Special Briefing: Not Your Mother’s Ghost Stories

This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.

WHAT TO KNOW

What’s happening? Widely acknowledged as goth Christmas, Halloween is finally, hauntingly, upon us. So catch up with this original OZY series of ghostly tales from decades past, as well as those shaping our future. From the arts to technology, our centuries-old fascination with the spirit world is being pushed into a new era.

Why does it matter? Humanity’s relationship with ghosts has persisted about as long as humanity itself. These days, 46 percent of Americans say they believe in ghosts, while 15 percent of the population even claims to have seen one. But even those who aren’t paranormally inclined are likely to contribute to the estimated $8.8 billion Halloween industry.

HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT

New thrills. Developers are marrying technology and terror in a way that’s never been done before, using virtual and augmented reality to create experiences where everyday settings — from a kitchen to a warehouse — turn into haunted houses. VR additions to escape rooms and museum exhibitions are cropping up nationwide, and could soon find their way into your own home. This tech’s terrifying potential isn’t held back by the temporal limitations of brick-and-mortar haunts either, which should appeal to Americans, who spend more than $300 million on haunted house tickets annually.

Write it out. Alma Katsu spent more than three decades witnessing true horror. In the 1990s, she ran “complex contingency operations” for U.S. intelligence agencies to stomp out mass atrocities around the globe. Now she’s using that knowledge to boost her second career as a popular horror writer. Her latest, The Hunger, was named one of the best horror novels of 2018 by NPR, The New York Times and others, and even earned front-cover kudos from horror icon Stephen King. Sure, she’s a lovely person, her editor says — but she’ll “tell you stories that will curl your hair.”

Hitchin’ a ride. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that tore through Japan in 2011 left 16,000 dead and flattened towns along the coast. But the departed don’t go quietly in a place where ghosts are culturally accepted: One sociologist studying the phenomenon spoke to taxi drivers who reported having passengers simply vanish from their cabs. Firemen, meanwhile, have been known to pray for the deceased residents of destroyed homes after receiving ghostly calls from the properties. Japan’s prevailing Shinto religion, which requires that spirits be cared for to ease their journey to the afterlife, means locals are likely more ghost-conscious.

Spooky attraction. Next time you’re in the City of Lights, don’t miss The Live Thriller — Paris’ most engaging, and absolutely terrifying, interactive theater experience. Though it’ll likely appeal to the adrenaline-chasing escape room crowd, it’s more like being inside a horror movie or video game, where your decisions and ability to connect the dots affect the story. Participants are tasked with solving a ghostly mystery, which involves rushing between locations in the 18th arrondissement, chasing people and finding clues. Running around the creepiest of places, you’ll bump into professional actors who play fellow detectives, or suspects who will help or hinder your criminal investigation.

WHAT TO READ

The Great Inventors Who Really Wanted to Talk to Ghosts, by Addison Nugent on OZY

“Virtually every new communication technology invented between 1860 and 1930 was promoted as a means of reaching the spirit realm, and not just by charlatans — by the inventors themselves.”

Skip This Scary Show and Read This Book Instead, by Lauren Cocking on OZY

“‘The fear invoked by fiction … somehow works to remedy the very real terrors of life.’”

WHAT TO WATCH

Are Ghosts Real? 

“We call these interbreeding species ‘ghost species.’”

Watch on Natural History Museum on YouTube:

Could You Survive This Haunted House for $20K?

“What they are inducing is a form of psychological torture — but for fun.”

Watch on Fox Business on YouTube:

WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER

Sneak-a-treat. Festive trick-or-treaters might do well to keep an eye on Mom and Dad this season, since around 78 percent of parents admit to stealing from their kids’ candy stashes.

How Do Brutal Teen Boot Camps Still Lure Parents?

At Mesabi Academy in Buhl, Minnesota, former inmates say boys were forced by employees to battle in a so-called Fight Club — but only in rooms without security cameras. Other children were allegedly sexually abused by staffers. Between 2009 and its closure in 2016, Mesabi generated 64 complaints about conditions and treatment, far more than any of the other 60-plus juvenile facilities overseen by the Minnesota Department of Corrections.

Mesabi Academy was owned and operated by the Pennsylvania based nonprofit KidsPeace. In addition to Mesabi, KidsPeace owns and operates a collection of behavioral health centers and foster programs across the country, including residential treatment centers like Mesabi in Georgia, Maine and Pennsylvania. And while KidsPeace Director of Communications Robert Martin told OZY that allegations against the facility were investigated and no maltreatment was found, attorney Jacob Reitan — who is representing 17 plaintiffs, some as young as 12, in a suit against Mesabi — says exactly the opposite is true. The report itself has not been made public.

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Mesabi Academy in Buhl, Minn.

Source Derek Montgomery

The report, according to Reitan, outlines numerous allegations about the use of solitary confinement, assault on minors and reports of staff members using racist language to describe children at the program. But that’s not unusual in these centers: There have been allegations of abuse against residential treatment facilities in 28 of the 30 states that have them, and despite attempts to regulate the industry, it’s still growing.

The number of teen residential treatment centers has grown 23 percent since 2017.

There are currently 185 such programs for teens across the country, according to the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs, including “tough love” boot camps, wilderness programs, drug rehab facilities, detention centers and therapeutic schools. In 2017, there were 150.

While 27 such facilities have closed in the last two decades, that can be a deceptive figure. Several programs have even claimed they’ve closed when they really just transferred ownership and changed their name. After several allegations of abuse, Island View in Utah closed and reopened as Elevations RTC: the same school with the same students, just under different management. Nearly 80 percent of the staff stayed the same. 

Watchdog group the Alliance for the Safe, Therapeutic and Appropriate use of Residential Treatment (ASTART) found that many such programs don’t need state licensing or the monitoring accorded to traditional mental health care. Instead, parents get information produced by the houses themselves as marketing material.

