In the News 10.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


In the News 10.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 10.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
In the News 10.12.18 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

You Buy A Purse At Walmart. There’s A Note Inside From A “Chinese Prisoner.” Now What?

When Christel Wallace found a piece of paper folded up at the bottom of her purse in March 2017, she threw it in the trash. She hadn’t yet used the maroon bag, made by Walmart and purchased from one of its Arizona stores months ago.

But after a few minutes, she got curious. She took the paper out of the wastebasket, unfolding the sheet to reveal a message scrawled in Mandarin Chinese.

Translated, it read: Inmates in China’s Yingshan Prison work 14 hours a day and are not allowed to rest at noon. We have to work overtime until midnight. People are beaten for not finishing their work. There’s no salt and oil in our meals. The boss pays 2,000 yuan every month for the prison to offer better food, but the food is all consumed by the prison guards. Sick inmates have to pay for their own pills. Prisons in China cannot be compared to prisons in the United States. Horse, cow, goat, pig, dog.

Christel’s daughter-in-law Laura Wallace posted a photo of the note to Facebook on April 23. The post first went viral locally, getting shared and liked several hundred times, mostly by fellow Arizonans. After a few days, local media outlets picked up the story; a week or so after that, dozens of mainstream publications like USA Today and HuffPost followed suit. One video report on the incident accumulated 2.9 million views.

Read the rest of this article at: Vox

How The US Forced China To Quit Stealing—Using A Chinese Spy

The Garratts had come to China from Canada in the 1980s as English teachers. They lived in six different Chinese cities over the years, raising four children along the way, before settling in Dandong. From their perch near the border, they helped provide aid and food to North Korea, supporting an orphanage there and doing volunteer work around Dandong itself. The Garratts had a strong social network in the city, so it didn’t seem odd to either of them when they were invited out to dinner by Chinese acquaintances of a friend who wanted advice on how their daughter could apply to college in Canada.

The meal itself, on August 4, 2014, was formal but not unusual. After dinner, the Garratts got into an elevator that took them from the restaurant down to a lobby. The doors opened onto a swarm of bright lights and people with video cameras. The Garratts initially thought they’d stumbled into a party of some kind, maybe a wedding. But then some men grabbed the couple, separated them, and hustled them toward waiting cars. Everything happened fast, and very little made sense. As the vehicles pulled away, neither Kevin nor Julia had any idea that it was the last they’d see of one another for three months.

It wasn’t until the two arrived at a police facility that they each realized they were in real trouble. And it wasn’t until much later still that the couple would understand why they had been taken into custody. After all, before their detainment, they’d never even heard of a Chinese expat living in Canada named Su Bin.

WHEN THE GARRATTS first arrived in China, in 1984, the country was still transitioning away from collective farms. Shanghai had only just opened up to foreign investment; the future megacity Shenzhen still had just a few hundred thousand inhabitants. Over the ensuing three decades, the couple would watch as China hurtled from eighth-largest economy in the world to second-largest, powered, famously, by mass migrations of people into new industrial cities and the erection of a vast manufacturing and export sector. But especially in the later years of the Garratts’ career as expats, the country’s growth was also propelled by a more invisible force: a truly epic amount of cheating.

Read the rest of this article at: Wired

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

Shop the Tuscany Tote in Midnight
at Belgrave Crescent &

Could Populism Actually Be Good For Democracy?

Everyone seems to agree that democracy is under attack. What is surprising is how many of its usual friends have come to fear democracy itself – or perhaps to fear that a country’s people, too inflamed by narrow passions, risk turning politics into a distasteful blood sport, pitting The People vs Democracy, in the startling words of one recent book title.

Observers have understandable qualms about political programmes that are alarmingly illiberal, yet obviously democratic, in that most citizens support them. In Poland and Hungary, democratically elected ruling parties attack Muslim migrants for undermining Christian identity. In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte rules with an iron fist, pledging to put drug pushers in funeral parlours, not prisons.

Modern democracies all rest on a claim of popular sovereignty – the proposition that all legitimate governments grow out of the power of a people, and in some way are subject to its will. Yet when a large majority of a country’s people vehemently supports policies a critic finds abhorrent, many liberals, even avowed democrats, recoil in horror.

Thus arises the possibility of a painful paradox: that “democracies end when they are too democratic”. So concluded a 2016 piece by the US political observer Andrew Sullivan, resurrecting an argument made two generations earlier by Samuel Huntington (in a 1975 report called The Crisis of Democracy, issued in the wake of the international student revolts of the 1960s).

Even the leftwing scholar Chantal Mouffe, who has long championed raw populist conflict as the essence of “radical democracy”, seems distraught at current events. “Democracy that is in good working order – with conflict, but where people accept the existence of their adversaries – is not easy to re-establish,” she recently told an interviewer, gesturing implicitly toward tolerance, one of the most jeopardised liberal norms in the current context: “I’m not that optimistic.”

