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International New York Times - 12 April 2018

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Crisis needs
a Trumpian
of Syria may
be harsher
this time
Michael Doran
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
President looks at options
that would go beyond last
year’s missile barrage
Women at risk of premature birth at El Hospital de La Mujer in San Salvador. Critics of abortion say El Salvador’s improvements in medical care make the procedure unnecessary.
‘A crime to be a woman’
Advocates are fighting
El Salvador’s abortion ban,
among the world’s strictest
When Teodora del Carmen Vásquez
walked out of the Ilopango women’s
prison a few weeks ago, she embraced
her parents, her teenage son — and a
movement to change an anti-abortion
law that had stolen more than a decade
of her life.
In El Salvador, where a total ban on
abortion leads to immediate suspicion of
women whose pregnancies do not end
with a healthy baby, Ms. Vásquez was
marked as a criminal after she began
bleeding and suffered a stillbirth. Sentenced to 30 years for aggravated homicide, she was released only after the Supreme Court ruled that there was not
enough evidence to show she had killed
her baby.
“This is the moment to speak out, this
is the moment to act,” said Ms. Vásquez,
who was the spokeswoman in prison for
a group of two dozen women accused as
she had been. “With the situation we’re
in now, in a few years it will be a crime to
be a woman in El Salvador.”
A march against abortion in San Salvador, where women who have miscarriages can
receive long prison sentences, accused of intentionally killing their babies.
As Latin America has moved slowly
toward lifting restrictions on abortion,
six small countries have maintained an
outright ban, including cases where the
mother’s life is at risk. And no other
country enforces that ban with El Salvador’s zeal.
Yet now, women’s rights groups and
their allies in El Salvador’s Congress believe they may be able to assemble a ma-
jority of votes to approve abortion under
certain conditions. Two bills have been
proposed in the legislature, opening up
debate on the issue for the first time
since the wholesale ban was passed two
decades ago.
El Salvador’s health ministry has
thrown its support behind changing the
law, and doctors have begun speaking
out, arguing that the ban ties their hands
Museum’s director bridges art and technology
New York institution picks
outsider adept at digital
strategy and fund-raising
For the first time in 60 years, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has
reached beyond its own doors for a new
leader, choosing a Vienna-born museum
director who is conversant with the old
masters, modern art and Minecraft to
steer the venerable institution through
the digital age.
The Met announced on Tuesday that
Max Hollein, 48, currently the director
and chief executive of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and a veteran of
Germany’s oldest art foundation, will
become its 10th director this summer.
He will take command of the Met at a
time when museums are under increasing pressure to remain relevant, raise
funds and attract new audiences.
“The Met is one of its kind,” Mr.
Hollein said in an interview at the mu-
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +[!"!$!=!,
Max Hollein, the new director of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
seum. “The museum has the opportunity to be not just an art destination,” he
added, but “a major provider of understanding and different narratives to a
global audience.”
Unlike his recent predecessors Philippe de Montebello, who served for 31
years, and Thomas P. Campbell, who
served for nearly nine, Mr. Hollein did
not ascend from the Met’s curatorial
ranks. He was reportedly a runner-up
when Mr. Campbell was chosen in 2008.
But he was an appealing candidate
this time around for a museum seeking a
stabilizing force after a period of financial turmoil. He is an aggressive fundraiser with experience in contemporary
art, as well as a broader knowledge of
art history, who has a track record of digital innovations.
Since age 31, Mr. Hollein has served as
a museum director, including 15 years at
several institutions in Frankfurt: the
Städel Museum, which houses one of
Europe’s important collections of old
masters; the Schirn Kunsthalle, which
exhibits modern and contemporary art;
and the Liebieghaus, with its world-re-
nowned sculpture collection.
At the Städel, Mr. Hollein developed a
forceful digital strategy and oversaw a
$69 million renovation and expansion
that doubled the gallery space and created a new wing for art made since 1945.
During his tenure, all three museums
saw record levels of attendance and
added more than 2,800 artworks to their
He only recently moved to the United
States, in 2016, to head the Fine Arts Museums, consisting of the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, which specializes in American art; and the Legion
of Honor near the foot of the Golden
Gate Bridge, which focuses on European art.
In his two years in San Francisco, Mr.
Hollein has brought significant innovations to the Fine Arts Museums, including Digital Stories, an in-depth look into
the museum’s exhibitions, enhanced by
multimedia experiences. The museum
translated all exhibition materials into
Spanish for its exhibition “Teotihuacan:
City of Water, City of Fire”; created a
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Issue Number
No. 42,014
in treating high-risk pregnancies. International organizations have condemned
the ban as a violation of women’s rights,
and Chile, which relaxed its law in August, set an influential example.
“There’s a wide spectrum of grays,
and we need to have a dialogue on the
issue,” said Johnny Wright Sol, a lawmaker who broke from the right-wing
Arena party last year and proposed a
bill to permit abortion when the mother’s health is at risk or for a minor who
has been raped.
“It’s a very conservative approach,”
Mr. Wright said. “It’s a minimum standard at a level with the modernity of the
21st century.”
A separate bill would expand exceptions to the ban to include abortion in all
rape cases and those involving an unviable fetus. Supporters hope to bring a
vote before the lower house, the Legislative Assembly, finishes its term at the
end of April and before the new, more
conservative Assembly that was elected
last month is seated.
Advocates have paired their lobbying
with a social media campaign focused
not just on women’s health, but also on
the harm done to families when a
mother is prosecuted or her life is at
risk. El Salvador’s largest television
channels refused to run ads, but the
campaign has bought radio spots, persuaded journalists to cover the issue
President Trump and his advisers are
weighing a more robust retaliatory
strike against Syria than last year’s missile attack, reasoning that only an escalation of force would look credible and
possibly serve as a deterrent against
further use of chemical weapons on Syrian civilians.
Two Navy warships in the eastern
Mediterranean Sea are capable of
launching the same sort of missile barrage that Mr. Trump ordered against a
Syrian air base a year ago in response to
a chemical attack that killed more than
80 civilians.
But White House and national security officials worried that an operation on
the same scale, as punishment for another suspected and deadly attack that
killed dozens over the weekend, would
not be effective at curbing the Syrian
military’s war effort.
Administration officials said they expected any new strike to be more expansive than last year’s, but the question
was how much more. Possible options
included hitting more than a single target and extending strikes beyond a single day.
But even so, Mr. Trump remained reluctant to deepen American involvement over a longer term.
Mr. Trump and his team enlisted support for action against the government
of President Bashar al-Assad. American
officials expressed confidence that they
would have the backing of France,
which has been vocal about the need for
a strong response, as well as Britain,
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, all of which
called for Syria to be held accountable
for the suspected chemical attack. It remained unclear, however, whether any
of the allies would participate.
Mr. Trump canceled a trip to Peru and
Colombia that was scheduled to start
Friday to oversee the response to the
Syria attack, but as of early evening, had
made no comment about Syria on Twitter or in his public appearances on Tuesday.
Instead, he left it to a guest, the visiting emir of Qatar, to express the determination to stop the atrocities in Syria.
“We see the suffering of the Syrian
people,” Emir Tamim bin Hamad AlThani said with Mr. Trump in the Oval
Office. “And me and the president, we
The raids by the F.B.I. on President
Trump’s personal lawyer have sent
him to new heights of outrage. PAGE 6
The United States will be making an
exit from Syria “very soon,” President
Trump said late last month in Ohio.
“Let the other people take care of it
now.” In making this announcement,
the president ignored a cardinal principle of an author he holds in very high
regard: himself.
According to “The Art of the Deal,”
Mr. Trump’s 1987 best-selling guide to
business strategy, success in negotiations requires developing leverage.
The crux of the matter is appearing
unflappable while making the other
guy sweat. “The worst thing you can
possibly do in a deal is seem desperate
to make it,” Mr. Trump wrote. “That
makes the other guy smell blood, and
then you’re dead.”
Mr. Trump’s Syria
In proannouncement fosclaiming an
tered the impression
of a president deswithdrawal
perate to get out of
from Syria,
the Middle East. It
also violated another
the president
has violated
Trumpian principle:
his own
never, ever telegraph
your military moves.
“I don’t want to
broadcast to the
enemy exactly what my plan is,” Mr.
Trump said during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The announcement generated considerable unease in the foreign policy
establishment. Senator John McCain,
among others, claimed that Mr.
Trump’s call for a withdrawal emboldened Bashar al-Assad, convincing him
he could launch a chemical weapons
attack a mere 10 days later.
The claim is speculative, but not
outrageous. Mr. Assad has a strong
imperative to clear insurgents from
eastern Ghouta, the stronghold of the
most formidable Damascus-based
militia. Believing that the United
States was headed for the exits may
have made him even more willing to
hold back nothing.
Mr. Trump probably assumed that
his announcement would spur America’s allies like Israel, and, especially,
Saudi Arabia to step up. That tactic is
dangerous. If allies conclude that an
American departure is inevitable, they
will hedge their bets. Some will lie low.
Others will make a beeline to Vladimir
Putin. Russia, they know, will never
quit Syria. Washington, someone once
said, might be indispensable, but Moscow is immovable.
After the departure of American
troops, Mr. Putin’s first goal will be to
2 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
page two
Rugby player
vanished in
the outback
Creator of evocative anime films
Isao Takahata, a film director who
founded Japan’s premier animation studio, Studio Ghibli, with Hayao Miyazaki
in 1985 and made sophisticated animated films like the elegiac World War
II drama “Grave of the Fireflies,” died on
April 5 in Tokyo. He was 82.
The cause was lung cancer, Studio
Ghibli said in a statement.
Studio Ghibli has released some of the
highest-grossing anime films ever, like
“Ponyo,” “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Princess Mononoke” and “Spirited Away,”
which won an Academy Award for best
animated feature in 2003 after an English version was released.
These lushly animated fairy tales
were all written and directed by Mr. Miyazaki, whose name is more recognizable to international animation aficionados than that of Mr. Takahata.
“If Studio Ghibli is your favorite band,
then Takahata has the deep cuts from
the back catalog,” Dave Jesteadt, now
the president of GKIDS, which distributes many Ghibli films in the United
States, told The Los Angeles Times in
The disparity in their recognition
might have had to do with Mr. Takahata’s output, which was considerably
smaller than Mr. Miyazaki’s. Mr. Takahata took longer to complete films than
Mr. Miyazaki, who is known for his unflagging work ethic.
Mr. Takahata’s pace sometimes
caused resentment — Mr. Miyazaki jokingly compared Mr. Takahata to “a real
slugabed sloth” in 1990 — but it also led
to meticulously crafted films.
Many of Mr. Takahata’s movies were
popular, particularly in Japan, and
many critics praised his work, especially “Grave of the Fireflies” (1988), a
harrowing tale of a brother and sister
trying to survive after Japan is devastated by American firebombing during
World War II.
The film, written and directed by Mr.
Takahata and adapted from a story by
Akiyuki Nosaka, dealt frankly with cruelty and death but had moments of innocence, beauty and grace.
The critic Roger Ebert of The Chicago
Sun-Times called the film “an emotional
experience so powerful that it forces a
rethinking of animation.”
“This film proves, if it needed proving,
that animation produces emotional effects not by reproducing reality, but by
heightening and simplifying it, so that
many sequences are about ideas, not experiences,” Mr. Ebert wrote.
Mr. Takahata’s other films include
“Only Yesterday” (1991), a contemplative tale of a woman who reminisces
about her past on a trip to the countryside, and “Pom Poko” (1994), an environmentalist fantasy about shapeshift-
A calm moment in “Grave of the Fireflies,” Isao Takahata’s wrenching World War II drama, which drew on his experience of an American bombing raid. Below, Mr. Takahata in 2015.
“If Studio Ghibli is your favorite
band, then Takahata has the
deep cuts from the back catalog.”
ing raccoon-like animals called Tanuki
that struggle to maintain their lifestyle
against encroaching suburbs.
Both of those films were drawn in naturalistic styles, even when they de-
picted fantastical subjects, a hallmark of
a lot of anime and many of Studio Ghibli’s films.
Mr. Takahata, who was not an animator himself, chose a different approach
in later films like “My Neighbors the Yamadas” (1999), a surrealistic family
story drawn like a comic strip; and his
last film, “The Tale of the Princess
Kaguya” (2013), a dreamy, watercolored
portrayal of a Japanese folk tale.
“It is about the essence that’s behind
the drawing,” he said of his aesthetic in
“Princess Kaguya” in an interview with
The Associated Press in 2015. “We want
to express reality without an overly realistic depiction, and that’s about appealing to the human imagination.”
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”
took Mr. Takahata about a decade to finish, though he worked on other films at
the same time. It was nominated for an
Academy Award for best animated feature in 2015.
“The film’s tone — the sense of characters grasping to hold on to innocence
as the civilized world whisks it away —
is all Takahata,” the critic Ty Burr wrote
in The Boston Globe in 2014.
Mr. Takahata was reported to have
been born on Oct. 29, 1935, in Mie Prefecture, in southern Japan. He grew up further west in the city of Okayama.
He told The Japan Times in 2015 that
as a boy during World War II he fled an
American bombing raid that killed more
than 1,000 people in Okayama. He remembered rushing, barefoot and in his
pajamas, past piles of bodies — an experience he drew on for “Grave of the Fireflies.”
He graduated from the University of
Tokyo, then started his career in animation in the late 1950s at Toei studio,
where he met Mr. Miyazaki.
Mr. Takahata worked on television
anime series like “Lupin the 3rd” and
“Heidi: A Girl of the Alps,” and directed
the film “Gauche the Cellist” (1982) before he and Mr. Miyazaki created Studio
There was no immediate information
on survivors.
Museum selects outsider adept in technology
Minecraft map of the pyramids there;
and offered free online courses to help
encourage access for all audiences —
not only the young.
At a time when museums are making
a concerted effort to expand the cultural
conversation to include more women
and people of color, Mr. Hollein said it
was also important to him that the Met
“open up” to incorporate a range of perspectives. He cited his current institution’s acquisition last year of 62 works
by African-American artists, from the
Souls Grown Deep Foundation in Atlanta. (The Met acquired 57 works from the
foundation in 2014, some of which will go
on view in an exhibition that opens May
Many in the art world had wondered
whether the Met director job would
draw first-rate candidates, given the
museum’s recent reorganization of its
leadership structure. Rather than governing from the top of the pyramid, like
Mr. Campbell, who also served as chief
executive before he was forced to step
down last year, Mr. Hollein will report to
Daniel H. Weiss, the president and chief
executive who has also been serving as
acting director of the Met. “We are going
to be genuine partners,” Mr. Weiss said.
Nevertheless, some of the names said
to have been under consideration, according to a person familiar with the selection process who declined to be identified discussing internal deliberations,
included Adam D. Weinberg, the director of the Whitney Museum of American
Art in New York; Julián Zugazagoitia,
the chief executive and director of the
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas
City, Mo.; Emilie Gordenker, the director of the Mauritshuis, the museum in
The Hague; Timothy Rub, the director
of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; and
Taco Dibbits, the director of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Mr. Hollein’s art world peers seem to
think highly of him. “Max is an excellent
choice,” said Glenn D. Lowry, the director of the Museum of Modern Art in New
York. “He’s an esteemed colleague, he’s
known to many of us, he’s been an interesting director for a while.”
Michael Govan, the director of the Los
Angeles County Museum of Art, said Mr.
Hollein “is extremely personable and he
has had a tremendous amount of experience in management — both of organizations and friendships.”
Still, the selection of Mr. Hollein could
lead to complaints that the Met has
again chosen a white man for the top job.
“This could have been a moment for the
Met to take a leap into the present,” said
Tom Eccles, executive director of the
Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard
College. “This is a moment when we’re
really trying to unearth different histories, different viewpoints, new ways of
thinking about geographies and identities.”
The Met would not disclose Mr.
Hollein’s salary. As director and chief
executive, Mr. Campbell’s total compensation was $1.4 million, including a salary of $942,287 and the use of a Fifth Avenue apartment (which the Met plans to
sell), according to recent tax records.
Mr. Campbell was forced out in the wake
of the museum’s financial problems and
low morale, departing amid revelations
about a close personal relationship he
had with a female staff member.
To right its finances, the Met cut its
staff and recently started charging nonNew Yorkers mandatory admission of
The museum also scaled back plans
for its new modern and contemporary
wing, initially expected to cost $600 million. Mr. Hollein will have to raise money
for that reconceived project at a time
when many cultural projects are vying
for funds, namely the Museum of Modern Art’s $400 million expansion; the
Studio Museum in Harlem’s $175 million
new home; the Frick Collection’s $160
million redesign; and Geffen Hall’s renovation, initially estimated at more than
$500 million.
Although European museum directors are typically assumed to require
fewer fund-raising skills, given government support for the arts, that is changing. Mr. Hollein said he raised half the
cost of the Städel extension from private
donations, an impressive feat and unusual for Germany, where large cultural
The Metropolitan Museum of Art has started charging $25 admission to visitors from outside the region.
projects are mostly state funded.
Some have accused Mr. Hollein of going too far; in 2012, he had to defend the
museum against accusations that he
had turned the acquisition of a Raphael
painting of Pope Julius II — with questionable provenance — into “a mass
public spectacle.” He said at the time:
“We knew that the attribution was going
to be controversial. That’s why it was so
important for us to not simply hang it in
the museum, but to present all the facts
we had gleaned over the years. I don’t
see this as sensationalist, but rather as a
very open and transparent process.”
Nevertheless, the Met job will present
a learning curve for Mr. Hollein, who began his career at the Solomon R.
Guggenheim Foundation, as the chief of
staff and executive assistant to its former director, Thomas Krens.
But he has never led a museum in
New York, and the Met can be something of a shark tank, requiring a constructive working relationship with its
powerful curators.
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco receive a healthy 1.6 million visitors, but that pales in comparison with
the Met’s seven million annual visitors
across its three locations. In San Francisco, Mr. Hollein managed an operating
budget of $60 million and more than 500
employees; the Met has a budget of $305
million and a staff of 2,200.
Mr. Hollein grew up in an artistic
household, the son of Hans Hollein, the
Viennese postmodern architect. Max
Hollein studied art history at the University of Vienna and business administration at the Vienna University of Economics. As a curator, he specialized in
art of the 1980s and ’90s and organized
the Austrian pavilion at the Venice Art
Biennale in 2005.
While running the de Young in San
Francisco, Mr. Hollein added its first
contemporary art curator, and he is not
risk averse. The museum’s first major
show since his arrival, “Contemporary
Muslim Fashion,” opening in September, will explore Muslim dress codes and
their influence on fashion worldwide.
(Mr. Hollein’s wife, Nina Hollein, is an
Austrian clothing designer; they have
three teenagers.)
“On the one hand it’s a fashion show,
on the other hand it will address complex social, political questions,” Mr.
Hollein said. “Museums these days are
one of the few areas where you can have
a complex cultural discussion in a nonpolemical way.”
The New Zealand rugby player Keith
Murdoch had a “wild man” reputation
almost from the start of his career, when,
at 20, he made the tough Otago provincial team. In an already punishing sport,
he was ferocious.
A barrel-chested 248 pounds, with a
thick, drooping mustache, Murdoch was
a prop forward, a player in the front row
of a rugby scrummage who specializes
in direct combat with the opposition and
is expected to be the hardest of hard
Murdoch’s fearsome reputation preceded him. When he was chosen to tour
Britain, Ireland and France in 1972 with
the All Blacks, New Zealand’s national
team, a British newspaper cartoonist
drew him arriving in London in a cage.
The team would later be described by
The Guardian as “arrogant, boorish and
prone to hurling expletives at autograph-hunting fans.”
The tour proved to be both the high
point of Murdoch’s career and its end.
The first match was in December,
against Wales, in Cardiff, a de facto
world title contest in the era before
rugby had a World Cup.
Murdoch played an enormous part in
New Zealand’s 19-16 win in that match
and scored its only touchdown (called a
try in rugby) — a victory that resonated
throughout New Zealand, which treats
its rich heritage in the game with unmatched seriousness.
After a night of celebrating with teammates, Murdoch, in the early morning
hours, went into the kitchen of the Angel
Hotel in Cardiff seeking further refreshment.
The New Zealand rugby player Keith
Murdoch in London in 1972.
There he encountered a security
guard who, several All Blacks later reported, was clearly spoiling for a fight.
There are conflicting accounts as to
what was said and done next, but there
was little doubt that the brawny Murdoch had gratified the guard’s wish and
left him with a black eye.
Given the guard’s provocation, most
teammates expected Murdoch to face
limited disciplinary action. Instead he
was ordered to leave the tour and go
His teammates accused the tour manager, Ernie Todd, who was struggling
with the cancer that would kill him, of
caving in to pressure from British officials and the news media.
To this day Murdoch remains the only
All Black to have been sent home from
an international tour.
But Murdoch, in fact, did not go home.
Issued a ticket back to New Zealand, he
got off the plane in Singapore and diverted to Australia — to the city of Darwin, on the northern coast, the gateway
to the vast, sparsely populated Northern Territory.
And there, for all intents and purposes, he disappeared. He “went bush,”
as the Australians say. He became a
rugby version of Bigfoot and the subject
of a play, his legend growing in inverse
proportion to the confirmed sightings of
Indeed, the world outside the drilling
sites and sheep stations of the outback
heard about him only a handful of times
and not at all after 2001.
Until, that is, on March 31, when the
All Blacks, having received word from
members of his family, announced on its
Twitter feed that Murdoch had died the
day before at 74.
Doug Baughan, the chairman of Zingari Richmond, the club for which Murdoch once played in his home city, Dunedin, said of the death that “the exact
circumstances are not yet clear” — a
statement that could have applied to almost the last 46 years of Murdoch’s life.
Keith Murdoch was born in Dunedin
on Sept. 9, 1943. He was educated at
King Edward Technical College and
played his first adult rugby match for
Zingari Richmond before joining the
Otago team in 1964.
Vying to join the vaunted All Blacks,
he played in several trials, but it wasn’t
until 1970 — when he toured with Otago
in South Africa — that he was invited to
join the national team.
The Wales match was his third and
last international contest for the All
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THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 3
They reported a massacre; now they’re in jail
In October, two ethnic Kachin Baptist
community leaders, Dumdaw Nawng
Lat and Langjaw Gam Seng, were found
guilty of unlawful association and sentenced to 27 months in prison after they
helped reporters document damage
from military airstrikes near a Catholic
church in the eastern state of Shan.
Mr. Dumdaw Nawng Lat got an extra
two years for defaming a military officer.
Last month, a former child soldier,
Aung Ko Htway, 27, was sentenced to
two years of hard labor after he described in an interview with Radio Free
Reporters who documented
Rohingya atrocities have
been detained for months
Once a week, the two Reuters reporters
are shuffled out of their prison cells in
Yangon, Myanmar, loaded into the back
of a police truck and driven to a nearby
Wearing handcuffs, the reporters, U
Wa Lone and U Kyaw Soe Oo, hear one
or two witnesses testify against them on
the charge of violating Myanmar’s Official Secrets Act. Then they are taken
back to their cells in Insein Prison,
where they wait for the next week’s
The grim ritual, in its third month,
took place again Wednesday, when the
judge in the case, U Ye Lwin, ruled that
there was enough evidence for the reporters to face trial.
The two journalists, who were investigating a massacre of 10 Muslim Rohingya men in Rakhine State, face up to 14
years in prison under the British colonial-era secrets act.
The massacre in Inn Din village that
the two brought to light occurred in September during violent attacks on Rohingya Muslims by Myanmar’s military
and local Buddhist mobs, driving hundreds of thousands of refugees into
Bangladesh in what is broadly seen as
calculated ethnic cleansing.
The Reuters journalists were arrested Dec. 12 after they left a northern
Yangon restaurant where they met with
two police officers, who handed them
some rolled-up papers. Human rights
groups have accused the police of entrapping the two journalists by handing
them the documents. The reporters’
lawyers say they never had a chance to
look at them.
This is the method of Myanmar’s judicial system, where speed and fairness
are not necessarily the goal.
“It is not a just system,” a lawyer for
the journalists, Khin Maung Zaw, said
during a recent break in the court pro-
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s years
under house arrest were covered
by the same news media that her
government now seeks to punish.
The Reuters journalist U Wa Lone being escorted by the police from a court in Yangon, Myanmar.
ceedings. “There are many obstacles.”
The case has highlighted the suppression of free speech in Myanmar under
the government of Daw Aung San Suu
Kyi, the state counselor and Nobel
Peace Prize laureate.
She has yet to speak out on behalf of
the Rohingya, and has instead blamed
“terrorists” for an “iceberg of misinformation” about the crisis in Rakhine.
During the 15 years Ms. Aung San Suu
Kyi spent under house arrest by the
country’s military rulers, her plight was
widely covered by the same international news media that her government
now seeks to punish.
Many top officials in her government
also were political prisoners during mili-
tary rule. But today, efforts to suppress
criticism of the government have blossomed under her party, the National
League for Democracy, including
through the use of a harsh criminal defamation law that targets online speech.
Two of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi’s top appointees have enabled the prosecution
of Mr. Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo.
Shortly after they were arrested, the
country’s president at the time authorized the police to proceed with the case.
The attorney general, a former military
officer, has overseen the prosecution.
Not everyone in the National League
for Democracy favors such harsh treatment.
U Nyan Win, secretary of the party’s
central executive committee, said in an
interview that the charges against Mr.
Wa Lone and Mr. Kyaw Soe Oo should be
dismissed because they never reported
on any official secrets. He recommended that the journalists appeal to
the Supreme Court to quash the proceedings.
“By law, they have not committed any
offense at the time they were arrested,”
he said. “They had not released any information about the news they collected. They have not committed any offense.”
Human rights advocates here and
abroad have expressed concern about
the growing crackdown on free speech
by Myanmar’s government.
Asia how the military abducted him at 14
and forced him to serve as a soldier for
nearly a decade.
He was prosecuted for circulating information that could cause public fear or
“We have no rule of law in this country,” he told reporters as the police took
him away.
One of the most powerful tools for stifling dissent has been a section of the
telecommunications law, 66d, which allows anyone to file charges of online defamation, even if they have no connection to the supposed victim.
Under the previous government of
President Thein Sein, which enacted the
law, 11 such cases were brought. But in
two years under Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi,
more than 100 such cases have been
filed, including against journalists and
government critics.
One target is U Swe Win, a co-founder
of the news website Myanmar Now. He
is charged with defamation for criticizing hateful comments spread by a Buddhist nationalist monk. He faces two
years in prison.
An occasional contributor to The New
York Times and other foreign publications, Mr. Swe Win served seven years
in prison for taking part in a 1998 demonstration that protested military rule
and backed Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi.
He said he has had to attend court
hearings in his case every other week
for nearly a year, but the case has moved
so slowly he has never had a chance to
present his defense.
“This is a very dangerous place to
speak the truth,” he said.
