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An Honest Deed That Led to a Reunion

Lu Yu said to the boatman, “If you get everybody out of the water, I’ll reward you with 20 Taels.’ (Sun Mingguo / The Epoch Times)



August 1, 2019 Updated: August 1, 2019

There were three brothers, Lu Yu, Lu Bao, and Lu Zhen, who lived outside the east gate in Changzhou, Jiangsu Province, during the Ming Dynasty. Lu Yu had a son named Xi’er. One day when Xi’er was 6 years old, he went with the children from next door to a temple fair and never returned.

Lu Yu and his wife, Wang, looked for their child for days, but there was no sign of him anywhere.

Distraught, Lu Yu decided to leave home to do business and look for Xi’er at the same time. A few years went by. One day, he came to a place called Chenliu and found a green cloth bag in a latrine. He opened the bag and was astonished to find 200 taels of silver in it.

Lu Yu thought: “Whoever lost the money must be desperately looking for it. A life might be at stake. Honesty is a virtue. I’ll wait here for the owner to come back for his money.”

A day passed, and nobody showed up. Lu Yu had no choice but to continue his journey. He met a businessman named Chen Chaofeng at an inn in Suzhou, Anhui Province. They talked about business, and Chen sighed and said he had lost a bag in Chenliu with 200 taels of silver in it.

Lu Yu asked him to describe the bag. The description matched the bag he had found. He promptly took out the bag to return to Chen.

Chen was delighted. He offered to split the money down the middle with Lu Yu as a reward, but the latter declined.

In gratitude, Chen invited Lu Yu to his residence. He was keen to give his daughter’s hand in marriage to Lu Yu’s son if he had one. Lu Yu cried and told him about his son who had gotten lost.

Chen sighed and said: “I have a boy here whom I bought from another man for three taels of silver some years back. He’s 13 now. You can take him to be your son. It’s my way of repaying your kindness.”

Chen brought the boy to Lu Yu. The boy had a scar at the corner of his left brow. Lu Yu’s heart skipped a beat, for his son had fallen down when he was 4, and it had left a scar at the corner of his left brow. He asked the boy where he hailed from and who had sold him.

The boy said: “I’m not sure. I only remember my father is called Big Lu. I also have two uncles. I was duped and taken away before I was sold here.”

Lu Yu cried: “I’m your father! It has been so many years. Never in my dreams did I think I would run into you here!”

Chen and his family rejoiced at the Lus’ reunion. With sincere gratitude, Lu Yu said to Chen, “I owe it to you that I could be reunited with my son.”

Chen replied, “You did yourself a big favour by returning my money to me.”

The two families’ children were betrothed to each other. Chen gave the father and son 20 taels for them to go home.

The following morning, Lu and his son bade farewell to the Chens and came to a river. There was a commotion. A boat had capsized, and there were a few people in the water crying for help. Onlookers were arguing with some boatmen at the bank, who demanded to be paid for getting the people out of the water.

Lu Yu was eager to save the people. The 20 taels came to his mind. “I could offer them to the boatmen as a reward,” he thought.

He said to the boatmen, “If you get everybody out of the water, I’ll reward you with 20 taels.”

In no time, everybody was rescued.

Lu Yu gave the 20 taels to the boatmen. The people from the capsized boat were coming up to Lu Yu to thank him when someone shouted from among them, “Where did you come from, Brother?” It was Lu Yu’s youngest brother, Lu Zhen.

“Heaven helped me save my brother!” Lu Yu exclaimed. He told his brother about the 200 taels, the 20 taels, and his reunion with his son.

Lu Yu asked Lu Zhen why he had come to Suzhou. Lu Zhen replied: “It has been a few years since you left home. We were told that you had died in Shanxi. Your wife is already in mourning, and yet Lu Bao is trying to force her to remarry. She refused, of course. Go home quickly to your wife, before it’s too late.”

Lu Bao panicked. He jumped onto the boat and headed home.

The middle brother, Lu Bao, was wicked. When he heard that a widower in Jiangxi was looking for a wife, he offered Lu Yu’s wife to him. The two men agreed on a price of 30 taels.

Lu Bao got the money and told the man: “My sister-in-law is stubborn. I’m certain she will not leave with you. Come to my house in the evening with a sedan chair. The one wearing a white hairband in mourning will be my sister-in-law. Just grab her, put her in the sedan chair, take the boat the same night, and go.”

Lu Bao’s wife, Yang, told Wang: “My husband has married you off to a Jiangxi man. He’ll come in the evening for you. You had better start packing your things.”

Wang cried and turned the idea down flat. “My husband may be dead, but I’ve yet to see his body. Let’s wait till Lu Zhen comes back with news of Lu Yu before we do anything. Please do not force me! And how can I marry anyone when I’m still in mourning?”

Yang looked for a black hairband for Wang, but it was Heaven’s will that she could not find one. So she exchanged hers with Wang.

Dusk fell, and the Jiangxi man came to the Lus’ house with a bridal sedan. When the door was opened, a band of people headed straight for the woman wearing a white hairband.

Yang cried out, “I’m not the one!” But the band just grabbed her, stuffed her into the sedan, and sped off.

The following morning, Lu Bao came home and could not find his wife. When he saw his sister-in-law wearing a black hairband, he got suspicious and asked Wang what had happened. Wang told him about the switched hairbands.

Lu Bao pounded his chest. At the end of the day, it was his own wife he sold.

Lu Bao was about to leave when five people came in. They were none other than his brothers Lu Yu and Lu Zhen, his nephew Xi’er, and porters bringing in their luggage and goods. Ashamed of himself, Lu Bao ran out the back door.

Lu Yu said: “Had I not returned the 200 taels of silver, I wouldn’t have found my son. And had I kept the 20 taels, I wouldn’t have run into my brother and found out what had happened in the family. It is Heaven’s will that we are reunited. Lu Bao got a taste of his own medicine for trying to sell my wife.”

