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International New York Times - 4 December 2017

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ahead, and
over his
How to beat
Ivan Krastev
Contributing Writer
“Burning Bush,” the 2014 movie by the
legendary Polish film director and
Solidarity activist Agnieszka Holland,
was one of the most important cultural
events in Central Europe in recent
years. An ethical thriller, the film is set
in 1969, soon after a Czech student
named Jan Palach set himself on fire to
protest the Soviet Union’s occupation
of his country and draw attention to
the authorities’ attempts to normalize
Czechoslovak life afterward. Palach’s
aim, it seems, was to put a screeching
halt to evil’s banalization.
Three years after the film’s release,
in the late afternoon of Oct. 19, Piotr
Szczesny, a 54-year-old father of two,
set himself on
fire in front of the
populists in
Palace of Culture
in Warsaw. Mr.
Europe thrive
Szczesny’s outin a culture
cry was aimed
of tense
against the farpolarization.
right policies of
the ruling Law
We shouldn’t
and Justice
help them.
Party, which he
believed represented a mortal
danger to Poland’s democracy. In a
leaflet that he seems to have distributed before his suicide, he was unflinching: “I love freedom first and that is
why I decided to immolate myself, and
I hope that my death will shake the
consciences of many people.”
I don’t know if Piotr Szczesny ever
watched “Burning Bush,” but his act
undoubtedly echoes Jan Palach’s sacrifice almost a half-century earlier.
Mr. Szczesny’s self-immolation provoked heated arguments in Poland.
Some interpreted his suicide as more
the result of depression than politics.
Others feared that Poland could face a
wave of copycat suicides and recommended that the news media ignore
the shocking deed. And there were
those, like Agnieszka Holland herself,
who were ready to hail Mr. Szczesny as
the true successor of Palach, and his
gesture as a desperate undertaking to
make Poles aware of the gravity of the
current situation.
“Fire destroys,” Ms. Holland said,
“but it also illuminates. Like anger.”
This debate in Poland highlights the
thorny questions facing those who
oppose the rising populist right in
Europe: What is the best way to fight a
government you loathe but that has
killed nobody, arrested few (if any) and
come to power fairly — yet threatens
to transform liberal democracies as we
understand them?
Where do you draw the line between
living in a democracy in which the
party you despise has won free elecKRASTEV, PAGE 14
For Trump, a guilty plea
by a former aide and a
tax plan victory coincide
Dancing under an overpass in Yancheng, China, in October. Household spending in Yancheng surged 8 percent per person in 2016, outpacing the rises in Beijing and Shanghai.
Rural China primed for boom
Areas long overlooked
in country’s rapid growth
are ready to leap ahead
One crisp October morning, Han Youjun
got into his silver delivery van and left
this small town in eastern China. Within
minutes, his van brimming with boxes
of every size and shape, he was rumbling through rice paddies, down narrow village lanes and past modest farmhouses, deeper and deeper into China’s
vast hinterland.
In the past, delivery drivers like Mr.
Han would have had little reason to travel so far. China’s boom over the past four
decades made its crowded metropolises
wealthy. Much of the rest of the country,
especially farming communities like
those surrounding Liangduo, in the
eastern province of Jiangsu, remained
relatively poor.
But more and more, the benefits of
China’s economic miracle are penetrating into smaller cities and countryside
hamlets — as Mr. Han, a 32-year-old deliveryman for, an online retailer,
knows all too well. The 70 packages
Zhou Xingdong bought yogurt online. Many of China’s more remote areas are connecting with the broader economy and catching up with the country’s rich metropolises.
crammed into his van that day were
double the number he usually hauled
only 18 months earlier.
“The workdays have been getting
longer,” he said.
China needs spenders in those places.
The government is trying to shift the
country’s growth engine away from its
traditional dependence on factories and
building things. Those old growth
sources are no longer dependable and
require more and more costly debt.
Thanks to China’s digital revolution,
advances in farming and billions of dollars spent on thousands of miles of new
highways and railways, Chinese people
away from the biggest cities are responding. Many of China’s more remote
areas are catching up with rich metropolises and connecting to the broader
economy in ways they had not before.
In the prefecture that contains Liangduo, Yancheng, locals’ wallets are fattening more quickly than the national
rate, and their household spending —
which surged 8 percent per person in
2016 — outpaced the rises in Beijing and
Signs of that new prosperity can be
seen at Auto City, a jumble of ramshackle, boxy buildings in Yancheng
where Toyota, Ford and just about every
other major brand compete for
customers. Zhou Zhengguo, owner of a
dealership for the Chinese automaker
Geely, expects to sell 2,000 cars this
year, four times as many as just two
years ago.
“Most people who bought cars were
private businessmen,” Mr. Zhou said.
“Now working-class people buy, too.”
Those who live in China’s less developed places could be crucial to the next
stage of China’s development.
Robin Xing, an economist at Morgan
Stanley, said he believed consumer
spending in places like Yancheng’s urban center would continue to outperform spending in bigger cities. As a result, two-thirds of all additional private
consumption growth will come from
less-developed areas through 2030.
The highs and lows of a presidency
rarely come in such quick succession.
But within hours, President Trump
watched as one of his closest former
aides pleaded guilty and promised to
help prosecutors seek out more targets,
then stayed up late to cheer on the Senate as it broke through months of gridlock to pass the largest tax cuts in years
in the United States.
Scandal and success in short order
left the White House whipsawed and
searching for a path forward that would
generate more of the latter while knowing that the former is not going away
anytime soon. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser who
pleaded guilty to a felony on Friday, was
the fourth person near Mr. Trump to be
charged, and few in Washington expect
him to be the last.
No president in modern times has
faced such a major investigation so
early in his term even as he was still
seeking to establish his political footing,
much less one with as little popular support in polls as Mr. Trump has. The challenge for Mr. Trump in the weeks to
come will be how to press forward on his
agenda without letting the ominous
drumbeat of indictments and court
hearings consume his presidency.
“The White House has to continue to
operate and cannot be perceived as
waiting for the next testimony, the next
announcement or the unanticipated issue,” said Tom Griscom, a former White
House official who helped President
Ronald Reagan recover from the Irancontra scandal in the 1980s. “The American people wanted to see a president
that was engaged and able to move his
agenda even with the distraction of an
Initially at least, Mr. Trump followed
that script on Saturday morning but his
restraint did not last long. “What has
been shown is no collusion, no collusion,” he told reporters when he left the
White House for a day trip to New York.
“There’s been absolutely no collusion,
so we’re very happy.”
Within a couple of hours, he went to
Twitter for a more forceful response. “I
New details show senior Trump advisers closely followed Russian contacts
by Michael T. Flynn. PAGE 7
Criticism of the federal debt, once a
core party tenet, was put aside to push
for the Senate tax cuts. PAGE 7
The man behind Jakarta’s modern art museum
Tycoon’s collection gives
the Indonesian capital
an added dose of culture
For a city of its huge size — 10 million
people — and economic heft, Jakarta
lacked many things one might expect of
a thriving Asian metropolis: a metro
system, for one, as well as a major international modern and contemporary art
The metro system will be operational
in 2019, but the contemporary art museum has come even sooner. On Nov. 4,
the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, known as Museum Macan, opened its doors to the
public, with items from the 800 contemporary and modern works owned by the
museum’s founder, Haryanto Adikoesoemo, an Indonesian property and
Y(1J85IC*KKNMKS( +=!"!$![!;
A visitor at Museum Macan in Jakarta in front of “Juling (Cross-Eyed)” by the Indonesian painter I Nyoman Masriadi, which depicts people busy with their mobile phones.
chemicals tycoon turned prodigious art
collector. Situated on a horseshoeshaped floor of a tower in the western
part of the city, the museum in its early
days has stunned Jakarta crowds with
phantasmagoric light installations like
“Infinity Mirrored Room — Brilliance of
the Souls” by Yayoi Kusama, alongside
classic Indonesian modernist paintings
by Raden Saleh.
Mr. Adikoesoemo, 55, said he is determined to add a dose of culture to a city
mainly known for its palatial shopping
malls and awful traffic. “If I go to Europe, I go to museums for relaxation,”
Mr. Adikoesoemo explained, sitting on
the edge of his seat in the dining room of
his family’s mansion in the heart of Jakarta. “Indonesia still doesn’t have that
Mr. Adikoesoemo, a trustee of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
in Washington, has been collecting art
for over 20 years, and has amassed an
eclectic collection that is a mix of modernist Indonesian artists like Affandi,
contemporary Western artists like
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Issue Number
No. 41,905
2 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
page two
Tycoon’s art
adds culture
to Jakarta
Avi Gabbay, center, celebrated his election as the new leader of Israel’s Labor party in July. He has shaken up the country’s political class by making the party relevant again. The party’s most recent victory was in 1999.
Reawakening Israel’s Labor party
Avi Gabbay surprised
voters by leading the left
while appealing to the right
He was a nobody from Israel’s centerright just a few months ago, a onetime
minor minister under Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu who was best
known, if at all, for having quit the government in a huff.
Then Avi Gabbay shocked the country’s political class in July by winning
the leadership of the Labor party, the
once mighty, but long moribund, champion of the Israeli left.
Now, suddenly, Mr. Gabbay is everywhere: kibitzing on talk shows, fulminating on Facebook, drawing crowds on
college campuses and even in rightwing backwaters where Labor politicians have long feared to tread. Even
more improbably, he is forcing rivals to
address whether they would serve
alongside him if he were elected prime
If he accomplishes nothing else, Mr.
Gabbay, 50, has quickly pulled off what
seemed to be next to impossible: Giving
hopeless, powerless and feckless Israeli
liberals permission to at least imagine a
post-Netanyahu restoration, to daydream again about being given a fresh
chance to lead.
A poll by an Israeli TV station, immediately after the Labor leadership con-
test in July, found that if elections were
held then, Likud would take 29 seats in
the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament, and
the Zionist Union, which includes Labor,
would take 24 seats — eight more than
the centrist Yesh Atid party led by Yair
But he has done it, in large part, by irritating those same liberals. Whether by
design or by accident, Mr. Gabbay keeps
popping off in ways that appeal to the
right, not to the left. He spurned the idea
of a coalition with Arab parties in the
Knesset, saying they represented the
constituents of the Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, not Israeli
Arabs. Mr. Gabbay welcomed a beefing
up of religious content in public schools.
He pooh-poohed the evacuation of West
Bank settlements for the sake of peace
with the Palestinians.
And he dusted off an old Netanyahu
insult about how “the left has forgotten
what it means to be Jewish.”
Mr. Gabbay now insists he was
merely making a point about how to woo
the more traditional Israelis who want
to feel that they share the same values,
not just policy views, with their leaders.
“I respect everybody, whether they believe or don’t believe,” he said while
campaigning last month in Haifa. “But I
believe that we have to talk about our
Jewish identity. That’s the main thing
that unites us all.”
The remark was a dog whistle for the
right-of-center voters that Mr. Gabbay
hopes to peel away from Mr. Netanyahu,
said Yehuda Ben-Meir, a veteran of
right-wing governments who now
tracks public opinion for the Institute for
National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
“The left went crazy,” Mr. Ben-Meir
said, “but the right paid attention.”
Mr. Gabbay seems pleased by the attention he is getting, critical or not. His
unlikely path began in the executive
suite at Bezeq, Israel’s state-owned telecommunications company, where his father had been a technician. Named its
chief executive in 2007, Mr. Gabbay led
the company through six years of deregulation, privatization and profit, firing a
whole layer of managers so gently, according to one account, that they left his
office smiling.
After trying to buy El Al, the national
airline, Mr. Gabbay, by then a multimillionaire, helped found the center-right
Kulanu party in 2015 and then, when it
joined Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition, became environmental minister.
He had some successes, but he got no
help from Mr. Netanyahu in cutting regulation, he complained, and was the lone
vote in the cabinet against a big natural
gas deal, which he said would cost consumers far too much.
All the while, he said, he watched Mr.
Netanyahu sowing division and hatred
at his Sunday cabinet meetings. “Every
week it’s like something against somebody,” Mr. Gabbay said in an interview.
“It’s against the left, it’s against the media, against Arabs, and against, against,
His final straw was Mr. Netanyahu’s
appointment of Avigdor Lieberman, a
hard-line nationalist with few relevant
qualifications, as defense minister.
“You have to know something about”
defense, Mr. Gabbay said, adding: “It’s
not like being a minister of environmental protection.”
So in May 2016, Mr. Gabbay quit.
After retreating to Mykonos in
Greece, toting biographies of the former
prime ministers David Ben-Gurion and
Menachem Begin, Mr. Gabbay said he
decided to run for prime minister himself to change the political culture in Israel, something that he says can only be
achieved from the very top.
He chose Labor as his vehicle like a
motorhead snapping up a wreck to restore: Its poll ratings were at record
lows, and it was projected to win only
eight of 120 Knesset seats. “People told
me, ‘You are crazy,’ ” he said. “ ‘You are
going to join this corpse? Seriously?’ ”
They may not have appreciated his
endurance. A veteran of eight marathons, with a tattoo of a runner under his
suit, he barely caught his breath after
the primary before beginning his campaign for prime minister, even though
an election could be a year or two away.
To Mr. Gabbay, the biggest problem
with Mr. Netanyahu, and what will make
it difficult to topple him, is his exploitation of identity politics, all too easy in Israel’s fractured society. “The mission of
a prime minister is to be a prime minister of all the people in the country —
not your camp, your side,” he said.
That said, Mr. Gabbay, a son of Moroccan immigrants who spent his early
years in a transit camp, can hope for
support from other Mizrahi Jews, whose
resentments have been a powerful force
in the past. “I am coming from the people; I am not from the elite,” he said. His
wife is a teacher; a brother drives a taxi.
He would doubtless be the first prime
minister who once waited tables in the
Knesset cafeteria.
A self-declared social democrat, he assails dog-eat-dog capitalism and
pledges to repair the safety net and
solve the country’s critical shortage of
affordable housing. “We have to change
Israel from a country where people just
survive,” he said, “to one where people
actually live.”
While he supports a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,
Mr. Gabbay refuses to say what he
would give up for peace, only discussing
what he wants to get — a demurral that
is likely to be tested this week in meetings in the United States, including a
high-profile turn at the Saban Forum in
Many Israelis find it hard to distinguish between Mr. Gabbay’s positions
and those of Mr. Lapid, a former television host and minister who is again second to Mr. Netanyahu in more recent
polls. Dahlia Scheindlin, a pollster for
Labor in 2015, said politicians with
greater skills than Mr. Gabbay had tried
that before, but found too few centerright voters to chase. Labor, so identified with the left, she said, “practically
doesn’t exist in their eyes.”
But between them, Mr. Gabbay and
Mr. Lapid could possibly steal enough
support from the right to deny it an automatic majority. And Mr. Gabbay, while
insisting he would win, also concedes he
would be willing to serve under Mr.
For younger Laborites, who barely remember the party’s most recent victory,
in 1999, the excitement surrounding Labor is intoxicating.
“He’s not like the old left wing,” said
Oren Idel, 23, a student at the Technion
university in Haifa. “He’s a new Labor. I
think he will bring a lot of voters back to
us. He gives me a strong feeling that he’s
someone we can trust.”
A Castro confidant who revolutionized Cuban schools
Armando Hart, who as Fidel Castro’s
confidant and first education minister
redeemed the Cuban revolution’s vow of
universal literacy, has died in Havana.
He was 87.
The cause of his death on Nov. 26 was
respiratory failure, the Cuban Communist Party said.
Mr. Hart, a lawyer whose grandfather
was born in the United States and immigrated to Cuba, was also, later, his country’s first culture minister.
An early member of Castro’s inner circle, Mr. Hart played an integral role in
the government for more than five decades after 1959, when revolutionaries
toppled the dictatorship of Fulgencio
Batista, which the United States supported. Mr. Hart was also responsible
for recruitment and promotions in Cuba’s Communist Party.
Named education minister by the provisional president, Manuel Urrutia Lleo,
immediately after the revolution, Mr.
Hart served until 1965. He was credited
with recruiting as many as 100,000 student volunteers to help slash Cuba’s illiteracy rate in a single year, to less than 5
percent from about 25 percent.
The Cuban leader Fidel Castro, left, with Armando Hart in 1961. Mr. Hart was credited
with slashing Cuba’s illiteracy rate to less than 5 percent from 25 percent in one year.
His ministry also purged dissident
teachers, refused the request of Roman
Catholic Church officials to allow religious instruction in public schools and
required university students to learn a
trade or skill. By the end of the decade,
primary school education was available
almost universally.
Mr. Hart served on the Council of
State until 2008 and was a member of
the Parliament when he died.
He wrote several books; directed the
government’s José Martí cultural program, dedicated to the 19th-century Cuban poet and revolutionary hero; and
was the president of the José Martí Cultural Society. In 2010 he was awarded the
Order of José Martí, the Council of
State’s highest honor.
Mr. Hart was less doctrinaire than
some of his Communist colleagues. He
counseled an arm’s-length relationship
with the Soviet Union, but, early on, also
voiced support for armed insurrections
against Latin American dictatorships
supported by the United States.
After Castro jailed a dissident poet,
Mr. Hart sought to reconcile with Cuba’s
intellectuals by creating a culture ministry. Heading the ministry from its inception in 1976 until 1997, he allowed for
creativity but also viewed culture
through a political prism.
Early in his tenure, making an overture of sorts to American television executives who were visiting a jazz festival in Havana, Mr. Hart told them: “If
you send us bombs, we will send you
bombs. If you send us music, we will
send you music.”
