The United States and Indonesia are building a formidable alliance, driven largely by the two nations’ shared antipathy toward the Chinese government’s designs on the South China Sea and more general concerns about China’s role in the region. An August 3 Reuters report detailed the marked success of Tuesday’s meeting in Washington between U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. The two officials reportedly spoke at length about a strategic partnership designed to counteract China’s longstanding territorial ambitions in the waterways north and east of Indonesia and also to continue a joint response to the Covid-19 crisis. In the last year and a half, the U.S. has emerged as one of Indonesia’s most generous benefactors in the fight against Covid, donating eight million vaccine doses to the Asian nation.

Press play to hear this AudioHopper Original podcast or listen on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.

Horror author Cynthia Pelayo is the latest in the seemingly endless parade of victims of cancel culture. As Rachel Llewellyn has reported in an article on the website Book and Film Globe on August 2, Pelayo planned to follow up her hit police procedural Children of Chicago with an anthology of writings entitled Cops vs. Monsters. In an age when so many progressives loathe and seek to disrupt and defund the police, that’s a rather unfortunate title. To the woke mob, cops are monsters. Not some of them, but all of them. The very people who never tire of warning others about the evils of stereotyping and generalizations joyously engage in the same and are quick to lash out at anyone seen as sympathetic to those who don uniforms and badges and put their lives on the line to protect the public. Online rage against Pelayo’s editorship of Cops vs. Monsters led her to abandon the project in haste and cancel her online accounts.

Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder and CEO, speaks at the Fortune Global Forum, Nov. 2, 2015, in San Francisco. (Photograph by Stuart Isett/Fortune Global Forum; Flickr permission)

As the trial of disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes looks set finally get underway, with July selection scheduled for the end of August, speculation abounds about what strategies the prosecution and the defense will put to use. Elizabeth Holmes is the defendant who, as a nineteen-year-old Stanford dropout, launched Theranos back in 2003 with extravagant claims about her company’s potential to revolutionize the medical and startup fields. The claims rested largely on a supposed technological breakthrough: a blood-testing device that could produce reliable results through analysis of a blood sample so tiny it could come through the prick of a finger. Theranos quickly raised fortunes from investors, reached a $9 billion valuation, and gained a board of directors including prominent names such as famous litigator David Boies, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and future Defense Secretary James Mattis. But Holmes’s star fell when it emerged that Theranos blood-testing devices were not the breakthroughs the firm claimed, that their results were far from reliable indeed, and that Holmes and her colleague Ramesh “Sunny” Bulwani had baldly and repeatedly lied to investors, the media, and the public.  An article in the Wall Street Journal suggests that the prosecution will rely heavily on the testimony of ordinary people who made use of Theranos technology for prognoses about critical health matters and got unreliable results.

Many of us were not at all surprised when Bong Joon-ho’s brilliant film Parasite won Best Picture at the 92nd Academy Awards, and became the first non-English language film to receive that honor, but some people perhaps do not realize just how faithfully its depiction of class-tinged antipathy, deception, and madness reflects the social reality of contemporary South Korea. An article in Bloomberg Businessweek’s August 2 issue makes reference to Parasite in its analysis of the real estate market in South Korea and the frustrations that many consumers have with the skyrocketing cost of decent housing. Specifically, the article cites Parasite’s contrasting of the spacious and elegant home of a wealthy Seoul family with the squalid, filthy, Wifi-deprived, and easily submerged digs in which a working family has to live. Life in North Korea may be bad, but the sad truth is that certain aspects of South Korean society have come to look rather like a grotesque parody of capitalism and can only give ammunition to those who wish to find fault with the free-market system and question the dichotomous schema of South Korea good, North Korea bad. One wishes the otherwise excellent Bloomberg Businessweek article put things in historical perspective. More than 36,000 American soldiers died in a so-called police action from 1950 to 1953 to preserve South Korea as a free, democratic, capitalist country. Reining in the excesses of speculative capitalism gone wild might be the greatest service any Seoul politician could perform to honor the sacrifices of the past and prevent the social reality depicted in Parasite from growing ever more insidious and conducive to class hatred.

By Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist. He is the author of the short story collections Scenes from the Catastrophe (2016), The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). Michael's story "Confessions of a Spook" won Causeway Lit's 2018 fiction contest.