Outside the Bubble

In Odessa, Ukraine, a statue of Bolshevik revolu­tionary Vladimir Lenin–originally to be destroyed–was remodeled by Sculptor Alexander Milov into Darth Vader from the “Star Wars Franchise” and was unveiled on Oct. 23 (New York Post, “Sculpture of Soviet leader transformed into Darth Vader,” 10.24.15).

The original statue shown signs of weathering, so Milov added a protective layer on the sculpture and then built atop the original statue with titanium alloy. (Moscow Times, “Darth Vader Sculpture Replaces Sovi­et Leader Lenin in Ukraine’s Odessa,” 10.23.15). This de­sign features a wireless router inside Vader’s head which supplies wireless internet access to the vicinity. Milov explained, “I was born in the USSR, and I am a child of a country that doesn’t exist any more. I wish to save the monuments of history. I’m trying to clean up the operat­ing system and keep them on the hard drive of memory.”

Throughout many areas of the former Union of Sovi­et Socialist Republics (USSR), sculptures of Stalin and Lenin can still be seen in squares, public bathrooms and parks. Following the “decommunization” law passed by the Ukranian parliament in April 2015, factory workers requested for the monument to be transformed (Metro, “This Lenin statue has been turned into Darth Vader – but which leader do you prefer?” 10.23.15).

“We didn’t want to vandalize the statue but the mon­ument to Lenin was due to be dismantled in connection with the new law,” Milov stated. “I decided to take a monument to Lenin and transform it into a monument to Darth Vader, because at this moment Darth Vader is a political figure in Ukraine.” After changing his name to and dressing up as Darth Vader, the leader of the Ukrainian Internet Party (UIP) ran to be Odessa’s may­or (New York Post, “Sculpture of Soviet leader trans­formed into Darth Vader,” 10.24.15). A person named and who has the appearance of “Chewbacca” was the press secretary for the party and “Princess Leia” served as head of credentials commission. Currently, Vader is run­ning for the position of Ukrainian prime minister.

“I wanted to make a symbol of American pop culture which appears to be more durable than the Soviet ideal,” Milov commented.

—Hannah Mittman, Guest Reporter

China Lifts One Child Policy

On Oct. 29, the Communist Party of China (CPC) released a statement announcing that it would allow all married couples in the nation to have two children for the first time in over three decades. The decision, once approved by China’s top legislature, will mark an end to the country’s thirty-five-year-old policy limiting most families to only one child (Xinhua, “China to Allow Two Children for all Couples,” 10.29.15).

The announcement caught many experts by surprise. “I’m shaking, to be honest,” said Stuart Gietel-Basten, an associate professor of Social Policy at the University of Oxford who has advocated for an end to the one-child policy. “It’s one of those things that you have been work­ing on and saying for years… and it finally happened. It’s just a bit of a shock” (The Guardian, “China ends One-child Policy After Thirty-five Years,” 10.29.15).

Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader during the 1970’s, introduced the “one-child” policy in 1979 to curb China’s rapidly growing population. The policy re­stricted most families from having more than a single child, and imposed several coercive measures to those that violated it–including fines, loss of employment, and forced abortions (New York Times, “China Ends One-Child Policy, Allowing Families Two Children,” 10.29.15).

The one-child policy is estimated to have prevented nearly 400 million births in China over the past three decades, which has helped the nation to maintain a high economic growth rate in the past. However, the policy has also been identified as the primary cause for Chi­na’s “aging population” in recent years–a trend that has shrunk the Chinese labor force by over seven and a half million, and is expected to result in a quarter of the population that over the age of sixty-five by 2050 (Bloomberg Business, “China’s One-Child Policy Back­fires as Labor Pool Shrinks Again,” 01.20.15).

It was primarily in response to China’s aging pop­ulation that the CPC decided to reform its one-child policy. “To promote a balanced growth of population, China will continue to uphold the basic national policy of population control and improve its strategy on pop­ulation development,” the party said in their statement published by Xinhua, the state-run news organization. “China will fully implement the policy of ‘one couple, two children’ in a proactive response to the issue of an aging population” (Xinhua).