While he reminded the Writers’ Union
of José Martí’s dictum “Justice first, art
later,” he proclaimed shortly after his
cultural ministry was established, “Justice has triumphed, forward with art.”
Armando Hart Davalos was born in
Havana on June 13, 1930. His Americanborn grandfather went to Cuba from
Georgia as a child. His father, also
named Armando, was a Cuban appellate
Mr. Hart earned a doctorate in law in
1952. That same year his activism was
sparked when Batista, while running for
president, staged a coup.
Mr. Hart was a founder of Castro’s
26th of July Movement, named for the
failed attack on an army barracks in
Santiago de Cuba in 1953. He served as
its national coordinator until he was
jailed for suspected terrorism. Rescued
from prison, he was recaptured in 1958
and remained in custody for months until the revolution.
His younger brother died in 1958
when, according to the authorities, a
bomb he was making exploded prematurely.
By then, the Hart family was prominent enough that after the younger Armando was arrested, a United States
agent checked on his well-being with officials of the Batista government, according to Thomas G. Paterson’s book
“Contesting Castro: The United States
and the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution” (1994).
“Through this concern,” Mr. Paterson
wrote, “the C.I.A. agent probably saved
Hart’s life — at least Castro thought so.”
Haydee Santamaria, Mr. Hart’s wife
and a heroine of the revolution, was
quoted at the time as saying that she
hoped some day to present the American agent with a bouquet.
There was no immediate information
on Mr. Hart’s survivors. His wife committed suicide in 1980, and their children, Celia and Abel, were killed in a car
accident in Havana in 2008.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jeff Koons,
and prominent contemporary artists
from Japan and China, including Ms.
Kusama and Ai Weiwei.
While the eclecticism could pose a
challenge to curators trying to craft coherent exhibitions out of Mr. Adikoesoemo’s personal collection, Aaron Seeto,
the museum’s Australian director, insists that the diversity is a boon.
“One of the things we are really looking at in the program is presenting
Indonesia in the world, having conversations between Indonesia and elsewhere,” said Mr. Seeto. “This is what
museums all around the world would
like to be able to do, but their collections
don’t allow them to do it.”
One early exhibition charts the history of Indonesian art, highlighting the
works of Mr. Raden Saleh, a 19th-century Indonesian Romantic painter who
lived in Europe for two decades, to demonstrate how Indonesian artistic movements were influenced by international
trends. While most of the works displayed at the museum will be from Mr.
Adikoesoemo’s personal collection, he
has invested in state-of-the-art maintenance facilities that, he said, will allow
the museum to show works on loan
from international museums around
the world.
Creating Museum Macan has been a
decade-long dream for Mr. Adikoesoemo, whose early attempt to collect
art was washed away in the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and 1998, when his
family lost nearly everything. He was
forced to sell all of his most valuable
pieces — including a Renoir and a beloved late Picasso — to keep creditors at
bay. “I needed money, so I had to sell all
of my Impressionists,” he said with a
smile. “The crisis was very tough.”
Mr. Adikoesoemo was born into a
middle-class family in East Java during
the early 1960s, at the height of Indonesia’s political and economic turmoil in
the transition to the rule of the dictator
Haryanto Adikoesoemo, founder of the
Museum Macan in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Suharto. By the time Mr. Adikoesoemo
reached high school, though, the political situation had stabilized and his father, Soegiarto Adikoesoemo — who
traded in chemicals to local textile and
rubber factories — had established a
thriving operation.
With an eye toward his future in the
family business, Mr. Adikoesoemo was
sent to the University of Bradford in
Britain, where he earned a degree in
business management. There wasn’t
much discussion of art in the household,
and in his youth Mr. Adikoesoemo wasn’t particularly interested in it. “I always wanted to be a businessman from
when I was young,” he said.
Mr. Adikoesoemo had an awakening
of sorts in the early 1990s, when he visited a friend’s villa on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. The friend “had so
many artworks on the wall,” Mr.
Adikoesoemo said. “His house becomes
very colorful, very vibrant, very pleasant, so it makes me think, ‘Maybe I
should start collecting art to put on my
wall.’ ” Mr. Adikoesoemo began by buying Indonesian artwork, and then in
1996 began loading up on modernist
paintings, including a Picasso.
But the good times didn’t last long.
The Asian financial crisis struck in 1997,
sending the Indonesian rupiah’s value
plummeting. Mr. Adikoesoemo had encouraged his father to take on debt to
expand the business quickly, and the
crisis exposed their businesses as
deeply overleveraged.
His father had told him he was crazy
to have invested so much money in
Western paintings, but with Indonesian
assets valued at next to nothing, the Picasso and Renoir were suddenly among
the family’s most valuable possessions.
Mr. Adikoesoemo sold the Western artworks as part of a debt-restructuring
deal with 28 foreign banks. “At that
time, my father was 63 years old, so he
said: ‘It’s up to you. If you can solve it,
you solve it, it’s yours; if you cannot
solve it, there is nothing for you,’ ” Mr.
Adikoesoemo remembered.
By the early 2000s, with the economy
recovering, the younger Mr. Adikoesoemo managed to pay back the debts
and restore the family business.
He never forgot that Picasso and Renoir had saved his fortune. “I realized
art is an investment — when you need
money you can still get value from it,”
he said. But when he went back to buying art in the early 2000s, prices had
skyrocketed, so he switched focus and
bought mainly contemporary art.
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MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 3
4 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
Myanmar set to erase an entire history
Of a stateless minority,
an official declares, ‘There is
no such thing as Rohingya’
He was a member of the Rohingya student union in college, taught at a public
high school and even won a parliamentary seat in Myanmar’s thwarted elections in 1990.
But according to the government of
Myanmar, U Kyaw Min’s fellow Rohingya do not exist.
A long-persecuted Muslim minority
concentrated in Myanmar’s western
state of Rakhine, the Rohingya have
been deemed dangerous interlopers
from neighboring Bangladesh. Today,
they are mostly stateless, their very
identity denied by the Buddhist-majority Myanmar state.
“There is no such thing as Rohingya,”
said U Kyaw San Hla, an officer in Rakhine’s state security ministry. “It is
fake news.”
Such denials bewilder Mr. Kyaw Min.
He has lived in Myanmar all of his 72
years, and the history of the Rohingya
as a distinct ethnic group in Myanmar
stretches back for generations before.
Now, human rights watchdogs warn
that much of the evidence of the Rohingya’s history in Myanmar is in danger of
being eradicated by a military campaign
the United States has declared to be ethnic cleansing.
Since late August, more than 620,000
Rohingya Muslims, about two-thirds of
the population that lived in Myanmar in
2016, have fled to Bangladesh, driven out
by the military’s systematic campaign
of massacre, rape and arson in Rakhine.
In a report released in October, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said that
Myanmar’s security forces had worked
to “effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the
Rohingya landscape and memory in
such a way that a return to their lands
would yield nothing but a desolate and
unrecognizable terrain.”
“The Rohingya are finished in our
country,” said Mr. Kyaw Min, who lives
in Yangon, the commercial capital of
Myanmar. “Soon we will all be dead or
The United Nations report also said
that the crackdown in Rakhine had “targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in
an effort to diminish Rohingya history,
culture and knowledge.”
“We are people with our own history
and traditions,” said U Kyaw Hla Aung,
a Rohingya lawyer and former political
prisoner, whose father served as a court
clerk in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine.
“How can they pretend we are nothing?” he asked.
Speaking over the phone, Mr. Kyaw
Hla Aung, who has been jailed repeatedly for his activism and is now interned
in a Sittwe camp, said his family did not
have enough food because officials have
prevented full distribution of international aid.
Myanmar’s sudden amnesia about
the Rohingya is as bold as it is systemat-
A makeshift bridge at a refugee camp in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of persecuted Rohingya from Myanmar have crossed in search of shelter.
A burning house in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya of Myanmar had long settled.
“Soon we will all be dead or gone,” said U Kyaw Min, 72, a Rohingya.
ic. Five years ago, Sittwe, nestled in an
estuary in the Bay of Bengal, was a
mixed city, divided between an ethnic
Rakhine Buddhist majority and the Rohingya Muslim minority.
Walking Sittwe’s crowded bazaar in
2009, I saw Rohingya fishermen selling
seafood to Rakhine women. Rohingya
professionals practiced law and medicine. The main street in town was dominated by the Jama mosque, an arabesque confection built in the mid-19th
They cannot leave the ghettos without official authorization. In July, a Rohingya man who was allowed out for a
court appearance in Sittwe was lynched
by an ethnic Rakhine mob.
The Jama mosque now stands disused and moldering, behind barbed
wire. Its 89-year-old imam is interned.
“We have no rights as human beings,”
he said, asking not to use his name because of safety concerns. “This is staterun ethnic cleansing and nothing else.”
century. The imam spoke proudly of Sittwe’s multicultural heritage.
But since sectarian riots in 2012,
which resulted in a disproportionate
number of Rohingya casualties, the city
has been mostly cleared of Muslims.
Across central Rakhine, about 120,000
Rohingya, even those who had citizenship, have been interned in camps,
stripped of their livelihoods and prevented from gaining access to proper
schools or health care.
Sittwe’s psyche has adapted to the
new circumstances. In the bazaar recently, every Rakhine resident I talked
to claimed, falsely, that no Muslims had
ever owned shops there.
Sittwe University, which used to enroll hundreds of Muslim students, now
only teaches around 30 Rohingya, all of
whom are in a distance-learning program.
“We don’t have restrictions on any religion,” said U Shwe Khaing Kyaw, the
university’s registrar, “but they just
don’t come.”
Mr. Kyaw Min used to teach in Sittwe,
where most of his students were Rakhine Buddhists. Now, he said, even
Buddhist acquaintances in Yangon are
embarrassed to talk with him. “They
want the conversation to end quickly because they don’t want to think about
who I am or where I came from,” he said.
In 1990, Mr. Kyaw Min won a seat in
Parliament as part of a Rohingya party
aligned with the National League for
Democracy, Myanmar’s current governing party. But the country’s military
junta ignored the electoral results nationwide. Mr. Kyaw Min ended up in
Rohingya Muslims have lived in Rakhine for generations, their Bengali dialect and South Asian features often distinguishing them from Rakhine Buddhists.
During the colonial era, the British encouraged South Asian rice farmers,
merchants and civil servants to migrate
to what was then known as Burma.
Some of these new arrivals mixed
with the Rohingya, then known more
commonly as Arakanese Indians or
Arakanese Muslims. Others spread out
across Burma. By the 1930s, South
Asians, both Muslim and Hindu, comprised the largest population in Yangon.
The demographic shift left some Buddhists feeling besieged. During the xenophobic leadership of Gen. Ne Win, who
ushered in nearly half a century of military rule, hundreds of thousands of
South Asians fled Burma for India.
Rakhine, on Burma’s western fringe,
was where Islam and Buddhism collided
most violently, especially after World
War II, during which the Rakhine supported the Axis and Rohingya the Allies.
Later attempts by a Rohingya insurgent group to exit Burma and attach
northern Rakhine to East Pakistan, as
Bangladesh was then known, further
strained relations.
By the 1980s, the military junta had
stripped most Rohingya of citizenship.
Brutal security offensives drove waves
of Rohingya to flee the country.
Today, far more Rohingya live outside
of Myanmar — mostly in Bangladesh,
Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia —
than remain in what they consider their
Yet in the early decades of Burma’s independence, a Rohingya elite thrived.
Rangoon University, the country’s top
institution, had enough Rohingya students to form their own union. One of the
cabinets of U Nu, the country’s first
post-independence leader, included a
health minister who identified himself
as Arakanese Muslim.
Even under Ne Win, the general,
Burmese national radio aired broadcasts in the Rohingya language. Rohingya, women among them, were represented in Parliament.
U Shwe Maung, a Rohingya from
Buthidaung Township in northern Rakhine, served in Parliament between
2011 and 2015, as a member of the military’s proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party. In the 2015 elections, however, he was barred from running.
Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya
were disenfranchised in those polls.
Mr. Shwe Maung’s electoral district,
which had been 90 percent Rohingya, is
now represented by a Rakhine Buddhist.
First test of a royal romance: How well she knows Britain
What did the Statute of Rhuddlan in 1284
lay the basis for? Who or what is Vindolanda? Where is the National
Horseracing Museum? Name two habits that may start a fight with your
neighbor in Britain.
These and other rather esoteric questions are what Meghan Markle, the
American actress recently engaged to
Prince Harry, Queen Elizabeth II’s
grandson and the fifth in line to the
throne, will have to master in order to
become a British citizen.
Most Britons, even a prime minister,
find them almost impossible to answer.
Ms. Markle, who was raised in Los
Angeles, plans to seek British citizenship after she marries Prince Harry,
Kensington Palace has confirmed. It is a
lengthy process that culminates in a torturous citizenship test that costs about
$65 and is typically flunked by one-third
to half of the applicants.
The announcement prompted some
British news outlets to pounce on her
apparent ignorance of “Britishisms” on
a television show last year.
“She only managed to get a measly
four out of 15 questions about Britain
right,” The Mirror, a tabloid, said disapprovingly, adding that she did not know
the British word for “sidewalk” and
committed a cultural faux pas by venturing that Vegemite was more popular
than Marmite. (The word is “pavement,” and Marmite, a yeasty paste
spread for bread, is a national treasure.
Vegemite is the Australian equivalent.)
The citizenship exam “is really hard,”
said Julian Knight, a member of Parliament and the author of “The British Citi-
zenship Test for Dummies.” “We have a
really long history, and it could be really
difficult to recall everything,” he said.
Ms. Markle has “got to be swotting,”
he added, using British slang that, as
she will some day come to understand,
means “to study assiduously.”
She is refreshingly open about how little she knows about her future adoptive
country, let alone its royal family.
In her first interview with Prince
Harry, shortly after their engagement
was announced last week, Ms. Markle
confessed that she had not been wholly
aware of her fiancé’s royal lineage before meeting him. A mutual friend had
set the pair up on a blind date, she said,
adding, “The only thing I asked her was,
‘Was he nice?’ ”
The exam Ms. Markle will take is
known officially as the “Life in the U.K.
Test,” and it is required for anyone settling in the country or seeking to become a citizen (and, therefore, a subject
of the queen).
Before taking the test, applicants
must have been living continuously in
Britain for at least five years and must
pay an application fee of about 1,200
pounds — that’s $1,600 in the sort of currency Ms. Markle best understands.
A spokesman for Kensington Palace
insisted that she intended to follow the
process the same way as any other
“American marrying a British citizen.”
Takers of the exam have 45 minutes to
answer 24 multiple-choice questions
about British traditions, customs and
history, all of which are based on information in an official handbook published by the Home Office.
Apart from Ms. Markle, there has
been a spike of interest in the exam as
debates over identity have mushroomed after Britain voted last year to
withdraw from the European Union, a
The torturous citizenship test
to become a Briton is typically
flunked by one-third to half of
the applicants.
Meghan Markle visiting Nottingham, England. Ms. Markle, who was raised in Los
Angeles, plans to become a British citizen after she marries Prince Harry.
process known as Brexit. That referendum focused mostly on immigration,
and many voters who support Brexit
say British culture is being diluted because of the bloc’s policy of open borders
between member countries.
In the 18 months since the critical
vote, there has been much soul-searching across the island about what it
means to be British. The questions on
the citizenship test, many Britons say,
do not go far toward settling the issue.
In addition, they say, the quiz is unfairly difficult, an assertion that was
borne out in a scattershot survey of Britons one recent afternoon that found
many struggling to answer sample
questions correctly.
“A what?” Peter York, a prominent social commentator, exclaimed. “What is
the Vindolanda?”
“Is that a real question?” he asked,
perplexed. “That’s extraordinary.”
Mr. York, who blithely describes himself as an English “purebred” (“no
Welsh, Scottish or Irish components in
me”), found the questions unsettling. “I
don’t think I’d be a British citizen,” he
said. “If they can keep me out, they can
keep anybody out.”
(The answer: Vindolanda was a Roman fort just south of Hadrian’s Wall in
northern England. Mr. York also got the
question about the Statute of Rhuddlan
wrong; it led to the annexation of Wales
to England.)
Mr. York said he preferred that foreigners study Alan Bennett, the prolific
playwright; John Cleese, the comedian
famed for the “Monty Python” series;
and the punk band the Sex Pistols.
Gemma Page, 26, said British identity
“comes more from ideas like tea and fish
and chips.” Her husband, Liam, said
British identity “isn’t a matter of how
much you know.”
Britain “is a mongrel country,” he
said. “Take tea and fish and chips. Tea
comes from India and chips from Ireland. The only thing we can claim is the
fish, and that’s because we’re surrounded by water. Being British is the
values you hold. We try to be tolerant.
We have free speech.”
George Jupe, 87, a Brexit supporter,
said being British was a question of feeling. “But what makes you feel it, heaven
knows,” he said, taking leave with a
lively “Cheerio!”
According to a 2014 survey by
YouGov, the pollster, more than half of
18- to 24-year-olds and a third of 25- to
39-year-olds failed the citizenship test.
Some respondents answered that Hawaii was part of Britain and that National Insurance was used to pay for supermarket home deliveries.
Even some members of the Oxbridgeeducated elite have demonstrated some
surprising gaps in knowledge of the
motherland. In 2012, David Cameron,
then prime minister, told David Letterman that “Rule, Britannia!” — a rousing
patriotic song often associated with
Britain — was written by Edward Elgar.
(It was Thomas Arne.)
The former leader also admitted to
having no idea what Magna Carta, the
cornerstone of the British legal and poli-
tical system, actually stood for. (It
means “Great Charter.”)
