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News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

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News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
@theseptemberchronicles
News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets
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After well over a hundred starring roles, in a career stretching back to the 1960s, it’s a wonder Hollywood hasn’t run out of meaty, memorable archetypes for Sir Anthony Hopkins to portray. In the past, the 81-year-old Welsh Oscar winner has played more than his share of deviously brilliant psychotic murderers (The Silence of the Lambs and its sequels, Fracture); restrained, restricted Englishmen on the brink of emotional crises (Howards End, The Remains of the Day, Shadowlands, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger); iconic artistic geniuses who defined the 20th century (Surviving Picasso, Hitchcock); and more Shakespeare characters than should be expected of anyone (Hamlet, King Lear, Titus). Not to mention the other gods of celluloid he has traded dialogue with over the years (his third movie role had him starring opposite Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in 1968’s The Lion in Winter).

Read the rest of this article at: Interview

News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

The man known as the Taxi King arrived at his 2014 holiday party in a $384,000 Ferrari, wearing a custom Italian suit. He told the guests whom he had invited to an upscale Manhattan club — including executives, politicians and celebrities — that he had flown in from Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a town in the French Riviera where he owned two villas.

Five years later, that man, Evgeny A. Freidman, stood in a mostly empty courtroom in Albany, N.Y., as a judge sentenced him to probation for tax fraud. In a hushed voice, he said he had lost everything.

“I’m trying to be remorseful and understanding for anybody I might have harmed,” he told the judge at the hearing in October. “I’m very humbled by what has happened.”

For more than a decade, New York taxi industry leaders got rich by creating a bubble in the market for the city permits, known as medallions, that allow people to own and operate cabs.

In several articles this year, an investigation by The New York Times found that government officials stood by as industry leaders artificially inflated medallion prices and channeled immigrant drivers into loans they could not afford to purchase the permits. The leaders reaped hundreds of millions of dollars before the bubble burst, wiping out thousands of buyers who are still mired in debt today.

And no one embodies the glittery rise, unfettered recklessness and spectacular collapse of the industry more than Mr. Freidman.

A Russian immigrant and a cabdriver’s son who got his nickname by building the city’s biggest fleet, Mr. Freidman was a primary architect of some of the tactics used to build the bubble, according to records and interviews. At the height of the market, he had accumulated $525 million in assets. He befriended the filmmaker Spike Lee, the baseball star Mo Vaughn and Mayor Bill de Blasio. His outsize antics and lavish spending often landed him on Page Six, the New York Post’s gossip column.

As a generation of cabdrivers became trapped in overwhelming debt, Mr. Freidman created offshore trusts that protected some of his money when the bubble burst, records show. While his business partners lost millions because of his tax fraud, Mr. Freidman avoided prison by cooperating with a federal investigation into one of his partners, Michael D. Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer.

“He hurt so many people in so many different ways,” said David Pollack, the former head of the Committee for Taxi Safety, an association of fleet owners that once included Mr. Freidman. “Your headline could be: ‘The man who brought down the taxi industry.’”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

Tuscany Tote in Midnight

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 About a decade ago, the most important thing food could be was authentic. “Authenticity” was the buzzword that propelled people to seek out so-called hole-in-the-wall taco joints over Qdoba and blast their exploits all over Yelp. Places like Eataly popped up with the promise of “real” Italian ingredients over the impostors you’d find at your ShopRite. Could you even be someone who liked food if the food you ate wasn’t authentic?

But just as it rose, so did it fall. In 2011, Todd Kliman wrote in Lucky Peach that authenticity was “a purely arbitrary, purely subjective surmise of a purely impure thing.” In 2012, Eddie Huang lamented the prototype of someone who “wants to tell ME what Chinese food is because Bear Stearns sent him to Shanghai for six months.” The public discussion of authenticity in food began to feel cliche, the language of insufferable foodies more concerned with appearing to have the correct tastes than doing any tasting. The word buzzed no more.

Read the rest of this article at: Eater

News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

On a bright fall day in 1991, Chris Foster left his differential equations class at the University of California, Davis, bypassed students lounging on the quad, and headed toward the Domes, an on-campus co-op housing development. Although it was November, he was wearing his usual uniform: pink shorts, no shirt, no shoes. At the Domes, he harvested mesquite in a grove of trees and picked wild radishes and mallow in a nearby field. He then walked three miles west to Village Homes, another co-op, which he knew would be a scavenger’s cornucopia: full of late-season figs, apples, nuts, and wild grapes. Chris harvested only fallen fruit—he felt this was less invasive than picking from trees, and his aim was to tread lightly on the earth, to be almost invisible, in order to cause as little harm as possible.

Chris was a philosophy and math major, and he liked to think of himself as the Diogenes of Davis, a reference to the fourth-century BCE Cynic philosopher who renounced wealth and slept outdoors in a large ceramic jar. Chris had made a habit of trying to last the night outside without a sleeping bag. “I couldn’t accept the privileges of humanity when I didn’t want any part of humanity,” he told me. Eating fallen fruit and sleeping outside, however, didn’t provide him relief from his feelings of guilt and foreboding. He began to feel a dread that was inescapable and all-consuming. A devastating depression that he had suffered a few years before that fall semester returned. Normally a math phenom, Chris started failing his tests. In his apartment, he would sit in the dark—he didn’t want to waste electricity—listen to records, and cry. “I felt like I was slowly dying,” he said.

