Waterfoul – Part 2: How it spreads

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-2-how-disease-spreads

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The clarity of mind she felt when seeing the ducks on the news was unlike anything she had felt before. At least, that’s what her suicide note claimed. It was only local news. Just regional, nothing spectacular. But she understood. All her predictions were laid out on her tea-stained notebook, albeit with little useful help in guidance towards, say, a cure or preventative measures. She probably didn’t have a clue.

Her work log described foreboding results with what she considered was an abject failure; chimps ripping out each other’s intestines, mice de-worming each other… to put it mildly. But she claims in her writing that the genes involved with tuberculosis resistance in humans was the crux of her study, and insists humans would be safe from the effects.

Those studying her work corroborated the idea in principle, saying even chimps, a mere 2% difference genetically, lack our resistance to this particular bacterial disease, though chimps have greater malarial resistance to compensate.

‘If true, if all of it is true, we may be looking at little more than a pond infection. I’ve seen worse. I’ve seen pond jellyfish clog up machinery, seaweed drowning hundreds of individuals. Let’s not jump to alarming conclusions’ Dr Jack Zhang said, seemingly to nobody.

The rest of the forensics team were idly watching the news looking for more up-to-date info:

The duck the old, gay men first observed disappeared, as if running away from a crime. Shortly after, the bird that should have drowned worked its way feebly towards the men’s general direction. When it managed to get up on land, within inches of the bench they sat, it simply shook its feathers and waddled away like it couldn’t even see them.

The men, however, were quickly distracted by the reeds beyond the far side of the pond. A swan, neck all contorted, emerged with an aggressive stance, feathers all ruffled. It made room for a water runway and set off into the air, one leg dropping from the sky, bouncing off a child’s pram.

The news continued. The family of the child didn’t even notice the decapitated leg nearby until the baby was firmly strapped in, crying. Presumably because it saw the leg.

The parents saw a duck with half its face missing approach them, and they quickly decided to leave. The husband was ready to release a hefty football kick of course, but considered it could have an infectious disease, and left with his family, a good distance between him and the bird.

‘All we need, is to find a one-legged swan. They typically go to the same brooding grounds, so we simply call the animal control officer, get a team assembled and stamp this fire out before it spreads.’ Dr Zhang, louder this time, head blocking the TV.

Confidence oozed from him. This is easily containable. If it even needs containing in the first place. Just a precaution. Then again, it ain’t tuberculosis, whatever it is.



1

The two men left their interviews, furious that the journalist started questioning their sexuality ON LIVE TV, as if that had anything whatsoever to do with a… zombie duck crisis. What is WRONG with people?? they both thought, more or less in verbatim.

It was time anyway, they had a flight to catch. In all their years together, they had never actually taken a proper holiday. Sure, they did a fantastic road trip from Arizona to Maine, and England was good too but it felt more business than anything. India, however. India was a whole new world. India would be a place to die happy.



2

‘You should really change her nappy before we leave, we don’t want a repeat of last time’ Lisa demanded

‘Me? I did it last time, I thought we agreed to alternate all disgusting chor… besides, she won’t let me do anything without going all mental at me ever since she saw that…leg’

‘Ok Lewis, ok fine. But if we aren’t willing to give things up and just do each other a favour sometimes, instead sticking to these bureaucratic counselling bullcrap rules, Japan is going to be another regret in our memories. Ok let’s just chill. It IS my turn.

But you better drive fast, ok?’

‘Works for me’



3

Dr Zhang was discussing the most likely locations based on the swan’s tag with the control officer when one of his hired goons came up the hill, swan’s wing in hand.

‘Yes! He can’t be far, unless he can fly with his beak.’

The hunt was on. Within minutes, they found a hobbling swan, twisted neck over a trash can, gobbling away at some sausage meat. The officer and his team made quick work catching it – but made sure to keep it alive, as per Doctor’s orders, and they headed back to base.



4

Night was waking. The crescent moon nowhere to be seen. Stars had their chance to finally impress. A shadowed figure approached the park bridge. She, or he, looked busy. Looking for something. Their nose was active, like a rabbit. Dressed in home-made rags, the barefooted individual directed their gait to a meaty smell towards a trash can.

The homeless soul took whatever scraps they could and stuffed them in pockets, took a few bites of this and that, and hobbled off more jovially than before, into the night.



Hope you enjoyed this first of hopefully an ongoing story!

Waterfoul – Part 1

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/fiction/@mobbs/waterfoul-part-1The cracked mirror reflected a broken woman. Her eyes; windows to panic, her hands withered with stress. Despite the summer weather beaming in from barely 3 feet away through a cracked pane of glass, the light upon the mirror seemed monochrome. At least to her.