In the case of the two Reuters journalists, the evidence presented by the prosecution has not been compelling.
Prosecution witnesses have disagreed on whether the journalists were
arrested outside the restaurant or at a
traffic checkpoint some distance away.
One police officer admitted that he
burned his notes of the arrest. Another
testified that he was unfamiliar with police arrest procedures.
A local official who testified that he
was present during the arrest admitted
under cross-examination that he had
written the checkpoint location on his
hand so he would not forget it while he
was testifying.
One police witness acknowledged
that the information in the documents
had already been published in newspaper reports before the journalists’ arrest.
Sean Bain, a legal adviser in Yangon
for the Geneva-based International
Commission of Jurists, attended the
hearing last week and said the prosecution had not produced credible evidence.
He urged the government to step in
and dismiss the case.
“The outcome of these hearings doesn’t rest solely on the judge,” he said.
“The government should instruct prosecutors to immediately drop the
Reuters has mounted a vigorous campaign to keep the case before the public
eye. The human rights lawyer Amal
Clooney recently announced that she
would assist in their defense.
The reporters’ coverage has been
honored with several awards since their
arrest, including the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
“No journalists in the history of our
country betrayed the country,” Mr.
Kyaw Soe Oo told reporters after one
hearing. “We reported the news to get
the right information.”
Saw Nang contributed reporting from
Togo’s broken hospitals
Health care workers
stage walkouts to protest
deplorable conditions
The air-conditioner was broken in the
sweltering neonatal ward of Togo’s largest hospital, and only one nurse was on
duty to attend to the two dozen infants
with life-threatening conditions.
Mothers with babies in the ward were
imploring friends and family for loans to
buy basic medical supplies from pharmacies around Lomé, the capital, because items like drugs, saline solution,
latex gloves and packets of clean water
were not available at Sylvanus Olympio
University Teaching Hospital.
One infant, Tresor Tsolenyanou, was
born in February with gastroschisis, a
condition in which the intestines are
partly exposed through a hole in the abdominal muscles. He shared a crib with
several other babies, his bulging torso
wrapped in gauze.
In the United States, the survival rate
for gastroschisis is 90 percent. But because of the high risk of infection in this
overcrowded, understaffed and undersupplied hospital, Tresor was likely to
die, said Steven Kagni, the ward’s attending nurse.
Fed up with situations like Tresor’s,
Togo’s public hospital workers are demonstrating their disgust with the level of
care they are able to provide, adding
their voices to a growing swell of political protests that have shaken this
small West African country.
As they have done half a dozen times
since the beginning of the year, doctors
and nurses went on strike in late March,
walking out of the central hospital,
blocking new patients from entering
and encouraging existing patients to
seek private treatment elsewhere.
“When you accept to work in these
conditions, you might be complicit in a
situation that could cause death. You are
responsible,” said Dr. David Dosseh, a
surgeon at the central hospital who
helped organize the strikes. “So at a certain moment, you have to ask if it’s better to just stop working.”
Critics say the pervasive problems in
Togo’s medical system — where equipment frequently malfunctions, electricity and water supplies are unreliable and
new doctors earn less than taxi drivers
— are the result of government corruption and ineptitude.
But the current unrest in Togo extends far beyond the nation’s troubled
health care system.
Dr. Dosseh and his colleagues said
their frustrations with the government
were aligned with those of university
students, public schoolteachers and oth-
ers who have led a recent wave of protests against President Faure Gnassingbé, whose family has ruled Togo for
50 years.
While doctors have kept clear of
street demonstrations and confined
their opposition to strikes, their status
as medical professionals, and their intimate involvement with the daily miseries of life in the capital, has put them at
the forefront of the movement calling for
Mr. Gnassingbé to be removed from
“People have a lot of respect and consideration for the doctors,” said Farida
Nabourema, a prominent opposition activist. “The strikes are a key part of the
Mr. Gnassingbé, who succeeded his
father as president in 2005 in an election
marred by violence and accusations of
fraud, supported legislation introduced
last fall that would put in place presidential term limits — but which exempted
his current and previous terms, allowing him to run again in 2020 and 2025.
That bill was angrily voted down by
opposition lawmakers and led to demonstrations around the country.
Protesters’ frustrations were also
stoked by a dismal economy, crumbling
Gulf of Guinea
schools and expectations raised by the
ouster of other longstanding African
leaders like President Yahya Jammeh,
Gambia’s ex-president, who was voted
out of office in 2016 and Robert Mugabe,
who resigned in November after 37
years as president of Zimbabwe.
Mr. Gnassingbé’s government countered with sweeping arrests of opposition politicians, internet blackouts,
crackdowns on social media, and, according to Amnesty International, beatings and torture by the federal police.
In February, the government agreed
to negotiate with opposition party members, a meeting brokered by President
Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana. Since then,
large-scale political protests have
waned, with activists awaiting the outcome of the discussions.
But the health care workers continue
to forge ahead with strikes, regularly
leaving the central hospital with few or
no staff members for days at a time.
I. Glenn Cohen, a professor at Harvard Law School and an expert on
health law and bioethics, said medical
ethicists generally agree that the potential benefits of a doctors’ strike can justifiably outweigh the potential risk to patients, if the dispute is about the quality
of patient care (as opposed to, for example, pensions or vacation time). A recent
peer-reviewed study of doctor’s strikes
around the world found no evidence that
they lead to an increase in patient mortality, he said.
“When you agree to become a doctor,
you do not agree to work under any possible condition with whatever quality of
care that might mean for patients,” Professor Cohen said.
The government in Togo has retaliated against some leading doctors. Two
weeks ago, Ihou Majesté, the vice dean
at the University of Lomé medical
school, was arrested and detained by
the federal police for several days after
an audio clip, said to be in his voice, circulated comparing the Health Ministry
to a broken down car.
Experts at the United Nations say
that Togo scores about average for a
country of its income on metrics like
vaccine availability, deaths from noncommunicable diseases and average life
Its newborn mortality rate, 26 per
1,000 births, is better than war-torn Sierra Leone, but worse than countries
like Niger and Burkina Faso that are
less developed than Togo.
Moustafa Mijiyawa, the health minister, did not respond to email inquiries
asking for an interview. Reached on his
cellphone, he hung up without commenting.
Doctors in the city point to their own
statistics: only four doctors per 10,000
residents of Lomé, when the international standard calls for 20; five often
broken CT scanners for a city of 837,000;
one nurse for every 13 beds at the central hospital, when experts recommend
a ratio of one to four.
The government spends $16 per
capita on primary health care, among
the lowest in the world, according to research backed by the Gates Foundation.
A French-trained neurosurgeon at the
central hospital said he recently had to
perform brain surgery on a motorcycle
accident victim with no electricity, using
his cellphone for light. By the time the
power returned, the man was in a coma
and has yet to regain consciousness.
The central hospital is known around
Lomé as “the Morgue,” as locals say
you’re more likely to come out dead than
Patients are routinely forced to pay
out of pocket for basic supplies, even in
emergency situations, before they can
receive treatment.
“In the emergency room, if you don’t
pay, you die,” said Dr. Atchi Walla, a surgeon there.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7290 1536
4 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
Battle destroyed a city. China will rebuild it.
Filipinos who lost homes
in fight with Islamists have
little control over future
As she approached her house for the
first time since militants took over the
neighborhood, evidence of a disaster
unfolded around Haydee Dimalawang:
“ISIS” spray-painted on the door of the
family’s completely stripped car, walls
gouged by bullets, a kitchen ripped in
half by a mortar shell.
She felt lucky — relatively.
At least her house, in a central neighborhood of Marawi, was still standing.
Her neighbor across the street, Alpata
Utto, was left with an empty lot. His
house had burned down early in the
fighting, and weeds had sprouted from
the ashes.
Islamic State loyalists seized Marawi,
a predominantly Muslim city of more
than 200,000 people on the Philippine island of Mindanao, more than 10 months
ago, leading to months of military siege
and devastating American airstrikes.
The residents are finally being allowed to return, but only for a day or two
per family to salvage what they can and
then leave again.
What happens next will depend on
how and when the city is rebuilt. And in a
central example of how the political
wind is shifting in the Philippines, the
destruction enabled in part by American military assistance will be repaired
by a Chinese-led consortium, officials
This week, President Rodrigo Duterte
visited China to discuss the project,
worth an estimated $1.5 billion, with
President Xi Jinping, among other issues, officials said.
As residents’ visits to Marawi began,
three New York Times journalists were
given exclusive access both to those
neighborhoods and to some parts of the
city still cut off to civilians and littered
with ordnance and rubble.
Since Mr. Duterte declared victory
over the Islamic State loyalists in October, residents have been kept out. For
the past five months, they have been
scattered across the country. Some
moved in with relatives, but many were
stuck in government-sponsored openair camps for the displaced.
After residents protested the delayed
return to their city, the military scheduled the short-term visits.
Last year, President Duterte admitted
that the Philippine security forces had
been caught off guard by the militants’
assault on Marawi, and he grudgingly
asked for help from the country’s traditional military allies, the United States
and Australia.
What followed were five months of the
most intense clashes the Philippine military had faced, with the militants killing
hundreds, taking dozens of people
hostage and beheading victims on video. In total, the government estimates
that some 1,200 people were killed.
The insurgent leader Isnilon Hapilon
was killed in October, near the end of the
siege. But about 200 fighters had managed to escape, and sporadic clashes
continued weeks later.
Long known as the “Islamic capital”
of the Philippines, Marawi has a history
of marginalization by the government of
the predominantly Catholic country.
Even before the siege began, residents
would stay away from banks in favor of
keeping their money in vaults and doing
business among themselves. Many refused to register their property, preferring to stay off government books.
As people began returning this week,
some said they believed that the Philippine military, not the Islamist militants, had looted their homes. That has
only added to the sense of isolation.
“Our practice was staying together
The government is allowing small groups of residents to return to Marawi, Philippines, to examine their homes and recover some belongings. But they cannot stay because unexploded ammunition makes the city still dangerous.
Long known as the “Islamic capital” of the Philippines, Marawi has a history of marginalization by the government of the predominantly Catholic country.
Displaced residents of Marawi at Friday Prayer in the city of Iligan. People from
Marawi have been scattered across the country for months, waiting to return.
and closely guarding each other,” said
Saimra Gutoc, a community organizer
from Marawi. “Now, if you’re a Muslim
Filipino, you’re going to be suspected of
being a part of this.”
Across the city, the residents tried to
gather up whatever belongings they
could: scrap metal to sell in the market,
old family photo albums, half-burned
high school diplomas.
In the center of the city, Dr. Bedoria
Macabalang, 52, was inspecting what
remained of the family-owned, 50-bed
Salaam Hospital, which was one of the
city’s most modern health facilities before the siege began. Militants had tak-
as he addressed a business conference
on the Chinese island of Hainan, with
Mr. Xi in attendance.
“As sovereign equals, the Philippines
and China are partners in the building of
Duterte said, according to a government
transcript. “We are building bridges of
greater understanding between our
Rommel Banlaoi, a political and security analyst, said Marawi’s future would
be a critical indicator of the Philippines’
relationship with China. “It is not only a
case of counterterror,” he said. “It’s a
test for Duterte’s foreign policy.”
en over the hospital and used it as an infirmary for their wounded. On the walls
were pro-Islamic State graffiti.
“I have had to also let go of the hospital’s 80-plus staff. No one knows what’s
going to happen to us,” Dr. Macabalang
said. “I can’t cry anymore because all
the tears have dried up.”
Plans to rebuild the city have been
coming together slowly. Mr. Duterte announced last week that most of the contract will be bid out to a group of Chinese
companies. But it could be months before the actual work can start.
On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte seemed to
hint at that relationship — and others —
Over the past year, the Duterte administration has been edging toward
closer ties with Beijing. Though the two
countries have a territorial dispute over
islands in the South China Sea, the
prospect of becoming part of China’s
Belt and Road infrastructure initiative
— which has provided highways,
bridges and tunnels to neighboring
countries like Thailand, Laos and Cambodia — appears to be moving the Philippines further out of the United States’
“The Philippine relationship with the
U.S. has already changed,” Mr. Banlaoi
said. “Duterte doesn’t want the U.S. to
lay on the terms anymore.”
With the level of destruction so high,
Marawi will probably need to be completely razed and rebuilt. But residents
are holding on to hope that they will be
able to do the work.
“We don’t want the Chinese to come in
and be paid to destroy our homes,” Ms.
Dimalawang said. “This is our city, and
we can rebuild it ourselves.”
In January, the government made
moves to take control of the reconstruction away from the residents. Mr.
Duterte released a presidential proclamation classifying much of Marawi’s
present area as a military reservation,
offering to repay residents for whatever
areas are claimed. So far, no payments
have been discussed.
“I will do what is best for you, so do
not hurry me up,” Mr. Duterte said at a
news conference this week. “Can you rebuild it with how many billions? Just
stay put.”
There is certainly danger in any largescale return right now. Around Marawi,
volunteers for the Swiss Foundation for
Mine Action distributed leaflets to returning evacuees warning them of unexploded ordnance. Posters showed different types of bombs.
One soldier walked past carrying the
empty shell of a rocket-propelled
grenade, while spent shells of World
War II-era ammunition still littered the
A “cadaver recovery team” from the
health department continues to retrieve
remains from the bombed-out areas.
When the Times journalists visited, Dr.
Khadafi Mapandi’s recovery team had
found 12 sets of skeletal remains, and expected to find more.
Campaigning against El Salvador’s strict abortion ban
and organized support from doctors, legal experts and economists, said Keyla
Cáceres, a campaign organizer.
Lorena Peña, a lawmaker from the
leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front who proposed the bill with
the broader exceptions in 2016, said
there was “less fundamentalism now”
about the issue. “The debate has been
much wider.”
Whatever happens over the next couple of weeks — Ms. Peña said right-wing
legislators feared that breaking ranks to
support the changes would alienate
their wealthy conservative backers —
the campaign will continue. “I’m not
pessimistic,” she said. “It’s not written in
stone that it can’t change.”
Mr. Wright argued that resistance to
changing the law “responds to a violent
society, to machismo, to poverty,” rather
than to the conservatism of Salvadoran
“As a politician, the easy way out is to
say, ‘I’m pro-life and I’m against abortion,’” he said. “It’s a way of not delving
deeper into the issues that are causing
so much of our problems.”
Even if the public discussion has won
the sympathy of some undecided legislators, many of them argue privately
that abortion is not that important to
Salvadorans, whose greatest worry is
crime, said Morena Herrera, a longtime
women’s rights activist who leads the
Citizens’ Group, an organization that
supports the exceptions to the abortion
“That shows how they value the problems that poor women face,” she said. “If
we don’t succeed with the change now,
we are condemning another generation
of girls to live with this injustice, this uncertainty.”
Abortion is punishable by up to eight
years in prison, but a good lawyer can
win a reduced sentence or house arrest,
said Ms. Peña, the lawmaker. Poor women who suffer late-term miscarriages or
stillbirths have been convicted of aggravated or attempted homicide in trials
that seem to push them all down the
same hall of mirrors.
Ms. Vásquez, 34, was at her job as a
school cafeteria cook when she began
bleeding and asked for medical help before losing consciousness and suffering
a stillbirth. Prosecutors initially
charged her with abortion and then
changed the accusation to aggravated
homicide. She never met her public defender.
She was released in February after
the Supreme Court commuted her sentence.
Four weeks later, Maira Figueroa
Marroquín left Ilopango after the government commuted her 30-year sentence.
In 2003, when she was a 19-year-old
maid, Ms. Figueroa began bleeding
heavily at work toward the end of her
pregnancy and, like Ms. Vásquez, was
charged first with abortion and then aggravated homicide, according to the Citizens’ Group.
“If we don’t succeed with the
change now, we are condemning
another generation of girls to live
with this injustice.”
In its verdict, the court acknowledged
that there was no direct proof of a homicide, but it said that the “demonstrated
facts” had led to its conclusion. She
served almost 15 years.
Since 2015, lawyers have won the release of five women. But 24 women convicted of aggravated or attempted homicide remain in jail, and another is on
trial, said Elida Caballero Cabrera, the
advocacy adviser for the Center for Reproductive Rights in Washington.
In a recent study that looked at how
anti-abortion rhetoric had seeped into
these prosecutions, Jocelyn Viterna, a
Harvard sociologist, and José Santos
Guardado Bautista, a lawyer in the Salvadoran attorney general’s office, found
that the words “abortion” and “homicide” were used interchangeably by
news reports and high-ranking legal officials.
It was “not surprising that this same
blurring of abortion and homicide in cultural discourse became institutionalized” in the country’s judicial system,
they wrote.
Anti-abortion groups say that the
cases of the imprisoned women are unrelated to the abortion ban, and that the
main concern should be improving
health care for pregnant women. “If
there was any injustice against these
women, it was an error in the legal
process,” said Sara Larín, the spokeswoman for a Catholic anti-abortion
group Vida SV.
Activists who oppose relaxing the ban
have begun their own campaign, arguing that El Salvador’s falling rate of maternal mortality shows that doctors can
manage high-risk pregnancies without
a lifting of the ban.
In cases of rape, “removing the child
won’t remove the trauma,” said Dr.
Mario López Saca, the medical adviser
of the El Salvador Bioethics Association,
a group that argues that human life begins at conception. When a fetus is unviable, palliative care is the best option for
the mother, Dr. López Saca said, adding,
“Abortion is a cowardly solution.”
But the health minister, Dr. Violeta
Menjívar, has said that between 2011
and 2015, 13 women died from ectopic
pregnancies, in which the embryo develops outside the uterus with no possibility of survival. Another 36 women
died during that period when their
chronic illnesses were exacerbated by
In 2015, 1,445 girls aged 10 to 14 became pregnant, according to the ministry’s statistics. Girls and young women face a high risk of rape in the home
and by gangs, the government says.
Dr. Guillermo Ortiz Avendaño, who
led the unit overseeing high-risk pregnancies at the National Women’s Hospital in San Salvador for 20 years, said the
argument about mortality rates was
The improvement has resulted from
new protocols for complications at the
very end of pregnancy, he said, and the
ban prevents doctors from offering swift
treatment at early stages.
“It’s absolutely reproachable from the
medical point of view,” Dr. Ortiz said of
patients whose lives are at risk. “We are
waiting until her condition is critical to
be able to intervene.”
“When just one woman dies, it’s 100
percent of all the cases for her family,”
added Dr. Ortiz, who is now a medical
adviser for Ipas, a North Carolina reproductive rights group.
Dr. Victoria Ramírez, a gynecologist
who supports a change in the law, said
the abortion ban was never questioned
during her training. But she now chafes
at its restrictions.
Recently a 16-year-old mentally disabled girl who had been raped arrived
with a high-risk pregnancy at the provincial hospital where Dr. Ramírez practices. “I couldn’t give her any options,”
she said. “As doctors we are trained to
do triage, and in this case I couldn’t.”
The girl, who was poor, went into labor about two months early and was taken to San Salvador, where specialized
doctors saved both mother and baby after a dangerous birth. But the premature child will have severe developmental problems and no means of support,
Dr. Rámirez said.
“When a woman is pregnant, she
loses all her rights,” Dr. Rámirez said,
“because the baby has more rights than
she has.”
Gene Palumbo contributed reporting.
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 5
Trump considers
harsher strike on Syria
see eye to eye that this matter has to
stop immediately. We cannot tolerate
with a war criminal, we cannot tolerate
with someone who killed more than half
a million of his own people.”
Mr. Trump spent part of the day huddled with John F. Kelly, his chief of staff,
John R. Bolton, his new national security adviser, and other officials. But his
spokeswoman declined to discuss the
“As we’ve said, all options are on the
table,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders,
the White House press secretary, “but
I’m not going to get ahead of anything
the president may or may not do in response to what’s taken place in Syria.”
Heavily backed by Russian air support and Iranian ground forces, Syria is
in a different league than adversaries in
other places where the United States is
at war. Unlike the Islamic State in various parts of the Middle East, the Taliban
in Afghanistan or the Shabab in Somalia, the Syrian government has extensive air defense and missile systems capable of shooting down foreign planes.
Sending bombers and fighter jets,
with American or French pilots, to strike
Syrian airfields or other facilities is considered risky because it could deepen
the conflict if a pilot was shot down. That
is why the Pentagon is looking at the
same sort of retaliation used last year
when two Navy destroyers unleashed a
fusillade of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Al Shayrat airfield that was believed to have been used to launch
chemical attacks.
But less than 24 hours after that
strike, Syrian warplanes were again taking off from the damaged airfield, according to the Syrian Observatory for
“As we’ve said, all options are on
the table.”
Human Rights, a monitoring group. Beyond Al Shayrat base, Syria still had numerous others from which it could
launch flights.
While Mr. Trump’s advisers argued
last year that the strike affected Mr. Assad’s calculations, in the end its limited
nature ultimately did not thwart the Syrian government’s ability to carry out
chemical attacks.
“There’s a tension between the desire
to do something bigger than last time
and the president’s clear desire not to
stay engaged in sustained operations,”
said Michèle A. Flournoy, an under secretary of defense under President
Barack Obama. “Conceivably, they
could design a larger one-off strike or a
series of smaller strikes.”
“But at the end of the day, it’s sustained pressure on Assad that’s going to
change his calculation about whether to
use chemical weapons,” Ms. Flournoy
David F. Gordon, policy planning director at the State Department under
President George W. Bush, said Mr.
Trump was almost certainly looking to
punish Mr. Assad more severely while
limiting American engagement.
“What they’re probably searching for
is: What can we destroy that weakens
this guy?” Mr. Gordon said. “He has to
do more than he did last time, and I think
he does want to disrupt their capabilities. But I think it’s basically still the one
shot — it may be in two waves or something, but I don’t think there’s an ongoing response to this.”
Already, there were indications that
Mr. Assad was moving key aircraft to a
Russian base near Latakia, a port city
on the Mediterranean Sea, and taking
pains to secure important weapons systems.
The Pentagon does not have an aircraft carrier in the area at the moment,
which focuses attention on the U.S.S.
Donald Cook or the U.S.S. Porter, two
Navy destroyers already in the Mediterranean.
The Donald Cook departed Larnaca,
Cyprus, on Monday after completing a
scheduled port visit, Navy officials said.
The Donald Cook is one of four Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyers that generally serve Europe
and are part of a NATO rotation, officials
said. The United States can use the Donald Cook or the Porter to launch multiple
Tomahawk cruise missiles at sites in
Syria similar to last year’s operation.
Since the previous strikes, the United
States Central Command has been updating lists of possible military and government targets in Syria, including aircraft hangars, ammunition depots and
command headquarters. Defense officials said one possibility was to render
certain Syrian airfields incapable of being used in the future to carry out chemical attacks.
Last year’s strike destroyed a number
of aircraft and their hangars, the Pentagon said at the time, but did not hinder
the base’s ability to launch aircraft for
long. The American missiles used in the
attack, BGM-109 Tomahawks, have a
range of around 1,000 miles and carry a
warhead that weighs half a ton.
The Donald Cook and the Porter are
most likely loaded with roughly two dozen Tomahawk cruise missiles each. The
U.S.S. New York, an amphibious landing
ship and part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, is also nearby. The New
York can launch transport helicopters
and landing craft loaded with Marines,
but sending in ground forces is highly
unlikely, officials said.
In the coming days, the U.S.S. Harry
S. Truman, a nuclear-powered aircraft
carrier, is scheduled to head to the region. While part of a regular deployment, the Truman will sail to the Mediterranean with a complement of strike
and reconnaissance aircraft and surface
warships alongside it.
Whether allied forces would participate remained unclear. President Emmanuel Macron of France said Tuesday
that the allies were still discussing a
plan and would announce a decision “in
the coming days.”
“We do not wish for any escalation in
the region,” said Mr. Macron, who was
hosting Mohammed bin Salman, the
crown prince of Saudi Arabia. “But we
simply wish that international law, and
in particular international humanitarian law, be respected.”
Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, said that those behind the reported
chemical attack in Syria must be “held
accountable,” although he did not say
whether Saudi Arabia would join any response. “We are discussing with our allies the steps to respond,” Mr. Jubeir told
reporters in Paris.
Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain, who spoke by telephone with Mr.
Trump on Tuesday, also stressed the responsibility of Mr. Assad’s government
for the attack “if confirmed.” In a statement summarizing the leaders’ call, the
British government said, “They agreed
that the international community
needed to respond to uphold the worldwide prohibition on the use of chemical
In Washington, most lawmakers remained either supportive of military action or noncommittal, but some liberal
Democrats objected. Leaders of the
Congressional Progressive Caucus issued a statement calling on the administration to “redouble its efforts to engage
our allies and enforce international prohibitions on chemical weapons diplomatically” rather than use force again.
Aurelien Breeden and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Paris, and Ben
Hubbard from Beirut.
Saqba, on the outskirts of Damascus, Syria. Trump administration officials have said
that they expected any new strike on Syria to be more expansive than last year’s.
• An article on Tuesday about a bus
crash that killed 15 members of a Canadian hockey team misstated the given
name of a resident who has hosted the
team’s players in the past. He is Devin
Cannon, not David. The article, relying
on incorrect information from the chief
coroner of Saskatchewan, also misidentified one of the victims killed in the
crash. He was Parker Tobin, not Xavier
• An article on Saturday about gains
made in solar power capacity worldwide
overstated the amount by which solar
energy has increased. Solar accounted
for more than a third of all net new
power capacity added worldwide in
2017, not more than a third of all electricity generated.
• An obituary on Friday about the writer, executive and Republican fundraiser Ann Chennault misidentified the
founder and the location of the Flying Tiger Line, a lucrative postwar cargo operation. It was founded and run by
Robert Prescott in the United States, not
by Maj. Gen. Claire L. Chennault in
Sarajevo is the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country riven by corruption, weak leadership and ethnic and nationalist strains among communities.
Testing ground in new cold war
Balkan area at the center
of new competitiveness
between Russia and West
Cradle of the First World War, the
Balkans have been a flash point, a place
where empires, ethnicities and religions
abut and contest. Now, analysts warn,
the region is becoming a battleground in
what feels like a new cold war.
Russia, they say, is expanding its influence and magnifying ethnic tensions
in countries that hope to join the European Union. Its involvement has already spurred Brussels to revive dormant aims for enlargement. It is also
prompting fresh attention from Washington about security risks to NATO
After the concerted Western response
to the poisoning in Britain of a former
Russian spy and his daughter, which expelled around 150 Russian diplomats
and intelligence officers, “the Balkans
become even more important,” said
Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at
the Institute of International Relations
in Prague.
“Russia is looking for ways to retaliate that are asymmetric and provide
Moscow opportunities,” he said.
In a new paper for the European
Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Galeotti says that “Russia looks to the
Balkans as a battlefield in its ‘political
war,’” seeking “to create distractions
and potential bargaining chips with the
European Union.”
