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Why Is Macklemore Shouting Out the Philippines' Hard-Left Nationalists?

The rapper Macklemore's body may have been at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday. But in the wake of supertyphoon Haiyan, his heart was evidently in the Philippines... or, at least, in "the Philippians." In an unfortunately misspelled but surely well-intentioned tweet sent during the awards ceremony, the hip-hop artist informed his Twitter followers: "Over 10,000 people died as a result of the typhoon in the Philippians... If you want to help those affected go to http://nafconusa.org."

He quickly tweeted a correction, in which he implicated iPhone's autocorrect feature and his "6th grade teacher" for the spelling error. But that's beside the point. More interesting is his choice of aid organization: Not the Red Cross or UNICEF -- both of which are on the ground adminstering aid -- but NAFCON, a small alliance of grassroots Filipino groups in the U.S. that is also affiliated with a number of left-leaning, nationalist political groups in the Philippines.

While it's true that NAFCON is fervently raising funds to provide disaster relief assistance to affected communities in the Philippines, its work is occuring largely under the radar. So how did Macklemore, a rapper from Seattle, even hear about the group?

Credit might go to another Washington-based artist with whom he's collaborated: Geo of the Blue Scholars (A.KA. Prometheus Brown A.K.A. George Quibuyen). He's a vocalist, long time Filipino-American activist, and frequent critic of U.S. foreign policy; in one song, he characterizes it as "imperial aggression." NAFCON wouldn't confirm the connection, but did say that members were grateful for the shout-out and had no hard feelings about the misspelling. Following Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, which killed about 800 people, NAFCON delivered 700 boxes of food and emergency supplies to some of the hardest hit communities in the country.

According to the most recent figures, the typhoon has killed 1,774 people since making landfall on Friday, and many expect casualties to reach as high as 10,000. Which means the Philippines will need the help... wherever it comes from.

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Singles' Day Is China's Cyber Monday, Only Lonelier

In the United States, the lonely have Reddit and cats. In China, they have Singles' Day, which falls on Nov. 11 -- 11.11, the four ones symbolizing "bare branches," Chinese slang for bachelors. Thought to have originated about 20 years ago as a joke on college campuses, Singles' Day was once an occasion for confessing one's feelings to that special someone. But since 2010, online retailers have transformed the holiday, also known as "Double 11," into an epic online shopping extravaganza akin to America's Cyber Monday.

China has 271 million online consumers, meaning that almost half of China's 591 million Internet users buy products online. E-commerce sites Taobao and Tmall, which saw a combined $1 trillion in sales in 2012, will both be running promotional campaigns during China's Singles' Day. Among the offers: 50 percent discounts on products like boyfriend body pillows and hoodies that read "I am single because I am fat."  Amazon.cn declared that the site would sell "20,000 products discounted by as much as 90 percent." That includes a wedding ring, which singles can presumeably buy, just in case. Jack Ma, founder of Internet giant Alibaba, told Chinese Premier Li Keqiang late last month that Alibaba's sales on Singles' Day 2012  were "nearly $3.3 billion" -- more than double the roughly $1.5 billion purchased on Cyber Monday in 2012. For Singles' Day 2013, Ma expects sales to exceed $4.9 billion. 

The rise of singletons as a consumer group is not without its own costs. Chinese business magazine Caijing reported that big delivery companies were forced to scramble to find over 100 extra airplanes to handle the 323 million parcels they needed to deliver over the Singles' Day shopping period. Another widely circulated paper, the People's Daily, put a personal face on the story, reporting that a 20-something deliveryman named Shi Lei had died from delivering up to 160 packages a day, leaving him no time to eat. The holiday strains the logistics system: Products frequently sell out or arrive late. Even when everything moves smoothly, consumers complain about commercial gimmicks. According to the Beijing Evening News, a popular local paper, some online retailers quietly raise prices before slashing them.

But Chinese have not forgotten about the true meaning of this holiday: hating singlehood. Singles' Day is an occasion on which Chinese confess their feelings and try to find significant others. On Nov. 7, with four days to go before the holiday, the top trending topic on Weibo, China's Twitter, was "Help Your Roommate Find Someone." Over 200,000 people participated in the discussion, posting pictures of their roommates (and sometimes themselves) in hopes of avoiding another lonely Singles' Day.

Chinese are no strangers to loneliness: There are tens of millions of men in China who may never find love due to the country's massive gender imbalance, a result of the One Child Policy and a longstanding preference for male children. Chinese women don't have it easy either: Those who remain unmarried at the ripe old age of 27 risk being labeled "leftover women," a pejorative term that government organizations have promoted to encourage educated women to settle down.

Although poverty and singledom are often linked outcomes in China, at least one web user was sure of which was worse. "Spending Singles' Day alone isn't that scary," he wrote. "What's scary is when you're so poor you can't even enjoy Taobao's ‘Double 11.'" Retail therapy indeed.

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