A Silver Lining In The Panama Papers

If Carl Manlan had $2 billion, he'd invest in building a cocoa plant in Ghana to create jobs.

If Carl Manlan had $2 billion, he’d invest in building a cocoa plant in Ghana to create jobs. Francisco Leong /AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Francisco Leong /AFP/Getty Images

Africa’s not the only corrupt continent.

That message is the silver lining for Africans in the Panama Papers scandal — a collection of documents linking 143 politicians (and their family members and cronies) to outrageous sums of stolen cash hidden in a topsy-turvy network of offshore bank accounts and shell companies.

Yes, Africans are named in the the Panama Papers. Some 18 public officials, ranging from the former president of Sudan, Ahmed Ali al-Mirghani, to the son of former U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan have been linked to the scandal.

It sounds like more bad news for a region that’s often characterized as incredibly corrupt. But there was plenty of company in corruption, from British Prime Minister David Cameron’s late father to Argentine soccer star Lionel Messi.

Economist Carl Manlan is the executive secretary at the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust. He was named a 2016 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow.

Economist Carl Manlan is the executive secretary at the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust. He was named a 2016 Aspen Institute New Voices Fellow. Courtesy of the Aspen Institute hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the Aspen Institute

So Carl Manlan, an executive secretary at the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust who’s from the Ivory Coast, says there’s a quiet sigh of relief among Africans: “Now there’s evidence that corruption is an international problem, not just an African problem.”

Manlan, whose job is to drum up financial resources from African countries for global health programs, spoke to Goats and Soda from Johannesburg, South Africa, about the impact of the Panama Papers — and what he’d do if he had access to some of the stolen money. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

It’s funny how the world seems to almost delight in pointing out corruption in Africa. But the Panama Papers show that this is a problem everywhere.

It’s shifted the conversation. We can no longer perceive that corruption is just an African problem or blame one continent or one group of people for being responsible. It’s not just people in the public office [who are guilty of corruption] — we’re looking at private individuals and corporations, too.

Have the Papers changed the way Africans view corruption?

People expected that some individuals in the public office would take money away from the system. But the Panama Papers show us we need to look at hard data [to find out who’s actually taking the money].

What good would data do?

Africans are probably more affected [by corruption] given the need for resources to finance transformation.

[Data would help us] ask our government more questions. People are becoming more aware of the impact of corruption and how much it actually costs Africa. For example, illicit financial flows [illegal movements of money from one country to the other] costs Africa approximately $50 billion [double the amount of development aid that Africa receives].

The Panama Papers revealed that a company in Uganda avoided $400 million in taxes in an oil deal. That represents more than the country’s annual health budget. Does that upset citizens?

What does $400 million mean in someone’s daily life when they cannot even get $2 a day?

People don’t understand what it means that $400 million disappeared. We need to translate those numbers to the common man. How many people would have been treated for HIV? The treatment is about $100 a year, per person. For $400 million, that’s a lot of people you can put on treatment.

Any examples of countries trying to help the “common man” understand their budgets?

Most countries are trying, driven by civil society, to present their [national] budgets in a way that makes it easy for people to understand. South Africa has the People’s Guide to the Budget, which shows, at the government level, a willingness to assure that each individual can understand how tax money is being spent.

What do you think rich people do with all that cash? It seems like they’re only ever spending it on real estate in London or New York.

Maybe one day when I have that kind of money I’ll be able to answer your question.

OK, let’s pretend you have the money. If you had $2 billion today, what would you do with it?

I would go to Ghana and build a plant to transform cocoa into all the different finished products that we have today, like cocoa butter. If we can employ Ivorians and Ghanaians [the world’s leading producers of cocoa beans] in that industry, then we can talk about the future for the continent. But as long as we’re not creating jobs, based on the natural resources we have, it’s a waste.

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In France, It's Now A Crime To Pay For Sex

Protesters hold signs reading, “Prostitutes are angry. Don’t touch our clients,” during a protest Wednesday in Paris against legislation combating prostitution and sex trafficking. Thibault Camus/AP hide caption

toggle caption Thibault Camus/AP

A new law in France makes it a crime to pay for sex.

Under the law, passed Wednesday, “customers will face fines and be made to attend awareness classes on the harms of the sex trade,” The Associated Press reports. Clients will be fined about $1,700 for the first offense — and that increases to more than $4,250 on the second.

