Finding the Perfect Mentor

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OZY has come together with JPMorgan Chase to bring you a special series, giving you an inside look at how the world’s workplace is changing. Whether it’s in business, law or science, an emerging group of men and women worldwide are redefining what it means to be a powerhouse in today’s workforce. And plenty are going into business for themselves, often with an eye for sustainability.

Should Immigrants Have to Swear Loyalty to America? We Asked, You Answered

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Last week, we askedShould immigrants be forced to forsake their homelands? You answered, and here are your thoughts, edited for clarity.

Larry McIntyre, Apopka, Florida

Is it really too much to ask that a legal immigrant swear an allegiance to America and denounce their allegiance to the country that they have chosen to leave? Do they really want to be an American and contribute to America’s future? All we ever really ask of a legal immigrant is that they respect our flag, our laws and our culture and contribute to our country. 

Doug Simmons

I have no problem with immigrants retaining cultural elements of their homelands (as if it were even possible to erase dietary preferences and historical backgrounds). However, the oath of citizenship that one takes upon being naturalized states, in part, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen.…” How can one swear that oath and then retain citizenship (and voting rights) in another country? More to the point, why would our country, having asked its new citizens to take this oath, permit them to retain dual citizenship? Under no circumstances should citizens of the U.S. also have citizenship (and rights) under another country’s laws and customs. If they want to remain citizens of, say, Mexico, they cannot and should not be allowed citizenship in the U.S.

Michael P. Mingucci, Lee’s Summit, Missouri

I was born in the U.S., am a Vietnam War veteran and have always called the U.S. home. However, I have dual citizenship, Italian. Almost all decisions made about international affairs are reciprocal. That is, the U.S. charges $100 for a tourist visa, Brazil reciprocates. It will cost $100 for an American to get a Brazilian tourist visa. Therefore, if the U.S. takes this step, hundreds of thousands of American citizens, not immigrants, with dual nationality will lose their second citizenship as well.

Anne Doherty

A person cannot have two loyalties. What happens if the U.S. goes to war with the country they left but still hold loyalty or a passport to? Technically they are enemies of this country. Come here wholeheartedly or don’t come at all.

An Di, Boston

The greatness of the USA stands on its freedom of choice and its individualism. From the moment you swear to the flag and Constitution, it’s implied. Whatever reasons were behind your decision to move here, in the end you are embracing your new country as a whole, because you feel accepted and, most important, you belong here! If this doesn’t happen, you’re free to turn around and go back to where you belong, and that’s the “miracle of freedom” at its best.

 

Tim Wheatcroft

I am an immigrant and have lived here for 17 years. I am an American citizen, pay taxes, vote, have a mortgage, do jury duty, etc. I took the oath of allegiance when I became a citizen. I stand up when the national anthem comes on, and do everything any other American does. But all of my friends and colleagues view me as a Brit. I talk like one (mainly). I retain an interest in U.K. news and sport. My family still lives there. I’m not trying to be a Brit, but it was where I spent my first 27 years. I can’t deny my heritage or simply turn it off. Yes, I have a different worldview and still like British culture, but what am I supposed to do? Suddenly decide I don’t like soccer or warm, flat beer? How could turning in my U.K. passport change who I am?

Jackie Ray Mays, Lewiston, Maine

If you don’t want to be an American, pack your bags and get out. If you don’t have borders and citizens, you don’t have a country — just a place better than most other places with lots of free stuff.

Louisa Rank, Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin (originally from Wassenaar, the Netherlands)

Demanding 100 percent loyalty and to forsake your roots is a ridiculous request — not everybody comes here for better pay. Learning English and integrating, yes. Dual citizenship is not an evil thing. People should simply be asked to participate in bettering society and adding their uniqueness to the whole. 

Steven Samnick, Burke, Virginia

When they become citizens they take an oath of loyalty, essentially, to the United States. Ironically, this is more than most natural-born Americans are asked to do these days. Years ago, we used to do the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school every morning. Not sure that’s done everywhere these days. 

Trisha Donley, Val Verde, California

If you want to come to this country, learn the language and try to assimilate, or stay home. I’m not anti-immigrant, I just would never dream of moving to a place where I wouldn’t learn the native language or would expect that country’s citizens to do everything my way.

Douglas McKinney, Tucson, Arizona

This is a question of loyalty. Where is your loyalty when the worst imaginable thing happens? Will you defend the U.S. from your former country if it came to that? That’s the fundamental question. Sport, culture, language are all secondary. Go ahead, speak your native tongue. I merely ask that when the chips are down, you stand by me and form a united front against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Shawn Rosvold, Medicine Hat, Alberta

I am a dual citizen. I am proud to be an American, but I would give it up in a second if I had to choose between the U.S. and Canada. 

Ford’s CEO Confronts a Winding Road Toward Change

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A year is a long time in a car industry facing a once-in-a-century transformation. But it is a particularly long time at Ford.

