вход по аккаунту


2018-03-29 The New York Times International Edition

код для вставкиСкачать
How to play
2nd inning
U.S. tariffs
setting off
global chain
Thomas L. Friedman
Countries move to ban
cheap metal imports
diverted from America
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
Emperor of the tank
Known as the “dragon fish” in Chinese, the Asian arowana is one of the world’s most expensive aquarium fish and a popular luxury item,
selling for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Some owners will even pay for cosmetic surgery to improve a droopy eyelid. PAGE 5
Cash for votes in Egypt
Largely unchallenged,
president aims to ensure
turnout is seen as credible
The woman in a long black shawl bustled up to a stall on a back street in the
crowded Nile Delta city of Tanta, 50
miles north of Cairo.
“Where’s my subsidy box?” she demanded. “My brothers and sisters in
Cairo have already received theirs.
When do I get mine?”
The woman, Soad Abdel Hamid, a
housewife, was referring to boxes of
subsidized food — cooking oil, rice and
sugar, mostly — promised to voters in
many poor areas in return for casting
their votes in Egypt’s presidential election.
With no real opponent to provide
drama in his re-election bid, President
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi is relying on the
sheer enthusiasm of his supporters to
generate a credible turnout. And where
fervor isn’t enough, he has other means
Waiting to vote in Giza. Some voters in Egypt said they had been paid from about $3 to
$9 to vote. Others were reminded that failing to vote was a punishable offense.
of enticing — or pushing — voters to the
Some voters said they had been paid
from about $3 to $9 to vote. In several
areas, government officials promised
voters improved services, like electrici-
ty or sanitation, if they cast their votes.
In Marsa Matrouh, on the Mediterranean coast, a group of businessmen offered to send 500 voters on a pilgrimage
to Mecca.
Carrots were reinforced with sticks.
Satirist in his debut, fuming at America
The actor Sean Penn
spares no one in a novel
about a killer and politics
What have you done this time, Sean
Penn? What is this book-shaped thing
that lies before us? Is it just a lark — a
nutty novel you wrote because you’re
famous, and they let you? Or is it more
than that — a furious, despairing takedown of America as the country battles
its own worst instincts? If it’s the
latter, why did you bury your truest
feelings and loveliest writing so deep
in muck? “Bob Honey Who Just Do
Stuff” might have had the power of a
manifesto. Instead, it’s a riddle
wrapped in an enigma and cloaked in
Penn originally created “Bob Honey” for a short audiobook in 2016,
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +&!"!$!=!@
Sean Penn’s novel, “Bob Honey Who Just Do Stuff,” features an antihero who sits on his
sofa lamenting the state of America, which he regards as “a shopping mall with a flag.”
which he narrated but playfully denied
writing, insisting it was the work of a
guy he’d met in Florida named Pappy
Bob is a 56-year-old Californian with
“an ultraviolent skepticism toward the
messaging and mediocrity of modern
times.” Profession-wise, he is one of
the following or some combination
thereof: a globe-trotting entrepreneur,
a contract killer who murders elderly
people with a mallet or just a delusional homebody whose neighbors
think he’s weird.
Unwaveringly true to its title, “Bob
Honey Who Just Do Stuff” has no
formal plot.
Our antihero sits on his sofa recalling possibly imaginary exploits and
lamenting the state of the nation,
which he regards as “a shopping mall
with a flag.” He loathes his ex-wife,
who’s now happily coupled with her
divorce lawyer and driving an icecream truck, the twinkly music of
which punishes him from a distance.
He pines for a sex-positive young
Andorra € 3.70
Antilles € 4.00
Austria € 3.50
Bahrain BD 1.40
Belgium € 3.50
Bos. & Herz. KM 5.50
Cameroon CFA 2700
Canada CAN$ 5.50
Croatia KN 22.00
Cyprus € 3.20
Czech Rep CZK 110
Denmark Dkr 30
Egypt EGP 28.00
Estonia € 3.50
Finland € 3.50
France € 3.50
Gabon CFA 2700
Germany € 3.50
Great Britain £ 2.20
Greece € 2.80
Hungary HUF 950
Israel NIS 13.50
Israel / Eilat NIS 11.50
Italy € 3.40
Ivory Coast CFA 2700
Jordan JD 2.00
Kazakhstan US$ 3.50
Latvia € 3.90
Lebanon LBP 5,000
Luxembourg € 3.50
Malta € 3.40
Montenegro € 3.40
Morocco MAD 30
Norway Nkr 33
Oman OMR 1.40
Poland Zl 15
Portugal € 3.50
Qatar QR 12.00
Republic of Ireland ¤ 3.40
Reunion € 3.50
Saudi Arabia SR 15.00
Senegal CFA 2700
Serbia Din 280
Slovakia € 3.50
Slovenia € 3.40
Spain € 3.50
Sweden Skr 35
Switzerland CHF 4.80
Syria US$ 3.00
The Netherlands € 3.50
Tunisia Din 5.200
Turkey TL 11
U.A.E. AED 14.00
United States $ 4.00
United States Military
(Europe) $ 2.00
Issue Number
No. 42,002
The state news agency reminded Egyptians that failing to vote was an offense
punishable by fines of up to $28, a threat
rarely acted upon in previous elections.
In Assiut and Minya Provinces, police
officers went door to door urging people
to cast their ballots.
Retirees, and an official at the state
airline, EgyptAir, said they were warned
that their April payments would be
docked if they failed to vote.
The three-day vote, which ended
Wednesday, was shaping up to be a predictably low-watt and joyless affair, the
antithesis of the youthful passions driving the Arab Spring in 2011, when Egyptians ousted their longtime ruler, President Hosni Mubarak.
Turnout was light in many parts of
Cairo. Reuters, citing an official in the
National Election Authority, said about
13.5 percent of 59 million eligible voters
had cast ballots on Monday.
In Tanta, posters for Mr. Sisi were
plastered all over the main thoroughfares of the city, which is famed for its
mashabek, a sticky yellow swirl of sugar
and flour, and its magnificent Sufi
mosque. It was hard to find a single image depicting his challenger, Moussa
Moustapha Moussa, an obscure politician drafted at the last minute to preVOTE, PAGE 2
The Trump administration’s steel and
aluminum tariffs are provoking a chain
reaction around the globe, as governments from Europe to Canada prepare
to erect barriers to prevent cheap metal
once bound for the United States from
entering their markets.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin
Trudeau of Canada announced a series
of regulatory changes that would make
it easier for border officials to block steel
and aluminum imports into that nation.
The European Union has begun a “safeguard investigation” that could result in
tariffs or other trade actions if it determines that steel intended for the American market is being diverted to the bloc.
“These past few days, we’ve looked at
strengthening the measures that we already have in place because it’s important that we not be taking in dumped
steel from around the world,” Mr.
Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.
Foreign policymakers have long
shared President Trump’s concerns
about cheap foreign steel flooding their
markets, particularly from China. But
Mr. Trump’s stiff 25 percent steel tariffs
and 10 percent aluminum tariffs, which
will halt the flow of foreign metals into
the United States, have prompted other
countries to curtail imports quickly.
The response could help Mr. Trump
claim victory on one of his primary trade
goals: cutting down on a glut of cheap
Chinese steel, including metals that are
routed through other countries through
a process known as transshipping.
This month, Mr. Trump called transshipping “a big deal” and argued that
China routes much more steel to the
United States than the statistics show.
Administration officials have contended
that Chinese steel is lightly processed
and shipped through other countries,
but they have been unable to quantify
the pervasiveness of this practice.
The American metals industry has
long claimed that it is powerless against
an onslaught of cheap metal from China,
which now produces roughly half of the
world’s steel and aluminum. Companies
argue that past efforts to get China to reduce overcapacity have largely failed
and that the only recourse is taking
broader action that could galvanize a
global movement.
Scott N. Paul, the president of the AlliTARIFFS, PAGE 7
A trade accord with South Korea is the
kind of pact President Trump says is
good for American workers. PAGE 6
There is so much news these days that
it’s hard to distinguish one big story
from another. But for me the most
consequential story of late was that a
self-driving car operated by Uber —
with an emergency backup driver
behind the wheel — struck and tragically killed a woman on a street in
Tempe, Ariz.
I could only look at that deeply
unsettling story and say: Welcome to
the second inning — the second inning
of one of the world’s great technological leaps, the implications of which
we’re just beginning to understand.
But first, let’s
acknowledge one
thing: The first
inning was amazing.
that gives
It was an inning
full of promise, disa voice can
covery and marvel.
also breed
In the early 2000s, a
set of technologies
isolation and
came together into
platforms, social
networks and software that made
connectivity and
solving complex problems fast, virtually free, easy for you, ubiquitous and
invisible. Suddenly, more individuals
could compete, connect, collaborate
and create with more other people, in
more ways, from more places, for less
money and with greater ease than ever
before. And we sure did!
We became our own filmmakers and
reporters; we launched political and
social revolutions from our living
rooms; we connected with long-lost
family and friends; we found the answers to old and new questions with
one click; we searched for everything
from spouses to news to directions to
kindred spirits with our phones; we
exposed dictators and branded ourselves. With one touch, we could suddenly call a taxi, direct a taxi, rate a
taxi and pay a taxi — or rent an igloo,
rate an igloo and pay for an igloo in
And then, just as suddenly, we found
ourselves in the second inning. The
cool self-driving car killed a pedestrian; the cool Facebook platform enabled Russian troll farms to divide us
and inject fake news into our public
life; the uncool totalitarian government learned how to use the same
facial recognition tools that can ease
2 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
page two
Sean Penn,
fumes at
A polling station in Cairo festooned with posters of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Turnout was light in many parts of the city, with the three-day vote shaping up to be a predictably low-watt and joyless affair.
Cash or food for voters in Egypt
vent the embarrassment of a one-horse
Mr. Moussa, who has ties to the security services, accused the United States
this week of fomenting the Arab Spring
with the goal of destabilizing the Middle
East. “This huge U.S. project was implemented by the team of Condoleezza
Rice,” he told Sputnik, the Russian news
agency, referring to the former secretary of state.
But many voters in Tanta failed to remember Mr. Moussa’s name, much less
register their intention to vote for him.
And the effort to increase turnout
with promises of food seemed to be
working. Behind a phalanx of soldiers
and scowling intelligence officials,
about 50 yards from the stall where chits
for food baskets were being handed out,
a presiding officer reported a healthy
In some respects, the vote felt familiar
to Egyptians, who endured manipulated
elections during Mr. Mubarak’s rule
from 1981 to 2011. His government also
paid people to vote.
A spokesman for the Sisi campaign
did not respond to queries about its electoral tactics. But the ease with which Mr.
Sisi has steamrollered Egypt’s fractured
opposition is a product of even harsher
Mr. Sisi has outlawed the opposition
Muslim Brotherhood, jailed thousands
of opponents, and in the early stage of
the election jailed or sidelined any can-
didate who might have posed a significant electoral threat. Journalists have
been arrested, and a British reporter
was expelled last month.
To Mr. Sisi’s supporters, though, he is
a bulwark of stability in a region buffeted by violent chaos and political turmoil. In Ganzour, a small town six miles
south of Tanta, a Sisi campaigner named
Ibrahim Soliman wielded a megaphone
at the gates of a polling station.
“Do you want your women to be violated as they were in Syria, Iraq and Libya?” he shouted as a trickle of voters
filed through the gate.
Moments later a group of musicians
and young men appeared — playing
pipes, turning a jig and dancing on the
roof of a vehicle. Mr. Soliman announced
that a Western reporter was watching.
“Let’s show him that we are a united
country!” he said.
Another man grabbed the microphone from him. “You’re not voting for
Sisi,” he exhorted the gathering crowd.
“You’re voting for the Egyptian state.”
The results are due by Monday. In the
last presidential election, in 2014, Mr.
Sisi won 97 percent of the vote, although
that was a time when he enjoyed broad
public support. A year earlier, Egyptians filled Tahrir Square for a second
time to demand the resignation of the
elected president, Mohamed Morsi of
the Muslim Brotherhood, paving the
way for the military takeover that
brought Mr. Sisi to power.
His popularity has been hit by a string
of terrorist attacks in Egypt’s main cities and a stinging economic downturn
that has inflicted deep pain on the country’s poor. Online satirists often mock
his lengthy speeches. Although the
economy has picked up this year, poor
Egyptians are still reeling from soaring
“Sisi restored security to our country,”
said Ahmad Tawakol, an iron merchant
in Tanta. “Now I want him to lower the
price of food.”
Down the street, as we walked away, a
man who had been watching on a street
corner said, “There is no democracy.”
When we stopped to speak to him, the
Sisi supporters gathered around.
The man declined to give his name
and denied he had said anything.
Student in landmark U.S. desegregation case
Linda Brown, whose father objected
when she was not allowed to attend an
all-white school in her neighborhood
and who thus came to symbolize one of
the most transformative court proceedings in American history, the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, died on Sunday in Topeka, Kan.
She was 75.
Her death was confirmed on Monday
by a spokesman for the Peaceful Rest
Funeral Chapel in Topeka, which is handling her funeral arrangements. He did
not specify the cause.
It is Ms. Brown’s father, Oliver, whose
name is attached to the famous case, although the suit that ended up in the
United States Supreme Court actually
represented a number of families in several states. In 1954, in a unanimous decision, the court ruled that segregated
schools were inherently unequal. The
decision upended decades’ worth of educational practice, in the South and elsewhere, and its ramifications are still being felt.
Linda Brown was born on Feb. 20,
1943, in Topeka to Leola and Oliver
Brown, according to the funeral home.
(Some sources say she was born in
Cheryl Brown Henderson, Linda’s sister and the founding president of the
Brown Foundation, an educational organization devoted to the case, recalled
that her parents and others were recruited to press a test case.
“They were told, ‘Find the nearest
white school to your home and take your
child or children and a witness, and attempt to enroll in the fall, and then come
back and tell us what happened,’” she
said in a video interview for History
The neighborhood the family lived in
was integrated.
“I played with children that were
Spanish-American,” Linda Brown said
Linda Brown in 1964 outside the Sumner School, which had denied her enrollment in
1950. Ms. Brown, right, in 1979 at the 25th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
in a 1985 interview. “I played with children that were white, children that were
Indian, and black children in my neighborhood.”
Nor were her parents dissatisfied
with the black school she was attending.
What upset Oliver Brown was the distance Linda had to travel to get to school
— first a walk through a rail yard and
across a busy road, then a bus ride.
“When I first started the walk it was
very frightening to me,” she said, “and
then when wintertime came, it was a
very cold walk. I remember that. I remember walking, tears freezing up on
my face, because I began to cry.”
In an interview with The Miami Herald in 1987, she remembered the fateful
day in September 1950 when her father
took her to the Sumner School.
“It was a bright, sunny day and we
walked briskly,” she said, “and I remember getting to these great big steps.”
The school told her father no, she
could not be enrolled.
“I could tell something was wrong,
and he came out and took me by the
hand and we walked back home,” she
said. “We walked even more briskly, and
I could feel the tension being transferred from his hand to mine.”
In its ruling, the Supreme Court threw
out the prevailing “separate but equal”
doctrine, which had allowed racial segregation in the schools as long as students of all races were afforded equal facilities.
“To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race,” the court said, “generates a feeling of inferiority as to their
status in the community that may affect
their hearts and minds in a way unlikely
ever to be undone.”
By the time of the ruling, Ms. Brown
was in an integrated junior high school.
She later became an educational consultant and public speaker.
Her family was among several that
reopened the original Brown case in
1979 to argue that the job of integration
in Topeka remained incomplete. The
woman named Annie, who may or may
not exist and who inspires such purple
rain as this: “Effervescence lived in
her every cellular expression, and she
had spizzerinctum to spare.”
Occasionally, Bob will attempt to be
more social by throwing a misbegotten
barbecue — or he’ll go out and dispatch a senior citizen with a blow to
the head. (The folks who issue the kill
orders believe the elderly stand in the
way of marketing and globalization.)
What narrative tension “Bob Honey”
does have comes courtesy of a man
claiming to be an investigative journalist who shows up at Bob’s door and, as
Penn might put it, punctures his peace
and piques his paranoia. If that sounds
like an unfair swipe at the prose, take a
look: “There is pride to be had where
the prejudicial is practiced with precision in the trenchant triage of tactile
terminations.” That’s a sentence about
hunting, by the way.
To be fair, “Bob Honey” is perplexing
and unquantifiable by design. Penn
has clearly ingested the Beats, as well
as Hunter S. Thompson and Chuck
Palahniuk, and he evokes their trippiness to advance a sincere argument:
that right now, America is enough to
drive any rational, empathetic person
nuts. Some of Bob’s adventures —
helping victims of
Hurricane Katrina,
Penn argues
nosing around Baghthat America
dad at the outset of
is enough
the Iraq War —
overlap with the
to drive any
author’s own habit of
following his conempathetic
science and not
person nuts.
waiting for invitations. That seems
like a nice, selfeffacing wink to the reader, suggesting
that Penn the Untamable Activist is
also just figuring out stuff as he goes.
Still, for a wild ride, “Bob Honey” is
conspicuously un-fun. For every perfect, plain-spoken sentence (“It is on
that couch where Bob feels safest,
almost embraced”) there are dozens of
linguistic traffic jams where you can
almost hear the words honking at each
other to get out of the way. Penn wants
us to feel Bob’s agonizing quest for
simplicity in the language itself. Fair
But the result is indeed agonizing,
particularly because — unlike with the
original audiobook — we don’t have
the distinguished actor on hand to read
this thing out loud. The trick is to let
the oddities stream by: “Behind decorative gabion walls, an elderly neighbor sits centurion on his porch watching Bob with surreptitious soupçon.”
Eventually, “Bob Honey” induces
something like Stockholm syndrome —
you admire the novel just because
you’re surviving it.
In the last third of the book, Bob
becomes suspicious about the employer for whom he wields his mallet. He
drives to Miami in search of answers.
Along the way, he’s assailed by news of
the 2016 election and plunges deeper
into his existential funk. Bob fumes at
his fellow Americans for not embracing the unnamed female candidate:
“Too shrill? Too hawkish? Isn’t it true
that you never wanted qualifications?
. . . Was she the worst possible candidate or are you the most arrogant, ill
and unqualified electorate in the history of the Western world?” As for the
Donald Trump stand-in, Bob considers
him not just one but all four Horsemen
of the Apocalypse: “You are not simply
a president in need of impeachment,
you are a man in need of an intervention. We are not simply a people in
need of an intervention, we are a nation in need of an assassin.” It may be
that Penn wrote “Bob Honey” as a
satire just so he could publish that last
sentence without the Secret Service
pulling up.
Bob’s outburst gives the novel a
climax of sorts. It seems imposed on
the story but it’s a relief to finally feel a
blast of unmitigated, un-alliterated
anger blow through the book. In the
evocative final pages, Penn offers a
working theory of who and what Bob
truly is. However, his real interest here
is capturing what America has become
— and taking a mallet to it.
case resulted in the opening of several
magnet schools.
Ms. Brown was married several
The funeral home said her survivors
include a daughter, Kimberly Smith, al-
though it did not have a complete list of
As for her role in the landmark case,
Ms. Brown came to embrace it, if reluctantly. “Sometimes it’s a hassle,” she told
The Herald, “but it’s still an honor.”
• An article on Thursday about researchers’ use of individuals’ Facebook
behavior to build algorithms that predict and potentially manipulate their political views misstated the title of Michal
Kosinki, a researcher who helped develop the model that created personality
profiles from Facebook “likes.” He is a
professor of organizational behavior, not
a professor of computer science.
• An article on Friday about the collecting of presidential watches in South Korea misstated the name of a collector
who has a blog about the watches. He is
Cho Hyoun-chan, not Hyoun Chan-cho.
Printed in Athens, Denpasar, Beirut, Nivelles, Biratnagar, Dhaka, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Gallargues, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Karachi, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Lahore, London, Luqa, Madrid, Manila, Milan, Nagoya, Nepalgunj, New York, Osaka, Paris, Rome, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei, Tel Aviv, Tokyo,Yangon.