France’s sex workers union is strongly opposed to the legislation, saying it puts them at greater risk. The new law, which has been billed as a comprehensive approach to reducing sex work, has received a mixed response from rights groups.

It also repeals a 2003 ban on solicitation by sex workers. As the AP reported, “prostitution in itself is legal in France — though brothels, pimping and the sale of sex by minors are illegal.”

Additionally, the law will “make it easier for foreign prostitutes — many currently illegally in France — to acquire a temporary residence permit if they enter a process to get out of the prostitution business,” the wire service added.

The French union of sex workers, known as Strass, called the law “dangerous” and rallied in central Paris on the day of the National Assembly vote. Under the pretext of protection, Strass said in a statement, the law will expose sex workers to more violence.

Amnesty International echoed that concern in comments to the BBC:

“Amnesty International says that laws against buying sex ‘mean that sex workers have to take more risks to protect buyers from detection by the police’. The charity says sex workers have reported being asked to visit customers’ homes to help them avoid police, instead of meeting them in safer environments.”

As France 24 reported, rights group Le Mouvement du Nid “has mounted a detailed and impassioned defence of the legislation.”

The group, which advocates against prostitution, called the new law a “historic victory” and said in a statement that it makes it easier for sex workers to file legal complaints against clients because it reverses criminal responsibility. The group said the law will help reduce human trafficking.

“France is in step with a European-wide trend away from laws that penalize women who offer sex for money, although there is little consensus over what approach to adopt to discourage the sex business,” The New York Times reported.

Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Northern Ireland have passed similar laws against paying for sex.

France 24 has more on how the new law could change sex work:

“The only thing supporters and detractors seem to agree on is that the law could fundamentally impact the way prostitutes work.

“The change will come at a time when traditional prostitutes are already struggling to adapt to the new Internet-based business models, and facing new forms of exploitation.

“As the industry moves onto the Internet, a growing number of people are offering to work as intermediaries between prostitutes and clients on the web, according to observers.

“Critics of the law say it will push prostitution further toward the Internet business model, making it harder to police.”

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The Thistle & Shamrock: More New Spring Sounds

Hear new music by Jim Malcolm in this week's episode.

Hear new music by Jim Malcolm in this week’s episode. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

toggle caption Courtesy of the artist

On this week’s episode of The Thistle & Shamrock, host Fiona Ritchie handpicks more of the best new sounds from rising artists, along with the latest from some old favorites. Hear new music by Jim Malcolm, Solas, Burning Bridget Cleary, Sgoil Chiùil na Gàidhealtachd and more.

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A Fond (No, Really!) Farewell To 'American Idol'

Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol in September 2002 over Justin Guarini, in front of Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman, who almost looks aware that this would be his only season.

Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol in September 2002 over Justin Guarini, in front of Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman, who almost looks aware that this would be his only season. Ray Mickshaw/Fox hide caption

toggle caption Ray Mickshaw/Fox

Oh, American Idol. You were too good for this world.

Okay, maybe not too good. Maybe too rooted in people voting via telephone calls.

When the show, which concludes its run Thursday night, started in June 2002, the first publicly available iPhone was almost five years away. Imagine starting a show today where you asked people interested in pop music to use a phone to dial a toll-free number. You might as well ask them to vote by waving a fountain pen at a dodo. Sure, text and online voting came along later, but at the outset, it was audience engagement by telephone call. That says something about just how long this show hung on. And on. Tonight’s battle between La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon will be its last.

The keys to the show’s long-running success? For one thing, it was different (at the time). It offered nasty (but often right) Simon Cowell at one end of the scale and sweet (but sometimes hard to parse) Paula Abdul at the other, with catch-phrase-y (but extraneous) Randy Jackson in the middle. There was, at first, a strange thrill in seeing people’s dreams dashed, as if we were all gradually reclaiming every moment we’d spent listening to performances we didn’t think were very good from people who seemed to … well, who seemed to have whatever you would call the opposite problem from not knowing your own strength.

But had it just been a chance to gang up on moderately talented dreamers, it would have been rapidly supplanted by YouTube commenting. It has always been my theory that the key to Idol‘s success lay in the notoriously dastardly practice known in psychology as intermittent reinforcement. I think of it informally as “the way to make rats go mad,” but that’s not really right: in this case, what it means is that you usually didn’t hear particularly great performances, but every now and then, something really special would happen. And that’s how they got you. At least that’s how they got me.

