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2 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
page two
Top adviser
and fashion
A chronicle of Syrian torture
Artist copes with trauma
by drawing what he and
others went through
Najah al-Bukai cannot forget.
As an accomplished artist in Syria before the war, Mr. Bukai had long thought
his photographic memory was his greatest asset, allowing him to recreate
scenes on his sketch pads and canvases
days, months and even years after he
witnessed them. But now, after he has
survived two stretches in the Syrian
government’s notorious detention centers, his sharp memories only serve to
haunt him.
One day recently, home with his family in Fontenay-le-Comte, France, a
sleepy city in the Loire Valley, he methodically opened boxes containing dozens of drawings he has made of the images burned into his brain. It is the only
way he knows of coping with the traumas he witnessed, and suffered, in Syria’s torture chambers.
In one, men wearing only their underwear carry a corpse in what looks like a
sheet or blanket, for eventual disposal,
Mr. Bukai says, in the back of a truck in a
pile of other bodies. He recalls a number,
5535, on the young man’s chest. They
had been ordered to strip to their underwear, Mr. Bukai explained, so they could
be easily spotted if they tried to escape.
“Art saved me,” he said, while laying
the drawings out on a tabletop.
His art reminds many critics of the
work of the Slovenian artist and Holocaust survivor Zoran Music — haunting,
dark and extremely realistic. In his
drawings, some prisoners hang by their
hands and others undergo other forms
of torture while their cellmates eat their
meals calmly, desensitized to the displays of inhumanity around them.
“I was observing everything and
making art in my head,” he said about
his time in a crammed cell, where prisoners had to take off their clothes because of the unbearable heat.
He still remembers the smell of rotten
flesh, the screams of other prisoners
and how, horrifically, he and others grew
accustomed to it all.
Today, Mr. Bukai (pronounced bookay) travels across France to raise
awareness about the horrors of the detention centers, while the French publishing house Éditions du Seuil is preparing to publish a book of his drawings.
His experiences during Syria’s civil
war were not all that different from
those of tens of thousands of other
young men who took to the streets demanding democracy and human rights
— except, perhaps, in that he survived.
He was arrested three times for his participation in the protests. He was incarcerated in 2012 for a month, and for 11
months in 2014.
According to rights groups, the government of President Bashar al-Assad
has tortured tens of thousands of political opponents, many of whom have
never been seen by their families again.
No one knows exactly how many disappeared.
“I have not seen anything like the
methods of torture that the Syrian security services have used in any other
country,” said Sara Kayyali, a researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Mr. Bukai, 47, was lucky to come out of
Mr. Assad’s prisons alive, but more than
40 members of his family died in 2012 in
a bombing of their neighborhood in Judaydat Artuz, a Damascus suburb. That
Najah al-Bukai, a Syrian artist, in his apartment and studio in Fontenay-le-Comte, France. His artwork, below, has been compared to that of Zoran Music, a Holocaust survivor.
“I am lucky. I love life. I am
attached to life. I had a big hope
of getting out and of seeing my
wife and my daughter again.”
he managed to survive and, eventually,
escape from Syria was a tribute to the
determination of his wife, Abir Jassoumeh. Both times he was arrested she
searched until she found him, 10 days the
first time, 20 days the second. She then
bribed officials to win his freedom —
more than $20,000, or around 10 times
her annual income, raised with the help
of siblings living abroad.
They chose to settle in the small city of
Fontenay-le-Comte because one of his
brothers, a doctor, was living here. Mr.
Bukai already had a connection to
France — he had enrolled in a bachelor’s
program in Rouen in the 1990s, after
studying drawing in the Syrian city of
Homs and fine arts in Damascus, the
Syrian capital.
He had a comfortable if unremarkable
upbringing, at least until the Arab
Spring. His father, who worked in an oil
refinery in Homs, was secular and not
politically engaged. But many of his relatives opposed the country’s autocratic
rulers, Hafez al-Assad and his son, the
current president, Bashar al-Assad, and
were among the first to join the peaceful
protests that broke out in 2011. In the
first protest in Judaydat Artuz, 15 of the
25 participants were members of the
Bukai family.
Mr. Bukai firmly believed that freedom and democratic values would prevail. He filmed videos of the protests and
posted them on the internet. He thought
the government’s days were numbered.
“When we saw that international
forces took down Qaddafi, we thought
‘This is our chance to make the Assads
fall,’ ” he said, referring to the NATO
bombing of Libya in 2011 and the Libyan
leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi. They
expected a similarly rapid end for Mr.
Assad: “We never thought he would
butcher Syrians without anyone budging. We knew that maybe a few hundred
would die, but it was a small cost for our
So Mr. Bukai stayed in Syria even
though he knew he risked arrest. The
police had searched and burned his
mother’s house in 2012. Still, he lived
with the family until the police caught up
with him. “I was always scared,” Ms.
Jassoumeh said. “But even when I
asked him to stop, he wouldn’t.”
His first arrest came in July 2012 as he
was commuting to work at the International University for Science and Technology in Damascus, where he was
teaching art. He made the mistake of
staying on his bus as it went through one
of the many checkpoints that appeared
in Damascus as the civil war was heating up.
The guards found his name of a list of
wanted people. They made him get off
the bus, called him a traitor, handcuffed
him, blindfolded him with his own shirt
and took him to a detention center.
There he was beaten so badly that he
suffered multiple broken bones and
temporary hearing loss. His wrists still
bear scars from that day, and he says he
still hears the screams of the other prisoners. Ms. Jassoumeh paid about $1,000
to get him out of jail, but the charges remained. He then spent two years in hiding. In 2014, he and his family decided to
make their escape from Syria. They
bribed someone to have his name omitted from a watch list at the border, then
dressed as Christians, wearing crosses.
But they had been betrayed: Mr. Bukai’s
name was still on the list. He was arrested and taken back to the same detention center.
By this time, the abuses had reached
new levels of depravity, and the prisoners were forced to watch and participate in the torture. Once again, Ms. Jassoumeh paid a bribe, this time $6,000, to
have her husband transferred after 70
days to a jail where he was not tortured
and was allowed family visits.
“I am lucky. I love life. I am attached to
life,” Mr. Bukai said about how he got
through the ordeal. “I had a big hope of
getting out and of seeing my wife and
my daughter again.”
His wife traveled every week to see
him, crossing war zones 38 times to give
him the courage, he says, to stay alive.
After she paid a final bribe, he was released from jail, and in October 2015, certain that his name had been removed
from the wanted list, they left Syria for
good, carrying the few drawings he had
done in the jail and musical instruments
to attract the custom officers’ attention
away from the art. When they made it to
Lebanon, they immediately requested
asylum at the French Embassy in
Today, they are slowly trying to build
a life abroad. But they still hope to return to Syria one day after the toppling
of the Assad government. Until then, Mr.
Bukai will keep sketching.
“It is a personal therapy that allows
me to evacuate,” he said about his work.
“The whole time I was in hell, I tried to
not see nightmares. Instead, I forced
myself to see beautiful dreams.”
Pierre Godé, a French lawyer whose
steely negotiation skills and strategic vision made him the éminence grise of the
world’s largest luxury group, LVMH
Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, has died
in Nice, France. He was 73.
The group said in a statement on Friday that he died after a long illness, but
it did not specify a cause or say when he
Polished, charming and deliberately
low profile, Mr. Godé was for 30 years
rarely far from the side of Bernard Arnault, LVMH’s chairman and chief executive. The two men built a brand portfolio that today includes more than 70
fashion houses, among them Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior and Bulgari.
Mr. Godé and Mr. Arnault met in 1973,
when Mr. Godé was the youngest qualified law professor in France and a lawyer to Mr. Arnault’s father, Jean, the
head of a property company.
“I was struck by his talent from our
first meeting,” Bernard Arnault,
France’s richest man, said in 2000. “He
is my closest colleague as well as a confidant and friend without equal.”
Mr. Godé officially joined Mr. Arnault’s company in 1985, having assisted
in a 1984 bid for Boussac, a bankrupt textile company that counted the Christian
Dior fashion house among its assets.
A loyal second-in-command and adviser trusted like no other — LVMH has
become infamous for the fast-moving
revolving doors at its many fashion
houses — Mr. Godé later led the charge
in some of the group’s most high-risk
business dealings. Among them were a
two-year battle for control of LVMH
with the Racamier family in the 1980s,
which it won, and an attempted takeover of Gucci in 1999, a rare defeat.
Pierre Godé, right, in 2008 with the LVMH
chairman Bernard Arnault in Paris.
Mr. Godé masterminded an aggressively protectionist strategy, suing
the search giant Google and the online
marketplace eBay for not doing enough
to stop the sale of counterfeit goods.
In 2013, following LVMH’s stealthy effort to build up a stake in the familyowned leather goods house Hermès, Mr.
Godé became deputy chairman of
LVMH’s Italian operations and stepped
down as chief executive of Mr. Arnault’s
investment companies, Groupe Arnault
and Financière Agache.
He retired from day-to-day duties at
LVMH at the end of 2015.
Mr. Godé was born on Dec. 4, 1944 in
Abbeville, France. He is survived by his
wife and three children.
“Alongside my father, Jean Arnault,
and then alongside me, Pierre Godé was
instrumental in the creation and growth
of the LVMH Group,” Mr. Arnault said in
a statement.
Yes, that is a friendly greeting you hear in the subway
the agency’s mapping app to help them
dole out advice on things like how to use
a MetroCard machine. Above all, they
are instructed to be friendly.
“This is giving our customers information: what they need, where they
need it, when they need it,” said Veronique Hakim, the transportation authority’s managing director, who rejected
the notion that the workers are merely
subway public relations agents. With
better information served up individually, Ms. Hakim said, customers might
not do things like hold up trains by holding car doors open to ask if the train is
going in their direction. Sick passengers
could be helped more quickly if there are
workers on the platforms, Ms. Hakim
said, rather than relying on employees
in station booths that they cannot leave.
“This is about actually providing all of
those things that help or contribute to
moving trains more efficiently,” Ms. Hakim said.
The new role also adds relevance to a
group of employees who have become
increasingly sidelined by technology:
the position is open only to station
agents, a job veering toward obsolescence since vending machines now handle the bulk of the fare transactions. By
2023, the agency will phase out MetroCards entirely, as the yellow cards give
way to contactless readers that will
work with credit and debit cards, among
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“You’re so friendly!” Ms. Shah, an accountant, told Ms. Cooper, after watching her direct a man to the A train, and
kneel to tell a little boy, and his mother,
which exit to use. “It’s nice to know
somebody cares.”
The position, officially a customer
service ambassador, or Wayfinder, is a
pilot program introduced as part of the
Subway Action Plan, Gov. Andrew M.
Cuomo’s $836 million initiative to begin
addressing the problems riddling the
subway system. The plan, which followed Mr. Cuomo’s declaration of a subway emergency last year, focuses on
substance, like repairs to infrastructure
signals and tracks, as well as on lesstangible elements, like ambience.
That is where the Wayfinders, clad in
orange vests and wearing baseball caps
embroidered with “Here to help” on the
back, come in.
The program, which is expected to
double in size in the next few weeks, appears to reflect the governor’s insistence that upgrades to the subway must
include what people who engage in corporate speak refer to as the user experience.
Each Wayfinder completes a multiday course during which they role-play
improvised scenarios with frustrated
customers and strategize how to better
defuse fraught situations. They are
equipped with cellphones loaded with
“Good morning all! Have a nice day!”
The seven words stopped Lina Shah
as she scurried through the subway
turnstiles under Times Square in New
York on a recent morning, in the thick of
rush hour. The words are more typically
heard when entering a department
store, the automaton drone of a hired
greeter. But they seemed so incongruent in the dour tunnels of the subway
that Ms. Shah paused in the middle of
her commute to find their source.
Then she heard the voice again:
“Good morning to you! Have a good day,
There, standing on a busy passageway connecting the Port Authority Bus
Terminal with the A, C and E lines was
Tonya M. Cooper, a longtime employee
of the agency that runs the subways, the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority,
rattling off good morning salutations at
a rate of 32 a minute.
Since November, Ms. Cooper and 40
other transit workers have been shifted
into a job that is based largely on the notion that being unrelentingly nice can go
a long way to help bolster the image of a
flagging, frequently curse-inducing subway system.
Two of the New York subway’s new customer service ambassadors, Tonya M. Cooper,
left, and Jamila Rose, assisting commuters in the Times Square station.
other payment methods.
In 1995, there were about 3,500 station
agents; last year there were about
2,500, according to the M.T.A. While station agents may have less to do, they still
sell MetroCards, and offer directions
and solutions to problems like what to
do with a faulty card.
The authority in 2016 spent $300 mil-
lion on the agents, who make an average
of $113,000 in total compensation a year.
“We want to preserve our members’
employment so they can continue to
take care of themselves, and their families, as the M.T.A. shifts to a new electronic fare payment system,” said Tony
Utano, the president of the Transit
Workers Union Local 100, which negoti-
ated the creation of the ambassador job.
Modern payment systems on the
bridges and tunnels operated by the
M.T.A. led last fall to the end of manual
toll collection and the shifting of about
450 collectors into other jobs. The ambassadors are in 15 stations in the New
York City boroughs of Manhattan,
Brooklyn and Queens.
At the glossy new Fulton Street station in Lower Manhattan, Lular Ellis, 48,
stood by the turnstiles, her head swiveled as she spotted a woman struggling
with a MetroCard machine and she
walked over to help. As a station agent,
Ms. Ellis spent much of her 25 years inside a booth encased in bullet-resistant
glass, relics of a less-safe city.
“When you’re inside the booth you get
a little more hostility,” Ms. Ellis said. “I
don’t know if it’s the glass that makes
them braver or us braver, or what it is —
but when you’re outside face to face with
them they’re more engaging, and you
can help them better.”
Rushing to her job in Midtown Manhattan, Ms. Shah, the accountant, said
she was encouraged by the changes intended to soften the subway’s image.
The cheery greetings and bespoke directions do not make up for the subway’s failings, she said, “but it’s nice.”
“Now if they reduced the subway
fares,” Ms. Shah said. “Now that would
be something.”
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4 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
Britain’s opioid woes get a deadly kick
Addicts’ use of fentanyl
has led to dozens of fatal
overdoses in the past year
There was something different in the
batches of heroin that circulated
through this English port city over the
summer, but most addicts had no idea
what it was until their friends and fellow
addicts, 16 in all, had died of overdoses.
Those who tried the drug described a
“warm,” “euphoric” high, followed by a
sudden knockout effect, one that has
killed dozens of Britons over the past
year and left hundreds hospitalized.
The new kick came from fentanyl, an
opiate painkiller 50 to 100 times more
powerful than morphine, that was
mixed in with the heroin. The drug has
killed thousands of Americans, including the rock stars Prince and Tom Petty,
but the lethal risk it poses has barely deterred addicts in Kingston Upon Hull,
known familiarly as Hull. In fact, many
of them cannot get enough of it.
“It makes all the pain go away,” said
Chris, 32, a homeless resident of Hull
who has been addicted to heroin for
more than eight years.
Britain already has Europe’s highest
proportion of heroin addicts, and last
year drug-related deaths hit a record
high in England and Wales, with 3,744
deaths mainly from heroin and other
opioids. While the scale is small compared with deaths in the United States
— where more than 100 Americans die
each day from opioid abuse — the
British authorities fear that fentanyl
could become the country’s most dangerous drug.
“People here are prescribed opioids
for pain, but nothing to the extent of the
U.S., where extremely potent opioids
are being prescribed on a large scale,”
said Dr. Prun Bijral, the medical director
for Change, Grow, Live, a nonprofit organization that focuses on substance
abuse. “On the one hand, this is positive.
But on the other hand, the U.K. has one
of the highest rates of drug-related
deaths in Europe.”
No place has been hit harder by heroin, fentanyl and opioid addiction recently than Hull, a former fishing town
of 260,000 people about 150 miles north
of London that was named Britain’s 2017
“City of Culture.” On a drizzly cold day
last month, under a bright green sign
welcoming visitors to the city, several
addicts lay bundled up, stashes of drugs
and alcohol secreted in blankets and
other belongings. Others lined the doorways of buildings on the city’s main
Since the fishing industry collapsed in
the 1970s, the city has suffered some of
the highest rates of unemployment —
currently 8.9 percent — and addiction in
the country.
In recent years, the city has started to
bounce back with a series of investments, including a $400 million wind
turbine facility and a $30 million research center that aims to develop new
treatments for drug addicts.
But Hull continues to catch the most
national attention for issues relating to
drug abuse. And lately, those miseries
have been compounded by fentanyl,
which has been blamed for at least 60
deaths nationwide, the National Crime
Agency said, and has emerged as a favorite of addicts like Chris.
A mural recognizing the fishing industry in Kingston Upon Hull. The English city has been particularly hard hit by the spread of fentanyl, which has killed 16 people in Hull and at least 60 throughout Britain.
While some addicts in Hull have been squatting in a derelict building with the help of
volunteers, the zero tolerance for drugs there has led others to move away.
On that gloomy day last month he was
lying in the doorway of a derelict building slumped over a plastic bag of his belongings, his hands furiously shaking.
Chris, who declined to provide his last
name because he did not want his family
to read about his addiction, said he first
tried heroin when he was rejected for a
job after two years in unemployment.
“I got so hammered that I took my anger out on my girlfriend,” he said. “I
smashed her head in the wall and just
left her and went and bought heroin. I’ve
been using ever since.”
When he first experienced fentanyl
last year, he did not know what he had
taken. “I took a shot and it felt like I exploded. It’s dynamite kind of strong,” he
said, inadvertently describing why drug
experts consider the drug so dangerous.
Several people in Hull who said they
had collapsed after trying fentanyl
vowed never to take it again. But there
are still many like Chris who actively
seek it out, even after a recent police
crackdown slowed the supply coming
into Hull.
Even though the police acknowledge
the scope and severity of the problem, it
was relatively easy, and inexpensive, for
an addict to buy the drug, as an afternoon spent with Chris showed.
He spoke openly about his addiction,
and explained that all the money he
earned from begging — an average of
$40 a day — was spent on drugs and alcohol. He receives free food at the local
soup kitchen or through donations.
Out on the street, he occasionally
stopped to ask people for money, but he
had enough in his pocket to pick up his
next stash, which he said cost 12 pounds,
or around $16.
After picking up the drug from his
dealer, he went to the house of a friend,
Billy Kenwood, who was also an addict
but had stopped taking fentanyl after he
nearly died from an overdose last year.
As he recounted the incident, Chris busied himself preparing to shoot up —
strapping his arm to find a vein, heating
up the heroin mixed with fentanyl and
finally injecting the liquid.
“There we go, bliss,” he said, before
starting to slump down in his chair.
“Some people go out like that after taking fenny and don’t wake up,” Mr. Kenwood said.
One homeless couple who sleep in the
city center said they had lost at least six
friends to fentanyl overdoses over the
past year. They had both tried the drug,
and like most other addicts and former
users interviewed for this article, said
they liked it.
But they also overdosed.
“I woke up in an ambulance and they
told me I had taken fentanyl. They said if
they got to me two to three minutes later,
I would have died,” said Mark Stevenson, 45.
The couple say they have been clean
from heroin and fentanyl for several
months now, but many of their friends
are addicted and have been suffering
from severe withdrawal symptoms as
supplies of fentanyl have grown scarcer
in the recent crackdown.
“My friend was shooting four to five
times more heroin to try and get the
same effect as fentanyl,” Mr. Stevenson
Some drug gangs have reportedly
started to make fentanyl in home labs to
keep up with the demand. Britain accounts for the largest number of fentanyl sales on the limited-access darknet in Europe, with 1,000 trades being
made in recent months, research by the
Oxford Internet Institute found.
“There is money to be made. For a
very small amount of drug you can get a
lot of doses and lots of potential individual sales,” Dr. Bijral said.
An even more lethal opioid known as
carfentanil, an elephant tranquilizer 100
times stronger than fentanyl, has been
cited in several recent fatal overdoses in
Hull. Local people say the police carried
out several operations in recent months
in an effort to cut off the supply.
