Alcohol-Free Bars Caught on in the U.S. and U.K. But Can They Go Global? – By Anna Ben Yehuda Rahmanan (Fortune) 22 June 2019

“[The trend] is a logical extension of the current wellness revolution,” says Ruby Warrington, the author of Sober Curious, a book exploring the culture of the nondrinking masses with the goal of normalizing it. Warrington argues that attitude changes in America—our new focus on meditation and yoga, healthy food, and

generally mindful practices—have evolved into an awareness of the detrimental effects that alcohol can have on the body. Are countries that pride themselves on a healthy relationship with alcohol, then, not ideal breeding grounds for liquor-free establishments? Are these new bars replicable concepts outside the likes of New York and London, cities renowned for excessive drinking? Is the fad here to stay?

According to Sam Thonis and Regina Dellea, co-owners of the new alcohol-free Getaway bar in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, the appeal of their venture goes beyond the need to stay sober. “We have the same comforts that a bar would,” says Thonis. “The lighting, the music, the layout. It’s just a place where everyone is on the same boat, and you don’t really have to explain yourself.”

The Getaway bar in Brooklyn.

When asked whether a traditional drinking den with a mocktail menu would tackle the same need, Dellea points out that “there is a difference between having a drink that was designed to have alcohol in it and removing [it], and then a drink that was designed without the intention of having alcohol.”

Lorelei Bandrovschi, the mastermind behind Listen Bar, a monthly alcohol-free pop-up bar whose first iteration landed in New York in October 2018, echoes Dellea’s sentiments: “I don’t think it’s about whatever percent of alcohol is in your Coors Light when you’re going to a bar. If the crowd is right, the music is right, the vibe is right, it’s been a revelation [to people, saying] ‘Wow, it really is a bar.’”

Less Is More

All three business owners stress the importance of well-prepared cocktails—with or without liquor in them—hence their investments in relatively expensive fresh ingredients, a cost that replaces pricey liquor licenses.

Working with a variety of award-winning bartenders and mixologists, Listen Bar proposes a menu specifically designed to be prepared sans liquor yet still boasting the complexity and creativity usually reserved for high-end cocktail bar offerings. “Nondrinkers have been made to feel like the odd ones out,” Bandrovschi says. “We are here to say that [they] deserve their own space and to be the star of the show. Making great alcohol-free drinks is actually much more complex than making decent cocktails.”

According to Bandrovschi, the people that flock to Listen Bar’s monthly residency at Von in New York are not exclusively sober. “Only a third of our guests define themselves as nondrinkers,” she says. “Two-thirds of people who come are either occasional drinkers or regular drinkers.” Following a successful first round of crowdfunding, Bandrovschi plans to open a brick-and-mortar shop. She believes that what attracts people to her concept is the idea of being able to go out without “taxing the body” the next day.

The Getaway bar.

We circle back to the viability of the concept: Are alcohol-free bars only practical options in cities of excess, where folks can’t control their drinking unless surrounded by liquor-free facilities?

It is interesting to note that both New York establishments were born out of an avoidance of excess: Listen Bar is the result of a dare that required Bandrovschi not to drink for a month, whereas Thonis began thinking of Getaway while hearing about his sober brother’s discomfort when visiting traditional imbibing spots.

A look at the recent uptick in liquor-free, distilled spirits that are being produced and shipped all across the world may actually point to the fact that this is, indeed, a global trend that’s here to stay. Sure, it might have first sprouted across cities with an unusually high number of alcoholics, but it surely speaks to the sober, pregnant, and not-in-the-mood-for-a-drink-tonight people of the world who still want to go out and enjoy human company without having to order a meal, go to a museum, or sit through a movie.

Blended and bottled in England, Seedlip, for example, is the first-ever distilled nonalcoholic spirit. It comes in three different flavors and is served in 100 Michelin-starred restaurants across 15 different international cities with plans to expand further. Heineken 0.0, the brand’s alcohol-free beer, first launched in Barcelona and then rolled out in the U.S. in time for “dry January” with a $50 million investment. Athletic Brewing Company produces nonalcoholic craft beers that even appeal to Olympians seeking recovery drinks.

The worldwide market for nonalcoholic beer is projected to double to about $25 billion by 2024, according to market research firm Global Market Insights. And Heineken’s own research says that nearly 30% of 21- to 25-year-olds haven’t had a beer in the past month, a stat inferring the need and demand for liquor-free options that still remind consumers of alcohol.

When queried about the longevity of their business model and its potential for replicability outside the likes of New York and London, the owners of Getaway and Listen Bar exude positivity. “We had some people here from Abu Dhabi the other night,” recalls Thonis. “They were saying that there are lots of bars [there] but nothing like this, where they are doing interesting cocktails with no alcohol. They were enthusiastic about it and thought it would be a great idea in Abu Dhabi.”



How Graffiti Became Gentrified – By Daisy Alioto – 19 June 2019

Street Art 002

How Graffiti Became Gentrified

Two decades after Rudy Giuliani tried to rid New York City of graffiti, the art form is flourishing—with unexpected consequences.

Graffiti artists learn early not to get too attached. Ephemera is as central to their medium as spray paint. Some works last months, others don’t make it through the night. Even the most famous pieces are not guaranteed to last. Many of the defining works of the late 1960s and 1970s in New York City—“DONDI” wrapped around the side of an entire subway car, “TAKI 183” sprayed on a brick facade—have been lost, painted over, or torn down entirely. So much of what is enshrined in the iconic 1983 graffiti documentary Style Wars cannot be found in the urban landscape today.

All of that made the demolition of 5Pointz, a legendary graffiti venue in Long Island City, Queens, an unlikely battleground for the soul of the art form. In the early 2000s, the derelict warehouse at 45–46 Davis Street became a haven for graffiti artists, thanks to an unusual arrangement. With the five-story complex in sparse use since the 1970s and entirely empty since 2009, the artist Jonathan Cohen—whose tag is Meres One—struck a deal with the building’s owner, Gerald “Jerry” Wolkoff: Artists who wanted to paint big, intensive projects could do so on the building’s exterior without running afoul of anti-graffiti laws, which had been ratcheted up during Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reign in the 1990s. That pact created a flourishing street artist community around 5Pointz: The building featured work from some 1,500 artists from all over the world, earning it the title the “United Nations of Graffiti.”

5pointz 1

The arrangement went belly up in 2013, when Wolkoff decided that the building would be razed and converted into ritzy condominiums in the increasingly posh neighborhood, the cultural cachet of its painted exterior converted into a high-dollar payout.

Graffiti artists, including the British artist Banksy, clamored for the site’s preservation, while New Yorkers lamented the sacrifice of another cultural artifact on the altar of the city’s real-estate development machine. Under cover of darkness in November of that year, Wolkoff took advantage of a stalled court injunction to have the building whitewashed—over a decade’s worth of artwork gone overnight.

Then, in 2018, a court found that Wolkoff was liable for $6.75 million in total damages. The settlement, which is under appeal, was hailed as a victory for the artists. But it also signaled a strange new chapter in the history of graffiti. In the early days, by creed, a graffiti artist would ask neither for permission nor compensation. Now, after courting the former, artists at 5Pointz were receiving the latter. Graffiti was once a countercultural threat that conservative forces roundly maligned as a racially coded stand-in for urban delinquency. It was an archenemy of both the New York Police Department and real-estate developers for the supposed downward pull it exerted on property values. Now, graffiti had not only helped catalyze gentrification of one of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods, but was also being handsomely rewarded for it, with legal recognition by a judge and jury.

