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America's notorious records of economic bullying******
US President Joe Biden signed on Thursday a piece of legislation alleged to ban imports from China's Xinjiang and impose so-called sanctions over debunked claims of forced labor, adding another testimony to America's long-lasting and detrimental economic bullying on the rest of the world.
From introducing high tariffs to imposing unilateral sanctions under the pretext of "national security," "democracy" or "human rights," the notorious records of the self-proclaimed free market economy have not only astounded and agitated the larger world, but also exposed America's own aberrant and maimed economic governance.
Uncontrolled "invisible hand"
Over the past decades, Neoliberalism, an ideology well serves the need for capital expansion, has been popular with US political and business elites, and has been broadly applied to America's economic governance.
During his inauguration address in 1981, then US President Ronald Reagan, who took a strong belief in Neoliberalism, said, "government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem." His policies of cuts in taxes and benefits, as well as encouragement of free competition, have posed a risk to the "invisible hand," leaving the US economy uncontrolled with ever-growing budget and trade deficits.
The US real economy has been increasingly hollowed out ever since the 1970s and 1980s, and this trend is going even further in the 21st century. Coupled with the implementation of Neoliberal policies in the United States is a more uneven distribution of the economic globalization dividend among different US industries and groups, which is very much miniatured in the sharp contrast between depressing lives in the Rust Belt region and absolute opulence in Wall Street.
The Economic Well-Being of US Households in 2020, a report published in May by the US Federal Reserve, showed that the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control about 16 times more wealth than the bottom 50 percent.
Besides, according to an analysis by Oxford Economics, US households accumulated around 1.6 trillion US dollars in excess savings in the period between March 2020 and January 2021. But the top 20 percent of earners – and to a lesser extent, the second 20 percent – account for all the current accumulated cash.
"Transforming the US economy requires policymakers to recognize that markets cannot perform the work of government," US economist Heather Boushey wrote in late 2020 in an opinion piece.
Incompetent government regulation
In the face of pandemic-caused economic difficulties, policymakers should not only consider distribution justice to avoid social polarization, but also caution against partisan politics that might hijack economic policies.
However, unfortunately, the United States has been suffering both social inequality and poor efficiency in policymaking, adding pains to the nation which records the most positive COVID-19 cases.
Influenced by the rules of the capital-favored free market economic system, the US economic policies have long perferred the interests of the rich.
"Tax policy has favored the wealthy and corporations for decades," an opinion piece posted by The New York Times said, adding that "the Fed controls the flow of money, and it flows to the wealthy."
The top 1 percent of households received 75 percent of taxable long-term capital gains in 2019, and more than half went to the highest-income 0.1 percent of households, according to the Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.
Different interests of divided constituencies also drag down the efficiency of government regulations.
In Washington, partisan differences have been pronounced as politicians lobby to maximize the interests of their own constituency, which might block major law-making process aimed at benefiting the public.
On Sunday, Democrats have encountered a major setback as Democratic Senator Joe Manchin publicly stated he would vote "no" on Biden's landmark 2-trillion-dollar social spending bill, which, known as the Build Back Better Act, has witnessed months of negotiations among Democrats.
"There is a vicious cycle in which the market and the rules governing the market – the framework for politics itself – shifts in the direction of the wealthy and big corporations," Robert Reich, who served as Labor Secretary under former US President Bill Clinton, pointed out in an interview with The Sunday Magazine.
In Reich's view, if great wealth of a society is concentrated in the hands of a few, democracy will inevitably be corrupted.
As such a hypothesis becomes reality in US politics, it is unlikely for the government to produce policies in a fair, effective and consistent manner.
Addiction to meddling global economy
While domestically beset by yawning social inequality and belated economical regulations or policies, some ill-minded US politicians have been seeking to shift the burden by interfering with or bullying its trading partners, including China.