Charles A. Kupchan, who was Europe
director of the National Security Council
under President Barack Obama, said
that “the Russians are taking advantage
of the last part of Western Europe that
remains politically dysfunctional.”
The situation bears distant echoes of
Ukraine, where Russia originally
agreed that Kiev could join the European Union — though not NATO — and
then changed its mind, leading to the
revolution that prompted Moscow to annex Crimea and foment secession in eastern Ukraine.
In the Balkans, the competition with
Russia has the potential to sow fresh instability in a region still emerging from
the vicious war of 1992-95 that broke
apart the former Yugoslavia.
In Sarajevo, many of the scars of the
war have been erased. The former Holiday Inn, once a nearly windowless shelter for reporters near Snipers’ Alley
during the Bosnia war, is restored and
busy. The neo-Moorish City Hall, a monument to multiculturalism that was
shelled and burned, has been burnished
to a high standard.
Yet Bosnia and Herzegovina, the broken country patched together in 1995 at
the end of the war, remains a fragile construct, riven by corruption, weak leadership and ethnic and nationalist strains
among communities — an encapsulation of the Balkans.
It is one of several key entry points
that Russia is seeking to exploit, Mr.
Kupchan said, as the leader of the Serb
semiautonomous region known as Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, continues to press for an independence referendum. Others include Macedonia,
where relations between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Slavs remain tense, and
between Kosovo and Serbia.
Wary of Russian meddling, the European Union is holding out a renewed
prospect of membership to Bosnia and
to the other five nations of the western
Balkans — Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo — in return
Demonstrators in Athens protesting the use of the name Macedonia by Greece’s neighbor, one of many conflicts shaking the western Balkans.
Milorad Dodik, right, leader of the Serb autonomous region Republika Srpska in Bosnia
and Herzegovina, has called for an independence referendum.
for fundamental structural reform.
The skepticism among these countries about Brussels is deep. Many
doubt the sincerity of a European Union
that is turning more populist, more wary
about migration and more cautious, after Romania and Bulgaria, about taking
in nations before they are ready for
No one believes any of these countries
is yet ready to join. But the urgency for
reform fell away as the goal receded.
Four years ago, the head of the European
Juncker, said there would be no more
quick enlargement of the bloc, sending
the process into somnolence.
It has been, as the Macedonian foreign minister, Nikola Dimitrov, often
says, like “being locked in a waiting
room with no exit.”
“Juncker made a mistake to say that
he was not interested in enlargement,”
said Carl Bildt, a former Swedish foreign
minister and United Nations special envoy to the Balkans. “The E.U. took its
eye off the ball for several years, with
detrimental effects.”
But with Britain leaving the bloc and
Russia playing on the fissures of the region, the European Union has now laid
out a relatively detailed plan for the
It has even gone on record to say that
if all goes well, Serbia and Montenegro,
the only two countries now engaged in
an accession process and hence the
front-runners, could join by 2025.
The bloc’s strategy for the Western
Balkans, published in February, laid out
six initiatives: rule of law; security and
migration; socio-economic development; transport and energy connectivity; digital agenda; and “reconciliation
and good neighborly relations.”
Bulgaria, the current president of the
bloc, will hold a special Balkans summit
meeting in May. The Balkans are on the
agenda for the European Council in
June, and the British will be hosts of a
Western Balkans summit meeting in
July, just before NATO has its own meeting in Brussels.
“It is time to finish the work of 1989,”
said Johannes Hahn, the European Union commissioner in charge of enlarge-
Russia has made it clear that it
considers new NATO expansion
to the Western Balkans as
ment. “We have set 2025 as an indicative
date for Serbia and Montenegro, which
is realistic but also very ambitious.”
Mr. Bildt said tartly: “Whether this is
realistic or not remains to be seen.”
Many think it is too ambitious, given
that the bloc insists that all these countries settle their numerous, passionate
border disputes. There are also serious
internal problems, the bloc’s report acknowledged.
“Today the countries show clear elements of state capture, including links
with organized crime and corruption at
all levels of government and administration, as well as a strong entanglement of
public and private interests,” it said.
There is strong evidence of “extensive political interference in and control
of the media” and lack of independence
in the judiciary, it noted.
Add to that uncompetitive economies
and the flight of young people looking
for better jobs, and prospects seem dim.
But now the Americans are suddenly
more interested, too. Renewed Washington concern “stems in part from concerns about expanded Russian influence,” said A. Ross Johnson, noting that
Congress now demands that the Defense Department provide “an assessment of security cooperation between
each Western Balkan country and the
Russian Federation.”
Russia has made it clear that it considers new NATO expansion to the
Western Balkans as unacceptable, and
Moscow was implicated in a strange
coup attempt in Montenegro in 2016 before that country joined NATO.
Russia is trying to establish itself in
the region, both with government and
business, so when these countries do enter the European Union, “they will bring
Russian influence with them,” Mr. Galeotti said.
The strategy is similar to what China
and Russia are doing with Greece and
Cyprus, widely considered places where
Russian money can be laundered into
Russia is also deeply engaged in local
language media, both with Kremlinowned websites like Sputnik and with
bots that harp on local grievances.
Mr. Bildt points in particular to Russian investment in critical Serbian infrastructure, like energy. Though Russian
investment pales compared with that of
the European Union countries, Serbia
has a natural affinity to its Russian Orthodox brethren and remembers Russian support during the Kosovo war.
“Is the E.U. sensitive enough to what
is happening in Serbia?” Mr. Galeotti
He thinks not. “E.U. policy has generally been to support whatever keeps the
Western Balkans quiet,” Mr. Galeotti
said. “It’s deeply dangerous and creates
the perfect environment for Moscow to
play its games.”
Brussels, he and others say, should
put more weight behind both the carrots
and the sticks — offering genuine incentives for institutional reform, and genuine sanctions for falling short.
A former senior United States official
called the region a new cold war battlefield, and said that Brussels was too rigid with the ways it tried to keep people
on the good behavior track, while the
money is not as connected as it should
be to reform goals.
The official, who asked for anonymity
to preserve influence in the region, said
that the countries reformed only when
Brussels and Washington worked together to push leaders hard to break old
habits of corruption, state capture, a politicized judiciary and Russian shell
companies trying to take over key infrastructure and media.
But Europe is not eager to import
more problems. “The argument is that
only by taking in the Balkan states are
we assured to strengthen stability,” said
Norbert Rottgen, the chairman of the
German Bundestag’s foreign affairs
committee. “But is that true?”
“If we import fragile states into the
E.U., we import fragility,” he added.
The irony of history, Mr. Bildt mused,
is that had Yugoslavia remained together, it almost surely would have been in
the European Union by now, having
been well ahead in 1990 of current members Romania and Bulgaria.
“If the wars of dissolution hadn’t happened, all of this area would have been
an E.U. member,” he said. “The Balkans
have always lived best when integrated
into a wider framework, as necessary
today as in the past, and the one available today is the European Union.”
Mr. Kupchan remains an optimist.
“We know where this story will ultimately end, with all the former Yugoslav
states integrated into the European Union,” he said. “But when?”
6 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
‘Ultimate Trump loyalist’ in F.B.I.’s sights
President’s personal lawyer
scrutinized over payments
made to silence women
During the United States presidential
campaign, Michael D. Cohen got a
Google alert for a breaking story: “Russian President Vladimir Putin Praises
Donald Trump as ‘Talented’ and ‘Very
For most American politicians, that
article in December 2015 would hardly
have been welcome news. But Mr. Cohen, whose role as personal lawyer and
fixer for President Trump has been
firmly rooted in the transactional world
of his boss, saw opportunity. He emailed
an old friend who had been talking about
seeking Kremlin support to build a
Trump Tower in Moscow, and sent him
the article.
“Now is the time,” Mr. Cohen wrote.
“Call me.”
Mr. Cohen’s efforts put him under
scrutiny in the Trump-Russia inquiries
and hinted at the somewhat murky
space he occupied in the Trump Organization, where his precise duties were
unclear. Since then, a series of disclosures have revealed the unusual range
of Mr. Cohen’s portfolio.
Agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided his office and hotel
room on Monday, seeking records related to payments made shortly before the
2016 election to two women who claimed
to have had sexual encounters with Mr.
Trump. The investigation poses a legal
threat to Mr. Cohen — and possibly his
client. Few people closer to Mr. Trump
have more knowledge of what the president has been involved with over the
“Michael Cohen would lay his life
down for Donald Trump,” said Hank
Sheinkopf, a veteran New York political
strategist who knows both men. “He is
the ultimate Trump loyalist.”
Mr. Trump values few things more
than loyalty, but secrecy is one of them.
For years, to keep the circle of people involved as small as possible, he chose to
have Mr. Cohen serve as his legal attack
dog from a perch inside Trump Tower in
Manhattan instead of having outside
counsel deal with his problems, according to two people familiar with their relationship.
In private, Mr. Cohen has compared
himself to Tom Hagen, the smooth consigliere to the mafia family in the movie
“The Godfather.” His detractors have
used other descriptions, with one longtime Trump associate saying that the
words “finesse” and Mr. Cohen have
rarely been yoked together in a sentence.
If nothing else, the federal investigation, which has also drawn in a tabloid
company friendly to Mr. Trump, has cast
a harsh light on a partnership that, until
recently, at least, worked out well for
both Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump. Mr. Cohen, who met Mr. Trump nearly two dec-
Michael D. Cohen has for years served as President Trump’s legal attack dog, cleaning up messes, whether local zoning disputes or negative stories in the news media.
Few people closer to Mr. Trump
have more knowledge of what
the president has been involved
with over the years.
ades ago when he bought units in several Trump buildings in New York, later
played the role of point man and adviser
on some of Mr. Trump’s efforts to expand his brand internationally.
Mr. Cohen also became his boss’s goto guy for cleaning up messes, whether
local zoning disputes or negative
stories. The lawyer seemed to relish his
reputation as Mr. Trump’s “pit bull” and
embraced an aggressive — some say
bullying — approach to solving problems.
Though Mr. Cohen has been sidelined
from the Trump inner circle since the
election — he never got a senior administration job, which people who know
him say he expected — he has remained
devoted to the president. On Twitter, he
regularly speaks up on Mr. Trump’s behalf and assails critics. On Sunday, the
day before the F.B.I. raid on his office,
Mr. Cohen posted a quote about the importance of loyalty, adding: “I will always protect our @POTUS.”
One such attempt at protection was
his effort in July 2015 to quash a Daily
Beast article about an old complaint that
Mr. Trump’s first wife, Ivana, had made
during their divorce, in which she
claimed marital rape. She later withdrew the allegation. Mr. Cohen told a reporter for the website that marital rape
was not legally possible and threatened
the reporter if the story went forward.
After that, he mostly kept out of the
public eye, helping the campaign build
African-American and religious coalitions and raising money.
In recent months, Mr. Cohen’s efforts
to protect Mr. Trump from claims by two
women of extramarital affairs have
emerged as a major distraction — and
possibly worse — for the White House.
Mr. Cohen’s efforts to silence the
pornographic actress Stephanie Clifford, known as Stormy Daniels, began
as early as 2011, when he threatened legal action against a tabloid website that
tried to publish her story. During the
2016 campaign, he says, he decided on
his own to draw $130,000 from a home
equity line of credit and pay Ms. Clifford
to keep quiet, channeling the payment
through a limited liability company.
Mr. Cohen has repeatedly denied any
impropriety around the efforts to restrain Ms. Clifford from speaking out.
And he has maintained that he was simply trying to deal with a potentially damaging story even though, he said, it was
What is more, Mr. Cohen has also insisted that he made the payment to Ms.
Clifford without consulting Mr. Trump.
Asked recently whether he knew about
the payment, Mr. Trump told reporters
he did not, and referred questions to Mr.
Cohen. Still, Mr. Cohen’s claim that he
struck a nondisclosure agreement with
Ms. Clifford by himself, coupled with his
effort to force her to comply with it, has
exposed Mr. Trump to possibly having
to testify about his knowledge of what
his lawyer was up to. Ms. Clifford sued
Mr. Trump last month, and her lawyer,
Michael Avenatti, has filed court papers
seeking to depose the president.
“As we predicted and as the F.B.I. raid
shows,” Mr. Avenatti said on Twitter on
Tuesday, “Mr. Cohen and Mr. Trump are
in a lot of trouble.”
In a text message on Tuesday, Mr. Cohen said the investigation had been difficult.
“This has not been easy and has taken
a terrible toll on me, my wife and children,” Mr. Cohen said.
Another payment that the F.B.I. is
said to be investigating, for $150,000,
was made by American Media Inc., the
parent company of The National Enquirer. The tabloid business bought the
rights to the former Playboy model Karen McDougal’s story alleging an affair
with Mr. Trump and never published it.
David J. Pecker, now the chairman of
A.M.I., was the chief executive of Hachette in the 1990s and for a time published Mr. Trump’s in-house hotel magazine.
Mr. Trump, who was from Queens,
and the Bronx-born Mr. Pecker viewed
themselves as outsiders looking in at an
elitist Manhattan establishment. First
at Hachette and later, when he took over
the chairmanship of A.M.I., Mr. Pecker
acquired a reputation for buying and
burying stories in ways that protected
associates like Mr. Trump.
Several people close to A.M.I. and Mr.
Cohen have said that the lawyer was in
regular contact with company executives during the presidential campaign,
when The Enquirer regularly heralded
Mr. Trump and attacked his rivals. The
Times reported in February that A.M.I.
had shared Ms. McDougal’s allegations
with Mr. Cohen, though the company
said it did so only as part of efforts to corroborate her story, which it said it could
not do. Ms. McDougal’s lawyer at the
time, Keith Davidson, and Mr. Cohen
communicated around the time as she
and A.M.I. were completing their deal.
The agreements for Ms. McDougal’s
and Ms. Clifford’s silence formed the basis of complaints by the public interest
group Common Cause to the Justice Department and the Federal Election Commission. The group claims the payments
amounted to improper campaign contributions.
On Monday, as news of the F.B.I. raids
broke, The Times reported that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, was
looking into a $150,000 donation to Mr.
Trump’s charitable foundation from a
Ukrainian billionaire that was solicited
by Mr. Cohen during the 2016 campaign.
In addition, Mr. Mueller has examined
Mr. Cohen’s postelection role in forwarding to the administration a Ukraine-Russia peace proposal pushed by a Ukrainian lawmaker.
And Trump-Russia investigators
have also examined the 2015 Moscow
deal that Mr. Cohen pushed at a time
when his boss was campaigning for the
Republican nomination for president.
Mr. Trump’s long-held desire to build
a Trump property in Russia found new
life when Felix Sater, a friend of Mr. Cohen’s and a longtime associate of Mr.
Trump’s, surfaced with a fresh proposal.
He exchanged emails and phone calls
with Mr. Cohen in late 2015 saying that
he had a developer lined up, and that he
could use his contacts in Russia to garner Kremlin support for the project.
Mr. Cohen wasted no time, arranging
for Mr. Trump to sign a letter of intent for
the Moscow tower deal. But the project
seemed to stall in the coming months.
Rather than let it go, Mr. Cohen
reached out directly to Mr. Putin’s press
secretary in January 2016, asking for assistance. Later, he asserted that his effort was unsuccessful.
“I decided to abandon the proposal
less than two weeks later for business
reasons,” he said, “and do not recall any
response to my email.”
Seething over raid on his lawyer
He eventually calmed down and the
anger abated. But it was stoked anew on
Monday, after the F.B.I. raids on Mr. Cohen. Mr. Rosenstein in particular was a
source of Mr. Trump’s anger on Monday,
and some aides believed the president
was seriously considering firing him, to
a degree he has not in the past.
Mr. Trump’s foul mood continued into
Tuesday as he watched more coverage
of Mr. Cohen’s problems.
Mr. Trump told allies and advisers
that Mr. Mueller had gone too far and
Outside the White House, President
Trump grinned for selfies with the University of Alabama’s football team,
telling the champions that they had
beaten their rivals so brutally, “you flatout made them quit” — a feat he said he
knew something about himself.
Inside the White House, Mr. Trump —
furious after the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided the office and the hotel room of his longtime personal lawyer,
Michael D. Cohen — spent much of the
day brooding and fearful and near what
two people close to the West Wing described as a “meltdown.”
Mr. Trump’s public and private wrath
about the special counsel’s investigation
into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election are nothing new. But the raids on
Monday on Mr. Cohen’s Rockefeller Center office and Park Avenue hotel room
have sent the president to new heights
of outrage, setting the White House on
edge as it faces a national security crisis
in Syria and more turnover of staff.
On Tuesday, top White House aides
described themselves as deeply anxious
over the prospect that the president
might use the treatment of his lawyer as
a pretext to fire Robert S. Mueller III,
the special counsel.
But Mr. Mueller still had a job by the
end of the day, as Mr. Trump sought solace in allies like Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School
and a frequent Fox News commentator.
Mr. Dershowitz met Tuesday with Mr.
Trump at the White House and then
stayed for dinner.
“This is a very dangerous day today
for lawyer-client relations,” Mr. Dershowitz said Monday night on Fox in an
interview with Sean Hannity, one of Mr.
Trump’s favorite hosts. “Shoe on the
other foot. If this were Hillary Clinton
being investigated and they went into
her lawyer’s office, the A.C.L.U. would
be on every television station in America, jumping up and down.”
Mr. Trump took up the theme on Twit-
Mr. Trump has long felt he has
been unfairly hit by the Mueller
investigation, and he has wanted
to hit back.
President Trump was smiling when he welcomed Alabama’s championship football team. But aides say he was not happy in private.
ter on Tuesday morning, posting that
“attorney–client privilege is dead!”
Mr. Dershowitz, who has argued that
Mr. Trump should not agree to be interviewed by Mr. Mueller, said Mr. Cohen’s
treatment had vindicated that point of
view. “This sends a powerful message
that cooperation is not going to be rewarded by Mueller,” Mr. Dershowitz
said on Fox. “The result may very well
be far less cooperation” with the special
Elsewhere in the White House, as the
president considered options on Syria
and absorbed cable news chyrons about
Mr. Cohen, staff members at the National Security Council were rattled by
the ouster of the homeland security adviser, Thomas P. Bossert.
Two White House officials said the
move came at the urging of the new national security adviser, John R. Bolton,
whom one of the officials described as
serving as the president’s shiny new object.
Mr. Trump’s mood had begun to sour
even before the raids on his lawyer. People close to the White House said that
over the weekend, the president engaged in few activities other than dinner
at the Trump International Hotel. He
tuned into Fox News, they said, watched
reports about the so-called deep state
looking to sink his presidency and became unglued.
Mr. Trump angrily told his advisers
that people were trying to undermine
him and that he wanted to get rid of
three top Justice Department officials —
Jeff Sessions, the attorney general; Rod
J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed Mr. Mueller; and
Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director
— according to two people familiar with
what took place.
that his actions would backfire, according to a person with knowledge of the
president’s thinking.
The president indicated to some advisers that he had been proved right that
Mr. Mueller was out to get him, after
nearly a year of hearing from some of
his lawyers that he should cooperate
with the investigation and turn over everything that the special counsel requested. His participation in an interview with Mr. Mueller, which the special
counsel has sought, seemed less likely,
three people close to the president said.
Mr. Trump has long felt as if he has
been unfairly hit by the Mueller investigation, and he has wanted to hit back.
But there were few people on cable TV
defending the president on Tuesday.
White House advisers were particularly alarmed by the president’s tirade
in front of reporters on Monday, when he
called the raids on Mr. Cohen “an attack
on our country” in far angrier terms
than he has ever referred to the Russian
assault on the 2016 election.
Few people still at the White House
are able to restrain Mr. Trump from acting on his impulses after the departures
of crucial staff members who were once
able to join forces with other aides to do
That included Hope Hicks, his former
communications director; Rob Porter,
his former staff secretary; and, in 2017,
the chief of staff Reince Priebus and the
chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon.
John F. Kelly, the current chief of staff
whose influence over the president has
waned for months, appeared beaten
down and less hands-on, according to
two White House officials. Mr. Kelly has
told Mr. Trump it is frustrating for staff
members that the president deems most
news media stories fake news but believes the ones accusing various advisers of leaking, according to people familiar with the discussions.
It is not clear whether Mr. Trump can
fire Mr. Mueller himself. Many legal experts believe the president would have
to direct Mr. Rosenstein to do so because
Mr. Sessions has recused himself from
the case and Mr. Rosenstein technically
oversees Mr. Mueller.
Mr. Rosenstein has told Congress that
he would dismiss Mr. Mueller only for
cause, and people close to Mr. Rosenstein have indicated he would resign if
the president ordered him to fire Mr.
Bipartisan legislation has been introduced to protect Mr. Mueller, with senators urging the president to let it go forward “without impediment.”
The Republican leadership has dismissed such legislation as unnecessary.
But the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, warned Mr. Trump on
Tuesday to not fire Mr. Mueller, saying
in an interview on Fox Business Network it would be “suicide” to continue to
talk about firing him.
On Tuesday on the South Lawn, Mr.
Trump appeared to leave such concerns
behind during the event with the University of Alabama’s football team. Mr.
Sessions, a former Alabama senator,
was on hand to salute his home state
players, but the president did not acknowledge him.
Instead, he praised the team’s pugnacious spirit, saying that they “fought
back as they did all season long.”
“They kept fighting and fighting,” the
president said.
Julie Hirschfeld Davis reported from
Washington, and Maggie Haberman
from New York.
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 7
Climate skeptics adopt polar bears as a tool
Furry, button-nosed and dependent on
sea ice for their survival, polar bears
have long been poster animals for climate change.
But at a time when established climate science is being questioned at the
highest levels of government, climate
denialists are turning the charismatic
bears to their own uses, capitalizing on
their symbolic heft to spread doubts
about the threat of global warming.
The scientific evidence that the polar
bear’s Arctic home is warming twice as
fast as the rest of the planet is overwhelming, supported by reports like the
National Climate Assessment, which
was compiled by 13 federal agencies. In
some Arctic regions, scientists have
documented declines in polar bear numbers and disturbing signs of physical deterioration linked to the loss of sea ice.
And in January 2017, the Obama administration called human-driven climate
change the biggest threat to the bears’
continued existence.
But to hear climate denialists tell it,
polar bears are doing just fine. On Watts
Up With That, Climate Depot and other
websites that dispute climate science,
bloggers insist that the Arctic’s receding
ice is part of a natural warming cycle unrelated to human activities. Predictions
about devastating declines in polar bear
populations, they say, have failed to materialize.
In effect, many scientists say, the
bears have been co-opted by climate denialists, and in an article published on
Tuesday in the peer-reviewed journal
BioScience, 14 prominent researchers
argue that denialist blogs with wide followings are using the bears to spread
misinformation about the causes and
consequences of climate change.
The researchers also singled out Polar Bear Science, a blog run by Susan J.
Crockford, a Canadian zoologist, as a
primary source of dubious information
about the status of polar bears. About 80
percent of the contrarian websites that
the researchers studied referred to Dr.
Crockford’s blog as a primary source,
they said.
The publication of the article is likely
to intensify a furor in contrarian circles
that began four months ago after an
“early view” version of the paper appeared on the BioScience website.
The reaction was swift and fierce. A
post on Climate Audit, a blog popular
with climate skeptics, called the article
A polar bear near whale remains in Alaska. Though the sea ice that the bears require to hunt is melting, doubters of climate science have posited that bear populations are healthy.
“a hit piece” and dismissed it as “yet another piece of propaganda to push a Climate Change agenda.” The Global
Warming Policy Foundation, a pro-fossil
fuel think tank in Britain that has published briefing papers by Dr. Crockford,
chimed in with the headline, “14 Climate
Bullies Attack Susan Crockford for
Telling the Truth About Polar Bears.”
Dr. Crockford said on Twitter that the
article amounted to “academic rape”
and demanded that it be retracted.
The authors of the paper also came
under fire. Freedom-of-information re-
quests were filed at universities for
three of the authors’ correspondence,
with at least one request by Dr. Crockford. (Two of the requests have been
turned down, while one, at the University of California, Davis, is still under review.)
Jeffrey A. Harvey, an ecologist and
the article’s lead author, said the paper
grew out of the increasing frustration he
and other scientists felt about the disregard of established evidence and the
harassment of researchers that has in
some cases accompanied the public de-
Sifting tweets for threats
Environmental agency
scoured posts to justify
security detail for chief
The Environmental Protection Agency
has been examining posts on Twitter
and other social media about Scott
Pruitt, the agency’s administrator, to
justify his extraordinary and costly security measures, which have included
first-class travel and full-time protection
even on personal trips to Disneyland,
the Rose Bowl and college basketball
games, according to interviews and
agency and congressional documents.
The social media efforts have come
under scrutiny by some Democratic
lawmakers, as well as by senior officials
at the E.P.A., who said the review had
uncovered individuals sounding off
against Mr. Pruitt but had found no actionable threats against him. One top
E.P.A. official said in an interview that
he had objected to the efforts when they
were first discussed last year, to no
Suspicious posts are referred to the
E.P.A. inspector general’s office, which
is charged with investigating threats.
Spokesmen for both the inspector general and the E.P.A. declined to comment
on the nature of specific threats, citing
security concerns. The E.P.A. spokesman, Jahan Wilcox, said in a statement,
“Scott Pruitt has faced an unprecedented amount of death threats against him.”
But two Democratic senators said on
Tuesday that an agency whistle-blower
had provided them with an internal
E.P.A. memo concluding that a threat assessment prepared by Mr. Pruitt’s security detail did not appear to justify the
increased protection. The internal
memo was prepared in February by the
intelligence unit of the agency’s homeland security office, according to the
senators, Tom Carper of Delaware and
Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.
The security detail’s assessment
“DOES NOT employ sound analysis or
articulate relevant ‘threat specific’ information appropriate to draw any resource or level of threat conclusions regarding the protection posture for the
Administrator,” the memo said, according to a letter written by the two senators that called on the Senate to investigate the matter.
An individual involved in writing the
memo, Mario Caraballo, has been removed from his job as deputy associate
administrator of the homeland security
office, although an E.P.A. official said the
dismissal was unrelated to the memo.
The senators also said the social me-
dia activity — described in their letter as
“open-source review of social media” —
had uncovered “no evidence of a direct
threat” to Mr. Pruitt.
Mr. Pruitt is being protected round
the clock by a team of about 20 people —
three times as many as on his predecessor’s security detail — at an estimated
cost of $3 million a year, according to
E.P.A. officials as first reported by The
Associated Press. Mr. Pruitt’s calendar,
recently made public, shows that the security detail accompanies him even on
days when he has no scheduled work
events. Mr. Whitehouse said his office
had documents showing that members
of Mr. Pruitt’s security detail had been
present during a trip to California when
the administrator visited Disneyland
and the Rose Bowl.
The review of social media postings
turned up commentary related to the
E.P.A. and its management under Mr.
