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"South Korea recently broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility rate. Figures released in November..."

"... showed the average number of children a South Korean woman will have in her lifetime is down to just 0.79. That is far below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population and low even compared to other developed countries where the rate is falling, such as the United States (1.6) and Japan – which at 1.3 reported its own lowest rate on record. And it spells trouble for a country with an aging population that faces a looming shortage of workers to support its pension system.... [M]ore than $200 billion has been spent trying to boost the population over the past 16 years.... A monthly allowance for parents with babies up to 1-year-old will increase from the current 300,000 won to 700,000 won ($230 to $540) in 2023 and to 1 million Korean won ($770) by 2024.... Government-funded nurseries are free..."

From "South Korea spent $200 billion, but it can’t pay people enough to have a baby" (CNN).

"Lee Jin-song, who has written books about the trend of young people choosing not to get married or have a baby... pointed to a common joke that in South Korea, 'if you are not dating by the time you are 25, you’ll turn into a crane, meaning if you’re single you become non-human.' She said society considers her, and others like her, selfish for not conforming to the traditional expectations of marriage and children, 'neglecting their duties for society only for the sake of their happiness.'"

There's a problem with that pro-child propaganda. To my ear, it conveys the message that you'd should not have children. You're supposed to do it for the good of the group, not for your own happiness, and the more money they throw at you, the more it emphasizes how expensive it will be to have a child. And that crane "joke" is just overtly dehumanizing. 

Even if you want to do what is good for society, how much can your one or 2 children change such a gigantic trend? It's such a huge personal change to have a child, but it has only a tiny effect on the country as a whole. That's why they've resorted to big economic incentives (along with bullying). But it's still not enough. 

A 0.79 birthrate!

"By comparing MRI scans of a group of 128 children, half taken before and half at the end of the first year of the pandemic, the researchers found growth in the hippocampus and amygdala..."

"... brain areas that respectively control access to some memories and help regulate fear, stress and other emotions. They also found thinning of the tissues in the cortex, which is involved in executive functioning. These changes happen during normal adolescent development; however, the pandemic appeared to have accelerated the process, [Professor Ian] Gotlib said. Premature aging of children’s brains isn’t a positive development. Before the pandemic, it was observed in cases of chronic childhood stress, trauma, abuse and neglect. These adverse childhood experiences not only make people more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental illnesses, they can raise the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other long-term negative outcomes...."

From "Teen brains aged faster than normal from pandemic stress, study says/The study, which measured brain age after about 10 months of lockdown, showed that teen brains had aged at least three years in that time" (WaPo).

There's also this anecdote (have you seen cases like this?):

Stacy Gittleman, 54, of West Bloomfield, Mich., saw the pandemic derail one of her children. An aspiring musical theater actor, he was a junior in high school when school and theater shut down. “So much of how my son thrives depends on moving, acting, doing hands-on work and interacting with others,” Gittleman said. “He spent much of his time in bed, which was very painful as parents to watch, as my son before the pandemic was so lively and social.”

And this:

Meg Martin, 55, of Gaithersburg, Md.... [says h]er son, now a senior in high school, previously intended to apply to a four-year residential college, but after years of online and hybrid learning, feels unmotivated and disengaged from school. “I really think the way his high school years unfolded are going to have ripple effects for years to come,” Martin said.

"Although Cambodia to this day has no law specifically limiting surrogacy, the government criminalized the practice by using existing laws against human trafficking..."

"... an offense that can carry a 20-year sentence. Dozens of surrogates have been arrested, accused of trafficking the babies they birthed. In a poor country long used as a playground by foreign predators — pedophiles, sex tourists, factory bosses, antique smugglers and, yes, human traffickers — the Cambodian authorities said they were on the lookout for exploitation....  Nearly all of those arrested in the 2018 raid gave birth while imprisoned in a military hospital, some chained to their beds. They, along with several surrogacy agency employees, were convicted of trafficking the babies. Their sentencings, two years later, came with a condition: In exchange for suspended prison terms, the surrogates would have to raise the children themselves. If the women secretly tried to deliver the children to the intended parents, the judge warned, they would be sent to prison for many years. This means that women whose financial precarity led them to surrogacy are now struggling with one more mouth to feed."

From "They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children. In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal charges follow" (NYT).

In one example discussed in the article, the surrogate was paid "$9,000 — about five times her annual base salary." 

