Mookie Betts and David Price returned to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday for the first time since defeating Los Angeles in the 2018 World Series as members of the Red Sox.
But as the Dodgers’ new duo was officially introduced in center field — not far from where they celebrated the final out of that World Series victory — Betts said he’s hoping to end the 2020 season in similar fashion.
“I’d like to celebrate here again in this jersey,” Betts said, moments after putting on his No. 50 Dodgers uniform for the first time.
The Dodgers are hoping for a similar outcome following Monday’s blockbuster deal that brought Betts and Price to Los Angeles in exchange for outfielder Alex Verdugo (L.A.’s top prospect — and MLB’s No. 35 — a year ago), shortstop Jeter Downs (their third-highest ranked prospect on the 2020 Top 100 list, at No. 44) and catcher Connor Wong (No. 28 on the Dodgers’ 2019 year-end list).
Los Angeles has won seven straight division titles, but remains without a World Series championship since 1988. The Dodgers watched the Astros and Red Sox celebrate titles on their home field in 2017 and ’18, respectively, then won a franchise record 106 games in ’19, only to be eliminated in the National League Division Series — once again in their own ballpark.
“To be able to jump onto a team like the Dodgers, a team that has had the amount of success they’ve had the last couple years, and then add a player like Mookie Betts,” Price said, “and to then be able to add myself to that mix as well, that’s something special to be a part of, and we’re both very excited about it.”
They’ve arrived. pic.twitter.com/UAcvATulxe
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers)
Manager Dave Roberts shared his excitement as well, as he is eager to pencil Betts into the NL’s highest-scoring lineup from 2019.
“As a coach, you just want to get going and what we do is compete, that’s what we love to do,” Roberts said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”
It’s hard to blame the skipper, who will have the luxury of rolling out the 2018 AL Most Valuable Player in right field alongside ’19 NL MVP winner Cody Bellinger in center field.
“We’ve kind of talked through passing at the All-Star Game and as we played here,” Betts said of his relationship with Bellinger. “It’s going to be pretty special. He won the MVP last year, so he’s definitely going to put on a show, and I’ll do my best to keep up with him.”
The Dodgers took on Betts’ entire $27 million salary for 2020. The 27-year-old outfielder is set to become a free agent following this season, and he has previously expressed his desire to test the market next winter.
Now that he’s arrived in Los Angeles, might Betts consider signing a long-term extension with the Dodgers?
“Right now, I just got here — still trying to find a house and those kinds of things,” Betts said. “I’m not even really thinking about that. I’m just focused on staying with 2020 and going from there.”
Along with the pair of MVPs in the outfield, the Dodgers will have multiple Cy Young Award winners in their starting rotation. Price, who won the 2012 AL Cy Young Award with the Rays, joins three-time NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw.
Price has plenty of history with Dodgers general manager Andrew Friedman, who selected Price with Tampa Bay’s No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. The Red Sox and the Dodgers will split the remaining $96 million owed to Price over the next three years.
“I’ve watched him grow and continue to evolve on the mound — and obviously the success he’s had is evident and everybody knows about that — but he was as good of a teammate as I’ve ever seen,” Friedman said. “The impact he has in the clubhouse was as significant as I’ve seen. … What he does on the mound every fifth day is obvious and evident to everybody that follows, but as we look to continue to supplement and add to this core group, what David brings goes beyond what he does every fifth day.”
Though the trade process had its hiccups and took nearly a week to complete after reports of a deal initially surfaced, Price and Betts said they were both thrilled to be in Los Angeles on Wednesday and eager to report to Glendale, Ariz., next week.
“Once we found out we were both coming, we were excited,” Price said. “We shared some text messages and phone calls, and we’re excited to be here.”
Paul Casella is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter @paul_casella.
Mixed reactions have trailed the decision of David Oyedepo, presiding bishop of the Winner’s Chapel, to sack some church officials for allegedly looting the church’s treasury.
Oyedepo, who during an empowerment summit organized for the church’s ordained workers on Saturday, said some “very high up officials,” including accountants, turned themselves into a network of fraudsters — the very vices they were “trusted to prevent.”
He said, “We had no choice but to dismiss them. You can imagine top church officials engaging in doubling figures and other dubious practices. After we dismissed them, we discovered more fraud. ”
“Those who should discover the fraud were the ones involved in it. One of them refused to confess until the last minute. Can you imagine accountants perpetrating fraud in the house of God?
“Don’t employ them, don’t sympathize. Whoever sympathizes with the wicked is wicked himself. Don’t sympathize with any perpetrator of fraud, otherwise, you are a partaker of the evil act.”
This statement has stirred mixed reaction from many Nigerians on Twitter, as they have taken to the platform to either bash or defend the cleric over his decision.
Read Also: Oyedepo Fumes As Highly Placed Church Officials Steal Millions
See some reactions below
I see nothing wrong with Oyedepo dismissing those thieves that stole from God but asking others not to employ them is totally wrong, even God forgives who is Oyedepo not to. And besides those private Jets and luxury life style was not handed over to him directly from heaven
— Warlord (@BalogunGambari) January 12, 2020
“Don’t employ them and don’t sympathise with them. Whoever sympathises with the wicked is wicked himself.” – Bishop Oyedepo on church members who stole church money.
But same person has “sympathised” with the wicked and wanted Nigerians to “employ” him.
What has changed?
— Musa Ahmed (@Kempez2017) January 11, 2020
There are real prophets and there are fake prophets.. For sure.
I can’t say which oyedepo belongs to.. But y’all that derive joy in jumping into every pastor bant, you think you’re “woke”, you think you’re the modern day “3wise men” all in one body.
— captain steam (@nielo_2wit) January 12, 2020
Many People Especially The So Called “Born Again” Claim They Don’t Believe In Karma But It’s Clearly Playing Out To Business Man Oyedepo,
When He’s Dinning With Looters, Wailing & Supporting Them He Didn’t Know Looting Shall Be His Portion Too,
— Iké Nná (@IKENNA_____) January 12, 2020
But How Come The God Of Oyedepo That Gives Him All The Visions And Prophecies That He Always Shouts Didn’t Show Him When The Officials Were Looting His Church Treasury?
Is This Not A Confirmation That This Oyedepo Man Is Just A Business Man?
God Cannot Allow Such To His Own! pic.twitter.com/8qp95qot0G
— Iké Nná (@IKENNA_____) January 12, 2020
So a church treasury was looted and bishop oyedepo dismissed thoes that were involved, so one fool said he should have seen it in a vision before it happened….
Well he should have but he still caught them so we move .
— Australia visa specialist (@Haryurlar1) January 12, 2020
The church officials stole millions and the pastor sacked them. Where is the forgiveness once preached and visionary of Christ Jesus advocacy? By their fruits ye shall know them, Oyedepo isn’t different from end time pastors. After una go say nah pastor matter e no concern me
— Ijaw Damsel (@Dabobelemabo) January 12, 2020
I’m not concerned on why Bishop David Oyedepo is trending… I’m concerned as to why @OfficialAPCNg Bots and handles, APC sympathizers are the ones launching these attacks…
Is Oyedepo contesting elections or has he hammer Buhari recently?
— The Puppeteer * (@AkporCharles) January 12, 2020
The post Nigerians React As Oyedepo Sacks Church Officials For Stealing Millions appeared first on Information Nigeria.