Pruitt, including one “social media post
in which an individual ‘stated he is not
happy with some of the Administrator’s
policies and wanted to express his displeasure,’” according to the letter on
Tuesday from the two Democratic senators.
Security for Scott Pruitt, the E.P.A. administrator, costs $3 million a year.
Mr. Carper and Mr. Whitehouse declined to release copies of the materials
quoted in the letter, saying they included
sensitive details about security arrangements.
Senator John Barrasso, Republican of
Wyoming, who is chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the E.P.A.,
said that the Democrats had inappropriately released selected parts of an internal agency security memo.
“Any reasonable reading of these documents supports the Office of the Inspector General’s statements that Administrator Pruitt faces a ‘variety of direct death threats,’” Mr. Barrasso said
in a statement. “This is exactly why
members should not publicly disclose
information that relates to the safety of a
cabinet member. It is also why this committee will not hold a hearing on this issue.”
Briefings on threats to Mr. Pruitt,
which included posts on social media,
were delivered by E.P.A. security personnel to top agency officials, including
bate on climate change. By contesting
scientific findings about polar bears, denialists hope to instill doubt about climate science as a whole, Dr. Harvey
said. “Every time these deniers make
some outlandish claim in the media and
we don’t respond to it, it’s like a soccer
match and we’ve given them an open
goal,” he added.
Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of
geoscience and international affairs at
the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton who was not involved with the article, said that scientists have a right to
publicly question someone’s expertise,
as the authors did with Dr. Crockford.
“If people are going to make claims
that are contrary to scientific understanding, then it’s perfectly appropriate
to call them out for it,” he said.
Although many contrarian websites
pick up discussion about polar bears
from Dr. Crockford’s blog, the article
noted that she has no demonstrated expertise in climate science or its effects
on polar bears.
The credentials of many of the BioScience paper’s authors include long lists of
peer-reviewed articles and studies on
these subjects.
An adjunct professor in anthropology
at the University of Victoria in British
Columbia, Dr. Crockford also studies
evolution and paleoecology. She has
published some peer-reviewed articles
that touch on polar bears. She has also
published reports and articles that have
not been peer-reviewed, like those
through the Global Warming Policy
Scott Collins, BioScience’s editor in
chief, said the journal took Dr. Crockford’s demand for retraction seriously
but “determined that there was no
grounds to do so.” The final version, Dr.
Collins said, includes “corrections that
slightly change two sentences,” in one
case narrowing a statement about Dr.
Crockford’s credentials to specify that
her lack of expertise is in “the effects of
sea ice on the population dynamics of
polar bears.”
Dr. Crockford declined to be interviewed, but said in an email: “This paper is a smack-talk response to my
pointing out that polar bear numbers
did not plummet as predicted when midcentury-like sea ice conditions arrived
unexpectedly in 2007. The paper is not
only devoid of science, it lacks the professional decorum that other science
journals demand.”
Mainstream scientists are in agreement that polar bear numbers will decline drastically as Arctic sea ice disappears, since the bears use the ice as a
platform to hunt seals. Studies have
found disturbing changes in the bears’
physical condition, body size, reproduction and survival rates, some of which
have been linked to sea ice loss and
more ice-free days.
Of the 19 polar bear subpopulations in
the Arctic Circle, three have shown substantial declines. One subpopulation has
increased, and scientists know little or
nothing about nine of the others, which
are either in Russian territory or in locations so remote that resources are not
available for surveys.
Andrew Derocher, a biology professor
at the University of Alberta who has
studied polar bears for more than 30
years and was not involved in the paper,
said that in his view, the contrarians
were missing the big picture. The issue,
he said, boiled down to something simple: Polar bears need sea ice.
“It’s just a habitat loss issue,” Dr. Derocher said. “There’s nothing more complicated than that.”
Mr. Pruitt’s chief of staff, Ryan Jackson,
according to an employee who participated in a briefing. The employee said
the briefing highlighted mostly criticisms of Mr. Pruitt’s policies as having a
deleterious effect on the environment,
rather than instances of threats to his
personal safety.
The employee said that the agency’s
social media reviews had been the subject of a recent meeting that included
representatives from the agency’s inspector general’s office and its homeland security office, which had produced
the internal memo that was critical of
the threat assessments.
Mr. Wilcox, the E.P.A. spokesman,
said threat assessments were conducted within the agency’s office of compliance, using information collected
from Mr. Pruitt’s security detail, the
E.P.A.’s homeland security office and its
inspector general’s office.
“Americans should all agree that
members of the president’s cabinet
should be kept safe from these violent
threats,” Mr. Wilcox said.
Other government agencies and companies have used social media to monitor protesters or to look for information
on emerging incidents. It is unclear
whether the E.P.A. has looked to social
media in the past to determine threats to
an administrator.
The practice, as deployed by police
departments, has brought criticism
from the American Civil Liberties Union, and social media companies including Twitter have cut off access to certain
software programs that authorities use
to track postings.
Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for
Justice, a nonpartisan law and policy institute, said she had seen a rise in social
media monitoring within law enforcement agencies, and cautioned that what
people say in an Instagram post or a
tweet can be open to interpretation.
“The fact that 10,000 people say, ‘I
hate Scott Pruitt’ on Twitter doesn’t suggest to me there is a threat against Scott
Pruitt,” said Ms. Patel, who is co-director of the center’s liberty and national
security program. “It suggests there are
a lot of people who dislike Scott Pruitt.”
If the E.P.A.’s review of social media
was aggressively monitoring critics of
Mr. Pruitt, Marc Rotenberg, president of
the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit group based in Washington, said that it might violate federal law.
He cited a 2011 case that successfully
challenged the Department of Homeland Security when it moved from
searching for potential terror threats to
tracking individuals in the United States
who had been critical of the agency and
its senior officials.
“The collection of data on individuals,
based solely on their criticism of public
officials, raises both First Amendment
and federal Privacy Act questions that
need to be answered,” Mr. Rotenberg
Major economies across the globe are
meeting for the 9th Clean Energy
Ministerial and 3rd Mission Innovation to
accelerate the green transition worldwide
to take an active role on the global energy
policy agenda
to explore Nordic technologies and
business models
to contribute to the Paris Agreement goals
for a fossil free future
Supported by
Coordinated by
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 9
Imagining a world after Anna
Condé Nast denies rumors
Anna Wintour is leaving
— but what if she did?
For the last seven days, pretty much every conversation I have had with pretty
much anyone — fashion friends, book
agents, parents at the school gates, my
mother — has started with the five-word
question: “Do you think it’s true?”
“It” being a report that came out last
week in The New York Post that the
reign of Anna Wintour, the editor of
Vogue since 1988 and the artistic director of Condé Nast since 2013, the woman
memorialized by Meryl Streep in “The
Devil Wears Prada” and typically referred to as either the most powerful editor in fashion or the most feared editor in
fashion, was ending.
The article — citing “stunned” anonymous sources — said that she was going
to move on this summer after finishing
her September issue, traditionally the
largest of the year, and which she made
famous in 2009 when she agreed to let
the documentarian R. J. Cutler into the
Vogue offices to film its making.
The rumors had been swirling around
the fashion ether for the last few months
but, until The Post article appeared, no
one had dared voice them in anything
except a whisper. It was just so hard to
imagine. Ms. Wintour has been shaping
our experience of fashion and fame for
as long as most people can remember.
Yet, though Condé Nast denied the article via spokesmen, and Robert A.
Sauerberg Jr., chief executive of Condé
Nast, sent an internal note to his editors
telling them to dismiss the gossip (and
though the section of the article stating
Ms. Wintour had arranged an exit interview with The New York Times is incorrect), it didn’t shut down the buzz.
Matters were not helped by the fact
that while Jonathan Newhouse, the
chairman and chief executive of Condé
Nast International, whom The Post suggested was coming back to the United
States to be chairman of the American
arm, denied his part of the story to the
Business of Fashion website, its article
didn’t say anything about Ms. Wintour.
The smoke continued to rise until, at the
end of last week, Mr. Sauerberg had finally had enough.
“I am happy to tell you there is no
truth to the rumors of Anna’s departure,” he wrote in an email to me. He
called Ms. Wintour “a great partner as
we continue our ongoing efforts to
transform the company into the future.”
So where did the rumors come from,
and what do they mean? Perhaps for the
first time in a very long time, maybe the
first time ever, people are beginning to
entertain the possibility of a fashion
world after Anna. Think it won’t matter
to anyone outside the lint-picking world
of One World Trade Center, the shiny
new headquarters of Condé Nast, and
Avenue Montaigne?
Just close your eyes for a moment,
and think again.
Chaos, probably. Confusion! This is not
necessarily a bad thing.
Ms. Wintour has exercised both obvious and behind-the-scenes power for so
long that it’s hard to parse her influence.
To put her tenure in context: She has
been empire building through five presidential administrations. Since before
Tom Ford made his debut at Gucci, before the Marc Jacobs grunge collection
and before Stella McCartney or Alexander McQueen graduated from fashion
school. As David Carr once put it in The
Times: “She does not put a finger in the
wind to judge trends: She is the wind.”
She effectively exerts her own gravitational force field, magnetized by strategically deployed invitations, introductions, magazine features and messages
Above, Anna Wintour, in 2003 at the
former Condé Nast headquarters. Left,
Ms. Wintour at the 2012 Met Costume
Gala with Donald Trump, Melania Trump,
Barry Diller, Miuccia Prada, Diane von
Furstenberg and Carey Mulligan.
of support. If that disappears, particles
previously held together by her atomic
network will disperse and collide before
renegotiating themselves into some sort
of new order, which is one way of saying
her departure would affect not just magazines, but also the broader fashion establishment and the Hollywood-sportsfashion industrial complex.
Ms. Wintour has been, if not formally
a headhunter or employment agency, a
very active sounding board and adviser
for numerous brands in the game of designer musical chairs. She helped get
Marc Jacobs his job at Louis Vuitton and
Thom Browne his job at Brooks Brothers, though both have since left those
posts. She helped engineer John Galliano’s return to fashion after he was
fired from Dior following an anti-Semitic
rant (fueled, he later said in an interview with Charlie Rose, by a drug and
alcohol addiction).
She has seeded her protégés around
Condé Nast and beyond, including Amy
Astley, the editor of Architectural Digest, who began in the Vogue beauty department, and Phillip Picardi, the current boy wonder of the building, now at
Teen Vogue.
The industry is full of Anna alumni
(including yours truly, who was a contributing editor at Vogue for a year in
the mid-1990s).
She has recast many of the Condé
Nast magazines in her own image.
(Some say she has presided over the demise of internal rivals: If there’s to be a
shrinking ad base, the pickings will go to
Vogue, still very much her magazine.)
Ms. Wintour was a driving force behind creating an entire generation of
New York designers, post-9/11, including Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough (of Proenza Schouler), Joseph Al-
Perhaps the idea of a single
person as the ultimate arbiter
of style may be as much a vestige
of the past as print itself.
tuzarra and Jason Wu, thanks to the
Vogue/CFDA Fashion Fund, which
thrust new names into the limelight with
increasing speed. Though for a while
their aesthetic was so weirdly consistent that the designs were called by onlookers “please Anna clothes.”
Still, the award helped spawn a host of
similar prizes around the world and created a pathway to market for emerging
designers. Ms. Wintour’s understanding
of the mutually beneficial exploitation
that could result from putting the star of
a new film on the cover of a magazine,
and all the tertiary events involved, was
just as formative, changing the Hollywood/fashion calculus, as well as the
model/actress cover star ratio, which
now heavily favors the celebrity — even
the nascent celebrity.
She also realigned the philanthropic
poles of New York via the Met Gala,
turning a generic opportunity for cultural beneficence into an “A.T.M. for the
Met” that raised so much money that it
got her name etched on the Costume Institute door. In the process she made the
gala a paparazzi magnet, which gave
rise to a special issue of Vogue, thanks to
her vetting of guests, dictating which
brand got which celebrity, and the
Vogue-orchestrated dressing of attendees. So much of the red carpet is composed of the people she wants, wearing
what she wants, hoping to be in the
pages she approves.
Then she began to extend that formula, or versions of it, into other arenas
(Broadway, with the Tony Awards, for
What would happen to all of that if
Vogue ceased to be her base is unclear. A
triangular relationship (Anna-brandstar) may once again become a two-way
street. Celebrities and socialites may
have to choose their clothes without her
guidance. It could be traumatic at first
— mistakes would be made! — but it’s
kind of an interesting idea. We would all
have to redefine our ideas of what a
fashion magazine editor is.
Bob wearers everywhere would lose
their most visible icon. The whole darkglasses-at-the-runway trope could disappear. While many of Ms. Wintour’s
peers have style, it is impossible to think
of another who took it to the same calculated, rigorous extreme. She is certainly
the only editor since Diana Vreeland
who has parlayed her public persona
into a pop culture character but unlike
Ms. Vreeland, she now regularly plays
herself in not just documentaries but
also feature films.
And, of course, tennis could lose one of
its most high-profile boosters.
It is a singular job description, probably impossible to replicate, in part because fashion has become as splintered
as every other industry in the age of digital and identity politics. Her hold, and
the idea of a single person or magazine
as the ultimate arbiter of style, may be
as much a vestige of the former world as
print itself.
Certain macro trends and a conjunction
of events have given the gossip momentum.
Magazines in general are widely acknowledged to be struggling: Condé
Nast has closed the print versions of
Teen Vogue and Self as part of a drive to
emphasize digital; cut the number of
print issues of W; and reorganized the
company so that some staffers work on
several magazines. S. I. Newhouse Jr.,
the long-term chairman and one of Ms.
Wintour’s champions, died last year (he
became chairman emeritus in 2015).
Reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual
misconduct broke the same month as
Mr. Newhouse’s death, and Mr. Weinstein’s friendship and working relationship with Ms. Wintour came under scrutiny. Later she had to cut ties with three
of Vogue’s favored photographers —
Bruce Weber, Mario Testino and Patrick
Demarchelier — when allegations of
histories of sexual harassment became
Of the three most formative Vogue editors in recent decades, all of whom
started around the same time, she is the
last still working: Franca Sozzani, the
editor of Italian Vogue, who was hired
the same week as Ms. Wintour, died in
December 2016; Alexandra Shulman,
the former editor of British Vogue,
stepped down in January 2017. And this
year will be Ms. Wintour’s 30th at the
Vogue helm, and anniversaries are such
classic watersheds.
There have been rumors around for a
while that she was interested in a final
career. At least since the Obama administration, when Ms. Wintour’s role as a
highly effective “bundler” gave rise to
much speculation that she was interested in an ambassadorship, either to
France or to Britain.
Though both ideas were dismissed by
political insiders and denied by those involved, they emerged again during the
Hillary Clinton campaign, and even (bizarrely, given Ms. Wintour’s political
views) made a brief reappearance earlier this year in Michael Wolff’s book
“Fire and Fury,” vis-à-vis the Trump administration.
And then there’s the current reality of
the fashion world, which has gotten so
accustomed to rumor and gossip because of endless leaks about designer
change, that the industry has been
lulled into a state of believing anything
we hear is possible. Hedi Slimane is
leaving Saint Laurent? The gossip was
taken as gospel months before it happened. Kim Jones going to Vuitton?
Ditto. Riccardo Tisci is going to Versace? Absolute truth, except then it
wasn’t. (He ended up going to
Yet if there’s one thing all the designer
gossip should make clear it’s that it’s not
over till the designer comes out to take a
bow. Or the power editor signs her departure contract. Or something.
Besides, Ms. Wintour has been here
before — surrounded by rumors that her
end was nigh, and that she was suddenly
human, and hence vulnerable. In 1999,
New York magazine ran a cover story,
“The Summer of Her Discontent,” that
included the following: “‘The general
feeling is that people are abandoning
Anna,’ says one Vogue editor. ‘And that
her heart isn’t in it anymore.’”
Eight years later, whispers had it that
she was going to be replaced by Carine
Roitfeld from Paris Vogue. Ms. Roitfeld
ended up announcing her Vogue resignation in 2010. (She is now global fashion director at the Vogue rival Harper’s
Bazaar, and has her own magazine, CR
Fashion Book, which comes out twice a
year.) Ms. Wintour is still here. Alexander Liberman, the former Condé Nast
editorial director, worked into his early
80s. Ms. Wintour is 68.
She has outlasted not just rivals but
also designer carping; competition from
other magazines, not to mention the internet; criticism about her manner and
her model choices; and multiple trends,
fashion and social. She has adapted her
magazine and herself to changing times
and cultures to an unmatched extent,
dispassionately (or ruthlessly) jettisoning her catechisms when they cease to
work, from magazine sections to Vogue
Such longevity is impossible to
achieve without a certain amount of casualties and chafing, and it is little wonder there are those who have embraced
the recent speculation as a long-awaited
And yet, as Marco Bizzarri, the muchcelebrated C.E.O. of Gucci, who previously was the much-celebrated C.E.O. of
Bottega Veneta and before that the
much-celebrated C.E.O. of Stella McCartney, regularly jokes in interviews,
he doesn’t wonder whether he will be
fired but when. The only person in fashion who doesn’t own the company he
works for and is widely known to have
permanent job security is Karl Lagerfeld, who has a lifetime contract with
Which means that as far as Ms. Wintour goes, no matter the rumors and
their particulars, the question is not actually “Will she leave?” Of course she
will, at some point. The question for her,
as for all of us, is when, and how.
Fashion a big offender in Britain gender pay gap
Businesses say that men
in top executive roles
distort reports’ results
As the final hours ticked down last week
to the deadline for British companies to
report their gender pay gap data or face
a fine, a flurry of last-minute filings revealed a stark and unflattering trend:
Fashion and beauty brands, predominantly focused on female consumers
and audiences, and often with overwhelmingly female staffs, are among
the worst offenders in the country when
it comes to paying men more than women.
The explanation, according to several
companies? A coterie of men in a handful of top-tier executive roles, while the
majority of entry-level, retail, design
and distribution center jobs are held by
women, creating a gendered, pyramid
employment structure.
Take Condé Nast Publications, publisher of magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour and GQ. The company
reporteded data on April 3 that showed
it had the largest mean gender pay gap
among all British media publishers and
broadcasters, despite having more
women than men in every pay quartile.
The company reported a mean gender pay gap of 36.9 percent (in other
words, when comparing mean hourly
rates, women earn 63 pence, or 83 cents,
for every 1 pound, or $1.40, that men
earn) and a median gap of 23 percent
(when comparing median hourly rates,
women earn 77 pence, or $1.08, for every
£1, or $1.40, that men earn).
In a statement published alongside
the data, Condé Nast attributed its salary skew to its longstanding and maledominated senior leadership team. The
chairman of Condé Nast Britain, Nicholas Coleridge, for example, has held various roles across the executive team
since 1991. Jonathan Newhouse has led
Condé Nast International for more than
30 years. The statement said that across
three-quarters of its business, the company had not found evidence of an appreciable gender pay gap. Three-quarters of all Condé Nast employees are female, with the bottom two salary quartiles particularly dominated by women.
The disparity of wages within most
fashion businesses was further underscored by the figures produced by many
brands and retailers. The middle market
women’s wear brand Karen Millen paid
women 49 percent less than men on a
median hourly basis, meaning that,
The Burberry fall 2018 show. Its report showed a 26 percent gender pay gap.
companywide, men’s median pay was
double that of women. Women filled 84
percent of the company’s top positions,
with a female chief executive and chief
financial officer, and the same proportion of men and women received bonuses, yet women’s median bonus pay
was 96 percent less than men’s.
In a statement, the company said that
this was because the majority of its retail assistants and distribution center
staff were women, and that the small
percentage of male employees worked
mostly in its head office.
“Our gender gap paints a misleading
picture about our commitment to gen-
der diversity and equality,” the statement read, adding that when head office
roles were excluded, the gender pay gap
dropped to 6 percent. It did not, however, address why so many head office
roles were filled by men.
Other high-profile names included
Victoria’s Secret, with a median hourly
rate gap of 19 percent, and Benefit Cosmetics, which had a 30.7 percent median
hourly rate gap, although women made
up more than 90 percent of each pay
quartile at the company. At Burberry,
where women were 70 percent of the
luxury fashion group’s employees, there
was a 26 percent gender pay gap in favor of men, who get larger bonuses, too.
None of the companies in this article
would provide further comment beyond
the statements released with their data.
“While we continue to take steps to
ensure employees at all levels are able
to fulfill their potential and further their
careers at Burberry, and are recognized
for their contribution, we know we can
do more,” said the Burberry chief executive, Marco Gobbetti, when the company released its data last month. “This
report shows that we have a gender pay
gap in the U.K. The gap is influenced by
the fact that we have fewer women in
senior positions. However, we are committed to narrowing this gap as we work
to develop more women leaders to drive
the growth and success of our business.”
More than 2,500 companies, equivalent to one in four, submitted their gender pay gap figures in the 48 hours before the deadline. Last year, the government ordered all British companies with
more than 250 employees to publish
their gender pay gap reports by midnight on April 4.
The hope, it said, was to shame companies into doing more to close the divide. On the final day of results, findings
indicated that 78 percent of companies
showed a pay gap in favor of men, 14 percent had a gap favoring women and 8
percent had no gender pay gap. The government calculated that Britain’s overall pay gap was 18.1 percent.
Prime Minister Theresa May called
the gender pay gap a “burning injustice,” and added that the whole of society
would remain “poorer” if outdated employment practices went unchallenged.
The effort in Britain is one of a growing number of initiatives among countries to promote equal pay. Australia recently mandated gender pay gap reporting for most companies, while in Germany a new law will require businesses
with more than 500 employees to reveal
their pay gaps. In Britain, the fashion industry, riding high on selling female empowerment via T-shirt slogans and social media hashtags, is starting to look
like the employer equivalent of the emperor’s new clothes.
10 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
Classical Music and Opera
A new audience for Debussy’s vocal music
Music and muse
At left, the composer Claude Debussy vacationing in
Normandy in 1904,
two years after
“Pelléas et
Mélisande” brought
him instant fame,
and Marie Vasnier,
an amateur soprano
with whom he had
an affair.
100 years after his death,
a look into less-known
corners of his oeuvre
It may seem a paradox that one of the
most influential composers of modern
sung theater completed only one opera.
“Pelléas et Mélisande” brought the
French composer Claude Debussy instant fame in 1902, but the stage work
achieved such a perfection of his artistic
ideals that he never managed to repeat
the success.
Skeptical of the theater establishment, relentlessly self critical and
plagued by illness in his final years, Debussy left behind a legacy that musicologists are, to some extent, still working to
reconstruct. Even after a premiere performance, he would continue making
adjustments, sometimes to more than
one copy of a given score. And he left the
majority of his stage works unorchestrated before dying at age 55.
The centennial of the composer’s
death this year provides an occasion to
revisit the less-known corners of his
oeuvre. The label Warner Classics in
January released the first compilation of
Debussy’s complete works, a 33-CD set
that includes four premiere recordings
of vocal music.
On May 1, the Staatskapelle Berlin,
under its music director, Daniel Barenboim, will perform “La Damoiselle
Élue,” which Debussy called a “little oratorio,” and the “Trois Ballades de
François Villon,” among the few songs
he orchestrated himself.
The légende dansée (danced legend)
“Khamma,” which had its premiere
posthumously in an orchestration by the
Fauré protégé Charles Koechlin, will be
heard at the Philharmonie de Paris on
June 9 in a program of the Orchestre de
Paris under Fabien Gabel. “Pelléas”
also remains in repertoire on the world’s
stages, with a new production by the
Norwegian-German director Stefan
Herheim coming up at the Glyndebourne Festival on June 30 and a revival
of Ruth Berghaus’s 1991 production at
the Staatsoper Berlin from May 27 to
June 14.
Mr. Barenboim said that Debussy, despite being “one of the most important
composers in the history of music,” had
“yet to really achieve his place in musical life.” He emphasized the composer’s
deep connection to both literature and
nature: “I think he was fascinated by
nature not in the sense of what nature
inspires the human being to think about
but what nature in itself is.
“Pelléas” represents the culmination
of years of exploring the possibilities of
vocal music. Debussy wrote about 100
songs, half of which he produced from
1880 to 1886, before he turned 30. The
composer was the first to set the poetry
of Paul Verlaine, in 1882, while involved
in a passionate affair with the amateur
soprano Marie Vasnier, the wife of a
building clerk.
“In this amorous, intellectual and
friendly relationship, there is an extraordinary stimulation,” the musicologist Denis Herlin, general editor of the
“Complete Works of Claude Debussy,”
The composer explained that his characters “try to
sing like real people, not in an arbitrary language
made up from worn-out clichés.”
said by phone from Paris. “He finds a
means of expression, through poetry
and the French language.”
Among the premiere recordings on
the Warner Classics collection is “Chanson des brises,” an 1882 work for soprano, female chorus and four-hand piano whose complete score was first reconstructed in 2010. Written for Ms. Vasnier, the song further reveals the extent
of Debussy’s experimentation with the
female voice.
Half of the 40 songs that the composer
wrote for Ms. Vasnier, who had a high
enough range to sing coloratura, remained unpublished in his lifetime. He
returned to the Verlaine collection
“Fêtes galantes” in 1891, however, entirely rewriting two songs with what Mr.
Herlin said reveals a “heightened sensitivity to poetic structure.”
Around this time, Debussy was working on his first opera commission, “Rodrigue et Chimène,” based on the legend
of the Spanish nobleman and warrior El
Cid. He wrote but never orchestrated as
many as three acts, only to desert the
project — whose subject matter he declared too traditional — upon discovering Maurice Maeterlinck’s Symbolist
play “Pelléas et Mélisande.”
“‘Pelléas’ was the literary work that
inspired him,” Mr. Herlin said. “He goes
from a vocal style that is very lyrical and
passionate to one that is more restrained.”
In the essay “Pourquoi j’ai écrit ‘Pelléas’” (“Why I Wrote ‘Pelléas’”),
penned at the request of the manager of
the Opéra Comique in 1902 and published posthumously, Debussy cited the
need to “obey a law of beauty that seems
to be singularly neglected when it
comes to dramatic music: the characters of this opera try to sing like real people, not in an arbitrary language made
up from worn-out clichés.”
In “Pelléas,” there are no big arias,
foreshadowing the operas of Bartok,
Berg and other 20th-century composers. His harmonies and inventive in-
strumentation create an otherworldly
realm. As the composer Pierre Boulez
once remarked, the characters “float” in
time and remain “phantoms.”
The preparation of a critical edition
for the opera’s orchestral score has yet
to completed, however. Of the 37 volumes underway for the “Complete
Works of Claude Debussy,” published by
Éditions Durand, 21 are currently available.
David A. Grayson, a professor of musicology at the University of Minnesota
who is preparing the “Pelléas” volume,
explained in an email from Minneapolis
that “the objective of the critical edition
is to offer Debussy’s last thoughts with
respect to the score.”