She was out of time. Her grant was running thin, and she had spent all year meddling with things that ought not to be meddled with, not least because it was simply over her head. Over anybody’s head, she reckoned.

She took a step back to see whether she could get away with going into the public eye as long as the average person kept to their own personal space, decided she passed despite the wine stains on her sleeve, and left her tiny bathroom.

On the table in the hallway, her life. Everything she had worked on in a single test tube. A failure, in essence. With notes of ridicule. Not even close to what she was going for. Tests on nematodes? They ate each other. Tests on mice? They ripped each other’s skin off. Tests on chimps? She didn’t even want to recall that afternoon. Bloody Mondays.

Self-pity had made her late. It was time to submit her death juice.

The elevator was strangely tall and thin, thinner than yesterday it seemed. Perhaps a projection of her chances of success.
She was to pitch a product, yet she had no product to pitch. She could lie, but people would find out within the hour; a quick sampling of the formula would see to that. She could replace it with the strawberry milk in her handbag and get a better response.

My life is a joke, she thought. Ugh…They shouldn’t be burdening a single individual with a task for an entire industry in the first place. What is this, slavery?

31st floor.

One last ditch effort to check a bathroom mirror to see if her disdain for existence had improved… nope.

What to do… What to do…

Banging her toecaps apathetically on the bathroom wall, drying her hands for longer than is sensible, she had an epiphany.

That’s it! Fuck ‘em!’

She quickly opened her handbag, pulled the test tube out and poured the substance down the drain.

Nobody should get their hands on this. Could be consequences.

She went down the elevator, now wider than ever, and left the building, never to return.



The park was quaint, not in the ‘sales pitch’ kind of way, but genuinely quaint. A small bridge over a small stream – seemingly pointless really – the cracks in the wood filled with moss as old as the park itself. A few benches dotted around here and there with the occasional retiree occupying it, passing time. Two old men were feeding ducks in a quintessential duck pond. Bread is not good for ducks, guys.

In fact, it looks like the ducks were not doing well at all.

‘Hey jim, look a’ that one… you seen a duck keep its head under the water that long b’fore?’
‘Uh I guess, I dunno. How long?’
‘I been watching for like, nearly 10 minutes. How long can a duck hold its breath?’
‘Err, Google says… no more than 5… but I see its tail still moving about all duck-like so you must be countin’ wrong’
‘Nah, I ain’t countin’ wrong, you bloody fool’

The duck in question was indeed failing to drown itself. But if the two old folk had been in the water for closer inspection, they would have seen that was not the intent. The duck was gorging.

Below the water, a second duck, as dead as the first duck ought to be. The first duck was passionate. Its upper beak was driven like a spear into the spine, the lower beak hanging loosely, floating aimlessly, attached to the duck’s body by a mere strand of tendon. But the furious bird was far more focused on driving its face deeper into the spine, deeper. Must go deeper.

Eventually, the bones completely separated, and the corpse floated to the surface.

The seemingly possessed hell-duck finally lifted its head from the water, looked around, and casually made its way to the reeds. The old men stared in disbelief.

MUTUAL SYMBIOSIS – Fascinating teamwork in nature – Evolution # 4

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/nature/@mobbs/mutual-symbiosis-only-limited-by-imagination-evolution-4
Egyptian plover birds don’t give a sh#tPreviously:

Convergence
Stupid Design
Weird Evolution
The Axolotl

So.

We’ve looked at some pretty amazing aspects of evolution so far, but where convergent evolution happens often, and badly designed organisms are common, symbiosis is quite literally all around us. In fact, some scientists even argue that the earth is essentially one giant symbiotic organism.

What is it?

As you likely know, symbiosis is a situation where two or more separate species are physically in contact with each other in a way that is beneficial for one or both members. However, this can be broken down into several categories:

• Mutualism – Classical symbiosis, where both members benefit equally
• Parasitism – Where one member actively damages or destroys the other
• Commensalism – Where one member benefits and the other has no noticeable change
• Obligate symbiosis – Where the organism requires the relationship in order to survive
• Facultative symbiosis – Not entirely necessary but it does boost chances of survival

How does symbiosis happen?

Symbiotes aren’t consciously aware of their ‘agreement’, nor do they hash out ideas in meetings to maximize their symbiotic potential. Symbiotes just do whatever they need to do, instinctively.

But how is that possible? Two creatures can’t just magically and perfectly slot together like a square block in a square whole, and then just continue generation after generation this way, so wa’ gwan with that?

