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International New York Times - 07 May 2018

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Legal hopes
as Irish shift
on abortion
the shadowy
empire of
Trump’s fixer
Susan McKay
Dealings included taxis
and real estate; many had
ties to former Soviet bloc
DUBLIN In 1983 the Irish people voted
to give a fertilized egg the same right
to life as the woman who carries it.
Feminists tried to stop it. We argued
that crisis pregnancies were a reality
of women’s lives and that we needed
the right to choose how to deal with
them. We said that the constitutional
amendment on the ballot, which made
abortion illegal unless the mother’s life
is in danger, would harm women. We
marched and chanted “Get your rosaries off our ovaries.” A Catholic bishop
pronounced that the most dangerous
place for a baby was in a woman’s
We lost, overwhelmingly. But Ireland
has changed. On May 25, the Irish
people will vote on whether to repeal
the Eighth Amendment. This time I
think we can win.
Contraception had
“Once the
not long been legalCatholic
ized in Ireland in
1983. There was no
loses on this
divorce. The Roman
campaign it
Catholic Church was
has lost
enormously powerful. I was working at
a rape crisis center
in Belfast, in Nothern Ireland, and six
of us packed into a Mini and crossed
the border into the republic to take
part in the campaign against the
amendment. In Donegal, the most
northern county in the Republic, we
handed out a poster featuring a drawing by the artist Käthe Kollwitz, of a
mother pulled every which way by her
needy children. “It’s life that needs
amending, not the constitution,” it said.
A boy hissed at us that we should be
raped and made pregnant. Our posters
were flung to the ground.
In Carndonagh, a small town in
Donegal with a steep main street dominated by a large Catholic church, two
nuns took down our poster and told us
to go back to where we came from.
Donegal had one of the highest majorities for the amendment in the country.
Soon after the vote, a 15-year-old girl
gave birth and died along with her
baby boy in a grotto for the Blessed
Virgin in a rural town. No one admitted
knowing she was pregnant. In 1992 the
authorities tried to stop a suicidal
14-year-old girl who was pregnant as a
result of rape from traveling to England for an abortion. After that, the
amendment was changed to allow
“right to travel” and to obtain information. In 2012, a dentist named Savita
Halappanavar was refused an abortion
in a Galway hospital during a miscarMCKAY, PAGE 8
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
A checkup camp in Pondicherry, India, organized by Aravind Eye Hospital. Aravind dispenses 600,000 pairs of glasses each year in India.
Easy cure for a billion problems
Other health needs get
more attention, but many
people lack eyeglasses
Shivam Kumar’s failing eyesight was
manageable at first. To see the chalkboard better, the 12-year-old moved to
the front of the classroom, but in time,
the indignities piled up.
Increasingly blurry vision forced him
to give up flying kites and then cricket,
after he was repeatedly whacked by
balls he could no longer see. The constant squinting gave him headaches,
and he came to dread walking home
from school.
“Sometimes I don’t see a motorbike
until it’s almost in my face,” he said.
As his grades flagged, so did his
dreams of becoming a pilot. “You can’t
fly a plane if you’re blind,” he noted
The fix for Shivam’s declining vision,
it turns out, was remarkably simple.
He needed glasses.
More than a billion people around the
world need eyeglasses but don’t have
them, researchers say, an affliction long
overlooked on lists of public health pri-
Hopeful eye patients in Cheyyar village, Pondicherry. The W.H.O. says untreated vision problems inhibit global productivity.
orities. Some estimates put that figure
closer to 2.5 billion people. They include
thousands of nearsighted Nigerian
truck drivers who strain to see pedestrians darting across the road and middleaged coffee farmers in Bolivia whose inability to see objects up close makes it
hard to spot beans that are ready for
Then there are the tens of millions of
children like Shivam across the world
whose families cannot afford an eye
exam or the prescription eyeglasses
that would help them excel in school.
“Many of these kids are classified as
poor learners or just dumb and therefore don’t progress at school,” said Kovin
Naidoo, global director of Our Children’s
Vision, an organization that provides
free or inexpensive eyeglasses across
Images that reflect life on the streets of Paris
Retrospective explores
Willy Ronis, a French
humanist photographer
“The Lovers of the Bastille,” 1957, by Willy Ronis. An exhibit of his work, the first major
retrospective since his death in 2009, is at the Pavillon Carré de Baudouin in Paris.
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +#!"!?!=!;
Africa. “That just adds another hurdle to
countries struggling to break the cycle
of poverty.”
In an era when millions of people still
perish from preventable or treatable illness, many major donors devote their
largess to combating killers like AIDS,
malaria and tuberculosis. In 2015, only
$37 million was spent on delivering eye-
He was a personal-injury lawyer who often worked out of taxi offices scattered
around New York City. And then there
was his office on the 26th floor of Trump
Tower, right next to the one belonging to
Donald J. Trump.
Before he joined the Trump Organization and became President Trump’s lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen was a
hard-edge personal-injury attorney and
businessman. Now a significant portion
of his quarter-century business record
is under the microscope of federal prosecutors.
Mr. Cohen’s businesses are private
entities, making it difficult to get a full
picture of their finances and operations.
But a New York Times review of thousands of pages of public records, and interviews with bankers, lawyers and
businessmen who have interacted with
Mr. Cohen, reveal the degree to which he
has often operated in the backwaters of
the financial and legal worlds.
While he has not been charged with a
crime, many of his associates have faced
either criminal charges or stiff regulatory penalties. Mr. Cohen has spent
much of his personal and professional
life with immigrants from Russia and
Ukraine. His father-in-law, who helped
establish him in the taxi business, was
born in Ukraine, as was one of Mr. Cohen’s partners in that industry. Another
partner was Russian. And Mr. Cohen
used his connections in the region when
scouting business opportunities for Mr.
Trump in former Soviet republics.
More recently, Mr. Cohen and his father-in-law lent more than $25 million to
a Ukrainian businessman who has a
checkered financial record and a history
of defaulting on loans. And Mr. Cohen
long held a small stake in his uncle’s catering hall, which was frequented by
Russian and Italian mobsters.
