Today: KKK costumes in Carnival, NATO air strike, Russia’s economy and North Korea’s elections.
My Girlfriend and I Found the Real Hannibal Lecter for Thomas Harris
Diego Enrique Osorno is a prominent Mexican author and poet. He has written six books, primarily focusing on the country’s drug cartels, and he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo León, where the real-life Hannibal Lecter was imprisoned.
Last week horror fans discovered that one of the genre’s most notorious villains, Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter, was based on a real doctor imprisoned in Mexico, whom the author met while visiting the prison as a young man to interview another inmate named Dykes Askew Simmons. Last spring, through my editor, I received a message from Harris, who wanted me to find and identify someone who had been a prisoner in the Nuevo Leon State Prison during the 50s and 60s. For a few moments I thought I’d wind up sustaining an epistolary exchange with Harris like Hannibal held with some of his patients. As I read the note, however, it became clear that I was only needed as a sort of hired detective. His note read [sic]:
Kings of Cannabis
You might not know who Arjan Roskam is, but you’ve probably smoked his weed. Arjan’s been breeding some of the most famous marijuana strains in the world—like White Widow, Super Silver Haze, and many others—for over 20 years.
In 1992 he opened his first coffee shop in Amsterdam and has since crafted his marijuana-breeding skills into a market-savvy empire known as Green House Seed Company, which rakes in millions of dollars a year.
He’s won 38 Cannabis Cups and has dubbed himself the King of Cannabis.
VICE joins Arjan and his crew of strain hunters in Colombia to look for three of the country’s rarest types of weed, strains that have remained genetically pure for decades. In grower’s terms, these are called landraces. We trudge up mountains and crisscross military checkpoints in the country’s still-violent south, and then head north to the breathtaking Caribbean coast. As the dominoes of criminalization fall throughout the world, Arjan is positioned to be at the forefront of the legitimate international seed trade.
Paula Deen Is Exhausted from Being So Racist All the Time
Welcome to another edition of This Week in Racism. With the assistance of my friends at the @YesYoureRacist Twitter account, I’ll be ranking this and other news stories on a scale of 1 to RACIST, with “1” being the least racist and “RACIST” being the most racist.
-Paula Deen, America’s Sweetheart and expert chef of all things deep-fried, finally came clean about her use of the “N-Word” in a court deposition tied to a discrimination lawsuit filed by one of her former employees. Deen claimed that her Southern upbringing made use of the word natural. That’s totally true. I’ve been to the South. They use the “N-Word” like I use semi-colons; liberally and without regret.
Paula’s “Sorry for Being Racist” press tour was supposed to start this morning on the Today show, but she chose not to make her scheduled appearance, citing “exhaustion.” If I weighed 300 pounds, ate Twinkies for every meal, and had millions of people calling for me to be deported to a desert island for eternity, I’d be “exhausted” too.
Fear not Deeniacs, Paula released a video statement today that will clear up this whole mess. I haven’t watched it yet, but I heard that in the video, she hands out free watermelon and fried chicken in Harlem to show her support for the African-American community. Big ups to my girl, Paula, for being so generous to my bruthas and sistas. Also, for calcifying my colon through her delicious “cooking.”
What Would You Get Tear Gassed for?
Tear gas seems to be pretty in vogue at the moment. Protesters in Turkey, Brazil, and even Switzerland have been subjected to some of that noxious tear-jerker in the past couple of weeks, leaving the rest of the world back in the demonstration dark ages. Protests featuring tear gas are iD magazine to the rest of the world’s Cosmo—we’re trailing behind, thinking we’re sexy with our batons and shields, when really we’re just a bunch of fucking squares.
Unfortunately, US police don’t use the stuff too often. But if they did, strangers I spoke to on the street, what do you feel passionate enough about to get tear gassed for?
This Egyptian Lingerie Salesman Is Now an Illegal Weapons Dealer
Rising unemployment combined with rapid inflation has left many Egyptians jobless and desperate. High-profile violence and political instability have tanked Egypt’s tourism industry, a major player in the Egyptian economy. During the Mubarak era, before the Arab Spring of 2011, the police were more or less omnipresent: stationed on most street corners and extremely diligent when it came to snuffing out any sign of public dissent, crime, or infraction. Now though, many view the police as inept, undisciplined, corrupt, or simply absent. Their disappearance from the streets is leaving a power vacuum that is being filled by a crime wave.
