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2018-04-05 The New York Times International Edition

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One word
to help avoid
nuclear war
Trump finds
‘stupid’ are
in cross hairs
Jeffrey Lewis
There has been a lot of talk lately
about Kim Jong-un’s willingness to
discuss the “denuclearization” of the
Korean Peninsula. It’s a cumbersome
word and one that has given rise to
more than a few misunderstandings.
Many people, including President
Trump, seem to hear “denuclearization” and imagine a promise by Mr.
Kim to eliminate North Korea’s nuclear
arsenal, recently acquired at great
cost. But the term means more than
the North’s disarmament. It imposes
obligations on the United States, too —
even if Americans don’t want to hear
that part.
The word “denuclearization” is more
or less native to the Korean Peninsula.
This wasn’t the term
experts used to talk
‘Denuclearabout the elimination
ization’ is a
of nuclear weapons
strange term,
programs in South
unique to
Africa, Iraq or Libya.
the Korean
In those contexts,
the word was almost
always “disarmaBut it works
for now.
So why have diplomats this time chosen the far more
complicated word “denuclearization”?
Because the situation is, well, far more
The term itself is a relic from the
1990s, the moment in which the ongoing crisis over North Korea’s nuclear
ambitions began. At the end of the Cold
War, the only nuclear weapons on the
Korean Peninsula were American. The
problem, from an American perspective, was that North Korea wanted to
acquire nuclear weapons capabilities
of its own. Ultimately, President
George H.W. Bush’s administration
chose to withdraw American nuclear
weapons from South Korea as part of
an effort to seek a diplomatic solution
to the North’s nuclear ambitions. For a
moment, it seemed like it would work:
After the 1991 withdrawal of American
nuclear weapons, South Korea and
North Korea signed in 1992 a joint
declaration on “the denuclearization of
the Korean Peninsula.”
“Denuclearization” was conveniently
abstract. That allowed it to capture
different aspects of what James Baker,
Mr. Bush’s secretary of state, called
“the nuclear problem on the Korean
Peninsula.” It covered at the same time
the nuclear weapons that the United
States withdrew from South Korea, the
so-called “nuclear umbrella” of extended deterrence provided by the
United States, and North Korea’s own
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
Amazon isn’t only target
as president makes his
disagreements personal
A national workfare program has found jobs for 73 of the 472 residents of Siklosnagyfalu, Hungary. But in winter, “There really isn’t that much work,” one participant said.
Miracle or mirage for Hungary?
Prime minister trumpets
economy, but conditions
aren’t quite so glowing
In seeking re-election, Hungary’s farright prime minister, Viktor Orban,
claims to have conjured an economic
miracle since taking office eight years
ago. One village shows he is right — and
After winning power in 2010, Mr. Orban implemented a vast workfare program in which menial tasks have been
given to hundreds of thousands of jobseekers — including 73 of the 472 residents of Siklosnagyfalu, a village near
the southern border.
As a result, there are roughly half as
many jobseekers in the village as there
were before Mr. Orban took office. (Over
the same period, the national unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8 percent from
11.4 percent.)
But the woolly nature of the jobs program in Siklosnagyfalu and hundreds of
similar towns has left critics asking
whether all is really as it seems — and
whether workfare participants are really working.
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in office since 2010 and is seeking reelection. Allies say that “Orbanomics” will most likely decide the election on Sunday.
In the summer, program participants
in Siklosnagyfalu are kept busy, said Gyongyi Orgyan, who takes part in a farming project. But in winter, “there really
isn’t that much work,” she said. “There
are days when we don’t do anything.”
Mr. Orban has relentlessly transformed Hungary’s political system and
remade the country's institutions and
society — efforts that have been roundly
condemned by democracy advocates.
But the prime minister’s allies say that
Hungarians really care about his successful stewardship of the economy and
that “Orbanomics” will most likely decide the election on Sunday.
“People feel that they have a much
better life in terms of the economy,” said
Istvan Lovas, a radio host and one of Mr.
Orban’s most prominent supporters.
“Whatever figures you look at, they are
clearly improving.”
In many cases, that is true. Government debt, as a proportion of Hungary’s
gross domestic product, is down over 6
percent since 2010. The country’s credit
ratings have improved. The budget
deficit has roughly halved. Growth has
almost quadrupled. Wages are up more
than 10 percent. Though still high, deprivation has fallen by nearly half — not
least in places like Siklosnagyfalu,
where villagers benefit from their workfare wages. Officially, unemployment
has dropped by nearly two-thirds.
“Hungary has been on the right
track,” Mihaly Varga, the economy minister, wrote in an email that cited most of
these positive developments. “Now everyone who is capable of work and
wants to work can find a job.”
But critics argue that things are not as
rosy as the traditional macroeconomic
measures suggest.
Since Mr. Orban came to power, Hungary has slipped to 29th place from 20th
on the Euro Health Consumer Index, a
comparison of European health systems. Student performance in reading,
math and science has worsened, according to the Program for International Student Assessment, which compares
global education systems.
And as other Central European countries have become less corrupt, Hungary has become significantly more so, according to the World Bank’s Worldwide
Governance Indicators. During Mr. OrHUNGARY, PAGE 4
Amazon, you’re not alone.
President Trump once accused Verizon of making “a STUPID deal” for AOL.
He ridiculed Coca-Cola as “garbage” —
but said he would keep drinking it. He
called both H&R Block and Nordstrom
“terrible.” He said Sony had “really
stupid leadership” and described executives at S&P Global, a financial firm, as
Before and after he became president,
Mr. Trump attacked tech firms, military
contractors, carmakers, cellphone companies, financial firms, drug companies,
air-conditioner makers, sports leagues,
Wall Street giants — and many, many
media companies, which he has labeled
“shameful,” “dishonest,” “true garbage,”
“really dumb,” “phony,” “failing” and,
broadly, “the enemy of the American
Lately, Mr. Trump’s antibusiness
rants have become particularly menacing and caused the stocks of some companies to plunge. His Twitter posts have
carried with them the threat, sometimes
explicit, that he is prepared to use the
power of the presidency to undermine
the companies that anger him.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, long
a booster of Republican presidents, is
not happy. “It’s inappropriate for government officials to use their position to
attack an American company,” said Neil
Bradley, the executive vice president
and chief policy officer of the chamber.
Mr. Bradley, who did not specifically
name Mr. Trump, added that criticism of
companies from politicians “undermines economic growth and job creation.”
Amazon’s stock price dropped
sharply before rebounding this week after Mr. Trump threatened the company
with possible antitrust action. The president’s remark in November that the
merger of AT&T and Time Warner
would not be “good for the country”
roiled the continuing antitrust fight between the companies and the government. His earlier complaint on Twitter
that Boeing’s $4 billion price for a new
generation of Air Force One was “out of
control” forced a fresh round of negotiations, although the price fell only to $3.9
Most presidents have clashed with
business interests and industries, sometimes in ways that generated headlines.
President Trump, in office 14 months,
still sounds like the armchair statesman who ran in 2016. PAGE 4
Where slaves once stood,
museum is long past due
School without classrooms
Afgan students taking a test in a field. Many
districts’ classrooms have been damaged in years of fighting. PAGE 3
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +&!"!?!#![
The unmarked property, beside a big,
bland postwar apartment building, is
now an empty grass lot and de facto
park. Cabin cruisers gently bob at a
In this part of Charleston, S.C., just
north of the historic, postcard district,
industry has increasingly been giving
way to boxy condominium developments with names like The Gadsden,
after this city’s Revolutionary War-era
patriot, merchant and sometime slave
trader Christopher Gadsden.
Justice delayed, as the saying goes.
If justice is to be served, that empty
plot, still awaiting private donations
and $11 million in state funding, will be
occupied by a subdued, modernist,
47,000-square-foot pavilion raised
above the ground on thick columns
clad in precast oyster-shell tabby.
It will house the International African American Museum.
A graceful project, long discussed
and years overdue, the museum has
brought together two very different
talents, the veteran architect Harry
Cobb, from Pei Cobb Freed & Partners,
and Walter Hood, the landscape designer from Oakland, Calif.
Its louvered windows facing the
waterfront will direct views past Fort
Sumter toward the Atlantic Ocean —
and Africa. In and around the plaza
created below the lofted building, a
memorial garden, planted with native
grasses, will lead toward a shallow
tidal pool whose stone floor is inscribed with the shapes of bodies
crammed together, as slaves were, in
the bowels of ships that landed here.
Right here. The spot used to be
Gadsden’s Wharf. Historians estimate
that nearly half of all African slaves
Andorra € 3.70
Antilles € 4.00
Austria € 3.50
Bahrain BD 1.40
Belgium € 3.50
Bos. & Herz. KM 5.50
Cameroon CFA 2700
Canada CAN$ 5.50
Croatia KN 22.00
Cyprus € 3.20
Czech Rep CZK 110
Denmark Dkr 30
Egypt EGP 28.00
Estonia € 3.50
Finland € 3.50
France € 3.50
Gabon CFA 2700
Germany € 3.50
Great Britain £ 2.20
Greece € 2.80
Hungary HUF 950
Israel NIS 13.50
Israel / Eilat NIS 11.50
Italy € 3.40
Ivory Coast CFA 2700
Jordan JD 2.00
Kazakhstan US$ 3.50
Latvia € 3.90
Lebanon LBP 5,000
Luxembourg € 3.50
Malta € 3.40
Montenegro € 3.40
Morocco MAD 30
Norway Nkr 33
Oman OMR 1.40
Poland Zl 15
Portugal € 3.50
Qatar QR 12.00
Republic of Ireland ¤ 3.40
Reunion € 3.50
Saudi Arabia SR 15.00
Senegal CFA 2700
Serbia Din 280
Slovakia € 3.50
Slovenia € 3.40
Spain € 3.50
Sweden Skr 35
Switzerland CHF 4.80
Syria US$ 3.00
The Netherlands € 3.50
Tunisia Din 5.200
Turkey TL 11
U.A.E. AED 14.00
United States $ 4.00
United States Military
(Europe) $ 2.00
Issue Number
No. 42,008
© Didier Gourdon
2 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
page two
Museum is long past due
brought to America arrived in Charleston, most of them at Gadsden’s Wharf.
At 840 feet long, it was, two centuries
ago, the largest wharf in America.
Thousands of Africans waited in the
wharf’s warehouses to be auctioned
In what has become a parking lot,
just inland, 700 of them froze to death.
For millions of African-Americans
today, the site is “ground zero,” as the
Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates,
Jr., has put it, for “blackness, black
culture, the African experience, the
African-American experience, slavery
— however you want to slice it.”
Every era erects, removes, amends
— or ignores — monuments. Monuments and historical museums are
always mirrors, advertisements, time
bombs. Hardly a street or building in
Germany today lacks some sign or
plaque, redressing the past. It was the
proposed removal of a Jim Crow-era
statue of Robert E. Lee that became
the excuse for the neo-Nazi rally in
Charlottesville, Va., last year, where a
white nationalist is to go on trial late
this year in the death of a protester at
the event.
Unlike Virginia, South Carolina
hasn’t taken down Confederate monuments. Much has changed here, but
much has not. The state’s most recent
proposal for social studies standards in
public schools doesn’t mention the Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa
The Emanuel African Methodist
Episcopal Church in Charleston where
a young white man massacred nine
black congregants in 2015 is in the
shadow of the city’s tallest monument
(another Jim Crow relic) of the antebellum vice president and proud white
supremacist John C. Calhoun.
It has been nearly two decades since
Joseph P. Riley Jr., Charleston’s mayor
at the time, floated the idea of a museum of African-American culture and
history, on a different site, nearby. A
dozen years passed, then more.
Mr. Riley retired in 2016, after 40
years in office, having been elected
during the 1970s as a racial bridge
builder. White racists called him “L’il
Black Joe” when he appointed a black
police chief in 1975. Charleston prospered over the intervening decades.
But gentrification had its effects.
Two-thirds black in the early 1980s, the
population has become 70 percent
white. I suggested to Mr. Riley the
other day that Charleston can come
across to a visitor as Disneyland for
the Confederacy, still enthralled by its
era of slavery, with a monument on
seemingly every downtown corner
commemorating some Confederate
soldier, plantation aristocrat or antebellum judge who opposed Lincoln.
“It’s a process,” he replied. “We
worked hard while I was mayor to
avoid alienation, to make this a city
where everyone feels welcome. When I
was in school, they didn’t teach us
about slavery. I really only learned the
truth about how slaves were treated
when I had already been in office for
many years. That’s when I began to
think seriously about the museum.”
But without enough money or much
public enthusiasm, the plan sputtered.
A rendering of the proposed International African American Museum in Charleston, S.C., which would be built on the site of a former wharf where African slaves landed.
Michael Boulware Moore, the museum’s president, said his ancestors were among the
slaves who arrived in shackles at the wharf.
Mr. Moore’s ancestor, Robert Smalls,
commandeered a Confederate ship.
Then excavations turned up traces of
Gadsden’s Wharf in the muck beneath
the grassy lot. Through the exhibition
designer Ralph Appelbaum, Mr. Riley
reached out to Mr. Cobb.
Pretty much the architect’s first
question: Why not build on the location
of the wharf?
work,” especially after the church
murders. “It turned out to be good that
we had a lengthy germination period.”
Now 91, the soft-spoken Mr. Cobb is
known for designing the John Hancock
Tower in Boston, 7 Bryant Park in New
York, and a variety of big, sleek buildings in between, the best of which are
By that point, the city had sold the
property to a local restaurateur, unaware of its history. Mr. Riley spent a
tidy sum buying the land back.
“Sometimes you quick-cook something, it’s a mistake,” rationalized the
former mayor, who has taken to calling
the museum his “most important
geometrically eloquent and deceptively simple. Working here with the
structural engineer Guy Nordenson, he
describes this project as an “unrhetorical work of architecture.”
But that’s not quite true. On the edge
of the cobblestoned tourist area, with
its ornate Gothic Revival-style
churches and Queen Anne houses, the
museum’s plain-spoken modernism
comes across as almost whisperingly
defiant, a turning of the page, promising a deliverance from history, modernism’s originating goal.
Moody Nolan are the architects of
record. Slender brick cladding underscores the pavilion’s long horizontal
spans and extended cantilevers on
either end. Pointed columns are meant
to make the structure’s mass appear to
float. Perching the museum on piers
will take account of rising waters. But
it’s hard not to see an allusion to a
Inside, galleries will document the
many diverse cultures Africans
brought to America, and a family center will let visitors trace their roots to
Gadsden’s Wharf.
For his part, Mr. Hood, the landscape
designer, has reimagined a constrained
and narrow property, about a footballfield long. The late, great Brazilian
architect Oscar Niemeyer was an
inspiration. Mr. Hood creates a shaded
public plaza, in the breezy space underneath the raised structure, where
people may congregate around the
building’s double-sided staircase, so
the museum can become a gathering
spot, not just a pilgrimage site.
The memorial garden and tidal pool,
at the same time, ensure that it’s recognized as hallowed ground, a place
for contemplation.
The budget for building the museum
is $75 million. The goal is for bulldozers to start digging later this year and
for construction to finish in 2020. But
there’s a hitch. No shovel will be lifted
until all the money is raised. Charleston has committed its $25 million
share, along with the land, and private
donations are approaching the $25
million goal.
But the South Carolina Legislature,
after an understanding that it would
contribute $25 million over five years,
allocated $14 million and won’t promise
the remaining $11 million. The clock is
ticking. The legislature remains in
session only until the end of May.
State Representative Brian White, a
Republican who heads South Carolina’s
House Ways and Means Committee, is
one of those holding the money back.
The museum “is not a state project and
we have a lot of state needs right now
that far outweigh a municipality’s
request,” he recently told the
Greenville News, citing competing
priorities like education.
Bobby Hitt, South Carolina’s commerce secretary, by contrast, has
pointed out that the museum will help
attract businesses to the state. It adds
a work of architectural dignity. And as
for educational value, plainly it fills a
“This ain’t a black project,” as Bakari
Sellers, a former Democrat in the state
legislature, put it to the Greenville
News. “This ain’t a Charleston project.
This is an American project.”
Or as James Baldwin said, “If you
know whence you came, there are
absolutely no limitations to where you
can go.”
One recent morning I toured the site
with Mr. Hood and Michael Boulware
Moore, the museum’s president, then
we looked out over the harbor. Mr.
Moore said his ancestors were among
the slaves who arrived in shackles at
Gadsden’s Wharf.
His great-great grandfather was
Robert Smalls, who commandeered a
Confederate ship, turning it over to
Union forces and winning freedom for
himself, his family and his crew. Smalls
became a crusading state legislator
and United States congressman during
Reconstruction. He brought free public
education to South Carolina.
A plaque honoring Smalls was installed on a squat little pillar downtown not long ago. Mr. Moore showed
me a picture of it.
Think the Stonehenge set from
“Spinal Tap.” The memorial looks tiny,
and is periodically obscured by bushes.
Not far away, a big statue on a huge
round pedestal, at the tip of the battery
facing Fort Sumter, honors the Confederate Defenders of Charleston.
Symbols matter. The past is present.
The museum would clearly be good for
more than just business.
Writer and producer pushed TV boundaries
Steven Bochco, a celebrated television
writer and producer whose sophisticated prime-time portrayals of gritty
courtrooms and police station houses
redefined television dramas and pushed
the boundaries of onscreen vulgarity
and nudity, has died in the Los Angeles
neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. He
was 74.
The cause of his death Sunday was
complications of cancer, a family
spokesman said. He had received a stem
cell transplant in October 2014 for
Over three decades starting in the
early 1980s, Mr. Bochco, whose earlier
shows “Hill Street Blues” and “L.A.
Law” upended the traditional hourlong
drama, was one of Hollywood’s most
prolific and sought-after producers. He
mixed elements of daytime soap operas
— like story lines that stretch over multiple episodes and feature a rich ensemble of characters — with a true-to-life
visual style and colorful language.
The television and movie critic David
Bianculli called Mr. Bochco “one of the
most important figures in the history of
television.” Mr. Bianculli, who has covered the entertainment industry for
more than 40 years and runs the website
TV Worth Watching, said on Sunday
that television police dramas could be
divided between those that came before
and after “Hill Street Blues.”
“We wouldn’t have the excellence on
TV, on cable, broadcast and streaming if
it wasn’t for what Steven Bochco did on
broadcast TV,” Mr. Bianculli said. “He
was a pioneer.”
On “Hill Street Blues” in the 1980s and
on “NYPD Blue” a decade later, Mr.
Bochco lent a realism to police dramas
and introduced twisting, sophisticated
story lines and subplots.
Police detectives did not solve crimes
in a single episode, and they had flaws
just like the bad guys. They drank,
swore and had messy personal lives —
provocative portrayals that caused
some episodes to carry “explicit warnings,” scared off some advertisers and
led some network affiliates to refuse to
broadcast episodes.
But his style forever changed the format.
“The idea of almost every other cop
show was that the private lives of these
folks was what happened the other 23
hours of the day that you weren’t watching them, and we turned that inside out,”
Mr. Bochco said in a 2014 interview with
The New York Times about the creation
of “Hill Street Blues” and its lasting influence.
But “Hill Street Blues” was not an
overnight success. After its first season,
in 1981, the show ranked 87th out of 96
television series in the ratings. But a few
months later, it won eight Emmy
Awards, including one for best drama,
giving “Hill Street Blues” momentum
that carried the series another six seasons on NBC. It also propelled Mr.
Bochco’s career.
In 1986, he applied his trademark
method to courtrooms, creating “L.A.
Law” on NBC. It was no “Perry Mason.”
The show brought a realism to lawyers
and law firms and accurately portrayed
legal issues, all while tackling tough and
sensitive subjects like capital punishment and AIDS.
Creator of “NYPD Blue” and
“Hill Street Blues” was called
“one of the most important
figures in the history’’ of TV.
The writer and producer Steven Bochco in 1995. He was credited with lending a realism
to police dramas and introduced twisting, sophisticated story lines and subplots.
By the late 1980s, Mr. Bochco was in
high demand. In 1987, ABC lured him
away from NBC with a first-of-its-kind
network exclusive: a $50 million deal to
create 10 series over eight years. Two
shows were hits, “NYPD Blue” and
“Doogie Howser, M.D.”
In “Doogie Howser,” a teenage doctor,
played by Neil Patrick Harris, tried to
balance his personal and professional
life. A comedy-drama, the show veered
into new territory for Mr. Bochco, but it
stuck with a core trait of his shows:
pushing the boundaries on television.
Some people criticized a 1991 episode
about the title character and his girlfriend losing their virginity.
But nothing shocked like “NYPD
Blue.” Months before the show had its
premiere in September 1993, Mr. Bochco
predicted that its nudity and explicit language would make it the first “R rated”
show on network television. In what
might have been a marketing ploy, ABC
came under tremendous fire in an orchestrated outcry that included fullpage newspaper ads.
When the first episode aired, it carried only a handful of national advertisers, and 57 of ABC’s 225 affiliates did not
broadcast it.
Shortly before the premiere, Mr.
Bochco told The Times that he believed
that “NYPD Blue” did “break ground,
though only because it goes a little farther that anything that’s gone before.”
But, he added, “It is a cop show, after
Insisting that viewers be treated like
adults, Mr. Bochco sparred with network executives and censors over details such as what percentage of a woman’s breast could appear onscreen or
how many times a profanity could be repeated.
The show, about detectives in the 15th
Precinct in Manhattan, survived the
backlash, winning numerous awards
over 12 seasons.
It did not take long for other networks
to copy the format, leading to shows like
the hospital drama “ER” on NBC. Critics
said “NYPD Blue” had lost its groundbreaking luster by the early 2000s.
By then Mr. Bochco had also helped
create “Murder One,” a well-received
1990s drama about criminal defense
Mr. Bianculli said that one of Mr.
Bochco’s lasting contributions was making characters real and relatable. Detective Andy Sipowicz on “NYPD Blue,”
played by Dennis Franz, starts out “almost irredeemable but ends up being
the soul” of the show, he said.
Without that precedent, viewers
might not have been prepared for the
likes of Walter White in “Breaking Bad”
or Tony Soprano in “The Sopranos,” he
Steven Ronald Bochco was born on
Dec. 16, 1943, in New York City. His father, Rudolph, who was born in Poland
and came to the United States at the age
of 3, was a concert violinist. His mother,
Mimi, was a painter. The couple also had
a daughter, Joanna.
Mr. Bochco is survived by his wife,
Dayna; two sons, Jesse Bochco and
Sean Flanagan; a daughter, Melissa
Bochco; and two grandchildren. Mr.
Bochco was previously married to the
actress Barbara Bosson, who played
Fay Furillo, the ex-wife of Capt. Frank
Furillo, on “Hill Street Blues.”
Mr. Bochco grew up in New York City,
attended Manhattan High School of Music and Art and then the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh.
In an interview with Mr. Bianculli for his
book “The Platinum Age of Television:
From ‘I Love Lucy’ to ‘The Walking
Dead,’ How TV Became Terrific,” Mr.
Bochco said his parents had had “zero
interest” in buying a television set.
“It was quite the contrary: They were
in the minus territory,” he said. Eventually, a group of friends and neighbors
pitched in to buy a television for his sister and him.
After college, Mr. Bochco moved with
his first wife to Los Angeles and began a
writing job at Universal Studios. He
wrote the script for the introductory
episode of the detective series “Columbo” in 1971, working with Steven
Spielberg on it. He moved to the production company MTM Enterprises in the
late 1970s and was later chosen to help
write a police drama ordered by NBC.
Mr. Bochco said that for “Hill Street
Blues,” he had studied a police documentary and aimed to make the series
“dimensional,” filling every part of a
scene and a frame with something important.
Alan Yuhas contributed reporting.
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THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 3
Israeli leader shows
influence of hard-liners
Prime minister explains
his reversal on migrants
as response to his backers
Katol Lo, one of Coffee & Laundry’s founders, said the rapid growth of laundromats in Hong Kong was directly tied to the city’s housing issues.
Hong Kong discovers laundromats
With no room for washers
in tiny apartments, more
take out their dirty laundry
On a bustling Hong Kong street lined
with dried-seafood stores, where baskets of sea cucumber vie for space with
scallops and abalone, one shop stands
out. Amid the pungent smells of dried
fish and shrimp, the scents of brewed
coffee and freshly laundered clothes
come wafting out of the aptly named
Coffee & Laundry.
The shop — half cafe and half laundromat — offers customers a variety of
drinks and pastries, along with 10 selfservice washing machines and dryers.
Washing their own clothes at a laundromat is a new experience for Hong
Kong residents. The first self-service
laundromat is believed to have opened
only in 2014. Since then, the number has
taken off: More than 180 laundromats
had appeared by the beginning of this
year, according to one estimate.
The reason for the proliferation is
Hong Kong’s increasingly acute shortage of affordable housing. As prices
keep soaring in what is already the
world’s most expensive property market, residents have had to squeeze into
ever smaller apartments, leaving little
room for washers and dryers.
The average size of a newly constructed apartment in 2017 was 354
square feet, according to the city’s building department, down from 420 square
feet in 2013. And the units are only getting tinier: Thousands of so-called micro-apartments, smaller than 200
square feet, are expected to be built by
2020, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a
global real estate services firm.
“This is an industry created by Hong
Kong’s housing issues,” said Katol Lo,
one of Coffee & Laundry’s founders.
“Even if there’s space for a washer,
where would people dry their clothes?”
For a long time, the answer was high
An outlet of the LaundrYup chain in the Hung Hom neighborhood. The first full-service
laundromat in Hong Kong opened in 2014; today there are more than 180 laundromats.
above Hong Kong’s busy streets. Laundry hung out to dry on poles sticking out
from the sides of buildings was so ubiquitous that it was jokingly called Hong
Kong’s national flag.
That began to change in the 1980s
when washing machines and dryers became affordable as Hong Kong got
wealthier, buoyed by the opening up of
China’s economy and the city’s establishment as a major financial center.
Walk around Hong Kong’s public
housing blocks and old tenement buildings today and it becomes clear that
many people still hang their clothes outside to dry. But rising incomes have allowed many residents to move into
sleek, glass apartment towers, without
all the visible hanging laundry.
Now, as housing prices grow ever
higher per square foot, the challenge is
no longer affording the washing and
drying machines, but finding the space
to put them.
One result has been a surge in demand for drop-off service at commercial
laundries, which have long been common in Hong Kong. That has led to such
a backlog at some laundries that
customers face days-long waits to get
their clothes back.
Enter self-service laundromats.
On a recent evening after work, Michael Bolger, 27, sat reading a dog-eared
book while waiting for his clothes at Coffee & Laundry.
Mr. Bolger, a native of Ireland who
works at a Bitcoin exchange, said that
when he first moved to Hong Kong in
2016 his flat was too small to fit a dryer,
and the humidity prevented his clothes
from drying properly on a line. For a
while he used a drop-off laundry, but his
clothes would sometimes come back
with tears and stains.
“It’s nice to just sit and read in a place
that’s not your apartment,” he said of
Coffee & Laundry. “It’s kind of therapeutic, sitting here and watching the washing machines.”
Not far from Coffee & Laundry is a
branch of LaundrYup, a local chain of
self-service laundromats. The shop,
steps away from a street full of antique
stores, is tiny and strictly functional,
with shiny white floor tiles, bright fluorescent lights and a single red bench. Instead of a cafe, there are lockers rented
out to SF Express, a logistics company.
Patten Mak, the chain’s operations
manager, said the combination of high
demand and low maintenance and labor
costs made it possible for even a tiny
laundromat to earn the equivalent of
thousands of dollars per month, enough
to entice new chains to enter the market.
Across the harbor, in the workingclass neighborhood of Tai Kok Tsui, a
woman tapped away at a game of mahjongg on her phone while waiting for her
sheets to dry at a branch of Water Laundry, another local chain. Nearly every
inch of the wall in the small laundromat
was covered with machines.
“Us working class, we don’t have the
money to buy a washing machine, and
there’s no space to dry clothes at home,”
said the 40-year-old woman, who gave
her name as Ms. Lo. She said she lived in
a cramped 90-square-foot subdivided
flat with her husband.