Collapses: The Venice Biennale and the End of History
The 2019 Venice Biennale feels like the end of everything: the end of art tourism, the end of vacations, the end of the beach and the climate of pleasure. With bad news about the climate crisis worsening every day, the nationalistic turn of governments from the U.S. to Britain to Italy to India and Brazil, it’s unclear whether the liberal ideology that produces world-scale cultural events like the Biennale can hold much longer, or whether the economic or ecological structures of global tourism can continue to support it. The liberal democratic order of free markets and free will is undermined around the globe by violent nationalism and economic protectionism. The Biennale exhibition, May You Live in Interesting Times, offers little but a hollow scream in opposition. The whole thing feels a bit like buyer’s remorse, a magnum opus from a lapsed believer in Francis Fukuyama’s promise that we’d reached the End of History.1
Joint Italy-EU military vessel with helicopter, Piraeus Port, Greece, August 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
Both the main exhibitions and the various national pavilions feature more women and artists of color this year than any previous. Diversity is manifest with respect to types of work, interests, materials, biographies, and ages of the artists on view. Curator Ralph Rugoff states that “[the artists’] work grows out of a practice of entertaining multiple perspectives: of holding in mind seemingly contradictory notions, and juggling diverse ways of making sense of the world.”2 Diversity and multiplicity appear here to be set up as counternarratives to universalism, the ideology that has historically governed the international contemporary art discourse. But is this in fact the case? Fukuyama says, “The spectacular abundance of advanced liberal economies and the infinitely diverse consumer culture made possible by them seem to both foster and preserve liberalism in the political sphere.” If, as Fukuyama suggests, there are “fundamental ‘contradictions’ of human life that cannot be resolved in the context of modern liberalism, that would be resolvable by an alternative political-economic structure,”3 diversity is not one of those contradictions. Rather, pluralism reinforces the “common ideological heritage of mankind,”4 while fascism’s resurgence around the globe and the popular embrace of nationalist identity are more of a contradiction in light of the realities of international markets. This is the turn of events that market utopians like Fukuyama failed to anticipate.
Rugoff never comes off as a utopian, given his pervasive air of weary detachment. Rather, the exhibition transmits how it feels to watch the ascent of Donald Trump and the unfolding catastrophe of Brexit from the “all-knowing,” cool remove of the contemporary art insider—omniscient, yet impotent, and unable to divest from toxic habits. George Condo, Sun Yuan and Peng Yu, Christian Marclay, and Arthur Jafa channel an anxiety bordering on panic. Construction, shipping, air travel, commerce, monuments, the body, gender—all once fixed as concepts in the Western imagination, with clearly associated positive values, are now invoked by artists such as Yin Xiuzhen, Nicole Eisenman, Slavs and Tatars, and Martine Gutierrez as hazardous, unstable, and volatile. Nowhere is this instability more evident than in the work of Mari Katayama, a Japanese artist whose self-portraiture tableaus tease the boundary between agency and objectification. These artists, more than the comparably straightforward representation advanced by artists like Zanele Muholi, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, or Gauri Gill, capture the zeitgeist of not just the show but the present time. Our historical moment is monumentally catastrophic, and the usual serious response to extremism doesn’t seem to be working. Instead, the images range from abject to absurd.
Indios antropófagos: A Butterfly Garden in the (Urban) Jungle. Peru Pavilion, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
Especially relevant are the artists who toy with the fetishization of Indigenous bodies and cultures for Western consumption. Within the main exhibition curated by Rugoff, Gutierrez situates her U.S.-born Latinx, trans body within a series of photographic landscapes, Body in Thrall, that challenge touristic notions of indigeneity, cultural authenticity, and romanticized poverty around non-white people. She occupies diverse personas, from a film noir femme fatale to the terrifying Aztec deity Tlazolteotl, “Eater of Filth,” always negotiating the high fashion aesthetics of desire with a subversive decolonial aggression. Similar themes and tactics appear in Indios antropófagos in the Peruvian Pavilion, curated by Gustavo Buntinx, in which historical artifacts from the Spanish colonial era and large mosaic tile works by Christian Bendayán depicting frolicking Indigenous youth come together in a scathing critique of cultural tourism. In the French Pavilion, curated by Martha Kirszenbaum, artist Laure Prouvost references the oceans and the sea life projected to die out by 2048, only 29 years into the future, with a number of glass animals seemingly cast into the sea floor, strewn across a landscape of refuse and discarded technologies.
Back in the real world, there’s no way to excise or sequester the beautiful parts into a future that can outlast the very real catastrophes happening now. The overwhelmingly urgent need for a complete lifestyle change played in my head over the week following my visit to the Biennale, as I recuperated from a difficult personal and professional year on a seven-day Greek Islands cruise with my young children, partner, and parents. Looking over the waters where thousands of migrants have drowned, from the top deck of a massive, yet outdated, luxury vessel, I considered how the looming climate crisis creates a condition of simultaneous enjoyment of the modern world that is all around us, and a mourning for its obvious and inevitable loss. Is this the end of curating? The traditional role of the curator as guardian of the world’s collected treasures seems as irrelevant as the contemporary job of mounting resource-heavy exhibitions for an international crowd of jet-setters. Conceptualism has begun to rot from the head, as when Rugoff controversially chose to include Christoph Büchel’s installation of a salvaged boat that, in 2015, sank in the Mediterranean with more than 800 people aboard. I reflected on this watery tomb, recommissioned as a tourist attraction, while looking out across Piraeus port. In the distance, a military troop (jointly operated by Italy and the European Union) performed exercises atop a warship in a city where anti-immigrant attacks are on the rise. In the seventeenth century, the Venetians gained and lost control of Athens in a rivalry with the Ottomans. Today, it seems the EU’s primary objective in the Mediterranean is to sever thousands of years of interconnection between these three regions. Two years ago, the regenerative promise of art as a universal cultural good was undermined when documenta 14 recreated the financial dynamics of German austerity policies in Athens, Greece afresh. Debts went unpaid, workers uncompensated, all in the name of “fiscal responsibility” that nearly shuttered the sixty-year-old event for good. What better outcome ought we to expect this year from an art event born out of universal nationalism?
Halil Altindere, Space Refugee, 2016. May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019. Photo: Anuradha Vikram
An explicitly utopian impulse is fugitive in May You Live in Interesting Times, but it manifests in the intersection of art, science, and technology. Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s Crochet Coral Reef raises awareness about preservation of the oceans through a crowdsourcing practice that combines mathematical learning with environmentalism and craft. Tavares Strachan’s meditation on African American astronaut Robert Henry Lawrence, Jr., locates metaphysical discourse about the afterlife within a scientific conversation about space travel—where elsewhere Halil Altindere complicates this view with the tale of Syrian cosmonaut Muhammed Ahmed Faris and his persecution by the state. Ryoji Ikeda bathes us in cleansing white light and describes a massive, thunderous universe of data that takes breathtaking shape before our eyes. Hito Steyerl’s This is the Future is a post-internet pastorale in which computer vision is applied to the Venetian landscape to depict a state of perpetual, dreamlike futurity in which the present persistently refuses to resolve into view. The protagonist of Steyerl’s installation seeks out a garden that she had previously hidden in the future in order to protect it from the ravages of the present.
The song of the Lithuanian Pavilion Sun & Sea (Marina) still rings in my ears:
“When my body dies, I will remain,
In an empty planet without birds, animals and corals.
