Children, Espionage, and Pain

Here’s what was important this week…

If you have a child abroad, and you’re a U.S. citizen, you can get your child U.S. citizenship as well. However, as Tori Marlan investigates  “the rules that determine what babies can become citizens seem to be butting up against the modern circumstances under which Americans are having babies.” Most notably, modern practices that involve children being born before marriage, or through fertility treatments, or to same-sex couples. Proof is needed to prove that the child is “born of” the U.S. citizen–implied in heterosexual couples, but not as much for homosexual couples. Alexis Madrigal explores further implications that the future of reproductive technology will have for how we define parenthood.

In an unprecedented move, the U.S. indicted 5 members of the Chinese military on economic espionage charges.

As security expert Bruce Schneier points out, we’re guilty of nearly the same:

“The only difference between the U.S. and China’s actions is that the U.S. doesn’t engage in direct industrial espionage. That is, we don’t steal secrets from Chinese companies and pass them directly to U.S. competitors. But we do engage in economic espionage; we steal secrets from Chinese companies for an advantage in government trade negotiations, which directly benefits U.S. competitors. We might think this difference is important, but other countries are not as as impressed with our nuance.”

And James Surowiecki writes for the New Yorker on the fact that the U.S. got its start as an industrial power by engaging in just that kind of espionage, to the point where “State governments financed the importation of smuggled machines.”

As Surowiecki concludes,

“engaging in economic espionage is something developing countries do. When you’re not yet generating a lot of intellectual property on your own, you imitate. These days, China is going to try to steal, and the West is going to try to stop it. But the tactic of using piracy to leapfrog ahead? That looks like an idea it stole from us.”

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Memorials, Public Health, and Empathy

Here’s what was important this week…

The museum memorializing the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks opened this week. Steve Kandell wrote about visiting it: The Worst Day of My Life is Now New York’s Hottest Tourist Attraction. The photographer and people-person-extraordinaire behind Humans of New York spoke to someone who also went through the museum. It opened early for survivors and family members of victims. Everyone agreed that the gift shop was in bad taste.

One of my favorite blog of odds and ends, Futility Closet, had two posts recently that speak to the difficulty of colonizing a country. When the Spanish conquered the West Indies, the conditions they imposed on the natives were so poor that they were committing suicide in great numbers. So great, in fact, that:

 “In the end the Spaniards, faced with an embarrassing labor shortage, put a stop to the epidemic of suicides by persuading the Indians that they, too, would kill themselves in order to pursue them in the next world with even harsher cruelties.”

In Puritan New England, conditions were so bad for the conquerors (I mean settlers…) that children who were captured by Native Americans often didn’t want to come back. This was a somewhat popular theme for historical fiction novels like Calico Captive (which I read when I was younger). One possible reason for this, mentioned in the post, is that “The Mohawks were much more indulgent of children than the colonists, and women were counted equal to men and played an integral role in society and politics.”

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Noise, Medicine, and Music

Here’s what was important this week…

More than you probably ever wanted to know about refrigerators and refrigeration:

“Refrigeration is the invisible backbone on which the world’s food supply depends — and given our climate-changed forecast of more extreme weather events, it may yet prove to be its Achilles’ heel.”

Oh how I wish this had come true:

 “All mechanical fridges work by controlling the vaporisation and condensation of a liquid called a refrigerant. Most fridges today do this control with a special electric-power pump called a compressor, but there’s also the technique of absorption, which is kicked off by a gas-fuelled flame. The fridge’s hum wasn’t inevitable.” 

I have somewhat of an aversion to background humming noises, like that of a refrigerator, central air system, fluorescent lights, or washing machines.

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