In the names of the decoupling plan, the "China Initiative" and "entity list," as well as tariff tools, Washington has been addicted to economic sanctions and overused its financial hegemony, becoming the biggest violator of free trade and market rules.
Over recent years, in contrast to its long-proclaimed rules of free market economy and international trade norms, the White House has abused state power under the pretext of national security to restrain and suppress Chinese enterprises, regardless of their contributions to the US economic growth.
So far, hundreds of Chinese institutions and companies have been added to the US "entity list" of export controls.
Commenting on Washington's administrative attack upon Chinese companies, Samm Sacks, a senior cybersecurity policy fellow at Yale Law School's Paul Tsai China Center and New America, said it sets a dangerous precedent in which the US government can blacklist companies based on country of origin using blanket national security as justification.
History of economic governance has proved that interfering in trading partners amid adversities is not only helpless to improve one's domestic economic resilience or sustain its development momentum, but also suppresses innovation, undermines global supply chains and disrupts international trade orders.
If Washington persists in bullying trading partners, such policy will boomerang on the US economy itself, as well as casting a shadow over the recovery of the world economy.
The people who claim to hear the Northern Lights
It's a question that has puzzled observers for centuries: do the fantastic green and crimson light displays of the aurora borealis produce any discernible sound?
Conjured by the interaction of solar particles with gas molecules in Earth's atmosphere, the aurora generally occurs near Earth's poles, where the magnetic field is strongest. Reports of the aurora making a noise, however, are rare – and were historically dismissed by scientists.
But a Finnish study from 2016 claimed to have finally confirmed that the Northern Lights really do produce sound audible to the human ear. One of the researchers involved in the study captured a sound, possibly made by the captivating lights, that was estimated to have originated 70m (230ft) above ground level.
Still, the mechanism behind the sound remains somewhat mysterious, as are the conditions that must be met for the sound to be heard. My recent research takes a look over historic reports of auroral sound to understand the methods of investigating this elusive phenomenon and the process of establishing whether reported sounds were objective, illusory or imaginary.
Auroral noise was the subject of particularly lively debate in the first decades of the 20th Century, when accounts from settlements across northern latitudes reported that sound sometimes accompanied the mesmerising light displays in their skies.
Witnesses told of a quiet, almost imperceptible crackling, whooshing or whizzing noise during particularly violent Northern Lights displays. In the early 1930s, for instance, personal testimonies started flooding into The Shetland News, the weekly newspaper of the subarctic Shetland Islands, likening the sound of the Northern Lights to "rustling silk" or "two planks meeting flat ways".
目击者称，在特别猛烈的北极光出现期间，会有一种轻微的、几乎察觉不到的爆裂声或嗖嗖声。例如在20世纪30年代早期，在亚北极设得兰群岛（Shetland Islands）的周报《设得兰新闻报》（The Shetland News）上开始出现大量个人证实，将北极光的声音比作“丝绸发出的沙沙声”或“把两块木板拍在一起”。
These tales were corroborated by similar testimony from northern Canada and Norway. Yet the scientific community was less than convinced, especially considering very few western explorers claimed to have heard the elusive noises themselves.
The credibility of auroral noise reports from this time was intimately tied to altitude measurements of the Northern Lights. It was considered that only those displays that descended low into the Earth’s atmosphere would be able to transmit sound which could be heard by the human ear.
The problem here was that results recorded during the Second International Polar Year of 1932-33 found aurorae most commonly took place 100km (62 miles) above Earth, and very rarely below 80km (50 miles). This suggested it would be impossible for discernible sound from the lights to be transmitted to the Earth's surface.
问题是1932至1933年第二个国际极地年（Second Intenational Polar Year）的记录显示，极光最常发生在地球上空100公里（62英里）的地方，而在80公里（50英里）以下的地方很少见。这表明光发出的可辨识的声音不可能传输到地球表面。
Given these findings, eminent physicists and meteorologists remained sceptical, dismissing accounts of auroral sound and very low aurorae as folkloric stories or auditory illusions.