Lu Yu became even kinder to others. His family prospered. Xi’er married Chen Chaofeng’s daughter and had many descendants.

The tale of Lu Yu’s encounter is an excellent example of integrity and kindness.

*This story is from “Stories to Caution the World, Vol. 5, Big Brother Lu’s Honesty Led Him to His Son”. “Stories to Caution the World” is the second of the three collections of vernacular fiction written by Feng Menglong in the Ming Dynasty.

40,000 Civil Servants Rally in Hong Kong Ahead of Citywide Strike

Demonstrators gather and illuminated smartphone flashlights during a rally organised by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug. 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)



August 2, 2019 Updated: August 2, 2019

Chater Garden in the heart of Hong Kong’s bustling financial district of Central was again packed with protesters on Aug. 2 evening. According to organizers, an estimated 40,000 civil servants showed up in rare defiance against the Hong Kong government.

Demonstrators gather and hold placards during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug. 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather and hold placards during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug. 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)


The crowd had gotten so large that they spilled over to surrounding streets and a nearby skybridge, and forced several roads to close.

Demonstrators gather during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug, 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug, 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)


The rally reiterated the five demands that protesters have repeated in the past few months as they opposed a controversial extradition bill: drop all charges against arrested protesters; withdraw the bill; establish an independent commission to investigate police use of force; call for current Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam to resign; and institute universal suffrage.

The bill, which has been indefinitely suspended amid public outrage, would have allowed the Chinese regime to seek extradition of criminal suspects. It has drawn widespread opposition as Hongkongers fear that dissidents could be punished at will, and the city’s rule of law eroded.

People attend a protest held by civil servants in the Central District of Hong Kong in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law, on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a protest held by civil servants in the Central District of Hong Kong in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law, on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)


Meanwhile in nearby Edinburgh Place, medical workers also staged a mass rally demanding the release of a nurse who was arrested on July 28 as she was tending to injured protesters. Organizers said that around 10,000 attended the demonstration.

The Friday events follow a flash mob hosted by the city’s banking professionals on Thursday, in solidarity with protesters’ demands.

Members of the territory’s medical sector attend a protest in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law in Edinburgh Place, Hong Kong, on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the territory’s medical sector attend a protest in the latest opposition to a planned extradition law in Edinburgh Place, Hong Kong, on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)


Citizens First

Themed “Civil Servants Stand Together With the Public,” the civil servant rally took off at 7 p.m. local time, despite a stern government warning issued the previous day reminding the city’s roughly 180,000 civil servants to be loyal to the administration.

“The Hong Kong government will absolutely not accept any conduct that challenges the principle of civil servants’ political neutrality,” the statement read. “Regardless of their political ideology, civil servants must show unreserved loyalty to the current chief executive and the government.” It also warned of serious consequences should civil servants violate rules regarding political neutrality.

Members of the territory’s medical sector attend a protest in Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
Members of the territory’s medical sector attend a protest in Edinburgh Place in Hong Kong on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)


Many at the rally said that they felt compelled to come out despite the pressure. A customs official surnamed Zhang told the Hong Kong bureau of The Epoch Times that although he would be impartial in fulfilling his duties as a civil servant, he was “first a Hongkonger and therefore also needs to be loyal to the Hong Kong citizens.”

Zhang added that recent events, such as the police denying applications to hold marches and firing rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters, showed that even Hongkongers’ right to peaceful assembly were being stripped away. Thus, he felt the need to give support to the protesters.

Demonstrators gather and hold placards that reads “Safeguard Future” during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)
Demonstrators gather and hold placards that reads “Safeguard Future” during a rally organized by civil servants at Chater Garden in the Central district in Hong Kong, on Aug 02, 2019. (Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images)


Several other retired officials echoed the sentiment during rally speeches.

Joseph Wong, former Secretary for the Civil Service, said that civil servants are duty-bound to point out anything in the leadership’s conduct that deviates from the rule of law. He as well as former Legislative Council member Margaret Ng both agreed that that the rule of law is superior to any government official.

“Having been a lawmaker for 18 years, I want to share a thought from the bottom of my heart,” Ng said. “The biggest asset that Hong Kong has for the democratic system and democratic elections is that we have a group of professional, outstanding civil servants who understand and protect the fair system, and who can bring their professional input to the administrative branches dutifully and with impartiality.”

She added: “Cheers to them at this tough moment in time.”

People attend a protest held by civil servants in the Central District of Hong Kong on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
People attend a protest held by civil servants in the Central District of Hong Kong on Aug. 2, 2019. (Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)


Marches and protests have been planned for the weekend, in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok, Tseung Kwan O and Sai Ying Pun districts.

For Aug. 5, protesters are calling for a general strike. Organizers are planning several rallies in various neighborhoods around the city, though police have yet to grant approval for any of the locations, according to Hong Kong public broadcaster RTHK. Initially suggested on the popular online forum, the strike has since acquired endorsements from pro-democracy lawmakers, trade unions, the city’s teachers’ association, 34 banks, airlines, as well as several associations in the local entertainment industry.

A dozen of RTHK presenters will also join the strike, along with at least 2,000 social workers.

Follow Eva on Twitter: @EvaSailEast

Leonardo and the Strength of Meekness

A detail from Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist.” (Public Domain)


Reaching within: What traditional art offers the heart


July 10, 2019 Updated: July 16, 2019

If just one work by Leonardo da Vinci sings for me the word genius—genius, that is, in the original sense of the word, which describes a life guided by a spirit or even a higher power—it is his drawing “The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist.”

Scholars don’t agree when the work was created; some say as early as 1499 to 1500 and others as late as 1506 to 1508. Some just throw up their hands and say a range that encompasses the extremes of those dates.