Jim Hackett recently hit that length of tenure as chief executive of the U.S. carmaker, one of the toughest top jobs in the global auto industry — tough because investors largely view the company as lagging behind its global rivals in both profitability and preparation for a future when transportation is increasingly shared, electric-powered and driven by technology rather than people.

Many analysts, investors and industry insiders say it is too soon to tell whether Hackett can solve the problems inherited from ousted CEO Mark Fields: slimmer margins than crosstown rival General Motors, higher costs; an older product line; and less demonstrable progress on driverless cars.

But the verdict of Ford’s share price so far is clear: The stock has scarcely budged in the year since Hackett took over.

It was hovering at just above $11 per share when his appointment was announced and it closed at $11.51 on Friday. Over the same period, shares in GM rose 15 percent.

Speaking on the eve of his anniversary, Hackett told the Financial Times in an interview that he was “very happy” with the pace of transformation, adding: “We are ahead of where I thought we’d be and I project we will be ahead of our market,” including in areas such as driverless cars. “The delicate balance is to move fast enough to get confidence that the company is making progress but not so fast that you redesign things into failure.”

If his name was Elon Musk, they’d give him plenty of time.

Efraim Levy, CFRA

Hackett came to Ford with a résumé that included turning around Steelcase, the Michigan furniture-maker, and reinvigorating his alma mater’s football team at the University of Michigan. He has tried to make his mark on Ford by focusing on improving what he calls the company’s “fitness.” He has promised savings that will total $25.5 billion by 2022 — reducing costs by about 3 percent a year — and last month announced that Ford would pare its range of unprofitable saloon models to the bone in North America (see panel below). The aim is for almost 90 percent of the portfolio to be trucks, utilities and commercial vehicles by 2020, compared with about 70 percent now.

 

As a result, Ford projects it can reach its goal of achieving an adjusted earnings before interest and tax margin of 8 percent by 2020, two years earlier than previously anticipated.

Despite these announcements, much of Wall Street is still taking a wait-and-see approach. “We don’t have much to judge them on right now: There have been a lot of very high-level statements about the vision but it’s really way too soon to prove on execution. Investors we are talking to are starting to run out of patience,” says Adam Jonas, auto analyst at Morgan Stanley.

“There is still a perception in the investment community that they’re not moving fast enough and that investors need a better insight into plans for other reforms,” says George Galliers, an analyst at Evercore ISI who previously worked at Ford.

Other analysts and industry insiders say such criticisms are unfair. “The stock price was languishing even before he took office …  so I think it’s a little early for shareholders to be angry with him,” says David Whiston of Morningstar. “It’s the same story as last year when they got rid of Fields: They need more time.”

“If his name was Elon Musk, they’d give him plenty of time,” says Efraim Levy, automotive analyst at CFRA.

Ryan Brinkman at JPMorgan was encouraged by the recent news that Ford is abandoning several venerable saloon nameplates and, in the words of Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, “reinventing the American car.” Hackett promises that those cars will be just as affordable, for entry-level buyers, as saloons — though more profitable for the company.

The move was “significant in and of itself relative to its profit improvement potential,” Brinkman wrote in a recent research note, but “perhaps equally significant in another sense, in that it represents a willingness to form a marked break with the past and a commitment to out-of-the-box strategic thinking.”

He predicted that kind of thinking “is likely to be applied to other aspects of Ford’s business as well, including relative to the previously seemingly intractable problems of continued large losses in South America and often below cost of capital returns in Europe.”

Ford made clear during its first-quarter earnings call in April that all options were on the table for improving profitability. Hackett told the FT that he was “totally focused” on how to get Ford out of unprofitable parts of its business and “that includes vehicles and markets” — though its recent partnership with Mahindra in India means Ford may not exit that market soon.

Company insiders and industry veterans continue to compare Hackett unfavorably with Alan Mulally, the former Boeing executive who came to Ford at a time of crisis in 2006 and resuscitated the company. Within Ford, which is notoriously factious, his “One Ford” mantra united the warring parties and made them all pull in the same direction.

“One thing that Mulally did was he laid out a very simple and straightforward strategy and got everyone to buy into it overnight,” says one analyst. “Hackett hasn’t done that.”

Still, Mulally received mixed reviews after his first year as chief executive too, with Automotive News giving him only a grade of B. Even in the current atmosphere of rapid global change in the industry, a year may be not quite long enough.

When Fidel Castro Helped a Madrid Suburb Secede From Spain

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It wasn’t a call Esther Castellanos was expecting. “Mrs. Castellanos, this is the Cuban Embassy. We have good news for you. A diplomatic car will pick you up at once.”

Sure enough, a car swung past Castellanos’ home in Madrid to take her to the embassy. It was July 26, 1990, and celebrations for the anniversary of the attack on Moncada Barracks that kicked off the Cuban revolution were in full swing. Amid the raucous singing and dancing, Castellanos was told the good news: Fidel Castro had invited her to Cuba. 

