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2018-04-02 The New York Times International Edition

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How Putin
his hand
Inside home,
Alexa could
someday be
William J. Burns
Patent applications outline
how devices might monitor
what users say and do
Last week, following the brazen attempt by Russia to assassinate one of
its former spies and his daughter in
Britain with a chemical weapon, 27
countries expelled more than 150 Russian diplomats. Moscow swiftly and
predictably reciprocated, announcing
that it would expel 60 American diplomats.
Is this the end of President Trump’s
illusion about a grand bargain with
Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the beginning of a sober, long-term strategy?
Mr. Putin has prided himself on
playing a strong game with weak
cards. He sees plenty of opportunities
to hobble his adversaries abroad and
further cement his position at home.
That requires engaging in an asymmetric game — relying on dark arts to
make inroads in a
brutish world, exRussia’s
ploiting the vulnerapresident has
bilities of open sociepicked a fight ties while highlightwhere the
ing the benefits of
West has far
his closed one.
more to lose
Mr. Putin has
steadily refined that
than he does.
playbook. He has
had the advantage of
testing it where he
had the greater interest, most prominently in Ukraine. The attack on the
former spy, Sergei Skripal, and his
daughter, Yulia, is another classic if
grotesque play. It’s a not-so-subtle
message to Mr. Putin’s political opponents that dissent has its costs. It also
tells his rivals in the West that he has
every intention to kick them while
they’re down — and get away with it.
By meddling in the internal affairs
and democratic fabric of America and
its allies over the past couple of years,
Mr. Putin has overplayed his hand. He
is risk-tolerant to the point of recklessness, and he has picked a fight where
the West has far more at stake than he
Mr. Putin is likely surprised, but not
fazed, by the breadth of the world’s
collective response to the Skripal
incident. He can overcome the inconvenience of losing intelligence operatives. He is also betting that divisions
in the West will mean that these actions are the end, not the beginning, of
a response.
It’s critical that Mr. Putin lose that
bet. That is not a call for self-indulgent
chest-thumping or blind confrontation.
Mr. Putin’s broadly adversarial calculus cannot be reversed, but it can be
altered in meaningful ways with coordinated pressure. That’s where
diplomacy comes in.
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
An island of despair
Two years after the European Union struck a deal with Turkey aimed at cutting the route across the Aegean Sea for asylum seekers, thousands have remained stranded in distressing conditions on the Greek island Lesbos, unwilling to go back to the countries they left and unable to move forward. PAGE 3
Syrians feel vise tighten
Bombings from the sky,
extremists on the ground
in rebel-held province
When pro-government forces retook
her hometown from Syrian rebels, Nisrine accepted the same surrender deal
the government has offered tens of thousands of Syrians: a one-way bus trip to a
place she had never been — the northern, rebel-held province of Idlib.
Since Syria’s war began, the population of Idlib has doubled, as it has taken
in a motley mix of fleeing civilians, defeated rebels, hard-line jihadists and
those like Nisrine who have left with
their families.
But as government forces wrap up a
blistering campaign in eastern Ghouta,
Idlib is likely to be the next target. And
this time, there will be nowhere else to
“Maybe this is the last chapter of the
revolution,” Nisrine, 36, an Arabic
Fleeing families and surrendering gunmen being bused by the government of President
Bashar al-Assad to Idlib Province, which has been a refuge for people fleeing the war.
teacher from the former tourist resort of
Madaya, said in an online interview recently. “Syrians are killing Syrians.
Nothing matters anymore. We decided
to die standing up. I’m sad for the revolution, how it’s gone, how people called
for freedom and now it’s gone.”
Idlib, a small, conservative province
on the Turkish border, is Syria’s largest
remaining rebel-held area. As one of the
earliest regions to revolt against President Bashar al-Assad, it may be the
place where the revolution that began
more than seven years ago finally ends.
The government has carried out
scorched-earth airstrikes there with its
ally, Russia, routinely hitting hospitals
and clinics, schools and neighborhood
But people are still coming.
In recent days, more than 10,000 fighters and civilians have been bused to
Idlib from surrendering sections of eastern Ghouta. They arrive traumatized,
exhausted and disillusioned, often with
children suffering from malnutrition after years of siege.
The government has treated the province as a dumping ground for those it
does not want in its territory and paints
the province as a nest of jihadists. But
the vast majority in Idlib are civilians,
including nonviolent activists who could
face arrest and torture if they remained
in government areas and who often
push back against hard-liners in the
province they believe have co-opted the
Marwan Habaq, who survived the
barrages in eastern Ghouta in a basement with his wife and infant daughter
Yasmina, is taking them to Idlib. It is a
tough choice because, as they have no
Amazon ran a commercial during this
year’s Super Bowl that pretended its
digital assistant Alexa had temporarily
lost her voice. It featured celebrities like
Rebel Wilson, Cardi B and even the company’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos.
While the ad riffed on what Alexa can
say to users, the more intriguing question may be what she and other digital
assistants can hear — especially as
more people bring smart speakers into
their homes.
Amazon and Google, the leading sellers of such devices, say the assistants
record and process audio only after users trigger them by pushing a button or
uttering a phrase like “Hey, Alexa” or
“O.K., Google.” But each company has
filed patent applications, many of them
still under consideration, that outline an
array of possibilities for how devices
like these could monitor more of what
users say and do. That information
could then be used to identify a person’s
desires or interests, which could be
mined for ads and product recommendations.
In one set of patent applications, Amazon describes how a “voice sniffer algorithm” could be used on an array of devices, like tablets and e-book readers, to
analyze audio almost in real time when
it hears words like “love,” “bought” or
“dislike.” A diagram included with the
application illustrated how a phone call
between two friends could result in one’s
receiving an offer for the San Diego Zoo
and the other’s seeing an ad for a Wine of
the Month Club membership.
Some patent applications from
Google, which also owns the smart
home product maker Nest Labs, describe how audio and visual signals
could be used in the context of elaborate
smart home setups.
One application details how audio
monitoring could help detect that a child
is engaging in “mischief” at home by
first using speech patterns and pitch to
identify a child’s presence, one filing
said. A device could then try to sense
movement while listening for whispers
More than one in five Americans use
devices like Google Home, above.
Operas in Berlin cut
drama to human size
New productions surrender
grandeur in the search for
something more intimate
Ausrine Stundyte stars in “Salome” at the Staatsoper in Berlin. The production portrays the ancient court of Judea as a repressed Addams family, with goth touches.
For sheer quantity of opera, few cities
can rival Berlin, which has three major
companies to serve a population of 3.5
million. The current season is even
more eventful than usual: The Staatsoper, which tends to attract the most
star singers of the three, has returned
to its newly renovated theater after a
seven-year exile. The more feisty
Komische Oper is celebrating its 70th
anniversary. And the Deutsche Oper
continues to unearth unusual repertory in the western part of Berlin.
But after a week seeing new produc-
tions at all three opera houses, led by
some of Europe’s most renowned stage
directors, I was struck by the lack of
grandeur on display. Two war horses,
“Tristan und Isolde” and “Salome,” and
two obscurities, “Das Wunder der
Heliane” and “Blaubart,” tended, for
better and worse, to cut the mythical
and mystical down to human size.
These scores are decadent, lateRomantic monsters — except for the
goofy “Blaubart,” which mocks such
seriousness. They are full of so much
rich orchestration and abstract philosophizing as to collectively cause indigestion. But while audiences could
luxuriate in all the excess, the directors seemed to be searching for something more intimate.
The Staatsoper still excels musically,
first and foremost. At “Tristan” on
March 25, the company’s director,
Daniel Barenboim, led an orchestral
performance of formidable dramatic
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Issue Number
No. 42,005
2 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
page two
Catching a whiff of ballpark memories
Therapeutic fragrances
help nursing home
residents recall outings
built biggest
gold miner
Rochelle Youner, who lives at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a nursing
home in the Bronx, a New York City borough, walked up to a kiosk in a common
area of the home’s first floor and pressed
a button below a small icon depicting a
baseball glove.
“That’s the real stuff — that’s a mitt,
all right,” Ms. Youner, 80, said, smelling
the leathery fragrance emitted from the
kiosk, which attempts to bring the ballpark, or at least the smell of it, to the residents.
Many of the Hebrew Home’s residents were born and raised in the Bronx
and are lifelong fans of the Yankees,
with memories of visiting Yankee Stadium stretching back to the eras of Mantle and DiMaggio, and even earlier to
Gehrig and Ruth.
But many of these older fans also suffer age-related memory loss. So the
home, which often finds seasonal pegs
for its reminiscence therapy programs,
has timed its latest program to opening
day at Yankee Stadium on Monday by
erecting the kiosk with the therapeutic
goal of recreating the distinctive smell
of the ballpark.
“Too bad we can’t be there in person,”
Ms. Youner said.
This is the point of the kiosk: to once
again take these fans out to the ballgame.
For residents who followed the
Dodgers, the scents recalled childhood
days at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, and
for Giants baseball fans, they brought
back afternoons at the Polo Grounds in
Manhattan, in the days before both
teams decamped for the West Coast.
The kiosk features six ballpark scents
— hot dogs, popcorn, beer, grass, cola
and the mitt — in separate push-button
dispensers installed at a height accessible to residents in wheelchairs.
It was recently installed in the permanent “Yankees Dugout” exhibition of
team memorabilia at the nursing home,
which includes seats, a turnstile and a
locker from the old Yankee Stadium.
The olfactory exhibit, called “Scents
of the Game,” is meant to evoke long-forgotten memories from the home’s 785
residents, many of whom have
Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
Many have difficulty with short-term
memories but with some prompting can
summon long-term ones, such as detailed recollections of childhood visits to
ballparks decades ago, said Mary
Farkas, director of therapeutic arts and
enrichment programs at the Hebrew
Home, where baseball has also been
used in art therapy and poetry workshops.
Prompting these ballpark memories
helps connect many residents with the
joy they felt at the time and also helps
stimulate their cognition, Mrs. Farkas
Dr. Mark W. Albers, a neurologist at
Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who studies the effect of scent on
patients with neurodegenerative disease, said the Hebrew Home’s memory
exhibit touches on fairly new territory in
sensory therapy in trying to resurrect
positive recollections in a small population of patients who share certain common memories.
Memory loss in older patients can often cause “an erosion of familiarity” and
Clockwise from above: Gilbert Marcus, 80, smelled the scent of a glove at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, a nursing home in New York City; selling hot dogs at the 1953 World
Series; portraits of Yankee players at the home. Prompting these ballpark memories helps connect many residents with the joy they felt at the time.
The kiosk features six ballpark
scents — hot dogs, popcorn,
beer, grass, cola and a baseball
be accompanied by feelings of disorientation, he said. Unearthing pleasant
memories from earlier years through
sensory stimulation may help patients
feel more stable, Dr. Albers said.
Of course, he added, memories of Yankee Stadium might bring back very different emotions for fans like him, who
root for the Boston Red Sox.
For Renee Babenzien, 89, the hot dog
aroma triggered recollections of vendors selling franks with mustard and
“The way they smelled at the game,”
she said, “you couldn’t help but stop the
guy walking up the aisle selling hot
Al Cappiello, 68, smelled the fragrances and recalled the sensory explosion he experienced the first time he
walked into Yankee Stadium as a boy.
“I couldn’t believe the colors,” he recalled. “The green grass, the brown dirt
of the infield — man, I was in heaven.”
Up until then, he said, watching the
Yankees meant watching games on a
black-and-white television set, with the
action being called by Mel Allen, the
Yankees broadcaster.
And so, during his first time at the stadium, Mr. Cappiello recalled, “I told my
brother, ‘I don’t hear Mel Allen,’ and he
said, ‘No, that’s only on TV.’”
Even Joe Pepitone, a star for the Yankees in the 1960s who spoke at the kiosk’s recent unveiling, said the smells
reminded him of playing in Yankee Stadium as a rookie first baseman in 1962.
He had anticipated that the stadium
would smell like hot dogs and sauerkraut, he said, “and sure enough, there
was that smell of the ballpark, and you
could smell it all over.”
Since scent and memory are intimately linked, using the smells of the
ballpark presented “a chance to reach
the residents in a special way, as a tool to
unlock doors in their memories,” said
David V. Pomeranz, the Hebrew Home’s
chief operating officer.
For Al Schwartz, 91, the scent kiosk
reminded him of first visiting Yankee
Stadium in the late 1930s, when 60 cents
could buy a seat in the bleachers and
$1.10 a seat in the grandstand.
Mr. Schwartz said he attended at least
two monumental events at Yankee Stadium. His aunt took him on July 4, 1939,
when Lou Gehrig announced his retirement because of a terminal disease and
called himself “the luckiest man on the
face of the earth.”
Mr. Schwartz also recalled a 1942
charity exhibition in which Babe Ruth
made a post-retirement appearance and
struggled to hit a home run against the
great pitcher Walter Johnson in front of
70,000 fans.
“The crowd kept on him, and he finally hit it out of the park, to right field,”
he recalled. “The best part was seeing
him run around the bases, that way he
used to.”
Operas in Berlin bring drama down to human size
weight and conviction. The theater’s
renovation hasn’t solved a problematic
acoustic; the sound is raw and unblended. But that wasn’t entirely a bad
thing for this most interior of scores.
Dmitri Tcherniakov’s staging presents a diffuse, meandering psychodrama. His sets locate the story in
a world of heartless one-percenters,
one in which Isolde’s anger — and,
eventually, her love — registers as a
ray of emotional light. The details,
however, don’t seem to have been fully
worked out, such as video snippets
that hint at a traumatic event in Tristan’s childhood. (By Act 3 he is stumbling around an abandoned dacha,
accompanied by his parents’ ghosts.)
Wagner’s own ideal of aesthetic
unity would seem to doom to failure
Mr. Tcherniakov’s and Mr. Barenboim’s
disparate approaches. While I found
neither music nor staging completely
satisfying, there was something appealing in their friction, the overheated
music and the conviction of Anja
Kampe and Andreas Schager as the
central duo warming Mr. Tcherniakov’s
chilly interiors.
“Tristan” (which had its premiere in
1865), with its intense chromaticism
and eroticism, begot a series of even
more lurid operas, including “Salome”
(1905), which Hans Neuenfels has
directed for the Staatsoper. It portrays
Sara Jakubiak and Josef Wagner in a rare staging of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s “Das
Wunder der Heliane” at the Deutsche Oper.
the ancient court of Judea as a repressed Addams family, with goth
touches, but avoids any moralizing or
whiff of Christian salvation.
If you do want salvation, you need to
head to the Deutsche Oper for a rare
outing of Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s
“Das Wunder der Heliane,” from 1927.
The logical end point of the decadence
of “Tristan” and “Salome,” it travels
even further down the road of chromaticism and sensationalism, with
much of the drama of Korngold’s later
film music (“Anthony Adverse,” “The
Adventures of Robin Hood”).
The plot concerns a messianic
Stranger who arrives and brings what
the libretto euphemistically terms
“love” to a tyrannical Ruler’s oppressive land. The Ruler’s wife, Heliane
(the smoky-voiced soprano Sara Jakubiak), falls for the Stranger, first stripping for him and then eventually resurrecting him from the dead (the “miracle” of the title) to prove her own
The opera is a kitschy, exploitative
sanctification of monogamy cloaked in
gorgeous music, and Marc Albrecht
conducted the Deutsche Oper orchestra with lush colors and outstanding
sensitivity to the singers, even in the
thickest passages. But the director,
Christof Loy, stages this luridness with
his typical restraint. Johannes Leiacker’s set is a plain courtroom; the
dystopia seems to have doomed everyone to identical suits and cocktail
As with Mr. Tcherniakov’s “Tristan,”
Mr. Loy’s austerity stands in sharp
contrast to a ripe score. The eventual
return of joy, love and happiness doesn’t get so much as a special lighting
cue. The staging is so vague as to be
toothless; this opera demands a
stronger interpretive hand. It is tasteful in a way the opera is not.
The Komische Oper offered a tart
dessert to all this richness in the form
of Offenbach’s operetta “Blaubart,” a
comic take on the old tale of Duke
Bluebeard and his serial marriages
that parodies Wagnerian seriousness.
While rarely produced, it is a signature
piece for the Komische Oper, whose
founder, Walter Felsenstein, directed a
production that was popular in the
1960s and ’70s.
The director Stefan Herheim has
produced a kind of intellectual “Spamalot.” The show alternates cancan
dances with interpolated allegorical
figures of love and death arguing about
the meaning of life and theater; numerous tributes to the Felsenstein
production; and an aggressively updated libretto full of topical humor at
the expense of Berlin’s perpetually
disastrous construction projects. At its
best, it’s anarchic fun, but at three and
a half hours it tends to drag, particularly when the music stops. (The performance is streaming on the website
One of the operetta’s greatest assets
is its heroine, Boulotte, a lusty peasant
who is a welcome antidote to the eternal feminine embodied by Isolde and
Heliane. In this version, she and her
fellow wives haven’t been killed but
are in hiding. They go on a crusade for
revenge against Bluebeard, but the
operetta lets Bluebeard off easy, demanding only repentance before forgiving him.
I wanted a more robust treatment of
gender — in 2018, especially — from a
production whose staging of corruption
and power is quite sharp. But this
failure is, sadly, perhaps the staging’s
most realistic element.
Peter Munk, the Canadian who built the
world’s largest gold-mining company,
years after suffering one of his country’s
most notable business failures, died on
Wednesday in Toronto. He was 90.
Barrick Gold, the company he
founded, announced the death but did
not give a cause. Mr. Munk wore a pacemaker and had dealt with heart problems for several years.
An outsider in Canada — his preference for fedoras alone set him apart —
and a former escapee from Nazi-occupied Hungary, Mr. Munk initially tried
out several different lines of business,
including stereo equipment and resorts
in Fiji. Not all were successful, but he
never appeared deterred by his failures.
Barrick itself started out as an oil
company that endured three years of
losses. Then Mr. Munk began acquiring
gold mines in Canada and the United
States. Most were small ventures. But in
1986 he bought Goldstrike, a mine in Nevada that was estimated to hold 600,000
ounces of gold. As it turned out, it held
more than 21 million ounces, making it
the richest deposit outside of South Africa at the time.
Barrick grew through expansion, and
with the acquisition in 2006 of Placer
Dome, a British Columbia-based mining
company, it became the world’s largest
gold miner. And it made Mr. Munk immensely wealthy, though there are few
good estimates of his fortune. He controlled Barrick without holding most of
its shares.
But Mr. Munk led the life of an international billionaire. He had three homes
in Ontario and houses in Paris and
Switzerland, where he remained a keen
skier late in life, and took to the sea in a
140-foot-long yacht, the Golden Eagle.
As Barrick expanded globally, Mr.
Munk often dealt with governments
with widely condemned human-rights
records. He devoted part of Barrick’s annual meeting in 1996 to praising the economic program of Gen. Augusto Pinochet, the former military dictator in
Chile, although Mr. Munk subsequently
condemned General Pinochet’s human
rights abuses in a letter to the newspaper The Globe and Mail.
An electrical engineer by training, Mr.
Munk often attributed his success at
Barrick to his lack of a mining background. That meant, he said, that he
made decisions about his company almost entirely from a financial perspective, introducing measures that offset
the inevitable financial risks of mining.
“For 100 years it was assumed that a
successful mining company had to be
run by miners,” he told The Economist
in 2014. “What I did know was how to
run a business. The investor doesn’t
give a damn about what you know about
mining. They want results.”
For all of Barrick’s later success, it
was his stereo equipment company,
Clairtone — Mr. Munk’s first big venture
and his greatest humiliation — that
most shaped his approach to business.
“Clairtone was the single-most formative experience in my life, because it was
so traumatic,” he told The New York
Times in 1993.
The audio gear became popular internationally as much for its futuristic design as for its sound. Clairtone stereos
appeared in films starring Frank Sinatra and Sean Connery. Overwhelmed by
a variety of problems, however, including an unsuccessful move into television
and poor management of the company’s
growth, the founders were ousted in
1968. Clairtone collapsed six years later.
Mr. Munk was born into a Jewish family in Budapest on Nov. 8, 1927. When the
Nazis occupied Hungary in 1944, Mr.
Munk’s grandfather Gabriel, a chocolate distributor and real estate investor,
used most of the family fortune to secure
train passage to Switzerland for 14 family members, including Mr. Munk and
his father, Lajos.
At 20, he left Switzerland for Toronto
on a student visa to study at the University of Toronto. The odd jobs that financed his studies included selling
Christmas trees.
His first marriage ended in divorce.
He is survived by his wife, the former
Melanie Jane Bosanquet, whom he married in 1973; five children, Anthony,
Nina, Marc-David and Natalie Munk
and Cheyne Munk Beys; and 14 grandchildren.