The New York Times Company 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018-1405,; The New York Times International Edition is published six days per week. To submit an opinion article, email:, To submit a letter to the editor, email:,
Subscriptions:,, Tel. +33 1 41 43 93 61, Advertising:,, Tel.+33 1 41 43 94 07, Classifieds:, Tel. +44 20 7061 3534/3533, Regional Offices: U.K. 18 Museum Street, London WC1A 1JN, U.K., Tel. +44 20 7061 3500,
France Postal Address: CS 10001, 92052 La Defense Cedex, France, Tel. +33 1 41 43 92 01, Hong Kong 1201 K.Wah Centre, 191 Java Road, North Point, Hong Kong, Tel: +852 2922 1188, Dubai PO Box 502015, Media City, Dubai UAE, Tel. +971 4428 9457
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 3
China says
deal maker
Nazi-era law haunts new coalition
Germany is only country
in Europe that bars doctors
from advertising abortion
She was an obscure gynecologist in a
central German town who never intended to stoke a debate that is driving a
wedge into Chancellor Angela Merkel’s
new government.
But faced with a fine under a Nazi-era
law for publishing information about
abortion on the website of her gynecological practice, Dr. Kristina Hänel said
she had no choice but to publicize a prohibition that she calls “outdated and unnecessary.”
The law, Paragraph 219a of the German criminal code, makes it a crime for
doctors to publicly advertise in any way
that they perform abortions, even
though they are permitted in the first 12
weeks of pregnancy. For decades, the
advertising ban was largely overlooked.
Many gynecologists who listed abortion
among their offerings to prospective patients say they were not aware of its existence until they received notice from a
prosecutor informing them of legal proceedings against them.
Just weeks into Ms. Merkel’s fourth
term in office, the issue has become a
challenge facing the first woman to
serve as German chancellor. It is testing
her ability to establish common ground
between the conservative bloc of her
own Christian Democrats and more liberal forces in their governing partners,
the Social Democrats.
The chancellor’s new justice minister,
Katarina Barley, now has to propose a
bill that can make peace. She is a member of the Social Democrats, who in December agreed on a proposal to rescind
the law. But they withdrew that bid
hours before Ms. Merkel was sworn in
on March 14, after the chancellor vowed
that she would support a compromise.
“I am holding the chancellor to her
word,” Ms. Barley told Die Zeit weekly.
Earlier, she had indicated how a solution
might look: instead of repealing the law,
changing the wording so that overt advertising remains illegal, but allowing
doctors to provide factual information
about the procedure.
“Doctors need legal certainty,” Ms.
Barley wrote on Twitter. “Women affected need support in a situation of personal crisis.”
But conservative forces within Ms.
Merkel’s party appear intent on keeping
the debate focused on the moral issue of
abortion. On March 18, the new health
minister, Jens Spahn, accused those
seeking to overturn the law of caring
more about protecting the lives of animals than of unborn humans.
Dr. Hänel considers such arguments
similar to those promoted by activists
who have increasingly sought to bring
legal proceedings against doctors who
provide abortions. According to the
most recent statistics published by the
Federal Criminal Police, such com-
Prominent tycoon faces
trial reflecting Beijing’s
crackdown on borrowing
A protest in Berlin in support of a national strike by Polish women against the tightening of abortion law in Poland. Germany is wrestling with its own abortion restrictions.
plaints were filed against 35 doctors in
2015, up from 27 in 2014.
Not all have led to formal charges and
even fewer to convictions, but Dr. Hänel
and other doctors see a trend that they
say aims to prevent them from providing a legally allowed medical procedure.
“I can’t believe that in this day and
age the language and mind-set of the
time when abortions were illegal continue to play a role in a country that is otherwise viewed by the rest of the world
with respect,” Dr. Hänel wrote on March
19 in an open letter to Ms. Merkel. “I am
ashamed and I hope that we can resolve
this problem.”
This is not the first time Germans
have struggled with the issue. Abortion
was illegal in West Germany until the
1970s, when women took to the streets
to demand the right to decide what happens with their bodies. In 1974, a law was
passed legalizing abortion in the first trimester, but the country’s highest court
overturned the law the following year.
A compromise requiring permission
from a doctor to be allowed an abortion
was further eased in the 1990s, after
East Germany — where abortion was allowed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy
Dr. Kristina Hänel said she had
no choice but to publicize a
prohibition that she calls
“outdated and unnecessary.”
— was absorbed into the West, leading
to the current legal agreement. Under
that arrangement, abortion is a crime,
but will not be prosecuted in the first 12
weeks if a woman undergoes counseling
and a three-day waiting period.
In neighboring Austria, Christian Fiala, a gynecologist, has advertised for
years that his clinic offers abortions.
“Unwanted pregnancy?” reads a billboard in the University station of Vienna’s subway that includes his clinic’s
name and telephone number.
“Information is absolutely essential,
because women who find themselves
unexpectedly pregnant need information urgently,” Dr. Fiala said.
In November, an administrative court
found Dr. Hänel guilty of violating the
law, because her website allows prospective patients to request and receive
a two-page printable handout detailing
the legal requirements, anesthesia op-
tions and potential risks of the procedure.
Instead of quietly removing the information or accepting the fine of 6,000 euros, or about $7,400, Dr. Hänel has challenged the ruling and is vowing to take it
to the country’s highest court if needed.
She began a petition demanding a “right
to information about abortion” and
pointed out that the law had been introduced by the Nazi Party in the 1930s to
criminalize Jewish doctors.
Immediately, the center-left Social
Democrats rallied to the issue. In February they insisted that “doctors must be
able to inform women about terminating a pregnancy.”
But that was before it was clear that
the party’s members would approve entering into yet another government under Ms. Merkel’s leadership. It was also
before key members of Ms. Merkel’s
conservative Christian Democratic Union made clear that they would not support any changes that could be viewed
as easing the abortion law.
Hours before the March 14 vote in
Parliament on the new government, Ms.
Merkel appeared alongside the Social
Democrats’ parliamentary whip. She
urged the Social Democrats to rescind
their bill on the abortion law, promising
instead to seek a compromise through
her new government.
The party agreed, angering supporters and women who had joined protests
calling on the government to rescind the
“Unbelievable!” wrote Lisa Paus, a
Green party lawmaker who supports
abortion rights. “A fatal signal to women,” wrote Ulle Schauws, another Green
lawmaker. She pointed out that if the Social Democrats were willing to break
with Ms. Merkel’s party and join with
the Greens and the Free Democrats,
they would have enough votes to change
the law.
Last week, the leader of the youth
wing of the Social Democrats, Kevin
Kühnert, called for lawmakers to be allowed to vote based on their conscience,
instead of along an agreed party line, on
whether to rescind the law. That is how
Germany swiftly ushered in same-sex
marriage last spring, after years of
failed attempts.
“The majority in Germany supports a
change to the law,” Dr. Hänel said. “But
those who are against it are very loud.”
Arrest tests Spain, Catalan separatists and E.U.
The arrest in Germany of Catalonia’s top
separatist leader has thrust the region
back onto Europe’s agenda, potentially
testing relations between Germany and
Spain, after European governments had
mostly managed to ignore the separatists’ political aspirations.
The arrest comes at a particularly
combustible time for the European Union, which is coping with Britain’s pending exit from the bloc, a right-wing populist upheaval in Italy, growing labor unrest in France, frictions between Brussels and the increasingly authoritarian
governments of Hungary and Poland,
and a growing clash with Russia.
It is also a difficult time for the Catalan separatists, who appear to be running out of options within Spain’s political framework. After a botched declaration of independence in October, and
new regional elections, the three separatist parties have been unable to resolve disputes among them and elect a
new Catalan president.
After months of political turmoil in
Catalonia, Spain’s central government is
hoping for a clear victory at last over the
region’s separatists — this time in a
courtroom, with the trial of the leader
Carles Puigdemont, arrested on a warrant issued in Madrid.
But if Mr. Puigdemont, who was
seized in Germany on Sunday, is returned to Spain, a highly publicized trial
could backfire on the government by
galvanizing the separatist movement
and prolonging a dispute that threatens
Spain’s geographic cohesion.
The case also raises questions about
whether Europe has a unified conception of the rule of law, and how it will respond to other secessionist movements
brewing elsewhere on the Continent.
Since 2012, the governing politicians
in Madrid and Barcelona have talked
A demonstration in Barcelona on Sunday after the arrest in Germany of Carles
Puigdemont, the separatist former president of Spain’s region of Catalonia.
past each other rather than negotiating,
allowing a dispute that initially focused
on Catalan demands for better tax treatment to spiral into a secessionist challenge. Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of
Spain has insisted on treating the dispute as a law-enforcement problem
rather than mostly a political one.
Spanish courts declared Catalonia’s
independence referendum last year illegal, and the central government’s
heavy-handed attempts to block the
vote only angered many in Catalonia.
On Friday, Pablo Llarena, a Spanish
Supreme Court judge, ordered the arrest of five separatist politicians and reactivated an international arrest warrant against Mr. Puigdemont, a former
president of Catalonia, and five other politicians who had fled Spain to avoid
The Spanish authorities have accused
Mr. Puigdemont of rebellion and misuse
of public funds, and a German regional
court will decide within 60 days whether
to send him back to face trial. But if the
court chooses to extradite him only for
the corruption charge, that would create
a political and legal bind for the Spanish
government, which would be banned
from trying him for rebellion, the charge
at the heart of the matter.
“Spain is creating a situation where
Europe’s judges rather than its politicians are being asked to solve Catalonia,” said Sergi Pardos-Prado, a professor of politics at Oxford University. “At a
time when the European Union needs
more legitimacy and to reconnect with
its citizens, how can this not make it
seem like a distant and technocratic
On Monday, Gonzalo Boye, a lawyer
who represents two of the politicians
wanted by Spain, told the Spanish news
media that he was confident a foreign
judge would not allow his clients to
stand trial for rebellion. He even asked
whether “Judge Llarena isn’t our best
friend, because things are being handled in the worst possible manner.”
Madrid is also seeking the arrest of
other Catalan separatists who are in
Scotland, Belgium and Switzerland,
where officials have so far questioned
whether their legal systems require the
separatists’ extradition based on the rebellion charges brought by Spain. Mr.
Puigdemont had been based in Belgium,
headquarters of the European Union,
since late October. While Belgium never
considered him a flight risk, a German
judge ordered this week that he should
be provisionally kept in prison.
Mr. Puigdemont and other separatists
claim that Spain cannot give them a fair
trial. That accusation is dismissed in
Madrid as another affront by politicians
who have repeatedly flouted court rulings in their drive toward independence.
“We can debate the specific approach
of the prosecution and the judges, but
there are strong legal grounds for this
case,” said Enrique Gimbernat, professor of criminal law at Complutense University in Madrid.
Still, several Spanish legal experts acknowledge that state prosecutors are
pushing the Supreme Court into uncharted waters. They also note that,
however many Catalan politicians are
tried and convicted, imprisonment is
not a viable alternative to a political solution that Mr. Rajoy has failed to reach.
Mr. Rajoy dissolved the Parliament of
Catalonia, which represents one-fifth of
the Spanish economy, and called new
elections in December, which served
only to confirm the profound split in Catalan society. Mr. Puigdemont and other
separatists retained their narrow parliamentary majority, with almost exactly
the same share of votes — 47.5 percent
— as two years earlier.
“It seems absolutely counterproductive to use criminal law and this court to
solve a politico-constitutional conflict,”
said José Antonio Martín Pallín, a former judge of the Supreme Court.
Since the court decision in Madrid on
Friday, Catalan protesters have been
back on the streets of Barcelona and
other cities. Roger Torrent, the pro-independence Catalan Parliament speaker,
is pushing for lawmakers to elect Mr.
Puigdemont in absentia, though the former president has recently said he is no
longer a candidate; opposition lawmakers want Mr. Torrent to resign, instead.
Either way, separatist lawmakers
have two months to form an administration or force new elections.
“Puigdemont’s arrest does not bridge
the divisions between secessionist parties over what to do next,” Antonio Barroso, a political analyst in London at
consulting firm Teneo Intelligence,
wrote in a note on Monday.
The politics of Spain have also shifted
in recent years: Mr. Rajoy now leads a
minority government, and his centerright People’s Party finished last in the
Catalan election. He risks being outflanked by a center-right party, Ciudadanos, that was founded on an antisecession platform and won the most
votes in Catalonia in December.
“One can be critical of the leaders on
both sides and how they have handled
every part of this conflict, but I don’t
think this should be seen through the
lens of a conflict between the rule of law
and democracy,” said Alan Solomont, a
former United States ambassador to
Spain who is now dean of the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University. The
better lens, Mr. Solomont argued, was
that “Catalonia is a region, subject to the
Spanish Constitution of 1978, and a national government always has the right
to enforce national law.”
In 2014, Catalonia’s government defied Madrid by staging a nonbinding
vote on independence. Catalonia’s
leader at the time, Artur Mas, was later
barred from office for organizing an unconstitutional vote.
Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.
China accused the deal maker who
bought the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New
York of bilking investors of more than
$10 billion, prompting him to issue a rare
denial of guilt on Wednesday in a country where the courts almost always convict.
Both the surprise plea from the deal
maker, Wu Xiaohui, and the vast amount
of money that officials said he had obtained illegally could raise the stakes in
a prosecution meant to show Beijing’s
resolve to crack down on the titanic borrowing binge of recent years. The Chinese government last month seized Mr.
Wu’s company, Anbang Insurance
Group, in a move seen as making an example of a firm that piled on too much
debt too fast and added risks to the
country’s already creaky financial system.
The $10.3 billion that prosecutors allege Mr. Wu and Anbang raised illegally
would make the case one of China’s biggest financial crimes trials. But Mr. Wu’s
not guilty plea also suggested that the
court could take a broader look at how
Anbang raised its money — and how
regulators let it happen.
In challenging the charges, Mr. Wu is
likely to “point the finger at the regulators for their complicity in the scheme,”
said James Zimmerman, a managing
partner at the law firm Sheppard Mullin
Richter & Hampton in Beijing and a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China.
“This defense — albeit desperate in
the end — will end up being a trial of the
regulatory system and not just for Anbang and Wu Xiaohui,” Mr. Zimmerman
Wu Xiaohui, founder of Anbang Insurance
Group, could face life imprisonment.
The full reasons for Mr. Wu’s plea
were not immediately clear. Attorneys
for the tycoon could not be reached for
comment, and the court in Shanghai
where Mr. Wu is standing trial released
only a partial accounting of the proceedings online. In China, such proceedings
are typically closed to foreign news media.
Still, the court said Mr. Wu “stated
that he did not understand the law and
did not know whether his behavior constituted a crime.”
Mr. Wu also denied charges that he
had instructed his employees to escape
abroad, to change their computers and
mobile phones and to delete emails, financial data and corporate records once
officials began investigating Anbang in
March 2017, according to the court.
Prosecutors accuse Mr. Wu, who
founded Anbang, of illegally raising
funds from investors by using false financial statements and promotional
materials, according to the official account posted by the Shanghai No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Weibo, a
Twitter-like service in China. Prosecutors also charged Mr. Wu with embezzlement. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment.
The police detained Mr. Wu in June,
and he has not been seen in public since.
He is almost certain to be found guilty,
as Chinese courts convict nearly everyone they accuse.
A former car salesman who married a
granddaughter of Deng Xiaoping, China’s paramount leader in the 1980s, Mr.
Wu was one of the many Chinese deal
makers who rode the wave of credit
stimulus that followed the 2008 global financial crisis.
Anbang had gotten its start just a few
years before the crisis, selling car insurance in the city of Ningbo, but grew to
become one of China’s most ambitious
To do so, it relied on selling Chinese
customers short-term investment products that promised hefty payouts. While
the products are sold by Anbang and
many other Chinese companies, they
disclose little about the underlying investment.
Alexandra Stevenson contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Elsie Chen contributed research from Beijing and Cao
Li from Hong Kong.
4 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
Putin facing public fury over children’s deaths
Thousands demonstrate
as Russian president visits
Siberia after fire at mall
At the end of a month that has seen him
unveil new “invincible” missiles, announce a space mission to Mars and secure a sky-high vote in Russia’s election,
President Vladimir V. Putin faced a grim
reality on the ground: a nation enraged
by the deaths of children trapped in a
burning mall in Siberia.
Mr. Putin traveled to the town of Kemerovo to lay flowers next to a memorial for the at least 64 people, many of
them children, who died in the fire on
Sunday. Some of them died as they
banged on locked exit doors and
screamed into cellphones for help from
their parents.
“How could this ever happen?” Mr.
Putin asked local officials on Tuesday,
echoing a question now being asked
across Russia by a population that just
recently voted overwhelmingly to reelect a president who, during his previous 18 years in power, repeatedly
boasted of making Russia strong and
Public anger at the fire — and claims
that official bungling and corruption
played a part — drowned out the Kremlin’s fury over Monday’s expulsion of
Russian diplomats by 23 countries.
Even on state-controlled television,
news about the fire pushed aside routine
denunciations of the West just as four
more countries ordered out diplomats
over a nerve-agent attack for which
London has blamed Moscow.
Normally, the Kremlin would have
used the diplomatic crisis to stoke patriotic fervor and promote its view of Russia as a fortress besieged by “Russophobic” foreigners.
Russia-24, a round-the-clock state
news channel, tried early Monday to
stick to its usual fare of patriotic programming, broadcasting a panel “discussion” featuring fiery tirades against
the West. But even that exercise had to
pause to give the announcer time to express condolences over the deaths in Siberia.
By afternoon, however, the coverage
was focused almost entirely on the shopping mall tragedy and a tightly choreographed visit by Mr. Putin to Kemerovo,
more than 2,000 miles east of Moscow.
Mr. Putin’s comforting words in Siberia, where he harangued officials and
visited the memorial, had to compete
with a rival narrative of corruption
spread on social media and on the website of Aleksei A. Navalny, the anticorruption campaigner who was barred
from running in the March 18 election
against Mr. Putin.
Eager to keep control of the story, Mr.
Putin warned people to stick to official
information. “You know it very well that
social media is a murky source unfortunately,” he told officials and relatives in
Kemerovo. “We need to rely on the results of the actual inquiry.”
That Russia is far from being a monolithic one-party state, despite Mr. Putin’s
lopsided re-election, was clear Tuesday
evening in the two events organized to
mourn the dead in Kemerovo.
One was state-sponsored, near the
Kremlin; the other was held in Pushkin
Square, by Muscovites who wanted no
Commemorating the deaths in the Siberian mall fire outside the Russian Embassy in Vilnius, Lithuania. Russia has one of the world’s worst fire safety records.
The mall in Kemerovo, Russia, after the fire that killed dozens. Russian officials have
confirmed that emergency exits were blocked and fire alarms were switched off.
part in the official gathering. The alternative wake began as a solemn vigil
with mourners burning candles and laying flowers, some of them in tears, but
gradually turned into a small-scale political rally with chants of “Russia without
Putin!” “Corruption kills!” “Shame on
television!” and “Silence means death!”
Instead of fuming at the United States
and its allies, Mr. Putin, during his Siberia trip, used another tool in his repertoire of responses to most problems: He
set the security apparatus to work,
telling relatives of the victims that the
Investigative Committee, Russia’s answer to the F.B.I., had deployed 100 investigators and would find those responsible for the fire and punish them.
He blamed “criminal negligence” and
“slovenliness” for the blaze, which
started in a children’s play area and then
swept through nearby movie theaters
crowded with young people.
The regional governor, Aman Tuleyev,
a relic of the Soviet era, begged for forgiveness and accused opposition activists of trying to exploit the tragedy for
political ends. “It’s sacrilege when
there’s grief and you use it to solve your
own problems,” the governor said.
Mr. Putin avoided mention of what
many, including those who lost family
members, believe was the real cause of
the fire: a state system, including multiple agencies responsible for limiting fire
and other risks, eaten away by corruption and incompetence.
Russia has strict building codes and
elaborate safety regulations but, instead
of being enforced, they are frequently
skirted with the help of corrupt officials
willing to turn a blind eye to violations in
return for cash bribes and favors. Law
enforcement officers, who are supposed
to prevent this, are themselves often on
the take or under pressure from powerful political barons not to investigate.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Anton
Gorelkin, a member of Parliament from
Kemerovo, gave a list of possible reasons the fire started — a prank by children, a short circuit, arson — but he said
the real cause of the tragedy was greed.
Asserting that the mall, called Winter
Cherry, should never have been allowed
to open because of “blatant safety issues,” he accused an unnamed deputy
mayor of signing off on the shopping
center’s opening in 2013 after receiving
a bribe. “His eyes were closed by
money,” the legislator contended.