“This is an economic problem,” she
said. “You wouldn’t use this kind of laundromat, if you have money.”
The spread of laundromats has begun
to alter the social fabric of the city. Laundry, which was once done in private, has
been forced into the public realm, said
Jianxiang Huang, a professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Design
at the University of Hong Kong.
“This is essentially changing the way
people socialize, the way people live
their lives, changing their mind-sets,”
Mr. Huang said.
That is exactly the goal of Mr. Lo, the
co-founder of Coffee & Laundry, who
said he wanted his shop to be as much a
neighborhood hangout as a place to
wash clothes. To this end, he has put tables on the sidewalk and scheduled
events like an exhibition featuring a local comic book artist.
On a recent evening, there was a
steady trickle of customers into Coffee &
Laundry. Some milled around in slippers and pajama pants, counting down
the last few minutes of the dryer cycle.
Others said they had come for the coffee
and ambience.
“Now in Hong Kong, people aren’t always very neighborly,” Mr. Lo said.
Since opening Coffee & Laundry, however, “I’ve gotten to know my neighbors
and the owners of dried seafood shops
Saudi prince says Israelis have a right to land
Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince
has said that Israelis “have the right to
have their own land” and that formal relations between Israel and the kingdom
could be mutually beneficial.
The comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in an interview
published on Monday reflected the distinctly warmer tone toward Israel
adopted recently by the de facto ruler of
a powerful Arab country that once opposed Israel’s right to exist.
Saudi Arabia and Israel still have no
formal relations, and Saudi leaders have
historically criticized the Jewish state
for its treatment of the Palestinians and
for limiting access to Muslim holy sites
in Jerusalem.
But the kingdom’s stance toward Israel has changed with the rise of Prince
Mohammed, 32, who is seeking to overhaul Saudi Arabia’s economy and its
place in the world. His words on Monday
were actually less harsh toward the Palestinians than reports of his previous
Instead of seeing Israel as an enemy,
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of
Saudi Arabia in New York last month.
Prince Mohammed has come to view
the Jewish state as an attractive regional economic and technological hub
as well as a potential partner in the kingdom’s cold war with Iran. And part of
that is recognizing Israel’s right to exist,
preferably in the context of a peace deal
with the Palestinians.
“I believe that each people, anywhere,
has a right to live in their peaceful nation,” Prince Mohammed told Jeffrey
Goldberg of The Atlantic. “I believe the
Palestinians and the Israelis have the
right to have their own land. But we
have to have a peace agreement to assure the stability for everyone and to
have normal relations.”
The establishment of formal relations, he said, would benefit both nations, and their neighbors.
“Israel is a big economy compared to
their size and it’s a growing economy,
and of course there are a lot of interests
we share with Israel — and if there is
peace, there would be a lot of interest between Israel and the Gulf Cooperation
Council countries and countries like
Egypt and Jordan,” he said.
Prince Mohammed has a close relationship with the Trump administration,
and especially with the president’s sonin-law and adviser, Jared Kushner,
whom the president has deputized to try
to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The details of Mr. Kushner’s peace
plan have yet to be released, but it is
widely believed that they are being coordinated with Prince Mohammed to try
to get buy-in from the wider Arab world.
Small signs of a thaw between Israel
and the kingdom have emerged re-
cently. Saudi Arabia allowed a commercial airline flight to Israel to pass
through its airspace last month, and
many in the region suspect that covert
contacts between the two countries
have grown, although the kingdom denies this.
Reflecting a divide in the Saudi leadership over how to approach Israel,
Prince Mohammed’s father, King
Salman, emphasized Palestinian rights
in a phone call with Mr. Trump, the Saudi
state news service said on Tuesday.
The king restated “the kingdom’s
steadfast position toward the Palestinian issue and the legitimate rights of the
Palestinian people to an independent
state with Jerusalem as its capital,” the
king said. He made no mention of Israel.
In the interview, Prince Mohammed
also played down the extent of antiSemitism in Saudi society, which has
historically been reinforced by government clerics and textbooks.
“Our country doesn’t have a problem
with Jews,” Prince Mohammed said,
adding that the Prophet Muhammad
married a Jewish woman and that many
Jews work in the kingdom.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
has backed down under pressure before,
but rarely in such spectacular fashion as
he did this week, when he reneged on a
deal with the United Nations to resettle
thousands of African asylum seekers in
Western countries.
Mr. Netanyahu announced the deal to
great fanfare on Monday, only to suspend it a few hours later. On Tuesday, he
canceled it completely and defended his
abrupt reversal, saying he was responding to an outcry from members of his
conservative Likud party and from partners in his governing coalition who routinely refer to the migrants as “infiltrators” and want all of them expelled.
But the capitulation dented Mr. Netanyahu’s image as a master political
“This sort of zigzagging is not at all
unusual,” said Gadi Wolfsfeld, a professor of political communications at the
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya near
Tel Aviv. “But for someone considered
such a political genius to make such a
miscalculation, that’s the surprising
part of the story.”
The episode was a reminder of how
beholden Mr. Netanyahu is to hard-liners in his party and his government,
constraining him domestically and diplomatically, whether in making concessions to the Palestinians or in fulfilling
an agreement to create an egalitarian
prayer space at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“To sign an agreement and the next
day to renege on it, that’s awful,” Mr.
Wolfsfeld said. “I guess that means you
can’t sign anything with Israel.”
The deal with the United Nations refugee agency might have given Israel a
bit of relief from international criticism
of the latest violence along the border
with Gaza, where Israeli forces killed at
least 16 Palestinians on Friday during a
mass protest against Israel’s longstanding blockade of the territory and in support of Palestinian claims to return to
homes in what is now Israel.
Instead, it proved to be an international embarrassment.
Mr. Netanyahu’s latest troubles come
at a time when he is already embroiled
in multiple corruption scandals that
could end up bringing down him and his
government. But he still consistently
ranks in polls as the most suitable candidate, by far, for the country’s top job and
is already Israel’s second-longest-serving prime minister, after the state’s
founder, David Ben-Gurion.
Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud party and his
coalition partners have so far stuck by
him despite the growing list of corruption allegations against him. But the migrant deal — which took most of his
partners in the government by surprise
— riled some of his closest allies.
As has often happened in the past, Mr.
Netanyahu changed direction in the
wake of harsh criticism from Naftali
Bennett, the education minister and
leader of the Jewish Home party. While
the far-right Jewish Home is in Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, it also competes
with his Likud party for votes.
Bezalel Smotrich, a Jewish Home legislator, said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he would be willing to topple
the government over the migrant issue.
“We want the state of Israel to remain
a Jewish state,” he said. “And this means
sticking to the right migration policy.”
Tal Schneider, the political correspondent for Globes, an Israeli financial
newspaper, said of Mr. Netanyahu’s reversal: “It shows weakness.”
Mr. Netanyahu said he had made the
deal with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees because it
seemed the only way to reduce the population of African migrants in Israel,
who number at least 35,000. The mi-
grants, mostly Eritreans and Sudanese
who surreptitiously crossed the border
from Egypt before it was sealed in 2012,
cannot be returned to their own countries under international conventions
for fear of persecution.
The deal with the United Nations refugee agency was meant to replace a
contentious Israeli plan to forcibly deport the migrants to Rwanda. That plan
fell through because of legal obstacles
and after Rwanda said it would accept
only asylum seekers who left Israel voluntarily. Given the lack of options, Mr.
Netanyahu apparently thought he
would be able to sell the new plan to his
Mr. Netanyahu first trumpeted the
deal on Monday in a live television
broadcast, saying it was an extraordinary plan to resettle nearly half of Israel’s African asylum seekers in Western countries. An equal number would
have been granted legal status to stay in
Israel. Several hours later, he suspended the deal, crumpling under the
pressure from its opponents. By midday
Tuesday, he had canceled it.
“Each year, I make thousands of decisions for the benefit of the state of Israel
and its citizens. From time to time, a decision is taken that must be reconsidered,” Mr. Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
“Despite the growing legal obstacles
and international difficulties, we will
continue to act with determination to exhaust all the possibilities available to us
to remove the infiltrators,” Mr. Netanyahu said, quickly falling back on the rhetoric of his base.
The United Nations refugee agency
said it regretted Israel’s decision.
“U.N.H.C.R. continues to believe that
a win-win agreement that would both
benefit Israel and people needing asylum is in everyone’s best interests. And
“To sign an agreement and
the next day to renege on it,
that’s awful. I guess that
means you can’t sign anything
with Israel.”
we encourage the government of Israel
to consider the matter further,” the
agency said.
William Spindler, a spokesman for the
United Nations refugee agency in Geneva, said it found out about Mr. Netanyahu’s retreat only through a late-night
post on his Facebook page.
Mr. Netanyahu appears to have
burned bridges with Rwanda. Until this
week, the Israeli government had not
named Rwanda as the main African destination for migrants deported from Israel, only referring obliquely to a secret
agreement with a “third country.”
But in his Facebook post on Monday
night, Mr. Netanyahu identified the
country as Rwanda, saying it had
agreed to take in migrants who had been
deported from Israel without their consent, but then capitulated under outside
pressure. In response, Rwanda’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Olivier
Nduhungirehe, told Israel’s public
broadcaster, Kan Radio, on Tuesday that
Rwanda had never agreed to take in the
asylum seekers, either in writing or
orally, adding that Mr. Netanyahu’s
Facebook post “changes the way we
should respond.”
To many in Israel, opposition to the
United Nations plan makes little sense
because all the migrants will remain in
Israel, and in limbo, for the foreseeable
Daniel B. Shapiro, a former United
States ambassador to Israel, commended Mr. Netanyahu on Twitter for
the migrant deal soon after it was announced. But he then wrote in a subsequent post: “I guess I have to eat my
words. Advocates for Israel like me will
have a hard time explaining reneging on
a signed international agreement. And
the crisis facing Israel and its asylum
seekers remains unaddressed, helping
no one.”
Nick Cumming-Bruce contributed reporting from Geneva.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel canceled a deal with the United Nations
on African migrants a day after he had announced it with great fanfare.
4 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
School days, at times
with Taliban support
Corruption at all levels
is hurting a fractured
system in Afghanistan
President Trump has ousted aides with more conventional views of American power in favor of more hawkish figures at secretary of state and national security adviser.
Still talking like a candidate
President is falling back
on familiar mix of hostility
and isolationism on policy
President Trump has been commander
in chief for 14 months, but to an uncanny
degree he still sounds like the armchair
statesman who ran for the White House
in 2016.
“I want to get out,” Mr. Trump said of
the United States’ military engagement
in Syria, at a news conference on Tuesday with leaders of the Baltic states. “I
want to bring our troops back home.”
Mr. Trump’s words were at odds with
the strategy his administration is pursuing in Syria. But they were almost verbatim what he said in pre-election
tweets, as well as in debates against Republican challengers and his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Far from learning on the job or modifying his views to fit the imperatives of
America’s global role — as did so many
of his predecessors — Mr. Trump is falling back on the familiar mix of belligerence and isolationism that fueled his
“America First” campaign.
The NATO alliance, he said, was “delinquent.” Russia is a partner with
whom, he insisted, “I think I could have
a very good relationship.” The United
States should have “kept the oil” after
the Iraq war. Rather than pursuing military adventures abroad, he said, “I want
to get back. I want to rebuild our nation.”
Mr. Trump’s reversion to his campaign themes comes as he has shuffled
his national security team, ousting aides
with more conventional views of American power, like Secretary of State Rex W.
Tillerson and Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster,
the national security adviser, in favor of
more hawkish figures, like Mike Pompeo and John R. Bolton.
How these new players will mesh with
Mr. Trump’s throwback persona may
determine whether the president is signaling a midcourse correction in foreign
policy or merely retreating to phrases
and positions that give him comfort.
Mr. Tillerson and General McMaster
curbed some of Mr. Trump’s most radical ideas — persuading him, for example, not to rip up the Iran nuclear deal.
Along with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, they talked him into deploying more
troops to Afghanistan. Mr. Pompeo and
Mr. Bolton, analysts predict, will bend
more readily to Mr. Trump’s wishes.
Add to that a difficult midterm election, which aides say will make the president determined to cater to his political
base. And, after more than a year in office, they say Mr. Trump is more confident that his instincts are the right ones.
“He has been very consistent, essentially, since the 1980s,” said Eric S. Edelman, a former under secretary of defense for policy in the George W. Bush
administration. “He knows very little
about the world, about history, about the
policy details. But he does have strong
convictions and they are remarkably
durable and apparently impervious to
contrary evidence.”
They include, Mr. Edelman said, the
belief that his predecessors were gullible and that he will do better; that allies
have exploited the United States and
must pay back their debts; that free
trade is bad; and that military force
should be used sparingly but that “we
should be strong and scary and that will
make people afraid to screw with us.”
All those convictions were on vivid
display in the East Room on Tuesday.
Mr. Trump reiterated his contention
that the North American Free Trade
Agreement is “a phenomenal deal for
Mexico” and a “horrible deal for the
United States.” Mexico, he complained,
ran a trade surplus of more than $100 billion with the United States.
He claimed that no one had been
tougher on Russia than he, pointing to
his recently passed $700 billion defense
budget. But Mr. Trump said nothing
“He does have strong convictions
and they are remarkably durable
and apparently impervious to
contrary evidence.”
about his administration’s expulsion of
60 Russian diplomats as a punishment
for the country’s role in a nerve agent attack on a former Russian spy and his
daughter living in Britain.
Nor did Mr. Trump spare a more favored ally, Saudi Arabia, which he said
was pressing the United States to stay
militarily engaged in Syria. The White
House said the president spoke on Monday with King Salman of Saudi Arabia,
and Mr. Trump seemed to refer to the
conversation at the news conference. “I
said, ‘Well, you know, you want us to
stay, maybe you’re going to have to
pay,’” he recalled. Mr. Trump’s remarks,
which came two weeks after he welcomed the king’s heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to the White
House, left some senior officials shaking
their heads. They also created a splitscreen moment that is becoming all too
common in Washington.
Even as he was talking about withdrawing the 2,000 remaining American
troops in Syria and cutting over $200
million in recovery aid there, the administration’s point man for combating the
Islamic State, Brett McGurk, was making the case across town for more aid
and troops staying until the job is done.
Speaking at the United States Institute of Peace, Mr. McGurk said the $100
million the United States had already
spent on recovery aid — used to clear
away unexploded bombs and clean up
giant piles of war rubble in Raqqa — was
essential to allow many of the one million displaced residents to return home.
Mr. Trump’s order to suspend the future aid, pending a review, “is not hampering our work in the field,” Mr.
McGurk insisted. He also seemed to
suggest that American troops were not
leaving anytime soon.
Above all, Mr. Trump has taken pride
in delivering on his campaign promises.
Earlier on Tuesday at a working lunch
with the Baltic leaders, he noted that he
had campaigned against trade deficits
and was taking aim at them, with China.
He has also promised to move the
American Embassy to Jerusalem from
Tel Aviv — and has done so, even at the
risk of jeopardizing his goal of a peace
deal between Israel and the Palestinians. But Bill Clinton and George W.
Bush both promised to move the embassy during their campaigns, too, only to
reverse course later when they realized
the costs of such a decision.
“The best and most intelligent presidents are adaptive,” said R. Nicholas
Burns, a diplomat who served in the
Clinton and Bush administrations.
“They reconsider some of their views
from the campaign. I worry that we are
looking at someone who is not adaptive
— who is not learning on the job.”
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting.
Economic miracle for Hungary, or a mirage?
ban’s first six years in power, five of his
closest friends were awarded roughly 5
percent of public procurement contracts, a total of $2.5 billion, according to
an analysis by the Corruption Research
Center Budapest.
Mr. Orban’s successes have also
partly been the result of factors beyond
his control. Under Mr. Orban, G.D.P. has
been unusually dependent on money
from the European Union. From 2009 to
2016, such funding constituted nearly 4
percent of Hungarian G.D.P. per year,
one of the highest ratios in the bloc, European officials have calculated.
Europe also functions as a pressure
valve for the Hungarian labor market.
The government says 730,000 new jobs
have been created since 2010 — but that
includes roughly 350,000 Hungarians
who have found work elsewhere in the
European Union, said Janos Kollo, the
research director of the Institute of Economics at the Hungarian Academy of
Mr. Orban has also benefited from the
global economic revival. “The Hungarian government was like any other government,” said Istvan Madar, a senior
analyst at Portfolio, a Hungarian financial journal. “They had some special
methods, some unorthodox measures,
but the overall Hungarian government
economic performance was no better
than any other regional government.”
Some of those measures raised eyebrows. Until Mr. Orban and his far-right
party, Fidesz, came to power, Hungarians could hold 25 percent of their retirement savings in a private fund; the rest
went into a public pot. To cut state debt,
the government announced that Hun-
A workfare program in Hungary has given menial tasks to jobseekers.
garians who did not transfer private
pension assets into the public system
would not receive a state pension. By the
time the order was ruled unconstitutional, most people had already complied.
“It was a completely unlawful blackmailing of the population,” said Balazs
Romhanyi, an economic analyst who at
the time was chief of staff at the Hungarian Budget Council, a state body that
monitors state expenditure.
(Mr. Varga, the economy minister, justified the decision by arguing that the
private pensions were “too costly,” and
that the new system had would be more
“stable and predictable.”)
The highlight of Mr. Orban’s apparent
economic success — the fall in unem-
ployment — also fades under scrutiny.
In 2017, more than 200,000 Hungarians — nearly 4 percent of the country’s
work force — participated in the government’s workfare program, and were
therefore counted as employed.
But labor economists questioned
their inclusion, since many were doing
work that did not really need to be done.
In Siklosnagyfalu, for example, 25 workfare participants are allocated to work
all year on five hectares, or about 12
acres, of public farmland — work that
requires neither that many people, nor
such a permanent assignment.
“In really small settlements, there are
no real jobs,” said Gyorgy Molnar, a specialist in workfare at the Institute for
Economics at the Hungarian Academy
of Science. “The majority of people are
working for one or two hours and then
going home.” He estimated that the real
unemployment rate in 2017 was 7.3 percent — lower than when Mr. Orban entered office, but far higher than the official rate of 4.2 percent.
The program also makes participants
more dependent on their local mayor,
who decides work assignments, and on
Fidesz, the party that expanded workfare.
In the 2014 election, Fidesz received
116 votes in Siklosnagyfalu and the runner-up nine. That result is likely to be repeated on Sunday, said the village’s independent mayor, Jozsef Kosztics, who
said he had talked with villagers about
how they planned to vote.
Though the workfare program may
skew national employment figures and
exacerbate feudal dynamics in the countryside, it has nevertheless improved
lives in Siklosnagyfalu.
Participants are paid approximately
$175 a month — less than half the minimum wage, but roughly double what
was paid out in unemployment benefits.
Four Siklosnagyfalu residents said they
could now afford to pay for heating in
the winter and to buy meat more regularly.
“This little bit of money goes a long
way in this village,” said Eva Petrovics,
60, who helps to clean the village nursery school. “The fridge is full now.”
The program has also helped to
spruce up the village.
“You can say a lot of things about the
workfare program, but one thing is certain,” Mr. Kosztics said. “For municipalities like this one, it means survival.”
Before the start of another Afghan
school year, about 200 tribal elders in
the southeastern district of Laja Mangal
gathered in a schoolyard for an important declaration: Any family that did not
send its children to school would be
fined $70, about half a civil servant’s
monthly salary.
The district of about 50,000 people
had built seven schools over the past 15
years, yet it had struggled to attract students in the mountainous area where
the Taliban also have influence. The elders, feeling old tribal customs were holding back their children, thought the
drastic measure was necessary.
“They see those people who go to
school and become important people in
the government and international organizations, so they have tasted the value
of education,” said Khayesta Khan
Ahadi, who was the headmaster of the
first school built in the district.
Mr. Ahadi said local Taliban, after outreach by the tribal elders, announced
their support for the decision from the
loudspeakers of local mosques.
The tribal elders’ decision has gained
attention across Afghanistan, not just
because it could help more children get
an education, but also because it comes
at a time when many remain deprived.
Violence and corruption have overshadowed what was once a remarkable success story.
the provincial director of education in
Despite huge donor investment in Afghan education, corruption remains one
of the major causes for its abysmal infrastructure.
The country’s education system is
marred by corruption — whether the
smallest procedures of modifying school
certificates, the appointment of teachers or the handling of school construction contracts — a damning report by
the country’s independent corruption
monitor said last year. People seeking a
teaching job could pay as much as $1,000
in bribes, nearly five months’ salary, to
secure a position.
Recently, the government has tried to
tackle corruption in the hiring of teachers by introducing a more rigorous
process through its civil service commission. The Education Ministry is the
country’s largest civil service employer.
Corruption has also been seen as a
major reason for discrepancies in enrollment numbers.
The country’s previous government
had claimed more than 11 million children were in school, with allotted resources often going into the pockets of
local and central officials. But the new
government has placed that number
anywhere from 6.2 million to a little over
nine million.
let girls be taught only by women. For
many, going to school means a walk of
many miles each day.
In certain parts of the country enjoying relative peace, however, enrollment
of girls seems higher than that of boys.
In the central Bamian Province, 58
percent of the 162,000 students are girls,
according to Ayyub Arvin, the provincial director of education.
Across the country, as violence has become the daily reality, elders have tried
to figure out local arrangements that
would reopen schools.
“The good news is that the Taliban
now want schools in their area of control
because of local pressure,” said Dawood
Shah Safari, the head of the education
department in Helmand Province in the
south, where as many as 30 school buildings are used as cover by fighters on
both sides. “Villagers keep coming to
me with letters of approval from the Taliban, asking us to open schools.”
In northeastern Warduj district,
which is largely controlled by the Taliban, officials said 16 schools that had
been closed for two years were reopening this spring after talks with the
The 13 schools in the Nawa district of
Ghazni Province in the southeast have
been closed since 2001, with no child
able to attend, according to Mujib-urRahman Ansar, the provincial director
of education.
But recently, local elders persuaded
the Taliban to allow the schools to reopen. As many as 25,000 children could
attend if the Taliban allow both boys and
girls, Mr. Ansar said.
“I must tell you that there isn’t any
professional teacher for these students,”
Mr. Ansar said. “I will hire one to two
teachers, and the guy may only be able
to read and write, with a ninth or 10th
grade education, not much more.”
The country’s Education Ministry says
it has 17,500 schools across the country,
but 1,075 remained shut last year, largely because of raging violence. The south
of the country, where violence has been
relentless over the past decade, has
been disproportionately affected by the
Activists say the number of closed
schools is even higher. Mattiullah Wesa,
who leads the organization the Pen
Path, said the group has counted 1,600
closed schools.
Of Afghanistan’s approximately 400
school districts, there are 48 districts
where not a single male student has
graduated from high school in the past
17 years, Mr. Wesa said. There are
around 130 districts from where not a
single girl has graduated from high
school in that period, he added.
Last week, as schools prepared to open
in the northern province of Kunduz, the
official ceremony in the capital city had
to be shifted because of Taliban threats.
Only a quarter of Kunduz city’s 130
schools have opened their doors to students. The rest, even those under nominal government control, are waiting for
the Taliban to approve.
The dispute seems to be over the
mechanism of paying the teachers. The
Taliban say they are not opposed to education but will keep the schools shut until the government changes the method
of paying teachers from bank deposits
to cash.
On Saturday, hundreds of teachers
marched in Kunduz city, saying they
hadn’t been paid for five months.
Mawlawi Bismillah, the Taliban’s
head of education for Kunduz, said the
group’s position was intended to reduce
the headache for teachers, who need to
make long trips to the provincial capital
to withdraw their money. It’s easier if
the money is delivered by middlemen,
he said.
Government officials say the Taliban
are pushing the change because they
want a cut.
“They should come and monitor the
payment process,” Mr. Bismillah said.
“In our areas of control, we have very
active attention and monitoring.”
That 3.5 million figure is according to
Unicef. Seventy-five percent of them are
The reasons vary. Violence remains
high and widespread. There are too few
female teachers, and many families will
There are 17,500 schools
across Afghanistan, but
1,075 remained shut last
year, largely because of
raging violence.
A survey of 32 of the country’s 34 provinces by The New York Times shows
close to half the schools lack buildings.
Provincial officials in these areas reported that more than 7,000 schools either taught in open air or had worked
out temporary arrangements for
classes in rental homes.
The provinces of Ghor and Herat in
the west, Badakhshan in the northeast,
and Nangarhar in the east had the highest number of schools without buildings,
each with at least 400.
“Even inside the city, and the centers
of the districts, we have schools that
lack buildings,” said Rohullah Mohaqeq,
Fahim Abed, Jawad Sukhanyar and Fatima Faizi contributed reporting from Kabul; Taimoor Shah from Kandahar; and
Zabihullah Ghazi from Jalalabad.
A private school in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the school year began last month. An estimated 3.5 million children in the war-ravaged country do not go to school.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 5
“We believe technology will lead us
to a 100% accessible world.”
Manel Alcaide, Co-Founder of Visualfy, Spain
Understanding that deafness creates isolation, Manel wanted to break down
barriers between the deaf and the hearing world through the use of technology.
He created Visualfy, which translates sounds into visual and sensory alerts on
a smartphone and other devices. Enabled by Android’s open-source operating
system, users can completely customise alerts in the app to their needs.
Through Visualfy, Manel brings dignity to disability and aspires to
create a world that is inclusive and accessible to all.
Watch the mini-documentary about the app that visualises
what can’t be heard:
6 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Rebound offers hope for frog species
Study scouts
a possible
for cancer
In 2013, two biologists, Jamie Voyles
and a colleague, spent weeks slogging
up and down mountainsides in Panama. “We were bug-bitten and beat up,”
recalled Dr. Voyles, an assistant professor at the University of Nevada, Reno.
Near the end of their trek, they came
to a stop. In front of them sat the object
of their quest: a single gold-and-black
“I can’t tell you what that moment
was like,” Dr. Voyles said.
She had feared that variable harlequin frogs had disappeared entirely
from Panama. As recently as the early
2000s, they had been easy to find in
the country’s high-altitude forests.
“They used to be so abundant that
you could barely walk without stepping
on them,” Dr. Voyles said.
But in recent years, Dr. Voyles and
her colleagues started to encounter
sick frogs, and then dead ones. And
then they couldn’t find any variable
harlequin frogs at all.
Many other species at Dr. Voyles’s
research sites in Panama suffered the
same grim fate. As had frogs around
the world. Dr. Voyles and other frog
researchers found that many of the
dead frogs were covered with the same
aggressive skin fungus, known as
Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, or
As Bd spread from forest to forest,
and continent to continent, researchers
feared that amphibians might suffer
mass extinctions. Today, many species
of frogs and toads are still dwindling,
and some have disappeared altogether.
But scientists like Dr. Voyles have
also found a little cause for hope: A
handful of species appear to be coming
back. After discovering variable harlequin frogs again, she and her colleagues have returned to their Panama
research sites and found a few other
species that had previously vanished.
“They’re not in large numbers —
their abundances are low,” Dr. Voyles
said. “But we think that as more time
goes by, we’ll find more species that we
thought were lost.”
Now scientists are trying to figure
out what accounts for these rebounds.
On Thursday, Dr. Voyles and her colleagues published evidence suggesting
that the frogs have gained potent
defenses in their skin against the fungus.
But other experts are divided about
whether the researchers found a cause
of the rebound. It’s possible that there
are other causes at work. Even climate
change — which is posing its own
threats to many frog species — may be
temporarily helping some frogs withstand the fungus.
When Dr. Voyles rediscovered a few
vanished frog species, she initially
suspected that the Bd fungus was
becoming less deadly. In outbreaks of
other pathogens, they have sometimes
evolved into milder forms that no
longer wipe out the hosts they depend
on for their survival.
An unexplored network
of tissue may provide
a clue to metastasis
Clockwise from top left: A healthy golden frog in the streams of Panama; a scientist handling a frog in the laboratory; a healthy variable harlequin frog in Panama; and a dead
amphibian. Scientists have found that a handful of amphibian species that they thought had vanished from the earth appear to be coming back.