The CPC projects that the new policy will increase the number of births in China by 23 million within the next 15 years (CNN, “China’s One-Child Policy to End,” 10.29.15). Despite the relaxed rules, many demographers and economists believe that this number may be much lower, as the costs of rearing a second child are likely to deter many eligible couples from having two children.

“I don’t think a lot of parents would act on it,” said Professor of Demography at Peking University, Mu Guangzong, “The birthrate in China is low and its popu­lation is aging quickly, so from the policy point of view, it’s a good thing, as it will help combat a shortage of la­bor force in the future. But many parents simply don’t have the economic conditions to raise more children” (New York Times).

In addition, many human rights advocates claim that the policy reform does not address other issues created by the one-child policy, including reproductive freedoms violations, the use of forced abortions and the promotion of female abandonment and infanticide. “The move to change China’s one-child policy is not enough,” said Amnesty International Researcher William Nee. “Couples that have two children could still be subject­ed to coercive and intrusive forms of contraception, and even forced abortions – which amount to torture… If China is serious about respecting human rights, the government should immediately end such invasive and punitive controls over people’s decisions to plan families and have children” (Amnesty International, “China: Re­form of one-child policy ‘not enough,’” 10.29.15).

Despite these concerns, many Chinese citizens viewed the reform as an important measure towards larger change. “While it shouldn’t be confused with the full embrace of reproductive freedoms,” said China director of Human Rights Watch Sophie Richardson. “This is definitely a step in the right direction” (Person­al Liberty, “China to let couples have two children as it ends one-child policy,” 10.29.15).

The CPC will present the “one couple, two children” proposal to the National People’s Congress for legisla­tive approval in March.

—Ethan Baratz, Guest Reporter

Howler Monkeys Overcompensate Too

Testicle size is not traditionally an indicator of any­thing beyond sperm production, but it is directly related to the pitch of the howls in howler monkeys.

Howler monkeys live in the forests of Central and South America, and their howls can extend as far as three miles through dense rainforest jungles.

Male howler monkeys are known for loud howls, used against other males and for attraction of females. According to University of Cambridge researcher Jake Dunn, “females find a deeper howl more attractive” (BBC, “Big monkey voice ‘means less sperm’,” 10.23.15).

Low and attractive voices are not without cost, how­ever. Field researchers captured and used MRI machines and 3D laser scans to analyze the anatomical structure of the monkeys. They found that the pitch of the howl­er monkey species’ howl was dependent on the size of a bone in the monkey’s throat, the hyoid. Hyoid bones act as resonators as the sound travels through the throat canal. Larger hyoid bones create lower pitched-howls.

To explain this phenomenon, Dunn placed the dis­covery into the larger context of the evolution of repro­ductive traits. “There is evidence in other animals that when males invest in large bodies, bright colours, or weaponry such as horns or long canines, they are unable to also invest in reproductive traits,” she noted. “How­ever, this is the first evidence in any species for a trade-off between vocal investment and sperm production” (Daily Mail, “Beware loud-mouthed guys: monkeys with smaller testicles roar the loudest to make up for their shortcomings when attracting females,” 10.22.15).

The social-mating groups of the monkeys support the trend. Howler monkey species that have males with low-voices live in small groups with one alpha male and many females. Males with smaller hyoids, but larger tes­tes live in larger groups with more than one male and females that mate with all males in the group.

Dunn explained why having less developed sexual organs may not matter for the reproductive success of the individual. ‘It may be that investment in developing a large vocal organ and roaring is so costly that there is simply not enough energy left to invest in testes,” she posited. “Alternatively, using a large vocal organ for roar­ing may be so effective at deterring rival males that there is no need to invest in large testes” (Daily Mail).

A study of the reproductive patterns of other mon­keys and apes reveals similar trends. For chimpanzees, mating is promiscuous, so sperm compete in the female to fertilize the egg, and as a result, chimpanzee testes are large (New York Times, “Seductive bass tones enough to seal the deal in some monkey species,” 10.22.15).

While research on howler monkey vocalizations pro­vides insight into the evolved mechanisms of sound pro­duction in monkeys, there is no relevance human mating patterns. Dunn’s co-researcher Leslie A. Knapp referred to the fact that human females have many more import­ant criteria for mates other than testicle size (New York Times).

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