Chinese Communists Threaten Foreign Universities That Screen Hu’s Films

(p. C5) For more than 20 years, the filmmaker Hu Jie has been trawling the deep waters of Chinese history to create a series of harrowing documentaries about the early years of Communist Party rule.

. . .

“Spark” — a film that has undergone many iterations, alternations and expansions — reconstructs the fate of a group of young people who started an underground journal 60 years ago. And “The Observer,” a documentary about Hu by the Italian director Rita Andreetti, is at once a sympathetic portrait of the filmmaker and an introduction to his films.

Both are being distributed by Icarus Films as part of dGenerate Films’ collection of independent Chinese movies, curated by the American film producer Karin Chien.

. . .

Hu’s films are personal takes on several critical turning points in modern Chinese history, especially the persecution of independent thinkers in the 1950s, the famine that followed it, and the Cultural Revolution a decade later. He hunts down survivors, finds rare written material, and creates a composite history in which he is also very much present as a narrator and judge, clearly taking sides with the victims of Maoist China.

Almost all of his films come across as radically low-tech. For years he used a battered Sony Handycam, and he almost never uses lights or multiple cameras — largely because he works alone, but also to give the feeling of authenticity and discovery, as if the viewer were on a journey with Hu to discover a forbidden past.

. . .

. . . he became famous among China’s intelligentsia for his 2004 film, “Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul,” one of the films being released by Icarus. It recounts the story of a political prisoner who was executed in 1968 for refusing to renounce her political convictions. Hu traces Lin’s story through her classmates and friends, and especially through letters that she wrote with her own blood for lack of ink.

That led to “Spark,” about the magazine for which Lin Zhao wrote an epic poem describing the struggle for freedom from tyranny. First released in 2013, “Spark,” like all of Hu’s films, has been added to and re-edited, most recently to include testimony by a witness to the famine who wanted to wait until retiring to speak out.

. . .

. . . he said he hoped his films would resonate today. “Spark,” he said, shows how even in the darkest era of the Mao period — the great famine of 1958 to 1961, which killed at least 30 million people — some were willing to stand up and be counted.

“This story has great significance today,” Hu said. “This country is a country with a unified governing structure, so if no one dares speak truth, a mistake will continue for a long time.”

. . .

Though Hu’s critical works are now being made available to foreign audiences, pressure from the Chinese government makes it hard to arrange public showings there, Chien said.

This scrutiny began around 2015 when she and others put together a touring film festival called “Cinema on the Edge.” Hailed as “beyond the censors’ reach,” the film series ended up coming under intense pressure from the Chinese government. Filmmakers in China were warned to drop out and when the festival went ahead, but with less publicity, foreign outlets, especially universities, were told that screening the films could endanger their chance to work with China.

For the full story, see:

Ian Johnson. “‘To Show Reality as It Really Was’.” The New York Times (Monday, June 29, 2020): C5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 28, 2020, and has the title “Excavating Chinese History, One Harrowing Film at a Time.”)

Hydroxychloroquine Cut Covid-19 Deaths in Half in Henry Ford Health System Study

(p. 7A) A Henry Ford Health System study shows the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine helps lower the death rate of COVID-19 patients, the Detroit-based health system said Thursday [July 2, 2020].

The study analyzed 2,541 patients hospitalized among the system’s six hospitals and found 13% of those treated with hydroxychloroquine died while 26% of those who did not receive the drug died.

. . .

The new study, published in the International Society of Infectious Disease, found patients did not suffer heart-related side effects.

For the full story, see:

AP and Detroit News. “Coronavirus Developments.” Omaha World-Herald (Friday, July 3, 2020): 7A.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed date, added.)

The published version of the research summarized above, is:

Arshad, Samia; Paul Kilgore, Zohra S. Chaudhry, Gordon Jacobsen, Dee Dee Wang, Kylie Huitsing, Indira Brar, George J. Alangaden, Mayur S. Ramesh, John E. McKinnon, William O’Neill, Marcus Zervos, and Henry Ford COVID-19 Task Force. “Treatment with Hydroxychloroquine, Azithromycin, and Combination in Patients Hospitalized with Covid-19.” International Journal for Infectious Diseases (published online in advance of print on July 1, 2020).

Transcript of Political Economy Podcast Interview with Arthur Diamond on Openness to Creative Destruction

The lightly edited transcript was posted on July 30, 2020 on the American Enterprise Institute web site.

Yesterday Jim Pethokoukis posted a lightly edited transcript of my conversation with him on his American Enterprise…

Posted by Arthur Diamond on Friday, July 31, 2020

“Privileged Solipsistic Elites” Defend Their Opposition to Free Speech

(p. A17) Three days after an open letter signed by more than 150 cultural luminaires darkly warning of a growing “intolerant climate” stirred intense response on the internet, another group issued a counterblast on Friday [July 10, 2020] accusing them of elitism, hypocrisy and complicity in the bullying they decry.

The first letter, titled “A Letter on Justice and Open Debate,” was posted online on Tuesday [July 7, 2020] by Harper’s Magazine. Signed by prominent figures in the arts, media and academia, including Margaret Atwood, Wynton Marsalis and J.K. Rowling, it warned of a growing tide of illiberalism and a weakening of “our norms of open debate and toleration of differences in favor of ideological conformity.”

. . .