Yet with the press of a single button,
I will remake this world again”
The finale of Sun & Sea (Marina) details the 3D printing of facsimiles of species in widespread collapse, taking comfort in their simulated resurrection as one would in the cold rays of a dying sun.
The gentle tenor of the apocalyptic visions in Sun & Sea (Marina) perfectly encapsulates the feeling of living at the outside edge of the story of the human species on planet Earth, with the knowledge that history as we know it may well be about to end because our species is one of millions undergoing collapse. The emptiness of our endeavors is invoked by Shilpa Gupta, whose wildly swinging metal gate hammers an effigy of national borders into a gallery wall. Otobong Nkanga’s drawings in acrylic on crayon reference the mechanical, industrialized nature of exploitation in the 21st century. Unlike the bees, whose society is organized around abundance, we humans have engineered systems to maximize our suffering. If humankind can truly lay claim to a common ideological heritage, as Fukuyama once argued, we have only ourselves to blame for our impending end.
The Niger delta is burning. The oil companies plumbing the river basin of its black gold have found an ingenious way of dealing with the natural gas they consider a waste by-product of the extraction process. Capturing the gas would be costly, inefficient – so instead, they flare it off. Across the delta, towers of flame burn day and night, some of them stretching ten storeys into the sky.
Gas flaring was officially banned in Nigeria in 1984 – but still, two million people live within four kilometres of a flare site, at risk of the cancers, neurological, reproductive and respiratory problems linked to the pollutants released into the air. The soil is hotter, and crop yields have dwindled; “You plant, and before you know it, everything is dead”. When the rains come, they are black. Oil spills spew from the pipelines of Shell and ENI, the biggest operators in the area. Shell has reported 17.5 million litres lost since 2011; Amnesty International say that’s likely a hefty underestimate. The spills have poisoned drinking water, and destroyed the livelihoods of the fishermen who once combed the delta.
We are over the brink. People have already lost their lives to hurricanes and bush fires and flooding, to toxins and crop failures – all disasters rooted in fossil-fuel dependent extractive capitalism, bankrolled by a deregulated financial sector. People continue to lose their lives. Global temperatures soar, and a monstrous future slouches towards us from the ecocidal imaginations of the handful of humans directly invested in a doctrine of global annihilation. Now, the death drive built into the heart of our economy reveals itself in ever more undeniable terms; the skull is showing through the skin.
Scientists at ExxonMobil confirmed the truth of climate change in the 1980s, at the very latest. Since then, Exxon and its fellow fossil fuel companies have spent decades sponsoring climate change denial and blocking efforts to legislate against apocalypse. Under their auspices, newspapers and broadcasters and politicians revelled in a vicious subterfuge disguised as pious gnosticism; asking how we can know for sure that climate change is caused by human activity. In recent years, this strategy has buckled under the weight of public outrage and scientific proof.
The science is clear: only an ambitious, rapid overhaul of the fundaments of our economy gives us hope of survival. And that hope is tantalisingly within our grasp. We have the technology, and we have the financial capacity; all that’s missing is the political will to give those solutions heft, muscle and cold hard cash.
Now, culprit companies are suddenly flouting their green credentials to shore up their position as custodians of the future. Shell Oil has made a big song and dance about its investments in green technology. Goldman Sachs has funded research into how to make cities “resilient to climate change”. These are little more than attempts to seduce and cajole worried publics and skittish investors. Still these companies hoard over-valued assets, continue ploughing resources into carbon-heavy industries, show no signs of leaving enough fossil fuels in the ground to avoid the breakdown of the climate, the potential collapse of civilisation and the extinction of life on earth. Negotiators were banned from mentioning climate change in recent UK-US trade talks. the UK government has subsidised the fossil fuel industry to the tune of 10bn in a decade, and its legislators continue to take its lobby money in return. They defend their right to starve out and flood and burn chunks of human existence – and make money doing it.
We are being held hostage by a cabal of ruthless ideologues whose only loyalty is to a doctrine of global death. Their success thrives on silence, isolation, manipulation, denial. They are united in their opposition to reality, in their determination to hunt down or hound out real alternatives that threaten their mortal stranglehold on power. All other doctrines are heresy, and their preachers envoys of a sinister delusion. They are unique guardians of a dark and dazzling reality.
If this took place among a handful of hippies beckoning oblivion from the heat haze of a california desert we would call it is: a death cult. Instead, it is orchestrated from sumptuous glass towers, from the velvet inner chambers of parliament – so we call it business as usual.
To these science-backed suggestions that economic alternatives are possible – even urgent, necessary, beautiful – they react with vitriol and incredulity. Saving the world may sound appealing, but it clashes intolerably with the cultish diktat: ‘There Is No Alternative”. Partisans of the Green New Deal like Alexandra Ocasio Cortez are dismissed at best as well-meaning dreamers or childish hysterics, and, at worst, nightmarish envoys of backdoor totalitarianism. Indeed, grassroots activists have been murdered for organising against big polluters. The political allegiances are clear: Defending life is foolish. Annihilation is inevitable. We have only to accept it graciously, to walk into its arms.
Rightwing politicians barter casually about the difference between a decarbonisation target of 2030, 2045, 2050, 2060 as a matter of messaging and electoral success. As though that difference were not cashed out in millions of deaths. Such differences slide off the sunny, addled mind of the cultist, for whom life and death are indistinguishable.
A chosen few will be spared; the golden ones who walk in the light. As the asset-stripping and plundering continues apace, so the market for luxury disaster insurance packages has grown, with companies offering high-tech flood defences, private firefighters, private security to guard against mobs of looters. Theirs is a gilded world where disaster can never truly happen to them – because it never truly has. That no insurance policy in the world will provide them with breathable air or sustainable agriculture is a matter for the others, the ghosts, the un-living, those whose existence never really registered. Us.
Broadcasters tried to haul Boris Johnson before the court of the living on Thursday night for the climate change debate, to account for Conservative policy proposals which present a 50% risk of tipping the world into irreversible, runaway climate breakdown, to account for his fossil fuel backers. He responded by threatening them with censure and legal action. Cult leaders can tolerate no scrutiny of their fragile world picture, no challenge to their power.
We can break the stranglehold, and commit the death cultists to the bleak annals of history where they belong. It is time to choose only those who have chosen life.
Eleanor Penny is a writer and a regular contributor to Novara Media.
Every year, thousands of women and children become victims of sex trafficking in their own countries and abroad.
Nigeria is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children subjected to trafficking in persons including forced labor and forced prostitution.
Trafficked Nigerian women and children are recruited from rural areas within the country’s borders – women and girls for involuntary domestic servitude and sexual exploitation.
The quest to make it big in life coupled with the harsh living condition in the country forced these women to jump into the prospects of travelling abroad at any single opportunity not minding the consequences.
Many of these distraught and sometimes desperate Nigerians believe that the streets overseas are paved with gold, pounds and dollars that once you step into those countries it will be bye-bye to poverty and hardship.
Unfortunately, as it is said, not all that glitters is gold. To escape the hardship at home, many take great risks to travel abroad only to enter into a more harrowing experience.
Some die in the process while others escape with scars that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. While some were victims of circumstances, having been tricked and deceived into such journey, others take the risk of opting to travel abroad by land and sea routes knowing that they cannot afford the normal process of getting visas and honouring several embassy appointments. Some of the girls deceived into this route end up as sex slaves with so much regret and consequences.
reporter encountered two young women in Anambra, Amarachi Ojene, 23, and Tobechukwu Igboeri, who shared the chilling experiences of their near-death journey to get greener pastures overseas. Years after such ‘journey to hell’, their lives have never been the same again.