Hull’s local council recently boarded
up a canopy that had provided shelter
for several addicts in the city center. But
the council said in a statement that support and accommodation options had
been provided for the homeless people
who had camped there.
Some of them have chosen to stay in
hostels, while others are squatting in a
derelict building with help from volunteers. But both facilities have zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol, and that has
caused some to move away.
Chris has since left Hull and has not
been seen in the city for over a month.
“The fenny has dried up,” Mr. Kenwood
said. “He’s gone up north to find some.”
Putin the campaigner: Scripted, save one big hug
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Putin made a cursory inspection of the
machinery and various engines on display before spending exactly 10 minutes
and 34 seconds to take four questions
from a few preselected workers.
“When will mortgage rates go down
in Russia?” asked Ruslan Khalitov, distressed that he was paying a bruising 12
percent. Mr. Putin answered at length,
flexing his command of statistics, and
then basically told Mr. Khalitov that he
should produce more children, which
would make him eligible for a subsidized
Another man asked if military spending would be cut. “You will all have work
— there is great demand for your products, your engines,” Mr. Putin answered.
The last question came from Viktor
M. Bogomolov, a veteran of nearly 40
years at the company, which is known
for building jet engines for Sukhoi
fighter planes. Why, he wanted to know,
did Russian factories no longer receive
outstanding achievement awards like
the Soviet-era Order of the Red Banner?
“Let me just give you a hug,” Mr. Putin
responded, embracing the chunky man
with thinning hair and provoking widespread laughter. It was about the only
spontaneous public moment during the
entire trip.
Mr. Bogomolov, a Putin supporter
even before the hug, became an instant
celebrity, interviewed repeatedly about
the moment. “I didn’t think this would
happen, but it did. Perhaps he liked the
question,” he said.
Actually, Mr. Putin hopes to embrace
— at least figuratively — more than 108
million registered Russian voters
As President Vladimir V. Putin was
about to step out onto the gleaming
white cement floor of the Ufa Engine Industrial Association, where motors are
assembled for military helicopters, Alyona V. Popova was busy organizing her
work station, more out of nerves than
His predetermined path would lead
him right past her spot in the government-owned plant, erected six months
ago as part of the president’s program
for military hardware once built in the
now-hostile country of Ukraine.
Ms. Popova, 26, was grateful to the
president for helping her finally land a
factory job with a future. She allowed,
however, that she might express a few
qualms if he stopped to chat.
“Our salaries are low,” she said, under
$500 a month, and Russia spent excessive rubles on foreign adventures.
“When will that money flow into Russia
instead of flowing out?” she added,
echoing remarks made by other workers. “We need roads built according to
modern standards.”
But she never had a chance. This is a
presidential campaign, Putin style. Unscripted moments are rare, and gladhanding and impromptu conversations
are kept to an absolute minimum for a
man notoriously averse to both.
Trailed by a scrum of ministers and
other aides during a two-day visit to the
provincial capitals of Ufa and Kazan, Mr.
President Vladimir V. Putin visiting a government factory that makes military engines
in Ufa, a provincial capital. He embraced a veteran of nearly 40 years with the company.
through visits like this one in Ufa, the
capital of the Republic of Bashkortostan,
some 800 miles east of Moscow.
His campaign trips differ little from
his presidential visits, but they have increased in frequency and geographic
spread in advance of the March 18 vote.
Mr. Putin, seeking his fourth presidential term after 18 years as the most
powerful man in Russia, does not really
need to campaign, and appears to find
the activity distasteful. Why, his attitude
seems to be, after all that he has done for
Russia, should he have to ask people for
their votes?
Moreover, he is the certain winner
among a field expected to contain eight
candidates, particularly since his most
potent potential adversary, the anticorruption critic Aleksei A. Navalny, was
barred from the race.
The Kremlin, however, wants to stoke
turnout and to present a democratic
Hence Mr. Putin’s campaign stops,
each meant to provide television footage
— the Ufa factory visit was a headline on
the nightly news — that signals something about his achievements.
The foreign press, rarely allowed
close to Mr. Putin, is invited along too, so
that reports of an “election” in Russia
will reach outside the border. “It’s a media campaign; they are creating a picture,” said Rashid Galyamov, the publisher of Business Online, a popular
news website based in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, Mr.
Putin’s second stop on this trip.
The visits are not meant to address issues, Mr. Galyamov said. “There is no
discussion of problems, even though
there are problems,” he said. “This is
what is missing.”
The signals were fairly obvious. In addition to stopping at the Ufa factory, Mr.
Putin visited a manufacturer of longrange bombers. Both appearances underscored his effort to restore Russia’s
superpower status.
Tatarstan and nearby Bashkortostan
are also among the most heavily Muslim
regions in Russia. Mr. Putin drank tea
with a senior religious leader and visited
a mosque. The signal: Russia’s Muslim
minority is part of the Russian people,
He also attended a forum about improving higher education at the famous
Kazan Federal University (Lenin was a
student there), signaling that he cared
about youth.
Notably, neither he nor anyone with
him publicly broached the two main topics of concern in Tatarstan.
Last March, Tatfondbank, the second
largest bank in the oil-rich region, collapsed under nearly $2 billion in questionable debts, wiping out the savings of
several thousand residents.
Then, in July, Mr. Putin gave a speech
saying that ethnic Russians should not
be forced to learn minority languages,
and the government subsequently
failed to renew a longstanding agreement that granted Tatarstan a measure
of autonomy.
After that, prosecutors ordered Tatar
language instruction, formerly mandatory, reduced to only two voluntary
hours a week.
Various local residents hoped the language topic would come up at the university forum, but there was zero discussion beyond canned speeches
beamed in from other elite federal universities.
The 20 or so students at the forum did
not even get the chance to meet Mr.
Putin, though they were in the same
room as him.
One said he still liked the president as
a strong leader, but that Mr. Putin
needed to fight corruption. “This could
be a great country,” he said, before
catching himself in implied criticism of
their illustrious guest and adding,
“Even if it is already.”
Amid an extended economic downturn, even some students at elite universities are worried about their career
prospects, and many said they were
considering emigrating to improve their
salaries and other circumstances.
Students feel that “the elite in this
country is not changing, there is no entry point, no social mobility,” said Natalia Pavlova, the Kommersant newspaper correspondent in Ufa.
Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018 | 5
Israelis split on moves to expel Africans
Critics say a country
founded by refugees must
show more compassion
On a recent weeknight, about two dozen
Israelis, mostly in their 20s, gathered in
a Jerusalem basement to hear the story
of an Eritrean man who is facing deportation.
Like thousands of Eritreans, Frezgi
Ketef Tehehaymanut, 27, fled his country to avoid the draft into slave-like national service, a crime punishable by
death. He would return to Eritrea tomorrow, he said, but he feared he would
“end up under the ground.”
The meeting was one of many similar
events taking place across the country
in what has become a particularly Jewish backlash against the government’s
tough new deportation policy.
Last month, the Israeli government
offered some 38,000 migrants from Eritrea and Sudan a stark choice: $3,500
and a plane ticket to a third country in
Africa, or jail.
Petitions opposing the policy poured
in from Israeli doctors, pilots, retired
diplomats, professors, rabbis, architects
and musicians, many arguing that a nation formed by refugees in the aftermath
of the Holocaust has a special obligation
to treat refugees with more compassion.
In a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 36 Holocaust survivors, many of them refugees from the
ghettos and concentration camps of Europe, beseeched him “to learn the lesson” and not to expel Africans seeking
asylum in Israel.
“As a country founded by refugees,”
said another letter signed by 850 Jewish
clergy and delivered to Israeli embassies and consulates in the United States
and Canada, “and whose early leaders
helped craft the 1951 International Convention on the Status of Refugees, Israel
must not deport those seeking asylum
within its borders.”
Like much of the Western world, Israel is grappling with how to balance its
right to protect its borders and prevent
illegal immigration with showing compassion and humanity. But the government’s decision has struck a particular
chord here and among Jews abroad
since the modern state of Israel has
served as a haven for Jews fleeing persecution and was largely built by immigrants.
The issue is also testing what it means
to be a Jewish state: to preserve its Jewish majority, or to be governed by Jewish values, including the ideal of “tikkun
olam,” or repairing the world.
“Every country must guard its borders,” Mr. Netanyahu said in announcing the policy last month. “It is important that people understand that we are
doing something here that is completely
legal and completely essential.”
He cited the “plight” of residents of
south Tel Aviv, where many of the migrants are concentrated. In the past, he
has also said that the influx of Africans
threatened Israel’s Jewish majority.
Many of the solidarity events are taking place under the umbrella of a
grass-roots movement, “Stop the Deportation,” which was started by students.
In addition to the meeting in the basement studio of a Jerusalem yoga
teacher, there was a gathering last week
in a bar in Kiryat Shmona, a town on Israel’s northern border, and another in
ment agency for the African continent.”
Many, including the Ashkenazi chief
rabbi of Israel, David Lau, and his father,
Yisrael Meir Lau, a former chief rabbi
and child Holocaust survivor, reject the
comparisons with the Holocaust. The
migrants, they note, are not being sent
to extermination camps and their Israeli
sympathizers will not be risking their
lives by harboring them.
About 60,000 African migrants have
surreptitiously crossed into Israel over
the once-porous border with Egypt
since 2005, most of them Sudanese or
Eritreans who cannot be sent back
home because of international conventions that prevent the repatriation of
asylum seekers to home countries
where they could face persecution. The
influx stopped in 2012, when Israel constructed a steel barrier along the 150mile border with Egypt.
Of the thousands of Eritreans and Sudanese who have filed asylum requests
in Israel in recent years, only about 10
have received refugee status. Some Sudanese refugees from war-torn Darfur
have been given a special humanitarian
status but most of the other asylum requests have not been processed.
At least 20,000 African migrants have
since left Israel. Mr. Netanyahu said he
had made it his mission to deport the
rest. He and his ministers have alluded
to secret understandings with third
countries in Africa, without naming
The migrants say the main destination is Rwanda, but the Rwandan government has denied signing any secret
deal. It says its policy toward Africans in
“Refugeedom is in our DNA,”
said a rabbi from a group willing
to adopt or hide asylum seekers.
“Seeking asylum is in our blood.”
A protest by African migrants to Israel, above, last month outside the embassy of Rwanda in a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israel is planning to expel thousands of Africans. The migrants
said that the main destination is Rwanda. Eritrean asylum seekers at a Tel Aviv barbershop, top left, and outside and inside a detention center in the Negev Desert, top right.
the southern city of Beersheba in the
Negev Desert.
Another initiative, “Miklat Israel,”
Hebrew for Israel Sanctuary, and known
informally as the Anne Frank Home
Sanctuary movement, signed up about
500 Israeli families from scores of towns
and communities willing to adopt asylum seekers and, if necessary, hide them
in their homes
First conceived by Susan Silverman,
a rabbi and the sister of the American
comedian Sarah Silverman, the idea
was partly inspired by the story of an-
other Eritrean who was so moved by
Anne Frank’s diary that he translated it
into Tigrinya while in a camp in Ethiopia, then carried it with him on his journey to Israel, convinced that its people
would receive him.
“We are exploding the myth that ordinary Israelis don’t want them,” said
Rabbi Nava Hefetz, one of the group’s
leaders, adding that the small team of
volunteers couldn’t keep up with the
flood of phone calls and emails.
“We are talking about the history of
the Jewish people,” she said, “from the
exodus from Egypt to the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust. Refugeedom is in
our DNA. Seeking asylum is in our
Even secular Israelis have taken to
citing biblical verses like Leviticus
19:34: “The stranger who resides
among you shall be to you as one of your
citizens; you shall love him as yourself,
for you were strangers in the land of
Egypt.” And liberals hark back to the decision of Menachem Begin, the prime
minister who brought Mr. Netanyahu’s
right-wing Likud Party to power in 1977,
to welcome several hundred Vietnamese boat people.
But Israelis are divided, with many
others eager to see the departure of the
Africans. Officials here routinely refer to
them as “infiltrators” because they
sneaked across the border from the
Egyptian Sinai, and insist that the majority — young men of working age —
are economic migrants, not refugees.
“Israel is too small and has its own
problems,” Israel’s justice minister,
Ayelet Shaked, wrote in a Facebook
post. “It cannot serve as the employ-
need of a home is one of “open doors,”
but only to those who come voluntarily.
Migrant and human rights organizations say many Africans who left Israel
for Rwanda and Uganda did not find
work or receive legal status. Many are
said to have continued on their journeys,
often putting themselves in danger.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri told a
parliamentary committee last week that
Israel had deported more than 5,000
non-African illegal immigrants since
last year, proof that Israel’s policy was
not racist; more than 20,000 Ukrainians
and Georgians have sought asylum in
Israel in recent years.
Under increasing public pressure, he
clarified that the new policy would apply
only to single African men who had not
formally submitted an asylum request
by Jan. 1. It would not apply to families or
the roughly 5,000 children of asylumseekers who had been born in Israel.
The migrants have until April 1 to accept
the cash and flight or face detention.
Yonatan Jakubowicz, the director of
the Israeli Immigration Policy Center,
an organization supportive of the government’s arguments, said he thought
that Israel had taken a “very balanced”
position in “looking for that middle
ground,” and that other countries could
learn from it.
In the Jerusalem basement, Mr. Tehehaymanut said he had initially hoped to
go to Libya, and from there to Europe.
But the Bedouin smugglers dropped his
group off in the desert in the middle of
the night and told them to walk straight
ahead toward the lights of Israel.
Israeli soldiers received them with
smiles, food and drink. “We did not come
to eat,” Mr. Tehehaymanut said. “Just to
Egypt and Israel secretly allied in Sinai campaign
against Egyptian security forces.
A few weeks after Mr. Sisi took power,
in August 2013, two mysterious explosions killed five suspected militants in a
district of North Sinai not far from the
Israeli border. The Associated Press reported that unnamed Egyptian officials
had said Israeli drones fired missiles
that killed the militants, possibly be-
Sheikh Zuwaid, and retreated only after
Egyptian jets and helicopters struck the
town, state news agencies said. Then, at
the end of October, the militants brought
down the Russian charter jet, killing all
224 people aboard.
It was around the time of those ominous milestones, in late 2015, that Israel
began its wave of airstrikes, the American officials said, which they credit with
killing a long roster of militant leaders.
Though equally brutal successors often stepped in to replace them, the militants appeared to adopt less ambitious
They no longer dared trying to close
roads, set up checkpoints or claim territory. They moved into hitting softer targets like Christians in Sinai, churches in
the Nile Valley or other Muslims they
view as heretics. In November 2017, the
militants killed 311 worshipers at a Sufi
mosque in North Sinai.
By then, American officials say, the Israelis were complaining to Washington
that the Egyptians were not holding up
their end of the arrangement. Cairo,
they said, had failed to follow the
airstrikes with coordinated movements
of its ground troops.
Although Israeli military censors
have prevented the news media there
from reporting on the strikes, some
news outlets have circumvented the
censorship by citing a 2016 Bloomberg
News report, in which a former Israeli
official, unidentified by name, said there
had been Israeli drone strikes inside
Zack Gold, a researcher specializing
in North Sinai who has worked in Israel,
compared the airstrikes to Israel’s nuclear weapons program — also an open
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ring journalists from gathering information there.
Behind the scenes, Egypt’s top generals have grown steadily closer to their
Israeli counterparts since the signing of
the Camp David accords 40 years ago, in
1978. Egyptian security forces have
helped Israel enforce restrictions on the
flow of goods in and out of the Gaza
Strip, the Palestinian territory bordering Egypt controlled by the militant
group Hamas. And Egyptian and Israeli
intelligence agencies have long shared
information about militants on both
sides of the border.
Israeli officials were concerned in
2012 when Egypt, after its Arab Spring
revolt, elected a leader of the Muslim
Brotherhood to the presidency. The new
president, Mohamed Morsi, pledged to
respect the Camp David agreements.
But the Israelis worried about the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideological kinship
with Hamas and its historic hostility to
the Jewish state itself.
A year later, Mr. Sisi, then the defense
minister, ousted Mr. Morsi in a military
takeover. Israel welcomed the change in
government and urged Washington to
accept it. That solidified the partnership
between the generals on both sides of
the border.
North Sinai, a loosely governed region of mountainous desert between the
Suez Canal and the Israeli border, became a refuge for Islamist militants in
the decade before Mr. Sisi took power.
The main jihadist organization, Ansar
Beit al Maqdis — the Partisans of Jerusalem — had concentrated on attacking
Israel, but after Mr. Sisi’s takeover it began leading a wave of deadly assaults
American diplomats and
intelligence officials have
discussed the strikes in closed
briefings with lawmakers.
cause of Egyptian warnings of a planned
cross-border attack on an Israeli airport. (Israel had closed the airport the
previous day.)
Mr. Sisi’s spokesman, Col. Ahmed Ali,
denied it. “There is no truth in form or in
substance to the existence of any Israeli
attacks inside Egyptian territory,” he
said in a statement at the time, promising an investigation. “The claims of coordination between the Egyptian and Israeli sides in this matter are totally lacking in truth and go against sense and
Israel declined to comment, and the
episode was all but forgotten.
Two years later, however, Mr. Sisi was
still struggling to defeat the militants,
who by then had killed at least several
hundred Egyptian soldiers and police
In November 2014, Ansar Beit al
Maqdis formally declared itself the Sinai
Province branch of the Islamic State. On
July 1, 2015, the militants briefly captured control of a North Sinai town,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel. American officials say Israel’s air campaign was decisive in enabling Egypt to gain an upper hand against jihadists in Sinai.
“Every time anyone says anything
about the nuclear program, they have to
jokingly add ‘according to the foreign
press,’ ” he said. “Israel’s main strategic
interest in Egypt is stability, and they
believe that open disclosure would
threaten that stability.”
Inside the American government, the
strikes are widely known enough that
diplomats and intelligence officials have
discussed them in closed briefings with
lawmakers in Congress. Lawmakers in
open committee hearings have alluded
approvingly to the surprisingly close
Egyptian and Israeli cooperation in
North Sinai.
In a telephone interview, Senator
Benjamin L. Cardin of Maryland, the
ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declined to
discuss specifics of Israel’s military actions in Egypt, but said Israel was not
acting “out of goodness to a neighbor.”
“Israel does not want the bad stuff
that is happening in the Egyptian Sinai
to get into Israel,” he said, adding that
the Egyptian effort to hide Israel’s role
from its citizens “is not a new phenomenon.”
Some American supporters of Israel
complain that, given Egypt’s reliance on
the Israeli military, Egyptian officials,
diplomats and state-controlled news
media should stop publicly denouncing
the Jewish state, especially in international forums like the United Nations.
“You speak with Sisi and he talks
about security cooperation with Israel,
and you speak with Israelis and they
talk about security cooperation with
Egypt, but then this duplicitous game
continues,” said Representative Eliot L.
Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations
Committee. “It is confusing to me.”
Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has also pointedly reminded
American diplomats of the Israeli military role in Sinai. In February 2016, for
example, Secretary of State John Kerry
convened a secret summit meeting in
Aqaba, Jordan, with Mr. Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Mr. Netanyahu,
according to three American officials involved in the talks or briefed about
Mr. Kerry proposed a regional agreement in which Egypt and Jordan would
guarantee Israel’s security as part of a
deal for a Palestinian state.
Mr. Netanyahu scoffed at the idea.
Israeli’s military was already propping up Egypt’s military, he said, according to the Americans. If Egypt was unable to control the ground within its own
borders, Mr. Netanyahu argued, it was
hardly in a position to guarantee security for Israel.
Some of the reporting in this article was
conducted by David D. Kirkpatrick for
the book “Into the Hands of the Soldiers,”
to be published by Viking in August.
David M. Halbfinger contributed reporting from Jerusalem.