In addition to his legal and taxi businesses, Mr. Cohen has had a seemingly
charmed touch as a real estate investor.
On one day in 2014, he sold four buildings in Manhattan for $32 million, nearly
three times what he had paid for them
no more than three years earlier.
“This is the type of person you’d see
most bankers steer clear of,” said Ben
Berzin, a retired executive vice president at PNC Bank who clashed with Mr.
Trump in the early 1990s over loans to
the future president’s troubled Atlantic
City casinos. The speed with which Mr.
Cohen successfully flipped real estate
stands out, Berzin said. “You have to ask
what’s going on.”
Robert Mueller, the special counsel in-
Until his death in 2009 at age 99, the
French photographer Willy Ronis was
listed in the phone book. Anyone could
call him, and the door of his modest
apartment in a quiet part of the workingclass 20th Arrondissement of Paris was
open to all: young photographers, admirers and strangers who recognized
themselves in his pictures. The man
who addressed everyone with the informal French “tu” was one of the last humanist photographers of the Paris
school, alongside Robert Doisneau,
Henri Cartier-Bresson and Sabine
The first major retrospective of his
work in 10 years, and the first since his
death, opened last month at the Pavillon
Carré de Baudouin in the BellevilleMénilmontant area of the 20th Arrondissement. And it is keeping Ronis’s
generosity alive: Entrance is free.
Ronis, the son of Jewish immigrants
from Eastern Europe, had dreamed of
becoming a composer. But the early
death of his father, who ran a photography store and portrait studio, meant he
had to start working to feed the family.
In 1936, tired of spending his days in
the family store, he decided to take his
camera into the streets of Paris. He did
his first photo-reportage on July 14 —
Bastille Day — after the Popular Front,
an alliance of leftist parties, won the
French general election. The young Ronis felt a communion of spirit with the
people of Paris, and with the Communist
Party, of which he became a member for
20 years.
The mass protests of May 1968
changed French culture and society
over the course of a few weeks. PAGE 4
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Issue Number
No. 42,034
MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018 | 5
Crucial swing voters are in play again
Will Obama supporters
who went for Trump turn
back to the Democrats?
In the daily race that is her life, Sharla
Baker does not think about politics very
She rises early, drives to the gas station to buy coffee, feeds her baby,
dresses her two other children, ages 3
and 2, and hustles them all off to day
care. By 9:30 a.m. she pulls into a hair
salon 45 minutes away, where she is
training to be a cosmetologist. She
waxes and cuts all day long, making
only the money she earns in tips, which
on a recent day last month was $8.41.
But Ms. Baker does vote. She picked
Barack Obama for president in 2008 and
2012. He seemed sincere and looked like
a happy family man. But most important, he was a Democrat. Her greatgrandmother, who grew up poor in
Pennsylvania, always said that Democrats look out for the poor people.
In 2016, though, she voted for Donald
J. Trump. Yes, he was rich and seemed
mean on his TV show, “The Apprentice.”
But she liked how he talked about jobs
and wages and people being left out of
the economy.
Now, more than a year later, she is wavering.
“I voted for Trump because I wanted
some change going on,” said Ms. Baker,
28. “But then again, maybe he’s going to
do the wrong change.”
The swing of Obama voters to Mr.
Trump proved a decisive factor in the
2016 presidential election. Of the more
than 650 counties that chose Mr. Obama
twice, about a third flipped to Mr.
Trump. Many were in states critical to
Mr. Trump’s win, like Iowa, Michigan,
Ohio and Wisconsin.
John Sides, a political science professor at George Washington University,
has estimated that 9 percent of voters
who had cast ballots for Mr. Obama
ended up voting for Mr. Trump. Among
white voters who had never been to college, it was 22 percent.
Now, as the country lurches into another election season — this time the
prize is control of Congress — a crucial
question for Democrats is whether they
will be able to lure these voters back.
The party has had some early successes. Wins in Alabama, Pennsylvania
and Virginia have given Democrats
hope that voters might be souring on Mr.
Trump — to the point that the party
might flip control of the House and possibly even the Senate. This week’s primary races in Ohio and West Virginia,
both states that went for Mr. Trump in
2016, will also serve as tests of voter enthusiasm for Democrats.
We recently asked people who cast
ballots for both Mr. Obama and Mr.
Trump to describe how they felt about
the president and the Democratic Party
ahead of the midterms. In interviews
with 38 voters in 14 states across four
months, a clear pattern emerged. Voters
said they did not like Mr. Trump as a person and did not consider themselves diehard supporters. Some were even embarrassed by him.
But many were basically satisfied
with his policies. The tax bill was mildly
positive, they said. Several had a bit of
extra money in their paycheck. They
liked that he was trying to address illegal immigration. Only a few regretted
their vote.
Voters said they still liked Mr. Obama
and that they voted for Mr. Trump because they didn’t want to cast a ballot for
Hillary Clinton. But they were still open
to voting for Democrats — if the party
could come up with the right candidates.
For the most part, the midterm elections
were not yet on their radars.
“Honestly, it hasn’t crossed my mind
really at all,” Ms. Baker said, when
asked about them.
Several voters said they chose Mr.
Trump for the same reason they chose
Mr. Obama: a deep craving for change
and disgust with both political parties.
Charlotte Griffin, the mayor of Bear
Grass, N.C., a town of about 80 people in
the eastern part of the state, said her
vote for Mr. Trump had been more an act
of desperation than a positive political
choice. She had grown furious with the
national political class — and what she
saw as its wealth, ignorance of ordinary
people’s lives and inability to get anything done. It was the first time she’d
chosen a Republican in 50 years of voting. Her county flipped to Mr. Trump after choosing Mr. Obama twice.
“Did I really like Trump? No. I still
don’t,” Ms. Griffin said in January. “But
Sharla Baker, 28, voted for President Trump because she wanted change. Now she wonders if he’s “going to do the wrong change.”
Midterm primary races in states
that backed President Trump in
2016 will serve as tests of voter
enthusiasm for Democrats.
at least I thought we might move. We
were in a stalemate. We were at dead
center zero. We were just sitting there
spinning our wheels.”