So much of it was so bad — more precisely, so forgettable — but then creativity or talent or both would peek out through the clouds, and you’d think, “I’d buy that record.” Or, just as often if not more often, you’d think, “You are probably too good for this.” Perhaps you have your favorite contestants if you were a viewer; I certainly have mine. But if we start arguing about that, we’ll be here all day, because unlike American Idol, fighting with strangers about the quality of the work of third parties you’ve never met will always be in fashion.

The more it came to light that winning wasn’t all that important (other finishers often went on to bigger careers than winners), the less essential the results shows felt, and the less essential the entire competitive element felt. It seemed more and more like a straight-up talent show, and as a straight-up talent show, again, it was competing with every Vine, every YouTube video, and eventually every other talent show.

It was a hit, then a phenomenon, then a veteran, and then a bit of a cultural afterthought, even as it hung in with numbers of live viewers that any network would be happy to have. And then, inevitably, it came time for it to cough its final melismatic cough and begin its final, overwrought, remembrance-ridden farewell season.

As with people, some shows deserve obituaries that say, in effect, “Lived well, lived long, died of natural causes.” And, in this case — though this is rarely true in people — “Is survived by, among others, Little Big Shots with Steve Harvey.”

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How S. Korea's Plastic Surgeons Are Helping Scarred N. Korean Defectors

Dr. Hong Jung Geun, chief surgeon at Metro Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul (left), performs a pro-bono scar removal procedure on a former North Korean.

Dr. Hong Jung Geun, chief surgeon at Metro Plastic Surgery Clinic in Seoul (left), performs a pro-bono scar removal procedure on a former North Korean. Haeryun Kang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Haeryun Kang/NPR

South Korea is a place where appearance really matters. The country’s cosmetic surgery prowess is known the world over. It’s one of the world’s top plastic surgery markets, and by some estimates, more cosmetic procedures are performed here per capita than anywhere else on the planet — mostly facial enhancements such as Botox injections, eyelid jobs or nose jobs.

But lately, a few doctors have been putting their highly sought skills to use in a different way. They’re helping North Korean defectors erase the scars from painful, abusive pasts.

“There are many ways a doctor can contribute to society. One of them is donating talent,” says Dr. Hong Jung Geun, chief surgeon at Metro Plastic Surgery in Seoul’s affluent Gangnam district.

He’s part of a two-year-old pro bono program pairing Seoul’s top surgeons with defectors who want to remove the scars that are holding them back from a full life in South Korea. Dozens of plastic surgeons from Gangnam are taking part.

So far, the program has helped two dozen defectors. Some 40 more are on waiting lists. All 28,000 defectors who live in the South are eligible to apply.

Gangnam is Seoul’s Beverly Hills, at least when it comes to plastic surgery clinics. You can find 500 cosmetic surgery centers within a single square mile, often stacked on top of one another in multi-story buildings.

On one recent day, Hong prepares to remove a long scar that bisects a patient’s stomach. The procedure is routine, but unique because the doctor is charging nothing for it. The patient, a woman named Choi Ri-ahn, sustained the scar after being injured in a car accident in North Korea 10 years ago. She’s felt ashamed about going to Korean spas or swimming pools ever since.

“I don’t hope to return to the way I used to look,” she says. But “I’m a woman and I suffered because of my wound. So I am excited about having more confidence.”

Kim Kyeong-suk, a police captain in Seoul, started the plastic surgery program in 2014 through her work with defectors. Police departments in South Korea are charged with helping provide services to former North Koreans after they resettle in the South.

“You have to manage and care for North Korean defectors and make sure they’re protected,” Kim says.

She found that many bore scars from abuse or accidents that happened while they were living in or escaping from the North. Those scars can make assimilation or finding work in South Korea especially tough.

Job applications must come with photos. Subway stations are fitted with full-length mirrors for primping. High school students commonly get nose or eye jobs as graduation presents.

A floor-level guide to a multi-story building in Seoul's Gangnam district shows a different cosmetic surgery clinic on every floor.

