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Top ivory investigator stabbed to death

Top ivory investigator stabbed to death | Criminology and Economic Theory |

One of the world's leading investigators into the illegal trade in ivory and rhino horn has been killed in Kenya.

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The Medicis in the desert

The Medicis in the desert | Criminology and Economic Theory |

When Muhammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, visited New York earlier this year, the face of Ahmed Mater, the kingdom’s most celebrated artist, was beamed onto an enormous billboard in Times Square. In recent years, he has been feted at exhibitions in London, New York and Venice. He dominates the Saudi art scene so thoroughly that his peers struggle for attention. “He’s the only artist anyone writes about,” says one Saudi curator. In 2017 Mater was appointed as artistic director of the Prince’s cultural and educational foundation, entrusted to promote art across the kingdom and liberalise the school system. He plays a crucial role in the enormously ambitious plan for economic and social transformation, which aims to wean the country off reliance on oil revenues, strip down the power of clerics and dispel a reputation for medieval obscurantism and misogyny.

Prince Muhammad has travelled the world to convince business leaders, tech titans and entertainment impresarios that Saudi Arabia is a place where both popular and high culture can flourish. For the first time in over 30 years, cinemas show films. For the first time ever, pop stars perform in concert halls. Mater has accompanied the prince on his pilgrimage as the epitome of the country’s artistic reawakening. When the Saudi Crown Prince met Xi Jinping, he brought Mater along and gave the Chinese president one of his paintings as a gift.

The story behind Mater’s rise is more complex and ambiguous than his current pre-eminence suggests. It illuminates the unprecedented liberalisation that many of the country’s cultural elite are experiencing at the moment, as well as the compromises with power that they must still make. Mater did not reach the pinnacle without help. But some of his companions have fallen by the wayside. “Of course”, one Saudi artist tells me, “it wouldn’t have happened without Ashraf.”

The body politic

Ashraf Fayadh and Ahmed Mater were born a year apart – Fayadh in 1980, Mater in 1979. They grew up in Abha, a city in the craggy mountains near the Yemeni border in the south-western corner of the country. This was the last part of the peninsula to be conquered by the House of Saud in 1929. The victors comprehensively extirpated the more colourful strains of Yemeni Islam that had flourished there and imposed a monochrome version of the religion in their place. At the time that the pair were born, extremists attempted to overthrow the monarchy, which they perceived as decadent and Westernised. Flushed out of Mecca, they streamed south through Abha into Yemen, where they established a base in Dammaj, just across the border.

The preachers of Dammaj broadcast their uncompromising creed to a receptive audience in Abha. The city’s traditional beehive-shaped daub houses were bulldozed, not least because their walls were decorated with frivolous paintings, and their communal spaces encouraged the sin of ikhtilat (mixing with women). Teachers made their pupils erase the heads of animals they had drawn, lest God punish them for idolatry. If children were caught listening to music, they were warned that God would pour molten iron in their ears on Judgment Day and send snakes to crawl through their graves. Of the 15 Saudi hijackers on 9/11, 12 came from the vicinity of Abha. This was a world away from the luxurious villas and Westernised elites of Jeddah, which had incubated an earlier generation of artists.

Best friends as teenagers, Fayadh and Mater escaped Abha’s stifling strictures by climbing into the mountains, where they could smoke shisha and draw in their sketchbooks. They would recite poetry – Fayadh in his deep melodious voice, Mater at a higher pitch. On a clear day, they could see the Red Sea and would imagine the world beyond, full of art powerful enough to liberate the kingdom of its clerical yoke. Because Mater studied medicine at university he could draw the human body without religious sanction. One of his earliest works, “Illumination”, is a series of X-rays of a torso encased within texts, so that they look like pages of the Koran surrounded with commentaries. Fayadh constructed installations crammed with everything the clerics considered sinful – naked limbs, music, photography and public performance. One photograph on his Instagram feed shows him fondling the nipples of a female mannequin.

In the absence of any art education, the pair acquired their training by trawling the internet, which arrived in the country at the beginning of the 21st century. They bypassed the formal techniques drilled in art colleges, adopting forms that were organic and raw. Though they did not know the term then, they were multi­media artists. Mater animated his x-rays. After shooting themselves in the head, his ethereal bodies morphed into petrol pumps, their arms becoming nozzles.

A circle of like-minded renegades and the odd lapsed jihadist coalesced around the two artists. Abdulnasser Gharem painted a group of artists in Bedouin robes in the velvet colours of Caravaggio, using a mannequin for a model because real-life nudes were prohibited. Arwa Al Neami turned the niqab into a sex object. In “Red Lipstick”, a coquettish mouth – of a “beautiful, blood-stained bitch” as she describes it – is the only visible part of a body otherwise obscured by black veils. She developed the theme further in a series she called “Never Never Land”. At a fairground in Abha, she filmed women shrieking in defiance of the religious police’s prohibition against making noise. On the bumper cars – the one place, until recently, where women were permitted to drive – she showed them moving steadily, as though respecting the highway code, in order to demonstrate what good road-users they were. Relationships in the artistic community blossomed. Fayadh curated Al Neami’s show; Mater married her. “We were messengers of revolution, change and new ideas,” she remembers, using a term – “messenger” – that Muslims reserve for the Prophet Muhammad. “We were not just drawing beautiful things.”

Had it not been for Abha’s governor, Prince Khalid bin Faisal, these artists might have slipped into obscurity. Alarmed by his province’s contribution to extremism, including 9/11, he sought to challenge the sway held by the clerical caste. He built an artists’ village in Abha and called it miftaha, “the place of opening”. The architecture was inspired by the city’s historic beehive houses. He invited many artists, including Mater and Fayadh, to move to the studios. Even Britain’s Prince Charles accepted a residency, where he dabbled in watercolours.

The patronage of Abha’s governor enabled the community to grow. They formed an art collective to promote their work and called it Edge of Arabia, to highlight their geographical marginality and intellectual distance from the country’s stifling ideology. Fayadh was one of the prime movers. He spoke better English, which gave him an advantage with foreigners. “He was lovely, tall, intellectual, gentle, interested in the world,” remembers Kate Seelye, an American journalist who hired him as her interpreter.

But his Palestinian origins disadvantaged him. The curators of an exhibition in London on Saudi art declined to include his work. As a non-national, he hadn’t been permitted to study at Saudi universities. Instead he went to Al Azhar University in Gaza as the Oslo peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority began to unravel. There, his consciousness of his Palestinian identity bloomed. Fayadh channelled his anger and alienation into increasingly nationalist poetry and art. In a series of pieces, Spiderman, dressed in the Palestinian tricolour, squats on Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock ready to pounce.

The divergent trajectories of Mater and Fayadh are already apparent in a photograph from 2006 that shows them standing on the steps of the British Museum in London on an overcast day. Fayadh is wearing a trench coat with a Palestinian kiffaya draped around his neck like a scarf. Mater wears the full national Saudi dress of a white thobe and headscarf topped with a black rope.

Surfing the web

As the Arab spring of 2011 toppled neighbouring despots in Yemen and Egypt, the possibility of change in their own country gripped many Saudis. Fayadh and Mater spent ever more time in Jeddah, the most cosmopolitan and liberal city in the kingdom, where they discovered a larger circle of free-thinkers. “In Saudi Arabia, there are so many atheists but they can’t talk about their beliefs,” Mater told Vice in 2014. Art became a means to express deep convictions obliquely. Each work required the approval of a censor, but subtleties were often missed. The censors banned a portrait of religious police enjoying ice-cream cones, but licensed a stylised image of planes flying into the Twin Towers once a third skyscraper was added alongside.

Fayadh believed that commercialisation was as much of a threat to good art as the religious authorities. Many Arab artists based in Dubai had abandoned their social consciences to produce depoliticised work that pandered to the markets. When Sotheby’s, a London auction house, held its first exhibition of Gulf art in Jeddah in 2013, Fayadh curated an alternative, showcasing a new generation of angry Saudi artists. He called it Amoud Nur – Mostly Visible – and won plaudits from visiting curators.

Its success sparked a series of underground spin-offs. Mater and Al Neami opened a Jeddah studio that offered a refuge from the religious police prowling the streets. Artists gave lectures and showed their films, even though cinema was banned. Men and women mixed in the crowd. Men wore shorts cut above the knee; women shed their veils. “Come naked,” said Al Neami, when an exhibitor asked what he should wear. When the religious police came knocking, everyone fled through a hole in the back wall. Mater was conscious that he and his fellow artists were the avant garde. “The small space, the gathering without officials or control, is the future for Saudi art…and a new voice of socio-political art and activism,” he said in a panel discussion in Washington, DC, in 2016.

Others pushed the boundaries still further, staging art shows in their homes that were as fleeting as they were famous. Bouncers were posted at the door and guests instructed to cover their mobile-phone cameras with stickers. Inside, gas canisters, ready to explode, were decked in black veils. A woman suffering from heavy periods exposed images of her leaking vagina on a plinth. The parties grew more raucous. A visiting Syrian artist remembers raves in the desert where couples copulated on car bonnets. Design, an arts magazine edited by a Saudi woman, printed a double-page spread of a cleric sitting cross-legged on the floor, fashioning a toy mosque out of balloons. Religion, it seemed to say, was just so much hot air.