Peter Munk in 2014.
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MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 3
Greece’s island of despair
Thousands of migrants
languish in deplorable
conditions on Lesbos
His brown eyes sunken and flat, Jahangir Baroch had spent another sleepless night in the metal container on the
Greek island of Lesbos where he has
lived for more than a year.
“There was no electricity in the container last night,” Mr. Baroch, 26, said at
a center for refugees, away from the
holding camp in Moria, where he is
housed. “It was like a fridge.”
“I want to go to Athens,” said Mr.
Baroch, who came from Baluchistan, an
embattled province in Pakistan. “If you
don’t want me, I want to go to another
“Why am I here?” he asked.
Others are asking the same question,
two years after the European Union
struck a deal with Turkey aimed at cutting the route across the Aegean Sea for
asylum seekers, many propelled by
wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Since then, thousands have remained
stranded on Lesbos, unwilling to go
back to the countries they left and unable to move forward toward the opportunity they had hoped to find in Europe.
Though the numbers are fewer, they
keep coming.
The lucky ones, whose asylum applications are accepted, are eventually
shipped to the Greek mainland. Those
whose applications are rejected (they
can apply twice) are sent back to Turkey
as part of the deal with the European
But neither country, it seems, has
much motivation to accept them. The
Greek authorities sift their cases slowly,
for months at a time, as the asylum seekers live in limbo, trapped in conditions
so deplorable Pope Francis likened
them to a concentration camp.
The scale of the migration crisis that
brought them to Lesbos can be measured in the piles of discarded life vests
that still dot the island. But increasingly
it is tallied in despair.
Some 5,500 people are detained in
Moria, about 2,500 more than the camp
was designed to hold. Greek officials
gave us a limited, chaperoned tour of
parts of Moria, and numerous people described the conditions they lived in.
Rain soaks through the tents, and
there is a lack of electricity and hot water in the showers, even in winter. The
public toilets and showers are soiled
with feces. As bad as the food is, it often
runs out. The lines — for everything —
are endless. Fights break out constantly.
Violence, theft and rape are constant
Sometimes the men chop wood and
light fires in their tents to try to keep
warm, which has led to accidents that
killed three people in Moria last year.
“Even if you are healthy, in Moria
you’ll get a problem,” said Amir Ali, a 27year-old from Herat, a city in western
Afghanistan, who lived in Moria for
more than 11 months.
“That’s not a place to put people in,”
he said. “The police cannot control the
He left Moria, found a job as a house
worker and then as a seamster, and
rented a house in Mytilene, the capital of
Lesbos, where he has chosen to stay, his
asylum application accepted.
Mostly through family and social media, some still follow events back home.
Syrians recently protested the siege of
Getting a shave in Lesbos. Some 5,500 people are detained in Moria, the holding camp, about 2,500 more than the camp was designed to hold. Violence, theft and rape are constant threats.
A migrant from Algeria scaling a fence in Mytilene, while trying to smuggle himself on a
ship to Athens. There are currently more than 7,800 refugees across Lesbos.
the Damascus suburb of Ghouta by the
government of President Bashir al-Assad.
Even having experienced war, Samir
Alhabr, a 26-year-old engineer from
Iraq, described the makeshift camp as
“a very dangerous place.”
He had seen Islamic State fighters ex-
ecute his father and his brother and witnessed many other killings in Iraq, he
said. But life in the camp was only adding to his traumas.
“This place is no good,” he said.
He has started to sleep with his most
valued possessions — cellphone, money
and cigarettes — all stuffed in his pock-
ets, to keep them away from robbers.
The sense of constant insecurity has
begun to play on his nerves. He fears for
his mental health and went to the camp
doctor. He presented papers, in Greek,
listing his symptoms: Irritable mood;
recurring thoughts of traumatic events;
auditory hallucinations; insomnianightmares; attention-memory disorder; social isolation; suicidal tendency and a failed suicide attempt.
The diagnosis: Psychotic disorder,
undetermined. Post-traumatic stress
“I saw, I saw,” he mutters, his eyes
wide, though it is unclear what he saw
exactly. “But here, I get no help for myself.”
In order to survive, some have tried to
build a daily routine with some semblance of normality.
Khalil, 13, lives in Kara Tepe — yet another camp on the island. Originally
from Afghanistan, he and his friends
ride their bicycles and go fishing along
the shore to kill time.
In the international pecking order for
asylum, Syrians, Iraqis and sometimes
Afghans stand a better chance because
their countries are actively at war. Still,
not everyone makes it, separating
For the women in Moria camp, the situation is often worse.
A 30-year-old woman from Afghanis-
“Even if you are healthy, in
Moria you’ll get a problem.
That’s not a place to put
people in.”
tan, who asked that her name not be
published out of fear of being hunted
down by her former spouse, described
how she fled Afghanistan a year and a
half ago, when her husband of 13 years
tried to kill her.
In Turkey, she said she was sold to a
smuggler, who imprisoned her in a room
with no light, gave her no food and raped
her for a week.
When she eventually arrived in Moria, things got worse. “I wanted to kill
myself when I saw the situation,” she
Giannis Mpalpakakis, the director of
the Moria camp, which is run by the
Greek state but largely financed by the
European Union, acknowledged the
challenges that he and his team are facing and insisted that they were doing
their best, given the extreme circumstances.
“We are trying really hard to help
these people. We are not indifferent,” he
“Overcrowding is a huge issue for us,”
he acknowledged. “Moria is the most
overcrowded place in the world, if you
divide the number of people living here
by the square meter.”
Yet the numbers arriving are expected to rise again as the weather
“We need to increase the flow of migrants from Greece to Turkey and decrease the flow from Turkey to Greece,”
said Miltos Oikonomidis, a European
Union policy officer.
Since January, only 64 people have
been sent back to Turkey. Yet 2,698 people arrived on the island, which has a
population of about 86,000 people.
An additional 2,365 were moved to
Athens, while 147 left Lesbos voluntarily. There are currently more than 7,800
refugees across Lesbos.
“No matter the efforts that are underway in Moria, the point is to reduce the
influx of refugees,” Mr. Oikonomidis
But that will remain difficult to do.
Some are not just fleeing war; they’re
seeking opportunity, freedom.
“You’re thinking about the future,”
said Isaac Hielo, a 29-year-old from Eritrea, who said his family had died of
Does he have hope?
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “Tomorrow is another day, yes?”
Mauricio Lima contributed reporting
from Lesbos, Greece.
Fear of foreign influence, as Irish abortion vote nears
As Ireland prepares to vote in May on a
referendum on whether to repeal its ban
on abortion, anti-abortion campaigners
can be seen rallying most weekdays on
the streets of Dublin, outside Parliament, and at universities, news media
buildings and the offices of human
rights groups.
They arrive wearing body cameras
and bearing placards with graphic images of aborted fetuses.
But not all of them are Irish.
Of the eight members of the anti-abortion Irish Center for Bio-Ethical Reform
who protested outside the offices of The
Irish Times on a recent weekday, only
three — including the group’s leader,
Jean Engela — were Irish. The others include Americans and a Hungarian.
“We try to be as multinational as the
abortion industry, and they make no
apologies for sending in their international affiliates to pontificate to the Irish
people,” said Dr. Engela.
The protests — relatively small but
highly visible in the Irish capital — are
an emblem of the strong emotions as the
country prepares to vote in late May on
whether to retain the Eighth Amendment of the Irish Constitution, which
bans abortion in nearly all circumstances and was itself enacted by a referendum, in 1983. (Abortion was illegal
before 1983, but the amendment made it
even harder to terminate a pregnancy,
even to save a mother’s life.)
To the age-old debates around abortion — including questions of when life
begins and of women’s control over their
reproductive rights — the referendum
has added a new dimension of concern
about potential outside interference in
the vote.
An ethics regulator recently ordered
two abortion-rights groups, Amnesty
International Ireland and the Abortion
Rights Campaign, to return grants of
$150,000 and $25,000 to George Soros’s
Open Society Foundations. It said the
money was a foreign political donation
intended to affect the outcome of a referendum or election, and therefore
But so far it does not appear that any
anti-abortion groups have been asked to
return overseas donations, despite reports that money is being openly raised
on their behalf, particularly in the
United States.
One American group, the Pro-Life Action League, told an Irish newspaper in
2012 that anti-abortion groups were
raising hundreds of thousands of dollars
to support Irish anti-abortion groups
like Youth Defence, which has been
linked to far-right movements in Europe.
Youth Defence did not respond to a request for comment. The Pro-Life Action
League’s executive director, Eric J.
Scheidler, said that the remarks con-
cerned American support for the Irish
anti-abortion movement over several
decades and said his group had not
raised money for the current campaign.
The Irish Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, which picketed The Irish Times,
receives foreign funding but claims to be
exempt from government oversight.
“We are an educational body,” Dr. Engela said.
He denied that the protest had anything to do with the coming vote, and asserted that some of the volunteers were
full-time activists with their own
sources of funding.
Some commentators argue that antiabortion groups are not being held to the
same stringent standard as abortionrights groups.
Theresa Reidy, a political scientist at
University College Cork, said that there
was a long history of overseas interests
taking sides in Irish referendums, particularly on issues like the European Union. Over the last decade, even as support for the abortion ban has waned,
concerns about possible outside interference have risen, she said.
Siobhan Mullally, of the Irish Center
for Human Rights at the National University of Ireland, Galway, said the problem of undeclared foreign funding went
beyond the abortion debate and was
“also a question about how charities are
funded in general.”
The Roman Catholic Church, long a
major power in Ireland, was the main
driver in the 1983 referendum. The
church also opposed, successfully, a referendum in 1986 that would have legalized divorce. In the decades since, however, its social and moral authority has
been gravely weakened by a number of
scandals, most notably clerical child sex
The church could not prevent the legalization of contraception and was on
the losing side in referendums that legalized divorce in 1995 and same-sex
marriage in 2015.
As a result, today’s anti-abortion activists are less overtly religious in their
arguments. Instead, they are arguing
that abortion harms women’s health.
They are also turning to social media.
After revelations about the misuse of
Facebook data to sway Britain’s referendum on European Union membership in
2016, and the United States presidential
election later that year, fears are growing that similar tactics might be used in
the referendum campaign.
The Save the 8th Campaign, an antiabortion group, has hired Kanto Systems, a London-based political consultancy, to help run its campaign.
Kanto Systems’s founder, Thomas
Borwick, was chief technology officer
for the Vote Leave campaign in Britain,
and developed a canvassing app for
Cambridge Analytica, the data-mining
organization that exploited Facebook
data on behalf of the 2016 Trump campaign.
Mr. Borwick said that he himself had
not worked for the Trump campaign,
Volunteers with the Irish Center for Bio-Ethical Reform distributed pamphlets and
protested with posters outside the offices of The Irish Times in Dublin last month.
and referred a reporter to a statement
from Save the 8th, which said that Kanto
would be performing “some data analytics for us” but would not be engaged in
“any voter profiling or voter targeting.”
John McGuirk, a spokesman for Save
the 8th, said that in the Irish electoral
system, which does not have online voter rolls, individually targeted advertising of the sort practiced by Cambridge
Analytica would not be possible. “In
terms of targeting advertising at individual voters, we couldn’t do that even if
we wanted to, which we don’t,” he said.
The Times of London reported that
the Pro Life Campaign, Ireland’s largest
umbrella anti-abortion group, has retained uCampaign, a Washington firm
that has developed apps for the Trump
campaign, the National Rifle Association, the Republican National Committee and Vote Leave.
4 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
blamed in
fatal listeria
Newspaper’s goal is to promote China
Tech giant that owns
South China Morning Post
is open about mission
On a recent afternoon, the staff of The
South China Morning Post, a 114-yearold newspaper, gathered around roast
suckling pig in their lavish new headquarters in Hong Kong to celebrate a remarkable turnaround.
Readership has been surging. The
Post has introduced new digital products and added dozens of journalists. After more than a decade of decline and
editorial chaos, the newsroom buzzes
like a tech start-up, with table tennis and
an in-house pub serving free craft beer.
The revival began with The Post's acquisition two years ago by the Alibaba
Group, the Chinese technology and retail giant. But if Alibaba is breathing
new life into the paper, it has also given it
a new mission: improving China’s image overseas and combating what it
sees as anti-Chinese bias in the foreign
In effect, Alibaba has taken Hong
Kong’s English-language paper of
record since the days of British rule and
put it on the leading edge of China’s efforts to project soft power abroad. Every
day, The Post churns out dozens of articles about China, many of which seek to
present a more positive view of the
country. As it does, critics say it is moving away from independent journalism
and pioneering a new form of propaganda.
Alibaba, which has been open from
the start about its ambitions for the
newspaper, envisions a day when The
Post is the dominant news organization
in the world, riding the momentum of
China’s rise as a superpower.
“We are going to be watched, and people are going to pay attention to us,” Joseph C. Tsai, a co-founder of Alibaba,
said during the February celebration,
comparing The Post to an underdog
competing for the first time at the
But journalists worry that Alibaba,
which has become one of the most
highly valued companies in the world in
part by maintaining good ties with the
Chinese government, is abandoning
The Post’s history of scrappy reporting
to please Beijing.
“By explicitly stating that its aim is to
tell a positive story of China and running
questionable stories, management undermines the very attributes that make
the S.C.M.P. useful in the first place,”
said Yuen Chan, a journalist and senior
lecturer at the Chinese University of
Hong Kong.
As businesses and governments
around the world look for ways to skirt
the traditional news media, The Post
has become a test case for how a new
owner can co-opt an established brand
to promote certain viewpoints. Alibaba
executives say they want to present a
“fair and balanced” alternative to foreign media, a mission statement that
echoes Fox News.
Gary Liu, a Harvard-educated technology entrepreneur who is the Post’s
chief executive, said the newspaper
could offer a more nuanced portrait of
China than Western news outlets, with a
staff of 350 journalists in Asia, including
about 40 in the mainland.
“We are not here, certainly, to promote the views and wishes of Beijing,”
said Mr. Liu, who was previously chief
executive of Digg, a news aggregation
site in New York.
But a culture of self-censorship at the
newspaper predates its purchase by Alibaba, said Wang Feng, who served as
The Post’s online editor from 2012 to
2015. He said top editors routinely rewrote, played down or withheld critical
stories for fear of offending influential
Chinese officials or business executives.
“It was often done in a very hush-hush
manner,” said Mr. Wang, now the editor
of the Chinese-language website of The
189 people have died
in South Africa, and
more victims are expected
The South China Morning Post’s headquarters, above and below right, in Hong Kong. Journalists worry that The Post is softening its stance to please Beijing. Below left, missing
persons posters in Hong Kong of booksellers and publishers who had books critical of China’s president. One is Gui Minhai, whom the mainland police snatched from a train.
The world’s largest known listeria outbreak has spread throughout South Africa for 15 months, killing 189 people.
Health officials believe they have identified the source: bologna.
Since January last year, 982 confirmed cases of listeriosis have been recorded, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa reported last week. The infection, caused
by food that has been contaminated with
the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes,
is often lethal.
A cluster of gastroenteritis cases
among toddlers in a Johannesburg hospital this January led the authorities to
the sandwich meat in a day care center’s
refrigerator — and in turn, to a meat production facility in the northern city of
Polokwane. There, officials said they detected traces of LST6, the listeria strain
identified in 91 percent of the outbreak’s
The South African meat processor,
Enterprise Foods, issued a recall of
some of its processed products in early
March. Food safety experts at the World
Health Organization plan to review the
company’s exports to 15 countries
across Africa, many of which lack reliable disease surveillance systems and
diagnostic tools. Namibia recently reported one listeriosis case; its link to
South Africa’s outbreak is uncertain.
The 982 cases make it the world’s
largest known outbreak.
Financial Times. “You could see that
people were not exactly free to speak
their minds.”
That timidity has persisted under Alibaba, according to more than a dozen
Post journalists who, speaking on condition of anonymity, described how the paper shies away from investigative reporting on Communist Party leaders
and contentious subjects such as human
Last year, The Post retracted a business column that suggested an investor
in Hong Kong had ties to a trusted adviser to President Xi Jinping and had used
his connections to amass wealth. The
editors said the column made “insinuations beyond the facts.”
Its author, Shirley Yam, a well-respected financial commentator, resigned. In a statement, Ms. Yam defended her column, saying that editors
had vetted the piece extensively before
its publication.
Some critics said the more notable
change under Alibaba may be The
Post’s ramped-up production of articles
that present China in a friendly light.
In February, Post journalists said, the
Ministry of Public Security pushed the
paper’s top editors to send a reporter to
interview Gui Minhai, a political critic
and Swedish citizen whom the Chinese
police had snatched from a train.
Mr. Gui was then quoted saying he
had broken Chinese law and did not
want help from the outside world. In its
coverage, The Post said that the interview with Mr. Gui was “government-arranged.”
“The Post risks being a vehicle in Beijing’s overall propaganda machinery,”
said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a scholar at the
Chinese University of Hong Kong and a
former Post journalist.
Mr. Xi, China’s most powerful leader
in decades, has all but eliminated critical
reporting in the mainland, placed new
pressure on Hong Kong news media and
ordered a vast expansion of China’s publicity machine, with state broadcasters
merged into a single entity called the
“Voice of China” to strengthen China’s
international messaging.
Chow Chung-yan, who oversees coverage of mainland China and Hong
Kong, denied The Post yields to pressure from Beijing.
“We are independent and free,” he
said. “We don’t have people calling into
our newsroom asking what we will publish.”
The Post’s editor in chief, Tammy
Tam, a former Hong Kong television
broadcaster, declined to be interviewed.
“We believe in reporting freely, fearlessly and in accordance with the highest editorial standards,” she said in a
The Post’s leaders say that Alibaba
executives, who have offices a few floors
above the newsroom, are not involved in
editorial decisions. But Mr. Tsai, the cofounder who spoke at the celebration,
maintains a close connection, offering
occasional feedback on coverage and
new products.
There has been at least one noticeable
change since the sale: an outpouring of
coverage of Alibaba and its leader, Jack
Ma, one of China’s richest men. Articles
mentioning Alibaba reached an average
of about 3.5 per day last year online and
in print, roughly double the number in
2016, according to an archival search.
Alibaba appears to be willing to lose
money on The Post, which is not profitable, according to newsroom leaders.
Mr. Tsai has said The Post, with a circulation of about 101,000 and more than 10
million monthly active users on its website, may not become a self-sustaining
business for at least five more years.
Traffic to The Post’s website has
roughly tripled over the past year, the
company said. Alibaba made access free
when it took over. But Alibaba has abandoned ambitions of expanding the audience for the Post’s journalism in the
mainland, where its website is blocked.
Even with its pro-China mission, articles in The Post still touch on topics that
are off limits to mainland readers, like
the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.
While many of its approximately 850
articles a week appear tailored for a
Hong Kong or Asian audience, The Post
has gone on a hiring spree of journalists
from outlets like the BBC and The New
York Times to help bring an international tone to its coverage.
To cater to young people and readers
in the United States, now its largest market, the Post last month introduced Inkstone, an app and newsletter that offers
a conversational take on China, and
Abacus, a multimedia site focused on
technology. The new products also help
blunt criticism that The Post is a propaganda tool.
“Diss the national anthem? That’s up
to three years in the slammer,” read one
recent headline on an Inkstone article
about penalties for mocking the Chinese
national anthem in Hong Kong.
The Post’s success may hinge on persuading overseas readers that it delivers reliable journalism about China. But
on the front lines, reporters are grappling with perceptions that the paper is
another Chinese state news media outlet. Tom Grundy, editor of the Hong
Kong Free Press, a rival news site, said
The Post was home to talented reporters.
But he said Alibaba’s ownership of the
paper and recent editorial missteps
risked tarnishing high-quality work.
“No matter how good their output,” he
said, “there will always be distrust.”
Tiger Brands, the parent company of
Enterprise Foods, did not respond to requests for comment.
The highly processed meat, locally
called “polony,” is known for its fluorescent artificial color. It is often consumed
in low-income communities and sold by
street vendors.
Listeriosis has an incubation period of
up to 70 days, so additional cases are expected to emerge. Because officials determined that 9 percent of the cases involved a different strain of listeria, there
may be multiple outbreaks.
Doctors in South Africa were not required to report cases of listeriosis to the
Ministry of Health until December. Patient records were vague and often
lacked the contact information for follow-up, said Dr. Peter K. Ben Embarek,
a food safety expert at the W.H.O.