While the composer’s personal copy
remains the primary source, with revisions entered after not only the Paris
Through the years
Far left, Mary
Garden played
Mélisande in the
premiere of “Pelléas et Mélisande”
in Paris in 1902; at
left, Dale Duesing
and Maria Ewing in
a production of the
opera in 1979 in
San Francisco;
bottom, in a new
production last
year at Garsington
Opera in England,
Andrea Carroll
played Mélisande
and Johnathan
McGovern was
premiere but also most likely the Brussels and London premieres, Professor
Grayson is also taking into account
three other annotated scores.
After Maeterlinck, it was Edgar Allan
Poe who captured Debussy’s imagination. From 1907 to 1911, and again from
1916-17, a year before the composer died
of cancer, he was heavily invested in
writing an opera based on “The Fall of
the House of Usher,” going through
three versions of the libretto based on
the translation of Charles Baudelaire.
He also made sketches for “The Devil
in the Belfry,” which would have formed
a double bill.
“He wanted to arrive at something
new with ‘Usher’ and went to great
pains,” Mr. Herlin said. “But maybe he
thought that it resembled ‘Pelléas’ too
Unlike opera composers such as Handel or Wagner, who were not afraid to recycle signature dramatic and musical elements, Debussy was committed to a
creative process in which inspiration
arose naturally.
“They say some composers can write,
regularly, so much music a day,” he told
The New York Times in a 1910 interview.
“I have forced myself to work when I
least feel like it, and I have done things
which did not seem bad at the time. I
would let those compositions lie for a
couple of days. Then I would find that
they were only fit for the wastebasket.”
Had Debussy lived longer, however,
he might have revisited some of those
sketches and fragments. “It’s true that
he might have given us remarkable
works,” Mr. Herlin said. “To the point of
the musical avant-garde.”
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 11
Between rehearsals with Katie Mitchell
sonal. There’s a lot of heat and temperature on it. Theater is just an art form that
got stuck. There are lots of invisible
gatekeepers. They are very alive, and
they’ve got very sharp teeth.
Sometimes the gatekeepers are in the
organizations, sometimes they’re the
critics, sometimes they’re the audience.
People go to watch the performing arts
for something about the past, something
to forget the present. If you’re an artist
like me who wants to interrogate the
present, they find that a bit hard.
The director of ‘Lessons
in Love and Violence’
looks back, and ahead
Depending on whom you ask, the director Katie Mitchell is either a guiding
light or a destructive force of the British
stage. Though she mostly works abroad
now, her staging of the new opera
“Lessons in Love and Violence” — composed by George Benjamin and written
by Martin Crimp — opens at the Royal
Opera House here on May 10. It’s a story
of the medieval King Edward II’s relationship with a young man.
Backstage, between rehearsals, Ms.
Mitchell, 53, spoke about her career, sitting next to a modern set with dark blue
paneling and an Ikea-style double bed.
The following conversation has been
edited and condensed.
It used to hurt a bit. The thing is, I really
love my job. I love making things. Obviously you’d like them to be liked. It’s not
the most joyful thing.
Then I had a child. I have a 12-year-old
daughter. That was an enormous
change. If things go bad in work, they
just go bad. I have my lovely child at
home which keeps everything in total
Sometimes, I feel very schizophrenic.
I have that problem here, and then I go
to Germany, where the idea of historical
costumes and naturalism is so outdated.
Had you been French or German,
would you be as well known? Britain
is the place that crowned you queen.
I very much love working with George
and Martin. They make amazing operas, so who would say no? It’s a really
exciting reimagining of a bit of English
history, with exceptional music.
You often like to reinterpret plays.
Are operas more constraining?
Different art forms have different constraints. When you’re working on a new
opera and you’re doing the first production, you are really wanting to realize
the vision of the person who wrote the
text and the person who composed it.
You could call that constraint. I would
just say that’s a given circumstance.
Your love of music was passed onto
you by your father, right?
Yes. My father, a dentist who became a
book designer and bookmaker, loved
classical music. He was a working-class
boy who’d never had it at home, never
had any books at home. So in his 30s, he
was playing music all the time. I slept
above the record player, and I would
You often talk about how opera portrays women through the male gaze.
What effect does nasty feedback
have on you?
Why did you accept this commission?
Her vision Katie Mitchell is reimagining a piece of English history in her staging of George
Benjamin’s new opera, “Lessons in Love and Violence,” at the Royal Opera House in London.
dream inside Shostakovich or Bach.
There was one rule that we had as a kid:
You could buy as much music and as
many books as you wanted.
In Britain, people have often been
harsh about your treatment of classics of the stage.
A healthy culture is a culture that has a
spectrum of interpretation of classical
material. Sometimes I feel that there’s a
nervousness about things on the more
avant-garde end of the spectrum. I just
think, “Come on guys, let’s just embrace
it!” We don’t have to all do very default
realism — very earnest, conventional
In Britain, visual artists have torn up
the rules. But in theater. . . .
It’s really old-fashioned. Very quickly,
there’s anger, and very quickly, it’s per-
lation has always been a tendency, but
because we’re part of a large group, you
can fight it a little more easily. Once we
break from that group, that tendency to
self-isolate culturally will be worsened,
I’m afraid.
The oxygenating air from mainland
Europe is really important to this practice. The young go to Germany and come
back here with new ideas. If that becomes harder, then that would be a cultural problem.
I had a very lucky career. At different
moments, I had advocates. But they
were of a certain duration. The more I
settled into the relationship, the more
radical I became. And then I found in all
instances that there were ceilings.
I come back and do stuff, but 70 percent of my time, I’m in France or Germany.
The thing that I craved more than
anything was acceptance on mainland
Europe. That’s the highest accolade. If
you want to look globally at where theater practice is the most radical, the
widest spectrum of interpretation, you
have to go to Germany.
You’ve been very vocal in condemning Brexit.
It’s awful, isn’t it? There’s a worsening
of the economic circumstances, and an
increase in racism, and a consolidation
of a tendency towards isolation. The iso-
In all 30 years of my career, I’ve focused
on female experience. I chose to be more
outspoken about it, because I felt that I
should, as a senior female artist — before #MeToo, four or five years ago, to
help the younger generation. Also, we
started a policy of allowing people to
watch rehearsals. We normally have a
lot of young women watching.
Opera is really dominated by male directors, and there are very few women
at my level. It’s useful if I’m very careful
about how women are represented, in an
art form where the unconscious gender
biases can affect the representations of
women on stages — which can be very
off-putting for women in the audience,
particularly younger women.
How does #MeToo feel to you?
Great! I just think it’s for the good. I’m
Why cautious?
Because I’m a different generation,
brought up in the 1970s, who lived
through quite a lot of gender bias behavior in my working life for a long time. It’s
been understood that the way to function as a woman, if that happens, is to
weather it and not call it out. So of course
you feel slightly nervous about a culture
where that’s now being called out.
This moment of great optimism and
hope — I want to see it embedded in our
laws. I want to see safeguarding made
legal, because of the risks attached to the
women who are speaking out. It’s an
enormously brave thing to do to speak
about any type of abuse or gender-bias
behavior. You won’t know for a long time
how safe it is, really, to have done that.
Celebrations and collaborations
Manuel Legris, was named danseur
étoile (star dancer) by Nureyev at the
Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s.
A selection of opera,
music and dance
around the world
From live film accompaniment in
Paris to a ballet gala in Vienna, the
spring season offers classical music
programs of all kinds. The work of
living composers such as Thomas
Adès and Unsuk Chin continues to
travel. And theaters are mounting
exciting productions of operas whose
styles range from bel canto to modernism. Here are some performances to
look for in the coming weeks.
Danish National Symphony Orchestra,
DR Koncerthuset
May 17
The Danish National Symphony Orchestra presents two national premieres under the baton of the guest
conductor Juanjo Mena. Stravinsky’s
“Funeral Song” arrives in Denmark for
the first time, as does Thomas Adès’
“Powder Her Face Suite,” based on the
British composer’s 1995 chamber
“Cendrillon,” Metropolitan Opera
April 12-May 11
The Metropolitan Opera mounts
Massenet’s “Cendrillon” for the first
time. The director Laurent Pelly, who
has previously staged Massenet’s
“Manon” and Donizetti’s “La Fille du
Régiment,” adopts a storybook aesthetic for the Cinderella fairy tale. The
international soloist Joyce di Donato
returns to the title role.
“On the Waterfront,” Philharmonie de
May 6
As celebrations of Leonard Bernstein’s
centennial continue, the Orchestre
National d’Île-de-France performs his
only film score, “On the Waterfront”
(1954), live to high-definition video.
Van der Aa Spotlight, Musiekgebouw
April 19
The Musiekgebouw, a concert hall for
contemporary music that opened in
2005, presents an evening of chamber
music and electronics. The Dutch composer Michel van der Aa’s “For the time
being,” the first part of an eponymous
song cycle, receives its world premiere.
“Bluebeard’s Castle” and “The Miraculous Mandarin,” Théâtre de la Monnaie
June 8-24
A double bill of Bartok brings the Belgian, Los Angeles-based designer, artist
“Frame by Frame,” National Ballet of
June 1-10
The Canadian director Robert Lepage
makes his company debut in an
homage to the filmmaker and animator
Norman McLaren. The production
interweaves digital media with the
analogue world.
“Macbeth,” Staatsoper Unter den
Select dates, June 17, 2018-May 30,
At the recently reopened Staatsoper,
the music director Daniel Barenboim
joins the veteran stage director Harry
Kupfer for a new production of Verdi’s
“Macbeth,” looking back on three decades of collaboration.
“La Donna del Lago,” Opéra de Lausanne
April 22-29
Up-and-coming singers come together
for a new production of Rossini’s melodrama “La Donna del Lago.” The countertenor Max Emanuel Cencic plays
the role of the warrior Malcolm and
presides over direction.
Performing soon
From top, Joyce di Donato appears in “Cendrillon” in New York; the Orchestre National
d’Île-de-France in Paris performs the film
score of “On the Waterfront,” which stars
Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint; and the
Staatsoper in Berlin hosts “Macbeth.”
and stage director Christophe Coppens
together with the theater’s music
director Alain Altinoglu.
Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra,
Tokyo Opera City
May 24
The Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra gives the Japanese premieres
of three works by the Korean-born,
German-based composer Unsuk Chin.
The program revisits her Clarinet and
Cello Concertos as well as “Mannequin,” a four-movement orchestral
Aria Recital – Homage to Manuel
García, Salzburg Whitsun Festival
May 20
At the Pentecost Festival, the tenor
Javier Camarena sings a recital in
memory of the Spanish singer, composer, impresario and teacher Manuel
del Pópulo Vicente Rodríguez García.
García was a sensation in the baritone
roles of Mozart operas, but could also
stretch his voice up to a high C.
Nureyev Gala, Wiener Staatsoper
June 29
The Vienna State Ballet, or Wiener
Staattsballet, pays tribute to the legendary dancer and choreographer
Rudolf Nureyev with its annual gala.
The company’s current ballet director,
“Billy Budd,” Teatro di Roma
May 8-15
The British director Deborah Warner
makes her house debut in a production
of Britten’s opera that was first seen at
Madrid’s Teatro Real last year.
12 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
U.S. tariffs
on steel start
to hit home
Digging deep in your data
Facebook closely monitors
what users do online, not
just on the social network
Facebook has been called on the carpet
for its failure to protect the personal
data of its users. But lost in the drama of
hearings with American lawmakers is
an understanding of the extent to which
Facebook meticulously scrutinizes the
minutia of those users’ online lives.
Facebook’s tracking stretches far beyond the company’s well-known targeted advertisements. And details that
people often readily volunteer — age,
employer, relationship status, likes and
location — are just the start.
The social media giant tracks users on
other sites and apps. It collects so-called
biometric facial data without users’ explicit “opt-in” consent and helps video
game companies target “high-value
players” who are likely to spend on inapp purchases.
The sifting of users gets into personal
— even confidential — matters. The
company allows marketers to target users who may have an interest in various
health issues, like the 110,000 Facebook
users who were listed under the category “diagnosis with HIV or AIDS,” the
51,000 people listed under erectile dysfunction and 460,000 users listed under
“binge-eating disorder awareness,” according to 2015 data submitted as an exhibit in a lawsuit. Facebook says it has
since removed those “targeting options.”
“Facebook can learn almost anything
about you by using artificial intelligence
to analyze your behavior,” said Peter
Eckersley, the chief computer scientist
for the Electronic Frontier Foundation,
a digital rights advocacy group. “That
knowledge turns out be perfect both for
advertising and propaganda. Will Facebook ever prevent itself from learning
people’s political views or other sensitive facts about them?”
Facebook’s chief executive, Mark
Zuckerberg, faced testimony this week
on Capitol Hill about how his company
conducts its business and how it has
failed to protect users’ privacy.
The hearings were prompted by revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a voter-profiling company, had inappropriately harvested the detailed personal information of up to 87 million Facebook
users and that foreign agents have repeatedly used the social media platform
to spread misinformation. Facebook executives have promised that the social
network is working to prevent similar
missteps from happening again.
“There are common parts of people’s
experience on the internet,” Matt Steinfeld, a Facebook spokesman, said in a
statement. “But of course we can do
more to help people understand how
Facebook works and the choices they
Still, privacy advocates want lawmakers and regulators in the United States
to have a more pointed discussion about
the stockpiling of personal data that remains the core of Facebook’s $40.6 billion annual business.
While a series of actions by European
judges and regulators are trying to limit
some of the powerful targeting mechanisms that Facebook employs, federal
officials in the United States have done
little to constrain them, to the consternation of American privacy advocates.
Eduardo Porter
Privacy advocates want lawmakers and regulators in the United States to have a more pointed discussion about the stockpiling of personal data at the core of Facebook’s business.
Many other companies, including
news organizations like The New York
Times, mine information about users for
marketing purposes. But privacy advocates say Facebook continues to test the
boundaries of what is permissible. Some
fault the Federal Trade Commission for
failing to enforce a 2011 agreement that
barred Facebook from deceptive privacy practices.
“Congress needs to begin to ask questions like, ‘Why did the F.T.C. allow this
to happen?’ ” said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit
group in Washington. “We most certainly have to take a different approach
if we don’t want it to happen again.”
A Federal Trade Commission spokeswoman said the agency could not comment on the case and referred to an
agency statement in which it said it was
committed to “using all of its tools to
protect” consumer privacy and had
opened a nonpublic investigation into
Facebook’s privacy practices.
Facebook says it requires outside
sites that use its tracking technologies
to clearly notify users that they’re being
monitored, and that it gives users the
“right to opt-out of having data collected
on sites and apps off Facebook.”
That has not stopped angry users
from airing their grievances over Facebook’s practices. In 2016, for example, a
Missouri man with metastatic cancer
filed a class-action suit against Facebook. The suit accused the tech giant of
violating the man’s privacy by tracking
his activities on cancer center websites
outside the social network — and col-
lecting details about his possible treatment options — without his permission.
Facebook persuaded a federal judge
to dismiss the case. The company argued that tracking users for ad-targeting purposes was a standard business
practice and one that its users agreed to
when signing up for the service. The
Missouri man and two other plaintiffs
have appealed the judge’s decision.
Facebook is quick to note that when
users sign up for an account, they must
agree to the company’s data policy. It
plainly states that its data collection “includes information about the websites
“Facebook can learn almost
anything about you.”
and apps you visit, your use of our services on those websites and apps, your
use of our services, as well as information the developer or publisher of the
app or website provides to you or us.”
In Europe, some regulators contend
that Facebook has not obtained users’
active and informed consent to track
them on other sites and apps. Their general concern, they said, is that many of
Facebook’s two billion users have no
idea how much data Facebook could collect about them and how Facebook could
use it to influence their behavior.
“Facebook provides a network where
the users, while getting free services
most of them consider useful, are subject to a multitude of nontransparent
analyses, profiling and other mostly obscure algorithmical processing,” said
Johannes Caspar, the data protection
commissioner for Hamburg, Germany.
In February, a judge in Brussels ordered Facebook to stop tracking users
on other websites. Facebook has appealed the decision. And last Friday, the
Italian Competition Authority said it
was investigating Facebook for exercising “undue influence” by requiring users to let the company automatically collect all kinds of data about them both on
its platform and off.
“Every single action, every single relationship is carefully monitored,” said
Giovanni Buttarelli, the European data
protection supervisor who oversees an
independent European Union authority
that advises on privacy-related laws
and policies. “People are being treated
like laboratory animals.”
Regulators have won some victories.
In 2012, Facebook agreed to stop using
face recognition technology in the European Union after Mr. Caspar, the Hamburg data protection commissioner, accused it of violating German and European privacy regulations by collecting
users’ biometric facial data without
their explicit consent.
Outside of the European Union, Facebook employs face recognition technology for a name-tagging feature that can
automatically suggest names for the
people in users’ photos.
With facial recognition, brick-andmortar stores can scan shoppers’ faces
looking for known shoplifters.
But civil liberties experts warn that
the technology could threaten the ability
to remain anonymous online, on the
street and at political protests.
“What the F.T.C. failed to do, which are
still live issues, are things like facial recognition,” said Mr. Rotenberg, the privacy expert. “How in the world did the
F.T.C. let that happen?”
Now a dozen consumer and privacy
groups in the United States have accused Facebook of deceptively rolling
out expanded uses of the technology
without clearly explaining it to users or
obtaining their explicit “opt-in” consent.
Last Friday, the groups filed a complaint
with the Federal Trade Commission,
saying that the expansion last month violated the terms of the 2011 agreement.
On Facebook, users upload about 350
million photos every day, according to
one estimate.
Facebook said it provides a page
where users can easily turn off the facial-recognition feature.
Facebook has other powerful techniques with implications users may not
fully understand.
One is a marketing service called
“Look-alike Audiences” which goes beyond the familiar Facebook programs
allowing advertisers to directly target
people by their ages or likes. The lookalike audience feature allows marketers
to examine their existing customers or
voters for certain propensities — like
heavy spending — and have Facebook
find other users with similar tendencies.
Facebook says it is clear with its users
that it intends to show them relevant
The fear is that this “look-alike” marketing is a manipulative practice — on
par with subliminal advertising — that
critics say should be prohibited.
Mark Zuckerberg’s I’m sorry suit
How do we know that Mark Zuckerberg,
chief executive of Facebook and a man
currently under scrutiny, really does
feel contrite and humbled by his company’s failure to protect users’ personal
data, as he said during his testimony before the United States Congress this
Well, he donned, if not a penitent’s
robes, then what seems like his equivalent: a suit and tie.
It began on Monday, when Mr.
Zuckerberg made the rounds of congressional leaders in a dark suit, white
shirt and dark blue tie. On Tuesday,
when he took his seat on the committee
room floor, the suit was navy and the tie
was Facebook blue. It was somber. It
was on brand.
And for someone who has made a professional and personal signature out of
the plain gray tee and jeans — who has
posted pictures of the row of gray Tshirts and hoodies hanging in his closet
on his Facebook page; whose success
has made those gray tees and hoodies
into shorthand for a new generation of
disrupters, as aspirational an outfit as a
Savile Row suit once was — it was as
much a visual statement of renunciation
and respect as any verbal apology.
Cosmetic, perhaps. Superficial, sure.
Presumably once he is back on the West
Coast he’ll go right back to hoodies and
tees. But it was strategic and optically
effective nonetheless.
“As a symbolic gesture it was abso-
lutely the right message,” said Alan
Flusser, a tailor in New York and the author of “Clothes and the Man.”
It said to suspicious, establishment
lawmakers: I am in your house, I will accept your rules. It said, O.K., maybe we
in Silicon Valley really don’t know best.
It said: I acknowledge the responsibility
I bear and take this seriously. It acceded
to the general interpretation that this
was a growing-up moment, because in
the iconography of clothing, the suit is
the costume of the grown-up, while the
T-shirt is the costume of the teenager,
the off-duty, the breaker of rules.
It took away one of the signifiers of
difference between the old guard and
the new, and replaced it with an olive
branch of similarity. (Mr. Zuckerberg’s
suit and tie almost matched the suit and
tie worn by John Thune, Republican of
South Dakota, the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.)
And it closed off an avenue of attack.
The day before Mr. Zuckerberg’s testimony, Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s
new chief economic adviser, had said to
reporters who asked about regulating
Facebook: “Is he going to wear a suit
and tie and clean white shirt? That’s my
biggest question. Is he going to behave
like an adult, as a major corporate
leader, or give me this phony-baloney —
what is it? — hoodies and dungarees?”
Mr. Zuckerberg “knew people would
be on the lookout” for the answer, said
Joseph Rosenfeld, a personal style adviser who specializes in the tech world
in Silicon Valley and New York, and
whose clients work at companies such
as Apple, Intuit and Google.
This was not, of course, the first time
Mark Zuckerberg, the chief of Facebook, at the Hart Hearing Room in Washington. His
choice not to wear his usual gray T-shirt seemed to be a visual statement of respect.
Mr. Zuckerberg has worn a suit. It’s just
that it is seemingly possible to count on
two hands the times he has done so: always on public occasions and (not
counting his wedding) always when
heads of state or other dignitaries are involved.
He wore a suit, for example, to address the Group of 8 summit meeting in
France in 2011; to the state dinner for
President Xi Jinping of China in 2015; to
interview Prime Minister Narendra
Modi of India at Facebook the same
year; and to testify in a Dallas courtroom during the Oculus intellectual
property trial in 2017.
Still, it is such a rarity that former
President Barack Obama made a joke
out of it in a 2011 Facebook Town Hall,
referring to an earlier meeting and calling himself “the guy who got Mark to
wear a jacket and tie.”
And though we know the utterly plain
gray cotton T-shirts and hoodies Mr.
Zuckerberg favors are not nearly as
simple as they seem — they come from
Brunello Cucinelli, an Italian brand that
specializes in what might be called utopian casual, and begin at about $295 (for
the tee) — it’s a mystery where he gets
his suits.
A Facebook spokeswoman declined to
comment on his choice of suit for Congress. Mr. Rosenfeld said he had no idea
of the maker or whether Mr. Zuckerberg
was getting outside advice.
Certainly Mr. Zuckerberg has publicly
acknowledged, a few times, the very
conscious way he uses clothes. Just because he is known for wearing the same
thing every day doesn’t mean he doesn’t
think about fashion or how what he
wears gets interpreted. In fact, it is exactly the opposite.
His Facebook timeline of “Life
Events” includes the milestone “Wore a
tie for a year” in 2009, along with “became a vegetarian” (in 2011) and “Married Priscilla Chan” (2012).
“I wanted to signal to everyone at
Facebook that this was a serious year
for us,” he wrote in an post about the tie
wearing. “My tie was the symbol of how
serious and important a year this was,
and I wore it every day to show this.”
Then, in 2014, during another Facebook Town Hall, he was asked about the
gray tees, and responded: “I really want
to clear my life to make it so that I have
to make as few decisions as possible
about anything except how to best serve
this community. And there’s actually a
bunch of psychology theory that even
making small decisions around what
you wear, or what you eat for breakfast,
or things like that, they kind of make you
tired and consume your energy.”
Which is to say, he wears the same
thing because that way he thought
about it once and never had to think
about it again.
Though the current situation does
somewhat demonstrate the limits of
that approach.
CP Industries just got an expensive
lesson in the unintended consequences
of protectionism.
Based in McKeesport, Pa., the company makes seamless vessels to store
gases at high pressure — steel cylinders of up to six tons that it sells to
customers like the United States Navy,
NASA and T. Boone Pickens’s Clean
Energy. It has received the first bill
from the 25 percent tariff that President Trump placed on steel from China
and a few other countries: $178,703.09
assessed on a steel-pipe shipment
scheduled to arrive at the Port of Philadelphia on Thursday.
That’s equivalent to about two
weeks’ payroll. Over all, tariffs on steel
pipe that the company has ordered
from China — some already on its way
across the Pacific — will add more
than half a million dollars to rawmaterial costs over six months alone.
“How long can we last?” mused
Michael Larsen, the company’s chief
executive. “I don’t know. We could go
down relatively fast.”
The tariff will add about 10 percent
to the cost of CP Industries’ cylinders,
which can sell for up to $35,000. And
foreign rivals are already swooping in
to lure away some of the company’s
biggest clients. “We haven’t lost a big
one yet, but the discussion over who is
going to pay for the tariffs has started,”
Mr. Larsen told me.
Michael Larsen, chief executive of CP
Industries, said steel tariffs had added 10
percent to the cost of his cylinders.
What most sticks in the executive’s
craw is that he will probably end up
losing business to the company’s main
rival in China, Enric Gas Equipment
Company of Shijiazhuang, which also
makes jumbo vessels. Noting that
Enric’s goods are imported under a
classification not subject to the tariff, a
CP Industries news release added, “It
is impossible for CPI to compete with
its Chinese competitor on this basis.”
This is what economists mean when
they warn about the costs of protectionist policies. A tariff to protect one
industry amounts to a tax on all of its
customers. The steel tariffs tax the
nation’s more high-tech manufacturing
— carmakers, aerospace companies,
makers of vessels to store hydrogen
for use in fuel cells — to pay for a ring
of protection around an aging industry
that makes a raw material.
As Lawrence H. Summers, a top
economic adviser to Presidents Bill
Clinton and Barack Obama, quipped at
a conference in China a couple of
weeks ago, the trade moves amount to
“a bit of a ‘Stop, or I’ll shoot myself in
the foot’ kind of strategy.”
None of this is unknown to Mr.
Trump’s trade advisers, by the way.
Democratic and Republican administrations have repeatedly granted protection to the American steel industry
since the 1960s, when foreign
producers started making inroads into
the United States.
In 1969, President Richard M. Nixon
imposed “voluntary restraint” agreements on exporters from Japan and
Europe. About a decade later the
Carter administration established a
system that allowed some steel imports as long as they were sold above a
certain price.
President Ronald Reagan established a limited pool of imports that it
apportioned among foreign producers.
The first President George Bush renewed it. Mr. Clinton deployed diplomacy and antidumping measures to
protect American steel makers. And in
2002 President George W. Bush put a
new ring of “safeguards” around steel
that lasted 20 months, until the World
Trade Organization ruled them illegal.
They mostly shrugged off the repercussions for the many manufacturing
companies that relied on steel. But in
2003, the United States International
Trade Commission surveyed manufacturers about the effects. Not only did
the tariffs imposed by the Bush administration put many American companies at a competitive disadvantage, but
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 13
Tariffs on steel start to hit home
companies also reacted in ways that
did the American economy no good.
Almost 500 steel consumers responded to at least some of the questions asked by the commission. About
half of the respondents reported higher
prices. And roughly half reported
problems procuring steel of the quality
and quantity they needed. Over a third
reported delayed deliveries; 132 reported steel shortages. About one in
six said these problems had reduced
sales, and one in three said they had
cut into profitability. A total of 82 companies — including 11 makers of auto
parts, nine welded-pipe producers and
five makers of fasteners — said they
had lost sales to foreign competitors
because of the higher cost of steel.