Also: "Most of the Chinese babies carried by Cambodian surrogates are boys. Sex selection is banned in China, but not in Cambodia." And the agency spokesperson said: "Mixed-race children are popular with our clients." We're told "many of its egg donors came from Russia, Ukraine and South Africa. The intended fathers were Chinese, and many were gay." So the children the surrogates must raise look half-European, which the NYT says "can create additional strains."

A serious deficiency in this article: We are never give the text of the statute that Cambodia is enforcing. I see there's a quote from a sperm-donor's lawyer — "Are they serious that he is trafficking his own child?" — but it's impossible to analyze the legal question without seeing how the crime is defined in the statute. That's not about what the English words "human trafficking" seem to mean to us!

"The history of toys is the history of teaching children to preoccupy themselves usefully and solitarily."

"I give you this toy to bond you to me, now go away and play with it by yourself."

Said the play theorist Brian Sutton-Smith.

Quoted in "'They want toys to get their children into Harvard': have we been getting playthings all wrong? For decades we’ve been using toys to cram learning into playtime – and toys have been marketed as tools to turn children into prosperous, high-achieving adults. Is it time for a rethink?" (The Guardian).

"They Paused Puberty, but Is There a Cost?/Puberty blockers can ease transgender youths’ anguish and buy time to weigh options. But concerns are growing about long-term physical effects and other consequences."

That's the headline for an article in today's NYT. 

This is a long article, but here's a short excerpt:

Over the past decade, growing numbers of medical providers have lowered the ages at which they prescribe the treatments. Today, the WPATH and Endocrine Society advise that blockers can be prescribed at the first signs of puberty and hormone treatment, in some cases, earlier than 16. The American Academy of Pediatrics says blockers can be provided anytime during puberty and hormones from “early adolescence onward.” Some doctors and researchers are concerned that puberty blockers may somehow disrupt a formative period of mental growth.

With adolescence comes critical thinking, more sophisticated self-reflection and other significant leaps in brain development. Sex hormones have been shown to affect social and problem-solving skills. It’s believed that brain growth is connected to gender identity, but research in these areas is still very new.

In a 2020 paper, 31 psychologists, neuroscientists and hormone experts from around the world urged more study of the effects of blockers on the brain. “If the brain is expecting to receive those hormones at a certain time and doesn’t, what happens?” said Dr. Sheri Berenbaum, head of a gender research lab at Penn State, and one of the authors of the paper. “We don’t know.”

The physicians in the Amsterdam clinic, where the treatment began, have lowered their minimum ages for starting blockers and hormones. But they are very cautious in selecting patients. “Our concern is always: When is gender identity fixed or not fluid anymore? And when do you fully understand the lifelong consequences of such treatment?” said Dr. Annelou de Vries, head therapist at the clinic.

"It seems the gut reaction should be, ‘No, minors should not get tattoos,’ but minors will get tattoos."

Said Marisa Kakoulas, "a lawyer based in New York City who has written a series of books on tattoos and consults with artists on tattoo law," quoted in "A 10-Year-Old Got a Tattoo. His Mother Was Arrested. In New York State, you must be at least 18 to get a tattoo. Elsewhere, the rules are different — and perceptions are changing" (NYT). 

The 10-year-old's tattoo was "a crude rendering of his name in large block letters on the inside of his forearm.”

And here's a quote from "a tattoo anthropologist" named Lars Krutak: "Maybe decolonizing the Western thought concept of ‘age-appropriate’ tattoos could be enlightening. But I am not saying that children should be tattooed at 10 and 11 years old, because they still have a lot to learn about the world."

A hyphen between "Western" and "thought" would be helpful. I was distracted into thinking about the idea of a "thought concept." 

But Krutak alerts us to something important: Laws protecting children can be undermined by left-wing ideology. And yet, left-wing ideology also cuts the other way. Krutak speaks of "Indigenous tribes... [f]rom Japan to Kenya to Borneo." But one might say you shouldn't appropriate their culture.

Even with New York's strong law, this boy got permanently marked up with a very bad and stupid tattoo. Liberalize these laws, and what awful mistakes will children make? 

Anyway... tattoos... what a mess! So many scribbled-up blue-green arms out there. Why hasn't it gone out of style yet?

"What is the guidance for tweeps with children and other dependents who need to arrange childcare etc? These are not arrangements that can realistically be changed at a moment’s notice..."

"... for example enrolling in daycare, hiring nannies, arranging managed care facilities, etc. This new policy seems designed to penalize parents, guardians, and other caregivers who may have designed their whole lives around full or partial remote work."

