Wandering Eye: Frank Conaway Sr. passes away, China's takeover of the US pork industry, and more

The inimitable Frank Conaway Sr., the longtime elected clerk of the Baltimore City Circuit Court and scion of an enduring and enigmatic political dynasty, has died in his sleep at 81 years old. The Sun's Jacques Kelly wrote the paper of record's obituary, which covers the bases well. An email from Baltimore bailbondsman Mark Adams, a longtime Conaway friend, shares additional, insightful details. Conaway Sr. "was old enough to know hard-core, Jim Crow racism, but positive enough to overcome it and become the highest vote getter in the city," Adams writes, despite "preferring retail politics" and "outdated ways" rather than the internet, adding that it reportedly "drove Martin O’Malley crazy that this guy, with no money, could get more votes than he could." In 2011, when Conaway Sr. displayed a gun after anti-Conaway activist Adam Meister, a prolific runner, showed up at his house and allegedly kicked at him, Adams remembers Conaway Sr. having a funny response: "He told me, 'I'm still pretty fast, but that guy really could run. I couldn't catch him if I wanted to. He's crazy, but he sure can run fast.'" (Van Smith)


The ultra-prolific William Vollman will do crazy shit for a story. Early on, he began smoking crack with prostitutes, visiting war zones, and hanging out with skinheads. In this month's Harper's, he visits the radioactive zone surrounding the Fukushima reactor, which melted down in Japan after an earthquake and tsunami, and finds an eerie quiet, where nuclear refugees barely survive—and still struggle to pay the mortgages on their contaminated homes. (Baynard Woods)


The Center for Investigative Reporting shows how a company with ties to the Chinese government quietly has bought up the U.S. hog business, and why that might be a matter of concern. The late-2013, $7.1 billion takeover of Smithfield Farms is "the largest-ever Chinese acquisition of an American company," according to the report—part of a global strategy by the Chinese government: "they're targeting a resource that climate scientists, economists, the U.S. government, even Wall Street, all forecast will become dangerously scarce in the coming decades: food." The strategy is playing out in Africa and South America as well as Asia and North America. Owing to their decades-long trade surplus with the United States, the Chinese have a lot of dollars to spend, and they are looking ahead. Americans, of course, remain fixated on petty xenophobia and the next quarter's numbers. C. Larry Pope, Smithfield's CEO, cashed out about $27 million in the sale, the story says. Of course he "also had to defend himself in the local newspaper: 'These are not Russian communists. They like Americans.'" Read to the end of the story, when the reporter hands Pope the documents showing how the Chinese side of the deal worked. (Edward Ericson Jr.)

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