Igor Vostrikov, who lost his wife, three
children and a sister in the fire, also
blamed rapacious officials in an enraged
message on social media. “I no longer
have a family,” Mr. Vostrikov wrote.
“The ruling regime is guilty. Every bureaucrat dreams of stealing like Putin.
Every state functionary treats people
like garbage.” The government, added
Mr. Vostrikov, “will find a scapegoat,
and the issue will be done with, but the
threats — incompetence, widespread
corruption, alcoholism and total degradation of society — will go nowhere.”
Just a few yards from the regional
government offices where Mr. Putin met
local officials, thousands of people gathered in Kemerovo’s central square and
called on the governor to resign, pouring scorn on those who repeated an official death toll that many believe undercounted the real number of victims.
Mr. Putin and the governor, Mr.
Tuleyev, stayed away from the square.
The governor’s deputy, Sergei Tsivilev,
did visit and, according to the news website Znak, was met with cries of “The
truth!” “Resign!” and demands that Mr.
Putin come and address the throng.
Mr. Putin knows from bitter experience how easily a tragedy can rebound
against him. In 2000, his first year in office, he traveled to a naval port in the
Arctic Circle in a disastrous attempt to
calm the grief of the widows and relatives of the 118 crewmen who perished in
the sinking of the submarine Kursk, an
episode during which Moscow declined
foreign help to save the crew despite not
having equipment of its own needed to
launch a rescue operation.
The Kursk fiasco was quickly followed by a Kremlin push to take control
of NTV, a privately owned television station that had given voice to grieving
widows and contributed to a public relations disaster that looked for a time like
it might cripple Mr. Putin, then a newly
installed leader. NTV, now firmly under
state control, is today one of Mr. Putin’s
loudest cheerleaders.
Public distrust generated by the
Kursk tragedy was then reinforced by
multiple disasters involving the authorities’ incompetent and brutal response to
hostage takings by terrorists at a Moscow theater in 2002, during a performance of a musical called “Nord-Ost,” and
at a school in the southern Russian town
of Beslan in 2004.
Increasingly tight control of the news
media, ratcheted up after each such
tragedy, has done little to dissipate this
distrust and may even have aggravated
“Even if the official death toll reflects
reality, at the end of the day people know
how the government lied in Beslan,
Nord-Ost, Kursk and many other places.
So they have themselves to blame for
the spiraling level of distrust,” said a
post on Twitter by Kaloy Akhilgov, a lawyer and former government official.
State television largely ignored Tuesday’s gathering in Kemerovo’s central
square, focusing instead on Mr. Putin’s
visit to a hospital ward and his solemn
expressions of condolences.
It also showed him pointing a finger at
lowly local officials and strenuously
avoiding the question of whether a system addled by corruption might be the
real problem.
Despite draconian fire regulations
and an army of inspectors to enforce
them, Russia has one of the world’s
worst fire safety records. From 2001 to
2015, according to a study by International Association of Fire and Rescue
Services, Russia had an average of 7.5
deaths per 100,000 people from fires,
compared with 1 in the United States, 2.7
in Kazakhstan and 0.5 in France and
Germany. Russia, where fire inspectors
are notorious for extorting bribes, had
the worst death rate of 41 countries covered by the study.
Mr. Putin made no mention of Russia’s
lamentable and well-known fire safety
record, but instead expressed puzzled
outrage that the shopping mall had gone
up in flames and killed so many people.
“What’s happening here?” Mr. Putin
said in a highly scripted meeting with
Kemerovo officials. “This isn’t war, it’s
not a spontaneous methane outburst.
People came to relax, children. We’re
talking about demography and losing so
many people.”
The crowd on the square, however,
had no interest in the official script.
When Mr. Tsivilev, the deputy governor,
announced that a total of 64 deaths had
been recorded, one man shouted: “Why
are you lying?” A live stream by the video service Ruptly showed another clambering onto the platform to confront Mr.
Instead of calming the throng, the
deputy governor only inflamed it by
suggesting that some people were exploiting the tragedy to attract attention.
This drew a furious retort from Mr.
Vostikov, the author of the social media
post denouncing corruption.
“I have lost my sister Sabadash Alyona Igorevna; my wife, Vostrikova
Elena Sergeevna; three children — 5, 7
and 2 years old,” he said. “I came here
for self-promotion, did I?”
Matthew Luxmoore and Ivan Nechepurenko contributed reporting.
Taliban’s rare silence on peace talks gives rise to optimism
Senior diplomats have gathered to talk
about peace in Afghanistan dozens of
times through the years, and the Taliban
have uniformly been both absent and
dismissive of their efforts.
On Tuesday, Afghanistan and its allies, neighbors and benefactors gathered here in Uzbekistan’s capital to talk
again. The Taliban were, to be sure, absent as usual, but they have kept a studious public silence about this latest effort
to negotiate peace.
The difference this time, many of the
delegates said at an unusually optimistic conference, was a sweeping offer
from the Afghan government on Feb. 28
to lure the Taliban to the table, along
with increased international pressure.
Even among the feuding factions within
the Afghan delegation, there has been
remarkable cohesion over the latest
peace overture.
Beyond even the Taliban’s rare refusal to dismiss the offer out of hand, there
is evidence that a more serious conversation is underway among the insurgents.
Reached for comment, several senior
Taliban officials acknowledged this
week that the movement was busy in internal discussions over how to respond
to the government’s offer. The Taliban
members, as well as Afghan and Western officials, said that diplomatic visits
with Taliban political representatives, in
Qatar and elsewhere, had increased in
recent weeks to try to persuade the insurgents to come to talks.
The offer on the table, made by President Ashraf Ghani, included recognition
of the Taliban as a legitimate political
party, passports for their officials, an office in Kabul or somewhere else they
preferred, the release of Taliban prisoners and efforts to remove their leaders from international sanctions lists.
Just because the Taliban may be discussing the offer does not mean they’re
going to take it, of course. Most of the
Taliban figures reached for comment by
The New York Times preferred to remain quiet, referring the queries to representatives in Qatar. Members at the
office in Qatar, in return, did not respond
to requests for comment.
Some Taliban figures who did speak
made sure to express their old mistrust
of any peace offer by the Westernbacked Afghan government.
Mullah Hamidee, a Taliban military
commander in the south, said: “Our
stance on peace talk is totally dependent
on foreign troops’ abandoning our country. Anytime they set the date for leaving, we will be willing to talk on peace.”
One senior Taliban commander, who
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was talking to the news media
without the leadership’s permission, insisted that the insurgents were not
ready to negotiate directly with the Afghan government. The discussions underway, he said, are over what kind of
negotiations might be acceptable, “but
the mood of leadership is likely to not
initiate peace talks with the Afghan government.”
While that is far from a rousing endorsement, it is a long way from the Taliban’s outright and fulsome dismissal of
past peace initiatives, always insisting
that they would talk only to the “occupiers,” meaning the American military, as
long as they remained on Afghan soil.
Recently, several former officials involved in previous efforts to negotiate
with the Taliban said the United States
would need to play a larger role as facili-
President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, far right, at an Afghan peace conference in
Tashkent, Uzbekistan, hosted by the Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, left.
tator if the insurgents were to take any
prospects of negotiations seriously.
One senior diplomat in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, said the government’s offer had been a game changer.
“The Taliban feel a bit confused, they
feel pressured,” he said. “At the Kabul
conference, everybody said they should
talk to the Afghan government; they are
the only ones insisting they should talk
to the occupiers.”
As the government of Uzbekistan convened the conference here, pressure on
the Taliban came from another, unexpected quarter: the group’s own heartland.
In Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, a major Taliban stronghold, a suicide bombing at a wrestling
match Friday killed 14 people. This week
hundreds of Helmand residents held a
sit-in, vowing to carry out a “long
march” to the Taliban-held town of Musa
Qala to demand peace talks. The protesters included women, rarely seen
outside their homes in that conservative
corner of Afghanistan.
“The only aim of the sit-in is to stop
fighting from both sides,” said one of the
organizers, Iqbal Khaibar. “The Taliban
should not send bombers, and the government should not drop bombs on
He said their march would take place
without security: “This is our country,
and we can go anywhere in it.”
Akram Khpalwak, the head of the Afghan government’s High Peace Council
secretariat, was among the optimists.
“The narrative needed to change,” he
said. “There was a perception that, over
the years, the Taliban wanted peace but
the government side did not have a clear
plan for it, and was not offering a comprehensive plan. We wanted to change
that perception, and make an offer that
leaves few questions.”
Mr. Ghani’s offer to the Taliban came
after consultations among all elements
of Afghan society, Mr. Khpalwak said, including the most ardent anti-Taliban factions and the most sympathetic.
So optimistic is Mr. Ghani’s government that when the American secretary
of defense, Jim Mattis, visited Kabul recently, the two men spent most of their
time discussing the technical measures
that would be needed to implement the
government’s offers and get peace talks
underway, according to Afghan officials
briefed on Mr. Mattis’s visit.
The Taliban are no longer the united
force they were under their former
leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, but
they are also reeling from heavy battlefield losses — as is the government side.
While the insurgents have continued to
gain territory, no clear victory is in sight
for either side.
In addition, the Pakistanis have come
under heavy pressure from the United
States over the issue of Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan.
The Afghan government hoped that
the Tashkent conference would help
bring the Russians on board, as well,
particularly with the involvement of
Russia’s Central Asian allies, Uzbekistan and its neighbors.
The Uzbek president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, offered to host eventual peace
But the conference convened in the
midst of widespread expulsions of Russian diplomats by Western countries,
and Russians were reported to be unhappy with what they see as sidelining
Moscow from the peace process.
The American military has accused
Russia of working behind the scenes
with the Taliban. In a recent interview
with the BBC, the American commander, Gen. John W. Nicholson, said the Russian “activity really picked up in the last
18 to 24 months.” He said, “Prior to that
we had not seen this kind of destabilizing activity by Russia here.”
That led to a furious response from
the Russian Embassy in Kabul. “Those
who are really responsible for the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan are
trying to put the burden of guilt for their
failures on Russia and damage the Russian-Afghan relations,” the embassy
said in a statement.
Despite such setbacks, Mr. Ghani’s recent offer was the most concrete sign of
progress in at least the past three years.
The high point came in 2015, when the
two sides actually met in person near Islamabad, Pakistan, for exploratory
talks. But the next session was scuttled
when it turned out that the Afghans
were, in effect, negotiating with a dead
man: The Taliban’s founder, Mullah
Omar, had died more than two years earlier, and the talks fell apart amid those
But even if the Taliban are willing to
join the peace process, said the senior
diplomat, a long process of confidence
building and pre-talks lies ahead before
any actual, face-to-face peace negotiations. More terrorist bombings in Kabul
and other Afghan cities would put the
Afghan government in a difficult position, he said.
Rod Nordland reported from Tashkent,
and Mujib Mashal from Kabul, Afghanistan. Taimoor Shah contributed reporting
from Kandahar, Afghanistan.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 5
Emperor of the tank, favored by the ‘crazy rich’
Facelift for a pet fish?
Arowana costs so much,
its owners don’t hesitate
Eugene Ng jabbed a pudgy finger
against the side of the glass tank, like a
predator singling out his unlucky target.
“That fish’s eye is looking a little
droopy,” said Mr. Ng, pointing to a fish
with large metallic gold scales swimming happily among its companions.
Minutes later, the fish was knocked
out and getting an eyelift, a procedure
that has become standard practice in
Mr. Ng’s job as one of the premier cosmetic surgeons for Asian arowana fish
here in Singapore. Using a pair of forceps, Mr. Ng — known to his clients as
Dr. Ark, after the pet fish store that he
also runs — worked quickly, loosening
the tissue behind the fish’s eye and
pushing the eyeball up into the socket.
“I know some people think it’s cruel to
the fish,” said Mr. Ng, lifting his sedated
patient with one hand to show off its
newly straightened eye. “But really I’m
doing it a favor. Because now the fish
looks better and its owner will love it
even more.”
The idea of cosmetic surgery for a fish
may sound extreme. But the Asian
arowana is not your average pet store
fish. Known as the long yu, or “dragon
fish” in Chinese, it is one of the world’s
most expensive aquarium fish, selling
for anywhere from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands.
One fish was rumored to have been
bought by a Chinese Communist Party
official for $300,000. So for most owners,
the cost of an eyelift ($90) or a chin job
($60) for a pet fish is pocket change.
“In Singapore, if you have an
arowana, that means you have status,”
said Kenny Lim, a local hobbyist who
has invested an estimated $600,000
over eight years in building up his
aquatic menagerie, which includes 13
arowana and more than 100 stingrays.
“It’s a sign of wealth.”
While prices of the fish saw a boom
and a bit of a bust earlier this decade, the
arowana remains a popular luxury accessory across Asia. Wealthy Chinese
businessmen in particular prize the fish
— with its large glimmering scales,
Kenny Lim has invested some $600,000 in an aquatic menagerie of 13 arowana and over 100 stingrays. “In Singapore, if you have an arowana, that means you have status,” he said.
sage-like whiskers and aggressive personality — for its resemblance to the
mythical Chinese dragon.
Adding to the allure are the often-repeated tales of arowana that sacrifice
their lives by jumping out of tanks to
warn owners about a bad business investment or other potential dangers.
For those reasons, aficionados call the
arowana the king of fish, emperor of the
tank, a dragon among mere mortals.
“For Chinese, keeping fish is about
bringing good luck and wealth, and the
Asian arowana are especially lucky,”
said Kenny Yap, the executive chairman
of Qian Hu Fish, one of the top arowana
breeders in Singapore.
“In the West, dragons are evil monsters,” added Mr. Yap, or Kenny the Fish,
as he prefers to be called. “But in Chinese culture, dragons are divine.”
Perhaps nowhere is the obsession
more apparent than here in this tropical
city-state, a hub of the global ornamental fish trade and home to a thriving network of breeders and hobbyists dedicated to the Asian arowana (not to be
confused with the silver arowana, its
South American cousin).
The fish has become so deeply ingrained as a status symbol that it was
even featured in the latest installment of
Kevin Kwan’s “Crazy Rich Asians,” a
popular series of novels about the lives
of Singapore’s elite, in the form of a
$250,000 super red arowana named
“Singaporeans are crazy about the
fish,” said Emily Voigt, the author of
“The Dragon Behind the Glass,” a rollicking account of her transcontinental
journey into the murky world of the
At one point, Ms. Voigt said, the global
craze for the fish reached such a frenzy
that even in Singapore, where the crime
rate is so low that a stolen delivery parcel makes headlines, there were four
arowana heists in one week.
During one of the robberies, the thief
punched an elderly woman as he ran
away with her fish in a sloshing bucket.
In a separate episode, a Singaporean
man was sentenced to three years in
prison and 12 strokes of the cane for trying to steal arowana from a shop.
“You think of pet fish as being an innocent thing,” Ms. Voigt said. “But I didn’t
expect to find myself confronting this
dark underbelly.”
The prominence of the Asian arowana
is a sharp reversal in fortune for a fish
that half a century ago was considered
by locals in its natural swamp habitat of
Borneo and Indonesia to be a common
food fish — and a rather bony and tasteless one at that.
Experts say the turning point came in
1975, when the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora, signed by 183
countries, banned the fish from international trade. By classifying it as a rare
species, some say, the treaty elevated its
status as a luxury item.
After the ban, a booming black market for arowana emerged. Smuggled
arowana were turning up around Asia
and later in the United States, where it is
still banned.
The huge demand had a devastating
effect on the wild population of arowana.
So starting in the late 1980s, restrictions
were loosened to allow trade of farmbred arowana whose parents were also
born in captivity.
While the wild arowana never recovered, trade in captive-bred arowana
flourished, reaching a peak in the 2000s
as buyers in mainland China jumped
into the game.
Breeders used DNA technology to
pinpoint characteristics in a bid to create a “perfect” fish: straight feelers,
bright eyes, large and round fins and
tails and shimmering red scales. Neon
pink tanning lights became a common
feature in tanks to enhance the fish’s
reddish hue.
“It’s like a beauty pageant,” said Alex
Chang, the head of research and development at Qian Hu Fish, who was
caught several years ago attempting to
smuggle two suitcases full of endangered fish worth over $180,000 into Australia. “The fish cannot be fat. It must
look strong and have personality. It
must swim confidently and be firm,
stern and fierce. It cannot be timid.”
But around 2012, the price of arowana
crashed as breeding farms flooded the
market. While prices have somewhat
bounced back in recent years, big farms
like Qian Hu have begun breeding other
Despite the sharp dip in prices, the
arowana remains an aspirational luxury
good and a point of obsession for many
As a young boy growing up in Singapore, Nicholas Chia always dreamed
about having an arowana. Last year, he
finally bought his first one. Since then,
he has acquired five more. He keeps his
prized fish in six large tanks that take up
a third of his living room.
“Sometimes my wife complains that I
neglect the children because of the fish,”
said Mr. Chia, a 30-year-old software entrepreneur. “To a certain extent, yes, I
guess that’s true.”
Behind North Korea’s diplomacy
Leader’s visit to China
may signal a search for
support in talks with U.S.
A flurry of activity and speculation surrounding Beijing’s diplomatic quarter
this week accompanied what officials
described as an unusual and highly secretive visit by North Korea’s leader,
Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Kim’s trip unfolded in extraordinary security; it was confirmed on Tuesday only after he left Beijing on the same
armored train that had stirred speculation when it arrived mysteriously in the
Chinese capital on Monday.
A high-level visit by Mr. Kim raised
questions about what North Korea
hoped to accomplish with this latest, unexpected burst of diplomacy after years
of provocative threats punctuated by
nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
the extraordinary offer to meet directly
with President Trump.
With his power at home secure and
the country’s nuclear program (perhaps) completed, Mr. Kim appears to
have the confidence to emerge as a recognized, if not yet respected, player on
the international scene, a crowning
achievement for an ambitious young
China has long been North Korea’s ally
and patron, a lifeline keeping its struggling economy afloat. Relations between the two, though, have become increasingly strained, and Mr. Kim’s government needs Beijing’s help in emerging from its international isolation.
China, evidently frustrated by the
provocative behavior of its junior partner, has joined the United States and
others in tightening sanctions that were
imposed in response to the North’s nuclear and missile tests. Mr. Kim has yet
to meet the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping,
and as he heads into direct talks with the
United States and South Korea, he could
use all the diplomatic support he can
At a minimum, Mr. Kim cannot afford
to deliver a diplomatic snub to an increasingly assertive and confident Mr.
Xi by bypassing him during the coming
talks with Seoul and Washington.
China, which initiated Mr. Kim’s visit,
had been left on the sidelines in the recent diplomatic breakthroughs.
If talks progress, Chinese officials
would certainly want to reclaim a central role in the diplomatic maneuvering
to protect the country’s own strategic interests on the Korean Peninsula.
“China worries about being bypassed
by North Korea and Trump,” said Shen
Zhihua, a prominent historian in China.
“China fears some collusion and fears its
interests being disregarded.”
Mr. Kim, while educated in Switzerland,
had never traveled abroad since becoming North Korea’s leader in 2011. Nor had
he met another head of state.
The visit to Beijing could capitalize on
the relative success of North Korea’s diplomacy around the Winter Olympics in
Pyeongchang, South Korea, last month.
A delegation led by Mr. Kim’s sister,
Kim Yo-jong, and the North’s nominal
head of state, Kim Yong-nam, put on a
charm offense at the Games that led to
direct talks with the South Koreans and
With increasing signs that the sanctions
have begun to hurt in North Korea, Mr.
Kim may have realized that he cannot
survive a sustained economic squeeze.
A high-profile diplomatic foray — coupled with a suspension of provocative
statements and new weapons tests —
should at a minimum avoid new sanctions and buy time for the economy.
Mr. Kim could also seek an easing of
sanctions as a concession for continuing
China and Russia, as previous negotiations have shown, may be less willing
than the United States to punish the
North if it commits to diplomacy.
“He’s playing one superpower against
another,” said Xia Yafeng, a historian at
Long Island University.
Kim Jong-un may have realized he cannot
survive a sustained economic squeeze on
North Korea, as sanctions begin to bite.
One of the first things Mr. Kim promised
to his people when he took power was
not to force them to “tighten their belts
Now that he claims he has nuclear
missiles capable of hitting their country’s archenemy, the United States, he
needs to focus on rebuilding the economy, and for that he needs the help of
China and its vast market.