‘The secret to evolution is time and death’, as Carl Sagan once put it. Over thousands of generations, two species likely start of in facultative symbiosis. This situation is pretty sweet. Addictive, even. But, like all addictions, the victims become dependent on the given benefits, and those who exploit those benefits are the ones that survive, while those who do not, die.

If that isn’t a decent argument to start taking heroin, I don’t know what is.

So it’s often just easier to use the tools of another species than figure out how to do it themselves. One example of this is the Tree-Fungi relationship. 90% of all plants in the world have a fungal partner.

Though we only see the reproductive ‘mushroom’ growing atop the ground, they are in fact a huge subterranean fungal system that latches onto the roots of trees. Fungi already has an efficient root system in place and can help the tree spread its roots further, whilst also providing nutrients. At the same time, the tree can provide a share of the nutrients created by its leafy photosynthesis.


The fine filament of a fungus greatly enhances the surface area for roots of a tree in the soilThere’s a lot of symbiosis we are plainly aware of, like our own gut bacteria; we cannot survive without it, and they need us for a nice, warm home. Like Couchsurfing.

Flowers, insects and birds often have symbiosis; the flower provides the food, the insect takes the food and also takes the pollen, dropping it off in another flower in a strange work-around sex; pollination. Birds also do this but can eat the insects if they want, too. Why not.

As shown in a previous evolution post, some flowers grow increasingly specific, allowing only a particular animal in through various mechanisms.

But there are some more bizarre and pretty outrageous. Let’s take a look.

Solar powered life

There is a worm which unfortunately lacks a popular nick name, the Symsagittifera roscoffensis, but is amazing nonetheless. Let’s call it Gitti


SourceThere are few examples better to show how in some cases, symbiosis greys the definition of what a plant and animal is.

This Gitti worm is small, flat and transparent (like your… never mind), but it takes on a green appearance after allowing algae to live and grow within its body. In return, the Gitti doesn’t even need to eat, instead surviving off the energy given by the sun, through the algae’s photosynthesis. This relationship has grown so deep, that the worm has no functioning digestive tract or mouth. What’s more, the waste products are recycled by the algae and they never need to leave Gitti’s body.


not a plantThe thing is, this isn’t even unique. Corals are animals that use algae to collect sugar, and others like sea slugs, jellyfish and sponges use this trick too. Even wilder, a few years ago the first vertebrate species was discovered running on solar power in facultative symbiosis: the spotted salamander.


Source

Cecropia Trees and Azteca Ants

The Cecropia tree is hollow, and inside it produces sugary juice perfect for Azteca ants. The ants move into this perfect shelter and feed off the sugar. In return, the ants serve as the trees own personal army, killing off any competition in the vicinity and protecting the tree from vines and other pests and herbivores.

The tree has even developed specialised, tiny gripping hooks for the ants to use to gain greater traction during fights.

Honeyguide

A honeyguide is a bird that LOVES honey, but it’s not strong enough to break into a hive itself. So what better way to accomplish this by deliberately grabbing the attention of bigger animals – including honey badgers and even humans – and leading them to the bee’s nest. After the stupid brute breaks it apart, the honeyguide can take its fair share.


Source

Urchin Crab & Fire Sea Urchin

Crabs often lack sufficient defense with those measly, giant claws of death, but the Urchin crab has managed to work with a type of poisonous urchin to guarantee safety. They take a Fire Sea Urchin over twice their own size and put it on their head while they travel, and in return, the Urchin gets a free ride. This is a pretty cute video:

Frogs and spiders

In Colombia, the lesserback tarantula likes to have a frog roommate. The tarantula benefits because the frog eats the ants that would otherwise kill the eggs in the nest, and the frog benefits because it has a huge-ass tarantula protecting it.


Source

Sloths, Moss and Sloth Moths

Try saying that three times quickly.

The three-toed sloth is a bit of a mystery. Nobody was quite sure why it would make the tedious journey down from the tree canopy just to take a poop at the base of a tree. This is super dangerous, and up to half of sloth mortality happens here.

Recently, scientists kind of figured out a three-way symbiotic relationship that could possibly make the risk worthwhile.

Originally people just thought the sloth was SO slow that even algae would grow on its back. But it’s much more than that. As it turns out, the limited diet of low-nutrition leaves is supplemented by the high-fat algae the sloth picks off its own fur.

Not only this, but the Sloth Moths help the algae grow by living and dying on it (the algae breaks down dead moths into nutrients), and the Sloth helps the Sloth Moth breed by traveling down the tree and pooping so the moths can lay their eggs there.


SourceEverybody wins. Except the sloth when it gets eaten by a jaguar, but still.