Amarachi, from Nibo, Awka South Local Government Area of Anambra State was an SS2 student in 2012 when she encountered a devil in human skin who not only took advantage of her naivety and innocence, but also exploited her poor parental background to trick her into a sex slavery trip abroad.
Having lost her dad when she was seven years, Amarachi relied on her mother who eked out a living by hawking cooked Okpa (a local delicacy) around the Awka metropolis. They also augmented the proceeds by engaging in manual labour in local farms for people at a fee.
So, she was so excited when she met her friends who told her that their aunt was looking for a house help that would live with her overseas. She reasoned that going abroad with the woman would ease a lot of load for her suffering mother as she would be paid in dollars, which she would send home to alleviate the family sufferings.
Hear Amarachi’s gory story:
“I vividly remember the day that two girls in my town, Chioma and Miracle, met me at the Eke Awka market, where I had gone to buy palm fruits for my mum’s Okpa business. They asked if I would like to travel abroad; they said their relation living in a foreign land was looking for a house-help to take along.
I was excited as I thought that a bright prospect for higher education and escape from poverty had come not knowing that I was walking into a death trap. They told me that the same relation was also taking them with her, so that they could be fixed into money-yielding ventures over there.
When I went home, I didn’t tell my mum immediately because I was afraid of her reaction, but when I eventually told her, she was also excited more so when she heard that the woman taking me abroad is from Awka. One week later, they came back and told me that we would leave in a few days.
They never told me the main thing we were going to do there and it was later that I realized that those girls were her agents who recruit unsuspecting ladies for her in the organized sex pimp business she does.
They took me to the woman called Aunty Ebube and I was surprised when I got there and saw many young girls there too. She asked me probing questions, wanting to know if I was aware of the business I had come to do and said no. We slept that night and the next morning she took us to a shrine at Umubelu Awka to take oath of allegiance and commitment.
The native doctor welcomed us saying that the expected guests had arrived. We were 19 girls in all and I was the youngest and the most immature among them, barely 16 years old then. Everything started happening in a jiffy as the man gave us white cloth to tie on our body.
The native doctor warned Ebube when we got there that I was going to spoil things for her, but I didn’t understand what was going on. I fainted there and they sprinkled water on me, but that didn’t deter them from administering the oath of secrecy.
Ebube said that we were going to pay her N450,000 each when we get to our destination and the native doctor warned us of the dire consequences of reneging in the deal as he told us that the deity of the shrine would strike any defaulter dead.
With a shaking body yet lacking the requisite courage to extricate myself from their grip, we got initiated there. We drank and chewed some substances there and were given a small calabash each. We danced round the shrine to complete the ritual.
The next day, we moved to Onitsha and boarded a luxury bus travelling to the North. She told us to tell any policeman we see on the road that we were going on holidays in the North to see our parents based there. She told us never to accept that we were together in the journey and that if we implicate ourselves, she would not hesitate to disown us.”
Hijab for all of us
“When we reached the northern part of the country, she told us to change into hijab and pretend that we are northern Muslim girls. A vehicle, which she had pre-arranged, was already waiting for us by the time we arrived. We were squeezed into the vehicle.
She kept picking more people on the road, which showed that a syndicate was involved. We slept in Zendel and by 3:00a.m we left for another route until we got to a place they called Agadez. She told us to stay there for the meantime and find our destiny pending when those who will take us overseas arrive.”
“When she told us that we should stay and test our destiny briefly, I never knew that it was a kick off for the prostitution business until I was handed over to some clients in a hotel. She forced us to wear skimpy dresses and singled me out having seen my demeanour.
She told me that I’m now in a no-man’s land and I should cooperate if I still wanted to remain alive. I was crying knowing that I had walked into a trap that would take divine intervention for me to wriggle out of it. I was deep in thought when she landed me a deafening slap. She told me to be ready to die if I won’t allow men to sleep with me.
My first time was a man old enough to be my father. The man was given option to make a choice among the bevy of girls quartered there and he picked me knowing that I was a fresh virgin. I told him that it was over my dead body that he would sleep with me. I stubbornly refused to succumb to their threats.
Short time sex there goes for 5,000 CFAs while full time is 10,000 CFA. We kept on arguing and she told me that I should not join issues with her. I was made to know that our batch of girls was the fourth trip for her while the final destination is Libya. Usually she would just sell the girls at Agadez and return to the Southeast to recruit more for the same purpose.”
How my Igbo dialect saved me
“On that fateful night, two men came to look for female companions. She spoke with them in the local language, which I did not understand. As I was about to be handed over to them, I exclaimed in Igbo language, ‘Ewooh, o kam si jee (Is this how I have ended up)?’ When the supposed sex customers heard my exclamation, they became more interested in taking me to their home at all costs that night. They offered Madam Ebube 15,000CFA and took me.
On our way, they started asking me probing questions and I opened up and told them my predicament and identity. They were shocked and also told me they were from Enugu State. Instead of taking advantage of me that night, they treated me like a sister.
One of the boys, Anayo, told me that perhaps God made them come to the brothel that night for my sake because they had already retired after the day’s business, but on a second thought decided to stroll to a happening joint.
The two boys kept me safe, took pity on me, refused to sleep with me and offered me a mattress where I slept in the sitting room and they retired to the bedroom. They took me back to the hotel the next morning and Madam asked me whether I enjoyed my night with those boys and I said yes.
I told her that I want to go home and she started another round of threats. She told me that I could go if I repay her N450, 000. She sold one girl there and told me that I would be the next; she also reminded us that the oath we took spelt out death or madness on anyone who attempted to leave the place secretly.”
At the crossroads
“At this point, my heart was pounding and I excused her and ran back in the direction to Anayo’s house, but he was not in. I wrote a notice on their gate telling him that if he doesn’t come to rescue me immediately, I would be either dead or sold off into slavery the next day.
As God would have it, I was apprehensive that night knowing that time was ticking away for me when suddenly Anayo showed up and told our madam that he needs me for another night again. Madam thought I treated him well and handed me to him, but he took me to the house of one of the villagers and hid me there.
I was hidden for three days and madam had to suspend her trip and kept searching for me. Anayo gave me a phone and was relating all that was happening to me until the fourth day that he took me to the park. If not that he hid me, I would have died in the desert en route Libya.
Of all the 19 girls, I was the only one who returned home. I have not set eyes again on Ifunanya, who she sold first. (Begins to sob). I don’t know their fate till today. Whether they eventually reached Libya, died of hunger or were devoured by wild beasts.
“Anayo and his brother bought a ticket for me, took me by 3:00 a.m from Zendel and landed in Kano. I boarded a vehicle to Abuja, but I didn’t know anybody there.”
Ran into kidnapper’s vehicle
“In Abuja, I entered a cab that promised to take me to Kuje where some of our brothers resided, but I never knew I had boarded the wrong vehicle. The man took me on a wrong route and headed towards a thick bush. I raised the alarm, but nobody could answer me.
The man showed me his undies and I saw all manner of weapons, guns, knife and other things he had on him. He told me to say my last prayer because he would kill me and take my body parts. He used the short knife to slash my clothes to pieces and I was stark naked.
