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New York Times, Jan 14, 2024 (Sunday)

发表于 2-1-2024 13:43:43 | 显示全部楼层 |阅读模式
(1) Jesse McKinley, Unlike on TV, a Good Hit Man Is Hard to Find; Ineptitude often mars murders-for-hire, expert says. at page A20.
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/ ... -another-story.html

Note: cellulose
(a) "Most movie and photography films prior to the widespread move to acetate films in the 1950s were made of celluloid."  en.wikipedia.org for celluloid.
(i) advantage of celluloid films: "Celluloid is tough, strong resistant to water, oils, and dilute acids, and thermoplastic."  from the Web.
(ii) disadvantage of celluloid films: "Celluloid is highly flammable, difficult and expensive to produce and no longer widely used." from the Web.
(b) The first sentence of Britannica Encyclopaedia says, "Celluloid, the first synthetic plastic material, developed in the 1860s and 1870s from a homogeneous colloidal dispersion of nitrocellulose and camphor."
(i) I am an scientist (biologist, to be specific), and want to know its chemical structure.
(ii) One can easily find chemical structure of camphor, which is oily (before evaporation to become solid).
(A) "Due to the large hydrocarbon group, camphor has a more nonpolar character than a polar character."  from the Web.
(B) The cellulose is simply what constitutes of cell walls in plants. Its units is almost identical to glucose. But vertebrates do not have cellulase, and can not digest cellulose. Birds and panda can, because their intestines have bacteria that can secrete cellulase. (The same for East Asians, who stop producing enzyme to break down lactose in milk after infancy. But East Asians have intestinal bacteria that can produce limited lactase.)
(c) colloid
(i) Due to surface tension, a colloidal solution is made up of small, ROUND particles (solutes) in a solvent. See the photo at the top (made with electron microscopy). Homogenized milk is a colloid: Milk is easily separated into oily (butter) and watery parts. Energy and /or chemical(s) is introduced (consult Fig 7 at the bottom) into milk (such as ultrasound) to disperse oily part into microparticles.
(ii) section 1 Classification of colloid: In the case of camphor oil an cellullose, the colloid is liquid (solutes composed of both camphor oil and cellulose) in liquid (solvent) .
(d) But cellulose is, relatively speaking, more soluble in water than camphor oil.

Wongchompoo and Radchada Buntem, Microencapsulation of Camphor Using trimethylsilylcellulose. Carbohydrate Polymer Technologies and Applications, vol 3, 100194  (June 2022).
https://www.sciencedirect.com/sc ... i/S2666893922000123
(i) The trimethylsilylcellulose(TMSC) is just a kind of chemically modified cellulose.
(ii) Go straight to Fig 7. You can see that in a colloid of camphor oil, cellulose (here TMSC) in solvent, he camphor oil forms the core of solute surrounded by cellulose. Then, of course, the solvent evaporates to leave the solid we know about celluloid.
It’s a scene as old as celluloid: a shadowy figure named Luca Brasi or John Wick or Barry Berkman lurking in the darkness, outfitted with sinister intent and nifty weapons, effortlessly committing a murder for cash, animus or cold political calculations.

Whether they’re called hit men, contract killers or assassins, figures who kill for a living are a staple of Hollywood thrillers — and, by extension, the public imagination.

But experts in law enforcement and international espionage say that murders-for-hire are notoriously difficult to successfully arrange, let alone get away with.

Take, for example, what prosecutors say was a recent foiled plot to kill a Sikh separatist in New York City, which American intelligence officials believe was ordered by the Indian government. Once the plot reached the point where the alleged conspirators needed to employ a killer, things got complicated: The would-be hit man turned out to be an undercover agent working for the U.S. government.

Robert Baer, a former C.I.A. officer and the author of several books, including “The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins,” says he has known many bad guys during his decades in law enforcement and espionage. But even he says finding a real-life killer would stump him.

“I could not find you a hit man,” he said. “And I know a lot of murderers.”

Dennis Kenney, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, concurred, calling the public perception of a slick, skilled hit man “pretty much myth,” adding that a for-hire killer is usually “nothing more than a thug who offers or agrees to a one-off payday.”

“Which is why they get caught,” Mr. Kenney said.

Only about half of all murders in the United States are cleared or solved each year, according to the F.B.I., making it difficult to say definitively how many people are killed specifically by hit men. While there are also no handy stats on how many murder-for-hire attempts fail, experts and indictments indicate that many are marred by amateurism and ineptitude.

Still, the non-hits just keep on coming.

