Happy Scribe

Hello and welcome to the intelligence on Economist Radio. I'm your host, Jason Palmer. Every weekday, we provide a fresh perspective on the events shaping your world. Until recently, the only likely career that a blind person in China could hope for was in massage. Our correspondent meets with blind students studying for the country's fearsome university exam and finds that at last things are changing a bit. And your boring supermarket potato is a descendant of spuds originating on an island of Patagonia called Shilowa.


We pay a visit to check out the 286 glocal types and ask why the varieties a variety of colorful knobbly potatoes isn't found elsewhere. But first. Today, it is my honor to nominate one of our nation's most brilliant and gifted legal minds to the Supreme Court. She is a woman of unparalleled achievement, towering intellect, sterling credentials and unyielding loyalty to the Constitution.


Judge Amy CONI buried on Saturday, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy CONI Barrett to the Supreme Court, a devout Roman Catholic and a Notre Dame law school graduate, Barrett is a favorite among religious conservatives who are a key Trump voter bloc.


While liberals have voiced concern, if confirmed, she'll replace liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died earlier this month. Her appointment could change the ideological balance of the court for decades.


I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, either for the short term or the long haul. I never imagined that I would find myself in this position.


But now that I am, I assure you that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage.


He Tony Barrett is young at 48 years old, she is deeply conservative. Stephen Meti is our Supreme Court correspondent.


She's been a judge since twenty seventeen on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. Before that, she taught for 15 years at Notre Dame Law School in Indiana, where she garnered the top teaching prize three times. She has been supported in both her 7th Circuit nomination and this Supreme Court nomination by both her students and her colleagues. She cited Justice Antonin Scalia in her Rose Garden statement as one of her mentors. And in fact, she was a clerk for Justice Scalia after she finished law school from Notre Dame.


OK, it sounds as if she's clearly talented, but that can't be the only reason that Mr. Trump picked her.


Exactly. Since the 1980s, Republicans have had in their crosshairs Roe versus Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The court has overseen a chipping away of abortion rights since then. But the central holding of Roe that women have the right to terminate their pregnancies before the fetus is viable has remained intact. That may be about to change. Miss Barrett believes that life begins at conception. She's written that abortion is always immoral. She joined rulings in the 7th Circuit giving states license to restrict abortion.


So if Miss Barrett is confirmed, the Supreme Court may soon have a majority to erase Roe from the books and turn the question of abortion rights back to the individual states. That's the particular concern for those who support abortion rights, because in many of her academic writings, Judge Barrett has said that justices should pay more attention to their conception of what the Constitution means than to president and to the way previous courts have looked at a question. So she seems ready to jettison rulings she views as incorrect.


And does she take an equally conservative line on other issues? Yes, she is conservative, pretty much across the board. Let's take gun rights in twenty nineteen. Judge Barrett said that there was a natural right of self-defense that animated the Second Amendment when she was dissenting from a ruling that allowed states to ban convicted felons from owning guns. That position puts her to the right, even of Justice Antonin Scalia, her mentor and the author of the 2008 decision in District of Columbia versus Heller that had originally decided that there was an individual right to own guns in the Second Amendment.


Given those conservative views, that would have the implications of her appointment for the balance of the court.


And the implications are dramatic. This is President Trump's most consequential pick yet in twenty seventeen, in twenty eighteen, he replaced Republican appointed justices with mostly like minded successors with some differences. Whereas Judge Barrett, if he replaces Justice Ginsburg, a liberal icon, will be knocking the Supreme Court off of its ideological equilibrium for decades. And how have Democrats reacted to the decision, the appointment?


Democrats oppose this pick not only because of her conservative views, but because of what they see as the hypocrisy of Senate Republicans. In 2016, Republican senators refused to so much as give a hearing to Merrick Garland, Barack Obama's pick to take Mr. Scalia's seat when he died in February. And they said it was based on the principle that it was an election year and voters should have a voice on who fills that vacancy. Since Mr. Ginsburg's death, they have abandoned that position and much closer to the election.