Mater never went that far. He was a community doctor and at the bedsides of his patients he had learnt how to deliver bad news gently. In Jeddah he became expert at building alliances between the ruling family, the liberal elite and the clerics. His work had the post-modern knack of offering different meanings depending on the audience. “Magnetism” portrays iron filings that appear as if they have prostrated themselves around a black magnet that looks like the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest shrine. It could be a celebration of collective spirituality or a parody of prayer. “They [the religious police] think ‘Magnetism’ is very religious, and the others think it’s very atheist. I don’t know. In the end, an artwork has more than one explanation. I call it visual magic,” he said in the panel discussion.

He adopted the same approach in a stunning series of photographs that record the demolition of Old Mecca and its replacement with megalithic skyscrapers. From a top-floor hotel suite in the world’s third-tallest building, the Kaaba is reduced to the size and significance of a piece of liquorice. Neon billboards for global brands outshine the gates of the Grand Mosque. Conservationists hailed the work as a commentary on the commercialisation and over-development of sacred space. Developers saw a paean to their achievements. In “Desert of Pharan”, the book Mater compiled out of his photographs, his own opinion is tucked away on page 579. The images, he writes, depict “the trauma of mass destruction and reconstruction, seeking to portray intimate ritual against the backdrop of brutal development driven by a late capitalist machine.”

Mater’s reticence and artful ambiguity – as well as his Saudi passport – may have spared him from a religious backlash that struck his colleague. The Arab spring and the war on terror had left the clerics feeling threatened. In an effort to reassert their control, they clamped down on public morals. In August 2013 Fayadh was arrested by the religious police for one provocation too many. He was charged with apostasy on New Year’s Day 2014. Fayadh’s accusers seized on every shred of evidence: his curly ponytail, his anguished poetry which ridiculed unreflective faith in God, and photos of unmarried Saudi women found on his mobile were all cited against him. Fayadh made for a convenient target: his Palestinian heritage made him ineligible for citizenship, so he had no tribe to defend him.

For a few months, Saudi artists became his tribe. Where others timidly intervened behind the scenes, Mater bravely led a public campaign. He rallied diplomats and human-rights groups and even the Saudi press, turning Fayadh’s arrest into a cause célèbre. Fayadh was released on bail for four months in August 2013 but subsequently re-arrested. In November 2015, he was sentenced to death. “His freedom and life are at stake,” Mater tweeted. PEN, an international free-speech organisation, launched a global petition that was signed by Nobel laureates and international artists. Unnerved by the outcry, the clerics commuted the sentence to 800 lashes and eight years in jail. But thereafter Mater’s calls for Fayadh’s release grew increasingly faint. He began to refer to him as a poet or activist, not a fellow artist. He last tweeted about Fayadh’s plight years ago.

Praise the lord

Mater’s campaign against Fayadh’s conviction was as outspoken as he got – but it made his own work harder. After PEN took up the case, Mater’s own sponsor, a Jeddah tycoon, abandoned him as a liability. It took months to find another patron. Perhaps he went silent because it was the only way his art could thrive. He eventually found a sponsor in Ithraa, the cultural arm of Aram­co, the state oil company. Later he had an audience with Muhammad bin Salman.

By his own account, he took ten minutes to convince the Crown Prince of his vision of a Saudi Arabia weaned off oil and transformed into a creative economy. The Prince immediately appointed him artistic director of misk, his cultural foundation. Now he lives in a villa in the diplomatic quarter of Riyadh – the plushest gated community in the capital of the richest state in the Middle East. His next-door neighbours are ambassadors, tycoons and a woman willing to offer a reward of 1,000 riyal ($226) for the return of her lost cat.

I visited Mater at the foundation in February. From the outside the misk building looked like an old-fashioned fortress with buttresses, heavy teak doors and windows in the shape of arrow slits. When you enter, you are greeted by a sleek modern interior. The walls are made of glass and rooms are decorated in bright, primary colours (which led one staff member to describe them as “Google offices”). Men and women work alongside each other. There is no sign of traditional Saudi hospitality. Visitors are left to fend for themselves at the self-service coffee machine.

A short, stocky man, Mater was wearing the traditional uniform of the Saudi bureaucracy: a red-chequered headdress and white robe. The only concession to personal style was his shoes – blue suede with gold buckles. His desk was bare, apart from an Apple computer. “We are honest and humble” read the decorative graffiti on the air-conditioning pipes in his office. At his side sat a young Saudi PR woman who had graduated from the London School of Economics, and vetted our interview. “What Ahmed means to say is…”, she interrupted, whenever he threatened to go off piste.

In person, Mater is animated and coiled with energy. During our conversation, I would look down at my notes only to find, when I looked up, that he had scurried away to huddle with his staff about some idea that had seized him. His mind buzzes with plans – for a film festival, an art week in Riyadh and pavilion at the architecture biennale in Venice. He has commissioned a firm of Italian architects to design a new building on the outskirts of the capital that he describes, variously, as a “fantastic platform”, a “casual meeting space” and a “holistic workspace” (Abha will get an art centre too). It will be built from salt bricks made from the residue of desalination plants. “We’ll have music, photography, theatre and experimental art interplaying sound and art – and a residency for music.” When he spoke, he screwed up his eyes and tensed his body as he hunched forward. “We are building a new future, building a new history, a new model. We’re not copy­ing another model. Why replicate the old model?” A certain studied modesty makes his ambition seem less grandiose. “We’ll make mistakes, but I like that it’s not about perfection, it’s about love.”

Western curators who had previously snubbed Saudi art as unformed and immature are now discovering its freshness. French and American museums, including MOMA and the Guggenheim, have all given space to Saudi art and artists, often of Mater’s work. The galleries of Jeddah are filled with provocative installations that are electrified by the country’s new-found freedoms. In an exhibition called “Refusing to be Still”, Nasser al-Salem scattered the letters of Koranic suras across rice paper, bringing an anarchic sensibility to the holy texts. Muhannad Shono’s giant model of what some have seen as the Prophet Muhammad flat on his back and as still as a corpse with a white shroud over his face. The soundtrack that plays overhead is more gibberish than revelation. Zahra al-Ghamdi’s vast installation of leather fungi took over the floor and walls in the Athr gallery, offering hope that the land devoured by developers may one day be reclaimed.

“It’s astonishing what’s happening,” says Seelye, the journalist, who now organises exhibitions on Mater’s behalf in America. “Instead of exporting radical Islam, they are exporting art. If you can raise young Saudis on art classes instead of religious indoctrination about how horrible the infidel is, maybe you can build a better future.”

Others, however, see only a cynical attempt by an autocratic regime to polish its reputation in the West. Mona Kareem, Fayadh’s friend and translator, calls it “artwash”. Mater once championed independent galleries and curators, but centralised cultural and entertainment authorities now dictate what may – or may not – be exhibited and performed. Satirical Saudis now refer to these authorities as Hai’a, the same acronym that had previously been used for the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. The organisers of Jeddah’s annual art week complain that they have been starved of funds. The exhibition that accompanied Mater on his international mission with Prince Muhammad was full of innocuous works of the kind he used to decry, such as photographs of mosque interiors.

In some lights, the space for free expression in Prince Muhammad’s Arabia has contracted. The underground exhibitions that used to accompany Jeddah’s art week have been absent two years in a row. The Hanger – an unlicensed gallery in Jeddah – has closed down. Its curator now sells health insurance. Some artists even complain that the dissolution of the religious police has deprived them of a subject for mockery. “We’ll end up with the normality I ran home from Sydney to escape,” complains one, who returned to Jeddah in 2015.

One subject remains taboo – the nature of political authority. Artists are still studiously silent when the government arrests religious and secular intellectuals for crimes as insignificant as failing to retweet official talking points. Some cheered when their former patrons were held hostage in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel by Prince Muhammad, who extorted large portions of their fortunes in the name of fighting corruption. “They are as willing accomplices of dictatorship as the clerics were,” sneered a Saudi historian over ginger tea. Everyone is still fearful. Well-known commentators not only switched off their phones before talking to me but left them in a different room. At one gallery, men in leather jackets pretended to take selfies while recording my conversation on their phones.

Brothers in art

When I last saw Mater, he seemed oblivious to the antipathies he had stirred. He held a retrospective of his work on the waterfront of King Abdullah Economic City (known as KAEC and pronounced “cake”). Despite costing $27bn, the city has struggled to attract residents and business, and feels like a ghost town. Mater seemed to relish the ambiguity in his choice of venue. Was he giving the Saudi construction industry a shot in the arm or mocking the extravagance of another white elephant? His hosts, the developers, had laid a sumptuous open-air feast beneath palm-trees. Unusually, a woman sang on the waterfront.

Mater had chosen to display his work on the scaffolding of a nearby building site. The crème de la crème of Jeddah society trouped round the rough cement in their finest, admiring his photos of Mecca – construction sites exhibited amid construction. Migrant workers on their bunk beds occupied the highest rungs; Mecca’s opulent new hotels, with their suites costing $3,000 a night, the lowest. For the duration of this exhibition, the meek had inherited the Earth and all were equal in the eyes of God. Or perhaps that was just what I read into it. KAEC’s CEO seemed to see something different. He thanked Mater for choosing his city, praised his artistry and offered to open a new artists’ colony in his high-speed railway station.

