If the name of the IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn's current home rings a bell with you, chances are you've heard it on the TV or radio.
Rikers Island is best known as the home of suspects pending trial or convicts serving short sentences and as such it features regularly in New York-based police dramas such as NBC's "Law and Order." It even has its own page on the show's wiki. In many ways Strauss-Kahn's arrest could be straight out of an episode of "Law and Order: SVU," the strand of the show that portrays detectives investigating "sexually based offenses". Sadly, this is real life.
It was real too for rapper Lil' Wayne when he did time on Rikers Island in 2010 on a gun charge. His album "I Am Not A Human Being" was released while he was in solitary confinement, and he even recorded a verse over the phone for the Drake/Jay-Z single "Light Up." The "Rikers Remix" did the rounds online.
Lil' Wayne is just one of many artists to have referenced Rikers Island in their lyrics. Recent Eminem/D12 collaboration "Going Crazy" describes a "tour bus look like Rikers Island." Meanwhile, if Kool G. Rap's lyrics are anything to go by, Dominique Strauss-Kahn may have a rough time in store at the jail:
"...you might have been robbin', you might have been whylin'/ But you won't be smilin' on Rikers island. / Just to hear the name it makes your spine tingle/ This is a jungle where the murderers mingle/ This ain't a place that's crowded but there's room for you/ Whether you're white or you're black, you'll be black and blue..."
Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of sexual abuse and rape, and is currently residing in one of Rikers Island's 3.35 x 4 meter cells. On Tuesday we heard that the man whom many refer to as DSK was placed on suicide watch at Rikers Island, but that is a common procedure in high-profile cases. Strauss-Kahn is expected to be left largely alone between now and his next appearance in court on Friday.
CNN Legal Analyst Sunny Hostin says a second application for bail will be the top priority. "There is no question that this Friday the defense will reapply for bail," he told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360. "They're going to try to come up with a situation that is palatable for the prosecution and the court so that he is no longer being held at Rikers Island. That may include $1 million to $2 million bail, or an ankle monitoring bracelet."
As the Grand Jury convenes, the world will be watching.
And here in the Hong Kong newsroom, I inevitably get asked for my reaction.
You see, I'm known as the resident "panda hater." Go ahead, flog me with bamboo. I have long held the view that the giant panda is the Kim Kardashian of the animal world. It has big eyes, curves in the right places, and is ever-photogenic. It gets by on its good looks alone, while more deserving animals (the Yangtze River crocodile, hello??) are simply ignored by the world's animators and toy-makers.
Unfair, I say!
Not only that, the panda behaves in ways that are simply counter-intuitive to staying alive. It eats bamboo when its body is not adapted to digest it. It rarely mates and requires human intervention to prolong the species - so much so that zookeepers have resorted to screening "panda porn" to encourage coupling.
Many others have refused to pander to the panda, including wildlife expert Chris Packham who said they "should be able to die out" and the Animal Review which gives the giant panda an "F" for "occupying valuable zoo space while bringing little to the table."
I have shared their disaste, and paid the price for it. Over the years, I've received gifts of panda candy, panda toys and "I heart panda" buttons from friends and colleagues all with the intent to wind up the hater in me. My Operations Supervisor made sure to give me a stuffed Jing Jing, the panda mascot from the 2008 Beijing Games described as "charmingly naive and optimistic."
I strung the plush diva up in my kitchen as an ironic tchotcke.
And then, I became a mother.
When my daughter was 6-months-old, I caught her searching for the swinging panda in the kitchen. Twelve months later, she would point at the stuffed doll say "panda" in both English and Chinese. I eventually took Jing Jing down and handed it over to my little one. The tchotcke became her chum.
I decided to take her to Hong Kong's Ocean Park to visit its panda habitats. Sure enough, the pandas were a no-show. They were simply too occupied sleeping in the backroom to stroll out and let a 2-year-old take in all their fuzzy fabulousness. My toddler, along with another young visitor, were in tears. And I sensed the panda hate starting to rise again.
But then, it appeared. A giant panda wandered straight toward us and sat down, just two meters away, to eat its bamboo breakfast. My daughter started to describe its eyes, ears and actions. She was mesmerized. I was mesmerized. That damn panda made my heart melt.
I am no longer a "panda hater." But I should admit, I do feel a tinge of pride when my daughter asks to see the Asian alligator instead. I want her to be a daring girl who is willing to venture beyond the cuddly... and yet willing to admit, yep, that was cute.
Just don't get me started on Kim Kardashian.