6 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
Trump waging war
on law enforcement
of Legal Counsel under President
George W. Bush. “And it’s happening
largely because the president is being
The attacks are having an impact. A
new SurveyMonkey poll for Axios, a
news website, released on Saturday
showed that only 38 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the F.B.I.,
compared with 64 percent of Democrats. In interviews, more than a dozen
officials who work at or recently left the
Justice Department and the F.B.I. said
they feared that the president was mortgaging the credibility of those agencies
for his own short-term political gain as
he seeks to undercut the Russia inquiry
led by the special counsel, Robert S.
Mueller III.
“Thanks to this rhetoric, there is a
subset of the public that won’t believe
what comes out of the Mueller investigation,” said Christopher Hunter, a former F.B.I. agent and prosecutor who left
the Justice Department at the end of last
year. Mr. Hunter said he worried that juries might be more skeptical of testimony from agents even in criminal trials unrelated to Mr. Trump. “All it takes
to sink a case,” he said, “is for one juror
to disbelieve the F.B.I.”
Several career professionals said they
had left recently after concluding that it
was no longer possible to serve. “I felt
that as a lawyer, I could serve the public
interest and carry out public service better and more effectively from outside, at
least on the issues I care about, than
from inside the government,” said
Joshua Geltzer, a former national security lawyer in the Justice Department.
“There are others who feel similarly.”
For some, a siege mentality has taken
hold. “Until recently, people in the department were in raised eyebrow
mode,” said Sharon McGowan, a former
principal deputy chief of the appellate
section of the Civil Rights Division who
left soon after the new administration
took over. “But now they’re starting to
get worried.”
Since taking office, Mr. Trump has assailed a number of major institutions in
society, including Congress, the courts,
the news media, intelligence agencies,
Hollywood, professional sports and his
own party. But the attacks on law enforcement are tied up with his own political fate as investigators bear down.
Andrew J. McCabe, the deputy director of
the F.B.I., was recently pushed out.
Steve Santarsiero, center, a Democrat running for State Senate in Pennsylvania, opened his campaign in Newtown, Pa. last month. The Republican holding the seat is retiring.
Republicans losing grip on states
Democrats are energized
and appear poised to add
seats in elections this year
For Republicans, the political warning
signs keep mounting at the state level:
In Virginia, it was an electoral shellacking that nearly snapped their 20-year
grip on the State House. In Wisconsin, it
was a midwinter rout in a special election for the State Senate, fought in a conservative district.
And in Pennsylvania, more than half a
dozen Republican state legislators in the
Philadelphia area have opted for retirement rather than take on a strenuous
election campaign this year.
“It looks like it’s going to be a war
zone,” said State Representative Gene
DiGirolamo, a moderate Republican, of
his native Bucks County, a spacious suburb on the New Jersey border.
As Republicans dig in to defend their
majorities in the United States Congress
in the midterm elections, party leaders
across the country have grown anxious
about losses in state legislatures. Over
the last decade, Republicans have dominated most state capitals, enacting deep
tax cuts, imposing new regulations on
labor unions and abortion providers,
and drawing congressional maps to reinforce their power in Washington.
Yet that dominance appears to be
fraying, strained by the same forces taxing Republicans in Congress. National
strategists in both parties see the landscape of legislative races expanding, especially in areas around major cities
where President Trump has stirred an
insurrection among liberals, and college-educated voters and white women
have recoiled from Republicans.
Over the last year, Democrats have
snatched away Republican seats in
more than a dozen special legislative
elections from Seattle and Tulsa, Okla.,
to Atlanta and Miami, in many cases
electing female and minority candidates
with strong turnout on the left.
Republicans will not be easily dislodged: In many states, Republican governors have built powerful machinery to
defend their allies, and Mr. Trump remains popular enough across much of
the Midwest and South to limit Democratic gains. In 31 out of 50 states, Republicans command the entire legislature; in 25 of those states, the governor
is also a Republican.
But with some momentum behind
Democrats — at least for now — the
party appears positioned to make inroads in crucial legislatures, winning
relevance in state policy and perhaps
limiting Republicans’ influence on congressional redistricting after 2020.
Matt Walter, president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, the
party’s national hub for legislative campaigns, said Republicans were on the defensive in all but a few states. Citing
Democratic turnout in recent special
elections, Mr. Walter said Republicans
should use the next nine months to
sound the “alarm bells” for their voters.
“What we have seen in the special
elections is a significant spike in the interest, engagement, spending and energy by the liberal Democrats and progressive movement,” Mr. Walter said.
That energy was on raucous display
recently in the Bucks County borough of
Newtown, where well over 100 Democrats packed into a red-brick tavern to
cheer Steve Santarsiero, a Democrat
seeking a State Senate seat left open by
a Republican’s unexpected retirement.
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The closest analogy historians summon is the Saturday Night Massacre in
1973, when President Richard M. Nixon
ordered the firing of the Watergate prosecutor, and both the attorney general
and his deputy resigned rather than
comply, leaving it to the Justice Department’s No. 3 official to carry it out. Even
then, Nixon was publicly targeting the
prosecutor, not the institutions themselves.
Ever since, the notion of a president
dismissing investigators looking at his
own actions had been unthinkable in
Washington — at least until Mr. Trump
fired James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director,
last year. President Bill Clinton’s surrogates relentlessly criticized Kenneth W.
Starr, the independent counsel investigating him, but ousting him was never a
viable option, and as much as Mr. Clinton detested Louis J. Freeh, the F.B.I. director at the time, he did not launch a
sustained public attack on him or the
Even before this past week, Mr.
Trump had publicly assailed Attorney
General Jeff Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation and
left open the possibility that he might
even fire him. Last summer, Mr. Trump
sought to fire Mr. Mueller, only to back
down after the White House counsel
threatened to resign, The New York
Times reported last month. He also considered firing Mr. Rosenstein, who oversees Mr. Mueller.
“It’s scary when someone can use the
forces of government for their own benefit, the way Nixon did and the way this
president is now doing,” said Sidney Davidoff, a onetime adviser to Mayor John
V. Lindsay of New York and one of 20
people on Nixon’s original enemies list.
“As an attorney and as a private citizen,
I’d like to believe that the investigatory
agencies are doing a job for the American people, not at someone’s whim. It’s
not a monarchy.”
Mr. Trump’s advisers dismiss such
concerns as overwrought. They said the
memo, drafted by Republicans led by
Representative Devin Nunes of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and declassified by Mr. Trump,
raised serious and legitimate questions
about the way the F.B.I. used information gathered by a former spy paid by
Mrs. Clinton’s campaign and the Democrats to help justify a warrant for surveillance on a former Trump campaign
adviser tied to Russia.
Mr. Trump’s critics, his advisers argue, are turning a blind eye to government misconduct out of their own partisan animus toward the president. Neither the F.B.I. nor the Justice Department should be above questioning, they
say, and Mr. Trump’s willingness to do so
should not be taken as a slight against
the vast majority of people who work
“The president has stated many times
that he respects the rank and file of the
F.B.I., the 25,000 men and women who
do a great job there,” Kellyanne Conway,
the president’s counselor, said on Fox
News. “This particular investigation
has taken a lot of twists and turns, and
it’s led us to a few bad actors who had
direct responsibility for an investigation
about his political opponent who are obviously biased against him.”
Mr. Trump seized on the memo on Saturday to assert that it renders the Russia investigation moot. “This memo totally vindicates ‘Trump’ in probe,” he
wrote on Twitter. “But the Russian
Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was
no Collusion and there was no Obstruction (the word now used because, after
one year of looking endlessly and finding NOTHING, collusion is dead). This
is an American disgrace!”
For Mr. Trump, the memo represents
the latest example of a secret document
containing explosive information that
shadowy, powerful figures do not want
made public, like the famous long-form
birth certificate that President Barack
Obama was supposedly hiding to cover
up that he was born in Kenya. (Mr.
Obama eventually released the form,
which showed that he was born in Hawaii, and Mr. Trump ultimately acknowledged that Mr. Obama really is a
native-born American.)
During the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump
often seized on documents as a potential
holy grail. At one point, it was sealed
pages of a congressional report into the
Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that he argued would show who was behind them.
At other moments, he pointed to Mrs.
Clinton’s deleted emails or the hacked
emails of Mrs. Clinton’s campaign chairman, John D. Podesta, which were released by the website WikiLeaks.
David Strauss, a University of Chicago law professor, said Mr. Trump’s accusations against the F.B.I. and the Justice Department were not mere political
rhetoric, but messages with consequences. “We have a president who
seems to have no understanding of the
professional ethos of the Justice Department, who has no understanding how
these people think about their jobs,” he
Especially upsetting, some former officials said, is that Mr. Trump has publicly taunted specific individuals — a top
F.B.I. official, an F.B.I. lawyer and an
F.B.I. supervisor.
“It’s one thing for the president to criticize political appointees — although it is
quite odd for him to criticize his own political appointees,” said Alan Rozenshtein, a lawyer who left the Justice Department’s national security division in
April and now teaches at the University
of Minnesota law school. But to attack
career employees at the F.B.I. who are
barred by regulations from publicly responding, he said, “that’s really bad.”
Josh Campbell, who spent a decade at
the F.B.I. and worked directly for Mr.
Comey at one time, wrote in The Times
on Saturday that he was resigning so
that he could speak out. “These political
attacks on the bureau must stop,” he
wrote. “If those critics of the agency persuade the public that the F.B.I. cannot be
trusted, they will also have succeeded in
making our nation less safe.”
One F.B.I. supervisor in a field office
said public shaming of his colleagues
had wiped out any desire he had to work
at the bureau’s headquarters in Washington. “I’d rather chew glass,” he said.
Mary McCord, a former acting assistant attorney general for the national security division, left the Justice Department in May after 23 years. Every new
administration, she said, ushered in new
priorities and policies. But only Mr.
Trump, she said, had put the entire department under a cloud.
“I’ve never seen attacks on the F.B.I.
or the D.O.J. like we’ve seen in the last
year,” she said. “It makes me just really
Sharon LaFraniere reported from Washington, Katie Benner from New York and
Peter Baker from West Palm Beach, Fla.
Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Adam Goldman
from Washington. Kitty Bennett contributed research.
• An article on Friday about the British
government’s use of private contractors
to provide social services misstated the
amount of debt held by Four Seasons
Health Care. It is $700 million, not $700
• An article on Jan. 29 about popular
support for Turkey’s military offensive
in Syria misquoted Mehmet Akif Perker,
a representative of the Republican People’s Party. He said his party is “against
war,” not “against the war” in Syria.
Darren Jackson, the Democratic leader of the House in North Carolina, says there is a lot of interest in challenging incumbents.
Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin says Republicans have had a “wake-up call.”
Before a lively breakfast crowd, Mr. Santarsiero needled Mr. Trump and hailed
his fellow Democrats running for the
legislature’s multiplying number of
open seats.
Applauding from the front was Helen
Tai, an official in nearby Solebury who is
running in a May special election for the
State House prompted by a Republican’s
resignation. Democrats nearly swept local elections in four counties outside
Philadelphia last November; Ms. Tai
said the combination of Republican retirements and liberal enthusiasm had
transformed the fight for the legislature.
“I wish it was a presidential year,” she
said. “People want to vote. They can’t
wait to vote.”
Adding to Republicans’ unease are
several unresolved lawsuits that could
unravel carefully drawn maps in states
like North Carolina and Texas. The
United States Supreme Court is expected to consider a number of cases involving gerrymandered maps this year,
and Jessica Post, executive director of
the Democratic Legislative Campaign
Committee, said the group is considering new litigation against state legislative districts in the Pennsylvania courts,
which voided a Republican-drawn congressional map last month.
Ms. Post said special elections over
the last year had revealed “early indicators of the wave.”
In many of the biggest swing states,
Democrats must overcome huge Republican majorities and forbidding legislative maps. In Pennsylvania, Republicans hold 120 seats in the 203-seat
House, and 34 of 50 in the State Senate.
Though Republicans have thin majorities in a few states, like Colorado and
Minnesota, the party is entrenched by
gerrymandering across most of the
Midwest and has long controlled Sun
Belt prizes like Florida and Arizona.
In North Carolina, Republican legislators wield margins enormous enough to
override a veto by Gov. Roy Cooper, a
Democrat, on a party-line vote in both
chambers. For 2018, Mr. Cooper and
state Democrats have announced a
“Break the Majority” campaign, not to
capture either chamber, but to deprive
Republicans of their supermajorities.
Representative Darren Jackson, the
Democratic leader in the North Carolina
House, said there had been a surge in
candidate recruitment, and Democrats
plan to pursue more than five-dozen
seats where Mr. Cooper won 44 percent
of the vote or more in 2016. They are especially hopeful about the areas around
Greensboro, Raleigh and Charlotte —
the state’s three largest cities — which
resemble suburbs in other states that
have turned on Republicans.
But Mr. Jackson takes an unromantic
view of his party’s prospects. A screen
saver on his laptop cycles through headlines from when Mr. Trump won the
presidency, as a reminder that any anticipated victory can evaporate.
Republicans are most concerned
about a collection of big states where
they hold at least one legislative chamber by a narrower majority. In Florida,
they hold the State Senate with 23 of 40
seats, and in Arizona both chambers tilt
Republican by five seats or fewer. Mike
Gardner, a former Arizona legislator
who is now a Republican lobbyist, predicted Republicans would keep power in
that state, but noted surging energy in
the “hatred-toward-Trump camp.”
State Representative Jose R. Oliva of
Miami Lakes, a Republican in line to be
speaker of the Florida House, doubted
Democrats could win either chamber,
but said Mr. Trump might hobble Republicans in the ultra-diverse communities
in and around Miami. Democrats picked
off a State Senate seat there in 2017,
though they have faced their own woes,
including the resignation of a state party
chairman amid harassment allegations.
“It’s been my experience over the last
several cycles that these are national
elections,” Mr. Oliva said.
Most telling may be Wisconsin, a traditional swing state where Republicans
have governed largely with a free hand
since 2010. Mr. Trump won the state in
2016 and, with the help of gerrymandered districts, Republicans began last
year with 20 of 33 State Senate seats.
But that number recently shrank to 18
after the Democrats’ special election upset and with another vacancy. Gov. Scott
Walker, who is seeking a third term,
called Republicans’ defeat in a red district on the Minnesota border a “wakeup call,” and party strategists are monitoring the Milwaukee suburbs, a cornerstone of Mr. Walker’s political coalition,
for signs of unrest.
State Senator Chris Larson, a Democrat, said a special election had buoyed
Democrats who had grown accustomed
to disappointment. “A lot of skepticism
by Democrats is starting to melt away,”
he said.
Alexander Burns reported from Newtown, and Alan Blinder from Atlanta. Reporting was contributed by Monica
Davey from Chicago, Patricia Mazzei
from New York and Simon Romero from
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018 | 7
Sleep tight
for better
stock gains
The founder of the Abraaj Group, Arif Naqvi, in New York in 2016. He has told investors that he did not misuse their money, pointing to regulatory delays.
A top fund faces questions
Abraaj Group investors
ask why over $200 million
they put in was not spent
Since September, the investors —
which include Proparco, a French development institution, and the CDC Group,
a similar body in Britain — have been requesting forensic proof that Abraaj did
not use the money to fund its own operations.
The Overseas Private Investment
Corporation, an arm of the United States
government that provides incentives for
American firms to invest in developing
markets, is exposed to Abraaj via a $150
million loan to the group.
Abraaj and its investors are restricted
from publicly discussing matters related to the fund because of nondisclosure
agreements signed by all parties.
It is the largest private equity firm
focused on developing economies.
The World Bank has invested $300
million with Abraaj over the years, including $100 million in the health care
fund. The investments were made
through the World Bank’s private-sector investing arm, the International Finance Corporation.
The Gates Foundation has invested
$100 million in the fund.
When the allegations surfaced, the
unit within the World Bank that looks
into cases of corruption began an investigation, according to an email exchange
between one of its investigators and an
outside party that was reviewed by The
New York Times. That review closed
without finding evidence of wrongdoing, according a person briefed on the
Mr. Kim, in his campaign to persuade
the private sector to invest more in
these types of markets, has often cited
Mr. Naqvi and Abraaj as a model.
Just as Abraaj’s fight with investors
was heating up in November, Mr. Kim
held a video conference with prominent
investors from the Middle East at World
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The Abraaj Group has a reputation as
one of the developing world’s largest
and most influential investors. The private equity firm, based in Dubai, United
Arab Emirates, manages nearly $14 billion for institutions including development agencies in the United States, Britain and France.
Now some of those investors are
claiming that the Abraaj Group and its
founder, Arif Naqvi, misused funds, according to people who are familiar with
the allegations but not authorized to
speak publicly.
The investors — including the World
Bank and the Bill and Melinda Gates
Foundation — want to know why more
than $200 million that they and others
had provided was not spent. They fear
that Abraaj may have used the money
for its own purposes, according to the
people briefed on the issue.
Not all of the 24 investors in the fund
have complained, people close to Abraaj
In discussions with their investors,
Abraaj and Mr. Naqvi have said that
they did not misuse the money and that
there was a misunderstanding about
how the fund operates. They said delays
in getting approval from regulators to
build hospitals in Nigeria and Pakistan
prevented Abraaj from deploying funds
more rapidly.
The continuing dispute has arisen at a
time of flux for the development community. The World Bank president, Jim
Yong Kim, and Bill Gates have been promoting the idea that private-sector investors need to take on a larger role in
risky projects in the developing world.
In the past, governments and founda-
tions led the way, via direct loans and
grants. But over the past year, Mr. Kim
and Mr. Gates have argued that it is possible for large pools of capital — such as
private equity funds, insurance companies and pension funds — to score big
profits by, for example, investing in hospitals in Pakistan and Nigeria. Mr. Kim
recently has singled out Abraaj and Mr.
Naqvi for praise.
Abraaj, which manages $13.6 billion,
is the largest private equity firm dedicated to developing economies. Mr.
Naqvi’s fund-raising mantra is: If you
want to do good and reap rich, privateequity style returns, invest in Abraaj
More than any of Abraaj’s other offerings, the $1 billion health care fund embodies this ideal. Starting in late 2016, it
drew down $545 million from investors
to buy hospitals in Nigeria, Pakistan and
India. The goal is to improve productivity at the hospitals, allowing them to see
more patients — and make more money.
At a meeting in London in September,
the investors saw financial statements
indicating that over $200 million in cash
was sitting with the fund. They didn’t
know why the money had not been invested, and they asked the fund’s manager, Khawar Mann, and Mr. Naqvi to
see bank statements showing how the
money was deployed. They claimed that
Abraaj was required to return the
money to investors in 60 days if it was
not used during that time.
Mr. Naqvi told the angry investors
that he saw the company as a vehicle to
buy hospitals around the world, and that
was why the fund needed the cash on
hand. He also cited the regulatory delays. But the investors were not convinced, and he sent more than $100 million back to investors in December.
The investors asked that an auditor
with no ties to Abraaj be hired to figure
out what had happened. Separately,
Abraaj hired KPMG to perform its own
Bank headquarters. Mr. Naqvi tuned in
from Dubai, and as Mr. Kim made his
case that the private sector should step
up, he repeatedly praised the Abraaj
“Arif has been saying this in so many
settings — we are on the same side,
screaming this stuff,” Mr. Kim said.
Mr. Naqvi responded in kind.
“Jim, I applaud your leadership,” he
said. “We have been partners with the
I.F.C. for 10 years, and we are proud that
we are one of your larger relationships
around the world.”
Even before this controversy,
Abraaj’s health care fund was struggling. The fund has invested about half
of the $1 billion it raised from investors.
Its largest bet was a $145 million purchase of CARE, a network of private
hospitals in Hyderabad, India, and the
investment has not met Abraaj’s expectations, according to letters the firm sent
to investors last year.
The hospital has been struggling to
adapt to an onslaught of regulations
from the government. When Abraaj
bought the company, it was earning $14
million a year, according to the letters.
Now it earns $8 million before taxes and
other items. Abraaj has not marked
down its value to reflect the lower profits.
The weak performance of the CARE
deal has prompted pointed questions on
Abraaj’s quarterly conference calls with
investors, according to people who have
been briefed on the calls.
A Pakistan native, Mr. Naqvi founded
Abraaj in 2002, after striking it rich in a
private equity deal involving a marketing company in the Middle East. With
those profits, he went from being a small
regional investor to one of the larger investors in the developing world.