No one was sure whether Mater would appear. He acts like the Scarlet Pimpernel or the Cheshire Cat – self-effacing with a charming, enigmatic smile. When he did show up, he insisted that he had nothing to say, that others were more worthy speech-makers. People still thronged around him, eager to get a piece of him.

I finally extricated Mater from his adoring crowd. “It’s the Medici time again,” he said. Then, as now, a dynasty had used artists and scientists to undermine the religious authorities. “Art is a political tool to moderate the church to accept others.” I wanted to bring up Fayadh, but one of Mater’s friends had warned me off. Instead I asked him if he will keep making art. Of course, he answered. But when I posed the same question to a functionary at MISK, he was adamant that Mater would conform. And if not? “It’s the last work he’ll do.”

Nicolas Pelhamis Middle East affairs correspondent at The Economist. He is the author of “Holy Lands: A New Muslim Order” and co-author of “A History of the Middle East”

Rob Duke's insight:

Some more insight into this regime that we're studying in the Saudi's interpretation of a sacred law system.....

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China, the birthplace of fake meat

China, the birthplace of fake meat | Criminology and Economic Theory |

The grand centrepiece of our lunch is a bowl of paddy eels in a sea of spicy oil thick with scorched chillies and Sichuan pepper. Around it lie a pot of red-braised beef and bamboo shoots, a deep-fried fish in chilli-bean sauce, stir-fried bacon with green peppers and several other local specialities. It looks like a typical Sichuanese meal, and it is – except that the food is entirely vegan. The “eels” are strips of shiitake mushroom that look and even feel in the mouth like the real thing; the brisketty slow-braised “beef” is fashioned from wheat gluten; the “fish” is a package of mashed potato in a tofu skin. It’s a satisfying and ingenious lunch, served in a restaurant at the Buddhist Temple of Divine Light just outside Chengdu, capital of the western province of Sichuan.

In the last few years there has been a rush in demand for vegan and vegetarian foods in Western countries. Much of it is coming from flexitarians – people who have not renounced meat completely but want to cut their consumption. To satisfy them, companies are developing products that look, taste and feel as close as possible to meat and dairy dishes – most famously a plant-based burger made by Impossible Foods that appears to bleed like a rare beef patty.

Amid this flurry of innovation in the West, it’s worth remembering that the Chinese have been using plant-based foods to mimic meat for hundreds of years. In the time of the Tang dynasty (AD618-907), an official hosted a banquet at which he served convincing replicas of pork and mutton dishes made from vegetables; in the 13th century, diners in the capital of the southern Song dynasty (Lin’an, now Hangzhou), had a wide choice of meat-free restaurants, including those that specialised in Buddhist vegetarian cuisine.

The tradition is still alive in contemporary China. In Shanghai, most delicatessens sell rolled-tofu “chicken” and roast “duck” made from layered tofu skin. Restaurants offer stir-fried “crabmeat”, a strikingly convincing simulacrum of the original made from mashed carrot and potato flavoured with rice vinegar and ginger. Elsewhere, Chinese food manufacturers produce a range of imitation meat and seafood products, including slithery “chicken’s feet” concocted from konnyaku yam and “shark’s fin” made from translucent strands of bean-thread noodle.

Such dishes are in part a reflection of a sophisticated food culture in which wit and playfulness have always been prized. Just as Heston Blumenthal, a British experimental chef, amused guests with a dessert that resembles an English breakfast, China has a tradition of dishes that pretend to be something they are not, such as edible calligraphy brushes, or a facsimile of tofu made from finely minced chicken breast and egg whites. In the Song dynasty, restaurants served not only vegetarian temple food, but imitations of pufferfish, soft-shelled turtle and roasted venison made from other ingredients that were not necessarily meat-free.

This elaborate trickery is found throughout Chinese society, but it is most strongly associated with Buddhist monasteries. Buddhist monks tend to live on a simple diet of grains, tofu and vegetables, but many larger institutions run vegetarian restaurants that cater for visitors. At weekend lunchtimes, the restaurant at the Temple of Divine Light is a clamour of customers tucking into a vegetarian homage to traditional Sichuan cooking.

In a private room hung with calligraphic artworks, a group of male friends (none of them vegetarian) were enjoying their meat-free Sunday lunch when I visited. “Before China’s reform and opening up, people couldn’t even eat their fill, so of course when meat became more widely available we wanted to gorge on it,” says businessman Chen Mingqing. “But after this period of indulging in rich food, China has reached a new level of culture and development. People want to eat more healthily and prolong their lives, so vegetarian eating is becoming more popular.” The temple’s restaurant, once frequented mainly by elderly Buddhists, now attracts a mixed crowd including many young people.

The restaurant’s imitation-meat ingredients are mostly concocted from konnyaku yam, gluten and various bean products, says head chef Du Mingxue, who stopped cooking meat 13 years ago. Some, like the sliced “bacon” (appropriately pink and white and umami-delicious) are laborious to make, so the restaurant buys them from specialist producers; others, like the eels, are made in situ. “Vegetarian cooking is actually more complicated than meat cooking,” says Du, “because we have to work harder to create umami tastes. Here, we make flavouring powders from dried mushrooms and stocks from peanuts, soybeans, potatoes and tomatoes.”

Because this is a Buddhist restaurant, the food is not only free of animal products, but also of the “five pungent vegetables” (wuhun) traditionally shunned by Buddhist monks because they are thought to inflame carnal passions. These include garlic and spring onions, though, happily for the Sichuanese, chillies and Sichuan pepper are alright.

There was no explicit prohibition on meat-eating in early Buddhism. In the religion’s early days in India, mendicant monks were expected to eat anything that was put into their begging bowls, as long as they didn’t suspect an animal had been slaughtered for their benefit. After Buddhism spread to China, however, abstention from meat became the norm in monasteries, especially under the influence of the 6th-century Emperor Wudi, a devout Buddhist who became a vegetarian on compassionate grounds. Although monks had no need to make their own vegetarian dishes resemble meat, Buddhist institutions had to entertain patrons and pilgrims who normally ate meat, so they devised creative vegetarian versions of classic banquet dishes such as roast meats and Dongpo pork.

Outside Buddhist monasteries, strict ideological vegetarianism (sushi zhuyi) or veganism is rare in China, but a more flexible, intermittent vegetarian eating (sushi) is deeply entrenched in Chinese food culture. Until recently, most Chinese people couldn’t afford to eat much meat anyway – and, with a few exceptions, dairy foods have been largely absent from Chinese diets. Although meat is adored and a feast without it is almost unthinkable, Chinese people typically eat far more vegetables and much less meat than is usual in the West. Meat, lard or stock are used in small quantities to enrich dishes that are otherwise vegetable-led. Tofu has never been stigmatised as a mere substitute for meat and is a central part of Chinese diets. Fermented bean products such as soy sauce can lend rich savoury tastes to vegetable dishes.

The Chinese have an intellectual tradition that favours vegetable eating as a wise and healthy counterpart to eating meat. Gluttonous consumption of meat has always been regarded as unhealthy. Men of letters have traditionally viewed carnivorous excess as vulgar or even depraved; Confucius is said to have eaten meat only in moderation. In the 17th century Li Yu, a writer, suggested that eating vegetables brought people closer to a state of nature: “When I speak of the Tao of eating and drinking, finely minced meat is not as good as meat in its natural state, and such meat is not as good as vegetables in terms of the closeness of each to nature.” A preference for wild foods, vegetables and modest consumption of meat has long been understood as a sign of cultivation.

A new generation of vegetarian restaurants is sprouting up outside monastic settings to feed the appetite for such cuisine. One of the most successful is Wujie (No Boundaries), a chain run by Y.B. Song, a Taiwanese businessman and vegetarian Buddhist who moved to Shanghai 25 years ago. He opened his first branch in 2011; his most glamorous restaurant, on the Shanghai Bund, has just won a Michelin star.

“I gave up meat 20 years ago as a religious offering when my mother fell ill with cancer,” says Song. “If you come to the realisation that your own life is connected to nature and to the lives of animals, you will naturally want to eat vegetarian food.” He reckons health concerns are the driving force behind the new fashion for vegetarian eating in China, rather than concerns about the environment or animal cruelty. Wujie’s nine branches run at different price points: the luxurious Shanghai Bund branch offers vegetarian banquets for around £60 to £70 per head ($80-$90).

“Many people think vegetarian food is bland,” says Song, “I want to surprise them with a really delicious food experience. I also want to show them that eating vegetarian food can be a positive and fashionable choice, not one born out of poverty.” His Bund branch offers several imitation-meat dishes, including a version of a Sichuanese classic “man-and-wife offal slices”, glossy with chilli oil and made with slices of king oyster and elm ear mushrooms that perfectly evoke the appearance and texture of the tripe and ox meat in the original dish. Song, however, has broken with Buddhist temple tradition by avoiding any reference to meat on the menu: this dish, for example, is just called “Sichuanese man-and-wife”.