To test that idea, Dr. Voyles and her
colleagues got hold of frozen Bd samples gathered in Panama in 2004, early
in the epidemic. They infected frogs
with the old fungus, and observed how
it compared to new strains of Bd. “It’s
still pretty lethal over a decade later,”
Dr. Voyles said. “So I was wrong.”
Dr. Voyles was left with the possibility that the frogs themselves had
changed. At first she found this idea
unlikely, because there hadn’t been
much time for the frogs to evolve.
While Bd can multiply in a matter of
days, it can take many months for a
frog to develop into a sexually mature
She tested the hypothesis anyway.
Dr. Voyles and her colleagues knew
that frogs fight infections with potent
skin secretions containing pathogenkilling molecules. Dr. Voyles and other
researchers have found that when they
add skin secretions to lab-grown Bd, it
slows down the fungus’s growth.
Dr. Voyles wondered if frogs had
acquired more potent skin secretions,
allowing them to rebound. To test that,
she and her colleagues collected skin
secretions from captive frogs in the
Maryland Zoo. The frogs descend from
ancestors that had been captured in
Panama before the Bd epidemic.
The researchers added skin secre-
tions from captive frogs to petri dishes
of growing Bd. They then measured
how much the frog’s secretions slowed
down the fungus’s growth.
Next they carried out the same
treatment with skin secretions taken
from rebounding populations of wild
frogs. The researchers found a big
difference between
the two trials.
“We had multiple
probably lots
species that were
of different
between two and
reasons why
fivefold different in
their effectiveness,”
said Dr. Voyles,
species have
“which is pretty
Dr. Voyles speculated that some
species of frogs included a few mutants
with skin secretions that were effective
against Bd. While many other frogs
died off, the mutants survived and
passed down their defensive genes.
James P. Collins, an evolutionary
ecologist at Arizona State University,
said he found Dr. Voyles’s explanation
compelling. “This would be the first
candidate I’d put on the table,” he said.
But Karen R. Lips, a professor of
biology at the University of Maryland,
wasn’t persuaded that the researchers
made a convincing case for skin secre-
tions. “They don’t actually provide
data that really supports that,” she
To determine how much good skin
secretions do, Dr. Lips said, it would be
necessary to infect frogs and see
whether stronger skin secretions
actually keep more frogs alive.
Dr. Lips’s skepticism comes from her
own research on frog defenses. In
some of her studies, she focuses not on
skin secretions, but on the genes involved in the frog immune system.
She and her colleagues have found
that some frogs respond to infections
by switching on many of these genes
and using them to make lots of immune-related proteins. But those frogs
all die, along with the frogs that have a
weaker genetic response.
“Their genes are going crazy, but it
doesn’t matter,” Dr. Lips said.
It’s possible that the immune system
of frogs will turn out to be a key to the
rebound of some species, or their skin
secretions — or both. It’s also possible
that other factors matter.
The Bd fungus can grow only in cool
temperatures. If some frogs moved
down to lower altitudes where it’s
warmer, they might be spared.
“You wind up selecting for animals
that like to live in some spots as opposed to animals that live in cooler,
shady spots,” Dr. Collins said.
In some places, the frogs may not
even have to move to gain this protection. In February, a team of Spanish
researchers reported that three
species of frogs in Spain are growing in
numbers, even though Bd is present in
the country and it can infect all the
species there. They concluded that
global warming is raising the temperature where the frogs live, keeping
the fungus in check.
In these cases, the frogs may be
getting only a temporary reprieve.
Their habitats may eventually get too
hot not only for the fungus, but for the
frogs themselves.
“The skin secretion part of the story
is probably not the only thing that’s
going on,” Dr. Voyles acknowledged.
“There’s probably lots of different
reasons why different species have
survived and, in some cases, recovered.”
Dr. Voyles also emphasized that the
recovery of a few species was no reason to lean back and assume that
nature would take care of the Bd crisis.
“I want to put out the message that
this is still bad,” she said. The rebound,
she argues, “definitely is a glimmer of
hope. But it does not mean by any
means that everything is back and
there is no problem.”
Salvaging science from entertainment
Marco Zozaya loves science. His bedroom wall is covered in photos of scientists. When he grows up, he wants to be a
science communicator like Neil deGrasse Tyson. And for a moment at age
12, when he recorded a video about vaccines on an iPad in his backyard in
northeast Mexico, it seemed like he was
off to a good start.
“Every single bit of evidence there is
in the observable universe that vaccines
do cause autism is inside of this folder,”
he says in the nearly two-year-old video.
Then, in mock shock, he starts pulling
out blank pieces of paper. “It’s nothing.”
The video got 8 million views on Facebook and was featured by HuffPost,
CNN, Cosmopolitan and
And that was when Mr. Zozaya started
to discover that maybe it’s not correcting bad science that the internet loves.
What the vast digital audience really
wants is drama.
“I look back on it and see that I was
actually quite rude,” Mr. Zozaya, now 14,
said during a video call. “But everyone
went crazy for it.”
Science communication is the art of
making science accessible, and thanks
to the internet, science is more accessible than ever. More research and original data is being posted publicly online,
and a new generation of science ambassadors — in the tradition of MythBusters or Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan
— has found a large audience on social
media. But they face a conundrum: The
platforms that help get their message
out sometimes favor a style that inflames as much as it informs.
Science enthusiasts have built enormous audiences online not only because
they appeal to human curiosity, but also
because they have a flair for entertainment.
Michael Stevens, whose YouTube
channel Vsauce often explores psychology, has described how he packages his
videos to reach the biggest audience and
has bragged that he could even make
paint drying interesting. Derek Muller
is known for using man-on-the-street interviews on his popular YouTube channel Veritasium to expose misconceptions about science. And Elise Andrew,
who commands an audience of 25 million through her Facebook page,
“IFLScience,” often shares sciencethemed memes.
A lot of the science stuff that goes viral
ends up being “information-light and
punchline-heavy,” said Yvette d’Entremont, who runs SciBabe, a popular
Facebook page.
Ms. d’Entremont specializes in debunking myths around homeopathy, pet
wellness, genetically modified organ-
‘‘I wish honestly that people
were as much into science
as they are into shutting
people down.”
isms and other trends. Her arguments
are dense with citations, but she also
dispenses a fair amount of snark, as in
an essay for The Outline titled “The Unbearable Wrongness of Gwyneth Paltrow” about the Goop wellness guru.
“There are a lot of really wonderful
science communicators on YouTube
that find a way to break down science
concepts; they do these long form videos,” she said. But she adds that the videos that really go viral are, “short
punchy ones that seem to be taking a
swing at things that we hate, or that
we’re trying to combat in sci-comm or in
the skeptic universe.”
Some of this trend may result from algorithms that promote certain types of
content over others, often to maximize
the time users spend on a site.
“The algorithm is trying to make people react, trying to make people engage,” said Guillaume Chaslot, a former
YouTube engineer who urges greater
accountability for tech platforms.
“When you have these very combative
videos, it’s very efficient at getting people to watch.”
His site, AlgoTransparency, shows
Marco Zozaya in March near his home in Mexico. He aspires to be a science communicator but faces internet audiences and algorithms that may prefer drama over science.
how videos asserting that the Earth is
flat and that vaccines are harmful were
among those most recommended by
YouTube’s algorithm in February. Another was “Bill Nye Destroys Noah’s
Ark,” in which the famed scientist dismantles arguments from creationist
Ken Ham.
Facebook has said it will make
changes to its algorithms to favor “time
well spent” over just time spent. (The
company declined to comment.) A statement from YouTube pointed to its announced changes intended to combat
After Mr. Zozaya posted his video,
anti-vaccination activists left hateful
comments, accused him of being a shill
for the pharmaceutical industry and
even posted personal information about
his family. At first, he gleefully debated
them, cheered on by 65,000 new Facebook fans.
It wasn’t just for the views, although
he admits that aspect was gratifying. As
a devotee of empiricism, Mr. Zozaya felt
compelled to push back against the discredited autism-vaccines link. He also
empathized with the autism community.
“Think about it from their perspective,” he said. “There’s people who are
like, ‘I would rather have my child die of
X deadly disease and be contagious and
put everyone else in danger than have
my child get this condition that you were
born with.’”
As it happens, he later found out he is
on the autism spectrum himself.
Mr. Zozaya realized he wasn’t convincing anyone by picking fights, nor
was he doing much to further human understanding. But when he shifted toward more informational videos — like
an analysis of the role snakes play in the
environment — his viewership plummeted.
“I was really disappointed,” he said. “I
thought I had a following mostly made
up of people who loved science, because
that is what I originally wanted to build
on. I wish honestly that people were as
much into science as they are into shutting people down.”
There is a real concern in the science
communication community about how
best to handle the tide of pseudoscience.
Emily Gorcenski is a data scientist
and activist who has studied how fake
science spreads on the internet. In her
view, snark or cheeky videos are not the
problem: If people are really committed
to a piece of pseudoscience, a video from
someone like Mr. Zozaya will not convince them otherwise.
“We live in a time of deep polarization
on many fronts,” she said. “We’re partly
in this position that we’re in because scientific communication, scientific writing, is deeply inaccessible. If there is
something that makes it more accessible for people, then I’m all for it.”
Mr. Zozaya believes he can build the
kind of audience he wants: People who
love science. It might just take a little
In January, he posted a video tracing
the origin of the mythical “el chupacabras,” a monster said to suck the
blood out of livestock, back to the evolutionary advantage of fear. It has about
6,400 views — not viral, but not bad either. He is working on a video about the
placebo effect.
“I will definitely keep making videos,”
he said.
Researchers have made new discoveries about the in-between spaces in the
human body, and some say it’s time to
rewrite the anatomy books.
A study published in Scientific Reports late last month described a fluidfilled, 3-D latticework of collagen and
elastin connective tissue that can be
found all over the body, in or near our
lungs, skin, digestive tracts and arteries.
It’s a hard thing to describe, and the
New York University School of Medicine
did it in several ways in a news release
on Tuesday: a “series of spaces,” a
“highway of moving fluid” and “a previously unknown feature of human anatomy.”
It said the study’s authors referred to
the system as “an organ in its own right,”
though not all researchers agree with
that characterization.
Images captured by transmission
electron microscopy show blobs of collagen bundles and long, snaky cells. It
looks fluid — something that ebbs and
flows, like the ocean. It is similarly underexplored.
This network could act as shock absorber for other parts of the body, researchers said. It also seems to be a conduit for fluids to enter the lymphatic system, which means it could spread diseases through the body — including
helping cancers to metastasize.
“We have never understood the
mechanism of how that happens,” said
Dr. Neil Theise, a pathologist and professor at the New York University School of
Medicine and a senior author of the published paper. “Now we have the ability. If
we figure out the mechanism, we can
figure out how to interfere with it.”
Some researchers believe the interstitial
tissue could be classified as an organ.
New technology has revealed “an
entire system that is interfacing
between the vascular system and
the lymphatic.”
The paper referred to this “widespread, macroscopic, fluid-filled space
within and between tissues” as the interstitium.
The research began in 2014 when two
endoscopists and gastroenterology experts, Petros Benias and David CarrLocke, were using a newer imaging
technology to examine a patient’s bile
duct at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital
in New York City.
The probe-based technology essentially allows doctors to examine live tissue at a microscopic level inside the
body and in real time. They captured images of fluid-filled cavities that they
wanted to understand better, so they
took them to Dr. Theise.
Doctors and researchers had been
looking at this tissue for years, often by
removing samples from the body to examine under a microscope, but that
process collapsed the latticework into
something that looked crackly and
“Several things happen to a surgical
specimen when you take it out of the
body. It completely structurally
changes, and all the water is lost,” Dr.
Benias said. “You’re missing a lot of the
story there, and that’s the problem.”
But the newer technology revealed an
interstitial network that was “extensive” and more than worthy of being
considered an organ, he added, calling it
“an entire system that is interfacing between the vascular system and the lymphatic.”
James M. Williams, the director of the
Human Anatomy Laboratory at Rush
University in Chicago, was not involved
in the study but said the researchers’
work and the technology they used to
see the interstitium was exciting and
could change the way doctors treat cancers and other diseases.
But the words “new organ” attached
to the study were a distraction, he said.
“The only new organs that are being
made these days are those that appear
onstage and make music,” Dr. Williams
So is Dr. Benias, who said more study
of the interstitium could lead to breakthroughs in cancer treatment. He added
that the study involved clinicians, pathologists, bioengineers and others.
“A lot of research happens in a bubble,
unfortunately,” he said. “People miss the
forest for the trees.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 7
Fresh food from a global garden
Imports have become
a major source of supply
for American consumers
For American farmers, too, imports
have had mixed consequences. The increased international trade in produce
has benefited many of them (including
growers of Northwestern apples and
California citrus) but harmed others
(producers of Florida tomatoes and California asparagus).
Most growers’ organizations say
trade accords like the North American
Free Trade Agreement have helped
American produce farmers on balance.
“Nafta over all has been positive, and
we oppose U.S. withdrawal from the
agreement,” said Ken Gilliland, director
of international trade for Western Growers, which represents produce farmers
in Arizona, California, Colorado and
New Mexico. “Eliminating Nafta and
implementing tariffs would have a negative impact on our members’ ability to
Most of the advantage from exports,
however, has gone to large growers.
“Clearly the larger shippers have benefited more from the globalization of
produce,” said David Runsten, policy director of the Community Alliance With
Family Farmers, a California group that
advocates for small farms. “Smaller organic produce growers in California are
feeling the effects of increasing imports.”
The Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration is likely to
worsen the shortage and high cost of labor, a serious threat for many farmers.
Increasingly, scientific studies have
found that trade agreements and resulting increased produce shipments may
have contributed to the movement of invasive species into the United States. So
far no one has fully estimated the costs
to American farmers of pests and diseases attributable to imported produce.
“It’s not clear that our investment in
inspection resources has kept pace with
the increase in trade,” said Michael R.
Springborn, an associate professor of
environmental science and policy at the
University of California, Davis, who
studies invasive species.
It’s obvious to anyone who visits an
American supermarket in winter — past
displays brimming with Chilean grapes,
Mexican berries and Vietnamese dragon fruit — that foreign farms supply
much of the country’s produce.
Imports have increased steadily for
decades, but the extent of the change
may be surprising: More than half of the
fresh fruit and almost a third of the fresh
vegetables Americans buy now come
from other countries.
Although local, seasonal and farm-totable are watchwords for many consumers, globalization has triumphed in
the produce aisle. And despite the protectionist “America First” message
coming from the Trump administration,
the growth in imports appears likely to
So this is an apt moment to examine
how the shift happened, and what it portends — good or ill — for American consumers and farmers.
“I had no idea that more than half our
fruit is imported, and it shocks me that
this has happened so quickly,” said Michael Pollan, a professor of journalism
at the University of California, Berkeley,
whose best-selling books have analyzed
the tensions between local and global
food systems.
The surge in imports, mostly from
Latin America and Canada, flows from
many other changes during the last 40
years, starting with improvements in
roads, containerized shipping and storage technology. Horticulturists developed varieties and growing practices
adapted to warmer climates — enabling, say, blueberries and blackberries to be grown in central Mexico.
Growth in American incomes brought
greater demand for fresh produce yearround. Immigrants brought tastes for
the foods of their homelands, and in
some cases (as with avocados and mangoes) these tastes have become mainstream. Foreign growers took advantage of lower labor costs. International
trade agreements reduced tariffs and
other obstacles to imports, while many
American farmers, facing regulatory
hurdles at home, have shifted production abroad, mainly to Mexico.
One crucial part of the story is little
known: Over the past two decades, the
United States Department of Agriculture has issued roughly 100 new rules allowing specific crops to be imported
from certain countries — like peppers
from Peru. Crops that previously would
have not been approved because they
might introduce pests and diseases
were allowed in through new “systems
approaches” that manage those risks by
combining methods like orchard inspections, sprays and bagging of fruits.
Many foreign crops have recently
been approved for import using these
protocols, including Chinese apples and
Colombian avocados. Some are in the
rule-making process (Chinese citrus,
European apples), and others are under
study (Brazilian citrus, Mexican
As a result, the proportion of the imported fresh fruit eaten in the United
States rose to 53.1 percent in 2016, from
23 percent in 1975, according to the Agri-
culture Department’s Economic Research Service. Fresh vegetable imports rose to 31.1 percent from 5.8 percent. (Still, the United States remains a
net agricultural exporter, with grains,
soybeans, meat and nuts accounting for
most of the trade surplus.)
Greater availability has led to a huge
increase in per capita consumption of
many crops, including mangoes (up
1,850 percent from 1975 to 2016), limes,
avocados, grapes, asparagus, artichokes and squash. Yet consumption
has fallen for other crops — like
peaches, oranges, cabbages and celery
— that are still primarily grown in the
United States.
For consumers, the chief advantages of
the import boom are the increased availability and variety of fresh produce, particularly in winter, when imported
berries, grapes and stone fruit now compete with citrus and stored apples.
“It’s easy to criticize food that comes
from far away,” Mr. Pollan said. “But if
the question is whether this is good for
your health or not, in general it is.”
Many imports cost less than domestically grown equivalents, and competition from imports keeps prices down for
domestic produce.
Imported produce is also sometimes
fresher than the domestic equivalent. In
spring, newly harvested Gala apples
from New Zealand may be crunchier
than the same variety from American
orchards, which were picked the previous fall. And some imports are simply
superb, like flavorful pink seedless muscat grapes from Chile, now in season.
But unlike imported furniture or
washing machines, produce is perishable and may suffer from transport. It
may be picked less ripe. Varieties may
be selected for durability at the expense
of flavor, and treatments mandated to
kill pests (hot water for mangoes, cold
temperatures for citrus) can degrade
flavor or texture.
In many fruits, acidity drops over
time, and off flavors develop; weeks-old
cherries, for example, may still look fine
but taste flat. Vegetables, too, can decline. Domestic asparagus, grown
mostly in California, Michigan and
Washington, tends to be plumper, juicier
and more flavorful than the more fibrous and rubbery imports from Mexico
and Peru.
It might seem logical that older
produce is also less nutritious, and for
some compounds such as vitamin C, levels do decline with time. But there does
not appear to be any evidence that the
overall nutrient content degrades significantly. From a public health standpoint, the benefits of increased availability and consumption of imported
produce outweigh any such worries, nutritionists say.
It might also seem that imported
fruits and vegetables are more likely
than domestic produce to cause foodborne illness, but there’s no evidence
Imported produce is sometimes
fresher than the U.S. equivalent.
that this is so. “I don’t think that produce
grown outside the United States is less
safe,” said Bill Marler, a lawyer in Seattle who often represents consumers in
food-borne illness cases.
Of some concern is a 2015 report from
the Food and Drug Administration that
found that 9.4 percent of imported fruit
samples violated federal standards for
pesticide residues, compared with 2.2
percent of domestic samples. (For vegetables, the figures were 9.7 percent for
imported and 3.8 percent for domestic.)
But that’s probably not enough to justify
avoiding imported produce.
“ ‘Eat your veggies’ is good advice no
matter what,” said Marion Nestle, a pro-
fessor emerita of nutrition, food studies
and public health at New York University. “The benefits of plant-based diets
are better established than the harms of
There are also environmental issues:
Because imported fruits and vegetables
typically travel farther than domestic
produce from farm to table, they cause
greater harm from carbon emissions
and pollution. That’s especially true for
produce arriving by air, which is likely to
be fresher and cost more than produce
arriving by ship.
But transport miles are just one component of environmental costs, and in
some cases fruits and vegetables grown
in a suitable climate overseas may require fewer resources for farming and
be more generally sustainable than offseason domestic produce — cultivated,
say, in heated greenhouses.
Drug cartels looking to launder
money and diversify their operations
control or extort some of the production
and packing of certain export crops
from Mexico (the largest exporter of
produce to the United States), including
avocados, mangoes and limes. Growers
and militias have fought back, but the
implications of cartel control for the
quality, cost and healthfulness of the
produce remain unclear.
Whatever the drawbacks or advantages, imports are likely to continue
growing. According to a recent Agriculture Department report, fresh produce
imports will rise 45 percent from 2016 to
2027, implying that a decade from now,
three-quarters of the fruits and almost
half of the vegetables sold in the United
States will be imported.
In other words, Americans could get
produce as they do fish — more than 80
percent of which is imported.
Mr. Pollan, not surprisingly, does
worry as imports climb. “I think it would
be a tremendous loss if we weren’t growing a significant percentage of our
produce, for reasons having to do both
with quality and with the knowledge of
the environment that farmers bring to a
society,” he said.
Consumers who agree can vote with
their dollars by prizing local and domestic produce when available, and staying
alert for decreased quality in less-fresh
imports. The next decade or two will determine whether Americans can enjoy
the advantages of an increasingly globalized supply without losing the very
real benefits of domestic produce.
“Don’t underestimate the ritual of eating seasonally, the pleasure one can
have as fruit comes into the market,” Mr.
Pollan said.
Casual horrors uncovered at private U.S. prison
On the witness stand and under pressure, Frank Shaw, the warden of the
East Mississippi Correctional Facility,
could not guarantee that the prison was
capable of performing its most basic
Asked if the guards were supposed to
keep inmates in their cells, he said,
wearily, “They do their best.”
According to evidence and testimony
at a federal civil rights trial, far worse
things were happening at the prison
than inmates strolling around during a
lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide
watch hanged himself, gang members
were allowed to beat other prisoners,
and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting
fires in their cells.
So many shackled men have recounted instances of extraordinary violence and neglect in the prison that the
judge has complained of exhaustion.
The case, which has received little attention beyond the local news media,
provides a rare glimpse into the cloistered world of privately operated prisons, at a time when the number of state
inmates in private facilities is increasing and the Trump administration has
indicated that it will expand their use.
The Management & Training Corporation, the private company that runs
the East Mississippi facility near Meridian in Lauderdale County, already operates two federal prisons and more than
20 facilities around the United States.
The use of private prisons has long
been contentious. A 2016 United States
Justice Department report found that
they were more violent than government-run institutions for inmates and
guards alike, and the Obama administration sought to phase out their use on
the federal level. Early last year, President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, reversed the ban.
Several states, including Michigan
and Utah, have stopped using private
prisons in recent years because of security problems. But more than two dozen
other states, including Mississippi, contract with privately managed prison
companies as a way to reduce costs.
Since 2000, the number of people
housed in privately operated prisons in
America has increased 45 percent, while
the total number of prisoners has risen
only about 10 percent, according to an
analysis by the Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy group.
The genesis of the problems at East
Mississippi, according to prisoner advocates, is that the state requires private
prisons to operate at 10 percent lower
cost than state-run facilities. Even at its
spends significantly less on prisoners
than most states.
The federal civil rights lawsuit, filed
against the state by the American Civil
Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center after years of complaints from inmates, seeks wholesale
changes at the prison.
Testimony has described dangerous
conditions, confused lines of oversight
and difficulty in attracting and retaining
qualified staff. Security staff at East
Mississippi earn even less than the $12an-hour starting wage made by their
public service counterparts, and private
prison guards receive only three weeks
of training — less than half the training
time required of state prison guards.
The state’s contract with the Management & Training Corporation is particularly economical. Mississippi pays the
company just $26 a day — or about
Cell doors at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility that were scorched by fire,
according to a photograph shown in court at a federal civil rights trial against the state.
$9,500 a year — for each minimum-security inmate. That is far less than the
$15,000 a year neighboring Alabama
spends per inmate, and only 13 percent
of what New York, which spends more
than any other state, pays per inmate.
Called as an expert witness for the
Mississippi inmates, Eldon Vail, the former state prisons chief in Washington
State, told the court that the focus on
cutting costs had sent East Mississippi
into a downward spiral.
“There are not a sufficient number of
correctional officers, and most of their
problems stem from that issue,” he said.
Mr. Vail said that with too few guards,
inmates felt compelled to protect themselves with crudely made knives and
other weapons, prompting a chain of retaliatory violence. And having too few
doctors and nurses meant that inmates
with mental illnesses were also more
likely to act out violently.
Lawyers for the state and representatives of Management & Training say
prisons are meant to be tough environments, and that East Mississippi is
no worse than most others.
“We can say — unequivocally — that
the facility is safe, secure, clean, and
well run,” Issa Arnita, a spokesman for
the company, said in a statement released during the trial. “From the warden on down, our staff are trained to
treat the men in our care with dignity
and respect. Our mission is to help these
men make choices in prison and after
they’re released that will lead to a new
and successful life in society.”
Trial testimony has presented a radically different picture.
Mr. Shaw, the warden — who works
for Management & Training, not for the
state — receives incentives for staying
within budget, but is not penalized when
inmates die under questionable circumstances or when fires damage the prison. Four prisoners have died this year.
The warden said that he had been unaware of cases in which inmates had
been so badly beaten that they required
hospitalization, and that he had not disciplined guards who failed to ensure
that inmates were unable to jam door
locks and leave their cells. When Mr.
Shaw was asked about the homemade
objects used to commit assaults, he was
dismissive. “Inmates have weapons,” he
said. “It’s a fact of life.”
Mr. Shaw had previously been warden at an Arizona prison operated by
Management & Training, where there
was a riot in 2015. A state report determined the riot was sparked by Management & Training’s “culture of disorganization, disengagement and disregard”
of “policies and fundamental inmate
management and security principles.”
At East Mississippi, the prison designated by the state to hold mentally ill inmates, there was a glaring lack of oversight of inmate care, according to testimony. Four out of five inmates in the
prison receive psychiatric medication,
but the facility has not had a psychiatrist
since November. The state prison mental health director is not a medical doctor, but a marriage and family therapist.
And Gloria Perry, who became the prison system’s chief medical officer in
2008, said that she had never been to the
East Mississippi prison.
Pelicia E. Hall, the commissioner of
the state prison system, testified that
she may have been unaware of many
problems at the facility because she did
not read weekly performance reports
from the state’s own monitor.
In the courtroom, the reports were de-
livered in person: An inmate testified in
tears that a female guard had mocked
him when he tried to report being raped
in a cell in January. The guard never informed her superiors about the rape.
In an unrelated assault, surveillance
video showed an inmate being beaten
by other prisoners for 14 minutes before
guards arrived.
Neither the state nor the private prison company has contested the accuracy
of the prisoners’ testimony, although
lawyers for the state say the stories
should be treated with skepticism.
An inmate described another attack
this year. He said a prisoner armed with
a knife and a 4-foot section of pipe
charged at him while he was being led to
his cell by two guards. Instead of helping
him, he said, the two guards ran away.
The inmate said he was chained at the
ankles, waist and wrists at the time. He
estimated that the other prisoner assaulted him for three minutes before
other guards arrived and pulled the attacker off him. “They laughed and told
him not to do it again,” the inmate said,
adding that the same man had beaten
him with a pipe the previous month.
At the prison infirmary, he said, the
medical staff simply poured distilled water onto his puncture wounds and sent
him back to his cell.
“I was in excruciating pain,” he said.
It was not until three days later, the inmate said, when there was blood covering much of the floor of his cell, that he
was taken to a hospital. He was treated
for four stab wounds and a broken leg.
The inmate testified without giving
his name, worried about retaliation from
prisoners and guards alike. He said that
whatever luck he has had may soon run
out: When he went back to prison from
the hospital, he said on the stand, he was
placed in a cell next to that of his attacker.
8 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Speculators swarm Houston to make a fast buck
A new economy arises
in the buying and selling
of flood-damaged homes
The yard signs appeared almost immediately. Canyon Gate was still in ruins,
its streets strewn with moldy furniture,
the stench of rot everywhere. But somehow, someone had managed to plant
dozens, maybe hundreds of them across
the tiny Houston suburb. One proclaimed “Dump Your Home!” Another,
stuck into the dirt, read “Flood Damage? We Can Help.”
Bernadette Leaney, 67, one of the
thousands of Houston residents whose
homes were swamped in the aftermath
of Hurricane Harvey, hated them. She
and her neighbors were just beginning
their grim reckoning with the damage.