The drawing is not a typical cartoon, which most often was a preparatory work for a painting or fresco. It bears no pricked holes along the sketched lines that would have been dusted with charcoal to transfer the image onto a canvas or wall. So it may be that Leonardo intended it as a completed work.

It is similar in subject matter to his painting “The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne,” now in the Louvre. But little St. John does not appear in that painting. Instead, the toddler Jesus is playing with a lamb, meant to symbolize the sacrificial lamb he is destined to become.


“The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne” by Leonardo da Vinci. Louvre. (Public Domain)
“The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne” by Leonardo da Vinci. Louvre. (Public Domain)


Bernardino Luini, who is said to have worked with Leonardo, certainly based his own painting “Holy Family With Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist” on Leonardo’s cartoon but added Jesus’s father, St. Joseph, as well.


“Holy Family With Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist,” circa 1503, by Bernardino Luini. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. (Public Domain)
“Holy Family With Saint Anne and the Infant John the Baptist,” circa 1503, by Bernardino Luini. Pinacoteca Ambrosiana. (Public Domain)

From Motherhood to Motherhood

Leonardo said a lot by setting these figures, as they are, in one nearly static pose. The drawing tells a story of motherhood through time—for nothing suggests the mother-child bond more aptly than a child on a mother’s lap.

Over the generations, from lap to lap to lap, mothers hold their children until they see them off and into the world to embark on their own journeys. Of the two mothers, the larger and more substantial one is St. Anne, who holds her child Mary as an adult: Mary as a mother herself.

Mary cradles her own child, still a babe, as he reaches out. He is almost crawling away from her, out to his own future meeting with John the Baptist.

The tight grouping, especially of those in the family—Anne, Mary, and Jesus—shows clearly the bonds between them. But even more so do their expressions. Our eyes follow St. Anne’s. She looks adoringly at her daughter, who in turn gazes at her son.

Reclaiming Meekness

Overall, it is Mary’s face that transfixes me. Was there ever a face with such sweetness, composure, innocence, and compassion? The longer I look, the deeper I feel these qualities have been immortalized.

Mary, who exemplifies feminine virtues such as gentleness, modesty, deference, and nurturance, has long been a symbol of meekness, characterized, for example, in the Christmas carol “Silent Night” as “tender and mild.”

But while meekness can mean submissiveness, its synonyms include patience and forbearance, and even adjectives like long-suffering and resigned.

Anyone who’s been a mother or has closely watched a mother knows that patience is crucial to the role. But unless a child has turned wayward, we don’t often think of mothers as long-suffering.

But aren’t they? In the course of rearing a child and even in the years beyond those early ones, mothers are likely to endure the pain that their children do, whether it’s a cat scratch, doing poorly on a test, a romance turned sour, or bouts of chemotherapy. Every trial the child faces, the mother, in some measure, does as well.

What tremendous strength this requires! How strange that we should see these attributes as weakness. In the attributes of patience and forbearance, we can see in Mary the wisdom to gracefully submit to a power greater than her own. This, however, takes strength of character.

Leonardo makes just this point. Taking another look at Mary and Anne, we see that these women are not meek in the sense of weakness. Irrespective of the soft expressions on their faces, Leonardo embodied them with tremendous strength: These legs are more than sturdy. These laps are solid and can bear the weight of the world.


Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist.” (Public Domain)
Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist.” (Public Domain)


Of course, this is not just a painting about motherhood and children. Not only are these biblical figures, but St. Anne’s index finger points to heaven.

Radiant With Compassion

Somehow, with just touches of white chalk, Leonardo managed to show a soft light on St. Mary and the Christ child and around Mary’s head, and the light seems to emanate from within them. And both of these faces share the same three-quarter perspective.

Anne and John, who both face and mirror Mary and Jesus, are slightly shaded, likely because the master artist wanted to acknowledge the lack of their spiritual status in comparison to that of the Madonna and child.

Baby Jesus seems to be wriggling out of Mary’s arms as she patiently watches him give a benediction to St. John, who one day will baptize him and set him on his journey as savior.

Taken together—in a visual arc moving from Anne to Mary to Jesus to John—this is an image of human love meeting God’s compassion as it pours forth, beyond the family, to the world, as represented by Jesus’s benediction to John.

Strength and Compassion

The image of Anne’s finger pointing to heaven seems almost out of place in this intimate scene. As Anne gazes at her daughter, why is her hand telling us something else? It seems unconnected to the story of family love and God’s compassion.

I believe Leonardo shows us a way to better ourselves spiritually. The finger is pointing to heaven for our sake.

How can what is depicted in this drawing speak to us? First, of course, we can understand that Anne and Mary represent more than mothers. It is not only mothers who can empathize with the pain of their children; fathers can as well. And, going one step further, the ability to show empathy and compassion is not reserved for parents alone.

Since every life in its course must submit to troubles, illnesses, and death, on this point, all humanity is one family. And we can, as all traditional spiritual paths remind us, treat each other with compassion as we suffer through life together.

But doing so requires patience to endure insults, disregard faults, and allow ourselves to feel each other’s troubles as our own.

How well Leonardo’s drawing reveals that enduring for others is the same thing as compassion. When we reach within for the strength to endure, we approach the sublime, and rest there in perfect composure and peace.

Art has an incredible ability to point to what can’t be seen so that we may ask “What does this mean for me and for everyone who sees it?” “How has it influenced the past, and how might it influence the future?” “What does it suggest about the human experience?” These are some of the questions we will explore in our series Reaching Within: What Traditional Art Offers the Heart.

China Detains Another Canadian, 12 Taiwanese Amid Rising Tensions

A group of tourists stand by the Bund near the Huangpu river across the Pudong New Financial district, in Shanghai on March 14, 2016. (JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)



July 14, 2019 Updated: July 14, 2019

A Canadian citizen has been detained in the Chinese city of Yantai, a Canadian government spokesman said on July 13, an incident that comes amid chilly diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Global Affairs, as Canada’s foreign ministry is known, didn’t provide further details or say whether the case was related to the detention of 16 foreign teachers and students earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, 12 Taiwanese securities analysts were also detained in Shanghai on July 7, Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council said on July 13.