A floor-level guide to a multi-story building in Seoul’s Gangnam district shows a different cosmetic surgery clinic on every floor. Haeryun Kang/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Haeryun Kang/NPR

It’s hard enough to fit in as a South Korean. For the North Koreans who resettle here, distracting scars can be automatically disqualifying. So Kim teamed up with Seoul’s plastic surgeons who wanted to donate their talent and time.

“We would help them get rid of tattoos, burn marks, scars or any sort of abnormal parts of their body,” she says.

Joo Eunjin, a woman who’d been sold by traffickers to an abusive Chinese farmer when she was just 16, was the the program’s first patient.

“At the height of the North Korean famine in the mid-1990’s, everyone was starving,” she says, alternating between Mandarin Chinese and Korean. “Some guys who later turned out to be human traffickers lured me onto a train.”

Now in her late-thirties, Joo lived in China for more than a decade before making it to Seoul.

“I tried to escape again and again,” she says. “Every time I tried to escape, the Chinese man got really angry. He would beat me up and burned my chest with cigarettes. And the top of my head, here.”

She parts her hair at the center to show the place where cigarettes had burned her scalp. After escaping to the South in 2009, Joo met Capt. Kim, and her story inspired Kim to find a way to help.

Doctors first gave Joo a hair transplant to cover the burn-scarred bald spot on her head, and then, through multiple surgeries, gradually removed the burn marks from her chest. Now she can go unnoticed in South Korean society, where sticking out stings.

One of Kim’s goals in launching the plastic surgery program was to ease North Koreans’ transitions into their new lives. “I want to show that defectors have resettled into South Korea well,” she says, “and they’ve been cared for warmly.”

As far as Joo is concerned, Kim has succeeded. “I’m thankful that after the surgery, I was able to walk around confidently,” Joo says. “But more important than the surgery was the love I got from the police officers. In China, I was always scared of the police. Here it was the police who gave me love.”

Haeryun Kang contributed to this story.

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After Decades, A Shanghai Preservationist Heads Home To America

The Shanghai Rowing Club (middle) was rescued after preservationists fought a proposed demolition. In the background to the left is the futuristic skyline of Shanghai's financial district, Lujiazui.

The Shanghai Rowing Club (middle) was rescued after preservationists fought a proposed demolition. In the background to the left is the futuristic skyline of Shanghai’s financial district, Lujiazui. Frank Langfitt/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Frank Langfitt/NPR

I first met Tess Johnston in the late 1990s in a yellow, stucco apartment building where she lived in Shanghai’s former French Concession. As was her habit, she dropped the key from her third-floor window and I let myself in.

Her drafty apartment was crammed with books and street maps. Over tea, Johnston, then in her late 60s, regaled me with her latest adventures, rushing through the city’s back alleys to photograph old European-style villas before they succumbed to sledge hammers.

“There are heartbreaking times when we get there too late,” she said, curled up beneath an afghan with her dachshund, ChaCha, to ward off the city’s damp, winter chill.

Tess Johnston has written or co-written nine books covering Shanghai's colonial architecture. At 84, this prominent expat is moving back to America.

Tess Johnston has written or co-written nine books covering Shanghai’s colonial architecture. At 84, this prominent expat is moving back to America. Frank Langfitt/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Frank Langfitt/NPR

Last weekend, I stopped by Johnston’s latest apartment to say goodbye. She is now 84 and has been limping along on tourist visas for several years. Next month, after more than three decades, she’ll move back to the U.S. and settle in Washington, D.C.

“My friends mostly have left,” said Johnston, surrounded by boxes stacked three high. “You know when it’s time to go.”

Johnston, a retired U.S. Foreign Service officer, built a second career documenting and trying to preserve Shanghai’s voluminous stock of colonial architecture, which was fast coming down as China’s economy took off.

If you wanted to know anything about the city’s built European heritage, you had to buy Johnston’s signature 1993 coffee table book, A Last Look: Western Architecture in Old Shanghai, with photographs by Chinese photographer Er Dongqiang. It was the first of its kind in decades and revived interest in something that had been neglected or ignored for most of China’s Communist-era.

When Johnston leaves, she will take with her hundreds of history books and pamphlets she’s collected over the years, many of which will end up at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution and the Royal Asiatic Society Library here in Shanghai.

Prominent examples of the city's colonial architecture include the rowing club (in the photo on the left, with the modern Pearl Oriental Tower in the background), the 1924 post office on Suzhou Creek (center) and the old Imperial Russian Consulate (right) built in 1916.