One former attendee of SUWS Wilderness Program in Idaho, who wished only to be identified by his first initial, C, says his family was duped by misleading marketing practices. When he was 13, he was struggling with depression. He says his mother, who took out loans to afford the program, thought that some time outdoors would help him de-stress — and he only learned the brutal nature of the month-long wilderness program she signed him up for when he was strip searched on arrival. During his time there he says he had the opportunity to bathe only twice and was forced into isolation against his will for more than a day.

Leona Levine, whose son Nick attended the facility Casa by the Sea operated by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, says she also fell for deceptive marketing tactics. “I was always skeptical when people fell for things by being brainwashed, but now I know that if they get you in the right time of your life, they can make you believe just about anything. I look back and wonder how I could have been so foolish,” Leona says. 

Group of people explorers resting  by the fire in outdoors camp after long hiking day in the night

There are currently 185 of these programs for teens across the country, including tough-love boot camps, wilderness programs, drug rehab facilities, detention centers and therapeutic schools.

Source Getty

Once she was hooked, she lost a lot of rights as a parent. According to Leona, Nick’s group leader recommended a specific High Impact program — and though she vetoed it, they put her son on that track anyway. She says the program lied to her during their weekly calls.

According to Leona, once in High Impact, Nick was forced to sleep in cages and the kids he was with sometimes had to make their own fire or — if they were unable to do so — eat raw chicken or go hungry.

This is far from unusual and fairly common across this industry, says Allen Knoll, who attended Bethel Boys Academy in Mississippi while a tween and is working on a documentary on the troubled teen industry. “I experienced all kinds of crazy brutality when I was there,” he says. “I was held down and had buckets of water poured all over my face. I was essentially waterboarded. I have had pit bulls forced on me. I was forced to hold on to electric fences.” 

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William Knott

The school changed its name multiple times but was allowed to stay open despite lawsuits and accusations of torture. William Knott, who was in charge of discipline at the camp, went on to manage Restoration Youth Academy in Alabama, which was the subject of a 2017 Newsweek exposé calling it “Alabama’s Most Sadistic Christian Bootcamp.” He’s now serving a 20-year sentence for child abuse.

A KidsPeace facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, has also been used as part of the federal government’s controversial family-separation policy. Within the last year the center has held immigrant children, though it hasn’t been disclosed how many. Between February 2013 and May 2018, 18 incidents of physical maltreatment and seven of staff sexual assault on children were reported at the Bethlehem KidsPeace facility, which is still open. 

There have been promising developments in recent years. In 2017, the Alabama state legislature passed a comprehensive law requiring facilities to have trained medical staff and giving police and state officials the right to visit and inspect a property at any time within normal business hours. Children also have the right to have an unmonitored phone call with their parents.

The law could set a national precedent — but some efforts have been less successful. In 2015 and again in 2017, Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, introduced the Stop Child Abuse in Residential Programs for Teens Act after a student died at a center in his district. It never made it out of committee.

For Millions of Germans, the Berlin Wall Never Really Came Down

I was born in March 1990 in a midsize town in West Germany. At that time, my mother had lived here for about four years after deciding the reality of communist China was not enough for her anymore and my father had grown a full beard to match his style to his everlasting longing for travels and adventure. A few months earlier, in November 1989, the Berlin Wall had fallen. A few months later, in October 1990, Germany officially reunited.

This made me, so to say, a child of reunification. My life was not going to be defined by the political reality of a divided country or the echoes of the Cold War. I was to learn about the GDR from history books and the older generation’s kitchen table anecdotes only — or at least so I thought.

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Lin, 2 years old, with her parents.

Source Lin Hierse

But this year, as my country celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall and 29 years of reunification, it’s time to confront a bitter truth: Germany has never really managed to unite. This is clear from the recent debates on German identity. It’s only now that there’s growing public and media interest in the stories of those who grew up in the former East or still live there. Only now is Germany willing to slowly acknowledge the possibility of a history that includes and approves different perspectives — including East German ones.

We have reached a point where the divide is almost as tangible and solid as the wall used to be.

For the longest time, there was no intrinsic motivation for the country to self-reflect, to process and to truly merge. And this is not so only for the divide between East and West, but also for Germany’s self-conception as an immigrant society. While Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly drawn international praise for showing humanity in the midst of the 2015 refugee crisis, German politics and society have largely failed to tackle institutional racism and anti-Semitism for the longest time. Many people are continuously othered, marked as “different” from what is still perceived to really be German. We have reached a point where the divide is almost as tangible and solid as the wall used to be.

For as long as I can remember, people have pointed fingers at the “left-behind Ossi” (a name for former residents of East Germany). Here, the popular story of the economically disadvantaged and thus frustrated and xenophobic East has come in handy for those who refuse to deal with their own internalized prejudice and racism. Growing up in the former West, I did not learn much about the GDR except that it did not exist anymore. I was taught to believe that the West was the center of the world and my personal East — faraway China — was even more irrelevant to my (West) German identity. The only times I could relate to people telling me about their lives in the GDR was when I found similarities to my mother’s experiences in communist China: stories about the teachings of Marx and Engels, standing in line for meal vouchers or proudly wearing red neckerchiefs.

From the outside, Germany is often applauded for its “progressive remembrance culture.” But if there were a progressive remembrance culture, we would not have to deal with the normalization of an ultra-right AfD in parliament and perennial attacks on Jews, Muslims, Blacks and people of color. If there were a progressive remembrance culture, we would not shy away from admitting our personal and societal shortcomings in uncovering the repercussions of this country’s dark past. And if there were a progressive remembrance culture, we would consider this country a place that has also been shaped and influenced by the sorrow of a failed socialist state.

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Lin Hierse

Source Andreia Bickenbach

Instead, 29 years after the so-called reunification, Germany still struggles to accept the idea of intersectionality and the country’s multiple identities. Politicians and journalists alike speak of a “we” but often disregard those who’ve never felt included in this imagined community. Worse, when marginalized communities such as migrants, second- and third-generation immigrants, women of color or East Germans try to make their voices heard, they are often accused by critics of practicing identity politics — rather than rising to the challenge of addressing multifaceted discrimination. Germany appears to be stuck in a state of denial, and that reduces the chances of actual unity.