“If the food is seriously delicious”, says Song, “you don’t have to pretend that it’s meat. But I don’t want to judge people for wanting to eat vegetarian food that resembles meat. Trying to broaden acceptance of vegetarian food is like jumping over a high wall: you have to do it in steps, and one step is to give people delicious and familiar dishes that just happen to be vegetarian.”

Fuchsia Dunlopis author of “Land of Fish and Rice: Recipes from the Culinary Heart of China”
Rob Duke's insight:

This may be an insight into the culture and system: they love a challenge (i.e., to copy something perfectly), but also a good joke (i.e., to make you think you're eating real meat)--makes one wonder if this is a metaphor for the whole culture.

Sierra Grimes's comment, Today, 1:48 AM
This is super intriguing, I bet it’s an insanely fun process for those producing these various iterations of imitation food! Also interesting to see the possible connection to culture having an influence on the influx within this particular market, I wonder how else this sort of “drive” is a catalyst for growth. Overall just super cool, I’d love to try some of these things for myself.
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There is nothing inevitable about America’s over-use of prisons - Against pessimism

There is nothing inevitable about America’s over-use of prisons - Against pessimism | Criminology and Economic Theory |

So many of America’s troubles are intractable. Hyper-partisanship and the culture wars can make reducing gun violence or obesity seem hopeless. But mass incarceration is different. There is ample evidence that America’s states can lock fewer people up and still preserve public safety. Just look at Minnesota, which bangs up people at half the rate of neighbouring Wisconsin, though the crime rate in both places is about the same (see article). In a few weeks’ time voters in Wisconsin and in other states will be asked to choose whether they wish to keep putting so many people inside or try something else. They should vote for change.

America is violent, so it naturally makes more use of prison than many other countries do. But that cannot explain how it manages to be the world leader in locking up its own citizens, both in absolute terms and as a share of the population. China is a one-party state with a billion more citizens than America, yet it incarcerates half a million fewer people (though this does not include perhaps 1m Uighurs interned in camps in Xinjiang). You might think America’s legal system and culture are to blame. But the incarceration rate—defined as the number of prisoners divided by the total population—is four-and-a-half times greater than in Britain, which has a similar system and culture.

The best explanation for most of this prison binge is four decades of panic, starting with the declaration of a war on drugs in the 1970s. Voters elected prosecutors who promised to lock more people up than their rivals. They chose legislators who promised the harshest possible mandatory-sentencing laws, which took discretion away from judges. In some states prison-officers’ unions lobbied for new, bigger jails to be built, so as to provide their members with jobs. The use of pre-trial detention shot up. In places where public defenders are scarce, that resulted in long waits behind bars before a case was even heard.

This is unworthy of the land of the free. It is also a waste of public money. Depending on what is included, estimates of American spending on imprisonment range from $80bn a year up to $180bn. There is abundant evidence that you can cut prison numbers and crime rates at the same time. Since the mid-1990s, New York City has seen its prison population fall by almost two-thirds even as violent crime has more than halved.

The states have the power to do something about this, because they do most of the locking up. The federal government imprisons people at a lower rate than the governments of France and Italy. It is the state and local authorities that lift America above El Salvador, a fragile state beset by drug wars, which takes second place in the incarceration league table, and above Turkmenistan, one of the world’s most repressive countries, in third. In fact, if American states were countries they would take up every single place in the table’s top 20.

Some states are grappling with their part in this. Reducing prison populations is not just a matter of passing a decree, then sitting back and waiting. States need to make a lot of small changes that, compounded over a decade or more, will eventually amount to something bigger. A list would include alternatives to prison for non-violent offenders, problem-solving courts that use incarceration as a last resort, reserving the longest sentences for those who pose a danger to the public, bail reform and treatment programmes for mentally ill defendants.

Thanks to such measures, America’s incarceration rate has fallen a little since 2010, after 40 years of increases. Crucially, the states responsible for this improvement do not fall predictably on either side of the usual Republican or Democratic division. Deeply Republican Texas has long been a pioneer in criminal-justice reform. Deeply Democratic California has reduced its incarceration rate by more than most other states. South Carolina, no American liberal’s idea of a model, has pursued a notably enlightened reform to the sentencing of non-violent offenders.

Saving money by saving time

That is not to say reform is always easy. It takes courage and skill to explain to voters that sending more people to prison is not always a sensible way to punish criminals and reduce crime. Even well-designed improvements can fail when they are implemented poorly. Louisiana, which has taken steps to reduce its prison population, is already seeing signs of a backlash.

Yet despite the difficulties, plenty of states have made a start. Mass imprisonment is a bad choice touted by politicians looking for easy votes. Their constituents assumed this would keep them safer. In fact, it only makes them poorer.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline "Against pessimism"

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Saudi King Salman Checks Crown Prince's Power As Jamal Khashoggi Crisis Grows

Saudi King Salman Checks Crown Prince's Power As Jamal Khashoggi Crisis Grows | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Five sources with links to the Saudi royal family said King Salman has felt compelled to intervene.
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Interesting to see the response.  We figured that they'd have a sacrificial lamb, but I didn't think they'd publicly castigate a crown prince....I was wrong.

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Raw Politics: French left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon reacts angrily to police raids | Euronews

Raw Politics: French left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon reacts angrily to police raids | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
France's far left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon has come under scrutiny after prosecutors opened an investigation into his alleged intimidation of investigators.

It comes after the former presidential candidate was caught on camera on Monday shouting at an anti-corruption officer, who was part of a team who raided his home and party headquarters.

The 67-year-old pointed his finger in the officer’s face and screamed: “Get out of my way and let me open the door. I am the republic, it’s me who’s the member of parliament.”

The raids took place at the offices of his party, La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), in central Paris, which is also his private residence.

After the incident, Melenchon called the raids an “enormous operation by politicised police”.

A source close to the raids told Reuters they were being carried out by a specialist anti-corruption unit that focuses on financial and tax irregularities.

Three investigations into Melenchon are now underway. One is looking into the alleged misuse of European Parliament funds to pay party employees in France, the second is examining the funding of Melenchon’s presidential campaign last year, and the latest is investigating his alleged intimidation of investigators.
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What security is necessary at an EU summit? | Euronews

What security is necessary at an EU summit? | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
When all 28 heads of states and governments converge in the European Council building, it becomes the epicentre of decision-making in the EU.

From the moment they set foot in Belgium, the country becomes responsible for their safety. It’s a logistical and security feat. But for people like Yves Mertens, who coordinates the close protection of EU leaders, it’s a year-round job.

"The biggest fear is actually to have a real attack. That’s normal in our job. We try to avoid this. Up to now, it never happened, but of course if it really happens we have to react, to respond, and, of course, this will be a very big challenge for us," says Yves Mertens, Chief inspector at the Belgian Federal Police.

More than 150 specially trained police officers are assigned to closely protect the EU leaders. Hundreds more are deployed to escort them, restrict access and secure perimeters.
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Why Marijuana Stocks Cronos Group, Canopy Growth, and Tilray Jumped Today

Why Marijuana Stocks Cronos Group, Canopy Growth, and Tilray Jumped Today | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Find out why cannabis investors were excited today.
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Saudis preparing to admit that journalist Khashoggi was killed, sources say

Saudis preparing to admit that journalist Khashoggi was killed, sources say | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Saudi Arabia is preparing a report that will acknowledge that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong, one that was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, according to two sources.

One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible.
One of the sources acknowledged that the report is still being prepared and cautioned that things could change.
The Washington Post columnist was last seen in public when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in Turkey on October 2. Previously, Saudi authorities had maintained Khashoggi left the consulate the same afternoon of his visit, but provided no evidence to support the claim.
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Boy, 13, beaten to death in Paris gang clash | Euronews

Boy, 13, beaten to death in Paris gang clash | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
The boy was reportedly struck by iron bars during a mass fight between rival gangs on the outskirts of the French capital.
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California and Four Other States Point the Way for States to Downgrade Drug Offenses and Reduce Prison Populations |

California and Four Other States Point the Way for States to Downgrade Drug Offenses and Reduce Prison Populations | | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Sandy Martinson's comment, October 17, 12:46 AM
California, Utah, Connecticut, Oklahoma and Alaska enacted state laws that had three commonalities. The biggest being reduction of drug offenses and prison populations. This movement also coincides with Comparative Criminal Justice Systems, by Harry Dammer and Jay Albanese, which note in recent years many countries began reducing sentencing severity for offenses. Dammer and Albanese cite the use of capital punishment experienced the largest worldwide reduction. These five states appear to be in alignment with this global trend.
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THAILAND: Prime Suspect in $24 Million Bitcoin Scam Arrested

THAILAND: Prime Suspect in $24 Million Bitcoin Scam Arrested | Criminology and Economic Theory |
The main suspect in a Bitcoin fraud case in Thailand was detained at a Bangkok airport after being on the lam for 2 months.

Via Andre JACQUEMET - @globalBPA
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Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over sexual abuse allegations

Pope defrocks two Chilean bishops over sexual abuse allegations | Criminology and Economic Theory |

Pope Francis has defrocked two Chilean bishops who have been caught up in the country's widening sexual abuse crisis, the Vatican said on Saturday.