“Real estate and art go hand in hand now,” Meres One, who was the lead plaintiff in the suit against Wolkoff and his associates, told me this spring. Graffiti can ruin a neighborhood, it turns out—just not the way the city expected.

(5 Pointz Project (NYC Street Art) [2:25 min] 2013 on Hooktube – )

Modern graffiti wasn’t invented in New York, but it took hold in the late 1960s and 1970s as a favored mode of cultural expression for the city’s creative young and poor. It was, among certain classes, loathed. It exploded in popularity just as the city was hurtling toward bankruptcy in the ’70s, which led graffiti to be identified with all the social ills that then plagued New York. Gangs of unruly teens, roaming the streets with no respect for private property or public infrastructure, joined a disreputable cast of characters who had turned New York into a dystopian nightmare. “Pickpocketing, and shoplifting, and graffiti defacing our public and private walls, they’re all in the same area of destroying our lifestyle and making it difficult to enjoy life,” said then-Mayor Ed Koch in Style Wars. “I think it has to be responded to.”

Graffiti enforcement quickly became a flagship component of “broken windows” policing, which encouraged cops to treat minor property crime as a gateway to violent crime, and punish it accordingly. “They’re trying to make it look like graffiti writers break windows and everything, it ain’t even like that,” said a young artist in Style Wars.

Even as the hip-hop era subsided, and the forces of financialization took over the city, the campaign to criminalize and stigmatize graffiti soldiered on. In 1994, The New York Times reported on a crackdown in which a 25-member vandal squad arrested 21 people in 17 days. In 1995, Giuliani established the Anti-Graffiti Task Force by executive order to examine “the effectiveness of existing provisions of law aimed at curbing graffiti vandalism,” and propose “amendments to strengthen such legislation.” Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern said the deleterious effect of widespread graffiti was best shown in 1962’s A Clockwork Orange, Anthony Burgess’s tale about nihilistic youths with a taste for ultra-violence. “Graffiti is not a fashionable expression of the counterculture as it has been regarded in the past,” he said. “The ’60s are over.”

In 1999, Giuliani’s office helped lead an effort known as Graffiti-Free NYC (GFNYC). It allowed property owners to report illicit street art via the city’s 311 civic hotline or fill out a Forever Graffiti Free form giving the city blanket consent to “clean” their property. Even in 2019 in Brooklyn, it would not be out of place to see a GFNYC van on one side of the street and a tour headed to the Bushwick Collective, an open-air street art shrine, on the other.

As police chased graffiti artists from their canvasses of choice in the city’s subway depots, tunnels, and bridges, they began to take refuge in arrangements that relied on the kindness of more lenient and enlightened property owners. The art form metamorphosed, with graffiti, once known for its hurried, look-over-your-shoulder “throw ups,” merging with a nascent genre of street art: the less nefarious “mural.”

That change was reflected at a recent panel presented by the Center for Art Law at Fordham Law School titled “International Perspectives on Street Art.” In a sheet of key terms, graffiti was defined as “unauthorized artworks that are word-based,” while murals are “works typically authorized, if not commissioned.” Street art can encapsulate both these terms, although exact definitions vary among artists—some artists further legitimize the medium with the term “aerosol art.”

Was the work at 5Pointz graffiti, a mural, or something else? Well, it depends who you ask. The whole premise of GFNYC, marking its twentieth anniversary this year, runs against the appraisal work done on 5Pointz, which debunked the notion that graffiti brings properly values down. Quite the opposite: The art dramatically increased the value of Wolkoff’s property. And Wolkoff didn’t need a court judgment to know it. In 2012, the production company Summit Entertainment had rented studio space from Wolkoff in order to shoot its film Now You See Me with 5Pointz art as backdrop. By 2013, as many as 10 tour buses, chock-full of tourists, were coming to 5Pointz a day. Rents in the fledgling new cultural epicenter of Long Island City went up—and developers took notice.

In 2016, a study by Warwick Business School used Flickr uploads to analyze the relationship between photos of street art and London property values. “[T]he researchers’ analysis revealed that neighborhoods with a higher proportion of ‘art’ photographs also experienced greater relative gains in property prices.”

And in America, as crime dropped in the 1990s and affluent college graduates enacted a great migration from the suburbs to the country’s cities, graffiti became the literal poster board for the “authentic” urban culture they were seeking—driving up prices along the way. It was only a matter of time before the artists themselves got wise.

As it’s continued to exist in legal limbo, aerosol art has, under GFNYC’s two-decades-long watch, struck a precarious balance, straddling a public square full of ticket-writing cops and a private sphere eager to convert graffiti’s cultural capital into a quick buck. In the wake of 5Pointz’s whitewashing, Marie-Cécile Flageul​ and Meres One co-founded a group called 5Pointz Creates, a collective of those who worked at the Queens site, to put on “pop up events dedicated to the spirit of the Graffiti Mecca.” In 2016, 5Pointz Creates was approached by citizenM hotels to create the Museum of Street Art (MoSA), a free “museum” inside a hotel, showcasing the work of artists who formerly painted at 5Pointz.


CitizenM is a Netherlands-based chain of “boutique” accommodations that provides “affordable luxury in some of the most exciting cities in the world.” Its location on the Bowery in lower Manhattan, one of two in New York City, is a far cry from the blighted urban areas that incubated the city’s graffiti scene—it’s not often that getting pushed out of Queens lands one in Manhattan.

Producing work for a corporate client might seem anathema to the hip-hop generation of yore. But, according to Flageul, the legal options for graffiti artists in New York City have dwindled, and when the hotel’s representatives promised wall blanche, the opportunity proved irresistible. The arrangement also seemed to resolve the ethical dilemma of contributing to gentrification. “We don’t want to be a tool of displacement,” Flageul told me​.

Every artist Flageul​ approached to be a part of her MoSA curation said yes. And all the artists were paid the same amount for their work, while receiving the same expense budget, no matter their experience level. Older graffiti artists might have furtively tagged the exterior of such an establishment; now, the artists of 5Pointz were working on the inside, with permission, for a paycheck, the radical ambition of the graffiti project replaced by something much more modest.

Developers are more than willing to take advantage of a changing graffiti culture. Down the street from citizenM is the Houston Bowery Wall, owned by the Goldman family, one of New York City’s highest-profile billionaire real estate developers. In the last two years, the wall has been the site of both protest art by Banksy and an ad for Instagram’s inclusivity and kindness campaign. (It is in the Goldmans’ best interest for these to be virtually indistinguishable.)

The Goldman family owns property in the Wynwood section of Miami, which is now known for the street art at Wynwood Walls. “Wynwood was nondescript and industrial. Where other people would see—excuse my language—shitty tagging all over the place, my dad said, ‘Wow! These buildings are canvases,’” Jessica Goldman Srebnick, CEO of Goldman Properties, said in a 2015 interview. Tony Goldman is also credited with revitalizing Miami Beach’s South Beach in the 1980s.

Goldman Properties calls its ability to flip neighborhoods “Gentlefication,” but there is nothing gentle about it. In 2016, a property adjacent to the Wynwood Walls sold for $53.5 million, or $1,250 per square foot, according to the Miami Herald. While some homeowners are seeing their property values increase, renters and others are being priced out. And though developers have offered a trifling number of affordable housing units in the area, it’s not enough to meaningfully slow the pace of change.

Not all graffiti artists have been eager to participate in that process. In a strange reversal of the Giuliani years, when graffiti artists were seen by the law as miscreants to be gleefully locked up, artists have started using the law to defend their art against corporate usurpers. In 2016, a photographer used a mural on a parking structure in Detroit that was painted on commission by the Swiss street artist Adrian Falkner as the backdrop for a Cadillac ad without the artist’s knowledge. When Falkner sued for copyright infringement, the court came down against General Motors.