The AXOLOTL, a God-like salamander – Erratic Evolution #1

Originally posted on Steemit: https://steemit.com/science/@mobbs/the-axolotl-a-god-like-salamander-erratic-evolution-1
SourceToday I’m going to expand my evolution series to specific wonders of the natural world. Each post will explore the inexplicable details of animals and plants with their own special niches of the ecosystem.

I’m going to start with quite a famous little monster – The Axolotl. And trust me, we have a lot to learn. So let’s get to it.


SourceThe Axolotl, or Mexican salamander, has some of the most unique features I’ve ever read upon. It’s an amphibian that either breaks amphibious rules or enhances them at its own leisure.

Bio

An axolotl can live between 10-15 years, typically grow to about 9-10 inches in length and display a wide range of appearances. It is a critically endangered species due to mass urbanization, and if functionally extinct in the wild. In 2013, just two were found in surveys throughout their single habitat in Mexico.

Appearance

Depending on what’s going on in an axolotl’s life and how they mutate, colours can range from white, black, grey, pink, brown, yellow or even red. Typically, there are 4 main pigmentation genes; pink, gold, grey and black. They are rarely white in the wild.

Axolotls have lidless black eyes, underdeveloped limbs with long fingers, and have feathery branches on their heads that are actually gills. The feathery style increases surface area to maximize gas exchange.

They have vestigial teeth that are barely noticeable. These would develop during metamorphosis, but this ain’t no normal amphibian, and metamorphosis is just something that’s not on the cards.

Neotemy

Metamorphosis is that time in life when you have to grow up from a little tadpole or larvae, grow a pair of lungs, drop the gills and head for land, among other things. This happens in all amphibians, except, well, a bunch of them. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s pretty unique.

There are three types of Neotemy; mandatory, where amphibians actually lose the ability to metamorphize; optional, in which some newts might decide when to metamorphose based on environmental conditions; and ‘almost mandatory’, and this is where the axolotl fits in.

Scientists discovered that if they simply put iodine into an axolotl’s water tank, its thyroid gland will kick in and release hormones that start the process of metamorphosis. Their bodies are swiftly transformed from aquatic creatures with gills, to land lubbers with lungs. But before scientists interfere, an axolotl can fully ‘mature’ – even able to sexually reproduce – whilst simultaneously maintaining its juvenile characteristics, gills and all. ETERNAL YOUTH! Kind of.

Regeneration

Scientists are flocking together trying to find the secret to eternal youth, and many believe the secrets are locked away in this salamander.

Regeneration is not unheard of in amphibians, but the axolotl seems to regenerate on steroids. They are capable of regenerating entire limbs, jaws, spine and even the brain and other vital organs. The regeneration is fast, limbs being able to regrow in about a month and a half without any scar tissue to be seen.


SourceAs stated by scientific American:

You can cut the spinal cord, crush it, remove a segment, and it will regenerate. You can cut the limbs at any level—the wrist, the elbow, the upper arm—and it will regenerate, and it’s perfect. There is nothing missing, there’s no scarring on the skin at the site of amputation, every tissue is replaced. They can regenerate the same limb 50, 60, 100 times. And every time: perfect.

Naturally, scientists want a piece of this natural technology and are working tirelessly to figure it out. This isn’t just in hopes of living forever, but in real-world medical situations where donors are in short supply and rarely suitable for each other, being able to regenerate one’s own body parts could save the lives of millions.

What they have discovered is that macrophages, a type of immune cell, is vital for the regenerative process. Removing these halted regeneration and scar tissue emerged. These macrophages are present in humans and mammals, and serve as important healing material as well as embryonic development, and although it’s all incredibly complicated and very, very far in the future, it would be premature to say human regeneration is impossible.

Don’t start looking out for entire leg growth though, it’s likely we lack the genes for that.

But look, animals were not born experiments. As amazing as these creatures are at surviving and maintaining eternal youth, we have still managed to drive them into extinction, so let’s stop annihilating their habitat and start bringing them back into the wild where they belong!

Local Walkabout – Shanghai, China

A lot of people post their travel blogs here, which is great, but I’d love to see more local walkabouts in various countries around the world, getting into the grit of real life.

Now, I’m no photographer, and I made no effort to pretend otherwise, but here’s a bunch of photos of my area, no more than 5 minute’s walk from my home in any direction, in the heart of Shanghai, China. Hopefully my descriptions will add some actual value to the sub-par images. So please enjoy the journey with me!

So first up, we have this little enclosed business area with a nice restaurant which is within visual range of my apartment. It’s not interesting in and of itself, but in context of it’s surrounding, I thought it symbolic of the substantial wealth divide rampant in the city/country.

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A few metres away, a typical public toilet. For those who have read my article about toilets in China, your imagination should be running wild by now.