“To the North Koreans, improving ties
with South Korea is important, but more
important and urgent is improving ties
with China,” said Cheong Seong-chang,
a senior analyst at the Sejong Institute,
a South Korean research organization.
Police officers guarded a train in Beijing on Tuesday. While relations between China and
North Korea are strained, Mr. Kim needs Beijing’s help in emerging from isolation.
Steven Lee Myers reported from Beijing,
and Choe Sang-Hun from Seoul, South
Korea. Jane Perlez and Owen Guo contributed reporting.
First introduced in 1968 as a diver’s watch, the Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris is brought back to life 50 years
later in a contemporary version, equipped with the Manufacture Calibre 956, as part of
the new Jaeger-LeCoultre Polaris collection designed, manufactured and assembled in-house.
6 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
Trump backers see trade deal as validation
Nuclear talks and threat
of tariffs broke impasse
with Seoul negotiators
President Trump scored his first significant trade deal this week, securing a
pact with South Korea that represents
the type of one-on-one agreement that
Mr. Trump says makes the best sense
for American companies and workers.
The deal opens the South Korean market to American autos by lifting existing
limits on manufacturers like Ford Motor
and General Motors, extends tariffs for
South Korean truck exports and restricts, by nearly a third, the amount of
steel that the South can export to the
United States. Mr. Trump used his
threat of stiff steel and aluminum tariffs
as a cudgel to extract the concessions he
wanted, helping produce an agreement
that had stalled amid disagreements
this year.
But winning the deal may have had
more to do with the geopolitical realities
confronting the United States and South
Korea as America embarks on tricky nuclear discussions with North Korea. The
United States cannot afford a protracted
trade standoff at a moment when it
needs the South as an ally.
The trade deal came as the Chinese
state news media reported that North
Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, made an
unannounced visit to Beijing to meet
with President Xi Jinping weeks before
planned summit meetings with American and South Korean leaders.
The political success of the agreement
— and its ability to be replicated in other
negotiations — is not guaranteed. Many
countries have reacted coolly to Washington’s pugilistic approach to trade,
viewing the president’s preference to
punch first and negotiate later as
counter to global interests.
President Emmanuel Macron of
France lashed out at the approach on
Tuesday, saying he was frustrated by
the seemingly coercive negotiation tactics coming from Washington.
“We talk about everything, in principle, with a friendly country that respects
the rules of the W.T.O.,” Mr. Macron said.
“We talk about nothing, in principle,
when it is with a gun to our head.”
The implications in the United States
will depend on how well Mr. Trump and
his allies are able to sell the deal’s direct
benefits to voters in midterm elections
in the fall. They did not succeed in doing
so in a recent special election in Pennsylvania, where a Democrat won in a
district that should have been especially
receptive to Mr. Trump’s argument
about trade and tariffs.
Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s former chief strategist, said the president’s
political team “must get on the ground
and make sure working people understand the direct economic benefits that
come from these measures — get it from
being academic to simple.”
The deal with South Korea, he said, “is
a big victory resulting from the president’s smart tariff policies.”
A General Motors assembly line in Lansing, Mich. A trade deal doubles the number of
vehicles the United States can export to South Korea without meeting local safety rules.
The agreement is also a victory for a
president whose most ardent campaign
supporters were animated in part by a
promise that Mr. Trump would fight for
them against a global free-trade establishment that they believe had robbed
them of jobs and depressed their wages.
As a candidate, Mr. Trump had repeatedly threatened to withdraw from
trade deals he said were unfair to the
United States and its workers — or even
rip them up. Even as recently as last
September, associates of the president
made it clear that he was willing to withdraw from trade negotiations with
South Korea if he thought the result
would be unfair.
Mr. Trump has also made clear his disdain for the multicountry trade agreements that the United States has long
championed. One of his first moves as
president was to pull out of what was
then the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership, an agreement that President
Barack Obama had helped solidify.
On Tuesday, supporters of Mr.
Trump’s protectionist approach to trade
cheered the new pact as a victory for
American workers and the dawn of a
new era in globalization.
“The agreement with South Korea to
better level the playing field on steel and
autos is an encouraging sign that the administration’s trade strategy is achiev-
ing results,” said Scott N. Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing. “We believe the deal’s steel
provision will be as effective as a tariff in
achieving the goals of strengthening our
domestic industry and ensuring it can
supply America’s security needs.”
Through the agreement, South Korea
— the third-biggest exporter of steel to
the United States in 2016 — is permanently exempt from the White House’s
global tariffs of 25 percent on steel and
10 percent on aluminum imports. In return, South Korea agreed to adhere to a
quota of 2.68 million tons of steel exports
to the United States a year, which it said
was roughly equivalent to 70 percent of
its annual average sent to the United
States from 2015 to 2017.
The deal also doubles the number of
vehicles the United States can export to
South Korea without meeting local
safety requirements to 50,000 per manufacturer. However, trade experts said
that American companies had not come
close to meeting their existing quota last
year, and that American carmakers had
not done enough to tailor their products
for South Korean consumers, who prefer smaller vehicles. The revised agreement does ease environmental regulations American carmakers face in the
South Korean market and makes American standards for auto parts compliant
with South Korean regulations.
Importantly for the Trump administration, the agreement extends tariffs
on imported South Korean trucks by 20
years to 2041. Those tariffs were set to
phase out in 2021, which officials said
would have harmed American truck
The deal will also establish a side
agreement between the United States
and South Korea that is intended to deter “competitive devaluation” of both
countries’ currencies — which can artificially lower the cost of imports bought
by consumers — and to create more
transparency on issues of monetary policy.
Administration officials suggested
that this new type of arrangement was
likely to be replicated in other trade
deals, though they acknowledged that it
was not enforceable.
Senior White House officials trumpeted the addition of the currency provision to the negotiations, which would
seek to prevent South Korea from reducing the value of its currency to make its
goods cheaper abroad and export more
to the United States. In a report published in October, the Treasury Department declined to label South Korea a
currency manipulator, but placed it on a
“monitoring list” for its currency practices and large trade surplus with the
United States.
However, the effect of the currency
agreement may be mostly symbolic,
since it was signed in a side deal to the
pact to avoid a lengthy legislative approval process. Unlike other provisions
of the official agreement, the currency
provision is not enforceable through
panels that typically settle disputes, or
through officially sanctioned retaliation,
the usual method for policing trade
The Obama administration had
fought for a similar currency provision
to be included in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Grocery wars devastate smaller chains
Amazon and Walmart
pushing out weakest links
through pricing pressure
At the Tops Market on Main Street recently, there was a “Mega Meat Sale” —
buy one pork chop and get another free.
There were specials on avocados, paper towels and fried fish. Craft beer
shared shelf space in the brightly lit
store with cases of Genesee, a local favorite.
Tops was cutting prices, even though
it had filed for bankruptcy , responding
to pressure from behemoths like Amazon and Walmart, which are lowering
prices and targeting new markets, and
from discount stores like Dollar General. The food war that is raging across
the United States is weeding out the
weakest links, leaving small and medium-size grocery companies struggling
to stay afloat.
It wasn’t long before another wobbly
chain followed Tops into bankruptcy.
The parent company of the Southern
stores Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo said it
would file for bankruptcy protection by
the end of this month and close 94
“There is a tremendous shakeout in
food retail right now,” said Burt P.
Flickinger III, a managing director of
the retail consulting firm Strategic Resource Group, whose family founded a
grocery business more than a century
Amazon’s $13 billion purchase of
Whole Foods in June added a sense of
urgency to the competition to feed
American families, raising the prospect
that the e-commerce giant would upend
groceries just as it has every other aspect of retail. This month, Walmart responded with its own plan to start offering an online grocery delivery service in
100 cities.
At stake is not only the price of toothpaste and bananas, but the futures of
thousands of cashiers, cake decorators
and meat cutters, many of whom belong
to labor unions and are owed pensions
when they retire. Tops employs more
than 12,000 unionized employees at
about 160 stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Maribeth Druse made a lifelong career in groceries, but given the industry’s struggles, her experience will increasingly be harder to replicate.
Ms. Druse, 61, was still in high school
when she started working in the meat
department of a grocery chain that Tops
eventually acquired. She now collects a
$20,000 a year pension and is still able to
work part time at the Tops in Cooperstown, N.Y.
“Who works in the same job for 44
years and gets a pension anymore?”
Ms. Druse asked. “Nobody.”
Like businesses in other industries —
including Toys “R” Us, which announced liquidation plans this month —
many failing supermarkets are owned
by private equity firms that have loaded
the companies up with debt. That hampers their ability to compete in an environment where prices in some markets
have dropped by as much as 25 percent,
Mr. Flickinger said.
Tops was long challenged by the debt
its former private equity backer, Mor-
Maribeth Druse works part time at the Tops Market in Cooperstown, N.Y. The company filed for bankruptcy last month, responding to pressure from competitors.
The New York grocer Fairway was taken over by Blackstone Group after a bankruptcy.
The office of a grocery workers’ union, one of many hit by the changes.
gan Stanley Investment Management,
heaped on it.
The private equity firm Lone Star has
cashed out $980 million in dividends
from Winn-Dixie’s parent company
since 2011, according to Moody’s Investors Service. Most of the payments were
made by taking out debt on the chain,
leaving less money to invest in stores.
Marsh Supermarkets, a regional grocer in Indianapolis that had been backed
by private equity, laid off more than
1,500 workers and required a federal
takeover of its pension plan last year.
And Fairway, the iconic New York
grocer that the Blackstone Group took
ownership of after it went bankrupt in
ments in Fairway, but company executives acknowledge that the grocer faces
an uphill battle. “It’s not a level playing
field,” Mr. Porter said in an interview.
“Competing against Amazon is like
competing against the government or a
military commissary.”
Amid the intense competition, the
number of supermarkets around the
country increased from 2010 to 2015, but
the number of supermarket operators
declined slightly. Analysts and industry
executives say the pace of consolidation
is expected to accelerate.
The changes are also taking a toll on
unions. Membership in United Food and
Commercial Workers, the largest gro-
2016, is still trying to distinguish itself in
a crowded field, but reports making
some progress on its turnaround.
This month, Fairway executives met
with the company’s roughly 3,500 workers, most of whom are unionized, to unveil a set of initiatives — like investments in a new marketing campaign. It
plans to emphasize the company’s role
in bringing new foods to market, as it did
with Chobani yogurt and Cape Cod potato chips.
“I am here to announce that Fairway
has bounced back,” the chief executive,
Abel Porter, told a group of cheering
Blackstone has been making invest-
cery union, has dropped more than 9
percent since 2002, to about 1.2 million,
according to the Labor Department.
While some union officials cite factors
like automation and state laws unfavorable to organized labor for the decline in
membership, others blame the bankruptcies.
“The private equity owners try to
drain every last ounce of blood from
these companies,” said John T. Niccollai,
president of Local 464A of the U.F.C.W.,
which represents grocery workers in
New York and New Jersey. “Their feeling is if it goes bankrupt, so be it.”
Mr. Niccollai, a former butcher who
went on to get a law degree, works out of
a cavernous union office, near Paterson,
N.J., that is a throwback to a different
era. A worn red carpet covers the floor;
photos of union officials greeting priests
adorn the wood-paneled walls.
When Mr. Niccollai started working at
the union in the late 1970s, the A&P grocery chain had about 7,000 stores. By the
time A&P had filed for its second bankruptcy, in 2015, it was down to about 125.
Mr. Niccollai found jobs elsewhere for
3,500 workers who had been displaced
by the bankruptcy, but 1,500 of his members were out of work.
He recently added membership by organizing some of the warehouse workers at the Peapod grocery delivery service, but it is challenging when the industry is increasingly dominated by nonunion employers like Walmart and
“We are fighting hard,” Mr. Niccollai
Tops’s path into bankruptcy was similar to that of other unionized grocery
chains. The first Tops supermarket was
opened in Niagara Falls in 1962 by an
Italian immigrant. The company grew
into a large regional player that bought
up smaller grocers and discount food
stores through the 1990s.
The international food giant Ahold acquired Tops in 2001. The company was
sold to Morgan Stanley’s private equity
team six years later. Under the firm’s
ownership, Tops loaded up on debt and
paid out roughly $300 million in dividends to its investors, according to
Even though Morgan Stanley no longer owns the company, Tops never overcame the debt burden. And like other unionized supermarket chains, Tops has
had to deal with steep pension expenses.
Tight on cash, the grocery chain has
faced tough competition, even in more
remote markets like Chestertown, a
community of about 700 people in the
Many residents said they drove 35
miles to shop for food at Walmart on the
weekends but shopped at Tops, often
paying higher prices, during the week
because it was close to home.
But Tops’s virtual monopoly in the
town ended in August 2016 when Dollar
General — a national discounting chain
— opened a store in Chestertown. The
Dollar General doesn’t sell much fresh
produce or meat, but it is siphoning off
Tops customers with huge deals on
other staples. At $2.80, a gallon of whole
milk at Dollar General costs about the
same as a half-gallon at Tops.
Alex Colpas, 27, who works at a marina on a local lake, said he rarely
shopped at Tops any longer because of
the deals at Dollar General.
“You don’t even need a grocery store,
frankly, if you can find a better way to
shop,” Mr. Colpas said. “It’s a relic.”
When it filed for bankruptcy, Tops
said it expected to operate “as normal’’
throughout the bankruptcy, but union
officials are bracing for closings.
“I have never seen a bankruptcy that
doesn’t lead to closing stores,” said
Frank DeRiso, president of U.F.C.W. Local 1, which represents Tops workers in
New York.
Tops, analysts say, would face a difficult time waging a price war with Dollar
“Survival depends on your ability to
weather pricing pressure over an extended period of time,” said Mickey
Chadha, a senior credit officer at
Moody’s. “The weak guys can’t do that.”
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 7
America’s China policy flaw: Beijing wins
Eduardo Porter
Since the days of the Nixon administration nearly 50 years ago, American
policy has aimed to steer China out of
its isolation to prosper in the global
market. There needn’t be conflict
between the established superpower
and the emerging giant, the best strategic minds argued. As it grew rich,
they reasoned, China could be integrated peacefully into the institutional
framework built by the Western powers from the rubble of World War II.
The proposition fit with the “liberal
peace” view of foreign relations: that
nations engaged in intense economic
intercourse would find it too costly to
go to war. American businesses that
flocked to China to tap its cheap labor
and huge consumer market after its
entry into the World Trade Organization in 2001 enthusiastically agreed
with the approach.
That strategy, it appears, is over.
President Trump’s announcement
last week that the United States would
impose tariffs against as much as $60
billion worth of Chinese goods while
restricting Chinese investments in
American technology companies has
set policy onto a different, more belligerent path. China is now, in the president’s words, an “economic enemy.”
Not all scholars have opposed the
change of tone. Many foreign policy
experts agree that China is not playing
by the rules. American businesses,
which typically endorsed forbearance
to protect their market access to China,
have grown frustrated at its appropriation of their intellectual property.
John Mearsheimer, a foreign policy
expert at the University of Chicago,
doesn’t buy the idea of liberal peace. In
“The Tragedy of Great Power Politics,”
published in 2001, he wrote, “A wealthy
China would not be a status quo power
but an aggressive state determined to
achieve regional hegemony.”
Land reclaimed from the Indian Ocean at Colombo, Sri Lanka, under China’s Belt and Road initiative, which rivals the influence of Western trade pacts and financial institutions.
And yet Mr. Trump’s hard-line approach to China seems destined to fail.
Opposing China’s abusive behaviors is
not necessarily wrong. The problem
with the president’s plan is that it is
inconsistent with the other diplomatic
initiatives he has taken. The tangle of
stabs and swipes at allies and rivals
alike, in the service of ill-conceived
goals like closing a trade deficit, serves
China more than it does America.
“Trump has been a godsend for
China,” noted Eswar Prasad, an expert
on trade at Cornell University who
once headed the China division at the
International Monetary Fund. “China
has manipulated the rules, but Trump’s
response is counterproductive.”
China is clearly chafing at the West’s
rules. It openly disagrees with the
postwar apportionment of the South
China Sea. It is more than willing to
flout the World Trade Organization’s
intellectual property rules to build its
domestic technological expertise.
Several Chinese initiatives — its Belt
and Road effort to build infrastructure
to connect to Central Asia, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership it hopes to negotiate with its
neighbors and its Asian Infrastructure
Investment Bank — are aimed at
building an institutional framework to
rival the trade pacts and financial
institutions backed by the West.
As a counterweight, Washington
could strengthen the global institutions
that support its own view of fair play,
like the World Trade Organization,
which the United States took such
trouble to build. It could build new
ones, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, open to China as long as it agreed
to abide by the rules. It could nail
down its vast web of alliances in Asia
and around the world — to ensure it
wouldn’t confront China alone.
That is not, however, what Mr.
Trump is doing. Ditching the TransPacific Partnership, imposing new
tariffs on Japanese steel and hinting
that America may walk away from the
W.T.O. all serve China’s goal of undermining the arrangements and institu-
tions that stand in its way. “Trump is a
blessing for them,” Mr. Prasad argued.
“All they were trying to do, Trump is
ramping up a couple of levels.”
Where might Mr. Trump lead relations between the two biggest economies on earth?
The outcome doesn’t have to be
horrible. Mr. Trump’s willingness to
slap real punitive tariffs on Chinese
goods, regardless of the collateral
damage they may cause on the American economy, gives Washington some
leverage in its face-off with Beijing. It
could be deployed productively. A
decade ago, American pressure gave
the Chinese government political space
to let its currency appreciate and cool
A steel plant in Canada, one of the countries that has recently adopted tougher limits on imports of steel and aluminum.
Chain reaction to U.S. move
ance for American Manufacturing and a
supporter of the tariffs, said that countries were taking initial steps toward a
series of agreements and discussions
that could help to squeeze out overcapacity and anticompetitive practices.
“Other large steel countries and blocs
will necessarily step up to the plate and
take a tougher line with China and on
transshipment and circumvention. I
think you see that occurring in the E.U.
with its safeguard investigation, and I
think you see that with respect to the Canadian government,” he said. “I don’t
think this is by any means the conclusion of the process. I think it’s just getting started.”
By restricting the supply of foreign
metals in the United States, the tariffs
are meant to raise the domestic price of
those metals, which will translate into
profits for struggling American metal
makers. But in the process, more cheap
metal will be available in markets outside the United States. That will push
down the global price of steel and aluminum and create a two-tiered market.
After Mr. Trump announced his tariffs, trade unions and Canada’s steel and
aluminum industries warned Mr.
Trudeau that, without its own measures,
Canada could be flooded with cheap
steel and aluminum from countries that
export at artificially low prices.
European officials have also argued
that, without protections, their companies could become collateral damage.
“The E.U. is more than an innocent
bystander,” said Fredrik Erixon, the di-
rector for the European Center for International Political Economy, a research
group based in Brussels.
The European Union already has “antidumping” tariffs on steel in place,
mainly directed toward cheap Chinese
imports. But the bloc’s leaders have also
made clear they are prepared to do more
and to exert diplomatic pressure on Beijing, pushing China to reduce government subsidies for its steel sector, cut
import tariffs and open its market to
American and European steel.
Some supporters of the tariffs see the
moves as evidence that the Trump administration’s strategy is working. But
other trade experts see this chain reaction as the first in a damaging series of
actions that will end up raising the price
of metals globally and making markets
around the world less free.
Eswar Prasad, a professor of trade
policy at Cornell University, said that although Mr. Trump’s approach appeared
to be bearing fruit in the short term, it
could ultimately hurt the trust of American trading partners and hamper the
“Even if it looks like other countries
are lining up on the U.S. side, and this is
going to help in terms of reducing steel
and aluminum supply, it may do very little for employment in those industries,
and it may end up hurting other industries that use steel and aluminum as imports,” he said. “So we could end up with
a somewhat Pyrrhic victory for the
United States.”
For decades, the United States has
been a primary driver in pushing to re-
move trade barriers globally, believing
that these changes would increase trade
and lift wealth around the world. The
Trump administration has taken a drastically different approach, arguing that
these beliefs have devastated domestic
manufacturing and that tariffs and
other restrictions are necessary to protect the American market from unfair
trade practices.
Despite the president’s initial statements that the measure would apply to
all countries, nations accounting for
nearly two-thirds of American steel and
aluminum imports last year have been
The tariffs now fall on exporters that
sent roughly $18 billion in steel and aluminum to the United States in 2017 —
mainly Russia, China, Japan, the United
Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Turkey, Vietnam and India, according to research by
Chad P. Bown, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.