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Can You Be Found Through DNA, Like the Alleged Golden State Killer?

Can You Be Found Through DNA, Like the Alleged Golden State Killer? | Criminology and Economic Theory |
Even people who have never taken a genetic test can be tracked down like the Golden State Killer suspect.
Christa Lynch's comment, October 14, 6:21 PM
I just watched a case from the 90’s of the rape and murder of this young lady on 20/20 and it was about this same thing as this article. This young lady’s murder went unsolved until genealogical DNA was used. It is amazing and alarming all at the same time. I feel like certain things are private which is why we have warrants. I am interested to see how this changes things, including the law.
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Concern about “sexualised” children often misses the point - Innocents and experience

Concern about “sexualised” children often misses the point - Innocents and experience | Criminology and Economic Theory |

IN JAPAN it is hard to avoid the disturbing spectacle of young girls being treated as sex objects. Rorikon, an abbreviation of “Lolita complex”, is ubiquitous. In M’s Pop Life, a sex shop in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, known for its pop subculture, life-size models of girls, their breasts at various stages of puberty, are openly on sale. Elsewhere big-bosomed cartoon girls are splashed across posters; children (or grown-ups made to look like children) pose in magazines in bikinis.

Rorikon is a peculiarly Japanese phenomenon. But across the world there are growing concerns about children being portrayed sexually, and the effects on the children themselves. This comes in two forms. The first, “direct” sexualisation, includes advertising, television programmes and magazine content that portray children, especially girls, as sexually aware or active. It also includes goods aimed at children who are seen as trying to make themselves “sexier”—such as padded bras or hot-pants, make-up or pole-dancing toys. The second is “indirect”—the worry that, thanks to the internet, children witness ever more depictions of sexual activity. They are likely to see far more pornography than earlier generations, and at a younger age. In Britain, for instance, around half of 11- to 16-year-olds have seen pornography online, mostly by accident, according to a 2016 study by the NSPCC, a British children’s charity.

Japan has belatedly been reining in some excesses. In 2014 it banned the possession of child pornography—although it is still a hub for making and selling the illegal stuff. Last year the Tokyo metropolitan government banned under-18s from working in the JK (joshi kosei, schoolgirl) industry, where men pay, for example, to go for a walk with a schoolgirl or to lie down next to one (or, under the new rules, a woman pretending to be one). This year, after a few customer complaints, Aeon, a big retail chain, said it would stop stocking pornographic magazines in some of its shops. But they remain widely on sale in convenience stores. Keiji Goto, a police officer turned children’s-rights lawyer, says “Japan remains behind other countries.”

Don’t grow up

Indeed, across the rich world, countries are grappling with how to deal with the over-sexualisation of children. The assumption—often unspoken—is that exposure to sexualised images is linked to a growing number of sexual incidents involving children. Amanda Hulme, the head of a primary school in north-western England, says it is seeing more peer-on-peer abuse. Across Britain, the police received almost 30,000 reports of sexual assaults by children on other children over the past four years, including 2,625 allegedly on school grounds. And “sexting”—sending explicit images—is widespread. It can ruin young lives. A boy who opens a forwarded sext might find himself on a sex-offenders’ register. A girl whose intimate photo ends up widely shared online may be driven to despair or even suicide.

But it is not known whether all this is really linked to the sexual content children are exposed to. Their youth precludes most research. And Deevia Bhana, a South African academic, says that some of the concern stems from moral attitudes about the way children—almost always girls—should act, rather than from actual evidence of harm. In fact, in some ways risky behaviour is decreasing. Surveys show that in much of the rich world young people are waiting longer to lose their virginity. Teenage pregnancies are falling.

Precocious sexualisation, however, is recognised as causing some forms of harm. One is to mental health. Sharon Lamb, a child psychologist and professor at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, says she sees children, mainly girls, losing self-esteem when they feel that the only way they are valued is if they act sexually. This feeds into problems such as eating disorders, and can affect future relationships. Boys suffer, too. Ms Lamb says stereotypes portraying them as always wanting sex put them under pressure to act in a certain way.

A second possible type of harm is that a sexualised, pornographic culture may give children damaging ideas about sex. Ms Hulme reckons that the increase in children inappropriately touching each other is linked to pornography. No one has ever proved how pornography relates to action, but children (more boys than girls) have told pollsters from the NSPCC that it gave them ideas about what to try. This highlights the need for good sex education, if only to inform children about real life.

A third sort would be if such material encouraged paedophilia. Risa Yasojima of M’s Pop Life says, without citing evidence, that she reckons its products can help paedophiles refrain from touching actual children. But others fear that ubiquitous images of sexualised children and child pornography foster the paedophile delusion that sees ordinary, spontaneous and tactile children as flirtatious.

Not in front of the children

Efforts to tackle these dangers need to accept that in the internet age it may be possible to limit children’s exposure to sexual images, but not to eliminate it. Better to prepare them to be able to cope, and to recognise that the images themselves are a symptom of a broader problem: how society turns women into sexual objects.

In the past decade countries have started to act on worries about the over-sexualisation of children. The turning-point in Britain was a 2010 report on the issue that the government commissioned from Reg Bailey, then at Mothers’ Union, a British Christian charity, and now a council member at the Advertising Standards Authority, the industry’s self-regulatory body.

Published in 2011, his report made 14 recommendations, such as keeping explicit magazines out of children’s sight. It also advocated raising parents’ awareness of sales techniques, and developing codes of practice among retailers covering goods marketed to children. Since 2011 guidelines about what can be shown on street billboards and magazine displays have been tightened. Internet-service providers offer parental filters to limit what their children may see. A new law, coming into force this year, obliges pornography sites to require evidence that users are over 18.

Other countries are following suit. In 2014, France outlawed beauty contests for under-13s. La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, has moved to do the same. Some Cubans are fretting about a craze among girls as young as five for quinceañeras, coming-of-age parties intended for 15-year-old girls, in which the girls often pose for photos, dolled up and looking sultry. Pressure groups and individual complaints also have an impact. In 2006 Tesco, a British supermarket chain, removed a children’s pole-dancing kit from the toys section of its website. In 2010 Primark, an Irish clothing company, withdrew children’s bikinis with padded tops.

If driven by online vigilantism alone, however, measures to prevent premature sexualisation may infringe freedom of expression—or simply go too far. In May, after a storm of online condemnation, Sweaty Betty, a boutique British fitness-wear brand, withdrew from its website an image of three girls around 15 or 16 clad in tropical-patterned leggings and crop-tops, which, in hindsight, looks fairly inoffensive.

Criticism is almost always directed at girls, not at boys or the culture around them. Girls are told not to wear short skirts to school so as not to distract boys, or even teachers—yet not enough is done to teach boys about consent. “I am a bit sick of the simplistic ‘sexy-so-soon’ discourse out there,” says Ms Lamb, the child psychologist. “A girl playing at being Beyoncé isn’t harmful. But a society that only values her for being Beyoncé is a problem.”

Research from places such as South Africa and Sweden suggests children can be better at dealing with sexualised advertising than adults realise. Ms Bhana, the South African academic, says her research suggests children are “highly sophisticated consumers”. But children need help to navigate the culture they grow up in. Mr Bailey says too little is done to develop children’s resilience to the stuff they inevitably stumble across, especially pornography.

If parents and teachers were matter-of-fact and honest about sex, young people would find it easier to talk about their worries and less likely to let what they see bother them. Research by the NSPCC suggests parents tend not to be too concerned by some things their children do—wearing “sexy” clothes or make-up, for example—seeing children as wanting to grow up quicker than they do. But they do worry about them seeing hard-core pornography.

Britain’s Department for Education is in the process of updating its sex-and-relationships guidance for the first time since 2000. Martha Kirby of the NSPCC says this is long overdue. The government is to hold consultations on new approaches, such as teaching primary-school children about the idea of consent, and those in secondary school about the laws on sexual abuse and the dangers of online grooming by paedophiles.

In many places even basic sex education is lacking. Ms Bhana sees a danger in the extreme positions of some lobbies, especially religious ones, and countries such as Saudi Arabia that resist teaching children about sex at all, in the hope of keeping them “pure”. Religious groups in America, such as the Abstinence Clearinghouse, also argue that sex education encourages children to have sex. In Myanmar similar concerns mean schools barely cover the birds and the bees.

Better to accept that children will naturally want to explore their desires and feelings, and equip them to do so safely with factual information, awareness of online dangers, access to contraception—and the power to know what they want and to say no to what they don’t want.

Don’t worry, be happy

Countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark are closer to this healthier approach. They expect children to be well informed about their bodies, and see the purpose of sex education as not just to warn of the risks, but to help prepare for a happy sex life. This may be one reason why, according to Anna Sparrman, a professor of child studies at Linkoping University in Sweden, Scandinavian countries have not really seen premature-sexualisation panics. It is not because of an anything-goes attitude; Sweden, for example, bans all broadcast advertising aimed at children under 12.

