Edit: Forgot to mention reading group and study guide on A Beautiful Friendship:
Direct link to the interview as one webpage: http://www.baen.com/interviews/intweber2.asp
Edit: Corrected the fact that the atmospheric pressure of Sphinx is given in the graphic as 1.39 ATM.
Direct link to the short story as one webpage: http://www.baen.com/index.html
Note this may change in the future -- that is -- the information the URL points to, not the URL itself. I base this on the generic URL they are using. (It looks like Baen is simply putting up whatever short story they are currently offering for free at the same URL. I may be wrong though.)
The short story has some additional links at the end, one of which is a Immigration Brochure from the SKM. One thing that caught my eye is the graphic showing Sphinx and some general information on the planet. Since Sphinx is habitable only because of an extremely active carbon dioxide cycle (The Universe of Honor Harrington by David Weber, More Than Honor) it did not surprise me to see the CO2 as 1% of Sphinx's atmosphere. What surprised me was to see the oxygen percentage as only 15% of the atmosphere (for comparison, Earth's oxygen percentage is a shade under 21%, source Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atmosphere_of_Earth). On Earth, at standard atmospheric pressure, an atmosphere that has less than or equal to 19.5% oxygen by volume is considered oxygen deficient.
Oxygen deficiency means that concentration of oxygen by volume below which atmosphere supplying respiratory protection must be provided. It exists in atmospheres where the percentage of oxygen by volume is less than 19.5 percent oxygen. Source: http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9765
Combining the much lower (relative to Earth) oxygen content of Sphinx's atmosphere (as given in the graphic --not the text-- of the SKM immigration brochure, the 1.35 gravity of Sphinx (as given in both the graphic and the text of the SKM immigration brochure) and a 20% faster metabolism of the Meyerdahl First Wave genetic modifications with its corresponding 20% higher oxygen demand (to fuel their 25% more efficient muscles), suggests the minor changes to the respiratory and circulatory systems of the Meyerdahl First Wave may not be so minor after all!
The Sphinx Planetary Conditions section of the immigration brochure mentions the higher 1.35 gravity on Sphinx and states in part:
But it makes no mention of the atmosphere's low oxygen / high nitrogen content or any equipment necessary to deal with the condition. The only reference to the low oxygen / high nitrogen content is in the graphic (given only as 83% N2, 15% O2, 1% Ar, 1% CO2 with no indication that this is low O2 or high N2 compared to Earth, or that it may present a problem to people), and only someone who knows what a oxygen deficient environment is and what it means for people exposed to it, or aware of the narcotic effect of higher nitrogen levels under higher pressures would catch it.Colonists from lower gravity worlds will be provided with portable countergrav units free of charge, and the government will subsidize the purchase of grav plates for household use as well.
Both of the other links leading to the Sphinx Biology Database and the SFS Advisories mention the elevated carbon dioxide level of Sphinx's atmosphere that causes rapid breathing syndrome in new arrivals, but neither mention a deficiency in planetary atmosphere oxygen levels, or an excessive nitrogen level.
With that atmospheric oxygen / nitrogen content an unmodified human being on Sphinx without wearing a respirator that supplies additional oxygen would experience an inability to work strenuously at standard atmospheric pressure (in Earth gravity, keep in mind the higher 1.35 Sphinxian gravity) and their coordination may be affected. Source: http://www.gmitoxics.com/jan06_killer_article.html
If the atmospheric pressure / composition on Sphinx is considered oxygen deficient just lying down and being pregnant in that environment would almost certainly cause severe development problems for a normal (not genetically modified) human zygote, embryo or fetus as well as the normal mother. Even a modified human zygote, embryo or fetus would probably suffer from severe development problems if it was being carried to term by an unmodified mother.
Since we know Honor's mother Allison Harrington did exactly that with Honor (without benefit of grav plates to reduce the felt gravity of Sphinx to that of Earth) and we know Allison does not have the Meyerdahl First Wave genetic modifications and no normal human being is mentioned as having to wear an oxygen supplying respirator on Sphinx, I suspect that someone in the Star Kingdom of Manticore's Home Office, Ministry of Immigration made a transcription error in the Pamphlet SKM-GR-1517-S (Excerpted) 19 July, 1517 PD (AL 58.02.22).
If the 15% O2 number is valid, the only explanation that I can think of (but don't have the experience and knowledge to know if it makes sense) is the higher atmospheric pressure (Edit: 1.39 ATM, in the graphic) mentioned in the SFS Advisories makes up for the lower percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.
I do know that oxygen becomes toxic at higher pressures such as found underwater Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxygen_toxicity, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maximum_operating_depth).
The articles state that reducing the percentage of oxygen breathed under higher pressure can avoid oxygen toxicity symptoms, but a straight proportional increasing of nitrogen gas while reducing oxygen gas in the mixture (which is what the graphic implies) is narcotic.
Any experienced divers, or doctors with experience in hyperbaric medicine know if the atmospheric composition numbers as given make sense, given a higher (Edit: 1.39 ATM) atmospheric pressure? If it doesn't make sense, and if it isn't a transcription error, I suspect it is a editorial error. If neither a transcription or editorial error, I suspect it is a continuity error. If it isn't an error at all, the MWW has some explaining to do. Biological nanotech, if it is involved can only explain so much.
If the higher atmospheric pressure of Sphinx doesn't make up for the lower oxygen percentage, I suspect (assuming typos / transcription errors) the atmospheric composition of Sphinx is 73% nitrogen, 25% oxygen, 1% argon 1% carbon dioxide. Human beings can tolerate higher levels of carbon dioxide than normally found on Earth if the oxygen content is maintained, with a 1% carbon dioxide content in poorly ventilated environments causing drowsiness in some people. Source: http://www.inspectapedia.com/hazmat/CO2gashaz.htm
The oxygen content of the atmosphere cannot be too high, as the chance of spontaneous combustion increases with increasing levels of oxygen. If the graphic is correct, the entire planet qualifies as a Permit-required Confined Space under current day USA OSHA regulations, under standard (Earth) atmospheric conditions. No company in existence today would allow a known pregnant woman to enter such an environment. If they did their safety and legal departments would probably freak out.