Who could be looking to make a buck
this soon? She tried to ignore the comeons. “But then I realized I just couldn’t
stand looking at them anymore,” she
said. “They were adding to our despondency.”
She tore down every sign she came
across — 114 by her count — until another resident told her it was one of their
own neighbors who had posted many of
them. His name was Nick Pelletiere, she
learned. He ran a company that transported cadavers for funeral homes, but
he had expanded into another lightly
regulated trade: buying and selling
flooded homes. People in Canyon Gate
called him Shady Nick.
Mr. Pelletiere is one of the many speculators driving a new — and somewhat
confounding — economy in neighborhoods across post-Harvey Houston, one
that is especially notable in Canyon
Gate, a subdivision built in the 1990s
where rice fields once stretched to the
horizon. Many parts of the city were hit
hard by the hurricane, but Canyon Gate
has the extraordinary distinction of being built within the confines of a reservoir specifically designed by the Army
Corps of Engineers to protect central
Houston from calamitous flooding.
Nearly every one of the 721 homes there
is destined to flood again, yet the local
trade in storm-damaged real estate is
Canyon Gate’s dilemma lays bare a
defining feature of coastal life in a time
of climate change: Many of the neighborhoods where we already live should
never have been built in the first place,
and doubling down on reconstruction
could make the consequences of the
next disaster much more severe. But
doubling down is what speculators do,
and — at least in the short term — they
are profiting from their efforts.
“I’m the guy who put up the bandit
signs around town,” Mr. Pelletiere said
one morning in February in his own
flooded home, where he and his family
were living on the second floor as contractors slowly repaired the first. He
said that like most of his neighbors, he
had no idea that he was living inside a
reservoir until the hurricane unleashed
nearly 50 inches of rain and the reservoir — just as its designers intended —
flooded the land all around him.
But where some saw calamity, Mr.
Pelletiere, a 47-year-old Chicagoan who
followed his star to Houston two years
ago, saw opportunity. Even as a volunteer boat team was evacuating him, his
wife, their two children and the family
dog, he was growing obsessed with a
single thought: It’s time to buy.
And buy he did. Within weeks, Mr. Pelletiere snapped up seven properties in
areas hit by Harvey, all at a steep discount from their pre-storm values, pocketing sizable gains while some of his
neighbors were grappling with financial
ruin. In one deal, Mr. Pelletiere bought a
flooded four-bedroom home, valued at
$280,000 before the storm, for $135,000.
He sold it the same day to another investor for $165,000. After accounting for
closing costs and the interest he paid on
a short-term loan to complete the transaction (Mr. Pelletiere rarely uses his
own money for such deals) he walked
away with about $27,000, all in the space
of just a few hours.
Houston has always drawn fortune
seekers looking to make a quick buck.
The city was founded in 1836 by two
brothers from New York, John and Augustus Allen, who had immigrated to
what was then northeast Mexico, only to
side with the pro-slavery separatists
who led the Texas Revolution. Within a
few months of the war’s conclusion, they
began to develop a patch of land on the
Buffalo Bayou. They made a fortune in
the murky trade of land certificates,
promising would-be settlers that their
mud-bogged, landlocked new city idyllically offered “the sea breeze in all its
Houston rose to prominence as the
Gulf Coast’s premier trading metropolis
only after a hurricane laid waste to
nearby Galveston, in 1900. But Houston,
which is projected in about a decade to
edge past Chicago as the third-largest
city in the United States, has endured its
own share of weather misfortune. The
reservoir in which Canyon Gate persists
owes its existence to yet another calamity, the Great Houston Flood of 1935.
Rains that year turned the streets of
downtown Houston into choppy rivers,
killing several people and shutting down
the Port of Houston for eight months.
The solution? Authorities built flood-
Top, removing flood debris in the Canyon Gate subdivision. Left, a flood-damaged home sold by its former owners. Middle, a mud-covered manhole cover. Right, an inscription from a family who decided to rebuild their home.
control reservoirs in the 1940s, in effect
creating new flood zones to protect the
old ones.
Canyon Gate is designed to flood, but
it is not part of the 100-year floodplain
defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so it is not covered by
agency rules that require mortgage
seekers in flood zones to buy flood insurance. Some residents say little effort has
been made to inform buyers of the risks
they face.
In the beginning, it seemed like there
was no need. “Back in the 1940s, when
the reservoirs were built, this place was
way out of town, and they thought that
the cows would just get out of the way if
there was some overflow,” said Judge
Robert E. Hebert, a top elected official in
Fort Bend County, a once sparsely populated expanse that now has more than
700,000 residents, including those in
Canyon Gate.
But in the late 1990s, bolstered by
Houston’s rapid expansion and the construction of new roads nearby, a residential development company called
Land Tejas unveiled plans for Canyon
Gate. County officials insisted that the
developer warn prospective buyers that
the homes lay in a flood reservoir, and
Land Tejas agreed to do so, but only by
way of an obscure filing.
“This subdivision is adjacent to the
Barker Reservoir and is subject to extended controlled inundation under the
management of the U.S. Army Corps of
Engineers,” the developer stated in 1997
in the fine print of the plat, the county’s
document approving the Canyon Gate
“This is a man-made disaster we’re
dealing with, make no mistake,” Judge
Hebert said. “All these houses shouldn’t
have been built in the first place, and
now the speculators are moving in. The
last thing I’d want to do is buy a house
flooded in a reservoir.”
And yet the neighborhood is attractive in many ways. Canyon Gate, as its
name suggests, offers a coveted sense of
safety. It is also a remarkably cheap
place to buy a home, and getting even
homes sold for about $230,000 before
the storm, drawing some buyers from
costlier real estate markets elsewhere
in the United States. Now, homes in Canyon Gate go for about $130,000, and investors are scrambling to bet on Houston’s recovery.
Mr. Pelletiere, for his part, sees nothing
wrong with buying flooded homes. He
said that he did not expect everyone to
approve of what he was doing but that
Eileen Swanson and her son, Alan, are getting their home in Canyon Gate rebuilt. The neighborhood was built within the boundaries
of a reservoir specifically designed by the Army Corps of Engineers to contain water and protect central Houston from flooding.
investing in such real estate depended
on acquiring local knowledge and accurately measuring the value of a property. Even now, he said, he refrained
from informing buyers of his damaged
homes of the flood risks, explaining that
the law did not require him to do so.
“Yeah, people call me a vulture when
they learn what I do,” said Mr. Pelletiere,
his sturdy frame clad in home-office attire of jeans, T-shirt and socks on a typical work day in February. He was darting around his home, barking instructions to construction workers fixing the
first floor.
“In reality I’m offering homeowners
solutions,” Mr. Pelletiere said. “I was
flooded, too, I get it, but this hurricane is
a monstrous opportunity.”
Born and raised in Chicago, Mr. Pelletiere grew up washing dishes for $1 an
hour in his father’s Italian restaurant.
He dropped out of community college,
he said, after realizing that higher education was not for him.
After the storm in August, Mr. Pelletiere joined a constellation of other
speculators scrambling to buy flooded
homes on the cheap. Mr. Pelletiere said
that his ambition was to rival pioneering
“Yeah, people call me a vulture
when they learn what I do. In
reality I’m offering homeowners
operators in the space, like Big State
Home Buyers, one of Houston’s largest
buyers of storm-damaged properties.
Brian Spitz, Big State’s president, said
that he had developed a model for evaluating such homes, one that considered
factors such as a neighborhood’s desirability, whether the property was in a
FEMA-designated flood zone, a subdivision’s history of flooding and how much
of a neighborhood flooded. Canyon Gate
scored well on nearly every measure,
and Big State bought 13 homes in the
neighborhood in the months after the
Mr. Spitz, a fourth-generation Texan
with family roots in the pest control
business, snapped up 150 homes around
Houston in the first 90 days after the
storm. He said that some of the most alluring opportunities were found in areas
with relatively low-priced properties be-
fore the storm, since homeowners in
those neighborhoods sometimes lacked
the financial resources to quickly rebuild.
“Canyon Gate looked like a war zone
after the storm,” Mr. Spitz said. “I’ve
never seen anything like it, and this is a
city with a high frequency of flooding. In
a place like that, we’re like the first responders, critical to getting the economy moving again, equipped to take on
the risk.”
Ms. Leaney, who tore down all the bandit signs around Canyon Gate, remains
one of the neighborhood’s biggest boosters. A Canadian immigrant from British
Columbia, she moved to Houston 13
years ago after living in Britain, Indonesia and France, countries where her
husband worked for an oil services company. She said she was drawn to the
community by its affordability and its
access to open spaces. Now she is the
president of the homeowners’ association.
On a walk with her dogs one rainy day
in February, Ms. Leaney noted that —
but for the alligators, the wild boars and
the occasional teenagers firing their
shotguns — the woods that surround the
reservoir’s diversion channel could pass
for the English countryside.
She said that her views on speculating
in flooded homes had evolved to the
point where she and her husband recently decided to take the plunge themselves, buying a damaged home on their
street for their daughter and her fiancé.
“Some people say the investors are
horrible, preying on vulnerable people,
but that’s not my view,” said Ms. Leaney,
emphasizing that buyers of flooded
homes were paying the association’s
dues, badly needed for the upkeep of
playgrounds, picnic areas, swimming
facilities and attendants at the front
gate. “The investors like Nick are saving
us. This is tough to acknowledge, but
where would we be without them?”
Research by climate scientists suggests that speculators of flooded homes
will only see their market expand.
FEMA estimates that only 13 million
Americans are now exposed to the destruction of a “100-year-flood,” a benchmark used to describe an extreme flood
with a 1 percent chance of occurring in
any year, but researchers at the University of Bristol and the Nature Conservancy found instead that 41 million people are at risk of such flooding.
Agency also acknowledges that flooding
is growing much more frequent along
the United States coastline, especially in
the Mid-Atlantic states.
Human-induced climate change not
only made Hurricane Harvey more destructive, but is also tripling the chances
of further extreme rainfall along the
Gulf Coast, according to studies presented at a recent meeting of the American Geophysical Union. One study
showed that the seven-day rainfall from
Harvey increased by at least 19 percent,
and perhaps by as much as 38 percent,
compared with similar storms in the
mid-20th century, when the reservoirs
designed to save the rest of Houston
were built.
Antonia Sebastian, a flood engineer at
Rice University on the team of researchers that described how climate
change made Hurricane Harvey more
destructive, said she was as stunned as
anyone to discover where Canyon Gate
was built.
“If you drive around that area it’s surreal, because you don’t even recognize
you’re in a reservoir,” Ms. Sebastian
said. “It’s so suburban, so flat, so normal, and they’re already rebuilding. I
don’t know what else to say other than
recommend that the people living there
get flood insurance.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 9
Finding the right message
Open Thread
goes outdoors
A former executive
at Condé Nast wades
into social marketing
Hildy Kuryk was thinking about working at a hedge fund. “I think you’ll find it
boring,” Anna Wintour told her. It was
2013, and Ms. Kuryk — who had just left
her post as the national finance director
of the Democratic National Committee
— was at Condé Nast seeking career advice from the well-connected Vogue editor in chief.
Ms. Wintour was right. After a couple
of meetings, Ms. Kuryk knew the finance game was not for her.
Instead, Ms. Kuryk soon found herself
back at Condé Nast, no longer looking
for a job but serving as Vogue’s director
of communications, and the media gatekeeper to Ms. Wintour (who doubles as
the artistic director of Condé Nast).
But in June, Ms. Kuryk decided to
strike out on her own and start a consulting film, Artemis Strategies, which she
is pitching to clients as a vehicle to help
them craft their message for socially
aware consumers.
“People have been giving away
money generously for decades. That’s
not in dispute,” Ms. Kuryk, 40, said during an interview in the office she now
rents from Condé Nast at 1 World Trade
Center. “I can help consumer-facing
companies deepen their civic engagement and tell their value story better.”
“I can help consumer-facing
companies deepen their civic
engagement and tell their value
story better.”
Those companies also need to navigate potential pitfalls. As the firm’s website states, “In an unpredictable political
landscape brands need to be acutely
aware and cautious who they align
Ms. Wintour, for one, seems to think
starting a consulting firm is a good career move for Ms. Kuryk. “You could say
we took a risk hiring Hildy back in 2013
— she came from politics and made no
pretense that she knew much about the
fashion world,” she said. “But the risk
paid off. Hildy is smart, a quick study,
and, best of all, her judgment is sound.”
Ms. Kuryk has two simultaneous
goals with Artemis. The first is to make
sure brands like Pepsi never release another ad like 2017’s disastrous conflation
of Kendall Jenner, protest and the Black
Lives Matter movement. The second is
to reinvent the concept of corporate social responsibility by integrating it into
Hildy Kuryk, founder of the consulting firm Artemis Strategies, has Nordstrom and Condé Nast among her clients.
every aspect of a company’s management, and not shunt it off, she said, to “a
separate office down the hall.”
Partly because of the reach of social
media, partly because of a new era of
civic engagement (some of it in response to the polarizing first year of the
Trump administration), corporations
are increasingly embracing message-
based marketing. Examples include
Nickelodeon’s going off the air for 17
minutes in solidarity with victims of gun
violence, McDonald’s turning its golden
arches upside down to mark International Women’s Day.
“Companies are being asked and demanded to state their values,” Ms.
Kuryk said. “And how they seize this
moment could pay massive business
and messaging dividends for them.”
But not all such moves have gone
smoothly: that short-lived Pepsi commercial; the widely criticized Ram commercial, aired during the Super Bowl
this year, that used a sermon from the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to sell
trucks; and Heineken’s commercials for
light beer and the tagline, “Sometimes,
Lighter Is Better,” criticized by, among
others, Chance the Rapper.
“The Pepsi and Kendall Jenner thing
— I was tearing my hair out,” Ms. Kuryk
said. “I wanted to be there long before
they shot it so I could say: ‘Hey, guys, I
know some people. Let’s call them.’ ”
Born and raised in Manhattan, Ms.
Kuryk graduated from Vanderbilt with a
degree in political science. She worked
in Bill Clinton’s White House and as a
fund-raiser for Barack Obama’s 2008
presidential campaign before joining
the finance wing of the Democratic National Committee.
With her business not yet a year old,
Ms. Kuryk has picked up some splashy
clients, including Nordstrom (a company about to open the first Manhattan
location for its flagship brand, a men’s
wear shop, at 235 West 57th), the news
briefing service the Skimm, as well as
Condé Nast, with a focus on Vogue and
its high-profile Met Gala.
Ms. Kuryk’s experience of toggling
between the private and public sectors
could help her with the rapidly developing market. “There’s huge demand right
now for professionals who can teach
businesses how to navigate these new
consumer expectations and for corporations to take stances on political issues
and practice good corporate social responsibility,” said Kara Alaimo, assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University.
“What’s astonishing is that we’re consistently seeing major brands who can’t
seem to apply basic principles of how to
make decisions when they’re taking
stances on political issues,” she added.
And it will only become more important. A recent paper titled “The Dawn of
CEO Activism,” published by the public
relations giant Weber Shandwick, noted
that millennials — consumers ages 18 to
35 — showed the greatest positive response to corporate activism.
Which raises a question: Isn’t this
more of a gig for an actual millennial?
“You can’t have a millennial do this
job, because you need someone who actually has some real experience — up
and down,” Ms. Kuryk said.
Dr. Alaimo backed her up: “My feeling is you do want a seasoned professional. It’s not a case where a millennial
can intuit what will work. You want to be
making decisions based on research and
best practices.”
And having some very well-known
names in her corner can’t hurt.
“She treats everyone with respect and
appreciation for the value of the role
they play,” said Valerie Jarrett, the former senior White House adviser to Mr.
Obama, who has worked closely with
Ms. Kuryk over the years. “That’s the
skill set that will make her very effective
with clients.”
Every week Vanessa Friedman, The
Times’s fashion director, answers a
reader’s fashion-related question in the
Open Thread newsletter at You can send her a
question at
or via Twitter: @vvfriedman. Questions
are edited and condensed.
Every year, I go to a rural location
(Mendocino, Calif.) for a weeklong
break, once in the summer and once
during the fall/winter transition.
While I’m not trying to be “cute,” I do
want to look reasonably put together.
Any suggestions on some go-to
pieces? — Angelin, Oakland, CA
This is a perennial question when
going to a vacation destination: You
don’t want to look as though you are
donning a costume by going pretendnative (i.e., wearing what glossy magazines photograph as fantasy-in-thebush clothing). That generally only
makes you stand out as someone who
doesn’t belong. Or as the Brits like to
say, “mutton dressed as lamb.”
On the other hand, you also can’t
wear the same thing you wear to, say,
work in an urban environment.
From a recent Agi & Sam collection, a
jacket for a visit to the country.
However, if you go to the same place
with regularity (as I do with Wyoming
and rural Ontario), the simplest answer is to start with the basics —
jeans, leggings, sneakers, cargo shorts,
T-shirts, a fleece — and then shop
local. In fact, my general approach to
vacation wardrobes is to think not
fashion, but food: Source from where
you are, and think small batch. You can
always add the spice later.
Bobbi Brown moves into wellness. Nicely.
A makeup queen turns
her focus to lifestyle
projects and a new hotel
On a strangely warm morning in late
winter, the cosmetics tycoon Bobbi
Brown was in her new headquarters
here: a former auto body shop left with
pipes exposed and concrete floor unfinished.
Against one wall was an inspiration
board with pictures of the many, many
fashion models whose faces Ms. Brown
has daubed. “I’m a crazy visual person
— words are hard for me,” she said. “I
can’t make a business plan, but I could
visually explain what I want to do,
which is good if you can read my brain
and in order to work with me you kind of
have to. Right?”
Titters from several staff members
who were hanging around.
After more than two decades turning
her famously simple makeup line, Bobbi
Brown Essentials, into a billion-dollar
global brand with Estée Lauder Companies, Ms. Brown, 60, is back on her own
and ready to roll out her next act. Like
Oprah, Gwyneth and Martha before her
she is starting a lifestyle company,
Beauty Evolution, with an accompanying editorial website,
On April 20, she will start selling products on QVC, like a 60-calorie vanilla collagen “cocktail” and a chocolate drink
with protein, fiber and coconut oil. “The
idea is that when you’re in a slump, instead of grabbing a coffee you have
this,” she said. “It fills you up, keeps
your brain going, and you won’t eat the
bread basket when you go to dinner.”
What does she have against bread?
“I love bread more than I love my children,” Ms. Brown said. She has three
grown sons — Dylan, Dakota and Duke
— with her husband, Steven Plofker, a
real-estate developer with many
projects in the area.
The couple’s newest baby is the
George Inn, a 32-room boutique hotel,
with rooms starting at around $200 per
night and a library and lobby filled with
pictures of famous Georges and Georgias: O’Keeffe, Hamilton, Harrison,
George Herman Ruth Jr. (a.k.a. Babe
Ruth), Washington, Jefferson from the
TV program, Costanza (the two presi-
dents Bush have not yet found their
spots). It is the latest addition to a portfolio that has included retail, office and
sports complexes, along with her namesake eyeglass line and nine books.
On another board nearby were some
of Ms. Brown’s favorite mantras, which
she has had put on pencils, like “Be Who
You Are” — “Everyone else is taken, you
know,” she said, once off the phone —
and “Focus On What You Do Like” and
“Simple Is The New Black” and “Be
“Duh. Hello?” Ms. Brown said. “Like,
you don’t like something? Be nice.”
If this all seems terribly basic, consider how she amassed her fortune.
Ms. Brown first moved to New York in
1980, the child of an amicable divorce in
suburban Chicago who had gotten a degree in theatrical makeup from Emerson College after years of struggling
with schoolwork. She lived with her high
school boyfriend, a photographer, in a
one-bedroom apartment on West
Fourth Street that cost $500 a month,
maxing out credit cards and making
cold calls to agencies and bookers.
The makeup artists’ union helped find
her some work, including assisting on
“Saturday Night Live,” and within a
year she got a good gig at Glamour magazine, but there was discouragement
aplenty. “I had a hairdresser tell me I
would never work in this town because I
didn’t have a style, I didn’t have a thing,”
Ms. Brown said. And now? “Well, I know
he’s in Palm Springs and he’s got a salon,
ha-ha, and I’m still here.”
If Ms. Brown had any look at the time,
it was “Flashdance” meets Madonna,
who worked out at her gym. She knew
she disliked what was then modish:
white skin, red lips and the practice of
contouring to create cheekbones. “Just
not necessary,” she said, though she admired the work of Way Bandy and
Kevyn Aucoin, who “could literally paint
a face. But the finished product is not a
woman that walks outside. It’s being
photographed. It’s not a real look.”
She was introduced to Mr. Plofker in
1988 over dinner at a restaurant in SoHo.
“All I can say is, ‘Boom,’” Ms. Brown
The next day, Ms. Brown was happy
to find out that her new swain had a
master’s degree from Harvard and was,
like her, Jewish. “Then I realized his last
name was Plofker,” she said. “But I married him anyway.”
After the newlyweds moved to Mont-
At her Montclair, N.J., headquarters, Bobbi Brown and some members of her team talk near the mood boards for her two new brands.
clair and began raising a family, Ms.
Brown started to tire of the fashion industry’s constant travel. She had fantasized about creating her own line. “My
philosophy was women don’t need a lot
of makeup, they just need a few things,”
she said. “Clearly that’s not what happened to the billion-dollar brand.”
Its origin story is now part of corporate lore: the chemist she met during a
Mademoiselle shoot at Kiehl’s, the 10
subtly colored lipsticks (including one
named, conveniently enough, Brown)
that sold 100 units their first day at
Bergdorf Goodman in 1991.
Four years later, Leonard Lauder
courted Ms. Brown and a business partner, Rosalind Landis, on the terrace of
his Fifth Avenue penthouse. “It was an
out-of-body experience, to see Picassos
and Dubuffets and everything there,”
Ms. Brown said.
“ ‘You’re beating us in all the stores,
and I want to buy you,’” she recalled him
saying. “‘What if I told you could do ex-
actly what you love to do and want, and I
would give you complete autonomy?’”
“I didn’t even know what autonomy
was,” Ms. Brown said.
She added that her company’s reported selling price of around $75 million was inaccurate, but she doesn’t remember the precise amount. “Oh, it was
a lot,” she said. “Yeah, I never had to
work again.”
By 2010, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics was
available in more than 56 countries. By
2012, there were over 60 free-standing
Bobbi Brown Cosmetics stores worldwide. But later, Ms. Brown said, she experienced more “aggravation,” like
when she started a JustBobbi” Instagram account. “I would always get in
trouble,” she said. “Someone from corporate would always call down, you
know, ‘What did Bobbi post?’ and I was
like, ‘Guys, I’m a person.’ ”
After leaving her namesake company
behind in 2016, Ms. Brown cycled
through relief, anger and sadness. “I
thought I was going to spend weeks and
days in bed,” she said. “I didn’t. I moped
around for a couple days and drank tequila with my best friends.”
In the Bahamas with Mr. Plofker for
his 60th birthday, she met a chef who
said, “I can’t wait to see what you do
next.” “I don’t know,” Ms. Brown said.
“Dude, you got this!” the chef said admiringly.
“And that’s why I’ve got posters and
pencils and hats that say, ‘I got this,’”
Ms. Brown said. “It just kind of clicked.”
Not all of her experiments have worked
out. A stint as editor of Yahoo Beauty
ended after two years. (“Like going to
grad school,” Ms. Brown said.) A consultancy at Lord & Taylor, with justBOBBI
boutiques selling products from other
lines as well as her own, has quietly
ended. “We just didn’t have the manpower,” she said.
How are millennial women, who have
embraced pared-down makeup lines
like Emily Weiss’s Glossier, different
from her generation?
“I think they are much cooler, much
more simple and caring about things
that matter, meaning family, work,” Ms.
Brown said. “I think it’s not about the big
giant handbag, not about the designer.
It’s not about a cream that promises you
endless possibilities. Honestly, I think
that the young girls are more simple and
they just want the truth. They don’t
want, like, marketing-speak. They don’t
want gobbledygook.”
She said she is not concerned about
whether the new projects work out. She
might do a museum, a “confidence center — you know, empowerment,” write a
10th book, though not a business one,
despite that she’s been approached. “I
know the title: ‘Duh.’ D-U-H. I have no
advice except follow your gut, just be
It was the next afternoon, and Ms.
Brown, surprisingly fresh considering
she’d made a quick trip to Syracuse the
previous evening to watch a basketball
game and feed barbecue to her youngest
son and 60 of his fraternity brothers,
was alone in the living room of her penthouse pied-à-terre, in Chelsea, overlooking the Highline, with spectacular views
of uptown, downtown, the Hudson River
and New Jersey.
She was wearing the same casual attire as the day before. “Even at the
White House I wear jeans,” she said. “I
don’t go to the White House anymore.
I’ll just say that.” But former President
Barack Obama did appoint her to the
United States Trade Commission, and
she and Mr. Plofker attended the Obamas’ last state dinner.
Her maternal grandfather, “Papa
Sam,” had owned Sandra Motors, a big
car dealership in Chicago named after
Ms. Brown’s mother. . “And every time I
was in these situations I would look up
at Papa Sam,” Ms. Brown said, “and
think, ‘I used to sit in these corporate
meetings, and now I’m here at the White
In the apartment, staring down at her,
was a large portrait of Queen Elizabeth
II. “I mean, look, I haven’t met the
queen,” Ms. Brown said. “But I did get a
private tour of Buckingham Palace because I had breakfast with her granddaughter Eugenie. I started asking her
questions: ‘Eugenie, so your grandma’s
the queen?’ Because Eugenie’s this nice
sweet girl, Fergie and Andy’s daughter.
I’ve had breakfast with Kate Middleton
— not Kate, Pippa! Wrong Middleton.
But Kate wore Bobbi makeup on her
wedding. So all those moments are close
though I haven’t met the queen. Yet.”
10 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Golden Bell, the shortest hole at Augusta National Golf Club, has caused more problems for competitors than almost any other hole on the course
Taking a shot, but left twisting in the wind
Water, bunkers, trees
and wind make the
par-3 No. 12 a challenge
No matter how many majors Jordan Spieth wins during his career, the 12th hole
at Augusta National Golf Club will forever be the scene of heartbreak.
In 2016, Spieth was on the cusp of becoming the fourth player to win back-toback green jackets and the first to repeat in wire-to-wire fashion at any major. He led the 80th Masters by five
strokes as he made the turn that Sunday
afternoon. Bogeys at Nos. 10 and 11 — no
shame there — and two birdies by
Danny Willett trimmed Spieth’s lead to
one as he came to one of golf’s iconic par
At 155 yards, Golden Bell, as No. 12 at
Augusta is also known, is the shortest
hole on the course, but has caused more
problems for competitors than almost
any other hole on the course unless your
name is James Hahn.
“Gosh, it’s a 9-iron,” said Hahn, who
had a hole in one there during a 2015
practice round. “If you’re scared of a 9iron, you shouldn’t be playing in the
The 12th has a scoring average of 3.28,
which ranks as the fourth-hardest on the
course. Why such consternation? That’s
because the shot over water is to a green
that measures 3,200 square feet, or
nearly half the size of the average green
at Augusta. It is 105 feet wide, but at its
shallowest point 30 feet deep. Go long
and you have to deal with azaleas, pines
and a pair of bunkers. Short of the green
is guarded by a bunker in the middle and
Rae’s Creek, the water hazard that flows
through Amen Corner, the name the
writer Herbert Warren Wind coined to
describe the club’s 11th through 13th
holes. Adding to the uncertainty in club
selection — anywhere from a 6-iron to a
pitching wedge — is the swirling wind
that nudges balls in all directions.
“If you stand there long enough,
you’re going to feel the wind blow pretty
much every single direction possible,”
said Jim Mackay, a commentator for
NBC Sports and Golf Channel who caddied for Phil Mickelson when he won
three Masters. “And it can certainly get
in your head a little bit.”