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As you walk, you can see a school is around somewhere…

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To continue, you have to go through a couple of small shack homes pretty much. It looks as if they have been there for many years and urbanization has done its best to consume its surroundings and make it public.

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Around on the side of the little house is a sign in Chinese saying ‘If you want one of our plants you can just ask, stop stealing our shit’ – more or less.

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Here you can see the rich area immediately behind, and some random biker just casually passing through.

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‘Great wall’ internet. 50M is not particularly fast in Shanghai, you can easily get double, but it’s actually faster than I’d ever get back in England (I mean, for the price I’d pay). Right now I have 50M for 90GBP per year.

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Not the best of photos, but I wanted to demonstrate how just about any small home can become a store, and this guy had been doing quite well running a fruit stall until the authorities made all the shops keep to their assigned spaces and to stop spreading onto the street. Now he’s left with a few measly benches of peaches and barely gets by.

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On my way to work, I like to go down these little secret alleyways where the poor families tend to reside. Behind this blue door is a space a little larger than a single bed. Many people use this space as storage down this alley, but at least half of them serve as actual bed-sized homes. It’s quite something to observe when walking down here at night and you get a little peak at them watching a tiny TV with a tiny fan blowing in their faces.

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Trash is typically picked up… infrequently, and most of these trash areas are overflowing for some days, usually until the weekend. In some cases, the piles continue to grow for weeks at a time. On the way to work, one sometimes fills up the entire street until it becomes impossible for cars to actually get by.

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Graffiti in training

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About 2 years ago somebody came up with the bright idea of putting cigarettes into grab machines, and you can pretty much see them everywhere now. Hardly a surprise given that at least 350 million people smoke in China.

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When the trash piles get to a certain size, you can sometimes see weird little auctions where an old lady has been curating various bits of useful trash and others can come and buy it from her, I suppose?

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In the midst of all the housing there lies a secret, female-only temple.

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This guy will unlock any door. I’ve been locked out a few times. It’s quite disconcerting that he can just waltz up to any home and break in silently without a care in the world, but it’s pretty cool nonetheless.

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Getting into the more populated areas now, you can see the monstrous buildings hiding behind the residential areas.

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Dogs are rapidly becoming a family treasure here, and we’re seeing a growing discomfort with the eating of dogs, and the festivals of dog slaughter, like Yulin Dog Festival, in which 10,000 or more dogs are tortured and skinned alive before eating, because the suffering they go through makes them taste better. Apparently.

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Street food is pretty amazing here. Who knows how safe, but I’d say at least 40% safe.

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Directly across the street you start to see more modern Shanghai. This cafe opened just a few months ago and is proving to be incredibly popular, with customers out the door most days. It turns out the owner of this restaurant is from Hong Kong and is a high school friend of my long-time Hong Kong friend. I’ve yet to take advantage of that via discounts… but I will.

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One of the good things about Shanghai is that they are doing very well at making the city greener. You’ll find most streets lined with trees like this, and in the narrower, French colonial streets, they block the sunlight and create a wonderfully nature-shaded walk. Given the mega city Shanghai is and its mass of cars and pollution, the ubiquitous trees and plants are a very welcome addition.

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I’d say this hospital is about 6 minutes away from my home. This is where I got my toenail removed after it became ingrown. It’s not a good hospital. They removed the whole nail, something that is outdated and generally a bad idea, then they made me return several times to agonisingly and ruthlessly tear off the bandaging and replace it. But the very act of replacing it re-opened the wound and just made matters worse. I took it into my own hands and it healed quickly. Then it grew back even worse and I now live with daily blood stained socks until I find a more decent hospital on the cheap (Work does not provide insurance). Story of my life.

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Going into the subway…

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Down we go. Shanghai has one of the biggest subway systems in the world, and despite its size, a place like downtown Shanghai will see some outrageous numbers of people during rush hour, as you can see:

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Technology is pretty substantial under here. You can scan your phone on this machine and charge your subway card, which also can be used to pay for taxis, buses and all that.

The app you use to scan can also pay for bills, book cinema tickets, flights, book restaurants and all sorts. Pretty amazing stuff.

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Buses outside in this central Shanghai area are powered by electricity. You can see the kind of tram lines above this bus.

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Saw this overtly proud backpacker

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The recent crazy of shared bikes is another pretty wonderful addition to Shanghai and other cities around the country. One day, bright orange and silver bikes popped up out of nowhere on the streets – Mobikes. You scan their QR code and you can download a fully English app where you can locate the bikes in your area (always at least one within a few metres, it seems), then you scan the bike code which unlocks the wheels.