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian


Outside, the back house looked like a charming Silver Lake vacation rental: bright purple bougainvillea, picnic table in front. Inside, its rustic-tiled bathroom read misplaced Mediterranean. The refrigerator bore cans of LaCroix and not much else. The place felt tenuously inhabited, fratty, as if a pledge named Connor might emerge from a back room to offer everyone cheap beer. And in the bedroom nearest the kitchen, with its lurid red curtain and indigo wall, Barry Jenkins, one of the most thoughtful filmmakers of his generation, stood peering at a panel of computer monitors. He had driven to this editing suite — north on the 101 freeway from his downtown Los Angeles apartment — so he could see about adding 16 seconds to his newest film.

“I want the music to hit exactly where it hit before, you know?” He waited for a response. “You know what I mean, Joi?”

Joi McMillon laughed, and kept her back to Jenkins as she clicked through the file. She is the first African-American woman to have been nominated for the Academy Award for film editing, for her work on Jenkins’s “Moonlight.” They have known each other since their college days, in the film program at Florida State University. “Yessir,” she said. “It definitely will hit where it was before.”

The room was too warm, and just as I thought this, the ceiling vent belched out even warmer air. Male voices down the hall discussed character motivation in some other project. McMillon made the change to the music and played the pass for Jenkins again. The penultimate scene of his film.

“It’s almost like … ,” Jenkins began. “Not like jazz, because it’s clichéd to say. But yeah, sometimes one movement needs to de-escalate before the next movement can escalate. This is the place where I feel it. It just sucks, because making this choice at this moment means that when we screen in Toronto we won’t have this adjustment in it.” It was the first Wednesday in September, and the Toronto International Film Festival was only four days away. The film, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” would have its premiere there without these 16 seconds, though it’s hard to say if anyone not named Barry Jenkins would have noticed.

This was my second meeting with Jenkins, and — more than during the first — his demeanor seemed bifurcated, one foot still in the shaping of the work, the other stepping into the role of a presenter, devising talking Opoints that would carry him from Toronto through the film’s limited release on Nov. 30, perhaps into the awards season beyond. “I learned the hard way on ‘Moonlight’ that it’s best to be at the forefront of the conversation,” he told me that morning. “It’s almost like tennis, you know? You want to be leading, and not playing off the back foot.” Still, he was eager to show me outtakes, moments that might have been. He spoke of the film as if it possessed an immune system, one with a long list of irritants it couldn’t abide. “The film rejected it,” he said wistfully of one deleted scene.

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

The Love Story That Upended The Texas Prison System

But Beto put on a charm offensive, the one that usually won over reporters and other visitors to his domain. He was always on the lookout for “do-gooders,” and usually managed to show interlopers only what he wanted them to see. The press reliably sang Beto’s praises in glowing feature stories, and there were things to praise: Beto had overseen the construction of new, more modern facilities and opened vocational learning and educational programs. Convicts could now earn their GEDs while in prison.

In their first meeting, Beto felt obliged to warn Jalet of how inmates often sought to con outsiders. He told her she should be particularly wary of Fred Cruz. Cruz was often in trouble for being a “writ-writer” and helping other prisoners out with their legal cases. Beto saw him as crafty,  always trying to “out-snicker” him. He didn’t want Jalet to be taken advantage of by such a “nonconformist.”

“Is being a nonconformist a bad thing?” asked Jalet, who was, of course, something of a nonconformist herself.

One Houston Chronicle reporter described Warden McAdams as a “big man with a velvet voice, a cherub’s face,” who, “despite the paunch,” could “move like a mongoose when there is trouble brewing.”

Beto probably didn’t like the sound of her comment. But he would have had no reason to be concerned about the arrival of a middle-aged female lawyer. He was one of the most powerful men in the state, controlling an empire of 14 separate penal facilities, which held more than 12,000 men and women. His prisons were spread across nearly 100,000 acres of alluvial bottomlands formed by the Brazos and Trinity Rivers, from Anderson County down to the Gulf of Mexico. Due to the size of the land holdings and number of employees and ancillary businesses supported by the TDC, locals called the area “the prison crescent.”

Beto liked to fly from one unit to the next in his private plane, often showing up unannounced early in the morning. He was known as “Walking George,” for his penchant for strolling among inmates during visits. Behind his back, inmates gave him another nickname: “Promising George,” as their requests and complaints never seemed to go anywhere despite his assurances.

“He was an educated man of God, a wonderful guy,” said A.R. “Babe” Schwartz, who served in the legislature. “We tried to get him as much money as we could.”

But it was the fact that the prison system didn’t need much money that made Beto popular. Much of the land controlled by the TDC was rich farmland, producing cotton, sugar cane, corn, and feed crops. The system had more than 15,000 beef and dairy cattle, 17,000 hogs, and 112,000 chickens that produced more than 800,000 dozen eggs a year. Convicts not only grew cotton—more than 3,500 five-hundred-pound bales a year—but also processed it through gins and spun it into cloth, which was sent to the Goree Unit in Huntsville, where female inmates sewed it into linens and the white uniforms the prisoners wore. Prisoners were also put to work building the stone walls and fences that confined them. Beto ruled a veritable self-contained empire.

Read the rest of this article at: Texas Monthly

P.S. previous articles & more by P.F.M.

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