News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets


News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In 2005, when I was visiting London, a magician friend told me that I had to see the English mentalist Derren Brown, who was appearing in the West End, in his one-man show “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” Brown had become famous for an astonishing ability to seemingly read the thoughts of his fellow-humans and to control their actions. In a series of TV specials, he’d reinvented a waning branch of magic—mentalism—for a new generation, framing his feats as evidence not of psychic powers but of a cutting-edge knowledge of the mind and how to manipulate it.

A few days later, I was sitting in a capacity audience at a theatre in Covent Garden. A slim, pale, vulpine man in his mid-thirties, with well-tended light-brown hair and a goatee, came onstage, dressed in a trim black suit and a black shirt. He looked more like the creative director of an advertising agency than like a mind reader, and seemed to take neither his spectators nor himself too seriously: when someone’s cell phone went off, he gave a look of mock alarm and said, “Don’t answer it. It’s very bad news.” Beneath his genially impudent manner lurked a suggestion of preternatural self-assurance and even menace.

Brown spent the next two and a half hours performing a series of increasingly inconceivable set pieces, organized around the theme of how susceptible we are to hidden influence. He gave demonstrations of subliminal persuasion, lie detection, instant trance induction, and mass hypnosis, as well as manipulation of his own mental state to control his response to pain. To show that participants were selected at random, he hurled a stuffed monkey into the auditorium, and whoever caught it would come up onstage. (You can see a later performance of the show on YouTube.)

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

In june 16, 1975, when I was 12 years old, my mother, Brenda, married Charles “Chuckie” O’Brien, who a few weeks later would become a leading suspect in the notorious disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, the former president of the Teamsters union.

Chuckie had known Hoffa since he was a boy, loved him like a father, and was his closest aide in the 1950s and ’60s, when Hoffa was the nation’s best-known and most feared labor leader. Soon after Hoffa went missing, on July 30, 1975, the FBI zeroed in on Chuckie. Chuckie had been by Hoffa’s side during Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s long pursuit of Hoffa for Mob ties and union corruption, and in 1967 it was Chuckie who had accompanied Hoffa when his boss reported to federal marshals and began a nearly five-year prison term. But in late 1974, Chuckie and Hoffa had had a falling out, and a slew of circumstantial evidence connected Chuckie to the disappearance. The FBI quickly concluded that Chuckie had picked up Hoffa and driven him to his death—a theory that has currency to this day, at least in the public mind.

The government never proved Chuckie’s involvement, and Hoffa’s remains have never been found. But the Hoffa investigation enveloped Chuckie and eventually ruined his life. In the midst of this maelstrom, Chuckie and I grew close. He formally adopted me when I was 13, and found time despite his legal troubles to give me the love and attention I had never received from my biological father. I revered Chuckie in my teens. The wise guys I met through him were kind and, to my young eyes, upright gentlemen. And it was thrilling to be associated with the Teamsters union in an era—typified by C. W. McCall’s hit song “Convoy” and the adventures of Burt Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit—that glorified trucker defiance of authority.

When I left home for college, I read for the first time books that confidently pinned Hoffa’s disappearance on Chuckie. I also came to understand that the Mafia was real and dangerous, and that Chuckie had a history of criminal acts ranging from theft to assault. By the time I went to law school, I had grown apprehensive about Chuckie’s potential impact on my life. In my mid-20s I broke with him, brutally and completely. This proved to be a good career move; otherwise, I never would have obtained the security clearances I later needed for several government jobs, which culminated in a 2003 appointment by George W. Bush to be the assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Read the rest of this article at: The Atlantic

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God had knee surgery on July 24, and He was still limping six weeks later, on September 8, when He walked out of the giant inflatable wolf’s head onto the soccer pitch at the Estadio Juan Carmelo Zerillo, in the Argentine city of La Plata. God wore a navy Le Coq Sportif hoodie with His initials (D.M.) on the chest, a white snapback cap, two glittering earrings, and track pants. God had not shaved, though He was not exactly sporting a full beard, either—it was more of a divine scruff situation—and He looked tiny, plush, and fragile. At 58, God was technically only three years older than Brad Pitt, but he did not call to mind Brad Pitt’s older brother so much as a small gnome in Brad Pitt’s older brother’s garden. With His billowing neck, heavy features, and dramatic mouth, God looked like a toad that was about to make a scene in a nice restaurant.