In this fraught climate, families and business owners have taken to arming themselves. The porous border with Libya, combined with the widespread looting of police stations during the revolution, has flooded the country with a new stock of weapons. I sat down with Sayed—a lingerie salesman turned arms dealer, based in Port Said—to learn more about Egypt’s burgeoning private gun market.
Nazis Were Once Tortured in the Heart of Kensington, London
All things considered, the London boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea are not places for frumpy ironic T-shirt wearing tourists like you. It’s for sultans, sheikhs, oligarchs, and people who sit atop other power structures that British people don’t really understand. It’s a place where the dogs are better fed than you and the cats have their own televisions. It’s a place where everyone carries around a thousand in every major currency at all times because they never know which country they’re going to go to bed in. But did you know it also used to be home to a gargantuan torture facility?
The London Cage, as it came to be known, was situated inside three buildings that are now used as part of the Russian Embassy, neighboring the current homes of the Sultan of Brunei and Roman Abramovich. Sixty years ago, it served first as one of several British War World II interrogation centers, then as the War Crimes Investigation Unit’s post-1945 HQ.
Within the walls of Kensington Palace Gardens, the British paid little regard to the Geneva Convention and treated captured Nazi war criminals to some Gulag-level torment and Guantanamo-style interrogation. That the buildings once held a vast prisoner-of-war facility that you probably didn’t know about (mainly because, weirdly, that information has been omitted from its tour itinerary) says a lot about Britain and its secretive practices since the Second World War.
The Ocean Is Melting Antarctica
Some 60% of the planet’s fresh water stores are locked away in Antarctica’s barren tundra. That’s a lot of water. For the obvious reasons, we’d all rather keep that water frozen away in the icy interior of the world’s southernmost continent than loose it into our already fast-rising oceans.
Unfortunately, new research from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shows that we may be closer to unleashing an Antarctic flood than previously thought. The study shows that much more of Antarctica’s total mass loss is due to warm ocean water than to iceberg calving—which is what scientists previously thought drove shrinkage in the great white south.
So the question is, does that mean Antarctica’s ice stores are now more vulnerable to global warming than we thought?
Eric Rignot, a senior scientist at JPL, told me in an email that “the short answer is yes.” That’s because “existing ice sheet models do not include a warming ocean and realistic ice ocean interactions,” he says.
A Teacher and Her Student
Marilynne Robinson was my fourth and final workshop instructor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is an intimidating intellectual presence—she once told us that to improve characterization, we should read Descartes. When I asked her to sign my copy of Gilead, she admitted she had recently become fascinated by ancient cuneiform script. But she is also generous and quick to laugh—when she offered to have us to her house for dinner, and I asked if we ought to bring food, she replied, “Or perhaps I will make some loaves and fishes appear!” Then she burst into giggles.
After receiving my MFA this May, I left Iowa believing that there’s no good way to be taught how to write, to tell a story. But there is also no denying that Marilynne has made me a better writer. Her demands are deceptively simple: to be true to human consciousness and to honor the complexities of the mind and its memory. Marilynne has said in other interviews that she doesn’t read much contemporary fiction because it would take too much of her time, but I suspect it’s also because she spends a fair amount of her mental resources on her students.
Our interview was held on one of the last days of the spring semester. The final traces of the bitter winter had disappeared, and light filled the classroom, which now felt empty with just the two of us. My two years at Iowa were over, and I selfishly wanted to stretch the interview for as long as possible.
Stop SWAT Raids
How many dead and injured cops and civilians will it take for police to reevaluate how SWAT raids are conducted? There are almost 150 such raids a day, mostly over drugs, and many take place in the wee hours and include potentially lethal flash-bang grenades, military-like tactics, and plenty of chances for violence to escalate. Unless it’s a true hostage situation, using SWAT teams, especially against people in their homes, means you’re either scaring the hell out of a nonviolent person or making a violent one believe he’s being attacked. Bloodshed can occur in either case.
When these raids go wrong, lives are destroyed. One example is Matthew David Stewart, who committed suicide in his jail cell last month, apparently to avoid potentially facing the death sentence over his killing one officer and injuring five more in a 2012 Utah marijuana raid (he said that he opened fire on police because he thought he was being robbed). In the last decade, other cops have died at the hands of other targets of similar operations like Cory Maye and Ryan Frederick, both of whom plausibly claimed that they didn’t know who was busting down their doors.