No one had to tell Spieth. In 2014, his
ball found the creek, and he finished tied
for second to Bubba Watson. Two years
later, Spieth knew better than to aim at
the traditional Sunday back-right hole
location of the thin green, but that is exactly where he sent the ball as he attempted to cut a 9-iron. Spieth’s shot
never had a prayer, landing on the front
bank with a sickening thud and bouncing into its watery grave. Then Spieth
compounded the error by chunking his
wedge from the drop zone into the drink
again en route to a quadruple-bogey 7,
and gift-wrapped the title for Willett.
“That hole, for whatever reason, just
has people’s number,” Spieth said that
Indeed, Spieth joined an esteemed list
of golfers whose balls came to rest at the
bottom of Rae’s Creek. Gene Sarazen,
winner of the 1935 Masters, deposited
two balls into the water in 1952, made an
8 and withdrew from the tournament. In
1959, the defending champion, Arnold
Palmer, had a triple bogey at No. 12, allowing Art Wall Jr. to win the title. Greg
Norman also found the water in 1996,
made double bogey and blew a sixstroke lead to Nick Faldo. And then
there was the plight of Tom Weiskopf,
who splashed five balls into Rae’s Creek
in 1980 and made a 13, the highest score
ever recorded on the hole.
Even the six-time Masters champion
Jack Nicklaus once made a mess at No.
12. He recalled hitting into the water in
the second round in 1959, his first Masters appearance, “and I don’t think I’ve
been in since,” Nicklaus said in 2016.
He has recorded the most birdies at
No. 12 — 24 in 163 rounds — but there
was the time in 1964 that Nicklaus
shanked an eight-iron off the tee with his
idol, Bobby Jones, watching from a
nearby cart. If not for a double bogey at
No. 12 on Saturday in 1981, when Nicklaus finished tied for second behind Tom
Watson, he might have had a seventh
green jacket. And Nicklaus seems to
have forgotten the second round in 1991,
when the wind knocked two of his balls
Failure at 12
Jordan Spieth,
above, at the hole
when he won in
2015. It has been a
challenge for many,
including, from far
left, Shane Lowry in
2016, and last year
for Larry Mize and
his caddie, Chris
Frame, Justin
Thomas and Spieth.
into the creek.
“I committed the sin I’ve always tried
to avoid,” Nicklaus said at the time.
To gauge the wind, golfers go through
a variety of moves that include checking
the flag on the nearby 11th green and
throwing blades of grass in the air. Predicting the effect of wind on a shot is a
little like trying to forecast the stock
market; every one seems to have a
method. The bridge that contestants
cross to reach the 12th green is named
for Ben Hogan, the 1951 and 1953 champion, who said, “Never hit on 12 until you
feel the wind on your cheek.”
Adam Scott, the 2013 champion,
prefers to wait until the flags on the 11th
and 12th greens whip in the same direction. Mickelson ignores the flag at No. 11,
and prefers to examine the trees along
the 13th fairway. His long-held theory is
to pick a club for a certain wind and then
wait for it to blow. How does the 2017
champion, Sergio Garcia, choose his
club? “You grab a coin and you flip it,” he
said with a smile.
Not everyone has nightmares about
Golden Bell. In 2003, Scott Verplank
made birdie all four days. Claude Harmon in 1947, Bill Hyndman in 1959 and
Curtis Strange in 1988 each made a hole
in one at No. 12 during the Masters.
In 1992 Fred Couples won the Masters, and his final-round par at No. 12
spot of the ball, and that winds from the
northwest and southwest could cause a
perfectly struck ball to be pushed up to
12 feet off line. The study also revealed
that tossing grass to gauge the wind at
the tee produced little correlation to the
wind at the green, and it debunked another long-held belief.
“At least from a mathematical point of
view and from our analysis, there is
nothing one can learn from the 11th
green that can be applied to the 12th
hole,” Mittal said in a telephone interview.
Too much information and overthinking, he concluded, are counterproductive.
“Trying to predict everything at hole
No. 12 may be a fool’s errand,” he said.
Which is why the best advice of all
may come from the 2007 champion,
Zach Johnson.
“It’s hard,” Johnson said during a recent interview. “I make an educated
guess, commit to the shot, swallow hard
and, when it lands safely aboard, say,
“If you stand there long enough, you’re going
to feel the wind blow pretty much every single
direction possible,” Jim Mackay said of No. 12.
was one of the most memorable shots
from the tournament. Couples lofted an
8-iron that hit into the bank fronting the
green just above the hazard line, and the
ball rolled back toward the water before
somehow stopping on the steep slope,
inches from Rae’s Creek.
“It was probably the biggest break of
my life,” Couples said at the time.
Nearly 25 years later, Rajat Mittal, an
aerodynamics expert and professor of
mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins University, used Newton’s second
law of motion and computational modeling to predict the trajectory of a golf
shot in a variety of wind conditions. The
results of the study, published in the
June 2017 edition of Sports Engineering,
the journal of the International Sports
Engineering Association, found that the
tree canopies (up to 30 meters, about 98
feet, high) around the 12th hole at Augusta National affect the average wind
speed along the flight path of the ball.
A series of simulations with eight
wind patterns and various wind speeds
showed that a headwind at No. 12 created the largest uncertainty in the landing
Success at 12
Fred Couples received the green
jacket from Ian
Woosnam in 1992.
Couples managed
par on No. 12 after
his ball stopped
inches short of the
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 11
From fires to the fairway
On the job
Matt Parziale, left,
at work in Brockton,
Mass., and during a
practice round
Monday at the
Masters with Rory
McIlroy, far left. In
October, Parziale
won the U.S. MidAmateur Championship to earn a
spot at this week’s
Matt Parziale, a firefighter,
is one of six amateurs
playing in the Masters
No offense to professional golfers, but
Matt Parziale has a real job.
For most of the past five years, the 30year-old from Brockton, Mass., one of
six amateurs playing the Masters this
week at Augusta National Golf Club, has
been sneaking in amateur tournaments
between shifts for the Brockton Fire Department.
It’s been a grind, Parziale said. All
firefighters in Brockton’s Ladder Company 1 work 24-hour shifts: one day on,
two days off, followed by another 24hour shift, and then four days off.
Parziale has made it work using his
days off to play amateur tournaments,
often showing up to the first tee with little or no sleep. Sometimes he has had his
shifts covered by co-workers. “It helps
that he’s really likable” said his best
friend and childhood golf buddy Greg
There have been injuries fighting
fires and all the indignities associated
with an underfunded amateur playing
on the road — namely being broke all of
the time and away from home.
“That was just part of my life,”
Parziale said. “I didn’t complain. I just
enjoyed playing competitive golf. There
were definitely times when you get tired
on the course and get quickly irritated
because you haven’t slept all night. But
that was just part of the job I chose, and I
did the best I could with it.”
The often exhausting and sometimes
dangerous grind finally paid off in October when he won the U.S. Mid-Amateur
Championship, earning him a spot at the
Masters. The win also secured a spot at
the United States Open and in the U.S.
Amateur Championship at Pebble
“People get where they are for a lot of
different reasons,” Parziale said. “I’ve
always just worked as hard as I possibly
could. I never hated it or got discouraged.”
None of this makes Parziale nervous,
he said. Not Augusta’s refined pageantry, the elite level of play or the intimidation factor of Amen Corner. “I approach
each tournament the same way,
whether it’s a club championship or the
Masters. I’m just trying to be prepared
and do the best I can each time,” he said.
“Nervous isn’t bad. Nervous doesn’t
mean you aren’t able to perform,”
Parziale said. “Nervous means you care.
I enjoy being nervous. But it isn’t about
that, it’s about being prepared. Firefighters or golfers. Everyone is just a
player on the course. It doesn’t matter
where you’re from or what you do. It’s
just about performing that day and in
that moment.“
Parziale started playing golf as a
child, continued through high school
and attended Southeastern University
in Lakeland, Fla., where he led his team
to a national championship in 2007.
After school he became a professional
golfer but struggled with money. He quit
in 2013 and a year later joined the Brockton Fire Department where his father,
Vic Parziale, was captain. With the job
he found more stability playing tournaments and finally had a steady paycheck.
At the U.S. Mid-Amateur in Atlanta in
October, he played aggressively and
was decisive, and thanks to a new belief
in his driver, won with one of the widest
margins of victory in the event’s history.
Shawn Hester, Parziale’s swing coach
since 2011, had been pushing him to use
a driver and challenged him to use it
“like a weapon and be aggressive,” he
said. “If he wanted to play at the highest
level and compete against the best golfers in the world, then he had to start hitting the driver and figure this thing out,”
Hester said.
After winning the tournament,
Parziale took a leave from fighting fires.
“I’ve got hurt at work before and I didn’t
want to get hurt again. Not now,” he said.
“I also needed to get away and practice
and play as much as possible.”
To pay the bills, a group of benefactors, including the Massachusetts Amateur Golf Alliance, have made contributions to help with expenses.
He has no routine or grueling set
schedule. There are no punishing workouts or motivational coaches. He also
hasn’t exactly parlayed his physical demands as a firefighter into his golf game.
He doesn’t overthink it and keeps it simple.
This low-key, no-nonsense approach
might help him on the course, where he
and his father, who is now retired from
the fire department and caddies for his
son, will talk about the latest emergency
calls or sports. “We’ll talk about anything but golf right up until he’s at the
ball. It keeps him loose,” his father said.
Along the way, there has been encouragement. His colleagues in the fire department celebrated his success. He
also received a note from Tiger Woods
congratulating him on the amateur title.
“That was incredible. It was very special and kind of him. We might sneak a
practice round together at Augusta,”
Parziale said.
Another surprise arrived in the mail
on Christmas Eve, making it official.
“The Board of Governors of the Augusta
National Golf Club cordially invite you
to participate in the Two Thousand and
Eighteen Masters Tournament.”
He posted a photo on Twitter, holding
the finely embossed invitation in front of
a roaring fireplace with his dog looking
on. “The best Christmas present ever,”
he said.
Parziale won’t talk much about how
he’ll specifically prepare for his first major; he just likes the process of preparing. Hester thinks Parziale will thrive in
competition. “I think Matt has the personality that the more things get tense,
the better he can do,” he said. “He’ll get
locked in and focus. He’s capable of hitting the shots and capable of handling
the stage.”
Hester also thinks Parziale’s father
will be a big factor. “His father is a
grounding and stabilizing force that
keeps Matt comfortable,” he said. “Having his dad on the bag is important. His
father helps him feel normal. As normal
as you can feel playing in front of 25,000
people watching on one of the biggest
stages of golf.”
All of this, of course, will ultimately be
up to Parziale.
If he plays well — if he wins and delivers a true Cinderella story — would he
quit fighting fires and turn pro once
“No,” he said, without hesitation.
“That’s just not in the picture.”
Players to watch
Though Augusta National’s annual gathering rarely lacks for intrigue, the weekly parade of top-class winners this spring has brought stars into alignment like few other
years. And that’s before you consider the return of a certain once-dominant big cat on
the prowl again. JEFF SHAIN
The wild card of wild cards, as most unpredictables aren’t in possession of four
green jackets. But Woods, 42, hasn’t
competed at Augusta National in three
years, making a comeback after his
fourth back surgery.
He has played into Sunday contention
at his last two stops. He couldn’t catch
Paul Casey at the Valspar Championship, making par at the 72nd hole
when a birdie would have forced a playoff, and he tied for fifth a week later at
the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Woods
can still be wayward off the tee, and he’ll
need to get acquainted with Augusta’s
greens again.
Denied perhaps his best chance at Masters glory by last year’s untimely slipand-fall on stairs, Johnson remains atop
the world rankings but lacks the same
Three consecutive victories powered
the South Carolina native into Augusta a
year ago. He has just one win in 2018, in
January. And this year, he’ll be staying
at a different rental house in Augusta.
“It’s just got bad juju, so I’m not going
there,” he told reporters during a West
Coast stop.
At a place where Jack Nicklaus’s triumph at age 46 remains one of the
game’s special moments, Mickelson has
a chance to displace him as the oldest
Masters winner amid his best spring in
Mickelson, 47, has already become
the oldest winner of a World Golf Championships event, ending a 4½-year
drought without a win when he prevailed a month ago in Mexico. That was
the apex in a run of four consecutive
top-10 finishes. Though it’s been eight
years since his last green jacket, Mickelson tied for third in 2012 and shared runner-up honors in 2015. The Hall of Famer
has 11 top-five finishes at Augusta.
A Sunday romp at the Arnold Palmer Invitational reaffirmed McIlroy among
the favorites, and the Northern Ireland
pro needs a Masters victory to complete
the career Grand Slam.
The nagging rib injury that hampered
McIlroy’s 2017 season appears healed,
though his results were hot-and-cold before Bay Hill. After two top-3 finishes on
the European Tour’s Middle Eastern
swing, he didn’t place higher than 20th
in the United States before landing in
Orlando. A green jacket could have been
McIlroy’s first major prize — he was
leading by four strokes heading into the
final round in 2011 before shooting an 80
that included a triple bogey on No. 10, as
Charl Schwartzel won.
The two-time Masters winner wasn’t on
many radars after a dismal 2017 when
he struggled with health issues and
equipment problems. Two victories in a
six-week span, most recently the WGC
Match Play, changed that.
A slow West Coast start dropped Watson out of the world’s top 100 for the first
time since 2009, before he found his
form at the Genesis Open. His third victory at Riviera ended the slide, and he
reached the 18th hole only once in seven
rounds of match play.
Watson’s revival follows a period in
which he says an undisclosed medical
condition caused him to drop weight and
had him mulling retirement. A new golf
ball deal also had backfired, and he was
unable to shape shots the way he had before.
The 21-year-old pro from India became
the first man since 2014 to receive a special invitation from Augusta National,
given the strength of two European Tour
wins this season and holding the 54-hole
lead at the WGC Mexico Championship.
The son of an Indian army colonel,
Sharma was introduced to golf at age 7
after a chance conversation his father
had with Anirban Lahiri’s father — a
doctor who was treating Sharma’s
mother. Sharma took to the game,
turned pro at age 16 and barely qualified
for the Asian Tour two years ago. He
was ranked outside the world’s top 400
as recently as December before capturing the Joburg Open. Another win two
months later in Malaysia got him into
the WGC Mexico field.
The 19-year-old from Chile figures to
make Augusta National his final amateur start, having stood atop the world
amateur rankings since last May.
Niemann might already have started
his professional career, but a five-shot
victory in the Latin American Amateur
Championship — held in his hometown
Santiago — earned him a Masters invitation.
He already has secured partial status
on the Tour.
Niemann had planned to play college
golf at the University of South Florida,
but his test score for English proficiency
left him short of admission standards.
The teen also has berths awaiting in the
U.S. Open and British Open via his No. 1
amateur ranking, but will give those up
by turning pro.
12 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Refugees welcomed in low-level jobs
In a tight labor market,
positions can be tough to
fill for disagreeable work
With forecasters expecting the United
States unemployment rate to sink further this week, the chorus of complaints
about worker shortages — whether custodians or computer prodigies — has
Yet companies that turn to labor recruiters like Ray Wiley tend to have an
especially tough time: The jobs they offer are in out-of-way places; the work is
low-paid and disagreeable; and nativeborn Americans, particularly white
men, are generally not interested.
“We have employers call us all the
time,” said Mr. Wiley, who primarily
works with meat-processing plants and
lumber mills that have trouble retaining
workers even when the jobless rate is
well above its historically low level of 4.1
The economy is on solid footing in the
ninth year of the recovery, and even entry-level workers have more options. So
in Atlanta, San Diego and other cities,
Mr. Wiley’s company, East Coast Labor
Solutions, finds workers, primarily refugees from war-ravaged countries who
don’t speak English. Other candidates
include Puerto Ricans discouraged by
the island’s lack of jobs, as well as immigrants — here legally, he emphasizes —
who have no problem passing a drug
“If you told me there’s 1,000 refugees
who need work and want work, I could
find them work this month,” said Mr. Wiley, whose distinctive drawl pays tribute
to his Georgia roots. Employers like refugees, he said. There is no question
about their legal status, he noted, and
they are generally more motivated and
work harder, if only because their situation is more dire.
“I’m ready to go right now,” said Ronald Johnson, 37, who showed up one afternoon with two friends at Labor Solutions’ bare, second-floor office in Silver
Spring, Md. He had heard from others in
his community of Sierra Leone refugees
that this agency could immediately
place anyone willing to move to a
nearby state. “I want to go where they
pay the most money and charge the
least for rent.”
Within an hour, all three men agreed
to move to a rural town they had never
heard of, to take a job they had never
done before.
Citing the need to protect national security and jobs, however, President
Trump has moved to sharply limit legal
immigrants and refugees, capping the
number of refugees at 45,000, the lowest
yearly total since the program began in
1975. The actual pace of admittance has
so far fallen below that level, which
could make it even harder for meat processors and similarly situated industries to fill their ranks.
“I appreciate what Trump is doing in
trying to create more jobs for Americans,” Mr. Wiley said, in response to the
president’s argument that immigrants
A Sierra Leone refugee, Ahmed Fofana, above, on his way to Woodstock, Va., and a job at a meat-processing plant. Ray Wiley, below left, said his company has no problem recruiting
workers from the ranks of refugees for low-paying positions in out-of-the way places. A bedroom, below right, for workers awaiting orientation at the Woodstock plant.
are taking work from native-born Americans. “But for some lower-paid jobs that
are undesirable, a lot of Americans don’t
want to do those jobs.”
Of course they might, if the pay were
good enough. When meatpackers were
unionized and located in cities like Chicago, hourly wages averaged $20 an
hour in today’s dollars, plus generous
benefits. In the 1960s, though, packers
began moving to rural areas, bringing
workers to where the animals lived instead of the other way around. The shift
enabled companies to cut wages drastically, escape the pressures of collective
bargaining and speed output.
The move from high-wage locations to
low-wage ones has become commonplace as the economy globalized, upending stable middle-class communities.
In the international arena, companies
like Carrier and Rexnord recently
closed factories in the United States and
moved operations to places like China,
Vietnam and Mexico, where labor could
be found at cut-rate prices.
But long before complaints about the
North American Free Trade Agreement
or steel imports from China commanded
headlines, a domestic version of this pat-
tern was already playing out in some industries.
And as the pay changed, so did the
face of the work force, once dominated
by white males. Women, immigrants
and members of minority groups now
hang chickens on hooks or hack them
into parts on an assembly line. They are
paid about half of what their counterparts earned four decades ago (after ta-
king inflation into account) and have
fewer benefits and protections. Such
conditions don’t foster long-term stability. In some plants, employers have to
replace up to 70 percent of their staff every year.
Reducing that churn has become
harder as the unemployment rate has
dropped and several cities have raised
the minimum wage.
That’s where Mr. Wiley comes in. His
recruits come from parts of the globe
like Africa and Mexico that President
Trump has repeatedly disparaged.
Some are new arrivals sleeping on a relative’s couch; others are longtime residents struggling with low pay, high
rents, long commutes or just a stretch of
hard luck. He typically finds work for a
few dozen a month.
“I’ll take any job,” said Suleiman
Kabba, 42, who came to the Labor Solutions office in Silver Spring, a Washington suburb, with Mr. Johnson. He had recently moved to Maryland and was
down to his last few dollars. He needed
to save up to replace stolen identity documents and buy airline tickets to bring
over his two children, still in Sierra Leone. He removed a pair of tinted glasses
and pulled at the collar of his U.S.A. Tshirt to show the scars from a bullet that
had traveled through his eye and out the
left side of his neck when his family was
attacked during the civil war there.
Haimonet Demcasso, the recruiter,
explained, in two languages, the broad
outlines of the jobs. The poultry-plant
work pays roughly $11 to $13 an hour in
small towns in Virginia and West Virginia. Labor Solutions would transport the
recruits, find apartments for them to
share, help fill out paperwork, and advance them the money to cover their
travel, the first month’s rent, the security deposit, heavy work boots and home
essentials. They could pay it back out of
their paychecks with no interest at a
rate of $60 a week.
They are paid the same as other plant
workers, but they are employees of Labor Solutions for up to a year, until
they’ve repaid their loans.
More details about the job itself would
come once they went through orientation at the plant, Ms. Demcasso said.
For Mr. Johnson, who had recently
lost his job as a van driver and was already dodging calls from debt collectors, upfront money made the difference. “For me to rent an apartment, I
need a boatload of money,” he said.
His wife, Elizabeth, was more skeptical when she heard about the deal. An
apartment and two jobs just waiting for
them? Money up front? There were
plenty of unscrupulous recruiters who
made all kinds of promises and deceived
trusting job seekers — a cruel and sordid side of the industry that Mr. Wiley
acknowledged is all too common.
“I was dragging my feet,” Ms. Johnson said. But after coming up for a day to
check the area and the classrooms her
two children would attend in Woodstock, Va., she was convinced. “I loved
the school just by looking at it,” she said.
Most important, she saw no signs of the
drugs, violence and bullying that
plagued the White Oak neighborhood of
Silver Spring, where they were temporarily doubled up with family. “And
there’s no roaches and mice or rats.”
When corporate giving could be about getting
Eduardo Porter
Corporate philanthropy, business
leaders would have us believe, is the
ringing voice of a company’s social
conscience. Exxon Mobil may stand
accused of misleading investors and
shareholders about what it knew about
climate change, but the ExxonMobil
Foundation’s multimillion-dollar contributions to end deaths from malaria
and to train women in developing
countries should, executives hope,
balance the ethical ledger.
The same goes for the Walmart
Foundation’s contributions to reduce
carbon emissions in China and to
protect wilderness areas in the United
States, or the Dow Chemical Foundation’s contribution to Habitat for Humanity. These companies might be
ruthless in their lines of work — fighting against environmental regulations
or more stringent labor standards —
but their foundations are in it to do
good to the world.
Not entirely, it appears. Just months
before the midterm congressional
elections in the United States, a group
of economists has published an analysis of how corporate America is
spreading its philanthropic wealth.
Sifting through the donations to
charity from 1998 to 2015 by foundations set up by the largest companies
in the United States — those in the
Fortune 500 or the Standard & Poor’s
500-stock index — Marianne Bertrand
of the University of Chicago’s Booth
School of Business; Matilde Bombardini and Francesco Trebbi of the University of British Columbia; and Raymond Fisman of Boston University
detected a pattern of contributions to
1,087 charities linked to 451 members
of Congress.
It turns out that the spending is a
little more self-serving than companies
would have us believe. Some of the
giving looks a lot like corporate lobbying. Because companies get a break for
such giving, it amounts to political
spending at taxpayers’ expense.
“Firms deploy their charitable foundations as a form of tax-exempt influence
seeking,” the researchers write.
Think of it like this: One way a company could please Senator Chuck
Grassley, the Iowa Republican who
leads the Judiciary Committee and is a
member of the committees on finance,
agriculture, the budget and taxation,
would be to have a corporate political
action committee donate directly to his
But there is another way, one that
often slips below the radar of campaign-finance watchdogs. Why not
donate to the Partnership for a DrugFree Iowa, where the senator has been
an honorary advisory board member?
A corporation could also give to the
University of Northern Iowa Foundation, on whose board Mr. Grassley sat
as a trustee. Over the period covered
by the study, the foundations of AT&T,
ConAgra Foods, General Electric,
Goldman Sachs, Medtronic, Merck,
Monsanto, Nationwide Insurance,
Principal Financial Group and Rockwell Collins all contributed to one or
the other.
Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa is a trustee or honorary member of boards that have
attracted contributions from the foundations of AT&T, Goldman Sachs and others.
Mr. Grassley’s office, when asked
about the corporate contributions to
causes linked to the senator, said:
“Senator Grassley receives many
requests to support various nonprofit
organizations. He lends his name to
some, but declines most.”
That companies might butter up
legislators by donating to their pet
charities is not new. In 2010, my colleague Eric Lipton documented the
contributions to the Joe Baca Foundation and the James E. Clyburn Research and Scholarship Foundation,
each affiliated with a Democratic
member of Congress.
The researchers who conducted the
new study don’t claim that any specific
charitable contribution was meant to
manipulate the political process. But
their work lays bare the extent to
which corporate donations may respond to political, rather than charitable, motivations.
It is possible that when the Exelon
Corporation donated $25,000 to Representative Joe Barton’s effort to build a
Boys and Girls Club in Texas in 2008, it
did so because it believed in boys and
girls, not because Mr. Barton was the
top Republican member of the House
Energy and Commerce Committee.
Microsoft’s donation to the Seattle Art
Museum may have reflected the company’s support for the arts, not its
desire to please Representative Jim
McDermott, who was on the museum’s
honorary committee. (Mr. McDermott,
a Democrat, has since retired.)
The new research uncovers patterns
in the aggregate data that suggest
corporate donations are often dictated
by recipients’ political clout. For instance, a company foundation will
donate more to charities in districts
where the representatives have gained
seats on a committee that is important
to the company. And when the member
of Congress leaves office, corporate
donations to charities in that district
will dip.
Corporations’ philanthropy often
flows to the same areas as their political action committee contributions:
Charities in districts where companies
favor a particular candidate tend to get
more corporate donations.
A charity need not have been
founded by a member of Congress to
get corporate money. But it helps. A
nonprofit is more than four times as
likely to receive grants from a corporate foundation if a politician sits on its
board. And corporate foundation
grants are even more likely if the
politician happens to sit on a committee being lobbied by the firm.
The authors of the study examined
only a subset of corporate philanthropy, money flowing through corporate foundations that must disclose the
recipients of their largess. But the
research suggests that the impact of
corporate contributions could be much
bigger than even critics of campaignfinance practices realize.
The researchers estimate that over 7
percent of charitable donations by
corporate foundations are intended to
buy political leverage. Applied to $18
billion worth of corporate philanthropy
in 2014, that would amount to $1.3
billion, almost four times as much as
total political action committee contributions that year and 40 percent more
than the corporations’ lobbying expenditures.
There are a couple of lessons here.
For those who favor campaign-finance
reform, perhaps the most urgent message is that there are many ways for
corporate America to buy influence.
But the research also highlights the
way that companies interact with
Corporations are likely to tally their
foundations’ charity as a decided plus
on the dashboard of corporate social
responsibility. But politically motivated
charitable giving meant to undercut
regulations, promote a tax cut or otherwise gain a break could actually reduce total welfare.
As the researchers write, “If corporations’ good deeds (in the form of
charitable contributions) cater to
politicians’ interests, who as a result
put the interests of business ahead of
those of voters, the overall welfare
effects are ambiguous — society benefits via increased charity, at the potentially high cost of distorting laws and
None of this would happen, of
course, if politicians weren’t so hungry
for corporate money. “Companies
wouldn’t do this if it didn’t pay off,”
Professor Bombardini told me. “Politicians get good publicity by channeling funds that are valuable to the
community. Whatever makes you look
good, you want to take credit for it.”
But with a new wave of scandals
engulfing some of the nation’s corporate titans, it would behoove them to
honestly assess the ultimate purpose
of their charity.
Facebook doesn’t have a corporate
foundation. But its chief executive,
Mark Zuckerberg, has pledged 99
percent of his Facebook shares to
advance human potential and promote
equality. Perhaps the pledge could
include never deploying his company’s
financial might to steer the nation’s
political process for corporate gain.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 13
for jobs in
tight market
Rayven Bruzzese, a sign-language student in Philadelphia, deleted Facebook in March. Now she spends time on Instagram — which is owned by Facebook.
Electronic embrace that seems inescapable
Tech giants’ ubiquity
frustrates many who
want to boycott them
Ryan Knight, a Democratic activist in
Los Angeles, called for a boycott of Apple in February because it hadn’t responded to calls to delete a channel from
the National Rifle Association from its
streaming-video service after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.
“Dear @Apple,” Mr. Knight wrote on
Twitter. “Your silence is deafening.
#BoycottApple.” More than 330 accounts retweeted the message.
How did Mr. Knight post the message? He used an iPhone.
As the reach and influence of Silicon
Valley’s tech giants have increased, so
have the calls to boycott their products
and services. The problem is that
pulling off a boycott is not easy: The
tech companies’ products are so pervasive that they are difficult to avoid.