Relations between China and Canada nosedived last December after Vancouver police detained Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of Huawei Technologies Co, on a U.S. arrest warrant. Beijing has repeatedly demanded Meng’s return, and has warned of “severe consequences” if Canada doesn’t release her.

Meng is indicted in the United States on charges of fraud relating to violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

After Meng’s arrest, China detained two Canadians, former diplomat Michael Kovrig and business consultant Michael Spavor, accusing them of involvement in stealing state secrets.

The Globe and Mail reported on Jan. 3 that Global Affairs spokesman Guillaume Bérubé said that at least 13 Canadians had been detained in China since Meng was arrested last year.

Bérubé confirmed that eight of the 13 detained Canadians have been released.

Besides Kovrig and Spavor, another Canadian in China, Robert Schellenberg, was sentenced to death in January for his involvement in a drug case, an escalation of his previous 15-year prison term. A second Canadian man, Fan Wei, was given the death penalty in April for drug offenses.

On July 9, police in Xuzhou, a city in northern China’s Jiangsu Province, said it had detained 19 people on drug-related charges and that 16 of them were foreigners. Yantai is about 385 miles from Xuzhou.

The British Embassy in Beijing said on July 12 that four British nationals were arrested as part of the drug raid in Xuzhou.

China’s state radio said some of the detained individuals were teachers at an English education center operated by EF Education First, a privately held Swiss firm that operates in 114 countries.

Nine Taiwanese Released

Of the 12 Taiwanese securities analysts detained on July 9, nine were released after they posted bail, while the remaining three are still detained under unspecified criminal charges, Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council said.

According to Taiwan’s Central News Agency (CNA), all of the analysts work for Thousand & Billion Education and Trading Co., a Shanghai-based company that offers securities-related programs and lessons.

CNA, citing an insider from the company, reported that the analysts didn’t have licenses to engage in securities-related work in mainland China, but only had Taiwanese licenses.

Thousand & Billion Education told CNA that the company had “not experienced any abnormalities.” But the company suspended its programs on July 9, citing a system failure. The programs weren’t restored until July 14.

The arrests occurred just one day after the U.S. State Department approved a possible sale to Taiwan of $2.2 billion worth of military equipment, including M1A2T Abrams tanks and Stinger missiles.

The detention also came two days before Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen stayed in New York for two nights on July 11, while in transit to the Caribbean, a trip that has angered the Chinese regime, which views the self-ruled democratic island as a wayward province.

Reuters contributed to this report.

Unexpected Evidence of a Brain Microbiome

Researchers have discovered that bacteria reside in our brain, raising profound questions about our connection to the microscopic natural world. (Lia Koltyrina/Shutterstock)


The outdated notion that bacteria are harmful invaders in the body was challenged further when researchers found bacteria in the brain


July 4, 2019 Updated: July 4, 2019

By now, almost everyone has heard of the human microbiome—the collection of viruses, bacteria, and fungi that play a pivotal role in our health and cognitive functioning. Also called the microbiota, we’ve long assumed that the microbiome consists of microbes that reside along our gastrointestinal tract—and more recently, on our skin.That’s logical enough; microbes live on our interfaces with the outside world. Conversely, there are certain areas in the human body that are assumed to be sterile, aka free of microbes, like the eye and the womb. However, advances in analytical techniques enabled researchers to recently identify the placental microbiome and eye microbiome that are present in healthy people. That’s pretty cool, but there definitely couldn’t be microbes in our brains, the most protected area of our bodies, right?

A head-turning poster at the November 2018 Society for Neuroscience scientific conference called into question the assumption of the brain as a sterile, bacteria-free zone. A team of researchers from The University of Alabama–Birmingham (UAB), led by Professor Rosalinda Roberts, showed high-resolution microscope images of mouse and human brains that depicted bacteria happily residing in astrocytes, star-shaped brain cells that interact with and support neurons.

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a human brain slice showing bacteria (circled in red) next to a blood vessel. Adapted from a writeup in Science Magazine.

Scanning Electron Microscope image of a human brain slice showing bacteria (circled in red) next to a blood vessel. Adapted from a writeup in Science Magazine. 

Like most people in the field, the UAB researchers were not looking for bacteria in the brain; this finding happened serendipitously. An undergraduate researcher named Courtney Walker was comparing microscope images of the brains of healthy people and those with schizophrenia to see if there were structural differences underlying the pathology, and she kept seeing the rod-like structures in the brain samples. Puzzled, Profesor Roberts consulted some colleagues and learned that these structures were bacteria. She realized that bacteria had been present in every brain that the lab had examined—34 brains in total.

To determine if the bacteria were a result of contamination between the time of death and brain sample preparation, Prof. Roberts and the team studied mouse brains immediately after death. To their surprise, they found bacteria in the mouse brains as well. Perhaps there was some contamination in the preparation of brain tissue slices for microscopy? To address that question, they raised mice in germ-free environments—with no bacterial exposure (at least theoretically)—and prepared the brain samples in the same way. They found no bacteria; none in the mouse guts or brains. This finding implies that the bacteria present in the brain comes from the environment or from within the body.

Given this result, the Roberts team dove deeper and used RNA sequencing to identify which types of bacteria were in human and mouse brains. Intriguingly, most of the bacteria were identified as Firmicutes, Proteobacteria, and Bacteroidetes—3 phyla commonly found in the gut. Perhaps these bacteria traveled from the gut to the brain, climbing up nerves or traversing blood vessels?

This preliminary finding has sparked many open questions. Are these commensal or pathological species? Does the quantity and composition of the brain microbiome change over time? Where do the bacteria come from? These exciting findings are reminiscent of the surprisingly recent discovery of the brain’s immune system that underpins the emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology.

