LOS ANGELES — He was perhaps the least famous billionaire in a city brimming with wealthy celebrities.
But Patrick Soon-Shiong, 65, a doctor who turned a cancer drug into a multibillion-dollar biotech empire, emerged on Wednesday as a major figure in Los Angeles life with his surprise $500 million purchase of The Los Angeles Times and its sister newspaper, The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Dr. Soon-Shiong has a long — and sometimes checkered — history in the medical field going back to the 1990s, but has kept a relatively low profile in the political, cultural and philanthropic doings of the city. He now faces the challenge of stabilizing a newspaper engulfed by turmoil and diminished in resources.
His is an immigrant’s tale that captures the story of Los Angeles today: a Chinese doctor who was raised in South Africa before coming to Los Angeles to make his fortune. He is worth an estimated $8 billion, and has been called the richest man in Los Angeles. He is a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers, having bought Magic Johnson’s 4.5 percent stake in the team in 2010 before setting his sights on what friends said he viewed as the ultimate prize of social cachet: the 136-year-old, award-winning newspaper that has long displayed the city’s ambitions to the world.
Dr. Soon-Shiong was already a major shareholder at the newspaper, joining the board of Tribune Publishing, which later became known as Tronc, in May 2016. In purchasing The Times, he has accomplished what eluded some of the most established business leaders here who have flirted for years with buying it — Eli Broad, David Geffen and Austin Beutner among them.
In 1996, when war broke out in what is now the Democratic Republic of Congo, just 31 northern white rhinos remained in Garamba National Park, the last stronghold of this endangered species. Armed militias reached the park less than a year later, and half of the park’s elephants, two-thirds of its buffalos and three-quarters of its hippos disappeared in three short months.
Poaching of northern white rhinos also resumed, despite conservationists’ best efforts. Today, after a succession of armed clashes, only three northern white rhinos survive — all transplants from a zoo in the Czech Republic, and all confined to a single Kenyan conservancy.
That the rhinos’ habitat included a part of Africa plagued by human conflict was “desperately unfortunate,” said Kes Hillman-Smith, a Nairobi-based conservationist and author of “Garamba: Conservation in Peace and War.” “The endless wars there have taken their toll on all the wildlife in the region.”
Many case studies have demonstrated that war can affect the survival of local populations, sometimes threatening entire species. But the research is mixed: In some cases, conflict actually seems to aid animals.
“KIGALI, Rwanda — The Rwandan government released an independent report on Wednesday accusing French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide, risking further strains to already icy relations between the two countries.
The report, commissioned by the Rwandan government and conducted by a Washington law firm, alleges that French military forces trained their Rwandan counterparts, supplied them with weapons even after an arms embargo, and gave cover, under the auspices of a United Nations-sanctioned humanitarian mission, in the last moments of a genocidal campaign.
Researchers and the Rwandan government say they cannot get France to make good on earlier commitments to fully open its archives or otherwise investigate the country’s role.
“What happened in the early ’90s and even before, in the lead-up to the genocide, is something France will have to come to terms with,” said Louise Mushikiwabo, the foreign minister of Rwanda. “Rwanda is not going away. We’re not going anywhere.”
Archival documents show that the French government was a close ally of the Rwandan regime that planned and perpetrated the mass slaughter of an estimated 800,000 people, most of them members of the Tutsi ethnic minority. Historians say a son of François Mitterrand, the French president at the time, was also a close friend of the Rwandan leader whose government organized the genocide.”
For excellent reading on the genocide in Burundi and Rwanda, I recommend Strength In What Remains, by Tracy Kidder. From http://www.tracykidder.com;
In this remarkable book, New York Times bestselling author Tracy Kidder once again delivers the masterful story of a hero for these modern times.
Deo grew up in the mountains of Burundi, and survived a civil war and genocide before seeking a new life in America. In New York City he lived homeless in Central Park before finding his way to Columbia University. But Deo’s story really begins with his will to turn his life into something truly remarkable; he returns to his native country to help people there, as well as people in the United States.
An extraordinary writer, Kidder has the remarkable ability to show us what it means to be fully human, and to tell the unadorned story of a life based on hope. Riveting and inspiring, this may be his most magnificent work to date. Strength in What Remains is a testament to the power of will and friendship, and of the endurance of the soul.”
“Even where this conservation strategy seems to work, however, some critics question the contradiction inherent in hunting threatened and endangered species.
“Any trophy hunting of an endangered species is by definition unsustainable, as it cannot sufficiently contribute to the survival of the species to justify removing individuals from the population,” said Elly Pepper, a deputy director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.”
“Barbut, as I reported, reinforced her point by showing me three maps of Africa with dots concentrated in the middle of the continent. Map No. 1: the most vulnerable regions of desertification in 2008. Map No. 2: conflicts and food riots in 2007 and 2008. Map No. 3: terrorist attacks in 2012. All the dots of all three maps cluster around Niger and its neighbors. Hello?And what is Trump’s response to this reality? It’s to focus solely on using the U.S. military to kill terrorists in Africa while offering a budget that eliminates U.S. support for global contraception programs; appointing climate-change deniers to all key environmental posts; pushing coal over clean energy; and curbing U.S. government climate research.In short, he’s sending soldiers to fight a problem that is clearly being exacerbated by climate and population trends, while eliminating all our tools to mitigate these trends.”
