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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Microsoft Skips Windows 9 and Goes Right to Windows 10

Microsoft Skips Windows 9 and Goes Right to Windows 10


Microsoft Skips Windows 9 and Goes Right to Windows 10

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:35 AM PDT

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Microsoft is trying to soften an unpopular redesign of Windows by reviving features from older versions while still attempting to nudge desktop users into a world of touch screens and mobile devices.

The company on Tuesday gave an early preview of the new Windows 10 software, which it aims to begin selling by the middle of next year. Although the current version is called Windows 8, Microsoft says it’s skipping ahead to Windows 10 to emphasize its effort to move forward.

“Windows 10 represents the first step in a whole new generation of Windows,” said Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Microsoft’s operating systems group.

Windows 8 was introduced two years ago as an answer to the growing demand for mobile devices. But many users hated it because its tablet-like design and controls weren’t a good fit for many devices using keyboards and mice. Sales of personal computers continued to fall.

With Windows 10, Microsoft is trying to regain the loyalty of longtime PC users, while reaching out to consumers and businesses that are increasingly adopting touch-screen smartphones and tablets.

Analysts consider the success of the new Windows crucial for Microsoft and new CEO Satya Nadella, who must show that Microsoft can embrace mobile devices without sacrificing the traditional computing experience.

The new system will be a blend of the old and the new. For instance, it will have various controls that are familiar to users of older Windows systems, such as a start menu to quickly access apps. But this start button will also open a series of tiles that resemble what’s found in Windows 8.

Analysts said that more gradual transition is important if Microsoft wants to persuade users to upgrade.

“This is what Windows 8 should have been,” said Carolina Milanesi, a veteran tech analyst at the research firm Kantar Worldpanel. “Here they are doing the right thing.”

Microsoft executives signaled they got that message on Tuesday. They stressed repeatedly that using the next version of Windows won’t be a challenge for businesses or consumers who have continued to use Windows 7 or even earlier versions.

The new software seeks to offer “the familiarity of Windows 7 with some of the benefits that exist in Windows 8,” said Joe Belfiore, a Microsoft executive who oversees Windows design and evolution.

He compared it to buying a new car with a more powerful engine and a better audio system, without having to “learn a new way to drive.”

Windows 10, for instance, will suggest new ways to use or navigate through files, without forcing users to abandon the old way, Belfiore said.

“We’re designing the experience so that as you use it, the things you already know are familiar and present, but new value is presented to you at a rate that’s easier for you to ingest,” he said.

The effort drew tentative praise from several industry experts.

“They desperately needed to find a way to bridge that experience. I just wish they’d done that with Windows 8,” said Rob Enderle, a tech analyst with the Enderle Group.

Milanesi said that while many businesses resisted upgrading to Windows 8, they can’t avoid touch screens as younger workers are accustomed to using phones or tablets as their primary computing device.

Windows 10 will also be designed to work on a wider range of computing devices.

Microsoft currently has three main systems — Windows 8 for traditional computers and tablets, Windows Phone 8 for cellphones and Xbox for its gaming console. By unifying the underlying systems in Windows 10, software developers will be able to create apps for the various devices more easily. Consumers will also be able to switch devices more easily and avoid having to buy the same apps multiple times.

That doesn’t mean the apps will always look the same. Developers will still be able to adapt apps for the various screen sizes, but won’t have to start from the beginning for each version.

User interfaces on the various devices may also differ, even as they share underlying technologies. For now, Microsoft plans to keep the current Xbox interface on the game console.

Enderle said Microsoft’s effort to create a single platform should help lure more developers to write apps — something the company needs to boost usage of Windows tablets and phones.

Windows is the most widely used PC operating system in the world, but it is steadily losing ground as more people turn to smartphones and tablets, which primarily run on operating systems from Microsoft rivals Apple and Google. That’s why Nadella wants to create one system that will run on all devices.

“It’s certainly an ambitious goal, but it’s also a little early to tell how it will work,” said Michael Silver, a tech analyst at Gartner.

Apple and Google have both rejected Microsoft’s approach of unifying the various systems, preferring to keep systems for PCs and mobile devices separate.

Microsoft also touted new security and management features for business customers, which represent a lucrative market for the company. Almost half of all PCs are used in the workplace, according to Gartner.