Some steel consumers shifted from
importing steel to importing assembled steel parts that were not subject
to the new tariffs. York International —
which makes air-conditioning systems,
furnaces and the like — reported importing steel assemblies and complete
products from overseas. The auto-part
maker Metaldyne simply moved some
of its operations to South Korea, where
it could obtain cheaper steel.
Mr. Larsen is sympathetic to the
plight of American steel companies.
Though it is owned today by Everest
Kanto Cylinder based in Mumbai,
India, CP Industries emerged as an
independent company in a 1989 spinoff
from U.S. Steel. And still, whatever old
loyalties persist, it makes little sense to
force the company to obtain its steel
domestically. For starters, no company
in the United States produces pipes big
enough to make its six-ton containers.
The company estimated that it could
get only a fifth of the steel pipe it
needed domestically, from only one
American firm. Domestic pipe is, moreover, delivered in random lengths and
requires additional milling, cutting and
testing, raising processing costs by
about 16 percent. And Chinese pipes
are much cheaper, the company added: Pipes from China delivered in
Philadelphia cost $1,680 per metric ton,
while U.S. Steel is charging $2,728 per
metric ton at its works in Lorain, Ohio.
A 25 percent tariff will not close the
CP Industries isn’t simply going to
let itself be pushed out of business. An
option to consider is importing German steel — which so far has been
exempted from the protectionist fusillade. But it will take time to shift
suppliers. And German steel will be
more expensive.
Of course, there is lobbying. CP
Industries has requested a waiver
Manufacturing steel cylinders at the CP Industries plant in McKeesport, Pa. Tariffs on steel pipe that the company has ordered from China will add more than half a million dollars to raw material costs over six months.
from the tariffs, and it is working to get
Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation on its side. Something else it could
do is move part or all of the manufacturing process overseas to avoid the
steel tariffs.
“We have a whole list of ideas that
we could execute,” Mr. Larsen told me.
“But nothing we do will be more efficient than what we are doing now. And
it will mean less value added in the
United States.”
Mr. Larsen is not, by the way, an
evangelist for free trade at all costs.
Pressure on British banks
Six years ago, when he was at TaylorWharton International, a manufacturer
of smaller vessels for high-pressure
gas, he teamed up with Norris Cylinder
to bring an antidumping case against
Chinese rivals and won. The government imposed an antidumping duty on
U.S. sanctions require
that they sever their ties
with Putin’s associates
The industrialist Oleg Deripaska is on the list of 24 influential Russians sanctioned by
Washington. Russia’s wealthiest families have long found a haven in London.
The ruble slid sharply in value for a
second day on Tuesday. The mining giant Glencore, which is based in Switzerland, began loosening its ties with Mr.
Deripaska’s company, Rusal, which is
one of the world’s largest aluminum
producers. Glencore announced it had
canceled a planned swap of its stake in
Rusal for shares in another Deripaska
company, and Glencore’s chief executive, Ivan Glasenberg, who has served
on Rusal’s board since 2007, said that he
would step down.
The new American sanctions expose
financial institutions outside the United
States to penalties if they “knowingly facilitate significant financial transactions” on behalf of the listed Russian oligarchs.
The wording is similar to secondary
sanctions imposed against Iran. These
“essentially prohibit the individuals involved from taking part in the dollar
economy,” said Daragh McDowell, an
analyst for Europe and Central Asia at
Verisk Maplecroft, a consulting firm
based in Bath.
It is likely to compel risk-averse
British banks to cancel the Russians’ accounts altogether, said Brian O’Toole, a
former senior official at the Treasury
Department’s Office of Foreign Assets
Control, which administers and enforces American sanctions.
London’s real estate market might
also be affected, having benefited from
waves of investment from Russians
with ties to the Kremlin, some of it
routed through shell companies registered in overseas territories like the
British Virgin Islands. Banks and estate
agents might take steps to increase financial transparency, including trying
when you are suddenly granted a 10
percent cost advantage. That’s roughly
the kind of edge that the steel tariffs
gave the makers of high-pressure gas
vessels in China.
“As it stands today,” Mr. Larsen
lamented, “they cannot be overcome.”
Countering Trump’s bluster
The United States has ratcheted up its
efforts to block Kremlin-linked industrialists from doing business in the West,
warning that British banks will have to
sever their relationships with the tycoons if they want continued access to
American financial institutions.
Sigal P. Mandelker, a top United
States Treasury official who was in London to meet with her counterparts, said
British banks could face “consequences” if they continued to carry out
significant transactions on behalf of the
24 influential Russians sanctioned by
Washington on Friday. The list includes
the industrialists Oleg Deripaska and
Viktor Vekselberg, along with Kirill
Shamalov, whom American officials
have identified as President Vladimir V.
Putin’s son-in-law.
“These are blocking sanctions,” Ms.
Mandelker, under secretary of the
Treasury for terrorism and financial intelligence, said at a briefing with reporters. “There of course would be consequences for U.K. financial institutions”
that continued to do business with the
The warning has resonated in London, which for decades has served as a
haven for Russia’s wealthiest families.
Russian investors own iconic British assets like the Chelsea Football Club and
swaths of high-end London real estate,
and they support thriving networks of
lawyers, financial advisers and estate
The United States has long prodded
its European partners to match its economic sanctions against high-ranking
Russians, but it has encountered resistance because Russia’s business ties to
Europe are so much deeper than those
to the United States.
Ms. Mandelker said there had been
great unity on Russia among European
nations since March 4, when Sergei V.
Skripal, a former Russian double agent,
was found poisoned in southwestern
England. She said the United States was
consulting intensively with British financial institutions and oversight agencies as it prepared to impose the latest
round of sanctions. “We have very
strong and close allies and partners in
the U.K.” she said. “They understand
clearly what the risks are. We continue
to communicate those risks to them.”
Chinese imports. He would love to try
that approach against his new Chinese
But Mr. Trump nipped the strategy
in the bud: Dumping — selling below
cost to drive rivals out of business and
gain market share — is not necessary
harder to identify the source of funds
used by foreign buyers of real estate.
“The amount of Russian real estate in
Mayfair is well known. It’s kind of a running gag in the financial industry,” said
Mr. O’Toole, now a senior fellow at the
Atlantic Council. “This is something
London should have a done a while ago,
to clean this up. I think London knows
that, and 10 Downing Street knows it as
well. I think that’s the next thing to
He added that the United States has
similar vulnerabilities, having allowed
many foreigners to purchase valuable
properties without having to identify
themselves as the owners.
British officials have not always been
enthusiastic about the American sanctions, but British businesses have
tended to comply, largely out of fear of
being penalized by the United States,
said Ian Bond, director of foreign policy
at the Center for European Reform.
“The reality is that for most companies dealing with the United States, the
U.S. is much more important than dealing with Russia or Cuba or Iran or Libya,” he said.
Bill Browder, an investor based in the
United Kingdom who has led international campaigns to impose sanctions on
Mr. Putin and his associates, described
the sanctions imposed by Washington
last week as the most forceful “by orders
of magnitude” to hit Russia in years.
If Mr. Deripaska, for example, wanted
to buy a house in Europe now, he would
be hard-pressed to find a seller willing to
accept money from him, Mr. Browder
“There is no safe haven when this
type of stuff happens,” he said.
These are unsettled times in financial
Stock prices in the United States rose
or fell by more than 1 percent in four of
five days last week, and if anything
those closing numbers masked even
larger swings within each trading session. A common measure of expected
stock market volatility is about to double its level from early January.
The proximate cause is pretty obvious: President Trump is threatening a
trade war with China and perhaps other
trading partners. But beneath those
daily headlines are two fundamental
questions: Is there a Kudlow Put? And
is there a Powell Put?
More specifically, will the White
House economic adviser Larry Kudlow
(and his free-trader allies within the administration) be able to rein in the
Trump administration’s trade stance if
markets keep falling? And will the Federal Reserve’s chairman, Jerome Powell, be ready to take action, such as delaying interest rate increases or even
cutting rates, if markets tumble further?
If the answers are “yes,” there isn’t
much to worry about and the stock market should be able to keep humming
along at its current high levels. If it’s a
“no,” well, in a word, uh-oh.
A “put” is an option contract that offers its buyer protection against losses.
If you own a stock worth $100 and buy a
put with a strike price of $80, you are ensuring the ability to sell for that price if
you wish, so you can’t lose more than 20
percent of your money.
Back in the 1990s, traders started referring to the “Greenspan Put,” the notion that the stock market as a whole
had the equivalent of a giant put option
in the form of the Fed chairman Alan
Greenspan. Amid an emerging markets
debt crisis in 1998, the Fed cut interest
rates to try to guard the United States
against economic fallout, which helped
the stock market gain a whopping 29
percent that year despite the global
This notion that the Fed is always
ready to act when the stock markets
start to dip has almost become a piece of
conventional wisdom in market circles
over the years — often said with a bit of
snark and implicit criticism of the Fed
for supposedly bailing out investors
whenever the going gets tough. Fed officials themselves hate the idea and argue
that they’re looking out for the economy,
not markets.
Nonetheless, in the popular discourse
the Greenspan Put gave way to the
(Ben) Bernanke Put, and to the (Janet)
Yellen Put, as Mr. Greenspan’s successors engaged in multiple rounds of
“quantitative easing” in recent years.
Which brings us to the 2018 equivalents.
Early last week, the stock market was
losing ground as the Trump administration rolled out plans for punitive tariffs
on $50 billion in Chinese imports, and
the Chinese government said it would
retaliate with comparable tariffs on
American goods.
The market sell-off abruptly halted on
Wednesday after Mr. Kudlow told reporters in the White House driveway, in
effect, not to sweat the incipient trade
war. He said it was possible the tariffs
would never come to pass and that the
president was “ultimately a free trader”
who “wants to solve this with the least
amount of pain.”
The Standard & Poor’s 500 index
ended that day up 1.2 percent.
So the question is whether Mr. Kudlow — not so much the individual, but
the trade war-averse faction within the
administration of which he is perhaps
the most visible member — and others
are going to be in position to prevent the
administration from doing anything
economically destructive on trade.
Larry Kudlow, the White House economic
adviser, has tried to calm fears about an
American trade war with China.
The pattern on trade policy through
the first 14 months of the Trump administration has been to pair blustery talk —
about pulling out of the North American
Free Trade Agreement, for example —
with more modest policy actions and negotiations that may avert real economic
But the question is whether that dynamic is changing, with the departure of
more internationalist voices within the
administration like Mr. Kudlow’s predecessor, Gary D. Cohn, and the former
secretary of state, Rex W. Tillerson.
If Mr. Kudlow is able to offer only
soothing words in the White House
driveway — and those words aren’t
matched by restraint in policymaking —
the Kudlow Put will turn out to be fairly
worthless. A warning sign about that
possibility came April 5, when the administration threatened tariffs on an additional $100 billion in Chinese imports,
in retaliation to China’s retaliation.
This is the kind of escalation that
would, if it became policy rather than
mere threat, be quite ominous for financial markets. Again on Friday, Mr. Kudlow offered calming messages, saying
“there are all kinds of back-channel discussions going on.” But given the continued escalation after his attempts at
calm, the Kudlow Put didn’t quite work,
and the market fell 2 percent that day.
Then there is Mr. Powell, who is in his
second month as Federal Reserve chairman. He delivered a speech Friday that
threw into doubt whether the Powell Put
exists — at least with respect to potential economic disruption from a trade
He mentioned that business contacts
had told Fed officials they were worried
that trade tensions could spill into
broader economic distress. But he did
not go the next step of giving any hint
that this might lead the Fed to reconsider its plans to raise interest rates gradually in the year ahead.
There’s good reason for that. If the
trade skirmish escalates into a trade
war, it will harm economic growth, but it
will also be inflationary. Prices would
rise for American consumers in the near
term because of the new tariffs, and
would rise in the medium term as production of goods moved to less economically advantageous locations.
It is an economic problem that the
Fed’s tools would be particularly ill
suited to solve; the Fed can help address
weak demand in the economy but can’t
do much about a negative supply shock,
which is what a trade war would be.
So it’s understandable that Mr. Powell
would be quiet on the subject, and disinclined to float the possibility that Fed interest rate policy could or would prevent
damage from a trade war. But if things
continue to escalate, expect markets to
hang on his every word even more, in
search of evidence that the Powell Put is
The way to think of fluctuations in the
stock market, both last week and in the
months ahead, is as a continuing effort
to determine whether the Kudlow Put
and the Powell Put exist, and if so, how
powerful they may be.
But given President Trump’s newfound willingness to chart his own aggressive path on trade policy, and the
limits of the Fed’s tools in the event of a
trade war, these may not be options contracts you want to rely on.
14 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
Farmers race Amazon to reach remote shoppers
“People ask, ‘Why do you cost so
much?’ The better question is
how are others like Walmart able
to sell it so cheaply?”
Couple’s start-up collects
food locally and delivers
it weekly to residents
afford “pasture raised” chicken breasts
that cost $7.95 a pound in an area where
household incomes are far below the national median.
“People ask, ‘Why do you cost so
much?’” Mr. Nowacoski says. “The better question is how are others like Walmart able to sell it so cheaply?”
Huge retailers like Walmart, Amazon
and Peapod are fighting for a piece of the
online food delivery business.
So is David Nowacoski, a chicken and
pig farmer here in East Smithfield, Pa.
Last month, Mr. Nowacoski started a
service that delivers locally produced
meats, cheeses and vegetables across
three counties in northern Pennsylvania. His start-up collects food from farflung farms and transports it weekly to
residents who place their orders online.
We recently spent the day with Mr.
Nowacoski and his wife, Marla, traveling about 92 miles in the family minivan, picking up and dropping off food
from three farms, one cheese room, one
tavern and a bakery.
Even in this rural patch of natural gas
fields and deer hunting grounds, where
the closest Whole Foods is more than
100 miles away, Amazon’s influence is
deeply felt. Mr. Nowacoski says Amazon
and other big retailers have conditioned
consumers to expect a higher level of
“This is where society is going, and
we have to figure out how the small farm
plays a role in it,” he says.
A day on the road with the Nowacoskis shows how exhausting and costly
e-commerce can be.
They rise at dawn to feed the chickens, then battle icy roads, burning
through gasoline — all to “build baskets” of items like cheese curds, lettuce
and sourdough loaves for a relatively
small number of families who are willing
to pay for the service.
10:36 A.M.
With the minivan loaded with three
large coolers, the Nowacoskis pull out of
their driveway and head west.
The first stop is a small dairy farm
about 35 minutes away in Roseville, to
pick up cheese. To reach the farm, we
climb a long, lonely hill that cuts through
a snow-encrusted field.
Near the top of the hill, we turn right
and glide down a paved road that resembles a bobsled run. The cheese shop is at
the bottom of the driveway, next to a
Amanda Kennedy is in her “cheese
room,” wearing a white smock. She got
up at 1:30 in the morning to start making
the cheese. She milked the cows at 3 and
helped her three children onto the bus at
around 7.
Ms. Kennedy, who was raised on a
farm down the road, hopes that she can
weather the turmoil in the dairy industry — which has been roiled by years of
low milk prices — by finding a market
for her specialty Cheddar and dill
cheese curds.
Most people are not going to make
regular trips to a local farm for a block of
cheese, Ms. Kennedy says. “The biggest
thing I struggle with is getting the
cheese into the customer’s hands,” she
Ms. Nowacoski packs the curds into a
cooler and leaves Ms. Kennedy a check
for $24, and we are back on the road.
7:09 A.M.
Dressed in overalls and a purple sweatshirt, Mr. Nowacoski walks over to a
shed that smells like diesel fuel, dirt and
garlic. He mixes garlic powder into the
chicken feed as a natural antibiotic.
Mr. Nowacoski raises about 4,000
chickens a year for meat and an additional 600 hens for eggs. In warmer
months, the birds live in fields, eating
grass, herbs and insects. But on a morning like this — with the temperature well
below freezing and a snowy mist making it feel even colder — the chickens
are kept in a coop with a vaulted ceiling
and walls made of clear plastic.
Mr. Nowacoski walks among the
birds, carrying a blue feed bucket in
each hand. The hens flock to him, while
the rooster hangs back, crowing with
jealousy and alarm.
“That bird hates me,” Mr. Nowacoski
With the chickens fed, we walk down a
winding dirt road to the pig pen. The sky
has gone from light purple to blue-gray,
and the snow has stopped.
The pigs are still sleeping when we
poke our heads into their hut, carpeted
with hay. They lie side by side like a band
of brothers — warm, plump and blissfully unaware that they have about
three weeks left on earth.
“Yeah, boys. Yeah, boys,” Mr. Nowacoski calls to them.
Most of the 300-pound pigs are opting
to sleep in, but a few amble out onto the
snowy ground, grunting, snorting and
looking for breakfast.
Mr. Nowacoski rubs and scratches
their haunches vigorously, sizing up
their meat.
Confirmed. Three weeks left.
9:10 A.M.
A pot of coffee brews in the kitchen, and
bacon sizzles on the stove. Ms. Nowacoski stands at the counter organizing
online orders on her tablet.
There are two dozen orders this week,
up from just two during their first week
in business.
The Nowacoskis grew up in East
Smithfield, a town of about 200 residents
75 miles west of Scranton.
1:10 P.M.
Thursdays and Fridays.
For now, most orders are dropped off
at central locales like farm stands or
church parking lots. Eventually, Mr.
Nowacoski hopes to expand delivery directly to the homes of as many
customers as he can.
He buys the items from the farmers at
a discount and charges a premium to
customers, generating a 25 percent
margin that pays for gas, the software
he uses to process the orders and advertising.
It’s not clear how many shoppers can
After dropping off chicken thighs at a
tavern along the way, the Nowacoskis
drive to Milky Way Farms in Troy, Pa., to
pick up bottles of milk for the week’s online orders.
The lunch menu at the Milky Way
restaurant features broccoli salad, vegetable beef soup, lemon pineapple cake
and gluten-free bread. The hamburgers
are made from beef raised at a farm next
We arrive at the restaurant two weeks
before it closes for good. The couple who
own it, Ann and Kim Seeley, decided to
shut down the family business after 55
“It is the middle of lunch time,” Ms.
Seeley says, taking our order. “And
there is nobody here.”
Tourist traffic to the area has dropped,
her husband says, and most people no
longer take time to sit down for lunch.
Even as the restaurant fades, Mr. Seeley will keep running a store at the farm
that sells his chocolate milk, ice cream
and egg nog. He’s counting on online deliveries to extend his reach farther.
“We have high hopes,” he says.
Fred McNeal, another farmer, joins us
for lunch. He runs a farm market in
Towanda, Pa., called Farmer Fred’s that
sells everything from lawn furniture to
turkey bone broth and garden seeds.
Mr. McNeal says he never worried
about competition from Amazon until
the company bought Whole Foods last
He is convinced that Amazon will find
a way to deliver fresh food locally, eating
into the market for local goods.
“We see this coming,” Mr. McNeal
says. “We have to figure out how to give
customers what they want or we are going to be another story about a business
that didn’t adapt.”
After lunch, the Nowacoskis return to
their farm to pick up heads of lettuce and
then drive to a bakery, minutes before it
closes at 4:30 p.m. The couple have been
on the road for more than six hours.
They will visit more farms the next
rant it. An executive order from Mr.
Trump last year called for that arrangement to be re-examined. With the Treasury Department now playing a greater
role in policymaking — for instance,
overseeing enforcement of parts of the
Affordable Care Act and trying to limit
corporations from engaging in mergers
to avoid taxes — Mr. Mulvaney and
other White House officials think that
the I.R.S. should be subject to greater
accountability when making decisions
that often go beyond technical clarifications.
Greater accountability, however,
could come with costs.
If Mr. Mulvaney wins the argument,
“it will slow the process down,” said
John A. Koskinen, a former I.R.S. commissioner whose term ended last year.
“If you had all the regulations coming
out of Treasury and I.R.S. subject to
more review and delays, it would not be
making taxpayers, accountants and
lawyers happy. They are pushing to get
that information as quickly as they can.”
Officials from previous administrations also say that opening the tax regulation effort beyond Treasury would invite comments, not just from the budget
office, but from the White House political team and other advisory groups in
the government.
“Midlevel political appointees get
their fingers in there, find out when the
meetings are and have their opinions,”
said Adam Looney, a senior fellow in
economic studies at the Brookings Institution who served in President Barack
Obama’s Treasury Department.
Such an expansion, Mr. Looney said,
also offers more avenues for lobbyists to
press their case for why their clients
should receive more preferable tax
“The swamp is going to be enriched
by this one,” he said.
Administration officials have suggested that a compromise could be
reached within weeks.
“We have been working productively
with O.M.B. and are very pleased with
the process,” said Tony Sayegh, assistant secretary for public affairs at the
Treasury. “We look forward to a resolution in the near future.”
Meghan Burris, a budget office
spokeswoman said, “We do not discuss
ongoing, pre-decisional processes and
David Nowacoski, top, feeding chickens he and his wife, Marla, raise in East Smithfield, Pa. Center, the Nowacoskis sell milk from a local farm and eggs from their
own farm to customers who order online. Bottom, from left: Two of the Nowacoskis’ pigs; the couple preparing to make deliveries; and eating breakfast at home.
Friends since high school, they got
married and moved to Princeton, N.J.,
where Mr. Nowacoski worked for an employee benefits firm.
In 1993, they returned to East Smithfield and bought 80 acres of rolling
fields, maple groves and a swamp that
they dug out into a lake stocked with catfish and largemouth bass.
Like many farms in the area, the
Nowacoskis’ land sits above the Marcellus Shale formation, a huge natural gas
The couple lease some of their land to
gas companies for hydraulic fracturing,
or fracking.
When gas prices were high, the Nowacoskis received enough money to send
two of their three children to college
without amassing debt. But as prices
slumped, the infusion of wealth from the
fracking boom all but evaporated.
“Everyone thought they would be millionaires,” Mr. Nowacoski says. “Then it
just stopped.”
The gas money is vanishing while
milk prices are also low, putting pressure on farms and the broader economy.
The Nowacoskis hope their e-commerce business, Delivered Fresh, can
help farmers find new markets for their
milk, meat and produce.
Every week, shoppers can log into the
Delivered Fresh website and pick from a
range of locally produced foods. The offerings will grow more bountiful as the
weather turns warmer — carrots, beets,
kale and potatoes.
The Nowacoskis spend Wednesdays
picking up food from as many as 20
farms — a loop that sometimes totals
300 miles. They make deliveries on
A turf battle over who interprets tax rules
A power struggle between two of President Trump’s top cabinet members
threatens to delay implementation of
the new tax law and could give lobbyists
and political hands in the White House
greater ability to shape critical decisions about which types of businesses
benefit from the law.
The White House’s Office of Management and Budget, headed by Mick Mulvaney, and the Treasury Department,
run by Steven Mnuchin, are at odds over
whether to end Treasury’s traditional independence in writing tax regulations
and to give the budget office more oversight for those rules. If an agreement is
not reached soon, the president may
have to weigh in and make the decision
The debate is more than just a West
Wing turf war.
How it plays out could affect several
big decisions that will define the breadth
and scope of the new tax law, including
whether small businesses like veterinary clinics and dentists may claim a
new 20 percent tax deduction and to
what degree multinational corporations
such as Microsoft and Eli Lilly will be hit
with a new minimum tax on the profits
they earn overseas.
Mr. Mnuchin and Mr. Mulvaney, who
are among Mr. Trump’s top economic
lieutenants, have largely been in sync
on the shape and direction of the tax law.
Both supported lowering corporate
taxes and using the tax code to discourage companies from shifting operations
Where they differ, however, is over
who has the ultimate authority to interpret the many lingering questions that
will need to be answered in the coming
months and years, including which
types of companies qualify as “passthrough” businesses eligible for the 20
percent deduction and how broadly the
international tax provisions aimed at
preventing profit shifting should apply.
The Treasury Department, which issues tax regulations through the Internal Revenue Service and offers guidance that dictates how the tax code is applied, will have broad discretion in de-
termining the effects of the law. It has
long been exempt from the type of costbenefit analysis that the Office of Management and Budget performs on most
rules that government agencies issue.
With a host of unintended or unclear
provisions stemming from the rapid
passage of the law, the Treasury will
need to decide how the legislation is implemented. It has already begun issuing
guidance to clarify the law’s intent and
in March moved to block hedge funds
and private equity firms from trying to
circumvent a new rule aimed at limiting
the use of the so-called carried interest
tax break.
Some congressional Republicans are
rooting for Mr. Mulvaney’s office to
wield greater oversight of the tax law, in
the hope that it would push for the most
lenient interpretations of regulations
that enable the largest number of businesses to pay lower rates under the law.
Other lawmakers and business groups
are pulling for Mr. Mnuchin, believing
that adding review by the Office of Management and Budget could slow the creation of regulations that businesses say
they need to make investment and tax
planning decisions this year.
How the debate plays out could
affect several big decisions that
will define the breadth and scope
of the new tax law.
Mr. Mulvaney has taken the view that
tax regulations issued by the Treasury
are of significant economic importance
and that decisions that determine the
fate of hundreds of millions of dollars
are being made without sufficient scrutiny by his office. The budget office analyzes regulations issued by agencies
across the federal government, with its
Office of Information and Regulatory
Affairs determining whether agencies
have sufficiently addressed problems
during rule-making and either accepting regulations or sending them back to
be reworked.
The Treasury Department does consult the budget office on some of its rulemaking, but since a 1983 memorandum
of understanding, the office has not had
the authority to review the Treasury’s
tax guidance, on the theory that it is not
economically significant enough to war-
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 15
Testing Brazil’s democracy
anything to
gain from
the former
arrest for
We don’t
know yet.
Carol Pires
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL On Saturday, the
former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva, surrendered to the federal police to start a 12-year one-month
prison sentence for corruption. Judge
Sergio Moro had ordered Mr. da Silva
to turn himself in to the police by 5 p.m.
on Friday. But before doing so, Mr. da
Silva had laid down a few rules of his
He would surrender only after attending an ecumenical service in honor
of the birthday of his deceased wife,
Marisa Letícia. Flanked by his political
allies, among them two other presidential candidates, Mr. da Silva celebrated
his wife at the same union headquarters
where he first met her in 1973 and where
he mourned her death last year.
Up until the minute before his surrender and subsequent transfer to the
prison in the southern city of Curitiba,
Mr. da Silva played politics, spending
much of the day lecturing from his
campaign bus and using the media
attention to reiterate that jailing the
country’s favorite candidate in the
October elections would only further
weaken Brazil’s democracy.
“This will not be the end of me,” he
said to a throng of supporters. “I am no
longer a human being. I am an idea. An
idea that is mixed with all of your ideas.”
Many in the crowd responded, “Don’t
surrender!” The police transport vehicle tried to leave the scene twice, but the
former president’s followers blocked
the way.
