Weekend Reading – April 1 & 8, 2018

1. The case of Hong Kong’s missing booksellers tells the dystopian and alarming story behind the Chinese kidnapping of several Hong Kong booksellers that embroiled Hong Kong in protest back in 2015.

Lam Wing-kee, a bookseller who ran the now-shuttered Causeway Books for over 20 years, was arrested for selling (and smuggling into Chinese) both ordinary, run-of-the-mill titles and more salacious books on Chinese leadership.

The bookseller’s arrest, treatment and subsequent ‘reeducation’ provide another signal that the longstanding Chinese respect for the historic “one country, two systems” system with Hong Kong (and its vibrant free press) is no longer respected, if not unofficially over altogether.

This article brought to mind another great (and heartbreaking) piece on the authoritarian and Kafkaesque nature of China’s vast police and propaganda state in the NYTimes – ‘Flee at Once’: China’s Besieged Human Rights Lawyers.

 

2. As migration to big cities persist in the UK and chain-pubs continue to expand, a quarter of all local pubs have closed. To combat this, local residents have increasingly taken to buying and restoring their locals.

The FT chats with several of these communities, who argue that the pub not only serves an integral role in the local community, but also drives real estate premiums and significant interest relative to pub-less towns and communities.

 

3. The NYTimes Mag profiles Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and makes the case that with the departure of McMaster and Tillerson (and potentially Kelly, soon?), he remains the sober, reasoned voice in the room amongst an increasingly belligerent and inexperienced foreign affairs apparatus. The article paints Tillerson and Mattis as closely coordinated on the major key issues of the Trump presidency (North Korea, Iran, Qatar / Saudi Arabia), and discusses Mattis’ ongoing commitment to diplomatic tradecraft (coordinating with local consulates – a seemingly normal preparatory act deemed Herculean in our chaos-driven age).

The article paints an incredibly scary picture of the continued devolution of the White House – a Saudi delegation refusing to meet with Tillerson because it believes it already has a direct line to Trump, a ignorant and uninformed Jared Kushner being exploited on Middle East affairs, and War Room clashes with Trump on the benefit of our Post-war rules and diplomatic-based order (hardly controversial in any other Presidency.)

The article describes Mattis, who was known as the Warrior Monk earlier in his career for his spartan commitment to being a soldier and military man, as making the ultimate sacrifice for his country – remaining in place as the secretary of defense, as the literal “last line” of defense against the threat of conflict.

 

4. The FT visits the Rothera research station of the British Antarctic Survey to cover the changing climate conditions in the region, its impact on the immediate landscape and wildlife and implications for global sea levels. The article follows and photographs the scientists subjecting themselves to the harsh and thankless terrain to study these changes.

The thing about working in Antártica, you really are working on the edge of knowledge. It is probably the only place in the world where we are still making discoveries on an almost weekly basis.”

 

5. The always entertaining Lunch with the FT one-ups itself this week with its conversation with one-time (10 day) White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci.

”We haven’t even ordered, but I am already losing control over the conversation.”

 

6. I’ve been closely following the Brazilian Supreme Court’s decision to uphold and then subsequently order the the arrest of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known simply as “Lula” here in Brazil.

The NYTimes has done an admirable job of summarizing the daily twist-and-turns that led to Lula turning himself in to police on Saturday.

Wednesday, April 4th: Lula, Brazil’s Ex-President, Can Be Jailed, Court Rules

Thursday, April 5th: Judge Orders Brazil’s Ex-President ‘Lula’ to Begin Prison Term on Friday

Friday, April 6th: Defying Arrest Deadline, Brazil’s Ex-President Dares Police to Come Get Him

Saturday, April 7th: Ex-President ‘Lula’ of Brazil Surrenders to Serve 12-Year Jail Term

In an editorial by the FT, the editors argue that Lula’s arrest is a net positive for Brazil and Brazilian democracy, as it demonstrates to the world (and Brazilians) that no citizen is above the law, and that corruption, even at the highest levels, will not be treated with impunity.

This is a fairly common reaction outside of Brazil, but fails to reflect how incredibly endemic and wide-reaching the corruption scandal is, and how much more work is left to be done.

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