That issue was crystallized in recent
weeks with Facebook. Hundreds of people deleted their accounts after revelations that the political-data firm Cambridge Analytica had improperly harvested the information of 50 million
Facebook users. Yet many of those same
people promptly instructed their friends
to find them on Instagram, which is
owned by — you guessed it — Facebook.
“It’s exactly the same company. I realize it’s ridiculous,” said Sachi Cunningham, a documentary filmmaker in San
Francisco who deactivated her Facebook account last week and shifted her
attention to Instagram, where, she said,
the conversation is less toxic.
Ms. Cunningham, who has freelanced
for The New York Times, added that she
had immediately begun missing Facebook as a research tool for her documentaries. “I don’t know if I can get out of the
ecosystem,” she said.
People looking to punish major tech
companies by abstaining from their
products have been bedeviled time and
again by the difficulty in escaping them.
After Google fired an engineer, James
Damore, for criticizing the company’s
diversity efforts last year, hundreds of
people on social media called for a boycott of the company. But an analysis of
nearly 7,000 tweets using the hashtag
#BoycottGoogle since August showed
that 26 percent of the tweets had come
from devices using Google’s Android
software, according to Keyhole, a socialmedia research firm.
One Twitter account named Milton
Prescott tweeted on Aug. 8: “Google’s
firing of James Damore proves his point
completely. I will no longer be using
Google for any services. #Boycott-
Google.” The tweet came from an Android device. A message to the account
went unreturned.
Even Breitbart, the conservative
website, is running into the same dilemma. It is planning to host a panel on how
tech platforms like Facebook suppress
conservative voices — and it said it
would livestream the discussion on
Facebook. Breitbart didn’t respond to a
request for comment.
Marisa Richardson, a program manager at a life-sciences company, said she
began boycotting Amazon recently after
learning that it offered the N.R.A. channel on its streaming-video service. So
when she needed laundry detergent,
she avoided the e-commerce site and instead braved the crowds and traffic —
and spent a few dollars more — at a
nearby Target.
But a few days later she shopped at
the Whole Foods near her home in Oakland, Calif. “I completely forgot that
they’re owned by Amazon,” she said.
After the shooting in Parkland in February, gun-control activists called for a
boycott of certain Apple and Amazon
services because they hosted the N.R.A.
#March1NRABoycott to spread the
message on social media. An analysis of
about 58,500 tweets with the hashtag
showed that nearly half had come from
an iPhone or an iPad, according to Keyhole. Those included popular tweets us-
ing the #March1NRABoycott hashtag
from the actress Alyssa Milano.
“Had I sent the same tweets from an
Android phone, the same issue would
apply. There is an NRATV app for Android phones,” Ms. Milano said through
a spokeswoman. “We are only just beginning to understand how these companies have infiltrated not only our ideologies, but also our lives in the most indepth way imaginable.”
Nearly a third of the 4,700 tweets using the #BoycottApple hashtag since
August came from iPhones, according to
Keyhole. “I do have an iPhone, but as a
customer of Apple’s, am I not allowed to
hold them accountable?” Mr. Knight, the
activist who used an iPhone to call for an
Apple boycott, said in an interview.
Eddy Cue, a senior executive at Apple, recently said that the N.R.A. channel didn’t violate the company’s policies.
Facebook, Google and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Many of those who recently abandoned their Facebook accounts are still
in the company’s orbit, not only with Instagram but also with the company’s
popular messaging apps WhatsApp and
When Cher recently deleted her Facebook page, she said on Twitter, “2day I
did something VERY HARD 4 me.” But
her Instagram account, with 768,000 followers, was still active.
Likewise, Elon Musk, chief executive
of SpaceX and Tesla, deleted the Face-
book pages of both companies — but left
their pages and his personal account active on Instagram. The photo-sharing
platform, he said on Twitter, is fine “so
long as it stays fairly independent.”
Stephen Cox, 39, a woodworker in Los
Angeles, recently posted on Facebook
that he was deactivating his account in
favor of Instagram. When someone
commented that the two sites were
owned by the same company, he replied,
“It’s a double-edged sword, but for me
one edge is slightly more blunt than the
Instagram has proved an effective
hedge for Facebook against people losing interest or trust in its main site.
While the percentage of American
adults who use Facebook has remained
flat at 68 percent since 2016, according
to a January survey of 2,002 American
adults by the Pew Research Center, Instagram use rose to 35 percent from 28
percent over that period.
Rayven Bruzzese, 26, a sign-language
student in Philadelphia, said she had
been a user of Facebook for years but
found it upsetting and a drain on her
time and deleted her account in March.
Now she spends her time on Instagram.
While she acknowledged the irony of
moving to another Facebook-owned
service, she said her options were limited. Few of her friends are on Twitter,
and many have stopped using Snapchat.
“Where am I supposed to go?” she
said. “I wish there was something else.”
Trump makes his business distaste personal
But Mr. Trump is unique in singling out
individual companies for ridicule with
regularity. And rarely have presidents
done so because of a personal pique or
grudge, as happens with Mr. Trump.
“This is an unprecedented situation
for companies. The president’s tweets
can cause significant reputational
harm,” said Dean C. Garfield, the president of the Information Technology Industry Council, which represents big
technology companies like Amazon,
Dell, Facebook, Google and IBM. “We
are now at a place where about 90 percent of the companies we represent now
have a presidential Twitter strategy.”
“It’s no laughing matter,” he said.
For many companies, that strategy
comes down to waiting out the storm. In
recent days, Amazon has all but ignored
the president’s taunts, which he issued
in a flurry of Twitter posts.
“There’s no real advantage going toeto-toe with him,” said Joe Lockhart, a
press secretary for President Bill Clinton who was a spokesman for the National Football League, another favorite
target of Mr. Trump. “And his attention
span is so short, he will move on. He’ll
find another target.”
Associates say the president is often
riled up by Amazon’s connection to The
Washington Post, whose owner, Jeff Bezos, founded the retail giant. People
close to the president have said his attacks on one of the country’s largest
businesses have usually been prompted
by articles in The Post that Mr. Trump
perceives as negative.
Likewise, the president’s interest in
the AT&T merger with Time Warner
largely stems from his repeated clashes
with CNN, a subsidiary of Time Warner,
which he regards as biased against him.
Mr. Trump’s lashing out at the N.F.L.
— he has repeatedly criticized football
players for kneeling at games and once
said he hoped a player “sues the hell out
of the @nfl for incompetence & defamation” — comes in part from his decadeslong legal fight with the N.F.L. after he
bought a team in the competing United
States Football League.
As a private citizen, Mr. Trump has attacked companies, including calling several times for boycotts. The remarks
served to raise his profile and fed the image of a no-holds-barred businessman
who was unafraid to rebuke his rivals or
his critics. But in those days, such comments had little ability to move stock
prices or affect sales.
As a candidate and as the president,
Mr. Trump also uses his verbal assaults
on companies to bolster his populist
message that he is on the side of workers, not big business. (Still, Mr. Trump
secured a large tax cut last year for corporate America.)
Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters
say they appreciate his willingness to
criticize the corporate establishment.
“He continues to go directly after the
companies and not care about political
correctness,” said Terry Bowman, a former Trump campaign organizer who
works at a Ford Motor parts factory in
Ypsilanti, Mich. “He says things that a
polished politician would never say. He
says things that come directly from the
American worker.”
President Barack Obama once singled out Staples, the office supply com-
An Amazon warehouse in Robbinsville, N.J. In recent days, the company has all but
ignored Mr. Trump’s taunts, which he made in a flurry of tweets.
pany, for failing to provide more health
care for its employees. “Shame on
them,” he said. Earlier in his presidency,
Mr. Obama broadly criticized Wall
Street bankers whose firms took federal
bailout money only to turn around and
award bonuses to their executives.
“That is the height of irresponsibility,”
Mr. Obama said in 2009 without identifying specific companies. “It is shameful.”
Mr. Clinton’s Justice Department aggressively pushed to break up Microsoft
on the grounds that it was abusing its
monopoly position in personal computing to dominate the internet.
President John F. Kennedy avoided
naming individuals during a fight with
the steel industry in 1962. He criticized
“a tiny handful of steel executives whose
pursuit of private power and profit exceeds their sense of public responsibility.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt frequently assailed the “malefactors of
great wealth” without identifying them.
Mr. Trump has had no such reticence.
In his most recent attacks on Amazon,
he has accused the company of using the
United States Postal Service as “its Delivery Boy” and claimed that the federal
agency was being ripped off by the online retailer.
On Tuesday, he insisted that he was
right. “A report just came out. They said
$1.47, I believe, or about that for every
time they deliver a package, the United
States government — meaning the post
office — loses $1.47,” the president said.
He added, ominously: “So Amazon is
going to have to pay much more money
to the post office. There’s no doubt about
Mr. Trump’s numbers were inaccurate — the Postal Service makes money
from Amazon — but business executives say such statements have a chilling effect.
When Merck’s chief executive, Kenneth C. Frazier, quit a presidential business council last year in protest of some
of the White House’s policy positions,
other members were initially reluctant
to come to his defense for fear of a verbal
attack by Mr. Trump. The council eventually disbanded.
The multiday decline of Amazon’s
stock price after Mr. Trump’s repeated
jabs at the company has exacerbated
such fears, said Jeffrey A. Sonnenfeld, a
professor at the Yale School of Management and president of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute.
But he added that refusing to engage
could also be risky. He said that Mr. Bezos’s silence had hurt the company, leaving it exposed to Mr. Trump’s accusations that it received subsidies from the
Postal Service and was not paying its
fair share of taxes.
“The right answer for C.E.O.s is not to
engage in a mud fight but to come with
facts,” Mr. Sonnenfeld said. “U.P.S. and
FedEx have their facts, but we haven’t
heard from Amazon.”
Mr. Wiley said that when he started
Burmese, in 2008, he didn’t offer money
and support, but he soon realized that
the job placements wouldn’t last without
it. Resettlement agency assistance was
temporary and many job seekers didn’t
speak English. So he hired case managers to translate, help with school enrollment, drive recruits to the supermarket,
find English classes and more.
Berhane Teklay, who once hung live
chickens upside down in a plant, handles the 30 or so workers Mr. Wiley has
placed in Woodstock. Originally from
Eritrea, Mr. Teklay arrived after winning a visa in the 2011 diversity lottery —
a program that the Trump administration recently vowed to shutter. This year,
he became a United States citizen.
“You need somebody to help you get
into the system,” Mr. Teklay said, and
that’s what Labor Solutions does. For
refugees who can’t speak English well
or drive a car, he said, a job in a meatprocessing plant is about the best they
can do.
Fluent in Arabic, Amharic, Tigrinya
and English, Mr. Teklay acts as interpreter, administrator, real estate agent,
loan office, complaint bureau and overall fixer.
For a year, he helped Waleed Kanuo,
Elfadil Daoud and Ali Hamid, refugees
from Sudan, settle into an apartment in
Woodstock and navigate the system, until they transferred to working directly
for the poultry-plant operator. Gathered
in the living room of the sparsely furnished apartment they share, all three
said they were saving money and grateful to Labor Solutions for finding them a
For others, the experience is more
Mr. Kabba, for instance, said he had
not known that he would have to pay an
additional $25 every week for the daily
mile ride from a co-worker to and from
the plant. Nor did he understand that he
would be working for Labor Solutions
and not the processing plant directly,
which he said makes it more difficult to
switch departments, and means he is
not yet eligible for the health benefits or
401(k) plan.
“Oh, my God, I saw chickens —
lots and lots and lots of chickens,
350,000 chickens a day. If you
scratch your face or bend down,
you might miss a couple.”
At the same time, plant conditions are
regimented and unforgiving, with 30
minutes for lunch and two 10-minute
bathroom breaks that workers said
don’t include time to change out and into
cumbersome protective garb. And small
infractions can lead to firing.
But as a friend of Mr. Kabba’s says,
that’s the way it is in America: They tell
you all the sweet stuff, and not the salty.
“It’s a job,” Mr. Kabba said of the $11.70an-hour work, which pays a $1-an-hour
bonus if he’s on time every day of the
week. “You can’t pick and choose.” And
he loves Woodstock’s quiet.
Teddy Marchant, 32, a former housemate of Mr. Kabba’s, did not. Within a
couple of days, he realized that the small
town, without so much as a movie theater, wasn’t for him. He needed the cash,
he said, but “if I had my way, I don’t
think I’d be here.” He soon left.
Ms. Johnson had time to check out the
place but not the $11-an-hour job she was
promised. “I had no idea of what I was
going to see,” she said.
When she walked into the plant, it was
a shock. “Oh, my God, I saw chickens —
lots and lots and lots of chickens,
350,000 chickens a day,” she said, still
shaking her head at the looping conveyor belts crowded with birds. “If you
scratch your face or bend down, you
might miss a couple of chickens.”
She clocked in at 5:30 a.m. and rotated
hanging up the dead chickens, cleaning
out guts and cutting off legs, wings and
backs to ready the meat for packaging,
she said.
It is physically demanding, repetitive
and smelly, Ms. Johnson said.
A smell that her husband noted was
also “the smell of money.”
Mr. Johnson, who was born in Libya
and lived in Sierra Leone before moving
to the United States 16 years ago as a refugee, was initially the most enthusiastic
about the job. In November, he was jogging with his children in the morning,
thinking about getting a second job to
build up savings, and dreaming about a
music studio where he could compose
and record the music that played endlessly through his head.
But by January, he was out of a job for
a violation of the processing plant’s policy. A couple months later, Ms. Johnson
also left the plant after finding another
local job.
The work is not for everyone, Mr. Wiley concedes. But he maintains that for
many refugees, including Mr. Teklay, his
Woodstock branch manager, it provides
a foothold.
“They want the American dream, and
they don’t mind starting off on the bottom,” he said. “There’s a lot of unskilled
work in the U.S. that Americans will not
do, and these people are doing it.”
14 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
How to serve a deranged tyrant, stoically
The story of
Seneca and
Nero may
show Trump
advisers that
it’s not too
late to come
to their
Ryan Holiday
In January 2017, I was offered a potential position inside the newly forming
Trump administration: a job as communications director for a cabinet
member. I had not supported Mr.
Trump and so the offer was a surprise,
and I surprised myself by even considering it.
While I didn’t pursue the opportunity very seriously and it did not come to
pass, even the possibility of having
worked in the Trump administration
has colored my read on the news this
past turbulent year. While others
follow each new scandal and the dizzying parade of White House hirings and
firings with glee or horror, I pause to
consider a dangerous near miss. It has
also given me a different perspective
on a side of philosophy that is often
ignored — its interaction and interplay
with politics.
In the ancient world, as is true today,
navigating political chaos was a pressing dilemma. Philosophers were forced
to decide whether to participate in,
resist or simply endure the political
rulers of their time. Socrates, the incorrigible free spirit, was a soldier in
the Peloponnesian
War and a citizen
Seneca saw
who lived through
the inexperAthens of the Thirty
ienced Nero
Tyrants. Aristotle,
as an
who wrote brilliant
works on justice,
happiness and govto advance
ernment, worked for
his own
Alexander the Great,
interests and
a murderous warinfluence.
Only time
Or consider the
would reveal
case of Seneca, a
that fusing
man whose political
his fate to
life mirrors much of
the chaos of the
Nero was a
Trump administraFaustian
tion. In A.D. 49, the
well-known writer
and Stoic philosopher was recalled
from exile to tutor the successor of the
emperor Claudius, a promising teenager named Nero. Like many people
today, Seneca entered public service
with ideals mitigated by a pragmatic
understanding of the reality of the
politics of his time.
Although just a few generations
earlier, the Stoics had been ardent
defenders of the republican ideals
(Cato, Seneca’s hero, famously disemboweled himself rather than live under
Julius Caesar), by Seneca’s time most
of these objections had become futile.
As Emily Wilson, a translator and
biographer of Seneca, writes: “Cicero
hoped that he really could bring down
Caesar and Mark Antony. Seneca, by
contrast, had no hope that he could
achieve anything by direct opposition
to any of the emperors under whom he
lived. His best hope was to moderate
some of Nero’s worst tendencies and to
maximize his own sense of autonomy.”
We can imagine, too, that he saw the
inexperienced Nero as an opportunity
to advance his own interests and influence. Only time would reveal that
fusing his fate to Nero was a Faustian
Though Nero had good qualities, he
was obsessed with fame and had an
endless need for validation. He was
also unstable and paranoid, and began
to eliminate his rivals — including
murdering his own mother. Was Seneca personally involved in these decisions? We don’t know. But he helped
legitimize the regime with his presence, and profited from it as well,
becoming one of Rome’s richest men
through his 13 years of service.
Seneca was torn. To the Stoics,
contributing to public affairs was a
critical duty of the philosopher. Could
Seneca decline to serve because he
disagreed with the emperor? Could he
leave a deranged Nero unsupervised?
In time, Seneca would also come to the
conclusion that when “the state is so
rotten as to be past helping, if evil has
entire dominion over it, the wise man
will not labor in vain or waste his
strength in unprofitable efforts.”
As Nero worsened, Seneca attempted to leave. Joining Nero’s administration was easy, but an exit was
not. Nero could not afford to lose his
most influential adviser, or allow the
perception that someone as well
known as Seneca was cutting ties with
him. Seneca was granted a quiet sabbatical at Nero’s whim — the modern
equivalent of a jointly issued news
Seneca had finally come to experience the truth of the words of the Roman poet Horace, whose work had
greatly influenced him: “To have a
great man for a friend seems pleasant
to those who have never tried it; those
who have, fear it.”
In a larger sense, Seneca’s struggle
has echoes into our time, especially in
politics. Last year, Senator Marco
Rubio, a Republican who has both
criticized Donald Trump and supported
many of his policies, tweeted a quote
from Seneca about tyranny, prompting
some to ask if he was subtweeting the
president. Ken Kurson, the former
editor in chief of The New York Observer and an informal adviser to Mr.
Trump and Jared Kushner during the
election, told me that the Stoics were an
inspiration to him as he dealt with the
ethical and personal challenges of his
My own early career involved some
questionable service to businesspeople.
Employed and paid by them, I planned
and carried out controversial publicity
stunts, and used dishonest tactics with
the public and the media. When I finally left those roles, I found a knowledge of Stoic philosophy integral to my
ability to assess my past actions, and
set a more honorable course going
In a remarkable essay titled “On
Leisure,” published after Seneca retired, the philosopher wrote in an oblique way about his own experiences:
“The duty of a man is to be useful to his
fellow-men; if possible, to be useful to
many of them; failing this, to be useful
to a few; failing this, to be useful to his
neighbors, and, failing them, to himself: for when he helps others, he advances the general interests of
Removed from the day-to-day of
Rome’s geopolitics (helping the many),
he seemed to have a newfound appreciation for helping the few. Seneca
seemed to realize only belatedly that
one can contribute to his fellow citizens
in ways other than through the state —
for instance, by writing or simply by
being a good man at home. There is
some irony in the fact that as an individual, the famous letters and essays
Seneca wrote would not only have a
bigger impact than his work in politics
but also in time would whitewash his
contributions to a horrible regime.
In 65 A.D., Seneca would again find
that philosophy did not exist only in the
ethereal world. Conspirators began to
plot against Nero’s life, and Seneca,
finally accepting that the monster he
had helped create needed to be
stopped, appears to have participated
— or covered for those who did.
The effort failed but provided Seneca
an opportunity: His life up to that point
had contradicted many of his own
teachings, but now when Nero’s guards
came and demanded his life, he would
be brave and wise. The man who had
written much about learning how to die
and facing the end without fear would
comfort his friends, finish an essay he
was writing and distribute some finished pieces for safekeeping. Then, he
slit his veins, took hemlock and succumbed to the suffocating steam of a
Another Stoic politician, Thrasea
Paetus, who had chosen to challenge
Nero while Seneca had collaborated,
would ironically outlive Seneca by a
year. His last words before his own
death sentence: “Nero can kill me, but
he cannot harm me.” This line had
come from Socrates.
From these dark endings and from
Seneca’s complicated but very real life,
there are no clear or clean lessons. Few
serving the current president fall into
the category of philosopher, but still,
members of the administration face
wrenching dilemmas and the conflict
between power and principle.
In some cases, now as in the ancient
world, ordinary people will respond to
these trials with almost inhuman
courage, while in other cases they will
show contemptible cowardice. And in
other cases still, some will, as Seneca
did, come to their senses and try to fix
their mistakes before it’s too late.
Each serves a purpose to those of us
on the sidelines, either as inspiration or
as cautionary tale.
the author of “The
Daily Stoic” and the editor of
Is Putin a C.I.A. agent?
He has
so many
actions that
to the
of Russia
that you have
to wonder.
Thomas L. Friedman
President Trump’s steadfast reluctance
to say anything negative about Russia
is so striking that a former director of
national intelligence, James Clapper,
once observed that Vladimir Putin
manages Trump as if he we were a
Russian intelligence “asset.” He may
be. But if I were a Russian citizen, I’d
be asking this question: Is Putin a U.S.
Why? Because Putin has undertaken so many actions in recent years
that contributed to the weakening of
Russia’s economy and human capital
base that you have to wonder whether
he’s secretly on the C.I.A.’s payroll.
Beginning around 2007 or 2008,
Putin appears to have decided that
rebuilding Russia by nurturing its
tremendous human talent and
strengthening the rule of law was just
too hard — it would have required
sharing power, holding real, competitive elections and building a truly
diverse, innovation-based economy.
Instead, Putin decided to look for
dignity for Russia in all the wrong
places: by tapping his oil and gas
wells, not his people; by strengthening
the Russian military, instead of the
rule of law; and by enriching himself
and his circle of oligarchs while wrapping himself in a cloak of Russian
Orthodoxy and Russian nationalism
that appealed to his base.
Les Echos, France’s top business
daily, recently quoted a Russian techy
as pointing out that “Microsoft alone
registers more patents than the whole
of Russia!” The Russian technology
market is not only weak, the story
added, but “corruption in the judicial
system . . . makes it difficult to defend
your case in court when a predator
takes over a successful startup.”
For all his shirtless bravado, and
despite all the recent talk about how
Putin is proving to be a successful
authoritarian, I have one question:
Then why is Putin so insecure about
his real popularity in Russia that even
after nearly 20 years at Russia’s helm,
he was afraid to allow a single credible
independent candidate to run against
him in the latest presidential election?
Here’s the real truth: Putin consistently acts like a farmer who sells his
most valuable beef in return for cubes
of sugar. That is, he looks for shortterm sugar highs to boost his popularity with his Russian nationalist base
because he is insecure, and pays for it
by giving up real beef, leaving Russia
weaker in the long term.
Beef for sugar — not a good trade.
For instance, in 2014 Putin seized
Crimea and invaded Eastern Ukraine
with disguised Russian troops — to get
Vladimir Putin at a wreath-laying ceremony at a memorial in the city of Volgograd,
Russia, in February commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle of Stalingrad.
a short-term sugar boost with the
Russian electorate — and in return, he
has had to live with long-term economic banking sanctions imposed by
the West that help to slow Russia’s
In 2015, to prove that Russia was
still a superpower — another shortterm sugar high for his base — Putin
sent advisers, Russian Air Force jets,
special operations teams and surfaceto-air missile batteries to Syria to
prevent the toppling of Russia’s Cold
War ally, Syrian President Bashar
al-Assad. Putin’s support, along with
the help of Iran, has just barely kept
Assad upright, but for now Putin is
stuck in the middle of Syria and can’t
get out, lest Assad falls and Putin looks
Putin’s latest beef-for-sugar trade
was his apparent ordering of the use of
a military-grade nerve agent,
produced only in Russia, to poison the
former Russian spy Sergei V. Skripal
and his daughter, Yulia, in the English
city of Salisbury. The Western response has been what British Prime
Minister Theresa May described as
the biggest collective expulsion of
alleged Russian intelligence officers
ever — over 100 from more than 20
Whether timed or coincidental, the
poisoning attack and the Western
backlash helped Putin run up his vote
totals in his latest phony presidential
re-election — another sugar high. But
the morning after, Putin’s Russia is
more isolated than ever. Also, Putin’s
cronies and other Russian oligarchs —
whose game is to make tons of dirty
money in Russia and then take it to
London, where it can be laundered for
safekeeping — are now getting more
scrutinized than ever by British authorities.
And then there is Putin’s long-range
strategy — to bet against Mother
Nature, human nature and Moore’s
Law, all at once. He’s betting against
Mother Nature — that the world will
indefinitely remain addicted to his oil
and gas in an age of disruptive climate
change. He’s betting against human
nature — that his young people won’t
want to be free to realize their full
potential, not just live off sugar-high
memories of historical greatness. And
he’s betting against Moore’s Law —
that the steady growth of technology
won’t empower Russia’s youth to connect and collaborate, and see through
his charade.
Putin’s troubles are nothing I celeFRIEDMAN, PAGE 16
“The Death of
Seneca,” oil on
wood, by Rubens.
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 15
How King lived is why he died
Jesse Jackson
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
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
Spurred by
the E.P.A.
moves to
relax or kill
a mileage
mandate and
undo a crucial
tool for
Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and second only to President Trump in
the climate denial game, proposed on Monday revising — which definitely means relaxing and probably
means crippling — the ambitious, groundbreaking
greenhouse gas and fuel-economy standards approved during the Obama administration.
Though the devil will lie in the final details, the
reversal puts Mr. Pruitt’s E.P.A. on a collision course
with California, which can set its own emissions
standards, thereby creating two car markets with
different emissions standards. It would deprive consumers of billions of dollars in savings at the gas
pump. It would do nothing to reduce imports of foreign crude oil. It would slow the steady technological
advance toward cleaner cars.
And — no surprise here — it would continue Mr.
Trump’s yearlong demolition of every important policy Barack Obama put in place to fight global warming. The Clean Power Plan to limit greenhouse gas
emissions from power plants? Consigned to the dustbin. America’s participation in the historic Paris
agreement on global warming? Withdrawn. John
Kerry’s decision when he was secretary of state to
block the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada?
Revoked. And now on the chopping block, the 2012
auto efficiency rule aimed at curbing carbon emissions in the transportation sector, the country’s biggest source of planet-warming gases.
But here’s something interesting. The only conceivable beneficiaries of Mr. Pruitt’s scheme — the automakers, whose trade groups and lobbyists have
been pressuring the White House for more lenient
rules — may not be all that crazy about the plan, either. Bill Ford, the chairman of Ford Motor Company,
and Jim Hackett, the company’s chief executive,
wrote in a blog post last week that while they would
like more “flexibility” on meeting the rule, “we support increasing clean car standards through 2025 and
are not asking for a rollback.”
In short, adjustments, yes, wholesale revisions, no.
There are several reasons for this caution. One has to
do with preserving the industry’s reputation and satisfying what amounts to its historical obligation. The
Obama administration rules were plenty tough, calling for a doubling in fuel economy for new cars and
light trucks, to more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025,
equivalent to a real-world average of 36 m.p.g. But the
automakers signed on, not least because multibilliondollar bailouts by the Bush and Obama administrations kept them afloat, for which they still owe the
American taxpayer a very big thank-you. Backsliding
now on public health and the environment would not
do the automakers a lot of good.
A second reason is California. Because of its
uniquely severe smog problems, and because its clean
air rules predate federal rules, California has been
allowed under the Clean Air Act to set its own, and
traditionally tougher, air pollution standards, as long
as it is granted a waiver by the federal government to
do so. This in effect has confronted the automobile
industry with the need to manufacture two versions of
its cars — one for California and the dozen states that
have adopted California’s standards, and another for
the rest of the country.
Part of the genius of the Obama program was that it
harmonized California’s rules and the federal rules.
But if the Trump administration tries to undermine
this deal, California has said that it will once again go
its own way, fracturing the American car and light
truck market. Automakers don’t need that headache
and expense.
There’s always a chance that a determined Mr.
Pruitt, who deeply resents California’s aggressiveness
on this and other clean air issues, could try to revoke
California’s waiver and force the state to toe the federal line — something he signaled in a statement on
Monday. That would inspire a legal donnybrook that
Mr. Pruitt has no guarantee of winning and would
make his efforts look even more feckless and destructive.