The test “is pointless,” said Michael
Odell, the author of “The ‘Call Yourself
British?’ Quiz Book.” He wrote the book
because his publisher, a Dutch citizen,
was so upset at failing her British citizenship exam that she commissioned
him to look into why it was so difficult.
The civil servants who come up with
the questions are “completely out of
touch with applied British history and
culture,” Mr. Odell said, as he sat putting
together a mock exam designed for Ms.
Markle, to be published by a British
newspaper the following day.
“Whitehall boffins are trying to demarcate areas of knowledge and culture, trying to distill them into British
identity, which is kind of amorphous,” he
added, using a British term for a nerdish
And in spite of an abundance of arcane historical information, Mr. Odell
said, there were few questions involving
minorities. In one test, he said, there
was only one related question: “Who
was the first person to introduce curry
in Britain?” (It was Sake Dane Mohamed, in 1810, who also brought shampoo to Europe.)
A more recent test, however, asked a
couple of questions about the Vaisakhi
festival, which marks the Sikh New
Year, and the Muslim religious holiday
Eid al-Fitr. (The answer to two habits
that may start a fight with your neighbor in Britain? Putting out garbage bags
when it’s not trash day, and keeping an
untidy garden.)
Whatever the questions, at least
three-quarters of them must be answered correctly.
“If Meghan Markle can’t get past me,”
Mr. Odell deadpanned, “the wedding is
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 5
“We want to make life easier for seniors
and include them in today’s society.”
Thomas Bergdahl, Vice President of Product Development at Doro, Sweden
To the older generation, the technology that was connecting everyone else seemed
to be leaving them behind. One company, Doro, made it their mission
to reconnect this generation. Using Android’s open-source and flexible nature,
Doro completely redesigned the user interface and tailored their smartphones
to the needs and behaviours of senior citizens.
Watch the mini-documentary about the smartphone
that connects generations:
6 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
A possibility of revenge behind massacre in Egypt
Residents in Sinai say
assault was payback for
helping police against ISIS
One day in early November, a small
group of elders in a dusty town in the
northern Sinai Peninsula handed over
three people accused of being Islamic
State militants to the Egyptian security
forces. It was not the first time — they
had handed over at least seven other
people accused of being militants in the
previous few months.
Three weeks later, militants stormed
a packed mosque in the town, Bir alAbed, during Friday Prayer, killing 311
people in Egypt’s worst terrorist attack.
While the attack was rooted in rising
religious tensions between the local affiliate of the Islamic State and the town’s
residents, Bedouins who largely practice Sufism, a mystical school of Islam
that the militant group considers heresy,
the motive appears to have gone beyond
the theological dispute.
It was payback, residents and officials
said, for the town’s cooperation with the
Egyptian military, and a bloody warning
of the consequences of further cooperation.
“I am sure this was an act of revenge,”
Gazy Saad, a member of Parliament
from North Sinai, said of the mosque attack. “It’s not just about Sufism. They
were clearly trying to send people a
Bir al-Abed has long been one of the
most pro-military towns in Sinai, going
back as far as the uprising that toppled
President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, local
leaders say. After militants and criminals stormed police stations and seized
weapons during the uprising, residents
took the weapons and returned them to
the authorities in 2014 after they regained control of the area. Hundreds of
young men from the area apply for police and military service every year, although they are routinely rejected, local
officials say, because the state distrusts
“They love the military and the state,”
Mr. Saad said. “The terrorists wanted to
punish them for this.”
No one has claimed responsibility for
the attack, but the Islamic State group
had singled out the town for destruction,
and the attackers carried Islamic State
The government has not allowed foreign media into Bir al-Abed, so The New
York Times interviewed more than 30
residents, security officials and local political and clerical leaders by phone for
this article. Several spoke on the condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals by
the militants.
New details of the attack also
As the militants began to rake the congregation with machine-gun fire, two
boys, ages 10 and 15, cowered in a bathroom stall, listening, petrified, to the
screaming and gunfire.
After a while, two militants entered
the restroom to make sure they had not
missed anyone. “How many people did
you kill?” one asked, as they kicked
open each stall, the boys’ mother said.
“A hundred,” the other replied.
Just before they reached the stall
where the boys were hiding, a third militant walked in and told the others to position themselves elsewhere, the
mother said. The boys survived.
The attack came after more than a
year of escalating tensions between Islamic State militants and the Sufi residents of Al Rawda, a district in Bir alAbed. The campaign began in Novem-
A vigil in Cairo last week for the victims of the Al Rawda mosque attack in Bir al-Abed in the northern Sinai Peninsula, the worst terrorist attack in modern Egyptian history.
ber last year with the beheading of a
blind, elderly Sufi cleric from the nearby
town of El Arish, who was accused of
practicing witchcraft.
Three weeks later, in an interview
published in an Islamic State magazine,
one of the group’s commanders in Sinai
derided Sufi practices as “sorcery and
soothsaying,” and identified Al Rawda
and two other predominantly Sufi districts as places the group intended to
Attacks on three Sufi shrines in the
district soon followed.
“Every time they build one, the militants destroy it,” said Fakri Ismail,
whose brother was killed in the attack.
“The threats started after that.”
The militants began sending text
messages to tribal elders and distributing fliers telling people to abandon Sufism and “return to Islam.”
They called some residents by phone
and threatened to kill them if they did
not abandon Sufi rituals like the building
of shrines and the worship of saints,
which they consider polytheistic.
They twice attacked the home of a beloved cleric, Sheikh Hussein el-Greir.
And they regularly sent men to the
mosque to demand that the imam
preach jihad. He refused.
Most people were too afraid of the militants to report them, but some of Al
Rawda’s elders complained to the police.
These complaints were not ignored,
but the authorities prioritized other security operations in the area, local officials said. No one thought the militants
would attack a mosque, they said.
The military had been improving ties
with Bedouin leaders across Sinai this
year. In October, the Tarabin tribe, one of
the biggest in Sinai, announced that it
would help the military hunt down Islamic State operatives.
Shortly afterward, several residents
who were believed to be cooperating
with the government in Al Rawda and
elsewhere were killed. In November, 14
men from central Sinai were kidnapped
and interrogated by the Islamic State
over accusations that they had been informers for Egyptian security.
At the same time, the Islamic State
was in upheaval. As its once vast caliphate in Iraq and Syria crumbled, it
was forced to rely more on other franchises, like the one in Sinai, to spread its
tactics of sectarian hate and division.
The Sinai group, which arose after the
Egyptian military overthrew the country’s Islamist president, Mohamed
Morsi, in 2013, was considered one of its
most effective affiliates, responsible for
shooting down a Russian jetliner in 2015,
killing 224 people.
But it had since split into two factions,
and this division, according to security
officials and residents, may go furthest
in explaining the wholesale carnage of
the mosque attack.
After the group tried and failed to take
over a town in eastern Sinai in 2015, the
military carried out a devastating air
campaign, leaving the group in disarray
and sending a weak splinter group west
to El Arish. The El Arish group began taking recruits from outside the region —
from mainland Egypt as well as neigh-
Sufi parishioners inside the Al Rawda mosque a day after militants believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State group stormed it during Friday Prayer, killing 311 people.
boring countries like Syria, Sudan and
Libya — who had no tribal ties to the
Bedouins of Al Rawda.
“The attack on the mosque was almost certainly carried out by the El Arish group,” said Ahmed Sakr, a former
senior Sinai official and an expert on the
militancy there. The main Islamic State
Sinai group “would not approve” of the
mass killing, he said, “but the Arish people are happy to kill anyone and everyone.”
Even in a land tormented by violence,
the scale of the attack on the Rawda
mosque was stunning.
More than two dozen gunmen traveling in five vehicles stormed the
mosque when it was at its most
crowded, during Friday Prayer, exploding a bomb and then spraying the worshipers with gunfire.
Militants positioned themselves outside the mosque and its windows to mow
down people who tried to flee. Parked
cars were set on fire to hinder escape.
The imam who had refused to preach
jihad survived by hiding under the bodies of two friends and playing dead, he
said. At one point, he said, a militant
stood on top of him to make sure he was
really dead.
After they killed as many people as
they could at the mosque, including 27
children, some militants went house to
house, killing any man they found.
Residents and experts say there may
have been another reason for the high
death toll.
Despite the fact that there are three
within 12 miles of the mosque, ambulances arrived at the scene well before
the police and the military forces did,
residents and victims said. They attributed the delay to a widespread presumption, even among some security officials, that Egyptian security forces
fear armed conflict.
Representatives of the police and the
military could not be immediately
reached for comment.
“Regardless of how you look at it, the
government could have done more,” Mr.
Sakr said.
After the gunfire stopped, the boys
emerged from the bathroom to find their
mother wailing as she flipped over their
dead neighbors and friends to search for
her husband. She found his body lying
over their 5-year-old son. The father, 52,
had taken a bullet to the head but apparently saved the child.
“We were standing in a sea of
corpses,” said the mother, 38. “If it were
not for my husband’s body, I would have
lost my son. The terrorists can have Al
Rawda, Friday Prayer and everything
else. We are staying home.”
In span of hours, Trump looks ahead, and over his shoulder
had to fire General Flynn because he
lied to the Vice President and the FBI,”
Mr. Trump wrote. “He has pled guilty to
those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful.
There was nothing to hide!”
And by evening, he was trying to shift
attention back to Hillary Clinton. “Many
people in our Country are asking what
the ‘Justice’ Department is going to do
about the fact that totally Crooked Hillary, AFTER receiving a subpoena from
the United States Congress, deleted and
‘acid washed’ 33,000 Emails?” he wrote,
referring to email messages that Mrs.
Clinton’s lawyers deemed unrelated to
her government work. “No justice!”
The special counsel investigation into
Russia’s interference in last year’s election has driven him to fits of anger for
months, and his staff could hardly be
surprised that he would vent that again.
From their point of view, his first comments on Saturday at least were not
aimed at investigators.
“The Flynn plea is important, too, because it shows that the cracks in the
White House front that everyone suspected are real,” said David Greenberg,
a presidential historian at Rutgers University. “And they may widen. It seems
likely to deepen the sense of siege in the
West Wing. That siege mentality can be
History offers mixed lessons. Watergate obviously destroyed Richard M.
Nixon’s presidency and even that of his
successor, Gerald R. Ford, who was punished by voters for pardoning him. Pres-
The challenge for President Trump will be how to press forward on his agenda without
letting the drumbeat of indictments and court hearings consume his presidency.
ident Bill Clinton survived being impeached for lying under oath about sexual liaisons with Monica S. Lewinsky
only after a Senate trial in which lawmakers opted against removing him
from office.
Even a less sweeping, less threatening scandal can have a chilling effect
on a White House. When Vice President
Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis
(Scooter) Libby Jr., was indicted on a
charge of lying to investigators about
the leak of a C.I.A. officer’s identity, his
colleagues were demoralized. One later
called it “the lowest point” of his White
House tenure. And it led to deep tension
between Mr. Cheney and President
George W. Bush over whether Mr. Libby
should be pardoned.
The key for Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton was convincing the public that they
were not distracted by the investigations but instead remained focused on
doing their jobs and serving the American people. In Mr. Clinton’s case, at
least, it was partially an act — while he
was able to effectively manage major
foreign policy issues even at the height
of the impeachment debate, in private
he was consumed by the investigation,
raged endlessly about his tormentors
and at times seemed deeply distracted.
Aides found Mr. Clinton absently
playing with old campaign buttons, and
at a meeting with the Congressional
Black Caucus, it fell to an adviser to conduct the discussion while the president’s
mind drifted off. On another occasion,
the head of the World Bank called a top
White House official after a meeting
with Mr. Clinton to say, “It’s like he isn’t
there.” During a visit to the Middle East,
an aide noticed Mr. Clinton trying to
keep his mind from wandering off by
scribbling on a yellow legal pad, “Focus
on your job, focus on your job, focus on
your job.”
Mr. Trump is hardly a model of political discipline, and keeping him focused
has been a major preoccupation of his
staff from the beginning. Ty Cobb, the
White House lawyer overseeing the response to the investigation, has repeatedly urged Mr. Trump to keep quiet
about it, with mixed results. John F.
Kelly, the retired Marine general serving as White House chief of staff, tries to
keep Mr. Trump’s day filled with meetings on policy issues but has yet to tame
the president’s Twitter habit.
“To be sure, an event like this can be a
drain on morale, especially for those
who worked with and like General
Flynn,” said Shannen W. Coffin, a former
counsel to Mr. Cheney. “For the rest of
the White House, it’s important not to
get dragged down into the Washington
speculation game, and that they keep
The Flynn plea is important
because “it shows that the cracks
in the White House front that
everyone suspected are real.”
their eyes on the ball on the president’s
priorities in domestic policy, judicial appointments, national security and the
like.” Mr. Coffin pointed to Mr. Kelly, who
has enforced more order in the White
House, if not on the president himself.
“With some internal discipline, which
the chief of staff has imposed, there’s no
reason this should become all consuming,” he said.
Mr. Trump has options for short-circuiting the inquiry that his predecessors
might not have contemplated in similar
circumstances. Having already fired
James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, Mr.
Trump could likewise fire Robert S.
Mueller III, the special counsel, or he
could pardon Mr. Flynn or others swept
up in the investigation. Either tack
would almost surely provoke a bipartisan firestorm and, critics warned, potentially expose Mr. Trump to impeachment proceedings for obstruction of justice. Lawmakers were quick to warn Mr.
Trump away from such a course in the
hours after Mr. Flynn’s plea. “I think any
pardons or any type of shenanigans
with this whole process would be very
troublesome,” said Senator Joe Manchin
III of West Virginia, one of the Democrats considered friendliest with Mr.
Assuming the Senate and House rec-
oncile their different versions of the tax
cuts and send a final bill to the president
for his signature, it will provide a burst
of momentum near the end of an otherwise rocky first year for Mr. Trump.
What remains unclear is whether he can
keep that going. Mr. Trump and lawmakers have just days to agree on spending
legislation to avert a partial government
shutdown, and even if they fulfill that
most basic of governmental responsibilities, there are no easy areas of agreement looming next.
The tax cuts presumably will keep the
current economic surge going in the
short term as markets hit records and
Mr. Trump has effectively used his executive power to slash regulations to the
delight of the corporate world. But on
immigration, infrastructure, health care
and other issues, no ready consensus
exists even among Republicans, much
less across the aisle, for major legislation.
Given that, many analysts expect Mr.
Trump to continue his practice of instigating polarizing debates over divisive
issues, like criticizing kneeling National
Football League players or distributing
anti-Muslim videos. His advisers harbor little hope of expanding his popular
support in the short term and appear
mainly intent on holding his base of 35
percent to 40 percent of the public.
“To move forward, they are just going
to have to hunker down with the lawyers
and rally the base,” Mr. Greenberg said.
“Unless or until this gets still worse.”
Jonathan Martin contributed reporting.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 7
Emails dispute picture of aide as a rogue actor
During transition period,
call to Russian ambassador
tracked by Trump advisers
When President Trump fired his national security adviser, Michael T.
Flynn, in February, White House officials portrayed him as a renegade who
had acted independently in his discussions with a Russian official during the
presidential transition and then lied to
his colleagues about the interactions.
But emails among top transition officials, provided or described to The New
York Times, suggest that Mr. Flynn was
far from a rogue actor. In fact, the
emails, coupled with interviews and
court documents filed on Friday, showed
that Mr. Flynn was in close touch with
other senior members of the Trump
transition team both before and after he
spoke with the Russian ambassador at
the time, Sergey I. Kislyak, about American sanctions against Russia.
While Mr. Trump has disparaged as a
Democratic “hoax” any claims that he
or his aides had unusual interactions
with Russian officials, the records suggest that the Trump transition team was
intensely focused on improving relations with Moscow and was willing to intervene to pursue that goal despite a request from the Obama administration
that it not sow confusion about official
American policy before Mr. Trump took
On Dec. 29, a transition adviser to Mr.
Trump, K. T. McFarland, wrote in an
email to a colleague that sanctions announced hours before by the Obama administration in retaliation for Russian
election meddling were aimed at discrediting Mr. Trump’s victory. The sanctions could also make it much harder for
Mr. Trump to ease tensions with Russia,
“which has just thrown the U.S.A. election to him,” she wrote in the emails obtained by The Times.
It is not clear whether Ms. McFarland
was saying she believed that the election had in fact been thrown. A White
House lawyer said on Friday that she
meant only that the Democrats were
portraying it that way.
But it is evident from the emails —
which were obtained from someone who
had access to transition team communications — that after learning that President Barack Obama would expel 35 Russian diplomats, the Trump team quickly
strategized about how to reassure Russia. The Trump advisers feared that a
cycle of retaliation between the United
States and Russia would keep the spotlight on Moscow’s election meddling,
tarnishing Mr. Trump’s victory and potentially hobbling his presidency from
the start.
As part of the outreach, Ms. McFarland wrote, Mr. Flynn would be speaking with the Russian ambassador, Mr.
Kislyak, hours after Mr. Obama’s sanctions were announced.
Michael T. Flynn, center. President Trump has disparaged as a Democratic “hoax” any claims that he or his aides had unusual interactions with Russian officials.
K. T. McFarland, an adviser to the Trump presidential transition, made clear in an email
exchange that the team was intensely focused on relations with Russia.
“Key will be Russia’s response over
the next few days,” Ms. McFarland
wrote in an email to another transition
official, Thomas P. Bossert, now the
president’s homeland security adviser.
