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Capitalism is the Great Anti-Pollutant

Climate science today is a veritable cornucopia of unanswered questions. Photo: Corbis

Contrary to popular myth, the environment over the past 200 years has become less polluted and toxic for humans.

In July 1924, Calvin Coolidge Jr., the Presdient’s 16-year-old son, died of an infection from a toe blister he got playing tennis on the White House lawn. The bacteria that took young Calvin’s life is staphylococcus aureus, known as “staph.” …

Were health-care products such as antibiotics, antibacterial ointments, and inexpensive clean and disposable bandages available 92 years ago, Calvin Coolidge Jr., would have escaped the bacterial pollution that killed him. Factories and vehicles used to produce and distribute these items use energy, and dispense waste. But capitalist production and consumption are not destroying a pristine Eden. Instead, capitalist production and consumption are replacing more immediate and more lethal forms of environmental pollution for less immediate and less lethal forms.

We denizens of modern market economies are today largely free not only of the filth of lethal staph infections, but also of other up-close and dangerous pollutants that our ancestors routinely endured, or died of. We sleep, in sturdy buildings, on beds that rest on hard floors beneath hard roofs. Our pre-industrial ancestors did not. Save for the tiny fraction of people in the nobility and clergy, nearly everyone slept in flimsy huts on dirt floors beneath thatched roofs. (Sometimes these dirt floors would be strewn with hay, thresh, to make them less unpleasant.)

Not only were thresh-strewn dirt floors obvious sources of regular up-close pollution of a sort that is unknown to a typical first-world person today, thatched roof themselves were ferments of filth. They kept out rain and cold less effectively than our modern dwellings. Worse, they were home to rats, mice, birds, spiders, hornets, and other animals, which would drop their own wastes onto the huts’ inhabitants. They were also highly flammable.

Of course these pre-industrial huts contained no running water or indoor plumbing. Daily bathing and other routines of personal hygiene that we moderns take for granted were largely unknown to most before the industrial revolution.

For heat in the winter families would bring farm animals into the huts, especially at night. To shield themselves from the droppings of these farm animals, each of these families would cut a trench in the floor across the width their hut. They’d sleep on the side of the trench opposite where the animals slept. Unfortunately, the trench did little to protect the family from whatever insects the animals brought into the huts with them. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Porn Trial That’s Captivating China’s Internet

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The porn industry is known for driving innovation online. After the live-streamed trial on pornography charges of four Chinese Internet executives went viral over the weekend, it’s now driving an unusually vigorous debate in China over how the Internet should be managed.

“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology.”

— Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology

At the center of the debate is Wang Xin, the CEO of Shenzhen Qvod Technology Co. Ltd., which is best known for running the widely used online video player called Kuaibo. Mr. Wang spirited self-defense in the face of allegations he helped disseminate thousands of sex videos has turned him into something of a Chinese Larry Flynt.

Similar to the Hustler publisher, who famously used his pornographic publishing empire to test the legal bounds of free speech in the U.S., Mr. Wang used the popularity of his company’s video platform to try to turn the tables on China’s Internet censorship regime.

[Read the full story here, at China Real Time Report – WSJ]

Prosecutors alleged in the two-day trial in Beijing late last week that Qvod executives knew their video platform, Kuaibo, was a popular tool for watching porn and did nothing to stop it. They said porn videos, which are illegal in China, made up 70% of the 30,000 files police had pulled from servers connected to Kuaibo. Mr. Wang’s argument, delivered in a spirited and well-prepared defense that drew applause online: The company was responsible for producing the platform, not policing what people did with it.

“We believe there’s nothing shameful about technology,” Mr. Wang told the Haidian District Court in Beijing.

Efforts by governments to hold the creators of online platforms responsible for the content their users post are hardly new. In early days of the Internet, U.S. companies like Google, Yahoo and America Online faced a slew of lawsuits — and a piece of legislation known as the Communications Decency Act — that attempted to hold them legally liable for hosting vulgar, misleading or illegal content. Generally, those efforts ended in failure.

In China, the outsourcing of censorship to the websites themselves is a central part of authorities’ strategy in trying to keep tight control over 650 million Internet users and the hundreds of news, video and social media sites they visit. Some technology companies consider the requirement a costly measure that stifles innovation.

Beijing has also increasingly tried to use criminal courts to regulate behavior online and quash rumors and criticisms of the government while also cracking down on porn and other illicit content. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] REWIND 2013: Maxine Waters Confirms ‘Big Brother’ Database 

“The President has put in place an organization with the kind of database that no one has ever seen before in life. That’s going to be very, very powerful.”

Representative Maxine Waters told Roland Martin on Monday.