Finally, there is scant evidence that the automakers
want to slow the steady march toward cleaner cars.
Mary Barra, General Motors’ chief executive, has
expressed support for the current nationwide standards, which can only improve Detroit’s competitiveness in an increasingly climate-conscious global market.
What Mr. Trump and Mr. Pruitt could both use is a
history lesson. History shows that well-tailored regulation drives innovation and, far from killing jobs, as
Mr. Trump contends, creates them. Detroit and foreign manufacturers in the American market have
done well under the Obama rules. Those targets
should remain in place and, if anything, be strengthened in the years ahead.
In commemorating the 50th anniversary this week of the assassination of the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we
should dwell not merely on how Dr. King
died but also on how he lived.
He mobilized mass action to win a
public accommodations bill and the
right to vote. He led the Montgomery
bus boycott and navigated police terror
in Birmingham. He got us over the
bloodstained bridge in Selma and survived the rocks and bottles and hatred
in Chicago. He globalized our struggle
to end the war in Vietnam.
How he lived is why he died.
As he sought to move beyond desegregation and the right to vote, to focus
his work on economic justice, antimilitarism and human rights, the system
pushed back hard. In the last months of
his life, he was attacked by the government, the press, former allies and the
military industrial complex. Even black
Democrats turned their backs on him
when he challenged the party’s support
for the war in Vietnam.
A growing number of Americans had
a negative view of Dr. King in the final
years of his life, according to public
opinion polls. A man of peace, he died
violently. A man of love, he died hated by
America loathes marchers but loves
martyrs. The bullet in Memphis made
Dr. King a martyr for the ages.
We owe it to Dr. King — and to our
children and grandchildren — to commemorate the man in full: a radical,
ecumenical, antiwar, pro-immigrant
and scholarly champion of the poor who
spent much more time marching and
going to jail for liberation and justice
than he ever spent dreaming about it.
This is a painful time of the year for
me because it is when I am asked to
remember the most traumatic night in
my life.
We had come to Memphis in 1968 to
support striking sanitation workers in
their fight for better wages and safer
working conditions. On the evening of
April 4, Dr. King was going to take a
group of us, including the Rev. Ralph
We owe it to
Abernathy, Andy
the Rev. Dr.
Young, Hosea
Martin Luther
Williams and
King Jr. to
Bernard Lee, to
dinner at the home
of the Rev. Samuel
the man in
Billy Kyles, not far
full: a radical,
from where we were
staying, the Lorantiwar,
raine Motel.
As we prepared to
and scholarly
go, Dr. King cheerchampion of
fully admonished
the poor.
me, the youngest of
the group, for not
being suitably
dressed for the evening. I wasn’t wearing a tie. “Doc, the only prerequisite for
dinner,” I joked back, “is an appetite, not
a tie.”
We laughed. Dr. King loved to laugh.
After dinner we were going to attend
a rally for the sanitation workers. I had
brought the Operation Breadbasket
Orchestra from Chicago to play at the
rally. Dr. King, always the hottest ticket
in any town, was scheduled to speak.
He’d be hard pressed, though, to top the
speech he gave the night before at the
Mason Temple in Memphis, where he
pledged that “we, as a people, will get to
the promised land.”
It was raining cats and dogs, but the
Mason Temple, part of the Church of
God in Christ, was nearly full. I was
sitting behind Dr. King as he preached
from the pulpit. He spoke with such
pathos and passion that I saw grown
men wiping away tears in the sanctuary.
“I’m not worried about anything,” Dr.
King told the crowd of about 3,000. “I’m
not fearing any man. Mine eyes have
seen the glory of the coming of the
None of us took those words as a
premonition. We had heard similar
sentiments from him before. Maybe we
were in denial. While danger was all
around, we never thought the Martin
Luther King we knew and loved, admitted to Morehouse College at 15, graduated and ordained at 19, earning a Ph.D. at
26, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize at 35,
would be dead at 39.
On April 4, the fatal shot rang out just
after 6 p.m. as we were about to get into
the cars to go to dinner. Dr. King was on
the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. I was
in the parking lot below.
A couple of hours later, the Rev. Ralph
Abernathy, Dr. King’s successor, gathered us at the Lorraine. By then much of
urban America had already moved from
shock and sorrow to rage and flames.
We had a choice: Surrender to our own
anguish and anger, or honor the slain
prince of peace by picking up the baton
of nonviolent direct action.
With deep breaths, the baton firmly in
our hands, we went to Resurrection City,
the tent city erected by Dr. King’s Poor
People’s Campaign in Washington, and
continued the work of ending poverty
and the war. As the Rev. Joseph Lowery
said, we would not let one bullet kill the
Dr. King’s spirit has been our moral
guidepost for 50 years. That spirit is
alive today with the high school students of Parkland, Fla., as they push the
country toward sensible gun control. It
is alive with the teachers of West Virginia, who have blazed a trail for other
workers. It is alive with Black Lives
Matter, the Dreamers, Colin Kaepernick
and thousands of African-American
voters who defied the pundits and sent
an Alabama Democrat to the Senate for
the first time in a generation. It is alive
with the Rev. William Barber as he
resurrects Dr. King’s last crusade, the
Poor People’s Campaign.
Dr. King bequeathed African-Americans the will to resist and the right to
vote. Yet while we were marching and
winning, the powers of reaction were
regrouping, preparing a counterrevolution. Five decades ago, a segregationist
governor, George Wallace, peddled hate
and division in reaction to the civil
rights movement. Today, it is the president himself who is inciting anguish,
bigotry and fear.
We are in a battle for the soul of America, and it’s not enough to admire Dr.
King. To admire him is to reduce him to a
mere celebrity. It requires no commitment, no action. Those who value justice
and equality must have the will and
courage to follow him. They must be
ready to sacrifice.
The struggle continues.
a former aide to the Rev.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is the
founder and president of the Rainbow
PUSH Coalition.
The formaldehyde in your e-cigs
Joseph G. Allen
Recently, there has been a shift away
from calling e-cigarettes “e-cigs.” In
public health circles, people now tend to
call them by what they do: deliver
nicotine to the inhaler. Thus, the term
Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems,
ENDS for short, has come into vogue.
But I have a problem with that name.
Nicotine isn’t the only thing e-cigs
deliver; they also deliver formaldehyde,
a carcinogen. It seems equally fair to
call them Electronic Formaldehyde
Delivery Systems.
Do manufacturers intentionally put
formaldehyde in e-cigs? No, they don’t.
But there’s some fundamental chemistry happening that can generate
formaldehyde. E-cigs often use propylene glycol or glycerol to help transport
nicotine and flavors and to create the
big vapor cloud. We’ve known for a long
time that when we heat these so-called
carrier fluids they can transform into
Sure enough, when we measure
what’s coming out of an e-cigarette, we
have found formaldehyde. Sometimes, a
lot of it. A letter published in the New
England Journal of Medicine caught
widespread attention in 2015 when its
authors reported that they had found
emissions of formaldehyde from e-cigs.
There was some initial push back from
skeptics who claimed that the e-cig
vaping conditions in the research used
too high of a voltage (an actual user,
they argued, would be deterred from
puffing hard enough to generate the
excessive formaldehyde because it
would taste bad). Of note, one author of
that critique receives funding from a
group that has accepted money from
tobacco companies, and another received money from an e-cig company.
It seems the hired guns were a bit
quick to draw, so to speak. Study after
study since then has confirmed that
e-cigs can deliver formaldehyde to the
user. My colleagues and I found, in a
study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, that
under typical conditions the formaldehyde coming out of an e-cig can even
exceed what is known as ceiling limits
— a level of formaldehyde in the air that
is not allowed to be exceeded in the
workplace, even for one second.
So that’s the case for calling e-cigs
Electronic Formaldehyde Delivery
Systems. But e-cigs don’t just emit
nicotine and formaldehyde. We could
also call them Electronic Diacetyl Delivery Systems. Diacetyl, a flavoring
chemical, is less well-known than formaldehyde, but it shouldn’t be.
About a decade ago several former
workers in a microwave popcorn packaging plant got sick with a severe and
irreversible lung disease called obliterative bronchiolitis, which became known
as Popcorn Lung. After a lengthy investigation, it was discovered that those
who had most often been exposed to the
popcorn’s fake butter flavoring were the
most likely to have problems with their
lungs. Diacetyl, the chemical that was
used to create that fake butter flavor,
was being heated up, and the workers
were breathing in the vapors. Although
diacetyl is safe to eat, it is not safe when
it is heated and inhaled.
Heating and inhaling flavors sound a
lot like what’s happening with e-cigs,
right? And Diacetyl
These devices is used to create all
sorts of flavors bedon’t just
sides butter, like
strawberry, piña
colada and butterscotch. It’s not surprising, then, that we
found diacetyl in over 75 percent of
e-cigs tested.
Some e-cig makers have moved away
from diacetyl because of its bad rap. But
what are they using instead to create
those 7,000 or so flavors of e-cigs on the
market? Often we see a close look-alike
chemical called 2,3-pentanedione,
which we found in nearly 50 percent of
e-cigs tested. And in animal studies, this
chemical can cause something that
looks just like Popcorn Lung.
To be sure, e-cigs may be a useful tool
for smoking cessation for those who are
addicted to traditional cigarettes. E-cigs
are safer than cigarettes, no question.
But “safer” does not mean “safe.” And
all e-cig users need to be informed about
the risks of inhaling these chemicals.
Furthermore, while supporters of
e-cigs advocate for their smoking cessation benefits, e-cigs can also be a gateway to traditional cigarette use. Consider this: 22 percent of eighth-grade
smokers used e-cigs first. That’s one in
five — an astounding number of kids.
The addictive nicotine in e-cigs is contributing to the next generation of traditional cigarette users. Will we then
recommend that they use e-cigs to help
them quit? This is the opposite of a
virtuous cycle.
Although many states now restrict
e-cig sales for those under 18, it’s clear
that kids are finding ways to access
e-cigs. And in my opinion, e-cigs are
being marketed toward this age group.
Who else is interested in puffing on an
“Alien Blood”-flavored e-cig?
We have been warning workers about
inhaling these chemicals for more than
10 years. (The Flavor and Extract Manufacturers Association of the United
States suggests adding a warning about
diacetyl and other flavoring chemicals
that reads, “Handling of this flavor that
results in inhalation of fumes, especially
if the flavor is heated, may cause severe
adverse health effects.”) E-cigs should
be sold with similar warnings.
And if the public health community
really thinks we need a new name for
these devices, a more fair one would be
“Electronic Nicotine/Formaldehyde/
Diacetyl Delivery Systems” — though
not even that would reflect the full list of
harmful components. I suggest we stick
with “e-cigs.”
is an assistant professor
at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of
Public Health.
A vaping store and lounge in New York. E-cigs deliver formaldehyde, a carcinogen.
16 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
A black American dream
Denene Millner
Daddy lives in a quiet corner of Virginia, on the same country road his grandmother walked in the early 1900s.
Recently, he shared with me some
writings he’s been keeping for years —
little remembrances, ideas about what
constitutes a loving family, what makes
a man. One of the essays describes the
day his mother died.
He and his brothers found her body;
she was lying in the bed next to her
5-day-old daughter, with a small piece
of apple in her mouth. No one knows if
she choked on that apple, had an
asthma attack or, like so many other
black women in America, died from
complications of childbirth.
What my father does know is that
when his mother died, he had to drop
out of school to start working. Daddy
was 10, a fifth grader. He never went
back, a tragedy that he is sure sealed
his fate as a lifelong blue-collar worker.
He spent the rest of his working years
toiling in factories — making plastic
tablecloth fabrics, then repairing machines and overseeing production at a
He speculates that had his mother
lived, life would have been different.
“Maybe I could have been a doctor,” he
wrote. “She would have helped me.”
That sentence reflects a simple truth
about parents, white and black: They
want their children to have a better life
than they did.
My parents were middle class but
vulnerable; a missed paycheck could
lead to a missed mortgage payment,
which could lead to the loss of their
home, dropping them into poverty.
Education and professional careers,
they insisted, would save my brother
and me from this fate. And they were
But things have changed since I was
a kid. Now that I have children of my
own, I am learning that the chances
that they will end up better off than me
are slim, and that in fact they’re in
danger of being sucked back into poverty.
A few years ago, The Atlantic published a story detailing all the ways
racial disparities in “transformative
assets” chip away at black millennials’
Children attending school in Brooklyn.
ability to build wealth. This generation
has been forced to forgo buying homes
and investing in favor of contributing
to their parents’ bills and paying off
college loans.
Now, a new study on race and economic opportunity has revealed that
black boys who are raised in wealthy
families are more likely to become
poor as adults than
they are to remain
We all want
our children
The explanation
to have a
was obvious: racism,
better life
and the continuous
than we did.
price African-Americans pay for it, from
But statistics
generation to genersay they
For this black
parent, those stories
are the stuff of nightmares. From the moment I saw the
double lines on my pregnancy test, I
dreamed of a world in which my children win — where they slay their A.P.
courses, go to great colleges like Yale
or Spelman and enjoy lucrative careers.
I assumed that by the time my two
daughters and stepson were of age,
society would have moved on from the
institutional barriers that lurk in the
shadows like some boogeyman, ready
to jump out and thwart the forward
movement of black folk.
I was hopeful that by then black
students would be accepted into A.P.
classes without a fight; employers
would no longer be tossing out résumés with “black sounding” names;
black women would get the same pay
for the same work as white men; and
black families could live in the neighborhoods of their choosing and get
mortgage rates based on their credit
and not on the color of their skin.
Surely my children would be better off
than me.
But here we are, in 2018, the same
old shotgun threatening to buck down
my children’s chances at a better life,
despite my efforts to play by America’s
rules. I have been a hands-on parent. I
have pushed my kids academically. I
have pushed myself, just like Daddy, to
make sure that they have what they
need and even some of the things they
want so they could focus on being
Still, statistics say they have a high
chance of failing. And I am scared for
African-American parents can’t stop
demanding equality, but perhaps we
need to start dreaming of a different
kind of success: a hybrid of the life my
father led as a child (while appallingly
unjust, segregation made the black
community self-reliant, assuring that
African-Americans traded in goods and
services among themselves) mixed
with the expectations he had for me
(success in corporate America). Maybe
the challenge we should pass along to
black children now is to never be afraid
of avoiding the shackles of corporate
America and creating their own businesses — businesses that also serve
our community.
And maybe it’s time for us to redefine success altogether. Doing “better
than me” could be about our babies
growing up to be healthier, happier and
more passionate about the things that
matter to them — hard workers, yes,
with the cash they need, sure, but also
pioneers of a new paradigm that lets
go of the all-too-elusive American
In all things, let there be joy. This,
for my children, young, black and
gifted, I wish with no fear.
the editor of Denene
Millner Books, an imprint of Agate
Whatever happens
next, we’ll help you
make sense of it.
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The autocrats’ playbook
Michelle Goldberg
In 2009, Turkey’s tax ministry imposed
a $2.5 billion fine for alleged tax evasion on Dogan Yayin, a media conglomerate whose newspapers and television
stations were critical of the Turkish
leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Under
financial and political pressure, the
company began unloading some assets
and closing others. Last month, the
billionaire Aydin Dogan sold his remaining media properties, including
the influential Hurriyet newspaper and
CNN Turk, to a group of Erdogan
Modern authoritarians rarely seize
critical newspapers or TV stations
outright. Instead, they use state power
to pressure critics and reward friends.
As Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt,
professors at Harvard, wrote in their
recent book “How Democracies Die,”
President Vladimir Putin of Russia
turned the tax authorities on Vladimir
Gusinsky, owner of an independent
television network, NTV, which was
considered bothersome. Gusinsky
eventually signed NTV over to a government-controlled company. Under
Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan authorities
accused Guillermo Zuloaga, owner of
Globovisión, a TV station frequently
critical of the government, of illegal
profiteering. In 2013, Zuloaga sold
Globovisión to allies of Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro.
Now Donald Trump is going after
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and
owner of The Washington Post.
The president’s latest round of antiAmazon tweets began last Thursday,
when Trump claimed, inaccurately,
that Amazon pays “little or no taxes to
state & local governments” and that
the United States Postal Service loses
money on Amazon deliveries. On Saturday, he wrote that The Washington
Post should be forced to “REGISTER”
as an Amazon lobbyist. On Monday, he
warned that Amazon may soon have to
pay more for its deliveries: “Only fools,
or worse, are saying that our money
losing Post Office makes money with
and this will be changed.”
Trump’s antipathy has already affected Amazon’s fortunes. He threatened the company during the presidential campaign, and, as Forbes reported,
Amazon’s stock plunged more than 6
percent after he won. Last Wednesday,
after Axios reported that Trump was
“obsessed” with Amazon, the company
lost $53 billion in market value. In the
wake of Trump’s tweets on Monday,
Amazon’s stock fell more than 5 percent.
Like the F.B.I.,
You don’t
another regular
have to like
Trump target, AmaAmazon to
zon is hardly blamefear Trump’s
less. There’s a legitiattack on it.
mate case for an
antitrust investigation of the behemoth,
which as of last year controlled around
44 percent of online retail sales. Lina
Khan, director of legal policy at the
antimonopoly Open Markets Institute,
describes Amazon as the 21st-century
equivalent of 19th-century railroads.
Many independent retailers feel bullied
by the company, she tells me, but have
no choice but to use its platform because it’s so dominant.
But Trump revealed his motive for
condemning Amazon when he called
for government registration of The
Washington Post. A source who spoke
to Trump told The Post’s own Philip
Rucker that “a negative story in The
Post is almost always the catalyst for
one of his Amazon rants.” Trump’s
tweets on Saturday came after The
Post published a piece that read like an
omnibus of Trump sensitivities: “From
Mueller to Stormy to ‘Emoluments,’
Trump’s Business Is Under Siege.”
This is not the first time the Trump
administration has appeared to be
Denuclearization works
nuclear weapons ambitions. It was a
shapeless, ill-fitting word. But the
alternatives — “disarmament” or
“nonproliferation” — were just too
narrow. Diplomats couldn’t squeeze
everything that mattered into them.
Today, of course, things are a very
different than they were in 1992. There
are no American nuclear weapons in
South Korea (although the North Koreans don’t believe that, and some South
Korean politicians have called for their
return). More important, North Korea
has moved in fits and starts to build a
nuclear weapons capability that may
be as large as 60 nuclear weapons,
including a small number that can
strike the United States.
But diplomats rarely throw phrases
away, even once they are outdated.
During the 2000s, “denuclearization”
stuck around because the Joint Declaration was North Korea’s only written
commitment to abandoning its nuclear
weapons after Pyongyang withdrew
from the Nuclear Nonproliferation
Treaty in 2003. And so even as the
situation has changed, many American
policymakers have repurposed “denuclearization” as a synonym for North
Korea’s disarmament.
But that’s not what it means — and
that’s not how Mr. Kim sees it.
In his meeting last week with President Xi Jinping of China, Mr. Kim
reportedly committed to denuclearization. But when he does so, he is not
offering to abandon the bomb, at least
not without very big changes like the
withdrawal of American troops from
the Korean Peninsula and the signing
of a peace treaty. He is terrified of
ending up like Saddam Hussein or
Muammar Qaddafi, two dictators who
abandoned their weapons programs
only to be forced from office.
When Mr. Kim says that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was
his father’s dying wish, he’s repeating
a line that his father used, too. It’s a
nice thing to say, but it can’t happen
outside of a comprehensive settlement
that ensures the Kim family’s rule in
perpetuity. Rather than agreeing to
disarm, Mr. Kim is saying he is willing
to engage in a process, headed toward
an ambiguous goal.
How will Mr. Trump react when he
figures this out? Already there are
reports that members of the White
House staff are uncomfortable with the
idea that he might travel to Pyongyang, because they understand that
any discussion of denuclearization
between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim might
well lead the president to accept North
Korea as a nuclear weapons state, if
only tacitly.
The idea of learning to stop worrying and love Kim Jong-un’s bomb is not
something that Washington will eagerly embrace. But we are where we
are. North Korea’s
disarmament is
How will
unlikely, except in
Mr. Trump
the broader context
react when
of inter-Korean
he figures out reconciliation and a
Mr. Kim’s
peace treaty to formally end the Koreapproach?
an War. (Even then,
it seems like a long
shot.) And if Washington can’t persuade Mr. Kim to abandon his weapons, the United States and North Korea, as well as Japan and South Korea,
still share an interest in reducing
tensions and working to make sure we
all don’t stumble into a nuclear war.
Mr. Kim is not wrong about these
Disarmament is the simpler term,
but it elides the complexity of the
current situation. If the term “denuclearization” merely reduces the problem
of North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to a
small challenge in the big context of a
settlement of Korea’s division, then it is
the right one.
is director of the East
Asia nonproliferation program at the
Middlebury Center of International
Studies at Monterey in California and a
columnist for Foreign Policy.
trying to punish enemies in the media.
Reporting on Trump’s war with CNN
last July, Michael M. Grynbaum of The
New York Times wrote that White
House advisers had discussed a “potential point of leverage” over the network:
“a pending merger between CNN’s
parent company, Time Warner, and
AT&T.” In November, the Department of
Justice sued to block the merger.
Meanwhile, Trump uses his platform
to praise obsequious outlets like Sinclair Broadcast Group, which ordered
news anchors on its nearly 200 local
television stations to record Trumpstyle warnings about fake news: “Unfortunately, some members of the
media use their platforms to push their
own personal bias and agenda to control ‘exactly what people think.’” After
Deadspin produced a creepy viral video
of Sinclair anchors reading their script
in totalitarian unison, Trump came to
the company’s defense, tweeting, “Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even
more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.”
Sinclair’s regime-friendly propaganda, which seems meant to erode trust in
competing sources of information, is
also familiar from other nations that
have slid into authoritarianism.
“When you look at many of these
countries, it’s been a two-pronged
attack on the media,” Daron Acemoglu,
a Turkish-born M.I.T. economist and a
co-author of “Why Nations Fail: The
Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty,” told me. “Even before the attacks
against the Dogan group started in
Turkey, or even before the attacks
against a few remaining independent
TV stations and newspapers had
started under Putin, you had these
troll-like media outlets that were flooding the market with what we are now
calling fake news.”
By the time those regimes moved
against unsympathetic media companies, much of the population had been
disoriented by disinformation. Under
Trump, America has started down the
same road. There are many reasons to
be terrified of Amazon’s power, but
Trump’s ability to undermine it with a
tweet is far scarier.
Is Putin a
C.I.A. agent?
brate. I was against NATO expansion;
I wanted Russia integrated into the
family of European democracies. A
weak, isolated and humiliated Russia is
a dangerous animal.
But to thrive in the long term, Russia
needs a “reset,” and it can come only
from within, but Putin won’t press the
“Without reform, there is little reason to be optimistic about Russia’s
long-run growth trend, given its poor
demographic profile, weak institutions
and abject failure to diversify its economy, despite having an enormously
talented and creative population,”
Kenneth Rogoff, the Harvard University economist, wrote in The Guardian
last year. “If the world continues to
move toward a low-carbon future,
Russia will confront an inevitable
choice: launch economic and political
reforms or face continuing marginalization, with or without Western
It’s sad to see a country that gave us
Tchaikovsky, Tolstoy, Spassky, Sakharov, Stravinsky, Shiskin, Dostoyevsky, Solzhenitsyn, Pushkin, Nureyev
and the Google co-founder Sergey Brin
become better known for giving the
world Novichok, the deadly Russian
nerve agent used in Britain; “little
green men,” the disguised Russian
soldiers who seized Eastern Ukraine;
and Guccifer 2.0, the Russian cyberagent who hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.
It’s all beef for sugar — and that’s
Putin’s legacy.
An Opinion piece on April 4, “Gaza
Screams for Life,” misstated the location of Ibrahim Abu Thuraya’s killing.
He was shot dead in Gaza, not the
West Bank.
18 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Plácido Domingo, 80ish, not receding
Taking another new role,
in Verdi’s ‘Luisa Miller,’ the
celebrated singer astounds
Plácido Domingo is, depending on the
source you consult, on one or the other
side of 80. Let that sink in.
And now let this: This month he is
singing, for the first time, the father of
the title character in Verdi’s “Luisa
Miller” at the Metropolitan Opera. He
says that Miller is the 149th new role of
his career.
How did we get to this astonishing
spectacle? Around the year 2000, it
was assumed that Mr. Domingo, one of
the great tenors of the 20th century,
would do what generations of opera
singers had done before him. Seemingly at the tail end of a brilliant 40year career, he would recede with
We thought that Mr. Domingo, then a
bit over 60, would do concerts. He’d
conduct. He’d run opera companies
and found young singer competitions.
He’d keep busy, but he’d gradually
Was it ego? A philanthropic impulse
toward the struggling opera companies
he knew he could help at the box office? Indomitable curiosity? A feeling
he still had something to say onstage?
Whatever the combination of all the
above, Mr. Domingo didn’t stop. Having naturally lost flexibility in his high
notes, and no longer able to convincingly portray boyish lovers, he moved
into the baritone repertory, specifically
the brooding patriarchs of Verdi: Simon Boccanegra, Nabucco, Rigoletto,
Germont in “La Traviata.”
And now, at the Met through April
21, Miller in the underrated “Luisa
Miller,” a relative rarity but passionate
and full of arresting experiments in
structure and sonority, a gateway to
Verdi’s breakthrough works of the
early 1850s (“Rigoletto,” “Il Trovatore,”
“Traviata”). The Met hasn’t put on
“Luisa” in over a decade — and not
this excitingly since well before that.
What Mr. Domingo is doing is not
atypical. It’s unprecedented in opera
history. For him to be even credibly
appearing in leading parts on the
world’s major stages, and adding new
ones each year, is as if Roger Federer,
today already an ancient champion at
36, were still winning Wimbledon a
decade from now.
Mr. Domingo’s baritonal period
hasn’t been conflict-free; he’s been
dogged by polite suggestions and
outright calls to give it all up. But he
has turned out not to be experimenting
or dabbling. It’s been over 10 years.
And there remain things to be skeptical about.
Large swaths of his voice are still
uncannily preserved, but the low part
crucial to a baritone’s range tends to
grow vague for him. And in fast music,
that part in particular turns blustery
and cloudy, making Mr. Domingo
sound awkward in, for example,
Miller’s big cabaletta, “Ah! fu giusto,”
which should be an early showstopper.
At the start of the finale to the first
act, Miller — a sturdy retired soldier
whose country-girl daughter tragically
seeks to marry above her station —
Above, Plácido Domingo as Miller and Sonya Yoncheva as his daughter, Luisa, at the Metropolitan Opera. Below, Mr. Domingo and Ms. Yoncheva, with guns to their heads, and Piotr Beczala, center, as Rodolfo.
It is as if Roger Federer, today
already an ancient champion at
36, were still winning
Wimbledon a decade from now.
indignantly says that an innocent like
Luisa shouldn’t have to bow before a
powerful man, but only before God.
The steadiness and magnetism of this
line are key to establishing the opera’s
stakes — so those stakes suffer a bit
when Miller delivers it, as Mr. Domingo did, without evenness or glamour.
But on opening night, he eventually
warmed and settled, his voice taking
on increased presence if not ideally
hale glow. “Luisa Miller” plays on one
of Verdi’s favorite themes: the conflict
between romantic and filial love — or,
depending on how you look at it, between romantic love and filial obsession.
Mr. Domingo brings out a father’s
concern and pain more than his obsession. He is a straightforward singer, as
he always has been, with straightforward feelings. His relationship with
Luisa doesn’t have much complexity,
but it has earnestness and poignancy.
His voice sounds healthy; he moves
with fluency. If he’ll never be a true
Verdi baritone, and always an aging
tenor in baritone’s clothing, it is still a
display not to be missed: someone of
Mr. Domingo’s stage of life taking on a
new Verdi role at a great opera house
and doing himself no small degree of
honor with it. You almost don’t believe
your eyes or ears.