The excavators will have to drive over our dead bodies. No one is leaving the suburb.

Esther Castellanos, activist quoted in El Salto in 1990

Castellanos wasn’t as surprised as you might expect. It was just the latest twist in a saga that had begun more than a year earlier, on March 29, 1989, to be precise. That was the day Madrid officials decided to expropriate the land of Cerro Belmonte, a humble suburb in the capital’s north now known as Valdezarza. It was a decision that sparked an unlikely independence movement — one that started local and improbably turned international.

Authorities planned to redevelop what they termed 19 “bags of urban decay,” including Cerro Belmonte, and relocate residents to surrounding neighborhoods. Cerro Belmonte’s 125 families were offered a paltry 5,018 pesetas per square meter (about $43) for their current homes in exchange for 40-square-meter apartments in nearby Vallecas and Villaverde. The City Hall brochure sold the plan as a way to “substitute centers with deficient development for new suburbs integrated in a quality urban structure.” But the residents of Cerro Belmonte weren’t buying it. 

 

Castellanos, a 28-year-old divorce lawyer, was suspicious of City Hall’s intentions from the start. A property developer was offering 20 million pesetas for 90-square-meter apartments in an adjacent neighborhood. Castellanos told the Spanish daily El País what was commonly believed in her community: “We suspect that the expropriation of the land … could be followed by rezoning laws that allow high-rise apartments to be built.” And so Cerro Belmonte residents refused to sell their homes for less than 200,000 pesetas per square meter.

When city officials showed no interest in negotiations, the residents decided to make some noise. Literally. They staged cacerolazos, taking to the street to bang pots and pans. And during afternoon rush hour they created barricades with garbage bins, fences and placards to disrupt traffic.

When that didn’t work, the residents threatened to seek independence from the city that was trying to exploit them. “The excavators will have to drive over our dead bodies. No one is leaving the suburb,” Castellanos yelled as the machinery moved in, reported the monthly magazine El Salto.

The authorities remained unmoved by the call for secession, so Castellanos and other activists took the next logical step — they asked Cuba for political asylum. It was denied.

They weren’t expecting it to be granted. But they also weren’t expecting Fidel Castro to spring for 25 flights to Cuba. For Castellanos, it was just another way to draw media attention. At a neighborhood raffle, residents drew the 25 lucky names, including an 80-year-old man who had served in Spain’s Hitler-supporting Blue Division and a 10-year-old girl.

The locals arrived in Cuba in time for Castro’s birthday, Aug. 13, and were paraded across the island. During their seven-day Caribbean getaway, they received state honors, cigars and books, and even sat down with Castro. “We were aware that it’s all for show, but the only way of making politicians hear us is through the media,” Castellanos told the Spanish website El Español.

The publicity did little to sway Madrid. So Cero Belmonte held an independence referendum the first week of September in the home of Desideria Becerril, one of the neighborhood’s oldest residents. It was a haphazard affair with cardboard ballot boxes and handwritten voting slips, but the result was definitive — 212 votes in favor and two against. The Kingdom of Cerro Belmonte was born — a “kingless kingdom,” according to the constitution.

It was radical politics, but the movement was so small the police could do little about it, says Ángel Cuéllar, president of the Poetas Dehesa de la Villa Neighborhood Association. “They couldn’t intervene because it would have been like attacking normal people in the street.”

What followed was a rush of nationalism. Becerril’s son, Gregorio Bravo, designed the flag (a red star on a white background) and took charge of developing the kingdom’s new currency — the belmonteño, valued symbolically at 5,018 pesetas. The local punk rock band Kaduka2000 chipped in with a national anthem — “we want bread, we want wine, we want the mayor on a stick” — and a huge party was held in the local soccer stadium to celebrate ratification of Cerro Belmonte’s constitution on Sept. 12, 1990. Among other things, it promised asylum to residents elsewhere in Madrid who had been poorly treated by the city. As a final measure, founders called on the United Nations to recognize the neighborhood’s sovereignty.

At last, City Hall gave in. Officials removed Cerro Belmonte from the redevelopment plan and included it in a different one that gave locals time to negotiate better prices individually with private contractors.

“Over time the people have left, most of them were older, and there is no trace of the community. Not even the houses remain,” says Cuéllar. And with them has gone the memory of the independent Kingdom of Cerro Belmonte. “The authorities have tried to cover up what happened,” says Cuéllar. “It is just an anecdote from the past.”

How a Poor Kid From Texas Courted Stardom in Japan

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Ira Brown is used to sticking out. It could be for his high-impact, up-tempo game on the basketball court. Or as a homeless Black kid raised by white adoptive parents in the Houston suburbs. Or, most certainly now, as an undersize power forward on Japan’s national basketball team. But in the past seven years, the naturalized Japanese citizen has become a basketball institution in his adopted home. 