In his most ambitious fund-raising effort yet, he is currently trying to start a
$6 billion Abraaj fund focusing on society-improving investments in 30 developing countries.
The daytime is for losers. Overnight is
when the big money is made in the
stock market — not by trading but by
getting a good night’s sleep.
That’s because of a gap between
daytime and overnight returns in the
American stock market. The real profits for investors have come when the
market is closed for regular trading,
according to a new stock market analysis by the Bespoke Investment Group.
The Bespoke data builds on the
findings of academic researchers, who
have documented the existence of the
gap, without being able to entirely
explain its cause.
“We can show that the gap exists,”
said Huseyin Gulen, a finance professor at Purdue University who has
written about the issue. “But at this
point we don’t know exactly why.”
Simply put, the gap may be defined
as the difference between stock returns during the hours the market is
open and the returns after regular
daytime trading ends. How the gap is
calculated may not be obvious, though.
One set of returns is straightforward: It is based on prices at the start
of trading in New York at 9:30 a.m. to
the market close at 4 p.m. The second
set is, essentially, the reverse: It is
price returns from the 4 p.m. close to
the market opening at 9:30 a.m. the
following day.
Because stock prices at the market
open tend to be higher than the price
at the previous day’s close, you don’t
actually have to stay up all night and
trade on an electronic network to rack
up overnight gains. Simply holding
shares while you sleep will do it. So for
buy-and-hold investors, these findings
are particularly encouraging: Get your
rest, ignore the temptation to trade and
you can do just fine.
The new Bespoke analysis focuses
on the returns of the first exchangetraded fund in the United States: the
SPDR S&P 500 E.T.F., which has the
ticker symbol SPY and started trading
on Jan. 29, 1993. That E.T.F. tracks the
Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index,
which often serves as a proxy for the
entire stock market, though it actually
represents only 500 of the biggest
The SPY’s overall price gain from its
inception through January has been
stupendous: 541 percent cumulatively,
not counting dividends, Bespoke says.
But look more closely, as Bespoke
did, and a remarkable fact emerges.
Separate the daytime and the afterhour returns and calculate them cumulatively, as Bespoke has done, and it
turns out that all of that price gain
since 1993 has come outside regular
trading hours.
If you had bought the SPY at the last
second of trading on each business day
since 1993 and sold at the market open
the next day — capturing all of the net
after-hour gains — your cumulative
price gain would be 571 percent.
On the other hand, if you had done
the reverse, buying the E.T.F. at the
first second of regular trading every
morning at 9:30 a.m. and selling at the
4 p.m. close, you would be down 4.4
percent since 1993.
For 25 years, in other words, the
daytime has been a net loss.
One implication is immediate. “Forget about the news and the market ups
and downs during the day,” said Paul
Hickey, a co-founder of Bespoke. “They
are nowhere close to what they are
cracked up to be.” Most people are
better off if they just sit tight, he said.
Buying and holding the overall
market — using an E.T.F. like the SPY,
or a traditional index mutual fund, or a
very diversified portfolio of stocks —
has been an extremely profitable strategy if you stuck to it for the last 25
years. On the other hand, buying and
selling during the day has generally
been a money-losing strategy.
That said, there are plenty of exceptions to these general statements.
Many individuals and institutions
have made tons of money through
short-term trading during regular
trading hours, even if investors over all
have not. Furthermore, the steadily
rising stock market in the 12 months
through January has been better in the
daytime than it has been historically —
posting gains in the SPY during regular trading hours of 9.2 percent. Still,
the overnight gains have been much
better: 13.4 percent over the same
Why it has done so is the subject of
Michael Kelly, a finance professor at
Lafayette College, said one possibility
is that frequent traders believe that
they can respond easily to information
and events during the day but can’t
after hours, when there are far fewer
market participants and less money, or
“liquidity,” involved in trading. “People
may be inclined to sell at the market
close so they can feel in control of their
money overnight,” he said.
There is some evidence that smaller
traders are prey to this tendency and
tend to sell late in the day — and that
some big institutional traders, who are
well aware of the day-night gap, tend
to buy at the close
and sell at the open.
During the
Because relatively
few people actually
trade after the martrading day,
ket closes, orders
investors lose
tend to build up
money. The
overnight, and in a
big profits
rising market, that
come after
will produce an
upward price surge
when the market
opens. But during
extended declines, overnight sell orders may cause prices to plummet
when the market opens.
If there were no trading costs, an
excellent strategy over the last few
decades would have been buying
shares at the last possible moment
during regular trading hours and
selling them methodically at the opening bell every day, Professor Gulen of
Purdue said.
While transaction costs make that
strategy uneconomical, he said, the
concept may still have a certain value.
“If you do know that you are going to
make a trade on a given day, and you
have the ability to choose when you do
it, you might be able to take advantage
of this pattern — buying late in the day
and selling early.”
Part of the gap in returns can probably be explained by the human tendency to panic at bad news, Professor
Kelly said. “That panic seems to happen during the day,” he said. “One
advantage of not trading during the
day is that you aren’t as likely to participate in panicky selling.”
His data shows that during the bear
market year of 2008, the overall market, as represented by the SPY E.T.F.,
declined 36.8 percent. But most of the
damage occurred during the day, with
losses of 26.7 percent, compared with
only 13.8 percent overnight.
But further study on the day-night
gap is needed, he said.
In the meantime, Mr. Hickey said, “If
you are tempted to day trade, this is
another argument for not doing it,” he
said. “And trading after hours is in
some ways, even riskier, because with
fewer people in the market, prices can
be erratic.”
Slow and steady investing generally
avoids these problems. And over long
periods, it has paid off. Frequent trading generally has not, either night or
Designer stepping it up a notch with a $100,000 gamble
Budapest-based label
showing in New York
for the first time
“Most of the influencers we work
with are from America. We feel
like they really feel our vibe.”
Sandra Sandor has been designing for
Nanushka, her Budapest-based women’s wear label, for 13 years. But this is
the first time she will be showing at New
York Fashion Week, which gets into full
swing Monday.
It was not an inexpensive decision to
“We are trying to keep the budget at
Nanushka’s chief executive and Ms.
Sandor’s boyfriend.
That is a small fraction of what larger
brands will spend on a fashion show.
Nanushka is opting for a presentation,
wherein the models are static and critics
and potential buyers mill about, instead
of a more expensive runway show. Still,
it remains a significant investment for a
brand that, for 2017, took in $3.1 million in
Nanushka was established in 2005 by
Ms. Sandor, then a recent graduate of
the London College of Fashion, but it
The fashion designer Sandra Sandor, above center, and her partner Peter Baldaszti in the Nanushka studio in Budapest. At right, final touches ahead of New York Fashion Week.
traces its roots to 1972, when her mother
founded a children’s wear business in
Budapest. (In the days of the Iron Curtain, such small private enterprises
were allowed to operate selectively.)
Over the years, and helped by financing from friends and family, Nanushka
nurtured a large following in Hungary,
where the label has a store in Budapest,
and a growing global audience. It sells at
influential boutiques like Bird Brooklyn
and is worn by celebrities like Charlize
In 2012, Ms. Sandor took on an investor, who in turn was bought out by Mr.
Baldaszti and the venture capital firm
GB & Partners, which purchased a majority stake in November 2016 and injected $3 million into the business. Mr.
Baldaszti orchestrated a change in
Nanushka’s identity — everything from
its logo to its shoe boxes — and
Nanushka’s revenues have nearly tripled in the last two years.
Last year, Nanushka received its first
orders from the majors — department
stores like Browns and online retailers
like Net-a-Porter. When the label noted a
large uptick in orders of its pre-fall 2018
collection, the team decided the time
was right for a show.
In previous seasons, Nanushka would
spend $20,000 on a “look book,” a series
of professional photographs of models
wearing the collection. For the presentation, which will be held on Feb. 11,
that’s just the beginning. Photos are still
crucial, for press attention and marketing purposes, but now they need to be
ready in time for the highly influential site to have them up by the
morning after the show.
“The cost of retouching photos is insane,” Ms. Sandor said. “The cost of retouching our photos”— $300 per image,
8 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
Chinese company asks
staff to help relieve debt
HNA, which borrowed
heavily for dealmaking,
entices workers to invest
Gong Xiangyang, at left in background, is the head of radiology at Zhejiang Provincial People’s Hospital, which uses software to help identify early-stage lung cancer.
A.I. disrupts health care in China
Its tech giants are out front
in using software to screen
patients and aid diagnoses
findings with colleagues and writing up
a report. Artificial intelligence software
currently being tested by the hospital
helps her do all that dramatically faster.
“Now, you don’t even need a minute,”
she said.
The software was developed by VoxelCloud, a Chinese start-up that has
raised about $28.5 million from companies including Tencent and the Silicon
Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital. It specializes in automated medical
image analysis, helping eye doctors like
Dr. Yu screen patients for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness
among China’s working-age population.
There are 20 eye doctors for every
million people in China, a third of the
proportion in the United States. In April,
Beijing announced an ambitious plan for
the country’s 110 million diabetics to undergo eye tests.
China has been bolder than the
United States in employing A.I.
“It’s impossible for one person to read
that many images,” Dr. Yu said.
Ding Xiaowei, whose grandparents
were doctors, founded VoxelCloud in
2016, three months after completing his
doctorate in computer science at the
University of California, Los Angeles.
The company, which has offices in Los
Angeles and the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Suzhou, is awaiting permission
from China’s version of the United
States Food and Drug Administration
for five diagnostic tools for CT scans and
retina disease.
The sheer size of China’s population
— nearly 1.4 billion people who could
provide a vast number of images to feed
into their systems — provides a potential advantage for the development of
artificial intelligence. China is also
helped by having fewer concerns about
privacy, allowing for easier collection of
data that could result in smarter and
more efficient A.I. systems. Regulation
in China isn’t as strict as in the United
States, either.
In all, more than 130 companies are
applying A.I. in ways that could increase
the efficiency of China’s health care sys-
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Amazon and two other American tech titans are trying to shake up health care
by experimenting with their own employees’ coverage. By Chinese standards, they’re behind the curve.
Chinese technology companies like
Alibaba and Tencent have made health
care a priority for years, and are using
their home country as their laboratory.
After testing online medical advice and
drug-tracking systems, they are now focused on a more advanced tool: artificial intelligence.
Their aggressive push underscores
the differences between the health care
systems in China and the United States.
Chinese hospitals are overburdened,
with just 1.5 doctors for every 1,000 people — barely half the ratio in the United
States. Along with a rapidly aging population, China also has the largest number of obese children in the world, as
well as more diabetes patients than anywhere else.
The companies’ technological push is
encouraged by the government. Beijing
has said it wants to be a leader in A.I. by
2030 and has pledged to take on the
United States in the field. While officials
have emphasized the use of artificial intelligence in areas like defense and selfdriving cars, they have also aggressively promoted its use in health
Alibaba and Tencent, which already
dominate China’s e-commerce and mobile payment sectors, are at the forefront. Among their goals: building diagnostic tools that will make doctors more
Amazon and its health care project
partners, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway, see technology as a
way to provide simplified, affordable
medical services. Although the alliance
is still in the early stages, it could create
online services for medical advice or use
its overall heft to negotiate for lower
drug prices.
“It’s fair to say that across the board,
the Chinese tech companies have all embraced being involved in and being active in the health care space, unlike the
U.S., where some of them have and some
have not,” said Laura Nelson Carney, an
Asia-Pacific health care analyst at Bernstein Research.
“Few of them have made moves as big
as in China,” Ms. Carney said, referring
to Alibaba and Tencent’s American rivals.
Those big moves have had varying
degrees of success.
In 2014, Alibaba announced a “future
hospital” plan intended to make treatment more efficient by allowing patients
to consult with doctors and order drugs
via the internet. But two years later, Chinese regulators stopped the sale of overthe-counter drugs on Tmall, Alibaba’s ecommerce website. They also suspended a drug-monitoring system that
the company had created. And last year,
the Chinese search engine company
Baidu scrapped its internet health care
service, which allowed patients to book
doctor appointments through an app, to
focus solely on artificial intelligence.
But some of the more recent initiatives have made inroads. Last year, Alibaba’s health unit introduced A.I. software that can help interpret CT scans
and an A.I. medical lab to help doctors
make diagnoses. About a month later,
Tencent unveiled Miying, a medical imaging program that helps doctors detect
early signs of cancer. It is now used in
nearly 100 hospitals across the country.
Tencent has also invested in the WeDoctor Group, which has its own take on
Alibaba’s “future hospital” in northwestern China. The service allows patients
to have video chats with doctors and fill
their prescriptions online.
Advances in artificial intelligence
have already been transformative for
China’s overworked doctors.
Dr. Yu Weihong, an ophthalmologist
at Peking Union Medical College Hospital, said she used to take up to two days
to analyze a patient’s eyes by scrutinizing grainy images before discussing her
tem, according to Yiou Intelligence, an
industry consultancy based in Beijing.
They include behemoths like Alibaba
and Tencent, the domestic champion
iFlyTek, which invented a robot that
passed a Chinese medical licensing
exam, and an array of start-ups.
Money is flowing in. As of August,
venture capitalists like Sequoia and Matrix Partners had invested at least $2.7
billion in such businesses, according to
Yiou. Analysts at Bernstein estimated
that spending in China’s health tech industry will reach $150 billion by 2020.
Behind this push is a realization that
the country’s health care system is in
crisis. With no functioning primary care
system, patients flock to hospitals in
major cities, sometimes camping out
overnight just to get treatment for a fever. Doctors are overworked, and reports of stabbings and assaults by frustrated patients and their relatives are
not uncommon.
Yunfeng, the personal investment
fund of the Alibaba founder Jack Ma, has
invested in one company, Yitu, that
hopes to address the shortfall of resources. Yitu is working with Zhejiang
Provincial People’s Hospital, the best
medical facility in Zhejiang Province, in
eastern China, to develop software that
automates the identification of early
stages of lung cancer.
Trying to identify cancer nodes —
shifting black-and-white splotches that
look something like a Rorschach test —
is grueling work, and China’s doctors
have far less time and resources than
their counterparts in the United States
and elsewhere.
Gong Xiangyang, the head of the Zhejiang hospital’s radiology department,
likened the process to a factory, where
burnout and mistakes from overwork
can happen.
“We have to deal with a vast amount
of medical images every day,” he said.
“So we welcome technology if it can relieve the pressure while boosting efficiency and accuracy.”
Sui-Lee Wee reported from Beijing and
Paul Mozur from Hangzhou. Carolyn
Zhang contributed research from Shanghai and Hangzhou and Zhang Tiantian
from Beijing.
Fashion designer’s $100,000 gamble
$10,000 in total — “is our biggest expense next to models.”
The cost of those models? $20,000.
Add $40,000 for art buying costs:
$10,000 for two photographers, $7,000
for video editing, $5,000 for makeup,
$3,000 for a stylist, $3,000 for the casting
director, $5,000 for the set designer and
$7,000 for props. The venue, a well-lit
penthouse in the West Village of New
York City, costs $10,000. Production —
everything from the lights to the transportation of the clothes — is $15,000. Finally, there is public relations to handle
invitations and press requests, which
means an additional $5,000.
Over the past few years, a wave of designers from former Soviet republics —
led by the Georgia-born Demna
Gvasalia, now the creative head of Balenciaga — has caused upheaval in the
industry and garnered huge interest in
their point of view. But most of those
brands show in Paris.
“We chose New York because of its
openness and curiosity,” Ms. Sandor
said. “Most of the influencers we work
with are from America. We feel like they
really feel our vibe.”
And yet you won’t find Nanushka on
the official calendar of New York Fash-
A Nanushka employee at work in the label’s studio in Budapest.
ion Week, compiled and published by
the Council of Fashion Designers of
America, the body that oversees it. With
occasional exceptions, no new designer
is allowed an official spot on the tightly
controlled calendar in its first year in
New York. Instead, Nanushka will show
what’s called “off-calendar.”
“Typically, if you haven’t shown before in a major market, we don’t put you
on the official calendar,” said Mark
Beckham, the council’s vice president of
marketing. “We don’t want to get to a
place where we’re rushing people to
As it makes its big debut, Nanushka is
in an interesting place, where the traditional fashion power structures — department stores, editorial placement,
New York Fashion Week — are both
more and less important than ever.
On presentation day, editors and buyers will be in attendance, but the stars
for Ms. Sandor are the online influencers who are occasionally given a free
outfit or two. She is hoping to see Alyssa
Coscarelli, the market editor of Refinery
29, whose @alyssainthecity Instagram
account (and the name by which Ms.
Sandor knows her) has 93,500 followers,
and Reese Blutstein, a 21-year-old Atlantan whose @double3xposure account is
followed by 165,000.
Ms. Sandor is straightforward about
the stakes, “It’s money,” she said. But
she added that she was not too worried:
“To be honest with you, I don’t think
we’re risking anything. I’m quite confident it’s going to be great.”
She allowed for one exception: “If
there’s a huge snowstorm, and nobody
comes — that’s a risk.”
Just before payday, an email went out to
employees from top executives: Give us
your money, and we’ll make it worth
your while.
It was one of many pitches by the
HNA Group, a Chinese conglomerate
struggling under an estimated $90 billion in debt accumulated during a global
shopping spree that included buying
stakes in multinational businesses like
Hilton Hotels and Deutsche Bank.
The company, in an email, advertised
an “employee treasure” product with an
8.5 percent return if workers handed
over $1,500. A similar one dangled 9 percent. A third mentioned a return as high
as 40 percent if employees ponied up
These pitches, more than a dozen of
which were reviewed by The New York
Times, were not part of an employee
stock program. Instead, they appear to
be high-interest-rate loans, with the
company as borrower and its workers
as lenders.
HNA’s overtures to its employees
come at a difficult time for many of China’s biggest dealmakers. The company
is among a group of large Chinese companies chastened by the government for
making splashy overseas purchases of
hotels, movie theaters and film production companies. The resulting debt
among the aggressive buyers got so big
that Beijing saw it as a threat to the
broader economy.
HNA’s borrowing costs have risen
sharply on the global bond market in recent months, an indication that investors are increasingly worried about the
company’s ability to pay its debts. Seven
public companies under the umbrella of
HNA have suspended trading of their
stock, suggesting that big announcements that could affect key businesses
are in the works. The company is also
starting to sell assets.
In a recent interview with Reuters, its
chairman, Chen Feng, acknowledged financial troubles and vowed to overcome
It is unclear how much money HNA
has raised from employees. The company has long offered such investments
to its employees as a way to incentivize
them and to share in the company’s success, Thomas A. Clare, an attorney for
HNA, wrote in an email.
“HNA has never approached the offering of these products and opportunities as a financing mechanism, as the
amounts contributed by HNA employees to these opportunities are a very
small percentage of the funds raised,” he
Companies around the world allow
employees to buy stock or provide other
ways for workers to invest in the business. But the HNA pitches do not offer
direct ownership stakes in the business.
The offers reviewed by The Times
had similar hallmarks, namely high returns for funding certain operations.
In an email dated Jan. 4, one HNA unit
told employees that it needed nearly $8
million to fund a duty-free business. It
advertised a 9.8 percent annualized interest rate. One week later, HNA’s media
and entertainment arm said it was looking to raise nearly $80 million from employees, pledging strong returns and a
plan to build up the business.
Some emails have asked for big investments, while others emphasized
how little employees have to invest to be
eligible for hefty returns. One email,
dated Jan. 17, offered commissions to
employees who referred friends and
“If you successfully invite someone
else to invest in fixed-term wealth management products,” the email told employees, “you can get a high commission.” The email did not elaborate.
In one seven-day period in January,
an HNA employee received seven separate pitches. Mr. Clare said any increase
would be the result of trying to incentivize more employees.
Chinese companies have often turned
to individual investors or their own
workers to raise money. But such
moves, according to some China finance
experts, can signal problems.
“It’s a desperation measure when
companies really have no other source
of financing and they are stuck,” said
Anne Stevenson-Yang, co-founder of
J Capital Research, a corporate research firm.