“Many didn’t even know to be asking
patients about the meat,” said Dr. Louise
Ivers, an associate global health professor at Harvard. “Surveillance is a critical but neglected piece of health systems,” Dr. Ivers said. “Without the resources and lab infrastructure, countries are left reacting: reacting to
cholera, reacting to Ebola, reacting to
Richard Spoor, a lawyer in South Africa, has filed a $2 billion lawsuit against
Tiger Brands. Nearly 70 victims and
family members are part of the suit, according to William D. Marler, a Seattlebased food safety lawyer who is a consultant on the case.
The flulike symptoms of listeriosis —
fevers, vomiting and diarrhea — most
often affect the elderly, immune-compromised individuals and pregnant
women, who can pass it on to their fetuses. Pregnant women are 10 times
more likely than other people to become
infected, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
Syrians feel vise tighten in rebel-held province
place to live in Idlib, they will have to
leave his wife’s parents behind and they
will face more shelling. But if they stay,
he is sure he would be arrested or forced
into military service.
“Two bitter options,” he said. “Leaving to the unknown, or staying within
Assad’s hands.”
But the move only delays the inevitable.
“It’s a shame on the world,” said
Mehran Ouyoun, a member of the opposition council in exile for the Damascus
suburbs, which meets in Turkey. “If you
approve the war crime of forced evacuation, at least make sure these people
don’t suffer again and again.”
Idlib was once controlled by a patchwork of clashing insurgents, some led
by American-backed army defectors
calling for a civil state. Others, including
an Al Qaeda affiliate, welcomed foreign
fighters and espoused a spectrum of Islamist ideologies. But hard-liners have
seized the upper hand, playing into the
government’s portrayal of the region
even as they create tensions with residents who oppose them.
As they struggle to survive, many residents are caught between government
attacks from the sky and the overbearing rule of extremist factions that dominate on the ground.
Nisrine joined the revolution at the
outset in 2011, pushing for a secular, civil
democracy. Like a dozen other Idlib residents interviewed for this article by
phone and email, she asked not to be
fully identified for fear of retribution
from any side.
She boarded a bus for Idlib last year
after surviving a year of siege and bombardment, hoping that her son Abdullah, 10, would not starve to death like
some children had in her town, Madaya.
At first, she was excited to be reunited
with her husband, a former law student
and rebel fighter who had gone to Idlib
two years earlier.
She did not regret leaving Madaya.
After the government takeover there,
her brother and brothers-in-law were
drafted and sent to the front with minimal training. They died in battle.
But Nisrine was troubled by Idlib
City’s ubiquitous jihadist billboards,
face veils and cafes segregating women
and banning them from smoking water
pipes. When she wears her usual head
scarf and modest coat, religious enforcers lecture her for not veiling her face.
A bombed hospital in Idlib. The government has carried out scorched-earth airstrikes
there with its ally, Russia, routinely hitting clinics, schools and neighborhood markets.
But the episode that shocked Nisrine
most was the day her son, after a few
months playing with other children in
Idlib, announced: “I want to join the jihad.” Horrified, Nisrine decided to set
up educational alternatives and start
campaigning quietly against the recruitment of children into hard-line religious
schools and rebel factions.
She also helped open a chapter of
Dameh, Arabic for hug, an organization
that provides psychological support and
cultural activities.
Umm Abdo, 36, a philosophy professor from Syria’s largest city, Aleppo,
takes a more confrontational approach.
She fled to Idlib in 2014 for fear she
would be arrested after government
forces detained her husband.
“I don’t stay silent,” she said. “I’m not
afraid of death. Welcome, death!”
She said she does not leave home
without a gun.
She could not find work in Idlib’s university; Philosophy had been banned as
“polytheism.” So she became a traditional healer, treating mostly women,
and found that their already limited
freedoms had contracted further under
the hard-liners who control Idlib.
She heard from students brainwashed into calling their parents infidels, teenage girls sold into marriage.
One woman arrived unable to speak. It
turned out her husband had badly beaten her after she caught him cheating.
With a degree in Islamic law, she
started defending underdogs in Islamic
court. She helped farmers defeat attempts by the factions to take away their
lands. She won a divorce for a woman
whose father had sold her to a foreign
fighter who raped and beat her.
“When we decided to revolt, it was
against oppression,” she said. “But today we’re facing the worst oppression.”
Life in conservative Idlib poses challenges for everyone from relatively cosmopolitan Damascus, but especially for
single women.
Rima, a former political prisoner from
Madaya, arrived in Idlib divorced with
no local family ties or male relatives to
protect her. Few landlords would rent to
a single woman and one evicted her
when she refused his advances.
“Even taxi drivers ask: ‘Why are you
single? Why don’t you have brothers?’”
she said.
Recently the local authorities in Idlib
City announced that single women
would have to live in special camps.
For Rima, the problem was solved
when she got engaged.
Fitting in remains a challenge, but
there are few options.
“Idlib wasn’t the best choice,” she
said. “It was the only choice.”
Anne Barnard and Hwaida Saad have
covered the Syrian war together for six
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 5
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Should I make life simpler?
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6 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
Trump advisers urge
tougher Russia policy
As diplomats pack up
after expulsions, some
aides try to turn up heat
John Bolton listening to critical statements he’d made about the United Nations during Senate hearings in 2005 on his appointment as ambassador to the organization.
Senators’ verdict: Undiplomatic
The only extensive look
at John Bolton’s record
came in 2005 hearings
The last time — perhaps the only time —
John R. Bolton inspired bipartisan
agreement, it was over the shared conclusion that he was perhaps the least diplomatic personality a president could
have picked to be an American diplomat.
That was in 2005, when Mr. Bolton
was last considered for a government
job. Accounts of his red-faced tirades
against intelligence analysts whose
findings he disagreed with so concerned
members of the Senate that they refused to approve his nomination as
President George W. Bush’s ambassador to the United Nations.
He wound up getting the job anyway
through a recess appointment by Mr.
Bush, who later regretted spending the
political capital on such a divisive figure,
telling conservatives, “I don’t consider
Bolton credible.”
Thirteen years later, another president has given Mr. Bolton the far more
consequential job of national security
adviser. But because that post does not
require Senate confirmation, the five
months in 2005 that the Senate took to
decide whether Mr. Bolton should go to
the United Nations remain the only extensive examination of his record and
his temperament.
Those who opposed him then, like
Carl W. Ford Jr., along with many who
supported him, say Mr. Bolton has not
changed. In an appearance before a Senate committee vetting Mr. Bolton’s
nomination in 2005, Mr. Ford, a former
assistant secretary of state for intelligence and research in the Bush administration, summed up Mr. Bolton, then an
under secretary of state for arms control
and international security, as a “kiss-up,
kick-down sort of guy.”
“I believed then, as I believe now, he
lacks any of the qualities to be a senior
government official,” Mr. Ford said last
month. “It has been my experience that
his mouth is much bigger than his
The confirmation battle took place
during the first years of the Iraq war, a
conflict Mr. Bolton supported and defends to this day. In the run-up to the
war, he was a key proponent of the administration’s argument for the invasion: that the president of Iraq, Saddam
Hussein, possessed weapons of mass
destruction that threatened the United
“We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in
Iraq,” Mr. Bolton said in 2002. The claim
was later shown to be false and based on
flawed or selective intelligence.
Amid the emotions that the war by
then engendered, consideration of Mr.
Bolton’s nomination turned into a fivemonth standoff as Senate Democrats
scrutinized what they saw as Mr.
Bolton’s efforts to subvert the government’s own findings in pursuit of his and
his allies’ beliefs.
The release of thousands of pages of
documents revealed Mr. Bolton, an ally
of Vice President Dick Cheney, to be a
volatile, aggressive infighter, who
seemed willing to cherry-pick intelli-
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee during confirmation hearings on Mr. Bolton in
2005. The panel sent the nomination to the Senate floor “without recommendation.”
gence, steamroll analysts he did not
agree with and end-run his State Department bosses in pursuit of an agenda
considered bellicose even among Bush
administration hawks. He shared that
penchant with Mr. Cheney, who repeatedly confronted intelligence professionals and agencies whose analytical assessments did not support his conclusions in favor of the Iraq war.
“A lot of officials in Washington behave badly, so that, sadly enough, was
unlikely to be disqualifying,” said
Antony J. Blinken, the Democratic staff
director of the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee. But in examining reasons
for Mr. Bolton’s behavior, “That’s when
threads started emerging, and when we
pulled on them, we started to find things
that were truly disturbing, including to
Republican members of the committee.”
Testimony emerged about
Mr. Bolton’s efforts to tailor,
suppress or selectively use
intelligence and to intimidate
intelligence analysts.
But not all Republicans, according to
Dan Diller, who was deputy staff director for the committee majority.
“There was some validity” to accusations of Mr. Bolton’s behavior during the
investigation, Mr. Diller wrote in an
email, but it “found no clear ethical
transgressions. He was an aggressive,
sharp-elbowed bureaucratic operator
who always tried to get his way, but
would relent in the end rather than engaging in insubordination.”
When Mr. Bush nominated Mr. Bolton
for the United Nations job in March
2005, Condoleezza Rice, then the secretary of state, praised him as a “toughminded diplomat” with a successful
track record as an under secretary for
arms control and an assistant secretary
of state for international organizations.
It later emerged that Ms. Rice and
other top diplomats were keen to ship
Mr. Bolton off to New York, comfortably
away from his portfolio at the State Department. Ms. Rice, now teaching at
Stanford, declined to comment for this
At the opening of Mr. Bolton’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about a
month after he was nominated, the committee chairman, Senator Richard G.
Lugar of Indiana, a Republican, tried for
a balanced assessment.
“Opponents of Mr. Bolton have criticized some statements of the nominee
as abrasive, confrontational and insensitive,” Mr. Lugar said. “Some of these
same statements have been celebrated
by supporters of the nominee as demonstrating a tough-minded, refreshingly
blunt approach to diplomacy.”
Testifying before the committee, Mr.
Bolton presented himself as a reformer
who would go to the United Nations and
help “build institutions that serve as the
cornerstone of freedom in nascent democracies,” curb the proliferation of nuclear weapons and support a global war
on terror promised by the Bush administration.
Over seven hours on that first day,
Democrats explored allegations by intelligence officials that Mr. Bolton had
gone after two analysts who disagreed
with his views on Cuba’s biological
weapons capability.
Mr. Bolton was preparing for a speech
in which he would accuse a range of nations, including Libya, Iran, Iraq, North
Korea and Syria, of possessing chemical
and biological weapons when he sought
clearance from the intelligence officials
for an assertion he wanted to make that
Cuba was developing a biological weapons program, a claim that was not, in
fact, fully supported by American intelligence.
Christian Westermann, a State Department intelligence analyst specializing in biological and chemical weapons,
and a national intelligence official responsible for Latin America, unidentified by name, disagreed with the claims
about Cuba that Mr. Bolton sought to
make. Senator Christopher J. Dodd,
Democrat of Connecticut, told the committee that “trying to remove someone
as an analyst from their job because you
disagree with what they’re saying, I
think, is dreadfully wrong.”
Mr. Bolton responded that he had targeted the two officers for reassignment,
not for firing, because “If I may say so,
their conduct was unprofessional and
broke my confidence and trust.”
During the week after Mr. Ford’s appearance, more testimony emerged
about Mr. Bolton’s efforts to tailor, suppress or selectively use intelligence as
well as intimidate intelligence analysts
and other professionals who disagreed
with the views held by him or Mr. Cheney and his allies.
Rexon Ryu, a former State Department official, told the panel he encountered Mr. Bolton’s ire after he neglected
to forward a cable related to United Nations weapons inspections in Iraq. Mr.
Bolton then tried to block Mr. Ryu’s appointment as a liaison on nonproliferation issues. Mr. Ryu was transferred
elsewhere at the State Department, and
then joined the staff of Senator Chuck
Hagel of Nebraska, a committee Republican.
There was more.
The panel also learned that Mr. Bolton
had bullied intelligence analysts who
made more conservative assessments
of Syria’s illicit weapons programs in the
run-up to a 2003 speech and had requested classified intercepts from the
National Security Agency, including the
names of American companies and officials, raising concerns that he was seeking information about ideological opponents.
At an emotional committee meeting
barely more than a week after the first
hearing, two Democrats — Mr. Dodd
and Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware —
demanded three additional weeks to investigate the charges against Mr. Bolton
and seek documents from the White
Mr. Lugar accused Democrats of
stalling and pushed for the committee to
vote. But visibly shaken, Senator
George Voinovich, Republican of Ohio,
said he had heard enough to understand
that Mr. Bolton was an ideologue who
“fosters an atmosphere of intimidation.”
Anyone who behaves in such a way, he
concluded, should not be “the face of the
United States to the world.”
On May 12, 2005, with Mr. Voinovich
still unconvinced, the committee lacked
the support to recommend Mr. Bolton’s
nomination to the full Senate. Instead,
they voted along party lines to forward
the nomination for a Senate vote “without recommendation,” a relatively rare
Mr. Bolton’s fate was sealed.
Twice, Republicans failed to garner
enough votes to break a Democratic filibuster and proceed to a full vote. Before
the second attempt, the White House offered to release information related to
Mr. Bolton’s Syria speech, but not the list
of names from National Security
Agency intercepts that Mr. Bolton had
sought. Democrats rejected the offer,
and in August, Mr. Bush ended up making Mr. Bolton an ambassador in a recess appointment, denouncing what he
said were “partisan delaying tactics.”
Control of Congress returned to the
Democrats the next year, virtually guaranteeing that Mr. Bolton’s time at the
United Nations would be short. He left in
late 2006. By that time, Mr. Voinovich,
who died in 2016, had changed his view
of Mr. Bolton.
“While Bolton is not perfect,” he
wrote, “he has demonstrated his ability,
especially in recent months, to work
with others and follow the president’s
lead by working multilaterally.”
Mr. Hagel, who voted in support of Mr.
Bolton in 2005 and later became secretary of defense in the Obama administration, also changed his assessment.
“The president and America needs a
wise, steady and thoughtful national security advisor,” Mr. Hagel wrote in an
email last week. “John Bolton is not that
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.
Some senior Trump administration officials are pressing for more aggressive
action toward Russia, hoping to persuade a reluctant President Trump to
change his approach after a week of
mass diplomatic expulsions that have
driven the relationship with Moscow to
its lowest point in decades.
With hundreds of diplomats in Washington, Moscow and European capitals
packing their bags as the tensions stemming from the poisoning of a former
Russian spy living in Britain have worsened, the Trump team is eyeing additional sanctions and other measures
against Russia. But while aides say the
president has become increasingly convinced that Russia is dangerous, he has
still refused to embrace a tougher public
posture and remains uncertain how far
to authorize his administration to go.
Mr. Trump has emphasized the importance of dialogue with Russia and its
president, Vladimir V. Putin, yet the departure of so many diplomats expelled
from both Russia and the United States
will make it that much harder to maintain a semblance of normal relations between the two countries. Cooperation in
areas as varied as agriculture, counterterrorism, military affairs and space exploration could diminish, as could private travel and business dealings.
The perils of the diplomatic breakdown came into sharper relief on Friday.
Russia’s ambassador in Washington lamented that no one would meet with
him, and his embassy complained that
Russian diplomats were being harassed
by American intelligence agencies eager to recruit them.
The Pentagon, for its part, said that it
had no notice of a test of a new intercontinental ballistic missile conducted by
Russia and announced on Friday, a lack
of communication that experts worry
could lead to miscalculation.
“I don’t remember such bad shape of
our relations,” Anatoly Antonov, the
Russian ambassador to Washington,
told NBC’s “Today” show. “There is a
great mistrust between the United
States and Russia.”
Since his arrival last year in Washington, Mr. Antonov said he had invited
American officials to his residence only
to be repeatedly rebuffed. “If they are
scared, I said, ‘Come on, we can meet in
a restaurant and to discuss all outstanding issues,’” he said. “It was four or five
months ago. And I got answer: silent.”
American officials said a shift in the
administration’s approach has been
building for weeks. Secretary of State
Rex W. Tillerson, whose last official day
on the job was Saturday, had come to the
conclusion before Mr. Trump fired him
last month that a year of attempting to
cooperate had not yielded much success, according to people familiar with
his thinking. As a result, they said, Mr.
Tillerson had begun mapping out a
tougher policy toward Russia and found
agreement in the White House.
The administration began taking a
more robust approach, publicly blaming
Russia for a devastating attack on computers in Ukraine and elsewhere, accusing Moscow of trying to break into the
United States’ power grid and imposing
sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election in the United States.
Mr. Tillerson’s feelings were hardened further by a conversation with
Boris Johnson, the British foreign secretary who described to him the nerve
agent attack on a former Russian spy,
Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter living in Britain. Even in the hours before
his dismissal by Mr. Trump, Mr. Tillerson spoke out in stronger terms than the
president in condemning the poisoning.
Mr. Tillerson’s designated successor,
Mike Pompeo, and the incoming national security adviser, John R. Bolton,
are both considered even more hawkish
on Russia.
At the same time, some officials at the
Pentagon have expressed caution about
the escalating conflict with Russia, citing consequences in Syria, where the
United States and Russia have both conducted military operations.
The Trump administration expelled
60 Russian diplomats and intelligence
officers and closed the Russian Consulate in Seattle last week as part of a wider
international retaliation for the poisoning of Mr. Skripal. Russia responded by
ordering out 60 Americans and closing
the consulate in St. Petersburg.
The scope of Russia’s retaliation grew
clearer on Friday as the Kremlin summoned 23 ambassadors from other
countries to evict some of their diplomats. On Saturday, the Tass news
agency reported that Moscow had informed Britain it must send home a total
of “more than 50” diplomats. Russia had
already announced the expulsion of 23
Mr. Trump has remained publicly silent amid the dramatic rounds of diplomatic retaliation, leaving it to others to
condemn Moscow. Frustrated by the investigation of the special counsel,
Robert S. Mueller III, into whether his
campaign cooperated with Russia in
2016, a scenario he dismissed as a
“hoax,” Mr. Trump recently called Mr.
Putin to congratulate him on his victory
in a re-election widely dismissed as a
“I don’t remember such bad
shape of our relations.”
Mr. Trump made no mention of the
poisoning of Mr. Skripal during the call
but instead suggested that he wanted to
schedule a summit meeting with the
Russian president.
Both countries still have ambassadors in place, so high-level contact on
potentially calamitous matters should
continue, as it did at the height of the Cuban missile crisis. But the wheels of basic diplomacy, involving visas, consular
services, cultural events and simply
talking to people, are grinding ever
more slowly and, in some cases, coming
to a halt.
“The parties lose some of their eyes
and ears, so the quality of the reporting
goes down,” said Charles A. Kupchan,
who was the Europe director of the National Security Council under President
Barack Obama. “It’s not just intelligence
but day-to-day political and economic
reporting: What’s the buzz in the street,
what do interlocutors say? And consular services do get hit.”
The expulsions left many diplomats
wondering how the American Embassy
in Moscow could operate.
Much of the burden will fall on the ambassador, Jon M. Huntsman Jr., who
took over an embassy already struggling to function after an order by the
Kremlin last summer that it dispense
with 755 employees in response to
sweeping American sanctions for Russia’s election meddling.
“The embassy is struggling to do basic operations. This latest round will
hurt,” said Michael A. McFaul, who
served as ambassador in Moscow from
2012 to 2014. “Morale, of course, is also
very low.”
Even before this week’s expulsions,
the wait in Moscow to obtain a visitor’s
visa to the United States was among the
longest in the world. It now takes 250
days just to get an appointment with the
visa section, compared with four in Beijing and 31 in New Delhi.
Peter Baker reported from Washington,
Andrew Higgins from Moscow, and
Steven Erlanger from Brussels. Gardiner
Harris contributed reporting from Washington, Matthew Luxmoore from Moscow, and Eric Schmitt from Austin, Tex.
The United States Embassy in Moscow is already struggling to handle some basic
operations after a previous reduction of 755 employees ordered by the Kremlin.
• Because of an editing error, an article
Wednesday about the European Union’s
response to the poisoning of a former
Russian spy and his daughter misstated
when a chemical agent was last used on
European soil. The poisoning was the
first use of a chemical agent on Euro-
pean soil since — not before — the Second World War.
• A column Friday about social media’s
decline in popularity misstated the number of registered users on Mastodon. It
is over a million, not more than 140,000.
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 7
Tech rivals
mostly silent
on struggles
at Facebook
Spotify aims to cash in
Streaming music giant
to list shares, but the path
forward is far from clear
Back in Spotify’s early days, when the
company was just a dozen people in a
small office in Stockholm, Daniel Ek, a
co-founder, liked to compare it to Apple
and Google.
It was 2008, and the traditional music
industry was collapsing. Yet as Spotify
introduced its streaming service in a
handful of European countries, it clung
to what must have seemed an impossible ambition: challenging the titans of
Silicon Valley to become the world’s
leading outlet for online music, with a
hybrid free-and-paid model that made
record companies nervous.