In 2018, H&M settled a lawsuit with artist Jason “Revok” Williams, who had sent a cease-and-desist letter to the clothing company after it shot an ad at a Brooklyn handball court featuring his work. Before settling, H&M fought back on the basis that his work was done illegally.

But those artists are largely exceptions, working against a tide of more corporate-friendly work. “The artists that are co-opted [by brands] the most have a style that plays into the popular notion of what art should be,” Renée Vara, who was enlisted as an art expert in the 5Pointz case, told me.

So if the supposed threat caused by graffiti has been neutralized, why hasn’t the law kept pace? In a CityLab article published in February, a former research and policy adviser at the National Network for Safe Communities wrote, “The broken windows paradigm remains active throughout policing. Perhaps most significantly, it still colors how the public views violence and demands responses to it: both as a danger that characterizes entire poor communities of color, and as a menace that poses a constant threat.” The same style of artwork that gave rise to Wynwood Walls was lumped into a series of policies that terrorized a generation of minority citizens. No matter how many white gentrifiers move to Bed-Stuy, that era is not dead—indeed, it’s not even past.

In Style Wars, then-MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch, who is often credited with rescuing New York’s subway from infamy as a graffiti-plastered hellscape, said of the youths tagging the subway lines: “It isn’t the energy that is misplaced, it’s the value system that’s misplaced.” One could just as easily say the same for a city that rewards real-estate developers that use street art to lure gentrifiers, while calling that same art ugly and antisocial.

It seems well past time for détente between the city’s power brokers and one of its signature forms of expression. “The laws are the laws. If I could change anything [I’d] do one legal paint park in each borough,” Meres One told me. Such a proposal would hardly be groundbreaking: Public paint parks have had success in cities like London, Prague, and Buenos Aires.

What such an accord would mean for graffiti, an art form that has increasingly been defanged, coopted, and commodified, remains an open question. And at any rate, there’s little evidence that a truce is under consideration. For Meres One and other graffiti artists, there aren’t many viable options. “I have no legal walls. I can’t get up and say, ‘I really feel like painting today,’” he told me. “Now the options are a mural project that might be exploited,” a paid commission, or nothing. “If it wasn’t for the wall in my yard I’d go stir crazy.”

Line Drawings of Trees – r/HowToDraw101

tree 4Today I picked ‘Trees’ as a subject to highlight on my r/HowToDraw101 subreddit on Reddit.

I went online and did an image search for ‘trees line drawing’ to see what images popped up. I got a nice display of line drawings of trees and figured I’d copy them and also make a video for Youtube.


tree 15

I like how the one below is just one continuous line….

tree 7tree 6

From the simple, to the stylistic and complex.

tree 10


Hypersonic Nuclear Missiles Are Unstoppable – And They’re Starting a New Global Arms Race – by R. Jeffrey Smith (NY Times) 22 June 2019

This article is a collaboration between The Times Magazine and the Center for Public Integrity, where R. Jeffrey Smith is the managing editor for national security. 

On March 6, 2018, the grand ballroom at the Sphinx Club in Washington was packed with aerospace-industry executives waiting to hear from Michael D. Griffin. Weeks earlier, Secretary of Defense James Mattis named the 69-year-old Maryland native the Pentagon’s under secretary for research and engineering, a job that comes with an annual budget of more than $17 billion. The dark-suited attendees at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs Conference were eager to learn what type of work he would favor.

The audience was already familiar with Griffin, an unabashed defender of American military and political supremacy who has bragged about being labeled an “unreconstructed cold warrior.” With five master’s degrees and a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he was the chief technology officer for President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as Star Wars), which was supposed to shield the United States against a potential Russian attack by ballistic missiles looping over the North Pole. Over the course of his career that followed, he wrote a book on space vehicle design, ran a technology incubator funded by the C.I.A., directed NASA for four years and was employed as a senior executive at a handful of aerospace firms.

Griffin was known as a scientific optimist who regularly called for “disruptive innovation” and who prized speed above all. He had repeatedly complained about the Pentagon’s sluggish bureaucracy, which he saw as mired in legacy thinking. “This is a country that produced an atom bomb under the stress of wartime in three years from the day we decided to do it,” he told a congressional panel last year. “This is a country that can do anything we need to do that physics allows. We just need to get on with it.”

In recent decades, Griffin’s predecessors had prioritized broad research into topics such as human-computer interaction, space communication and undersea warfare. But Griffin signaled an important shift, one that would have major financial consequences for the executives in attendance. “I’m sorry for everybody out there who champions some other high priority, some technical thing; it’s not that I disagree with those,” he told the room. “But there has to be a first, and hypersonics is my first.”

Griffin was referring to a revolutionary new type of weapon, one that would have the unprecedented ability to maneuver and then to strike almost any target in the world within a matter of minutes. Capable of traveling at more than 15 times the speed of sound, hypersonic missiles arrive at their targets in a blinding, destructive flash, before any sonic booms or other meaningful warning. So far, there are no surefire defenses. Fast, effective, precise and unstoppable — these are rare but highly desired characteristics on the modern battlefield. And the missiles are being developed not only by the United States but also by China, Russia and other countries.

Griffin is now the chief evangelist in Washington for hypersonics, and so far he has run into few political or financial roadblocks. Lawmakers have supported a significant expansion of federal spending to accelerate the delivery of what they call a “game-changing technology,” a buzz phrase often repeated in discussions on hypersonics. America needs to act quickly, says James Inhofe, the Republican senator from Oklahoma who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, or else the nation might fall behind Russia and China. Democratic leaders in the House and Senate are largely in agreement, though recently they’ve pressed the Pentagon for more information. (The Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, and House Chairman Adam Smith, the Democratic representative for Washington’s ninth district, told me it might make sense to question the weapons’ global impact or talk with Russia about the risks they create, but the priority in Washington right now is to get our versions built.)

In 2018, Congress expressed its consensus in a law requiring that an American hypersonic weapon be operational by October 2022. This year, the Trump administration’s proposed defense budget included $2.6 billion for hypersonics, and national security industry experts project that the annual budget will reach $5 billion by the middle of the next decade. The immediate aim is to create two deployable systems within three years. Key funding is likely to be approved this summer.

The enthusiasm has spread to military contractors, especially after the Pentagon awarded the largest one, Lockheed Martin, more than $1.4 billion in 2018 to build missile prototypes that can be launched by Air Force fighter jets and B-52 bombers. These programs were just the beginning of what the acting defense secretary, Patrick M. Shanahan, described in December as the Trump administration’s goal of “industrializing” hypersonic missile production. Several months later, he and Griffin created a new Space Development Agency of some 225 people, tasked with putting a network of sensors in low-earth orbit that would track incoming hypersonic missiles and direct American hypersonic attacks. This isn’t the network’s only purpose, but it will have “a war-fighting capability, should it come to that,” Griffin said in March.

Development of hypersonics is moving so quickly, however, that it threatens to outpace any real discussion about the potential perils of such weapons, including how they may disrupt efforts to avoid accidental conflict, especially during crises. There are currently no international agreements on how or when hypersonic missiles can be used, nor are there any plans between any countries to start those discussions. Instead, the rush to possess weapons of incredible speed and maneuverability has pushed the United States into a new arms race with Russia and China — one that could, some experts worry, upend existing norms of deterrence and renew Cold War-era tensions.

