Author Archives: richardbrenneman

Chinese anchor babies, a story of surrogates


Donald Trump has made a big fuss about so-called anchor babies, children born in the United States to parents who aren’t citizens as a means for the family to eventually become permanent residents and citizens.

He’s also declared that Ted Cruz, his one-time rival for the Republican nomination, declaring in January that “Ted Cruz may not be a U.S. citizen, right? But he’s an anchor baby. No, he’s an anchor baby — Ted Cruz is an anchor baby in Canada.”

So we wonder how he’ll react to this story from CCTV America:

Chinese are hiring American surrogates to have US citizen babies  

Program notes:

A growing number of Chinese families are hiring American surrogates to have children. One reason is that a baby born in the U.S. is automatically an American citizen. California is the most popular state for surrogacy because of its relaxed laws. CCTV America’s May Lee reports.

Consumer ethnic identity tests may foster racism


A screencap of thre webpage for one of the most popular consumer DNA testing companies, a firm that also sells consumer genealogical record programs..

A screencap of the webpage for one of the most popular consumer DNA testing companies, a firm that also sells consumer genealogical record programs..

That’s the conclusion of some fascinating new research published in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin [$36 to access the article].

Conducted by social scientists in the U.S., Norway, Denmark, and Israel, the study has implications for those DNA tests advertised regularly on television promising to reveal all the components of your ethnic background.

The TV ads show folks who discover that they DNA proves they weren’t Scottish, German, of whatever, and how that discover changed their lives and their self-perceptions.

Here’s the abstract from the paper:

Information about the degree of one’s genetic overlap with ethnic outgroups has been emphasized in genocides, is frequently learned about through media reporting, and is increasingly being accessed via personal genetic testing services. However, the consequence of learning about whether your own ethnic group is either genetically related to or genetically distinct from a disliked ethnic group remains unknown. Across four experiments, using diverse samples, measures and contexts, we demonstrate that altering perceptions of genetic overlap between groups in conflict—in this case Arabs and Jews—impacts factors that are directly related to interethnic hostility (e.g., aggressive behaviors, support of conflict-related policies). Our findings indicate that learning about the genetic difference between oneself and an ethnic outgroup may contribute to the promotion of violence, whereas learning about the similarities may be a vital step toward fostering peace in some contexts. Possible interventions and implications are discussed.

In a post written for Scientific American’s blog, two of the authors, Sasha Kimel of Harvard and Jonas Kunst, who holds appointments at Harvard and the universities of Oslo in Norway and Aarhus in Denmark,describe their experiments and some of their implications.

From their post:

[W]e led Jewish participants to believe that they were playing a simple computerized game with an Arab opponent sitting in another room. If the Jewish participant won, they could give their opponent a loud blast of noise – up to the intensity of a fire alarm. Strikingly, Jewish participants who had first learned about the genetic differences “punished” their alleged Arab opponent with more intense noise blasts than those who had learned about the genetic similarities.

But can learning about genetic similarities or differences also alter peoples’ support for war?  To test this, in a third experiment—run outside the laboratory—we randomly assigned Jewish participants to read one of our various news articles and then rate their support for peacemaking with Palestinians. Here, our results suggested that learning about genetic similarities might be an effective intervention for reducing conflict.

However, when we finally took the study to Israel—a context of ongoing violence and deeply entrenched negative views—we found something quite different. Here, learning about the genetic differences was what was really impactful. In this field experiment conducted on Israeli commuter trains, Jewish Israeli’s supported violence and war-like policies towards Palestinians much more after reading about their genetic differences with Arabs.

We’ve posted extensively about the deadly role of eugenics in fostering hatred, sterilizations, and mass murder, not only in Nazi but in the United States throughout the first half of the 20th Century.

Let us quote from one of our many posts on the subject:

“Their idea of utopia was that no one would exist who didn’t look like themselves,” explains Edwin R. Black, author of War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race [2003].

While most folks probably assume that the Nazi plan to create a blond, blue-eyed “Aryan” master race was a uniquely German phenomenon, the reality is that Hitler simply embraced a program developed in the United States, and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Carnegie Institution, and other grant-making institution.

Most of the German researchers who would go on to implement first the Nazi sterilization programs and later, the gassing first of mental patients and then Jews and Gypsies, were first sponsored by the American grant-givers.

Soon after his rise to the chancellorship, Hitler expressed regrets that he couldn’t implement programs already in place in the United States and set changing Germany’s laws.

Indeed, California would set the world record for forced sterilizations until Hitler unleashed his own doctors — many of whom had received American institutional grants — who would spearhead his war against the weak, modeling his own statutes on those already in operation in the U.S.

The dread of those dubbed “mental defectives” even led some mainstream American scientists to propose a “final solution” in the form of gas chambers, an idea subsequently adopted in Germany.