“There isn’t a real efficient, high-quality hit service out there like in the movies,” said Michael C. Farkas, a defense attorney who has worked as a New York City homicide prosecutor.

There are murder plots that unfortunately succeed — as Canadian officials believe was the case in June with the killing of another Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in British Columbia, though it is not known if for-hire killers were involved. That case chilled Canadian and Indian relations, and has cast suspicion on Narendra Modi, India’s conservative prime minister and a Hindu nationalist.

Law enforcement officials and academics who study killers-for-hire put them into several large buckets. There are the civilians engaged in everyday murder plots, which often end in sloppy or tragic fashion.

There are also hit men for the mob, the enforcers working in-house to illegally police the criminal underworld. These killers, perhaps the source of most urban lore about the illicit profession, have been luridly overexposed in shows like “The Sopranos” and films like “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas.”

Employed in a similar fashion are so-called sicarios, whose use by drug cartels has been heinously prolific at times. And of course there are also the professionals employed by government intelligence agencies, who have been suspected in assassinations in London and elsewhere.

Still, even in those attempts with James Bond-ian overtones, law enforcement has proved adept at thwarting some of those crimes, as illustrated by the foiled murder plot against the Sikh separatist in New York.

For the average person wanting to engage a hit man, the perils of purchasing such a service are myriad, particularly in cases involving inexperienced killers, many of whom are stymied by basic logistics like keeping quiet about their plans.

“It’s more complicated than it seems,” said David Carter, a professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University. “And sometimes these aren’t the brightest people.”

Unsuccessful attempts on the lives of lovers — or, more to the point, former lovers — are perhaps the most common, experts say, and many have been stopped by the police. In other grim cases, targets have included children and family members.

A typical real-life murder plot involves a bar, some sinister banter and poor decision-making, said Gary Jenkins, a former police investigator from Kansas City, Mo., who now hosts the “Gangland Wire” podcast.

“They’ll say, you know, ‘I’d like to get her taken care of,’” Mr. Jenkins said. “So the bartender, or the local fixer, or the kind of quasi-criminal that’s there will go to his friendly A.T.F. agent or the F.B.I. and say, ‘Hey, this person is talking about wanting their spouse killed.’ And then the police will go in and be the hit man.”

There is also an ever-expanding web of forensic tools and electronic tripwires used by the police, including cellphone tracking and text messages. These tools play prominently in many cases, including that of a former beauty queen, Lindsay Shiver, who is awaiting trial on charges of trying to have her estranged husband killed in the Bahamas. Ms. Shiver is said to have sent text messages to her bartender boyfriend and a purported hit man before her arrest, along with a photo of her husband.

“Kill him,” Ms. Shiver allegedly wrote.

There is also the internet, of course, which emerges as a source of so many problems: In November, for example, a Louisiana woman was sentenced to 18 months in prison for trying to use a parody website, Rentahitman.com, to hire someone to kill a romantic rival.

That site, which advertises a “point & click solution” to problems, was linked to an F.B.I. crime complaint center, and also recently may have ensnared a Tennessee Air National Guardsman, who federal prosecutors accused of applying to become a hit man and even sending along a résumé.

Such sites, experts say, are often linked to law enforcement, even those on the dark web. “You have all these wonderful honey traps, the advertisements for people saying: ‘Oh, I can do this. No deed too immoral!’” said David Shapiro, a John Jay professor and former F.B.I. special agent. “And a lot of those are F.B.I. sponsored.”

Mr. Shapiro added that there was also a peculiar cheapskate quality to some of those involved in deadly plots, with their interest in looking for low-cost liquidations of those they hate.

“It’s costly,” he said, adding: “You get people who really can’t afford to do it right.” A lot of distrust permeates the planning of these crimes, which creates its own problems. Would-be killers, for example, will accept payment for a hit — and then disappear.

“You’re navigating risk every step of the way with every potential contact,” said Sean Patrick Griffin, a criminal justice professor at the Citadel in South Carolina, adding that like many shady activities — including money laundering — only a small number of people are known to make their living by killing.

“It’s a very niche, very unique thing,” he added. “There are not that many people, silly as it sounds, with the talents available for that type of commodity.”

Statistics from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services show that in 2022 there were only seven arrests statewide for contract killing, which the state considers first-degree murder. And that was a banner year for arrests for such badness, matching the total for the five previous years combined. Murder for hire is also a federal crime, with penalties ranging from fines and lengthy prison time for failed attempts to life imprisonment or the death penalty “if death results.”