In January, Mr. Trump was defending
himself after an uproar over vulgar
comments he was said to have made at a
closed-door immigration meeting.
When asked again in April how she felt,
Ms. Griffin said Mr. Trump was still “severely testing my sensibilities.”
She said she planned to vote for the
same Democrat, G.K. Butterfield, who
has been her congressional representative since 2004.
“It’s a variable wind situation,” she
said by phone, referring to the country.
“One day it seems to be going this way,
and then all of a sudden it’s going the
other way.”
Counties like Ms. Griffin’s that flipped
from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump have lost
ground to the rest of the nation, even
more so than the counties that have
been solidly Republican. Forty years
ago, workers in the flip counties earned
85 cents for every dollar earned by
workers in the Democratic strongholds.
By 2016, the ratio had fallen to 77 cents.
Ms. Baker works at a hair salon in
Stark County, Ohio, which flipped to Mr.
Trump after choosing Mr. Obama twice,
and she said the president was an economic disappointment.
“He’s not there for the poor and the
middle class,” she said, sitting on her
mother’s couch in the small town of
Rittman. “I thought he would be, but he’s
Ms. Baker has worked many jobs
since graduating from high school in
2007 — at a Bob Evans restaurant, an
Aldi supermarket, a Subway sandwich
shop, a packaging plant for camera
memory chips and a frame store. All
paid badly. She didn’t have health care
or 401(k) retirement benefits with any of
Ms. Baker hated making minimum
wage, and how powerless it made her
feel, so she enrolled in beauty school to
get more control over her life.
She had hoped Mr. Trump would raise
wages and force companies to give all
their employees benefits. But that
hasn’t happened.
All she hears now is harsh talk by Republicans on TV about poor people:
How people who get food stamps are
lazy. How they should be given boxes of
food instead of money.
Ms. Baker knows there is another
election this year, but like most people
interviewed for this article, she said she
had not looked up the candidates yet.
She was not sure if she would vote.
Many people interviewed went out of
their way to say they did not consider
themselves Trump supporters.
Donna Burgraff, a registered independent in Chillicothe, in southern Ohio,
said she finds Mr. Trump boorish. She
said that he judges women on their looks
and seems to thrive on embarrassing
people, behavior that Ms. Burgraff, an
associate professor of education at Ohio
University, disapproves of.
Ms. Burgraff did not like the way Mr.
Trump kept falsely asserting that Mr.
Obama was not born in the United
“How could that have been anything
but racism?” she said.
Still, on Election Day 2016, Ms. Burgraff voted for Mr. Trump, if reluctantly.
She believed he was the better choice.
And looking back she does not regret it.
The tax bill has given her an extra $400 a
month in her paycheck.
“I pulled the lever for Trump, and I’m
not sorry I did,” she said over lunch in
Chillicothe in March. She said she
planned to vote this fall for her Republican congressman, Brad Wenstrup.
But others regretted voting for Mr.
Trump and are less certain how they will
vote this fall.
Brad Zeigler, 68, a retired police chief
in Warren County, Ill., said he has not
liked anything Mr. Trump has done.
“I thought maybe he’ll listen to his advisers and they’ll contain him,” said Mr.
Zeigler, who, like his county, voted for
Mr. Obama twice before choosing Mr.
Trump. “But that hasn’t happened.”
He said he is furious at himself for
having voted for Mr. Trump and is open
to voting for Democrats this fall, even
though the party no longer really speaks
to him.
“I’m concerned about our environment,” he said. “I’m concerned about
people’s rights. I sound like a far-left
person and I’m not!”
Instead, Mr. Zeigler said he feels politically homeless.
“The Republicans are about money
and big business and the Democrats
have lost their way. They are not taking
care of that core group they know is out
An ancient horse unearthed
Landscaping in Utah
uncovers a skeleton
that’s 16,000 years old
The horse had arthritis when it died. It is
possible, too, that it had bone cancer in
one ankle.
That can happen to any horse once it
gets to be a certain age. This one is
nearly 16,000 years old.
Paleontologists last month identified
the skeleton of a horse from the ice age
in Lehi, Utah — a particularly unusual
discovery, given that much of the western part of the state was under water until about 14,000 years ago. Buried for
thousands of years beneath seven feet
of sandy clay, the remains were discovered only when the Hill family began
moving dirt around their backyard to
build a retaining wall and plant some
Laura Hill said she and her husband,
Bridger, uncovered the skeleton last
September, but didn’t think much of it at
first. They wondered if it was a cow;
Lehi was once mostly farmland that
hugged the edges of nearby Utah Lake.
She consulted a neighbor, a geology professor at Brigham Young University in
Provo, about 15 miles away, who examined the bones, and guessed they were
from a horse from the Pleistocene Era.
“I was shocked,” Ms. Hill said. “This is
something we did not expect.”
Utah is home to several fossil sites
where dinosaurs have been discovered,
as well as ice age animals like mammoths, mastodons and saber-toothed tigers. Horses have roamed North America for 50 million years, said Ross
MacPhee, a curator in the department of
mammalogy at the American Museum
of Natural History. During the Pleistocene Era, the continent was dominated by two kinds of horses, he said,
adding that he believes today’s domesticated horses are linked to one of those
breeds. Despite harsh conditions, Mr.
MacPhee said, “those horses could live
Rick Hunter, a paleontologist at the
Museum of Ancient Life, a short drive
from the Hill home, said Ms. Hill approached him last month to investigate
the family’s discovery.
“She came in and said, “I found a skeleton in the backyard and I don’t know
what to do,’” Mr. Hunter recalled. “I replied, ‘I do.’” Then he and a team from
the museum’s lab, where they study dinosaur fossils, went to her home.
The skeleton was missing its head,
but was otherwise intact. Mr. Hunter estimated the horse to be the size of a Shetland pony; it was found lying on its left
side, with all four legs tucked near its
Parts of the skeleton were damaged
from exposure to weather. Curious on-
Haringtonhippus francisci, top, a horse
species found in North America during
the last ice age. Above, the Utah skeleton.