Yes. Deeply disturbing, unfortunately true.
Here are the two top comments”
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
― Isaac Asimov
Dear Mr Friedman,
Since you are a world traveler, do you know where I can get a bottle of anti-anxiety medication? After reading your essay, that will be my only option short of having a nervous breakdown.
I’m an engineer, OK. I think logically. I’ve spent my entire life trying the solve problems and create things that people can use and enjoy. Trump is the exact opposite. He is trying to create problems. He thinks that by creating those problems, he can make the world a better place for all.
My life’s work demonstrates otherwise. Not only that, experience has shown me that when you want to create something new, it’s always a good idea to see what others have attempted in order to find out what works and what doesn’t.
Trump doesn’t do that. He already knows everything so he doesn’t have to learn anything. Since he already knows everything, you can’t tell him anything. His ego is so big that reason is not a component of his thinking. He just reacts with whatever feels good at the time. Oh by the way, he occupies the most powerful office in the world.
About that anti-anxiety medication.
“More than 130,000 people have amassed along this desert highway outside Diffa, Niger — National Route 1. They now call its barren, sandy shoulders home.All of them have been chased from their villages by Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that kidnaps and kills indiscriminately in a campaign of violence that has lasted eight years. The New York Times spent weeks documenting the stories of people living along this road, interviewing more than 100 residents — including 15 in the following image — clinging to its edges to survive.”
” “We can sleep now,” said Fati Fougou, a 40-year-old mother of seven who was chased from three different villages by fighters before settling along the road with her children, “because no one is shooting.”
A handful of aid groups help. Unicef trucks in water. The International Rescue Committee hands out bags of rice, sardine tins and powdered milk. Doctors Without Borders runs small clinics. But formal camps don’t exist. All of the displaced here are squatters.”
Thank you DIONNE SEARCEY and ADAM FERGUSON and the NYT. Also, the three organizations mentioned above:
International Rescue Committee
Doctors Without Borders, Medecins Sans Frontiers
I plan to support all three.
“The immediate cause of the droughts was an extremely warm El Niño event, which came on top of a larger drying trend in the last few decades in parts of Africa. New research, just published in the bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, concludes that human-caused climate change exacerbated El Niño’s intensity and significantly reduced rainfall in parts of Ethiopia and southern Africa.
The researchers calculated that human contributions to global warming reduced water runoff in southern Africa by 48 percent and concluded that these human contributions “have contributed to substantial food crises.” “
“A few weeks ago, the first black President of the United States saw a movie about the first black President of South Africa. Aside from that White House screening for Barack Obama, only four theaters are currently showing Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, which goes into wider release on Christmas Day. So viewers curious to see how the movies have portrayed Nelson Mandela — the lawyer, outlaw and convict who compelled the Boer government to give equal rights to its black majority — must forage through Netflix or Amazon.com for older films.Perhaps no other historical figure could have seen his screen self played so favorably, and by such distinguished actors: Sidney Poitier, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Terrence Howard, Idris Elba, Dennis Haysbert and, in a supporting role in the 2009 Endgame, Clarke Peters. In that TV movie, the main role, a member of the African National Congress negotiating Mandela’s release, is taken by Chiwetel Ejiofor, the star of 12 Years a Slave.The burden of Mandela movies is that almost all of them could be called 95 Years a Saint. They are modern versions of Old Hollywood’s Biblical epics that tiptoe reverently around the teachings and personality of Jesus. And unlike Martin Scorsese’s 1988 film in which the Savior questions his divinity, there has been no Last Temptation of Nelson. Not that we’re demanding a Mandela exposé movie, but nobody has yet solved the trick of making this remarkable figure as complex as a great movie character should be. So far, most of his biopics have lacked in behavioral complexity and cinematic vitality. They are more suitable for school auditoriums than movie theaters.”
I don’t agree. I think Morgan Freeman in Invictus, did show a flawed but great leader, with depth and complexity.
“AGADEZ, Niger — The world dismisses them as economic migrants. The law treats them as criminals who show up at a nation’s borders uninvited. Prayers alone protect them on the journey across the merciless Sahara.But peel back the layers of their stories and you find a complex bundle of trouble and want that prompts the men and boys of West Africa to leave home, endure beatings and bribes, board a smuggler’s pickup truck and try to make a living far, far away.”
I have just finished listening to Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder, and read aloud by the author. What a magnificent story about the survival and rise of a young medical student in the genocidal war of Burundi and Rwanda.
This book is an extraordinary companion to Kidder’s masterpiece, Mountains Beyond Mountains.
A First Pages Book Choice at Northeastern University:
A First Pages Book Choice at Northeastern University:
“We are pleased to announce the Fall 2016 First Pages book Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder.Strength in What Remains is the story of Deogratias, a young medical student from the central African nation of Burundi. Through no fault of his own, he was forced onto a terrifying journey, a journey that split his life in two. First there was a six-months-long escape on foot from ethnic violence in Burundi and from genocide in Rwanda. Almost by accident he ended…
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