In an interview, Ty Cobb, the White
House lawyer handling the Russia inquiry, said there was nothing illegal or
unethical about the transition team’s actions. “It would have been political malpractice not to discuss sanctions,” he
said, adding that “the presidential tran-
sition guide specifically encourages
contact with and outreach to foreign dignitaries.” The only problem, Mr. Cobb
said, was that Mr. Flynn had lied to
White House officials and to Federal Bureau of Investigation agents about what
he had told the Russian ambassador. Mr.
Flynn’s misstatements led to his firing
in February and his guilty plea on Friday to charges of lying to federal agents.
With Mr. Flynn’s plea and agreement
to cooperate with Robert S. Mueller III,
the special counsel investigating the
Russian election interference, the inquiry edges closer to Mr. Trump. The president tried to persuade the F.B.I. director,
James B. Comey, to drop the bureau’s
criminal investigation of Mr. Flynn, and
fired Mr. Comey after he failed to comply.
Mr. Trump and his aides have suggested that his concern about Mr.
Flynn’s potential legal jeopardy was motivated mainly by the president’s admiration for his former national security
adviser’s military service and character.
But the new details about Mr. Flynn’s
Russia contacts underscore the possibility that the president may have been
worried not just about Mr. Flynn but
also about whether any investigation
might reach into the White House and
perhaps to the Oval Office. That question will be at the center of any consideration by Mr. Mueller of whether Mr.
Trump’s actions constituted obstruction
of justice.
The Trump transition team ignored a
pointed request from the Obama administration to avoid sending conflicting
signals to foreign officials before the inauguration and to include State Department personnel when contacting them.
Besides the Russian ambassador, Mr.
Flynn, at the request of the president’s
son-in-law, Jared Kushner, contacted
several other foreign officials to urge
them to delay or block a United Nations
resolution condemning Israel over its
building of settlements.
Mr. Cobb said the Trump team had
never agreed to avoid such interactions.
But one former White House official has
disputed that, telling Mr. Mueller’s investigators that Trump transition officials had agreed to honor the Obama administration’s request.
Mr. Bossert forwarded Ms. McFarland’s Dec. 29 email exchange about the
sanctions to six other Trump advisers,
including Mr. Flynn; Reince Priebus,
who had been named as chief of staff;
Stephen K. Bannon, the senior strategist; and Sean Spicer, who would be-
come the press secretary. Mr. Obama,
she wrote, was trying to “box Trump in
diplomatically with Russia,” which
could limit his options with other countries, including Iran and Syria. “Russia
is key that unlocks door,” she wrote.
In his phone call with Mr. Kislyak, Mr.
Flynn asked that Russia “not escalate
the situation,” according to court documents released on Friday. He later related the substance of the call — including
the discussion of sanctions — to a senior
transition official, believed to be Ms. McFarland. A few days later, he briefed others on the transition team.
Mr. Flynn’s intervention appeared to
have a dramatic effect. To the surprise of
foreign policy experts, the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, did not immediately respond with retaliatory expulsions of Americans from Moscow.
Mr. Trump praised that decision in a
Twitter post, writing: “Great move on
delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he
was very smart.”
It is uncertain how involved Mr.
Trump was in the discussions among his
staff members of Mr. Flynn’s conversation with the Russian ambassador. Mr.
Spicer told reporters on the morning of
Dec. 29 that the president-elect would
be meeting with his national security
team, including Ms. McFarland, that
day. A phone call that included Mr.
Trump, Mr. Flynn, Ms. McFarland, Mr.
Priebus and Mr. Bannon was scheduled
for 5 p.m., shortly after Ms. McFarland’s
email exchange. It is unclear whether
the call took place.
Mr. Cobb said that Mr. Trump did not
know that Mr. Flynn had discussed
sanctions with Mr. Kislyak in the call. After the inauguration, “Flynn specifically
denied it to him, in the presence of witnesses,” he said.
Some legal experts have speculated
that the contacts during the transition
between Trump aides and foreign officials might violate the Logan Act, a law
that prohibits private American citizens
from working with a foreign government against the United States. But the
act has not been used to prosecute anyone since the 19th century. Mr. Cobb said
the law “certainly does not apply” to a
presidential transition team.
The day after the president fired Mr.
Flynn, he talked about the F.B.I. inquiry
with Mr. Comey, the agency’s director.
Mr. Comey has said the president urged
him to drop the inquiry. “I hope you can
see your way clear to letting this go, to
letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump said, according to a memo that Mr. Comey
wrote immediately afterward. The
White House has denied that account.
The president fired Mr. Comey in May.
Testifying before Congress in June,
Mr. Comey declined to say whether the
president had fired him to impede the investigation. “I don’t think it’s for me to
say whether the conversation I had with
the president was an effort to obstruct,”
he said. “I took it as a very disturbing
thing, very concerning, but that’s a conclusion I’m sure the special counsel will
work towards to try and understand
what the intention was there, and
whether that’s an offense.”
Mark Landler and Matt Apuzzo contributed reporting.
Debt concerns suddenly take back seat for Republicans
In 2009, almost every Republican in
Congress opposed a $787 billion stimulus plan in the midst of an economic crisis because they said it would cause a
dangerous increase in the federal debt.
“Yesterday the Senate cast one of the
most expensive votes in history,” Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority
leader, said at the time. “Americans are
wondering how we’re going to pay for all
Nine years later, during one of the
longest economic expansions in American history, almost every Republican in
Congress — including Mr. McConnell,
now the majority leader — supports a
tax plan that is projected to cause an
even larger increase in the federal debt.
Republicans got to that extraordinary
point by a tangled path. First they argued that the tax cuts would stimulate
the economy enough to pay for themselves, only to be confronted on Thursday with a report that said the cuts
would add $1 trillion to the deficit over a
decade. That bad news led to lastminute convulsions and a frantic search
for more revenue.
But in the end, the political imperative
to pass what would be the only major
piece of legislation of President Trump’s
first year, along with a near-religious
Republican belief in tax cuts, overrode
their previous concerns about fiscal prudence.
All but one Republican senator, Bob
Corker of Tennessee, voted for the bill
early Saturday.
The House and the Senate still have to
reach a final agreement on the details,
and Mr. Trump has to sign his name, but
the Republican Party now stands on the
verge of driving up the national debt after spending much of the last decade
promising rectitude and criticizing
Democrats for profligacy.
The legislation reads “as if it were developed for a country whose debt problems have been solved, when in reality
debt is the highest it has ever been other
than around World War II,” declared the
co-chairmen of a bipartisan commission
created in 2010 to propose measures for
reducing the debt.
Alan Simpson, a former Republican
senator from Wyoming, and Erskine
Bowles, formerly President Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, said the current crop
of Republicans are avoiding “nearly all
the hard choices.”
Mr. McConnell has a well-documented history of fretting about the
“We’d like to do something about the
nation’s biggest problem, spending and
debt, which of course is the reason for
“The driver of our debt
is the structure of Social
Security and Medicare for
future beneficiaries.”
this economic malaise,” he said in 2011.
He added that Republicans could not address the problem because they did not
control the White House or Senate.
Last year, with Republicans in control
of the House and the Senate and about to
claim the White House, he reiterated his
distaste for debt. “I think this level of national debt is dangerous and unacceptable,” Mr. McConnell said. “My preference on tax reform is that it be revenue
He continued in words that now seem
particularly striking. “What I hope we
will clearly avoid, and I’m confident we
will, is a trillion-dollar stimulus,” he said.
“Take you back to 2009. We borrowed $1
trillion and nobody could find that it did
much of anything. So we need to do this
carefully and correctly, and the issue of
how to pay for it needs to be dealt with
Last week, the congressional scorekeeper, the Joint Committee on Taxation, reported that the Senate’s tax plan
is, in fact, a stimulus plan that costs $1
trillion — the amount it would add to the
debt over the next decade even after accounting for its significant economic
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, who
In 2011, then-Senator Jeff Sessions and then-Representative Paul D. Ryan criticized a budget plan from President Barack Obama.
shepherded the House’s version of the
tax bill — which also would add $1 trillion to the deficit over a decade — has
assiduously cultivated a reputation for
concern about the federal debt.
In 2011 he released “The Path to Prosperity,” a budget plan proposing large
spending cuts to balance the books. He
said fiscal discipline was unpopular but
“What I do know is I can’t look my
kids and my constituents in the eyes
with my conscience being clear and not
know that I didn’t do everything I could
to try and fix this problem,” Mr. Ryan
said in a 2011 interview with CNBC.
In 2013, he said the debt “will weigh
down our country like an anchor.”
At the time, the federal debt held by
investors equaled 72 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. The Republican tax plan could push that to 85
percent by 2021, Goldman Sachs estimated Wednesday, which would be the
highest debt ratio since the immediate
aftermath of World War II.
Republicans are gambling that voters
would rather have tax cuts now and
worry about debt later. That is certainly
the position of the corporate sector,
which has abandoned pious expressions
of concern about Washington’s extrava-
gance in favor of earnest pleas for tax relief.
“Passing tax reform is the single most
important thing that Congress can do to
make American companies more competitive,” Jamie Dimon, the chief executive of JP Morgan Chase, said last
A number of prominent Republicans
have defiantly insisted that economic
forecasters are wrong about the likely
cost of the tax cuts. They say the legislation will cause a surge of economic
growth that will allow the government
to collect just as much money at lower
tax rates.
Senator Orrin G. Hatch, the Utah Republican who is chairman of the Finance
Committee, dismissed the analysis of
the economists Congress employs for
that purpose, using techniques he has
endorsed, as “curious.”
The Trump administration, without
offering evidence, continues to insist the
federal debt will not rise.
Republicans also have long distinguished between deficits caused by
spending increases and deficits caused
by tax cuts. They argue that tax cuts are
good for the economy, and that the resulting problem of larger deficits should
be addressed by reducing government
“You also have to bring spending under control,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said last week. “And
not discretionary spending. That isn’t
the driver of our debt. The driver of our
debt is the structure of Social Security
and Medicare for future beneficiaries.”
The tax cuts, however, would increase
the scale of that challenge.
Politicians of both parties also have
lost their fear of debt in recent decades.
The federal debt has grown much larger
than was considered wise or even possible, with few apparent consequences.
“Reagan proved that deficits don’t
matter,” Vice President Dick Cheney
said in 2002. Many Republicans take the
view that the George W. Bush administration’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003
proved the same point.
But federal borrowing imposes real
economic costs, not least the need to
make interest payments. It also restricts the funding available to privatesector investors. And experts continue
to warn that the United States is on an
unsustainable trajectory, particularly
because the government has promised
benefits to an expanding population of
older Americans that will further outstrip tax revenue.
“It’s the type of thing that should keep
people awake at night,” Janet L. Yellen,
the outgoing Federal Reserve chairwoman, told a congressional committee
last week.
But in Washington, in 2017, such warnings are no longer in vogue.
8 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
Republicans race to send tax cuts to Trump
Birth in U.S.
by recipient
of uterus
With few hurdles left,
the majority in power is
near a landmark moment
Procedure is seen offering
a source of hope for
thousands of women
Congressional Republicans, buoyed by
the Senate’s approval early Saturday of
a landmark tax overhaul, expressed
confidence that final legislation would
be sent to President Trump by the end of
this month.
While the tax bills approved by the
House of Representatives and the Senate diverge in significant ways, the
same forces that rocketed the measures
to passage appear likely to bond Republicans in the two chambers as they work
to hash out the differences.
Republicans passed their sweeping
tax overhaul through the Senate just before 2 a.m. on Saturday, two weeks after
the House passed its own measure. The
Senate vote was 51 to 49, with every Republican but one — Senator Bob Corker
of Tennessee — in favor. Senate leaders
locked down the necessary votes on Friday with little drama, after making concessions to a few wavering Republicans.
The plan to cut taxes by nearly $1.5
trillion has flown through Congress in
the month since a bill was introduced in
the House, with Republicans united in
their belief in the economic power of tax
cuts and desperate for a legislative victory to appease restless campaign donors and base supporters.
During a news conference after the
Senate vote, the majority leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, expressed little doubt that a consensus
plan would soon become law after a conference committee resolved the differences between the two bills. “This is a
great day for the country,” Mr. McConnell said.
Mr. Trump echoed that optimism,
writing on Twitter that “we are one step
closer to delivering MASSIVE tax cuts”
and that he looked forward to signing a
final bill before Christmas. The differences between the measures, though
substantial, do not appear troublesome
enough to prevent Mr. Trump from
achieving that goal, which would be his
first major legislative victory.
Among the issues that will need to be
worked out: Under the Senate bill, tax
cuts for individuals would expire at the
end of 2025 to mitigate the losses in revenue, and the mandate that individuals
obtain health insurance under the Affordable Care Act would be repealed.
The House bill does not have these provisions.
The two versions also employ different methods to try to prevent multinational companies from shifting profits
out of America and into lower-tax countries.
In addition, the House bill would set a
new 25 percent top tax rate for profits
earned by small businesses and other
so-called pass-through companies,
while the Senate bill would give the owners of those companies a 23 percent de-
Orrin G. Hatch, center, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, with other top Republicans who are hopeful that tax cuts will be signed into law this month.
duction on pass-through income, which
is taxed at rates for individuals.
The House bill would eliminate the alternative minimum tax for corporations
and individuals and eventually eliminate the estate tax. The Senate bill
would maintain the corporate A.M.T.
and trim, but not end, the individual
A.M.T. and the estate tax.
The Democratic leader in the
Senate criticized the plan as
“scrawled like something on the
back of a napkin.”
Still, the bills share much of the same
architecture and many core elements.
Each would cut the top corporate tax
rate to 20 percent from 35 percent. Each
would eliminate deductions for state
and local income taxes, nearly double
the standard deduction for individual filers, and reduce individual tax rates. Because of those provisions, both bills are
projected to cut taxes initially for the
bulk of middle-class taxpayers, yet raise
them on millions of other middle-class
The House bill would preserve a deduction for up to $10,000 a year in state
and local property taxes. The Senate bill
would, too, thanks to a last-minute
change that helped gain the support of
Senator Susan Collins of Maine.
Mr. Trump, after insisting for weeks
that the top corporate rate be cut to 20
percent, signaled on Saturday that it
could wind up being a little higher — 22
percent. “It could be 22 when it comes
out, but it could also be 20,” he told reporters outside the White House. “We’ll
see what ultimately comes out.”
Such an increase would give Republicans extra revenue to pay for other tax
cuts in the overhaul, potentially easing
its path to final passage.
Lawmakers and lobbyists will battle
furiously over the small details in a consensus bill, but party leaders show little
worry that big issues will trip up the
plan. Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin
said early Saturday that the House
would move “quickly” to a conference
committee. House members are planning to return to Washington on Monday, a day earlier than planned, to vote
to proceed to conference.
“Now it’s time to take the best of both
the House and Senate bills, make them
even stronger in a conference committee,” Representative Kevin Brady of
Texas, the chairman of the Ways and
Means Committee, said in a news release on Saturday, “and finalize one
piece of legislation that will dramatically improve the lives of Americans for
generations to come.”
After the Senate vote, some ebullient
Republicans seemed to hint that a conference might not even be necessary.
“We’ll see,” said Senator Orrin G. Hatch
of Utah, the Republican chairman of the
Senate Finance Committee, when asked
if he thought the House might just take
up the Senate’s bill.
Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of
Texas, suggested that such a move by
House Republicans was possible, but
said, “That’ll be a question for House
leadership.” A senior administration official, however, said on Friday night that
that was not likely to happen.
If Republicans do go to conference,
the House and the Senate would each
need to vote again to pass the package
that resulted from those negotiations,
before sending the bill to Mr. Trump. If
the House were to simply approve the
Senate bill, it would head to Mr. Trump
straight away.
Unable to stop or stall the bill, because
Republicans are employing a process
that allows them to bypass a legislative
filibuster, Democrats were left to fume
about the tax plan and the process by
which it was speeding toward approval.
Democrats charged that the Senate
bill had been loaded with last-minute favors for the rich and the well-connected
at the expense of the middle class, and
complained that the text of the bill had
been released only hours before the
vote, with handwritten changes
scrawled in the margins. Lobbyists saw
a list detailing the changes before they
did, the Democrats said.
“Is this really how the Republicans
are going to rewrite the tax code?” Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the
minority leader, asked in a floor speech
before the vote. “Scrawled like something on the back of a napkin? Behind
closed doors? With the help of K Street
lobbyists? If that’s not a recipe for swindling the middle class and loosening
loopholes for the wealthy, I don’t know
what is.”
As a group, Democrats seemed resigned to the fact that there was little
they could do to stop the tax overhaul
from being enacted.
“My sense is they may have a conference in name only,” Senator Ron Wyden
of Oregon, the top Democrat on the Finance Committee, said after the vote.
But Mr. Wyden predicted that Republicans would eventually regret their victory. “The American people are going to
be stunned when they see what’s really
in this,” he said.
Lawmakers’ next step may be to slash safety net
As the tax cut legislation passed by the
United States Senate early Saturday
hurtles toward final approval, Republicans are preparing to use the swelling
deficits made worse by the package as a
rationale to pursue their long-held vision: undoing the entitlements of the
New Deal and Great Society, leaving
government leaner and the safety net
skimpier for millions of Americans.
Speaker Paul D. Ryan and other Republicans are beginning to express their
big dreams publicly, vowing that next
year they will move on to changes in
Medicare and Social Security. President
Trump told a Missouri rally last week,
“We’re going to go into welfare reform.”
Their nearly $1.5 trillion package of
tax cuts, a plan likely to win final approval in the coming days, could be the
first step. But their strategy poses enormous risks, not only for millions of
Americans who rely on entitlement programs, but also for Republicans who
would wade into politically difficult waters, cutting popular benefits for the elderly and working poor just after cutting
taxes for profitable corporations.