The interdependence of all life is indeed being revealed in the hallowed halls of research science. It is becoming more and more inaccurate to vilify microorganisms as the evil “other” that invade and infect us. Through discoveries like this, we are being initiated to a new worldview that asks us to live in harmony with the natural world, to perceive our interdependence, and to end the wars we are fighting in hopes of finally one day beating those invisible assailants into submission … as they are, in fact, inextricably a part of us.

Copyright Kelly Brogan MD. This work is reproduced and distributed with the permission of Kelly Brogan MD. For more articles, sign up for the newsletter at

Artist Couple’s Happy Life Shattered by Imprisonment and Torture

He Wenting (R) and Huang Guangyu on their wedding day in 2012. (



July 5, 2019 Updated: July 5, 2019

All Huang Guangyu and He Wenting wanted to do after they got married was hone their craft as artists and practise their faith in peace.

Huang and He married in 2012 and set up home in a village near Guangzhou College Town in southern China. He was already an accomplished painter, having graduated from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts with a major in oil painting and going on to have his works exhibited several times.

Wenting (L) and Huang Guangyu. (
Wenting (L) and Huang Guangyu. (

His wife was a writer and poet, and although she hadn’t been formally trained in art, she had been painting from a young age and had studied for a time under famous painter Li Zhengtian.

They loved traditional Chinese culture and started to express it using Western oil painting techniques, all the while refining their talents.

Painting by Huang Guangyu. (
Painting by Huang Guangyu. (

But just two years after they married, they were sent to prison for raising awareness about the persecution campaign against Falun Gong—in particular,distributing information on how to bypass the Chinese regime’s internet blockade.

Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is a Chinese spiritual discipline handed down from ancient times based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. On July 20, 1999, the Chinese Communist Party launched a brutal persecution campaign against adherents of the practice that continues today and has resulted untold suffering and death.

Painting by He Wenting. (
Painting by He Wenting. (

‘Everything Changed Overnight’

In December 2013, Huang and He were illegally arrested and their peaceful home ransacked. They were held in detention until the following August, when they were sentenced to a three-year prison term, shattering the young couple’s hopes and dreams.

Horrified by the situation in prison, He wanted to let the world know and began to secretly document on sheets of tissue paper the torture and humiliation she went through.

Depiction of force-feeding of a Falun Gong practitioner. (
Depiction of force-feeding of a Falun Gong practitioner. (

“A bright light hit the wall in front of me. Counting the days since I have been here, I felt as if I have shed many layers of skin already. Before I came here, I was in my warm, comfortable bed and had everything everyone envies: a happy marriage, an ideal job, a bright future, and I was expressing myself with my paintbrush. Everything changed overnight,” she wrote, according to“How I wanted to paint again, everything I have gone through: the feeding tube, the handcuffs, the iron window, the logo on the uniform! I saw clearly the bruises on my hands, the dried blood on my lips, my bare feet, the filth in my hair… tears run down my cheeks again.”

She described how she was put in a dark cell and handcuffed and shackled, and how it was so cold she couldn’t sleep at night.

The idea for this painting by Huang Guangyu came to him in a dream. (
The idea for this painting by Huang Guangyu came to him in a dream. (

“The bedding was very thin. I trembled due to the cold and could not sleep. A male guard was shouting outside: ‘No quilts for the Falun Gong [practitioner] who did not reveal her name!’”

She went on a hunger strike to protest her mistreatment and was brutally force-fed. Force-feeding of Falun Gong prisoners of conscience who undertake a hunger strike is common and becomes yet another form of torture. Some practitioners have died from force-feeding, according to Minghui.

“Every morning I was tied down for force-feeding. Five to six male guards and male inmates pinned me down on the bed and pushed the feeding tube through my nose. I almost passed out because of the excruciating pain, and constantly threw up. I heard my own agonizing screams. In the past, I only read about the force-feeding torture online, now I am experiencing it myself,” she wrote.

Nothing is known about Huang’s time in prison, but it’s very likely he experienced torture and abuse as well. According to the Falun Dafa Info Center, possibly the most prominent feature of the campaign against Falun Gong has been the prevalent use ofextreme torture. Minghui notes that of the more than 3,400 confirmed deaths of Falun Gong adherents in China between 1999 and 2016, the vast majority came from torture.

When He was released in November 2016, she managed to smuggle out the sheets of tissue paper she had used as a diary. Huang was also released at that time. Little is known about their lives since then.

Introducing the Sonnet

“Allegory of Lyric Poetry,” 1753, by François Boucher. Oil on canvas. 45 1/4 inches by 62 3/4 inches. Mr. and Mrs. Charles Wrightsman Gift, 1969. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

How 14 eloquent lines bring clarity


June 19, 2019 Updated: June 19, 2019

“They are eloquent who can speak low things acutely, and of great things with dignity, and of moderate things with temper,” Cicero wrote in “The Orator.”

The traditional sonnet can allow this level of communication to occur. The rhyme and rhythm of a sonnet may even evoke the poem’s meaning before the words are actually understood. This is due to the structural integrity of the sonnet.

If the structure is lost, so too is the harmony—of the rhyme and the reason. Like musical notation without its bars, it falls from grace into discord.

The two main types of sonnet are the Petrarchan sonnet and the English sonnet, also known as the Shakespearean sonnet, as this is the type of sonnet Shakespeare wrote. They differ in their rhyming schemes, but both encourage eloquent discourse.

How the Sonnet Came to Be

The first sonnets were thought to be written between 1220 and 1250, at the court of Emperor Frederick II of Sicily, in southern Italy. It was the emperor’s notary and legal assistant, Giacomo da Lentino, who wrote the majority of these sonnets.

Sonnets were used as poetic dialogue in the court to convey arguments and counterarguments, explore ideas and concepts, and normally end with a solution. The sonnet gave the court poets a vehicle to demonstrate their wit, wisdom, and intellect.