Sir Oliver Lodge, the British physicist involved in the development of radio technology, commented that auroral sound might be a psychological phenomenon due to the vividness of the aurora's appearance – just as meteors sometimes conjure a whooshing sound in the brain. Similarly, the meteorologist George Clark Simpson argued that the appearance of low aurorae was likely an optical illusion caused by the interference of low clouds.
参与无线电技术发展的英国物理学家奥利弗·洛奇爵士（Sir Oliver Lodge）说，极光非常生动，可能导致出现一种心理现象，就像流星有时会在大脑中发出嗖嗖声一样。同样，气象学家乔治·克拉克·辛普森（George Clark Simpson）认为，低空极光很可能是由低空云层的干扰造成的一种光学错觉。
Nevertheless, 20th-Century accounts written by two astronomer's assistants claimed to have heard the aurora, adding some legitimacy to the large volume of personal reports.
One wrote they had heard a "very curious faint whistling sound, distinctly undulatory, which seemed to follow exactly the vibrations of the aurora", while another experienced a sound like "burning grass or spray". As convincing as these two last testimonies may have been, they still didn't propose a mechanism by which auroral sound could operate.
The answer to this enduring mystery which has subsequently garnered the most support was first tentatively suggested in 1923 by Clarence Chant, a well-known Canadian astronomer. He argued that the motion of the Northern Lights alters Earth's magnetic field, inducing changes in the electrification of the atmosphere, even at a significant distance.
This electrification produces a crackling sound much closer to Earth's surface when it meets objects on the ground, much like the sound of static. This could take place on the observer's clothes or spectacles, or possibly in surrounding objects including fir trees or the cladding of buildings.
Chant's theory correlates well with many accounts of auroral sound, and is also supported by occasional reports of the smell of ozone – which reportedly carries a metallic odour similar to an electrical spark – during Northern Lights displays.
Yet Chant's paper went largely unnoticed in the 1920s, only receiving recognition in the 1970s when two auroral physicists revisited the historical evidence. Chant's theory is largely accepted by scientists today, although there's still debate as to how exactly the mechanism for producing the sound operates.
What is clear is that the aurora does, on rare occasions, make sounds audible to the human ear. The eerie reports of crackling, whizzing and buzzing noises accompanying the lights describe an objective audible experience – not something illusory or imagined.
If you want to hear the Northern Lights for yourself, you may have to spend a considerable amount of time in the polar regions, considering the aural phenomenon only presents itself in 5% of violent auroral displays. It's also most commonly heard on the top of mountains, surrounded by only a few buildings – so it's not an especially accessible experience.
In recent years, the sound of the aurora has nonetheless been explored for its aesthetic value, inspiring musical compositions and laying the foundation for novel ways of interacting with its electromagnetic signals.
The Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds has used journal extracts from the American explorer Charles Hall and the Norwegian statesman Fridjtof Nansen, both of whom claimed to have heard the Northern Lights, in his music. His composition, Northern Lights, interweaves these reports with the only known Latvian folk song recounting the auroral sound phenomenon, sung by a tenor solo.
拉脱维亚作曲家Ēriks Ešenvalds在音乐中使用了美国探险家查尔斯·霍尔（Charles Hall）和挪威政治家弗里德托夫·南森（Fridjtof Nansen）的日记节选，两人都声称听到了北极光。他的作品《北极光》（Northern Lights）将这些报告与唯一已知的拉脱维亚民歌交织在一起，这首民歌讲述了极光现象，由男高音独唱。
Or you can also listen to the radio signals of the Northern Lights at home. In 2020, a BBC Radio 3 programme remapped very low frequency radio recordings of the aurora onto the audible spectrum. Although not the same as perceiving audible noises produced by the Northern Lights in person on a snowy mountaintop, these sounds give an awesome sense of the aurora's transitory, fleeting and dynamic nature.