On Tuesday, Mr. Trump continued to
push for global pressure on China during telephone calls with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and President
Emmanuel Macron of France. In both
discussions, according to official readouts released by the White House, Mr.
Trump raised China’s unfair trading
practices and its “illegal” acquisition of
intellectual property.
Ana Swanson and Alan Rappeport reported from Washington, and Ian Austen
from Ottawa. Milan Schreuer contributed reporting from Brussels.
danish design by . made by
its runaway export growth. Today,
American pressure could help Beijing
make an argument to curb China’s
excess capacity in steel and aluminum.
Washington’s threats could also help
Chinese leaders build a legal system to
protect intellectual property, a necessary step if China is to become a more
innovative economy that develops its
own technologies.
While Professor Mearsheimer argues that the United States should aim
to contain China by preventing it from
expanding its influence or conquering
territory and by building alliances to
hem in Chinese power, Robert J. Art, a
professor of international relations at
Brandeis University, argues that America and China can make a deal.
China and America would both
benefit from stability in the Taiwan
Strait and a peaceful reunification of
Taiwan and China, Professor Art said.
Both would prefer a denuclearized
Korean Peninsula as well as a peaceful
resolution of China’s maritime disputes. Both would prefer that Japan
not acquire nuclear weapons. Notably,
both would prefer maintaining an open
economic order.
Mr. Trump seems uninterested in
either path.
Trade deficits cannot be negotiated
away. America will run a deficit as long
as it depends on foreign money to close
the gap between what it saves and
what it spends. Slowing China’s growth
unilaterally is pretty much impossible.
There are too many countries that
have little sympathy for Mr. Trump’s
objectives and are willing to trade with
Asia’s biggest economy. Washington
might slow China’s technological
progress but seems unlikely to stop it.
The worry among economists and
foreign policy experts alike is that Mr.
Trump’s stand on China is determined
by domestic politics alone. American
workers are fed up with China. They
believe the Asian giant’s entrance into
the world economy cost them their
jobs and undercut their wages. Up to a
point, they are right. Their itch to
punish it, however, is misguided. And
allowing their irritation to shape American policy toward China is wrong.
The view that China would peacefully rise within the West’s institutional
framework may have proved naïve.
Reorienting Washington’s China policy
to fit the frustration of workers in
Michigan could prove disastrous.
8 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
Don’t turn an activist’s killing into melodrama
Vanessa Barbara
Contributing Writer
Franco, a
Rio de Janeiro
City Council
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL It has been more
than a month since Brazil’s Army took
who was
control of public security in the state of
Rio de Janeiro, following a presidential
decree to tackle crime. One of the most
this month,
eloquent voices against that intervenfought
tion had been Marielle Franco, a 38year-old black bisexual woman who
racism and
came from the Maré favela and was a
member of Rio’s City Council.
not “violence.” On March 16, she was assassinated
with four shots in the head after attending an event with other black
young women in downtown Rio de
Ms. Franco was elected in 2016 and
was the only black female representative on Rio’s 51-seat City Council. She
was an outspoken defender of human
rights, a feminist, a mother and a
member of the Socialism and Liberty
Party, and she had just been named
rapporteur of a legislative commission
that would monitor the military intervention.
“Who watches the watchers, right?”
she asked in an interview last month.
“Who should be accountable?” This
wasn’t a rhetorical question; it was an
urgent issue. Last January in Rio de
Janeiro, at least 154
people were killed
Ms. Franco
by the police; six
police officers were
for all of the
murdered while on
victims in
duty. Most of those
Brazil’s “war
people — the civilians and the police
on drugs.”
officers — were
black and came from
Rio’s poorest neighborhoods.
There’s a worry those numbers will
rise with the military in charge. The
top commander of Brazil’s Army, Gen.
Eduardo Villas Bôas, recently said that
his troops needed “guarantees to act
without the risk of a new Truth Commission in the future,” a reference to
the investigation into the abuses under
the military dictatorship that lasted
from 1964 to 1985. The commander has
also expressed interest in getting
“collective warrants” that would be
issued for a broad area — for example,
an entire favela — rather than a specific address.
Marielle Franco advocated for all of
the victims in this “war on drugs.”
While working on the Rio City Council’s Human Rights Commission, she’d
helped dozens of families of officers
killed on duty. In seven years, she said,
she’d never visited a family who lived
“from Tijuca to downtown,” meaning
that most police officers reside in the
poorest outskirts of Rio. “And they are
generally black,” she said.
But she was also a fearless critic of
state violence. She had worked as an
aide for a parliamentary commission
that investigated the involvement of
the police and politicians in militias. A
few days before she was murdered,
she accused the 41st Military Police,
the city’s deadliest unit, of terrorizing
and harassing the residents of the
Acari favela.
On the eve of the murder, she
mourned the death of Matheus Melo, a
23-year-old who was shot while leaving church. “Another homicide of a
young man that might be attributed to
the police,” she wrote on Twitter. “How
many more people need to die before
this war ends?”
The identity and motive of Ms. Franco’s killers remain unknown, but it’s
clear that the crime was premeditated:
The assassins waited for her to leave
the event and then followed her in two
cars for a few miles. Then they engaged in a carefully targeted shooting
and quickly left the scene without
taking anything. According to investigators, the bullets came from police
ammunition stocks. (The public security minister, Raul Jungmann, said he
believed that they had been stolen
from a post office.)
Brazil is one of the deadliest countries for human rights defenders in the
world, alongside Colombia, Mexico and
the Philippines. According to a report
issued by Front Line Defenders, 67
activists were killed in Brazil last year.
Of all the cases tracked by Front Line
Defenders, only 12 percent resulted in
the arrest of suspects. This seems to
prove the sinister efficacy of the
Even when the murders of Brazilian
human rights defenders do receive
coverage in the news media, people
here frequently create other narratives
to explain the murders: The person
was killed by a lover, or by drug traffickers or by the mob, or committed
suicide. And worse: the person might
have deserved it.
It’s happening now with Ms. Franco.
Soon after her killing, fake news began
to circulate on social media. Some
items said she was married to a drug
trafficker, others that she was a member of a criminal organization. Some
articles said she had smoked pot.
Some articles claimed that she had a
baby at 16. What a crime! (The truth:
She had a baby at 19, a girl named
Luyara. I cannot image how this is
relevant to her assassination.)
A few weeks on, the narrative
around Ms. Franco’s death is changing
once again. Television newscasts play
up the melodrama, focusing on the
human tragedy; we can never get
enough close-up shots of family members crying. Then they use this weeping momentum to put everything
under the broader umbrella of Rio’s
“violence” so that they can conclude
by happily announcing that the federal
government will liberate a couple of
extra hundred million reals for the
military intervention in Rio de Janeiro.
Problem solved.
This is exactly the opposite of what
Marielle Franco stood for.
She spent her days fighting inequality and injustice — not against an
abstract notion of “violence.” So there’s
no point in bringing more terror and
repression to favelas, killing more of
the same people (black, young and
poor). Diverting resources from areas
such as health and education to fund
more bullets and tanks will only aggravate the violence.
For that matter, Ms. Franco had
advocated a new drug policy that
didn’t involve armed incursions into
communities. She also supported more
diversity in political representation,
encouraging the participation and
candidacy of women and L.G.B.T. and
indigenous people. Her way was the
democratic way — not the authoritarian way of military rule.
She saw herself and other women as
a “real threat to the status quo,” as she
wrote last year in a newspaper article.
In her opinion, the government wanted
to constrain democracy in Brazil. “But
we, black women from the poor neighborhoods, are going to affront this
authoritarian nonsense,” she said.
Her last words caught on tape were
addressed to a crowd of young black
women: “Let’s go together and occupy
is the editor of the
literary website A Hortaliça, and the
author of two novels and two nonfiction
books in Portuguese.
Trump is learning from Singapore — and vice versa
He admires
the citystate’s death
penalty for
drug dealers.
It likes
his war on
“fake news.”
Kirsten Han
SINGAPORE Days before winning the
election in 2016, Donald Trump stood
on a stage and directed an accusation
at a tiny country halfway across the
world: Singapore, he said, was stealing
American jobs.
Singapore is now on the tip of Mr.
Trump’s tongue again — but this time,
he’s expressing admiration for its
death penalty for drug trafficking. He
has reportedly invited government
representatives to brief the White
House on their approach to drug trafficking, including their use of capital
punishment. Mr. Trump seems to
believe he can learn a thing or two
from Singapore.
This is convenient for the Singapore
government, which has been using the
global opioid crisis as an argument for
the retention of capital punishment.
While the American media reported
Mr. Trump’s praise for Singapore’s
“zero tolerance” stance, the country
hanged a 39-year-old Ghanaian named
Billy Agbozo on March 9, and a 56year-old Singaporean, Hishamrudin
bin Mohd, on March 16. Both had been
convicted of drug trafficking. These
are the first two executions of 2018, as
far as we know; information about
imminent executions is not made
available, and the prison service announces the number of hangings only
in its annual report.
But the borrowing of ideas hasn’t
been a one-way street: the government here has taken a page out of Mr.
Trump’s book. The new Select Committee on Deliberate Online Falsehoods is
holding public hearings to explore
measures for tackling “fake news.” The
committee is meant to examine a
range of options, but there are strong
hints that new restrictions on the
media are on the way, not least because the law minister, who is also a
member of the committee, has already
said that legislation is a “no-brainer.”
Mr. Trump constantly proclaims that
his “America First” policy will prevent
the United States from being taken for
a ride by other countries, while Singapore denounces foreign interference in
its domestic politics. Yet when the
occasion suits, both are more than
happy to borrow ideas from elsewhere
to control their populations. Such
opportunism is the hallmark of authoritarians constantly on the lookout
for ways to consolidate or expand their
Both governments claim they’re
solving urgent problems: to get the
opioid crisis in the United States under
control, to pre-empt disinformation
campaigns that might threaten Singapore’s stability. But neither proposed
solution is likely to solve the problem,
and might even make things worse.
Researchers have pointed to a lack
of reliable data on drug use in Singapore to back up the government’s
claims about the death penalty’s deterrent effect. The numbers offered by the
state cannot be independently verified
or may not present the whole picture.
For instance, Ashok Kumar Mirpuri,
Singapore’s ambassador to the United
States, declared in a letter to the editor
published in The Washington Post this
month that Singapore had halved the
number of drug abusers arrested
between the 1990s and 2016 — a state
of affairs supposedly brought about by
the country’s willingness to impose
death sentences.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore and President Trump in October.
Yet the government’s own data
shows that the number of drug
abusers in Singapore increased from
2003 to 2017. The rate of drug use in
any society is a complex issue with
many variables; without more robust
data and independent research, claims
of the death penalty’s effectiveness in
Singapore are unverifiable.
The Singapore government has
pointed to the United States, among
others, as a target of disinformation
campaigns, arguing that measures
have to be taken to pre-empt attempts
that exploit social fault lines to sow
divisions within society. But Singapore
already has laws that include the
criminalizing of the transmission of
messages known to be false, speech
with the tendency to “promote feelings
of ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the population,”
even the uttering of words with the
“deliberate intention of wounding”
religious or racial feelings, on top of
other regulations that give the government control over the mainstream
media and the power to take down
The government hasn’t been afraid
of using these powers, either: Web
publishers have been jailed for sedition
and their websites ordered to be shut
down, while bloggers have been sued
for defamation or found to be in contempt of court. One teenage blogger,
Amos Yee, was granted asylum in the
United States after an American immi-
gration panel found that his two prosecutions for wounding religious feelings in Singapore amounted to political
Although government ministers
claim that measures against “fake
news” will not affect free speech,
Singaporean activists have seen how
broadly worded legislation can, and
has, been used to curb dissent. As I
write this, an activist is facing a charge
of vandalism (among others) simply
for pasting two sheets of paper on a
subway car during a silent protest.
Apart from vague reassurances, there
is no guarantee that any new law will
not be used to restrict speech and
clamp down on civil society.
Both Mr. Trump and the Singapore
government have little time for human
rights, civil liberties or even openness
and accountability when there’s something they want to achieve. For Mr.
Trump, the death penalty fits his favored straight-talking, tough-guy
image. For Singapore, spinning “fake
news” into a national security issue is
a great opportunity to expand state
control of the online space, where
political discourse is freer than anywhere else in the country.
It’s precisely this opportunism that
requires civil society groups around
the world to look outward even as
governments look in. We need to build
links so we learn from one another’s
experiences. As politicians seize
chances to grab power, undermine
human rights and erode democratic
processes, problems that exist elsewhere can very quickly become our
problem too.
is a journalist and advocate
for the abolition of capital punishment
in Singapore.
Protesting the
slaying of Marielle Franco in
Rio de Janeiro
this month.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 9
This Easter, I’ll be back in church
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
Margaret Renkl
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
Contributing Writer
CHARLOTTE GORDON, V.P., International Consumer Marketing
NASHVILLE I went to church on Easter
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
Sunday last year, and never went back.
It wasn’t a boycott, exactly. It was an
inability, week after week, to face the
other believers. Still, I’d fully intended
to go to Mass on Christmas Eve, but at
the very last minute a crisis erupted in
my extended family — an all-hands-ondeck kind of crisis — so I changed into
my jeans and hung my poinsettia-red
blouse back in the closet.
In this house, we have never been
Christmas-and-Easter-only Christians.
My husband and I grew up in the church
and raised our children there. Even
during the hardest years, when mobilizing three young sons and various configurations of elderly parents felt like
running the Iditarod every Sunday —
even then, we didn’t miss Mass.
But the 2016 presidential election
changed all that for me. I just couldn’t
forgive my fellow Christians for electing
a man who exploited his employees,
boasted about his sexual assaults,
encouraged violence against citizens
who disagreed with him, mocked the
disabled and welcomed the support of
virulent white supremacists. This is
what Jesus meant when he told his
followers to love one another?
Germany must
decide whether
to extradite
leader of the
It’s a highly
political case.
Much as the Spanish government would like to portray
the case against Carles Puigdemont, the former leader
of Catalonia, as purely a criminal matter, his arrest in
Germany on Sunday on a Spanish warrant has pushed
the bitter struggle over Catalan independence into a far
broader and distinctly political arena.
In response to questions about the arrest, the Spanish government declared that it does not interfere with
judicial decisions, and that the Supreme Court is seeking to put Mr. Puigdemont on trial not for his pro-independence ideas, but for rebellion and misappropriation
of public funds (those his Catalan regional government
used to organize a referendum on independence last
October that Madrid ruled unconstitutional).
That is not the full story, however, as witnessed by
the Catalan crowds that have taken to the streets upon
news of Mr. Puigdemont’s arrest. Madrid’s relentless
and heavy-handed response to the Catalan independence movement, starting with the riot police deployed
to forcefully, and sometimes violently, disrupt the referendum last October and continuing with charges of
rebellion (which in Spain means actual use of force and
carries a penalty of up to 30 years in prison) against
Mr. Puigdemont and 12 other leaders of the independence movement, is hardly the way to win the hearts
and minds of the Catalans or the support of other Europeans.
So long as Mr. Puigdemont stayed in Belgium, where
he took refuge after fleeing Spain, Madrid left him
alone. But when he went on the road over the weekend,
Spain issued an arrest warrant and tipped off German
police, who arrested Mr. Puigdemont as he was driving
through northern Germany.
That effectively dragged Germany, Europe’s giant,
into the fray. Under the European arrest warrant used
in the European Union, Germany is required to transfer Mr. Puigdemont to Spain within 60 days. But the
warrant requires that the Spanish charges have German equivalents. Misappropriation of public funds
does, but “rebellion” is only vaguely similar to “high
treason” in the German penal code. That’s a tough one
to apply to a democratically elected official who never
resorted to force, and the German courts can decide to
transfer Mr. Puigdemont on the condition that he not
be tried for rebellion.
The Spanish government is fully within its rights to
defend its unity and its constitution. And European
states are right to give the Catalan secessionists no
support. But now that Berlin has been thrust into the
dispute, it would do well to tell Madrid that treating the
ill-conceived Catalan independence drive as treason
gives the movement a moral authority it does not warrant. A conciliatory gesture toward Catalonia would do
far more to defuse a confrontation that has gone too far.
For the first
time in nearly
70 years, the
2020 count
will include a
question about
citizenship —
a move that
could benefit
In a last-minute move that would give Republicans an
advantage in maintaining control of the House of Representatives, the Trump administration is reinstating a
question about citizenship to the 2020 census. Coming
from an administration that has expressed incredible
hostility toward immigrants, the change was not surprising, but it’s galling nonetheless.
The commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, announced
the decision late Monday, less than a week before the
Census Bureau, which his agency oversees, is supposed to send a final list of questions for the 2020 census to Congress. If the decision stands — the attorney
general of California, Xavier Becerra, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block it, and other elected officials are
preparing to do so, too — it would be the first time in
nearly 70 years that the federal government has asked
people filling out census forms to list their citizenship
This is important because the census count determines how many House seats each state gets. The
census is also used to determine how more than $600
billion in federal spending is allocated across the country, including Medicaid, food stamps and grants to
schools. Asking about citizenship will reduce responses
from immigrant families, which are already less likely
than others to answer government surveys and are
today terrified by President Trump’s anti-immigrant
policies and rhetoric. An inaccurate count is likely to
provide more representation to states with fewer immigrants and relatively higher response rates and take
seats away from states like California where response
rates would be relatively lower. Given the geography of
American politics, that would probably lead to more
power for Republicans, and less for Democrats.
By now, many people have come to expect that Mr.
Trump will inject politics into every policy decision. But
even by this administration’s low standards, trifling
with the census, which is required by the Constitution
and is a fundamental building block of American democracy, represents a serious breach of trust.
At church, all I could think about were
the millions of people likely to lose their
health insurance thanks to Catholic
bishops who opposed the birth control
mandate in the Affordable Care Act. I
was supposed to be thinking about the
infinite love of a merciful God, but all I
could hear were thousands of Christians
shouting, “Build that wall!” By the time
Easter had come and gone, I was gone
too. In some ways, there was nothing
surprising about this breach. I love my
parish, but I have always had a vexed
relationship with the church. Long
before 2016, the fault line was there,
rumbling with every papal pronouncement affirming the male-only priesthood or claiming to speak with moral
authority on issues of human sexuality.
What kind of faith community denies a
sacrament to parishioners who don’t
happen to have been born heterosexual?
During college and graduate school, I
tried to talk myself out of believing in
God. The reasons not to believe were
multifarious and convincing. The reasons to believe came down to only one: I
couldn’t not believe. I seem to have been
born with a constant ache for the sacred,
a deep-rooted need to offer thanks, to
ask for help, to sing out in fathomless
praise to something. In time I found my
way back to God, the most familiar and
fundamental something I knew, even if
by then my conception of the divine had
enlarged beyond any church’s ability to
define or contain it.
A church isn’t a necessary thing to a
believer for whom the whole world is
holy. But when our first baby was on the
way, my husband and I signed on. We
could have chosen another branch of
Christianity, one whose secular framework more closely matched our own
understanding of a church’s role in the
world. But to a soul imprinted from birth
on Roman Catholicism’s stained glass
and incense and 2,000 years of art and
music, all the other churches just
seemed a little slight
somehow. Not quite
I don’t miss
the place
And if all human
itself, but I do institutions are by
miss being
definition imperfect,
part of a
why not throw in
congregation. your lot with the one
that made you, the
one where everyone
you love belongs? The worldly church is
always a work in progress, and there is
still hope for its redemption. “Anyway,”
my husband said, “if a priest doesn’t
baptize this baby, you know my mother
will just take him into the bathroom and
baptize him herself.”
In the past year, while my husband
and his father were at church on Sunday
mornings, I was in the woods, where
God has always seemed more palpably
present to me anyway. (And not just to
me: “Some keep the Sabbath going to
Church,” Emily Dickinson wrote back in
the 19th century. “I keep it, staying at
Home.”) For me, a church can’t summon
half the awe and gratitude inspired by a
full-throated forest in all its indifferent
The year away from church hasn’t
made me miss the place itself. I don’t
miss the stained glass. I don’t miss the
gleaming chalice or the glowing candles
or the sweeping vestments. But I do
miss being part of a congregation. I miss
standing side by side with other people,
our eyes gazing in the same direction,
our voices murmuring the same prayers
in a fallen world. I miss the wiggling
babies grinning at me over their parents’ shoulders. I miss reaching for a
stranger to offer the handshake of
peace. I miss the singing.