Per use, you will pay between 0.5 RMB and 1RMB (around 10cents), depending on the bike.

Within no time, a new, bright yellow, Chinese language only bike came about – OFO. Many prefer this because it’s cheaper, more ‘bike-like’ in comfort and other issues. Within the week you had blue, even cheaper bikes, green electric bikes and now there are even shiny golden bikes.

It’s a little overwhelming, filling the streets and causing problems, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Quality of life has gone up and I wouldn’t be surprised to see pollution data fall in the near future.

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Sometimes it really does come across like the government can’t physically see residential homes and just blindly build giants on top. In reality, the government has the right to demolish and build on any area, and give homeowners a deadline to get out. They do get a rather comfortable compensation (well in Shanghai, at least), but some simply refuse to leave. In some cases the government, rather than make a big fuss about it, simply build around those homes.

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If you look really carefully, you’ll see two Starbucks in this single image. Can you spot them?

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You’ll often find a lot of interesting information, maps and the like on various walls, even back-streets like this one.

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One of my favourite things about East Asia is the love of secret little Cafes. Some do not advertise at all or even have a sign on the front, but simply depend on word of mouth through social media. This one takes up the entire house and is a lot more than just a cafe. Upstairs there is a Playstation room, a bean bag room, a boxing room, a meeting room, a massage/relax room and a whole bunch more.

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Finally I get back home and take a look out my window

On the surface I guess it’s barely worth mentioning, but this sight is particularly unusual in Shanghai, the world’s biggest city and with a population of 25 million people. Sure, you get all the roads lined with trees the same boring trees, but to see these huge, ancient beasts right outside my window is super rare. Finding this apartment was a stroke of luck – these green giants reduce my stress levels by about 60%!

Thanks for coming with me!

China – the bad, part 3

This is Part 3 of my series on China. Each part can be read separately, but you can read part 1 here
https://steemit.com/politics/@mobbs/china-1-the-bad-part-1

and part 2 here
https://steemit.com/politics/@mobbs/china-2-the-bad-part-2

Previously I discussed:

Economy
Population
Culture (in part)
Health & Safety
Corruption

I’d like to explore more aspects of culture, with my Steemian friend, who, as a Chinese woman, has a first-hand account, @ginafraser. So let’s begin

Equality

In many ways, much of what I say here would probably apply globally, but China has a systematic approach to inequality which, though changing in some of the major ‘first tier’ cities like Shanghai and Beijing, still has a long way to go, and in much – perhaps most – of China, has an unchanged attitude towards equality, in particular, gender equality. I find this particularly striking given their socialist history. According to the Gender Inequality Index, China ranks 91 out of 187 countries (some tied), and 99th in the Gender Gap index.

These statistics may not go against any of your expectations, but let’s dig a little deeper into what this actually means, culturally.

Women in much of China are considered as little more than a homestay maid that provides sexual release for the men. But these women also have to be the right kind. A woman’s value rapidly deteriorates in China based on their age and whether or not they are a virgin.

Marriage markets

When I say value, I really mean value. A common sight in China – even in Shanghai – is the rather famous ‘Marriage Markets’. So much so that they’re even a tourist attraction on many websites.

Here you can essentially sell off women to eager, aging, single men. You can advertise men too, but unlike women, the men tend to increase their value with age, and it’s their wallets that really matter.

剩女

China has a popular idiom ‘剩女’ or ‘leftover women’, which refers to women in their late 20’s that are still unmarried (Just recently, the nation somehow collectively decided to lower this age to mid-20’s). After that threshold, your value decreases and your chances of finding a partner in the markets (and elsewhere) plummets. Women typically then feel pressure to get whatever they can take. Additionally, the ‘virgin system’, as @ginafraser puts it, causes value to drop even more. I find this particularly bewildering given that there is a huge gender imbalance in the population in the other direction; a surplus of 33 million men reside in China.

Once a woman finds a man and the man proposes, it’s not unusual for the woman’s family to put a price tag on their approval. My friend’s fiancée was given the go ahead after a nice, brand-new, widescreen TV was put on offer, for example. Some may simply ask for a lump cash sum to prove you’re a good person somehow.

Rights

Women typically have less rights overall. Mao Zedong, in his little red book, insisted that gender equality is a necessity in society, citing equal pay for equal work decades before modern SJWs were even born. But his words did not match reality, with very few discrimination cases and little to no protection against harassment until very recently when Xi Jinping started to make some reforms, and even that led to little change.

Even anecdotally, I know of sexually harassment to friends of mine in public; men touching their underwear with their penis in the subway. Others witness older men casually masturbating over them. ‘When she later asked Beijing locals about the incident she was told that older men were allowed to take part in this kind of activity as they are senile and it was just the way things were.’