“The way to get at fixing the debt is to
feel like everybody is willing to put
something on the table,” said Maya
MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a bipartisan group. “Once you have
one side grab all it could, you’re never
going to have the other side show up.”
Even if the tax cut incites the kind of
economic growth that Republicans advertise, the tax bill will increase the
deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years, the
nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation said.
And it was passed along sharply partisan lines, offering nothing to Democrats, and leaving them with no obligation or incentive to negotiate cuts to
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security,
the entitlement programs that are driving up spending, but are also the pride of
the Democratic Party.
For his part, Mr. Trump spent his campaign promising not to cut Medicare and
Demonstrators being arrested outside a Senate Budget Committee meeting. Some
deficit hawks complain that Republicans have lost any sense of fiscal responsibility.
Social Security. And Republicans will
probably find, as they did when they
failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act,
that the public rises up to defend the
programs they are trying to cut. Whatever political boost the Republicans
could get for passing a tax cut could
evaporate fast.
“Republicans are going to find that
Democrats treat this tax bill the way Republicans treated Obamacare — it’s not
trusted by people on the other side of the
aisle,” said former Senator Judd Gregg,
who was chairman of the Budget Committee and a member of the SimpsonBowles commission, a bipartisan group
of lawmakers and budget experts that
produced a deficit reduction plan in
2010. “It will become a target, a rallying
cry, which is unfortunate, because good
tax reform, when done right, is not only
good for the economy, it’s good for the
Many of the Republicans’ natural allies have criticized the bill for adding to
the deficit and not dealing with the costs
that were already driving up the government’s red ink. In an op-ed in The Washington Post, the leaders of that 2010 com-
mission, former Senator Alan Simpson
of Wyoming, a Republican, and Erskine
Bowles, a Democrat who is a former
White House chief of staff, accused the
Republicans of “deficit denial,” saying
the bill incorporated only “goodies” and
virtually no “hard choices.”
“Republicans have been telling themselves for years that they wanted to get
into power so they could balance the
budget, reduce the debt, cut spending
and fix entitlements,” Ms. MacGuineas
said. “They’ve just made it harder.”
For weeks, Democrats and their allies
have been accusing Republicans of a
“two-step” deceit, warning that they
would cut taxes now and then use the increase in the deficit they caused to demand entitlement cuts later.
“When you run up the deficit, your
next argument will be, ‘Gee, you’ve got a
large deficit,’ ” Senator Bernie Sanders
of Vermont, a former Democratic presidential candidate, said in an interview.
Now Republicans are beginning to acknowledge as much. Mr. Ryan said at a
town hall-style meeting last month that
Congress had to spur growth and cut entitlements to reduce the national debt.
The Republican tax plan, he said
“grows the economy.” But, he added,
“we’ve got a lot of work to do in cutting
Senator Marco Rubio of Florida was
more specific on Wednesday, telling
business leaders that the tax cuts were
just the first step; the next is to reshape
Social Security and Medicare for future
“Many argue that you can’t cut taxes
because it will drive up the deficit,” he
said. “But we have to do two things. We
have to generate economic growth,
which generates revenue, while reducing spending. That will mean instituting
structural changes to Social Security
and Medicare for the future.”
The Congressional Budget Office
projects that spending on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will cost the
federal government $28.6 trillion
through 2027. The tax cut, estimated at
nearly $1.5 trillion, makes the problem
only mildly worse.
But if that trillion-dollar boost to the
government’s yawning fiscal hole is
comparatively small mathematically, it
could add up to much more politically if
it keeps Democrats away from the negotiating table.
And even if Republicans do not pursue changes to entitlements, the tax bill
will trigger pay-as-you-go requirements
that Congress cut spending. That would
be a particularly big hit to Medicare,
which would face a $25 billion cut for the
current fiscal year. Groups like AARP,
the lobby for older Americans, warn that
it would force doctors and hospitals to
turn away patients because reimbursements would be cut so drastically.
Mr. Ryan and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, released a statement Friday saying that
the so-called pay-go cuts “will not happen” because Congress would waive the
law, as it has in the past. But they will
need Democratic votes to do that, in a
climate that is unusually partisan.
Regardless of whether Republicans
can waive these cuts, David Certner, legislative counsel for AARP, said, “You
know they’re going to come back and
say, ‘We need to make more cuts to deal
with the growing debts and deficit.’ ”
Some deficit hawks complain that Republicans have cast away any mantle of
fiscal responsibility.
Robert L. Bixby, the executive director of the Concord Coalition, a nonpartisan organization that encourages fiscal
responsibility, complained of hypocrisy
from Republicans who have been clamoring to lift the spending caps that were
created by the 2011 Budget Control Act.
If the tax cuts do not generate the revenue Republicans are expecting, he predicted, “people will say, ‘No, we’re not
getting the growth because we should
have cut taxes even more.’ ”
The United States is already facing a
gloomy fiscal landscape. The federal
deficit this year topped $660 billion, despite healthy economic growth, and the
national debt now exceeds $20 trillion.
Cutting popular benefits
for the elderly and working
poor poses a risk for
Janet L. Yellen, the outgoing chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, warned
last week that the national debt “is the
type of thing that should keep people
awake at night.”
But Democrats and their allies — and
even some usual Republican allies —
complain that Republicans are dishonest not to debate changes in spending
and tax cuts at the same time.
Sharon Parrott, a senior fellow at the
left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said Republicans understood how bad it would look to cut food
benefits for poor families and health
care for the elderly at the same time
they were cutting taxes for corporations
and the highest earners.
“There’s a reason they separate
them,” she said. “They think they can
get away with it.”
But in an election year with high political engagement, she said, “I think it’s
wrong to count out the idea that the public will figure it out.”
For the first time in the United States, a
woman who had a uterus transplant has
given birth.
The mother, who was born without a
uterus, received the transplant from a
living donor last year at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, and had a
baby boy there last month, the hospital
said on Friday.
At the family’s request, their name,
hometown and the date of the birth are
being withheld to protect their privacy,
according to Julie Smith, a spokeswoman for the hospital, which is part of Baylor Scott & White Health.
Since 2014, eight other babies have
been born to women who had uterus
transplants, all in Sweden, at the
Sahlgrenska University Hospital in
Gothenburg. A new frontier, uterus
transplants are seen as a source of hope
for women who cannot give birth because they were born without a uterus
or had to have it removed because of
cancer, other illness or complications
from childbirth. Researchers estimate
that in the United States, 50,000 women
might be candidates.
The transplants are meant to be temporary, left in place just long enough for
a woman to have one or two children,
and then removed so she can stop taking
the immune-suppressing drugs needed
to prevent organ rejection.
Dr. Liza Johannesson, a uterus transplant surgeon who left the Swedish team
to join Baylor’s group, said the birth in
Dallas was important because it showed
that success was not limited to the hospital in Gothenburg. “To make the field
grow and expand and have the procedure come out to more women, it has
to be reproduced,” she said, adding that
The transplants now are
experimental and expensive.
within hours of Baylor’s announcement,
advocacy groups for women with uterine infertility from all over the world had
contacted her to express their excitement at the news.
“It was a very exciting birth,” Dr. Johannesson said. “I’ve seen so many
births and delivered so many babies, but
this was a very special one.”
At Baylor, eight women have had
transplants, including the new mother,
in a clinical trial designed to include 10
patients. One recipient is pregnant, and
two others — one of whom received her
transplant from a deceased donor — are
trying to conceive. Four other transplants failed after the surgery, and the
organs had to be removed, said Dr. Giuliano Testa, the principal investigator of
the research project and surgical chief of
abdominal transplantation.
“We had a very rough start, and then
hit the right path,” Dr. Testa said in a
telephone interview.
Both Dr. Johannesson and Dr. Testa
said that a large part of their motivation
came from meeting patients and coming
to understand how devastated they
were to find out that they would not be
able to have children.
Dr. Testa said: “I think many men will
never understand this fully, to understand the desire of these women to be
mothers. What moved all of us is to see
the mother holding her baby, when she
was told, ‘You will never have it.’ ”
The transplants are now experimental, with much of the cost covered
by research funds. But they are expensive, and if they become part of medical
practice, will probably cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars. It is not clear that
insurers will pay, and Dr. Testa acknowledged that many women who want the
surgery will not be able to afford it.
Another hospital, the Cleveland
Clinic, performed the first uterus transplant in the United States in February
2016, but it failed after two weeks because of an infection that caused lifethreatening hemorrhage and required
emergency surgery to remove the organ. The clinic halted its program for an
extended period, but has restarted it
and has patients awaiting transplants, a
spokeswoman, Victoria Vinci, said.
The woman who gave birth at Baylor
was the fourth to receive a transplant
there, in September 2016.
The process is complicated and has
considerable risks for both recipients
and donors. Donors undergo a five-hour
operation that is more complex and
takes out more tissue than a standard
hysterectomy to remove the uterus. The
transplant surgery is also difficult, in
some ways comparable to a liver transplant, Dr. Testa said.
Recipients face the risks of surgery
and anti-rejection drugs for a transplant
that they, unlike someone with heart or
liver failure, do not need to save their
lives. Their pregnancies are considered
high-risk, and the babies have to be delivered by cesarean section to avoid
putting too much strain on the transplanted uterus. So far all the births have
occurred a bit earlier than the normal 40
weeks of gestation — at 32 to 36 weeks.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 9
China and U.S. square off over solar panels
January deadline is set
for a decision on tariffs
that could provoke Beijing
With President Trump vowing to get
tougher on trade, troubled American
makers of products as varied as steel
tubing, aluminum foil and washing machines have lined up to ask Washington
for protection from foreign rivals.
But Mr. Trump’s first big international
trade fight could be over solar panels.
Major manufacturers in the United
States and China, as well as numerous
other businesses that buy and use solar
panels, are readying for a clash that
could begin as soon as January. The solar panel dispute comes at a time when
senior administration officials have
been signaling their intention to take a
much tougher trade stance toward
China, where most solar panels are
The solar panel industry could be Mr.
Trump’s first test of whether his harsh
language toward China will result in significant trade measures — and whether
those moves would help restore American businesses. Factories in China now
account for more than two-thirds of the
world’s production, up from a negligible
share a decade ago. Faced with intense
competition, more than a dozen solar
companies in the United States have
closed factories over the past six years.
China’s push to become a major
maker of solar panels has driven global
prices down close to 90 percent over the
past decade, helping international efforts to curb emissions of planet-warming greenhouse gases. That has blurred
the lines over the pending solar trade
fight even within the United States,
where American manufacturers are
squaring off against American installers
and users of the panels.
Chinese officials contend that they
are helping the world move toward
cleaner energy.
“Everybody needs the kinds of
cheaper panels, not only in China, but
China’s push to become a major maker of solar panels has driven global prices down nearly 90 percent over the past decade.
also the world,” Li Junfeng, a senior Chinese economic adviser and the architect
of many of China’s renewable energy
policies, said at The New York Times’s
Climate Tech conference last week in
San Francisco.
But American manufacturers say the
cheap panels have been unfairly financed by the Chinese government.
Chinese manufacturers have benefited
from low-cost loans from governmentrun banks. Even some Chinese companies that have struggled with losses and
had trouble making loan payments have
been able to stay afloat.
Such manufacturers in China “are
technically insolvent, but they still get
capital,” said Mark Widmar, the chief executive of First Solar, a large manufacturer based in Phoenix.
Trying new things is hard
Economic View
I drink a lot of Diet Coke: two liters a
day, almost six cans’ worth. I’m not
proud of the habit, but I really like the
taste of Diet Coke.
As a frugal economist, I’m well
aware that switching to a generic
brand would save me money, not just
once but daily, for weeks and years to
come. Yet I drink only Diet Coke. I’ve
never even sampled generic soda.
Why not? I’ve certainly thought
about it. And I tell myself that the
dollars involved are inconsequential,
really, that I’m happy with what I’m
already drinking and that I can afford
to be passive about this little extravagance.
Yet I’m clearly making an error, one
that reveals a deeper decision-making
bias whose cumulative cost is sizable:
Like most people, I conduct relatively
few experiments in my personal life, in
both small and big things.
This is a pity because experimentation can produce outsize rewards. For example, I wouldn’t be
risking much by trying a generic soda,
and if I liked it enough to switch, the
payout could be big: All my future
sodas would be cheaper.
When the same choice is made over
and over again, the downside of trying
something different is limited and fixed
— that one soda is unappealing —
while the potential gains are disproportionately large. One study estimated
that 47 percent of human behaviors are
of this habitual variety.
Yet many people persist in buying
branded products, even when equivalent generics are available. These
choices are noteworthy for drugs,
when generics and branded options
are chemically equivalent. Why continue to buy a name-brand aspirin when
the same chemical compound sits
nearby at a lower price? Scientists
have already verified that the two
forms of aspirin are identical. A little
personal experimentation would presumably reassure you that the generic
has the same effect.
Our common failure to experiment
extends well past generics, as one
recent study illustrates. On Feb. 5,
2014, London Underground workers
went on a 48-hour strike, forcing the
closing of several
tube stops. The
affected commutthe same
ers had to find
alternate routes.
choice over
When the
and over
strike ended,
most people
the possibility
reverted to their
old patterns. But
of large
roughly one in 20
stuck with the
new route, shaving 6.7 minutes
from what had been an average 32minute commute.
The closings imposed by the strike
forced experimentation with alternate
routes, yielding valuable results. And if
the strike had been longer, even more
improvements would probably have
been discovered.
Yet the fact that many people
needed a strike to force them to experiment reveals the deep roots of a common reluctance to experiment. For
example, when I think of my favorite
restaurants, the ones I have visited
many times, it is striking how few of
the menu items I have tried. And when
I think of all the lunch places near my
workplace, I realize that I keep going
to the same places again and again.
Habits are powerful. We persist with
many of them because we tend to give
undue emphasis to the present. Trying
something new can be painful: I might
not like what I get and must forgo
something I already enjoy.
That cost is immediate, while any
benefits — even if they are large — will
be enjoyed in a future that feels abstract and distant. Yes, I want to know
what else my favorite restaurant does
well, but today I just want my favorite
Overconfidence also holds us back. I
am unduly certain in my guesses of
what the alternatives will be like, even
though I haven’t tried them.
Finally, many so-called choices are
not really choices at all. Walking down
the supermarket aisle, I do not make a
considered decision about soda. I don’t
even pause at the generics. I act without thinking; I automatically grab
bottles of Diet Coke as I wheel my cart
This is true not only in our personal
lives. Executives and policymakers fail
to experiment in their jobs, and these
failures can be particularly costly. For
example, in hiring, executives often
apply their preconceived notions of
which applicants will be a “good fit” as
prospective employees. Yet those
presumptions are nothing more than
guesses and are rarely given the scrutiny of experimentation.
Hiring someone who doesn’t appear
to be a good fit is surely risky, yet it
might also prove the presumptions
wrong, an outcome that is especially
valuable when these presumptions
amount to built-in advantages for men
or whites or people from economically
or culturally advantaged backgrounds.
For government policymakers,
experimentation is a thorny issue. We
are right to be wary of “experimenting” in the sense of playing with
people’s lives. Yet we should also be
wary of an automatic bias in favor of
the status quo. That can amount to a
Panglossian belief that the current
policy is best, whereas the current
policy may actually be a wobbly structure held together by overconfidence,
historical accident and the power of
Experimentation is an act of humility, an acknowledgment that there is
simply no way of knowing without
trying something different.
Understanding that truth is a first
step, but it is important to act on it.
Sticking with an old habit is comforting, but one of these days, maybe, I’ll
actually buy a bottle of generic soda.
Sendhil Mullainathan is a professor of
economics at Harvard.
The United States has already imposed tariffs on solar panels from China
over the past five years, prompting Chinese manufacturers to build vast factories in Southeast Asia.
Now, the Trump administration has
indicated that it may raise the stakes by
authorizing tariffs on all solar panel imports, including those from Southeast
Administration officials have so far allowed two solar panel companies with
factories in the United States to ask
Washington for tariffs on all solar panel
Thanks to a complicated series of maneuvers within the United States system for evaluating trade cases, the
Trump administration now has a Jan. 26
deadline to grant the companies’ re-
quests for wider tariffs. China opposes
the move, which it argues would hurt solar panel buyers.
When the Chinese-owned factories in
Southeast Asia are included, Chinese
panel makers account for about fourfifths of global sales.
Solar panel installers, developers of
utility-scale solar panel power generation projects and others connected to
the industry also oppose broader tariffs.
The Solar Energy Industries Association, which represents those groups,
contends that the tariffs would destroy
more installation jobs than they would
protect or create among manufacturers.
“If my price goes up, I’m not going to
win” orders, Abigail Ross Hopper, the
chief executive and president of the
Washington-based association, said in a
telephone interview.
Yet the effects of tariffs are disputed
within the industry. Solar panel makers
in the United States say higher tariffs
would add only modestly to the cost of
“That’s still very compelling for any
utility,” said Mr. Widmar, of First Solar.
Many trade experts predict that the
United States will impose tariffs on all
solar panel imports, because Mr. Trump
has expressed sympathy for industrial
workers in the United States and for fossil fuels, while voicing skepticism about
the use of renewable energy.
If the Trump administration decides
to impose more tariffs next month, it
could be the first blow in a one-two
punch to China on trade, making it even
more likely that Beijing might retaliate
against American exports. The deadline
for the administration to act on possibly
imposing tariffs on washing machines
from around the world, and particularly
from China, comes a little more than a
week later, on Feb. 3.
Mr. Li, the Chinese economic adviser,
contended that China, not the United
States, was the country that had proved
willing to let market forces determine
winners and losers in the solar panel
Political support in the United States
for solar panel manufacturing wilted after a single solar equipment company in
California, Solyndra, collapsed in 2011 after obtaining $535 million in Energy Department loan guarantees.
