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July 3rd, 2014
07:21 AM ET

China's last women with "lotus feet"

Since 2005, Hong Kong-based photographer Jo Farrell has been on a mission to document China's last women with bound feet.

It was a symbol of beauty and social status that began in the Song dynasty but officially banned over a hundred years ago. But the practice continued in rural areas for a few years after the ban.

Farrell has spent a decade traveling to China’s Shandong and Yunnan provinces to forge a close relationship with 50 of China’s last women with bound feet.

Those women are now in their 80s and 90s. In this video, we discuss the brutal practice of foot binding and Farrell's sense of urgency to share her portraits of their "lotus feet."

June 25th, 2014
12:48 PM ET

Drawing the line between porn and art

After years of pressure, Japan has passed a law banning the possession of child pornography. The move finally brings it in line with the rest of the developed world.

Child rights advocates say it is long overdue. But many say the law doesn’t go far enough, because it excludes sexually explicit depictions of children in anime and manga.

Campaigners say this is a loophole that needs to be closed.

Others worry that censoring drawings and animations could hurt creative industries and violate a constitutional right to free speech.

“When you try to become the ‘thought police’ and tell people what they can draw, what they can write, what they can dream – you go down a very slippery slope,” says Roland Kelts, an author on Japanese pop culture.

Kelts draws a clear line of distinction between actual children used in pornographic scenes and drawings depicting them.

He argues, “No child is exploited when an artist sits down to draw a picture.”

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Filed under: Art & Science
June 16th, 2014
03:08 PM ET

Virtual reality's new reality

There’s something a little strange that one of today’s hottest trends in technology is… virtual reality.

It’s an idea that seems past its time; sitting alongside household atomic generators and personal jetpacks as visions for the future that seem laughable today. But VR isn’t a joke anymore.

I had the chance to try on the headset that has almost single-handedly revived interest in virtual reality: the Oculus Rift.

For now, the Rift is only in the prototype stage and has some way to go before it’s ready for consumers. Still, even at this early stage the potential of the Rift is incredible.

It looks big and bulky, but once it was strapped to my head I couldn’t feel the weight of the Rift. The whole setup is slightly cumbersome; you have the headset, then you have to put on headphones and find your controller — without being able to see either, because your eyes are covered by the Rift.

My first impressions of the Rift? It’s a little unsettling. I was surprised by the low resolution of the screen, individual pixels reminding me that my eyes were millimeters away from them; I was acutely aware of the edges of the display; and basically, I could feel like I had a big plastic visor strapped to my face.

But then you move your head… and your view of the world shifts almost perfectly with your movement. Move your head to the left, and you’re looking left.

I played a 3D platforming game called Lucky’s Tale (from the creator of Words With Friends). To be brutally honest, it felt a little like a simple Mario clone: You make a cute little fox run and jump along a basic path running from left to right. Then the path turns back to the left… and you find yourself scoping out the way ahead simply by turning your head to look at it.

Video games have allowed you to move your view of the world for years through a controller. It’s not a new idea. But with the Rift, looking around a game’s world is as natural as looking around our own.

That’s when the Oculus Rift experience starts to click, and it all starts to work.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Gadgets • Games • Technology
June 12th, 2014
03:24 PM ET

Three standouts from E3 2014

E3 is one of video gaming's biggest events of the year; a three-day gathering in Los Angeles where almost all of the industry’s major players show off their newest titles.

Here are the three games that stood out most to me from E3 2014.

FULL POST

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Filed under: Games
June 12th, 2014
02:38 PM ET

Beijing to Hong Kong: We call the shots

Since the handover in 1997, Hong Kong has been ruled under the governing principle of "one country, two systems."

But a white paper issued this week by China's State Council Information office is trying to set the record straight, emphasizing Beijing's "comprehensive jurisdiction" over the territory.

The white paper puts forward the view that some Hong Kong residents are "confused or lopsided in their understanding" of the principle.

It says, "The high degree of autonomy of the HKSAR (Hong Kong Special Administrative Region) is not full autonomy, nor a decentralized power. It is the power to run local affairs as authorized by the central leadership."

Political columnist and commentator Frank Ching calls the paper a clear warning to Hong Kong, pointing out a line about Beijing's right to declare a state of emergency in Hong Kong.

"If they declare a state of emergency, that means the People's Liberation Army can come in and take over the job of Hong Kong police."

He adds, "That would be the end of Hong Kong as we know it today."

Ching also makes an interesting observation about why the paper was released in seven languages.

"It's warning foreign countries not to use Hong Kong as a base for subversion."

June 10th, 2014
02:46 PM ET

One year of Edward Snowden's revelations

"If history tells us anything it's that whistle-blowers are usually treated kindly, and claims of national security much less so."

Here's my interview with Edward Snowden's legal adviser, Ben Wizner, one year after Snowden revealed himself as the NSA leaker.

June 6th, 2014
12:07 PM ET

Bullets in Beijing: Tiananmen leader Shen Tong looks back

Shen Tong is a Chinese dissident who helped lead the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Ahead of the 25th anniversary of the crackdown, I asked him about his experience during the demonstrations, and the chilling moment when he realized troops were not shooting rubber bullets.

We also talked about a lack of awareness in China about what happened back then.

"It seems like there is a collective amnesia not only due to the lack of information but also due to at least this tacit agreement between the post-'89 police state and the urban population," he tells me via satellite from New York.

"'Let’s forget about the past and why rock the boat' because there are several groups of elite populations, not just in China, that are making so much money so quickly."

But Shen is certain that the collective amnesia concerning Tiananmen will inevitably lift.

"There are plenty of indications that collective memory, so important to the national psyche, cannot be forgotten," says Shen.

"So even though a lot young people don’t know the details... those memories can come back very quickly as we’ve seen time and again in history."

June 6th, 2014
10:07 AM ET

"Tank Man" and other Tiananmen memories

To many people, it's the defining image of the Tiananmen crackdown: a single man staring down a line of tanks.

"Tank Man" photographer Jeff Widener recalls what it took to capture that moment.

"I had to get a bicycle and go all the way down past soldiers and tanks and sporadic gunfire in the distance," Widener says. "And then you had to get past secret police, who were using electric cattle prods on the journalists if they didn't give up their supplies."

Of course, getting the photo out to the world was also extremely difficult. Click here to find out how he did it.

Widener also remembers the sense of hope among those student protesters in 1989.

"What struck me as something very dramatic was the building of the Goddess of Democracy," he says. "Because there you have the symbol of freedom, which is basically a duplication of the Statue of Liberty. And that is facing right across the street from the Mao portrait at the Forbidden City."

But, Widener adds, that he and other journalists wondered how long it would be until the Chinese government refused to tolerate the face-off any more.

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Filed under: China
June 5th, 2014
02:34 PM ET

Liu Xiaobo's "June Fourth Elegies"

Before his arrest in 2009, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo would write a poem every year to commemorate the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown.

The poems have been translated into English by Jeffrey Yang and published in the compilation, "June Fourth Elegies."

I talked to Yang about Liu Xiaobo's poetry, and the power of poetry to remember an event that has been publicly erased in China.

June 5th, 2014
02:18 PM ET

Inside Hong Kong's June 4 Museum

In an unassuming office building in Hong Kong, is the world's first museum dedicated to the Tiananmen crackdown of 1989.

Let's go inside.

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