Utah is home to several fossil
sites where the bones of animals
dating to the dinosaur era have
been discovered.
lookers had picked at the ribs and other
Mr. Hunter did not know how the animal died, but he has a theory. Utah was
covered during the last ice age by Lake
Bonneville, a prehistoric lake. (The
Great Salt Lake as it exists is a remnant
of Lake Bonneville.)
Perhaps the horse was trying to escape from a predator and ran into the
lake, Mr. Hunter surmised. “Horses can
swim,” he said. “Maybe it got trapped
out there, drowned and sank to the bottom.”
Mr. Hunter said he and his team visited the site at the Hill home for two days
to excavate the remains. The bones
were uncovered in a sandbank seven
feet below the surface. “This is not uncommon,” the paleontologist said. Still,
there was the question of what happened to the head.
He broadened the search to 50 feet beyond the original site. In the expanded
area the group found bone fragments,
molars and small pieces of the skull.
Mystery solved: The skull had been
shattered and moved when the landscaper cleared the land.
The skeleton was taken back to the
museum, where it will be cataloged, preserved and repaired. Unlike dinosaur
bones, the horse’s bones were dehydrated and not yet fossils. Fossilized minerals in bone turn to stone, but the horse
was not old enough for that to have happened. That posed a problem for Mr.
Hunter’s team. “If they dry too quickly,
they will crack,” he said. “You have to
cure them slowly.”
Mr. Hunter also hopes to pin down the
horse’s age with greater precision. The
current estimate of 14,000 to 16,000
years is the team’s best guess until it can
be studied further. Once the skeleton is
reassembled, Mr. Hunter said, he would
like it to become a permanent exhibit at
the Museum of Ancient Life. Mr.
MacPhee of the American Museum of
Natural History concurred.
“It’s important that it ends up in an institution somewhere,” he said.
Ms. Hill said she and her husband
were not sure what they were going to
do yet. She said neighbors had flocked to
the backyard to see the oddity before it
was removed, and family members
were advising the couple to have the
skeleton appraised. (They are hoping to
get a tax deduction if they donate it.) “It
would be nice to have it here at the museum,” Ms. Hill said. “Mr. Hunter does
want us to donate it.”
When Mr. Hunter visited last month
he brought a volunteer who talked to the
neighborhood children about Lake Bonneville, ancient animals and, of course,
the horse in the backyard. Mr. Hunter
said he would name it “Hill Horse” in
honor of the family that found it.
Ms. Hill was pleased. “Now all these
little kids want to be paleontologists,”
she said with a laugh.
Tel: +44 (0)20 7290 1536
MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018 | 11
A brief life on the run in Bitcoin heist
Suspect who was detained
for questioning walked
away from Iceland prison
It has been more than four months since
thieves pulled off the biggest heist in the
history of Iceland, and the police here
still have no idea where the booty —
roughly $2 million worth of Bitcoin-mining computers — is stashed.
A breakthrough in the case seemed
imminent in early February when the
authorities detained Sindri Stefansson,
a 31-year-old man with a rap sheet that
includes drug possession and burglary.
Even though he hadn’t been charged, let
alone convicted, the news media tagged
him the “mastermind” of the crime,
largely because he was held in prison for
the longest of any of the 11 suspects who
were questioned.
Then, like the computers, Mr. Stefansson disappeared. For the next five days
he was an international fugitive. After
escaping from the prison — a feat that
took surprisingly little effort, given the
institution’s bare-minimum approach to
security — he hopped a taxi to the country’s largest airport, where he boarded
an early-morning flight to Stockholm. In
a twist that seems borrowed from a
cheesy caper film, the plane also carried
Katrin Jakobsdottir, the prime minister
of Iceland.
“We did not chat,” Mr. Stefansson
said, calling from a prison near Amsterdam in his first interview since he was
arrested two weeks ago in the Netherlands. Speaking by phone in a gloomy
monotone, he said he had worn a baseball cap and avoided the gaze of everyone on the plane. “I kept my head down
as much as I could.”
After the recent series of cryptocurrency-related crimes, many of them
gunpoint stickups of people forced to
empty their virtual wallets, a theft like
this seemed all but inevitable. And Iceland is one of the world’s premier venues for mining operators, who are
drawn to the country’s cheap electricity
Sindri Stefansson escaped from a low-security Icelandic prison, Sogn, where inmates have their own rooms and can talk on their cellphones.
and chilly weather, which helps keep
computers cool.
Mr. Stefansson would not discuss
what the media has named the Big Bitcoin Heist. Instead, he focused on his regret for having fled, a decision that, he
said, he rued as soon as he landed in
Sweden and realized that his mug shot
was all over the media.
“I did not eat and had a constant knot
in the pit of my stomach,” he said. “I was
disappointed in myself for making my
family suffer and nervous about being
Detectives in Reykjavik, the capital of
Iceland, would like to have a conversation of their own with Mr. Stefansson,
and they will get the opportunity, now
that he has returned to Iceland, having
been extradited on Friday. He returned
to a country riveted by his case. Calls
have poured into a tip line with theories
about where the computers are stored
and, until recently, where Mr. Stefansson might be found.
“I can tell you the Icelandic public has
been very interested,” Olafur Kjartansson, the lead police investigator, said in
an interview. “I’m sitting in the public
hot baths and friends, and colleagues
will say to me, ‘Did you find him?’”
The theft suggests that security at
some of Iceland’s Bitcoin mining operations has yet to catch up to the value of
the commodity, now trading at around
$9,600 apiece. If the warehouse that was
robbed were digging for gold instead of
running an algorithm in a quest for
cryptocurrency, odds are that the crime
would have been far trickier to pull off.
Then again, this is Iceland, a place
that seems to presume its citizens will
abide by the law. An astonishing amount
of social trust is embedded in society, a
phenomenon that is especially evident
in the country’s penal system.
Mr. Stefansson had been kept at Sogn,
which is known as an open prison. Inmates live in their own rooms, which
have flat-screen TVs, and talk on their
own cellphones. Inmates earn the equivalent of $4 an hour cooking, cleaning and
maintaining a chicken coop.