So I will be at Mass again on Easter
morning, as I have been on almost every
Easter morning of my life. I will wear
white and remember the ones I loved
who sat beside me in the pew and whose
participation in the eternal has found
another form, whatever it turns out to
be. I will lift my voice in song and give
thanks for my life. I will pray for my
church and my country, especially the
people my church and my country are
failing. And then I will walk into the
world and do my best to practice resurrection.
writes about flora,
fauna, politics and culture in the American South.
A.I.’s risk to social media advertising
Dipayan Ghosh
Nine days ago, we learned that Cambridge Analytica, the firm engaged by
the Trump campaign to lead its digital
strategy leading up to the 2016 United
States presidential elections, illegitimately gained access to the Facebook
data of more than 50 million users,
many of them American voters. This
revelation came on the heels of the
announcement made last month by the
Justice Department special counsel
Robert Mueller of the indictment of 13
Russians who worked for the Internet
Research Agency, a “troll farm” tied to
the Kremlin, charging that they wielded
fake social media accounts to influence
the 2016 presidential elections.
But as Facebook, Google, Twitter and
like companies now contritely cover
their tracks and comply with the government’s requests, they simultaneously remain quiet about a critical
trend that promises to subvert the
nation’s political integrity yet again if
left unaddressed: the systemic integration of artificial intelligence into the
same digital marketing technologies
that were exploited by both Cambridge
Analytica and the Internet Research
According to the F.B.I.’s findings, the
tactics used to date by Russia have,
technologically speaking, not been
particularly sophisticated. Those tactics
have included the direct control of fake
social media accounts and manual
drafting of subversive messages. These
were often timed for release with politically charged incidents in the real
world — including, for instance, the
suicide bombings in Brussels, the declaration of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee and Mr. Trump’s staging of
a town hall in New Hampshire, each of
which occurred weeks before election
night in 2016. Further, according to
various experts, Cambridge Analytica’s
targeting efforts likely were tame and
Each step of the digital campaigns
seems to have been orchestrated by a
human working from a computer terminal. To be sure, we know that the Internet Research Agency’s deception campaigns altogether enjoyed broad reach
and were viewed by many Americans;
more than 126 million of us may have
unwittingly viewed the Russians’ egregious and misleading content on Facebook alone. And if Cambridge Analytica
did indeed make use of the rich trove of
sensitive data it acquired from Aleksandr Kogan’s firm
Global Science
Research, Camoperations
bridge Analytica’s
will gradually
content too likely
reached tens of
millions of American voters. But
because their
and seamless.
digital messaging
was largely controlled directly by a
bottleneck of human propagators, its
spread necessarily was relatively uncoordinated and ad hoc.
As the industry increasingly integrates artificial intelligence into digital
advertising, however, disinformation
operations and legitimate political
communications will gradually become
concerted, automatic and seamless. The
real innovation in digital marketing —
and the type of thing that the United
States Congress and American voters
should be particularly concerned about
— is the execution of disinformation
that operates at real scale.
Where there were once a couple of
dozen human operators stitching together a few divisive messages during
working hours in Moscow to pick at the
digital halls of our democracy, there will
soon be countless A.I. systems testing a
plethora of content on a vast field of
social media user audiences that are
highly segmented by race, ethnicity,
gender, location, socioeconomic class
and political leaning. We can expect
advisory firms like Cambridge Analytica, the Russians and other participants
— not to mention our own political
parties themselves — to pounce on this
new vector for political messaging and
take direct aim at our open political
Despite these risks, industry professionals seem to have turned a blind eye
to the oncoming specter of A.I., likely
because they are optimistic about its
commercial potential. The leading
internet firms are offering free A.I.
courses for their engineers; are developing plans to integrate A.I. across their
brands and products; and are staffing
up with philosophers, ethicists and
technocrats to deflect regulators and
win over the merchants of information.
In his interview with The New York
Times last week, Mark Zuckerberg even
went so far as to describe A.I. as the
antidote that will cure the internet of
hate speech and election interference.
What internet firms are not transparent
about, though, is the degree to which
they plan to integrate A.I. into their
principal profit-generating engine:
digital advertising.
Consider the scale and complexity of
the advertising ecosystem. Global
internet firms like Facebook, Twitter,
Snapchat and Google collectively enjoy
billions of active users who on average
spend more than two hours on these
platforms every day. Each user might
be shown hundreds or thousands of
digital display ads — or “sponsored”
content — within that time. People in
the industry leverage an intricate web
of ad agencies, exchanges, networks,
and demand-side and supply-side platforms to manage the delivery of those
ads around the clock.
But if you could remove those people
from the equation, you could quietly
turn a $100 billion digital ad industry
into a $1 trillion persuasion machine.
To be clear, algorithms have long been
part and parcel of the industry. Organizations like the Russian government
and Cambridge Analytica were taking
advantage of them simply by virtue of
using social media for political communications. But the sharp uptick in industry research and development in A.I.
over the past year strongly suggests
that this new technology will soon be
brought to bear in digital advertising.
This will increase the speed of ad
mediation, inundating users with content finely tuned to their personal desires. It will abet the seamless and
accurate development of “look alike”
audiences, enabling advertisers to
upload their customer lists and automatically send ads to like-minded people that they do not already know. And it
will enable automated contingencybased marketing, allowing clients to
programmatically trigger certain kinds
of content to be shared in the moments
after real world events transpire.
For students of disinformation —
including the Russians who to date have
not had to leverage such sophisticated
web technology to mislead American
voters — this new information ecosystem presents a vast land of opportunity.
One could imagine that the Internet
Research Agency could set up automated, machine learning-informed
content-targeting systems so that minutes after North Korea’s leader makes a
reference to a hypothetical ICBM, the
Russians send inflammatory A.I.produced messages and imagery to
classes of the American population that
A.I. has predicted will be susceptible to
disinformation. The scalability of such
activity is what makes such tactics
especially fearsome.
Deep-rooted societal tensions will
likely be exacerbated by the irresponsible integration of A.I. into digital advertising services — not to mention, into
the ranking and curation of “organic”
content on social media news feeds and
search results. We’re already seeing
this. For example, just a few hours
before Senator Marco Rubio took the
stage to speak with students from MarGHOSH, PAGE 10
10 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
Is this dog actually happy?
Alexandra Horowitz
What is it like to be a dog?
I’ve been in search of the answer to
that puzzling question by way of science. I’m a researcher of dog behavior
and cognition: I study how dogs perceive the world and interact with one
another and with people.
Even in those moments when I
wrest myself away from my subjects,
the question stirs in my head. For
everywhere I look, I find myself faced
with dogs.
Dogs in movies, GIFs and memes —
peppering Twitter feeds and Facebook
posts. The Super Bowl has a puppy
alternative; dogs in advertisements
sell everything from toilet paper to
tacos. Weirdly, the omnipresence of my
favorite subject has begun making me
grumpy, not elated. As dogs themselves produce a profound anti-grumpiness in me, I began to wonder why.
Why can’t I stand to look at one more
photo of a “funny dog”?
The reason is that these dogs are but
furry emoji: stand-ins for emotions
and sentiment. Each representation
diminishes this complex, impressive
creature to an object of our most banal
As the philosopher Lori Gruen has
observed, to be seen as something
other than what one is, or to be the
object of laughter, robs one of dignity.
Such treatment may not be mortifying
to the dog, perhaps (in fact, that’s a
legitimate question, whether dogs can
feel mortified; I remain agnostic); but
it is degrading to the species.
Despite the ubiquity of dogs in our
culture, there is much we don’t know
about them. My field is in its infancy.
We know that among animals they are
uniquely attentive to the human gaze,
but their preternatural sensitivity to
our emotions and behavior defies easy
explanation. Even as we are discovering the history of their domestication,
we still have little idea how dogs experience the world through smell, their
primary sense.
I sit down to each of the many movies featuring dogs optimistic that a
well-considered fictionalized account
could give us a glimpse of them as they
are — and maybe their creators will
see something about the canine world
that we scientists don’t. The new animated film “Isle of Dogs,” emerging
from the fanciful sensibility of Wes
Anderson, seemed promising. I went in
hopeful; I came out waspish.
“Isle of Dogs” is a delightful movie,
and the stop-action is mind-bogglingly
good, but the dogs are the pits. Though
beautifully rendered in fur-ruffling
style, their characters are thoroughly
human, with human voices and human
concerns. They are quadrupeds with
dog tags — they are not dogs.
This is the crux of the matter:
Rarely do dogs get to be dogs. In film,
they are cast as cute,
fuzzy human-reHow Twitter
and HollyThis anthropomorwood are
phizing ranges from
robbing dogs
simply ascribing
of their
human emotions and
desires to dogs (see
“Lassie” or “Benji”)
to the inexplicable
genre of dogs who excel at professional
human sports (“Air Bud” and “Soccer
Online, the dog suffers worse misrepresentation. In a typical image the
dog is posed in a distinctively personlike way, as if on the phone, seated at a
table or wearing headphones, and
dressed in human attire — glasses, a
dog-size suit and tie, even pantyhose.
Despite the discomfort this must
entail, these images are taken to be
Other times a dog’s expression is
misrepresented as a human one, such
as an image of a dog “smiling” (an
expression that actually indicates that
the creature is scared or worried) used
to indicate delight.
The meme- and moviemakers of the
world are not, it’s fair to say, intending
to make cinéma vérité about dogs. I
get that the images are lighthearted —
escapism, not science. But I think it
should be possible to make movies and
images that respect the dog as a dog.
It wouldn’t have dogs talking, in
human speech, to be sure, or motivated by human desires. It would follow
their heartbeats, their noses, and take
a measure of the world viewed from
two feet (or so) off the ground.
Here I find reason for optimism in a
certain branch of dog GIF or short
video which, instead of presenting the
dog as the furry human we want them
to be, shows dog behavior as it naturally occurs.
Dogs wriggling in the snow; jumping up and down in anticipation of a
walk; sniffing or licking or wagging
The pleasure of these GIFs is in the
exuberant expression of the dog —
maybe reminiscent of the washes of
emotion that we used to feel, as children, but no longer do. Rarely do we
spiral in a frenzy of wiggling glee when
we see a loved one. But we can find
vicarious enjoyment in the dog’s uninhibited dogness.
When I see these dogs I also feel the
foreignness of the world viewed
through the dogs’ eyes (or, more aptly,
nose). They aren’t talking quadrupeds
who want to find a partner, get a good
job and settle down. Their motivations
are unclear; what they smell is uncertain. It seems, for that moment, incredibly surprising that we share a home
(and in my home, a sofa).
Wouldn’t the most transporting
stories or snapshots we shared be
those that really try to consider the
dog Other — imagining the point of
view of someone or something fundamentally foreign to us — instead of
simply transplanting our story onto
them? If we are really so unwilling or
unable to imagine the perspective of
another being, we will only ever see
ourselves. For that, we needn’t even
turn away from the mirror.
runs the Horowitz
Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College
and is the author of “Being a Dog:
Following the Dog Into a World of
Whatever happens
next, we’ll help you
make sense of it.
Newspaper subscription offer:
Save 66% for three months.
In unpredictable times, you need journalism that cuts through
the noise to deliver the facts. A subscription to The New York
Times International Edition gives you uncompromising reporting
that deepens your understanding of the issues that matter,
and includes unlimited access to and apps for
smartphone and tablet.
Order the International Edition today at
Offer expires June 30, 2018 and is valid for new subscribers only. Hand delivery subject to confirmation
by local distributors. Smartphone and tablet apps are not supported on all devices.
China’s capitalism gain
Steven Rattner
Contributing Writer
President Trump’s attacks on Chinese
trade practices may be garnering the
headlines, but underpinning that dispute lies a more consequential struggle, between liberal democracy and
state-directed capitalism.
Of late, it’s a competition in which
the Chinese approach has been delivering the more robust economic result.
Indeed, implicit in the ferocity of the
Trump administration’s attacks on
China’s protectionism is the success of
that nation’s economy.
Skeptics notwithstanding, China’s
model, which has brought more people
out of poverty faster than any other
system in history, continues to flourish,
as I’ve seen firsthand in a decade of
regular visits.
Meanwhile, liberal democracy — the
foundation of the post-World War II
order — is under pressure, most significantly for having failed in recent years
to deliver broadly higher standards of
Here’s one stark example: Last
week, Congress finally managed to
pass appropriations legislation for the
current fiscal year — six months after
the budget year began. The 2,232-page
bill was cobbled together in a frenzy,
without any discussion of national
priorities or careful examination of the
In contrast, China is driving hard
toward its “Made in China 2025” plan,
an ambitious set of objectives to upgrade Chinese industry so that, among
other things, it can manufacture its
own high-value components, like semiconductors. And while we retreat
internationally, China’s One Belt One
Road Initiative will physically connect
China to more than 65 percent of the
world’s population.
If you think we have trade problems
with China now, just wait.
To be sure, China is a long way from
overtaking the United States. Its gross
domestic product per person is just
$9,380, compared with $61,690 in the
United States. Less visible than the
sleek modern skyscrapers that now
dominate China’s cityscapes are the
700 million people — about half of
China’s population — who still live on
$5.50 per day or less.
And China’s mercantilist trade practices are indefensible, particularly its
use of non-tariff barriers to discourage
foreign companies from coming to
China, its insistence that non-Chinese
companies share their technology, its
outright theft of intellectual property
and on and on.
That said, I’m
As the
confident that Chieconomy
na’s mixed system
would have produced
formidable growth
America’s is
even without these
predatory practices.
in danger
As China marches
of falling
forward, Washington
feels like it’s standing still.
Perhaps the only
policy area on which President Trump
and the Democrats agree is the need to
fix the nation’s crumbling infrastructure. And yet, 14 months after the
president was inaugurated, nothing
has happened (except for the release
of a plan that was quickly derided).
For its part, China continues to build
airports, subway systems, renewableenergy facilities and the like at a torrid
pace. Even its longstanding pollution
problem is being addressed. In the past
four years, China has succeeded in
cutting concentrations of one pollutant
— fine particulates — by 32 percent,
roughly what it took the United States
12 years to achieve after passage of the
Clean Air Act in 1970.
Next up, artificial intelligence. In
mid-2017, China announced a plan to
become a global leader in artificial
intelligence by 2030, sending shudders
through American policy circles. One
How to save Facebook
your way through passport control to
single you out in a crowd for arrest.
And Mark Zuckerberg, who
promised to connect us all — and that
it would all be good — found himself on
the cover of Wired magazine, with his
face cut, bruised and bandaged, as if
he’d been hit by a fastball. He wasn’t
alone. In inning two, we started to feel
beat up by the same platforms and
technologies that had enriched, empowered and connected our lives.
Silicon Valley, we have a problem.
What to do? For problems like this, I
like to consult my teacher and friend
Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, which
helps companies and leaders build
ethical cultures, and the author of the
book, “How: Why How We Do Anything Means Everything.”
“The first inning’s prevailing ethos
was that any technology that makes
the world more open by connecting us
or makes us more equal by empowering us individually must, in and of
itself, be a force for good,” Seidman
began. “But, in inning two, we are
coming to grips with the reality that
the power to make the world more
open and equal is not in the technologies themselves. It all depends on how
the tools are designed and how we
choose to use them. The same amazing
tech that enables people to forge
deeper relationships, foster closer
communities and give everyone a
voice can also breed isolation, embolden racists, and empower digital bullies
and nefarious actors.”
Equally important, Seidman added,
these “unprecedented and valuable
tools of connection” are being used
with great accuracy and potency “to
assault the foundations of what makes
our democracies vibrant, capitalism
dynamic and our societies healthy —
namely, truth and trust.”
And they have begun to be used “to
assault our personal foundations — our
privacy and sense of identity,” Seidman
said: “It is one thing to use our data to
enable better shopping experiences,
but when my beliefs and attitudes are
mined and manipulated for someone’s
political campaign, a campaign that
may be antithetical to my beliefs, that
is deeply harmful and unmooring.” So
what to do? “Precisely because we are
in just the beginning of a technological
revolution with a long, uncertain,
up-and-down road ahead, we need to
start by pausing to reflect on how our
world, reshaped by these technologies,
operates differently — and on the kind
of values and leadership we will need
to realize their promise.”
Values are more vital now than ever,
Seidman insisted. “Because sustainable values are what
anchor us in a storm,
and because values
propel and guide us
when our lives are
profoundly diseverything
rupted. They help us
make the hard deciis now
sions.” Hard deciconnected.
sions abound, because everything is
now connected. “The
world is fused. So there no place anymore to stand to the side and claim
neutrality — to say, ‘I am just a businessperson’ or ‘I am just running a
platform.’ ”
No way. “Once you see that your
technologies are having unintended
consequences, you cannot maintain
your neutrality — especially when
you’ve become so central to the lives of
billions of people.”
In the fused world, Seidman said,
“the business of business is no longer
just business. The business of business
is now society. And, therefore, how you
take or don’t take responsibility for
what your technology enables or for
what happens on your platforms is
inescapable. This is the emerging
expectation of users — real people —
who’ve entrusted so much of their
inner lives to these powerful companies.”
research report estimated that A.I.
could add 1.6 percentage points to
China’s growth by 2035.
At the moment, the United States
remains the world leader in A.I., and
our scientists are working hard to
achieve further advances. But from the
Trump administration: silence, notwithstanding a parting warning and a
call to arms from President Barack
Obama’s team.
As a capitalist, I’ve never believed in
excessive government intervention in
the economy. One of America’s greatest strengths has always been its
flourishing private sector. But in a
complex, global economy, the public
sector should play an important role,
and ours just isn’t.
China, despite its Communist heritage, understands the benefits of
incorporating a robust free-enterprise
element. Beijing bustles with internet
entrepreneurs. Venture capitalists are
pouring vast sums into a dizzying
array of start-ups, including in prosaic
industries like retailing. And an increasing number of “national champions” are expanding beyond China’s
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we rewrite our Constitution to emulate China. And I certainly
understand the loss of freedom and
civil liberties under the Chinese system. But that doesn’t mitigate the need
for us to get our government to perform the way it did in passing the New
Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great
When Russia launched its first Sputnik satellite in 1957, our response was
to redouble our efforts and win the
race to the moon. While the merits of
punishing China for its unfair trade
practices are strong, that’s hardly the
most important reaction to its extraordinary economic success.
a counselor in the
Treasury Department under President
Barack Obama, is a Wall Street executive.
Beware A.I.
in advertising
jory Stoneman Douglas High School,
ill-taught algorithms were responsible
for the spread of YouTube videos that
mocked and shamed the students.
Even in light of the Cambridge Analytica revelations, there is time yet to
act. Internet firms should aggressively
work to limit disinformation on their
platforms by developing algorithms —
perhaps driven by A.I., as suggested by
Mr. Zuckerberg — that can detect
disinformation and flag it for fast human review. Strong one-off actions
against widespread disinformation
tactics, such as Twitter’s recent move,
can also help. They also must be more
transparent about their algorithmic
software and data practices with researchers, journalists and consumers.
Further, the regulatory community
must continue its aggressive review of
the industry’s practices. The Federal
Trade Commission’s announcement of
its forthcoming investigation into Facebook’s privacy practices represents
excellent progress.
In the meantime, the public must not
let up. The economic structure of the
digital sector has already harmed our
society in ways that have been worsened by the unchecked collection of
individual behavioral data. The revelations about Cambridge Analytica and
Russia’s disinformation operations are
prime evidence for this — and things
could get worse very soon. Politicians
and regulators must continue the call
for a meaningful privacy law and
stronger antitrust enforcement in this
country. Nothing less can win us back
full control of the state.
a fellow at New America
and the Shorenstein Center at the Harvard Kennedy School, was a technology
and economic adviser to the Obama
White House and has been a United
States privacy and public policy adviser
at Facebook.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 11
Open Thread:
Is Saudi Arabia ready for runway?
A delay in the debut
of its fashion week
suggests some problems
Business class plane tickets and fivestar hotel rooms had been booked for
scores of guests. The dazzling ecofriendly Apex Center in Riyadh, Saudi
Arabia, designed by the architect Zaha
Hadid, had been chosen as a site. And a
four-day schedule, featuring local Arab
designers and European brand names
including Roberto Cavalli and Jean Paul
Gaultier, had been confirmed for weeks.