Mr. da Silva’s conviction and imprisonment have further inflamed Brazil’s
political crisis. And in a nation that
escaped the grip of dictatorship only in
1985, it is unclear whether democracy
will survive or whether supporters of
authoritarian government will gain the
upper hand.
On April 4, the day before the Federal
Supreme Court rejected Mr. da Silva’s
habeas corpus appeal, the commander
of the Brazilian Army, Gen. Eduardo
Villas Boas, summoned the ghost of the
dictatorship when he announced on
Twitter that the military, “along with all
good citizens, repudiates impunity and
respects the Constitution, civic peace
and democracy.” The message was
widely interpreted as an attempt to
intimidate the court into convicting Mr.
da Silva. Another general, Luiz Gonzaga Schroeder, went even further,
stating in an interview that if Mr. da
Silva were elected again, it would be
“the duty of the armed forces to restore
Both generals believe that Mr. da
Silva’s presidential bid is an affront to
the war against corruption, known here
as Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car
Wash), a far-reaching campaign started
in 2014 that has
uncovered a network
In a nation
of graft and corrupthat escaped
tion in the public
the grip of
service, shaking the
political class. And
only in 1985,
so, while Mr. da
it is unclear if Silva’s imprisonment
is a very visible high
supporters of
point of this investiauthoritarian
gation, it doesn’t
mean the end of
will gain the
Brazil’s political
upper hand.
crisis — if anything, it
marks the start of
some very intense
uncertainty in the months leading up to
the election.
Mr. da Silva remains at the top of the
opinion polls among would-be voters,
and he can still continue to appeal his
sentence and become the official Workers’ Party candidate in the October
elections. Alternatively, he could run his
campaign from prison as long as the
electoral courts don’t disqualify him by
invoking the Clean Slate law, which bars
those convicted of criminal offenses
from seeking public office.
If things don’t go well for Mr. da Silva,
the biggest loser will be the Brazilian
left, which has been looking to him as its
anchor and promise. With the left in
disarray — its reputation is tarnished,
its members divided, and it has no other
strong presidential candidate — Brazil
could well follow the recent trend in
other Latin American countries, where
right-wing parties that stubbornly
refuse to cut ties with their former
dictatorships are now on the rise, enjoying the support of the growing evangelical Christian communities, as is the
case in Chile.
Does democracy have anything to
gain with Mr. da Silva’s imprisonment?
We don’t know yet. What we do know is
that the one person who stands to gain
from his downfall is Jair Bolsonaro, the
retired military officer and presidential
candidate who is No. 2 in the polls. Mr.
Bolsonaro was among the first to publicly endorse General Boas’s remark
about corruption, yet another cause for
concern among many Brazilians already troubled by Mr. Bolsonaro’s
repeated praise for the former chief of
Brazil’s dictatorship-era torture center.
Meanwhile, political radicalization
and violence are on the rise. On March
29, as Mr. da Silva traveled through the
state of Paraná in southern Brazil on his
campaign to defend his name, shots
were fired at his convoy. After his habeas corpus plea was rejected, a man who
yelled insults at Mr. da Silva in front of a
school was hospitalized with brain
trauma after a Workers’ Party activist
jostled him and his head was struck by a
passing truck. Protesting Mr. da Silva’s
arrest, the Landless Workers’ Movement blocked roads in 11 states. Several
journalists were attacked while trying
to cover his arrest on Saturday.
For the moment, the army’s resurgence suggests that when the government loses political control, the
desire for political power is stoked anew
among those in green. In an extreme
situation, a mass riot could become a
dangerous excuse for those who seek to
undermine the democratic system by
using the upsurge of radicalism as its
This is no small detail in Brazil, where
the past may be dark but the future
remains murky.
is a political reporter and a
regular contributor to The New York
Times in Spanish.
It’s Mueller, not Trump, who is draining the swamp
The special
avatar of
justice, is
the depth of
before our
Quinta Jurecic
Following the investigation of the
special counsel, Robert Mueller, is an
enduring lesson in humility, and not
merely because no one — not the
president, not legal analysts or anyone
else — has been able to predict what
his office will do next. Mr. Mueller is
much more than a prosecutor. To
many, he has become Mr. Trump’s
opposite: an avatar of justice and
As special counsel, he’s also a storyteller, unwinding the tale of what happened during the 2016 election, while
revealing only glimpses of the overall
narrative. It’s not clear whether he’ll
ever make public the whole of what he
knows, or whether the regulations
governing his appointment even allow
him to do so.
The country is living through an
astonishing story without a full sense
of what that story is. But as the public
waits to discover who on the Trump
team knew what and when they knew
it, Mr. Mueller has been telling another
story, about “draining the swamp.”
And how that story plays out stands to
have a major effect on how our politics
moves forward after the investigation
is complete.
The themes of corruption and whitecollar malfeasance link the cases of
those caught up in the special counsel’s inquiry. Their indictments shed
light on the culture of influence peddling and less-than-savory financial
transactions that Mr. Trump promised
to dismantle if elected president. (He
has done the opposite.)
The special counsel’s indictments of
Paul Manafort, Rick Gates and Alex
van der Zwaan sketch out a system of
international graft. Mr. Manafort and
Mr. Gates are charged with laundering
millions of dollars gained from their
work for unscrupulous oligarchs. Mr.
van der Zwaan entered the picture
when Mr. Manafort commissioned his
law firm to help clean up the image of
the corrupt Ukrainian government —
an effort in which numerous wellconnected Washington lobbyists were
involved, though none disclosed their
work publicly.
Mr. Mueller is also investigating the
money that came in to Mr. Trump’s
business and campaign from Russia
and Eastern Europe, in some cases
examining whether wealthy Russians
provided campaign donations improperly. Yesterday, The Times reported
that Mr. Mueller is probing contributions made to the Trump Foundation
by the Ukrainian steel magnate Victor
Pinchuk in exchange for a video campaign speech by Mr. Trump at a conference in Kiev, raising questions over
whether Mr. Trump allowed the line to
be blurred between charitable donations and political influence.
Mr. Mueller hasn’t hinted at any
conclusions, but it is clear that the
Russian trolls indicted in February
were able to run political advertisements on Facebook in part because of
lax and under-enforced regulations
that failed to constrain foreign spending in American elections. Senator
Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is also telling a story about Washington corruption.
Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat of
Rhode Island, has argued that it will be
difficult to restrict such spending in
the future, even on grounds of national
security, because stricter campaign
finance legislation runs counter to the
interests of donors on whom lawmakers rely for funds.
Then, of course, there’s Stephanie
Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels. On Monday, F.B.I. agents raided
the home, office and hotel room of Mr.
Trump’s longtime attorney, Michael
Cohen, who is reportedly being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud and
violations of campaign finance law.
Among the materials reportedly seized
by the F.B.I. were documents relating
to Ms. Daniels, to whom Mr. Cohen
made a $130,000 payment under the
terms of a nondisclosure agreement to
prevent her from speaking out about
her sexual encounter with Mr. Trump.
As legal analysts have written, who-
ever was behind the payment to Ms.
Daniels — Mr. Cohen claims that his
client, then running for president, had
no knowledge of the agreement — it’s
likely that it ran afoul of disclosure
requirements for campaign contributions.
Though Ms. Daniels has disclaimed
any connection to the #MeToo movement, Mr. Trump’s efforts to keep her
quiet are strikingly similar to what has
been uncovered about the legal mechanics used to silence victims of
Harvey Weinstein’s abuse. Her experience is an illustration of how powerful
men use money and connections to
shield themselves from consequences,
perhaps straying over the line of what
the law allows. Part of Ms. Daniels’s
appeal is her willingness to explain
how these things work, recalling Mr.
Trump’s own insistence that he could
“drain the swamp” precisely because
he knew how it was filled.
Keep in mind that Watergate, too,
was a story about anonymous flows of
money to political campaigns. Two
chronicles of Richard Nixon’s downfall
stand out as particularly insightful
right now: Elizabeth Drew’s “Washington Journal,” a diary of the author’s
life while covering the scandal, and
Leon Neyfakh’s “Slow Burn,” a podcast
on Watergate ephemera. These works
don’t tell the story of Watergate
straight through but, instead, describe
the experience of blundering through
the scandal in a state of perpetual
confusion, not knowing which parts of
the story were important or what the
overall story was.
16 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
A third way for Muslim feminism?
Ursula Lindsey
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
RABAT, MOROCCO Last month, Asma
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
Lamrabet, a well-known Moroccan
feminist, resigned from her position at
the Mohammedan League of Scholars,
where she headed a center of women’s
studies in Islam. She was pushed to
resign, she explained in a statement,
by the backlash over her support for a
demand that remains controversial in
the Arab and Muslim world: an equal
share for women.
In Muslim countries, laws governing
inheritance are derived from verses in
the Quran; men generally receive
larger, sometimes double, the shares
that women get. Distant male relatives
can supersede wives, sisters and
daughters, leaving women not just
bereaved but also destitute.
Raising the issue of inheritance and
inequality has long been considered
blasphemous. When Tunisia’s modernizing first president, Habib Bourguiba,
did so in 1974, he was targeted by a
fatwa from a Saudi cleric and forced to
Yet recently, in several North African countries, the debate over equality in inheritance has been picking up
Last summer, President Beji Caid
Essebsiof Tunisia created a commission to study how to institute an equitable inheritance law. Recently, a couple of thousand demonstrators gathered in downtown Tunis, the capital, to
encourage him to follow through. In
Morocco, where I live, the National
Council on Human Rights in 2015
recommended instituting equality in
inheritance; it was browbeaten by
Islamists, but the topic hasn’t gone
Last spring, an art gallery in Rabat
held an exhibition on the subject and a
reformed extremist religious preacher
caused an uproar when he supported it
on a TV talk show. In the past year, at
least three books have been published
on the topic. (One of them, edited by a
woman, is an anthology of male writers entitled “Men Defend Inheritance
And in January, the Moroccan government took a symbolic but important
step: It announced that women would
be allowed to become adouls, traditional notaries who witness acts of
marriage, divorce and inheritance.
Opening this profession to women, Ms.
Lamrabet told me at the time, brought
women a step closer to equality and to
the legal and religious authority from
which they have been traditionally
excluded across the Muslim Arab
Ms. Lamrabet is one of a small
group of women who have staked a
claim to exercising that authority.
“Patriarchy is this: to refuse women
authority over religious texts,” she told
me. “One of our demands is to accept
women’s readings of religious texts
and let women be religious authorities.”
I first met Ms. Lamrabet last fall, in
her office at the Mohammedan League
of Scholars, a stately building decorated with traditional stucco molding,
tiles and wooden latticework. The
league is Morocco’s pre-eminent official institution of religious scholarship,
and Ms. Lamrabet’s presence within it
was in and of itself remarkable.
In her many books and public
speeches, Ms. Lamrabet argues for a
progressive, contextual reading of the
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
The president
has spent his
career cutting
corners, lying,
cheating and
in poor
company. That
behavior may
be catching up
to him.
Why don’t we take a step back and contemplate what
Americans, and the world, are witnessing?
Early Monday morning, F.B.I. agents raided the New
York office, home and hotel room of the personal lawyer for the president of the United States. They seized
evidence of possible federal crimes — including bank
fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations related to payoffs made to women, including a porn actress, who say they had affairs with the president before he took office and were paid off and intimidated
into silence.
That evening the president surrounded himself with
the top American military officials and launched unbidden into a tirade against the top American law enforcement officials — officials of his own government —
accusing them of “an attack on our country.”
Meanwhile, the president’s former campaign chairman is under indictment, and his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.
His son-in-law and other associates are also under
This is your president, ladies and gentlemen. This is
how Donald Trump does business, and these are the
kinds of people he surrounds himself with.
Mr. Trump has spent his career in the company of
developers and celebrities, and also of grifters, cons,
sharks, goons and crooks. He cuts corners, he lies, he
cheats, he brags about it, and for the most part, he’s
gotten away with it, protected by threats of litigation,
hush money and his own bravado. Those methods may
be proving to have their limits when they are applied
from the Oval Office. Though Republican leaders in
Congress still keep a cowardly silence, Mr. Trump now
has real reason to be afraid. A raid on a lawyer’s office
doesn’t happen every day; it means that multiple government officials, and a federal judge, had reason to
believe they’d find evidence of a crime there and that
they didn’t trust the lawyer not to destroy that evidence.
On Monday, when he appeared with his national
security team, Mr. Trump, whose motto could be, “The
buck stops anywhere but here,” angrily blamed everyone he could think of for the “unfairness” of an investigation that has already consumed the first year of his
presidency, yet is only now starting to heat up. He said
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made “a very terrible
mistake” by recusing himself from overseeing the investigation — the implication being that a more loyal
attorney general would have obstructed justice and
blocked the investigation. He called the A-team of investigators from the office of the special counsel,
Robert Mueller, “the most biased group of people.” As
for Mr. Mueller himself, “we’ll see what happens,” Mr.
Trump said. “Many people have said, ‘You should fire
In fact, the raids on the premises used by Mr.
Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, were conducted by the
public corruption unit of the federal attorney’s office in
Manhattan, and at the request not of the special counsel’s team, but under a search warrant that investigators in New York obtained following a referral by Mr.
Mueller, who first consulted with the deputy attorney
general, Rod Rosenstein. To sum up, a Republicanappointed former F.B.I. director consulted with a Republican-appointed deputy attorney general, who then
authorized a referral to an F.B.I. field office not known
for its anti-Trump bias. Deep state, indeed.
Mr. Trump also railed against the authorities who, he
said, “broke into” Mr. Cohen’s office. “Attorney-client
privilege is dead!” the president tweeted early Tuesday
morning, during what was presumably his executive
time. He was wrong. The privilege is one of the most
sacrosanct in the American legal system, but it does
not protect communications in furtherance of a crime.
Anyway, one might ask, if this is all a big witch hunt
and Mr. Trump has nothing illegal or untoward to hide,
why does he care about the privilege in the first place?
The answer, of course, is that he has a lot to hide.
Among the grotesqueries that faded into the background of Mr. Trump’s carnival of misgovernment
during the past 24 hours was that Monday’s meeting
was ostensibly called to discuss a matter of global
significance: a reported chemical weapons attack on
Syrian civilians. Mr. Trump instead made it about him,
with his narcissistic and self-pitying claim that the
investigation represented an attack on the country “in
a true sense.”
No, Mr. Trump — a true attack on America is what
happened on, say, Sept. 11, 2001. Remember that one?
Thousands of people lost their lives. Your response was
to point out that the fall of the twin towers meant your
building was now the tallest in downtown Manhattan.
Of course, that also wasn’t true.
Asma Lamrabet, who is part of a school of thought referred to as “Islamic feminism,” argues for a progressive reading of the Quran.
Quran. She doesn’t claim, as Islamists
do, that Islam already gives women all
their rights. She argues that it could, if
it was stripped of centuries of misogynist interpretation by male scholars.
When Ms. Lamrabet rejects practices such as polygamy, unequal access
to divorce or a husband’s authority
over his wife, she either shows there is
no textual basis at all in the Quran for
these practices, or she argues that the
historical context needs to be taken
into account when interpreting what
the text says.
With regard to inheritance, Ms.
Lamrabet and others note that women
were allotted a
smaller share on the
assumption that
male relatives would
provide for all their
for a feminist
material needs.
Islam anger
That is no longer
the case; many
both Muslim
households in Moconservatives
rocco today depend
and those
who see Islam largely on a woman’s
income. So Ms. Lamas uniquely
rabet argues that the
bad for
law should be rewomen.
evaluated on the
Is she
basis of the Quran’s
original spirit of
the future?
justice and fairness.
But apparently
making this argument, repeatedly and
publicly, was too much for the religious
establishment in Morocco.
Ms. Lamrabet says her goal is the
“deconstruction of religious patriarchy.” She argues from a religious
basis because, she told me, religion is
the No. 1 weapon used against women
in her country today. She wants to
furnish women with arguments with
which to reclaim their religion, and to
reject inequality and discrimination in
the name of Islam.
But she is also critical of the way
women’s rights have been deployed by
Western powers to justify colonialism,
military intervention and attacks on
her religion. Her arguments will displease both Muslim conservatives who
see feminism as an immoral, unnecessary foreign import and those who
believe women’s subjugation is a
unique and unchangeable feature of
Ms. Lamrabet is part of a school of
thought often referred to as “Islamic
feminism” — which includes the late,
great Moroccan sociologist Fatema
Mernissi and scholars such as Amina
Wadud and Leila Ahmed. She is also
part of a larger field of activists, artists
and intellectuals trying to articulate a
feminist third way — one that doesn’t
have to choose between religion and
universal rights, between critiquing
the West and kowtowing to local conservatives.
The broaching of inheritance reform
— which would be a truly revolutionary change — is taking place as a
number of Arab countries are giving
women new legal rights.
In Tunisia, Muslim women will be
allowed to marry non-Muslim men (in
most Muslim countries only men are
allowed to marry outside their religion). Lebanon is the latest country in
the region to outlaw the practice of
rapists being exonerated for their
crime by marrying their victims. Even
in Saudi Arabia, the authorities have
announced that women will finally be
granted the right to drive, as well as to
set up their own businesses without a
male guardian’s consent.
Skepticism over these announcements is sometimes warranted. Male
rulers and autocrats in the region have
figured out that branding themselves
champions of women’s rights is a
winning P.R. move in the West — but
even “enlightened” rulers are unlikely
to undermine a religious discourse
from which they derive much of their
own legitimacy.
And legal reforms that favor women
are only as strong as the rule of law
over all. Even as we celebrate every
gain that makes women’s lives better,
what counts most is the degree to
which women are able to voice and to
advance their own arguments for
Conservatives would like to simply
declare the conversation on inheritance off-limits, but I doubt it is going
to fade away. In the same week she
resigned, Ms. Lamrabet was one of 102
Moroccan public figures who penned
an open letter calling for a reform of
inheritance law. The truth is that discrimination against women in the
name of Islam is a question to which
religious and political authorities today
simply have no good answer.
The debate over women’s rights and
Islam is so politicized and riddled with
stereotypes that it is extremely hard to
write about. Muslim women are not all
victims, renegades or standard-bearers for religious or cultural authenticity. They are not foils with which to
bash Islam or through which sympathetic Westerners can congratulate
themselves on their cultural superiority.
True solidarity with women in this
part of the world means paying less
attention to self-serving male rulers
and to cosmetic official initiatives and
more to the lively, often contentious
debate taking place within Muslim
societies, to the diverse voices of women here and to their ideas of how they
want to advance their own cause.
These voices are secular and religious,
young and old; they are also often
critical of Western policies in the region.
Inheritance inequality, Ms. Lamrabet told me, is part of an ideology that
assumes that women are worth less
and deserve less. She and others will
continue to insist that women get their
fair share.
writes about culture
and politics in the Arab world.
Demonstrating for women’s rights under religious law last month in Tunis. In several North African countries, the debate over equality in inheritance has been picking up steam.
18 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
‘Is it possible to tell the truth kindly?’
Folk-rock duo conjures
an idyllic childhood, torn
by violence, with music
There’s a line near the start of the new
musical “The Lucky Ones” that’s a deliberate hedge — an explanation of the
rules of the show that also leaves those
rules a little murky.
“This is a true story,” Shaun Bengson
tells the audience from the stage of the
Connelly Theater in Manhattan. “Even
the parts that never happened.”
And with those words, Mr. Bengson
and his wife, Abigail — the other half of
the folk-rock duo the Bengsons, the indie-theater darlings who created the
show for Ars Nova — try to draw a cloak
of privacy around themselves and the
people they love.
Ms. Bengson, 35, has a tale to tell
about the autumn she was 15, when her
family shattered and the seemingly safe
Eden she grew up in was lost forever.
Yet she is terrified of compounding anyone’s anguish.
So “The Lucky Ones” is wounded autobiography veiled in fiction. Set in
crunchy small-town New England (“a
part of Vermont that happens to be in
Maine”), it’s a follow-up to “Hundred
Days,” a musical memoir of the Bengsons’ beginnings as a couple that was a
hit last fall at New York Theater Workshop. Like “Hundred Days,” “The Lucky
Ones” is directed by Anne Kauffman
and has a book co-written by the playwright Sarah Gancher, who is the Bengsons’ neighbor across the hall in Ridgewood, Queens.
In the new show, an extended family
runs a school together, raising their children — Abigail, her sisters and their
cousins — in a kind of hippie idyll. Then,
in one cataclysmic season, it all falls
apart, beginning with a killing that
might have been prevented if only the
parents hadn’t been so committed to a
that they dismissed the signs of mental
illness in one of the kids.
“It’s possible that we have all been
raised in a way that hurt us,” Abigail
says in the show. “And maybe hurt us so
badly that we will hurt other people.”
Like Abigail, the character she plays
in “The Lucky Ones,” Ms. Bengson grew
up in an extended hippie family that revolved around a school. In reality,
though, the person in her clan who killed
someone was not a blood relative but
rather a person she had been raised to
consider an older sibling — someone
she loved and admired, who “wrote
strange and beautiful music,” who
claimed to hear voices and did as they
This is the person, no longer institutionalized, whose life Ms. Bengson is
most fearful of harming with “The
Lucky Ones,” an ensemble piece in
which a cascade of events results in the
dissolution of her family, including her
parents’ marriage.
A large-scale show with a chorus, it’s
intended as the second part of a trilogy
that will continue with a musical about
Mr. Bengson’s early life. Critical reception of “The Lucky Ones” has been
mixed, with Jesse Green of The New
York Times calling it “a gawky, powerful
work in progress,” while Sandy MacDonald, in Time Out New York, found it
Ms. Bengson is sure of her right to tell
such a story onstage because it is a fundamental trauma of her past, overlapping though it does with other people’s
pain and struggles. Yet the acceptability
of drawing bystanders into one’s own
Adina Verson, at center, in “The Lucky Ones,” a theatrical production that considers the
impact of a killing on Ms. Bengson’s seemingly idyllic childhood.
recently, in the tone of someone checking to make sure she doesn’t have lipstick on her teeth. “I recognize it’s a little
Mr. Bengson, 34, cracked up at this,
seated beside her in the apartment in
the Alphabet City neighborhood of Manhattan where they stayed through early
previews, to be close to the theater.
Ms. Bengson says that she and her
husband are both “profoundly introverted,” but you wouldn’t know it from
talking with them. He seems gentle, diffident but steely underneath, while
there’s a sparkle to her, and a healthy
dash of punk spicing her earth-mother
serenity. Louie, their blond-ringleted
toddler, is a year and a half old, and Ms.
Bengson throws up her hands at the
challenge of not swearing in front of
“It’s possible that we have all
been raised in a way that hurt us.
And maybe hurt us so badly that
we will hurt other people.”
Abigail and Shaun Bengson, a married pair of singer-songwriters who have turned their personal stories into theater.
art is one of the great ethical debates in
any kind of autobiography. That’s true
even when you change names and details, and create what Mr. Bengson
called “the novel-myth version” of the
“Is it possible to tell the truth kindly?”
Ms. Bengson said. “I don’t know. But it’s
what I’m trying to do.”
“One of my sisters, she said, ‘Don’t let
your fear get in the way of the truth of
this,’” Ms. Bengson added. “I know that
in taking this on, I can’t be meek, I can’t
glaze over, I can’t allow fear or denial to
be the story of our family, because that
was toxic, too.”
Ars Nova, which also co-produced
“Sundown, Yellow Moon,” a Rachel
Bonds play with music by the Bengsons,
has an estimable record with nontraditional musicals that includes birthing
“Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of
1812.” It was the company that matched
Ms. Gancher with the Bengsons several
years ago.
To whatever degree “The Lucky
Ones” is fictionalized, she finds it “really
lovely to be working on a true story.”
“I spend so much of my life making up
characters or brainstorming situations
or coming up with scenarios,” Ms.
Gancher said. “The beauty part of this is
that any question that I can think of to
ask, there’s an answer to, and the answer is always weirder and more interesting and more surprising and sort of
brighter than anything that I could
make up.”
And she has a deep affection for the
“They’re people with a lot of pain and
a lot of damage,” she said, “but also a lot
of strength and a lot of magic.”
They are also so intertwined, personally and professionally, that they share a
bio in the program for “The Lucky
“Is that gross?” Ms. Bengson asked
“He’s going to be a pirate by 5,” she
said, and her husband laughed again.
“But I can’t stop. So, you’re welcome,
The Bengsons married 10 years ago,
three weeks after their first date. Four
years ago, shortly after they got the
commission from Ars Nova that would
result in “The Lucky Ones,” Ms. Bengson had a miscarriage — an event that
“rocked us very deeply,” she said, and
“set us on this path of wanting to write
about family and trauma.”
Part of that was an awareness, new to
Mr. Bengson, of what a fragile thing a
family can be. Part of it was a wish to examine how to go about making a family
— thoughtfully, unconventionally, as
their own parents did — even while
aware of the unintended harm that parents can cause children in the process.
At least at the start, they also nursed
the naïve wish to repair what had been
broken in Ms. Bengson’s adolescence —
“to Parent Trap the family,” as Mr. Bengson put it.
“Sometimes there are wounds so deep
that they never all the way heal,” he
said. “And I really hoped that wasn’t so.”
Some people in the family Ms. Bengson grew up in don’t talk to one another
anymore, but for the musical the Bengsons interviewed all of them — including the older sibling, so-called, who committed the crime. Those interviews be-
came part of the piece. Primarily for ethical reasons, Ms. Bengson said, they did
not contact relatives of the person who
was killed.
In her own family, opinion about the
existence of the show is divided — some
of those depicted vehemently in favor,
some opposed. Some have come to see
it. The Bengsons’ nightmare scenario is
to have family drama break out in the
audience, where they would have to witness it from the stage.
A few performances deeper into previews, after they had moved back home
to Queens, Ms. Bengson sat at their
blond-wood kitchen table, a plastic bag
of old cassette tapes in front of her.
Some of those tapes, she said, have
been to prison and back — cassettes on
which her budding-songwriter self set
down in music the fraught emotions she
couldn’t speak. Her older sibling, socalled, would respond with feedback on
her craftsmanship that helped to shape
her as an artist.
“I’d be like, ‘Hey, it’s Friday,’ talking
about nothing, and then I’d sing this
heavy piece of music, talking about everything,” she said, and she realized
that’s not so different from what she’s
doing with the show itself. “I’m like, here
I am, sending tapes to them, 20 years
By “them,” she means her family.
A half-hour into an emotionally delicate interview, there was a soft knock on
the front door: Ms. Gancher, bringing
over some eggs in the shell.
“Thank you,” Ms. Bengson said from
the kitchen. “I’ll eat those eggs. I love
you so much!”
“I love you, too,” Ms. Gancher said,
and exited.
A while later, this cameo struck Ms.
Bengson as curious. “I wonder if she really wanted to give me eggs, or if she just
wanted to make sure I was O.K.”