“It’s a friendly atmosphere,” said
Gudmundur Thoroddsson, a prisoner
advocate who was recently released
from Sogn. “There’s a good relationship
with the guards. Never any fighting or
The prison is at the foot of a treeless
hill and looks more like a rural two-story
home than a penitentiary. During a recent visit, the entrance road was
blocked by the sort of gate used by payby-the-hour parking garages. The property, which includes a soccer field, is surrounded by wire fencing a few feet high.
Mr. Stefansson wouldn’t have needed
a running start to jump it. The night he
bolted, he started browsing for international flights on his cellphone at about 11,
he said in the interview. After booking
one under an assumed name, he opened
his window and left. He claims that he
walked a mile to Route 1, the road that
rings the island, and hitchhiked 59 miles
to Keflavik, a town near the airport.
(The police maintain that an accomplice
drove him.) From there, he called a cab.
Once in Stockholm, he traveled via
train, taxi and ferry to Germany
through Denmark. There he met “individuals” who drove him to Amsterdam.
He enjoyed just three hours of freedom
in the Dutch capital. The local authorities had been quickly tipped off by two
pedestrians with a cellphone photograph of a person they believed was the
much-publicized wanted man. Soon after, an officer approached Mr. Stefansson and demanded identification.
“I was just walking when it happened,” he said.
The police in Iceland have said little
about any evidence they have linking
Mr. Stefansson to the computer theft. It
was actually three separate thefts over
His brand is uproar
Adidas stands by rapper
after he predictably brings
critics on internet to a boil
The petition is up and the Twitterati are
awake. Adidas has become the latest apparel brand to come under fire for what
a celebrity collaborator said, after
Kanye West gave an interview to the celebrity news website TMZ in which he
said he thought 400 years of slavery
“sounds like a choice.”
The internet clutched its collective bosom and began to roar.
He tried to walk it back last week, or at
least to explain on social media what he
had really meant, but the damage had
been done. Amid the torrent of words
and controversial statements that have
spewed forth from the volcano of his
mouth and mind recently — and there
have been a lot, starting with the Trumplove — this was the part that the self-appointed consumer watchdogs of the digital world could not countenance.
Across the expanse of social media,
the online world made its displeasure
known, just as it had done over H&M’s
monkey hoodie, the Fox News host
Laura Ingraham’s criticism of a survivor of a school shooting, or a video by
PewDiePie, a YouTube star, who posted
videos featuring anti-Semitic imagery.
But this time around, Adidas hasn’t
done what pretty much every other big
brand has done until now: apologize and
cut off the offending limb. Or at least it
hasn’t yet.
How come?
Kasper Rorsted, the brand’s chief executive, has repeatedly said that while
he doesn’t support Mr. West’s comments, they are Mr. West’s comments,
and though Adidas’s position on human
rights was public and firm (and not in
alignment with Mr. West’s statement),
he was not going to comment further on
Mr. West. Mr. Rorsted also went on to acknowledge that Mr. West, along with
other Adidas collaborators such as
Pharrell Williams and Stella McCartney,
was a big help in the brand’s comeback
in the United States.
Maybe that’s part of it. And maybe
Adidas, not being an American company, does not understand the freighted,
painful nature of Mr. West’s remarks
(though presumably their local team
does). But I would guess there’s something else going on, too.
Think about it: Could Adidas really
not have anticipated the likelihood of
something like this happening when
they signed Mr. West in 2013?
Not, to be sure, the slavery comments
exactly — but something that would upset or alienate a large chunk of the con-
Kanye West at a fashion event in New York in 2016. The chief executive of Adidas has
said Mr. West’s comments are his own, and the brand doesn’t agree with them.
sumer population, something that
would be so offensive to a meaningful
group of people that it would become a
debating point across the public conversation?
He’s endlessly saying the things other
people could never even imagine thinking. You never really know what bizarro
thing is going to come out of his mouth
(or fingers) next. It is the bedrock on
which part of his reputation rests. It’s
not a secret. It’s addictive.
That's what Mr. West does: He goes
too far.
Unlike, say, such celebrities-thatwent-wrong as the swimmer Ryan
Lochte, who was dropped by Speedo
and Polo Ralph Lauren after admitting
he had lied about being robbed during
Kanye West tried to walk back
derided comments on slavery.
the Rio Olympics, or the tennis star Maria Sharapova, whose deals with Nike
and Porsche were suspended after she
failed a drug test (they later renewed
their agreements), Mr. West never pretended to be other than what he was:
someone who could not, as he posted online recently, be “managed.”
Adidas couldn’t argue — none of us
can — that it had been suckered into
thinking he stood for a politically correct, modern moralistic approach to the
world. This is not to defend or excuse
what he said; it was reprehensible. But
it was also, at an abstract level, in character.
When Adidas hired Mr. West, after all,
he had already jumped onstage at the
2009 MTV video awards to announce
that Taylor Swift did not deserve the
“Best Female Video” award, and it
should have gone to Beyoncé. He was
engaged in something of a public war
with his previous sneaker partner, Nike
(he eventually wrote a song about it).
He wasn’t crocheting lace doilies for the
Unlike his music, there’s nothing
groundbreaking or industry-shifting
about Mr. West’s apparel or his footwear.
They don’t stand on their own. The content of the clothing is him. His ego — the
one that allowed him to have a fashion
show in Madison Square Garden in New
York and claim he should be designing
for Hermès — and his messianic sense
of self fills the product with meaning for
his consumers.
And they buy it in sellout numbers.
He’s right about that.
It would be hypocritical if Adidas
were to drop him now, especially at a
time when another out-of-control Tweeter is setting the national agenda. Dropping him might in the end do more damage to the company’s reputation than its
giving in to public pressure.
It’s possible this position could shift;
it’s possible Mr. West could double down
to such an extent that it would be untenable for the relationship to continue.
And Adidas has punished him a little:
Contrary to Mr. West’s claims that he is
the biggest thing to hit the sneaker market since man was created, Mr. Rorsted
told CNBC that the Yeezy brand had
been important to Adidas, but it was “a
small part” of the $25 billion company.
Small! That’s got to hurt.