While a “technical preview” version of the software is being released this week, Microsoft said it won’t be ready to talk about new consumer features until next year.

Microsoft declined to say how much the new software would cost or how it will be distributed. Analysts have speculated that the company might be considering a subscription model — as it has with Office software — rather than selling each new version of Windows separately.

Mistake Led to Ebola Patient’s Initial Release

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:34 AM PDT

The Dallas hospital patient who has tested positive for Ebola virus indicated on his first visit that he had traveled to the city from West Africa, but was released after that information was not communicated to the entire medical team who treated him.

The patient first arrived at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas on Sept. 26, complaining of a fever and abdominal pains, hospital officials said at a news conference. A nurse administered a checklist, on which the patient indicated that he had recently traveled from Liberia. Nevertheless, the hospital sent him home.

“The overall clinic presentation was not typical at that point yet for Ebola,” said Dr. Mark Lester, vice president and zone clinical leader with Texas Health Resources, noting that the patient lacked some traditional hallmarks of the disease, which include vomiting and diarrhea. “Regretfully, that information was not fully communicated throughout the full team.”

The patient, who was confirmed Tuesday as the first direct case of Ebola on U.S. soil, was re-admitted two days later and placed immediately in isolation. On Wednesday, the hospital said he was in serious but stable condition. He is being held in a private ward under round-the-clock care.

The Associated Press, citing the patient’s sister, reported that his name was Thomas Eric Duncan. Local officials would not confirm the report in accordance with patient confidentiality requirements.

The patient’s initial release will raise questions about whether the miscommunication between hospital staff may have increased the chance of additional people becoming infected. Local, state and federal officials have launched a broad effort to trace the contacts made by the patient between the time he began suffering symptoms and his second trip to the hospital, on Sept. 28.

“This is all hands on deck,” Texas Governor Rick Perry said, flanked by a battery of doctors and political officials.

Dr. Christopher Perkins, Dallas County Health and Human Services Medical Director, said 12 to 18 people were being monitored after possibly coming into contact with the sick patient. Of that number, five were members of his immediate household and five were school-aged children.

Mike Miles, the superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District, said the children may have come into contact with the patient over the weekend. The children are being kept out of school, but attended earlier this week, Miles said. None of the potential contacts are currently being quarantined.

The ambulance workers who transported the Ebola patient on his second trip to the hospital are in isolation as a precaution. The hospital is still deciding what precautions to take with the medical staff who had contact with the patient. “Contact and exposure are not the same,” said Dr. Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at the hospital, who stressed that there was little likelihood that anybody at the hospital has been exposed.

Officials cautioned the public not to panic. While deadly, Ebola is not easy to transmit. It is passed on through contact with bodily fluids, such as blood or vomit, but it cannot be transmitted through the air. Patients carrying Ebola are not contagious unless they are presenting symptoms of the disease.

Oklahoma Changes Lethal Injection Protocol, But Keeps Controversial Drug

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:32 AM PDT

The United States’ three executions this year widely considered botched all have at least one thing in common: they’ve all included the use of midazolam, a sedative previously unused in lethal injections.

In January, Ohio executed Dennis McGuire in a 25-minute lethal injection using a two-drug combination of midazolam and hydromorphone. In April, Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett using midazolam as the first of three drugs in a process that took almost 45 minutes. And in July, Arizona used the same protocol as Ohio to execute Joseph Wood, another lethal injection that took close to two hours.

Late Tuesday, Oklahoma announced new lethal injection procedures requiring more training for executioners and contingency plans if any problems arise. The new protocol also reduces the number of media witnesses from 12 to five. On top of that, it provides the state with four different lethal injection drug combination options, two of which still involve midazolam in a dosage that is five times larger than what was used in Lockett’s execution.

The Oklahoma Department of Corrections released the new guidelines this week without comment. But the move appears to be a way for the state to continue executions while opening the door for more desirable and, possibly, effective drugs that have become difficult to obtain.

“I think this represents a tension between the drugs they would prefer to use and what’s available,” says Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment organization.

In April, Gov. Mary Fallin ordered an investigation into Lockett’s execution, which led to a report released in September by the Department of Public Safety that found that an IV line into Lockett’s groin had become dislodged and wasn’t immediately discovered. The agency made several recommendations for future executions, and the state’s department of corrections pledged to carry out most of them.