As host, Japan is expected to receive an automatic berth in the 2020 Olympic basketball tournament. And with the eyes of the world on Tokyo for the next Summer Games, one of that country’s most popular — and least likely — basketball stars could find himself in the global sports spotlight. “It’s a blessing, the fact that it’s even here in Japan,” says Brown, 35. “I’ve been trying to get as much use out of this old body as I can so that I can play.”

Wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. We were bottom feeders. 

Ira Brown

Brown recently led his current club, the Okinawa-based Ryukyu Golden Kings, to the conference final of the Basketball Japan League. He came to Ryukyu after three seasons apiece with the Toyama Grouses and the Shibuya Sunrockers. He’s also been a mentor on the Japanese national team since his naturalization, a two-year process that required he learn Japanese.

It’s all a world away from Corsicana, Texas.

“Wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” he says. “We were bottom feeders.” Brown describes a three-bedroom childhood home with seven or eight adults and 14 to 15 children, where running water and electricity were not a given. Brown’s family was involved with drugs and gangs, he says, and his life splintered when a homemade bomb destroyed the house. The firebombing came courtesy of a rival family in the neighborhood and the incident was never investigated by local police, Brown says.

 

Though no one was killed in the attack, all of Brown’s family’s possessions were lost. Brown went to live with his grandmother; after her death, he effectively wandered from couch to couch. That’s when an old baseball coach provided Brown with his first sense of stability.

Earl Mitchell had been coaching Brown since he was 7, taking him to and from games and occasionally inviting him to church. Without a stable home, Brown went to live with Mitchell at age 14, joining his wife, Susan, and their three children near Houston. Former Christian missionaries, the Mitchells, who are white, legally adopted Brown when he was 18. Brown found his path, and a family who went to great lengths to defend him.

Ken West, Brown’s basketball coach at Willis High School, recalls a game against “a tough, rough team” from the inner city. A powerful Brown dunk turned into a scuffle. All of a sudden, a spectator sprinted across the court. It was Earl Mitchell. “He grabs Ira and hauls him off the court before anything can happen,” West says.  “The coaches and the athletic director from the school we are playing sort of look at me. And I said, ‘It’s OK; it’s his dad.’ It was priceless.”

Brown was a tenacious worker who drew the unenviable assignment in one high school game of guarding Kendrick Perkins —a future NBA champion who had 6 inches and at least 35 pounds on him. Brown held his own, but fouled out of the game.

His future appeared to be on the baseball diamond, where Brown was a fireballing pitcher. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Kansas City Royals out of high school in 2001. Dipping into his $92,500 signing bonus, Brown tried to make things right with his biological parents. He offered to help them leave their underserved surroundings and get into drug rehab. Brown’s mother, Brenda McDade (née Brown), refused the offer. She died five years ago. His father, Ira McDade, accepted and stayed clean and sober for eight months before relapsing. Today, Brown and his biological father talk almost daily. “He’s more like a best friend, honestly,” Brown says. “He took that opportunity. It showed me how he did want better. My mom, she did not care to have better.”

After five years of pro baseball and no real progress toward the majors, Brown returned to basketball, enrolling at Phoenix College before earning a scholarship at Gonzaga University. He never became a star for the mid-major powerhouse Zags, but he rediscovered his feisty game — leading to a well-traveled pro career. After going undrafted by NBA teams, the 6-foot-4 Brown played in Mexico, Argentina and the Philippines before landing in Japan, where he met his wife, Ayaka, and became one of the country’s most popular basketball stars.  

“He’s got respect from his peers, his Japanese teammates, the fans really like him,” says Ed Odeven, a sports writer for the Japan Times. “He’s a friendly guy. He’s humble. He signs autographs. He smiles.” That Brown is beloved in Okinawa is remarkable considering its complicated relationship with the U.S., from a World War II occupation to the unpopular current-day presence of about 26,000 American troops in the area.

Still, you won’t find sprawling billboards bearing Brown’s likeness or television ads in which he peddles product. At the league’s All-Star Game in January, Brown collected 14 points, 12 rebounds and six assists, numbers that easily could have earned him game MVP honors. When fans in Kumamoto instead voted hometown star Shintaro Kobayashi the game’s top player, Brown was one of the first people to congratulate him on the court. On the national team, Brown has blossomed into a starter and important cog. But he’s still in the hoops hinterlands: Japan lost its first four games in qualifying for the 2019 FIBA World Cup and is ranked No. 48 in the world.

Yet Brown comes off as a man completely at ease with his life. He plans to compete well into his 40s, meaning he’s ready to flash his infectious smile on the Olympic stage. “To be able to represent my country would be a dream come true,” Brown says of a home that hardly feels adopted anymore.

