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China

Ai Weiwei Has The Last Word. For Now

Since his release from detention, Chinese artist and political activist Ai Weiwei has been forbidden to make any political statements, but he can’t help himself. Communicating via social networks, and now a magazine essay, appear to be a matter of inner n

At a protest before Ai Weiwei's release (laihiu)
At a protest before Ai Weiwei's release (laihiu)
Kia Vahland

Since he was released on June 22 from the six-square-meter cell where he had been held for 81 days, Chinese authorities have been keeping artist and activist Ai Weiwei under surveillance. For one year, he was ordered not to talk to foreign journalists about his detention, make any political statements, or leave Beijing.

So what does he do? First, he tells the Global Times, an English-language paper belonging to the People's Daily (the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party), that he will "never stop fighting injustice." Then, via Twitter, he protests against the government's mistreatment of some of his friends and other political prisoners. And this week, Newsweek published an essay by Ai WeiWei about Beijing, about how Chinese society is being split into haves and have-nots, and his feeling of complete abandonment when he was imprisoned without a trial.

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Ideas

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Image of the small satellite NanoRacks-Remove Debris satellite deployed into space by the ISS

Thomas Lewton

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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