“This is in keeping with their position that the botched execution of Lockett was not due to the drugs used, but to the misplacement of the IV,” Dieter says. “To abandon midazolam might contradict this, and possibly leave them with no drugs to carry out the execution.”

Since pharmaceutical companies began denying states drugs like pentobarbital, a sedative that was widely used up until just a few years ago, midazolam has been easier for prison systems to get. And some states may fear that without it, they may not be able to carry out executions at all.

“I think states like Oklahoma are continuing to use midazolam because so far they can and they don’t know what else to do,” says Deborah Denno, a Fordham University professor who studies lethal injection.

First U.S. Ebola Patient Identified

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:31 AM PDT

The first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. was identified Wednesday as Thomas Eric Duncan.

Duncan’s sister Mai Wureh told the Associated Press it was her brother who is at the center of the country’s latest Ebola scare. Wureh said her brother went to the emergency room on Friday complaining of fever and a nurse asked about whether he had recently been in Ebola-affected countries. He said yes, but, according to Dr. Mark Lester, a clinical leader for Texas Health Resources, the “information was not fully communicated throughout the whole team.”

Duncan was sent home with antibiotics, and returned two days later in an ambulance with more severe symptoms. He is currently in serious but stable condition at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

[AP]

President Obama, Please Stay out of California

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:25 AM PDT

Mr. President, I realize such a statement may seem jarring. After all, our state voted for you twice. When you were first running for president, Maria Shriver said, “If Barack Obama were a state, he’d be California.” But these days, I bet I could rally a majority of Californians behind a proposition asking that you never visit again. And I wouldn’t have to talk about your record-low job approval ratings among Californians.

No, our fundamental problem with you is more personal than political. You, sir, have developed a reputation as a very poor houseguest.

You often show up with little warning about your itinerary or schedule. (Your excuse? That the Secret Service can’t disclose your movements for security reasons.) Your massive security cordon routinely causes hours-long traffic jams in a state that already has too many of them. I was once two hours late picking up a child from daycare because you just had to stop for takeout in Los Angeles during the evening rush hour.

So you’ll understand why I felt nothing but dread upon reading multiple news reports that you’re headed to Southern California next week to raise campaign money at the home of actress-turned-insufferable-lifestyle-guru Gwyneth Paltrow.

It isn’t just the traffic-related inconvenience that’s tiresome: It’s that your visits are about you taking, not giving. Almost all of your trips have been driven by political fundraising. You’re disrupting our lives so that millions of dollars rich people might otherwise spend here will instead bludgeon voters in Alaska and North Carolina with President Obama, Please Stay out of Californiamindless TV ads.

While you might be our president, these days other leaders seem to do more presiding than you, engaging with Californians about California. Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto addressed a joint session of the legislature on his recent visit. Even the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, is much more of a presence in the civic conversation about California than you are.

Why has the relationship between you and California grown cold? I suspect part of the problem is that you and California are too similar. The fact that we don’t disagree on much can make small differences seem bigger.

We both want to take action against climate change, but your meager policy proposals seem like a drag while we forge ahead with cap-and-trade. We both care a lot about advancing technology and the Internet, but you’re squabbling with Silicon Valley over government surveillance (the Facebook and Google guys like to be doing the surveillance, not getting surveilled) and privacy.

Frankly, it feels like you’ve taken California for granted. Even the biggest things you’ve done for us—Obamacare, the stimulus package when the Great Recession hit—can feel like disappointments.

The Affordable Care Act has covered more than 2 million Californians, which is great, but it also neglects more than 2 million of us – undocumented immigrants. The rest of us end up paying, in money and in our health, for their lack of coverage. Including them would have been a heavy lift politically. But you’ve been suspiciously more interested in deporting our undocumented neighbors than legalizing Californians who are deeply embedded in our communities.

As for the stimulus, that legislation, while providing billions in state aid to California, was not nearly enough to offset the huge budget cuts forced by the recession. The stimulus included very little money to help with our state’s massive infrastructure needs, estimated at $800 billion. State officials begged your administration for loan guarantees to forestall the worst cuts, but you said no. The result: California spending on schools and health remains at historically low levels, even with the economy recovering.