Just as important, countries need to face up to the cultural backdrop behind over-sexualisation, says Michelle Jongenelis, a researcher at Australia’s Curtin University. That images of girls looking sexy are so much more prevalent than those of boys reflects sexism and the sexual objectification of women; so does the way much pornography shows women being treated in a degrading manner. Children assimilate these norms through the images of their peers and the products pushed at them—including, at the extreme, pornography.

Happily, this broader cultural context does seem to be under scrutiny in some parts of the world, though the process is at a very early stage. Basic ideas about gender—such as shops labelling baby clothes as “boys’” and “girls’”—are being challenged, and more nuanced understanding of the meaning of “consent” are gaining ground. The #MeToo debate, which has pushed sexual assault to the fore, leads Ms Jongenelis to conclude that there is a shift in norms about what is acceptable. If so, then children should be among the greatest beneficiaries.

This article appeared in the International section of the print edition under the headline "Innocents and experience"

MeKayla Dezarn's comment, Today, 3:11 AM
1. The over-sexualization of children is such a controversial topic and it’s interesting to read how different countries address it or don’t address it based on culture. I knew that in Japan girls are sexualized, but I did not know it was to such an extent. Growing up I never received sex ed, because I lived in very conservative family. I feel like due to the advances of technology children need to be aware of pedophiles and the dangers from online communication.

The article reminded me of an incident that happened while I was in high school. A classmate had been sexting to a boy, and her pictures were sent to others without her permission. There was a hour long school assembly about sexting due to this incident and how distributing her pictures is considered to be possession and distribution of child pornography and that the boy could have been arrested.
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�� Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi killed in Istanbul consulate | Al Jazeera English - YouTube

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The comments are fairly telling....

MeKayla Dezarn's comment, Today, 3:51 AM
Wow! I’m not sure what to say. It’s crazy that the government sent 15 hitman to assassinate a journalist in the Istanbul consulate. At first the government would not admit to it, but is now saying that the journalist’s death happened during a fight with its people. They make it sound as if it was an accident or a rogue mission not involving the prince or government. I wonder if there will be any charges made against the Saudi government over this incident. My guess is not likely, because the blame will placed elsewhere and nothing will happen to those in charge.
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Canadian girl sells out of cookies in minutes to crowd outside marijuana store

Canadian girl sells out of cookies in minutes to crowd outside marijuana store | Criminology and Economic Theory |
EDMONTON, Alberta – On Wednesday, it took a 9-year-old Canadian girl less than 45 minutes to sell every box of Girl Guide cookies she had to customers lining up outside a marijuana dispensary in Edmonton, according to Global News.

With a smile and a winning product, Elina Childs worked her way up and down the crowd lining up along red carpet outside Nova Cannabis.
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Robert Scott's comment, October 21, 12:49 AM
I think this was a great idea by the girl and father. With the people celebrating the legalization of marijuana they are probably more happy and willing to support a young girl fund raising. Also, there is the fact that people that smoke marijuana get the munchies and the cookies is a great snack.
Thomas Lemelin's comment, Today, 1:16 AM
The legalization of marijuana in canada had done some crazy things economically. This honestly comes to no surprise to me that she sold out of all her cookies in such a quick time. Knowing some people who have smoked marijuana in the past and seeing how they respond when they are “high” this doesn’t surprise me. This was a great move by this girl guide, and I’m expecting to see more girl guides do similar things. However the fact that Canada is already having a shortage of marijuana just days after opening is a surprise. You would think that they would be better prepared seeing how fast it was being sold in states that legalized it.
Sierra Grimes's comment, Today, 2:16 AM
This is just like a story I heard about when one of the more recent instances of a state here in the U.S. legalizing marijuana, and a Girl Scout stationed herself at a dispensary to sell cookies. Not only do people already want these sorts of treats regardless of being stoned or not, but then there’s the added forethought of people knowing they’ll get the munchies (or, let’s be honest, already having them). It honestly also goes to show the kinds of impacts that the legalization of marijuana can have on other select markets.
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Watch: Escaped Emu dies from stress after being chased by police in Spain | Euronews

Watch: Escaped Emu dies from stress after being chased by police in Spain | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
An escaped emu collapsed and died after being chased through a city in Spain by police on motorbikes.
Thomas Lemelin's comment, Today, 1:27 AM
I found this rather interesting, it’s not everyday you read about emus running down the street. I don’t necessarily agree with the PAS demanding administratives provide the security agents with protocols and specific training. But I can see where they are coming from. Police already have enough on their hands to deal with and undergo a lot of training as is. This is such a freak event that training for this would not be cost effective enough. I do like the fact the article pointed out law enforcement did not discharge a firearm into the emu to stop it.
Sierra Grimes's comment, Today, 2:40 AM
I found it really interesting that they didn’t even know where the emu came from, makes me think that it likely escaped from someone who was illegally keeping exotic animals, meaning they wouldn’t be up front in reporting a loose animal. There’s also just no real way to really prepare for this specific kind of incidence, sure, you can put protocols in place for animal response but considering there are so many different possible animals that could run loose in any community it’s difficult to really have a good response.
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Poland defies EU swearing in new supreme court judges | Euronews

Poland defies EU swearing in new supreme court judges | Euronews | Criminology and Economic Theory |
In brief: Poland’s president has named 27 new judges to the Supreme Court as part of a judiciary reform that has triggered an EU lawsuit.

It is the latest move in the long-feud with the European Commission which has referred Warsaw to the EU's top court due to concerns over its judiciary policy.
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China has turned Xinjiang into a police state like no other - Apartheid with Chinese characteristics

China has turned Xinjiang into a police state like no other - Apartheid with Chinese characteristics | Criminology and Economic Theory |

THE prophet Sulayman approached his son and said to him, ‘I have received a message from God. I want you to circle the Earth and see if there are more people who are alive in spirit or more people who are dead in spirit.’ After a period the son returned and said, ‘Father I went to many places and everywhere I went I saw more people who were dead than those who were alive.’”

Hasan shared that message on a WeChat social-messaging group in 2015, when he was 23. Born in Yarkand, a town in southern Xinjiang, Hasan had moved to the provincial capital, Urumqi, to sell jade and shoes and to learn more about Islam. He described himself to Darren Byler, an anthropologist from the University of Washington, as a Sufi wanderer, a pious man with a wife and small daughter, who prayed five times a day and disapproved of dancing and immodesty.

But in January 2015 the provincial government was demanding that everyone in Urumqi return to their native home to get a new identity card. “I am being forced to go back,” Hasan complained to Mr Byler. “The Yarkand police are calling me every day. They are making my parents call me and tell me the same thing.” Eventually, he and his family boarded a bus for the 20-hour journey home. It was hit by a truck. Hasan’s wife and daughter were killed. He was hospitalised. “It was the will of Allah,” he said.

Hasan hoped the authorities would allow him to return to Urumqi because of his injuries. No chance. Having lost wife, child and livelihood, Hasan lost his liberty, too. A fortnight after his accident, he was sent to a re-education camp for an indefinite period. There, for all his relatives know, he remains.

Hasan is one of hundreds of thousands of Uighurs, a Turkic-language people, who have disappeared in Xinjiang, China’s north-western province. It is an empty, far-flung place; Hasan’s home town of Yarkand is as close to Baghdad as it is to Beijing. It is also a crucial one. The region is China’s biggest domestic producer of oil and gas, and much of the fuel imported from Central Asia and Russia passes through on its way to the industries of the east coast. It is now a vital link in the Belt and Road Initiative, a foreign policy which aims to bind the Middle East and Europe to China with ties of infrastructure, investment and trade.

But on top of that it is the home of the Uighurs, the largest Muslim group in the country, and ethnically quite distinct from the Han Chinese. A recent history of Uighur unrest—in particular bloody inter-ethnic violence in Urumqi in 2009 that followed the murder of Uighurs elsewhere in China—and subsequent terrorism have sent the government’s repressive tendencies into overdrive. Under a new party boss, Chen Quanguo, appointed in 2016, the provincial government has vastly increased the money and effort it puts into controlling the activities and patrolling the beliefs of the Uighur population. Its regime is racist, uncaring and totalitarian, in the sense of aiming to affect every aspect of people’s lives. It has created a fully-fledged police state. And it is committing some of the most extensive, and neglected, human-rights violations in the world.

The not-quite-Gulag archipelago

The government is building hundreds or thousands of unacknowledged re-education camps to which Uighurs can be sent for any reason or for none. In some of them day-to-day conditions do not appear to be physically abusive as much as creepy. One released prisoner has said he was not permitted to eat until he had thanked Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, and the Communist Party. But there have been reports of torture at others. In January, 82-year-old Muhammad Salih Hajim, a respected religious scholar, died in detention in Urumqi.

Kashgar, the largest Uighur city, has four camps, of which the largest is in Number 5 Middle School. A local security chief said in 2017 that “approximately 120,000” people were being held in the city. In Korla, in the middle of the province, a security official recently said the camps are so full that officials in them are begging the police to stop bringing people.