He raped me and wanted to take my body parts fresh and I ran and he gave me a hot chase. I saw a vehicle laden with tomatoes and lay flat for the vehicle to crush me. The driver stopped abruptly, picked me naked like that and I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I saw myself in the military barracks, Abuja.”
She never knew I was still alive
Under the custody of the military, Amarachi was taken to the scene where she boarded the evil man’s cab, but the man could not be traced. The army later handed her to NAPTIP who documented her case and made efforts to rehabilitate her and also seek ways of punishing her trafficker. She was later sent home in Anambra where she reunited with her family. She later saw her trafficker and got her arrested.
“The day I saw her at Eke Awka, she was shocked because she thought I was dead. Because we reported to DSS and NAPTIP when I came home, they gave me a number to call them any day I sight her and that was what I did. When I called the phone line, she was picked up. They raided her home, detained her and the native doctor (he is dead now) and were also charged to court.”
Picking up the pieces of her life
Settling down to a normal life after the harrowing experience for Amarachi has not been easy. Though she managed to go back to school and finally wrote her senior school certificate exams, Amarachi’s problems are far from being over. Her mother suddenly collapsed and died from high blood pressure leaving her and the siblings as orphans.
She also fell in love with a man who is not financially buoyant. The uncle who now acts as her father insisted that all the traditional rites of marriage would be completed before she is pronounced married. Along the line, she got pregnant for the fiancé and had to give birth in her home. Now nursing a 10-month-old baby boy, life has remained tough and harsh for her.
“My uncle refused to allow the man take me home because he couldn’t fulfill the long list of requirements presented to him. My mother died heartbroken for all these shocks and now without both parents, we find it even difficult to feed,” she lamented.
Appeal and words of advice
“I still thank God I’m alive today. My advice is that people should not allow anybody deceiving them with fairy tale promises about travelling abroad. I need urgent help presently. Helpless without mum or dad and also nursing a baby, I desire to go back to school and upgrade my life, but now even to feed is a serious problem. Government and public-spirited individuals should help me,” she pleaded.
Fast-rising Nollywood actor Perikles Mandinga was born in Guinea-Bissau and has been in the entertainment industry for many years. He attended college in Lisbon, Portugal before moving to the USA.
He started as a fashion model, and has featured on runways, magazines, billboards and television. Mandinga won “Rip the Runway”, a P Diddy produced reality show aired on BET Network.
He has extensive film and theatre credits both within the US and internationally. His theatre credits include Tower of Babel, Insanity and Properly Plucked. He has also featured in popular Nollywood movies including Omoge, Adaora, Kiss and Tell including some others.
In an interview, Madinga revealed his plans to gain strong network in the Nollywood industry and make a name for himself. He also talked about his crazy fantasy and how he would like to date one of Nigeria’s most controversial actress, Tonto Dikeh.
Who is Perikles Mandinga?
I am a simple person who lived in two different countries (Portugal & USA) from an early age. I like to travel, and I still play sports. I like meeting new people.
What actually informed your decision to go full-time into acting? And how far do you think you can go?
From an early age, I knew acting was something that I love to do but coming from a traditional African family, I knew it was going to be a hard task because my dad wouldn’t accept the idea. He was very hard on me and my siblings. After finishing my studies in Lisbon, I had the opportunity to come to the USA to model. I knew that acting was going to be my full-time devotion, not modelling because it was my life’s purpose.
What are those unique skills you are bringing to play that may possibly stand you out or better still that may give you recognition among all the big stars we have in industry?
Starting out in a poor African country moving to a European capital and then in NYC I have seen things that maybe the other big stars have not experienced.
What kind of roles do you prefer?
I like to play characters that can be genuinely kind, nice guys or bad guy roles- those make me work harder at their motivation. I like characters that have flaws that can be exploited. Because I have a good sense of humour, I can build characters that have two sides to their personality.
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? What are your personal goals?
In 5 years from now I see myself doing amazing work with actors that inspired me to get into this business.
Which are the films you have acted in?
Kiss and Tell, Omoge, Adaora, Yes I Do. All of these are Nollywood produced.
By all standards, what comparison can you do between Hollywood and Nollywood- which is more relevant to Africans?
Well from my perspective, I see Hollywood as something that has been there for so long, and now there’s a new kid on the block- Nollywood. It is fresh, with new ideas and it’s growing so fast that nothing will be standing in its way. It has a natural and large market eager for new films that it can relate to.
In your opinion, what do you think should be done in terms of sourcing for fund and maintaining world-class movie productions?
In time, as Nollywood grows, it will be able to finance its growth, similar in history to Hollywood. An important thing is to ensure that new, young and upcoming individuals shouldn’t be shut out from participating.
These days, what have you been up to or which project(s) have you been embarking on?
So many things are happening all at the same time, so my hands are full with projects from movies, theatre and other ventures. It is very exciting.
You are quite handsome, you probably would be getting admiration and glances from the female folks. How well do you relate with them?
Thank you for the compliment. I have a big sister who always kept me in line. She and mom taught me to respect everyone. As a result, I have been fortunate to have many female friends who I trust and have deep friendships with.
Currently in the movie industry, who is your female crush?
That should be Tonto Dikeh. I like her so much and she has a very unique personality. Crazy though but I wouldn’t mind going into a serious relationship with her. After all, I can last more than 40 seconds.
What has fame robbed you of and what doors has it opened for you?
You think I have fame? So far nothing has changed me and likely never will. I am no different than anyone else. I am the same person who gets up each morning to see what the day will offer.
Describe a typical day?
My typical day contains jogging, working out or yoga meditation. I have theatre work with my coach and go on many auditions. I like going for walks and playing sports. Nothing makes me happier than reading books. I especially like autobiographies lately.
Name one luxury product you wouldn’t mind breaking the bank for?
I can’t break the bank for what I want because it doesn’t exist yet. I would do everything to help my sister from dying from cancer.
Where is home at the moment?
Home is the place where you’re loved and feel comfortable. Right now I live between Lagos, Lisbon and NYC.
Who is your role model and why?
My Dad is my role model and he will always be. He was a doctor and taught me about ethics, morals and love and helping others.
Aside acting, what other things do you have passion for?
I have a strong love of our African continent. I believe in helping my brothers to achieve their full potential. Sometimes I think that is my calling. I am curious about different aspects of business around the world.
Any message for your fans out there?
Thank you!! Please keep us going by seeing our movies. You inspire us to keep going with new movies, new stories. We started from almost nothing and your attendance at our films answered our prayers. Thank you
By most measures, it would be absurd to call $1,515,000 for four walls of Sheetrock a bargain.
In Manhattan’s flagging real estate market, that was the median sale price of a two-bedroom apartment last quarter — an 8 percent drop from the same period last year, and the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos, according to the brokerage Douglas Elliman. Only the four-bedroom-and-up market fell further, with a 17 percent drop.
After years of softness at the top, it is finally becoming a buyers’ market for people who intend to actually live and work in New York. Case in point: deep bargains across the wide spectrum of two-bedrooms, the most common apartment for sale in the city.
Median Sales Price by Size
Manhattan’s two-bedroom market had the largest discount among studio to three-bedroom co-ops and condos last quarter.
Source: Douglas Elliman
By The New York Times
Yes, prices are still out of reach for many New Yorkers, but there are increasing options for first-time and move-up buyers at far lower prices than the median sales price suggests. Coupled with historically low interest rates, two-bedroom buyers are stretching their dollars further with everything from income-restricted co-ops to shiny new condos.