Yes, you and your aides and people in other states might grumble: Why should California get special treatment? Because, Mr. President, we are special. You can’t accomplish your biggest goals when your biggest state is in the shape it’s in. You can’t reduce the national unemployment rate much if California’s own unemployment remains well above the national average. You can’t achieve your goal of making the U.S. number one in the world in percentage of people with college degrees when California’s public universities are turning away thousands of students each year.

Your trips here have come to feel like those political fundraising e-mails that keep arriving this time of year. You’re spamming us, Mr. President. If you can’t do better by California on these trips, then maybe you should stop visiting.

Joe Mathews is California and innovation editor for Zócalo Public Square, for which he writes the Connecting California column.

This article was originally written for Zócalo Public Square.

No, Carmaggedon is Not Inevitable

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:23 AM PDT

It makes sense now that the first movie ever filmed in Los Angeles was of nothing but traffic. The 30 seconds of shaky film, shot downtown on Spring Street in 1898, reveal the origin of an enduring issue for the city. L.A. is defined by its traffic, which is universally understood to move very, very slowly.

Today, drivers armed with smartphones use apps like Waze, darting on and off freeways to cut commute times by minutes. And this year, L.A. became the world’s first major city to synchronize all of its traffic lights. Yet in 2013, Angelenos still spent an average of 90 hours stuck in traffic. Could a recent infusion of $32 million for transit improvements in the city help recover this lost time? In advance of the Zócalo/Metro event “What Could Speed Up L.A. Traffic?” we asked transportation experts the following question: What innovations have other cities implemented that could teach L.A. how to speed up traffic?

Matthew Turner: The price of fixing congestion

When a bakery in the former Soviet Union opened in the morning, it gave bread to the first person in line, and then the next, until all the bread was gone. Everyone still in line had to wait for the next batch. This meant that if you were going to get your bread for breakfast, you had to get there early. So there were long lines for bread (like this one).

We do something similar to allocate access to roads. The government builds roads and every morning, the people who want to use them line up. If you are early, there is lots of capacity for you, and you have a speedy trip. If you come a bit later, the capacity is all used up, and you need to wait for road capacity to become available (like cars on this on-ramp).

The Soviet bakery had a line-up problem because bread was handed out free to the first in line. But what if we could price access to roads, just like we price access to bread today? If that were the case, queuing would no longer occur.

In a number of cities around the world—London, Singapore, Stockholm, and even a few highways in L.A.—local authorities make drivers pay to access roads at peak times (but not at other times). In response to a peak hour toll, drivers rearrange their travel schedules. As a result, driving speeds increase and travel times decrease. By constructing a system of tolls, or prices, that are higher for congested roads and times than for uncongested roads and times, we can fix the traffic congestion problem.

The price of reducing traffic congestion is pricing access to roads.

Matthew Turner is professor in the department of economics at Brown University. His research focuses on the economics of land use and transportation. Current projects investigate the relationship between public transit and the growth of cities, whether and how smart growth type development affects individual driving behavior.

Francie Stefan: Streets are a limited resource

Our streets are a limited resource, like water or energy. We can use this resource more efficiently by reducing the need for car trips or by making trips on modes that take up less space. To find a few tools that boost streets’ efficiency, Angelenos can follow the lead of the city of Santa Monica.

Since 40 percent of trips in L.A. County are less than two miles, we know that there are opportunities to convert some vehicle trips to walking, biking, and active transportation. In Santa Monica, basic street restriping was able to convert excess lane width (without reducing car lanes) into over 40 miles of new bike facilities. In only two years, biking increased by over 50 percent.

The best transportation plan is a good land use plan. Santa Monica is focusing housing and jobs near bus and rail networks, taking advantage of L.A. County’s historic streetcar routes and the walkable streets that grew from them. And Santa Monica is building strong first-mile/last-mile walking, biking, and transit connections to future Expo Light Rail stops.

Private industry plays an important role too. New businesses, employers, and residential buildings can help sustain trip reduction strategies by providing commuter incentives, facilities for active commuters (like bicycle stations featuring showers and racks), transit pass subsidies, shared parking, and telecommuting options. These amenities reduce household transportation costs as well as demand on the transportation network.

