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Russia may ban Halloween, emo punk

Russia's State Duma is currently considering a package of laws aimed at protecting the morality of its children and preventing youth suicide and alcoholism. Some of the ideas kind of seem like overkill:

Together with proposals to combat child alcoholism and pornography, the policy project outlines a raft of draconian measures such as a 10 p.m. curfew for all school-age children and a ban on tattoos and body-piercings.

Under the new measures, schools would be prohibited from celebrating Western holidays like Halloween and St. Valentine's Day, which are deemed inappropriate to "Russian culture." Toys in the shape of monsters or skeletons would be banned as "provoking aggression."

The proposal also sets its sights on teenage subcultures such as emo, a style of hardcore punk, and goth, which lawmakers accuse of "cultivating bisexuality." Both styles, the legislation implies, are social scourges on a par with the skinhead movement, and must be eliminated from the social landscape.

The whole world seems to have it in for emos, which probably actually makes them more emo. Personally, I find these kids a lot scarier.

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This Week in China

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U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao (he's the guy on the right) in Beijing over the weekend, discussing human rights issues including Internet freedoms and the political crisis in Zimbabwe. Chinese officials were predicitably cool on imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, favoring instead negotiations between President Robert Mugabe and the opposition.

Meanwhile, talks continued in Tokyo on Wednesday between Chinese officals and envoys of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan spiritual leader expressed hope for progess, but the Communist party chief in Tibet again blamed the Dalai Lama and his supporters for the deadly rioting there in March. A commentator in Xinhua expressed the contention (hope?) that the West would lose interest in the Dalai Lama after the Olympics.

Olympics

Traditional Chinese medicines may contain banned substances, a potential source of trouble for China's Olympic athletes.

Local officials are stepping up efforts to combat an algae bloom that may impede Olympic competition, including sailing.

Some 33,000 people are mobilizing to combat a plague of locusts in Inner Mongolia, hoping to avert a disastrous migration to Beijing next month.

Politics

Could the city of Shenzen, site of China's first forays into capitalism, be a testing ground for democracy? Not quite, but The Washington Post reports that plans being drafted by local authorities there could provide the blueprint for future political liberalization.

A group of human rights lawyers were detained and placed under house arrest on Sunday to prevent them from meeting two U.S. congressmen in Beijing. The congressmen responded Tuesday by calling for President Bush to skip the Olympics. China's foreign ministry accused the two of "arrogance."

Tens of thousands marched peacefully for democracy in Hong Kong Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the handover back to China.

Environment and Economy

A new report says that Beijing is not conserving enough water on the eve of the Olympics, exacerbating a crisis.

Chinese and Indian startups in the wind power industry may face an uphill battle, battling a steep learning curve, high stakes, and already established European competition.

Earthquake

China's earthquake response may have revealed some flaws in its military capability.

On Monday, officials unveiled a plan to finance earthquake reconstruction.

Security forces are cracking down on parents of earthquake victims, who are demanding an investigation into why so many schools collapsed in the May disaster.

Taiwan

As direct weekend flights between Taiwan and the mainland are set to start this week, Taiwan is lifting some restrictions on Chinese currency exchange.

Three defectors from mainland China are on a hunger strike demanding Taiwanese resident status.