Ultimately for Darko Desic, lockup held more appeal than lockdown. Jailed in Australia in 1991 for growing marijuana, Desic sawed through prison bars a year later and had been on the lam since. But last week, according to The Times of London, he “walked into a Sydney police station and told disbelieving officers that he wished to hand himself in.” The pandemic had made jobs hard to come by and left him homeless. Time to rethink the clink.
For 30 years, Desic had kept a low profile, working as a laborer for cash. A model escaped convict, he’d been so law-abiding that he was no longer listed as AWOL in the police computer system, and immigration authorities—he’s from the former Yugoslavia—had stopped looking for him. Now he’ll resume his prison sentence for another 13 months before becoming eligible for parole, but worse, his long-ago jailbreak carries a maximum penalty of seven years.
Winners of beauty pageants, which are a very big deal in the Philippines, are being weaponized—either to fight the country’s Communist insurgency or to propagandize on behalf of the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Or possibly both. The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict is “recruiting beauty queens alongside actresses and female media stars in a propaganda operation called ‘Magdalena Mission’, which it says is aimed at ‘promoting peace and development in the country and stopping the atrocities perpetrated by the [Communists]’,” according to the South China Morning Post. “By signing up stars with large followings … it hopes both to encourage communist defections and to prevent young women from taking up arms in the first place.”
However, the task force has also been linked to human-rights violations, with reports that “regions that received the most funding from the task force also recorded the most extrajudicial killings and illegal arrests.” So if you ever hear a beauty-pageant contestant mention that her talent is “disinformation,” remain alert.
The celebrity-worship crackdown continues in China, with authorities calling it “abnormal” to cast good-looking but untalented performers. (Hmm, good-looking, untalented … now that’s thinking outside the box!) In its latest edict, the country’s broadcast regulator “placed an emphasis on banning idol development programs, reality shows featuring the children of celebrities, and any talent competition shows that charge audiences for voting or other forms of participation,” reported SupChina.
“The moves follow a number of celebrity scandals that rocked China’s entertainment industry in the summer,” the news platform noted. “In August, Canadian-Chinese singer-actor Kris Wu (Wú Yìfán) was formally arrested on suspicion of rape.… Actress Zhèng Shuǎng, who was at the center of a scandal for apparently abandoning her surrogate babies earlier this year, was fined $46 million for tax evasion. Actor Zhāng Zhéhàn was deplatformed after he visited the contentious Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates Japan’s war dead. So far, there has been no official explanation as to why Zhào Wēi, one of China’s most well known actresses, was blacklisted by the government.” Young Chinese whose career objectives include “idol development”—or, for that matter, “idol”—might want to do some soul-searching.
The latest TikTok-inspired “devious lick” challenge has sent students into their high-school bathrooms to yank soap dispensers from walls, perhaps smash a mirror or a sink—just for the sport—leading in some cases to the posting of guards to prevent the vandalism. Meanwhile, “a spokesperson for TikTok said the platform was removing such content … and redirecting hashtags and search results to guidelines discouraging destructive behavior,” reported The Guardian. “We expect our community to create responsibly — online and IRL,” TikTok tweeted. “Please be kind to your schools and teachers.” Previous crazes originating on TikTok have included climbing milk crates stacked precariously like pyramids, because, well, they’re there. Or were, after you piled them.
In other back-to-school news, a nursery worker in London lost a sex-discrimination lawsuit she’d filed against a (female) manager who told her she had “too much breast on show.” The trouble for Latika Lawrence, who later resigned, apparently started because the Bundles of Joy nursery’s regulation uniform top—a pink polo shirt—was not available in her size, and “instead she wore a ‘stretchy black dress’ with a ‘scoop neck’ which was figure-hugging and ‘quite short,’” reported The Times of London. Lawrence lost when “a tribunal concluded that bosses would have similarly rebuked any male colleagues who wore revealing shorts or a shirt with buttons undone.” Which means that even if there’s still an opening at Bundles of Joy, the near-barechested French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy probably shouldn’t bother applying.
Kane Tanaka is, at 118, the world’s oldest person, but she’s probably looking over her shoulder: an astonishing 86,509 of her fellow Japanese citizens have also passed the century mark. Tanaka “attributes her longevity to her taste for chocolate and her liking for the board game Othello,” notes The Times of London. “She has only recently started using a wheelchair.”
For purposes of comparison: in 1963, Japan counted 153 centenarians. But as the country’s longevity levels have continued to rise (no doubt exciting the envy of certain immortality-seeking Silicon Valley billionaires), it’s come at a price: several years ago, the government felt it had to reduce the size of the silver sake chalice it presented to each new centenarian. Cost-cutting, implemented by whippersnappers still down in the double digits.
Not to be outdone—well, actually, to be outdone—the U.K. has shown more modest gains in stocking its population with centenarians, but gains nonetheless; in fact, “a surge in the number of 100-year-olds,” which, according to The Times of London, “increased by 52 per cent from 4,980 in 2019 to 7,590 in 2020.” For reasons unknown, many of them live in Wales.
Although driverless cars are not (yet) legal in the U.K., autonomous delivery pods, cargo-packed and human-free, might be scooting along streets at 20 m.p.h. and pulling up in front of online customers’ homes within two years. The hardware chain Wilko announced a $4 million investment in the battery-powered vehicles. “The pods will be created from the chassis of a Renault Twizy, a small two-seater electric car, which will be repurposed as a driverless delivery vehicle,” reported The Times of London. “Each one will contain about six lockers which customers will access using a smartphone when it arrives outside their property.”
“This sort of transformative technology can have a huge and positive impact for families,” Wilko’s C.E.O. told the newspaper. “Ultimately, it has the potential to reduce costs for customers.” That’s great, but can these home-delivery pods on wheels really be programmed to reliably press the wrong buzzer?
George Kalogerakis is a Writer at Large for Air Mail