To me, the world has always been divided into pieces, but not necessarily in a bad way. So it is somehow natural that Germany is in pieces too. I sometimes wonder what we have in common — this country and I, both struggling to negotiate our identities with roots in the East and the West. Maybe these are the questions you’re supposed to ask when you’re about to turn 30.

But rather than blindly striving for a singular German identity, this country needs to finally realize that it must draw strength from a multitude of identities, from a plurality of stories, from contradiction and contrast — and that reunification is a process rather than a day marked in our history books.

A History of Hellish Halloweens From the Dark Lord’s Halls

I was pretty aware that my family was “different” from the time I was about 2 or 3 years old. I knew there was more to it all than just the weird decor and the fact that my family would go on outings in a black limousine with our driver and bodyguard, Tony.

Being the grandson of the man who started the Church of Satan was incredible though. And I loved the time I spent living in the Black House, which is what everyone called the house we lived in, and did right until Anton LaVey, my grandfather, died. It was where things could be normal and good again.

But he was (in)famous, especially locally, so he rarely left home since he had to be careful, and there were pretty constant death threats and bullets through the front of our house. So he never took me trick-or-treating. That I remember. But this didn’t stop me from trick-or-treating.

A prize-winning lycanthrope.

The first Halloween I recall I was 4. I won a prize that year. My grandma glued tufts of “fur” from some kind of polyester yarn-like fibers she’d made. That plus makeup to give the effect of animal features, jeans and a shirt open to reveal my furry chest as Wolf Boy made me the paws-down winner. Living a couple blocks away in the Church of Satan might have given me an edge as well.

My costume was a hit and another example of how we’d never rely on simply buying some prepacked, sloppily designed, poorly crafted plastic piece of mass-marketed consumer garbage. Firstly, we didn’t have money for that. See, my family was cheap, because we were poor, and when we had money, my grandfather already had something picked out that he was spending it on.

In 1988, though, we were dead center in one of the most intense culture-shifting years of the 20th century when the “Satanic Panic” had a conservative America seeing devils and demons any and everywhere. It was, for Satanists, what 1969 and Charles Manson were to hippies and the Age of Aquarius: the end of a belief in our general harmlessness and the closing chapter in a collective history that in modern times had seen us more ignored than anything else.  

So being the only kid in school who wore all black and had a satanic Baphomet medallion hanging from a necklace and a binder for my studies with a bright orange bumper sticker across the cover that read in big bold black letters “UP THE ASS FOR JESUS” wasn’t just edgy. For a 10-year-old like me, it was insane. And more or less mandatory, according to my parents.

I was prepared to kill for candy.

But I was an avid reader, and especially of anything related to serial killers. This is probably the first decade in American history where serial killers are as popularized, celebrated and well-published in print, television and film as they were in the 1980s. Western death culture blossomed in the ’80s. Goth, punk, metal, magic, crime and everything considered underground all began to fall under the collective umbrella of the satanic in the ’80s.  

So I decided to be my favorite serial killer for Halloween in 1988. I had loved the way he was like Jack the Ripper of the West. How he was never caught. And how he used symbolic magic. He was like a comic book villain who comes to life and gets away, and was the ultimate expression of “fuck you” to the “powers that be.”

Even though my grandmother suspected that we knew who he was and was creeped out by it/him, I decided it was what I was going to do and I couldn’t be talked out of it. I was going to be the “Zodiac Killer.”

In short order, I started in on the costume’s design. It was very ritualistic, the process of designing my costume. This was my 10th year celebrating Halloween, and I knew it would be historic.

I looked for the closest replica to a real gun while hunting the dime stores and toy stores until I found the perfect one. It looked exactly like a real handgun and was the right size and everything. It was a bright green or orange squirt gun. I already owned a hunting knife in a sheath, of course. Black clothes, check. Black pillow case, check. Can of black spray paint and some masking tape, check check.  

In a matter of minutes? I was the Zodiac Killer! And I was prepared to kill for candy.

Politically incorrect to the 10th power.

I had spray-painted my water gun a convincing flat black. Cut perfect circles for my eyes into the black pillow case, but only after placing the legendary killer’s insignia on the front using masking tape, creating the circle target sign that is forever the mark of the Zodiac on the front of what was fast becoming my shroud.

With my blade strapped to my belt and my gun drawn I was a real threat. To the world? No. To my own life? Yes.

My mother helped me to make that costume and then took me out trick-or-treating in it. I’ve always been tall for my age, and so at 10 I was the size of a small adult, especially covered in all black and a hood. With a giant target on me and a hyper-realistic-looking gun. 

You know, my grandfather used to talk to me about life. He told me when I was a kid that I shouldn’t “just blindly follow me and what my philosophy is just because I’m your grandpa. I know you love me, and I love you, and that’s why I’m telling you to find your own path, develop your own philosophy. I would almost prefer that you not read my books and instead just be you.”

So I sort of did. And I sort of have. Happy Halloween!

This American’s Massive Congolese Copper Play Is Backed by China

When Felix Tshisekedi, the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo visited Washington, D.C., in April, the mining billionaire Robert Friedland was waiting in a room at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel to greet him. Also waiting were the U.S. ambassador to Congo and Sun Yufeng, head of China’s state-owned Citic Metal, the largest investor in Friedland’s company Ivanhoe Mines. 

Sun and Friedland wanted support for a new copper venture in Congo that is set to solidify China’s influence over the resource-rich country — something that would not have skipped the attention of U.S. officials taking part in tense trade talks with their Chinese counterparts across the city on the same day. Sun told Tshisekedi about Citic’s ability to build large infrastructure projects, including roads, railways, ports and bridges, in the country — something few Western mining companies could match. Since then, Citic has agreed to invest an additional 612 million Canadian dollars in the Toronto-based Ivanhoe.