The Stark Pay Gap in Women’s Cycling

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The 2018 RBC GranFondo Silicon Valley is a new long-distance cycling event in the heart of the Bay Area. It’s not too late to register for the event, which takes place on June 23.

The world of cycling has had many historic moments lately: The first transgender cyclist competed in a pro U.S. peloton race last year, and 47 women in Saudi Arabia rode together in April in the first public bike race since the country lifted its ban on female cyclists five years ago. Yet for women cyclists in the U.S. who’ve been competing at the highest levels for decades, there seems to be little progress in reaching equality in the sport.

For starters, there is a huge discrepancy in the prize money between male and female races.

In the Tour of Flanders in Belgium, the women’s champion earned 1,100 euros, compared to about 20,000 euros for the men’s champion.

The result? Women racers can’t afford to pursue the sport as easily.

“You almost always have to have a job or someone supporting you,” says Sara Headley, a former pro cyclist. “I lived on less as a cyclist than I did as a college student. And it’s one of the reasons I stopped. I wanted to earn some money so I could buy a house one day.”

The sport has been historically male-dominated, but we’ve worked hard to change that. 

Jeffrey Hansen, USA Cycling

Like Headley, many women choose to leave pro cycling after a few years, and others feel discouraged from entering the sport or reaching the highest levels of racing. There are only 8,111 female members of USA Cycling, the national governing body for bike racing, for example, compared to 44,429 male members. “The sport has been historically male-dominated,” says Jeffrey Hansen, director of product management and operations at USA Cycling, “but we’ve worked hard to change this by advocating for more female-specific race categories and equal prize lists, and by investing heavily in the American superstars of the sport.”

 

Many women’s races also have shorter distances than men’s. In the upcoming 2018 Tour de France, the women’s course is a mere 118 kilometers, compared to 3,329 kilometers for men.

“We can do more,” says Headley. “We do it in Europe all the time.”

Despite efforts from organizations like USA Cycling, little has changed on the ground. “There are fewer women’s races at all levels,” says Janel Holcomb, a cycling ambassador and co-founder of the Women’s Cycling Association. “We have fewer women to learn from, to mentor new riders or to get new women involved.” There are also fewer divisions for women, which makes it challenging for women to ride with cyclists at their skill level.

“Beginners often have to race against more experienced racers, and the experience can be so intimidating that the new racers don’t return,” says Holcomb. “For those who move up in the ranks, often their only option is to race against the pros.”

Headley left pro racing in 2016, but she is still passionate about cycling. She coaches a high school mountain biking team in San Francisco, and in June, she’s participating in the RBC GranFondo race in Silicon Valley. The 75-mile event starts in East Palo Alto and weaves through redwoods at Purisima Creek, the ranches of Pescadero and the rugged coastline that hugs the Pacific Ocean. At the GranFondo, both men and women complete the same course.

Headley will be raising money for Positive Coaching Alliance, an organization working to create a culture in youth sports focused on character building rather than winning. “I love how they believe in building kids’ strengths and giving them positive feedback,” says Headley. “It’s exactly how I would want to be coached and how I’ve been coached. It’s important to carry that vision into what I do for the mountain biking team.”

Headley hopes that she can inspire more girls and women to enter competitive cycling. She speaks at local high schools to encourage girls to join the mountain biking team, which currently has five girls and 13 boys. “Cycling made me realize what I could accomplish and what was possible,” she says. “It taught me how to work toward a goal. I hope a lot of other women and girls get that opportunity.” 

China Turns to Robotic Policing

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In the 2011 CBS show Person of Interest, reclusive computer scientist Harold Finch builds an artificial intelligence system called “the Machine” that compiles and analyzes troves of data to predict murders. Finch and his henchman, John, then chase down the perpetrator and prevent the crime. Public security officials in the Chinese autonomous region of Xinjiang, it turns out, are turning that fiction into fact.

An enormous data-driven program that pulls from health records, financials, vehicle checkpoints and police reports to identify individuals likely to commit crimes in China’s politically sensitive northwest region has just been revealed. Launched in 2016, the “big data” policing initiative in Xinjiang is one of many law enforcement initiatives the country is launching, drawing on its growing capabilities in the fields of AI and robotics.

While a number of countries … boast the technological capabilities China is integrating into law enforcement, political considerations make it difficult for these countries to follow suit.

Kam C. Wong, former Hong Kong police officer and professor emeritus at Xavier University

At Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, stun gun-wielding robots patrol crowds of tourists. While the robots negotiate their own path along designated routes, the stun guns are activated by an officer controlling the bot remotely. In Zhengzhou, the capital of China’s central Henan Province, similar police robots that look like armless Daleks roam the high-speed train station. They use facial-recognition software to help officers identify suspects, interact with customers and answer their questions. Police officers at the station wear facial-recognition sunglasses, developed by Beijing-based tech company LLVision, which pick out fake IDs and identify wanted criminals. And in the central metropolis of Wuhan, the Ministry of Public Security has teamed up with tech giant Tencent to develop a fully automated police station driven by the latter’s AI technology.

