk”, they have to “do”. Each group’s output can then be drawn on with ease in a plenary discussion, because everyone can see them onscreen and learn from what each other have “done”. Indeed, the padlet page of responses is a ready-made revision resource for students to look back on – you can export the produced padlet as a pdf or image, thus saving the students work before you reset (wipe) the padlet for the next session.

Be sure to practice before rolling out in the classroom, I had my fair share of technical missteps. Experiment! Turning Point can run true/false or multiple-choice questions and be used to generate word-clouds; you can repoll students and then compare results to see if their views have changed; for padlet you can ask them to input text or images. When using any new technology with students, remember that it’s important to give clear instructions as to how to use it and take a moment to explain why you are using it. Time management is an important factor here, don’t rush students through questions and ensure there is enough time in the session to discuss the results of polling and padlet work and so realise its full potential. Finally, consider equity – do enough students have a smartphone for you to use this technology as standard and if not if your dept can provide tablets for the session?

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OSC to proceed with hearing on HBC deal despite Baker group objections

The Ontario Securities Commission will hold a hearing on the merits of Catalyst Capital Group Inc.’s application to block or postpone a deal to take over Hudson’s Bay Co.

At a scheduling hearing on Thursday, OSC panel chair D. Grant Vingoe said he would consider the application on Dec. 11, despite objections from the shareholder group behind the takeover bid, led by chairman Richard Baker.

“The commission is being co-opted here,” Eliot Kolers, the Baker group’s lawyer, told the OSC. Both HBC and the Baker group argued that Catalyst was using the hearing as a tactic to squeeze information from the Baker group and derail the transaction at the 11th hour.

Catalyst, HBC’s largest and loudest minority shareholder, is asking the OSC to block the Baker group’s proposal to take the company private at $10.30 per share — or at least delay the Dec. 17 shareholder vote to approve the deal.

“They’re trying to jam this all in at the very end,” HBC’s lawyer, Ryan Morris, told the commission. “They don’t have standing…. There should be no date set here today.”

Morris argued that the commission should decide whether the application has any standing before setting a date for a hearing. Vingoe instead resolved to deal with the question of standing at the beginning of next week’s hearing.

Catalyst defended the timing of its application, arguing that it was in response to a mid-November management circular that included appraisals and specifics about the deal. With the hearing less than a week away, Catalyst pledged to file its evidentiary materials within two days. But HBC and the Baker group argued that wouldn’t give them enough time to formulate a proper response.

“It’s an unfortunate part of the timing of many M and A hearings,” Vingoe said. “They end up being accelerated.”

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Leftists Riot to Demand ‘Peace Deal’ with Marxist Terror Group

Leftist rioters in Colombia set out a range of demands in a letter to President Iván Duque on Thursday, including a renewed peace deal with the Marxist terror organization National Liberation Army (ELN).

In the letter to Duque, elected last year on a platform of taking a harder stance against the Marxist terror organizations that have destabilized Colombia for decades, the “National Strike Committee” warned that his promise of a “grand national dialogue” was not sufficient to end the riots that have rocked the country over the past eight days.

In the letter, also signed by 56 members of Congress and the pro-guerrilla Movement to Defend Peace, the signatories propose three demands to begin a dialogue with the government. One of these demands involves the demilitarization of Colombian cities following violent clashes between rioters and security forces.

Another demand is to hold a “national table of dialogue that is both plural and diverse,” featuring representatives from various social sectors involved in the recent protests, including the National Committee of Unemployment, the Movement to Defend Peace, the Peace Bank, local assemblies and town councils, cultural expressions, and other sectors of the population.

Once having initiated a dialogue, the committee is demanding that the government engage and make concessions on five different issues, which include:

  1. Negotiations on the government’s social and economic policy, with specific regard to minority movements such as students, peasantry, and indigenous communities.
  2. Full implementation of the Final Peace Agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) forced through by former President Juan Manuel Santos, with a view to re-opening talks with the People’s Liberation Army (ELN), who have carried out a number of deadly terrorist attacks across the country in recent years.
  3. Discussions surrounding the government’s national security policy, human rights and military campaign against guerrilla forces.
  4. Political and electoral reform, as well as a detailed plan of how they plan to fight corruption.
  5. Measures to guarantee the rights of nature and the protection of the environment.

It remains highly unlikely that the Duque administration would cede to such extensive demands, although the severity of the demonstrations has placed him under increased pressure to return stability to the South American country.

The demands also make clear that the riots are being coordinated by groups with ties to Marxist terrorist organizations. The FARC, which the rioters seek to legitimize, declared war on the state this fall despite the Santos government issuing them multiple uncontested seats in the Colombian Congress.

On Friday, it was reported that the government is seeking around $1 billion in dividends from state company Ecopetrol S.A. to help fund a public spending spree that would help reduce tensions, especially among Colombia’s most impoverished communities.

Follow Ben Kew on Facebook, on Twitter at @ben_kew, or email him at [email protected]

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