The importance of the meeting for Friedland was clear. Having helped discover two of the world’s largest mines, now, off a dusty unpaved road in Congo, he believes he may have found a third: Kamoa-Kakula, a huge untapped copper deposit worth at least $10 billion. 

No one is skeptical about the resource, but it’s not clear what the actual economics of getting it out of the ground will be.

A London Mining Investor

A college friend of Steve Jobs’, the late Apple founder, and a movie producer whose credits include Crazy Rich Asians, Friedland has made a career out of securing funding for, and then exploiting, mines in far-flung corners of the world and selling them for large sums of money. “Every time I go and see him I first zip my pocket,” says Pierre Lassonde, a Canadian mining veteran, of Friedland’s ability to persuade investors to part with their cash. “He has that magnetic effect on people.” 

But to finance this latest venture, which the 69-year-old calls “unquestionably the best copper development project in the world,” Friedland has turned almost exclusively to China. 

Chinese companies already own some of the richest deposits of copper and cobalt in Congo and beyond, metals that are critical to the switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy. They have invested at least $8 billion in Congolese mining assets since 2012, with miner China Molybdenum buying the Tenke copper and cobalt mine from Freeport-McMoRan for $2.65 billion in 2016. 

The control and dominance over global supply chains that this potentially gives China has triggered concern in the United States. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in September an initiative to help governments in resource-rich countries better attract investment from U.S. companies by improving their regulatory standards. The State Department’s Energy Resource Governance Initiative says it wants to “encourage a level playing field surrounding the critical minerals that underpin clean energy technology,” and includes Congo as a “participant.” 

But fearful of operating in Congo, one of the world’s poorest and most corrupt countries — it ranks 161 out of 180 on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index — Western mining companies have stayed away from Friedland’s mine. Investors have also declined to become involved. Instead Friedland has turned to China’s Zijin Mining and Citic Metal, two of the best-connected Chinese mining companies, to generate the more than $1 billion he needs to build Kamoa-Kakula. 

“There is a reasonable slug of evidence,” says one London-based fund manager, “that shows to operate there you need to do things Western shareholders do not allow their management teams to do.” 

But such uneasiness is overdone, says Paul Gait, an analyst at Bernstein. “The capital markets are closed for mining investment in the West. [In effect] we have decided that we are conceding control of industrial production to China.”

***

Stretched across the southeast of Congo into Zambia, the copper belt is one of the world’s richest sources of both that metal and cobalt. Mined by the Belgians at the beginning of the 20th century, copper from the city of Kolwezi was used in shells fired in battle during World War I in France. Congo became one of the largest producers in the world in the 1960s, with output peaking in 1976. But by 1995, production was down by 90 percent. 

The industry had fallen further into disrepair under Congo’s former dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, and in the late 1990s, as Seko’s regime crumbled, miners rushed to sign deals with rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila, who came to power in 1997. In the brief interlude before the outbreak of another conflict in 1998, Friedland obtained licenses to explore about 5,400 square miles of land in the Congolese copper belt. 

He decided to look farther west of Kolwezi, the capital of Lualaba province, at an area that had never been mined before because it lacked any surface indications of copper, such as a break in the vegetation or the presence of distinctive bright-turquoise malachite rocks that contain the metal.

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Source: Financial Times

Source Jerome Favre/Bloomberg via Getty

But in 2008, five years after the end of Congo’s brutal civil war — which left more than 5 million dead — geologists began to drill the deposit. Rock cores suggested the presence of a large ore body and Friedland announced the discovery in April 2009.

“The financial crisis had melted everything else down … we were the only company that stayed [in Congo]. Drilling companies phoned me up saying: ‘Do you need any drills?’” says David Broughton, the geologist who helped discover Kamoa-Kakula. “We were living in tents and mud.… But when you make a discovery like that, you’re in the clouds for two years.” 

***

The mining camp, about 15 miles west of Kolwezi, is a hive of activity. South African, Congolese and Chinese workers rub shoulders in the company canteen. Meeting rooms are decked out with Lazy Susans to make Chinese executives feel at home, while outside members of Broughton’s team are drilling for new deposits next to small villages where residents use discarded mining equipment as makeshift doors. 

Workers are building a 21-mile road to the airport and accommodations to house up to 1,000 workers. Hundreds of meters underground, miners are rushing to dig in the richest part of the copper deposit, manning machines in the deep, wet dark at the rock face. Fifty-ton trucks carry the copper ore up a winding path to the surface. 

Friedland claims the Kamoa-Kakula mine has the potential to produce up to 700,000 tons of copper a year at its peak, if fully developed. That is almost 6 percent of China’s annual consumption of the metal and would make it the second-largest copper mine in the world, after Escondida in Chile. 

Kamoa, which is 20 percent owned by Congo’s government, is set to begin production in 2021. But doubts remain about whether Friedland’s target is realistic.

Key Speakers At the Renaissance Capital Conference

Robert Friedland, founder and CEO of Ivanhoe Mines (center).

“His business model has always been able to find something unbelievably good, make it look amazing and sell it for the very, very best price,” one mining investor in London says. “No one is skeptical about the resource, but it’s not clear what the actual economics of getting it out of the ground will be.” 

***

Born in Chicago, to parents who emigrated from Germany, Friedland achieved a certain early notoriety after he was arrested in 1970 on charges of selling LSD. He spent more than six months in jail — a conviction that was later expunged from his record. He went on to attend Reed College in Oregon where he met Jobs. The two worked together on a farm owned by Friedland’s uncle. It was the apple orchard that inspired the name of the computer company, Jobs’ biographer later claimed. 

But Friedland soon lost interest in farming, and by the late 1970s — and with the backing of some Vancouver brokers — he moved on to gold mining, promoting a series of ventures on the Canadian stock markets, many of which failed to take off. One of them earned him the nickname “toxic Bob,” after heavy metals and effluent from the Summitville gold mine in Colorado leaked into a nearby river in 1992, leaving the government with a large cleanup bill. In 2001, Friedland paid $20.7 million as part of a legal settlement with the U.S. government.