As a result, more and more camps are being built: the re-education archipelago is adding islands even faster than the South China Sea. Adrian Zenz of the European School of Culture and Theology in Kortal, Germany, has looked at procurement contracts for 73 re-education camps. He found their total cost to have been 682m yuan ($108m), almost all spent since April 2017. Records from Akto, a county near the border with Kyrgyzstan, say it spent 9.6% of its budget on security (including camps) in 2017. In 2016 spending on security in the province was five times what it had been in 2007. By the end of 2017 it was ten times that: 59bn yuan.

For all this activity, the government has not officially confirmed that the camps exist. They are not governed by any judicial process; detentions are on the orders of the police or party officials, not the verdict of a court. A woman working as an undertaker was imprisoned for washing bodies according to Islamic custom. Thirty residents of Ili, a town near the Kazakh border, were detained “because they were suspected of wanting to travel abroad,” according to the local security chief. Other offences have included holding strong religious views, allowing others to preach religion, asking where one’s relatives are and failing to recite the national anthem in Chinese.

A significant chunk of the total Uighur population is interned in this way. If the rate of detention in Kashgar applied to the province as a whole, 5% of the Uighur population of 10m would be detained. Other evidence suggests that this is quite possible. In February Radio Free Asia (RFA), a broadcaster financed by an independent agency of the American government, cold-called 11 families at random in Araltobe, in the north of the province, far from the Uighurs’ heartland. Six said family members had been sent to camps. In a village later visited by Agence France Presse in Qaraqash county, near Hotan, a fifth of adults had been detained over four months.

Maya Wang of Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group, reckons the overall number detained may be 800,000. Timothy Grose, a professor at Rose-Hulman University in Indiana, puts the total between 500,000 and 1m, which would imply that something like a sixth to a third of young and middle-aged Uighur men are being detained, or have been at some point in the past year.

The Chinese government argues that harsh measures are needed to prevent violence associated with Uighur separatism. In 2013 a Uighur suicide-driver crashed his car into pedestrians in Tiananmen Square in Beijing. In 2014 a knife-wielding Uighur gang slaughtered 31 travellers at a train station in Kunming, Yunnan province, an incident some in China compared to the September 11th 2001 attacks on America. Unrest in Yarkand later that year led to a hundred deaths; an attack at a coal mine in Aksu killed 50 people. Kyrgyzstani authorities blamed Uighur terrorists for an attempt to blow up the Chinese embassy in Bishkek; Uighurs have been blamed for a bombing which killed 20 at a shrine in Bangkok popular with Chinese tourists.

There are worrying links, as the Chinese authorities are keen to point out, between Uighur separatism and global jihad, especially in the Uighur diaspora, which is based in Turkey. Chinese and Syrian officials say 1,500 Uighurs have fought with Islamic State (IS) or Jabhat al-Nusra (part of al-Qaeda) in Syria. A group called the Turkestan Islamic Party, which demands independence for Xinjiang, is banned under anti-terrorist laws in America and Europe. In 2016 a defector from IS provided a list of foreign recruits; 114 came from Xinjiang.

In the grid

But the system of repression in the province goes far beyond anything that would be justified by such proclivities and affiliations. In Hotan there is a new police station every 300 metres or so. They are called “convenience police stations”, as if they were shops—and in fact they do offer some consumer services, such as bottled water and phone recharging. The windowless stations, gunmetal grey, with forbidding grilles on their doors, are part of a “grid-management system” like that which Mr Chen pioneered when he was party boss in Tibet from 2011 to 2016. The authorities divide each city into squares, with about 500 people. Every square has a police station that keeps tabs on the inhabitants. So, in rural areas, does every village.

At a large checkpoint on the edge of Hotan a policeman orders everyone off a bus. The passengers (all Uighur) take turns in a booth. Their identity cards are scanned, photographs and fingerprints of them are taken, newly installed iris-recognition technology peers into their eyes. Women must take off their headscarves. Three young Uighurs are told to turn on their smartphones and punch in the passwords. They give the phones to a policeman who puts the devices into a cradle that downloads their contents for later analysis. One woman shouts at a policeman that he is Uighur, why is he looking at her phone?

There can be four or five checkpoints every kilometre. Uighurs go through them many times a day. Shops and restaurants in Hotan have panic buttons with which to summon the police. The response time is one minute. Apparently because of the Kunming knife attack, knives and scissors are as hard to buy as a gun in Japan. In butchers and restaurants all over Xinjiang you will see kitchen knives chained to the wall, lest they be snatched up and used as weapons. In Aksu QR codes containing the owner’s identity-card information have to be engraved on every blade.

Remarkably, all shops and restaurants in Hotan must have a part-time policeman on duty. Thousands of shop assistants and waiters have been enrolled in the police to this end. Each is issued with a helmet, flak jacket and three-foot baton. They train in the afternoon. In the textile market these police officers sit in every booth and stall, selling things; their helmets and flak jackets, which are uncomfortable, are often doffed. A squad of full-time police walks through the market making sure security cameras are working and ordering shop assistants to put their helmets back on. Asked why they wear them, the assistants reply tersely “security”.

At the city’s railway station, travellers go through three rounds of bag checks before buying a ticket. On board, police walk up and down ordering Uighurs to open their luggage again. As the train pulls into Kashgar, it passes metal goods wagons. A toddler points at them shouting excitedly “Armoured car! Armoured car!” Paramilitary vehicles are more familiar to him than rolling stock.

Uniformed shop assistants, knife controls and “convenience police stations” are only the most visible elements of the police state. The province has an equally extensive if less visible regime that uses yet more manpower and a great deal of technology to create total surveillance.

Improving lives, winning hearts

Under a system called fanghuiju, teams of half a dozen—composed of policemen or local officials and always including one Uighur speaker, which almost always means a Uighur—go from house to house compiling dossiers of personal information. Fanghuiju is short for “researching people’s conditions, improving people’s lives, winning people’s hearts”. But the party refers to the work as “eradicating tumours”. The teams—over 10,000 in rural areas in 2017—report on “extremist” behaviour such as not drinking alcohol, fasting during Ramadan and sporting long beards. They report back on the presence of “undesirable” items, such as Korans, or attitudes—such as an “ideological situation” that is not in wholehearted support of the party.

The watchful and the watched
Since the spring of 2017, the information has been used to rank citizens’ “trustworthiness” using various criteria. People are deemed trustworthy, average or untrustworthy depending on how they fit into the following categories: 15 to 55 years old (ie, of military age); Uighur (the catalogue is explicitly racist: people are suspected merely on account of their ethnicity); unemployed; have religious knowledge; pray five times a day (freedom of worship is guaranteed by China’s constitution); have a passport; have visited one of 26 countries; have ever overstayed a visa; have family members in a foreign country (there are at least 10,000 Uighurs in Turkey); and home school their children. Being labelled “untrustworthy” can lead to a camp.

To complete the panorama of human surveillance, the government has a programme called “becoming kin” in which local families (mostly Uighur) “adopt” officials (mostly Han). The official visits his or her adoptive family regularly, lives with it for short periods, gives the children presents and teaches the household Mandarin. He also verifies information collected by fanghuiju teams. The programme appears to be immense. According to an official report in 2018, 1.1m officials have been paired with 1.6m families. That means roughly half of Uighur households have had a Han-Chinese spy/indoctrinator assigned to them.

Such efforts map the province’s ideological territory family by family; technology maps the population’s activities street by street and phone by phone. In Hotan and Kashgar there are poles bearing perhaps eight or ten video cameras at intervals of 100-200 metres along every street; a far finer-grained surveillance net than in most Chinese cities. As well as watching pedestrians the cameras can read car number plates and correlate them with the face of the person driving. Only registered owners may drive cars; anyone else will be arrested, according to a public security official who accompanied this correspondent in Hotan. The cameras are equipped to work at night as well as by day.

Because the government sees what it calls “web cleansing” as necessary to prevent access to terrorist information, everyone in Xinjiang is supposed to have a spyware app on their mobile phone. Failing to install the app, which can identify people called, track online activity and record social-media use, is an offence. “Wi-Fi sniffers” in public places keep an eye, or nose, on all networked devices in range.

Next, the records associated with identity cards can contain biometric data including fingerprints, blood type and DNA information as well as the subject’s detention record and “reliability status”. The government collects a lot of this biometric material by stealth, under the guise of a public-health programme called “Physicals for All”, which requires people to give blood samples. Local officials “demanded [we] participate in the physicals,” one resident of Kashgar told Human Rights Watch, an NGO. “Not participating would have been seen as a problem…”

A system called the Integrated Joint Operations Platform (IJOP), first revealed by Human Rights Watch, uses machine-learning systems, information from cameras, smartphones, financial and family-planning records and even unusual electricity use to generate lists of suspects for detention. One official WeChat report said that verifying IJOP’s lists was one of the main responsibilities of the local security committee. Even without high-tech surveillance, Xinjiang’s police state is formidable. With it, it becomes terrifying.

In theory, the security system in Xinjiang applies to everyone equally. In practice it is as race-based as apartheid in South Africa was. The security apparatus is deployed in greatest force in the south-west, where around 80% of Uighurs live (see map). In a city like Shihezi, which is 95% Han, there are far fewer street checkpoints, if any, and a normal level of policing. Where there are checkpoints, Han Chinese are routinely waved through. Uighurs are always stopped.