A small company in the southeastern
Chinese city of Wenzhou called the Wenzhou Liren Educational Group made national news in 2011 after it went bankrupt
and was unable to pay nearly $790 million it borrowed from employees and local residents. In 2015, an online peer-topeer platform called the Great Group
pressured employees to buy investments in order to raise funds when it
found itself in a financial bind, the Chinese news media widely reported. The
two companies did not respond to requests for comment.
“Internal funding is a common way
for companies to raise funds,” said Sun
Lijian, an associate professor at the
China Center for Economic Study at Fudan University in Shanghai.
“But employees shouldn’t be forced to
contribute and they should be informed
of all the details of the project including
the risks,” he added.
Raising money from workers is legal
in China if an employer clears regulatory hurdles, experts say, particularly
permission from the country’s central
bank. The People’s Bank of China, the
central bank, did not respond to a request for comment.
Companies raising money directly
from Chinese investors must obtain licenses from securities, insurance or
banking regulators. The HNA pitches
reviewed by The Times did not say
whether they were reviewed by regulators.
Mr. Clare, HNA’s attorney, said that
the offerings comply with all laws and
referred questions to the various Chinese regulatory agencies, which did not
respond to requests for comment.
HNA is among a group of
businesses chastened by Beijing
for making splashy overseas
purchases including hotels and
movie production companies.
HNA sometimes directed employees
to Jubaohui, its online investment portal, which is generally open to Chinese
The portal also has an employeesonly area. Publicly, HNA often positions
itself as a major player on the move,
with talented leadership and vast resources at its disposal.
Jubaohui has had trouble paying back
some investors, according to an email
sent to an investor and reviewed by The
Times. It promised to pay later at a
higher interest rate, after it was unable
to make the final payments of two investments at the end of last year.
The payments were eventually made,
said the employee who received the
email. The Wall Street Journal earlier
reported on a similar problem with a different HNA investment.
Mr. Clare, the attorney for HNA, said,
“Absent specific evidence that Jubaohui
was actually late in making a required
payment, there is no basis for any such
statement or speculation.”
As HNA has faced more questions
about its operations by both the local
and foreign media, the company has issued groupwide emails urging employees to not speak to reporters.
In January, HNA’s human resources
department told employees they would
be required to take a test on how to deal
with the news media, according to an internal document reviewed by The
Meanwhile, the emails kept flooding
employee inboxes.
“Your year-end bonus is here,” said
one sent on Jan. 15, for an investment
tied to HNA’s Qianhai Air and Shipping
Exchange arm. In one corner of the
email was the animated image of a smiling barrel overflowing with gold coins.
The next day, another one backed by
Qianhai Air and Shipping was sent out.
It cited the rising cost of school and
property in major Chinese cities, then
contrasted it with the $16 minimum investment for the product, called Ladle
Full of Gold.
“The cost of living is high?” it said.
“Ladle Full of Gold won’t give in!”
An HNA office building at HNA Plaza in Beijing. The conglomerate’s debt has swollen to
an estimated $90 billion as a result of worldwide acquisitions.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018 | 9
A goddess, a mogul and a mad genius
Maureen Dowd
Yes, Uma Thurman is mad.
She has been raped. She has been
sexually assaulted. She has been mangled in hot steel. She has been betrayed
and gaslighted by those she trusted.
And we’re not talking about her role
as the blood-spattered bride in “Kill
Bill.” We’re talking about a world that is
just as cutthroat, amoral, vindictive and
misogynistic as any Quentin Tarantino
We’re talking about Hollywood,
where even an avenging angel has a
hard time getting respect, much less
bloody satisfaction.
Playing foxy Mia Wallace in 1994’s
“Pulp Fiction” and ferocious Beatrix
Kiddo in “Kill Bill,” Volumes 1 (2003)
and 2 (2004), Thurman was the lissome
goddess in the creation myth of Harvey
Weinstein and Quentin Tarantino. The
Miramax troika was the ultimate in
indie cool. A spellbound Tarantino often
described his auteur-muse relationship
with Thurman — who helped him conceive the idea of the bloody bride — as
an Alfred Hitchcock-Ingrid Bergman
legend. (With a foot fetish thrown in.)
But beneath the glistening Oscar gold,
there was a dark undercurrent that
twisted the triangle.
“Pulp Fiction” made Weinstein rich
and respected, and Thurman says he
introduced her to President Barack
Obama at a fund-raiser as the reason he
had his house.
“The complicated feeling I have
about Harvey is how bad I feel about all
the women that were attacked after I
was,” she told me one recent night,
looking anguished in her elegant apartment in River House on Manhattan’s
East Side, as she vaped tobacco, sipped
white wine and fed empty pizza boxes
into the fireplace.
“I am one of the reasons that a young
girl would walk into his room alone, the
way I did. Quentin used Harvey as the
executive producer of ‘Kill Bill,’ a movie
that symbolizes female empowerment.
And all these lambs walked into slaughter because they were convinced nobody rises to such a position who would
do something illegal to you, but they
Thurman stresses that Creative
Artists Agency, her former agency, was
connected to Weinstein’s predatory
behavior. It has since issued a public
apology. “I stand as both a person who
was subjected to it and a person who
was then also part of the cloud cover, so
that’s a super weird split to have,” she
She talks mordantly about “the power
from ‘Pulp,’” and reminds me that it’s in
the Library of Congress, part of the
American narrative.
When asked about the scandal on the
red carpet at the October premiere for
her Broadway play, “The Parisian
Woman,” an intrigue about a glamorous
woman in President Trump’s Washington written by “House of Cards” creator
Beau Willimon, she looked steely and
said she was waiting to feel less angry
before she talked about it.
“I used the word ‘anger’ but I was
more worried about crying, to tell you
the truth,” she says now. “I was not a
groundbreaker on a story I knew to be
true. So what you really saw was a
person buying time.”
By Thanksgiving, Thurman had
begun to unsheathe her Hattori Hanzo,
Instagramming a screen shot of her
“roaring rampage of revenge” monologue and wishing everyone a happy
holiday, “(Except you Harvey, and all
your wicked conspirators — I’m glad it’s
going slowly — you don’t deserve a
bullet) — stay tuned.”
Stretching out her lanky frame on a
brown velvet couch in front of the fire,
Thurman tells her story, with occasional
interruptions from her 5-year-old
daughter with her ex, financier Arpad
Busson. Luna is in her pj’s, munching on
a raw cucumber. Her two older kids with
Ethan Hawke, Maya, an actress, and
Levon, a high school student, also drop
In interviews over the years, Thurman has offered a Zen outlook — even
when talking about her painful breakup
from Hawke. (She had a brief first marriage to Gary Oldman.) Her hall features a large golden Buddha from her
parents in Woodstock; her father,
Robert Thurman, is a Buddhist professor of Indo-Tibetan studies at Columbia
who thinks Uma is a reincarnated goddess.
But beneath that reserve and golden
aura, she has learned to be a street
She says when she was 16, living in a
studio apartment in Manhattan and
starting her movie career, she went to a
club one winter night and met an actor,
nearly 20 years older, who coerced her
afterward when they went to his Greenwich Village brownstone for a nightcap.
“I was ultimately compliant,” she
remembers. “I tried to say no, I cried, I
did everything I could do. He told me
the door was locked but I never ran over
and tried the knob. When I got home, I
remember I stood in front of the mirror
and I looked at my hands and I was so
mad at them for not being bloody or
bruised. Something like that tunes the
dial one way or another, right? You
become more compliant or less compliant, and I think I became less compliant.”
Thurman got to know Weinstein and
his first wife, Eve, in the afterglow of
“Pulp Fiction.” “I knew him pretty well
before he attacked me,” she said. “He
used to spend hours talking to me about
material and complimenting my mind
and validating me. It possibly made me
overlook warning signs. This was my
champion. I was never any kind of
studio darling. He had a chokehold on
the type of films and directors that were
right for me.”
Things soon went off-kilter in a meeting in his Paris hotel room. “It went
right over my head,” she says. They
were arguing about a script when the
bathrobe came out.
“I didn’t feel threatened,” she recalls.
“I thought he was being super idiosyncratic, like this was your kooky, eccentric uncle.”
He told her to follow him down a hall
— there were always, she says,
“vestibules within corridors within
chambers” — so they could keep talking. “Then I followed him through a
door and it was a steam room. And I was
standing there in my
full black leather
“I am one of
outfit — boots, pants,
the reasons
jacket. And it was so
that a young
hot and I said, ‘This is
girl would
ridiculous, what are
walk into his
you doing?’ And he
was getting very
room alone,
the way I did.” flustered and mad
and he jumped up
and ran out.”
The first “attack,”
she says, came not long after in Weinstein’s suite at the Savoy Hotel in London. “It was such a bat to the head. He
pushed me down. He tried to shove
himself on me. He tried to expose himself. He did all kinds of unpleasant
things. But he didn’t actually put his
back into it and force me. You’re like an
animal wriggling away, like a lizard. I
was doing anything I could to get the
train back on the track. My track. Not
his track.”
She was staying in Fulham with her
friend, Ilona Herman, Robert De Niro’s
longtime makeup artist, who later
worked with Thurman on “Kill Bill.”
“The next day to her house arrived a
26-inch-wide vulgar bunch of roses,”
Thurman says. “They were yellow. And
I opened the note like it was a soiled
diaper and it just said, ‘You have great
instincts.’” Then, she says, Weinstein’s
assistants started calling again to talk
about projects.
She thought she could confront him
and clear it up, but she took Herman
with her and asked Weinstein to meet
her in the Savoy bar. The assistants had
their own special choreography to lure
actresses into the spider’s web and they
pressured Thurman, putting Weinstein
on the phone to again say it was a misunderstanding and “we have so many
projects together.” Finally she agreed to
go upstairs, while Herman waited on a
settee outside the elevators.
Once the assistants vanished, Thurman says, she warned Weinstein, “If
you do what you did to me to other
people you will lose your career, your
reputation and your family, I promise
you.” Her memory of the incident
abruptly stops there.
Through a representative, Weinstein,
who is in therapy in Arizona, agreed
that “she very well could have said this.”
Downstairs, Herman was getting
nervous. “It seemed to take forever,” the
friend told me. Finally, the elevator
doors opened and Thurman walked out.
“She was very disheveled and so upset
and had this blank look,” Herman recalled. “Her eyes were crazy and she
was totally out of control. I shoveled her
into the taxi and we went home to my
house. She was really shaking.” Herman said that when the actress was able
to talk again, she revealed that Weinstein had threatened to derail her career.
Through a spokesperson, Weinstein
denied ever threatening her prospects
and said that he thought she was “a
brilliant actress.” He acknowledged her
account of the episodes but said that up
until the Paris steam room, they had
had “a flirtatious and fun working relationship.”
“Mr. Weinstein acknowledges making a pass at Ms. Thurman in England
after misreading her signals in Paris,”
the statement said. “He immediately
Thurman says that, even though she
was in the middle of a run of Miramax
projects, she privately regarded Weinstein as an enemy after that. One top
Hollywood executive who knew them
both said the work relationship continued but that basically, “She didn’t give
him the time of day.”
Thurman says that she could tolerate
the mogul in supervised environments
and that she assumed she had “aged out
of the window of his assault range.”
She attended the party he had in
SoHo in September for Tarantino’s
engagement to Daniella Pick, an Israeli
singer. In response to queries about
Thurman’s revelations, Weinstein sent
along six pictures of chummy photos of
.C a ГР
O t's У
/W e П
SN s"
The actress is
finally ready
to talk about
the two of them at premieres and parties over the years.
And that brings us to “the Quentin of
it all,” as Thurman calls it. The animosity between Weinstein and Thurman
infected her creative partnership with
Married to Hawke and with a baby
daughter and a son on the way, Thurman went to the Cannes Film Festival in
2001. She says Tarantino noticed after a
dinner that she was skittish around
Weinstein, which was a problem, since
they were all about to make “Kill Bill.”
She says she reminded Tarantino that
she had already told him about the
Savoy incident, but “he probably dismissed it like ‘Oh, poor Harvey, trying to
get girls he can’t have,’ whatever he told
himself, who knows?” But she reminded him again and “the penny
dropped for him. He confronted Harvey.”
Later, by the pool under the Cypress
trees at the luxurious Hotel du Cap,
Thurman recalls, Weinstein said he was
hurt and surprised by her accusations.
She then firmly reiterated what happened in London. “At some point, his
eyes changed and he went from aggressive to ashamed,” she says, and he
offered her an apology with many of the
sentiments he would trot out about 16
years later when the walls caved in.
“I just walked away stunned, like
‘O.K., well there’s my half-assed apology,’” Thurman says.
Weinstein confirmed Friday that he
apologized, an unusual admission from
him, which spurred Thurman to wryly
note, “His therapy must be working.”
Since the revelations about Weinstein
became public last fall, Thurman has
been reliving her encounters with him
— and a gruesome episode on location
for “Kill Bill” in Mexico made her feel as
blindsided as the bride and as determined to get her due, no matter how
long it took.
With four days left, after nine months
of shooting the sadistic saga, Thurman
was asked to do something that made
her draw the line.
In the famous scene where she’s
driving the blue convertible to kill Bill —
the same one she put on Instagram on
Thanksgiving — she was asked to do
the driving herself.
But she had been led to believe by a
teamster, she says, that the car, which
had been reconfigured from a stick shift
to an automatic, might not be working
that well.
She says she insisted that she didn’t
feel comfortable operating the car and
would prefer a stunt person to do it.
Producers say they do not recall her
“Quentin came in my trailer and
didn’t like to hear no, like any director,”
she says. “He was furious because I’d
cost them a lot of time. But I was scared.
He said: ‘I promise you the car is fine.
It’s a straight piece of road.’” He persuaded her to do it, and instructed:
“‘Hit 40 miles per hour or your hair
won’t blow the right way and I’ll make
you do it again.’ But that was a deathbox
that I was in. The seat wasn’t screwed
down properly. It was a sand road and it
was not a straight road.” (Tarantino did
not respond to requests for comment.)
Thurman then shows me the footage
that she says has taken her 15 years to
get. “Solving my own Nancy Drew
mystery,” she says.
It’s from the point of view of a camera
mounted to the back of the Karmann
Ghia. It’s frightening to watch Thurman
wrestle with the car, as it drifts off the
road and smashes into a palm tree, her
contorted torso heaving helplessly until
crew members appear in the frame to
pull her out of the wreckage. Tarantino
leans in and Thurman flashes a relieved
smile when she realizes that she can
briefly stand.
“The steering wheel was at my belly
and my legs were jammed under me,”
she says. “I felt this searing pain and
thought, ‘Oh my God, I’m never going to
walk again,’” she says. “When I came
back from the hospital in a neck brace
with my knees damaged and a large
massive egg on my head and a concussion, I wanted to see the car and I was
very upset. Quentin and I had an enormous fight, and I accused him of trying
to kill me. And he was very angry at
that, I guess understandably, because
he didn’t feel he had tried to kill me.”
Even though their marriage was
spiraling apart, Hawke immediately left
the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky
to fly to his wife’s side.
“I approached Quentin in very serious terms and told him that he had let
Uma down as a director and as a friend,”
he told me. He said he told Tarantino,
“Hey, man, she is a great actress, not a
stunt driver, and you know that.” Hawke
added that the director “was very upset
with himself and asked for my forgiveness.”
Two weeks after the crash, after
trying to see the car and footage of the
incident, she had her lawyer send a
letter to Miramax, summarizing the
event and reserving the right to sue.
Miramax offered to show her the
footage if she signed a document “releasing them of any consequences of my
future pain and suffering,” she says. She
Thurman says her mind meld with
Tarantino was rattled. “We were in a
terrible fight for years,” she explains.
“We had to then go through promoting
the movies. It was all very thin ice. We
had a fateful fight at Soho House in New
York in 2004 and we were shouting at
each other because he wouldn’t let me
see the footage and he told me that was
what they had all decided.”
Now, so many years after the accident, inspired by the reckoning on
violence against women, reliving her
own “dehumanization to the point of
death” in Mexico, and furious that there
Uma Thurman in
New York.
10 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
Mort Walker, historian
Cullen Murphy
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
MARK THOMPSON, Chief Executive Officer
JOSEPH KAHN, Managing Editor
STEPHEN DUNBAR-JOHNSON, President, International
TOM BODKIN, Creative Director
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DEMARTA, Senior V.P., Global Advertising
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
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
CHARLOTTE GORDON, V.P., International Consumer Marketing
Seriously? That’s all they’ve got?
The four-page memo that promised to reveal the
biggest political scandal in a generation has finally
been released. For all the pregame hype, the memo
looks less like the next Watergate and more like the
next “unmasking”-gate, the 2017 pseudo-scandal that
alleged — wrongly — that Obama administration officials had mishandled classified information. That dustup was orchestrated, coincidentally, by Representative
Devin Nunes, the California Republican who heads the
House Intelligence Committee and whose staff prepared the document released on Friday.
The memo opens darkly, raising “concerns with the
legitimacy and legality” of Justice Department and
F.B.I. interactions with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. What sort of illegality are they talking
about? The memo doesn’t say.
Its central assertion appears to be that investigators
who sought and received a warrant from the intelligence court to surveil the Trump campaign adviser
Carter Page misled the court by failing to reveal the
biased evidence they were relying on. First, they included in their warrant application a dossier prepared
by Christopher Steele, a former British spy, without
telling the court that Mr. Steele’s research was partly
funded by the Clinton campaign. Second, they did not
reveal that Mr. Steele had told a Justice Department
official that he “was desperate that Donald Trump not
get elected and was passionate about him not being
The memo also notes that Andrew McCabe, the
deputy director of the F.B.I. who stepped down this
week, testified to the Intelligence Committee in December that investigators would not have sought the
warrant without the information contained in the
This is all potentially interesting information. How
significant is it in context? For starters, what other
evidence did the intelligence court rely on in finding
probable cause to issue the warrant? The memo doesn’t say. What about the court’s rationale for issuing
three separate extensions, each of which required
investigators to present new evidence beyond the
dossier? The memo doesn’t say. Was any significant
piece of information in the dossier found to be inaccurate? The memo doesn’t say. Did the court assume
bias on the part of Mr. Steele or the funders of his
research, as courts regularly do when considering
evidence supporting a request for a warrant? The
memo doesn’t say.
You know what would help to answer questions like
these? Even more transparency. It would be useful, for
instance, if we could see all of the supporting evidence
in the warrant application — with necessary redactions, of course, to protect sources and methods.
Also helpful would be the 10-page response memo
prepared by Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s ranking Democrat, who, unlike Mr. Nunes, has
actually seen the intelligence underlying the application. (The response memo reportedly explains, among
other things, that investigators did in fact tell the court
that the dossier was politically motivated.)
Surely Mr. Nunes, House Speaker Paul Ryan and the
other Republicans who, in the days leading up to the
memo’s release, expressed a newfound enthusiasm for
transparency in government would support releasing
this information, wouldn’t they? Transparency in government is the lifeblood of a democracy, after all — the
bulwark against abuses of power by public officials. As
Mr. Ryan said on Tuesday in defending the House’s
decision to release the memo, “Transparency can
reign supreme.”
Since the Republicans are now on board with greater transparency, they will no doubt push President
Trump to release his tax returns, as every other major-party presidential nominee has done for the past
four decades, won’t they?
How about the White House visitor logs, which the
Trump administration started hiding from the public
last year? Or, say, the names of all foreign governments and officials who have stayed — at their own or
at American taxpayers’ expense — at Mr. Trump’s
Washington hotel, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida
or at his golf courses and his other businesses since he
became president? Or the names of every foreign
business with which the Trump Organization has a
financial relationship, especially in countries where
America has sensitive foreign policy interests, like
China, India, Russia, Turkey or Saudi Arabia?
And, of course, Americans should have complete
confidence now that congressional Republicans will
demand complete transparency from all members of
the president’s campaign, transition team and administration in describing their dealings with representatives of a foreign power that tried to swing our election
— as well as from the special counsel who is investigating those efforts.