Prominent examples of the city’s colonial architecture include the rowing club (in the photo on the left, with the modern Pearl Oriental Tower in the background), the 1924 post office on Suzhou Creek (center) and the old Imperial Russian Consulate (right) built in 1916. Frank Langfitt/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Frank Langfitt/NPR

As we chatted in her apartment, Johnston gently leafed through the yellowed pages of her “treasures,” Shanghai telephone directories that date to 1921. She used them to find out who lived in the city’s old villas and apartments. Foreign children who’d grown up in Shanghai during the colonial era often contacted her, asking for help finding their childhood homes.

In one instance, she received a call from a Jewish man whose family had fled the pogroms in Russia for Shanghai. He described his street, building and apartment number.

Then, Johnston realized: “I’m standing on the balcony of his apartment. I get goosebumps. Just think, he picks me out of a list of people who can help him. We’ve since become good friends.”

To appreciate why Johnston has devoted so much time to documenting the architecture of this era, just glance out her fifth-floor balcony window. On one corner stands a Russian Orthodox church built in 1931. Painted white, it has five blue domes topped with polished brass tips – or finials – as Johnston insists I call them.

“When I first came here, it was a motorcycle repair shop, so there was grease all over the floor,” she says. “At one time, it was a nightclub called The Four Apostles. Imagine the insult of that!”

Now, it sits empty, neighbors say, but at least it’s still there.

The Russian Mission Church (1931) as viewed from Tess Johnston's balcony.When Johnston first moved to the area, the church had become a motorcycle repair shop.

The Russian Mission Church (1931) as viewed from Tess Johnston’s balcony.When Johnston first moved to the area, the church had become a motorcycle repair shop. Frank Langfitt/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Frank Langfitt/NPR

In the distance stands the red-brick Grosvenor House, an Art Deco apartment building from the early 1930s. The building tapers like a layer cake providing penthouse apartments with grand terraces overlooking the city. The building is now part of the state-owned Jin Jiang Hotel.

Shanghai’s architecture ranges from columned, neo-classical banks that line the Bund, a riverfront that resembles the Thames, to Spanish colonial villas with wrought-iron balconies and terra-cotta roofs. This eclectic mix springs from the city’s rich and tumultuous past.

After China lost the First Opium War in 1842, it ceded control of Shanghai’s urban core to Western powers. The British, French, Americans and Russians rebuilt the city in their own image. In the 1920s and 1930s, Shanghai was one of the most dynamic and cosmopolitan places on the globe.

In the decades following the Communist take-over in 1949, most of the city’s old European buildings fell into disrepair. Multiple families subdivided old French villas. As recently as the late 1990s, store fronts along the Bund were piled high with old furniture and blanketed in dust. Laundry hung from the windows in the old domed Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank along the river.

“Most of these buildings were in terrible shape,” recalls Tina Kanagaratnam, who landed here in 1997. “They were still incredibly beautiful, but nobody valued them.”

The next year, Kanagaratnam, a Singaporean businesswoman, helped found Historic Shanghai, a local heritage society, with Johnston and Kanagaratnam’s husband, Patrick Cranley.

Kanagaratnam says Johnston’s books were the first to educate people about and promote the old buildings.

“You did walk around going: ‘What is this?'” Kanagaratnam recalled. “Why does it look like it comes from London? And Tess’s book would tell you. I think in some ways, she gave Shanghai back its history.”

Shanghai still has more than a thousand colonial-era buildings remaining and is the best preserved city in mainland China. Kanagaratnam says Johnston’s work is a big reason why.

Johnston first came to work at the U.S. consulate in Shanghai in 1981. Back then, she says, the city’s tallest building was just 22 stories. When Johnston departs in April, she’ll leave behind a city with three skyscrapers taller than the Empire State Building. Johnston says her greatest contribution was documenting Shanghai before China’s economic boom transformed it.

“I’m grateful I was here and could see it as it was,” she said as the afternoon light cast a warm glow on the street below. “Just to capture one small view of it before any of it went.”

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Searching For Home, Living For Art In 'All Tomorrow's Parties'

All Tomorrow's Parties

The best thing about Rob Spillman’s new memoir, All Tomorrow’s Parties, is that it taught me a new word. A word that I’ve needed for a long time, that describes and encompasses a certain feeling that I’ve had a thousand times — but which has no simple, concise description in English. The word is, of course, German: sehnsucht.

