A look at the increasingly outsourced world of underground pharma. Domestic black-market chemists handle R&D and distribution, and the actual manufacturing is done in China. Seems that way with everything.
Where Christmas Lights Go to Be Re-Born
In Guangdong there’s a small town that specializes in recycling Christmas lights. They chip the lights into mm sized bits, and then use a modified sluicebox (a vibrating inclined water table) to separate the brass and copper from the glass, plastic and rubber by density. All of these bits are then re-used in other products. The entire process would be uneconomical in the US, because our labor is too expensive, and there’s no market here for plastic scrap.
WikiLeaks cables on abortion politics
Furry Girl does a roundup of her research into abortion and other women’s rights issues as revealed by the WikiLeaks cables. Including the role that the Vatican plays in diplomatic policy, and the social consequences of elective abortions for sex-selection in China.
China importing boys and women
China’s preference for male children is apparently resulting in black-market importation of both boys for adoption, and women to marry. One of many bizarre consequences of their demographic management experiment. Mara Hvistendahl’s book Unnatural Selection goes into this in much greater detail.
An interesting Q&A from Shanghai Scrap with the author of Unnatural Selection, a book about the world’s 160 million missing girls, abortion, and the “perversion of choice”. In some Chinese counties, the male to female ratio at birth is skewed as far as 3:2 by elective abortions, which starts having broader societal implications. How does a western pro-choice feminist reconcile this outcome? Especially when the choices are predominantly being made by the women themselves.
Virtual prison labor gangs in China
China used prisoners in lucrative internet gaming work. Prisoners are coal mining by day, gold farming by night… to the benefit the prison guards. Don’t earn enough gold? Get beaten with a pipe. Yet another indication we are living in a cyberpunk novel.
Upending an Asian Baby Farm
An apparently illegal surrogacy ring has been busted in Thailand. The company, which called itself “Babe 101: Eugenic Surrogate” was using young Vietnamese women for both gestation and egg donation, and seems to have been aiming primarily at the Asian market, charging $32,000 for a baby with the gender and ethnic background of your choice. They were also explicitly targeting women who didn’t want to give birth for cosmetic or convenience reasons. The surrogates were not allowed to leave the (relatively comfortable) compound unaccompanied, and had their passports and money were confiscated and held by management. This is the kind of place where human germ-line engineering will start in a few years.
From the Motor Breakers to the Sample Room
A fantastic photographic journey through the reverse supply chain from Shanghai Scrap. This is how we close the material resource loop. Today, anyway. No doubt it can be made more efficient in the future if we design for this portion of the product lifecycle from the beginning. Apparently 40% of China’s copper production comes from recycling, and the shredded automobiles whose residues we use to cover our landfills? Their fist sized metal bits are sorted here. Wow.
This is what a closed-loop economy looks like today
A great series on the recycling industry in China from the writer of Shanghai Scrap. We need to build a closed-loop material economy, and there are pieces of it around today. This is one of them. Mountains of fist-sized shards of shredded cars, sorted manually by women who are earning more than your average Chinese college grad. Amazing photos.
The Finite World
The Finite World – Krugman at the NY Times talking about the resurgence in global commodity prices over the last year. Economic recovery in developing economies driving the markets, with the US, and indeed the entire West, largely irrelevant. Not only are we a smaller than ever slice of the pie, we’re not the ones building cities for hundreds of millions of people from scratch. I’m not sure I really understand his conception of inflation though. If rising commodity prices don’t constitute the most basic, raw form of inflation (you get less physical stuff in exchange for the same amount of labor performed), then I’m not sure what does. Historically we’ve made the economic approximation that natural resources are infinite, and all you have to do is pay the cost of going out and getting them. If that changes, then things will get weird. Maybe even weird to the point of sensible!