These strategies will provide a more holistic management of our street resources and “speed up traffic” by moving people in more ways, reducing the bottlenecks for everyone.

Francie Stefan is the transportation & strategic planning manager for the city of Santa Monica, which has set a target of no net new trips for evening peak periods to support more sustainable street function, encourage wellness through active living, and reduce GHG emissions.

Donald Shoup: Tax foreigners living abroad

Most people view parking meters as a necessary evil, or perhaps just evil. Meters can manage curb parking efficiently and provide public revenue, but they are a tough sell to voters. A new kind of meter, however, can change the politics of parking–and reduce traffic–by allowing cities to give price discounts for residents.

In Miami Beach, residents pay only $1 an hour at meters in areas where nonresidents pay $1.75 an hour. Some British cities give the first half hour at meters free to residents. Annapolis, Maryland, and Monterey, California, give residents the first two hours free in municipal parking lots and garages.

Pay-by-license-plate technology can automatically give discounts to all cars with license plates registered in a city. Cities link payment information to license plate numbers to show enforcement officers which cars have paid or not paid. Pay-by-plate meters are common in Europe, and several U.S. cities, including Pittsburgh, now use them.

Like hotel taxes, parking meters with resident discounts can generate substantial local revenue without unduly burdening local voters. The price break for city plates should please merchants because it will give residents a new incentive to shop locally. In big cities, the discounts can be limited to each neighborhood’s residents. More shopping closer to home might then reduce total vehicle travel in the region.

Parking meters with resident discounts come close to the most popular way to raise public revenue: tax foreigners living abroad. More money and less traffic will help any city.

Donald Shoup is distinguished professor of urban planning at UCLA, where he has served as chair of the department of urban planning and director of the Institute of Transportation Studies. His book, The High Cost of Free Parking, explains how better parking policies can improve cities, the economy, and the environment.

Doris Tarchópulos: Reimagining the suburbs

Each city has its own urban characteristics. The dimensions of the streets, the block size, the shapes of the lots, and the type of housing all differ depending on the city and its origins. North American cities are very different from Latin American cities, but they also have common features. From the mid-20th century, Americans in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres have left the core of the city and gone to the suburbs, which has caused car dependency and a crisis of mobility.

In Bogotá, Colombia, we are working on research to create a mix between the current suburbs and human-scale neighborhoods that can be traversed by walking and bicycling. We are thinking of repurposing suburbs gradually, introducing commercial strips along the main roads within neighborhoods, using parking lots or streets to foster vibrant community life, and at the same time, moving people back to the old quarters of the city center.

These ideas are easy to write about but difficult to implement. Reshaping cities demands political will and public conscience. But we also need new definitions of a city model based on a reimagined mobility system. Los Angeles has long been a traffic-clogged city, but given enough time and public support, the way people get around it could be transformed.

Doris Tarchópulos is an architect, associate professor, and director of the master in urban and regional planning at the architecture school of Javeriana University. She has published several award-winning books and scientific articles on housing and urban planning.

This discussion originally appeared on Zócalo Public Square.

Ebola Co-Discoverer: ‘This Was an Avoidable Catastrophe’

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:23 AM PDT

The news from Dallas that the first Ebola case outside of Africa has been diagnosed on U.S. soil is a stark reminder that epidemics on the other side of the world are a threat to us all. No epidemic is just local.

As long as this still expanding Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues, there is a constant source for it to spread to other countries – in the first place to neighboring African countries. This outbreak is the largest and longest ever, with more than 6,500 cases and 3,083 deaths so far. It is the first outbreak that involves multiple and entire countries, and the first one that affects capital cities.

With increasing global mobility, it was always possible that someone traveling from an infected country would be carrying this deadly virus with them, and it will happen again. Fortunately, the U.S. and other high income countries have robust infection control measures and clinical practices to stop the onward spread of the virus within the country. Health services are well equipped to isolate the patient, to trace everyone he has been in contact with, and to put those contacts under surveillance for signs of fever. Health workers need to be alert for anyone with early symptoms of Ebola by always asking about people’s travel history (which is good practice any way). The risk to citizens is extremely small.

We would need to be far more concerned if someone with Ebola traveled to a country where health services have poor infection control and lack hygiene practices. If an infected traveler enters an environment like this, it will result in new outbreaks. In addition, nursing and medical staff are at high risk of contracting Ebola virus infection as they often lack protective gear. Over 200 health care workers have already died in this epidemic alone.