Since the city’s real estate sales market peaked around 2016, observers have focused on the shrinking price tags of ultraluxury three- and four-bedroom apartments, thousands of which remain vacant and unsold. The causes are many: investor speculation, oversupply, shrinking tax breaks, rising transfer taxes, economic uncertainty and downright hubris.
The current declining prices in smaller apartments, though, represents a significant shift and the return of more reasonable pricing. Two-bedrooms made up 31.5 percent of Manhattan’s for-sale inventory last quarter, the most of any category, according to the Elliman report, and has long been the bread-and-butter of both developers and agents. The two-bedroom market accounted for half of all sales at one point in the 1990s, but in more recent years, the ultraluxury condo boom in Manhattan has prompted a move to bigger and more lavish apartments — many of which were targeted to investors and second-home buyers, said Jonathan Miller, the president of Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants and author of the report.
Still, upgrading from a smaller apartment to a two-bedroom remains cost prohibitive for many New Yorkers, Mr. Miller said. Last quarter, it cost a median $685,000 more to move up from a one-bedroom to a two-bedroom in Manhattan.
Those forces — too expensive for many move-up buyers, too small for the affluent jet set — have squeezed the two-bedroom market into an awkward position for many sellers, said Tyler Whitman, an agent with Triplemint and cast member on the reality series “Million Dollar Listing.”
“Twenty-five hundred options in the city is a lot of options,” he said, referring to an estimate of how many two-bedrooms are listed in Manhattan. Owners of standard cookie-cutter two-bedrooms would face the toughest challenge, he said.
Of course, the lower prices may be discounts without distinction for many New Yorkers. The median household income in Manhattan was $79,781 in 2017. Assuming a 20 percent down payment and spending 35 percent of their monthly income on a mortgage and additional housing costs, such a buyer could comfortably afford a $358,896 apartment, according to StreetEasy. Citywide, the household income was $57,782, enough for a $259,933 home.
To highlight potential bargains across the extensive two-bedroom market, we looked at income-restricted units for first-time buyers, prewar co-ops with deep discounts, new condos with back-end sweeteners, and options beyond Manhattan.
Many look to the glut of new high-rise, luxury condos for what ails the city’s real estate market, but ambitious pricing at the top also set unrealistic expectations in the comparatively modest co-op market.
“Sooner or later what was happening in the luxury market was likely to catch up with the two-bed market,” said Frederick Warburg Peters, the chief executive of Warburg Realty, who added that one-beds and small two-bedrooms have “sunk into the doldrums” since about four months ago.
Compared to the same period in the previous year, the median price of co-ops declined for the first time in 13 straight quarters, according to the Elliman report.
Frances Katzen, an agent with Douglas Elliman, recently listed in Sutton Place, on the east side of Manhattan, a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with plenty of natural light and prewar bona fides for $599,000 — a 20 percent markdown from its previous price of $750,000. Two years ago, it listed and languished on the market with another brokerage for $995,000.
“People are cannibalizing each other, to usurp a buyer from one another,” said Ms. Katzen, who believes the true value of the apartment is around $625,000 — but she listed lower in the hopes of standing out from a growing number of co-ops for sale.
The biggest discounts for two-bedroom resale apartments were downtown, south of 14th Street, where the median sales price fell 15 percent to $1,568,750 compared to the same quarter last year, according to the brokerage Halstead. Midtown had the second deepest discount for resales in that period, a 10 percent drop to $1,217,500.
Even among apartments specifically reserved for middle-income buyers in Housing Development Fund Corporation co-ops, prices have softened.
In Upper Manhattan’s Hamilton Heights, Allison Jaffe and Linda Mancini listed in October a $325,000 two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, 24 percent less than when it was listed earlier this year for $430,000 with another brokerage.
Because the apartment is in an H.F.D.C. co-op, there are income limits for buyers (up to $57,600 for a family of two, $67,200 for three or more), as well as restrictions at resale designed to keep the unit affordable.
“The phone’s been ringing every day,” said Ms. Mancini, who is an agent with Key Real Estate Services. So far they have had about 18 showings and six offers, she said.
The lower price was well advised. Upper Manhattan just had the fewest third-quarter sales of co-ops and condos in a decade, said Mr. Miller, the appraiser, in part because of a surge of new expensive inventory and ambitious resale pricing that followed.
One of the difficulties with H.D.F.C co-ops is that the income caps can leave buyers little room to save for a down payment. But with the price cut, they hope to have expanded the buyer pool for their listing, Ms. Jaffe said.
The city has about 28,500 H.D.F.C. units across 1,333 buildings, according to the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. But there were only 230 income-restricted apartments listed for sale in the five boroughs as of late October, according to StreetEasy.
Two-bedrooms need not be million-dollar investments in New York, especially outside of Manhattan. In the Kingsbridge Heights section of the Bronx, Daniel D’Amico of Damico Group Real Estate, is listing an 878-square-foot, two-bedroom apartment in a 2006 condo for $349,000.
“What we’re seeing right now, in the Bronx at least, is the market is super hot,” Mr. D’Amico said. “If it’s priced right, it’s going to sell in the first week or so.” The apartment was listed in late September and already has an accepted offer, he said.
While sales volume is down across the city and prices are down in Manhattan, prices have been steadily rising in the other boroughs. In Queens, the number of sales dropped 7 percent compared to the same period last year, but the median sales price rose to $600,000, a recordsince at least 2003, according to a Douglas Elliman report. In Brooklyn, despite rising inventory and falling prices in the luxury segment, co-ops sold for a median $485,000, a new third-quarter record.
None of the major brokerages release boroughwide sales reports for the Bronx, the most affordable borough in the city, but its perception is changing, with a major development boom underway and a growing share of market-rate housing for sale.
Some of the most attractive deals for two-bedrooms can be found in new buildings, and for good reason: a glut of empty luxury condos. About 4,100 of 16,200 condo units completed since 2013, roughly one in four, remained unsold in September, according to an analysis of StreetEasy data.
Developers are loathe to lower their prices directly, in part because of obligations to lenders and for fear of devaluing the rest of their stock. Instead, buyers are getting discounts on the back end.
In East Harlem, Patricia Weber, a bio-tech start-up consultant, recently closed on a two-bedroom apartment at 1399 Park, a new 23-story condo tower, for $995,000. That was, ostensibly, the full asking price, but Ms. Weber’s agent, Rob Taub with CORE, also negotiated that the developer pay for her transfer taxes, a discount of about $25,000.
Ms. Weber, who is moving from Bucks County, Pa., had been considering a New York purchase for a decade, but only started looking in earnest six months ago. There was no shortage of choices, she said, but she and her husband liked the East Harlem building because of its attended lobby, its proximity to transit, and the neighborhood’s culture and restaurants. She will use the second bedroom as an office, because she works remotely.
The price is also notable, because it falls just short of triggering the so-called “mansion tax” on the purchase price of homes over $1 million. In July, the flat 1 percent tax was changed to a staggered rate of 1.25 percent for $2 million sales, and up to 3.9 percent above $25 million.
The changes spurred many buyers to close their purchases before the summer deadline, and as a result the pace of sales in the latest quarter plummeted, especially for larger, more expensive apartments. But the two-bedroom market was also affected, in part because they can cost well above $2 million, and even those below the new tax threshold suffered from negative market sentiment, agents said.