According to a Chinese Non-governmental organization, a massive 70% of women here have experienced sexual harassment at work, and 15% have left their jobs because of it.

Furthermore, domestic violence is as high as 40% against women, and even higher in rural areas. Like everything here, the main issue is simply a lack of legislation and enforcement. There is no protection or shelters for abused women, no helping organizations, and abuse is largely considered a ‘family matter’ to the authorities. With that in mind, divorce is not granted on grounds of ‘abuse’. It’s just not a valid argument for divorce in China.

Now we get to the ugly bit.

Unwanted children & abortion

As mentioned above, there are 33 million more men in China than women. That’s a huge number, even for a population as big as China. It may be partly due to the one-child policy I talked about in part 1.
As the policy took over (though many exceptions were available), there was pressure in rural areas to birth males, who are apparently better at work. Women are undesirable; not good for work. So there is a natural desire to abort the fetus or failing that, abandon the baby so they can try again for a boy.

Often, a family is allowed a second child IF the first one is a woman, because this first attempt is considered a ‘failure’. I should note that this attitude in and of itself is common all over including Vietnam and India. This continental gendercide is winding down slowly, like every other problem, but not nearly fast enough. Abortion rates are still incredibly high in China. 336 million abortions were reported since the one-child policy was put into effect, or 13 million each year, many of them forced.

Suicide rates are higher in women than men in China – The only country in the world other than some small island with a population of about 10 people. Now we can start to see why.

CCP

The Communist Party of China, of which there are almost 90 million members, enjoys plenty of general rights compared to the rest of the expendable population. Becoming a member is considered ‘the ultimate resume boost’ to start off, and, going back to the marriage market, your value shoots up substantially. You are culturally more respected and become more influential, because becoming a member is something considered only for the elite – despite it being 7% of the entire population.
To put the cherry on the cake, members literally have more rights according to the Chinese constitution: ‘Article 35 proclaims, “Citizens of the PRC enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of the press, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration.” Another segment guarantees workers the right to strike, to speak out freely, air views fully, hold large debates and write big-character posters.’ – With a big asterisk at the bottom citing ‘applicable to members of the party only’

Well, that’s nice.

Censorship

China is probably most famous for its incredibly powerful censorship system. With the great firewall, and the lesser known great cannon, billions of dollars put into watching and controlling dissent through social media, internet and a full range of hacking skills, there’s little anybody can realistically do and get away with it – foreigners like me included.
A fellow co-worker, for example, was on skype to his son one day, when he got a phone call from the internet company. ‘Sorry to disturb your call with your son, but’.

Wait, what? It seems they were sitting there, watching them chat through their own computer screen before calling him up, which violates no privacy rights whatsoever. If a private company has that kind of power, what does the government have?
A lot.

五毛党

The Chinese government hires something they call ‘五毛党’, or ’50 cent army’. This is a massive array of individuals paid to manipulate public opinion online (though it’s just as likely it’s an official duty of membership to the CPC). They are responsible for faking 450 million social media posts according to research.

They are also there to snitch on dissenters among other things. They specifically focus on ‘derailing discussions unhelpful to the communist party’. Essentially, they are professional trolls.

Wechat

Wechat is China’s Whatsapp. But it’s so much more than that. It’s an incredible, powerful device that transforms life as we know it. But I’ll get into that in the ‘good’ post later on. The problem is that wechat consumes almost every aspect of life. In the app, you can call taxis, pay your bills, book cinema tickets or flights, order food or pay at restaurants, charge your phone, unlock a shared bike and a whole manner of oth – oh, and chat with your friends.

With 900 MILLION users depending on this all-consuming app, it’s a little worrying when you realise they have a very cozy relationship – as is required – with the government. Censorship is bountiful, and there are 50-cent eyes required in every group chat over a certain number of members. Members of large group of 500 or more also have to register their phone numbers so there’s no escape

The parent company, Tencent, without telling anybody, censors a whole range of key words and images that appear in newsfeeds, typically things relating to political issues like Tiananmen square, the Hong Kong protests and so on. Many users have been arrested and some reportedly ‘disappeared’ (a common theme in China) for writing dissenting ideas where more than a few people could read it.

There is in fact a whole new language created by Chinese netizens meant to be a code to bypass censorship, but the grip gets tighter every day.

Censorship is incredibly fast and efficient here, so word has to spread fast if anybody wants to even hope to make a difference and get people informed.