Still, despite the fail rates and steep penalties, people — and governments — keep trying to have other people killed, whether because they are deluded by fictional images of sleek assassins or because they’ve given into the fantasy of operating outside the law with impunity, according to those who have studied these would-be killers.

“The Hollywood attraction is the suspense, the intrigue, the secrecy, the ‘super-person’ aura of the hit men that they depict,” Mr. Shapiro said. “And on the layperson’s side, I mean, who among us has not at one time or another wished for the death of somebody else? But for getting our hands dirty, we declined to do it.”

Even with professional assassins, plots often unravel, said Mr. Baer, the former C.I.A. officer. Three former senior American officials recently described what they said was a foiled Russian plot to kill an informant in Florida.

“Political assassinations just rarely work,” Mr. Baer said. “They are a tactic of desperation or insanity. You can’t get away with murder.”

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 楼主| 发表于 2-1-2024 13:46:01 | 显示全部楼层
(a) Susan Yoon, International Journey Strengthens Family's Bond, at page 5 of SundayStyles section (in the reader0generated column "Modern Love")
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/ ... b-with-parents.html

Excerpt in window of print: Back home in Toronto, my friends asked how Korea was. 'Amazing,' I answered each time. If they asked why, I didn’t quite know how to explain it.

(a) Yun (Korean surname)  尹
("means 'governor.' The name is sometimes also transliterated as Yoon")
(b) "Grandma's grave is in Paju, near the North Korean border"

Paju  坡州(市)
is in 京畿道.
(c) Chuncheon  春川(市)
(capital of Gangwon Province" 江原特別自治道, with 京畿道 on its western border)
I was sitting in between my parents on a 15-hour direct flight from Toronto to Seoul.

I was going to Seoul to work on a book project. My Airbnb had enough room for us all. So when my parents brought it up as a half-joke that they would come, too, I didn’t think it was unreasonable. Until the trip neared, that is. Seven weeks? Together?

“I’m nervous about going with my parents,” I said repeatedly to my friends. “Manage their expectations,” they advised me.

“Don’t forget I’m going to work,” I told my parents.

“Oh don’t worry,” my father said. “We’re going to do our own thing.”

“You think we want to spend our whole time with you?” my mother added, laughing.

That was the one thing that put me at ease: our shared understanding that in Korea, my parents could be as independent as they wanted, without any language or cultural barriers.

Korea was their country. They wouldn’t need me there as they did in Canada.

I was 10 when we immigrated. Immigrant children know that the real culture shock in a new country is the way your parents come to depend on you to navigate the world that once belonged to them. My siblings and I had no choice but to embrace the change: We learned a new language, started to eat a lot of cheese and got new English names.

As the plane began to accelerate down the runway, my father smiled widely. “Wow, this is it!” he said. “We’re going to Korea.” They had been just a few years earlier, but I hadn’t been back in more than 25 years.

We slept, hunched over our economy seat trays. When we landed, it was pouring rain.

In the haze of jet lag the next morning, my mother announced that the first thing they wanted to do was visit my paternal grandma’s grave. We had talked about visiting a few relatives, but going to Grandma’s grave had never come up, and it irked me. It was starting: family obligations usurping my time.

“Let’s go and say hello,” my father said.

“You guys go,” I said. “I don’t need to go.”

The first week was rough. We were upside down with the time change, and I was annoyed by their constant parenting. But soon we settled into a routine, spending the day separately and reuniting for dinner.

During one of those dinners, my parents let it slip that they didn’t know how to navigate Seoul’s massive transportation system. I didn’t understand. If they could speak and read Korean, why couldn’t they figure it out?

I downloaded Naver Map on my father’s phone. “These are all your options for getting there,” I said. “See?”

“OK, I got it,” my father said.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered he hadn’t gotten it, that he and my mother had been navigating the city on archival memory — taking the bus toward directions and not actual locations.

I showed my father again. “This dot is you, and this is where you’re going. If you turn, the dot turns with you.”

The next morning I saw him in the small street outside our Airbnb with his phone nestled in his hand, practicing.

I updated my friends through Instagram stories. “How is it being among your people?” one friend messaged me. “LOL, are these my people?” I replied, the “LOL” hiding my irritation. Korea was my parents’ country, and Koreans their people. But the question lingered. Who were my people?

Two weeks into the trip, my mother declared that they were going to Grandma’s grave the next day. “Without you,” she said. I hadn’t realized they hadn’t gone yet. Looking forward to a day alone at the house, I told them that it was a great idea.