Besides, if consumers really want
Adidas to cut ties with Mr. West, all they
have to do is stop buying the product
and make it an even smaller part. That’s
the real way to effect change in a company that is reliant on purchasing.
But, as of Sunday morning, there
were 17,979 signatures on a “Drop
Kanye” online petition that had set a
goal of 18,000 names. Mr. West has 28.2
million Twitter followers. You do the
Carré H
Time, square like a Hermès scarf.
12 | MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018
The shadowy empire of Trump’s fixer
vestigating Russian interference in the
2016 election, had already been examining Mr. Cohen’s conduct as part of his ongoing inquiry. Last month, federal
agents executed search warrants at Mr.
Cohen’s home, his office and a hotel
room where he was staying. The warrants sought documents related to Mr.
Cohen’s business associates, among
other things.
The president has long entrusted Mr.
Cohen to represent him in matters both
public and deeply private: real estate
negotiations from Fresno, Calif., to the
Republic of Georgia, and the hushmoney payment to an adult-film actress
who said she had had an affair with the
future president. Within the Trump Organization, it was Mr. Cohen’s job to deal
with Mr. Trump’s thorniest problems.
But now, whatever problems investigators find in Mr. Cohen’s own array of
businesses could double back on Mr.
The son of a Holocaust survivor, Mr. Cohen began his professional legal career
at a personal-injury firm in 1992, the
year after he graduated from Cooley
Law School in Michigan. His boss at that
first job would later plead guilty to
Mr. Cohen’s marriage in 1994 gave
him entree to communities of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
His new father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, had emigrated from Ukraine in
1975. By the time of the wedding, Mr.
Shusterman had landed in serious legal
trouble. In 1993, he pleaded guilty to
evading federal reporting requirements
for large cash transactions. Mr. Shusterman cooperated with prosecutors in a
related case and was sentenced to probation.
It was through his wife’s family that
Mr. Cohen would be introduced to the
taxi business. Mr. Shusterman initially
found work as a taxi driver after arriving in the United States. By 1993, he had
accumulated nine taxi medallions, then
worth roughly $1.5 million.
Not long afterward, Mr. Cohen began
building his own taxi business, even as
he was taking on personal-injury work
as a lawyer. He partnered with Symon
Garber, another Ukrainian-born businessman, who was borrowing large
amounts of money to finance taxi businesses in both Russia and the United
Mr. Cohen borrowed from a half-dozen banks and credit unions to buy taxi
medallions. Then he used the medallions as collateral to borrow more
Michael D. Cohen in New York in April. Before working for President Trump, he was a personal-injury attorney and businessman.
money to buy more medallions, former
colleagues said. He quickly amassed 30
medallions, each then worth about
$250,000, but racked up millions in debt.
Together, he and Mr. Garber managed
260 cabs in the late 1990s and early
2000s, some for other owners. Drivers
paid them $100 a shift. Millions of dollars
in cash flowed in.
In 2007, Mr. Cohen started working for
the Trump Organization. While there
are varying accounts of how he met his
new boss, Mr. Trump said Mr. Cohen appeared on his radar after he began buying properties in Trump buildings. For
his part, Mr. Cohen has said the job came
after he helped resolve a board dispute
at one of the Trump buildings where his
family owned several units.
Mr. Cohen became a roving fixer for
Mr. Trump. In his first year on the job, he
and Ivanka Trump examined a potential
golf course development in Fresno,
Calif. A year later, he was named chief
operating officer of Affliction Entertainment, a mixed martial arts venture Mr.
Trump had started.
While juggling his Trump duties, Mr.
Cohen turned over management of his
cabs to Mr. Garber in 2006 and received
as much as $1 million per year, legal
records show. After a falling-out with
Mr. Garber, Mr. Cohen became partners
with Evgeny Freidman, an immigrant
from Russia who had assembled a large
taxi fleet.
Both of Mr. Cohen’s taxi partners had
a history of legal run-ins. Each has been
made to pay more than $1 million for
overcharging their drivers, according to
the New York State attorney general.
Former partners also accused each of
them of forging signatures, stiffing lawyers and dodging debt collection efforts.
After the Chicago authorities found
that Mr. Garber and his taxi businesses
used 180 unauthorized cars as taxis, he
agreed to pay a fine of nearly $1 million.
In 2016, a federal judge found that Mr.
Freidman had transferred more than
$60 million into offshore trusts to avoid
paying debts. In April 2017, New York
City regulators barred him from continuing to manage medallions. He is
awaiting trial in Albany on charges he
failed to pay $5 million in taxes.
From 2009 to 2014, Mr. Cohen — by then
a trusted member of the Trump Organi-
zation — plowed $5.7 million into 22 Chicago taxi medallions, records show.
The investments were ill timed. The
ascent of ride-hailing services like Uber
and Lyft decimated the value of medallions. Since 2014, Mr. Cohen’s companies
have been falling behind on taxes. Over
all, his taxi businesses in New York and
Chicago owe more than $375,000 for a
variety of tax, insurance and inspection
problems, according to records. Fourteen of his 54 cabs were suspended.
But even as the industry has buckled,
Mr. Cohen has continued to use his medallions as collateral. In December 2014,
with his medallions worth $35 million,
he took out loans totaling at least $20
million from Sterling National Bank and
Melrose Credit Union, according to a
banker who reviewed the transactions.
It was unclear what Mr. Cohen has
done with all the money he has borrowed in recent years. But he received
some of the funds around the time he
and his father-in-law, Mr. Shusterman,
lent a combined $26 million to a Ukrainian immigrant and taxi-fleet operator
named Semyon Shtayner, real estate
records show.
Since 2012, Mr. Cohen has lent $6 mil-
lion to Mr. Shtayner, whose family owns
Chicago Medallion Management Corp.,
which manages more than 300 cabs in
that city — including those owned by Mr.
Cohen. The only collateral on the loans
appears to be the Shtayners’ condominium in Miami, purchased in 2009 for
$2.35 million.
Starting in 2000, Mr. Cohen set up a
series of companies in New York City:
two medical practices, an acupuncture
office, two medical billing companies,
two management companies and a
transportation company.