After a decade, the start-up from Sweden has proved itself a worthy adversary, with 157 million users around the
world, 71 million of whom pay for subscriptions. That is about twice as many
as its closest competitor, Apple, which finally entered the subscription game
three years ago.
And on Tuesday, in a ritual of success
for any start-up, Spotify’s shares will begin trading on the New York Stock Exchange with a valuation that could exceed $20 billion. Underscoring the company’s self-image as a disrupter, it has
shunned the usual circus of an initial
public offering in favor of a rarely used
— and potentially risky — process
known as a direct listing, in which no
new stock is issued and insiders can begin selling their stash on Day 1.
Spotify’s path ahead, though, is far
from clear. The company has never
turned a profit. Its direct listing could
backfire, spooking investors. Its competition is still a field of giants like Apple,
Amazon and Google. And Spotify’s relationship with the music industry, which
it relies on for the millions of songs it
makes available for streaming, has been
fraught since the beginning.
“I don’t believe the industry would
have embraced subscription without
Daniel’s persistence,” said Richard
Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG Research. “If it were up to the labels, he
would have failed years ago.”
In its defense, Spotify can point to its
role in music’s financial turnaround. After a 15-year decline that made the industry a cautionary tale for all legacy
media in the internet age, revenues
from recorded music began to improve
sharply around 2015. Last year, revenues — which include sales from CDs,
downloads and subscriptions to services like Spotify — in the United States
grew to $8.7 billion, their highest level in
a decade, with streaming accounting for
65 percent of the total, according to the
Recording Industry Association of
Spotify predicts that by the end of
2018, it will have up to 96 million subscribers and $6.5 billion in revenue, according to a recent filing.
But Spotify’s revolution has been
about more than numbers. Streaming
has also brought about a shift in the
business itself, transforming its underlying financial model and rewriting the
rules for how hits are made.
In a sense, it has even changed the
conception of music as a product. With
streaming, a song is not a discrete item
to be paid for and kept — like a CD or a
download — but one part of a vast pool of
music to which listeners can gain access
with a click. By design, it’s not too different from what the millennial generation
had grown accustomed to through pirate sites like Napster and Grokster.
A few have expressed
their criticism, but don’t
expect many to speak out
The recent tribulations of Facebook,
which has lurched from crisis to crisis
over the past year, most recently over
the handling of users’ personal data, has
pushed a few of the industry’s most
prominent names to speak out against
the company.
Marc Benioff, the chief executive of, has compared the deleterious effects of social media to those of
tobacco and alcohol and has called for
more regulation of those tech companies. Timothy D. Cook, Apple’s chief executive, has suggested that new regulations protecting personal data might be
in order for businesses like Facebook.
“I think that this certain situation is so
dire and has become so large that probably some well-crafted regulation is necessary,” Mr. Cook said recently at an
event in China, referring to Facebook’s
recent problems.
But don’t expect a long lineup of other
industry leaders to speak out anytime
“It has been really hard for
executives to turn their back on
the gold mine of big data, even in
the face of compelling arguments.”
Daniel Ek, a co-founder and the chief executive of Spotify, at an investor presentation in March. The company has had $2.8 billion in net losses in just the last five years.
“It all worked because we recognized
the consumer behavior,” Mr. Ek said at
an investor presentation recently. “Fans
wanted all the world’s music for free, immediately. So what we did was build a
better experience.”
Mr. Ek and Martin Lorentzon, a
Swedish investor, founded Spotify in
2006. Their service was built in part to
mimic the experience of piracy — for
years it used a peer-to-peer network to
help songs play instantly — while operating legally and paying royalties.
“Music was too important to me to let
piracy take down the industry,” Mr. Ek
wrote in a letter included in Spotify’s investor prospectus. The company declined to comment for this article, citing
a quiet period before the public listing.
At first, Spotify was conceived of as a
free, advertising-supported service. But
realizing that record companies and music publishers would be more willing to
grant licenses if Spotify also had a paid
level, Mr. Ek and his team developed the
so-called freemium model. Users can listen to any song free with advertising, or
pay $10 a month to remove the ads and
get perks like offline listening.
The free service is meant to persuade
customers to pay; according to Spotify,
60 percent of new subscribers begin as
free users.
Music executives involved in Spotify’s early licensing negotiations were
impressed by the company’s technology
and by its approach: Unlike other music
tech start-ups at the time, most of which
no longer exist, Spotify presented itself
as a partner that could help the industry
Taylor Swift temporarily removed her
music from the service after a feud.
Adele can sell millions of CDs by withholding her music from Spotify.
Still, the idea of simply giving music
away was worrisome. So as a condition
of granting licenses, the major record labels and Merlin, an organization that
represents independent labels, received
equity stakes in Spotify that are now
worth billions of dollars. They have all
said they will share with artists any
profits from the sale of those stakes, although exactly how that will work remains unclear.
Once Spotify took hold, record companies discovered that its subscriptions
delivered steadily recurring income, a
relief from the industry’s seasonal ups
and downs.
“Once you get someone in, you take
away the unpredictable cycles we used
to see,” said Ole Obermann, the chief
digital officer at the Warner Music
Group. “For most months of the year,
we’d be behind and then count on a huge
spike of sales around the holidays to
make us profitable for the year.”
With the cost barrier to listening removed, consumer behavior began to
Independent labels said their music
was being listened to more.
Playlists, programmed with a mixture of editorial supervision and machine learning, began to influence what
people heard.
Yet even Spotify’s biggest champions
in the music industry, like Daniel Glass
of the label Glassnote, notice that
streaming and social media created a
network effect that emphasized hit
songs above everything else.
“I remember sitting down with managers and artists and explaining that
they will get paid; streaming is the future, whether you like it or not,” said Mr.
Glass, whose label catalog includes
Childish Gambino and Mumford & Sons.
“But you’ve got to have hits.”
Spotify says its mission is to “unlock
the potential of human creativity by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art.” But its dealings with artists are still delicate. An
elite level of superstars like Taylor Swift
and Adele have realized that they can
still sell millions of CDs if they withhold
their music from streaming, at least for
a while. (Plenty of other stars, like Ed
Sheeran and Drake, have embraced the
format fully.)
But can Spotify itself make money? It
has had $2.8 billion in net losses in just
the last five years and pays most of its
revenue to music rights holders. The
company’s freemium model means that
it must subsidize the costs of the tens of
millions of users who don’t pay.
“Becoming the world’s largest global
music-streaming subscription service
has been expensive,” Barry McCarthy,
Spotify’s chief financial officer, said in
the company’s recent investor presentation.
He said that for the foreseeable future, Spotify would continue to make investments to promote growth — at the
expense of profits.
Although technology companies have
their differences, a spirit of comity prevails among its leaders in moments of
crisis. For example, technology chiefs
have mostly kept quiet about Uber’s travails — from its efforts to sidestep law
enforcement to a pedestrian death
caused by one of its self-driving cars —
even if they might express their opinions privately.
Representatives from companies as
varied as Amazon, Microsoft and Slack
declined to comment for this article.
Part of the silence, people in the industry say, comes from a desire to avoid the
business equivalent of bad karma —
knowing that they, too, may one day face
the buzz saw of public censure.
Others say companies have little moral standing to criticize Facebook’s practices, when they have themselves relied
on the social network to acquire
customers, using the same ad-targeting
tools that rely on personal data that
have stirred up so much controversy in
the context of politics.
“I think we just have to acknowledge
the entire industry’s complicity with
what’s happening with Facebook,” said
Glenn Kelman, chief executive of
Redfin, an internet real estate company.
“It’s almost like we’re Inspector Renault
in ‘Casablanca’ where we say we’re
shocked, shocked with what’s happening and then a moment later someone
hands us our winnings.”
“We’ve all been advertising avidly on
Facebook,” Mr. Kelman added.
Many companies are also linked to
Facebook through partnerships, professional organizations and a worldview
about the power of data that is not all
that different from that of Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook.
“It has been really hard for executives
Why a bigger dose of stock market panic could help
The most surprising thing about the
wobbly stock market of 2018 in the
United States is that investors haven’t
panicked — or at least they haven’t
panicked much.
That’s the view of James W. Paulsen,
chief investment strategist of the
Leuthold Group, an investment research firm based in Minneapolis. In
some ways, panic is a subjective thing,
he acknowledges, and it may seem that
the storms that have swept through
the stock market since early February
have been more than enough already.
But Mr. Paulsen has data to back up
his view that investors have maintained their composure to a surprising
degree, and he maintains that a bigger
dose of fear could have a salutary
“I think a much bigger panic is
probably going to happen,” he said.
“And I think the best thing for the
market would be if it happened soon,
and we could just move on from there.”
Mr. Paulsen isn’t betting against the
stock market, though. He remains a
bull, but he is convinced that valuations are too high and says the market’s nine-year upward trend isn’t
likely to be sustained without a bigger
adjustment in stock prices than has
already taken place this year.
He bases these conclusions on some
assumptions that are widely shared:
Stocks are priced at levels that are at
the upward edge of historic bounds,
and the recovery from the last economic recession remains in place but is
now fairly mature and becoming increasingly vulnerable.
For now, in the contrarian logic of
the market, the fact that investors
haven’t been overwhelmingly worried
disturbs him. It implies that far bigger
declines may be on the way.
That logic goes something like this:
First, consider what has happened in
the stock market since it peaked on
Jan. 26. The Standard & Poor’s 500stock index fell more than 10 percent
by Feb. 8 but didn’t keep dropping; it is
now down about 5 percent from that
peak. That’s not much of a drop, after
the sharp gains of the last nine years,
and especially in 2017 and early this
year. Whenever the market has had
sharp declines in 2018, it has rebounded quickly.
Yes, there have been sequences of
ugly days, with declines of more than 2
and even 3 percent a day in the S.&P.
500-stock index. What’s more, the
market has often looked absolutely
horrendous when converted into the
inflated currency of the Dow Jones
industrial average, whose raw numbers have been swollen by outlandish
gains since March 2009.
With the Dow in the 20,000-plusrange, a 100-point drop is barely worth
noticing: It amounts to less than half a
percentage point. Using this crude and
misleading measure, the Dow had its
biggest single-day decline in history on
Feb. 5, with a drop of more than 1,175
points. But that amounted to a daily
drop of only 4.6 percent, a minor distraction, in percentage terms, when
compared with the worst day in its
history. That was Oct. 19, 1987, when
the Dow fell 22.6 percent.
Still, this year’s drops have garnered
plenty of attention. But they have been
followed by rallies, some of them
within the same trading day, so the
overall change in the market has been
The stock market returns themselves provide evidence that there has
— as yet — been no major panic. But
there’s more.
Investors have not merely supported
stock prices in a weak market, they
have also failed to bid up the prices of
the traditional “safe haven” assets like
Treasury bonds, gold, the dollar and
defensive stocks like utilities that tend
to hold their value when the overall
stock market sinks.
Mr. Paulsen measured this effect by
creating a proprietary Safe Haven
proxy index, which combines these
“risk-off” assets that tend to spike in
value during crises. Treasury bonds,
for example, have soared in value
during past stock market downturns,
but that hasn’t happened this time.
And while a stock market confidence
index maintained by the Conference
Board has fallen since the February
decline, there’s little indication that
investors have changed their behavior.
“From the standpoint of behavior —
meaning, what people are actually
doing — there’s no sign that people
have been fleeing stocks and moving to
these assets,” he said.
He says that further stock market
declines — or, at least, a hiatus in the
market’s long-term upward trend —
may be desirable for stock market
bulls. The reason is that stock prices,
by many measures, still seem unsustainably high, while the economic
expansion that has supported those
prices may have entered a new, more
fragile phase.
One valuation metric, for example,
the price-to-earnings ratio of the S.&P.
500, based on earnings over the past 12
months, is about 21. A more reasonable
level, given historical averages and
prevailing bond yields, would be a P/E
of about 17, Mr. Paulsen said.
To get down to that level, prices can
fall or earnings rise, or both can happen. The Wall Street consensus is that
earnings will rise substantially this
year — perhaps by about 15 percent,
thanks, in part, to a boost from the
recent tax cut.
“The problem,” Mr. Paulsen said, “is
that the stock market rose so much
last year that we’ve already paid ourselves a bonus from the tax cut and
from earnings growth. The market
needs to catch up with itself.”
A sideways stock market for the
next year — with prices remaining
close to current levels while corporate
profits grow — would restore valuations to a healthier level with less pain,
he said. That would amount to a gentle,
protracted correction, after which the
stock market might then be ready to
resume its upward trend.
But a more violent correction is also
possible, and, perhaps, more likely.
Consider that the economic recovery
is robust enough for the Federal Reserve to have begun raising short-term
interest rates, and that the Fed
projects further increases over the
next two years. With the tax cut stimulating an economy that already has low
unemployment, the Fed could be impelled to move more forcefully to fend
off rising inflation.
But when interest rates rise, many
assets, including stocks, are often
deemed to be worth less. Rising rates
alone could be expected to have a
negative effect on the stock market.
That’s why a further 15 percent drop
in the S.&P. 500-stock index would not
be shocking. The stock market could
easily rebound after such a fall, with
one important caveat: the health of the
economy at that moment.
No immediate recession is in sight
and, as Robert Shiller, the Yale economist, recently wrote, economists have
a miserable track record in projecting
recessions a year in advance. The yield
curve — the relationship between
short- and longer-term bond yields —
has moved in a direction that may
portend economic problems, but it is
not sending out clear signals of distress, at least not yet.
Nonetheless, forecasters like Capital
Economics already say there is a
“modest risk” of a recession in 2019.
Capital Economics expects the stock
market to be lower then than it is now.
But the consensus is that the economy will keep purring along. If it does,
Mr. Paulsen says, a little stock market
panic now may give the bull market
the spur it needs for another strong
8 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
Journey into a cashless future
As Facebook
rival leaders
mostly silent
It’s now possible to pay
for nearly everything with
a card or a smartphone
I didn’t mean to do it. It just sort of happened. But what began with an empty
wallet on New Year’s Day has evolved
into something akin to a lifestyle
I’ve gone cashless.
For the first three months of the year,
I have hardly touched paper money or
metal coins. There are no grimy bills
folded alongside my driver’s license. No
quarters or pennies jangling in my
Instead, I’ve relied almost exclusively
on credit cards, Apple Pay, online orders
and the occasional generosity of an unsuspecting friend.
By essentially renouncing physical
currency, I’ve slipped a little further into
the future. Already, some technologically advanced nations — South Korea,
Sweden — have all but done away with
cash. Yet in the United States, I remain
an outlier. In a study last year by ING,
the vast majority of respondents from
the United States said they would never
go completely cashless.
I’m here to encourage my fellow
Americans to reconsider.
My unintentional experiment began
on Jan. 1 as I awoke with a rumpled tuxedo, a mild hangover and no money in
my pocket.
The night before, I had imbibed at various bars, handing out the $60 or so in
my wallet as tips to bartenders kind
enough to work a holiday. As the first
days of January passed, I never bothered to go to an A.T.M. and withdraw a
wad of cash. I didn’t need to.
In New York City, it’s possible to pay
for nearly everything with a card or a
I paid for my morning coffee using the
Starbucks app on my iPhone, picked up
lunches with a credit card and orderedin the occasional dinner using Seamless.
One day I went to get some vegetarian tacos at Dos Toros and happily discovered that the fast casual chain was
one of those restaurants that have
stopped accepting cash altogether.
Grocery shopping was similarly easy.
Our kitchen was restocked using a mix
of, Fresh Direct and trips
to my local market, where I paid with a
credit card.
And so it went. Before I knew it, February had arrived and my wallet was
still empty.
I vividly remember the first time I
heard someone describe a world without cash. It was 2012, and I was at an
event in London, listening to Ajay
Banga, the chief executive of Mastercard, extol the virtues of digital currencies and the problems with paper
Cash, he argued, enabled all sorts of
bad behavior. Drug dealers, illicit arms
traders, tax evaders and sex traffickers
all rely on cash, he said. Make cash obsolete and those nefarious activities get
much more difficult. Plus, cash is dirty, a
vector for germs and disease.
It was a compelling argument, but at
the time, my wallet stuffed with colorful
plasticy pounds, I thought he was crazy.
Old habits die hard, and humans have
been using cash, in one form or another,
for roughly 7,000 years.
Plus, forsaking cash can be more difficult for the bankless, many of whom
have been through economic crises and
are ineligible for credit cards and bank
accounts. (Though it’s getting easier,
thanks to the efforts of companies like
Yet since that trip to London, Mr. Banga’s words have been rattling around my
head, and sure enough, I’ve found myself relying less and less on cash.
A big reason for my increasing reliance on digital payments is that if you
sign up for the right card and don’t carry
a balance, credit cards can be a great
deal. Last year, I got the Chase Sapphire
Reserve card, which caused a frenzy
when it was released. Yes, it costs $450 a
year, but it quickly delivered $1,500
worth of travel credits.
Then last month, I signed up for the
Amazon Prime Rewards card, which
gives me 5 percent back on all purchases on Amazon and at Whole Foods,
two major cost centers for our household. These aren’t exactly life-changing
windfalls, but the benefits accrue over
time, something cash can’t offer.
To be sure, there have been some
downsides along the way. Chief among
them: Tipping isn’t easy.
To be sure, there have been
some downsides along
the way. Chief among
them: Tipping isn’t easy.
As I checked out of a hotel in Charleston, S.C., I didn’t have anything to offer
the valet, which made me look — and
feel — cheap. The next week I got a haircut. I paid for the trim with my card, but
my barber accepted tips only in cash.
Again I felt miserly.
And when I got an overpriced drink
with some New York Times colleagues
at the steakhouse below our newsroom,
I had to add my tip to the credit card bill,
a decidedly less satisfying experience
than leaving a few singles on the bar.
There were other instances when I
missed cash, too. When panhandlers
asked me for spare change, I had nothing to offer and felt a pang of guilt.
One day, I was late to pick up my toddlers from day care, and the school demanded $50 in cash. Rather than consent, I fought the charge and got away
with a warning, but it was a close call.
Another time, I took the kids to a carousel only to discover it was cash only.
Luckily my cousin was with us and lent
me $4, narrowly averting a very public
temper tantrum.
My wife saved the day more than
once, tipping hotel cleaners and paying
the occasional babysitter and cleaning
lady with cash. And some studies show
that using credit cards encourages people to spend more than they otherwise
would. For the most part, however, I realized I’d be totally fine if cash went the
way of the fax machine.
Recently, I got back in touch with Mr.
Banga of Mastercard, wanting to compare notes. He said that while he didn’t
see cash disappearing entirely anytime
soon, he — no surprise — had mostly let
it go.
“I use very little cash in the course of a
month,” he said. “Mostly just for tipping.”
Like Mr. Banga, I’m not saying I’ll
never use cash again. I will give it out to
the homeless and tip hardworking service employees.
But if the day comes when cash disap-
pears, you won’t hear me complaining.
In February, I set out on a trip to
Southern California, my wallet still
empty. I Ubered to the airport in New
York, Ubered to the hotel in Los Angeles
and used the usual variety of digital payments to get around, eat and shop. Cash
didn’t just seem nonessential; it was
practically invisible.
Then one night in Ojai, Calif., my own
cashless streak came to an end. I was
out for dinner with my family and some
old friends, and I picked up the bill,
putting it on my Sapphire Reserve card.
I was planning to treat the table, but before I noticed what was happening, my
friend tossed two $20 bills on top of my
wallet and said thanks.
That was that. I picked up the bills,
briefly enjoying their familiar crinkle,
and slipped them in my wallet.
The next morning, I dropped by a coffee shop in downtown Ojai and ordered a
black coffee and blueberry bran muffin.
The bill was $7.38.
I paid in cash and put $1 in the tip jar.
David Gelles is the Corner Office
columnist and a business reporter.
to turn their back on the gold mine of big
data even in the face of compelling arguments to do so,” said Roger McNamee,
an early investor in Facebook and a
mentor of Mr. Zuckerberg’s before becoming one of the company’s most vocal
detractors. “The C.E.O.s who are stepping forward here are taking the long
Vanessa Chan, a spokeswoman for
Facebook, declined to comment.
There are many critics of Facebook in
Silicon Valley. They include former tech
workers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs like Brian Acton, who became a billionaire when Facebook acquired WhatsApp, a messaging company he helped found. “It is time. #deletefacebook,” he said on Twitter on
March 20.
But there are few active corporate
leaders in Silicon Valley who have taken
a stand. Most of the handful of chiefs
who have spoken out against Facebook
have long been forthright on the topic of
It is no coincidence that their businesses do not rely on the collection of
personal data to the same degree that
most internet companies do. Mr. Cook of
Apple, which makes the vast majority of
its revenue from the sale of devices, has
for years declared that “when an online
service is free, you’re not the customer
— you’re the product.”
Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple, declined to comment.
When asked about the Facebook’s difficulties at an event in China recently,
Ginni Rometty, chief executive of IBM,
said companies needed to give their users better control over their personal information. “Ginni has long believed that
individuals or customers own their data
— not platforms,” said Edward Barbini,
a spokesman for IBM. Noah Theran, a
spokesman for the Internet Association,
a trade group that counts Facebook and
Salesforce among its members, though
not Apple and IBM, said maintaining
privacy and security was a top priority
for internet companies.
“Internet companies comply with a
wide variety of data privacy and security laws and regulations that are actively
enforced by the F.T.C. and state attorneys general,” Mr. Theran said, referring to the Federal Trade Commission.
“Trust and comfort with our products
and services is essential to a thriving internet, and the internet industry is committed to providing people with information and tools to make informed
choices about how their personal information is used, seen and shared online.”
Another tech leader, Elon Musk, chief
executive of Tesla and SpaceX, said recently on Twitter that none of his companies advertised on the social network
and vowed to take down the official
Facebook pages for Tesla and SpaceX.
“It’s not a political statement and I
didn’t do this because someone dared
me to do it,” he wrote. “Just don’t like
Facebook. Gives me the willies. Sorry.”
Mr. McNamee, the early Facebook investor, believes more industry leaders
should speak out, partly because he predicts the United States can and should
eventually adopt more stringent regulations akin to those emerging in Europe.
Alexa, what can you hear? And who gets that information?
or silence, and even program a smart
speaker to “provide a verbal warning.”
A separate application regarding personalizing content for people while respecting their privacy noted that voices
could be used to determine a speaker’s
mood using the “volume of the user’s
voice, detected breathing rate, crying
and so forth,” and medical condition
“based on detected coughing, sneezing
and so forth.”
The same application outlines how a
device could “recognize a T-shirt on a
floor of the user’s closet” bearing Will
Smith’s face and combine that with a
browser history that shows searches for
Mr. Smith “to provide a movie recommendation that displays, ‘You seem to
like Will Smith. His new movie is playing
in a theater near you.’”
In a statement, Amazon said the company took “privacy seriously” and did
“not use customers’ voice recordings for
targeted advertising.” Amazon said that
it filed “a number of forward-looking
patent applications that explore the full
possibilities of new technology,” and
that they “take multiple years to receive
and do not necessarily reflect current
developments to products and services.”
Google said it did not “use raw audio
to extrapolate moods, medical conditions or demographic information.” The
company added, “All devices that come
with the Google Assistant, including
Google Home, are designed with user
privacy in mind.”
Tech companies apply for a dizzying
number of patents every year, many of
which are never used and are years
from even being possible.
Still, Jamie Court, the president of
Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit advocacy group in Santa Monica, Calif.,
which published a study of some of the
patent applications in December, said,
“When you read parts of the applications, it’s really clear that this is spyware and a surveillance system meant
to serve you up to advertisers.”
The companies, Mr. Court added, are
“basically going to be finding out what
our home life is like in qualitative ways.”
Google called Consumer Watchdog’s
claims “unfounded,” and said, “Prospective product announcements should not
necessarily be inferred from our patent
A recent Gallup poll found that 22 percent of Americans used devices like
Google Home or Amazon Echo. The
growing adoption of smart speakers
means that gadgets, some of which contain up to eight microphones and a camera, are being placed in kitchens and
bedrooms and used to answer questions, control appliances and make
phone calls.
Apple recently introduced its own
version, called the HomePod.
But many consumers are also becoming increasingly worried that tech companies are eavesdropping on them to
serve them targeted ads, no matter how
often the companies deny it. The recent
revelations that a British political data
firm, Cambridge Analytica, improperly
harvested the information of 50 million
Facebook users has only added to the
public’s wariness over the collection and
use of personal information.
Facebook, in fact, had planned to unveil its new internet-connected home
products at a developer conference in
May, according to Bloomberg News,
which reported that the company had
scuttled that idea partly in response to
the recent fallout.
Both Amazon and Google have emphasized that devices with Alexa and
Google Assistant store voice recordings
from users only after they are intention-
An exhibit on the integration of Amazon’s Alexa software in the home. Critics say such systems could evolve into spyware.
ally triggered. Amazon’s Echo and its
newer smart speakers with screens use
lights to show when they are streaming
audio to the cloud, and consumers can
view and delete their recordings on the
Alexa smartphone app or on Amazon’s
website (though they are warned online
that “may degrade” their experience).
Google Home also has a light that indi-
cates when it is recording, and users can
similarly see and delete that audio online.
Amazon says voice recordings may
help fulfill requests and improve its
services, while Google says the data
helps it learn over time to provide better,
more personalized responses.
But the ecosystem around voice data
is still evolving. Take the thousands of
third-party apps developed for Alexa
called “skills,” which can be used to play
games, dim lights or provide cleaning
While Amazon said it didn’t share users’ actual recordings with third parties,
its terms of use for Alexa say it may
share the content of their requests or in-
formation like their ZIP codes. Google
says it will “generally” not provide audio
recordings to third-party service
providers, but may send transcriptions
of what people say.
And some devices have already
shown that they are capable of recording more than what users expect.
Google faced some embarrassment last
fall when Google Home Minis that it distributed at company events and to journalists were almost constantly recording.
In a starker example, detectives investigating a death at an Arkansas
home sought access to audio on an Echo
device in 2016. Amazon resisted, but the
recordings were ultimately shared with
the permission of the defendant, James
Bates. (A judge later dismissed Mr. Bates’s first-degree murder charge based
on separate evidence.)
The Electronic Privacy Information
Center has recommended more robust
disclosure rules for internet-connected
devices, including an “algorithmic
transparency requirement” that would
help people understand how their data
was being used and what automated decisions were then being made about
Sam Lester, the center’s consumer
privacy fellow, said that he believed that
the abilities of new smart home devices
highlighted the need for United States
regulators to get more involved with
how consumer data was collected and
“A lot of these technological innovations can be very good for consumers,”
he said. “But it’s not the responsibility of
consumers to protect themselves from
these products any more than it’s their
responsibility to protect themselves
from the safety risks in food and drugs.
It’s why we established a Food and Drug
Administration years ago.”
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 9
Who is a Turk? It’s complicated
has made the
ethnic origins
of its citizens
online. The
results are
shattering the
myth of
racially pure
Kaya Genc
ISTANBUL Earlier this year, Turkey
opened its closely guarded population
register, a monumental archive of
lineages going back to Ottoman times.
A website that gives access to all public services in Turkey now includes a
genealogy tab. Users can download
ancestry documents, with records
going as far back as 1882.
Since the appearance of the new
service, roots, migration, purity and
hybridity have dominated the conversation in WhatsApp groups, offices and
tea shops. In just two days, over 5
million Turks went looking for their
heritage on the register. Interest was
so intense that for a few hours the
website collapsed. The government
was forced to stop the service for
several days.
For a century, the Turkish state
imposed a rigid national identity on its
citizens, one that excluded ethnicity
and underscored “pure” Turkishness.
The government’s opening of its
records has mesmerized people. As
Turks absorb the news of their own
ethnic diversity, the century-old idea of
racial purity, manufactured and imposed by the state, has begun to crumble.
Some Turks, especially those whose
families have lived in the same towns
for generations, have found reaffirmation in the proof of their own deep
roots. Others are frustrated. One Turkish nationalist learned that his greatgrandmother was of Kurdish origin. A
writer friend was surprised to discover
her great-grandfather’s name was
Isaac. One of my neighbors found out
she had European roots and decided to
apply for dual citizenship.
For a long time, ethnic identity was
considered a matter of national security in Turkey. Most Ottoman Armenians
lost their lives in forced deportations in
1915, while others converted to Islam
to survive. Conversions were kept
secret within families; many grandchildren of Christian converts learned
of their ancestry as adults. Many
Turks discovered they had Armenian
family ties just recently.
The genealogy data is offered only
for private use, and it reveals how
meticulously the Turkish state has
been keeping track of its citizens over
the past two centuries. “It turns out
my maternal ancestry is from Yerevan,” a user wrote on the website Eksi
Sozluk, where thousands of comments
have appeared on the issue. “My paternal ancestry meanwhile is Georgian. I am in shock.”
Turkish leftists were disturbed by
the interest in genealogy, fearing it
could lead to tribalism, even civil war.
But the editor of the Armenian weekly
Agos welcomed it. He interviewed an
anthropology professor who called the
move “revolutionary,” and “a serious
sign of normalization” in debunking
the imaginary ethnic purity of Turkish
Indeed, a 2012 study in the journal
Annals of Human Genetics found that
Turkey’s paternal ancestry was 38
percent European, 35 percent Middle
Eastern, 18 percent South Asian and 9
percent Central Asian.
Ottomans dealt with the complex-
ities of ethnicity through what they
called the millet system. For centuries,
different rules applied to Muslims,
Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Jews.
Religious communities could do business freely, and run their own schools,
newspapers and hospitals so long as
they paid taxes to the sultan. But in
the 1830s, modernizers of the Ottoman
Empire introduced a westernized
concept of citizenship and did away
with the millet system. A group of
Muslim intellectuals, known as the
Young Ottomans, fiercely opposed the
In the 1870s, the group introduced
the concept of Ottomanism, promoting
a single imperial citizenship that combined Islamic law with principles
inspired by European constitutionalism. They propounded the idea of
Muslim nationalism: Sunni Islam
would be the sovereign identity, while
granting freedoms to other religions. If
the Sunni character of the state was
lost, the Young Ottomans felt, the
empire might disintegrate. Ottomanism was their formula to keep it
As the pace of modernization increased in the early twentieth century,
the problem of genealogical complex-
ity snowballed: Secular and westernizing Young Turks and founders of the
Turkish republic tweaked Muslim
nationalism into a citizenship based on
the French idea of laïcité, the separation of religious influence from government.
They tried to solve the problem of
ethnic complexity, sometimes through
force: A population exchange in 1923
resulted in the denaturalization of
The timing
more than 1.2 million
of the new
Greeks in Turkey
access to
and more than
the public’s
300,000 Turks in
ancestry is
Greece. The tiny
number of Greeks
part of
and Armenians who
a political
continued to live in
Turkey were told to
forget their roots.
Over the 1940s,
following the death of Atatürk, racist
clubs in Turkey tweaked this nationalism further and forged a “pure Turkish” national identity. Turks, in their
view, came from the plains of Central
Asia, Kurds were “mountain Turks”
and any other ethnic influences were
considered deviant and dangerous.
Both leftists and Islamists repudiated
this combination of a mono-ethnic
nation state and modernity, and the
Kemalist state punished both groups.
The Marxist poet Nazım Hikmet was
sentenced to 28 years in prison; the
Islamist thinker and poet Mehmet Akif
Ersoy spent a decade in exile in Egypt
for questioning Turkish nationalism.
Many nationalists have viewed
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s composite of
conservatism and neoliberalism as a
threat to Turkish national identity
since his Justice and Development
Party, known as the A.K.P., came to
power in 2002. But Mr. Erdogan’s
government was praised by others for
allowing historians to openly discuss
the history of Ottoman Armenians and
for lifting restrictions on Kurdish culture.
Under Mr. Erdogan, national identity based on “pure Turkishness” has
been gradually replaced by the Muslim
nationalism of the Young Ottomans.
Leaders of the A.K.P. believe that
erasing religion and ethnicity from
Turkey’s national identity would repeat
the mistakes of the Ottoman modernizers in the 1830s.
By throwing open the population
register, the Turkish government —
unwittingly — might have changed our
ideas of Turkish nationhood and ended
the myth of racial purity for good.
The timing of the new access to the
public’s ancestry is indeed part of a
political calculation. In the wake of
Turkey’s military operation in Afrin in
northern Syria and with presidential
elections coming in 2019, the government is hoping to further consolidate
Muslim nationalism as the central
Turkish identity.
It is the A.K.P.’s way of saying Muslim nationalism is different from republican nationalism: the state, in its
new embrace of Islam, has the confidence to allow citizens to discover
their ethnic roots. Turkish citizens can
be proud of their heritage and roots,
and even find there a rationale of the
Turkish government’s foreign policy
Dust-covered registry archives are
meant to remind Turks not only of the
broad diversity of their ancestors, but
also of the territorial expanse of the
Ottoman Empire, a dominion that once
spanned three continents.
an essayist and novelist, is
the author of “Under the Shadow: Rage
and Revolution in Modern Turkey.”
The world is evolving and Ricky Gervais isn’t
says he
doesn’t care
whom he
offends. But
he appears to
be obsessed
with the
Lindy West
Contributing Writer
Ricky Gervais, the British comedian,
does not care what you say about him
on Twitter. He does not care if you are
offended. He does not care if you hate
the latest joke he told about rape, or
the Bible, or Caitlyn Jenner, or Hitler
or your child’s fatal peanut allergy.
And just to make sure you’re crystal
clear on all of the tweets he does not
remotely care about, he has built his
new Netflix stand-up special, “Ricky
Gervais: Humanity,” around them —
these negligible tweets, the droning of
gnats, several years of which he appears to have accidentally screengrabbed and saved to his phone.
Similarly, I don’t care about Formula
One racing, which is why I’m working
on a tight 75-minute act about the Abu
Dhabi Grand Prix.
Gervais seems to care quite intensely, of course, which is natural.
Absorbing critique on a scale as vast
as Gervais’s Twitter feed (13.1 million
followers), whether the specific critiques are warranted or not, is objectively grueling. Devoid of context,
Gervais’s bravado might be sympathetic, a relatable if tedious coping
mechanism. As Gervais himself helpfully points out in “Humanity,” however, nothing can truly be divorced from
So here’s some context for you: Last
week, the secretary of housing and
urban development, Ben Carson, testified in front of a House subcommittee
that trans women in homeless shelters
make cisgender women “not comfortable.” According to a 2016 survey by
the National Center for Transgender
Equality, 20 percent of trans people
report having been homeless at some
point because of their gender identity
and 55 percent report being harassed
by homeless shelter residents and
staff. Meanwhile, on Netflix, Gervais
graphically speculated about Caitlyn
Jenner’s gender confirmation surgery,
relentlessly called her by her pretransition name and compared gender
dysphoria to a human choosing to
identify as a chimpanzee.
That is the context within which
Gervais insists he doesn’t care about
critiques of his work — critiques pointing out that describing trans women as
goofy, freaky, delusional men who’ve
just “popped on a dress” isn’t edgy or
cheeky, it’s dangerous. Giggling at the
“weirdness” of trans people — presenting your spasms of discomfort as
something relatable — makes it harder
for trans people to find a safe place to
“People see something they don’t
like and they expect it to stop,” Gervais says in “Humanity.” “The world is
getting worse. Don’t get me wrong, I
think I’ve lived through the best 50
years of humanity. 1960 through 2015,
the peak of civilization for everything.
For tolerances, for freedoms, for communication, for medicine! And now it’s
going the other way a little bit.”
Ricky Gervais showed his support for Red Nose Day to end child poverty last year.
“Dumpster fire” has emerged as the
favorite emblem of our present moment, but that Gervais quote feels both
more apt and more tragic a metaphor:
The Trump/Brexit era is a rich, famous, white, middle-aged man declaring the world to be in decline the moment he stops understanding it.
Gervais is not alone in presenting
himself as a noble bulwark against a
wave of supposed left-wing censorship.
(A Netflix special, for the record, is not
what “silencing” looks like.) We’ve
heard similar sentiments from handwringers across the political spectrum
who insist that overzealous, “poli-
tically correct” college activists are
strangling academia. We’ve heard it
from pundits and politicians who insist
that white men were so victimized by
the “sensitivity” of marginalized people, they had no choice but to vote for
Donald Trump.
What they’re actually reacting to is
the message deep at the heart of the
March for Our Lives, of Black Lives
Matter, of the Women’s March: The
world is bigger than you, and it belongs to us too.
If you’ve spent any time with Gervais’s work beyond “The Office” and
“Extras,” you know that the man is
obsessed with evolution. His 2003
stand-up special was about animals;
his 2010 special was called “Science”;
in 2009 and 2010 he released special
episodes of his podcast, The Ricky
Gervais Show, devoted to natural
history, the human body, the earth.
On their Xfm radio show in the early
2000s, Gervais and his co-host,
Stephen Merchant, did a recurring
segment called “Do We Need ’Em?” in
which the producer, Karl Pilkington,
chose an animal he found strange or
useless ( jellyfish, for instance) and
interviewed a scientist about whether
or not we should “keep” them.
“What are they adding to the
world?” he once asked Gervais and
Merchant about giraffes. “What are
they doing?”
Gervais explained that species
aren’t here because they add something to the world. They just didn’t die.
They survived to pass on their genetic
material, and that’s it. That’s evolution.
It’s baffling that Gervais can have so
much reverence for physical evolution
and so little for intellectual evolution.
He might find trans people silly, but
you know who doesn’t? Teenagers.
It is frightening, I assume, when you
are accustomed to being not just a
voice of authority in your field but the
archetype of authority in your civilization, to be challenged and feel those
challenges stick.
You can choose to be permeable, to
be curious, to be the one that didn’t die.
is the author of “Shrill:
Notes From a Loud Woman.”
People wearing
masks of Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, the
founder of modern
secular Turkey.
10 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
Menstrual pads can’t fix prejudice
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
Chris Bobel
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
MARK THOMPSON, Chief Executive Officer
JOSEPH KAHN, Managing Editor
STEPHEN DUNBAR-JOHNSON, President, International
TOM BODKIN, Creative Director
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DEMARTA, Senior V.P., Global Advertising
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
CHARLOTTE GORDON, V.P., International Consumer Marketing
JAMES BENNET, Editorial Page Editor
HELEN KONSTANTOPOULOS, V.P., International Circulation
JAMES DAO, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
HELENA PHUA, Executive V.P., Asia-Pacific
KATHLEEN KINGSBURY, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
SUZANNE YVERNÈS, International Chief Financial Officer
Our focus on
cars may be
causing us to
neglect more
basic roadway
The promise of self-driving cars can be alluring —
imagine taking a nap or watching a movie in a comfortable armchair while being shuttled safely home
after a long day at work. But like many optimistic
images of the future, it is also a bit of an illusion.
Automated cars may indeed make commuting
more pleasurable while preventing accidents and
saving tens of thousands of lives — someday. But a
recent fatal crash in Tempe, Ariz., involving a car
operated by Uber that was tricked out with sensors
and software meant to turn it into a latter-day version of K.I.T.T. from the TV show “Knight Rider”
suggests that at least some of these cars are not
ready for the hustle and bustle of American roads.
In fact, the technology that powers these vehicles
could introduce new risks that few people appreciate or understand. For example, when a computer
controlling the car does not hit the brakes to avoid a
collision, the person in the driver’s seat — many
automated cars on the road today still require someone to be there in case of an emergency — may also
fail to intervene because the driver trusts the car too
much to pay close attention to the road. According
to a video released by Tempe police, that is what
appears to have happened in the Uber crash.
What concerns safety experts is that industry
executives and government officials are rushing
headlong to put self-driving cars on the road without
appropriate safeguards and under the unproven
hypothesis that the technology will reduce crashes
and fatalities. The Senate, for instance, is considering a bill that would exempt self-driving cars from
existing federal regulations and pre-empt state and
local governments from regulating them.
Even as officials place a big bet that autonomous
cars will solve many of our safety problems, American roads are becoming less safe. More than 37,000
people were killed on American roads in 2016, up 5.6
percent from 2015, according to government data.
The National Safety Council, a research and advocacy organization, estimates that the death toll was
more than 40,000 in 2017.
Experts who are skeptical about the unceasing
forward march of technology say fatalities are rising
because public officials have become so enamored
with the shiny new thing, self-driving cars, that they
have taken their eyes off problems they could be
solving today. In the federal government and most
states, there appears to be little interest in or patience for doing the tedious work of identifying and
implementing policies and technologies with proven
track records of saving lives now, as opposed to
some time in the distant future.
Consider automatic braking systems. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that
there is a 42 percent reduction in rear-end crashes
that cause injuries when this technology is installed
on cars. Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
and other public interest groups asked the Transportation Department in 2015 to require that all new
trucks, buses and other commercial vehicles have
such systems, which have been around for years.
The department accepted that petition but has yet to
propose a rule. The government did reach a voluntary agreement with 20 automakers to make automatic braking a standard feature on cars and light
trucks by September 2022.
Even as American regulators have dragged their
feet, other industrialized countries have made great
strides in reducing traffic crashes over the last two
decades. Road fatality rates in Canada, France, Germany and Sweden, for example, are now less than
half the rate in the United States. And no, these
countries don’t have fleets of self-driving cars. They
have reduced accidents the old-fashioned way. Some
of them have worked to slow down traffic — speed is
a leading killer. They have added medians and made
other changes to roads to better protect pedestrians.