Although hypersonic missiles can in theory carry nuclear warheads, those being developed by the United States will only be equipped with small conventional explosives. With a length between just five and 10 feet, weighing about 500 pounds and encased in materials like ceramic and carbon fiber composites or nickel-chromium superalloys, the missiles function like nearly invisible power drills that smash holes in their targets, to catastrophic effect. After their launch — whether from the ground, from airplanes or from submarines — they are pulled by gravity as they descend from a powered ascent, or propelled by highly advanced engines. The missiles’ kinetic energy at the time of impact, at speeds of at least 1,150 miles per hour, makes them powerful enough to penetrate any building material or armored plating with the force of three to four tons of TNT.

They could be aimed, in theory, at Russian nuclear-armed ballistic missiles being carried on trucks or rails. Or the Chinese could use their own versions of these missiles to target American bombers and other aircraft at bases in Japan or Guam. Or the missiles could attack vital land- or sea-based radars anywhere, or military headquarters in Asian ports or near European cities. The weapons could even suddenly pierce the steel decks of one of America’s 11 multibillion-dollar aircraft carriers, instantly stopping flight operations, a vulnerability that might eventually render the floating behemoths obsolete. Hypersonic missiles are also ideal for waging a decapitation strike — assassinating a country’s top military or political officials. “Instant leader-killers,” a former Obama administration White House official, who asked not to be named, said in an interview.

Within the next decade, these new weapons could undertake a task long imagined for nuclear arms: a first strike against another nation’s government or arsenals, interrupting key chains of communication and disabling some of its retaliatory forces, all without the radioactive fallout and special condemnation that might accompany the detonation of nuclear warheads. That’s why a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report said in 2016 that hypersonics aren’t “simply evolutionary threats” to the United States but could in the hands of enemies “challenge this nation’s tenets of global vigilance, reach and power.”

The arrival of such fast weaponry will dangerously compress the time during which military officials and their political leaders — in any country — can figure out the nature of an attack and make reasoned decisions about the wisdom and scope of defensive steps or retaliation. And the threat that hypersonics pose to retaliatory weapons creates what scholars call “use it or lose it” pressures on countries to strike first during a crisis. Experts say that the missiles could upend the grim psychology of Mutual Assured Destruction, the bedrock military doctrine of the nuclear age that argued globe-altering wars would be deterred if the potential combatants always felt certain of their opponents’ devastating response.

And yet decision makers seem to be ignoring these risks. Unlike with previous leaps in military technology — such as the creation of chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles with multiple nuclear warheads — that ignited international debate and eventually were controlled through superpower treaty negotiations, officials in Washington, Moscow and Beijing haven’t seriously considered any sort of accord limiting the development or deployment of hypersonic technology. In the United States, the State Department’s arms-control bureau has an office devoted to emerging security challenges, but hypersonic missiles aren’t one of its core concerns. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s deputies say they primarily support making the military’s arsenal more robust, an unusual stance for a department tasked with finding diplomatic solutions to global problems.

This position worries arms-control experts like Thomas M. Countryman, a career diplomat for 35 years and former assistant secretary of state in the Obama administration. “This is not the first case of a new technology proceeding through research, development and deployment far faster than the policy apparatus can keep up,” says Countryman, who is now chairman of the Arms Control Association. He cites examples of similarly “destabilizing technologies” in the 1960s and 1970s, when billions of dollars in frenzied spending on nuclear and chemical arms was unaccompanied by discussion of how the resulting dangers could be minimized. Countryman wants to see limitations placed on the number of hypersonic missiles that a country can build or on the type of warheads that they can carry. He and others worry that failing to regulate these weapons at the international level could have irreversible consequences.

“It is possible,” the United Nations Office of Disarmament Affairs said in a February report, that “in response [to] the deployment of hypersonic weapons,” nations fearing the destruction of their retaliatory-strike capability might either decide to use nuclear weapons under a wider set of conditions or simply place “nuclear forces on higher alert levels” as a matter of routine. The report lamented that these “ramifications remain largely unexamined and almost wholly undiscussed.”

So why haven’t the potential risks of this revolution attracted more attention? One reason is that for years the big powers have cared mostly about numerical measures of power — who has more warheads, bombers and missiles — and negotiations have focused heavily on those metrics. Only occasionally has their conversation widened to include the issue of strategic stability, a topic that encompasses whether specific weaponry poses risks of inadvertent war.

An aerospace engineer for the military for more than three decades, Daniel Marren runs one of the world’s fastest wind tunnels — and thanks to hypersonics research, his lab is in high demand. But finding it takes some time: When I arrived at the Air Force’s White Oak testing facility, just north of Silver Spring, Md., the private security guards only vaguely gestured toward some World War II-era military research buildings down the road, at the edge of the Food and Drug Administration’s main campus. The low-slung structure that houses Marren’s tunnel looks as if it could pass for an aged elementary school, except that it has a seven-story silver sphere sticking out of its east side, like a World’s Fair exhibit in the spot where an auditorium should be. The tunnel itself, some 40 feet in length and five feet in diameter, looks like a water main; it narrows at one end before emptying into the silver sphere. A column of costly high-tech sensors is grafted onto the piping where a thick window has been cut into its midsection.

Marren seemed both thrilled and harried by the rising tempo at his laboratory in recent months. A jovial 55-year-old who speaks carefully but excitedly about his work, he showed me a red brick structure on the property with some broken windows. It was built, he said, to house the first of nine wind tunnels that have operated at the test site, one that was painstakingly recovered in 1948 from Peenemünde, the coastal German village where Wernher von Braun worked on the V-2 rocket used to kill thousands of Londoners in World War II. American military researchers had a hard time figuring out how to reassemble and operate it, so they recruited some German scientists stateside.

As we entered the control room of the building that houses the active tunnel, Marren mentioned casually that the roof was specially designed to blow off easily if anything goes explosively awry. Any debris would head skyward, and the engineers, analysts and visiting Air Force generals monitoring the wind tests could survive behind the control room’s reinforced-concrete walls.

Inside the main room, Marren — dressed in a technologist’s polo shirt — explained that during the tests, the tunnel is first rolled into place on a trolley over steel rails in the floor. Then an enormous electric burner is ignited beneath it, heating the air inside to more than 3,000 degrees, hot enough to melt steel. The air is then punched by pressures 1,000 times greater than normal at one end of the tunnel and sucked at the other end by a vacuum deliberately created in the enormous sphere.

That sends the air roaring down the tunnel at up to 18 times the speed of sound — fast enough to traverse more than 30 football fields in the time it takes to blink. Smack in the middle of the tunnel during a test, attached to a pole capable of changing its angle in fractions of a second, is a scale model of the hypersonics prototype. That is, instead of testing the missiles by flying them through the air outdoors, the tunnel effectively makes the air fly past them at the same incredible pace.

For the tests, the models are coated with a paint that absorbs ultraviolet laser light as it warms, marking the spots on their ceramic skin where frictional heat may threaten the structure of the missile; engineers will then need to tweak the designs either to resist that heat or shunt it elsewhere. The aim, Marren explains, is to see what will happen when the missiles plow through the earth’s dense atmosphere on their way to their targets.

It’s challenging work, replicating the stresses these missiles would endure while whizzing by at 30 times the speed of a civilian airliner, miles above the clouds. Their sleek, synthetic skin expands and deforms and kicks off a plasma like the ionized gas formed by superheated stars, as they smash the air and try to shed all that intense heat. The tests are fleeting, lasting 15 seconds at most, which require the sensors to record their data in thousandths of a nanosecond. That’s the best any such test facility can do, according to Marren, and it partly accounts for the difficulty that defense researchers have had in producing hypersonics, even after about $2 billion-worth of federal investment before this year.