These technologies, which could help fix weaknesses in China’s public security infrastructure, have also sparked concerns of misuse. But they highlight key factors helping China pull ahead in the use of AI in policing. The country, which recently declared its goal of emerging as a global leader in AI and robotics, is channeling heavy investments in these fields. And as a single-party state, it can marry that technology with policing while facing fewer questions than its democratic counterparts.

 

“While a number of countries, including the U.S., boast the technological capabilities China is integrating into law enforcement, political considerations make it difficult for these countries to follow suit,” says Kam C. Wong, a former Hong Kong police officer and professor emeritus at Xavier University. The use of AI in policing does happen in the U.S., but it usually requires extenuating circumstances, he says.

For the moment, most initiatives are in a pilot phase and, therefore, small in scale. But the attraction of AI and robotics in policing is immense in a country with a fluid and diverse population, some 1.3 billion strong, and a relatively underskilled and undermanned police force. If public security is top priority — and human rights are somewhere near the bottom — as in China, that attraction can be almost irresistible.

According to Eda Erbeyli, project manager at Shanghai-based Daxue Consulting, technology is helping close the gap between urban and rural policing. In Shenzhen, the Municipal Public Security Bureau is developing a three-dimensional intelligence cooperation system where city, town and rural police can share content from a huge data cloud.

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A drone operated by the traffic police patrols a highway in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province, during the three-day May Day holiday in 2016.

Source Liang Xu/Getty

Despite such initiatives, rural police lack the basic infrastructure to develop the levels of control implemented in China’s cities. A huge majority of the country’s 170 million closed-circuit TV cameras are located in urban areas, according to Erbeyli, and those that are in place in the countryside are not usually connected to big-data platforms.

Globally, the use of automation in policing is raising far greater concerns than just effectiveness and infrastructure inadequacies. To find an equilibrium between privacy, human rights and the huge potential of these controversial technologies, full transparency throughout the transition is vitally important, according to Simon Clifford, who sits on a number of police technologies bodies, including acting as digital adviser to the Police ICT board for England and Wales.

It’s unclear if this is happening in China. A directive bars police in Beijing from discussing police policy with anyone outside the force, particularly the media. Debate about the use of big data and predictive policing has attracted the attention of China’s online censors.

“They can do these things in countries where there is no democratic oversight,” says Gloria Laycock, founding director of the Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science at University College London. Police could successfully review CCTV footage and identify suspects in the wake of the 2011 London riots, she acknowledges. But automated tracking through AI would make people uncomfortable, she says. “People in democratic societies may trust the government, but they remain nervous of ‘the State,’ without really knowing what that is,” she says.

The response from Chinese netizens has largely been more of derision than worry, with the appearance of police robots receiving a majority of online attention. One Weibo user described the robots in Zhengzhou as “too cute,” with another imagining one of the machines mediating an argument between two angry citizens.

But concerns have also emerged about China’s end goal, and whether the use of advanced tech in policing is about more than just crime prevention. “The big-data program and the expanding use of CCTV and facial recognition for tracking citizens is actually about governance and controlling the public,” says Wong.

Human Rights Watch has voiced concerns over the use of data in policing areas of Xinjiang where ethnic minorities are frequently targeted by public security initiatives. But while these concerns are warranted, especially when it comes to detaining people for crimes they haven’t yet committed, Laycock cautions against seeing all technology as inherently threatening. In many cases, she suggests, technology can improve efficiency and negate cuts in police force numbers. Questions remain as to whether China will find this balance, but it is charging ahead regardless.

Why Japan Loves Twitter More Than Facebook

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An iconic little blue bird seems to have lost its way. Twitter’s user base is stagnating in the U.S., despite the endorsement of a certain prominent politician, and it’s declining elsewhere. In one part of its range, though, the microblogging site is soaring on strong updrafts. According to the Japan-based digital marketing agency Humble Bunny:

Japan is the only country where Twitter is used more frequently than Facebook.

In fact, Twitter’s 45 million active users in Japan are nearly double Facebook’s 28 million, and the annual growth rate for tweet lovers is 12.5 percent. All that vigorous support is bringing the San Francisco-based social network much-needed ad revenue — $2.36 per Japanese user in the final quarter of 2017, a 34 percent jump over the previous year, according to the latest figures from the company.

[Twitter will be in Japan] to stay even if it’s not in other countries.

Caylon Neely, marketing specialist, Humble Bunny

And it’s not just young Japanese who are on Twitter. The platform has a nearly equal male-female split, and 40 percent of active users are 40 years of age and older, according to Humble Bunny. “Twitter is the most diverse social network in Japan in terms of age and gender,” says Caylon Neely, the company’s marketing specialist.

