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THE HUMAN COST OF GADGETS “I wonder what Siri—the Apple iPhone’s know-it-all voice-recognition helpmate—would say if asked about worker health and safety conditions in the factory from which she was born,” asks Michael Yudell. That factory would have been part of Foxconn City, a manufacturing complex in Wuhan, China, and according to the New York Times, “over a quarter of Foxconn’s work force lives in company barracks and many workers earn less than $17 a day.” Foxconn plants have been plagued with suicides. “Workers have been asked to sign anti-suicide pledges, and nets have been installed under some Foxconn buildings. Some blame the repetitive and isolating nature of the high-tech manufacturing lines.” We in the West need to understand that “our society’s desire to have more and better technology at an affordable price comes at a human cost.”

—Michael Yudell, A90, on philly.com/health,the Philadelphia Inquirer’s health blog

AGAINST CREATIVE BANKING “Central bankers barely averted a financial panic before Christmas by replacing hundreds of billions of dollars of deposits fleeing European banks,” Amar Bhidé notes. “But confidence in the global banking system remains dangerously low. To prevent the next panic, it’s not enough to rely on emergency actions by the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank. Instead, governments should fully guarantee all bank deposits—and impose much tighter restrictions on risk-taking by banks. Banks should be forced to shed activities like derivatives trading that regulators cannot easily examine.”

Such reforms “may seem a pipe dream. But we now have the worst of all worlds: panics, followed by emergency interventions by central banks, and vague but implicit guarantees to lure back deposits. Since the 2008 financial crisis, governments and central bankers have been seriously overstretched. The next time a panic starts, markets may just not believe that the Treasury and Fed have the resources to stop it.”

—Amar Bhidé, the Thomas Schmidheiny Professor, Fletcher School, in the New York Times

TRANSFORMATIVE DISABILITIES Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner who hopes to compete in the 2012 Olympics, has sparked controversy because some believe the prostheses he uses would give him an edge. But “it’s easy to forget that sport is inherently unfair,” argues Ford Vox. “Every ‘unadulterated’ athlete has different biomechanical properties. Some have longer limbs, denser bones, slipperier tendons, and double joints.” Why are these advantages “intrinsically all right,” while “our technology and our willpower to overcome our nature” can be considered disqualifying?

Sport represents “our ideals as a society. Those ideals should include acceptance of the fact that that today, some human disabilities, when fought with enough ingenuity, teamwork, and passion, can become transformative.”

—Ford Vox, assistant clinical professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, School of Medicine, on CNN.com

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