But the next day they decided not to go. Grandma’s grave is in Paju, near the North Korean border, and the bus route was too complicated. “Maybe it’s OK not to go this time,” my mother told my father at breakfast. “She’ll understand.” My father nodded. I drank my Nespresso, saying nothing.

While my father showered, my mother took me aside. “He’s not going to tell you, but your dad would really like it if you came to Grandma’s grave.”

“Why?” I asked. “Remember we said we were going to do our own things?”

“He wants to show her how well you grew up. He wants to show you off.”

I laughed, but I was deeply moved. I decided to ditch my day of work and accompany them.

“We need flowers,” my father said as we approached the graveyard. We assumed there would be a flower vendor near the entrance.

There wasn’t.

I gathered some brightly colored wildflowers from the perimeter of the parking lot and tied them together with a long piece of grass. It reminded me of my sister and the clover necklaces we used to make as children.

My parents got busy weeding around the granite headstone, which had a combination of Hangul and Hanja, on the front and the back. “Your name is on the back,” my father said. “See here?” I looked, and there was my Korean name carved beside those of my siblings and cousins. It felt odd to see our names on the headstone — all of us, the living and dead, connected.

“Take a picture,” my father said as he and my mother flanked the grave. Looking at my parents’ faces through the lens of my iPhone, I felt a sudden wave of tenderness.

In the seven weeks we were in Korea, my parents and I managed to see all of our relatives, even my uncle in Chuncheon, the last city we lived in before we came to Canada. My uncle drove us down memory lane to our old apartment. It looked abandoned. My father and I walked quickly through the apartment complex, trying to reconcile our memory of the past with the present.

Back in Seoul, my mother noted that the apartment in Chuncheon was the last place Grandma lived. I had forgotten, but as soon as she said it, I remembered: Grandma’s room was right next to the entrance. Every time I walked in after school, she would knock from the inside with her cane and ask, “Who is it?”

“It’s Sun-kyeong,” I would say. I’d open the door and see her sitting on the floor, her cane directing me to some kind of task. “Go pick the dandelion leaves from outside,” she said once, pointing to the window. I remembered the day I came home from school and no one knocked and asked who I was. And through the half opened door, I saw that her room was empty.

Before we knew it, the trip was over. Back home in Toronto, my friends asked how Korea was. “Amazing,” I answered each time. If they asked why, I didn’t quite know how to explain it.

“Was the food good?” they asked. But it wasn’t that.

“Did you get work done?” they wondered. It wasn’t that either.

I didn’t know how to tell them that the trip was amazing because of my mother and father. That I realized how I was a part of them, and they were a part of me. That we don’t belong to languages or countries. That one day when my father and I took a cab home from a baseball game, I heard the driver say to him, “Oh, you’re a foreigner?” And my father responded, “Yes, from Canada.” And I couldn’t unhear it.

I didn’t know how to tell my friends that when we are in Canada, we are from Korea, and when we are in Korea, we are from Canada. We are always from somewhere else.

One day near the end of our trip, my parents and I went to Insadong and my father split off to do his own thing. I texted him the location where he should meet me and my mother. Then, I called him, just to make sure.

“Do you know how to get here?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

When he met us exactly where he was supposed to, I was so proud that I had to look away.

My Grandma died only four months before we moved to Canada. We had been accepted for permanent residency but she was too frail to make the trip. My parents didn’t know what to do and didn’t tell her that we were moving.

But she knew.

“Tell your parents, don’t forget to take me,” she told me and my siblings over and over. “Don’t forget to take me.”

I hope she knows that I won’t forget. That we did take her. That maybe all we have is each other.


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 楼主| 发表于 2-1-2024 13:55:18 | 显示全部楼层
(b) Emily O Powers, The Girls. At the same page as (2)(a), in the column "Timy Love Story")/
https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/ ... bnoxious-i-was.html
("I called it quits 10 years into our marriage. Anger, obstinance, grief and my alcoholism marred the end of our otherwise good-enough partnership. Wading through the thick muck of resentment, we often fought. But the girls? We never once argued that they must come first. Five healing years later, at every drop-off and pickup when they excitedly run into the arms of whichever parent 'gets them' next, I thank my higher power it was you who held my body in the birthing tub when we welcomed our daughters into the world")

My comment:
(a) The higher power is god, no doubt about it.
(b) It is easy to understand "our" refers to her former husband (and her). But who is "you" in the last sentence? My conclusion is that that is her former husband.
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