The minarets torn down

Islam is a special target. In Hotan, the neighbourhood mosques have been closed, leaving a handful of large places of worship. Worshippers must register with the police before attending. At the entrance to the largest mosque in Kashgar, the Idh Kha—a famous place of pilgrimage—two policemen sit underneath a banner saying “Love the party, love the country”. Inside, a member of the mosque’s staff holds classes for local traders on how to be a good communist. In Urumqi the remaining mosques have had their minarets knocked down and their Islamic crescents torn off.

Some 29 Islamic names may no longer be given to children. In schools, Uighur-language instruction is vanishing—another of the trends which have markedly accelerated under Mr Chen. Dancing after prayers and specific Uighur wedding ceremonies and funerary rites are prohibited.

Unlike those of South Africa, the two main racial groups are well matched in size. According to the 2010 census, Uighurs account for 46% of the province’s population and Han Chinese 40% (the rest are smaller minorities such as Kazakhs and Kirgiz). But they live apart and see the land in distinct ways. Uighurs regard Xinjiang as theirs because they have lived in it for thousands of years. The Han Chinese regard it as theirs because they have built a modern economy in its deserts and mountains. They talk of bringing “modern culture” and “modern lifestyle” to the locals—by which they mean the culture and lifestyle of modern Han China.

So how have the Han and Uighur reacted to the imposition of a police state? Yang Jiehun and Xiao Junduo are Han Chinese veterans of the trade in Hotan jade (which the Chinese hold to be the best in the world, notably in its very pale “mutton-fat” form). Asked about security, they give big smiles, a thumbs-up and say the past year’s crackdown has been “really well received”. “In terms of public security, Urumqi is the safest it has ever been,” says Mr Xiao, whose family came to the province in the 1950s, when the People’s Liberation Army and state-owned enterprises were reinforcing the border with the Soviet Union. “The Uighurs are being helped out of poverty,” he avers. “They understand and support the policy.”

Not all Han Chinese in Xinjiang are quite as enthusiastic. Tens of thousands came to the province fairly recently, mostly in the 1990s, to seek their fortunes as independent traders and business people, rather than being transferred there by state-owned companies or the army. They approve of better security but dislike the damage being done to the economy—for example, the way movement controls make it harder to employ Uighurs. So far, this ambivalence is not seriously weakening the support among the Han and, for the government in Beijing, that is all that matters. It sees Xinjiang mainly as a frontier. The Han are the principal guarantors of border security. If they are happy, so is the government.

The Uighur reaction is harder to judge; open criticism or talking to outsiders can land you in jail. The crackdown has been effective inasmuch as there have been no (known) Uighur protests or attacks since early 2017. It seems likely that many people are bowing before the storm. As Sultan, a student in Kashgar, says with a shrug: “There’s nothing we can do about it.”

But there are reasons for thinking resentment is building up below the surface. According to anthropological work by Mr Byler and Joanne Smith Finley of Newcastle University in Britain, a religious revival had been under way before the imposition of today’s harsh control. Mosques were becoming more crowded, religious schools attracting more pupils. Now the schools and mosques are largely empty, even for Friday prayers. It is hard to believe that religious feeling has vanished. More likely a fair bit has gone underground.

And the position of Uighurs who co-operate with the Han authorities is becoming untenable. The provincial government needs the Uighur elite because its members have good relations with both sides. The expansion of the police state has added to the number of Uighurs it needs to co-opt. According to Mr Zenz and James Leibold of La Trobe University in Melbourne, 90% of the security jobs advertised in 2017 were “third tier” jobs for low-level police assistants: cheap, informal contracts which mainly go to Uighurs (see chart). But at the same time as needing more Uighurs, the authorities have made it clear that they do not trust them. Part of the repression has been aimed at “two-faced officials” who (the party says) are publicly supporting the security system while secretly helping victims. Simultaneously recruiting more Uighurs and distrusting them more creates an ever larger pool that might one day turn against the system from within.

A Han businessman who travels frequently between Urumqi and Kashgar says he used to feel welcome in the south. “Now it has all changed. They are not afraid. But they are resentful. They look at me as if they are wondering what I am doing in their country.” One of the few detainees released from the camps, Omurbek Eli, told RFA that the authorities “are planting the seeds of hatred and turning [detainees] into enemies. This is not just my view—the majority of people in the camp feel the same way.”

Hasan’s warning

China’s Communist rulers believe their police state limits separatism and reduces violence. But by separating the Uighur and Han further, and by imposing huge costs on one side that the other side, for the most part, blithely ignores, they are ratcheting up tension. The result is that both groups are drifting towards violence.

Before he disappeared, Hasan, the self-styled Sufi wanderer, expressed Xinjiang’s plight. “To be Uighur is hard,” he wrote on WeChat in 2015. “I don’t even know what I am accused of, but I must accept their judgment. I have no choice. Where there is no freedom, there is tension. Where there is tension there are incidents. Where there are incidents there are police. Where there are police there is no freedom.”


This article appeared in the Briefing section of the print edition under the headline "Apartheid with Chinese characteristics"
Print edition | Briefing

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Canada to pardon citizens convicted on simple marijuana possession charges: report

Canada to pardon citizens convicted on simple marijuana possession charges: report | Criminology and Economic Theory |
The Canadian government is reportedly planning to grant pardons to Canadians with past minor marijuana possession charges.
Thomas Lemelin's comment, Today, 1:34 AM
Since i already commented already on Canada legalizing marijuana i might as well comment on another. I am in favor of Canada in giving pardons to those with minor marijuana crimes. However just how far back are they going to date the pardons? Maybe once the United States legalizes marijuana they can follow suit and pardon these crimes as well? I do like how they finally have made the shift to legalize it after 95 years despite medical marijuana being legal for 2 decades.
MeKayla Dezarn's comment, Today, 3:26 AM

I feel like anyone who is prison for marijuana should be pardoned. It’s been decriminalized for the most part and is used medicinally, so there is no need to keep people in jail for such a small crime. It’s good that Canada has legalized it. I honestly don’t see why it isn’t legal in all 50 states by now.
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Naked man who jumped in Ripley’s Aquarium shark tank linked to assault investigation |

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Police said no one was injured in the incident — including the animals — but the swimmer was gone by the time officers arrived.
Rob Duke's insight:

WTH. Canadian bad guys are a unique breed.

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South Africa Decriminalises Personal Cannabis Use and Cultivation

South Africa Decriminalises Personal Cannabis Use and Cultivation | Criminology and Economic Theory |
South Africa’s highest court has decriminalised the private possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use.
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After journalist vanishes, focus shifts to young prince’s ‘dark’ and bullying side - The

After journalist vanishes, focus shifts to young prince’s ‘dark’ and bullying side - The | Criminology and Economic Theory |
When he hosted last October’s glittering global investment conference in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had the world at his fingertips. Thousands of investors, corporate chieftains and government leaders flocked to the kingdom to hear the charismatic young heir to the Saudi throne outline his plans for modernization of the reclusive kingdom, and to be invited along for the ride and the profits.

“Only dreamers are welcome to join,” Mohammed told his audience.  

As a second conference approaches this month in Riyadh, Mohammed, 33, seems far less dashing. Over the past week, many who had planned to attend have abruptly canceled, scrambling to distance themselves from what they now see as a runaway train headed for disaster.

Their distress stems from the still-unfolding story of Jamal Khashoggi, the self-exiled Saudi journalist allegedly killed and gruesomely dismembered this month by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, after he dared to publicly criticize the crown prince and his government.
Rob Duke's insight:

I doubt this is about one Prince and more about the way the entire system works.

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German court orders extradition of suspect in Bulgarian journalist's killing

German court orders extradition of suspect in Bulgarian journalist's killing | Criminology and Economic Theory |
A court in Germany has ordered the extradition of a Bulgarian man who was detained earlier this week on suspicion of the rape and murder of Bulgarian journalist Viktoriya Marinova.

The suspect was arrested in Stade, near the northern German city of Hamburg, on Tuesday.

According to a statement from the Higher Regional court in Celle, the man will be extradited within the next 10 days from Germany to Bulgaria.
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Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey has 'shocking' evidence of journalist's killing

Jamal Khashoggi: Turkey has 'shocking' evidence of journalist's killing | Criminology and Economic Theory |

Missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have recorded his own death, a Turkish newspaper reported Saturday morning.

Khashoggi turned on the recording function of his Apple Watch before walking into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 , according to Sabah newspaper.
The moments of his "interrogation, torture and killing were audio recorded and sent to both his phone and to iCloud," the pro-government, privately owned newspaper paper reported. The Turkish newspaper said conversations of the men involved in the reported assassination were recorded.
Security forces leading the investigation found the audio file inside the phone Khasshoggi left with his fiancé, according to Sabah.
Upon noticing the watch, Sabah reports, Khashoggi's assailants tried to unlock the Apple Watch with multiple password attempts, ultimately using Khashoggi's fingerprint to unlock the smart watch. They were successful in deleting only some of the files, Sabah reported.

Rob Duke's insight:

This will give us some significant insight into how the state security apparatus of Saudi Arabia truly operates.

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