God was being unveiled as the new manager of El Lobo, the Club de Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata, also known as Gimnasia, or GELP. Many thousands of people had come to see Him unveiled. The people sang and shrieked His name. God gazed up at the people, in the manner foretold in 2 Chronicles: “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.” The people shrieked even louder. For their hearts were perfect toward Him, and they wished dearly to shew Him this, and they shewed him using all the means at their disposal, mostly by shaking blue balloons, and by jumping.

The frenzy of their greeting brought a tear to God’s eye. He blew kisses to the people. Then some men came out and put Him in a golf cart.

“Diego!” the crowd thundered. “Maradoooo!”

Read the rest of this article at: The Ringer

News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a cold day in late 2016, two men sat in a corner at Nargis Café, an Uzbek and Russian restaurant in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The place was decorated with tchotchkes from the steppes and ceramic depictions of peasant life: grandmas in babushkas, farmers with sheep. On a tiled wall nearby, a blue-and-white evil eye hung on a string.

One of the men was Russian, the other Ukrainian; both were born in the disintegrating Soviet Union. Roman Khaykin, the Russian, was short and trim and bald, with a snub nose and dark eyes. Everything else about him was pale: his eyebrows were thin; his face was bloodless. He was originally from the city of Kislovodsk, whose name translates to “sour waters.” Igor Ostrovskiy, the Ukrainian, was taller and a little fat. He had curly hair that got unruly when he let it grow out. He and his family had fled to the United States in the early nineties. Ostrovskiy was curious and sometimes meddlesome. During high school, he’d suspected that several classmates were selling stolen credit-card numbers and had helped law enforcement disrupt the operation.

Khaykin and Ostrovskiy spoke in accented English enlivened with Russian idioms—“Krasavchik!” Khaykin would often say, a word derived from “handsome” but used to praise a job well done. Both men were in the business of subterfuge and surveillance. In 2011, Ostrovskiy, a private investigator, had found himself between jobs. He’d Googled “Russian private investigators” and then cold e-mailed Khaykin, who had a company called InfoTactic, to ask for work. Khaykin liked Ostrovskiy’s chutzpah and started hiring him for surveillance jobs. They were meeting at Nargis to discuss potential work.

Read the rest of this article at: The New Yorker

News 10.07.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

When Wilbert Rideau was 19, in 1961, he killed a man in a bungled bank robbery. After being convicted and sentenced to death, he was sent to Louisiana State Penitentiary, known by prisoners, guards and locals as Angola after a slave plantation that previously existed on the site. Rideau was given the label C-18. The C stood for “condemned”, and the number denoted his place on the death-row list. His fate was to be the electric chair.

Rideau lived in isolation on death row for more than a decade, and read voraciously. He became interested in journalism and started to write. By the mid-1970s he was living in the main prison and editing the penitentiary’s in-house monthly magazine, the Angolite. In the end Rideau avoided execution, and today he is undoubtedly Angola’s most famous former prisoner. Under Rideau’s 20-year editorship, the magazine won many national awards, but he first made his name as a prison reporter with a column he called The Jungle. The very first topic he chose was the working of the prison economy.

Today there are almost 2.3 million prisoners in the US – by far the highest number of any country in the world. Louisiana today has the second-highest incarceration rate in the US (after Oklahoma overtook it in 2018), with a male incarceration rate that far exceeds the national average, and Angola is the state’s only maximum-security jail. It is also the country’s largest, covering an 18,000-acre site that is larger than Manhattan. On a mission to investigate the world’s most extreme economies, I set out for Angola. My hunch was that I would find examples of simplistic barter; what I discovered was an innovative, complex and modern system of hidden trade that offers an important lesson about the way economies work.

Serving prisoners and ex-convicts say the first law of prison economics is unsatisfied demand and the innovation that it stimulates. Cut off from the outside, prisoners find themselves lacking staples and unable to make choices that they had previously taken for granted. The urge to get hold of simple material goods is strong, and prisoners I met described the first few weeks inside as a shock during which time they learn the rules of their new world and adapt to the reality that they have lost not only their freedom but also their possessions. Today in Louisiana new inmates receive basic supplies: standard-issue clothing, a bar of soap and some lotion. But there are lots of day-to-day items they lack and want: deodorant, decent jeans, better sneakers. It was the same in the 1960s, Rideau told me when we met in Baton Rouge, Louisiana’s capital: while you got simple provisions, a lot of effort went into getting hold of extra comforts.

Read the rest of this article at: The Guardian

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

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