The ventures were created at a time
when countless phony companies were
cropping up to exploit no-fault auto insurance laws. Hundreds of doctors,
businesses owners and others would
eventually be criminally charged or accused of fraud by insurance companies.
The no-fault insurance schemes, often
masterminded by organized crime figures from the former Soviet Union, involved staged or exaggerated car accidents, which generated a tidal wave of
Transportation companies then took
the patients to what in many instances
were sham medical clinics, diagnostic
testing offices, and acupuncture and
physical therapy offices. Billing companies were created to collect money from
insurers, and management companies
siphoned the funds out to the scheme’s
There is no evidence that Mr. Cohen
or the companies he created were part
of such schemes. Nor is there evidence
that Mr. Cohen did anything other than
register the companies with state authorities.
The only people listed in the incorporation papers as having roles in the businesses are the two doctors, Aleksandr
Martirosov and Zhanna Kanevsky, who
were affiliated with a medical practice.
Both of those doctors were accused of insurance fraud in connection with different medical practices they operated.
During his time working at the Trump
Organization, Mr. Cohen became a minor real estate baron in his own right.
From 2011 to 2015, limited liability companies connected to Mr. Cohen purchased at least five buildings in Manhattan, public records show.
Like many of Mr. Cohen’s business
dealings, the transactions were unconventional. His companies would buy a
building, often in cash. Soon after, they
would flip the building in another allcash deal. Mr. Cohen told McClatchy,
which first reported the transactions,
that the sales were in cash to help the
buyers defer taxes in other transactions.
A brief taste
of freedom
in Iceland’s
Bitcoin heist
the course of a few weeks, starting Dec.
5. One occurred at a compound near the
airport, home to a handful of cryptocurrency mining warehouses leased to different companies. The warehouses look
like hangars, though instead of containing jets these are densely packed with
computers, numbered and neatly arranged on shelves. Giant fans hum noisily overhead.
“If you spent a day here, you would
probably go deaf,” shouted Mia Molnar
of Genesis Mining, which is based in
Hong Kong and mines coins for
Ethereum, a Bitcoin rival.
She was giving a tour of Genesis’
warehouse and later, in a far quieter
room, offered her best shot at explaining
what all those computers are doing. The
simplified version: They are engaged in
a nonstop, worldwide race to process
new transactions using cryptocurrencies, digital tokens that can be traded
electronically. The task requires ever
more powerful equipment. Success is rewarded, digitally and automatically,
with a small batch of new coins.
Bitcoin and other virtual currencies
have been viewed warily by some governments and criticized by environmentalists for hoovering up vast and increasing amounts of electricity. Genesis
and its competitors, on the other hand,
see a financial opportunity, one that has
sent the value of their mining equipment
“I think a lot of companies have been
more worried about hacks,” Ms. Molnar
said. “Less about the hardware.”
The warehouse adjacent to Genesis’
is the one that was robbed. The lessee of
that building, which appears to be under
construction, has not been publicly identified. Through the police, the company
has offered $60,000 to anyone who leads
detectives to the stolen property.
Investment funds flunk gender diversity test
Few reports on investing prominently
feature female fund managers. There
is a simple reason for that: The vast
majority of investment professionals
are men.
In fact, “vast majority” understates
the case.
It turns out that fewer than 10 percent of United States portfolio managers at mutual funds and exchangetraded funds are women, according to
“We’ve been looking at this for
years,” said Laura Pavlenko Lutton,
head of fund research for North America Morningstar. “Women are just
stuck at that number.”
Representation of women in the
investing business is low by any measure — abysmally low when compared
with other fields. For example, in 2015,
Morningstar found that 37 percent of
doctors, 33 percent of lawyers and 63
percent of accountants and auditors
were women. The numbers suggest
that the investment management
business is in another league entirely.
How bad are the numbers for specific fund companies? With help from
Morningstar and from Flowspring, an
independent asset manager research
firm, I tried to find out. We came up
with a report card for the 25 largest
mutual fund companies in the United
The numbers speak for themselves.
As far as gender diversity goes, every
company gets a failing grade.
These numbers look simple but they
weren’t easy to extract and, in some
cases, they are only an approximation.
That’s because American companies
aren’t required to disclose the gender
composition of their work forces. Without such a requirement, Morningstar
and Flowspring used ingenious workarounds, which I double-checked the
old-fashioned way, by directly contacting all 25 companies. I bear responsibility for the final result.
(A report on racial and ethnic diversity in these work forces would be
worthwhile, too. But I have been unable to find reliable numbers on those
Morningstar compiled data on all
portfolio managers of mutual funds
and exchange-traded funds for American companies. The list includes anyone designated as a portfolio manager
on a fund prospectus, whether employed directly by a fund company or
indirectly as a so-called subadviser.
The researchers used an algorithm
to extract obvious female names, and
did biographical research to determine
gender when the names weren’t clear.
Warren Miller, the founder of
Flowspring, filtered the data for the 25
biggest companies.
I then called and emailed the companies and gave them ample opportunity
to correct the data. Most confirmed the
initial findings.
In some cases, I adjusted the numbers upward when companies demonstrated persuasively that there had
been a miscount. A few companies
questioned the final details — which
could alter their own grades by a percentage point or two — but they didn’t
contest the overall results.
This exercise produced a troubling
finding: Anywhere from 94 percent to
70 percent of the portfolio managers
for American-registered funds at the
biggest companies are men.
At the company with the best record,
Dodge & Cox, women represent just 30
percent of portfolio managers. The
company declined to comment about
its record.
It seems fair to say that none of
these companies has a particularly
praiseworthy record, as far as this
specific gender equity metric goes.
(Pay in the industry is another issue: I
don’t have reliable numbers but have
my suspicions.)
No fund company said that it was
comfortable with its gender diversity
record. The biggest fund managers —
including BlackRock, Vanguard, Fidelity, American Funds, T. Rowe Price and
State Street Global Advisors — all said
they were committed to improving
their gender diversity records, and
were making efforts to recruit and
train women who will eventually become portfolio managers.
Marie Chandoha, chief executive of
Charles Schwab Investment Management, said: “I think it is clear that our
industry is in great need of a makeover. While progress has been made in
recent years, we need a serious and
concerted effort to bring more women
and greater diversity into the asset
management industry.”