His first big success came after geologists stumbled upon a huge nickel deposit in Voisey’s Bay in Canada while looking for diamonds. Friedland played two corporate suitors against each other to sell the mine for $3.2 billion to the nickel giant Inco, in 1996. 

From his base in Singapore, Friedland rapidly expanded across the globe, from Myanmar, then under a military regime, to Africa, and bought exploration rights in Mongolia from BHP for just $5 million. The copper and gold mine his company subsequently discovered, Oyu Tolgoi, is set to be one of the biggest mines in the world and is now operated by Rio Tinto. 

Friedland has maintained close links to China since the 1990s, when he explored for gold in southeast Fujian province and met Chen Jinghe, who would go on to become head of Zijin Mining, which is listed in Hong Kong with a market capitalization of 80 billion Hong Kong dollars (about $10 billion). Friedland’s film business, SK Global, is also backed by a private equity company, China Cultural and Entertainment Fund. Liu Yang, who is head of the company, previously worked for Citic in Australia. 

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Source: Financial Times

As copper prices plummeted in 2015, Zijin agreed to invest $412 million to acquire a 50 percent interest in the Kamoa mine. Zijin also owns shares in Ivanhoe — which is listed in Toronto and valued at 4 billion Canadian dollars (about $3 billion). In October, Zijin announced the purchase of an additional 49 million shares, taking its stake in Ivanhoe to 14 percent and eclipsing Friedland’s share for the first time. Citic Metal, a unit of the Chinese state-owned conglomerate that has $900 billion in assets, will own 29.4 percent of the Canadian-listed company. 

“The Chinese are more than willing to be strategic buyers of these assets,” says Norman MacDonald, a Canadian fund manager at Invesco. “The copper market is on sale and they consume half of it. If you are going to Selfridges, and it’s 50 percent off, [because investors are avoiding Congo] you are going to buy it.” 

Many expect Friedland to eventually cede control of Ivanhoe to Zijin and Citic. China has long coveted the idea of having a large mining company to rival those of Western groups such as BHP, Anglo American and Rio Tinto, which they see as controlling the world’s best deposits, according to Bernstein’s Gait. 

“What’s driving him on is his legacy. Can he create for the Chinese a vehicle to rival BHP?” Gait says. “It’s no longer flipping assets but about building something for the future. He wants to be a partner with the Chinese and that process is going to make him exceedingly wealthy. You’ve got the synergy of his ability to operate, own and find mining assets, coupled with the balance sheet of China.”

She’s Designing a Disease-Fighting Menu for Your Gut — and Yours Alone

At first glance, Usune Etxeberria looks like the Spanish version of a California “Valley girl.” With a continual bright smile and clothes as lively as a Miró painting, she seems the opposite of the stereotypical lab scientist with three advanced degrees. Yet no one could have been more fated, given her personal background, to become one of the world’s leading researchers in the exploding field of what’s variously termed “personalized,” “specialized” or “precision” gastronomy — with major implications for the fight against obesity, diabetes and more.

For starters, she grew up in San Sebastian, perhaps the greatest eating city on the planet, with its numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, gourmet array of pintxos (snacks, similar to tapas) and the Basque Culinary Center, the world’s first institution offering graduate courses in gastronomy, where Etxeberria, 33, now heads one of two teams in its unique LABe Digital Gastronomy Lab. More important, as a Basque herself, Etxeberria says, “My life has always been connected to food.” Family meals were organized at a txoko — a uniquely Basque custom of village eating clubs, until recently all-male — and her friends ate in cuadrilla, another communal way to celebrate through food. “The whole Basque way of relating is through gastronomy, using our natural products in an ecosystem of knowledge and innovation,” she says. No wonder the Basque Country has been self-branded “the culinary nation,” and, ironically, the people who are fiercely proud to call themselves among Europe’s oldest are perhaps the most forward-looking when it comes to food.

04BCC BUILDING

The Basque Culinary Center.

Etxeberria — who boasts a master’s degree in nutrition and metabolic science and a Ph.D. in food science and health — says she was always drawn to the “unique reference point with a global strategic vision” of the Basque Culinary Center, a U-shaped modernist wonder hewed into a hillside that is something of an innovation in itself. The brainchild of seven leading chefs returning to their homeland from French training to form the so-called New Basque Cuisine — which in turn spawned the molecular-gastronomy marvel of Ferran Adrià’s El Bulli in Catalonia and a hundred cooking trends in its wake — the BCC, as its devotees call it, was from its 2011 start far more than a glorified Le Cordon Bleu. It was a place to explore all areas that the culinary world touches.

Usune’s team has a clear vision for preventing disease without forgetting the component of pleasure in gastronomy.

Pedro Prieto, Fresh Business Food & Nutrition Innovation

At the center, free from commercial pressures and undue competition — with colleagues who are largely female and inspirational close contact with chefs both fledgling and famed — Etxeberria works with admired scientists twice her age. She’s followed the passion she developed in a previous company, pairing nutrition and diet with analysis of individuals’ microbiome, the community of microorganisms that inhabit the human body, to help athletes avoid injury.

Her first experiment in “gastrosportomica,” as she terms it, was taking a sampling of professional soccer players in Spain and seeing whether matching key indicators of their gut microbe with specific diets could help in preventing all types of injuries (it was largely confirmed by the initial trial). More recently, Etxeberria has been steering her team toward specific dietary solutions to diabetes and irritable bowel syndrome, and she’s beginning a test in collaboration with a Tufts University professor on whether season-specific produce can improve the metabolisms of obese children. She postulates that data such as individual DNA and pathogens can be used as predictive factors for many dietary preferences — with far broader concerns than deciding whether to go for Chinese or Mexican food on a given night.

08 BCC LAB

Inside the Basque Culinary Center laboratory.

“Usune has a collaborative spirit and open mind that is wonderful for generating innovation — toward precision nutrition and an increase in restaurants whose offerings can be based on individual parameters of genomes or microbiome and a more healthy, sustainable gastronomy by 2050,” says Pedro Prieto, who works in innovation management for the companies Fresh Business Food & Nutrition Innovation and Jakion in Lima, Peru.