VPNs

VPNs, or Virtual Private Networks, are surprisingly not illegal in China. But with the vast majority of the country totally unaware of what that is, it doesn’t mean much anyway, and it allows the hypocritical government to access whatever they please. Just recently however, there has been a crackdown on VPNs, and now only VPNs registered and authorized by the government may function in the country. Surprise, surprise.

Media

Typically, all media is heavily censored. Songs cannot sing about anything controversial, TV shows are all safe and family friendly (there is no age rating in China, so EVERYTHING has to be safe viewing for EVERYONE), Video games have to be safe and friendly, literature has to be compliant and family friendly. And safe.

There was a period drama released a couple of years ago called ‘Empress of China’ which, famously, was pulled from the network without warning, and was not heard of again until a few weeks later when it was re-instated. See if you can spot the difference:

That’s right. NO CLEAVAGE.

Blood is also unacceptable for the most part. The recent movie Logan was released here surprisingly, but only after a full 14 minutes were cut out. I’m sure you can guess which bits.

Most international movies released here (of which only 36 are allowed in a given year), have a scene or two cut from it. Which leads me to the final section of Part 3.

International Affairs.

You may have noticed a sharp rise in Chinese actors in minor roles in big movie hits across America. This is no accident. With China rapidly becoming the biggest cinema market, and by far the fastest rising market, it only makes sense that Hollywood sucks their… little red book. But over here, it’s even more pronounced. What you don’t see in America are the additional scenes specifically recorded by Hollywood to include a dialogue or action by some famous Chinese actress or actor being patriotic and all round heroic. Some movie examples are:

• Iron Man 3 – An extra scene showing famous Chinese actors as heroic doctors operating on Tony Stark
• X-men – Fan Bing Bing, the most famous actress in China, played a useless role
• Transformers – It includes a wide range of Chinese product placement
• World War Z – Left almost unrecognizable after all mention of China was removed
• Dozens of other movies (Looper, Pixels, Karate Kid, Django Unchained, Hunger games, and so on) – Scenes cut entirely for
Chinese viewing.

It’s safe to say that China is having a substantial impact on the Hollywood industry. Directors are carefully planning their movies to be suitable and attractive enough to fit into that small, 36-movies-a-year movie list in China.

One Belt, One Road

China is of course a global power, and boy, do they know it. But naturally, it’s never enough. Just recently, Xi Jinping has released grandiose plans for the ‘One Belt, One road’ initiative; a giant update of the old silk road

The move plans to economically connect the world with China for developmental and cooperative reasons. But it’s not all it seems to be.

It has already gone under fire when footage of Kenyans protesting about the new rail system being installed by China surfaced. The rail system connecting the one belt will triple import and export times.

The Kenyans were protesting for a pay raise from $2.50 to $5… per day to start, but there was also protest about the track cutting right through a protected wildlife reserve, treatment of workers and all round poor conditions, such as firing Kenyan staff without cause, firing Kenyans for asking for more pay, dredging sand from beaches for construction, and stealing water from local communities.

This is common across Africa with Chinese companies, with many human rights laws being broken, with outbreaks of cholera, no protective gear and more.

But not to worry, it’s a divided issue, and at least thousands of new jobs have been provided to install the project. Sounds great! Except… the companies China brings to Africa import their own labour. Very few Kenyans actually got to work on the project.
The problems get bigger still. Kenya will be forcefully buried into debt as a result of this project. Kenya’s debt is now 700% of its annual budget – 60% of which belongs to China.

Similar plans are happening around the entire belt. In Vietnam, plans to ‘help develop’ the country will add additional debt equal to the country’s entire annual budget. There is certainly something sinister about this peace project.
500 billion dollars was given in trade in Latin America, with a further 250 billion in direct investments. Yes, almost a trillion dollars in the continent. As for One belt? An estimated 3 Trillion dollars will be sunk into that beast.

There are even broader efforts by China of global domination. In New York Times Square, for example, there is a huge propaganda ad playing 120 times a day, and has entire sections of newspapers dedicated to Chinese patriotism all over the country. Chinese propaganda is commonplace with entire TV channels dedicated to praising the CPC and more.

Overall, China spends around 10 billion dollars on international propaganda, compared to the US’s $666 million.

Make of that what you will.


Can you spot the propaganda?

To conclude

China’s influence on the world is phenomenal, and its rate of growth is even more astonishing. As worrying as this might be, the internal issues are, to me, a much greater concern. Political battles, human rights abuses, an extremely alarming disregard for safety standards and health, pollution disasters, substantial poverty, inequality, animal cruelty and a whole range of aspects I didn’t get time or space to cover, they all lead to one thing:

I need to make a Part 4!

But I promise it will be a lot shorter next time.

Thanks for reading this far, and a special thanks to @ginafraser for her personal knowledge included in this article.