This means Twitter is far more representative of Japanese society than millennial-dominated Facebook or Gen Z–skewing Instagram. As for older users, accessibility is key to Twitter’s popularity. “Smartphone adoption is lower than you would expect in Japan, at 70 percent or so,” says Neely. “A lot of people are still using feature phones.” Unlike Facebook, Instagram and Japanese-based Line and Mixi, Twitter can be accessed via feature phones more commonly used by elderly Japanese.

 

Another important factor? Anonymity. Unlike Facebook, which requires real names, anyone can create a Twitter account around a hobby, alter ego or even a fictional character. That’s why some of the accounts with the largest followings in Japan are the ones associated with the children’s character Gachapin, the anime blog Monster Strike, Yu the dog and the anonymous stock trader Okasanman.

Twitter’s popularity is also connected to the nature of Japanese writing, which uses kanji (characters borrowed from Chinese). A single character, or letter, often represents an entire word or meaning, so much more information can be packed into a 140- or 280-character tweet than is possible in English, French and other languages with phonetic scripts.

The company has long understood its importance in Japan, according to Kaori Saito, a spokesperson for Twitter Japan. Japanese was the first language officially supported after English, in 2008, and the Japan office was the first to open outside the United States, in 2011. “Twitter fits into the environment and culture in Japan,” says Saito, citing smartphone usage on public transit, the platform’s utility during natural disasters and the country’s high-quality mobile networks as key factors.

Twitter is aiming to take advantage of its market position. In October, it launched In-Stream Video Ads in Japan, with strong growth in both promoted live videos and performance ads. Twitter’s popularity in Japan shows no signs of receding anytime soon, with more businesses, celebrities, politicians and characters using the platform. “People are realizing they can brand themselves on Twitter,” says Neely. “Paid ads, promoted posts and the use of influencer marketing are all growing.”

The problem? Japan’s growth won’t have any impact elsewhere in Asia or in the West. Thus, Twitter’s global fortunes are still looking dire. Neely wonders if the platform might resemble another former U.S. digital giant that remains uniquely popular in Japan even as it fades elsewhere. “It might turn into something like Yahoo Japan,” says Neely. “There is really nothing else competing with Twitter in Japan. It will be here to stay even if it’s not in other countries.”

7 Must-Read Female Voices From Japan

Books

A female face has yet to grace U.S. paper currency. Japan, on the other hand, has honored not one but two women on its yen — and of those two, both were women of letters.

Female authors had a strong voice in classical Japanese literature says Laura Nüffer, professor of Japanese at Sewanee, the University of the South, but the lit scene of subsequent centuries proved less egalitarian. “The presumption was that a woman would have little of interest to say to a male reader.” Japanese bookstores have, until very recently, kept a separate section for anything written by women, so it’s no surprise that female authors have been underrepresented in the Japanese canon, an oversight that modern scholars are trying to rectify. 

This list of works by Japanese female writers spans a millennium and takes on universal subjects from love and grief to war and inequality, exploiting both the notion of “chick lit” and the stereotype of the silent Japanese woman. 

THE PILLOW BOOK BY SEI SHONAGON (1002)

Courtly lady-in-waiting Sei Shonagon’s witty journal is a portal to Japan’s classical era. But in her snarky lists like “Hateful Things” (mansplaining; a lover who takes too long to leave in the morning) and “Awkward Things” (when you gossip in front of a child and they repeat everything; when someone tells you a sob story, but you can’t bring yourself to cry), she proves that we haven’t changed all that much in the last 1,000 years.

THE TALE OF GENJI BY MURASAKI SHIKIBU (1021)

Centuries before Chaucer wrote his tales, Murasaki Shikibu composed what is often called the world’s first novel: an epic recounting the amorous adventures of the devastatingly handsome Prince Genji. A number of English translators have tackled the archaic manuscript (some more faithfully than others) and The Tale of Genji is a dense read no matter the translation — but romantics will swoon over the lyrical flirtation style of the Heian nobility. “Because women remained hidden from sight behind screens and blinds, much courtship was conducted through exchanges of poetry,” explains Nüffer. 

TWENTY-FOUR EYES BY SAKAE TSUBOI (1952)

Sakae Tsuboi managed to write an anti-war novel without ever describing a battlefield, but Twenty-Four Eyes’ pacifist message is all the more moving for its subtlety. The novel follows a provincial schoolteacher and her classroom of 12 children from 1928-1946, through the rise of Japanese nationalism and the war’s devastating effects at home. Rural Shodoshima Island provides a charming setting in a side of Japan that’s often out of sight to Tokyo-centric foreign audiences. 

 

IN THE SHADE OF SPRING LEAVES: LIFE AND WRITINGS OF HIGUCHI ICHIYO, A WOMAN OF LETTERS IN MEIJI JAPAN BY ROBERT LYONS DANLY (1981)

Though Higuchi Ichiyo was arguably the most prominent Japanese female writer of the 19th century, her work is unfortunately relatively unknown outside of Japan. This biography paints a portrait of Higuchi’s brief life of financial struggle and unrequited love, providing a background for the theme of feminine suffering that runs throughout the poems and stories included in the collection — all produced prodigiously before her tragic death from tuberculosis at 24. 