10 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
Lost ice means lost hope for Inuit town
to get your calories, but in so doing, you
may be losing companionship, solidarity and your sense of self.”
Dr. Kirmayer said mental health also
depended on eating local food because
of an Inuit conception of self, tied to the
environment, which he described as
There is “a sense in which the food
‘becomes you,’ ” he said.
Mr. Pottle described hunting and eating wild food — which, by his own accounting, makes up at least 95 percent of
his diet — like seal, moose and salmon,
as his identity. “It’s who I am,” he said.
“It’s something I’ve done all my life.”
Climate change is taking
a toll on the mental health
of indigenous people
Leaning over the handlebars with one
knee up on the seat, Derrick Pottle
guided his snowmobile between rocks
and sheets of gray sea ice before stopping suddenly at the mouth of a bay.
“It’s open,” Mr. Pottle said, turning off
his machine. Ten yards away, the ice had
cracked and opened a dark hole in the
water that made it impossible to drive
across the inlet.
It was Jan. 7, unusually late in the season for Mr. Pottle’s first trip to his winter
cabin — a few hours drive by snowmobile from his hometown, Rigolet — over
what should have been more than 60
miles of frozen trails and solid ice.
Rigolet, a town on Canada’s eastern
edge, has no roads leading in or out.
Lakes, rivers and streams, if they freeze
over, become what the town’s 300 residents call their “highway” — a lifeline to
nearby towns and places to fish, trap
and hunt.
But as the climate has warmed, these
ice roads have become unreliable,
breeding isolation, and, some studies
suggest, elevated mental stress.
Mr. Pottle, a 61-year-old Inuit hunter,
surveyed the land and water. In a lifetime in the north, he had traveled thousands of miles through blizzards, shot
seven polar bears and fallen through sea
ice. But this was an unfamiliar landscape.
He strode a few yards toward the hole
in the ice before turning back to his
snowmobile. Pausing, he put his gloves
back on his tattooed hands, revved the
engine and took off through the spruce
trees, searching for another route.
Just four decades ago, Mr. Pottle said, he
would have crossed the same inlet over
ice more than a foot thick in November.
Since then, Labrador’s coastal ice has
declined by almost 40 percent, making
travel treacherous, if possible at all.
“It’s a volatile place climatically,” said
Robert Way, a postdoctoral fellow at Memorial University of Newfoundland who
studies Labrador’s permafrost. This cli-
matic sensitivity, combined with Arctic
amplification — a feedback loop created
when reflective ice melts to expose dark
ocean water — Dr. Way said, had more
than doubled the region’s rate of warming, compared with that of the rest of the
“And it’s only going to get worse,” he
Shrubs that thrive in warmer temperatures have sprouted across the tundra and snow cover has diminished, Dr.
Way said.
Without the ice highway, hunters like
Mr. Pottle often have no choice but to
drive their snowmobiles through the
wilderness. “You can’t get in or out of
these communities,” he said. “We’re almost like prisoners.”
Attempting the trip to his cabin earlier that winter, Mr. Pottle struck a rock,
flipped his snowmobile and had to return home.
The next time, the wind was relentless. Mr. Pottle said gales were becoming stronger. “These are the kind of conditions that can kill you,” he said. “The
wind can get so severe, you can’t get
While scientists have not established
a link between Labrador’s wind
strength and climate change, another
recent study corroborated locals’ observations.
“When it’s something you’ve relied on
for your safety, you remember,” Dr. Way
The Inuit have a word for changes they
are seeing to their environment: uggianaqtuq. It means “to behave strangely.” But it is not just the weather that’s in
For the past decade, Ashlee Cunsolo,
a public health researcher and director
of the Labrador Institute of Memorial
University, has seen the disorienting effects of climate change take a toll on the
mental health of people along the coast.
“When you’re in situations when you’re
deeply reliant on the environment, even
subtle alternations can have huge ripple
effects,” she said.
In hundreds of interviews conducted
between 2009 and 2014 across five indigenous communities in the Nunatsiavut
region of Labrador, including Rigolet,
Dr. Cunsolo and her team found that the
melted ice, shorter winters and unpredictable weather made people feel
trapped, depressed, stressed and anxious and in some cases, led to increased
risk of substance abuse and suicidal
In one town, a woman told Dr. Cunsolo’s team that not being able to get on the
land made her feel as if her spirit was
dying. In another, a man said, “Inuit are
people of the sea ice. If there is no more
sea ice, how can we be people of the sea
When Dr. Cunsolo first visited Rigolet
in the winter of 2009-10, the air temperature in the region was an average of 12.8
degrees Fahrenheit above normal. It
barely snowed, and there was severe
wind and freezing rain. Finally, at the
end of January, the ice froze over —
choppy, sharp and ten weeks late. By
April, six to eight weeks earlier than
usual, it was gone.
In part, the warm winter happened
because of a natural atmospheric
process called negative Arctic oscillation, but the magnitude, Dr. Way said,
could be explained only by a century of
warming. What Dr. Cunsolo’s research
revealed to be the “largest climatic and
environmental shift in living memory”
in Rigolet made clear to her what had
until that winter played out at a slower
“A flood happens, or a Hurricane Kat-
rina happens, and people say, ‘Oh, that
makes sense that people are traumatized,’ ” Dr. Cunsolo said. When people
“are exposed to this ongoing environmental stress, day after day, month
after month, that has a tremendous impact.”
With less time spent outside, people
said they felt “stuck” and “isolated” and
some reported increased drug and alcohol use and domestic violence. Men accustomed to providing for their families
and communities by hunting and trapping, Dr. Cunsolo’s research found, were
particularly at risk.
“Hunting and sharing food is not just
a way to meet your basic needs but is
part of the fabric of social life,” said Dr.
Laurence J. Kirmayer, director of McGill
University’s social and transcultural
psychiatry unit, who was not involved in
the research. “You can find another way
In 1968, when Derrick Pottle was 11 years
old, he and his family moved from Rigolet to Happy Valley-Goose Bay under a
federal government program that relocated thousands of indigenous Canadians from remote communities.
“Goose Bay was a very, very bad
place to be an Inuk,” Mr. Pottle said, recalling systemic abuse and racism. At
school, he was forbidden to speak his native language, Inuktitut, and after the
move, he said, his parents became alcoholics “overnight.”
Climate change provokes a similar
sense of displacement, experts say, particularly for hunters. An unpredictable
environment means disempowerment.
“It’s like another form of colonization,”
Dr. Cunsolo said.
Experts say that while the stress
wrought by climate change may not, on
its own, cause mental health problems,
it can rekindle past trauma, worsening
existing issues with substance abuse,
depression and suicide.
“We went through some horrible injustices in my family,” Mr. Pottle said,
describing how he, too, had at first
turned to alcohol but had not touched a
drink in 39 years.
His brother, he said, was unable to
cope. “I know in my heart he committed
According to a 2016 study published in
the American Journal of Public Health,
the suicide rate in Nunatsiavut’s indigenous population was more than 20 times
as high as that of the general population
of Newfoundland between 1993 and
2009, and even higher among youths.
Harlie Pottle, Mr. Pottle’s 18-year-old
Derrick Pottle, a lifelong resident of Labrador. He said the lack of sea ice had made
some communities impossible to reach: “We’re almost like prisoners.”
niece, said driving her snowmobile
across the frozen sea ice comforted her
in difficult moments. “The land is part of
me. It felt like I was supposed to be
there,” she said. “The future kind of
scares me, just thinking about how
we’re going to survive.”
When Dr. Cunsolo first started researching the impact of climate change on
mental health, she said there was a misconception that indigenous people — often on the front lines of rising oceans, extreme heat and melting ice — would be
the only ones affected.
But studies in Australia showed that
farmers struggled with extreme
weather, and in Ghana that withered
crops, dried-up wells and the “loss of
beauty” made people sad.
Harlie Pottle at Double Mer, near Rigolet.
“The future kind of scares me,” she said.
“We weren’t around when the asteroid wiped out dinosaurs, but now we
have humans in the 21st century who are
trying to deal with a change to the world
which is unprecedented,” said Glenn Albrecht, a philosopher and former professor at Murdoch University in Australia.
He said that language needed to evolve
to articulate such profound loss.
After witnessing the devastation at
Australia’s strip mines, Dr. Albrecht
coined the word solastalgia: “a form of
homesickness one experiences when
one is still at home.” (It comes from the
Latin solacium, meaning “comfort” and
the ancient Greek root algia meaning
Dr. Albrecht said the anxiety people
felt about climate change was perfectly
rational. What’s disordered, he said, “is
the world that is causing you to feel that
The experience of those on the front
lines, Dr. Cunsolo said, was merely an indication of what was coming. “All humans, whether we want to admit it or
not, are impacted by the natural environment,” she said.
Mr. Pottle, for his part, is learning,
painfully, to adapt.
Blocked by the open water of the bay,
he aimed his snowmobile along a path of
low willow seedlings and mosses. Miles
on, he would reach the tundra, where, in
the distance, his red cabin sat against a
white backdrop of sky and land.
Heather Campbell is an Inuit artist originally from Rigolet.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 11
Rural China is primed for a boom
“We do expect them to catch up, to
narrow the income gap with the large
cities,” Mr. Xing said.
Businesses are looking at such areas
in a new light. New highways and highspeed railways make relocating factories and other operations into smaller
cities easier, allowing companies to take
advantage of their lower costs. Industrial output in Yancheng expanded more
quickly than the national rate last year.
The gains are not limited to the hinterland’s main towns. Farms are becoming
bigger, more efficient and more lucrative.
In Xinling, a nearby village, Luo Jianhai, 37, is typical of a new breed of
farmer-entrepreneur. He has steadily
expanded the farm where he tills rice
and wheat by renting land from his
neighbors. He also invested in two new
tractors, which he lends out to other
farmers who need them to work their
own larger plots. Over the past three
years his annual income has increased
seven times, to $100,000, and his spending has quadrupled, mainly on higherquality clothing for his three children
and a new, $17,000 car from a General
Motors joint venture.
His improved lifestyle, Mr. Luo said,
“is the difference between being poor
and having money.”
Nearby, Cheng Zhiguo, 47, also enlarged his farm this year, increasing his
net income to about $23,000 — five times
as much as just three years ago. His reward: his first car, a Hyundai, bought in
Such change is luring urban entrepreneurs such as Zhou Jian. Mr.
Zhou, a 33-year-old resident of Nanjing,
a major city in eastern China, figured
that large-scale farming would also
need more money. In 2013, he founded
Nongfenqi E-Commerce Company,
which helps arrange loans for farming
families from banks and other lenders.
Nongfenqi has since arranged about
$150 million in loans, opened more than
100 offices spread around rural China
and hired 800 employees. “The upgrading of the market allows businesses like
us to serve these big farmers,” Mr. Zhou
Such opportunity has attracted Over the past three years,
has more than doubled its army of delivery people, many aimed at reaching into
rural towns and villages.
“Building a rural logistics network is
one of our most important strategies,”
Clockwise from above left: Deliverymen for sorting packages in Liangduo, China; Luo Jianhai expanded the amount of land he tills, then quadrupled his spending; Cui Xiaokai bought energy drinks and oatmeal online.
said Wang Hui,’s head of delivery services. “With consumption developing in rural areas, we hope we can
catch this opportunity to expand our
That chilly morning in Liangduo,
where the delivery station opened last
year, a giant truck squeezed
down a cluttered central street to disgorge hundreds of packages, which
were sorted and carried to customers by
nine full-time delivery personnel. The
station is intended to help introduce residents to e-commerce. Next door, a merchant transformed his appliance shop
into a outlet, where farmers, often unfamiliar with e-commerce, can
test products available online and place
The delivery station “is not just a logistics center,” said the manager in Liangduo, Ye Huanglong. “Anyone can come in and ask questions.”
Not all rural regions are advancing as
quickly as Liangduo. Hu Binchuan, deputy researcher at the Rural Development Institute of the Chinese Academy
of Social Sciences in Beijing, fears companies may discover, at least for now,
that their profits from countryside
customers do not match their efforts to
chase them.
“Most rural areas are not that successful yet,” he said. “E-commerce platforms won’t be able to copy their success in cities to rural regions.”
The future, though, holds promise.
One of Mr. Han’s first stops is at the
home of Han Aifeng, a farmer. She ordered cartons of milk, which, she said,
make for a convenient refreshment
when she tends her fish-farming ponds.
The milk is among China’s most expensive brands, but Ms. Han, 64, can now afford it. Her husband works at a furniture
factory, while she has increased the family income by raising crayfish and selling them in the local marketplace.
Wary in a Trump economy
Wealth Matters
Some of President Trump’s least controversial tweets involve boasting
about the stock market. It has certainly done well since he was elected a
year ago, with the Dow Jones industrial average up more than 30 percent in
that time.
On Thursday, the Dow hit a milestone when it closed above 24,000 for
the first time, prompting Mr. Trump to
take to Twitter again. “Stock Market
hits new Record High. Confidence and
enthusiasm abound,” he wrote. “More
great numbers coming out!”
Few would have predicted a year
ago that the market would do so well.
Investors who had the fortitude to stay
in have benefited mightily by the increase. But the wary ones put their
money in more secure assets.
Right before Mr. Trump was elected,
I wrote a column on what a Trump
presidency would mean for the economy. Most of the people I interviewed
were nervous, and they were making
defensive moves in their investments
— away from equities and into hard
assets like real estate — or putting
plans in place to weather a downturn.
Michael Sonnenfeldt, a New Yorker
who made his fortune in real estate, is
the chairman of Tiger 21, an investment club for very wealthy people.
When I talked to him last year, he
revealed the uncertainty investors
were facing.
“The combination of potential interest rate shocks and a China implosion
and the geopolitical situations with
Russia, China, Iran, the Middle East,
ISIS, and the difficult political situation
in the U.S. with the most challenging,
strangest presidential election we’ve
had in our lifetime — it all adds up to
many generic concerns,” he said at the
So how did the market rocket past
expectations, and how should investors
plan for 2018?
Mr. Trump is not unique among
presidents in taking credit for a strong
stock market and the broader economy. Most do it, if they can — just as
surely as they try to skirt responsibility when there is a slump.
But the last 12 months of great returns lack the euphoria a person might
expect after an increase in the Dow of
nearly 30 percent.
Advisers say that is because many
individual investors remain afraid that
the eight-year bull market is going to
collapse, while others struggle to separate Mr. Trump’s harsh political language from the strong fundamentals of
American companies.
Individual investors are still seeking
havens. One of those is bond funds,
assets that help defend against a
downturn. According to Yardeni Research, money continues to flow into
bond funds.
“We’ve had a year of record-low
volatility, strong returns and strong
macroeconomic indicators,” said Michael O’Sullivan, chief investment
officer for international wealth management at Credit Suisse. “But politically — we’re in a political recession.
People have difficulty squaring the
The firm’s global wealth report,
released in November, showed that the
world had grown wealthier in the last
12 months and not just at the top of the
economic pyramid.
“The markets are focused very
much on the business cycle, which is
picking up,” Mr. O’Sullivan said.
“That’s been a positive surprise, given
how badly many people would have
said the economy would have fared.”
In other words, the stock market is
rising not because of Mr. Trump but in
spite of him.
“Our view
Advisers find
continues to be
many investors that politicians
are not as imporstruggle to
tant to investing
separate harsh
as they would
like investors to
language from
believe,” said
Richard Berneconomic
stein, chief execfundamentals.
utive and chief
investment officer of Richard
Bernstein Advisors, an investment
advisory firm. “That’s always been our
working model.”
Mr. Bernstein said corporate fundamentals remained strong. “Corporate
profits remain healthy, liquidity remains abundant, and investors generally remain scared of stocks,” he said.
If presidential tweeting has not been
driving the stock market, what should
individual investors look for in equities?
Analysts said investors should start
by separating the political noise from
the signals companies were sending
For one thing, any corporate tax cut
is not necessarily a short-term gain for
the stock market. Edward J. Perkin,
chief equity investment officer with
Eaton Vance, said a tax cut could
actually result in a short-term drop in
stock prices.
Other analysts argue that the
prospect of tax cuts ceased being a
factor in this rally a few months into
Mr. Trump’s presidency, when he and
the Republican Congress failed to
repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Corporate tax cuts are not priced
into the market, because there is still
skepticism toward the legislative
process,” said John Lynch, chief investment strategist at LPL Financial.
Anthony Roth, chief investment
officer of Wilmington Trust, said one
difference in his strategy was a plan to
use more active managers who pick
stocks and to cut passively managed
index funds. He said Wilmington
Trust’s research showed that active
managers were outperforming the
market as a whole.
Or put another way: The skill that
an active manager has is valuable in
an environment when tweets about
politics and people rattle less sophisticated investors.
Today, Mr. Sonnenfeldt said, he and
the 580 members of Tiger 21, who have
an average net worth of about $100
million, have nearly three-quarters of
their money in private equity, real
estate and publicly traded stocks.
So what could end the stock market’s run?
CTBC Bank USA put that question to
affluent investors in California, New
Jersey and New York, all blue states
that would be affected by a loss of
deductions for state and property
The poll found that they remained
confident about the economic and
investment landscape but that they
feared a political threat like a conflict
with North Korea or a large terrorist
attack in the United States.
“The only thing we worry about is
this geopolitical risk,” said Noor Menai,
president and chief executive of CTBC
Bank USA. “Nothing gets amplified.
Markets take it in stride.”
Yet Mr. Menai said seasoned financial services professionals and institutional investors had a distinct advantage over individual investors.
