China

The Real Life Black Mirror?

Recently, I was in a Lyft in Los Angeles discussing the British dystopian television show, Black Mirror, with my driver. I told him about the episode in which every person you interact with can rate you: coworkers, friends, baristas all have the power to determine your social capital. “Oh!” the driver interrupted, “they already have this in China!”

Lab Notes: A New Class Brings CRISPR to the People

The announcement came in June. Berkeley Extension, the continuing education arm of UC Berkeley, was offering its first-ever introductory courseCRISPR Genome Editing: From Biology to Technology—on the revolutionary new tool that allows scientists to make precise edits in the genome. A lab and lecture course on CRISPR for anyone who has the interest (and money) to enroll? What a crazy idea. It seemed a bit like offering a workshop on how to enrich plutonium.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

Meet CRISPR: Humanity’s Shiny New Tool

One of biology’s wilder facts is that we’re all family. You and me, sure, but also me and a mushroom. Triceratops shared genes with you. So does the virus that makes you cough, and a rosebush. Bacteria left us on the tree of life around 2.7 billion years ago, but the wet world they came from is still ours: One code runs all of life. The same proteins that imprint memories in your neurons, for example, do so in octopi, ravens, and sea slugs. This genetic conservation means tricks from one species can be hijacked. If you stick a jellyfish gene in a monkey, it’ll glow green.

From the Winter 2019 issue of California.

The Tipping Point: Can American Institutions Be Saved?

Depending on how you spin it, the recent government shutdown was either an example of the Republicans cynically rolling the Democrats, or the Democrats electing to strategically fold their tents and fight for the Dreamers another day. Either way, nobody was playing chess; it was more like 52 pickup. So even though President Donald Trump contributed little to the process, other than reneging on an early compromise agreement, he somehow came out looking a trifle less inept than everyone else.

A Day Late and A Summit Short: Can California Save the World?

The Global Climate Action Summit that wrapped recently in San Francisco was trumpeted as a “subnational” approach to climate change solutions, a riposte to the regressive environmental policies of the Trump administration. For three days, delegates from diverse international municipalities, provinces, states and corporations discussed ways to cut carbon emissions and mitigate global warming.

7 Things to Know about California’s New Solar Panel Policy

Earlier this month, California became the first state to require all new homes to have solar power. The mandate, which comes from the California Energy Commission (CEC), will take effect in 2020, making solar power even more common in a state that already boasts about half the country’s solar generating capacity. Part of the motivation for the new policy is California’s ambitious goal to be producing 50% of the state’s energy from renewable sources by 2030.

War Footing: A Cal Expert’s Take on the North Korea Situation

Of all the potential flash points around the world these days, none are more worrisome than North Korea. The Hermit Kingdom is a black box, and it’s exceedingly difficult to know what’s going on within its borders. A couple of things, however, are clear: its nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities are improving, and the mutual bellicosity between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are making a bad situation worse.

Step Right Up: Optimistic for America

On the 7th of June, 2016, in Oakland, California, I was among 1,057 “aliens” who became American citizens. We took the oath. We were welcomed and congratulated. We were told not only that we could vote, but that we should vote and that we could run for office.

In 2016, the United States is going to “naturalize” 700,000 new citizens. At nearly 70 years old, I’ve achieved this belatedly in life and more than a century after the big immigration wave that brought millions of my compatriots to these shores.

From the Fall 2016 The Greatest Show On Earth issue of California.

Researching Discontent: Here’s Why a Regime May Need—and Secretly Want—Protests

“Do you really want to have secret informants in every single village?”

It’s a question Peter L. Lorentzen has pondered quite a bit. After all, he’s an expert in uncovering discontent among the masses within authoritarian regimes. Secret informants, he asserts, are expensive and not always accurate. So the world’s dictators are likely using other tactics.

From the Spring 2015 Dropouts and Drop-ins issue of California.

Crash Course: Cal and its surge of foreign freshmen struggle to adjust to one another

The first time Larry Zhou traveled outside of China, it was to start his freshman year at Berkeley in 2010. The University’s bid to admit more international students—they would enhance campus diversity and pay sticker-price tuition—brought a surge of foreign arrivals with Zhou. More than a third came from Chinese territories.

Zhou, now a senior, had studied British English in high school in Suzhou, about 65 miles west of Shanghai. He did so well on a language test that his school encouraged him to study abroad, and he garnered a high verbal SAT score as well.

Sino the Times

Has the Ugly American been supplanted by his Chinese counterpart?  In the upcoming issue, California looks at the growing resentment in the developing world over Chinese business ventures abroad.

It wasn’t so long ago that Chinese engineers and economists were welcomed with enthusiasm by struggling Asian, African and South American nations. The Chinese were seen as both technically proficient and simpatico. They didn’t have to tote the baggage of – well, Americans, who were often viewed as overweening, grasping and arrogant.

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