“That database will have information about everything on every individual on ways that it’s never been done before and whoever runs for President on the Democratic ticket has to deal with that. They’re going to go down with that database and the concerns of those people because they can’t get around it.”

“…And he’s [President Obama] been very smart. It’s very powerful what he’s leaving in place.”


Supreme Court rules against EPA

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John Siciliano reports: The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against Environmental Protection Agency pollution rules for power plants Monday, in a blow to President Obama’s environmental agenda.

The majority decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, said the EPA has to consider the costs of complying with the rules and sent the air pollution regulations back to the agency.

The EPA rules in question regulate hazardous air pollutants and mercury from coal- and oil-fired power plants, known as the MATS regulations. The regulations went into effect April 16. The utility industry had argued that the rules cost them billions of dollars to comply and that EPA ignored the cost issue in putting the regulations into effect.

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“EPA must consider cost — including cost of compliance — before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary. It will be up to the agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost,” Scalia wrote in agreeing with the industry.

The decision will have repercussions for other EPA regulations that are key to Obama’s climate change agenda. The EPA will now have to examine the cost of compliance for the Clean Power Plan, which is at the heart of the president’s environmental agenda. Read the rest of this entry »


Alyssa Abkowitz 沈丽莎: Sex Toys and ‘Er Nai’: Inside China’s Unfolding Sexual Revolution

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Alyssa Abkowitz reports: In 1989, sexologist Li Yinhe conducted a famous survey that showed 15% of Chinese respondents said they had premarital sex. Today, that figure is about 71%, according to local figures. “China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom,” said Zhang Lijia, author of the forthcoming novel “Lotus,” which looks at prostitution in modern China.

“China is becoming more adventurous in the bedroom.”

Ms. Zhang was speaking to a mostly younger crowd at Beijing’s Bookworm Literary Festival on Sunday. She was joined by Jemimah Steinfeld, author of “Little Emperors and Material Girls,” which focuses on China’s sex and youth culture, and Faramerz Dabhoiwala, who has been called the Stephen Hawking of sex for writing “The Origins of Sex,” which looks at the western sexual revolution of the 18th century.

Pictures that an Internet poster on China's Weibo microblogging site went viral when it was suggested they were of officials in Lujiang County.

“Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket. For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

— Zhang Lijia

Only several decades ago, “Chinese women gingerly began to unbutton Chairman Mao’s jacket,” Ms. Zhang said, referring to the 1980s, when women started to wear makeup and shorter skirts. “For a long time kissing on a bus was something we only saw in foreign films.”

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“Er nai, as modern-day Chinese mistresses are called, are deeply entwined in business practices, because having multiple mistresses is a sign that a man has the pull to seal a deal.”

Today, sex is everywhere in China, from adult stores on nearly every corner in Beijing to young entrepreneurs, such as one interviewed by Ms. Steinfeld, who wants to import quality sex toys because he thinks Chinese sex toys are faulty. (This could be a tough road, as the majority of sex toys are made in China and exported around the world, Ms. Zhang said).

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“There are women who have lovers just for fun too. Male prostitutes are far more expensive here because they have more work to do.”

Judging from the panel discussion, progress is mixed. As Beijing looks to pass its first domestic violence law, cleavage is being banned on television. One of the most popular items sold at roadside sex shops is hymen repair kits. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Flying Over Beijing: What Does it Look Like When Most of the Population of a Vast Metropolis Sets Off Fireworks at Once?

What does it look like when most of the population of a vast metropolis sets off fireworks at once? YouTube contributor Parelius was flying into Beijing at midnight last week on Chinese New Year and captured this awesome footage of his view through his window on the plane: fireworks, both large and small, going off all over the city. It’s such a dazzling sight, we feel like we should be holding sparklers while watching.

[via Sploid]


Beijing Artists Designs Wedding Dress Made of Anti-Pollution Masks to ‘Marry the Sky’

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Photos of Beijing Bride’s Anti-Pollution Lingerie Not Available

A woman wearing a wedding dress made out of 999 anti-pollution masks with a 10-tumblr_ndsucerAFz1som6aeo4_250-1meter long trail drew crowds recently in Beijing.

It was apparently in a move to bring more attention to environmental protection. The “bride” was a Chinese artist who had designed her wedding dress to ‘marry’ the sky, according to Chinanews.

Many Chinese on social media gave a thumbs-up to the artist’s creativity… (read more)

This is the most fun we’ve had with festive wedding gowns since this popular item from our October 2013 edition:

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Wedding dress made of “cups, plates, and plastic utensils…”

[Best Day of the Dead Costume Ever, Oct 31st, 2013]