On Friday, after the response letter was posted, the writer Thomas Chatterton Williams, who spearheaded the Harper’s letter, highlighted the more than two dozen Black and other nonwhite intellectuals who signed his letter.

“You know, just a bunch of privileged solipsistic elites worrying about problems that don’t exist,” Mr. Williams, who is Black, tweeted. “So far, haven’t seen any of the formerly imprisoned signatories or the ones who have experienced fatwas cave to the social media backlash, though,” he added.

His dig was a reference to the fact that criticism of the Harper’s letter centered as much on who signed it as its content.

For the full story, see:

Jennifer Schuessler. “Response Aims At Signatories Of Open Letter On ‘Intolerance’.” The New York Times (Saturday, July 11, 2020): A17.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed dates, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 10, 2020, and has the title “An Open Letter on Free Expression Draws a Counterblast.”)

Infectious Disease Specialist Asks If Chinese Labs Did “Gain of Function” Research on Covid-19

(p. D7) For decades, Dr. Daniel R. Lucey, an infectious disease specialist at Georgetown University, has crisscrossed the globe to study epidemics and their origins. His attention now is on the Covid-19 pandemic, which first came to public notice late last year in Wuhan, China. Its exact beginnings are sufficiently clouded that the World Health Organization has begun a wide inquiry into its roots. The advance team is to leave for China this weekend, and Dr. Lucey has publicly encouraged the health agency to address what he considers eight top questions.

“It’s not a legitimate investigation if the team doesn’t ask them,” Dr. Lucey said in a recent interview. He cited public reports and scientific articles as starting points for his queries, adding that Beijing “has never come out and answered these questions.”

Clear answers, Dr. Lucey said, would cast light on how the deadly pathogen spread so rapidly and, perhaps, how exactly the outbreak began. China has not been forthcoming with information, . . .

. . .

The sixth and seventh questions go to whether the deadly pathogen leapt to humans from a laboratory. Although some intelligence analysts and scientists have entertained that scenario, no direct evidence has come to light suggesting that the coronavirus escaped from one of Wuhan’s labs.

Even so, given the wet market’s downgrading in the investigation, “It is important to address questions about any potential laboratory source of the virus, whether in Wuhan or elsewhere,” Dr. Lucey wrote in his blog post.

To that end, he urges the W.H.O. investigators to look for any signs of “gain of function” research — the deliberate enhancement of pathogens to make them more dangerous. The technique is highly contentious. Critics question its merits and warn that it could lead to catastrophic lab leaks. Proponents see it as a legitimate way to learn how viruses and other infectious organisms might evolve to infect and kill people, and thus help in devising new protections and precautions.

Debate over its wisdom erupted in 2011 after researchers announced success in making the highly lethal H5N1 strain of avian flu easily transmissible through the air between ferrets, at least in the laboratory.

In his blog, Dr. Lucey asks “what, if any,” gain-of-function studies were done on coronaviruses in Wuhan, elsewhere in China, or in collaboration with foreign laboratories.

“If done well scientifically, then this investigation should allay persistent concerns about the origin of this virus,” he wrote. “It could also help set an improved standard for investigating and stopping the awful viruses, and other pathogens, in the decades ahead.”

Finally, Dr. Lucey asks the W.H.O. team to learn more about China’s main influenza research lab, a high-security facility in Harbin, the capital of China’s northernmost province. In May [2020], he notes, a Chinese paper in the journal Science reported that two virus samples from Wuhan were studied there in great detail early this year, including in a variety of animals. It reported that cats and ferrets were highly susceptible to the pathogen; dogs were only mildly susceptible; and pigs, chickens and ducks were not susceptible at all.

For the full story, see:

William J. Broad. “Disease Detective Puts Forth Pointed Questions.” The New York Times (Tuesday, July 14, 2020): D7.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 8, 2020, and has the title “8 Questions From a Disease Detective on the Pandemic’s Origins.”)

The blog posting in which Dr. Lucey asked his eight key questions, is:

Lucey, Daniel R. “Covid-19: Covid: Eight Questions for the Who Team Going to China Next Week to Investigate Pandemic Origins.” Science Speaks: Global ID News blog, posted June 30, 2020.

“The Ever-Evolving Standards of Wokeness”

(p. A6) . . . I was pleased this month when “Hamilton” became available to watch on the streaming service Disney+. But now the show is being criticized for its portrayal of the American Founding by many of the same people who once gushed about it. Is it a coincidence that affluent people loved “Hamilton” when tickets were prohibitively expensive, but they disparage it now that ordinary people can see it?

. . .

The upper classes are driven to distinguish themselves from the little people even beyond art. This explains the ever-evolving standards of wokeness. To become acculturated into the elite requires knowing the habits, customs and manners of the upper class. Ideological purity tests now exist to indicate social class and block upward social mobility. Your opinion about social issues is the new powdered wig. In universities and in professional jobs, political correctness is a weapon used by white-collar professionals to weed out those who didn’t marinate in elite mores.

. . .

To understand the neologisms and practices of social justice, you need a bachelor’s degree from an expensive college. A common refrain to those who are not fully up to date on the latest fashions is “Educate yourself.” This is a way of keeping down people who work multiple jobs, have children to care for, and don’t have the time or means to read the latest woke bestseller.

For the full commentary, see:

Rob Henderson. “‘Hamilton’ Loses Its Snob Appeal.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 15, 2020): A19.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date June 14, 2020, and has the same title as the print version.)