Either way, the closest Ms. Bengson
has felt to how she did before her family
cracked apart is with the artistic family
behind “The Lucky Ones,” a show that
allows her to spend time again in her
childhood Eden, if only in her imagination.
But she thinks of Eden now as a place
you have to outgrow, accepting the complexity of life and the presence of darkness — without fixating on the darkness.
“The task, I think, of storytelling,” she
said, “is the reintegration of the dark
and the light — going back and saying,
‘Yes, this darkness is here and it’s true.’
And, ‘There was light on us once, and
there will be again.’”
Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ is ‘like a drug’
Opera’s stars analyze duet,
a lengthy and intense
challenge for performers
The love duet at the heart of Wagner’s
“Tristan und Isolde” makes little sense.
Breathless ecstasy is conveyed through
made-up, often bafflingly long words as
the titular lovers declare their devotion
— over and over — for 40 minutes.
So why is this scene one of the most
enrapturing and adored duets in
“This music is like a drug, extremely
addictive,” said the star tenor Jonas
Kaufmann, who made his much-anticipated debut as Tristan in concert performances of the opera’s second act
with the soprano Camilla Nylund and
the Boston Symphony Orchestra before
bringing the program to Carnegie Hall
on Thursday. “You can never get rid of
it. It is always there, stuck in your
In an interview during rehearsals
here, the two singers and Andris Nelsons, the Boston Symphony’s music
director, tried to grapple with the forces
at play in the scene, which is so difficult in the context of a four-hour score
that it is often cut by up to 10 minutes.
(At these concerts, it will be performed
in its entirety.)
At this point in the story, Tristan and
Isolde have drunk a love potion so
powerful it makes Tristan forget the
name of his king, who by Act II is
married to Isolde. The furtive lovers
meet in the darkness of night — which,
likely influenced by Schopenhauer, is
an otherworldly plane free from the
bounds of reality — where they can
finally be together, at least until daylight returns.
The music alternates, often without
warning, between grandiosity and, as
Mr. Nelsons said, the intimacy of Schubert lieder. The dialogue is a volley of
sweet nothings that verge on nonsense
as passion renders the characters a bit
insane. (One moment, when Tristan
says he is now Isolde and she is Tristan, seems to prefigure the all-consuming love of “Call Me By Your Name.”)
Mr. Kaufmann and Ms. Nylund are
both Wagner veterans, but neither has
sung this opera before. In the interview, they said that the love duet has
challenges unlike any other in Wagner’s major works. Here are edited
excerpts from the conversation.
What is Wagner saying about love
The first “Tristan” score I had
was the “Vorspiel” [prelude] in Russian, with a written Wagner quotation,
I think they are playing some
kind of word game.
KAUFMANN This has alliteration and all
these games Wagner loved to play, like
nine-syllable words that I’ve never
heard put together, because sometimes
he wanted to express things in a way
that probably was never done before.
It’s like children that play a game and
try to overtake each other with something more. It’s insane. By the end of
Act II he’s completely cuckoo.
That doesn’t sound like romance in
other Wagner operas.
Real love, or even straightforward love, doesn’t exist in Wagner.
In “Tannhäuser” you have love: one is
innocent and pure, and the other is
sexual. In “Walküre” you have brotherand-sister love. Then you have
Siegfried’s love for the old lady,
Brünnhilde. All kinds of strange loves.
NYLUND And betrayals.
KAUFMANN Of course opera lives for
that. But usually you have the happy
innocent moment of love, and then
destiny strikes.
NYLUND Which is here in “Tristan,” kind
of. It makes this moment of happiness
even worse.
The conductor Andris Nelsons, left, the soprano Camilla Nylund and the tenor Jonas
Kaufmann are collaborating on the sprawling second act of “Tristan und Isolde.”
like: “I don’t really believe in love as a
feeling. But it is so strong, I want to
write an opera about it.” I wonder
whether he actually thought that it’s a
crazy state of mind which is not
healthy. But I find that this goes beyond the norm of what we expect of
love. It’s all exaggerated, over the top.
It is as if it is not a real thing in life, not
possible. I think he doesn’t believe in
this himself.
For that, I think he did it
very well.
NYLUND Maybe Wagner was also looking for something. What is love? It has
to be something more than this love we
speak about, the usual stuff. It’s something more. But it’s not something you
can achieve here in your life.
How do these ideas play out in the
How do you pace yourselves?
NYLUND You can never lose control.
NELSONS For the orchestra it is chal-
lenging. Wagner writes a lot of “più
forte,” but then you have to drop down
without losing any of the intensity. But
it’s also like when you run a marathon
and there is a moment when you think
you can’t anymore — once you overcome that, then you lose time and go
KAUFMANN It’s not a marathon. It’s like
one high jump after another. And you
don’t have time in between to come
properly back to the ground and accelerate for the next one. It’s just jump,
jump, jump. If on just one of those
notes you hesitate — you wait a little
bit because you’re not sure where the
harmony is or whatever — you can
completely break your neck and lose
your voice in a second.
Is it the same with the orchestra?
Yes, but I also always think
that when conducting or hearing Wagner’s music it actually takes you to
another psychic world as well. I feel
these emotions that I cannot put into
words, and the music has to show that,
how you think this is going to explode.
It’s orgasmic.
NYLUND It’s actually very dangerous to
drive a car and listen. You always
drive much too fast.
NELSONS A few conductors have died
during “Tristan.” The reason is Act II.
It might seem relaxing, but actually
the heartbeat and the intensity and
level of excitement — it’s so high that
you can’t stand it for a long time. So I
don’t want yet to die, but I might.
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018 | 19
Revisiting a grim Kennedy scandal, soberly
Without sensationalism,
‘Chappaquiddick’ is a
complex character study
I admit that I approached “Chappaquiddick” with a measure of skepticism and a tremor of dread. The ongoing, morbid fascination with all things
Kennedy is an aspect of American
culture I find perplexing and somewhat dispiriting. Compulsive Kennedyism encourages our unfortunate
habit of substituting mythology for
history, of dissolving the complexities
of American political life into airy
evocations of idealism and tragedy.
The lives and deaths of Kennedy family members provide grist for endless
conspiracy theorizing, tabloid salaciousness, celebrity-worship and superstition. A movie about one of the
sadder, tawdrier episodes in the saga
could only feed this syndrome.
But it turns out that “Chappaquiddick,” directed by John Curran from a
script by the first-timers Taylor Allen
and Andrew Logan, is more diagnosis
than symptom. Forsaking sensationalism for sober, procedural storytelling,
the film examines the toxic effects of
the Kennedy mystique on a handful of
people involved in a fatal car crash in
the summer of 1969.
The basic facts are hardly obscure.
Late on the night of July 18, an Oldsmobile driven by Senator Edward M.
Kennedy ran off a bridge on an island
near Martha’s Vineyard and plunged
into a pond. Mary Jo Kopechne, a
former aide to the senator’s brother
Robert, died inside the car. Kennedy
waited until the next day to report the
incident and provided an account that
was, to put it mildly, less than fully
Exactly what happened remains
unknown, and the gaps and ambiguities in the record provide the filmmakers with room for speculation and
embellishment. (A recent article by
Jenna Russell in The Boston Globe
performs a sensitive and thorough
fact-check.) In this version, Kopechne
(played by Kate Mara) stays alive
while trapped in the car, fighting for air
as Kennedy (Jason Clarke) dawdles.
Nothing beyond a close collegial
friendship between them is implied.
They were drawn together by shared
grief over the death of Robert Kennedy,
who had been assassinated the year
before, and left a party together for a
heart-to-heart talk.
The test that “Chappaquiddick” sets
for itself is not accuracy but plausibility. Whether or not events actually
unfolded this way, the story the film
tells is an interesting and complicated
character study, with something to say
about the corrosive effects of power
and privilege on both the innocent and
the guilty.
“Chappaquiddick” stars Jason Clarke as Senator Edward M. Kennedy, the last surviving Kennedy son, and Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, who died in 1969 when a car he was driving ran off a bridge.
At the center is Kennedy himself,
whom Mr. Clarke plays as a decent,
thoughtful man never quite comfortable in his own skin. That is partly
because he has been denied possession
of an independent identity. The last
surviving Kennedy son, Ted lives in the
shadow of his three dead brothers,
Joseph, John and Robert. His weekend
of sailing and partygoing coincides
with the Apollo 11 moon landing, a
reminder of John Kennedy’s legacy
and of Ted’s inadequacy.
Before the accident, he shows himself to be a bit of a bumbler, steering
his sailboat into a buoy during a regatta and freezing up during a television
interview. He is more at ease with his
The film has something to say
about the corrosive effects of
power and privilege on both the
innocent and the guilty.
friends Joe Gargan (Ed Helms) and
Paul Markham (Jim Gaffigan), who
will also be called upon for damage
control when things go wrong. The
question of Ted’s possible presidential
candidacy hovers in the air, and comes
up in his conversations with Mary Jo
and her colleague Rachel Schiff (Olivia
The film tries to make Mary Jo an
equal participant in the story — more
than just a victim or a mystery woman
— and succeeds in individualizing her
enough to underscore the horror of her
death. What happens afterward is in
some ways even more disturbing. Once
the management of Ted’s case is
turned over to his father’s inner circle,
Mary Jo’s humanity is quietly but
decisively erased. She is treated as a
problem rather than a person.
The villains in “Chappaquiddick” are
Robert McNamara (Clancy Brown);
Ted Sorensen (Taylor Nichols); and
Ted Kennedy’s father, Joe (Bruce
Dern), a fearsome patriarch even
though he has been paralyzed by a
stroke. He humiliates his son and turns
matters over to a squad of fixers who
manipulate the local authorities and
the news media to protect Ted’s political viability and the family’s power.
Which is not to say that the movie lets
Ted Kennedy off the hook. Its portrayal
of his weakness — his cowardice, his
self-pity, his lethal indecisiveness — is
devastating. It offers a partial explanation for these failures without excusing
them, and also without denying some
of his better qualities.
When Ted first calls his father, the
old man has one word for him: “alibi.”
For a time, “Chappaquiddick” explores
an alternative meaning, the possibility
that Ted, rather than saving his career
and reputation, will take advantage of
disgrace and free himself from a role
he never really wanted. His guilt would
excuse him from the burdens of family
What happened was more complicated, and Mr. Curran and Mr. Clarke
honor that complexity. Ted Kennedy
never became president, but the people of Massachusetts re-elected him to
the Senate seven more times. His
political career was longer and arguably more consequential than those of
his brothers. That isn’t to say he redeemed himself, or that anything he
accomplished diminishes the awfulness of Mary Jo Kopechne’s death.
Redemption and damnation are the
stuff of mythology. This is just a sad
piece of history.
outcome (he is the pope, after all) are
seen as “stage-managing” and “deckstacking.” The synod fathers’ disputes
are rolled down the slippery slope and
deemed a “full-scale theological crisis”
in which the hope that Francis would
foster unity and renewal is undone by
the supposed liberals’ supposed desire
to accommodate “the sexual revolution
and all its works.”
Douthat’s own position is traditionalist-cum-literalist: Any relaxing of the
Catholic teaching on marriage — one
man, one woman, one time — means
that core teachings can be changed; if
core teachings can be changed, the
Catholic Church is no longer the Catholic Church; and if the church is not the
church, all hope is lost. From this fixed
position, he slyly derides other positions, especially the liberal outlook.
As a first draft of history, “To Change
the Church” is a high-wire act, an effort
to maintain a balance between theology and polemics for a wide public.
And yet the air is thin up there, the
wire narrow and tight. From above,
Douthat, seeing every act as a tactical
move in the culture wars, pushing
every hypothesis to its limit, ignores
human experience. Left out is the
prospect that Francis called a synod
about marriage and family not because
he wanted to fly the flag of the sexual
revolution but because marriage and
family are where so many people in
our time encounter the paradoxes of
body and soul, self-fulfillment and
self-sacrifice. Left out is the fact that
Catholics don’t skirt the church’s teaching on marriage just to make things
easier for themselves; they say, “By
what right do those child-abuse-indulging clerics tell me that my marriage is
adulterous while twice-divorced,
thrice-married Newt Gingrich is now a
Catholic in good standing, living in
Rome as the spouse of his ex-aide/
girlfriend who is the United States
ambassador to the Vatican?” Left out
are the signs that the traditionalists
don’t want to tamp down divorce so
much as bar the door to same-sex
marriage. Left out is the truth that
sexual behavior is more fluid than the
culture-war schema allows: that there
are conservative libertines as well as
liberals who live marriage faithfully
(even chastely). Left out are people
like Gabby, who live off the grid of the
culture wars — as does Douthat himself, a conservative whom liberal institutions have educated, sponsored and
let thrive.
Left out, especially, is the home truth
that the Catholic Church has changed
already. Vatican II was at once the
church’s response to a crisis and the
perpetuation of it. In less than five
years the council fathers made
changes whose number and scale
dwarf the modest proposals floated in
Francis’ pontificate — made them over
the objections of Bill Buckley and other
pundits who styled themselves as
more Catholic than the pope. The
biggest change had to do with the
church’s relationship to Judaism, other
churches and other religions. In a few
strokes, Jesus’ hard saying “No one
comes to the Father except through
me” and its Catholic expression (“Outside the church there is no salvation”)
were softened and qualified. The
change was profound and traditiondefying. Ever since, the church has
affirmed the integrity of other faiths;
ever since, Catholics have had to ask
themselves, “Why be Catholic, when
other ways are O.K., too?” Ever since,
there has been no one clear answer.
This is not to say that people entering into Catholic marriage shouldn’t
fully grasp the church’s understanding
of the sacrament and its obligations. It
is to say that the view of marriage as a
marker in a culture war — a doctrinal
asymptote, a line that may be approached but not crossed — is itself a
greatly diminished view of marriage.
Fidelity is going into new forms; like it
or not, Catholics, right up to the pope,
have to work out the implications as
we go. The slope is slippery now and
forevermore. Truly, it has been all
Lead us not into temptation
To Change the Church: Pope Francis
and the Future of Catholicism
By Ross Douthat. 234 pp. Simon &
Schuster. $26.
Gabby (as she is called) is a woman
Ross Douthat knew at Harvard, where
they were students in the 2002 class
whose experience is the subject of his
first book, “Privilege” (2005). Arriving
at college, he is a Catholic convert from
a country-day school in Connecticut,
already recognizable as “that rarest of
breeds, the college conservative.” And
she — well, who she is, in his estimation, changes across freshman year.
The first week, she is “a homeschooled Canadian from a windswept
rock somewhere off the coast of Prince
Edward Island.” Two months later she
is “the artsy, home-schooled Canadian
girl who hung out with cross-dressers
and dated a gothish townie.” By spring
she is tight with “bisexuals and men
who majored in women’s studies; she
moved off-campus within a year to live
with her shaved-head sister and smoke
to her heart’s content.”
Gabby came to mind as I read
Douthat’s new book, “To Change the
Church,” which fits with “Privilege”
and his 2012 book “Bad Religion” to
form a loose triptych about institutions
in decline. It is high-minded cultural
criticism, concise, rhetorically agile, lit
up by Douthat’s love for the Roman
Catholic Church. In some respects it
goes to the root of the discontent that
drives all three books; in others it is a
simple sour mash, applying to Pope
Francis insinuative caricatures like the
ones he applied to Gabby.
Douthat came of age during the
culture wars of the 1990s, and the
culture-war schema pervades his
work. At Harvard, he decides that the
place is unmoored from Western humanism, a superluxury cruise on
which the “overclass” consolidates
itself through relentless networking,
sucking up, résumé-enhancing and
grooming in fast-track behavior. Ditto
sex at Harvard, which he sees as an
extracurricular mix of know-how and
status-seeking. “The regimen of diaphragms and dental dams, masturbation and oral sex and porn, has replaced the older forces of family, religion and shame that policed the sexual
landscape for generations. Instead of
telling young people to save sex for
marriage, the new sexual orthodoxy
tells us to have as much as we want,
but to do it carefully.”
In “Bad Religion,” Douthat in effect
spells out how such a state of affairs
came to pass. It involves “the slowmotion collapse of traditional Christianity and the rise of a variety of destructive pseudo-Christianities in its place.”
Given two options — accommodation
or resistance — most churches accommodate, leaving the culture to make an
idol of the self.
Six years later, Douthat, a columnist
for this newspaper, has become the
successor to the conservative Catholic
doyen William F. Buckley Jr. (who once
took him sailing — and skinny-dipping
— on Long Island Sound). His ascendance has come at an odd moment: The
right wing dominates politics, but
so-called conservatives have traduced
the ideals that drew him to the movement. Small-government congressmen
have dropped commitments to rein in
federal spending; evangelicals (those
champions of traditional marriage) are
supine in their support of the sexual
predator in the White House. And after
a third of a century in which John Paul
II made the papacy “a rallying point for
resistance to the redefinition of Christianity,” the church is led by a pope who
has no use for the culture-war schema
of resistance and accommodation —
who sees the church called to “go to the
peripheries” rather than strive to restore Christianity as the vital center.
To Douthat, Francis is an accommodationist, and decline has reached the
apex of the church. “This is a hinge
moment in the history of Catholicism,”
he declares, “a period of theological
crisis that’s larger than just the Francis
Ross Douthat argues in his book that Catholicism is in “a period of theological crisis.”
pontificate but whose particular peak
under this pope will be remembered,
studied and argued about for as long
as the Catholic Church endures.”
What immediately follows is an
adroit, perceptive, gripping account of
Catholic controversializing. Douthat
sets out the liberal and conservative
“master narratives” about the Second
Vatican Council and then offers a third
narrative that deftly blends the two.
He sketches the life and times of the
future pope, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the
Argentine Jesuit archbishop of Buenos
Aires. There’s commentary on past
controversies and a brief history of
Catholic teaching on marriage, from
Matthew 19 (“What God has joined, let
not man put asunder”) to Humanae
Vitae, the 1968 encyclical in which
Pope Paul VI upheld the ban on artificial birth control.
It’s strong stuff, conversationally
lively and expressive. Apt on-the-spot
paraphrase abounds: “In his famous
in-flight news conference coming back
from Rio” Francis “seemed to indicate
an interest in the remarriage issue,
offering a positive-seeming mention of
Eastern Orthodoxy’s practice on divorce. . . . But the furor over gay
priests and ‘Who am I to judge?’ overshadowed these remarks.”
And then, as Douthat reaches what
he sees as the heart of the matter —
the Vatican synods on marriage and
the family in 2014 and 2015 — his culture-warrior tendencies stir fully to
life. He casts the synods as a battle:
warring factions, attacks and frontal
assaults, purges and collaborators.
Francis’ openness to the German
cardinal Walter Kasper’s proposal to
relax the ban on divorced-and-remarried people in Germany receiving
Communion at Mass is framed as a
liberal pope’s “crusade to change the
church.” Although Francis has invited
free discussion more than any previous
pope, his efforts to shape the synod’s
Paul Elie is the author of “The Life You
Save May Be Your Own” and “Reinventing Bach.”
20 | THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2018
In Basque country, cider house rules
There’s a ritual involved
in pouring a glass correctly
— and the result is worth it
No one really tells you what to do when
you first arrive at a sagardotegi, or traditional Basque cider house, especially
if you don’t speak Basque. You’re simply
given a glass, led to one of the long
wooden tables in a vast room and immediately served a plate of chorizo, followed by a cod omelet. It’s left up to you
to figure out how to get a drink.
My brother, Tyler, and I learned this
on our first night in Astigarraga, 15 minutes southeast of San Sebastián, which
happens to be the cider capital of Spanish Basque Country. In this town of just
under 6,000 people, there are an astonishing 19 cider houses. We were spending several days here in late January, at
the start of the traditional cider season
that runs through April.
At Garziategi, a sagardotegi in a big
stone barn on the outskirts of town, we
learned that when a guy with a bucket
yells “txotx!” (pronounced “CHOACH”)
that means he’s about to open the tap on
one of dozens of huge 13,000-liter barrels, shooting out a thin stream of cider.
You’re supposed to stand up from your
meal, get in line, and hold your glass at
just the right angle to catch a few fingers
of cider from that hissing stream. You
drink the small amount in your glass
and then follow the cider maker to the
next barrel.
Thinking it was a free for all, I made
my first faux pas in coming at the
stream from the wrong side and essentially butting in line. Then, I couldn’t
quite figure out how to hold my glass so
that the cider hit at the right angle, to
“break” the liquid and create foam.
Thankfully, the crowd at the Basque cider house was very forgiving. A kind
white-haired man in a sweater, whose
group was eating next to us, showed me
the ropes, hopping up and waving me
along with him at the next shout of “txotx!”
We eventually learned on our cider
house tour that advice was forthcoming
if you sought it out. At a modern cider
house in the town center, called Zapiain,
a hand-painted mural of “don’ts” was on
the wall: Don’t cut in line; don’t fill your
glass all the way up; don’t sit on the barrels. Tyler grasped the technique much
more quickly than I did.
“Here, take it here, at an angle,” said
Igor, our tour guide at Petritegi, another
sagardotegi just down the road from
Garziategi (the suffix “tegi” means
“place of”). I did as Igor said, allowing
the stream to hit the very rim of my
glass, spraying a little bit on the floor,
just as the locals do. (I got the hang of it
on my fourth glass.) Some older sagardotegi actually have worn grooves in the
cement floors from years of streaming
cider. The point, Igór told us, was to
make sure the cider has good txinparta,
or foam; if the cider is healthy, that foam
should dissipate quickly. The cider in the
glass disappears quickly, too. The flavors are funky, crisp and acidic, and usually bone dry.
In late January, Astigarraga was still
relatively mellow. But as txotx season
rolls on, more than 15,000 cider enthusiasts can crowd into the town’s cider
houses each weekend. Txotx season follows the apple harvest of September
and October, then fermentation of the cider in early winter. In late January, some
of the barrels might not be fully finished
fermenting. “The cider in the barrel is
still evolving,” Igor said. “If you come
back in two months and taste the same
barrel, it will have evolved.” In Basque
Country, most cider is made by spontaneous fermentation and with no added
commercial yeast. Once the season ends
in April, whatever is left in the barrel is
The annual ritual harkens back to an
era when cider makers would invite clients, perhaps innkeepers, restaurateurs
or the famed gastronomic societies of
Lunch is paired with cider tastings at Petritegi, a sagardotegi, or traditional Basque cider house, in Astigarraga, Spain.
San Sebastián, to taste and choose
which casks they wanted to purchase.
“Here, cider is not just an alcoholic beverage,” Igor said. “It’s a way of life.” Petritegi, for instance, dates to 1526.
Over the years, a meal became part of
the ritual. Every cider house serves the
same basic menu for 30 euros ($37):
chorizo; cod omelet; roasted cod with
green peppers; thick, medium-rare
chuleta steak; Basque cheese (such as
Idiazabal) served with walnuts and
quince paste. And all the cider you can
drink. The cider house ritual is just one
of many Basque Country cultural touchstones that make this autonomous
coastal region a very different place
than the rest of the Spain.
“Twenty years ago, there wasn’t
chairs,” Igór said. “The food was just
served in the middle of the table.” While
Petritegi did indeed offer chairs — and a
beautiful hake in garlic and oil as an alternative to the cod — we were served
roughly the same menu in all seven cider houses we visited, and we stood and
ate in three of them.
In Astigarraga, we took a lovely, steep
and tiring hike up to an old church that
had been a stop on the ancient Camino
de Santiago pilgrimage. As we wandered past orchards overlooking the bay
of San Sebastián, our guide, Ainize, told
us stories of the Basque golden age. In
the 16th century, Basque ships were
built around the cider barrels, and each
sailor drank up to three liters of cider
per day to fend off scurvy. The result, according to lore, was that the Basque fishermen and whale hunters were the
healthiest and most renowned on the
sea, fishing far from home waters. Their
range was so famous that, only two
years ago, the remote West Fjords of
Iceland repealed a 400-year-old law that
ordered the murder of any Basque visitor on sight.
“The 16th century was the golden age
of cider, but cider making is much older
than that,” Ainize said. “The original
meaning of txotx, in our language, is ‘to
speak’. Now it’s an invitation to drink cider.”
As we descended back into the town
square, Ainize pointed out the local pelota court, where a traditional handball
game is played. Many believe this sport
originated with the ancient Greeks. We
also saw huge stones with handles that
are used for lifting and carrying in yet
another Basque sport. The day before,
we’d drank cider with a woman named
Olatz who told us, “I carry a stone of 550
kilos with eight women.” She added,
with a laugh: “We have our own sports
At Petritegi, Igor took us through the
orchards where we learned about
Basque varieties of apples like
Goikoetxe, Moko, Txalaka, Gezamina
and Urtebi. A Basque cider can be made
from more than 100 varieties — some
bitter, some acidic, some sweet — and 40
to 50 might be blended in single cider.
We were told that one kilogram of apples, about 2.2 pounds, will make one
bottle. We were also told by a number of
people that apples are sometimes
trucked in from Normandy or Galicia to
keep up with demand.
In the town center, Sidería Bereziartua operates a tasting room, and so we
booked a tasting. “Cider is deep in our
culture,” said Mikel, our pourer. “We
don’t even know when we started making it.” Ciders using the official denomination of origin, Euskal Sagardoa, created in 2016, must be made entirely from
Basque apples. When he poured
Bereziartua’s Euskal Sagardoa, Mikel
said, “If you want to take one bottle,
drink this one.” Then he poured a cider
with a Gorenak label, one that can use
foreign apples in the blend — but must
adhere to strict standards and be approved by official tasters. “If you want to
drink three bottles, you take this one,” he
said. Buying bottles at the cider houses
in Basque Country is relatively inexpensive. I never saw one priced above €10 ,
and most were under €5.
On our last evening, we went to
Lizeaga, a sagardotegi in a 16th-century
farmhouse that’s next to Garziategi.
Earlier, our stone-carrying friend Olatz
had described the house as “the real tx-
otx.” Our reservation at one of the long
table was marked with a long baguette.
There were no chairs. After the opening
plate of chorizo, we strolled into the barrel room. Gabriel, the cider maker, was
opening the ancient taps with what
looked like pliers. Gabriel went from
cask to cask, and we followed along,
dashing back into the dining room for
the omelet, the cod, the steak.
After the eighth or ninth (or 10th?) txotx, and after some debating of technique with my brother, I thought I had
finally gotten the catch down like a true
President and Eloise W. Martin
Art Institute of Chicago
Founding Partner
Avid Partners, LLC
C.E.O. and Wallis Annenberg
Los Angeles County Museum
of Art
Executive Vice President and
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Lévy Gorvy
Basque. But on the next txotx, when I
put my glass under the stream, Gabriel
gently corrected my form: “No, no,” he
said, “have the cider hit here.” Well, no
matter. Soon enough he tapped another
barrel, and there was another chance to
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Zapiain, a modern cider house in the town center, has a mural listing the ‘‘don’ts’’ when it comes to enjoying cider.
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