Ms. Chandoha pointed out that
Schwab has made progress in metrics
aside from the percentage of female
portfolio mangers. “While 28 percent of
our portfolio managers are women, I
am proud that they are managing 64
percent of our funds,” she said. And,
she added, “Looking at it another way,
53 percent of our mutual fund and
E.T.F. assets are managed by a woman.”
MFS, which stood at the bottom of
the list, with a mere 6 percent of fe-
A mutual fund gender report card
For the entire mutual fund industry, only 10 percent of portfolio managers are
women. Among the 25 biggest companies, the proportion of women ranged from
6 percent of all portfolio managers at MFS funds to 30 percent for Dodge & Cox.
Dodge & Cox
SPDR State Street Global Advisors
Franklin Templeton Investments
TIAA Investments (incl.Nuveen)
American Funds
Dimensional Fund Advisors
Principal Funds
American Century Investments
John Hancock
Legg Mason
Fidelity Investments
Janus Henderson
BlackRock (includes iShares)
Lord Abbett
T. Rowe Price
Hartford Mutual Funds
Notes: Includes all people listed on prospectuses as portfolio managers at mutual funds and
exchange-traded funds registered in the United States, whether employed directly by a fund
company or by a subadviser. Data in some cases not confirmed by individual fund companies.
Sources: Morningstar, Flowspring, the fund companies and The New York Times
male portfolio managers in its American-registered funds, said that it, too,
was committed to improving that
Daniel Flaherty, an MFS spokesman,
said in an email: “Beginning in 2010,
MFS put in place a program to improve the diversity within its investment division, focused on recruitment,
engagement and professional develop-
ment. We believe we are making
progress, as 25 percent of the investment division today are women, up
from 12 percent in 2010; 50 percent of
new hires in 2017 were women; and
one-third of new hires over the last five
years have been women.”
With women making up 10 percent of
its portfolio managers, Fidelity falls
right at the industry average, though it
ranks in the bottom half of the biggest
managers’ list. For the last six months,
the company, headed by Abigail Johnson, a granddaughter of Fidelity’s
founder, has been responding to allegations of sexual harassment, originally
reported in The Wall Street Journal.
Fidelity “is very committed to gender diversity, not only among its portfolio managers, but across the entire
business,” Vincent G. Loporchio, a
Fidelity spokesman, said in an email.
He added, “We continue building our
female talent pipeline with hiring
programs through undergraduate and
graduate school.”
In addition to Ms. Johnson, he said,
“women leaders include Kathy Murphy, who heads our personal investing
business, which serves individual
investors, and oversees $2 trillion in
customer assets under administration,
and a range of other senior-level executives.”
Vanguard pointed out that women
manage some of its biggest funds,
including its Standard & Poor’s 500
stock index fund, and it said that it is
committed to improving its gender
Just about all of the other companies
had similar comments.
So why are so few women running
funds? It is clearly not because women
are bad at managing money. To the
contrary, in a recent study, Morningstar demonstrated that women are
every bit as good at this job as men.
Even asking this question may seem
odd in 2018, but Madison Sargis, senior
quantitative analyst at Morningstar,
said: “In case anyone thinks we aren’t
good at this, well, we wanted to put
that to rest, and I think we did. We
women do just fine as fund managers,
when we get to run funds. The numbers demonstrate it.”
There are many possible explanations for why so few women work as
fund managers. We’ve explored those
questions before — my colleague M.P.
Dunleavey did an extensive report on
the problem last year — and will do so
again in the future. But at least now,
with some numbers to look at, investors can begin to make choices.
It’s certainly possible to add gender
diversity to criteria like fees, returns
and risk. Some people, after all, have
begun to avoid funds with holdings in
companies they find objectionable, like
those that make guns or engage in
environmentally unsustainable or
unethical practices.
Are you comfortable keeping your
money in the hands of a company with
exceedingly few female portfolio managers? Money talks. If investors pay
attention to these statistics, we may at
last see signs of progress.
Sindri Stefansson, on the run for five
days, is back in jail in Iceland.
At the same time, the police have been
searching for the machines by studying
the electrical grid for surges in use. So
far, said Mr. Kjartansson, the police investigator, the search has been fruitless.
His hunch, based on the sophistication of the theft, is that the perpetrators worked with an overseas syndicate
of organized crime. Nothing in Mr. Stefansson’s long record indicates international links of any kind. He has been convicted of possessing drugs and driving
under the influence, and the grandest of
his larcenies is the $2,000 he stole from
slot machines in a Reykjavik bar.
He said in the interview that he had
been sober for more than seven years
and made apps and websites for a living.
He minimized a recent arrest for growing marijuana as a “side business.”
When he was arrested for the Bitcoin
robbery, Mr. Stefansson said, he was two
days away from restarting his life and
moving to Spain with his wife and three
If Mr. Stefansson is ultimately
charged with any heist-related crimes,
his prison break won’t be one of them. In
Iceland, it is not against the law to escape from prison.
“Our system supposes that a person
who has been deprived of his freedom
will try to regain it,” said Jon Gunnlaugsson, a former judge on Iceland’s Supreme Court. “It’s the responsibility of
prison authorities to keep him there.”
Further, it is unclear whether the police had the right to continue holding Mr.
Stefansson in prison in the first place.
He was not under arrest at the time, because a judge’s order to keep him in custody had expired hours before his escape. In advance of a hearing to extend
the custody order, the police persuaded
Mr. Stefansson to sign a document
agreeing to stay in prison voluntarily.
He immediately decided the agreement was bogus. In an open letter published in an Icelandic newspaper while
he was on the lam, he wrote that he was
genuinely surprised to find himself the
subject of a manhunt.
Paradoxically, returning to the very
place he was so eager to leave became
one of Mr. Stefansson’s primary goals.
At the prison near Amsterdam, he said,
he was just a name and number, underfed and wary of his fellow inmates.
By comparison, he said, “Icelandic
prisons are a hotel.”
Egill Bjarnason contributed reporting.
16 | MONDAY, MAY 7, 2018
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