This confirmed case in the U.S. does not mean we should respond by stopping flights from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, as some are calling for. The current outbreak is already disrupting entire societies because hospitals have stopped functioning and commerce is coming to a halt. Cutting these countries off from the rest of the world will only worsen the social and economic impacts, hamper aid efforts, and increase the panic and fear. In addition it won’t stop the spread of the virus, and is not recommended by the World Health Organization.

Instead, we must bring the humanitarian catastrophe under control by greatly expanding the national and international response. We must build field hospitals and Ebola care centers, send healthcare staff, medical supplies and logistical coordination, as well as supporting governments and NGOs to stop Ebola transmission through community mobilization to avoid risky funeral and care practices. Shortening the time between infection and presentation to treatment and isolation facilities is probably the most critical action today to end this epidemic. At the same time, experimental therapies and vaccines are finally being evaluated for their efficacy, but will come too late for too many. Above all, we must rebuild trust.

The international community initially took too long to react to the outbreak and our response is still far from perfect. But the U.S. commitment last month to send up to 3,000 troops to help tackle Ebola in Liberia was a decisive moment, as is the UK’s massive support to Sierra Leone, including by convening a donor conference on October 2. Other European countries must now join in immediately.

This was an avoidable catastrophe, above all if there had been earlier recognition, and prompter and vaster national and international responses. The world must now put in place mechanisms and means to handle better the next epidemic, which will undoubtedly come.

Professor Peter Piot is Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and former Executive Director of UNAIDS and Under Secretary-General of the United Nations. He co-discovered Ebola in 1976.

Court Blocks Parts of North Carolina Voting Law

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:22 AM PDT

An federal appeals court on Wednesday blocked parts of a sweeping North Carolina voting law from taking hold ahead of this year’s midterm elections.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision to allow provisions of the law that eliminate same-day-registration and the casting of out-of-precinct ballots. The appeals court on Wednesday still allowed other portions of the law to stand, including the cut of seven early voting days. But in a 69-page opinion Wednesday, the appeals court said an August decision by the lower district court to allow the full law was flawed.

The decision comes just weeks before the early voting period is set to begin in the Tar Heel State on Oct. 23. “The right to vote is fundamental,” Judge James Wynn wrote in the majority opinion. “And a tight timeframe before an election does not diminish that right.”

It wasn’t immediately clear whether or not the state will appeal. North Carolina’s law has been one of the most criticized by voting rights advocates since the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the landmark Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional, which opened the door for states to enact more voting restrictions.

Xi Jinping Could Be China’s Last Communist Ruler

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 11:00 AM PDT

The mammoth protests that have gripped Hong Kong for the past several days have implications far beyond this Special Administrative Region of more than 7 million people. In rejecting Beijing’s plan to allow only sham elections for the next chief executive of Hong Kong, in mobilizing tens of thousands of people into the streets for several days running, and in fashioning a peaceful symbol of resistance and restraint (the umbrella) in the face of an inflammatory overreaction by the police, the youth-led demonstrators have posed the most serious challenge to the authority of the Chinese Communist Party since the massacre in Tiananmen Square 25 years ago.

China’s Communist rulers have only themselves to blame for the political crisis in Hong Kong. Since it reverted from British colonial rule to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, Hong Kong has enjoyed significant autonomy and civil freedom under the principle of “one country, two systems.” During these last 17 years, Hong Kongers have waited patiently for Beijing to deliver on the Basic Law’s promise of “gradual and orderly progress” toward “the selection of the Chief Executive by universal suffrage upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.” When Beijing announced in 2004 that Hong Kong was “not yet ready” to democratically elect its Chief Executive in 2007, or its legislature in 2008, many in Hong Kong were bitterly disappointed. But people waited hopefully for 2012, or 2017 at the latest.

The recent eruption of popular outrage was prompted by Beijing’s decision, announced at the end of August, to defer indefinitely the dream of democratic self-governance in Hong Kong. China’s rulers have now delivered an Iranian-style interpretation of “universal suffrage”: everyone can vote, but only for candidates approved by the real rulers. Instead of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong is getting “one country, one autocracy,” with increasing concentration of economic power and shrinking media and academic freedom.