And European regulators have encouraged the use
of seatbelts by putting visual reminders even in the
back seat. Germany, which has the high-speed autobahn, also requires much more rigorous driver education and testing than most American states do.
“The things that have been killing us for decades
are still killing us: speed, impaired driving, not using seatbelts,” said Deborah Hersman, the former
chairman of the National Transportation Safety
Board who now heads the National Safety Council.
“The things that we know can save lives, some of
them don’t cost any money, like seatbelts.”
The period is finally having its moment.
In the last decade, the difficulties
women and girls across the globe face
during menstruation have inspired a
raft of grass-roots campaigns. “Period
poverty” activists seek to make menstrual products more affordable and
available. International agencies like
Plan International, Water Aid, U.N.
Women and Unicef are supporting
menstrual hygiene programs in dozens
of countries. Access to safe, accessible
bathrooms and materials to manage
menstruation is now recognized as a
human rights issue that involves many
other areas of development, like clean
water, education and gender equality.
These shifts are certainly heartening. For centuries, around the world,
menstruation has been treated as a
source of shame, rather than as a
normal, healthy part of women’s lives.
Initiatives to “make menstruation
matter” are both welcome and overdue.
Why, then, after years studying
these efforts, do I feel ambivalent?
Because too many of them have opted
to focus on providing women with new
products, failing to substantively fight
the core problem surrounding menstruation: cultural stigma.
Consider the humble piece of cloth.
Many Westerners are horrified to learn
that repurposed cloth is commonly
used by women in poor countries to
manage their periods. Yet cloth is
absorbent, readily available, cheap and
sustainable. Folded or cut to size,
changed as necessary and properly
washed and dried, it can be sanitary
and effective.
Still, many programs are hustling to
replace this traditional method with
commercial products. In addition to
the nongovernmental organizations
that make products their priority,
start-ups are seeding microbusinesses
in which, say, Rwandan, Indian and
Ugandan women make and sell pads.
Such an approach falls under the category of a “technological fix”: a seemingly simple solution to what is, in
reality, a complex problem.
Such interventions can be helpful,
and in some circumstances even necessary, but they fail to address the root
issues. No menstrual
product is effective
The fight
for a schoolgirl who
lacks access to a
stigma in the
clean, secure toilet,
as is the case in
world is
many poor countries.
about more
Stigma about menstruation often unthan new
dermines proper use,
and a woman’s fear
of inadvertently
revealing she is
menstruating remains a distraction
and a burden.
These fears and stigmas are prevalent in the rich world, too. As the historian Joan Jacobs Brumberg has shown,
in the United States at the turn of the
century, menstruation became increasingly medicalized: Doctors, who were
mostly men, and increasingly viewed
as experts, coached mothers to socialize their daughters to keep tidy and
discreet. Menarche, the first menstrual
period, was effectively reduced from a
sign of womanhood to a “hygienic
Even now, American girls are socialized to see menstruation, and more
generally, their bodies, as problems to
be solved through use of the “right”
products. Today, we are exporting this
view around the world.
The outsize attention paid to products reduces menstruation to a hygiene issue when it should be much
more. The monthly shedding of the
uterine lining is part of a cycle that
lasts, on average, for 40 years. It is a
vital marker of health and a pivotal
developmental milestone for half the
world’s population.
Menarche should be a prime opportunity to begin a girl’s lifelong authentic engagement with her body. Instead,
we hand her a pad and teach her to put
it up her sleeve when she goes to the
Many of the people doing work on
menstrual health initiatives know that
distributing products is not a silver
bullet. Indeed, some pair distribution
with education. A few also push for
infrastructure improvements and
policy change. But as people working
in the field have told me, the reality is
that providing pads is easier than
trying to change ingrained cultural
habits. It’s also readily measurable:
It’s easy to note the number of pads
that have been handed out in a month.
It’s much harder to provide similar
metrics for improved knowledge and
education levels.
We must resist the well-meaning
impulse to improve the lives of menstruating girls through consumption.
The greater need is for people to understand that periods aren’t something
shameful and best kept hidden. When
menstruation is treated as normal, it
becomes more than a nuisance, a
punch line or a weapon wielded to
keep women in their place.
Our aim must be to transform the
revulsion into respect, to shift from
“eww” to “oh.” We need to redirect
resources toward promoting innovative, inclusive and culturally sensitive
community-based education about the
menstrual cycle. And the audience
must be not only girls, but also everyone surrounding them — boys, parents, teachers, religious leaders and
health professionals.
To be clear, I am not denying that
women need something to bleed on. Of
course we do. Nor I am suggesting that
women should be denied access to new
methods of handling menstruation
better suited to their needs.
But menstrual activism won’t be
meaningful if it is reduced to Westernstyle “better living through more consumption.” After all, periods remain
taboo in high-income countries where
commercial products have been the
norm for decades. Challenging the
social stigma and disgust directed at
the female body must be our main
mission — in the developing world and
everywhere else.
If this moment is going to grow into
a movement, it must do more than
move products. It must move minds.
is an associate professor of
women’s, gender and sexuality studies
at the University of Massachusetts,
Boston and past president of the Society
for Menstrual Cycle Research. She is
the author of the forthcoming The
Managed Body: Developing Girls and
Menstrual Health in the Global South.
Times last week, that even when African-American families do manage to
rise to affluence, their boys can’t stay
there because of systemic racism and
the lack of fathers/role models in their
In retrospect, trying to integrate the
country through the schools may have
been a mistake. Racial integration in
schools does produce better student
outcomes, which last throughout a
lifespan. But parents are super-paranoid about their children. It doesn’t
matter how supposedly enlightened a
white neighborhood is; if the government brings poor black kids into the
school, many parents
react with fury, or
Are you
with moving vans.
leading a
It might have been
better to lead with
residential integration. If American
parents are unwarrantedly fearful and race-minded about
their kids’ environment, they seem to
be less so about their own. As William
Frey of the Brookings Institution has
shown, American neighborhoods have
become steadily more integrated.
Northern and Midwestern cities like
Milwaukee and New York are still very
segregated, but Southern and Western
cities like Atlanta; Louisville, Ky.;
Dallas; and Las Vegas have made
strides. Intermarriage rates are also
rising. In 1967, 3 percent of Americans
married outside their race or ethnicity.
Now 17 percent do. Twenty-four percent of black men marry a woman
outside their race, as do 12 percent of
black women.
Even churches are integrating.
Martin Luther King Jr. observed that
Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America, but today one
in five churchgoers worship in a congregation where no single ethnic or
racial group predominates.
If we’re going to kick-start another
push toward racial integration —
which is more or less a moral necessity
— maybe the place to start is in the
neighborhoods. As the work of the
Stanford economist Raj Chetty has
emphasized, poverty is very placeoriented. It is the granular conditions
of each specific neighborhood that
influence whether the residents have a
high or low chance of rising and succeeding.A renewed integration agenda
would mean building public housing in
low poverty areas, eliminating exclusionary zoning laws, and yes, accepting gentrification (a recent U.C.L.A.
study finds that gentrification is increasing diversity in District of Columbia public schools). Then schools could
be integrated through the back door by
using socioeconomic status as a factor
in student assignment.
The big shift, of course, has to be
psychological. Everybody laments how
divided America is, but how many of
us are part of an organization that lets
us meet once a week with others who
are very different from ourselves?
Integration doesn’t mean losing the
essence of what makes each group
special; it just means connecting fervently with a fellow American.
Roots down/walls down/bridges out.
Integration now and forever
David Brooks
If you had pulled somebody aside in
the mid 1970s and asked him to predict
how racially integrated America would
be in 2018, he would probably have
said: pretty integrated. American
schools were integrating very quickly
back then. The subject of racial integration was on everybody’s tongue.
Young people seemed to be growing up
in a very different racial environment,
and the rising tide of immigration was
making America a more diverse place.
Unfortunately, the mid-70s were, by
some measures, a kind of a high-water
mark. School integration peaked then,
and American schools have been resegregating since. Measured by
Google Ngram, the phrase “racial
integration” was used most frequently
then; people have been using the
phrase less and less ever since.
By the late 1990s, passion for the
cause had been lost. As Tamar Jacoby
wrote in her 1998 book “Someone
Else’s House”: “If integration is still
most Americans’ idea of the goal, few
of us talk about it any more. The word
has a quaint ring today — like ‘gramophone’ or ‘nylons.’ ”
Now we seem to have entered a
phase of trepidation, or even passive
segregation. Race is on everybody’s
mind, but are there enough efforts to
create intimate bonds across racial
lines? Jacoby emphasizes that there
are two kinds of integration, objective
and subjective. The former is about
putting people of different races in the
same classroom, office and neighborhood. The latter is about emotional
bonds of connection, combining a
positive sense of pride in group with an
overall sense that we are a “we.”
Three-quarters of American whites
have no close nonwhite friends. A
study from the Public Religion Research Institute found that if you
looked at the average white person’s
100 closest friends, you would find that
91 would be white. If you looked at the
average black person’s 100 closest
friends, 83 of them would be black.
Many people support racial integration in the abstract but don’t want to do
the things integration would require.
Some see integration as a sentimental
notion not connected to immediate
concerns. Others have accepted the
idea that birds of a feather flock together and always will.
The big problem with this complacency is that you end up in a racially
divided nation with millions of people
left in areas of concentrated poverty,
falling further behind. Racism is America’s great sin, and if there isn’t continual progress to combat it, the nation
becomes ugly to itself.
Moreover, you wind up with the
depressing results reported in The
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 11
A disaster in waiting for Haiti
Ellie Happel
Trump is president. April fool!
Gail Collins
Besides the Easter holiday, we’ve also
just celebrated April Fools’ Day, an
excellent reminder that the United
States is now a quarter of the way
through the second year of the Donald
Trump presidency.
Hang in there, people! To see if
you’ve been paying attention, here’s a
1. To start off the new year, Trump
boasted that compared with North
Korea’s leader, he had . . .
A. “Much smarter” foreign policy
B. A “much bigger” nuclear button.
C. “Much taller” friends in professional basketball.
In her much-watched TV interview, Stormy Daniels said she
whacked Donald Trump on the rear
end after he . . .
A. Told her he wanted to play a sex
game where she was Vladimir Putin.
B. Showed her a magazine with his
picture on the cover.
C. Said she reminded him of “a couple of my wives.”
3. The White House physician,
Ronny Jackson, announced that Trump
had passed a mental cognition test in
which he correctly identified animals
and drew hands on a clock. Jackson
also told reporters that in conversations with his patient, he learned that
the president is . . .
A. “Very sharp.”
B. “Stupendously self-obsessed.”
C. “Just great at picking out the
This week, Trump appointed Jack-
son to be . . .
A. The first White House physicianchef, charged with perfecting a new
low-calorie version of fried chicken and
chocolate milkshakes.
B. Secretary of the second-largest
agency in the entire United States
C. House doctor at Mar-a-Lago.
5. Rex Tillerson knew he was on the
way out as secretary of state when
John Kelly called to warn him that
“you may get a . . .
A. “Tweet.”
B. “Dead fish.”
C. “Blank card on National Secretary
6. H. R. McMaster was forced out of
his job as national security adviser. His
replacement, John Bolton, still thinks
A. It was a good
Are you
idea to invade Iraq.
B. It was a good
idea to buy real
Time for
estate in 2008.
a quiz.
C. Trump likes his
7. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made news with a
CBS interview in which she said . . .
A. “I have no earthly idea what I’m
doing here.”
B. “I still think having guns in the
schools to protect against bears is a
smart call.”
C. “I have not intentionally visited
schools that are underperforming.”
8. Scott Pruitt, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said he
needs to fly first class because of the
danger of . . .
A. Angry environmentalists.
B. Missing a chance to shake hands
with the pilots.
C. Leg cramps in coach.
9. The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention resigned
after Politico revealed she . . .
A. Had a disease.
B. Bought shares in a tobacco company shortly after she took office.
C. Was taking bets on who got fired
10. Homeland Security Secretary
Kirstjen Nielsen appeared before the
Senate Judiciary Committee shortly
after the president made it clear he
wished there were more immigrants
from places like Norway and fewer
from places like Africa. In her testimony, she said she did not really know
A. Whether Africa was a continent.
B. If Norwegians were generally
C. What she was doing there.
11. Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing are . . .
A. Lawyers Donald Trump announced he was hiring last month and
then dropped like a pair of wet socks.
B. Olympic silver medalists starring
in a new reality show, “So You Think
You Can Ice Dance.”
C. Owners of a dancing squirrel
whose video went viral.
12. When the Trump administration
opened up massive amounts of the
nation’s coast to offshore drilling, it
exempted Florida because, officials
explained, Florida is . . .
A. “Where Mar-a-Lago is.”
B. “Where that big Senate race is.”
C. “Unique.”
After the 2010 earthquake killed more
than 200,000 people and displaced
more than a million, the government of
Haiti identified mining for gold and
other metals as necessary to strengthen the economy.
To that end, the government and the
World Bank worked to revise the country’s mining law to attract foreign investment. Their draft law, which was
presented to Parliament last July and is
awaiting consideration, did not include
input from Haitian environmental and
human rights organizations.
The lack of transparency surrounding the proposed new mining law raises
significant concerns about whose interests would be represented under the
revamped legal framework. Canadian
and American companies have already
been granted permits to explore for
gold, copper and other metals in the
northern hills of Haiti. Although the full
extent of Haiti’s mineral resources is
unknown, some estimate that there is
$20 billion worth of precious metals in
the soil. If passed, the law would pave
the way for the country’s first commercial metal mine.
The experiences of poor but resource-rich countries around the world
provide a stark reminder that translating natural resources into public wealth
is a very risky business — one that
often fails. Even in developed countries, industrial-scale mining has contaminated water, increased security
threats, forced thousands of people
from their homes, and damaged
ecosystems for generations. In poor
countries like Haiti, the record is even
worse. Given the unique vulnerabilities
it faces, mining could deal the country’s
environment and economy a blow from
which it would never recover.
Haiti is arguably the most environmentally damaged country in the
Western Hemisphere. This damage is a
consequence of environmental mismanagement, counterproductive foreign investment and anemic public
institutions. The government has
shown that it is unable to either prepare for or repair the destruction
wrought by hurricanes, droughts and
earthquakes. In fact, it has been unable
to provide basic services to its citizens
even in the absence of natural disasters: More than half of rural residents
Protesting against mining in San Salvador in 2017.
do not have access to safe drinking
water. In this densely populated country where both housing and land for
farming are scarce, a majority of
Haitians live in crowded cities, or in
rural areas far from schools, hospitals
and other services. Opening a mine
would displace hundreds, if not thousands of families from their homes in
the areas where the mines are expected
to be built.
The government lacks the resources
and the will to defend the interests of
ordinary citizens. Officials from the
Office of Mines and Energy told me
that they visit communities where
Last year
companies have
El Salvador
explored for gold
banned metal only when provided a
mining. Haiti
ride in a company
should do
vehicle. Without
the same.
regulation, international companies
have shown that they
have little incentive to think beyond
their profits.
This country has long been plagued
by corruption. Last year, a Haitian
Senate report accused former government officials of embezzling more than
$2 billion from PetroCaribe, a Venezuelan oil fund. Transparency International ranks Haiti as the second most
highly corrupt country in the Americas.
The divide between the rich and the
poor in Haiti is extreme, and the poor
majority struggles to hold the government accountable. More than 90 percent of schools are privately run.
El Salvador may provide a path
forward. A year ago, the legislature
there voted overwhelmingly to prohibit
metal mining. The residents of areas
rich in metals argued that their country
was too densely populated and already
too environmentally degraded to absorb the damage that would result from
mining. El Salvador is the first country
in the world to impose a ban on metal
mining. This precedent set by El Salvador should encourage other nations
to hold inclusive debates about the
costs and benefits of metal mining
before allowing their nonrenewable
resources to be dug up to the detriment
of the many for the benefit of the few. In
Haiti, a coalition of social movement
organizations, the Kolektif Jistis Min
(Justice in Mining Collective), is calling
for just that: a national debate about
the effects of mining before any mines
are built. The collective, with which I
have collaborated for more than five
years, has taken a vocal position
against metal mining, and is calling for
the legislature to reject the draft mining
law that it appears poised to pass.
Metal mining in Haiti will bring
profits to the few and more misery for
the masses. Haitian legislators should
heed the example of El Salvador and
listen to the voices of their own people
who are cautioning against mining and
demanding less destructive and more
inclusive development.
is the Haiti Project director
for the Global Justice Clinic of New
York University School of Law.
13. Donald Jr. recently made news
when he . . .
A. Took his kids to the circus and
shot the elephant.
B. Broke up with his wife and got a
permit to carry a concealed weapon in
C. Tried out for a roller derby team.
Meanwhile, Eric Trump . . .
A. Bragged on Twitter that he was
an answer to a “Jeopardy” question.
B. Was named head of a new Trump
organization dedicated to bringing
“luxury hotel life to Papua New Guinea.”
C. Wrote a tell-all autobiography
titled “Dad Actually Likes Me Best.”
ANSWERS: 1-B, 2-B, 3-A, 4-B, 5-A, 6-A,
7-C, 8-A, 9-B, 10-B, 11-A, 12-C, 13-B, 14-A
InterContinental London Park Lane
October 9-11, 2018
Putin has overplayed his hand
Mr. Putin’s muscular revanchism can
camouflage his weakness, but it cannot
erase it. He remains reliant on a onedimensional economy, constrained by
sanctions, mired in the reckless adventures he’s pursued in Ukraine and
Syria, and increasingly subordinate to
China and its growing ambitions. An
effective diplomatic response needs to
expose Mr. Putin’s vulnerabilities as
effectively as he has sought to exploit
His biggest vulnerability is his diplomatic loneliness. He has nothing close
to the web of alliances and partnerships that have anchored the United
States and its partners. While it’s
almost always slower, harder and less
satisfying to work in coalitions, the
policy effects are almost always more
long-lasting and effective. It’s critical
to work with our allies and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical
Weapons to establish a clear baseline
to forcefully counter Mr. Putin’s unserious denials of culpability.
We have demonstrated our ability to
work in concert on painful sanctions
after Mr. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Now it’s time to tighten those screws
further, fully apply the sanctions passed by Congress last summer, and
work closely with our partners to
follow suit. We all need to reduce our
vulnerabilities to Russia’s meddling,
and deny impunity to those aiding and
abetting those efforts.
The Trump
The project of
administramaking Russia great
tion makes it
is part and parcel of
difficult, but
making Mr. Putin
the answer
and his crony capihere is more
talist friends rich.
That is also a vulnerdiplomacy.
ability. Too many
countries for too long
have facilitated the
enrichment and corruption of Mr.
Putin’s inner circle. That needs to end.
The logical next step after the diplomatic expulsions is a similarly coordinated campaign to hit the wallets of
the Kremlin elite. That won’t be easy
or pain-free for a number of economies, including our own. A strong
signal that business as usual is over
will unsettle Moscow and stimulate
concerns about what more drastic
steps might follow. Mr. Putin knows
that the longer he is denied foreign
direct investment, the further behind
his economy will fall.
There is some risk of a more forceful
response to Mr. Putin’s aggression. We
need to be vigilant not to prompt an
unprovoked escalation in Ukraine or
legitimate Mr. Putin’s shrouded machinations by deploying our own impulsively — whether in cyberspace or
other types of covert action. Sustaining
military and diplomatic channels is not
a favor or a sign of weakness. It’s a
way to demonstrate that while we will
not give in to Mr. Putin, we will not
give up on the longer-term prospect of
a healthier relationship with Russia.
It may very well be that last week’s
countermeasures are nothing more
than a passing phase. We already see
cracks within the European Union and
Britain is divided by the Brexit debates. The Trump administration has
signaled policy shifts, like pulling out
of the Iranian nuclear agreement, that
will make it easier for Mr. Putin to
create wedges.
American actions this past week
offer a hopeful sign. Agile diplomacy
can still land a punch. Now comes the
hard part. Diplomacy won’t transform
the adversarial relationship with Mr.
Putin’s Russia, but it can manage it.
Mr. Putin is right about one thing: We
have the stronger cards. We’ve just
played them erratically.
Now we should lead with diplomacy
and demonstrate its enduring power
and purpose. If we don’t, we’ll perpetuate illusions about partnerships with
Mr. Putin and the irrelevance of diplomacy — and waste our bigger, better
Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg, Russia, in March.
the president of the
Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace and a former deputy secretary of
state, was the American ambassador to
Russia from 2005 to 2008.