“One of those wonderfully untranslatable words that combines longing and nostalgia for a home that one doesn’t even know is one’s home,” Spillman explains, and I was thankful, right there on page 11, because a new word is a rare and precious gift. A perfect word rarer still.

Sehnsucht. It’s got such layers of meaning. Such freight. It implies longing, heartache, a certain kind of magical thinking — to claim a place that’s not yours to claim. It’s the first thing I liked about All Tomorrow’s Parties and, by the end, remained the thing I liked the best.

Spillman’s entire memoir is about sehnsucht writ large and small — the tale of a boy in West Berlin and Baltimore and Rochester and Lynchburg and Aspen lurching his way into manhood; of a man in Spain and Germany and New York trying to become an adult. An artist. Both, or something in between. In both cases, it is the story of Rob Spillman trying to find his place and a dissection of his own personal sehnsucht. His search for a home that maybe (likely, probably) no longer exists.

It advances on two fronts, offering up the parallel stories of young Spillman pinballing for years between his divorced musician parents’ lives in a succession of cities, and slightly older Spillman on a vacation in Europe with his wife Elissa and their friend Hank that becomes a semi-permanent life in Spain and East Berlin (the other half of the split city of his youth) in the months between the collapse of the Wall and reunification. And it’s a trick (that split narrative) he pulls off with an easy sort of aplomb because, these days, he’s got a lifetime of words already put behind him (as a journalist, novelist, critic, sportswriter and, currently, book and magazine editor at Tin House). But in the moment? He was just some guy — an opera nerd, a post-Beat wanderer with absinthe on his breath, an irresponsible screw-up who couldn’t hit a deadline from two feet away.

He’s not a stylist, but has a plain and conversational voice. I like that. The this guy/that guy chapters are short, punchy and focused, and I like that, too. They twine around each other in their motif of rambling attempts at finding and living an authentically artistic life; of chasing after kicks and girls and beers and music (so, so much music) as young Spillman comes of age in the cloistered world of his father’s opera productions, his mother’s classical music, his classmates’ rock-and-roll and, finally, the blossoming of the punk and New Wave scene that stain the later chapters with all the blood and smoke you’d expect.

Spillman is a drinker, but not a drunk. Has his dance with drugs, but isn’t a junkie. His East Berlin chapters should be read like a primer for anyone wanting to write lived-in dystopic fiction because he brings to aching, dirty life the madness of living day-to-day in a place frosted with smashed glass, fueled by underground raves and policed only by riot cops. He almost dies a few times (mostly in cars, occasionally because of extraordinary idiocy), but seems to relish the adrenaline charge of it, the closeness of oblivion.

And yet that’s part of what I hated about the thing, too. Throughout — from page 1 to page 300-something — both young and not-so-young Spillman is concerned, primarily, with living this mythical, authentically artistic life. With collecting experiences which, somehow, will transform him into a Berliner, a New Yorker, a writer, an artist. And hearing him go on about it? Well, it’s kinda like being stuck at a bad party with someone who can’t stop talking about their semester in Paris. Or knowing a poet who owns 200 berets but no typewriter.

But if you can inoculate yourself against this engorged sense of self-importance going in — if you can transmute long passages about the importance of living like an artist into a kind of pleasant humming noise in your brain without it tripping all your rage switches — the ride is still very much worth it. Because the sehnsucht really is so sweet and stinging that All Tomorrow’s Parties becomes, by its rapidly cycling final third, a kind of meditation on place and placelessness, and the thrilling, dangerous, necessary place that both art and the artist occupy in the world.

Even (or maybe especially) when that world is not their own.

Jason Sheehan is an ex-chef, a former restaurant critic and the current food editor of Philadelphia magazine. But when no one is looking, he spends his time writing books about spaceships, aliens, giant robots and ray guns. Tales From the Radiation Age is his latest book.

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What Special Ed Teachers and Parents Need To Know About Social Media

Mother and daughter discuss cell phone usage in a diner

LA Johnson/NPR

“Discuss, monitor, and educate.”

That’s Kortney Peagram’s advice to parents and teachers who want to help special needs teens lead an online life. She wrote up some of her experiences as a psychologist working to reduce cyberbullying in Chicago for our friends at NPR’s All Tech Considered.