And even as early voting in several states has begun, Democrats have vowed to fight the nomination. But they simply lack the numbers in the Senate to block her appointment so there's nothing they can do about it if they manage to win control of the Senate back. Hold on to the House. And if Joe Biden wins, they are considering either expanding the Supreme Court to give them a chance to appoint more justices and rebalance it ideologically or less radical. But actually more difficult proposition would be to impose term limits on future Supreme Court appointments.


Problem with that is that it may be unconstitutional and it's the Supreme Court itself that would decide if term limits comport with Article three of the Constitution. The more immediate thing the Democrats seem to be doing is to focus on the issue of health care. There is a constitutional challenge to the Affordable Care Act coming up one week after Election Day. And if Judge Barrett is in Justice Ginsburg C., she will have an opportunity to do what she suggested several years back, which is to strike down the Affordable Care Act by drawing attention to what this means in the middle of a pandemic for the health care of millions.


Of Americans, the Democrats are trying to mobilize people to come out and vote for them, but surely Mr. Trump is trying to do the very same thing.


He sure is over the past week at his rallies. Donald Trump has been stressing his record of installing conservative judges, young judges on the federal bench in an effort to energize his base ahead of the election.


You know, one of the things we've done that's so good is the Supreme Court. We have two Supreme Court justices. We will have at the end of my term, approximately 300 federal judges, including four. The federal judiciary has undergone a remarkable transformation during his first term. Mr. Trump has nominated and seated almost a third of all active appeals court judges in the country. The impact of those decisions will be felt long after Donald Trump leaves office and most likely for the better part of the 21st century.


Stephen, thanks very much for your time. Always great to be with you, Jason. For a lot more analysis like this, subscribed to The Economist to find the best introductory offer. Wherever you are, just go to economist dot com intelligence offer. Opportunities for visually impaired people have long been limited in China since the 1950s. They've largely been pushed into music or massage. It wasn't until 2014 that China announced blind students would be allowed to take the Galkayo, the grueling National University entrance exam that is key to social mobility.


But of the nearly 11 million students who took the Galkayo this summer, just five took the version in Braille life for the blind might be better than it once was, but it remains unimaginably frustrating. And I don't have.


I recently had the amazing experience of meeting 20 blind Chinese youngsters who are among the tiny number going into university and higher education this autumn.


David Rennie is our Beijing bureau chief. They were in Shanghai.


They were in a special residential course organized by charity to prepare them not just for things like finding a library or finding the university canteen, but also things like how to go on a date.


Raucus student Passey games. And apart from all the student fund, was there also talk of career paths? That was the most striking part of this weeklong course I watched the first day in China, particularly since the Communist Party took over in 1949. There have been very fixed paths for what blind young people go into. They opened vocational schools originally for disabled Red Army veterans, but essentially their life was going to be either a musician or most come and go to work as a masseur in a state run massage clinic or a private massage parlor.


One of the most amazing speakers this week long course was an activist called Side Song. He himself lost his sight when he was 10 years old. Very bright kid. But the only college that he was allowed to go to was a blind massage college. He finally persuaded his parents to let him actually quit that and to work as a radio journalist. And he was very clear. He said there may be nothing wrong with being a masseur as long as it's your choice.


That message you could see on the face of these young people was the kind of inspiring message about how much freedom they should have that they very rarely heard in the past.


So the blind in China have more opportunities now than they have ever before. Perhaps what changed?


This is probably the best time in the whole of Chinese history to be blind or visually impaired, but it's still incredibly difficult. What has changed is that the whole of China has become more prosperous. It's open to the world. It's had money to build special schools for the handicapped. It's ratified international agreements. And one of the big changes was that until 2014, it did not matter how clever or good you are at school, you were simply not allowed, if you were blind to take the National University entrance exam.


The Google education is the ladder of social mobility, and the GAO is the gate that you have to pass through. But it's very frustrating because although they changed the law and blind kids cannot take it, there are versions of the exam in Braille or super large print. Since 2015, there hasn't been a single year where they've been more than 10 children in the whole of China taking the blind Goucher. And if you just do the maths, there should be as many as 80000.