Then last Friday, just three days before an opening-night gala was to celebrate Saudi Arabia’s first fashion week,
the event was abruptly postponed.
Some observers blamed widespread
issues stemming from unsuccessful efforts by Western models and journalists
to secure travel visas in the run-up to the
shows. Others whispered of a pushback
from more conservative government officials against members of the Saudi
royal family who were more supportive
of bringing fashion catwalks to one of
the most conservative countries in the
Either way, over the weekend, no official explanation came. Finally, on Monday, a statement — of sorts — arrived by
“The decision for postponing the
event was made simply so that
we are able to accommodate all
the international guests.”
“Since the initial announcement made
in February, Arab Fashion Week Riyadh
has garnered significant interest from
international guests wanting to attend,”
said Layla Issa Abuzaid, the country director for Saudi Arabia at the Arab
Fashion Council, the Dubai nonprofit responsible for the event. “Given this important historical moment for the kingdom, the Arab Fashion Council and participating designers have collectively
taken steps to postpone the dates in order to welcome guests from all over the
world. This could only be done by taking
additional time.”
The new dates for the event, the statement said, will be April 10 to April 15, and
the lineup of international and regional
fashion brands will remain the same. It
will take place at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh (the same hotel where scores of
prominent people, even members of the
royal family, were believed to have been
detained during a corruption sweep in
“The decision for postponing the
event was made simply so that we are
able to accommodate all the international guests who had applied to attend,”
said Jacob Abrian, the chief executive of
the Arab Fashion Council. “We are extremely thankful for all the trust and
support that we have received to make it
While no one ever said that organizing a fashion week was easy ( just ask
A look from the spring 2018 couture collection by Jean Paul Gaultier, one designer scheduled at Arab Fashion Week Riyadh.
those responsible for juggling the calendars of hundreds of shows and presentations in New York, London, Milan and
Paris), the deferral of an inaugural
event of such scale and at such cost —
and under such media scrutiny — is still
bound to spur many questions. That
there is more at play than purely creating a new fashion hub is becoming increasingly clear.
The high-profile, high-stakes plan for
a first fashion week in Saudi Arabia, unthinkable even two years ago, comes at
a time of apparent reform in the country,
led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman, the kingdom’s de facto ruler. Taking inspiration from the successes
(and failures) of smaller Gulf neighbors
like Dubai, Saudi Arabia is trying to shift
from a reliance on oil and gas revenues
and is repositioning itself as a dynamic
place for business, hospitality and
leisure — this in one of the most restrictive societies in the world for women.
Saudi officials have gone to great
lengths of late to spotlight promises by
the crown prince to let women drive and
play a greater role in the country’s work
force; to expand entertainment opportunities; and to encourage foreign investment. Change, they say, is in the air.
Arab Fashion Week Riyadh, at which
shows will be held in the evening for
women-only audiences, will come at a
time when women have more access
than ever to public arts and entertainment: In January, female fans were welcomed into soccer stadiums for the first
time, and a decades-long ban on cinemas was lifted in December.
Now the Arab Fashion Council, which
opened its regional office in Riyadh in
December, plans to position Saudi Arabia as a hub for an emerging regional
fashion industry, appointing Princess
Noura Bint Faisal al-Saud as its honorary president. Recently it also forged
an alliance with the British Fashion
Council to provide support in establishing a sustainable infrastructure for the
fashion industry in the Middle East and
the 22 countries of the Arab League.
“The first Arab Fashion Week in Riyadh will be more than a world-class
event,” Ms. Issa Abuzaid said when the
project was announced. “It is a catalyst
through which we believe the fashion
sector will lead other economic sectors
such as tourism, hospitality, travel and
trade. Our retail sector is among the
fastest growing in the world.”
With only two weeks before the start
of the rescheduled fashion week, the
postponement, and lack of information
about it, continues to shroud the event in
an aura of mystery. That said, the fashion shows in Riyadh will come at a time
when Saudi Arabia’s religiously conservative rules constraining the attire of
women outside their homes show signs
of relaxing. In an interview with “60
Minutes” on CBS this month, the crown
prince said that women should be able to
choose what they wear.
“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Shariah (Islamic
law): that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” Prince Mohammed said. “This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black
head cover.”
Let’s see if this new trend makes its
way onto the catwalks in Riyadh, and indeed across the kingdom.
Every week Vanessa Friedman, The
Times’s fashion director, answers a
reader’s fashion-related question in the
Open Thread newsletter at (although she is on
vacation, so Matthew Schneier is taking
her place). You can send her a question
at or via
Twitter: @vvfriedman. Questions are
edited and condensed.
I am passionate about the overlap of
fashion and sustainability and am
interested in transforming my wardrobe to collect sustainable pieces. I
struggle, as most of these items are
expensive. How do you suggest I go
about curating a sustainable — but
not super-high-priced — wardrobe?
— Neeharika, San Francisco
Great question. Fashion is grappling
with the question of sustainability and
its responsibility to improve its practices, given the scope of its production
and distribution. There are designers
who have been leading this charge for
years — Stella McCartney comes to
mind — but often, shopping sustainably means paying more (which is
most likely one reason it hasn’t yet
been broadly adopted).
That’s not to say improvement isn’t
possible. Many lower-priced brands
are moving in the right direction, even
if in some cases incrementally.
Michael Preysman, founder and chief
executive of Everlane, in a 2015 portrait.
Everlane, the West Coast startup,
has been moving steadily toward more
sustainable manufacturing, with its
denim introduction last September as
its first big move. The company
worked with a LEED-certified sustainable factory that recycles 98 percent of
its water, relies on alternate energy
sources and turns byproducts into
bricks for affordable housing projects.
Its new underwear, which will go on
sale shortly, is made in a factory chosen for (among other things) a commitment to environmental initiatives.
And while fast fashion, at a lower
price point, is often held up as an example of environmentally unfriendly
fashion (and not without cause), companies like H&M are trying to improve.
The retailer regularly offers “conscious” items that are made more
sustainably (look for green tags) and
the occasional “Conscious Exclusive”
collection, made entirely of sustainable
materials. (The next arrives April 19.)
Lastly, buying something that already exists can be greener than
something new. Do what I do: Buy
12 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
14 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
On the wings of despair, uplift
‘Angels in America’ soars
with the breath of life in a
revival born in London
Sometimes, just when you need it
most, a play courses into your system
like a transfusion of new blood. You
feel freshly awakened to the infinite
possibilities not only of theater but also
of the teeming world beyond. And
when you hit the streets afterward,
every one of your senses is singing.
Such is the effect of seeing the flatout fabulous Broadway revival of Tony
Kushner’s “Angels in America,” with a
top-flight cast led by Andrew Garfield
and Nathan Lane in career-high performances. This is the 25th anniversary production of Mr. Kushner’s twopart, seven-and-a-half-hour multiaward-winning masterwork about
death and destruction in Ronald Reagan’s America.
Does that last sentence make your
eyes glaze with the weighty worthiness
of it all? Since it was first staged on
Broadway in 1993, “Angels in America:
A Gay Fantasia on National Themes”
(to use its full, colon-toting title) has
acquired the marbleized patina of
something stately and grand, a work to
be approached with reverence and a
It is also, on the surface, very much
of its time, featuring political figures
only vaguely familiar to many younger
theatergoers, and stalked by the menace of a then-fatal disease, AIDS, that
has since been if not vanquished, then
tamed by medical science. The play
begins with a funeral and, after many
successive acts, visits heaven above.
The specter of death is nearly always
present, framed by ontological discussions wrought in dizzying spirals of
Yet, as Marianne Elliott’s enthralling
London-born production makes clear,
“Angels” blazes with a passion that is
the opposite of morbid. Its subject —
not to put too fine a point on it — is life
itself, and its defiant, forward-moving
persistence through plagues and persecution, failing bodies and broken
Even on deathbeds or in mind-melting states of hallucination, everybody
in “Angels” pulses with that animating
spirit. And even more than when I saw
this production at London’s National
Theater last spring, the cast members
here make you feel the full force of
such vitality.
That’s what they all have in common, this strangely assembled, ineffably interconnected group that includes
drag queens, wandering Mormons,
assorted lawyers, a breast-beating
Jewish intellectual and the real-life
power-broker (and Donald J. Trump
mentor) Roy Cohn.
It’s even true of the ghosts who show
up to taunt and haunt. Only the angels
of the title seem to be lacking in this
insistent energy, and there’s a reason
for that.
The inhabitants of “Angels” are as
glowingly individual as illuminated
fingerprints. I found it impossible not
to identify or even fall a little in love
with all of them, including Mr. Lane’s
satanic Roy.
And when characters are this vividly
drawn, spending hours in their company is no hardship. Watching both
parts of “Angels” — “Millennium Approaches” and “Perestroika” — on one
Clockwise from top: Amanda Lawrence and Andrew Garfield in
“Perestroika,” Part 2 of “Angels in America”; Nathan Lane as
Roy Cohn, also in Part 2; and Denise Gough, left, and Lee Pace in
Part 1, “Millennium Approaches.”
Saturday, as I did, didn’t feel much
different from falling into a fat novel by
Dickens or Donna Tartt, or bingewatching a quality soap on Netflix.
At the dinner break, I almost resented having to leave the theater. The
play’s second half still lacks the focus
of its first part. Mr. Kushner takes it
upon himself to elucidate mysteries he
has set up earlier, and “Perestroika”
has some of the water-treading frenzy
of the last season of David Lynch’s
original “Twin Peaks.” But the characters remain so palpably there, in the
writing and the performance, that
attention never flags.
Ms. Elliott — a two-time Tony winner for her productions of “War Horse”
and “The Curious Incident of the Dog
in the Night-Time” — has always been
at home with vast canvases. But on the
National’s immense Lyttelton stage,
her “Angels” could sometimes feel lost
in space. And some of the British cast
members were having trouble fitting
into the American skins of their characters.
This “Angels” sits far more comfortably in its New York residence. And
the method in Ian MacNeil’s shadowshrouded stage design, with lighting by
Paule Constable, is now gratifyingly
apparent. The mid-1980s New York
conjured here is a town of endless
Isolated spaces — apartments, of-
The sense of a world in which the
center no longer holds feels
freshly and frighteningly relevant
to this fraught year of 2018.
fices, restaurants and hospital rooms
— are defined by cool neon strips, with
window-framed vistas as lonely as
those of a Hopper painting. The real
radiance comes from the people, and
how they flicker, sputter and flame.
At their center is Prior Walter (a
magnificent Mr. Garfield, last seen on
Broadway in Mike Nichols’s staging of
“Death of a Salesman”). Having just
learned that he is HIV-positive when
the play begins, Mr. Garfield’s Prior is
a mix of mortal terror, a drag queen’s
bravado and a profound consciousness
that the world is now a different place
for him. He embraces his disease by
making a wild, grotesque joke of it,
even when he’s in pain.
This approach is not appreciated by
his boyfriend, Louis Ironson (a terrific
James McArdle, who wears his character’s guilt like a scratchy straitjacket),
a legal clerk prone to endless bloviation on morality and justice. Louis
leaves Prior, drawing the first line in a
pattern of abandonment that informs
the entire play, and finally stretches all
the way into the empyrean kingdom of
an absent God.
Don’t be thrown by the God business
or by the celestial messengers of the
title who choose Prior (descended
from a long line of Anglo-Saxon ancestors with the same name) to be their
prophet on earth. It is all utterly of a
piece with Mr. Kushner’s vision of a
universe that seems to be coming
apart on every level.
The sense of a world in which the
center no longer holds feels freshly
and frighteningly relevant to this
fraught year of 2018. Such times, “Angels” makes clear, are crucibles in
which moral and mortal worth are
tested. God may no longer be around
to judge those of bad faith, but Mr.
Kushner definitely is.
More than any “Angels” I’ve encountered, Ms. Elliott’s version illuminates
the symmetry amid the play’s diverse
relationships. Louis’s cowardice (disguised as Nietzschean self-assertion)
is mirrored by that of Joe Pitt (Lee
Pace), a closeted Mormon lawyer with
little patience for his Valium-popping,
fantasist wife, Harper (Denise Gough,
of “People, Places & Things”).
Ms. Gough provided a convincing
portrait of a textbook depressive in
London, which made sense but also felt
monotonous. Her Harper now shimmers with wit and the promise of a
buried resourcefulness. Harper’s spikiness is on a level with that of Mr.
Garfield’s Prior, and when they meet
“on the threshold of revelation” in
shared hallucinations, they are a wonderfully matched set.
Mr. Lane’s Roy Cohn — whose own
battle with AIDS is a vivid counterpoint to Prior’s — is fully on their level
of intensity. Taking on a role memorably embodied by Ron Leibman and Al
Pacino, among others, he provides a
fresh-as-toxic-paint interpretation that
embraces extremes — of viciousness
and, more surprisingly tenderness —
without stripping gears. He is a fully
human monster, which is the scariest
Mr. Pace, who is new to the cast,
overemphasizes the heart of coldness
in Joe, who leaves Harper after falling
in lust with Louis. It’s a stark, glacial
and intermittently arresting performance that could use some of the dangerous warmth that Russell Tovey
brought to the London version.
The rest of the cast members, who
play multiple roles, couldn’t be much
better. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett is dry,
droll and very funny as a caustic gay
nurse. And Amanda Lawrence is,
among other things, a disheveled angel
to remember. (Her much-heralded
arrival has never felt wittier or more
thematically on point, thanks to Nicky
Gillibrand’s bedraggled celestial costumes and the puppetry of Finn Caldwell and Nick Barnes.)
Susan Brown is sensational as a
rabbi, an ancient Soviet revolutionary
and Joe’s staunch Mormon mother. She
is also, indelibly, the ghost of Ethel
Rosenberg, who was executed as a
Communist spy in 1953, thanks in part
to Cohn’s efforts.
Ethel returns from her grave to hold
vigil at Roy’s deathbed, a task she
relishes. Each is the bitterest enemy of
the other. Yet a moment comes, as they
are exchanging angry curses, when
they erupt into shared raucous laughter, and it is a scarily knowing, energizing noise.
You’re reminded that, among many
other things, “Angels in America” is a
comedy, but in the biggest, most generous sense of the word. I mean as in the
Human Comedy and the Divine Comedy, which in Mr. Kushner’s swirling,
mixed-up universe are gloriously one
and the same.
A tenor’s intensity elevates ‘Lucia’
The art form could use
more of the vigor Vittorio
Grigolo displays at the Met
In most performances of Donizetti’s
“Lucia di Lammermoor,” it’s hard not
to feel a little sorry for the lead tenor
during the final scene. This tormented
moment for the character Edgardo is
one of the composer’s most inspired
creations, but it immediately follows
Lucia’s famous mad scene — usually
the showstopper.
But thanks to a fearless performance
by the tenor Vittorio Grigolo, Edgardo’s scene was the high point of the
evening when Mary Zimmerman’s
2007 production of “Lucia” returned to
the Metropolitan Opera. Other cast
members had their moments, especially the luminous soprano Olga
Peretyatko-Mariotti, singing her first
Lucia at the Met, who was at her best
when it mattered most during the long,
demanding mad scene. Still, all night
Mr. Grigolo was in the zone with a
fervor that no one else matched.
Mr. Grigolo put everything on the
line for that final scene, at the graveyard of the Ravenswoods, a landed
Vittorio Grigolo, left, as Edgardo in the final scene of “Lucia di Lammermoor,” after
Lucia, sung by Olga Peretyatko-Mariotti, above, goes mad and stabs her husband.
Scottish family in decline. Edgardo, the
laird of that estate, has fallen in love
with Lucia, the sister of a rival clan,
the Lammermoors, now headed by her
imperious brother, Enrico, who is
Edgardo’s sworn enemy. But to save
the Lammermoors from financial ruin,
Lucia, who adores Edgardo, has been
forced into a marriage of convenience
with a wealthy lord.
Edgardo comes to the graveyard at
the very moment he believes Lucia is
entering her bridal chamber with her
new husband. Mr. Grigolo mingled raw
despair and feral intensity when he
sang Edgardo’s wrenching aria of
farewell to life, as he anticipates being
killed in a duel at dawn with Enrico
and welcomes it. In the second part of
the scene, when Edgardo learns that
Lucia is dying (having gone mad and
stabbed her husband to death), Mr.
Grigolo’s vocally burnished and wildeyed singing made the young man
seem unhinged.
Was his performance over the top?
Perhaps. But the field of opera could
use a little more of Mr. Grigolo’s animalistic intensity. This curiously tame
“Lucia” certainly benefited from it.
There were admirable qualities to
Ms. Peretyatko-Mariotti’s Lucia. During her first aria, when she tells her
handmaid Alisa (Deborah Nansteel)
that she keeps seeing the ghost of a
young woman slain by a jealous lover
in the waters of a fountain at the castle,
Ms. Peretyatko-Mariotti conveyed the
emotional shakiness of her fragile
character by injecting the ornate vocal
lines with a touch of skittishness.
Though the technical aspects of her
singing were mostly secure, now and
then, even during the otherwise compelling mad scene, Ms. PeretyatkoMariotti seemed cautious and distracted — for example, taking a moment to prepare for sustained high
notes, then singing them shakily. During the heated romantic exchanges in
Act I, Mr. Grigolo, with his unbridled
passion, inspired Ms. PeretyatkoMariotti to risk more. Her scene in Act
II with Lucia’s brother fell flat, though,
mostly because of the stolid singing of
the baritone Massimo Cavalletti as
Enrico. Ms. Peretyatko-Mariotti
seemed disengaged.
The mellow-voiced bass Vitalij
Kowaljow was touching as the wellmeaning family chaplain. The conductor, Roberto Abbado, did his best to
animate the performance, leading with
style and effective pacing.
But Mr. Grigolo, fresh from his acclaimed performance in the Met’s new
“Tosca,” is the reason to see this “Lucia.” It will remain in repertory
through May 10, but his final apearance in it is scheduled for April 14. In
the last five performances, Michael
Fabiano will sing Edgardo opposite
Pretty Yende as Lucia.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018 | 15
Strange and entrancing rituals
At 81, a performance artist
gets her biggest museum
show yet at Tate Modern
The American artist Joan Jonas stood
before an enthusiastic audience in London late one recent day and re-enacted
excerpts from some of her performances. Accompanied by the jazz pianist
Jason Moran, she ran around with a
bucket, painting a giant snake on the
floor, tooted a horn and sounded a succession of bells, as video images scrolled
across a large screen. It was a strange
and entrancing ritual.
Four months shy of her 82nd birthday,
Ms. Jonas has her biggest museum
show yet: a career survey at Tate Modern in the British capital. As museums
increasingly branch out into performance and film, the artist is finally reaching mainstream audiences — and perplexing one or two critics along the way.
In an interview before the exhibition’s
opening, Ms. Jonas was timid and sometimes self-critical — performance was
“a way of masking shyness,” she explained — despite a lifetime of achievements, including representing the
United States at the 2015 Venice Biennale. Her 8-year-old poodle, Ozu, named
after the Japanese filmmaker, snoozed
beside her. One of Ms. Jonas’s films,
“Beautiful Dog” (2014), was made with a
camera mounted on his collar.
“It’s a process of putting together,”
Ms. Jonas said of her immersive works.
“I collect images and ideas, and then I
try to put them together into a relationship.” She added that she “would not
want to explain in words what I do,” because her art meant different things to
different people. “So it’s not about turning it into a sentence that you can understand.”
Tate Modern is showing every strand
of her work: film and live performance,
and installations that are carry-overs
from her ephemeral performances and
that allow them to endure.
Ms. Jonas often bases her pieces on
myths, rituals, poems, folk songs, and
texts from around the world — a 13thcentury Icelandic folk epic, a 1961 American poem about Helen of Troy. In performance, she recites lines from those
texts but also draws and paints shapes,
holds up objects, makes strange sounds,
and wears accessories such as papiermâché hats and animal masks.
Once a performance has taken place,
video images, drawings, props, costumes and sets from it are transformed
into an installation. The reverse can also
happen: An installation can become a
“She never considers a work closed,”
said Andrea Lissoni, the curator of the
Tate exhibition. “She will get back to it,
and sample or take out something that
should be presented somewhere else.”
After pursuing art history and sculpture as a university student, Ms. Jonas
combined making art with part-time
work. “Being a woman, I just never
thought I could be an artist,” she said. “I
didn’t have confidence until later.”