Most startups in the field are utilizing the even more cutting-edge tool of artificial intelligence to “model consumer preferences” and get a leg up on competitors. NotCo, which has Jeff Bezos as one of its investors, uses AI to analyze food on a molecular level and imitate traditional foods — like its Not Mayo. With a more health-conscious approach, another startup, DayTwo, uses AI to analyze the pathogens donated through stool samples to, like Etxeberria’s team, design specific eating programs for diabetics. But AI’s clearest and quickest application may be in monitoring every aspect of food production: from optimal soil conditions to the sorting of potatoes to perfect-tasting fruit. What pesticides were to the agriculture of the past, AI will be for the future.

Etxeberria’s BCC colleagues are also digging into AI, such as the “Ferment-a-Bot,” designed by Blanca del Noval, a former chef from Seville, in collaboration with MIT’s open-source lab. This would be a home kitchen aid, “much like a small oven,” as del Noval describes, which safely controls the entire fermentation process through monitoring humidity and temperature, while checking for potentially toxic mold. It certainly will beat today’s cupboard shelves of Mason jars in terms of elegance and efficiency, taking fermentation and sustainability trends to the next level.

06BCC STUDENTS

Basque Culinary Center students.

“You could feel impatient to transfer research results into value for society, but I think every step we take is a step forward,” Etxeberria says. And besides, adds Prieto, “Usune’s team has a clear vision for preventing disease without forgetting the component of pleasure in gastronomy.”

Whether in plotting vast fields, tackling nutritional imbalances one human organism at a time or even just identifying one’s inborn taste predilections, the practicality of ideas like swabbing for gut microbes before every cafeteria line is still to be tested. Yet Basques like Etxeberria and her cohorts may just be leading the way. After all, the menus all around them are already among the world’s most avant-garde.

And, as far-seeing local architects cleverly designed it, the descending circular floors of test kitchens and conference rooms of her workplace lead down to a grassy backyard, where the Basque Culinary Center is revealed as an evolving work in progress, resembling an imperfectly balanced stack of dishes.

Businesswomen Take Control of North Dakota Oil Patch

Five years ago, Williston, North Dakota, was a hedonistic mess. Busloads of oil workers who’d moved here to work on Bakken oil rigs revived by hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, would clear supermarket shelves in minutes. Strippers were flown in from Las Vegas to meet demand in the male-dominated town. In March 2013, one man was shot dead following an argument outside a club.

Today, ground zero of North Dakota’s oil patch is a very different place. In late 2014, the price of oil dropped by half, prompting most transient, single male workers to pack up and leave. Families of professionals on long-term contracts in the local energy sector moved to Williston, creating a demand for services female entrepreneurs have since successfully filled.

Melissa Krause, who moved to Williston from Milwaukee in 2012, started off with Walmart and as a journalist. Two years ago, she opened QuickDraw Art Studio on Williston’s Main Street. Her ceramist and studio associate are women from Louisiana and Montana, respectively. “I knew if even a quarter of the children born here would stay in the region, then we were going to have a lot of young families who would need child-friendly outlets for entertainment,” says Krause. Business is already up 28 percent from last year, she says, and she’s looking at expanding the studio.

I know I made a good decision.

Melissa Krause

Krause isn’t the only woman to spot a business opportunity in Williston. In 2014, the city supported three women-owned businesses through its Star Fund with an estimated $41,436; that number has rocketed to 58 since the start of 2017, with an average annual payout of $323,892. Those figures are indicative of what’s happening statewide. North Dakota ranked first for “employment vitality” — the highest job growth rate and average number of employees — over the past two decades across all states, according to American Express’ 2017 State of Women-Owned Businesses report. North Dakota ranked second — tied with Maine and behind only Minnesota — when the 2018 report looked at the past decade.

Two years ago Melissa Krause from Milwaukee opened QuickDraw Art Studio on main street, one of a number of women-owned businesses in downtown Williston fix

Two years ago, Melissa Krause opened QuickDraw Art Studio, one of a number of women-owned businesses in downtown Williston, North Dakota.

Source Stephen Starr

“It seems like a lot of women knew what they wanted to see in the community and seized the opportunity to carve out a place in the market,” says Krause.

Though the cost of living has risen in recent years, off-the-beaten-track locations like Williston generally have lower business startup costs. That’s important to women, since, according to research from Columbia Business School, “female-led ventures are disproportionally overlooked by venture capitalists at multiple stages of the entrepreneurship pipeline.”

To be sure, different reports — and indeed other metrics in the State of Women-Owned Businesses report — illustrate how other states are doing well too. According to the 2018 report by American Express, South Dakota is where women-owned businesses wield the highest “clout” — a measure that includes revenue earned. Fit Small Business, a resource for small-business owners, ranked Texas, Ohio and Minnesota as the three best states for female entrepreneurs in 2019. But North Dakota, which came in ninth in that report, is the rare state to place among high or top rankers across rankings.

That makes sense, since women-owned businesses in smaller areas typically earn three to four times the revenue that their peers earn nationally, according to a 2015 study by finance website NerdWallet.

In addition to Krause’s art studio, there are Cooks on Main, Little Muddy Gifts, Fresh Palate health food store, beauty and nail salons and other women-owned businesses up and down Main Street in Williston. Just off this thoroughfare, there’s Chatter Pediatric Therapy and a host of other new, women-owned businesses.

For Williston native Mechelle Mortenson, the decision to move her Grace & Glam women’s boutique from a plaza on the edge of town to Main Street in July was an easy one. “Downtown has a lot more foot traffic and has been developing really nicely in the past few years. When the space came up for sale, it was a good opportunity to get in there,” she says. Mortenson estimates there are at least nine other women-owned businesses in the immediate area. “I employ four women. Two are from out of town that came because of the economy,” she says.

Williston, north dakota has been transformed by the bakken shelf shale oil boom

Williston, North Dakota, has proved attractive to a growing number of female entrepreneurs.