Statue of Francesco Petrarca at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. (Frieda/CC BY SA 3.0)
Statue of Francesco Petrarca at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. (Frieda/CC BY SA 3.0)

In the 1330s, Francesco Petrarca, more commonly known as Petrarch, popularized the form. The Petrarchan sonnet is the Italian sonnet as we know it today. Petrarch’s “Canzoniere,” or “Song Book,” written over 40 years, contains 317 sonnets along with other kinds of poems, for example, ballads and madrigals. Petrarch’s “Canzoniere” inspired the love poetry of Renaissance Europe.

The Petrarchan sonnet uses a “volta” (turn) to divide the 14 lines of the sonnet into two distinctive parts. The first eight lines (the octave) are an outpouring of a problem: the thoughts and feelings that need addressing. It’s at this point in the sonnet that the volta comes, where the poet redirects or restates the idea, thoughts, or feelings. The last six lines (the sestet) address the issue, emphasize a point, and normally provide a solution.

The rhyming scheme of a Petrarchan sonnet is ABBA ABBA for the octave and CDE CDE or CDC DCD for the sestet.

Petrarch also stretched the sonnet into longer narratives by stringing several sonnets together, as seen earlier in Dante Alighieri’s “Vita Nuova” written 1274–91.

How the Sonnet Came to England

In 1520, the sonnet came to England, to the court of King Henry VIII, where Sir Thomas Wyatt and Sir Henry Howard, the Earl of Surrey, wrote the first sonnets in English.

Wyatt became acquainted with French and Italian poets when he traveled to Italy and to the papacy on diplomatic missions. When he returned to England, Wyatt translated Petrarch’s sonnets.

Wyatt adapted the Petrarchan sonnet to make the last two lines rhyme (the couplet), and Howard changed the octave to introduce more variation in the rhymes. The rhyming scheme of the English sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG.

In general, the rhythm of sonnets in the English language follow an “iambic pentameter,” meaning each line must have five (penta) “iambs.” One iamb is one unstressed syllable and one stressed syllable.

Shakespeare’s couplet in “Sonnet 18” sums up the enduring romance of this poetic form:

So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,

So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Rights Group Urges US to Sanction China Over Xinjiang Camps

Chinese soldiers participate in an anti-terror drill in Hami, Xinjiang region, China on July 8, 2017. (Reuters)



May 29, 2019 Updated: May 29, 2019

GENEVA—The United States, embroiled in a trade war with China, should also impose sanctions on China for detaining an estimated one million Uyghurs in its Xinjiang region, where repression has not abated, Human Rights Watch said on May 29.

The Trump administration has been weighing sanctions against Chinese officials, including Xinjiang Communist Party chief Chen Quanguo, since late last year, and though it has ramped up criticism, it has held back from imposing the measures.

China has faced growing global condemnation for setting up complexes in the remote western region that U.N. experts describe as mass detention centers holding more than one million ethnic Uyghurs and other Muslims.

“Here we have got a U.S. administration that is clearly fine with the idea of imposing serious economic sanctions, but then seems to be lagging behind on imposing them for serious human rights violations,” Sophie Richardson, China director of Human Rights Watch, told a briefing in Geneva.

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers last month faulted the Trump administration for failing so far to impose sanctions over China’s alleged rights abuses against its Muslim minority and called for punitive measures against a senior Communist Party official and Chinese companies.

The lawmakers called on the administration to apply sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act. This federal law allows the U.S. government to target human rights violators around the world with freezes on any U.S. assets, U.S. travel bans and prohibitions on Americans doing business with them.

“We believe that senior Xinjiang officials and national officials who are implicated in the crisis in Xinjiang should be subject to global Magnitsky sanctions,” Richardson said.

“The situation in Xinjiang is far from improving. If anything, (there is) the failure to release large numbers of people, and the desire to spin this as some sort of essential national security strategy that really is about vocational training rather than arbitrary detention,” she said.

The U.S. Senate and House are considering draft bills, variations of the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act, both of which enjoy “very broad bipartisan support,” she added.

Human Rights Watch published a report this month entitled “China’s Algorithms of Repression,” on a mass surveillance app used by Xinjiang police to track citizens that has led to arrests.

“One of our concerns coming out of this project really is about these oceanic data sets that the Chinese government has now gathered and how exactly they are being used,” Richardson said.

The U.S.-based activist group is lobbying the 47 member states of the U.N. Human Rights Council to hold China to account for abuses at the three-week session opening on June 24.

By Stephanie Nebehay

Child Prodigies of Classical Music

Prodigy Umi Garrett is now 18 years old. She was the Category A Grand Prix winner, at age 10, of the II Chopin International Competition in Hartford, Conn., in 2010.(

Motivated from within or without?

By Jani Allan

May 1, 2019 Updated: May 2, 2019

There was always music in our house when I was growing up: operas and piano sonatas and string quartets. I still remember the sound of the needle poised on a record making the noise of hushed applause before the music started.

When I was 4, my mother asked me if I would like to learn to play the piano. I replied that I would teach myself. She immediately set about finding me a teacher. A series of teachers, really, as I was deemed a prodigy; I moved up the totem pole of tutors.

My mother’s ambitions for my concert-pianist future coursed through her veins. My last teacher was Professor Adolph Hallis. Professor Hallis accepted only exceptional pupils.

His other star student was Marian Friedman. Marian was talented, diligent, and dedicated. I could tell. I would be sitting on a tapestry couch in the waiting room, waiting for her to be released.

When I was 10, I played with the Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra. When, at age 14, I was selected to play at the Young Artists Concerto Festival, I started having pre-recital nerves. I also resented the four hours I had to practice the piano every day. Prodigiousness in childhood does not always predict adult eminence.