“I think, potentially, we’re near the bottom of the market for everything,” said Shaun Osher, the chief executive of CORE.
Stefano Ukmar for The New York Times
Elsewhere, new projects are offering far more than closing cost rebates. At One Manhattan Square, a new 815-unit skyscraper south of Chinatown, the developer Extell recently offered to pay for seven years of common charges on the purchase of a two-bedroom apartment. Two-beds make up about 40 percent of the inventory and prices for those now start around $2.1 million, which would mean more than $100,000 of forgiven common charges, paid for by the developer.
That promotion is no longer being offered, said Raizy Haas, a senior vice president with Extell, but “the truth is, we’re reasonable.” The developer is now testing a rarely seen model in luxury condos: rent-to-own plans, in which a tenant can apply the rent toward the purchase of the unit.
As of Oct 24., there were 209 closed sales at the building, or about a quarter of the total inventory, according to an updated StreetEasy analysis. Ms. Haas said there were “hundreds more that have not yet closed.”
How a discount is derived can vary, but increasingly, it’s becoming the rule in new development, said Mr. Peters of Warburg Realty.
“There’s practically nowhere where you can’t negotiate the price, and the transfer taxes, and the mansion tax, and the legal fees, and who knows what else,” he said. Where to draw the line in the sand is another thing.
“I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a client say ‘O.K., if I drop the price, can you guarantee me a quick sale?’ And my response is no,” he said. “All I can guarantee you is no sale, if you don’t.”
For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.
This is a preview of our pop culture newsletterThe Daily Beasts Obsessed,written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week,sign up for it here.
Youre Going to LoveAnd Be So Confused ByWatchmen
Remember when everyone was like, Whats going to happen to HBO when Game of Thrones ends? And, like, Is TV dead as we know it?
I mean, I guess its understandable to want to stage a funeral for great television while watching that final season of Thrones. (Burn!) But two drama series have aired on the network in the time since Kings Landing fell, each of which I would rank leagues above Thrones on any year-end Best of TV list:Years and Yearsand the second season of Succession.
The former found a near-miraculous way to be topical about todays rabies-ridden sociopolitical discourse, while the latter took the mantle when it comes to watercooler buzz and, especially, with media and Twitter obsession. In addition to those two, the second season of Big Little Lies was a major ratings and press boon.
But with Watchmen, theres not just a third drama series of excellence entering the mix, but one that I think will, if not quite have the same reach as Thrones, fuel a fanbase of people who just will not stop talking about it.
Watchmen premieres Sunday and shares two unmistakable characteristics with that show: It is visually astonishing, with each frame more ambitious, stunning, and remarkable than the one before. You also have no idea what the hell is going on at any given moment. If you liked that about Game of Thrones, youll LOVE it about Watchmen.
That a series which poses such a fascinating narrative conundrum would count Damon Lindelof as its creator should come as no surprise; as the man behindLostand The Leftovers, hes proven a penchant for a certain kind of dazzling befuddlement that evolves into brilliance. The series is an adaptation inspired by the revered DC Comics 12-part series from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, but which the HBO creative team involved refers to as more of a remix.
I have not read the comic series, so I have no idea what that means, but I can say that I didnt feel like I needed to have read it to enjoy the episodes of the HBO show that I watched. I also saw the notoriously maligned 2009 Zack Snyder film adaptation, but dont remember anything about it besides its insane sex scene: as Patrick Wilsons legendary bottom thrusts and a fully-nude Malin Ackerman gyrates, Leonard Cohens Hallelujah plays.
Anyway, what I am getting at is that you dont need to be familiar with these things to watch the show.
The show itself presents a sort of sci-fi alt-history, set in a contemporary America where Robert Redford is serving the longest presidential term in history. He has signed into law reparations for black Americans. Vietnam is a state. Things are…different. But as a jolting reminder of how not-different things are, or at least have been through history, the series starts with a violent, brutal dramatization of the very real 1921 Tulsa massacre, in which as many as 300 black citizens were killed.
That real history haunts the shows alt-history, where, in the present day, white supremacists are hunting down police officers. These officers now wear masks to conceal their identities for their own safety, and are working alongside masked vigilantes, like Regina Kings Sister Night, who is a former cop named Angela.
Theres a lot to say and untangle about the ties between white supremacy and institutions like the police force, as well as the very ideas of policing and justice in general, which are coming untethered among escalating racial tensions. What lands and what doesnt land is subjective in Watchmen, and you cant shake the feeling that you need to watch the series unfold entirely before ruling one way or the other.
Of course, the journalists and critics (hi!) telling you to watch this because its really damn good have had the luxury of seeing six full episodes. Id go ahead and comfort you by saying if youre intrigued enough by all of the huh? in episode one, you get many answers in episode twothough, my god, not all, not even close. Quote Kings Angela after a particularly baffling, though thrilling, moment: What the fuck?
Same, girl. And often. But by the time Jean Smart enters in episode three, you know I was on board, full-stop. She gives one of my favorite performances of the year as a former superhero-turned-FBI agent, a perfect complement to my nightly bingeing of her work as Charlene Frasier on Designing Womena TV series I have mentioned in this newsletter far more often than I really should.
The Daily Beasts Obsessed
Everything we cant stop loving, hating, and thinking about this week in pop culture.
After five months of struggling to find his place in the crowded Democratic field, a campaign reboot following the early August shooting that left 22 dead in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, has moved O’Rourke into a position where he appears more comfortable than he was in the first five months of the race: An outsider attempting to lead a movement.
His message, in campaign stops, emails to supporters and social media posts, has shifted in a way that shows his campaign has found an animating cause. His language has changed, with O’Rourke — an at-times profane campaigner in Texas who early in the race promised he’d stop dropping f-bombs — now back to cursing regularly, a decision being heard by supporters as plainly communicating the urgency of the issue and by critics as an attention-grabbing gimmick.
So has his travel schedule: O’Rourke is setting aside the traditional path through the early voting states in favor of a new emphasis on those that vote on Super Tuesday. He’s campaigning with down-ballot candidates, visiting downtrodden Democratic Party organizations and stopping in cities and towns facing tumult.
It’s tough to tell whether Democratic voters are giving O’Rourke a fresh look in light of his new approach: A recent CNN poll found him with 5% support, which his backers hoped was a sign O’Rourke was beginning to climb out of the low single digits. But an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll this week showed him with just 1% support. Given the margin of error, it’s possible O’Rourke hasn’t moved much at all.
Battling with Buttigieg
O’Rourke has drawn headlines since Democrats’ third primary debate in Houston last week — the one his aides said he prepared for the least, with zero sessions behind a podium and the one day that had been devoted to readying him for the showdown scrapped in favor of a last-minute trip to Midland, Texas, after a shooting there.
Days before the debate, the Democratic National Committee passed on a warning to campaigns that ABC would be broadcasting the debate with no delay — which meant no chance to bleep out curse words. The warning didn’t name O’Rourke directly, but there was little doubt why it had been issued.
On stage, O’Rourke delivered one of the night’s most memorable moments when he advocated for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, telling a cheering audience: “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15, your AK-47. We are not going to allow it to be used against fellow Americans anymore.”
The comment led to criticism from Republicans and Democrats — and it gave O’Rourke an opportunity to brawl with the foe his supporters have been angry at since he mocked O’Rourke’s habit of “standing on things” in New Hampshire in early April: Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana.