“We’ve been through three crises
over the past 25 years, and each time
the market has reconstructed itself,” he
said. “Over time, the insiders such as
me have come to understand what the
hype is versus what can happen.”
But individual investors do not have
that knowledge. They still get scared
about investing in a rising stock market because they fear it’s going to
collapse. When that happens, said
Judith Ward, a senior financial planner
at T. Rowe Price, she asks clients to
focus on what they can control.
For example, if they are near retirement and cannot weather a 20 or 30
percent drop in their assets, she said,
they should invest more conservatively.
“There is anxiety and uncertainty
about the political climate, but my
sense is people are looking at their
personal situation and asking how is
all of this going to impact them,” she
said. And that, she said, can be
summed up in one question: “How
long can this bull market last?”
I’ll bet you won’t find that answer in
a tweet.
(Possagno 1757 – 1822 Venice)
Bust of Caroline Murat (1782-1839)
Sister of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821)
and wife of Joachim Murat (1767-1815)
Circa 1813
In all, the household’s annual income
has doubled in the past two years, to
about $30,000, and Ms. Han’s spending
on food and other goods has increased
as well, much of it ordered online. Discarded delivery boxes for pomelo, rice
wine and yogurt are stacked on top of
old rice hulls in her home’s courtyard.
“I used to have to ride an electric bike
to the market when I needed to go shopping,” Ms. Han said. “Now people bring
everything to my door.”
12 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
Save Israel from its government
coalition is
on messianic.
Ehud Barak
For anyone who cares about Israel,
this is no time for niceties. What we
need now is plain speaking, even
pained speaking — and action. For all
of Israel’s great achievements in its
seven decades of statehood, our country now finds its very future, identity
and security severely threatened by
the whims and illusions of the ultranationalist government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In its more than three years in
power, this government has been
irrational, bordering on messianic. It is
now increasingly clear where it is
headed: creeping annexation of the
West Bank aimed at precluding any
permanent separation from the Palestinians.
This “one-state solution” that the
government is leading Israel toward is
no solution at all. It will inevitably turn
Israel into a state that is either not
Jewish or not democratic (and possibly not either one), mired in permanent violence. This prospect is an
existential danger for the entire Zionist project.
The government realizes that carrying out its one-state plan must entail
steps and practices that necessarily
clash with Israeli
and international
law — which is
why it has effecelevated fake
tively declared
news and
war on the Sualternative
preme Court of
facts into
Israel, the free
press and civil
art forms in
society, as well
Hebrew long
as the Israel
before those
Defense Forces’
terms gained
ethical code.
any traction
This disrespect for the rule
in English.
of law permeates
other aspects of
the government,
too. It helps to shield the prime minister, his family and his aides from
corruption investigations. Mr. Netanyahu’s Likud Party recently introduced
legislation that would explicitly forbid
the police from recommending indictments at the end of high-profile investigations. To clear up any question
about its intentions, the law would
apply even to inquiries that are already open — like the one into the
prime minister’s dealings.
The same inclination toward selfpreservation is evident in Mr. Netanyahu’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox
parties on religious issues, damaging
Israel’s crucial relationship with American Jews. That relationship has grown
even more strained since Mr. Netanyahu reneged on a deal that would have
expanded egalitarian prayer space at
the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Judaism’s holiest site. This is a longstanding demand for recognition from Reform and Conservative Jews, who
together make up about half of the
Jewish-American community.
The Middle East is certainly a tough
neighborhood. The threats to Israel are
real and none can be ignored. Our
country, however, has built an “iron
wall” of military and economic power
that has made us into the strongest
player in the region. This accomplishment, together with bipartisan American support, enables Israel to shape its
own future.
Despite the right-wing government’s
actions, there is a broad consensus
among Israelis that rests on three
pillars. First and foremost, security
comes before everything; every Israeli
understands this. Second, the unity,
solidarity and integrity of the people
take priority over the unity of the land
— namely, the wish to possess the
entirety of our historic homeland.
Third, the principles of the 1948 Declaration of Independence, which lay out
a vision for a democratic Israel based
on freedom, justice and peace, are the
foundation of our country’s de facto
These pillars should indicate how to
proceed toward peace. Accordingly, the
Jewish neighborhoods of East Jerusalem and the “settlement blocs” —
suburban communities built just
across the Green Line, which include
some 80 percent of the total settler
population — will remain in Israel no
matter what. In any future peace
agreement, these areas can be offset
by land swaps with the Palestinians.
Similarly, overall security responsibility in the West Bank will remain in the
hands of the Israel Defense Forces as
long as necessary.
The entire debate, then, is actually
only over the fate of the isolated settlements, fewer than 100 small communities deep in the West Bank, containing
around 100,000 settlers. Even if it is not
possible to solve the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict at this stage — and it probably
is not — it is obvious that continued
construction in those isolated settlements directly damages Israel’s vital
interests. The settlements are a security liability, not an asset. They aim to
block the option of a “divorce” from the
Palestinians, which the overwhelming
majority of Israelis support.
Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition claims to
support the three pillars of Israeli
consensus but the truth is it is determinedly undermining all three. The
prime minister degrades our security
rather than enhancing it. He prefers a
Greater Israel with an Arab majority,
violence and division over a united,
self-confident Israel with a solid Jewish majority, together facing whatever
challenges may arise. He sanctifies the
Land of Israel before the People of
Israel. And he systematically erodes
Israel’s democracy and liberal norms
of governance.
In the service of this agenda, Mr.
Netanyahu elevated fake news, alternative facts and whataboutism into art
forms in Hebrew, long before those
terms gained any traction in English.
His government jeopardizes Israel’s
very future, while dividing and inciting
us against each other and maligning
those abroad who genuinely care
about Israel.
This must be stopped.
O’Keefe and his people use false
identities and lies to bring down people who work their butts off to get at
the truth. His operation is tax-exempt,
under a clause designed to help religious and charitable groups.
“At Veritas, we believe that we’re all
journalists now,” he said this week.
Sure. Your average journalist, laboring
in the trenches of tedium at school
board meetings,
makes less than
If facts don’t
$50,000 a year.
O’Keefe takes a
matter, then
salary from his
a professional
nonprofit of more
press that tries
than five times
to deal scruputhat amount,
according to a
lously in facts
2016 tax filing.
is irrelevant.
As with
Trump’s tweets,
the design is to
bring everyone into the sewer. If
O’Keefe were a lawyer, he’d be disbarred. Instead, he’s protected by the
First Amendment that he and Trump
are trying to subvert.
Trump attacked CNN International
this week, joining autocrats, drug
cartels and Islamic militants who also
hate independent fact-finders. Already
this year, 34 journalists have been
killed. Last year, 259 of them were
This president calls journalists “the
lowest form of humanity.” You know
who was a journalist? Winston
Churchill. Mark Twain. Frederick
Douglass. Teddy Roosevelt. Rachel
But here’s the thing. O’Keefe’s fake
reporters proved that real reporters
have standards. They make mistakes.
They issue corrections. They have
biases. They’re human. But they take
the business of news-gathering seriously. And the Dutch Embassy corrected the mighty president on his
hate videos.
So in the end, reality will out. You
can’t stop a hurricane by calling it a
snowflake. You can’t say you won the
Masters when nobody has given you a
green winner’s jacket on the 18th hole
of Augusta National. Well, you can try,
and try, and eventually you’ll be led
away under escort of people in white
has served as Israel’s prime
minister and defense minister and as
the Israel Defense Forces chief of general staff.
In the end, reality will win
Is there no
We may soon
learn that
Trump won a
gold medal in
Timothy Egan
Whoo, boy. The truth just keeps getting
whacked by this gangster White
House. The how-low-can-he-go bar
keeps falling. Is there no bottom? Not
for some time, friends, so hold on.
We learned this week that President
Trump does not believe his own words
on videotape — words that he had
earlier acknowledged, in explaining
how a star can get away with the type
of predatory behavior that has caused
everyone but him to get fired.
We learned that he endorsed a website that says the pope uses magic to
mastermind world events. This, after
he gave a thumbs up to a media outlet
that claims NASA runs a child labor
colony on Mars.
We learned that he still believes
three million fraudulent voters caused
him to lose the popular vote, that no
president has accomplished so much in
10 months as he, that Barack Obama is
not a citizen of the United States.
We may soon learn that Trump won
a gold medal in synchronized swimming. This is likely to come from a
public servant being paid tax dollars to
defend a dog’s breakfast of fantasy.
That would be Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House spokeswoman,
who crossed a big Rubicon this week.
After Trump tweeted out discredited
hate videos from a fringe group, he
was praised by the former Ku Klux
Klan leader David Duke, but condemned throughout Britain. Even the
reliably compliant Piers Morgan
wrote, “Please STOP this madness and
undo your tweets.”
When pressed on this, Sanders said,
“Whether it’s a real video, the threat is
real.” Well, I’ll be cow-kicked. There it
is, from the podium that represents the
most powerful person on earth: a
declarative affirmation that truth does
not matter.
By that logic, it does not matter if
Trump implies that someone he dislikes may have committed murder,
because the threat of murder in general is real. Wait — he did that as well,
in defaming Joe Scarborough on
It used to be that a press secretary
would say, “I have no information on
that.” Now it’s standard operating
procedure to shrug a whatever and
wait for Sean Hannity to clean it up on
state-run television. That’s what happens when your boss shows signs of
Do you see what they’re doing? If
facts don’t matter, then a professional
press that tries to deal scrupulously in
facts is irrelevant. Everyone is a liar.
Welcome to the club.
Trump is a hooligan to the Constitution. But he has a gaggle of people
being paid very well to help him subvert truth, justice and the American
One of them just set a spectacular
Dumpster fire. That would be James
O’Keefe. He runs something with the
perfectly Orwellian name of Project
Veritas. O’Keefe is a criminal, having
pleaded guilty to his part in an attempt
to enter a United States senator’s
office under false pretenses.
You’d think this would ruin him.
Nope. Rich people give him money so
that he can use fraud to prove that real
reporters are just as awful as him.
A woman last seen scurrying into
the offices of Project Veritas tried to
set up The Washington Post with a
phony story. The intent was to protect
Roy Moore, accused of being a child
molester and running for Senate in
a former national correspondent for The Times, writes about
the environment, the American West
and politics.
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 13
Argentina’s most sacred drink
A.G. SULZBERGER, Deputy Publisher
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
MARK THOMPSON, Chief Executive Officer
JOSEPH KAHN, Managing Editor
STEPHEN DUNBAR-JOHNSON, President, International
TOM BODKIN, Creative Director
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DEMARTA, Senior V.P., Global Advertising
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
CHARLOTTE GORDON, V.P., International Consumer Marketing
JAMES BENNET, Editorial Page Editor
HELEN KONSTANTOPOULOS, V.P., International Circulation
JAMES DAO, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
HELENA PHUA, Executive V.P., Asia-Pacific
KATHLEEN KINGSBURY, Deputy Editorial Page Editor
SUZANNE YVERNÈS, International Chief Financial Officer
The ranting of
the American
dashed the
good cheer
from a royal
No sooner had Britons found some sorely needed
trans-Atlantic cheer in the engagement of their prince
charming to an American actress than President
Trump dashed it all with his baffling retweet of vile
anti-Muslim propaganda from a British neo-fascist
group. When Prime Minister Theresa May remonstrated, he compounded the insult with a childishly insolent
retort. Britain reacted with rare all-but-unanimous fury,
with members of Parliament denouncing the president
as stupid, racist and even fascist.
Obviously this is not how the “special relationship”
should be conducted, and, as the Telegraph newspaper
said, there’s only one real question: “Why?” After a
year of the Trump presidency, we have become accustomed to the regular eruption of his inane, self-pitying,
aggressive tweets.
But that doesn’t really explain what Mr. Trump was
doing Wednesday rummaging through the deceptive
tweets of videos posted by a tiny, viciously anti-Muslim
group called Britain First, known for staging outrageous provocations against Islamic targets in Britain,
and what possessed him to share three of them with his
43 million followers. The justification proffered by the
president’s spokeswoman, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, to
the effect that the videos expose a real threat, was
typically beside the point, which is that the president of
the United States was helping spread the propaganda
of a hate group.
Nobody in Britain was fooled. “I’m very clear that
retweeting from Britain First was the wrong thing to
do,” declared Ms. May. Parliament held a special debate on the retweet, at which Mr. Trump was excoriated by one member after another, many demanding that
a state visit by the president be scrapped. Even Nigel
Farage, the euroskeptic who campaigned for Mr.
Trump last year, urged Mr. Trump to “Put your hands
up, say ‘I got this wrong.’”
By contrast, Jayda Fransen, the deputy leader of
Britain First, who posted the videos, was so elated that
she tweeted: “GOD BLESS YOU TRUMP! GOD
And still the question, why? Why does the president
of the United States embarrass his country, undermine
a venerable and critical alliance, insult and alienate all
Muslims, including those whose help he needs to fight
militant Islam? The retweets could not come at a worse
time for Mrs. May, whose struggle to extract Britain
from the European Union is postulated in part on the
promise of a bilateral trade pact with the United States.
Sharing the “Britain First” garbage does serious and
totally unnecessary harm to America’s interests and
standing in the world.
The U.S.
could soon
shut down
for lack of a
spending bill,
just one
pressing issue
of greater
public interest
than cutting
The federal government will run out of money and
close its doors this month unless Congress can agree
on a new spending bill. That’s one of several important
pieces of business, albeit the most pressing, left unfinished during Republicans’ frantic drive to complete a
tax bill.
Here are some others.
■ Nine million children covered by the Children’s
Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, have been waiting
since Sept. 30 for Congress to renew the program.
States are struggling to keep the program afloat; on
Monday Colorado began sending letters to the families
of 75,000 children and pregnant women, warning them
that after Jan. 31 they’re on their own.
■ About 700,000 young people born to undocumented
immigrants and at risk of deportation await a legislative alternative to the Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals program, which, thanks to President Trump, is
scheduled to end in March.
■ Victims of Western wildfires and Hurricanes Harvey,
Irma and Maria are still waiting for tens of billions of
dollars in additional federal aid promised weeks ago.
■ As opioid addiction continues to kill hundreds of
Americans every week, Congress hasn’t approved any
significant new money to fight the epidemic.
Congress’s priorities are clearly not the public’s.
According to a survey last month by the nonpartisan
Kaiser Family Foundation, Americans worry more
about the children’s health program, the opioid epidemic, disaster recovery and finding a legal means for
young immigrants to stay in the country than they do
about the tax bill.
Before any long-term deal can be reached on the
spending bills, Congress must agree to lift caps on
government spending imposed under a bipartisan
budget deal reached in 2011. Current law limits military
spending to $549 billion and nonmilitary spending to
$516 billion, a cut from current levels.
Democrats want any increase in military spending to
be matched by nonmilitary spending.
Many Republicans worry that a government shutdown could damage their chances for re-election next
Mr. Trump, though, doesn’t seem to get it. He’s said
that if the government shuts down, “I would absolutely
blame the Democrats.” It is not at all clear that the
public would agree. Nor would those Republicans who
seem willing to work around their unreliable president.
Martín Caparrós
Cinthia Solange Dhers is a 53-year-old
surgeon who recently bought an apartment in Nordelta, a gated community
in one of the most upscale areas of
Buenos Aires. But the neighborhood
didn’t live up to her high standards,
and she shared her disappointment
with a friend in a voice message that
ended up online.
She complained in the message that
her neighbors talked too loudly and
didn’t put their dogs on leashes. They
did not share her “moral aesthetics.”
She did not expect to find “beasts, with
no education, who yell and drink mate
like they would at Bristol beach in Mar
del Plata.”
It was Dr. Dhers’s reference to her
new neighbors’ mate-drinking habits
that touched a nerve. Dripping with
snobbery, the rant lit up social media
and prompted a cascade of news articles and talk-show discussions about
the sacred place of mate (pronounced
MAH-teh) in Argentine society. Millions of Argentines listened to the
recording, mocked it and condemned
it. There were calls for mate-drinking
protests in Nordelta and Mar del Plata.
Mate is an infusion made from a leaf
called yerba mate. Small amounts of
hot water are poured into a gourd
stuffed with the leaves and sipped out
with a metal straw. It’s a bitter caffeinated beverage — similar, perhaps,
to Japanese green tea — that is said to
help regulate digestion. Many people
would call it Argentina’s national drink.
Dr. Dhers’s haughty rant tapped into
tensions around Argentina’s deep
economic divide. At least one in four
Argentines live below the poverty line.
Unemployment and income inequality
are high. Yet the wealthy seem to be
doing just fine.
South Americans have been sharing
gourds of mate for thousands of years.
When the Spanish arrived, the Guaraní
natives — its original drinkers, who
have lived mostly in what is now Paraguay — were forced to cultivate the
leaves on plantations run by Jesuit
priests. It spread throughout the region in Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay
and the lower areas of Brazil.
In our passion for mate, however, we
conveniently ignore the people from
Misiones Province in Argentina, where
some 60 percent of mate leaves are
cultivated, about 770,000 tons a year.
The tareferos, as those who work on
the fields are called, often start working at the age of 4. They don’t go to
Mate calabash gourds in downtown Buenos Aires.
school. Most often they live in shacks
with no running water or bathroom.
They work 12-hour shifts under the sun
and die young.
Half a century ago, only the urban
poor and people in the countryside
would consume mate. In “Todo por la
Patria,” a novel set in the 1930s, a
self-proclaimed Argentine aristocrat
says that mate “is a plague, an authentic plague,” adding: “And they intend
to make out of this concoction our
national beverage. For God’s sake!
Imagine what sort of homeland we’re
making with this drink.”