The party that demanded the release of Hillary
Clinton’s emails as a central plank of the 2016 presidential campaign must support all of this and more, right?
often searing observations exclusively
by means of thought balloons, came to
him after observing how Sinclair Lewis
had handled interior dialogue.
Mort recognized
very early that comic
Comic strips
strips — a form of
creative expression
the term
with a predominantly
American center of
Which is
gravity — flash-froze
exactly what
the national psyche
at any given moment.
they aren’t,
as the creator The immigrant experience at the turn of
of “Beetle
the last century.
Disparities of wealth
and poverty. The
changing roles of
men and women. The
effects of war, technology, bureaucracy,
All of this was captured, by means of
humor or drama or commentary, every
day of the year by hundreds of cartoonists — and had been since the 1890s. The
Mort Walker’s signature characters, Beetle Bailey and Sergeant Snorkel.
strips or cartoons were penciled and
inked on sheets of stiff Bristol board,
sent to the syndicates and then printed
in newspapers that were thrown away
within hours — lining the bottoms of
bird cages or wrapping up greasy leftovers. Comic strips came to epitomize
what was meant by the term “ephemera.”
Which is exactly what they aren’t, as
Mort Walker understood. I suspect that
Mort was initially drawn to collect
comic art by the sheer skill of the creators. Look closely at the Art Deco
draftsmanship of an original “Bringing
Up Father,” by George McManus; or at
the confidently noirish line, with a hint
of a twinkle, in a strip like Alex Raymond’s “Rip Kirby”; or at the elegant
economy of Dik Browne’s “Hagar the
Mort began to collect comic art casually, and then very seriously. He was
appalled by the disregard often accorded to this work. One catalyzing
moment: finding original “Krazy Kat”
strips, by the masterly George Herriman, being used to plug a leak in a ceiling at a newspaper syndicate. With the
help of like-minded cartoonists and
some farsighted university professors,
Mort became a vocal force for preservation. Founded in 1974, his Museum of
Cartoon Art — he always referred to it,
with strains of his native Missouri, as
“the mu-zimm” — grew into a major
repository. (All of this original work was
eventually turned over to the Billy
Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at
Ohio State University.)
But it wasn’t just the craftsmanship
that Mort sought to preserve. It was also
the history — the picture of ordinary life
that comic strips capture in ink. Imagine
the insights we might glean from a year
of “Beetle Bailey” created in some
lonely Roman outpost on Hadrian’s
Wall. Or a year of “Family Circus” from
a medieval quill in Aquitaine. A year of
“Pogo” as the trauma of the Reformation unfolded. A year of “Blondie” from
riotous Tudor England. A year of
“Doonesbury” from the time of the
American Revolution.
As scholars have come to acknowledge, these are the sorts of perspectives
we actually do have, from comic strips,
for all of the 20th century and into the
21st. Graphic novels carry on and amplify the tradition.
I last saw Mort Walker a few months
ago at an event for my book about the
circle of cartoonists he embodied and
helped hold together. He was wearing
his baggy pants and his golf sweater. He
ambled about in athletic shoes.
“I’m just about the last one of the
group still alive,” he told me. “I’m almost
part of history. I never thought of myself
as being part of history.” He was being
disingenuous. He knew it all along.
CULLEN MURPHY, editor at large of Vanity
Fair, is the author of “Cartoon County:
My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make-Believe” and a former
writer of “Prince Valiant.”
The scariest Catholic in America
Frank Bruni
The Rev. James Martin is a Roman
Catholic rock star. His books, including
one on Jesus Christ and another on the
saints, have sold hundreds of thousands
of copies. The director Martin Scorsese
has twice hired him to consult on movies
with religious themes. Television
producers love him: Back when
Stephen Colbert had his Comedy Central show, Father Martin popped up
frequently as its “official chaplain.”
So the reaction when he agreed to
speak this month to a group of parishes
in central New Jersey was unalloyed
elation, right?
Wrong. Within days of the announcement, parish officials were in a state
better described as dread.
Check out the websites and Twitter
accounts of far-right Catholic groups
and you’ll see why. To them Father
Martin is “sick,” “wicked,” “a filthy liar,”
“the smoke of Satan” and a “heretic” on
a fast track to “eternal damnation.”
They obsessively stalk him and passionately exhort churchgoers to protest his
public appearances or prevent them
from happening altogether.
And they succeed. After the New
Jersey parish in which his remarks
were supposed to be delivered was
inundated with angry phone calls, the
event was moved off church grounds.
Father Martin will give his spectacularly uncontroversial talk — “Jesus
Christ: Fully Human, Fully Divine” — at
a secular conference center in a nearby
Why all this drama? What’s Father
Martin’s unconscionable sin? In his
most recent book, “Building a Bridge,”
which was published in June, he calls on
Catholics to show L.G.B.T. people more
.C a ГР
O t's У
/W e П
SN s"
are now
on board
with greater
surely they’ll
be eager to
release more
to the public.
There’s a moment in Mort Walker’s
“Beetle Bailey,” from decades ago, when
the innocent Zero asks the intellectual
Plato why he owns so many books. Plato
explains proudly that “all the wisdom of
the ages” can be found between their
covers. Zero responds, “What happens
if a couple of pages get stuck together?”
Mort’s own answer might have been,
“Well, we’ll always have comic strips.”
Millions of people knew Mort, who died
last week at the age of 94, as one of the
pre-eminent cartoonists of his era —
and one of the central figures among the
remarkable group of artists (my father,
John Cullen Murphy, the longtime
illustrator of “Prince Valiant,” was
another) who populated southwestern
Connecticut in the peak years of the
American century.
But in his way, and without putting on
airs, Mort was also a historian.
“Beetle Bailey,” the strip for which he
was most widely known — though he
created several others, including “Hi
and Lois” — was slyly but gently subversive, in a manner that wears well in
America. “Beetle” was built around a
cast of misfits at a military base, Camp
Swampy, and Army humor, as Mort
often said, writes itself. He told me once
that when he was stationed in occupied
Italy during World War II, he was ordered to run over watches, radios and
other equipment with a tank in order to
avoid the paperwork that would have
been required to send the stuff back
He was a funny man. But a historian?
In his golf sweater and khakis, Mort
looked like the dad in a ’50s sitcom. Still,
there was a quirkily thoughtful dimension to his mind that I’ve found to be
virtually the rule among cartoonists. He
explained to me on one occasion that the
idea of having Trixie — the baby in “Hi
and Lois” — convey her innocent but
respect and compassion than many of
them have demonstrated in the past.
That’s all. That’s it. He doesn’t say
that the church should bless gay marriage or gay adoption. He doesn’t explicitly reject church teaching, which prescribes chastity for gay men and lesbians, though he questions the language
— “intrinsically disordered” — with
which it describes homosexuality.
But that hasn’t stopped his detractors
from casting him as a terrifying enemy
of the faith — Regan in “The Exorcist”
and Damien in “The Omen” rolled together and grown up into a balding and
bespectacled Jesuit — and silencing him
whenever they can. A talk about Jesus
that he was supposed to give in London
last fall was canceled. So was a similar
talk at the Theological College of the
Catholic University of America.
And the vitriol to which he has been
subjected is breathtaking, a reminder
not just of how much homophobia is still
out there but also of how presumptuous,
overwrought, cruel and destructive
discourse in this digital age can be.
“Inexcusably ugly” was how the
Roman Catholic archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles Chaput, described the
attacks on Father Martin in an essay for
the Catholic journal First Things in
September. Archbishop Chaput is no
progressive, but still he was moved to
write that “the bitterness directed at the
person of Father Martin is not just
unwarranted and unjust; it’s a destructive counter-witness to the Gospel.” He
cited a recent article in a French publication with the headline “Catholic Cyber-Militias and the New Censorship,”
observing, “We live at a time when
civility is universally longed for and just
as universally (and too often gleefully)
After Bishop Robert McElroy of San
Diego published a similar defense of
Father Martin in the Jesuit magazine
America, one of Father Martin’s devoted inquisitors tweeted: “If you think
the anti-sodomite bigotry in the church
is bad, you should see hell.”
I spoke with Bishop McElroy recently,
and he said that while there are calmvoiced critics of Father Martin with
earnest concerns about what they see
as the church’s drift from traditional
sexual morality, there are also out-andout bigots whose methods are “incompatible with what we hope to be as a
“We have to face the fact that there is
a group of people across all religious
views that are particularly antagonistic
to L.G.B.T. people,” he told me. “That
comes from deep within the human soul,
and it’s really corrosive and repugnant.”
I have known Father Martin for many
years and have long been struck by the
painstakingly careful balance that he
maintains. Is he telling his fellow Catholics to judge L.G.B.T. people less harshly,
whether they’re chaste or not? Absolutely. When he and I talked a few days
ago, he repeated a recommendation in
“Building a Bridge” that Catholic institutions stop firing gay people, which has
happened repeatedly.
“Straight couples
Watch out!
do not have their
This priest
sexual lives put
and his
under a microscope
like that, nor are they
could be
targeted,” he told me.
“A couple living
together before
to a parish
they’re married
near you.
aren’t fired from a
Catholic school.” But
that arrangement
runs as afoul of church teaching as a
sexually active gay or lesbian couple’s
From listening to Father Martin, it’s
certainly possible to conclude that, or at
least wonder if, he has qualms with
church teaching about homosexuality.
But he’s so restrained and respectful
that the president of the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
officially approved “Building a Bridge,”
which has also been endorsed by an
array of prominent cardinals and bishops.
And he trails behind many members
of his faith in his publicly stated views.
According to a poll by the Pew Research
Center last June, 67 percent of Americans who identify as Catholic support
the legalization of same-sex marriage,
in contrast to 62 percent of Americans
across the board.
But the far right isn’t quietly ceding
the fight. That’s clear not only in the
response to Father Martin but also in a
federal education bill, drafted by Republicans, that would protect colleges that
ban openly gay relationships or bar
gays from certain religious organizations on campus.
And in the church as in the government, the scorched-earth tactics of
ultraconservatives often gives them a
sway disproportionate to their actual
numbers. “These online hate groups are
now more powerful than local
churches,” Father Martin said, referring
specifically to Church Militant and to
the American Society for the Defense of
Tradition, Family and Property, which
started a petition demanding that the
New Jersey parishes cancel his appearance. It gathered 12,000 signatures.
Lyle Garcia, 72, one of the parishioners involved in the decision to invite
Father Martin, admitted to me that he
was “very concerned” that in changing
the location of the event, they’d rewarded and emboldened the haters. But
at least, he said, the talk would proceed.
As will Father Martin. An expanded
edition of “Building a Bridge” will be
published in March, and it includes
material about L.G.B.T. Catholics who
told him, as he promoted the book, that
it had given them desperately needed
“I’m at total peace,” he told me. “I
really am. An ocean of hate online is
really wiped out by just a few tears from
an L.G.B.T. person.” Only one thing to
say to that: Amen.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018 | 11
Woody Allen meets #MeToo
Nicholas Kristof
Poland digs itself into a dark hole
bachev, Sept. 11, the Iraq war, the recent hell of Aleppo and refugees
drowned in the Mediterranean. It is set
to the music of “House of the Rising
It is not at all anti-Polish. It is cosmopolitan — and peculiarly devastating because it forces us to question
what is particular and what is universal, which horrors we have left behind,
and which remain with us.
The rejection of the universal — the
insistence on Polish exceptionalism —
is at the heart of Poland’s “historical
policy,” which aims to control the narrative of the 20th century in such a
way as to glorify and exonerate Poles.
The underlying principles are simple:
a trope of Christ-like martyrdom; a
Manichaean division between innocence and guilt, and an assurance that
everything bad came from outside.
It was the publication of Mr. Gross’s
“Neighbors” that motivated the first
attempts, in 2006 during the first Law
and Justice government, to enshrine
historical policy by criminalizing the
denial that Poles were innocent of any
Nazi or Communist
crimes. At that time,
the Polish historian
Dariusz Stola propolicy” aims
tested against the
to control
abdication of responthe narrative
sibility: “If neither
of the 20th
groups of nor individual Polish citizens
century, to
had anything to do
glorify and
with these crimes,
then why all the ado
about the iniquities
of the Communist
regime?” he asked.
“After all, everything bad was done by
some alien creatures, most likely Martians.”
Several years ago, the Polish courts
declared the original law unconstitutional on technical grounds. But on
Jan. 26, the Sejm renewed the project,
approving an article stipulating a
punishment of up to three years in
prison for those who “publicly and
against the facts attribute to the Polish
nation or the Polish state responsibility
or co-responsibility for Nazi crimes
committed by the German Third
Reich” or for “other crimes against
peace, humanity or war crimes.”
The Polish Center for Holocaust
Research responded: “We consider the
adopted law a tool intended to facilitate
the ideological manipulation and imposition of the history policy of the Polish
In this context (arguably not entirely
unlike the present one in the United
States), xenophobia — against Jews,
Ukrainians, Muslims, Roma, L.G.B.T.
people and others — is expressed with
ever more impunity. Between 2015 and
2017, reported hate crimes increased 40
percent. In April 2016, the Council of
Ministers liquidated the Council
Against Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance created in 2013.
In May 2016 the Polish playwright
Pawel Demirski was brutally beaten
for defending a Pakistani man being
harassed by soccer fans. In September,
the historian Jerzy Kochanowski was
riding on a tram in Warsaw with a
visiting German colleague. A man
approached Mr. Kochanowski and told
him to stop speaking German. Mr.
Kochanowski explained that his friend
did not speak Polish. Then the man
began to beat him. The tram driver
declined to call the police; Professor
Kochanowski ended up in the hospital
with five stitches.
Last Nov. 11, Polish Independence
Day, thousands of nationalists marched
under the slogans “We want God” and
“Poland only for Poles.” Later, the
Polish historian Marek Chodakiewicz,
who has been among Mr. Gross’s most
vicious attackers, and who now occupies a chair of Polish studies at the
Institute of World Politics in Washington, wrote that the so-called March of
Independence “grew from the need to
demonstrate our pride in the fact that
we belong to a historical continuity,
which is worthy of defending against
threats emerging from liberalism and
lefty-ism, including Marxism-lesbianism and multiculturalism.” The
Polish press reported that President
Trump consulted Mr. Chodakiewicz in
preparing the speech the president
delivered last July in Warsaw.
(A week after the nationalists’
march, a Polish journalist asked me
how I felt watching the demonstrations. Very much like how I felt watching the white supremacists march in
Charlottesville, I told him.)
In his book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners,” the American political scientist Daniel Goldhagen argued that
Germans had for generations been
infected with virulent anti-Semitism.
They were bad people who enjoyed
killing Jews. Mr. Goldhagen’s greatest
opponent from beyond the grave was
Hannah Arendt. “For many years
now,” she wrote late in the war, “we
have met Germans who declare that
they are ashamed of being Germans. I
have often felt tempted to answer that
I am ashamed of being human.”
In explaining Mr. Goldhagen’s appeal, the Czech political theorist Pavel
Barsa wrote, “if Goldhagen is right,
then we can all sleep soundly.”
Alas, because Arendt and Freud
were right and Mr. Goldhagen was
wrong, we can never sleep soundly
again. Among Freud’s unpleasant
messages is this: What threatens us is
never securely outside of ourselves.
Historical policy — like nationalism
more broadly, in Poland as elsewhere
— serves as an evasion of responsibility, an attempt at psychic consolation
through the exporting of guilt, a desire
to find a safe place in the world.
.C a ГР
O t's У
/W e П
SN s"
institutions of critical voices. For decades, Martin Pollack, the Austrian
author and translator of Polish literature, has been indispensable in EastWest dialogue. In 2011 he was awarded
the Leipzig Book Prize for European
Understanding. After publishing an
essay criticizing Law and Justice in the
Austrian newspaper Der Standard, he
was blacklisted from the Polish Cultural Institute. The series of literary evenings with Polish authors Mr. Pollack
had organized in Vienna was canceled.
In 2016, Law and Justice’s minister
of culture, Piotr Glinski, announced an
intention to in effect liquidate the
Gdansk Museum of the Second World
War. By then the $120 million project
had been eight years in the making; it
opened in 2017. The museum has an
international scope; the main exhibit
begins with the collapse of the liberal
order intended after World War I:
Italian fascism, German Nazism, Polish authoritarianism, Soviet Stalinism,
Japanese imperialism.
The Polish historian Anna Muller,
who teaches at the University of Michigan, helped design the exhibits. She
met with a Polish priest, Mikolaj
Sklodowski, who was born in 1945 in
the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
He showed her a medallion of St. Nicholas that his mother hid in a bar of
soap while in Ravensbrück. He gave it
to her for the museum.
In 1938, 24-year-old Jakub Piekarz
left the small town of Jedwabne in
eastern Poland for the United States.
Three years later, just after the Red
Army had withdrawn and the Wehrmacht had invaded the town, Jedwabne’s Jews, including Mr. Piekarz’s
parents, were murdered by their Polish
neighbors. In 2000, the historian Jan
Tomasz Gross published a book about
the massacre; what followed was the
most important debate on the Holocaust to take place in post-Communist
Europe. Mr. Piekarz (by then Rabbi
Baker) died in 2006. In 2013 Ms. Muller
visited his daughter in New York; she
gave Ms. Muller her father’s letters,
photographs and the passport with
which he had left Poland in 1938.
The museum now has over 13,000
donated artifacts like Father
Sklodowski’s medallion and Rabbi
Baker’s passport. The government
believes that the museum insufficiently expresses “the Polish point of
view.” The museum’s original director,
Pawel Machewicz, has been dismissed.
For now, the original main exhibition
remains, but the five-minute concluding film has been removed. The censored documentary moves chronologically from the Nuremberg trials
through the Korean War, the Ku Klux
Klan, Stalin’s death, Martin Luther
King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, John
F. Kennedy’s assassination, the testing
of an atomic bomb, the Polish “antiZionist” campaign of 1968, Nelson
Mandela, Polish Solidarity, Ronald
Reagan’s meeting with Mikhail Gor-
MARCI SHORE is an associate professor of
history at Yale and the author, most
recently, of “The Ukrainian Night: An
Intimate History of Revolution.”
Four years ago, when Woody Allen was
given a lifetime achievement award by
the Golden Globes, Dylan Farrow
curled up in a ball on her bed, crying
hysterically. Then she wrote an open
letter for my blog (nobody else seemed
to want to publish it) describing how,
when she was 7 years old, Allen allegedly sexually assaulted her.
“That he got away with what he did to
me haunted me as I grew up,” she wrote.
“I was terrified of being touched by
men. I developed an eating disorder. I
began cutting myself. That torment was
made worse by Hollywood.”
We now know that Hollywood was
hiding many such secrets, and was quite
uninterested in accountability for powerful bullies. After she bared her soul,
Dylan was met with much “vitriol and
disbelief,” as she put it.
“There were days when I thought,
‘I’ve made a terrible mistake, I should
never have opened my mouth,’” Dylan
told me the other day.
But in the last few months, the
#MeToo movement has changed that. “I
am so sorry, Dylan,” Mira Sorvino
wrote. Ellen Page declared, “I did a
Woody Allen movie and it is the biggest
regret of my career.” Actors are donating earnings from Woody Allen movies
to sexual assault organizations, and
Amazon is said to be considering canceling its distribution of his movies.
All this has been “incredibly healing,”
Dylan said.
Frank Maco, the Connecticut prosecutor who oversaw the case in the
1990s, told me that he watched Dylan
recently on “CBS This Morning” and
was impressed by how the little girl had
grown up to be “strong and determined.” He reiterated what he had said
at the time: that he had probable cause
to bring a criminal case against Allen
(who was Dylan’s adoptive father) but
couldn’t justify putting a fragile child
through a brutal trial.
Maco added that both Dylan and her
mother, Mia Farrow, had appeared to be
honorable and truthful. “Mia Farrow
acted as nothing more than a concerned
mother,” he said. “There was no indication that this was a fabricated story.”