Nonetheless, Marren, who has worked at the tunnel since 1984, is optimistic that researchers will be able to deliver a working missile soon. He and his team are operating at full capacity, with hundreds of test runs scheduled this year to measure the ability of various prototype missiles to withstand the punishing friction and heat of such rapid flight. “We have been prepared for this moment for some time, and it’s great to lean forward,” Marren says. The faster that weapons systems can operate, he adds, the better.

Last year, the nation was confronted with a brief reminder of how Cold War-era nuclear panic played out, after a state employee in Hawaii mistakenly sent out an emergency alert declaring that a “ballistic missile threat” was “inbound.” The message didn’t specify what kind of missile — and, in fact, the United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command at two sites in Alaska and California may have some capability to shoot down a few incoming ballistic missiles — but panicked Hawaii residents didn’t feel protected. They reacted by careening cars into one another on highways, pushing their children into storm drains for protection and phoning their loved ones to say goodbye — until a second message, 38 minutes later, acknowledged it was an error.

Hypersonics pose a different threat from ballistic missiles, according to those who have studied and worked on them, because they could be maneuvered in ways that confound existing methods of defense and detection. Not to mention, unlike most ballistic missiles, they would arrive in under 15 minutes — less time than anyone in Hawaii or elsewhere would need to meaningfully react.

How fast is that, really? An object moving through the air produces an audible shock wave — a sonic boom — when it reaches about 760 miles per hour. This speed of sound is also called Mach 1, after the Austrian physicist Ernst Mach. When a projectile flies faster than Mach’s number, it travels at supersonic speed — a speed faster than sound. Mach 2 is twice the speed of sound; Mach 3 is three times the speed of sound, and so on. When a projectile reaches a speed faster than Mach 5, it’s said to travel at hypersonic speed.

One of the two main hypersonic prototypes now under development in the United States is meant to fly at speeds between Mach 15 and Mach 20, or more than 11,400 miles per hour. This means that when fired by the U.S. submarines or bombers stationed at Guam, they could in theory hit China’s important inland missile bases, like Delingha, in less than 15 minutes. President Vladimir Putin has likewise claimed that one of Russia’s new hypersonic missiles will travel at Mach 10, while the other will travel at Mach 20. If true, that would mean a Russian aircraft or ship firing one of them near Bermuda could strike the Pentagon, some 800 miles away, in five minutes. China, meanwhile, has flight-tested its own hypersonic missiles at speeds fast enough to reach Guam from the Chinese coastline within minutes.

One concept now being pursued by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency uses a conventional missile launched from air platforms to loft a smaller, hypersonic glider on its journey, even before the missile reaches its apex. The glider then flies unpowered toward its target. The deadly projectile might ricochet downward, nose tilted up, on layers of atmosphere — the mesosphere, then the stratosphere and troposphere — like an oblate stone on water, in smaller and shallower skips, or it might be directed to pass smoothly through these layers. In either instance, the friction of the lower atmosphere would finally slow it enough to allow a steering system to maneuver it precisely toward its target. The weapon, known as Tactical Boost Glide, is scheduled to be dropped from military planes during testing next year.

Under an alternative approach, a hypersonic missile would fly mostly horizontally under the power of a “scramjet,” a highly advanced, fanless engine that uses shock waves created by its speed to compress incoming air in a short funnel and ignite it while passing by (in roughly one two-thousandths of a second, according to some accounts). With its skin heated by friction to as much as 5,400 degrees, its engine walls would be protected from burning up by routing the fuel through them, an idea pioneered by the German designers of the V-2 rocket.

The unusual trajectories of these missiles would allow them to approach their targets at roughly 12 to 50 miles above the earth’s surface. That’s below the altitude at which ballistic missile interceptors — such as the costly American Aegis ship-based system and the Thaad ground-based system — are now designed to typically operate, yet above the altitude that simpler air defense missiles, like the Patriot system, can reach.

Officials will have trouble even knowing where a strike would land. Although the missiles’ launch would probably be picked up by infrared-sensing satellites in its first few moments of flight, Griffin says they would be roughly 10 to 20 times harder to detect than incoming ballistic missiles as they near their targets. They would zoom along in the defensive void, maneuvering unpredictably, and then, in just a few final seconds of blindingly fast, mile-per-second flight, dive and strike a target such as an aircraft carrier from an altitude of 100,000 feet.

During their flight, the perimeter of their potential landing zone could be about as big as Rhode Island. Officials might sound a general alarm, but they’d be clueless about exactly where the missiles were headed. “We don’t have any defense that could deny the employment of such a weapon against us,” Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of United States Strategic Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2018. The Pentagon is just now studying what a hypersonic attack might look like and imagining how a defensive system might be created; it has no architecture for it, and no firm sense of the costs.

Developing these new weapons hasn’t been easy. A 2012 test was terminated when the skin peeled off a hypersonic prototype, and another self-destructed when it lost control. A third hypersonic test vehicle was deliberately destroyed when its boosting missile failed in 2014. Officials at Darpa acknowledge they are still struggling with the composite ceramics they need to protect the missiles’ electronics from intense heating; the Pentagon decided last July to ladle an extra $34.5 million into this effort this year.

The task of conducting realistic flight tests also poses a challenge. The military’s principal land-based site for open-air prototype flights — a 3,200-acre site stretching across multiple counties in New Mexico — isn’t big enough to accommodate hypersonic weapons. So fresh testing corridors are being negotiated in Utah that will require a new regional political agreement about the noise of trailing sonic booms. Scientists still aren’t sure how to accumulate all the data they need, given the speed of the flights. The open-air flight tests can cost up to $100 million.

The most recent open-air hypersonic-weapon test was completed by the Army and the Navy in October 2017, using a 36,000-pound missile to launch a glider from a rocky beach on the western shores of Kauai, Hawaii, toward Kwajalein Atoll, 2,300 miles to the southwest. The 9 p.m. flight created a trailing sonic boom over the Pacific, which topped out at an estimated 175 decibels, well above the threshold of causing physical pain. The effort cost $160 million, or 6 percent of the total hypersonics budget proposed for 2020.

In March 2018, Vladimir Putin, in the first of several speeches designed to rekindle American anxieties about a foreign missile threat, boasted that Russia had two operational hypersonic weapons: the Kinzhal, a fast, air-launched missile capable of striking targets up to 1,200 miles away; and the Avangard, designed to be attached to a new Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile before maneuvering toward its targets. Russian media have claimed that nuclear warheads for the weapons are already being produced and that the Sarmat missile itself has been flight-tested roughly 3,000 miles across Siberia. (Russia has also said it is working on a third hypersonic missile system, designed to be launched from submarines.) American experts aren’t buying all of Putin’s claims. “Their test record is more like ours,” said an engineer working on the American program. “It’s had a small number of flight-test successes.” But Pentagon officials are convinced that Moscow’s weapons will soon be a real threat.

Analysts say the Chinese are even further along than the Russians, partly because Beijing has sought to create hypersonic missiles with shorter ranges that don’t have to endure high temperatures as long. Many of their tests have involved a glide vehicle. Last August, a contractor for the Chinese space program claimed that it successfully flight-tested a gliding hypersonic missile for slightly more than six minutes. It supposedly reached a speed exceeding Mach 5 before landing in its target zone. Other Chinese hypersonic missile tests have reached speeds almost twice as fast.

And it’s not just Russia, China and the United States that are interested in fast-flying military power drills. France and India have active hypersonics development programs, and each is working in partnership with Russia, according to a 2017 report by the Rand Corp., a nonpartisan research organization. Australia, Japan and the European Union have either civilian or military hypersonics research underway, the report said, partly because they are still tantalized by the prospect of making super-speedy airplanes large enough to carry passengers across the globe in mere hours. But Japan’s immediate effort is aimed at making a weapon that will be ready for testing by 2025.