Mortenson’s boutique has been helped out by two grants: one from the Star Fund, worth $33,500, which helped purchase and remodel the space, and a state-sponsored “Renaissance Zone” grant, which exempts Mortenson’s business from paying property taxes for five years. Krause also highlights the role played by local authorities. “I think they understand that the more businesses that are here [downtown], the less people are likely to go somewhere else to shop, which keeps more money local,” she says.

Life is no bed of roses. Like all local businesses, entrepreneurs are dependent on high-income customers whose earnings, for the most part, are dependent on stable global oil and natural gas markets.

The nearest town with more than 100,000 people is a five-hour drive west, in another time zone. The nearest large city is Winnipeg, in Canada. The nearest Macy’s is in Fargo, almost 400 miles east. And while rural America has clear benefits for female entrepreneurs, cutting-edge startups are still mostly found in America’s major metropolises.

Still, those who’ve come to North Dakota have not done so under any illusions. “I don’t get back to Wisconsin as much as I’d like,” says Krause, “but I know what I signed up for when I decided to open a business. I know I made a good decision.”

Get Your Heart Pumping With Paris’ Live Thriller

For hours after The Live Thriller ended, I was alive to every threat. Sitting in a Paris café with a glass of wine, people watching — a calm and time-honored activity — became murderer spotting. Every time a door slammed or a light flickered, I almost knocked over my glass.

Blame it on Paris’ most engaging, exciting, absolutely terrifying interactive theater experience. Though it will likely appeal to the adrenaline-chasing escape room crowd, this isn’t an escape room: It’s more like being inside a horror movie or video game, where your decisions and ability to connect the dots affect the story.

“It’s a human experience, that’s the difference between this and all the other experiences out there,” says Félix Carcone, one of the three founders of The Live Thriller. “It’s two and a half hours, so you have time to get into it and have fun, to experience everyone’s different reactions.” Friends for years, the three had no background in theater or writing but were inspired by ’90s thrillers like Se7en and graphic video games like Heavy Rain.

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Unsettling scenes await at The Live Thriller.

Source The Live Thriller

The piece, which is part immersive theater, part puzzle-solving and part scaring you out of your mind, took three and a half years to create and premiered in May. Within a month, it was the highest-rated Paris attraction in TripAdvisor’s fun and games category. Now it can be experienced in either English or French by groups of two to six people.

Participants are tasked with solving a ghostly mystery, which involves rushing between locations in the 18th arrondissement, chasing people and finding clues. The experience can take place during the day (which the website advises you do “if you are a little bit of a coward”) or at night. And while you’re running around being petrified in the creepiest of places, you’ll also bump into professional actors who play fellow detectives or suspects who will help or hinder your criminal investigation.

The Live Thriller’s ability to inspire absolute terror isn’t just about the specifics of the story, which won’t be revealed here. It’s in the details: Each location is set-dressed in every detail, no corner left unterrifying — the realism of the immersive experience can be quite disturbing — while a specially written soundtrack plays to keep you amped up and completely certain you’re on the verge of being murdered. Between fevered clue searching, the story is advanced by atmospheric expository videos that add an emotional dimension to the activities (and nervousness) you’re asked to partake in so that you can solve the story.

“If you don’t want to get into it, it doesn’t work well,” admits Carcone. “But that’s rare. Most of the time people play the game, they really play the game. They want to do it right.” There are four potential endings to the story, and choices you (sometimes unwittingly) make during the experience’s two-plus-hour running time will decide which one you end up seeing.

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Enjoyed your disturbing experience? You can come back again and be part of the show.

Source The Live Thriller

Once you’ve gone through the experience, you can go again — and tell the organizers you secretly want to be an accomplice, meaning you can freak out your friends even more effectively by working with the actors.

In January, Carcone says the company plans to premiere a new experience along the lines of The Live Thriller, but in a different and as yet unannounced genre. We’re hoping for rom-com or something slightly less stressful.

Bookings for The Live Thriller are made exclusively online — upcoming dates are available on the website. The experience is conducted in English or French. Prices depend on the size of your party: $54 (€49)/person for a group of six, $77 (€69)/person for a group of three. Participants must be at least 13 years old, accompanied by an adult, or a minimum of 18.

Best of the jump scares.

A Fashion Faux Pas for Halloween’s Tampon Terror

I hated Halloween. I never was one for cartoons or make-believe, I was a “what you see is what you get” kind of person. But I was just back in New York City, and I was going to go to a Halloween party and so, I needed a costume. Stat.

I think Halloween is like bungee jumping. You either love it or hate it — there are no in-betweens. And I just couldn’t get into being stared at and looking foolish. So for years my go-to costume was some cat ears, a mask, a few whiskers penciled in … and DONE.

But this year I needed to come up with something different. It was a loft party. You know … artists. Alas, I got an idea.

Last year, I was in San Francisco, where they go all out for this day — bodies spray-painted in gold, hand-sewn elaborate outfits. But I had it: I took an old slip, put it over my tights, and wrote the word Freudian on it. A trick I saw in an old movie.

I started getting into it, and decided to take the tampons, string them together and make a pair of tampon earrings. Then a Tampax tiara, and I wore them like a crown …

As I sauntered up to the party someone came up to me.

“A cloud, you are asleep — right?”

“What?”

“That’s your costume … you are dreaming.”

“Well I guess that is a state, but I am wearing a slip — I am a Freudian slip — get it?”

“Oh, like yay, cool. My friend went last year as Picasso’s blue period. You’d like that one.”

“Ha! I would.”

This year though? This year I had about half an hour to come up with an idea. No whiskers this time. But what could I pull off?

I got to work. I took a few tampons and dipped them in Windex like the guy in San Francisco told me to do. Then I did the same with some winged maxi pads until they turned an aqua shade of blue. I was dressed in my New York black and then stuck the wings to the back of my T-shirt.

I started getting into it and decided to take the tampons, string them together and make a pair of tampon earrings. Then a Tampax tiara, and I wore them like a crown on my head. I was just about ready to go when I felt like the outfit needed something … more.