I’m a friend of Dylan and her family,
so I’m not an unbiased observer. But
over the years I have reviewed the
evidence, and on balance it persuades
me. The most important contrary point
is that an evaluation team from Yale
New Haven Hospital concluded that
Allen had not sexually abused Dylan,
but it was sharply criticized by other
experts. Meanwhile, the New York
judge in the Mia Farrow-Woody Allen
child custody case ruled that although
he couldn’t be sure whether the sexual
assault itself had occurred, “Mr. Allen’s
behavior toward Dylan was grossly
That judge, Elliott Wilk, noted that on
the day of the alleged assault, a babysitter saw Allen with his head on Dylan’s
lap, facing her body. A tutor soon afterward found that Dylan wasn’t wearing
her underwear. And nobody has explained where Dylan and Allen went
when they both
disappeared as the
More people
babysitter was
seem to
searching for them —
believe Dylan except Dylan, who
says that that’s when
the assault hapagainst
Meanwhile, it turns
her father.
out that Allen’s private notes over the
decades are “filled
with misogynist and lecherous musings,” showing “an insistent, vivid obsession with young women and girls,”
according to Richard Morgan, who
sifted through Allen’s 56-box archive
and recounted his findings in The Washington Post.
There is always a risk that meticulous
scrutiny of a long career leads to cherrypicking and finding whatever we’re
looking for, especially for somebody
trying to be creative and funny. I
reached out to Allen through his publicist but did not receive a response. He
has consistently denied the allegations
of abuse, and in October he warned
against allowing “a witch hunt atmosphere, a Salem atmosphere.”
Indeed, the certainty of the Dylan
Farrow case is that there has been a
gross injustice: Either an innocent
man’s career is being destroyed, or a
victim has been unfairly doubted since
she confided in her pediatrician about
an assault when she was 7 years old.
I asked Dylan if there was any chance
Dylan Farrow at her home in Connecticut.
that this was a false memory, that she
had been brainwashed.
“No,” she said flatly. “I think it’s more
logical almost that the people who
accuse me of being brainwashed are
brainwashed themselves by the celebrity, the glamour, the fantasy, the pull they
have to Woody Allen, their hero on a
The larger point, she said, is not her
own suffering over the years, but the
need to listen to victims. That’s where
we have systematically failed — with
gymnasts, with Harvey Weinstein’s
victims, with the Catholic Church and
with innumerable girls and boys suffering anonymously at the hands of abusive coaches, relatives, family friends or
bosses. One demographer’s new estimate is that at least three-fourths of
women worldwide have been sexually
harassed. Yes, false accusations happen, and we must struggle to balance
rights of victims against those of the
accused — but it should be obvious now
that we haven’t gotten that balance
nearly right. Too often, we have deferred to the powerful and doubted the
weak, creating impunity and injustice.
The problem is not only abusers but
more broadly a society that often disbelieves or scorns those crying for help,
like that young woman curled up on her
bed crying during the Golden Globes.
I’ll leave her with the last word:
“What needs to change,” she said,
with a teary firmness that comes from
25 years of pain, “is our response.”
Whatever happens
next, we’ll help you
make sense of it.
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This is why Uma Thurman is angry
have not been more legal repercussions
against Weinstein, Thurman says she
handed over the result of her own excavations to the police and ramped up the
pressure to cajole the crash footage out
of Tarantino.
“Quentin finally atoned by giving it to
me after 15 years, right?” she says. “Not
that it matters now, with my permanently damaged neck and my screwedup knees.”
(Tarantino aficionados spy an echo of
Thurman’s crash in his 2007 movie,
“Death Proof,” produced by Weinstein
and starring Thurman’s stunt double,
Zoë Bell. Young women, including a
blond Rose McGowan, die in myriad
ways, including by slamming into a
As she sits by the fire on a second
night when we talk until 3 a.m., tears
begin to fall down her cheeks. She
brushes them away.
“When they turned on me after the
accident,” she says, “I
went from being a
“What I
creative contributor
and performer to
in was kind
being like a broken
of like a
horrible mud
Thurman says that
wrestle with a in “Kill Bill,”
Tarantino had done
very angry
the honors with some
of the sadistic flourishes himself, spitting
in her face in the
scene where Michael Madsen is seen on
screen doing it and choking her with a
chain in the scene where a teenager
named Gogo is on screen doing it.
“Harvey assaulted me but that didn’t
kill me,” she says. “What really got me
about the crash was that it was a cheap
shot. I had been through so many rings
of fire by that point. I had really always
felt a connection to the greater good in
my work with Quentin and most of what
I allowed to happen to me and what I
participated in was kind of like a horrible mud wrestle with a very angry
brother. But at least I had some say, you
know?” She says she didn’t feel disempowered by any of it. Until the crash.
“Personally, it has taken me 47 years
to stop calling people who are mean to
you ‘in love’ with you. It took a long time
because I think that as little girls we are
conditioned to believe that cruelty and
love somehow have a connection and
that is like the sort of era that we need to
evolve out of.”
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12 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
The lonely mission of India’s sole luge racer
Without institutional support, Shiva Keshavan has to hustle year-round just to train. In the off-season, he works as a waiter and pizza cook in the Italian restaurant his parents run near their Himalayan town.
Without institutional support, Winter
Olympians from the so-called smaller
nations have to hustle year-round just to
train. This year, one Jamaican bobsledder is literally having a bake sale, peddling banana bread to raise funds. In the
off-season, Keshavan works as a waiter
and pizza cook in the Italian restaurant
his parents run near their Himalayan
town. He has had few sponsors, and only
since 2008, when Coca-Cola first paid
him to carry around a branded bottle for
the season. Otherwise, like many of his
equatorial peers, he crowdfunds online.
“It’s awkward,” he said. “But it has to be
I asked him what sort of support he
gets from the Indian Olympic Association, and he practically did a spit take.
“In 20 years, the Indian Olympic Association hasn’t given me a dime,” he said,
laughing. Two months ago he emptied
his bank account and maxed out his
credit card to keep touring, continuing
only because the Indian government’s
ministry of sports agreed at the last
minute to cover $8,000 of his debt. He
had been fruitlessly petitioning them for
help for five years. Once, he said, “they
actually asked me to get a certificate to
prove that Winter Olympics is on par
with Summer Olympics.”
India, the second-most-populous
country in the world, is the absolute
worst at the Olympics in general, with
the lowest number of medals per capita.
Indian Olympic officials sometimes
seem determined to embarrass their
country’s athletes. Two years before the
2014 Games, the Indian Olympic Association was suspended from the Games
over a corruption controversy, and Ke-
shavan had to walk in the opening ceremony as an “Independent Olympic Participant.”
“There used to be some ridiculous
stories in the newspaper like, ‘We are
genetically not sporty,’ ” Keshavan said.
“But anybody can do it. I think you can
literally pick anybody with some aptitude from the street, and within eight to
10 years you can turn them into a worldclass athlete. But still we don’t have that
mentality in India.” Indian sports officials, he said, “want you to first win
something on your own. They actually
tell me, You win an Olympic medal, then
we will start. At that point I won’t need
any funding! But that’s the way it’s
been: In India the people who have
brought attention to any sport have
been individuals who have gone on their
own lone journey.”
Keshavan says that some of his competitors treated him with “a little bit of
disdain” until he proved himself. “People weren’t used to seeing a brown guy,”
Keshavan said of his early years in competition. “Anything different — automatically, you’re singled out.” White athletes often called him “black guy” or
“Taliban.” “It never got to me,” he said.
“It made me want to prove myself that
much more, actually.”
But such comments are an additional
endurance test that white athletes
never have to pass. I spoke to Seba
Johnson, the first black female skier
ever to participate in the Winter
Olympics, who competed as an Alpine
racer for the United States Virgin Islands. At 14, Johnson was the youngest
Olympic skier in history. “I was such a
kid,” she said. “I was just full of life, I
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of the best pilots on the United States
luge team. After retiring, he was its
technical director, but four years ago, he
and the team had a “bad divorce” after
the Sochi Games. Kennedy met Keshavan just as he was looking for a new job,
and he agreed to be Keshavan’s coach —
the first individual coach Keshavan had
ever had, after 18 years of competition —
and to build him his first-ever customfitted sled.
“Some of the materials we use, they’re
built for speed, not durability,” Kennedy
said, by way of explaining the malfunction of Keshavan’s sled in Calgary. “And
this stuff sucks as far as durability.” But
a sled he designed, he noted, won the
bronze in Sochi.
To many ears, the word “India” paired
with “sledding” sounds oxymoronic, but
Keshavan grew up in the Himalayas, in
a mountainside village in the far northern state of Himachal Pradesh. He
guesses that he was 3 the first time he
skied, on homemade wooden runners.
And he even tried luge — but in the summertime, using a homemade sled outfitted with wheels, zipping downhill on
mountain roads. (“There have been mishaps,” he says. “The worst is the potholes.”) His parents seem to have been
as freewheeling as he: His mother is
from Italy, his father from the southern
Indian state Kerala, and they met while
backpacking in the Himalayas in the
late ‘70s. In 1996, the year Keshavan
turned 15, he had a reputation as a
skilled skier but had no specific ambition. Then the Austrian luge champ
Günther Lemmerer came to Keshavan’s
school to scout for the International
Luge Federation.
Luge is one of three Olympic sled
sports (it’s the one in which the racer
lies fully exposed, faceup and feet first)
and it has always been dominated by
Germany, Austria and Italy. But if the
sport was to remain in the Olympics, it
needed to field athletes from more countries, so Lemmerer was searching for
them all over the warmer world. He
picked Keshavan to join a luge training
camp, which began with a film screening of Olympic luge highlights, complete
with dramatic crashes, followed by
“Cool Runnings,” the 1993 Disney movie
about the Jamaican bobsled team. “I
was very inspired by it,” Keshavan said.
The next year Lemmerer took him to his
first race, in Austria. Keshavan
promptly broke his foot — and scored a
good-enough time that Lemmerer
thought he could qualify for the
Olympics the following year. And then
there he was, all alone in Nagano, Japan,
the only Indian in the 1998 Games, the
only Indian ever to qualify for luge and,
at 16, the youngest luge Olympian in history.
Four years later, the Italian luge team
offered Keshavan full use of its worldclass coaches and facilities, an off-season job in the Italian police and eventual
citizenship if he agreed to compete under their flag. Keshavan never even considered it. “For me the dream was to get
the Olympics to my hometown,” he said.
“And that was the only reason I was doing it. To show that we are also here.” Keshavan has never won a medal in the
Winter Olympics — no Indian has. But
he is the reigning Asian champion of the
sport, winner of 10 Asia Cup medals and
holder of the Asian speed record (83.5
miles per hour). When he went home to
India after winning his first gold in the
Asia Cup in 2005, “the entire town had a
holiday,” he said. “They all carried me
along the main street, throwing flowers.”
In theory, the Winter Olympics is a
global event. But winter is not a meaningful seasonal category for nearly half
the world’s countries. And nearly half of
the countries of the world have never
competed in the Winter Games. Of the
22 Winter Olympics, India has sent athletes to only nine, at two of them represented by a team consisting only of
Shiva Keshavan.
wanted to do such a great job in a sport
that had my heart.” Soon after she arrived at Calgary, a Canadian Mountie
stopped by the athletes’ village to inform her that she had been receiving
death threats. The Mountie gave her one
such letter, she said, which said that “I
should go back to the Virgin Islands with
the rest of those niggers, and I’m making a fool of myself.”
Keshavan attributes the “little remarks” his fellow racers made to competitiveness rather than discrimination,
and says he no longer hears them. But
he mentions that luge season often
“In India the people who have
brought attention to any sport
have been individuals who have
gone on their own lone journey.”
brings him to small Alpine towns where
the atmosphere can be tense for an athlete of color. In 1993, in Oberhof, Germany, Keshavan’s coach, Kennedy, was
beaten bloody by 15 Nazi skinheads
while trying to prevent them from attacking his lone black United States luge
teammate. Such experiences are rarely
discussed. The Olympics loves a good
adversity story — but racial adversity is
treated as a settled matter, as if Jesse
Owens banished it from the Games in
In the early evening I drove with Keshavan up to the luge track, which
snakes over 23 acres on the side of
Mount Van Hoevenberg, looking from
the outside like an unusually meandering aboveground oil pipeline. Ke-
shavan took a walk down the full mile of
the artificially refrigerated track to refamiliarize himself with its 20 curves: the
sequence called Devil’s Highway, which
ends in a hairpin; the zigzags known as
the Labyrinth. Keshavan declared the
conditions excellent.
He explained that when you’re lying
on your back while hurtling down a tunnel of ice, you can see more than you’d
think. But luge is based more on feeling
than seeing. You learn how to respond to
the G-forces, and vision just acts as confirmation. Luge is the fastest sport on
ice, the only Winter Olympic game
timed to thousandths of a second. And if
the sled looks as if it’s floating as it goes,
that’s because it is: He estimates that 70
percent of the time, he’s airborne.
Luge is also one of the most dangerous winter sports. Hours before the 2010
Vancouver Games, Keshavan had just
completed a training run when a Georgian luge pilot, Nodar Kumaritashvili,
flew out of the track at over 89 m.p.h.
and crashed fatally into a steel pole. And
yet the most important thing a luge pilot
must do is relax. “If you’re relaxed,” he
said, “you can absorb the bumps, absorb
the imperfections of the ice, and still
keep your direction.”
Keshavan excels at relaxation. When
Kennedy became his coach four years
ago, one of the first pointers he gave him
was that his feet were so relaxed they
were getting floppy, which was disrupting his airflow. So many of Kennedy’s
recommendations, Keshavan said, were
“these small things that are actually basics of the sport. Some things that I
should have known when I was 16, I
learned a lot, lot later.”
Keshavan is sledding faster than he
has ever sledded before, but he’s thinking of retiring from competition to focus
on cultivating the next generation of Indian winter athletes. “I can’t campaign
for the sport and train,” he said. “You
just can’t do both.” He runs a talentscout program for Indian luge pilots;
around 200 Indian kids have attended
his luge training camps. “Sometimes I
get heartbroken,” he said, “that these
kids that I’ve trained, I put the seed in
their head that they can do something
for the country and have this kind of a
life” — but then when it comes time to
travel to a real luge track to train and
compete, there’s no funding to make it
happen. “Now I’m a lot more cautious
when I promote this,” he said.
Three days after we met, Keshavan
raced in the Lake Placid World Cup.
Once again his runner broke just before
his turn, and once again he managed to
eke out a point. His next race was in
“Picked up a couple of hairline fractures on my hand,” he updated me by
email. He seemed unworried. And then
came some unexpected good news: Two
weeks before the opening ceremony, the
Indian ministry of sports announced
that it would give Keshavan 1.5 million
rupees, or around $23,500, to pay for his
trip to Pyeongchang. The money would
cover only a fraction of the debts he was
continuing to accrue for his training, his
travels and Kennedy’s salary. But he’d
take it as far as it could go.
Adapted from an article that originally
appeared in The New York Times Magazine.
Before the Games, a competition to chase North Koreans
A couple dozen South Korean reporters
bumped and jostled one another while
trying to keep up with Ryom Tae-ok and
Kim Ju-sik, the Olympic figure skating
pair from North Korea, as they racewalked toward the exits after a practice
at the Gangneung Ice Arena.
Questions were shouted by the scrum.
“How was the practice?”
“How are you feeling?”
There were no answers.
“Do you want to stop and talk?”
James Cowley, an Olympics official
wrangling the news media at the arena,
asked Kim in English. It was unclear
whether Kim heard or understood the
question on Saturday, but he kept walking, a big smile on his face.
The North Korean athletes arrived
last week with the heavy expectations
that their participation here in the 2018
Winter Games would tone down tension
on the Korean Peninsula. Since then, a
cat-and-mouse game has played out,
with South Korean journalists trailing
the North Koreans everywhere.
It has injected a dose of commotion to
a normally quiet period before the start
of competition.
South Korean journalists have trained
high-powered lenses on the North Korean delegation. Local reporters have
shuttled from one training session to another, clamoring for sound bites that
never materialize. And the mixed zone
— the area inside competition venues
where journalists can interview athletes
— has become a theater of the absurd,
one that reporters, competitors and organizers are still trying to figure out.
Early on Saturday, the North Koreans’ silence in the mixed zone was broken, finally, when Kim Hyon-son, the
skaters’ coach, called out, “I’m happy
we have been welcomed this way!”
And then she and her skaters were
gone. The entire interaction lasted less
than a minute. The reporters dispersed,
shaking their heads.
Over 40 members of the news media
— as well as a couple dozen local volunteers — had shown up to watch Kim and
Ryom practice on Saturday morning,
and a similar number showed up for the
pair’s second practice six hours later.
The North Koreans have been dominating the early Olympic news cycle.
The North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae-ok, left, and Kim Ju-sik practicing Saturday.
Some in South Korea have been less
than pleased. Last month, Hong Joonpyo, the leader of the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party, warned that
the Pyeongchang Olympics were becoming the Pyongyang Olympics, a
cheeky play on the similar sounding
name of the North Korean capital, which
has already caused confusion.
North Korea canceled a cultural event
it had planned in South Korea a few days
before the opening ceremony on Friday,
blaming what it called “insulting” news
media coverage in South Korea.
But the fascination has hardly ebbed.
The joint Korean women’s hockey
team, which features 12 North Korean
women joining the South Korean team,
has become a compelling story line of
the Games. There are also three crosscountry skiers, three Alpine skiers and
two short-track speedskaters from
North Korea set to compete.
The appearance of North Korean
flags at the athletes’ village on Thursday and Friday — a rare sight in South
Korea, where such displays would normally be illegal — created a couple of
days of news. And then there were the
reports on Saturday that more than
150,000 people had entered a lottery for
tickets to a pair of performances Thursday and Sunday by a 140-member North
Korean art troupe.
The zeal with which the local press
has pursued the North Korean visitors
could be seen late Friday at the skating
rink, where the short-track speedskaters Choe Un-song and Jong Kwang-bom
were working out alongside skaters
from France, Italy and Latvia.
When the North Korean skaters and
their coach huddled along the railing to
talk, a dozen reporters crept close to observe the interactions and snap pic-
tures. Minutes later, when the North Koreans regrouped farther down the rink,
the pack sidled that way, too.
Things became hectic midway
through the session after Choe lost his
footing around a turn and crashed into
the perimeter padding with a thud.
As soon as it became clear that Choe
was not getting up, the journalists
swarmed to get as close to him as possible and jostled for position. Choe was
carried away on a stretcher, and the reporters dashed to the mixed zone.
As one could have expected, though,
Jong and Yun Chol, the pair’s coach,
walked through without saying a word
or acknowledging the horde of reporters
skipping along beside them.
Afterward, an Olympic staff member
could be overheard explaining to her
colleagues that she had needed to cajole
the North Koreans to walk through the
mixed zone, which all athletes are required to do at the Olympics. She said
she had reminded them that they did not
need to say anything, tracing her thumb
and index fingers along her lips, pretending to zip them up.
Inyoung Kang contributed reporting
from New York.
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14 | MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018
The Rising Stars program was established to put young musicians on European tour. At left, the percussionist Christoph Sietzen, from Luxembourg, performing with the Wave Quartet, and right, the Van Kuijk Quartet, from France.
Rising Stars may give as good as they get
Musicians in Europe
fostered by concert halls
help their benefactors, too
“It’s good if you keep clapping,” the
percussionist Christoph Sietzen told
the audience at the Elbphilharmonie
concert hall here on a recent evening,
“because the next piece is extremely
quiet and I need to catch my breath.”
Mr. Sietzen had just completed a
fiercely athletic rendition of “Rebonds”
by Iannis Xenakis and was composing
himself for the crystalline stillness of
Arvo Pärt’s “Variations for the Healing
of Arinushka.” (The combination is a
percussionist’s equivalent of the
Olympic biathlon.) When the applause,
now even louder and mixed with
laughter, had died down, he took up
position at a marimba and coaxed from
it sounds of rapturous fragility.
He was performing as one of the
Rising Stars, an initiative of the European Concert Hall Organization, or
ECHO. A loose confederation of 21 of
the Continent’s premier performance
spaces, ECHO has been bolstering the
careers of young soloists and chamber
groups since 1995 by sponsoring tours
through its constituent halls.