The implementation of eugenics programs here followed a rise of anti-immigrant hysteria focused on Southern Italians, Eastern European Jews, and Latinos, an ominous fact in light of the rising anti-immigrant hysteria now impacting our country.

But the eugenicists weren’t out simply to purge the globe of “mental defectives” and “inferior races.” They also targeted the deaf, the blind, the disabled, the alcoholic, the depressed, and the poor. As Black notes, eugenicists “believed you weren’t born into poverty; poverty was born into you.”

Steve Breen: American Gothic for the 21st Century


An American icon reinterpreted for our times by the editorial cartoonist of the San Diego Union-Tribune:

BLOG Breen

And the original, now in the Art Institute of Chicago:

BLOG Breen original

Chart of the day: Polarized over moral values


Another reason for the rise of populism, via Gallup:

BLOG Chart

And now for something completely different. . .


Would you believe underwater music.

Yep, music played by musicians immersed in large aquaria and played on specially developed musical instruments.

From FuturePerfect Productions:

Between Music / AquaSonic Tour Begins May 27-29 2016 at Operadagen, Festival of New Music, Rotterdam

Program notes:

AquaSonic is the most ambitious project to date from Danish musicians Laila Skovmand and Robert Karlsson, in collaboration with members of their ensemble Between Music. The work presents five performers who submerge themselves in glass water tanks to play custom-made instruments and sing entirely underwater. Transformed inside these darkly glittering, aquatic chambers, they produce compositions that are both eerily melodic and powerfully resonant. AquaSonic is the culmination of years of research into the exciting possibilities of submerged musical performance, breaking barriers and challenging existing paradigms. The artists conducted countless experiments in collaboration with deep-sea divers, instrument makers and scientists to develop entirely new, highly specialized subaqueous instruments. These include an underwater organ or hydraulophone, crystallophone, rotacorda, percussion and violin. The team also perfected a distinctive vocal technique for underwater singing. The result is a concert experience completely out of the ordinary; a deep dive into a magical new universe of images and sounds.
aquasonic.dk

The 2016 tour begins in Rotterdam, Holland at the Operadagen Festival of contemporary music.

FuturePerfect is a New York-based interdisciplinary production company focused on the intersection of live performance, media, visual art and technology. Wayne Ashley, the former Director of Arts in Multimedia at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), founded the company in 2008.

FuturePerfect develops works through close and often long-term relationships with some of today’s most interesting artists, scientists, researchers and organizations. Through ongoing collaborations FuturePerfect generates and supports new directions in performance and visual culture through commissions, touring, consulting, residencies, presentations, and conferences.
futureperfectproductions.org / facebook.com/futureperfectprod / twitter.com/fpprod

Maps of the day: Patterns of ancestry revealed


BLOG Ancestry

From McGill University:

A new study of genomic diversity in the U.S. clarifies the role of pre-Civil War admixture and early 20th century transit routes in shaping the migration history and genomic diversity among African-American communities. The research by McGill University professor Simon Gravel and colleagues, was published May 27 in PLOS Genetics [open access].

Between 1910 and 1970, six million African Americans moved from the rural Southern United States to the urban Northeast, Midwest, and West – a phenomenon known to historians as the Great Migration. This migration had a profound impact on African-American communities and also on their nationwide genomic diversity.

In the new study, scientists from McGill and several U.S. institutions used genetic data from 3,726 African-Americans from across the U.S. to estimate patterns of ancestry. They report that 82.1% of African-Americans’ ancestors resided in Africa prior to the advent of transatlantic travel, while 16.7% lived in Europe and 1.2% in the Americas. They find that African-Americans living in the southern U.S. have a greater percentage of African ancestry than those in the North or West and that individuals with higher European ancestry were more likely to migrate to the North and West, reinforcing regional differences in ancestry.

The study’s detailed approach to the analysis of African American genetics confirms previous findings and fills in details of African American heritage that may be absent from the historical record.

In addition to the genetic data, “we used a lot of census data and spent a lot of time in libraries, reading history and talking to historians,” to help round out the picture of migration patterns, says Gravel, an assistant professor in McGill’s Department of Human Genetics and researcher at the McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre.

As researchers seek to increase the representation of African-Americans in medical genetic studies and reduce health disparities, this study will facilitate the design and analysis of nation-wide representative cohorts, Gravel adds.

This work was supported by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research through the Canada Research Chair program.

“The Great Migration and African-American Genomic Diversity”  Baharian S, Barakatt M, Gignoux CR, Shringarpure S, Errington J, Blot WJ, et al. PLOS Genetics, published May 27, 2016. doi:10.1371/ journal.pgen.1006059

Headline of the day: Political pragmatism. . .


Or a move to keep that revolving door well-lubricated?

From the Intercept:

Samantha Power to Receive Prize From Henry Kissinger, Whom She Once Harshly Criticized 

The former human rights activist used to have harsh words for Kissinger’s blood-soaked legacy, but now she’s a top Obama administration official.