Sculpture was a struggle, and Ms. Jonas found herself drawn, instead, to per-
Left, Joan Jonas, who is finally reaching mainstream audiences as museums increasingly branch out into performance and film. Above, two installation views of her career
retrospective at Tate Modern in London. It will run through Aug. 5.
After a performance, video
images, drawings, props,
costumes and sets from it are
transformed into an installation.
formance — an overlap of visual arts
and dance. “The minute I started performing, I was totally attracted by it,”
she said. It allowed her to “make things
right away,” and “bring music and
movement and object and drawing into
The Tate exhibition contains photographs and filmed excerpts from Ms. Jonas’s feminist-themed early performances, such as when she stood in a
gallery holding a small mirror up to
parts of her naked body, and when she
posed seductively for a camera wearing
a belly-dancer’s outfit and a feathered
Those works grew out of “a pent-up
anger which gave energy to women to
speak out,” Ms. Jonas said. She described the current #MeToo movement
as “a further development — because
these problems were not solved then,”
and said she viewed it as “the dam
Ms. Jonas is popular with art students, and not just those who studied
with her at the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, where she taught from
1998 to 2014. (She is now a professor
emerita at the university.) Her pieces retain “a perpetual potential for rearrangement and remaking,” said Cath-
erine Wood, who curated the Tate
show’s live performances. “This is part
of what makes her work so appealing for
a contemporary generation.”
The 31-year-old American artist Sondra Perry, who was in London to present
a multiscreen digital installation at the
Serpentine Galleries, said Ms. Jonas set
an example both as a female artist and
as someone who made the medium of
video a subject of her art. “Her installations are sensual: They make me feel
things,” Ms. Perry said. “I want to go
back to my studio and draw. They’re
highly active and contagious.”
Since 2005, Ms. Jonas has performed
to evocative music composed by Mr.
Moran. The 43-year-old pianist described Ms. Jonas as having “a real percussion language,” and said the two of
them were “some kind of odd couple”;
his son Jonas is named after her.
Their collaboration started right after
Ms. Jonas saw Mr. Moran in a jazz concert at Lincoln Center in New York,
which featured some unusual staging.
Ms. Jonas looked him up in the phone
book and asked him to compose music
for her next performance. “I never
worked that hard in my entire life: I
thought touring as a jazz musician was
difficult,” Mr. Moran said. “The process
is rigorous in figuring out what combinations can work between text, image,
movement, sound, and props.”
The Tate show has drawn praise from
The Financial Times and The Times of
London, yet it has left a few critics cold.
“Jonas aims for a kind of poetry that she
doesn’t always achieve. There is always
so much stuff getting in the way,” Adrian
Searle wrote in The Guardian. “Somewhere, a conversation is going on, but I
don’t quite catch it. I hear wailing, and I
think it might be me.”
Speaking before the reviews came
out, Ms. Jonas acknowledged that her
work was “still difficult for some people”
and that she herself was sometimes angered, initially, by art she did not understand. “I think it’s important to give
yourself up to a work and not try to
make sense of it right away,” she said.
In recent years, Ms. Jonas has made it
somewhat easier for audiences by focusing less on obscure texts and more
on her awe of nature and concern for the
environment. Two captivating installations in the Tate show — “Reanimation”
(2010/2012/2013), which features a
crystal sculpture, and “Stream or River,
Flight or Pattern” (2016-17), which incorporates Vietnamese kites — evoke
glaciers and birds.
How will she be remembered in 50
years? “I think it’ll be a miracle if I’m remembered,” Ms. Jonas said. “The medium of video is fragile. Will we still be
showing work in the same way? Who
“I’ll be happy if I’m remembered 10
years from now, if my work is seen,” she
added. “I hope so.”
When Britannia ruled
By David Cannadine. Illustrated. 602 pp.
Viking. $40.
If you follow the World Cup this summer, you will hear national anthems
sung before each game, and see the
players in white England shirts
mouthing “Send her victorious / Happy and glorious / Long to
reign over us / God save the Queen!”
The present queen has reigned so long
that she broke the record of her predecessor for most of the period covered
by Sir David Cannadine’s admirable
new book, whose name makes “19th
century” almost synonymous with
And “victorious”? Any serious historian of Cannadine’s (and my) country
in that epoch has a tricky balance
sheet of profit and loss to compile.
There were military victories, against
Napoleon, the Russians and the Boers,
not to mention numerous often defenseless peoples in Asia and Africa.
There was astonishing material
progress. Reformers won slow but
steady political victory, so that from
the time “Victorious Century” opens,
when only a fraction of Englishmen
could vote for a corrupt Parliament, by
the time it ends six out of 10 men —
though still only men — were enfranchised. It was also an age of astonishing literary fecundity and intellectual
vitality, scarcely surpassed since.
On the other side, the mass of the
people led wretched lives, and short
ones, worked to death in the cramped,
disease-ridden, filthy new industrial
cities. And that was in England. Cannadine, the Dodge professor of history at
Princeton University, takes his terminal dates from the 1800 Act of Union,
which created “the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland,” and the
Liberal landslide at the general election of 1906, which finally led to the
passing of Home Rule for Ireland and
began the breakup of that United
Kingdom. As William Gladstone said
toward the end of the century, that
union had been maintained “not by
moral agency but through the agency
of force,” and the utter horror of the
Great Irish Famine in the 1840s left a
legacy of bitterness that no subsequent
remedies could assuage.
For all the triumphs of Trafalgar and
Waterloo, the following years saw
unrest and bloodshed, political agitation and howls of distress from the
desperately poor, who often resorted to
violent resistance to change as their
old livelihoods were swept away by
new technologies. The great majority
of the populace still labored on the
land; at midcentury, the roughly two
million agricultural workers were the
largest employment group, followed by
more than a million domestic servants,
mostly women, although England
would become one of the most urbanized countries in Europe well before
the century was out.
But those forces contended with a
long period of political reaction until
the first cracks in the edifice of the
“Old Corruption” came with Catholic
Emancipation in 1829.The next year,
King George IV died (at which The
Times of London bluntly said that
“there never was an individual less
regretted by his fellow creatures”), and
two years after that, the Reform Bill
was passed, significant not so much for
what it did in modestly extending the
franchise as for what it portended.
Much of the narrative frame concerns high politics, and rightly so. A
book like this is particularly valuable
in an age when history undergraduates
often startle their teachers by their
ignorance of basic facts. So it’s good to
be reminded of the personal as well as
principled conflicts among Wellington,
Melbourne, Peel, Aberdeen, Disraeli
and Gladstone, all of whom, one may
say, seem towering figures by today’s
dismal standards. Against the reforming spirit of the age there were contrary forces, the neoreactionaries of
“Young England” and the high church
revival of the Oxford movement.
That meant little to the victims of the
“Hungry Forties,” with severe recession throughout the country and catastrophe in Ireland. Sir Robert Peel was
converted to free trade and the repeal
of the protectionist Corn Laws, with
not much immediate effect on “the
condition of England” about which
Thomas Carlyle and many others
Toward the end of the century, Sir
John Seeley said with smug facetiousness that the British had acquired an
empire, which by then extended over
much of the globe, in “a fit of absence
of mind.” What was true was the reluctance of successive governments for
either war or expansion. Prime ministers found themselves — Lord Aberdeen in the Crimea and Lord Salisbury
with the Boers — dragged into conflicts they didn’t much want. And there
was continual tension between the
British government and distant settlers from South Africa to Australia,
with London trying to restrain the
settlers and making at least a pretense
of safeguarding the interests of the
indigenous peoples.
And yet there was an underlying
imperialist savagery, seen in the
bloody suppression of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, combined with cynicism.
The English did not endear themselves
to others by combining rapacity with
seeming high-mindedness. If the gov-
The victors at Waterloo, Wellington and Blucher, meeting on the battlefield.
ernor of Hong Kong, who claimed that
“Jesus Christ is free trade, and free
trade is Jesus Christ,” was an extreme
case, there was nothing “free” about
the monstrous way China was forced
to buy opium by the British.
As in that case, much of British
commercial success had nothing to do
with formal empire. By midcentury,
“1,500 British mercantile houses were
trading around the world, and nearly
two-thirds of them were based outside
the European mainland, with 41 in
Buenos Aires alone.” As Cannadine
says, the British had found the secret
by which they could “operate as a
global hegemon on the cheap.”
At the book’s “halftime,” which Cannadine marks with the triumphant
Great Exhibition of 1851, visited in
Hyde Park by an astonishing six million people, “the world was at peace,
and England prosperous at home and
honored abroad,” according to one
complacent contemporary. In some
ways, it actually was a generous country. Around and about Soho at the time
could be found dissidents and revolutionists from half the countries of
Europe — Louis Blanc, Karl Marx,
Giuseppe Mazzini, Lajos Kossuth and
Alexander Herzen. The Times boasted
that “this country is the asylum of
nations,” a contrast indeed to today.
After the very unsettled period in
domestic politics from the 1840s to the
1860s, a modern party structure took
shape, the franchise was widened
twice more, and a secret ballot was
introduced in 1872, dramatically affect-
ing Ireland. Gladstone tried but failed
to pass Home Rule and, as Cannadine
grimly says, “the ‘Irish question’ was
back, and it would not go away for the
rest of the 19th century or, indeed, for
the whole of the 20th century — and
While the empire grew apace, so did
production of the coal and ships that
ensured British naval supremacy. And
yet by the end of the century, a new
boastful imperialism was qualified by a
mood of apprehension, expressed by
the bard of Empire himself. Kipling
warned “lest we forget,” and imagined
the day when “all our pomp of yesterday / Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!”
Besides these alarms, there was
astonishing scientific advance, a
steady decline in religion and also
something wonderful. The “condescension of posterity” would be exceptionally misplaced for literature. During
the one decade 1811-20, not only were
Byron, Keats and Shelley writing and
Jane Austen’s novels published, but
Thackeray, Dickens, Trollope and
George Eliot were all born. Maybe our
vaunted contemporary writers will one
day be rated as highly. We’ll see.
In Cannadine’s lucid account, there
is the occasional slip (the 1833 Irish
Church Temporalities Act suppressed
10 bishoprics, not 18). And there’s one
subject that he deals with cursorily at
the very end, but that was of the greatest importance in the second part of
the century: the growth of organized
games. He mentions the publication of
Mill’s “Utilitarianism” in 1863, but not
another and surely more important
event that year, the meeting at a London pub that drew up a common code
for association football. As A. J. P.
Taylor said, “By it the mark of England
may well remain in the world when the
rest of her influence has vanished” —
words that may be given further force
this summer.
16 | THURSDAY, MARCH 29, 2018
Cafe boom puts Malaysian city on tourist map
Ipoh is drawing visitors
with its colonial buildings
and appealing restaurants
In the middle of the 1900s, the northwestern Malaysian town of Ipoh was the
world’s largest producer of tin. Its booming success showed.
Informally described by locals as the
“town that tin built,” Ipoh grew from a
sleepy village in the valley of the Kinta
River to a hotbed of cabarets, night life
and conspicuous consumption, a city fueled by the fortunes of the Chinese-mining towkays (bosses). But the collapse
of tin prices in the 1980s curbed the
city’s rise, and soon Ipoh faded, existing
primarily as a pleasant place to retire
(the surrounding limestone karst mountains are beautiful, and the resulting
hard water is claimed to make food taste
better), or as an eating stop for travelers
shuttling between the mountain region
of Cameron Highlands to the east and
the island of Penang to the northwest.
But Ipoh, Malaysia’s third most populous city, and one largely unknown outside of Southeast Asia, is staging a
comeback to become the country’s
hippest destination. The city’s fortunes
began to improve in 2004 when the water theme park Lost World of Tambun
opened). More recently, in 2014, the
Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, as
he had done in Penang’s George Town,
placed his imprimatur on the city by
beautifying old buildings with a series of
murals. But perhaps the greatest
change — one propelled by homegrown
talent — has been the boom in hip cafes
over the last few years.
Ipoh, now, is roaring back in style.
The city, the capital of Perak state, has
a core that is relatively compact, with
roads largely plotted in a grid system —
planners redrafted the town after parts
of it were destroyed in a sweeping fire in
1892 — so it’s easily walkable. It also has
a number of pretty shophouse and heritage buildings around the Old Town.
The catalyst for Ipoh’s new tilt was arguably the Sekeping Kong Heng hotel.
Opened six years ago, it took the peeling
bones of a hostel once used by perform-
ers at a Cantonese opera and updated
the interiors with glass and steel; the effect is remarkable, modern and yet artfully dilapidated, a sensitive reimagining of a storied, decrepit space. The hotel opened on Kong Heng Square in the
city’s Old Town, and was soon followed
by other newcomers nearby, such as the
cafe Burps & Giggles. Offering a simple
menu of bar food — burgers, pizza, fish
and chips — its most appealing aspect is
the almost hallucinatory interior, with
junk furniture, mismatched furnishings
and the centerpiece mural of a woman
with curly red hair who seems lost in
thought. It was a novel concept for a
town more famous for bare-bones
restaurants serving food like ayam
tauge (cold chicken with beansprouts)
and nasi kandar, a rice with honeyed
chicken and curry sauce.
Other businesses followed. Patisserie
Boutique opened on the street called
Jalan Sultan Yussuf with a menu of salads, soups, sandwiches, pasta and excellent desserts and an interior with
whitewashed exposed brick walls, white
subway tiles and poured concrete floors.
Around the corner, Plan B is a contemporary restaurant with a high ceiling, giant windows and tile floors. The menu is
international but pays homage to Malay
ingredients; the spaghetti aglio e olio
features bunga kantan (torch ginger
flower), the pungent, floral plant used in
the Southeast Asian dishes rojak and
laksa, lending the Italian classic an
Asian flavor profile.
Cafes continue to open in the town’s
colonnaded shophouses, tucked between established businesses like silk
shops, watch repairers and travel
Chokodok (Malay for banana fritter)
has accommodations above its intriguing,
restaurant. And a former orphanage on
the eastern fringe of central Ipoh transformed into Thumb’s Café, an eclectically furnished restaurant specializing
in Malay dishes.
M Boutique, a hotel that mixes the
rustic, industrial and whimsy, became
the city’s most high-style property in an
area rife with used-car showrooms.
When it opened “this concept was not
available here,” said Joey Chong, a sales
executive for the hotel. “Lots of youngsters come from Kuala Lumpur for the
cafe hopping. It’s much easier to get
around here than in K.L.,” the capital.
Clockwise from top left: a lane in Ipoh, Malaysia; Patisserie Boutique; macaroni and cheese at Thumb’s Café; Ipoh’s Old Town section.
But the trend isn’t confined to central
Ipoh. A number of cool joints have
sprung up in Ipoh Gardens East, a commercial and residential area near the
Aeon Mall. Tea Coffee Game opened
among a drab row of businesses and office buildings. Its drawing point is the
games found throughout — traditional
board games like checkers and ludo as
well as a video console. “We have games
to make the place different, to help people revisit their childhood, bring them
good memories for when the food is
served,” Chung Kok Heung, a science
lecturer at a local university and a coowner, told me one evening.
Its menu, as I found often in this new
breed of restaurants, focuses on Western food and includes a pretty salad
served in a Mason jar, full of crisp green
and purple cabbage, peppers, carrots,
cherry tomatoes, and served with
smooth sesame dressing. A big draw
here is the all-day breakfast, with up to
seven items like bacon, grilled tomatoes, eggs and hash browns, costing
only 19 Malaysian ringgits (about $5).
Nearby, Zakka Loft has fabulous iced
fruit drinks.
Of all the cafes and restaurants I visited, one stood out. The chef Sam Lau
left Ipoh in his early 20s to work in
kitchens around Asia and Europe then
returned to his hometown after 16 years.
“I came back to my country and couldn’t
find good bread,” he lamented. Thus began a mission; for two years he sold
bread from his bicycle outside the
restaurant Plan B.
In December 2016 he opened Artisan
Handmade Bread in an old shophouse
near Kong Heng Square, where he
works in a small open kitchen behind the
bread counter. “I am up at 3 a.m. every
day, baking bread, running the kitchen.
Ipoh people are old-fashioned, they like
value for money.” The excellent food is a
steal — the set-lunch menu (he closes
for the day at 4 p.m.) includes soup, a
main dish, an amuse bouche, dessert
and lemon iced tea, for 28 ringgits.
Despite his background and training,
Mr. Lau avoided opening a formal-dining restaurant. “The young generation
doesn’t want fine dining. It wants good
food and casual. I want to provide good
honest food cooked right in front of you,
bistronomy style. And I also want to educate locals on what goes into commercial bread and artisan bread.”
Ipoh is all the richer for it.
Steve McQueen as its muse
is fun and stylish. Visitors liked the
theme so much that soon after its opening, two older women tried to swipe a
six-foot canvas of McQueen smoking a
cigarette behind aviator shades. The
near-heist generated publicity for the
new hotel as the Not-So-Great Escape,
but the desk clerks who checked me in
swore it had been a true crime, not a
A Belfast hotel draws
inspiration from the classic
car-chase movie “Bullitt’’
From $139
Northern Ireland’s — and perhaps the
world’s — sole Steve McQueen-themed
hotel was opened by the Beannchor
Group (which also owns Belfast’s opulent Merchant Hotel) in October 2016
with 43 rooms. Last October it opened a
rooftop garden terrace and bar, and in
December 2017 added 31 more rooms.
Named for the late star’s car-chasing
1968 detective thriller of that title, the
hotel calls itself no-frills, but the design
As Belfast has settled into two decades
of peace, the Cathedral Quarter where
the Bullitt is situated has emerged as
one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, with restaurants, hotels, shops,
and edgy street art. The hotel is also a
doable stroll from the riverfront and the
Titanic Museum, as well as some of
Belfast’s most character-saturated
Bullitt rooms are named in three sizes:
“Dinky,” Comfy” and “Roomy.” Slategray paint and a full-wall mural of the
“Bullitt” stars, Steve McQueen and
Jacqueline Bisset, dominated our midsize and indeed comfortable room. Playful touches include the warning “Faceplant!” printed on the double-paned
windows (which didn’t keep the childhood friend with me from bonking her
head trying to see the space-themed
“Intrepid Traveler” art installation outside). Replacing a closet was a bright
red wire rack with a few hooks and
hangers, along with a simple luggage
rack, desk, TV and a tiny metal shelf for
the remote. No iron was provided, but a
basic model was delivered within two
minutes of our asking.
Every where
has a why.
With white square tile on the walls and
gray square tile on the floor, the bathroom was all business. Toiletries created for the hotel had a tart Irish nettle
scent. An oversize rainfall showerhead
was mounted high; and while the water
could have gone hotter, the warming
towel rack was nice on a cool Belfast day.
The Bullitt offers a calendar that includes events like knitting classes, literary readings and running-club jaunts.
When we walked into the attractive
courtyard, an artist’s lecture was happening as part of the Belfast Photo Festival. There was no in-room minibar, but
supplies for hot beverages were fairly
well stocked: Dragonfly teas, Lyons instant coffee, fair-trade hot cocoa and
mugs with “Hello Brewtiful” on the bottom, plus fresh milk in the tiny fridge.
Basic black loaner umbrellas proved
handy for Northern Ireland’s everthreatening rain.
The hotel has two happening lobby bars,
one for coffee and the other for cocktails,
along with a separate ski-themed bar,
Baltic, that was closed during our visit,
and the rooftop bar called Babel. Its
restaurant, Taylor & Clay, serves meatand-potatoes fare like a Wagyu sirloin
that arrived tougher than expected; the
side of creamy root vegetables and peas,
which subbed for fries, took the show.
Breakfast is served at Taylor & Clay, and
the hotel also plays up its free Grub to
Go bags, which include fruit, yogurt and
granola. Preferring a hot meal, I called
room service, and the food arrived 18
minutes later. My server said delivery
was “definitely not” often ordered, and
since the sourdough toast and poached
eggs (about $3 each) cost less than the
delivery charge (around $9), I could appreciate why.
The Bullitt has a good time with its kingof-’60s-cool muse, and as Belfast reemerges, guests who want fun with no
frills are set up to play, too.
Top, Taylor & Clay, the hotel’s restaurant. Above, a midsize “Comfy” room.
The Bullitt Hotel; 40a Church Lane,
Get started at
Журналы и газеты
Размер файла
11 075 Кб
The New York Times, newspaper
Пожаловаться на содержимое документа