Hong Kong’s youthful demonstrators are economically worried, but even more so, they are politically indignant. Many, like the 17-year-old student protest leader Joshua Wong, were born after the handover and raised in a prosperous, civically vibrant, and open society. They grew up tweeting and texting, and they see democratic self-governance as both their natural right and their constitutional promise. Many older Hong Kongers remember colonial rule, and cherish the civil freedoms and rule of law that they now see eroding under the lengthening shadow of economic and political control from Beijing. No one knows what percentage of Hong Kong’s population is willing to risk prosperity to press democratic demands to the limit. But hundreds of thousands of protestors and sympathizers view Beijing’s political intransigence as an existential threat to Hong Kong’s future.

This was an avoidable crisis. Over the years, many creative ideas have been floated to realize “gradual and orderly progress” toward democracy. China’s Communist leaders could have negotiated with moderate Hong Kong democrats to gradually expand the range of candidates permitted to contest Chief Executive elections, and to move in stages to a fully directly elected legislature (30 of the 70 members are now elected by narrow functional constituencies). Political compromise could have fashioned a popular majority accepting patient progress. What Hong Kong got instead was no negotiations and no progress, but rather an authoritarian imposition thinly masquerading as popular sovereignty.

Beijing’s intransigence was never solely about Hong Kong, and neither are the current protests. This is a struggle for the future of China itself. President Xi and his fellow Party bosses are consumed with fear that they will meet the same fate as Mikhail Gorbachev if they do not maintain tight, centralized political control. Xi will pursue economic reform. He will try to purge the party and state of brazen corruption (while also purging his rivals along the way). But political reform is ruled out. So, even, is discussion (or teaching or tweeting) about such concepts as “universal values,” “freedom of speech,” “civil society” and “judicial independence.

China is changing rapidly in the wake of rapid economic growth. A civil society is slowly rising, alongside a pragmatic and more independent-minded business class. People now debate issues through social media, even with state controls. The middle class is traveling and gaining exposure to democratic ideas and freedoms, most dangerously, in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Ironically, during this long holiday week when China celebrates its National Day (and now the 65th anniversary of the Communist Revolution), many Chinese vacationing in Hong Kong are suddenly watching a very different kind of revolution.

China’s rulers are now stuck in a trap of their own making. If they brutally repress mass demonstrations, as they did a quarter century ago, they will gravely damage their international legitimacy, wreck prospects for closer relations with Taiwan, and destroy the civic fabric of Hong Kong. If they do what they should have done months ago — negotiate — they fear they will look to be capitulating to mass pressure, thereby inviting more of it in a country where hundreds of local-level protests erupt daily. Thus they will probably wait, hoping the protests will ebb, while preserving the option of dumping the current Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung, as a sacrificial lamb.

If the protests persist and grow, China’s Communist rulers will face an awful choice, and they may well repeat the tragic mistake of 1989. But this is not the China of 25 years ago. Xi Jinping can no more will an emergent civil society out of existence than King Canute could command the tides of the sea to recede. But alas, King Canute understood the natural limits to his power. Xi Jinping does not appear to do so, and this is why he could well be China’s last Communist ruler.

Larry Diamond is Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and Director of Stanford’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Second Patient Monitored for Ebola in Texas

Posted: 01 Oct 2014 10:39 AM PDT

Health officials in Texas are monitoring a second patient for Ebola, as they investigate over a dozen individuals who were in contact with the first person diagnosed with the disease in the United States.

“Let me be real frank to the Dallas County residents: The fact that we have one confirmed case, there may be another case that is a close associate with this particular patient,” Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS), said in a morning interview with WFAA-TV. “So this is real. There should be a concern, but it’s contained to the specific family members and close friends at this moment.”

The Dallas County bureau later underscored that there had been no confirmation of a second case, as some media outlets had reported:

Officials have said the man came into contact with 12 to 18 people after returning from Liberia, all of whom are being investigated.

The first case of Ebola was confirmed at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas on Tuesday. The patient had flown from Liberia to Texas on Sept. 19 and sought treatment for symptoms on Sept. 26. Health officials say they have contained the virus to the area and are working closely with the Dallas County school district.

[WFAA-TV]

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