This is not the first time the United States or others have ignored risks while rushing toward a new, apparently magical solution to a military threat or shortcoming. During the Cold War, America and Russia competed fiercely to threaten each other’s vital assets with bombers that took hours to cross oceans and with ballistic missiles that could reach their targets in 30 minutes. Ultimately, each side accumulated more than 31,000 warheads (even though the detonations of just 100 weapons would have sparked a severe global famine and stripped away significant protections against ultraviolet radiation). Eventually the fever broke, partly because of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, and the two nations reduced their arsenals through negotiations to about 6,500 nuclear warheads apiece.

Since then, cycles of intense arms racing have restarted whenever one side has felt acutely disadvantaged or spied a potential exit from what the political scientist Robert Jervis once described as the “overwhelming nature” of nuclear destruction, a circumstance that we’ve been involuntarily and resentfully hostage to for the past 70 years.

[Putin Warns That Russia Is Developing ‘Invincible’ Hypersonic Missiles]

Trump officials in particular have resisted policies that support Mutual Assured Destruction, the idea that shared risk can lead to stability and peace. John Bolton, the national security adviser, was a key architect in 2002 of America’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, which limited both nations’ ability to try to block ballistic missiles. He asserted that freeing the United States of those restrictions would enhance American security, and if the rest of the world was static, his prediction might have come true. But Russia started its hypersonics program to ensure it could get around any American ballistic missile defenses. “Nobody wanted to listen to us” about the strategic dangers of abandoning the treaty, Putin said last year with an aggressive flourish as he displayed videos and animations of his nation’s hypersonic missiles. “So listen now.”

But not much listening is going on in either country. In January, the Trump administration released an updated missile-defense strategy that explicitly calls for limiting mutual vulnerability by defeating enemy “offensive missiles prior to launch.” The administration also continues to eschew any new limits on its own missiles, arguing that past agreements lulled America into a dangerous post-Cold War “holiday,” as a senior State Department official described it.

The current administration’s lack of interest in regulating hypersonics isn’t that different from its predecessor’s. Around 2010, President Obama privately “made it clear that he wanted better options to hold North Korean missiles” at risk, a former senior adviser said, and some military officials said hypersonic weapons might be suitable for this. About that same time, the most recent nuclear arms reduction agreement with Russia deliberately excluded any constraints on hypersonic weapons. Then, three years ago, a New York-based group called the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, acting in conjunction with other nonprofits committed to disarmament, called on the president to head off a hypersonic competition and its anticipated drain on future federal budgets by exploring a joint moratorium with China and Russia on testing. The idea was never taken up.

The Obama administration’s inaction helped open the door to the 21st-century hypersonic contest America finds itself in today. “We always do these things in isolation, without thinking about what it means for the big powers — for Russia and China — who are bats–t paranoid” about a potential quick, pre-emptive American attack, the adviser said, expressing regret about how the issue was handled during Obama’s tenure.

While it might not be too late to change course, history shows that stopping an arms race is much harder than igniting one. And Washington at the moment is still principally focused on “putting a weapon on a target,” as a longtime congressional staff member put it, rather than the reaction this capability inspires in an adversary. Griffin even projects an eventual American victory in this race: In April 2018, he said the best answer to the Chinese and Russian hypersonic programs is “to hold their assets at risk with systems similar to but better than what they have fielded.” Invoking the mantra of military scientists throughout time, Griffin added that the country must “see their hand and raise them one.” The world will soon find out what happens now that the military superpowers have decided to go all in.

R. Jeffrey Smith has won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Magazine Award and is managing editor for national security at the Center for Public Integrity.


Shutting Down the Gulf Oil Trade: All Iran Needs to Do to Destroy the World Economy – by Pepe Escobar (Strategic Culture) 22 June 2019

Sooner or later the US “maximum pressure” on Iran would inevitably be met by “maximum counter-pressure”. Sparks are ominously bound to fly.

For the past few days, intelligence circles across Eurasia had been prodding Tehran to consider a quite straightforward scenario. There would be no need to shut down the Strait of Hormuz if Quds Force commander, General Qasem Soleimani, the ultimate Pentagon bête noire, explained in detail, on global media, that Washington simply does not have the military capacity to keep the Strait open.

<figcaption>General Qasem Soleimani</figcaption>
General Qasem Soleimani

As I previously reported, shutting down the Strait of Hormuz would destroy the American economy by detonating the $1.2 quadrillion derivatives market; and that would collapse the world banking system, crushing the world’s $80 trillion GDP and causing an unprecedented depression.

Soleimani should also state bluntly that Iran may in fact shut down the Strait of Hormuz if the nation is prevented from exporting essential two million barrels of oil a day, mostly to Asia. Exports, which before illegal US sanctions and de facto blockade would normally reach 2.5 million barrels a day, now may be down to only 400,000.

Soleimani’s intervention would align with consistent signs already coming from the IRGC. The Persian Gulf is being described as an imminent “shooting gallery.” Brigadier General Hossein Salami stressed that Iran’s ballistic missiles are capable of hitting “carriers in the sea” with pinpoint precision. The whole northern border of the Persian Gulf, on Iranian territory, is lined up with anti-ship missiles – as I confirmed with IRGC-related sources.

We’ll let you know when it’s closed

Then, it happened.

Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Baqeri, went straight to the point; “If the Islamic Republic of Iran were determined to prevent export of oil from the Persian Gulf, that determination would be realized in full and announced in public, in view of the power of the country and its Armed Forces.”

The facts are stark. Tehran simply won’t accept all-out economic war lying down – prevented to export the oil that protects its economic survival. The Strait of Hormuz question has been officially addressed. Now it’s time for the derivatives.

Presenting detailed derivatives analysis plus military analysis to global media would force the media pack, mostly Western, to go to Warren Buffett to see if it is true. And it is true. Soleimani, according to this scenario, should say as much and recommend that the media go talk to Warren Buffett.

The extent of a possible derivatives crisis is an uber-taboo theme for the Washington consensus institutions. According to one of my American banking sources, the most accurate figure – $1.2 quadrillion – comes from a Swiss banker, off the record. He should know; the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) – the central bank of central banks – is in Basle.

The key point is it doesn’t matter how the Strait of Hormuz is blocked.

It could be a false flag. Or it could be because the Iranian government feels it’s going to be attacked and then sinks a cargo ship or two. What matters is the final result; any blocking of the energy flow will lead the price of oil to reach $200 a barrel, $500 or even, according to some Goldman Sachs projections, $1,000.

Another US banking source explains; “The key in the analysis is what is called notional. They are so far out of the money that they are said to mean nothing. But in a crisis the notional can become real.  For example, if I buy a call for a million barrels of oil at $300 a barrel, my cost will not be very great as it is thought to be inconceivable that the price will go that high.  That is notional.  But if the Strait is closed, that can become a stupendous figure.”

BIS will only commit, officially, to indicate the total notional amount outstanding for contracts in derivatives markers is an estimated $542.4 trillion. But this is just an estimate.

The banking source adds, “Even here it is the notional that has meaning.  Huge amounts are interest rate derivatives. Most are notional but if oil goes to a thousand dollars a barrel, then this will affect interest rates if 45% of the world’s GDP is oil. This is what is called in business a contingent liability.”

Goldman Sachs has projected a feasible, possible $1,000 a barrel a few weeks after the Strait of Hormuz being shut down. This figure, times 100 million barrels of oil produced per day, leads us to 45% of the $80 trillion global GDP. It’s self-evident the world economy would collapse based on just that alone.

