The Weekender, June 14, 2019

1) “China’s Mass Internment Camps Have No Clear End in Sight” (Foreign Policy, 11 minutes, August 2018). This is from almost a year ago and you’ll rarely see anything about it, and yes, it is still going on — here’s a story (on Twitter) about the destruction of a Uighur cemetery.

Last summer, online links between China’s western Xinjiang region and the rest of the world began to go dark. Uighurs, who make up the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang, started cutting friends and family members abroad from their contacts on WeChat, the dominant online communication platform in China. Many asked their family members not to call them by phone. The family of one Uighur I spoke to smuggled a final communication through the chat function integrated into a video game. In 2009, the government had shut down the internet entirely for almost a year, but this was something different. Entire minority groups were cutting themselves off from the outside world, one contact deletion at a time.

As Uighurs were disappearing from cross-border conversations, distinctive new building complexes began cropping up throughout the region: large construction projects surrounded by double fences and guard towers, all clearly visible on satellite imagery. Hundreds of thousands of minority men and women, mostly Uighurs but also others, have disappeared into these compounds in the last year, usually with no notice to family members and no charges of illegal activity. As police have struggled to round up enough Uighurs to meet internment quotas, the tiniest signs of potential disloyalty to the authorities, such as giving up drinking or not greeting officials, have become grounds for disappearance. Contact with the outside world is one of those signs of purported untrustworthiness.

Given the dark consequences for communication with foreigners, it is surprising how much those of us outside of China have been able to discover about the mass-internment program for minorities in Xinjiang. Based in part on leaks by an unusually forthcoming police official in Kashgar (now himself incommunicado), scholars have estimated that about 5 to 10 percent of the adult Uighur population has been interned without criminal charge. In one township, police told reporters from Radio Free Asia that they were expected to send 40 percent of the population, including nearly 100 percent of men between the ages of 20 and 50, to the internment system.

2) The Now I Know Week in Review:

Monday: The Casual Slur in Your Utility Drawer — a brief history of Scotch tape.

TuesdayThe Coffee Brand That is a Total Lie — There are no nuts, despite the name.

Wednesday: The Desert’s No Fly Zone — For birds. As in, a bad place for them.

Thursday: Spite Thy Neighbor — When it’s not really a beautiful day in the neighborhood.


3) “The Day the Music Burned” (New York Times, 51 minutes, June 2019). At least a half-dozen of you emailed me to suggest this one, and another dozen or so people I follow on Twitter shared it as well. The subhead: “It was the biggest disaster in the history of the music business — and almost nobody knew. This is the story of the 2008 Universal fire.”

4) Time for another rebus! (A rebus, by the way, is “a puzzle in which words are represented by combinations of pictures and individual letters; for instance, apex might be represented by a picture of an ape followed by a letter X,” per Google.) Click here for the solution.

5) “How YouTube Became a Breeding Ground for a Diabolical Lizard Cult” (The New Republic, 13 minutes, June 2019). What!

6) “The official candy bar power rankings” (Los Angeles Times, 12 minutes, June 2019). Thanks to John G. for the suggestion. There is a ton to quibble about but the most important mistake is one of omission: it doesn’t tell you how to properly eat a Toblerone. Here’s the quote.

Let’s give it up for the Toblerone bar: that thing we buy at the airport duty-free store when we have some euros left over from a trip, but not enough for it to be worth exchanging them back to dollars. Toblerone, while still made in Switzerland, is owned by the Illinois-based Mondelez International, formerly known as Kraft Foods. Fun fact: “Mondelez” is literally a nonsense word made up by employees and doesn’t refer to anything. That’s how badly they wanted to change the name.

The Toblerone has an amusing shape — three-dimensional triangles joined together — and the chocolate certainly tastes richer and milkier than your average U.S. bar. I like the sticky nougat chunks dotted throughout that invariably end up deep in your back molars.

See? Nothing about how to eat it. Most people pry the triangles off the base. This is WRONG. The proper way is to hold the base in your dominant hand, flat side laying against the center of your fingers. Then, place your thumb on the tip of the triangle you want to eat. Push down (do NOT pull or flick or whatever) toward the base, and the triangle will snap off perfectly.  (If you have smaller hands or a very large Toblerone, you can use both hands, but the push-not-pull mechanism is the same.)

By the way, there’s a bear hidden in the logo

Have a great weekend!