And for those who do want to take the exam, what are the obstacles that remain? A lot of universities, including some of the best in China, say that for health and safety reasons, they simply can't allow blind students. There's only about 30 universities that do even. Those don't systematically offer things like tests that students can take. The single biggest problem is what American campaign is in other contexts of called the soft bigotry of low expectations.


When I interviewed Mr Take the campaign, he said that there's this idea that it's dangerous for blind students to go too far from the home or have too high an ambition and they should take what's given to them so that you do that and you need each territorial war.


He said that basically people have an attitude towards the blind, including education officials, of what we choose to give you is what's best for you.


So despite all these obstacles, blind students do take the exam. They do go on to university like the ones you met in Shanghai. That must take tremendous grit.


It really does. There's two ways of getting into higher education. Most of the people I met in Shanghai, they're actually going to not full universities. And they took a special version of the Galkayo. But there were five students this summer who took the full. One of those was there in Shanghai, Gavelled and Xu. And he achieved what would be a really good Kotoko school for anyone.


General Peter Sawyer, just General Shakoor from New York, to which he explained that that involved having his homework and his schoolwork read to him by his parents.


He then had to learn Braille, which is really ill-suited to transliterating Chinese characters. And so it's very clumsy and slow to use. Was very striking that when I asked, are you this student who did really well in the Gokul after all of these obstacles, is being written up quite a bit in Chinese state media is a kind of success story. He's not sure how ambitious he gets to be.


Was Helwan this idea that you deal with every writer, dying a lot, etc., etc. and he said that maybe he should be a teacher at a blind school so that he can set a good example.


But he also admitted that he's heard that going to university often leaves all students with the idea that maybe they can do more.


What he rather shyly said to me that he thinks that maybe that might be how he feels, too.


And what about the other route to university that you mentioned?


The more common path, which is still exceedingly rare at a national level, is to go to a specialist school for the disabled and then to a specialist higher education college. And two of the teenagers at the course in Shanghai, girls called Hong Kong and Zhang Chouchane, they'd taken that path.


Well, I don't want to tell you that yet.


And they admit that the education they got at the high school for the blind was vastly different and not nearly as rigorous. The truth is that parents wouldn't let them attend an ordinary high school.


20 year woman. Kondor Qajar Lucia joshin said that a lot of blind people lead very closed off lives. She credits the Internet and things like screen reading software on smartphones with completely transforming her ability to connect the world. There was a very moving moment when I asked Hong Kong what her hopes are for the future.


What shall I do? But what shall I do?


She was explaining that she wants to be a psychotherapist and that's because she wants to help other Chinese know that the blind are just as capable as other people.


And then she sort of said, well, highly shamash. Sure, I have other small dreams, such as doing something for the blind community, for people like me who are so miserable.


And she began to cry.


She didn't want any sympathy issues. Crosthwaite herself burst into tears because that's the core thing, I think that I took away from this really courageous kids in Shanghai. They absolutely don't want pity and low expectations. All they want is an equal chance to show what they can do, of course.


And that must go beyond education. I mean, what is life like for blind people?


More and more broadly in China, there's still a huge gap. And part of that is clearly China is a developing country, but it's that tyranny of low expectations. It's fascinating that the Chinese public understands how different things are. I was in a taxi 18 months ago in Beijing and we had the conversation about where you from, from the UK. And the one thing my driver wanted to say was, is it true that there was once a government minister in Britain who was blind because David Blunkett, when he was home secretary in the Blair government, visited and it just blew Chinese people's minds that this guy who had been blind from birth was not just a kind of minister for the disabled who was home secretary, the interior minister.


And the fact that this was remembered 20 years later, I think is quite revealing. David, thanks very much for your time. Thank you. Yes, you we go. Not Munoz is a celebrated chef who runs the restaurant Parousia, its own kitchen away small island off the coast of northern Patagonia, about the size of Delaware. Garcia specializes in regional recipes and local produce, rarely seen elsewhere.


Dishes include delicately layered seaweed casseroles topped with grilled octopus and tender cakes rich with pisco. Brandy served with Miss Munoz's own local berry ice cream classic.


But the real star of the restaurant, which forms the base of all of these dishes, is the humble potato.