Students can definitely benefit from social media, Peagram says. For kids who can’t be touched, or who can’t look people in the eye, digital networks are a chance to share pictures and interests, and an opportunity to have a social life.

But the internet can be a dangerous place, especially for kids who may struggle with communication.

Here are some guidelines Peagram recommends for parents and teachers to help kids stay safe online:

  • Create a list of clear and concise rules.

    Teachers can make a “classroom contract” for kids regarding social media use. It should be five rules or less — anything more is overwhelming. Each rule should have one clear, short sentence, followed by a description that fleshes things out with images and examples.

    One key rule? Keep private things private. Peagram walks her students through different settings in the real world: their bedroom, the bus stop, the classroom. Even if they are sitting in their bedroom, she tells them, they shouldn’t do things online that they wouldn’t do at the bus stop.

    Peagram also tries to help them recognize potentially dangerous situations, like sexting.

    “They’re embarrassed, but they don’t know why they should be embarrassed,” she explains. To help them understand, she draws on the recent Pixar film, Inside Out, using the emotion characters to explain the sadness and disgust feelings that might come from posting nude pictures. She uses the analogy of a photocopier to explain how those pictures might spread.

  • Structure the time your child spends online.

    There are worries that young people are addicted to social media, and for students who may lack impulse control or other social outlets there’s a strong possibility their screen time could develop into a compulsion.

    Peagram suggests that teachers (and parents) build a couple of blocks into the day for phone use, and limit social media to those times.

    In her classroom, she uses phone checks as a reward. If a student completes their worksheets and does all their activities, then they get a five minute phone-use period at the end of class.

    Ultimately, she recommends device use three to five times a day, for 5-30 minutes at a time. At home, she suggests phones be kept and charged in a common area, so kids don’t bring them to bed and lose sleep online.

  • Overall, consistency is important.

    Whatever the rules and the schedule are, Peagram says, stick to them.

    Special education teachers shouldn’t promise that there will be 5 minutes of phone time at the end of class, and then not give that time.

    “It’s hard for them to understand and breaks down the trust.”

    Parents and teachers should also try to model behaviors. Not all kids understand why a parent can do something that they can’t — say, follow and like a bunch of strangers’ Instagram posts — but it’s especially confusing for kids with special needs.

    And repetition is key. In her classroom, Peagram will make songs and games about her social media rules, to make sure that they are remembered.

  • Monitor accounts and understand the sites your kid is using.

    Some experts recommend limiting special needs students to safer sites with moderators and filters, but Peagram says that isn’t necessary.

    Those sites tend to be more child-oriented, she says, and aren’t suited for the teenagers she works with. “They like to talk about clothes and boys,” she says, “They’re as drama fueled as any teen. But sometimes they don’t have the processing ability.”

    Filters can also limit self-moderation, so students won’t learn what they can and can’t talk about. “If you don’t teach them the right skills, they’ll never learn them,” Peagram says.

    Still, the automatic privacy filters on an application like Instagram are very different from the filters on Facebook, so adults need to familiarize themselves with any website or app that their kid uses.

    Parents and teachers can monitor a students’ circle of friends for clear warning signs, like big age differences, accounts that seem fake, or people posting inappropriate material.

    Behavior can also be a red flag. If a kid is more aggressive, or using inappropriate words that they didn’t learn in school, it might have something to do with their online experience.

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Minister of what? Portugal culture minister wants to slap critics

Critics of Portugal’s culture minister are calling on him to be fired for doing something, well, uncultured.

After being called “incompetent” and promoting a “work style of chronyism, domineering and rudeness”, Culture Minister Joao Soares reckoned it was time to slap two columnists at an influential newspaper.

“I see that I do have to find him (columnist Augusto Seabra), and now also Vasco Pulido Valente, to give them some sound slapping. It will be good for them. And for me,” Soares wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Sergio Azevedo, deputy bench leader for the main opposition Social Democrats, said Soares’ remarks were incompatible with the government job. “There’s only one way for him. Out,” he wrote on the same social network.

The original post garnered over 800 mostly critical comments with many calling for his resignation.

The ministry would not comment and Soares, son of former prime minister and presi4dent Mario Soares, was not reachable.

(Reporting By Andrei Khalip, editing by Axel Bugge/Jeremy Gaunt)

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