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Brenda Hagerty,
12 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
Right now in baseball, power rules
On Baseball
Imagine teleporting into a baseball
video game. That, John Mozeliak said,
is how he felt watching college hitters
on a recent visit to a Division I program. All the data that might appear
on the screen of a virtual game was
available, in real time, during batting
“These kids are getting instant
feedback,” said Mozeliak, the St. Louis
Cardinals’ president for baseball operations. “They know how hard they’re
hitting it and they know what angle
they’re hitting it at. They know right
away what happens if they make subtle changes. So, mentally, it’s easier for
these kids to just make the change,
because they’re used to that type of
instant feedback.”
Give elite athletes an incentive to
play a certain way — and the tools to
show them how — and this is what you
get: a convergence of talent and technology that has rapidly turned baseball
into a test of power at the plate and on
the mound. Hitters seek home runs
and pitchers hunt strikeouts, and both
statistics reached unprecedented
levels last season: 6,105 homers and
40,104 strikeouts.
But as a new season dawns, many
baseball people wonder where the
game evolves from here. It is not a
question of if things will change, they
say, only when and how.
“Everything goes in cycles, and you
swing too far before you have to make
a correction,” said the Cleveland Indians reliever Andrew Miller, who is
entering his 13th season. “That’s just
the reality of it, no matter what it is. By
the time you realize it’s a problem, it’s
too late, in a sense. The teams that win
are the ones that adapt early on.”
The Houston Astros won the title
last season by mastering the modern
game with a roster of contact-hitting
sluggers who were instructed to swing
only if they thought they could hit a
home run. They pulled it off for a simple reason: talent.
“Look, at the core of it? They have
great players,” said David Forst, the
general manager of the division rival
Oakland Athletics. “They have stars.
So whether it was a philosophy of
contact versus power, they drafted
high and they nailed the right guys.
They got Carlos Correa. They did a
great job with Jose Altuve. Star players are going to succeed no matter
what the environment is.”
In the early 2000s, the low-budget
A’s famously found cheap, underappreciated assets to complement a traditional core of talented, young starting
pitchers. This was the story of “Moneyball,” of course, and soon the rest of
the industry caught on, challenging
conventional principles.
This is why power hitters like
George Springer and Mike Trout are
batting first or second in the batting
order, and why bunts and stolen bases
have mostly fallen out of favor. It is
why infielders often shift drastically
from batter to batter, and sometimes
from pitch to pitch. The Philadelphia
Phillies’ new manager, Gabe Kapler,
even plans to flip outfielders within
games, based on where the ball is most
likely to be hit.
“I think there’s a great possibility
that shifts look entirely different five
years from now,” said Ross Atkins, the
Toronto Blue Jays’ general manager.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that
batters will adjust and pitchers will
The uppercut swing — a callback to
the wisdom of Ted Williams, whether
young hitters know it or not — is the
adjustment of the moment. With more
and more grounders swallowed up by
smartly positioned infielders, hitters
decided to lift balls over their heads.
Pitchers, conditioned to exploit a lower
strike zone, largely fell into the trap.
Differences in the ball itself have
encouraged the hitters. Commissioner
Rob Manfred has consistently stated
that the balls fall within specifications,
though the league is taking steps to
standardize their storage. The Arizona
Diamondbacks will store balls in a
humidor this season, like the Colorado
Rockies, in an effort to make the ball
react normally in games played well
above sea level.
“The balls are just better,” Atkins
said. “They’re more consistent. The
margin for error has gotten better and
Better most likely means harder.
Former players and longtime executives bemoan umpires’ habit of removing nearly every ball that touches the
dirt around the plate. Pitchers can use
a scratch to enhance movement, but
even if they don’t, a well-worn ball
tends to not fly as far as a smooth one.
In any case, the essential calculus of
baseball — a home run is worth four
bases, a single just one — clearly motivates hitters to go deep. Pitchers have
responded with more of a north/south
strategy, with fastballs riding above
the trendy swing path, and curveballs
buckling below. No wonder, then, that
strikeouts keep rising.
The Astros’ Dallas Keuchel, who led
the American League in innings
pitched en route to winning a Cy
Young Award in 2015, said teams
should value pitchers like him who
induce weak contact, run lower pitch
counts and work deeper into games. It
is a logical theory, but the vast inventory of hard-throwing amateurs —
cultivated at velocity factories, raised
to push the limits of the radar gun —
will always captivate teams.
“Getting pitchers that have stuff is
still going to be at the top of the list,
and stuff usually means swing-andmiss from the hitters,” Astros General
Manager Jeff Luhnow said. “So that’s
going to result in strikeouts.”
Luhnow stressed the value of pitchers who log innings and save the
bullpen, though the Astros’ championship roster included no pitcher who
worked 160 regular-season innings for
the team.
To cover all those innings, the Astros, like many teams, plan to carry 13
pitchers this season, which means a
short bench. That helps explain the
increasing value teams place on superutility players who
can start regularly in
the infield or outpitchers that
field, like the Astros’
have stuff is
Marwin Gonzalez,
still going to
the Los Angeles
be at the top
Dodgers’ Chris Taylor and the Chicago
of the list.”
Cubs’ Ben Zobrist.
The Cubs pay
Zobrist an average of $14 million per
season, and spend an average of $23
million per season for Jason Heyward,
their defense-first right fielder. The
lighter free-agent contracts given this
winter to one-dimensional players like
Lucas Duda (one year, $3.5 million
with Kansas City) and Logan Morrison
(one year, $6.5 million with Minnesota)
may offer a hint of what’s next.
“Everyone talks about WAR, and
WAR isn’t just the offensive side of the
game,” said Atlanta Braves General
Manager Alex Anthopoulos, referring
to wins above replacement. “So I think
teams are valuing defense and base
running more and more, and the more
complete a player you are, the more
valuable you are. Generally speaking,
there’s more value placed on defense
— much more.”
With so many high-strikeout, highpower hitters in the game, the value of
such players has diminished. Theo
Epstein, the Cubs’ president for baseball operations, said this also reflects
itself in championships. Two recent
World Series winners — the Astros and
the 2015 Kansas City Royals — rarely
struck out. While the 2016 champion
Cubs fanned more often, Epstein noted
that they took the ball the other way at
pivotal moments throughout that
A change in hitters’ approaches is
already underway, Epstein said.
“You can’t see it if you’re too close to
it,” he said. “But that’s exactly what’s
coming next: teams that make contact
in this age of great stuff will be greatly
The richest free-agent contract of
the winter went to Eric Hosmer, who
left the Royals for an eight-year, $144
million deal with the San Diego Padres.
Hosmer hit a career-high .318 last
season with 104 strikeouts; that may
sound like a lot, but 125 players had
more. Hosmer said people harped too
much on his lack of fly balls.
“I hit .320 last year and people want
to talk about how I hit ground balls all
day,” Hosmer said. “Do I need to get
the ball in the air more? Yeah, probably. But when you’re talking about it
taking away from a season like that,
that’s when we’re valuing that stuff a
little too much.”
If the Mets win, they’re experienced. If they fail, they’re old.
Most major league teams
have scooped up younger
players, but not New York
José Reyes, a New York Mets infielder,
arrived in the major leagues at age 19,
smirking at older players like John
Franco, the timeless relief pitcher who,
at age 42, was still at it.
Reyes is 34 now and one of the “seniors” in the clubhouse, to the delight of
Franco, who, timeless as he is, still contributes as a guest instructor.
“Remember when you first came up
and called me Grandpa?” Franco said to
Reyes when the team was still in Port St.
Lucie, Fla., for spring training. “Now,
you’re the grandpa. Where’s your
Reyes is far from the only aging veteran on the Mets’ roster. Five of the
eight starting position players in Thursday’s season opener against the St. Louis Cardinals were at least 30.
In the real world, 30-plus isn’t old. But
in baseball it is.
The Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals had only three players 30
or over in their opening day lineups, not
including pitchers. The Astros won the
World Series last year with a core group
of players in their 20s, like Carlos Correa
and José Altuve. The Chicago Cubs did
the same the year before, behind Kris
Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
Baseball has generally been trending
younger. Since testing for steroids began in 2003 and amphetamines were
banned three years later, the productivity and durability of players over 30 have
sharply declined. The economic model
has adjusted accordingly. Executives in
the off-season shied away from spending big on free agents, who tend to be
around 30, and favored younger (that is,
cheaper) players.
Except the Mets.
Lacking enough assets to plug holes
through trades, the Mets spent $88.5
million in the off-season on six players
30 or older: first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, 35; third baseman Todd Frazier,
32; right fielder Jay Bruce, who will turn
31 on Tuesday; relief pitcher Anthony
Swarzak, 32; starting pitcher Jason Vargas, 35; and Reyes.
“It was about availability and being
somewhat opportunistic,” General Manager Sandy Alderson said. He said all
but one of the contracts the older players signed were for one or two years,
and at manageable prices.
“It’s a changed game,” said Frazier,
who held out until the week before
spring training began to sign a two-year,
$17 million contract at a price lower than
some people had once expected. “Teams
want the younger guys, but we’ve still
got it. I know we do.”
The players joined a cast that included the relief pitchers Jerry Blevins, 34,
and A. J. Ramos, 31; the oft-injured team
captain, David Wright, 35; infielder Asdrubal Cabrera, 32; and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, 32.
“There’s always room for the blend of
ages,” Bruce said. “It’s important to
have experience, but bottom line, it’s important to have good players. And if
good players happen to be 30 to 35 years
old and show they can stay on the field, I
don’t think the age matters.”
The Mets do have some youth, mostly
on their pitching staff, with standouts
like Noah Syndergaard, 25; Steven
Matz, 26; and Jeurys Familia, 28. Unfortunately, they have been getting injured
a lot. Other younger players include
shortstop Amed Rosario, 22, and
catcher Kevin Plawecki, 27.
The Mets will lean on youngsters like
Brandon Nimmo, 25, and Juan Lagares,
Mets infielder José Reyes, 34, is one of the older players the team may rely on.
29, to share center field until the Mets’
young star Michael Conforto, 25, returns from shoulder surgery.
Still, the older players will fill important gaps, which is fine with them.
Several argued that experience could
help them overcome hitting slumps, the
nerves of a potential playoff race and the
deficiencies of age. Their lack of speed is
a weakness, so the manager, Mickey
Callaway, emphasized sound base running in spring training. The Mets, which
had one of the worst defenses in the majors last season, will take into account
data and players’ experience to better
position them in the field.
“You get by on your guile more than
muscle, brute strength and speed,” the
team’s bench coach, Gary DiSarcina,
Older players’ bodies have more mileage on them and tend to be hurt more
often. Poor performance and injuries
among players of all ages derailed the
Mets’ 2017 season. Some infirmities are
inevitable, but Callaway vowed to be
vigilant about preventive measures,
such as regular days off.
With age, Frazier has toned down his
weight lifting and limited dining on the
Italian food he loves. Cespedes incorporated yoga this winter in hopes of keeping his legs healthier.
When he was younger, Gonzalez
rolled out of bed ready to play. Now, the
pregame routine for his back is two
hours. After averaging 159 games a season for over a decade, Gonzalez played
in only 71 last year because of bulging
disks and posted a career-worst .642 onbase-plus-slugging percentage with his
last team, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“I can still adjust my swing to someone throwing harder or someone throwing softer,” he said. “That’s something
that experience will give you that nothing else will. I probably can’t hit a 450foot homer to the opposite field like I
used to, but I can still hit a home run.”
14 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
London jazz
anchored in
Off-camera lust takes the stage
A prizewinning journalist
has written a play about
a notorious love affair
Shabaka Hutchings
mixes his tenor saxophone
with a tuba and drums
Lawrence Wright, the author and longtime New Yorker staff writer, is not as
serious as he may seem. He is not obsessed with terrorism and religion, as
his recent work suggests. Sometimes he
just wants a juicy sex scandal.
Indeed, before he wrote “The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to
9/11,” winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize
for nonfiction, and before he wrote “Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the
Prison of Belief,” a 2013 National Book
Award finalist, Mr. Wright was working
on “Cleo,” a play about the sordid love
affair between Elizabeth Taylor and
Richard Burton during the filming of the
1963 epic “Cleopatra.”
Mr. Wright began writing “Cleo” as a
screenplay about 20 years ago, but it
was derailed by the attacks of Sept. 11,
2001. On Friday, it will finally debut onstage, when the Alley Theater in Houston hosts the theatrical world premiere.
The production, directed by Bob Balaban, the theater and screen actor, will
sate one of Mr. Wright’s earliest desires.
“The Taylor and Burton affair coincided with my puberty, so I was especially attuned to what was going on,” Mr.
Wright said. “This relationship — the
passion and the lust just spilled out all
over the world. It certainly awakened
my attention.”
Last August, Mr. Wright sat at the
desk in his home office in West Austin.
On a computer monitor was a document
opened to draft No. 78 of “Cleo.” He was
preparing for the play’s September debut. Then Hurricane Harvey hit Houston in late August and damaged the Alley, prompting the delay.
In those seven months, Mr. Wright
wrote nine more drafts, all while serving
as an executive producer for the new
Now more than ever, the easiest answer
to that pesky question — what’s keeping
jazz vital these days? — appears to lie in
London. And much of the serious activity there runs through Shabaka Hutchings. The 33-year-old tenor saxophonist
anchors a handful of his own bands and
served as the musical director for “We
Out Here,” a compilation with tracks
from nine British groups, like a book of
hours for the thriving young scene.
In January, Mr. Hutchings announced
that he had signed with Impulse!, an imprint of Universal, and that the label
would be releasing music from his various ensembles. The first to arrive is
“Your Queen Is a Reptile,” the third album by his quartet, Sons of Kemet, and
it’s an excellent place to start.
This band has a rare instrumentation
— tenor saxophone, tuba, two drummers — and a relentless sound anchored
in rhythms of the Caribbean. It’s acoustic, but adamant and dance-driven.
The new album’s title takes a shot at
the British monarchy, a system that, Mr.
Hutchings says, reaffirms the notion
that one’s birthright is enough to define
class and status. He wrote each of the album’s nine tunes for an alternate matriarch from the African diaspora. Their titles all have the same construction: “My
Queen Is Harriet Tubman;” “My Queen
Is Yaa Asantewaa,” for an early 20thcentury Ashanti ruler; and so on. On
some tunes, the band is joined by an
M.C. or a poet, spinning verses of defiance and affirmation.
Sons of Kemet’s music reaches vastly
across the diaspora, though it has increasingly gravitated toward the Antilles. The band’s 2013 debut, “Burn,” was a
restive, rangy album. Its sophomore release, “Lest We Forget What We Came
Here to Do,” pulled toward calypso and
soca, toward a more direct energy,
thanks to Mr. Hutchings’s growing embrace of his own upbringing — he moved
to Barbados at 6 and returned to London
in high school — and to the impact of
Theon Cross, a prodigious young talent
who took over on tuba just before “Lest
We Forget” was recorded.
On “Your Queen Is a Reptile,” the interplay between Mr. Hutchings and Mr.
Cross immediately calls you to attention, but as songs progress your focus
drifts to the twin drummers — Tom
Skinner and Seb Rochford — as they
start to shift the flow from beneath.
The author Lawrence Wright did 87 drafts
of “Cleo,” which he began writing as a
screenplay about 20 years ago.
Hulu series based on “The Looming
Tower” and completing a new book on
Texas politics. “Cleo” is now a drastically different play than it was when Mr.
Wright conceived it, yet the theme remains the same.
“It’s in some ways a disquisition on
love, and how dangerous it is, and yet
how essential,” Mr. Wright said. “We’re
condemned to have this riotous, unsettling element in our natures and we
don’t understand it.”
Initially, Mr. Wright had focused on
the affair between Joseph Mankiewicz,
the movie’s director co-writer, and Rosemary Matthews, the script supervisor.
He was intrigued with the intertwined
destructive relationships at play on the
set: from Antony and Cleopatra, whose
relationship shook empires; to Burton
and Taylor, whose relationship ripped
apart their marriages and ignited the
gossip pages; to that more prosaic bosssubordinate romance.
Change came when Mr. Balaban got
involved about seven years ago. He had
met Taylor a few times through the actress Maureen Stapleton, and persuaded Mr. Wright to redirect the emphasis to her and Burton, the obvious
stars of the show.
The script still features Mankiewicz,
an Oscar-winning filmmaker who became overwhelmed with the scale of the
movie, a budget-buster that threatened
to bankrupt Fox. Also in supporting
roles: Eddie Fisher, the singer and actor
who was Taylor’s husband — her fourth
— at the time, and Rex Harrison, the actor playing Caesar, whose ego took a toll
as his role diminished in the growing
shadow of Burton’s Mark Antony.
The actors Lisa Birnbaum and Richard Short portray Taylor and Burton.
They were cast, Mr. Balaban said, for
their ability to embody both tragedy and
comedy, and because they resembled
their characters without ever appearing
to do impressions of them.
The play starts with Burton arriving
drunk to the set, in Rome, to replace the
actor Stephen Boyd, who was no longer
available after production delays. The
idea of using Burton came from Fisher,
who unwittingly invited a snake into his
own den, according to Mr. Wright.
Burton and Taylor couldn’t keep their
cravings secret, and the nascent paparazzi captured every blatant minute of
their sunbathing and petting.
“There was outrage,” Mr. Wright said.
“Nobody had ever seen this kind of thing
happening in public before. The tabloids
were full of ‘homewrecker.’”
The pope condemned the couple, and
a congresswoman from Georgia proposed prohibiting Taylor, a naturalized
United States citizen, from returning to
the country after filming. Fidelity was a
tightly held American value, yet the pair
persisted in flagrant defiance and, in Mr.
Wright’s estimation, helped to spark the
sexual revolution.
“The Richard Burton Diaries,” published in 2012, was crucial to understanding not only the dynamic between
Burton and Taylor but also Burton’s
light and dark sides. Mr. Wright’s research also included interviewing
sources close to the movie.
“The play ends with a rather brutal
scene — a big, knock-down, drag-out
fight that you would think would tear
Taylor and Burton apart but is actually
what ends up cementing their relationship,” Mr. Balaban said. “We wanted to
present something that was probably
like what really happened with them.”
A 2016 reading of “Cleo” that was part
of the Alley’s festival of new works inspired Gregory Boyd, the former artistic
director, to stage a production. Mr.
Wright is not, however, new to theater.
In his career, he has written four plays
that have been produced (“Camp Da-
Above, Richard Burton
and Elizabeth Taylor
during the filming of
the 1963 epic “Cleopatra.” At left, Lisa
Birnbaum and Richard
Short will play Taylor
and Burton in “Cleo”
when the play opens
on Friday at the Alley
Theater in Houston.
vid,” “Fallaci,” “Sonny’s Last Shot” and
“Crackerjack”) and performed in two of
his own one-man shows, “The Human
Scale” and “My Trip to Al-Qaeda.”
“I’ve written movies, but typically
with a movie, as soon as the director
comes on, the last thing he wants is the
writer around,” Mr. Wright said. “So you
get kind of pushed out. In the theater, the
playwright is the final authority, and I
don’t mind that.”
On April 17, he will publish “God Save
Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the
Lone Star State,” based on reporting he
did for an article in The New Yorker. David Remnick, the magazine’s editor,
asked Mr. Wright to explain his home
state; the writer playfully reminded the
editor that he gets paid by the word.
Mr. Remnick was willing to take the
“The secret to Larry is that he writes
only about what completely grabs his attention and imagination,” Mr. Remnick
said. “Nothing obligatory, nothing on order. He does what he’s going to do. And
the results are invariably amazing.”
“Your Queen Is a Reptile,” the third
album by Shabaka Hutchings’s quartet.
When things really get moving, as on
“My Queen Is Harriet Tubman,” Mr.
Hutchings is liable to throw in his lot
with the drummers, tonguing his reed to
make a percussive, flaring effect that’s a
bit like a rimshot on a hand drum.
This is one of many personal gestures
Mr. Hutchings uses that don’t have a lot
to do with the broader lexicon of the jazz
saxophone. His inflections are different
from those of an American saxophonist
steeped in the blues, and he almost
never bends his tones into blue notes —
a staple of American music that grew
out of Southern field hollers, but didn’t
take hold in the Caribbean or in London.
So while Mr. Hutchings’s saxophone
sound passes through the American
masters (he manages a smart balance
of Sonny Rollins’s full-sail linear improvising and John Coltrane’s billowy
grandeur), his playing and composing
also reflect British influences: You can
hear the latent kinetics of Tom Challenger, a British saxophonist a few years
Mr. Hutchings’s senior, and the thumping tunes that Courtney Pine wrote for
the Jazz Warriors in the 1980s.
This underlines one key to Mr. Hutchings’s appeal. In order to get a new generation invested, it’s not enough to play
the horn a little differently than before.