A few months later, Chris left Davis to pursue a PhD in philosophy at the University of Kansas. But his condition didn’t improve. After having subsisted on scavenged persimmons and radishes for the entire fall term, he’d lost a dangerous amount of weight. His mother paid a visit to campus and, horrified by his appearance, immediately drove him to the grocery store to buy food. At home, Chris’s family had a hard time understanding the intensity of the self-denial that governed his life. His father and sister blamed his breakdown on abuse that Chris had suffered as a child; they believed his desire to escape society was a projection, an act of taking responsibility for something that wasn’t his fault. But Chris had a different explanation. When he was fifteen, his father had taken him and his sister on a trip to Mount St. Helens. Halfway up the mountain, they had passed clear-cut land. As Chris recalls, one moment there was only evergreen forest and the next moment there was nothing—just bare ground and stumps as far as he could see. A word came to his mind: evil. From that day forward, something shifted in him. He didn’t want any part of such destruction. By his senior year in college, this conviction had grown into a personal mandate to renounce participation in human society altogether. He was offended by his family’s attempts to find explanations in his psychology for problems he thought of as external to him. “Why does my grief have to be because something bad happened to me?” he told me. “They made it sound like I had a psychosis or a mental breakdown and that this is just the form it took, when really, shouldn’t anyone who is ethical and compassionate also choose to opt out of this society?”

Read the rest of this article at: The Believer

News 12.06.19 : Today’s Articles of Interest from Around the Internets

Knowing she had the legal right to die helped Marieke Vervoort live her life. It propelled her to medals at the Paralympics. But she could never get away from the pain.

Andrew Keh and Lynsey Addario spent almost three years reporting on Marieke Vervoort as she and her parents wrestled with her decision to die by euthanasia. They visited her multiple times at home and in hospital stays in Belgium, and accompanied her on trips to the Canary Islands and Japan.

DIEST, Belgium — Champagne flutes were hastily unpacked from boxes, filled to their brims and passed around the room. Dozens of people stood around inside Marieke Vervoort’s cramped apartment, unsure of what to say or do. This was a celebration, Vervoort had assured her guests. But it did not feel like one.

Eleven years earlier, Vervoort had obtained the paperwork required to undergo doctor-assisted euthanasia. Since her teenage years she had been battling a degenerative muscle disease that stole away the use of her legs, stripped her of her independence, and caused her agonizing, unrelenting pain. The paperwork had returned some sense of control. Under Belgian law, she was free to end her life anytime she chose.

But instead, she just went on with it — seized it with new vigor, even. Within a few years she reached uncharted heights in her career as a wheelchair sprinter, winning a gold medal at the Paralympics. She became a celebrity at home and abroad, appearing in the pages of international magazines and newspapers, sitting for interviews on television shows. She traveled the world telling her life story, unspooling it as an inspirational narrative.

But she still had that paperwork. And now, after more than a decade of uncertainty and pain and joy, of opening her private life to friends and strangers and reporters, of inspiring others, of vexing them, of wishing for the end of her life and at the same time fearing it, Vervoort had invited her loved ones to her home for the most heart-wrenching of reasons:

In three days, she had an appointment to die.

“It’s a strange, strange, strange feeling,” her mother, Odette Pauwels, said as she scanned the party.

Vervoort’s guests sipped their drinks and made small talk, struggling to oblige her request for everyone to be happy. There were toasts. There were wails of anguish.

There was, also, a faint feeling of uncertainty in the air — an unspoken question of whether this really was the end, a nanoscopic hope that it might not be. Almost three years had passed since two journalists from The New York Times — the photographer Lynsey Addario and I — began spending time with Vervoort to chronicle the end of her life, to observe a top athlete taking control of her destiny in an extraordinary fashion. Being around her during that time sometimes felt like one extended, indefinite goodbye.

She had come close to scheduling her euthanasia on multiple occasions, but had always switched course, found a reason to put it off. Something would come up. Conflicts would emerge. There would be another date to look forward to, another reason to live.

Her friends and family had observed this tug of war longer than anyone else, the endless seesawing between her mounting pain and whatever small fulfillments she could experience in however much time she had left.

“You’re still hoping something else would happen, that she would change her mind,” said Jan Desaer, one of Vervoort’s best friends. “You know the date, but you’re denying it. You don’t think it’s real.”

This time, Vervoort, 40, seemed resolved. Over the previous week, she had been discussing the procedure with a degree of clarity and seriousness that those who knew her best admitted they did not often see.

“I’m looking forward to it,” she said of her death. “Looking forward finally to rest my mind, finally have no pain.” She paused. “Everything I hate will be over.”

Read the rest of this article at: The New York Times

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

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