Marian went on refining her brilliance. She is described as a “connoisseur’s pianist” by The Boston Globe. In the Globe’s July 13, 2005 article, it was reported from Rhode Island that Mark Malkovich III, general director of the Newport Music Festival for 30 years, celebrated his 75th birthday with a present to himself: getting Marian Friedman to play a recital.

She is extremely low-profile.

At What Price?

Stories of child prodigies in the classical genre have a long history and include the greatest composers in Western history.

When Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was 6, he performed on the harpsichord for The Empress of Austria.

Maria Theresa and her family looked at his chubby, dimpled hands moving precisely on the keyboard and were charmed. When he finished the performance, the story goes, he ran up to the empress, climbed up on her knee, and kissed her.

She returned the kiss, enchanted by his character and his talent. He was giving piano and violin recitals. It is said that at the age of 3, he had perfect pitch. By age 5, he had composed a concerto and by 8, his first symphony.

Mozart’s father, Leopold, was probably the original pushy parent, forcing him to perform all over Europe. Few know that Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna (nicknamed Nannerl), was also a prodigy, but her destiny was marriage.

Mozart seemed to cope with the great expectations that come with precocious talent.

Others haven’t.

Violinist Niccolò Paganini was locked in a room and forced to practice, a regimen that, some said, helped him to develop a drinking problem by the time he was 16.

Niccolo Paganini portrait by ean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres" width="855" height="1200" /> Some child prodigies develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures they suffer. A portrait of Niccolò Paganini, 1819, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (Public Domain)
Niccolo Paganini portrait by ean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres” width=”855″ height=”1200″ /> Some child prodigies develop unhealthy coping mechanisms to deal with the pressures they suffer. A portrait of Niccolò Paganini, 1819, by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. (Public Domain)

Some prodigies thought to have “the gift” had demanding fathers who doubled as demanding teachers.

Lang Lang is a Chinese concert pianist whose accomplishments include performances with the Berlin Philharmonic at the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games, a White House state dinner, and sold-out shows at Carnegie Hall. From the age of 2, Lang Lang would sit with his father, Lang Guoren, who made his son practice up to four hours a day. As Lang Lang grew older, he practiced eight hours a day. Growing up in Mao’s China, the father’s own dreams of musical success were smashed. He wanted his son to be the musician he was never allowed to be.

Did his determination border on psychological or physical abuse? Lang says no. He and his father wanted the same thing: for Lang Lang to become a globally famous musician. “I was never forced to play the piano,” he said in a China Daily article.

Genius as an Abnormality

What are child prodigies? Are they completely different human beings? Apart from agreeing that prodigies possess levels of ability that most adults never can, we still don’t know where prodigiousness originates from. The debate of nature versus nurture continues to rage.

Writer David Shenk goes as far as to argue that prodigiousness is not in fact genetic.

Scientists continue to debate the origins of prodigiousness. General intelligence, working memory, or even a form of autism could be responsible, they argue, as NeuroNation reports. Piano teacher Veda Kaplinsky of Juilliard said to The New York Times: “Genius is an abnormality and can signal other abnormalities … ADD or OCD or Asperger’s.” Scholars argue that Mozart himself was on the autism spectrum.

Child Prodigies Today

There is a long history of child prodigies in the classical music genre. Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, and Mendelssohn are just a few.

But in recent years, a growing number of prodigies of increasingly young ages are reaching a global audience. China has an estimated 30 million young pianists and 10 million young violinists, The New York Times says. And Newsweek reports that Chinese prodigies are attending European and North American music schools and conservatories.

According to Murray McLachlan, a teacher at Cheltham’s School of Music in Manchester, England, the success of the Chinese at music competitions is unsurprising. McLachlan observed, in the Independent, that this success derives from the rock-solid work ethos of their families.

“Musicians are doing more advanced things at a younger age than ever before,” Kaplinsky said, in Newsweek. “Today kids are recording the Chopin études at age 10,” she said. “When I was young, nobody played them until they were adults.”

Chopin,_by_Wodzinska" width="640" height="863" /> Chopin’s études, considered some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire, are now being played by children. Portrait of Chopin, 1835, by his fiancée Maria Wodzinska. (Public Domain)
Chopin,_by_Wodzinska” width=”640″ height=”863″ /> Chopin’s études, considered some of the most challenging pieces in the piano repertoire, are now being played by children. Portrait of Chopin, 1835, by his fiancée Maria Wodzinska. (Public Domain)

It’s the Olympic syndrome: Records exist in order to be broken.

Umi Garrett, who was 8 years old when she played Liszt on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” displayed the commonality of prodigious children: an extraordinary desire and dedication.

She told Ellen that she would play the piano “all day long” if she could.

Choosing a Path

This begs the question, should I have cut short my own classical music career?

I was 18 when it was decided that I would go to the University of the Witwatersrand to study for a bachelor’s degree in music.

At the last minute, I changed my mind about doing music and enrolled for a degree in fine arts instead.

Wits School of Arts in the 1970s shines like a diamond in the dust bunnies of my memory.

I’ve come to understand that the ultimate achievement of any human being is love. We need to love what we do. If we hesitate, then we need to rock with the waves and invent a new way of being in the world.

Jani Allan is a South African journalist, columnist, writer, and broadcaster.

Venezuela’s Violent Suppression of Protesters Aided by Chinese Military Supplies

Opposition demonstrators clash with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro after troops joined opposition leader Juan Guaidó in his campaign to oust Maduro’s government, in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

By Frank Fang, Epoch Times

May 2, 2019 Updated: May 3, 2019

The recent violent suppression of protests against the ruling regime in Venezuela, captured on camera by international media outlets, sparked public outrage.

The military armor vehicle that ran over protestors was manufactured by a Chinese state-run defense company, highlighting China’s role in supporting the current dictatorship.

In the morning hours on April 30, unarmed protestors backing Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader and head of Venezuela’s National Assembly who declared himself acting president in January, took to the streets of Caracas.