Asked one Twitter employee, responding to the demand that Twitter employees — "tweeps" — work in the office, after they had been told, last year, that "they could work remotely forever," quoted in "Inside the Twitter meltdown Elon is speaking. VPs are resigning. Is bankruptcy next?" (Platformer).

How many children does Elon Musk have that he needs to make arrangements for? 

People magazine had an article about this just last month: "Everything to Know About Elon Musk's Family (He's a Dad of 10)/Elon Musk is the father of 10 children, including a pair of twins and a set of triplets with his ex-wife Justine Wilson and a boy and girl with ex-girlfriend Grimes." 

"Custody of our five children is split evenly," Musk said in a 2010 Business Insider op-ed. "Almost all of my non-work waking hours are spent with my boys, and they are the love of my life." 

How many non-work waking hours does he have? It could so easily be zero. 

The oldest children, the twins, were born in 2004, and one of them, Vivian Jenna Wilson, is transgender and "no longer live[s[ with or wish[es] to be related to [her] biological father in any way, shape or form." 

Musk's response to that was to blame the schools: "It's full-on communism . . . and a general sentiment that if you're rich, you're evil. It [the relationship] may change, but I have very good relationships with all the others [children]. Can't win them all."

Even as he makes his own workplace harsher on employees with children, he loftily and loudly bemoans the widespread disinclination to bear children: "I think one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate and the rapidly declining birthrate. Please look at the numbers – if people don't have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words."

Do you want civilization to crumble? 

Which half of your employees would you keep? How would you weigh the sleeps-in-the-office factor? Not catnapping, but sleeping overnight on the floor?

 

Link. 

Esther Crawford's Twitter profile says: "early stage products @twitter. previously ceo @squad (acq'd by @twitter in 2020 which was acq’d by @elonmusk in 2022). raising 3 humans w/ @bobcowherd." 

Background: "Elon Musk to Lay Off About 3,700 Twitter Employees on Friday: Report" (Gizmodo):

Musk also plans to institute a new requirement that all employees come into the office, reversing Twitter’s flexible work-from-anywhere approach instituted during the start of the covid-19 pandemic. Musk has previously said that people who work from home are only pretending to work and Twitter employees have started sleeping at the office to meet the billionaire’s tight deadlines, according to photos posted to social media.

Crawford's profile says she lives in Berkeley, California. Can you get to a Twitter office from there? Sure. Can you raise 3 humans w/ @bobcowherd from there? Of course! Depending on @bobcowherd.

Here's a Twitter page recruiting workers and listing all the places where you can work in an office, including San Francisco and San Jose. Lots of other place too — Boulder, Boston, Portugal....

I just took this screenshot on that page, where Twitter states a policy that seems ludicrously deceptive at this point:

Right under that are 3 sentimental, colorful images within tweets by what look like Twitter employees. The first shows a cute toddler and: "I'd be commuting right now #lovewhereyouWFH." The second shows an orange cat sitting on a laptop keyboard and: "Are you kiddin me #lovewhereyouWFH." The third shows chocolate chip cookies and: "Just got a delivery of warm cookies from my family to power my work day. Sometimes I really, really do #lovewhereyouWFH."

All 3 of those tweets are from women, and right under that, it says "We're all about flexibility and equity."

But now don't those women seem to have marked themselves as the ones who will be fired, now that half of the employees must go? Indeed, doesn't the idea of cutting half suggest cutting all the women. Now, I don't think that's what Musk would do, but it does seem as though the people who will get cut are the ones who are acting too much like the traditional female role and responding to a sweet, cushy offer to stay home with their kitties and kiddies and cookies.

We're taking the TikToks up to 11 tonight. Some people love them.

 1. In Japan, they don't say "See? I told you!"

2. Stop saying "This photograph looks like a Renaissance painting."

3. In what world would he eat 20 tortillas?

4. She made a pact with herself to have higher standards.

5. When your partner makes a bid for your attention.

6. Do you want to go to a haunted house?

7. Do you want... a what?

8. Here, take this harmonica.

9. Hey, a tambourine man.

10. And, here, just in case you need a dancer to interpret "Like a Rolling Stone."

11. The heterosexual man who wants a husband... why?

Which half of your employees would you keep? How would you weigh the sleeps-in-the-office factor? Not catnapping, but sleeping overnight on the floor?

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