You’ve got to renew the context entirely.
As Mr. Hutchings spreads his wings, he
is presenting an opportunity for listeners to fall in love with a sound that’s got
the timeless assets of jazz — rebellion,
collectivity, emotive abstraction — but
doesn’t feel weighed down by its past.
MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018 | 15
Evoking the climate of an era
egantly attired in suit and tie.
Van Vechten, a complex figure who
touched several arts and aspects of society, had been intelligently passionate
about ballet since before World War I.
His photographs, most dating from the
1940s and ’50s, are full of information —
but some tip matters decidedly over into
the tastelessly tasteful, ego-flaunting,
offbeat area known as camp. Although
he took pictures in color, they’ve been almost invariably published in his inferior
black-and-white reproductions. In
“Transmissions,” however, a series of
some 800 of his originals are projected
on a large screen.
In several cases, the color makes
them far more peculiar. Alicia Markova
and Anton Dolin — British ballet stars
central to this era of dance in America —
are shown in a wide range of roles. Seen
in close-up, they often look precious,
combining lurid hues and aesthetic
flamboyance. Dolin is also seen in a
number of nude poses, far from full
The arts and queer theory
collide in a provocative
and illuminating mash-up
The most pressing reason to see “Transmissions,” Nick Mauss’s exhibition at
the Whitney Museum of American Art
in New York, is its generous array of
sculpture, photographs and dance designs, almost all from a particular place
and time — the city between 1930 and
’60, when it was becoming the center of
modernism in the arts. But the juxtapositions show that “Transmissions” is a
work of creative imagination as much as
revelation. You go to sample it as history; you absorb it as poetry.
“Transmissions,” which will be on
show through May 14, is an installation,
a collage of several art forms, a revisionist investigation of New York modernism and sexual expression, and an essay
in queer theory. One of its binding
threads is ballet (excitingly linked to the
visual arts in a number of prestigious
commissions). At its center are live
dances, which hint at further links
among art forms, history and the present. Mr. Mauss is an investigator of lost
time: There are real discoveries here.
He also proves, with the cooperation of
his dancers, something of a choreographer. And he’s a presence in the way
he arrays groups of items by artists. He
evokes a climate.
Much of the history of modernism
arises from the friction between the Old
World and the New. European politics in
the years 1930-60 brought fresh waves
of immigrant artists to New York City.
The Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, who had made ballet a pre-eminent
vehicle for the changing stages of modernism from 1909-29, was dead. In the
three decades that followed, ballet became established on American soil, with
American and European artists collaborating.
There are superb sculptures and photographs in “Transmissions” that have
no direct link to ballet. The exhibition
suggests connections, opens windows,
allows for possibilities.
Mr. Mauss has a historical mind: He
has had previous exhibitions based on
work by two artists known for ballet design, Christian Bérard and Leon Bakst.
His title, “Transmissions,” has multiple
implications. It refers, in part, to migration. The exhibition includes the European-born sculptors Gaston Lachaise
and Elie Nadelman, the painter-designers Pavel Tchelitchew and Eugene
Berman, and the choreographer George
Balanchine, all of whom worked in the
United States. Many wanted to continue
the Diaghilev tradition: none more so
than Lincoln Kirstein, the titanic young
American patron of several arts, who
commissioned works from all the above.
Kirstein’s taste, often controversial —
he was strongly opposed to both Manet
and Matisse — is a common factor in
much of this show. He championed Tchelitchew as well as Nadelman; he had
caught the final seasons of the Diaghilev
company in Europe and, four years later, brought Balanchine (Diaghilev’s last
choreographer) to America. High
among the realist artists he praised was
his brother-in-law, the painter Paul Cadmus. Paintings by Cadmus and by PaJaMa (a collective name for Cadmus, Cadmus’s lover Jared French and French’s
wife, Margaret French) hang on the
“Transmissions” walls. One of the people shown is the dancer José Martinez,
Kirstein’s lover.
Although Kirstein made ballet the
central part of his vast operation, Nadelman and the photographer Walker Evans (also represented here) were two of
the many artists he admired who had no
connection to ballet.
“Transmissions,” like Kirstein, does
not stay in one box. Other photographers here, often depicting dance, as Ev-
Nick Mauss’s exhibition, called
“Transmissions,” suggests
connections, opens windows,
allows for possibilities.
llanes. Two 1934 Lynes pictures show
three male dancers from the all-black
cast of the Virgil Thomson-Gertrude
Stein opera “Four Saints in Three Acts”
recumbent on the floor, calmly nude, intimately juxtaposed. In one picture,
they’re grouped with their choreographer, Frederick Ashton, kneeling, el-
frontal, but startlingly self-dramatizing.
This man was famous as one of ballet’s
princes? You’d never guess from the
poses he strikes when naked here. Van
Vechten’s photos are fascinating but
quaint: They often accentuate ballet’s
glamorous triviality rather than its
more profound capacity for drama.
The most curious part of “Transmissions” is its element of live dance. Newly
made dances amid a history show? Yes
indeed. They’re performed — coolly,
with quiet theatricality, and without
camp — in an area with artworks on four
sides: on a flat stage and, opposite it, a
mini-balcony piece of scenery. Mr.
Mauss has worked with 16 dancers (four
groups of four) to choreograph dances
that subtly connect to several of the
themes that were being developed in the
art of the era on display.
In one of the two quartets I saw, dancers, wearing allover tights, emphatically leaned over to present their backsides to the audience in sustained poses.
Does this seem unremarkable now? It
didn’t until the mid-1980s. Yet here it
feels linked to the Lynes erotic photographs. The dances are a series of brief
études, low-key in dynamics, elegant,
not claiming great artistic importance
yet perfect in context. Same-sex partnering, mixed-race casting and multiple
dance idioms are all shown here: a quietly objective, latter-day melting pot.
Being a collage, the exhibition is historically incomplete. Where are the ballet boxes of Joseph Cornell that converted balletomania into exquisite visual art? Why exclude the Lynes photographs of Balanchine’s “Orpheus” in
which the two lead men are photographed nude? Those would multiply
the connections already set up by Mr.
Mauss here. Such omissions, however,
do not detract from the intricacy and
loving detail of “Transmissions.”
And here, too, are several fascinating
original designs for Balanchine ballets.
Today, the choreography blooms by having far less intrusive designs and costumes. And yet our idea of Balanchine
grows more complex when we see the
look his works once had. Eugene
Berman’s set model for the original production of Balanchine’s “Concerto
Barocco” (1941) is radiantly architectural (Piranesian) and reflective, with marvelously subtle colors.
The wide selection of Nadelman items
alone — perhaps the peak of Kirstein’s
often erratic taste in the visual arts — is
worth the visit to this gathering: modernism meets primitivism meets classicism. True, much of Nadelman’s work
predates Mr. Mauss’s 1930-60 era. But
his exquisite “Dancing Figure” (around
1916-18), memorably placed here to revolve on a plinth by a window overlooking the Hudson River, is the exhibition’s
most exquisite depiction of movement.
work, in miniature, biding its time. So
many of the themes, philosophical inquiries and character types that appear
here will return, honed as Lispector refines her style and hardens them into
the diamond-like perfection of her final
books, which are narrated in jagged
aphorisms — “anti-literature” she called
If the pages of “The Chandelier” are
so thickly lacquered with description,
streams of adjectives and looping repetition, it’s because Lispector is flexing,
coming into her power. She’s playing,
she’s practicing. These pages are full of
finger exercises, arpeggios of thought
and perception.
We see the stirring of her lifelong interest in piercing the veil of language to
gain access to existence itself. She tries
to evoke this by slowing down the prose
in “The Chandelier,” by making the
reader feel its weight. In later books, she
was unafraid of posing the point directly: “What am I doing in writing you?
Trying to photograph perfume,” she
wrote in “Água Viva.”
Her books stay peaceably indifferent
to any imperatives of story — “The Passion According to G. H.,” regarded by
some as her masterpiece, features a
housewife staring into a closet for 200
pages. But with her later restraint, it
was her sentences that began to have
plots. With their topsy-turvy structure,
they contain the drama and the surprise.
A few famous examples. From “The
Passion According to G. H.”: “I finally
got up from the breakfast table, that
woman.” From the opening of her short
story “Temptation”: “She was sobbing.
And as if the two o’clock glare weren’t
enough, she had red hair.” From the
story “Love”: “Next to her was a lady in
blue, with a face.”
In each, the strangeness come from a
splitting — of women experiencing
themselves as subject and object. This
fracturing is everywhere in Lispector,
and explored intensely in “The Chandelier.” Virginia, in fact, is practicing looking at everything in this particular way:
“She’d see things separated from the
places where they lay, loose in space as
in an apparition.”
“The Chandelier” might best be understood as a bridge in Lispector’s work.
Even so, it conveys a special charge, an
undeniable quantity of genius — similar
to what Virginia felt as she filled her
hands with water, that she was “carrying in the palm of her hand a little bit of
A gallery view of “Transmissions” at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The show focuses on the city’s transformation into the center of modernism in the arts.
Clockwise from above: Brandon Collwes dancing as part of “Transmissions”; other dancers from the group of 16 whom the exhibition’s designer worked with; and “Reflection,” a
1944 painting by Paul Cadmus. The image was used for the cover of a Ballet Theater souvenir program (also in the show) dated 1951.
ans did not, are Carl Van Vechten and
George Platt Lynes.
The display of pictures by Lynes
(1907-1955) is where the exhibition most
evidently connects ballet to overtly gay
art. (The images shown here come from
the Kinsey Institute in Indiana, which
houses his originals.) Lynes made many
intensely poetic studio images of dancers and choreography. They impressed
Balanchine in particular with their
sense of light, darkness and drama. No
less poetically, he was also a pioneer of
homosexual photography. His work certainly anticipated that of Robert Mapplethorpe; its imagery and contrasts
are often more touching.
If you want to see how gay photography can be admirable art and memorable pornography at the same time, start
here. One photo shows a nude man
whose anus is the focal point; another,
not shocking but striking, is a full frontal
nude view of the dancer Nicholas Maga-
A Brazilian legend’s mysterious power
The Chandelier
By Clarice Lispector. Translated from the
Portuguese by Benjamin Moser and
Magdalena Edwards. Edited by Benjamin
Moser. 313 pp. New Directions. $25.95.
Sphinx, sorceress, sacred monster. The
revival of the hypnotic Clarice Lispector
has been one of the true literary events
of the 21st century. A national obsession
in her native Brazil — her novels are
sold in subway vending machines there
— she was neglected in the Englishspeaking world until a splendid 2009 biography, “Why This World,” by Benjamin Moser, charted the clashing currents in her life of fame, glamour, unspeakable suffering and, above all — despite it all — untrammeled productivity.
Her novels and stories represent “a
record of a woman’s entire life,” perhaps
“the first such total record written in any
country,” Moser wrote in his introduction to her collected stories. “A woman
who was not interrupted: a woman who
did not start writing late, or stop for
marriage or children, or succumb to
drugs or suicide.”
In recent years, there have been fresh
translations of the major work: the mystical novels and the real landmark, to my
mind, her glittering and savage “Complete Stories,” translated by Katrina
No one sounds like Lispector — in
English or Portuguese. No one thinks
like her. Not only does she seem endowed with more senses than the allotted five, she bends syntax and punctuation to her will. She turns the dictionary
upside down, shaking all the words
loose from their definitions, sprinkling
them back in as she desires — and doesn’t the language look better for it?
Her second novel, “The Chandelier,”
originally published in 1946, has just
been translated into English for the first
time, by Moser and Magdalena Edwards. Ignored in Lispector’s time, it
stands out, Moser says, “in a strange
and difficult body of work, as perhaps
her strangest and most difficult book.”
Lispector was always puzzled by this
reputation for difficulty. “When I write
for children, I am understood, but when
I write for adults I become difficult?”
she once protested. It’s true that her
books can be best understood as a kind
of cracked “Alice in Wonderland” — with
their gnomic wordplay, obsession with
naming and inexplicable punishments.
(Of course, the white rabbit in Lispector
is “a wounded hare losing blood and running until weakly reaching the end of
But “The Chandelier” is uniquely demanding — it’s baggy, claggy and contentedly glacial. We get interior monologues and barometric readings of the
drifting moods of a young, unhappy
woman named Virginia. Paragraph
breaks are few; chapter breaks are nonexistent. Plot? On Page 4, a man’s hat
floating down a river snags on a rock. On
Page 34, a leaf comes loose from a tall
tree, hovers in the air “for enormous
minutes” and falls to the ground.
Lispector might be describing the
desultory structure of the book itself
when she writes of a character: “The
drinks were preventing her from letting
the events connect to one another by
visible paths but made them follow one
another in soft, oblivious, tepidly
doomed jumps.”
Did I mention that this novel is charming? Punishing, yes, and maniacally
overwritten, but a vulnerable and moving performance — with a heart-stopping payoff.
Clarice Lispector.
I recall the British critic Christopher
Ricks once saying that in every long
book lies a short one evading its responsibilities. It’s a literary prejudice I share,
but in “The Chandelier” I sense something else: not a shorter, better book
lurking, but Lispector’s entire body of
16 | MONDAY, APRIL 2, 2018
Victorian romance in the Renaissance capital
The poets Elizabeth Barrett
and Robert Browning found
a haven for love in Florence
They were an unlikely couple: he a
young writer, dashing and ambitious,
she a highly lauded poet six years his
senior, a middle-aged invalid whose father kept her housebound. But when
Robert Browning sent Elizabeth Barrett
a fan letter in January 1845 — “I love
your verses with all my heart, dear Miss
Barrett,” he gushed — he ignited a romance that defied not only her weak
constitution, but also her controlling father’s prohibition of marriage and the
conventions of Victorian England. After
a 20-month courtship — conducted
mainly within the sickroom that she
hardly ever left — the pair married secretly and ran away, escaping the forbidding chill of London for a city that could
feed their poetic souls with warmth and
beauty. They moved to Florence, Italy.
For nearly 15 years, the Brownings
lived under the spell of this elegant Renaissance capital. Inspired by its magnificent architecture and piazzas, embraced by its artistic expatriate community, they produced some of their most
famous works — including Browning’s
“Men and Women,” and Barrett Browning’s “Aurora Leigh” — and this period is
widely considered the most productive
of their lives. But more than 150 years
after Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s
death ended the couple’s Florentine
idyll, they seem largely forgotten by
their muse, overshadowed by Dante,
Michelangelo’s David and the city’s
other treasures. There is no doubt that
Florence left a mark on the Brownings.
But during a visit last May, I set out to
discover whether the Brownings had
left their mark on Florence.
Even in the 19th century, Florence
was a popular tourist destination, particularly for upper-crust Victorians
who, continuing the previous century’s
tradition of the Grand Tour, flocked
there to enhance their knowledge of art
and the classics. Indeed, the city’s touristy reputation initially deterred the
Brownings — freshly arrived from England, they lingered for months in Pisa,
planning only a brief stop in Florence
before heading to Rome. But when they
arrived in Florence in 1847, they found
themselves captured by the city’s sublime beauty. “Florence holds us with a
glittering eye; there’s a charm cast
round us, and we can’t get away,” Elizabeth wrote in a letter to a friend.
After a few false starts, the couple
(along with Elizabeth’s loyal lady’s
maid, Wilson, and dog, Flush) settled
“six paces from the Piazza Pitti” in a
grand suite of rooms they called Casa
Guidi. “I am very happy — happier and
happier,” wrote Elizabeth in one of her
many letters. Tuscany’s temperate climate suited her frail health — and Italy’s
reasonable prices suited both poets’
slim pocketbooks (which were even
slimmer after Elizabeth’s father, furious
at her marriage, disowned her). They
quickly made friends within a large
community of English-speaking artists
and writers who had moved to the city
for similar reasons.
Armed with a reprint of an antique
map, I set out to find some of the BritishFlorentine haunts of the Brownings and
their friends. At first glance, the city’s
center — its magnificent, well-manicured architecture shining with eternal
beauty — appeared untouched since the
Renaissance. But the particular establishments I sought, once popular among
the Brownings and their set, had long
ago disappeared. At Piazza Santa
Trinita, I gazed at the Palazzo Bartolini
Salembeni, a majestic structure that
once housed the Hotel du Nord, popular
among well-heeled travelers; today the
building is privately owned, its doors
firmly shut and bolted. On the elegant
shopping street, Via de’ Tornabuoni, I
looked for the ornate, gilded interiors of
the Gran Caffé Doney — a British favorite featured in the Franco Zeffirelli film
“Tea with Mussolini” — but instead
found a boutique hotel. Even the British
Consulate had vanished; I later learned
that it closed in 2011, shuttered after 500
years of diplomatic presence in Florence.
At the massive Palazzo Strozzi, I did
find the Gabinetto Vieusseux, a private
lending library frequented by Robert
where, for a hefty membership fee, he
read English periodicals and exchanged
Clockwise from above: the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy; at the Ponte Vecchio; and the drawing room at Casa Guidi, the couple’s residence in Florence.
Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett
Browning. The 15 years the couple spent
in Florence are widely considered the
most productive of their lives.
ideas with other expatriates. But the institute moved to its current location only
several decades ago, and the collection
is open to visitors solely by appointment.
I crossed to the other side of the Arno,
pausing to admire the statues on the
Ponte Santa Trinita. The river sparkled
before me, edged with pastel-colored
Renaissance buildings, the gaptoothed,
medieval clock tower of the Palazzo Vecchio looming above jagged red rooftops.
It occurred to me that here, in this “most
beautiful of cities devised by man,” as
Elizabeth once described it, perhaps the
luster of the Brownings had simply
faded — and compared to all this, whose
Still endeavoring to retrace their daily
footsteps, I entered the Boboli Gardens
from a side gate on Via Romana. Their
rent at Casa Guidi included free admission to these manicured grounds of the
Palazzo Pitti, and the couple often came
here with their son, Pen, a beloved only
child who was born in Florence in 1849
after Elizabeth had suffered two miscarriages (childhood illness, combined with
a lifelong morphine addiction, compounded her health problems).
Back on the Via Romana, I turned toward the Casa Guidi, only a few steps
away. Sweeping across the first floor of a
15th-century palazzo, the Brownings’
former apartment is today owned by
Eton College, which maintains it as a
museum, open three days a week from
April to November; the Landmark
Fruit at the Mercato di Sant’Ambrogio, a lively food market in Florence.
Trust, a British nonprofit organization,
also manages it as a holiday rental. Inside the imposing, high-ceilinged rooms
I gazed at décor replicated from the
Brownings’ era, including stiff Victorian
furniture, drawing room walls of seafoam green and heavy red curtains. Elizabeth’s desk stands in the center of the
drawing room, facing a bank of tall windows. In this spot, she wrote some of her
finest work, including “Casa Guidi Windows,” a book-length poem inspired by
the pageantry unfolding on the street
On Sept. 12, 1847 — the Brownings’
first wedding anniversary — the couple
watched 40,000 people parade past their
windows in an enormous political demonstration heralding the Risorgimento,
the movement for Italian unification.
The crowd’s “joy and exultation,” “the
white handkerchiefs fluttering like
doves,” the banners reading “Liberty,”
“The Union of Italy,” and “the Memory
of the Martyrs,” so deeply affected Elizabeth that she wrote “Casa Guidi Windows” in passionate support of the Italian struggle for liberty:
For the heart of man beat higher
that day in Florence
flooding all her streets
And piazzas with a
tumult and desire . . . . How we gazed
from Casa Guidi windows
while, in trains of orderly procession
banners raised,
And intermittent bursts of
martial strains
Which died upon the shout,
as if amazed
By gladness beyond music —
they passed on!
Though the poem has been largely
overlooked by the English literary
canon, for Italians it became an anthem,
and Elizabeth their champion. Her passionate support of the Italian cause was
considered crucial to the movement’s
“She was so famous among Italian intellectuals and patriots,” said Elena
Capolino, the curator at Casa Guidi.
“She did so much for unification. Even
today Elizabeth Barrett Browning is
considered the poet of the Risorgimento.”
Alas, Elizabeth never witnessed Italy’s unification, which wasn’t fully realized until 1871. She succumbed to a final
illness in 1861 — “we believe it was tuberculosis,” Ms. Capolino said — and
died at Casa Guidi. (Modern scholars
have posited that she suffered and died
from a rare muscle disorder.) On the day
of her funeral, the shops lining the
Brownings’ street, Via Maggio, were
closed in her honor.
Her coffin was carried through the
city to the Protestant Cemetery of Florence, which is known as the English
cemetery. She is buried there, her tomb
a striking marble sarcophagus designed
by Lord Frederic Leighton, the famed
English artist. Shortly after her death, a
grieving Robert left Florence, never to
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