War dogs barking mad

As much as 30% of the world’s oil supply transits the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Wily Persian Gulf traders – who know better – are virtually unanimous; if Tehran was really responsible for the Gulf of Oman tanker incident, oil prices would be going through the roof by now. They aren’t.

Iran’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz amount to 12 nautical miles (22 km). Since 1959, Iran recognizes only non-military naval transit.

Since 1972, Oman’s territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz also amount to 12 nautical miles. At its narrowest, the width of the Strait is 21 nautical miles (39 km). That means, crucially, that half of the Strait of Hormuz is in Iranian territorial waters, and the other half in Oman’s. There are no “international waters”.

And that adds to Tehran now openly saying that Iran may decide to close the Strait of Hormuz publicly – and not by stealth.

Iran’s indirect, asymmetric warfare response to any US adventure will be very painful. Prof. Mohammad Marandi of the University of Tehran once again reconfirmed, “even a limited strike will be met by a major and disproportionate response.” And that means gloves off, big time; anything from really blowing up tankers to, in Marandi’s words, “Saudi and UAE oil facilities in flames”.

Hezbollah will launch tens of thousands of missiles against Israel. As

Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hasan Nasrallah has been stressing in his speeches, “war on Iran will not remain within that country’s borders, rather it will mean that the entire [Middle East] region will be set ablaze. All of the American forces and interests in the region will be wiped out, and with them the conspirators, first among them Israel and the Saudi ruling family.”

It’s quite enlightening to pay close attention to what this Israel intel op is saying. The dogs of war though are barking mad.

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted to CENTCOM in Tampa to discuss “regional security concerns and ongoing operations” with – skeptical – generals, a euphemism for “maxim pressure” eventually leading to war on Iran.

Iranian diplomacy, discreetly, has already informed the EU – and the Swiss – about their ability to crash the entire world economy. But still that was not enough to remove US sanctions.

War zone in effect


As it stands in Trumpland, former CIA Mike “We lied, We cheated, We stole”Pompeo – America’s “top diplomat” – is virtually running the Pentagon. “Acting” secretary Shanahan performed self-immolation. Pompeo continues to actively sell the notion the “intelligence community is convinced” Iran is responsible for the Gulf of Oman tanker incident. Washington is ablaze with rumors of an ominous double bill in the near future; Pompeo as head of the Pentagon and Psycho John Bolton as Secretary of State. That would spell out War.

Yet even before sparks start to fly, Iran could declare that the Persian Gulf is in a state of war; declare that the Strait of Hormuz is a war zone; and then ban all “hostile” military and civilian traffic in its half of the Strait. Without firing a single shot, no shipping company on the planet would have oil tankers transiting the Persian Gulf.

我的诗有 – 我的利默里克 – 诺贝尔文学奖 – 爱尔兰作家










seamus heaney line drawing





我仍然没有找到Seamus Heaney的答案。但他在我的架子上,在图书馆里,在我的记忆中活着。

Wǒ qù zhǎo kāfēi hé tián tián quān, bìng yǔ qiānshǔ shīgē de rén jiāohuànle yīxiē yāyùn. Wǒ bù zhīdào tā shì shéi. Tā shì ài’ěrlán rén, wǒ zhīdào tā yǒu yīxiē guānyú ài’ěrlán duōnián lái yù dào de wèntí de shī. Wǒ yǒu kòngxián shíjiān, tīng shuōguò wénxué jiēdài; wǒ shìzì, suǒyǐ wǒ qùle. Dāng wǒ zǒuxiàng shīrén shí, wǒ yǒu yīgè dài yángcōng miànbāoquān de pánzi shuō:
“Céngjīng yǒu yīgè láizì dèng duō kè de nánhái, tā bù zhīdào zěnme zǒu……”
“Zhè shì yīngguó rén de cuò, kǎolǜ yīxià,” dāng tā zhíjiē kànzhe wǒ shí, tā yòng yī gēn shǒuzhǐ zài kōngzhōng huídá qiángdiào. Tā zài xiào wǒ xǐhuān wán wénzì, tā yěshì. Wǒ yǐwéi tā xǐhuān zài suǒyǒu tǎohǎo de fěnsī zhōng xiǎngshòu yī diǎndiǎn wú xiácī de wénzìyóuxì, yāoqiú tā zài yī běn shū de qiánmiàn túyā. Wǒ yòu kāishǐ shuō:“Céngjīng yǒu yīgè láizì bìlǔ de nánhái, tā bù zhīdào gāi zuò shénme, tā qù zhǎo tā de māmā, tā gěi tā kànle yīgè luòtuó……
Qíyú de yāyùn dōu qǔjué yú nǐ.” Tā xiàole. Wǒ bù jìdé tā duì cǐ de huídále. Zhè shì yīgè yángguāng míngmèi de sì yuè de yītiān, yīnwèi wǒmen zài xuéxiào de túshū guǎn yǔ jǐ shí gè qítā rén liáotiān, wǒmen fǎnduì yīgè dī shū’àn. Kāfēi ràng wǒ de dànǎo jìngsài. Huàyǔ yìchū. Wǒmen tán dào méng bādùn xūnjué zài yīcì xíjí shìjiàn zhōng bèi yī míng ài’ěrlán gònghé jūn tújí duì shāhài, tā zài 1979 nián bèi dìng wèi ànshā.
Tā tán dào méng bādùn shì yìndù de zhímín dàshī, zhíxíng yīngguó tǒngzhì, tā bùjǐn jǐn shì yīgè yǒu tóuxián de suíjī yúfū. Xī ní tán dào méng bādùn shì yìndù de zuìhòu yī wèi yīngguó zǒngdū, yī wèi láizì wàiguó de wèi jīng xuǎnjǔ de dúcái zhě wǒ tí dào méng bādùn xūnjué shì èrzhàn jiéshù shí fùzé yuènán méng jūn zhànlǐng de yīngguó guānyuán, méng bādùn chóngxīn wǔzhuāngle rìběn dìguó jūnduì zài 1945 nián zài xīgòng zhènyāle yuènán tuō luò cí jī zhǔyì gōngrén jiējí de qǐyì.
“Wǒ bù zhīdào,” tā duì wǒ shuō, hǎoxiàng hái yǒu yīgè zhòngyào de mí tí  tā gàosù wǒ, tā zài xiàtiān zài ài’ěrlán xībù jīngyíngzhe yī suǒ shīgē xiězuò xuéxiào, wǒ hěn lèyì cānjiā jùhuì.
Wǒ xīwàng zài wǒ de nǎohǎi lǐ, wǒ nèitiān wǎnshàng yǒu zúgòu de qián ràng wǒ de qìchē huí jiā, ér bùshì rúhé zhīfù zuòjiā chètuì dào hǎiyáng. Jǐ tiān hòu, yī wèi jiàoyuán hé wǒ kāiwánxiào shuō,“nǐ shuō dé bǐ tā duō.” Wǒ réngrán bù zhīdào nàgè nánrén shì shéi. Wǒ zhīdào tā shì ài’ěrlán rén, wǒ zhīdào tā xiěguò guānyú ài’ěrlán bùxìng lìshǐ de shī.
Wǒ zài jiālǐ de jiàzi shàng fānyìle Beowulf. Shénme gùshì. Seamus heaney line drawing hòulái wǒ fāxiàn zhège jīzhì de rén yǒu nuò bèi’ěr wénxué jiǎng. Lǎoshí shuō, wǒ bìng méiyǒu liú xià shēnkè de yìnxiàng. Àobāmǎ zǒngtǒng huòdé nuò bèi’ěr hépíng jiǎng.
Tóupiào gěi huòshèng zhě de shì nuówēi jīngyīng hé láizì zhèngfǔ de zhèngzhì jiā; tāmen tiāoxuǎn nàgè shímáo de dōngxī. Bùguò, yōuxiù de rén cáinéng yíngdé zhídé de nǔlì. Hēnglì jī xīn gé huòdé nuò bèi’ěr hépíng jiǎng.
Shèxiǎng. Dì èr tiān, wǒ dédàole wǒ bùmén fùzé rén de zhèngshì tōngzhī, míngnián wǒ méiyǒu dédào gōngzuò, tāmen bìxū zài nàgè rìqí qián tíxǐng wǒ. Wǒ zài zì yóu wénxué tǎolùn zhōng de fēngkuáng rìzi bìxū jìxù qiánjìn. Wǒ yīzhí dōu zhīdào, zuìzhōng huì bǎ shī zuòwéi “duìchōng xuéxiào” de lǎoshī. Dàn duōnián lái wǒ zhēn de xiǎngdàole tā duì wǒ de huàyǔ de huídá:
“Céngjīng yǒu yīgè láizì Dundalk de rén bù zhīdào rúhé zǒulù……”Heaney huídá:“Zhè shì yīngguó rén de cuò, xiǎng yī xiǎng,” zhēn de ràng wǒ sīkǎo zhège dá’àn. Tā shì bùshì yìwèizhe zhège nánrén yīnwèi bèi yīngguó shìbīng shānghài ér wúfǎ xíngzǒu?
Tā shìfǒu yìwèizhe yīngguó duì ài’ěrlán de cháng qī kāicǎi dǎozhì ài’ěrlán rénkǒu dà bùfèn pínkùn, wúfǎ fùdān zúgòu de yīliáo bǎojiàn fèiyòng? Tā shìfǒu yìwèizhe ài’ěrlán rén jiāng yīqiè guījiù yú yīngguó ér bùshì wèi zìjǐ chéngdān zérèn?
Zìcóng xī ní shuō chū zhèxiē shì yǐlái, wǒ yǐjīng xiǎngguò zhè shí jǐ niánle. Wǒ réngrán méiyǒu zhǎodào Seamus Heaney de dá’àn. Dàn tā zài wǒ de jiàzi shàng, zài túshū guǎn lǐ, zài wǒ de jìyì zhōng huózhe.