That this implausible achievement
isn’t this revival’s main attraction
speaks to the quality of the perform-
ance. Sonya Yoncheva, also new to her
role, seems more comfortable as Luisa
than she did as Tosca at the Met this
winter. The clear, smoothly slicing
quality of her soprano makes special
impact in this opera, in which Luisa
stands out in a field of dark male
Ms. Yoncheva has imagined the
character as less innocent than spunky
and sensual. When her lover, Rodolfo,
enters to kill her in the final act —
she’s trapped in a lie of betrayal that
she thinks will save her father — she
seems unsurprised, as if she’d expected him to come: There is always a
sense of fatalism, of death calmly
awaited, in Ms. Yoncheva’s portrayals.
Piotr Beczala, in yet another role
debut, gave the rash Rodolfo his trademark poise and elegance. There’s little
traditional Italian-tenor wildness in Mr.
Beczala (for that, check out Vittorio
Grigolo, at the Met in “Lucia di Lammermoor”), but he brings ample heat
as the plot thickens.
The bass Alexander Vingradov made
a fine Met debut as Count Walter,
Rodolfo’s father, sonorously and
suavely balancing this intriguing char-
acter’s combination of sympathy and
violence. (Think Claudius in “Hamlet.”) In one of Verdi’s ingenious inventions, he combined beautifully in a rare
bass-bass duet with Dmitry Belosselskiy, imposingly oily as the malevolent
The warm-toned mezzo-soprano
Olesya Petrova as Federica, the noblewoman who loves Rodolfo, meets her
role’s most important requirement:
She strides commandingly down the
gigantic staircase of Santo Loquasto’s
sturdily old-fashioned set. Rihab
Chaieb sounded fresh and youthful as
the village girl Laura.
Leading a spirited performance, the
conductor Bertrand de Billy was a
replacement for James Levine, fired by
the Met last month amid accusations of
sexual misconduct. This revival was to
have been a special reunion: Mr. Domingo and Mr. Levine’s first collaboration at the house was “Luisa Miller” in
1971. (Mr. Domingo, back then, sang
As it happened, this tenor-improbably-turned-baritone was forced to
return to the opera on his own. He did
it in memorable style.
A colonial past acknowledged
Denmark memorializes
a black islander who
rebelled against its rule
The statue of the woman is nearly 23 feet
tall. Her head is wrapped and she stares
straight ahead while sitting barefoot,
but regally, in a wide-backed chair,
clutching a torch in one hand and a tool
used to cut sugar cane in the other.
In Denmark, where most of the public
statues represent white men, two artists
last weekend unveiled the striking statue that portrays a 19th-century rebel
queen who led a fiery revolt against
Danish colonial rule in the Caribbean.
It’s being billed as Denmark’s first
public monument to a black woman.
The sculpture was inspired by Mary
Thomas, who with two other female
leaders known as “Queens” unleashed
an uprising in 1878 called the “Fireburn.” Fifty plantations and most of the
town of Frederiksted on the west coast
of St. Croix were torched, in what has
been called the largest labor revolt in
Danish colonial history.
“This project is about challenging
Denmark’s collective memory and
changing it,” the Virgin Islands artist La
Vaughn Belle, one of two principal
forces behind the statue, said in a statement.
The unveiling came at the end of a
centennial year commemorating the
Left, “I Am Queen Mary” was inspired by Mary Thomas, who helped unleash an uprising in 1878 on St. Croix. Above, the artists Jeannette Ehlers, left, and La Vaughn Belle.
sale by Denmark of three islands to the
United States on March 3, 1917: St.
Croix, St. John and St. Thomas. The
price: $25 million.
Though Denmark prohibited transAtlantic slave trafficking in 1792, it didn’t rush to enforce the ban. The rule took
effect 11 years later, and slavery continued until 1848.
“They wanted to fill the stocks first,”
and ensure enough slaves would remain
to keep plantations running, said Niels
Brimnes, an associate professor at
Aarhus University and a leading expert
on colonialism in Denmark.
Three decades after slavery formally
ended on what are today known as the
United States Virgin Islands, conditions
for the former slaves had not improved
significantly. That continued injustice
fomented the uprising on St. Croix.
Mary Thomas was tried for her role in
the rebellion and ferried across the Atlantic to a women’s prison in Copenhagen. The statue created in tribute to her,
called “I Am Queen Mary,” now sits in
front of what was once a warehouse for
Caribbean sugar and rum, just over a
mile from where she was jailed.
The only other tribute to Denmark’s
colonies or those who were colonized is
a statue of a generic figure from Greenland.
The Danish artist Jeannette Ehlers,
who teamed up with Ms. Belle to create
the “Queen Mary” monument, said,
“Ninety-eight percent of the statues in
Denmark are representing white
The torch and the cane bill held in the
statue’s hands symbolize the resistance
strategies by those who were colonized,
the artists said in a statement. Her
seated pose “recalls the iconic 1967 photograph of Huey P. Newton, founder of
the Black Panther Party.”
And the plinth on which her chair
rests incorporates “coral cut from the
ocean by enslaved Africans gathered
from ruins of the foundations of historic
buildings on St. Croix.”
Henrik Holm, senior research curator
at Denmark’s National Gallery of Art,
said in a statement: “It takes a statue
like this to make forgetting less easy. It
takes a monument like this to fight
against the silence, neglect, repression
and hatred.”
He added: “Never before has a sculpture like this been erected on Danish
soil. Now, Denmark is offered a sculpture that addresses the past. But it is
also an artwork for the future.”
The preferred self-image of this country of 5.5 million is that of a nation at the
forefront of democratization and a savior of Jews during World War II. And
even though the Vikings raped and pillaged their way around the shores of
Britain and Ireland, the Viking Age is
generally a source of national pride and
amusement in Denmark.
Danes have never undergone a national reckoning about the thousands of
Africans forced onto Danish ships to
work the plantations in Danish colonies
in the Caribbean, historians say.
“It may have to do with the narrative
of Denmark as a colonial power saying,
‘We weren’t as bad as others,’ ” Professor Brimnes said. “But we were just as
bad as the others. I can’t identify a particular, humane Danish colonialism.”
In a speech last year, the Danish
prime minister, Lars Lokke Rasmussen,
expressed regret for his country’s part
in the slave trade — but he stopped short
of an apology.
“Many of Copenhagen’s beautiful old
houses were erected with money made
on the toil and exploitation on the other
side of the planet,” he said. “It’s not a
proud part of Denmark’s history. It’s
shameful and luckily of the past.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018 | 19
Above, a tunnel filled with laser beams at Spyscape, the new espionage museum in New York. Top right, the encryptian room, and lower right, a visitor engaging with a 360-degree interactive surveillance display.
A place to come in from the cold
How would you function
undercover? This museum
will evaluate your skills
“Hello Bill Hamilton.” The silver kiosk
displayed its welcome when I swiped
the black wristband that was my admission ticket.
The days of slipping through the back
of a tailor’s shop are long gone.
I was standing before the first of 12 information-gathering
Spyscape, a $50 million, 60,000-squarefoot spying and espionage museum,
which opened recently in the Midtown
area of New York.
With leading questions and embarrassing exercises, the kiosks were assessing me — personality traits, risk tolerance and I.Q. — to construct a profile
of the kind of spy I might best be.
Spyscape is the newest unhidden
headquarters of America’s cultural fascination with the art of deception, two
levels inside a glass-box building on 8th
Avenue at 55th Street. Its dark, labyrinthine interior landscape was designed by David Adjaye, the architect of
the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington,
The kiosk would like me to agree or
disagree with a few statements.
“I’ll say anything to get what I want,”
it declared in a light tone of conspiracy. I
gave that idea a dissembling 3 on a scale
of 1 to 5, from “strongly disagree” to
“strongly agree.”
“I’m willing to be unethical if I believe
it will help me succeed.” I squashed that
with a 1. “I keep others at a distance.”
Well, now that you mention it: 4.
“This is like dating,” I said to Aaron
Moody, a visitor services associate.
In fact, espionage may be bigger than
courtship on social media right now,
with Facebook at the center of a growing
controversy over the use of personal
data during elections, and the poisoning
of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal
and his daughter drawing international
Seismic private-information hacks reveal themselves with regularity, in government and business. We accept
public space. Cyber warfare has come of
age, and the Cold War is back.
“Scary biscuits,” as the English say.
“I thought that spy stories were really
a thing of the ’70s,” Mr. Adjaye said in an
interview. “And here we are at this time,
that actually spying is back.”
Asked how confident he was in the security of his own personal information,
on a scale of 1 to 10 — with 10 being most
secure — Mr. Adjaye said, “Three.”
What is it about the shadows of deception that excites our participation and
not our fear? The International Spy Museum in Washington, with its impressive
collection of spy artifacts, will be moving to a greatly expanded facility next
year. A new National Museum of Intelligence and Special Operations, under development in Ashburn, Va., is expected
to open in 2020.
Conceived as an entertainment attraction, Spyscape’s $39 experience
($32 for children ages 3 to 12 — bring
them; you’ll need them) is a cultural chimera: part museum, part ride. It was
created by Archimedia, a London-based
private investment group that has been
a developer in resorts, restaurants and
spy-themed film productions like the
television adaptation of John le Carré’s
“The Night Manager.”
Spyscape’s immersive experience begins in the outsize elevator, which
makes a slow three-minute ascent. The
Briefing Lift, as it’s called, delivers the
visitor into Spyscape’s realm with a
three-walled video created by Territory
Studio in London, which worked on
“Blade Runner 2049.”
The doors open; you have arrived at
the 25-foot-high “city within a city,” as
Mr. Adjaye calls the main floor: seven
galleries presenting themes like encryption and special ops. In addition to a curated collection of objects, there are 141
live screens, 317 speakers, 113 live cameras and 32 projectors telling
Spyscape’s stories. There are also
games called “challenges” and the kiosks.
The stories are all real-life — no fictional spies like James Bond. The “Encryption” gallery tells the story of Alan
Turing and Joan Clarke, the cryptanalysts of World War II, who cracked the
German Enigma code; Virginia Hall in
“Special Ops,” the woman with one leg
who operated in occupied France and
was called “the scourge of the Gestapo”;
Edward Snowden in “Surveillance.”
There is an actual Enigma machine, and
a replica you can code on. “Encryption”
closes with a present-day warning.
A copy from the film “The Imitation Game” of the machine that cryptanalysts used to crack the Enigma code during World War II.
“The Enigma story shows no code is
100 percent foolproof.” And, “WikiLeaks
revealed that the C.I.A. can’t break
WhatsApp — yet. Every intelligence
service is on the case trying to.”
Scary biscuits.
I am inside a black booth, facing a
black-glass monitor. There is a heartbeat playing. Or are my ears pounding?
Espionage may be bigger than
courtship on social media right
now, with Facebook at the center
of a growing controversy.
Nick Ryan, a sound artist whose clients
have included Tate Britain in London,
designed Spyscape’s aural landscape,
which is as originally and meticulously
rendered as Mr. Adjaye’s architecture.
“Hello Bill Hamilton. Welcome to Deception.”
I am being tested for how well I lie and
how well I detect lies. I stare at a grid on
the monitor, which registers my face,
and begins a live feed of me at the bottom. I put my fingertip on a red sensor,
which takes my pulse.
“Have you ever been to space? What
did you like about it?”
“Yes. It wasn’t New York,” I lie. The
screen replays my face. My eyes are
blinking like signal lamps.
“People blink more when lying,” the
booth says empathetically. It knows I
know I’ve failed.
Spyscape’s experience is mildly paranoiac, but it is never deadly dark. Its affirmative message — on T-shirts and
tote bags — is “Question Everything.”
Be your own information gatherer. Who
would argue with that? There are no
rendition programs or extraditions
here. (Shelby Prichard, Spyscape’s chief
of staff, who previously worked for the
9/11 Museum, said that the information
gathered here was not shared externally or sold.)
In a timely way, Spyscape shows us
what we know, but choose to ignore:
that espionage and spying are not only
the stuff of extraordinary tales or specialists’ tools. They are the “enemies
among us” — the CCTVs, the closed-circuit tracking systems, the browser
cookies. There is a double agent in every
pocket. “Mobile phones are the most
powerful spy devices of all,” the Briefing
Lift explains.
Hakeen Betts, the retail associate who
sold me John le Carré’s “The Pigeon
Tunnel” in Spyscape’s exhaustive bookshop, told me that on a visit, his 10-yearold son was evaluated and told he was a
“spymaster,” based on his performance
with the interactivities.
All 10-year-olds are spymasters now.
At the Encryption challenge, large horizontal touch screens, which look like naval charting tables, test your ability to
grasp ciphers quickly. (It reminded me
of dealing with an iOS update). A girl
wearing a sparkling ballet skirt and se-
quined cat’s ears explained ciphers to
her befuddled father: “Here’s how you
do it.”
Swipe. “Hello Bill Hamilton.”
I am at the door of a laser tunnel. I
step through. The tunnel is studded with
unlighted buttons. I hit the red start button. “Welcome to Special Ops. Avoid the
lasers. Good luck.”
The buttons turn bright white. Smoke
hisses in. Loud music, with a “There he
is — grab him!” mania to it. The tunnel is
now a spider’s web of laser beams. I
have 90 seconds to punch as many buttons as I can, deactivating them, without
hitting a laser beam, which deducts 5
seconds from the running clock. I break
into a sweat so hard I can hear it. And
that’s the last thing I remember.
Two men rolled out laughing from
other tunnels. Competing in side-byside chambers, they scored a 165 and a
140. I am the spy who came in from the
cold, really slowly. 95.
Spyscape’s last chamber is Debrief.
On the black-screened walls, streams of
information glow. Visitors are given
their analyses and told what spy roles
they might play.
My screen says some conciliatory
things, a kind of ‘‘you were second on
the list, really” that I recognize from human resources officers.
“You take risks after careful consideration.” Thank you. “You are mathematical.” Uh, ok. It’s never seen my SATs.
“You are very precise in your work.”
Nice — tell my editor.
“Bill Hamilton, you are a cryptologist.”
In three tries, over three visits, I am
repeatedly a cryptologist, passed over
for ‘‘intelligence operative,’’ ‘‘spycatcher’’ and other action roles I coveted. No rooftop motorcycle chases, perfect cocktails or brand placement. A
desk job. If I couldn’t crack my own
code, how good could I be?
Michael Amendola, an assistant theater producer I met in the gift shop, told
me Spyscape had decided he was a
“hacker” — a risk-taker. He praised the
museum’s immersive nature.
“I loved the code breaking, I loved the
laser exhibition,” Mr. Amendola said,
adding that he learned a great deal, too.
He compared Spyscape to a recent visit
to the Museum of Sex on lower Fifth Avenue. “It’s an interesting concept,” Mr.
Amendola said of MoSex, “but I thought
it felt a little underwhelming.”
If you can beat sex, you’re in like Flint.
Packing heat
Gun Love
By Jennifer Clement. 247 pp. Hogarth.
“When a man gives his woman a gun
it’s because he really trusts her,”
claims Sergeant Bob, the surly vet in
Jennifer Clement’s novel “Gun Love.”
A gun is soon laid on the table when
Eli, the “kind of man who breaks all
the windows in your house,” gives a
pistol to Margot to hide under the front
seat of the 1994 Mercury in which she
and her 14-year-old daughter, Pearl,
live. Margot’s main fear is that someone will take her daughter away. The
gun is “like an umbrella in the rain,”
she tells Pearl, perhaps the attitude of
many women: Eighty percent of those
gunned down in the United States by
intimate partners are women.
“Gun Love” is the American half of a
diptych of novels by Clement about
gun traffic between the United States
and Mexico, the first being “Prayers
for the Stolen” (2013). A ongtime resident of Mexico who is now president of
PEN International, she is well aware of
the statistics: More than 70 percent of
the 74,000 firearms confiscated in
Mexico between 2009 and 2014 came
from the United States, and nearly
$276 million was tied up in Mexican
contracts with American-based gun
manufacturers between 2015 and 2016.
Florida, the location of the trailer court
around which much of the action in
“Gun Love” unfolds, leads the nation in
both the number of mobile home parks
and concealed weapons permits. In the
more than 10 years since the passage
of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law,
giving widespread legal immunity to
people who use lethal force in selfdefense, the number of “justifiable
homicide” cases in the state has nearly
tripled. In 2012, the unarmed 17-yearold Trayvon Martin was gunned down
and his killer later acquitted as a direct
consequence of “Stand Your Ground.”
Clement’s turn to fiction is oddly
dreamy for such a topic, as if to suggest the self-delusion of the real-life
actors involved. “My mother was
always full of birthday-candle wishes,”
comments Pearl, who habitually steals
cigarettes in a kind of self-immolation
of her own. But the writing is crisp and
the images sharp: a field of 63 Barbies
buried up to their knees around a
trailer; the hatching of conjoined twin
alligators “still with white pieces of
eggshell on the green, scaly back they
Trailer parks in fiction often stand as
metaphors for the fear of homeless-
ness; to live in a car parked beside one
is that much more frightening. It encourages descriptions of surreal coping, such as one in which Margot fingers the dashboard: “That was Mozart, she said. Did you like it?”
The denizens of the trailers, distinguishable by who among them drinks
Coke and who drinks Pepsi, turn sinister as the guns pile up. Sergeant Bob
gives his woman a gun to nestle between her breasts. “I thought he was
going to give me a ring,” she says.
While Margot and Eli hook up in the
Mercury’s back seat, guns start to
crowd the abandoned trailer where
Pearl does her homework. “Did you
know there are two bullets for every
person in the world?” Pearl’s boyfriend
asks (a statistic confirmed by Oxfam in
Toward the end of the book, Pearl
names the models she packs in newspaper, a veritable litany that includes
semiautomatics, .223-caliber AR-15
rifles and the Bushmaster XM-15. It
sounds like worship. Nikolas Cruz, who
killed 17 people in a Florida high school
in February, found it easier to buy a
semiautomatic than a handgun.
“My mother was a cup of sugar,”
Pearl says. “You could borrow her
anytime.” Once the bond between
mother and daughter comes apart,
Pearl is swept into the gun trade. With
the “souls of animals and the souls of
people” emanating from the guns all
around her, she hears a song of praise:
“Pearl, Pearl, Pearl in congratulation.”
Her complicity with the violence seems
eerily unconscious, mirroring America’s unnatural inability to admit to the
grave consequences of unchecked gun
Terese Svoboda’s books include “Trailer
Girl and Other Stories” and the forthcoming “Great American Desert.”
20 | THURSDAY, APRIL 5, 2018
Great gardens to visit in Florida
banana trees are hammocks, a cottage
and a bocce court that help transport
you to island time.
4820 Bayshore Drive, Naples, Fla., Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Tuesday, when it opens at
8 a.m.
Although many tourists flock to Florida
for its glorious palette of white beaches,
blue-gray waters and yellow sun, the
state is also home to lush gardens in every shade of green. Some were the
dream of horticulturists obsessed with
collecting plants from around the world
that would flourish in their new home.
Others were established by immigrants
grateful for the opportunities the United
States had afforded them and eager to
leave a legacy in their adopted country.
Still more were the creations of wealthy
transplants who, while wintering in
Florida, sought to recreate the gardens
they loved elsewhere.
Here are five of Florida’s most enticing green oases.
An orchid lover’s delight: bucket orchids, sabralia orchids and miniature orchids, a rainbow of colors in their petals.
The 15-acre garden, on Sarasota Bay,
was established in 1971 as the only botanical garden in the world focused
solely on the study of epiphytes, which
include many orchid species.
This garden was once the property of
Marie and William Selby (he made his
fortune with the Selby Oil and Gas Company, which merged with Texaco in
1948). After Marie Selby died in 1971,
leaving the property to the city, a board
of directors consulted experts from New
York Botanical Garden and the University of Florida and chose to make the
garden distinctive by focusing on epiphytes.
Beyond the profusion of yellow, purple, orange and white orchids, the garden offers a collection of bromeliads,
like pineapples and Spanish moss; a
stunning collection of palm trees, including the Puerto Rican Hat Palm and
the Haitian Zombie Palm; and a mangrove walkway that borders Sarasota
Selby, taking a page from the New
York Botanical Garden, has begun an
annual exhibition of art inspired by flowers. This month, four of Andy Warhol’s
silk screens of flowers formed the centerpiece of the exhibit “Warhol: Flowers
in the Factory.”
900 South Palm Avenue, Sarasota, Fla.,
A Dutch immigrant proud of his success
in the United States as publisher of Ladies’ Home Journal and the 1921 Pulitzer
Prize-winning author of “The Americanization of Edward Bok,” Mr. Bok also
established the American Foundation,
which bought roughly 53 acres in the
early 1920s to create a bird sanctuary,
then added a carillon tower and gardens. Over the years the property in
Lake Wales has grown to 300 acres. Its
205-foot-high neo-Gothic Singing Tower
houses a 60-bell carillon.
Mr. Bok’s passion for color is evident
in the 50 Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.-designed acres that are the core of Bok
Tower Gardens. Filled with azaleas, camellias and magnolia, they are particularly lovely in February and March
when they are in bloom.
Because Bok is farther north than the
gardens around Miami and Sarasota,
the look and feel of Bok is far less tropical than many other gardens in Florida.
1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Fla., Open 8 a.m. to 6
p.m. all year.
Clockwise from top left: The Caribbean Kapnick Garden at Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Fla.; the Shinden Garden at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray
Beach; the wetlands boardwalk at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales; and the great lawn at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every
day except Christmas.
The land for Delray Beach’s Morikami
Garden was the gift of the Japanese immigrant George Morikami, a farmer
who in the mid-1970s donated 200 acres
to Palm Beach County. That land now
features six discrete gardens created by
the designer Hoichu Kurisu, whose
credits include the Anderson Japanese
Gardens in Rockford, Ill. His vision in
Florida was inspired by gardens in Japan; each of Morikami’s six gardens reflects a style from a different epoch, beginning with the ninth century.
In Mr. Kurisu’s words, which are featured on the park’s website, the intention is for visitors “to lay aside the chaos
of a troubled world.” He has accomplished that with the use of small lakes
and paths that wind among pine forests,
bamboo groves and rock arrangements
throughout the gardens.
400 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach,
Fla., Open Tuesday
through Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed
on major holidays.
What do towering bamboos, crepe myrtle, jack fruit banyan trees, orange bromeliads and bougainvillea have in common? They all thrive in ecosystems between the 26th parallel north and the
26th parallel south. Specifically, at the
Naples Botanical Garden, where the
landscape designers include the Miamibased Raymond Jungles, known for his
exuberant tropical gardens.
Next to the cool, elegant Lea Asian
Garden with a replica of a Javanese temple ruin is the rollicking Kapnick Brazilian Garden — Mr. Jungles’s tribute to his
mentor, the celebrated Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx,
who died in 1994.
The Caribbean Kapnick Garden, designed by Bob Truskowski, has a laidback vibe: Among the lush mango and
The glories of great French and Italian
gardens have been recreated at Vizcaya.
Its grounds were the brainchild of Diego
Suarez, the landscape architect who began his career in the early 1900s collaborating with Arthur Acton, the English
expatriate and art collector, to help restore La Pietra, the Acton villa near
Florence. Suarez became enamored of
the elaborate stone work, statuary, fountains with soaring sprays and rills that
gave Italian gardens of the 18th century
both elegance and fantastical whimsy.
Vizcaya’s grounds were built on fill
that had once been a mangrove swamp.
Suarez created French-style parterres:
formal gardens of neatly trimmed plant
beds that are laid out in symmetrical
patterns with paths for walking.
3251 South Miami Avenue, Miami. Open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every
day except Tuesday. Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Apps to help you ditch your bags
Every where
has a why.
A variety of businesses,
like delis and wine shops,
will look after your luggage
You’re familiar with the predicament:
You’ve got a few hours before you can
check into your vacation rental or before
you can leave for your flight, and you
want to do some sightseeing — but that
means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your (undoubtedly overstuffed) luggage in tow.
Or does it?
Increasingly, you may not only store
your bags for a couple of hours at the
usual places (airports, train stations,
luggage storage companies), but also
with a surprising variety of businesses
— delis, dry cleaners, clothing boutiques, wine shops, eyebrow-shaping salons — for less than the cost of a couple
of lattes.
In New York City, for example, you
can stash your bags for $2 an hour per
bag at Chelsea Bicycles, the Puerh
Brooklyn teashop, or an Al Horno Lean
Mexican Kitchen (which is convenient if
you’re also in the mood for a burrito),
among hundreds of other untraditional
storage locations.
Websites and apps that help travelers
find these short-term spots have likened
themselves to Airbnb for luggage: Travelers go online and book a date (it can be
the same day) and location (maps show
you your options), then drop off their
bags. Afterward, some sites allow users
to rate the storage location to help fellow
travelers pick and choose. (While many
places require advance booking, you
can usually cancel free of charge.) Each
storage network has its own rules, but
they all typically provide luggage security seals, as well as some version of insurance against damage, theft and loss.
Such services aren’t just handy for
travelers: They’re also convenient for
local people who may want to temporarily ditch their bags after work or shopping so they can attend an event or stop
by an intimate bar without having to zip
home first and unburden themselves.
LuggageHero, which offers online
booking with a credit card — thus, eliminating the need for users to have local
currency on hand — is one of the most
recent players to expand its services. In
December the company began operating in New York, where it offers about
250 locations to store luggage. It was
founded in Copenhagen in 2016 and expanded to London in 2017, where there
are more than 100 locations. In New
York, the fee is $2 an hour per bag for the
first 24 hours, which includes up to
$2,000 insurance coverage for each bag.
(You don’t pay more than $12 per bag for
A LuggageHero storage location in Copenhagen, one of many cities where businesses
will look after your bags for a small fee, often a few dollars per hour.
the first 24 hours.) The company plans
to have a few hundred more locations in
New York by the end of the year, and begin operating in more cities as well.
It’s hardly the only service of its kind,
Knock Knock City, another site, is
planning to expand to San Francisco
this year after being introduced in dozens of locations in New York, where it
charges $2 an hour per bag. New York
City has turned out to be a popular destination for these services. Yet another
network, Vertoe, offers luggage storage
The services typically provide
luggage security seals, as well as
some version of insurance against
damage, theft and loss.
by the day ($5.95 per item for credit card
payments online; $7.95 for cash), the
week ($35 per item for credit cards online; $50 for cash), even by the month
($100 per item for credit cards online;
$150 for cash).
In Britain, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam
and other destinations, CityStasher connects travelers with local businesses
like Mail Boxes Etc and food stores, as
well as hotels. And Nannybag, one of the
larger luggage storage networks, has locations throughout France and in major
European cities like London, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon
and Berlin.
(There are also some companies that
will pick up and drop off your luggage at
your desired locations, though sometimes it’s just faster and less costly to
roll in and out of a nearby business.)
While storing your luggage at local
businesses can make travel easier, allowing users to see more of a city with-
out a suitcase at their heels, the practice
raises some questions.
For instance, what to do about valuables?
Many of these companies say in the
fine print not to keep jewelry, cash or
other important and fragile items in
your bags because they are not covered
by the insurance policies. So if you’re
considering trying one of these networks, be sure to put any jewelry, essential papers, electronics and medicine in
a handbag or lightweight tote that you
keep with you.
And what if there are materials in the
bags that could harm store workers and
The storage sites prohibit certain
items from being in users’ luggage. Vertoe, for instance, has a list of things that
cannot be stored, including combustible, flammable, hazardous or toxic
materials, chemicals, narcotics, fireworks, explosives, weapons and ammunition.
Staff members at Vertoe locations
may ask you to show the items in your
bag. LuggageHero also notes in its fine
print that your luggage cannot contain
things such as weapons, explosive items
and substances, and flammable fluids,
and that the shop has the right to ask
you to open your luggage so its staff can
make sure that none of those items are
inside. Read the rules before you book.
As with any sharing-economy service, reviews can make it easier to decide
which location to try. For instance, you
can see on LuggageHero what locations
were deemed friendly and hassle-free,
and which ones left users confused
about where to go or unhappy about
where their luggage was being stored.
Reviews are also available on Yelp
and Google (just search the company
name and “review”).
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