They assembled after Guaidó called on supporters to gather on the streets to begin the “final phase” of his plan to oust Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro.

The peaceful protest turned ugly outside a military base in Caracas, when a Venezuelan National Guard vehicle ran over protestors, according to accounts and footage filmed by Reuters. Other protestors could be seen rushing to the aid of those who were hit by the vehicle. It isn’t known how many were injured or if there were any fatalities.

Venezolana de Televisión, Venezuela’s state-run broadcaster, briefly mentioned the morning hour protest in a report published May 1. While calling Guaidó a “coup deputy,” the article mentioned that eight VN-4 vehicles were present at the protest site. These vehicles later withdrew and returned to their military units, according to the report.

Several Spanish-language media also identified the vehicle that plowed into protestors as a VN-4 vehicle, including Argentinian news website Infobae, Barcelona-based newspaper La Vanguardia, and Mexico-based media Cultura Colectiva. They pointed out that VN-4 vehicles are nicknamed the “Rhinoceros.”

Indeed, the VN-4 are from China. They are light, tactical-armored vehicles manufactured by China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco), which is owned by China’s State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, an agency under the cabinet-like State Council.

Chinese media reports indicate that the VN-4 was ready for export since at least 2009. It was first unveiled to the public at a police equipment exhibition in Beijing that year. It has since been exported to Venezuela, Kenya, Sudan, Cambodia, among others.

Opposition demonstrator injured from Venezuelan security forces using an armored vehicle to ram demonstrators during clashes in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrator injured from Venezuelan security forces using an armored vehicle to ram demonstrators during clashes in the surroundings of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

Venezuela’s use of these vehicles has not been for normal peacekeeping purposes. In testimony before a U.S. congressional hearing in September 2017, Evan Ellis, senior associate at the Washington-based think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies, stated that “the VN-4 armored cars and VN-16 light tanks sold by the P.R.C. [People’s Republic of China] to Venezuela, and designed for riot control, have arguably contributed to efforts by Venezuela’s current regime to suppress democratic protests.”

Venezuela has built up its stock of VN-4 over the years, some being donations from China.

According to an October 2018 report on China’s engagement with Latin America and the Caribbean by the U.S.-China Economic Security Review Commission, Venezuela ordered 121 VN-4 vehicles from China in 2012, which were delivered between 2013 and 2015. Chinese state-run media reported in 2013 about its first delivery of the VN-4s to Venezuela.

Then, in November 2015, Venezuela’s state-run newspaper Correo del Orinoco, reported comments made by Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, about the arrival of 560 VN-4 vehicles that were donated by Beijing.

In June 2017, Spanish-language daily El Nuevo Herald, which is published in Florida, reported that more than 150 vehicles, including VN-4s, were delivered from Norinco to Venezuela.

Given the timing, it is likely the armored vehicles deployed to suppress past protests were also VN-4s.

El Nuevo Herald reported comments by Henrique Capriles, then-opposition leader and governor of Miranda State, who expressed outrage at both the Venezuelan government and Beijing for the purchases, saying the vehicles would be used to suppress people.

“It is unacceptable that in the most serious food and medicine crisis in history, China sells equipment to suppress the people with hunger,” Capriles said.


Norinco was founded in 1980 with approval from the State Council and China’s Central Military Commission—the highest military governing body within the Chinese Communist Party.

On its website, the company description explains that, for the past 40 years, the company has consistently “listened to the party, and followed the party.” It boasts that “party-building” within the company has powered its development to become a global competitor.

The company has explicitly stated its support for China’s foreign policy project, One Belt, One Road (OBOR, also known as Belt and Road), an initiative launched in 2013 to build up geopolitical influence via investments across Southeast Asia, African, Europe, and Latin America.

Norinco also is known to have armed unethical governments and criminal organizations, while being accused of human rights abuses.

In 2014, Human Rights Watch (HRW) released the results of an investigation into whether the Syrian regime had used chemical weapons in an attack on three towns in northern Syria in April 2014.

HRW found strong evidence to the affirmative, noting that there were canisters with the markings “Cl2,” which is the chemical symbol for chlorine gas, and “NORINCO,” which “indicates that the cylinders were manufactured in China by the state-owned company NORINCO,” the report said.

Opposition demonstrator clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
Opposition demonstrator clashes with soldiers loyal to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro in front of La Carlota military base in Caracas, on April 30, 2019. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

In August 2015, a U.N. report called out Norinco for selling the South Sudan government 100 anti-tank guided missile launchers, 1,200 missiles, about 2,400 grenade launchers, nearly 10,000 automatic rifles, and 24 million rounds of various types of ammunition, according to the Associated Press.

The South Sudan government was condemned for war crimes committed during the civil war of 2013 that pitted forces loyal to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir against those who rebelled under former deputy Riek Machar. According to Reuters, South Sudanese soldiers have been accused of raping children, burning people alive, and razing villages.

Norinco also manufactures guns and rifles, one of them being the Type 56 rifle, a variant of the Soviet-designed AK-47.

Amnesty International, in a 2009 report, stated that “Chinese-made Norinco guns are frequently used by criminal gangs in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and South Africa.”

In February, U.S. magazine The National Interest identified several models of Norinco guns that are being widely used in the Middle East by the ISIS terrorist group and the Syrian regime. The Type 56 rifles are “common on international arms markets and often bought up by nations looking to arm groups with some level of deniability,” the report added.

Norinco is also in the mining business through its subsidiary Wanbao Mining. Zimbabwe politicians have arranged lucrative mining contracts to Chinese companies, including Norinco, in exchange for arms. Wanbao holds several mineral rights in the African country, according to a 2013 article by Zimbabwean radio station Nehanda Radio.

Also, in February 2017, Amnesty International called on Burmese authorities to shut down a copper mine operated by Wanbao due to human rights abuses, including forced evictions of locals living near the mine.