My Limericks with Seamus Heaney

I went for the coffee and donuts, and traded some rhymes with the man signing books of poetry.  I didn’t know who he was.  He was Irish, I knew he had some poems about the problems Ireland has had over the years.   I had some free time and heard about the literary reception; I’m literate, so I went.

I had a plate with an onion bagel as I walked up to the poet and said, “There once was a boy from Dundalk, who didn’t know quite how to walk….”

“It’s the Brits fault, think about it,”  he replied with a finger in the air for emphasis as he looked at me directly.  He was smiling.  I like to play with words, and so did he.

I thought he enjoyed a little unvarnished wordplay among all the fawning fans asking for his scribble in the front of a book.  I started again, “There once was a boy from Peru, who didn’t know quite what to do, he went to his mama, who showed him a Llama….and the rest of the rhyme’s up to you.”

He laughed.  I can’t remember his reply to that.  It was a sunny April day as we chatted in the school’s library with a couple of dozen other people around we were against a low book case.  Coffee makes my brain race.  Words spill out.

We talked about Lord Montbatten being killed by an IRA commando team in a targeted assassination in 1979.  He talked about Mountbatten being a colonial master in India enforcing English rule, that he was not just a random fisherman with a title.  Heaney spoke about Montbatten being the last British Viceroy of India, an unelected dictator from a foreign country  I mentioned that Lord Montbatten had been the British official in charge of the allied occupation of Vietnam at the end of WW2, and Montbatten re-armed Japanese Imperial Army troops to put down a Vietnamese Trotskyist working class uprising in 1945 in Saigon.

“I didn’t know that,” he said to me as if a little piece of an important puzzle had been added

He told me that he ran a writing school for poetry during the summer in the West of Ireland, and that I might enjoy coming to the gathering.  I was hoping in my head that I had enough money for gas to travel home in my car that night, not how to pay for a writers retreat across the ocean.

A faculty member joked with me a few days later, “you spoke more than he did.”  I still didn’t know who the man was.  I knew he was Irish, I knew he had written poems about the unhappy history of Ireland.   I had his translation of Beowulf on my shelf at home.  What a story.

seamus heaney line drawingLater I found out that this witty man had a Nobel Prize in Literature.  Honestly, I am not impressed by that.  President Obama has a Nobel Peace Prize.  The people who vote on the winners are Norwegian elite and politicians from the government; they pick whatever is trendy with that clique.  Still, good people do win for worthwhile efforts.  Henry Kissinger got a Nobel Peace Prize.  Imagine that.

The very next day I got an official notice from my department head that I was not being offered a job the next year and they had to warn me by that date.  My wild days at free literary discussions would have to move on.  I always knew I would end up passing poetry along as a teacher for a ‘hedge school.’

But over the years I really have thought about his answer to my words: “There once was a man from Dundalk who didn’t know quite how to walk….”  Heaney’s answer: “It’s the Brits fault, think about it,” really has made me think about that answer.  Did he mean the man couldn’t walk because he was hurt by the British soldiers?  Did he mean that the long term British exploitation of Ireland lead to the Irelands population to be largely poor and unable to afford adequate health care?

Did he mean that Irish people blame everything on the British rather than taking responsibility for themselves?   I have thought about that off and on over the dozen years since Heaney said them.

I still don’t have an answer to Seamus Heaney.  But he’s on my shelf, in the library, and alive in my memory.

U.S. fines firms transhipping via Cambodia to dodge Trump’s China tariffs – by Prak Chan Thul (Reuters) 19 June 2019


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PHNOM PENH (Reuters) – The United States has fined several companies for exporting goods via a Chinese-owned special economic zone in Cambodia in a bid to dodge President Donald Trump’s tariffs on Chinese imports, a U.S. Embassy official told Reuters on Wednesday.

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Earlier this month, Vietnam’s customs department said it had also found scores of cases of exporters illegally relabelling Chinese goods as “Made in Vietnam” in order to avoid tariffs imposed as a result of the ongoing U.S.-China trade war.

“The Department of Homeland Security has inspected and fined a number of companies for evading tariffs in the United States by routing goods through Cambodia,” U.S. Embassy spokesman Arend Zwartjes told Reuters in an emailed statement.

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“These companies are located in Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone,” said Zwartjes, who did not name or say how many companies had been fined for avoiding the tariffs, how large the fines were, or what goods the companies had been exporting.

Zwartjes referred further questions to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent outside of office hours.

Cambodia’s customs department and foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request from Reuters for comment.

China is Cambodia’s biggest aid donor and investor, pouring in billions of dollars in development assistance and loans through the Belt and Road initiative, which aims to bolster land and sea links with Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

The Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone (SSEZ), 210 kilometres (130 miles) west of the capital, Phnom Penh, is a Chinese and Cambodian joint venture in the Belt and Road initiative which produces textiles, garments, bags and leather products, according to its website.

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The zone did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Under a trade agreement that was expanded in 2016, the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) allows Cambodia to export travel goods such as bags, luggage and accessories, to the United States duty free.

Kaing Monika, Deputy Secretary General of the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC), which represents 600 garment factories in Cambodia, said he was unaware of the transhipments.

The $7-billion apparel industry is the largest formal employer in the Southeast Asian country. Cambodia’s economy grew 7.5 percent last year, a four-year high, compared with 7 percent in 2017, helped by rising exports to the United States, the World Bank said in April.

Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by James Pearson & Simon Cameron-Moore