Word for the day….



Guānxi describes the basic dynamic in the complex nature of personalized networks of influence and social relationships, and is a central concept in Chinese society. In Western media, the pinyin romanization of this Chinese word is becoming more widely used instead of the two common translations—”connections” and “relationships”—as neither of those terms sufficiently reflect the wide cultural implications that guānxi describes.

Closely related concepts include that of gǎnqíng, a measure which reflects the depth of feeling within an interpersonal relationship, rénqíng, the moral obligation to maintain the relationship, and “face”, divided into the concepts of “mian” (or “mianzi”) meaning social status and prestige, and liǎn, the idea of being perceived as a morally correct actor within society.

Word for the day….

Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)

I really hated that old commercial, which was being widely played in the early to mid 80’s, so this post is a follow-up to that irritating, then-ubiquitous ad.  SNL did a great spoof of this; its probably on youtube now.  Well the chickens have come home to roost.  But where are the folks at that PR firm that thought up that original ad, taking care of their autistic grandchildren? Probably not–they are hiring that out to their live-in nannies, which they can surely afford:

New Study: Autism Linked to Environment

Research links soaring incidence of the mysterious neurological disorder to fetal and infant exposure to pesticides, viruses, household chemicals
By Marla Cone

California’s sevenfold increase in autism cannot be explained by changes in doctors’ diagnoses and most likely is due to environmental exposures, University of California scientists reported Thursday. The scientists who authored the new study advocate a nationwide shift in autism research to focus on potential factors in the environment that babies and fetuses are exposed to, including pesticides, viruses and chemicals in household products.
“It’s time to start looking for the environmental culprits responsible for the remarkable increase in the rate of autism in California,” said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiology professor at University of California, Davis who led the study.

Further thoughts on developments such as this, obviously the first of many:

Continue reading “Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)”

Without chemistry, Life itself would be impossible…(Part II)

The material is of a type that is often made public, however we have so far been unable to find reference to the report on cdc.gov or elsewhere on the internet or in the press.

A leaked Powerpoint presentation from wikileaks, showing that wikileaks is doing exactly what it should be doing: providing the raw information for good public health reporting, public health reporting that causes those in power to be asked a lot of difficult questions, so that things get fixed.  In this case the information is the dramatic rise in human rabies cases in China from 1996 (159 cases) to 2007 (3,300 cases).  It is sad to see China backslide, going so far backwards.  That’s why now, more than ever, China needs democracy.

The title of this post is the note the uploader of the leaked document added when she/he uploaded the file to wikileaks.

But, question, where is the public health reporting on this issue?  I understand it won’t happen in China, with their rather constrained press, but why not in Taiwan or Singapore?




The material is of a type that is often made public, however we have so far been unable to find reference to the report on cdc.gov or elsewhere on the internet or in the press.

The Great Transformation

Reading The Great Transformation by Karl Polanyi. It is certainly one of the great cross-disciplinary conceptual efforts of our time, and is the best book about economics I’ve read since Amartya Sen‘s Development as Freedom. Essential to Polanyi’s views is that our economic structures are embedded in a wider social and political context, and he makes the great point that men can not be reduced to economic automatons, as so many economists were (and still are) apt to do.

One of the insights he has is that there are some inherent conflicts within the dominant neo-classical liberal creed, specifically between the idea of laissez-faire policies and the institution of the self-regulating market:

“Strictly economic liberalism is the organizing principle of a society in which industry is based on the institution of the self-regulating market…For as long as such a system is not established economic liberals will call for the intervention of the state in order to establish it, and once established, in order to maintain it.” (page 149)

And I found a great example of this contradiction right over at that libertarian website, TLF:
Continue reading “The Great Transformation”

The Great Transformation

What we can do about Tibet, your closet clutter, your unemployed neighbor, and Global Warming

Certainly, the situation described in Anne Applebaum’s recent article in the Washington Post rings true, but what can we do, here sitting in America, to effect change in Tibet?

Yes, we can protest in front of the Chinese embassy, and we should do that. But what if you don’t happen to live in DC?

We can do a lot to help Tibet. China depends on it’s trade with the United States, and Walmart is a the primary vehicle that trade with China uses to get to USA.

From a report at EPI:

Last year, the retail giant Wal-Mart imported $26.7 billion of Chinese goods into the United States. The cost of those goods to Americans went far beyond the sticker prices, however. Wal-Mart’s reliance on Chinese goods cost the United States over 308,000 jobs in 2006 – or about 77 jobs for every Wal-Mart store in the United States.

Wal-Mart was responsible for 9.3 percent of. U.S. China imports…

So a very simple action–boycotting Walmart–would quickly turn into an issue inside China. Just don’t buy all those Chinese bicycles/DVD’s etc, etc. Pretty soon Walmart will stop buying from China. China needs markets more than they need an empire. (Just ask Russia about that.)

It would be easy–all that the US public has to do is decide to confront wrongdoing, by not buying stuff from Walmart. It would also be good to do without so much stuff, that we really don’t need, do we? It would do something good for the planet, too.

Just do it.

(note: some edits, including link to EPI study were added 30 March 2008)

What we can do about Tibet, your closet clutter, your unemployed neighbor, and Global Warming

Writing between the lines

A great piece of public health reporting, which I have come across in the book The China Syndrome by Karl Taro Greenfeld. I rather like the book which is a good starter for anyone interested in the intersection of public policy/human rights, the public health infrastructure, and epidemiology. It could, however, have a different title, as the lessons can be generalized outside of China. And there was another book or movie by that name, about some lose Chinese nukes or some such nonsense.

At the intersection of science, freedom of the press and political power a lot of very interesting things happen, and it is enlightening to see how people resolve their competing allegiances. A similar dynamic is now playing out in the reporting of global warming, with some saying, basically “Global Warming is only a rumor,” and others showing some evidence, which is being largely ignored by Bush & Co. (Another example of Convergence?)

The book is about the SARS epidemic, with a special focus on how it got started and and personalities involved. In this case, a reporter in China who is aware his work will be censored, still manages to get out all the essential information. This is one of the very first stories about what would later be named SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the reporter does an excellent job, being caught between the reality of government censors and his responsibility to provide information about a matter of overwhelming public iimportance:

From the Heyuan Daily:

Continue reading “Writing between the lines”

Writing between the lines

WMD’s found–in China (of course)

There was so much made of the possibility that Iraq had WMD’s that it’s really amazing that no one is making anything at all of WMD’s that have been found in China. But there is one there with some particularly alarming features:

This WMD has:

1. the capability of inflicting millions of dollars of damage to the USA, (and many other countries as well)

2. a delivery system that is within the reach of any government, or any terrorist group of any size. In fact the delivery system is low-tech and low cost, and is within the reach of most U.S. citizens with a passport.

This WMD has NOT:

1. Posed a direct threat to health of humans, as far as we know. But we can’t really be sure.

2. Created a co-ordinated, functioning, international effort to control it.

3. Been subject to substantial coverage in the media, although it has existed for more than a year now.

Continue reading “WMD’s found–in China (of course)”

WMD’s found–in China (of course)