So I took blue construction paper and cut out a big circle. A period. An end to the sentence and then I took two safety pins and attached it to the front of my T-shirt.

My friends and I took a car service to the party. A large loft space on the edge of Park Slope. The host greeted us. A handsome man with brown shaggy hair and oversized glasses for his costume. Cute, I thought.

We were there only a few seconds when I saw him. I had to look twice.

This. Could. Not. Be.

But there he was. A slightly out-of-place, curly-haired man in a blue oxford. We stared at each other in disbelief. I finally broke the silence.

Some Kind of Blue

Source Elana Rabinowitz

“Nice costume,” I joked.

He said nothing.

“Um, like what are the chances?” I smiled. He did not.

You see, that young man also decided to go as Picasso’s blue period, but for him, this was no last-minute, throw-some-sanitary-napkins-in-blue-dye thing. This was 365 days of preparation, and he was not amused.

And while I sat there with wet Windex dripping down my shirt, he had on the most gorgeous starched aqua blue oxford with about 20 tampons hand-dipped in blue paint purposefully placed around his chest and back like swimming sperm. Each one a work of art. Then on the bottom of his shirt, a scripted signature that resembled Pablo’s. This was obviously the work of great care and diligence and it was clear that he was not happy with my replica.

“I spent a year preparing this costume,” he said, annoyed.

“It looks great. I spent a few hours preparing mine.”

“I do this every year. Last year I had hundreds of toy soldiers glued to my chest — and I was at war with myself and the year before that I … ”

“Hey, Kid, don’t worry about it, yours looks better than mine.” He stood there annoyed and I just laughed it off. Finally, I did the only thing I could to break the tension — I took a picture of us, hugging, blue period to blue period. He with his Picasso pipe, and me with my real-life cigarette. We posed and finally, he smiled.

As the night progressed, I was in awe of the detailed costumes: One woman had a real bone on her back, handmade feathered angel wings. The list of fabulousness went on and it rivaled San Francisco for creativity.

I was chatting it up with a guy in sunglasses, finally feeling at ease in my costume choice. I put my hand on his arm. He looked at me.

“I’m sorry, but the smell of Windex is really starting to get to me,” he said as he flapped a hand up and down.

Maybe my costume wasn’t the best choice after all.

I took the ridiculous tiara off my head and ripped off my wings. And I went back to my comfort level. I was there in basic black with a blue circle like a bull’s-eye on my chest. The kid could have his glory. I could have my self-respect.

I grabbed a drink and then a funny thing happened. One by one, all the artists, the ones wearing the most elaborate costumes came up to me.

“I love your costume,” one said.

“We have been trying to figure out what you are all night,” another chimed in.

“I’m a period,” I said proudly.  The end.

And they loved it. 

I left that night hating Halloween a little bit less, the faint odor of Windex still lingering behind my ears. 

The following year I stayed home and wondered what my doppelgänger was wearing. I’d hoped it was something great.  For me, I just couldn’t pretend anymore.

Vanuatu’s Big Moneymaker: Selling Citizenship

Vanuatu is reviewing its “passports for sale” scheme over concerns that inadequate scrutiny of the mainly Chinese applicants risks undermining the visa-free access it enjoys with the EU.

Since it was launched in 2016, the citizenship program has issued some 4,000 passports and generated more than $200 million in government revenue for Vanuatu, mostly from Chinese applicants eager to obtain a passport that provides visa-free access to 129 countries, including the EU.

Vanuatu is not alone in selling citizenship, although most countries, such as the U.K. or U.S., require investments in businesses or government bonds before handing over a passport or residence permit. But the popularity of the program sets the archipelago apart. In fact:

In 2018, passport sales generated a third of Vanuatu’s government revenues.

But a series of scandals, including the deportation of six Chinese nationals in July at the request of Beijing — four of whom held Vanuatu passports — has led the EU to express its concerns about the program’s controls. 

“We are getting some negative implications as a result of the lack of due diligence on applicants to get citizenships, which is affecting our bilateral relations with other countries,” says Ralph Regenvanu, Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs. 

“So, it’s important for us to take stock, stop some aspects of the program and make the other aspects better.” 

The review comes amid wider worries in the west over Chinese influence in the Pacific, where Beijing has funneled $6 billion in development aid since 2011 on infrastructure projects. Chinese universities have developed Pacific language programs and offered hundreds of scholarships to Pacific students to boost educational links. 

Beijing’s Pacific push has persuaded six of the region’s island nations to switch their diplomatic allegiance away from Taiwan toward Beijing since 2016. Most of the tiny island nations have populations of fewer than 1 million — just 300,000 people live in Vanuatu — but each has a vote at the U.N. and controls strategic shipping lanes in Pacific waters. 

Regenvanu says that because of its limited economic clout, Vanuatu had no choice but to use its votes strategically in international organizations such as the U.N. He said this included targeting infrastructure investment from larger countries, such as China. 

“We’re experiencing a surge in Chinese interest in Vanuatu and investment in Vanuatu compared to, for example, Australia, a traditional partner,” says Regenvanu.

He rejected western concerns that Beijing held too much sway in the region. “The important thing is we make sure that our laws that we develop for our benefit are enforced across the board. It doesn’t matter who you are.”

But the deportation of the four Vanuatu passport holders to China undermined this statement. The Daily Post in Vanuatu suggested that Beijing had persuaded the local government to “enforce Chinese law within its own borders.” 

Regenvanu says the program review was already underway and would be completed before March parliamentary elections. He said the government was not happy with the level of due diligence on applicants or the structure of a program that requires little more than a $150,000 cash payment to receive Vanuatu citizenship. 

“The challenge is oversight and regulation; just who exactly is getting these passports?” asked Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific program at the Lowy institute, a think tank. 

Pryke continued, “Vanuatu passports are appealing, they’re relatively cheap and have no requirement for a minimum amount of time or investment in the country itself, just a cash payment.”