Each hall may nominate one artist
or ensemble per season, but because
logistics make it necessary to limit the
number of “stars” to six or seven, halls
sometimes join forces to push for a
performer — often with a national
connection. (Mr. Sietzen, who is from
Luxembourg and lives in Austria, was
nominated by the Philharmonie Luxembourg.) The final crop is selected
after a round of sometimes heated
negotiations among ECHO representatives who try to come up with a mix of
nationalities and instruments.
“They actually fight over you,” the
Hungarian trumpeter Tamas Palfalvi
said in a phone interview.
For audiences, the program offers a
chance to catch musicians on the cusp
of major careers. Past participants
include the pianist Igor Levit, the
Among this season’s Rising Stars class, from left: the violist Ellen Nisbeth, the trumpeter Tamas Palfalvi, the soprano Nora Fischer and the violinist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian.
violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja and
the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras — all
artists with an appetite for adventure
and wide-ranging collaboration. That
innovative spirit has been increasingly
emphasized by ECHO through the
addition of a robust commissioning
program that allows the “rising stars”
to have a work tailored to them by a
composer of their choice.
Over the past five years, a professional development aspect has been
added, too, offering targeted coaching
in engaging with listeners. “It’s important for them to learn from the beginning that it is part of their job to communicate with the public,” the general
and artistic director of the Elbphilhar-
Because logistics make it
necessary to limit the number of
“stars,” halls sometimes join
forces to push for a performer.
monie, Christoph Lieben-Seutter, said
in an interview.
Indeed, the program’s ambitions are
high. “We ask existential questions,”
said Andrew Manning, the secretary
general of ECHO. “Why this art form?
Why do we do what we do? What is the
vision of these artists? And how can I
use the prestige of this wonderful
range of concert halls, from the 19thcentury Concertgebouw to the Elbphil-
harmonie, to enable that vision?”
The resulting concerts — I saw four
of the six presented in one week in
Hamburg — weld outstanding musicianship to charisma, humor and a
twist of the unexpected. By the end of
the festival, I started to wonder who
the true beneficiaries of the initiative
were: It seemed quite possible that
these young musicians and their fresh
ideas were throwing a lifeline to the
venerable concert halls, rather than
vice versa.
Emmanuel Tjeknavorian, an Austrian violinist of Armenian origin,
presented a solo program of eye-watering virtuosity that included Christoph
Ehrenfellner’s deliciously changeable
“Suite des Alpes.” In a nod to the Bach
solo-violin Partitas, this new work
offered arrangements of Austrian folk
dances juxtaposed with alienating
variations on them that used acrobatic
and novel techniques, condensing into
one the wholesomeness of a dirndl
with the searing angst of an Elfriede
Jelinek novel.
Mr. Palfalvi, the trumpeter, brought
juicy tone and chiseled passagework to
works by Bartok, Enescu and Sarasate.
His natural showmanship came
through, especially in Peter Eotvos’s
“Sentimental,” in which Mr. Palfalvi
created an imaginary dialogue between Miles Davis and Chet Baker,
sometimes holding a cornet and a
fluegelhorn simultaneously.
The soprano Nora Fischer, who lives
in Amsterdam and is the daughter of
the Hungarian conductor Ivan Fischer,
divided her recital into halves. One
was performed with piano, with aphoristic songs by Poulenc and Messiaen;
the other, accompanied by a theorbist,
was devoted to early Baroque composers, including Monteverdi and
Barbara Strozzi. Female composers
were also integrated into recitals I
didn’t catch: The Swedish violist Ellen
Nisbeth performed works by Kaija
Saariaho and Katarina Leyman; the
Van Kuijk Quartet, founded in Paris, a
new commission by Édith Canat de
Mr. Palfalvi spoke enthusiastically of
the educational outreach that is part of
each stop. He has spoken to high
school graduates about music careers,
taught 6-year-olds to get a sound from
a trumpet and is learning to give master classes to conservatory-level musicians. That kind of educational work,
he said, “is not often our strong side
when all you’ve learned is how to play
Some participants already come
with a demonstrated passion for engaging new audiences: Mr. Tjeknavorian has a radio show in Austria; Ms.
Fischer once performed a recital during which she cooked for and fed her
audience. But the Rising Stars tour
tests communication in different cultural and linguistic settings.
Along the way, the musicians hone
their crafts, learning to adjust to different acoustics and to audiences with
different expectations, etiquette and
even clapping habits. Mr. Sietzen recalled a performance in Budapest
where the audience was more reticent
than any he had so far encountered.
Even after the bravura finish of “Rebonds,” there was only polite applause.
But later, following an especially subtle
and dreamy tango by Astor Piazzolla
arranged for the all-marimba Wave
Quartet, of which he is a member, the
audience expressed its enthusiasm
with sustained clapping in unison.
“It was especially beautiful that this
came after a piece that wasn’t fireworks but something touching,” Mr.
Sietzen said, “where only the music
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At 90, Hal Prince looks back
George Abbott, “Everybody liked me,
but they also seemed to back off a little
when I came into a room.” The solution?
“I took my desk calendar, and I wrote for
one year, at the top of it, ‘Watch It!’ ” he
said. “It helped me calm down a little.”
The Broadway showman
recalls ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Fiddler’
and learning to stay calm
Hal Prince has turned 90.
The storied Broadway producer and
director — a key player in everything
from “Fiddler on the Roof” and “West
Side Story” to “Sweeney Todd” and
“The Phantom of the Opera” — has won
21 Tony Awards, more than anyone else
in history.
To mark his latest birthday, which was
Jan. 30, he sat down with Jeffrey Seller,
the lead producer of “Hamilton,” to discuss his career, and the resulting threehour interview, “The Hal Prince Talks,”
was released in parts on the internet radio provider Sirius XM.
Here are six tidbits from the initial
segment that caught our ears:
1. No Times Square for him.
Mr. Prince has worked in Rockefeller
Center in New York for 70 years, moving
around the Art Deco complex. “I have
never worked in any other office building,” he said. “I’m totally spoiled, because it’s the center of the universe.”
2. Setting the stage.
On Saturday afternoons as a child, he
would listen to broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera and stage them himself in
a box at home. “I had a cardboard stage
and some tin soldiers from the five-anddime, and I’d listen to the plot and then
move the soldiers around while they
were singing on the stage of the Met,” he
5. “That would be the sweetest thing of
The Broadway show that has paid over
3,000 percent to its initial investors?
“Fiddler.” “That’s pretty amazing,” he
said. “But ‘Phantom’ has exceeded that
At far left, Hal Prince celebrating his 90th birthday after a performance of “The Phantom of the Opera” in New York last month. Above, in his Rockefeller Plaza office in 1972.
said. “Since they were always singing in
a foreign language, which I didn’t speak,
my first act would end sometimes before
the first act at the Met, and sometimes
they’d say ‘And the great golden curtain
has just closed,’ and I was still in the
middle of the first act.”
3. The first musical that he ever saw in a
Broadway theater?
“White Horse Inn,” starring Kitty Carlisle, in 1936 or 1937; he grew up in New
York, and his parents took him to the
theater weekly. His first play? “Julius
Caesar,” starring Orson Welles, around
the same time. “What in hell my parents
were doing, taking me to that, I don’t
know. At the age of 8 or 9!”
4. Reining in ambition.
At 14, he said, “I had a nervous breakdown — the ambition thing was so
strong, and I don’t quite know why, but I
do know I was talking to myself, walking
in the park, and I knew I was getting into
the fantasy of what my career would be
too much.” He rebounded, but when he
got his first job, with the famed producer
6. The M.C. in “Cabaret” was his idea.
His own experience serving in the Army
in Stuttgart, Germany, inspired him to
add the character to the 1966 musical,
which he directed and produced. It was
adapted from a Christopher Isherwood
story and became a movie in 1972. “I had
hung out in a club called Maxim’s in the
basement of a bombed-out church, and
there was a little M.C. with lipstick and
eye shadow and false eyelashes, and
he’d tell terrible tacky jokes. And there
were three very chunky girls in butterfly costumes dancing around him, and
one drunk at the bar, and one drunk
asleep at the table, and me in uniform,
just thinking I’d been reborn and gone to
heaven — this is it.”
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2018 | 15
Meant to thrill, it backfired
Detractors say the trailer
for the new film ‘Beirut’
traffics in stereotypes
A movie or television show receives criticism for its portrayal of the Middle
East. Its detractors say the story stereotypes and dehumanizes Arabs and
Muslims — with some roles not even
filled by actors of Middle Eastern descent.
Is it Showtime’s “Homeland”? Yes.
The new “Aladdin” from Disney? Sure.
The original “Aladdin” from Disney?
That, too. Or remember “True Lies,”
“G.I. Jane” and “Rules of Engagement”? Yes, yes and yes. What about the
2013 Oscar winner for best picture, Ben
Affleck’s “Argo”? You bet.
Now, there is an addition to the list: a
new movie starring Jon Hamm called
“Beirut.” The film — a fictional hostage
drama set during Lebanon’s civil war —
had its premiere at the Sundance Film
Festival and is set for a wide release in
April. Yet its trailer alone has generated
a backlash, especially across the Middle
The movie, written by Tony Gilroy
(the “Bourne” franchise) and directed
by Brad Anderson (“Transsiberian”),
tells the story of an American diplomat,
played by Mr. Hamm, who is tasked by a
C.I.A. agent (Rosamund Pike) with rescuing a colleague kidnapped by the fictional Militia of Islamic Liberation. The
trailer is replete with explosions, images of a war-torn city, and a gun-wielding kidnapper with an Arabic accent. It
ends with a voice-over from Mr. Hamm’s
character: “2,000 years of revenge,
vendetta, murder. Welcome to Beirut.”
Almost immediately, the trailer —
viewed more than five million times on
YouTube — inspired a hashtag called
#BoycottBeirutMovie along with scathing comments on social media. For
starters, none of the movie’s top-billed
actors are Lebanese. Also, “Beirut”
wasn’t visually familiar to residents of
the rebuilt city. That’s because almost all
of it was shot thousands of miles away in
And then there’s the soundtrack.
Lynn Charafeddine, a Dubai-based
editor of Lebanese descent, wrote in an
email: “I still don’t understand why the
Middle East is always filmed in sepia
and why movie scorers use a weird ‘leily
ya leily’ chant like that’s what all Arab
music is.”
Mr. Gilroy — who wrote the initial
script in 1991 before it was greenlit more
than two decades later — said critics
should wait to see “Beirut” before making judgments.
What has seemed to bother viewers
most is the trailer’s almost exclusive focus on Americans, signaling that the
film might reduce Lebanon’s complicated, sectarian civil war to a flashy
backdrop for Mr. Hamm. Some have
worried that Lebanese people will be
not only bit players in their own history,
but violent ones at that.
“There are so many stories to draw
from the civil war,” Ms. Charafeddine
said, but the filmmakers “chose to overlook all of that because they wanted to
portray Lebanon in a certain light.”
Because foreign-film viewership is so
low in the United States, Hollywood’s
perspective of the Middle East is often
the only one Americans see. For example, the Oscar-nominated Lebanese film
“The Insult,” about a dispute between a
Lebanese Christian and a Palestinian
refugee in Beirut, has taken in less than
$150,000 domestically since being released in January, according to Box Of-
Top from left, Rosamund Pike, Jon Hamm and Dean Norris in “Beirut.” Its trailer has been taken to task on social media. Above, Tony
Gilroy, the screenwriter, said: “There’s nothing anti-Arab or cliché about the way we’re approaching many of the things in the film.”
fice Mojo.
Habib Battah, a journalism lecturer at
the American University of Beirut and a
founder of, summed
up his reaction to the “Beirut” trailer
with one word: “Again?”
“This is what happens in almost every
Hollywood movie about the Middle
East,” Mr. Battah said. “The Americans
and the white folks are the victims.
They’re being bombed. They’re being
attacked. The Arabs, usually, for the
most part, are the aggressors. They’re
doing the bombing.”
Nasri Atallah, a Lebanese writer, said
that he didn’t want films to play down
the violence of Lebanon’s civil war. But
from what he saw in the “Beirut” trailer,
the plotline does not appear to make efforts to dissect the time’s political complexities — using a fictional militia, for
example — nor does it show Lebanese
people as fully formed characters.
“A lot of the reaction was, ‘Oh, we
want to show a positive image of Lebanon,’ which I disagree with,” Mr. Atallah
said, adding, “We should show the bad
things, but this didn’t seem like a sincere
telling of those bad things.”
In a telephone interview, Mr. Gilroy
said, “There’s nothing anti-Arab or
cliché about the way we’re approaching
many of the things in the film.”
Although he declined to specify the
film’s cost, Mr. Gilroy cited a bare-bones
budget that largely limited casting to actors in Morocco. As to why the film was
shot in that country, he said that it was
more difficult to get insurance in Lebanon — which, he added, is now too polished for the movie’s gritty aesthetics.
“Lebanon today is so sleek and modern and so put together,” Mr. Gilroy said.
“It doesn’t provide the sort of skeleton
that we need for an art department to
create the kind of destruction that there
was in 1982.”
Philippe Aractingi, a Lebanese director, agreed with Mr. Gilroy’s assessment
that it is difficult to get insurance to
shoot in the country. But he objects to
Mr. Gilroy’s use of the name Beirut to
signify danger in the American mind. “It
is offensive and so stereotypical,” he
added. “We’re already polluted by all the
scars that we have. Maybe we were at
war. But we are not at war anymore.”
Asked about the criticism of Hollywood’s portrayals of the Arab world, Mr.
Gilroy said: “There’s good movies and
bad movies. There are people that are
careful about how they tell the stories
and people that aren’t. I think there’s
been some amazing films. I think ‘Syriana’ is a really interesting film.”
Mr. Gilroy volunteered an analogy to
David Simon’s less-than-favorable depiction of New York during the 1970s in
his HBO show “The Deuce.”
“I was there when it happened,” Mr.
Gilroy said. “It doesn’t bother me. It’s
what happened then.”
Criticism of the trailer aside, many of
the early reviews of the movie at Sundance were positive. The Hollywood Reporter said Mr. Gilroy’s script was “wellthought-out.” Variety called it a “satisfying suspenser.” The Guardian said
“Beirut” was “quite good” but acknowledged “the people of Lebanon barely
feature in the movie at all.”
Najib Mitri, a Lebanese blogger, said
the movie shouldn’t be condemned by
its trailer alone.
“It’s too early to judge because the
movie is not even out yet,” he said, “even
if everything suggests it’s just another
forgettable, cliché movie.”
Smith prints two shrewd pieces
about Jordan Peele, one before and one
after his success as the director of the
indie horror movie “Get Out.” Here she
is on the compendium of black fears
that Peele’s movie illuminates:
“Banjos. Crazy younger brothers.
Crazy younger brothers who play
banjos.” And: “Well-meaning conversations about basketball. Spontaneous
arm-wrestling, spontaneous touching
of one’s biceps or hair. Lifestyle cults,
actual cults. Houses with no other
houses anywhere near them. Fondness
for woods. The game Bingo!”
Trump figures only slightly in
Smith’s essays, which were written
almost entirely before his presidency.
But in a bitter piece about Brexit composed for The New York Review of
Books, she takes aim at its spiritual
fathers, David Cameron and Boris
About them, she declares: “ ‘Conservative’ is not the right term for either
of them anymore: that word has at
least an implication of care and the
preservation of legacy. ‘Arsonist’ feels
like the more accurate term.”
For six months, Smith was a book
critic for Harper’s Magazine, and the
results are printed here. These reviews
are a mixed bag, mostly because the
titles seem random and often infra dig.
She’s penetrative, however, on the
Mitfords and Edward St. Aubyn and
Paula Fox and the essayist Geoff Dyer,
about whom she notes, perfectly,
“Dyer seems always to be questing to
comprehend somebody else’s quest.”
The topic of aging surfaces frequently in Smith’s essays. She’s 42, no
longer the whiz kid, and she’s considering how to be in middle age. Aging is
the upfront obsession, from the title
onward, of Amis’s essays.
“Writers die twice,” he observes in
an essay on Nabokov. “Once when the
body dies, and once when the talent
dies.” Can we pinpoint when a writer’s
talent begins to fail?
Amis posits that Nabokov’s prose
started to lose velocity with the novel
“Ada.” The last good novel from his
father, Kingsley Amis, he suggests,
was “The Old Devils,” though he went
on to write five more.
Updike’s final collection of stories,
“My Father’s Tears,” Amis reviews
posthumously and finds to be “perhaps
his least distinguished,” the stories
“products of nothing more than professional habit.”
It’s an assessment Amis hates to
commit to print. He wouldn’t have
done so, he writes, were Updike, whom
he elsewhere called “a NORAD of data
gathering and microinspection,” still
How many strong books does Amis,
who will be 70 next year, have left in
him? “We are all of us held together by
words,” he writes here. “And when
words go, nothing much remains.”
Essayists to the manner born
Meghan Markle as the Duchess of
Sussex. Amis’s recent work can’t help
but feel a step behind.
Yet they are friends, Amis and Smith.
She warmly mentions him several
times in “Feel Free,” her new book of
essays. In his book, Amis says he reads
her “with a constant smile of admiration.”
If this review were a text message, I
would string kissy-face emoticons here.
Instead I will simply cite the poet Paul
Muldoon on the horror of “this tiresome trend / towards peace and calm.”
In the way that all actors want to
play Hamlet or Willy Loman, critics
seem to have an innate desire to hurl
themselves against Amis. Most want to
knock the imaginary chip off his shoulder.
His scowling face — he seems to be
sniffing his own sulfur — is, as the
Twitter kids like to put it, strangely
punchable. Critics like to write about
Smith because it allows them to sagaciously read the tea leaves of fiction
and society.
I’m here to do neither of these
things; not primarily, at any rate.
Amis’s new book, like the collections
that preceded it, is the product of a
ferocious yet sensitive mind. Even
when he is considering writers he’s
assessed many times before (Saul
Bellow, Philip Larkin, John Updike,
Christopher Hitchens), his aim is so
unerring that he resembles a figure out
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By Martin Amis. 392 pp. Alfred A. Knopf.
By Zadie Smith. 452 pp. Penguin Press.
Older writers find younger ones irritating, Martin Amis writes in “The Rub of
Time,” his fourth nonfiction miscellany,
because their emergence is like a
series of telegrams from the boneyard.
“They are saying, ‘It’s not like that
anymore. It’s like this.’ ”
Zadie Smith must be particularly
galling to him. It’s not just that she was
born in 1975, he in 1949. Her novels,
beginning with “White Teeth” at the
turn of the century, have deactivated
many of the power instruments of
Amis and his literary generation.
Smith, who is English-Jamaican, has
prized open in her fiction a modern,
multicultural, post-post-colonial England. In addition to being devastatingly
good, her novels describe the ways
society has changed in advance of
phenomena like — to give just one
example — the arrival of a figure like
Zadie Smith and Martin Amis, each an admirer of the other’s work.
of Greek myth, firing arrows through
ax-heads lined up in a row.
He also visits a porn set in Los Angeles (disgusted, he leaves before the
money shot), plays in the World Series
of Poker, and considers book tours,
tennis, terrorism, Princess Diana and
the era of Donald J. Trump, about
whom he writes: “There’s nothing
there. No shame, no honor, no conscience, no knowledge, no curiosity, no
decorum, no imagination, no wit, no
grip and no nous.”
Smith’s “Feel Free” is a gentler ride.
If Amis’s book is like hurtling down a
black-diamond ski run, hers is more
like a brisk day on the cross-country
trails. She writes a good deal about art
and gardens and travel, and about
non-controversial — at least for her
New York Review of Books readers —
topics like libraries (good) and global
warming (bad).
In the best of these pieces, however,
Smith presses down hard as a cultural
critic, and the rewards are outsize.
Who else would deliver an observation
quite like this one, from her profile of
“Asking why rappers always talk
about their stuff is like asking why
Milton is forever listing the attributes
of heavenly armies. Because boasting
is a formal condition of the epic form.”
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