How the United States re-branded as "America"

NPR's Throughline had a great recent episode about what's essentially the branding of the American Empire. Host Rund Abdelfatah speaks with Daniel Immerwahr, a history professor at Northwestern University, who the changing ways that America has identified itself over the years.

I always found it kind of strange to say "America" (even though I do it), as it also refers to two entire continents. And I've similarly found it interesting when I hear Europeans refer to the country as "the States." But Immerwahr took things a step further, and traced the history of self-reference through American presidential speeches. Prior to 1898 — the time of our rarely-mentioned war with Spain, which saw American expansionism grow beyond the continental borders and into the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Cuba and so on — it was rare to hear a President refer to the country as "America." It could be the Republic, or the Union, or the United States, sometimes even Columbia or Freedonia (like "land of the free people," yes that was apparently a real thing at one time).

Immerwahr smartly connects this to curiosity to the country's intrinsic relationship (and subsequent, neverending identity crises) with imperialism. We were founded on conquered land, and though we aspired to be a union of independent nation-states with open borders and shared currency, that never actually happened. The "free" people of the United States distinguished themselves from the black slaves who tilled their fields, and the various Native American nations with whom they sometimes shared the land. Read the rest

Pepsi is suing four Indian farmers for growing a proprietary "Lays" potato, seeking $150,000 each in damages

Pepsi has confirmed that it has files lawsuits against four farmers in India who grew a variety of potato that was registered as being for the exclusive production of the company's Lay's potato chips. Read the rest

Terra Nullius: Grifters, settler colonialism and "intellectual property"

Terra Nullius is my latest column in Locus magazine; it explores the commonalities between the people who claim ownership over the things they use to make new creative works and the settler colonialists who arrived in various "new worlds" and declared them to be empty, erasing the people who were already there as a prelude to genocide. Read the rest

Netherlands court strikes down Dutch grifter's patent claim over Ethiopia's ancient staple grain teff

Teff is one of the oldest grains to have been cultivated, a staple for so long that its original cultivation date is lost to history and can only be estimated at between 1000 and 4000 BCE; it is best known as the main ingredient in injera, the soft pancakes that are served with Ethiopian meals. Read the rest

Chicago's 'Aloha Poke Co' wants Hawaiians to stop using the words 'aloha' and 'poke'

"Aloha Poke [Co.] would prefer to settle this matter amicably and without court intervention," reads a letter from Olson and Cepuritis Ltd, lawyers representing Chicago's Aloha Poke Company, addressed to the owner of Honolulu's "Aloha Poke Shop." Read the rest