KITCHEN BY BANANA YOSHIMOTO (1988)

Banana Yoshimoto set off “Bananamania” when she published her first novel, Kitchen, at age 24. Indeed, Nüffer credits Yoshimoto’s best-sellers for increasingly eroding “the distinction between ‘pure’ and ‘popular’ literature — often used to marginalize female authors.” The book contains two atmospheric novellas about loss, expressing the underlying melancholy of Japan’s bubble economy. The second story, “Moonlight Shadow,” is a gateway to Yoshimoto’s later, more surreal works like N.P. and Amrita, where she begins to hone the quirkiness and magical realism that we often think of as hallmarks of modern Japanese literature. 

OUT BY NATSUO KIRINO (1997)

Crime novelist Natsuo Kirino’s most thrilling page-turner is about four suburban women working the graveyard shift at a bento factory who get tangled up with murder, blackmail and the yakuza. A feminist exposé of single motherhood and domestic violence, topics that are often swept under the rug in Japan, Out champions female empowerment in a still-patriarchal society, right up to its pulse-pounding climax. 

THE NAKANO THRIFT SHOP BY HIROMI KAWAKAMI (2005)

Hiromi Kawakami’s character study of a Tokyo thrift shop is populated as much by the ashtrays and lamps for sale as it is by the store’s eccentric workers, stand-ins for the tug-of-war between a quiet nostalgia and modern Japanese culture. “Decades of economic stagnation and broad cultural shifts have left many Japanese people of both sexes feeling adrift and uncertain of the future,” says Nüffer. And if The Tale of Genji is an ideal of classical Japanese romance, the tortured relationship at the center of The Nakano Thrift Shop is a love story for contemporary Japan.

If It’s Good Enough to Put on Your Bum, Why Not in a Frame?

Chad koeplinger dambulla giclee print

Close your eyes and imagine a tattoo artist at work. What do you see? Maybe a brawny guy hunched over a client in a sterile-looking studio, gripping their arm as he applies a scowling skull, a Japanese-style dragon or perhaps even some brightly colored flowers? Either way, “fine art” probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.

But that’s what publisher Raking Light Projects sees. From intricate woodcuts and colorful screen prints to glossy photo books and original artwork, the company hawks work from artists that transcends the boundaries of what most normally consider “tattoo art.”

Like the geometric, macabre creations of Texas-based artist Thomas Hooper, who saturates his original paintings with dark, dynamic colors that evoke an ominous intergalactic fantasy. Or Robert Ryan, a New Jersey tattooer whose psychedelic interpretations of classic tattoo themes — like skulls and tigers — as well as South Asian religious motifs, burst off the prints in bold hues and kaleidoscopic patterns. And in the colorful travelogue 50 States, where Chad Koeplinger of Nashville, Tennessee, documents in words and images his journey tattooing clients across America. A tattoo fanatic, I was first attracted by an artist I recognized — and then surprised by the sheer variety of artists available. Prints start at between $30–$75 (original artwork ranges from hundreds to thousands of dollars).

 I like the immediacy of it, and I think that it works in a fine art context as well as a tattoo context.

Andrew Fingerhut, Raking Light Projects

A brainchild of entrepreneur Andrew Fingerhut and renowned West Coast tattooer Eddy Deutsche, Raking Light was conceived in Los Angeles around seven years ago. A longtime client of Deutsche’s, Fingerhut saw the true artistry in tattoos — beyond the ubiquitous stencils that typically adorn studio walls — and wanted to share the art with a wider audience, in book and print formats. These days, the company, which works with printers based in several cities across the country, handpicks the artists and splits the profits with them. Raking Light prioritizes traditional hands-on methods, such as letterpress and screen printing, though it also produces digital prints when the art calls for it.

 

The goal, Fingerhut says, is to get the work “in front of a wider audience,” and not just those interested in tattoos in their typical form. But it’s a two-way street: Raking Light also hopes to expose ink lovers to the possibilities of tattoos as fine art. Fingerhut, who grew up going to museums with his artistically inclined mother, says much of it never quite sank in for him. Tattoo-based art, he says, is different: “I like the immediacy of it, and I think that it works in a fine art context as well as a tattoo context.” That’s why he believes it’s capable of drawing a wider crowd. “It just opens up a lot more avenues,” Fingerhut adds, “and I think that’s a positive thing to do.”

Fingerhut hopes to one day open a brick-and-mortar gallery where viewers can appreciate these artists’ work in the, ahem, flesh. Because if there’s anything the company wants to show, it’s that this stuff can look equally cool gracing the walls of your home as it does on your skin.