For many people around the world, a potato is just a potato. Whether it's Mary's Pyper or russets, you don't really think a whole lot about what you're going to use it for when you go to the supermarket.


Mark Johanson writes about culture for 1843, The Economist's Sister magazine.


But on to the way. There are distinct potatoes, four distinct dishes, stews or crisps, bread, porridge, dumplings, even desserts. So almost every recipe on the island has the potato at its heart and soul. And these are not necessarily your common yellow or white spuds. The potatoes from Chewey can have purple or pink flesh. They can have bulbous notes or blotchy insides, kind of like a tie dye shirt. So it's almost as if the potato has dressed up for the circus.


That is a lot of different potatoes. So there's currently about two hundred eighty six varieties. On to the way, though, that's down from historic number closer to about 800 when Charles Darwin passed through in the 18 30s. But the amazing thing is that DNA analysis suggests that more than 90 percent of cultivated potatoes worldwide today descend from varieties that originated in the way. And how did that happen?


How did the potatoes from there get everywhere? Yeah, I think it's it's hard to imagine that something so integral to diets everywhere from Idaho to Ireland is a relatively recent addition to global cuisine. But the fact is that most of the world has been eating potatoes for less than 500 years. So the Andean varietals from Peru and Bolivia were the first to arrive on the far side of the Atlantic. These are what's called short day potatoes, which is to say that they grew in 12 hours of sunlight.


So when those potatoes came over to Europe and Asia and were being grown at a higher latitudes, they had a bit of trouble because they weren't necessarily used to this extended daylight that you have in the summers. Then the late blight epidemic of the mid 19th century, which many of us knows the Great Famine had many farmers switching to these varieties spread over from southern Chile, which has latitude more similar to that of northern Europe in terms of sunlight, actually worked better in that climate and there would have evolved through selective breeding and micro into the Spud's that most of us eat today.


That is to say that breedings the reason that the riot of colors you see on Chiluba today is not what I see in the supermarket.


Well, not all of Tuileries potatoes are colorful. Some are certainly white fleshed out. But there isn't a whole lot of data as to why the white fleshpots proliferated and not the coloured ones. But scientists think that their neutral colour and versatile cooking capabilities probably gave them advantages over the others. So if you think about other staple crops, rice or corn, they also come in many different colours. But we tend to prefer the most neutral white or yellow versions of them, even when the more colorful ones are often tastier or even healthier, which is surely what the people want to know about their potatoes.


Exactly. Which is why they have so many different varieties that they use for so many different types of dishes. But colourful native varieties had in recent days earned a bit of a reputation as a poor man's food. Potatoes that had gone and spread around the world suddenly came back to the way in their new forms. And we're really taking over most of the island's fields. So in the 1960s, a renowned local agronomist called on Jayce Contriteness, launched what was really a decades long quest to go out and find these local potato gardens on the way and document their contents.


By the time he died in 2014, it kind of helped pull many of these varieties back from the brink of extinction. You know, potatoes are really one of the main pillars of Islander's identity. So there's been really a renewed sense of pride in them in recent years.


So if there's renewed interest on on the island, do you think there could be greater interest abroad? Could the colorful varieties that didn't eventually make it out make it out this time?


Yes, these potatoes are certainly making their way into gourmet supermarkets, into fancy crisps, local vodkas. And there have started appearing on the menus of several of Latin America's top restaurants in chiselers potato gene bank scientists are working on isolating genes in the native potatoes that are resistant to disease. So I think it's safe to. They say that these colorful left overs could one day prove as valuable as the spuds that got away.


But for the people of today, you know, it's not it's obviously not just about the money for Lorna Meniere's the chef. The aim is really to put this heritage in front of the younger generations so that it isn't lost forever.


It'll be very good.


Thanks very much for your time, Mark. Thank you for having me. Mark tells the full story of how potatoes from Shilowa took over the world in the latest edition of 1843, The Economist sister magazine. It's available at Economist Dotcom 1843. That's all for this episode of the intelligence, if you like us, give us a reading on Apple podcast and see you back here tomorrow.