Coons’ prediction proved accurate on Wednesday, when Trump did just what he’d warned of, tweeting: “Dummy Beto made it much harder to make a deal. Convinced many that Dems just want to take your guns away. Will continue forward!”
As Buttigieg built establishment support and fundraising might, O’Rourke’s camp has seethed. His aides and backers note Buttigieg’s private flights and point out that O’Rourke often drives himself around the campaign trail (and recently took the Bolt Bus from New York to Boston). They see — and want voters to see — a clash that’s geographical, with Buttigieg representing the industrial Midwest where Democratic support has slipped and O’Rourke from the Sun Belt, a more diverse region where the party is gaining strength.
Even as O’Rourke supporters relish the fight with Buttigieg, the bigger picture of the race shows the steep hill O’Rourke must climb. Buttigieg a week ago released his first television advertisement in Iowa — a luxury O’Rourke likely cannot afford, since Buttigieg raised $25 million in 2019’s second quarter to O’Rourke’s $3.6 million.
O’Rourke’s campaign sees evidence this new approach is working. Aides said the three days following the debate were O’Rourke’s best fundraising days since April, the month after he launched his presidential bid.
The day after a gunman who police say had posted online a racist screed warning of a “Hispanic invasion” killed 22 people in an El Paso Walmart, O’Rourke had a moment he worried might have ended his chances of winning the Democratic presidential nomination.
He was on his way to his van after a vigil outside Las Americas, an immigration advocacy center in El Paso — already emotional and unable to find his wife, who had been there, too — when he found himself boxed in between two cars and a handful of reporters behind the building. One asked him whether there was anything Trump could do to make things better.
Everyone there knew they had seen a significant moment. Two O’Rourke aides nervously approached this reporter, asking about what had happened. Soon afterward, on Twitter, O’Rourke’s comment went viral.
O’Rourke, meanwhile, was on his way to another vigil. He looked at his wife and said, “Look, I f—ed up,” he told The Atlantic’s Edward-Isaac Dovere in a podcast interview this month.
In the moment, O’Rourke said, it felt “like maybe this is over.”
“Nobody spoke in the van. I didn’t speak. I was pissed. I was pissed at myself, I was pissed at the world, I was pissed at that question. I was pissed that we were even having this conversation — like, how in the world could we be asking ourselves these questions as civilized, intelligent human beings, who report the news, make the news, you know, report on the policy, make the policy? Why are we even asking, is Donald Trump racist? Did he have something to do with this? Could he make this better?” O’Rourke said.
“I think I was mostly mad at myself: Why have I not been able to figure this out? And why have I not been able to make these connections more clear? Why have we not been able to change this?”
O’Rourke said he didn’t consciously work through what he might do other than run for president. Instead, he said, his thought after the shooting was, “What am I doing, at all?”
Did he consider dropping out? What had happened in his hometown, he said, “just down in my bones or my essence, made me question myself. And so to some degree, yes.”
There were also decisions to be made — such as whether O’Rourke would join the rest of the Democratic field and visit the Iowa State Fair, one of the rituals of the presidential campaign trail.
“I was like, f— no, uh-uh,” he said. “I can’t pretend. I would be pretending.”
“And to some degree, you’re performing when you’re running for office, right?” O’Rourke said. “You’re never fully, wholly, truly yourself, warts and all. You are on a stage and you’re projecting and you’re acting in a way that you want people to read and form their picture of you. No one can help that. … We’re all actors on that stage, and no one more so than perhaps someone running for president. But I couldn’t go do that.”
His decision to skip Iowa forced O’Rourke and his aides to have bigger-picture conversations about where he would go and what kind of campaign he would run moving forward.
At the same time, Trump’s administration had targeted undocumented workers in Mississippi in an immigration raid.
“The two seemed very connected to me in a very obvious way — this manner of terrorizing people and trying to terrify the country about immigrants and Hispanics and people who are really the most vulnerable and the most defenseless in America,” O’Rourke said. “And I said, I want to be there. I want to go there. And I want to go anywhere where people are being kept down or made to be afraid.”
His return to the campaign trailnearly two weeks later started with a speech in El Paso in which O’Rourke for the first time called for mandatory buy-backs of assault-style rifles, and said he would take a new route — with fewer performative stops in the early states and more visits to vulnerable or forgotten places across the country.
Since then, he has spent less time in the first four states to vote in the presidential primary process — Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina — and more in the Super Tuesday states.
Among those Super Tuesday state stops: O’Rourke has campaigned with down-ballot candidates in Virginia. He visited Skid Row in Los Angeles. He delivered a speech that drew a large online audience in front of Democrats in Arkansas. And he visited the Oklahoma City bombing memorial in Oklahoma.
The changes suggest O’Rourke’s strategy is merely to survive the first month ofprimary season and then begin racking up delegates in March, with Super Tuesday including his home state of Texas. In May, he tapped Jeff Berman, a delegate strategy veteran of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns, as a senior adviser.
The new approach to his schedule, the gun control advocacy and the more direct — and sometimes foul — language are all part of his reaction to the shooting that he told The Atlantic “just, at a really deep, fundamental level, made me wonder what I’m doing or what I’ve ever been doing or what we are doing.”
“And all of the, you know, performance, the ritual, and the — you know, I don’t know, all the editing, that goes into speaking when you’re running for office,” he said, “just really evaporated or didn’t seem as important, or I didn’t even really know that I cared at that point.”
The team successfully gathered the eggs Thursday from the two female rhinos, who live at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya. The outcome was made possible by years of research, testing and practicing the procedure.
“Both the technique and the equipment had to be developed entirely from scratch,” Professor Thomas Hildebrandt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany said in a press release. “We were able to harvest a total of 10 oocytes – five from Najin and five from Fatu – showing that both females can still provide eggs and thus help to save these magnificent creatures.”
The egg extraction is just the one part of a long journey to keep the northern white rhino from becoming extinct.
Najin and Fatu, the two rhinos, are not able to carry a pregnancy themselves. Researchers will attempt to artificially inseminate their eggs with frozen sperm from a northern white rhino. If researchers can produce embryos, they would be transferred to a female southern white rhino who would act as a surrogate.
‘A tangible reality’
The last male of the species, named Sudan, died of natural causes in March 2018. Another male, Suni, died in 2014. Sperm from both males was cryogenically frozen with the hope that someday the technology would advance enough to use it in reproduction.
“Yesterday’s operation means that producing a northern white rhino embryo in vitro — which has never been done before — is a tangible reality for the first time,” Cesare Galli from Avantea, an Italian laboratory that specializes in animal reproduction, said in a press release.
The harvested eggs were airlifted from Kenya to Italy, where the Avantea laboratory will fertilize the eggs in vitro with the sperm from the decreased males.
In July, a southern white rhino gave birth to a baby boy at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. It was the first artificial insemination birth of the species in North America, the zoo said.
The birth of the baby rhino was especially important because it meant the artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer worked. Once the whole process has been perfected in southern white rhinos, it could be used in other endangered species, the zoo said.
“On the one hand Ol Pejeta is saddened that we are now down to the last two northern white rhinos on the planet, a testament to the profligate way the human race continues to interact with the natural world around us,” Richard Vigne, managing director of Ol Pejeta, said in a press release.
“However we are also immensely proud to be part of the groundbreaking work which is now being deployed to rescue this species,” he said. “We hope it signals the start of an era where humans finally start to understand that proper stewardship of the environment is not a luxury but a necessity.”