Today the drink is found in every
household, every office, every school.
When I started out as a journalist 40
years ago, most reporters kept a bottle
of gin in their desk drawer. Now, instead of alcohol, journalists keep
nearby a stash of yerba mate leaves, a
gourd, the metal straw and a thermos
full of hot water.
Well-off people embraced mate as
part of a trend of the wealthy appropriating popular habits of lower- and
middle-class Argentines. Thirty years
ago, wealthy people didn’t get excited
about soccer. They didn’t dance the
cumbia. Drinking mate would have
been outlandish in wealthy social
The difference now, like with so
many other things, is that the rich
drink it in private, the poor in public.
Globalization has resulted in the
most significant cultural homogenization in history. All over the world, we
hear the same
music, drink the
A haughty rant same fizzy waters and eat the
same soft buns
filled with
about mate’s
minced meat.
place in society. There are only a
handful of foods
and customs that
remain local. That’s why it’s so extraordinary that a drink from a little tribe
along the Paraná River persists. That’s
why the passion for mate is so deep, as
Dr. Dhers discovered.
It’s a bitter drink that no one else
drinks, a sharing ritual that we don’t
share with outsiders. We like to suck
on a little metal rod so that the water
we have poured into a little hollow
gourd comes back flavored with the
brittle leaves.
Mate defies the logic of capitalism:
It hasn’t grown significantly in popularity around the world, but it doesn’t
perish. It has all the elements a product needs to become a myth: an aboriginal history, a natural and distant
origin, organic properties, mystery and
a unique flavor. But people have tried
to market it elsewhere, and it has
never taken off. Yet mate continues to
thrive in the places where it’s from.
The bitterness of its leaves, the
warm straw, the sucking noises, the
sharing, make it an intimate experience. It’s what we miss the most when
we are away from home. There’s nothing as comforting for an Argentine
abroad as running into someone who
will share some mate.
Argentines have put up with so
much, we always have, but we won’t
stand for a pretentious person looking
down on mate.
an author and journalist in Madrid, is a regular contributor to The New York Times en Español.
This essay was translated from the
Spanish by Catalina Lobo-Guerrero.
To stop North Korea, act like Israel
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner
The news last week from the Korean
Peninsula about yet another ballistic
missile launch was déjà vu all over
again. This one had an estimated
range of 8,100 miles — long enough to
hit Washington, D.C., or anywhere else
in the continental United States. President Trump responded with angry
tweets, but Kim Jong-un has good
reason to be cocky.
The strongman knows all too well
that a military response is highly unlikely. There are some 8,000 North
Korean cannons and rocket launchers
aimed at Seoul, in effect holding the
approximately 10 million inhabitants of
that city hostage. All sides realize that
the human and economic costs of
another Korean war are simply unfathomable.
Several American presidents have
tried to persuade the Kim dynasty to
abandon its nuclear ambitions, through
a combination of sanctions and negotiations. But these efforts have been
In part that’s because the Kim family
never ran North Korea like a normal
nation. Even in a rogue nation like
Iran, the vise of economic embargoes
can force hard-liners to change their
behavior. Not so with North Korea,
which has been able to skirt sanctions
and United Nations resolutions because it is run more like a Mafia fief
than a state.
The North’s criminal empire is vast
and global. According to the Strategic
Studies Institute, it includes narcotics
trafficking and the counterfeiting of
United States currency. North Korea
has also been accused of the online
hacking of bank accounts; the sale of
nuclear know-how; black-market arms
sales, including scud and other missiles to Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, Eritrea
and other nations; and a whole military enterprise set up to steal crypto
This criminal syndicate is run out of
North Korea’s mysterious Office 39, a
bureau that, according to the Treasury
Department, “provides critical support
to North Korean leadership in part
through engaging in illicit economic
activities.” Every cog of the nation’s
machinery is mobilized to facilitate the
regime’s racketeering: Defectors have
described schoolchildren working in
poppy fields; they say cash and smuggled goods are brought in on state-
A soldier at the northern border of Israel,
which has been relatively quiet for years.
owned merchant vessels; and diplomats peddle heroin. Crime is North
Korea’s national industry.
As in any organized crime entity, the
underbosses keep Mr. Kim’s regime
afloat. Their loyalty has been bought
and paid for with lavish wealth and
privilege. So far, these crime bosses
have been masterful at circumventing
the sanctions that have primarily hurt
the enslaved North Korean population.
That’s why the United States and its
allies ought to take a page from an
Israeli playbook and wage financial
warfare against Mr. Kim and his cabal.
The notion behind using money as a
weapon against terrorism belonged to
Meir Dagan, a legendary soldier and
spymaster who developed the idea in
the nascent days of Israel’s fight
against Hamas and terror groups
supported by Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian
Authority. Mr. Dagan rightly believed
that money was the oxygen that fueled
the groups’ suicide bombing campaign
against Israel. If Israeli security services could suffocate the funds that paid
for the bloodshed, the attacks would
In 1996, Mr. Dagan created a task
force code-named Harpoon that mobilized government agencies to focus on
the money reaching terror cells from
state sponsors and international charities. When Mr. Dagan became head of
the Mossad, in 2002, Harpoon became
an operational unit inside Israeli intel-
ligence. His spies used the same aggressive action and imaginative chutzpah that had made the Mossad a storied force to follow those funds and to
go after Mr. Arafat’s millions and the
charities around the world that funneled cash into Hamas’s coffers.
Harpoon targeted the banks that
held accounts belonging to Palestinian
terrorist commanders, and the unit
encouraged lawyers — including me —
to launch suits in United States federal
court seeking monetary damages for
victims of state sponsors of terror so
that countries like Syria, Iran and even
North Korea would realize that the
costs of blowing up buses outweighed
the political ends the carnage hoped to
The combined espionage, military
and legal offensive helped end the
intifada by making it too expensive to
The unit’s greatest success came
several years after the intifada, during
the Second Lebanon War, when Mr.
Dagan urged the Israeli Air Force to
destroy the banks where Hezbollah
kept its cash. Although Hezbollah, the
Iranian-supported Lebanese terrorist
group, received hundreds of millions of
dollars a year from Tehran, it was a
global criminal enterprise involved in
everything from cocaine trafficking to
stealing cars and money laundering.
These activities
funded its operaNegotiations
tions against
Israel and
and sanctions
against Amerihave not
can forces in
stopped the
Kim regime.
With the assistance of
branches of the
warfare of
United States
the kind the
Jewish state
including the
has waged
Department of
Justice and the
against HezTreasury Departbollah might.
ment, Harpoon
went after
cocaine business in Venezuela and in
Lebanon, as well as its money-laundering activities in West Africa and America. Brilliant operations and cons were
carried out against Hezbollah’s captains — operations that ultimately
stripped them of the vast fortunes they
had assembled over the years. And
when the Hezbollah hierarchy was
cash strapped, Harpoon targeted the
financial institutions that allowed the
terrorists to move their cash across
continents, ultimately shutting down
the Lebanese Canadian Bank, one of
the largest banks in the Middle East.
It took the Syrian Civil War, and
Hezbollah’s enormous military involvement on behalf of the Assad regime on
Tehran’s tab, to provide the Party of
God with a financial lifeline. But the
fact remains that one of the results of
Israel’s financial war against Hezbollah has been that Israel’s northern
border has remained relatively quiet
for more than 11 years.
Most military commanders acknowledge that there are very few, if any,
feasible solutions to today’s standoff
with Pyongyang. The only effective
path is to unleash an offensive press
against Kim’s inner circle.
The United States must take the lead
by ramping up a covert campaign
against the regime’s criminal enterprises. This effort ought to include a
full-court press of dirty tricks, coercion, heavy-handed threats and even
direct action, all covert and deniable,
against Kim’s financial wizards who
handle the finances, dispense the
narcotics and hijack Bitcoins.
Such tradecraft must also be applied
outside North Korea and Asia against
the businesses and banks in Europe,
South America and elsewhere that
enable Kim’s criminal empire to flourish; bankers and businessmen are less
likely to have the mettle to resist a
late-night visit by men who could ruin
their lives. And as North Korea is
recognized as a state sponsor of terror,
helping groups like Hezbollah with
arms and expertise, a numbing slew of
lawsuits should be filed seeking damages; those damages will result in the
forfeiture of North Korean assets —
open and hidden — around the world.
Sanctions alone will not work. They
have done nothing to stop the missile
tests and the saber rattling. Only when
the money dries up will the loyalty of
the men in Kim’s inner circle be compromised and cut away. The North
Korean dictator will then be under
enormous pressure to do whatever he
can to alleviate the effects of the spies
tapping into his cash and control. With
full-scale war on the Korean Peninsula
as the only other alternative, there
isn’t much of a choice.
is the president of Shurat HaDin, an Israeli law
center that has represented terror
victims in lawsuits around the world.
She is the co-author of “Harpoon:
Inside the Covert War Against Terrorism’s Money Masters.”
14 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
The sterile society
Ross Douthat
When Bill Clinton survived impeachment, there was a sense among his
advocates that they weren’t just defending one philanderer; they were
defending sex itself. To be against a
president’s dalliances was to be a
Comstock, a Babbitt, a pleasure-hating
heartland prude. To be for Clinton, as
Tara Isabella Burton noted recently in
a retrospective piece for Vox, was to be
for a dream of sexual sophistication, a
Europe-envying vision of perfect zipless adult bliss.
Little of that attitude has survived to
our own era of grim sexual revelations.
Nobody is defending Harvey Weinstein
for being “debonair” or John Conyers
for having “heat,” as Tina Brown once
did with Clinton. Some politiciangropers may outlast the outrage, but
the idea that sexual sophistication
requires defending pigs from prudes
has largely fallen out of fashion.
But a slightly different fear, that
we’re on a path to criminalizing normal
relations between the sexes, has surfaced here and there. In The New
Yorker, Masha Gessen warned about a
“sex panic” that might “criminalize
bad sex and trivialize rape.”
In the Los Angeles Times, Cathy
Young worried about healthy flirtation
disappearing from workplaces entirely.
The Matt Lauer revelations inspired
Geraldo Rivera to tweet that we might
be on our way to “criminalizing
Like Gessen, I worry about what’s
happening in campus rape courts. But
my general response to these fears is
similar to one offered by Christine
Emba of The Washington Post, who
argued that stricter boundaries on how
you chase a co-worker are a salutary
corrective to the pervasive idea that
maximal sexual experience is essential
to the good life.
“If you are a decent person,” she
wrote, “a clearer, more boundaried
sexual ethic should not frighten you. If
not, have you considered that you
might be part of the problem?” (In the
case of Geraldo, whose self-described
sexual history is disgusting, the answer is a decisive yes.)
Still, I paused over one line from
Emba’s brief: “We won’t die of having
less sex . . . Somehow, people will still
find ways to meet, mate and propagate
the species.”
People will, it’s true. But as a society
we are actually in some serious trouble
on the mating-and-propagation front.
When the sexual revolution started,
its conservative critics warned it would
replace marriage with a divorce-goround, leave children without fathers,
and expose women to more predation
than before. Versions of these things
happened, but
over time various
After we purge
the Weinsteins
feminist and
and Lauers, our
mating rituals
helped mitigate
still need help.
their worst effects. Divorce
rates fell, sexual
violence diminished, teen sex and
pregnancy were reduced. In the last
few years, even the out-of-wedlock
birthrate has finally stopped climbing.
The cascade of revelations about
powerful men is a continuation of this
mitigation and correction process. But
so far the process has not substituted
successful marriages for failing ones,
healthy relationships for exploitative
ones, new courtship scripts for the
ones torn up 50 years ago. Instead as
Weinsteinian or Polanskian excesses
have been corrected, we’ve increased
singlehood, sterility and loneliness.
We’ve achieved the goal of fewer divorces by having many fewer marriages. We’ve reduced promiscuity by
substituting smartphones and pornography. We’ve leveled off out-of-wedlock
births by entering into a major baby
Part of the problem is economic:
Everything from student debt to wage
stagnation to child-rearing costs has
eroded the substructure of the family,
and policymakers have been pathetically slow to respond. Last week’s
struggle to get the allegedly pro-family
Republican Party to include help for
parents in its tax reform is a frustrating illustration of the larger problem.
But there is also strong resistance to
seeing a failure to unite the sexes and
continue the species as a problem. If
women are having fewer children, it
must be because they want fewer
children. (In fact most women want
more children than they have.) If there
are fewer marriages, they must at
least be happier ones. (In fact they
aren’t.) If the young are delaying parenthood, it must be that they are pursuing new opportunities and pleasures.
(In fact the young seem increasingly
medicated and miserable.) If men
prefer video games and pornography
to relationships, de gustibus non est
A useful counterpoint to these assumptions was provided this week by
my colleague Norimitsu Onishi, who
wrote about the extraordinary loneliness of old age in Japan, a country that
has lived with collapsed fertility and
strained relations between the sexes
for a generation. Japan’s aging, dying,
atomized present is one version of our
future — and a not-so-distant one,
already visible in late-middle-age
despair and elder exploitation.
I don’t know what new-old mix of
mating rituals and expectations and
supports could arrest Japanification. I
don’t think either feminism or social
conservatism at present have the
answer. And I’m sure there is nothing
worth saving in the predatory sexual
culture currently being put to the torch
by victims and journalists.
But any moral progress will be limited, any sexual and romantic future
darkened, until we can figure out what
might be rebuilt in the ashes.
Whatever happens
next, we’ll help you
make sense of it.
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No longer a terrorist haven
Michael P. Dempsey
Conventional wisdom holds that withdrawing all or a significant number of
American troops from Afghanistan
would lead to a Taliban takeover and
the creation of a new safe haven for
militants bent on attacking the United
States. This threat was cited by President Trump during a speech in August
where, in laying out his strategy for
the war, he asserted that “a hasty
withdrawal would create a vacuum
which terrorists, including ISIS and Al
Qaeda, would fill, just as happened
before Sept. 11.” It was also echoed in
numerous National Security Council
meetings I attended during the Obama
But such dire consequences are far
from certain. Here are five reasons I
believe it’s time to re-evaluate our
assumptions about Afghanistan’s
potential as a terrorist safe haven.
(These views do not reflect the position of the United States government.)
First, while the Taliban are resilient
enemies who have battlefield momentum and effective control over much of
the country, they are far from being
able to conquer all of Afghanistan.
Their forces remain overwhelmingly
outnumbered by the Afghan security
forces, and some Afghan units — notably the Special Forces — have demonstrated improved battlefield performance. In addition, the United States
and the West would almost certainly
continue to offer financial backing,
intelligence support and military advice and equipment to the Afghan
government even after a drawdown.
Therefore, while the Taliban would
certainly gain significant ground after
an American withdrawal, an outright
Taliban victory is far from likely.
In fact, the Taliban’s public statements this year have cited a Quranic
justification for peace talks and have
expressed a desire for reconstruction
and development assistance, perhaps
reflecting the organization’s recognition that seizing Kabul by force is
unlikely and would, in any event, render effective governance virtually
impossible. The group’s most important supporters, especially Pakistan,
have also become more wary of what a
truly empowered Taliban could mean
for regional stability, and would probably prefer to follow a more cautious
strategy with the group than backing
an all-out Taliban offensive to take
over the capital.
Second, even if the Taliban were to
conquer Kabul, would they be willing
to host an influx of international terrorists determined to strike the United
States? The Taliban leader, Mawlawi
Haibatullah Akhundzada, recently
marked the Muslim religious holiday of
Eid al-Adha by publicly declaring that
any area under Taliban control would
not be used for bringing harm to other
Is that credible? Yes, because Taliban leaders are deeply aware that
sheltering Al Qaeda before the Sept. 11
attacks resulted in an American-led
invasion that forced them into political
exile, killed thousands of their fighters
and commanders and eroded their
international legitimacy. Taliban leaders also recognize that even with a
reduced footprint, the United States
military would, if provoked, still be
capable of inflicting grievous pain on
the group, as evidenced by the missile
strike in May 2016 in a remote area of
Baluchistan, Pakistan, that killed their
leader at the time, Mullah Akhtar
Muhammad Mansour.
Third, the Taliban and Islamic State
dislike each other intensely, so the
notion of the Taliban welcoming an
Islamic State base in Afghanistan
seems implausible. Press accounts
suggest that more Islamic State fighters have been killed by the Taliban
than by Afghan security forces, and
there have been violent clashes between the groups
recently in NanEven if the
garhar Province
United States
that displaced
hundreds of
Afghan citizens.
troops from
At the heart of
this enmity is the
the Taliban are
Taliban’s deep
unlikely to host
local roots and
foreign fighters
their focus on
determined to
nationalist rather
attack other
than international objectives.
The Islamic
State’s extreme
interpretation —
even by Taliban standards — of Sunni
Islam and its close adherence to the
Wahhabi-Salafist tradition also create
tensions. Far from cooperating beyond
isolated tactical agreements involving
local commanders, the Taliban’s leadership appears much more interested
in killing Islamic State loyalists than
hosting them.
As for Al Qaeda, the core of the
group that planned the Sept. 11 attacks
and established itself in Pakistan after
the American-led invasion has been
devastated by American and allied
counterterrorism operations. Today
the group’s focus is on its affiliates,
especially in Syria and Yemen, not
South Asia. The remaining terrorists in
Afghanistan, often described by the
State Department as the reason Afghanistan is a hotbed of international
terrorism, are a patchwork of groups
focused primarily on local and regional
grievances, with thus far no demonstrated ability or intent to operate
Fourth, in the wake of the Arab
Spring and the profound instability
that has gripped countries from Syria
to Yemen, there are ample safe havens
where international terrorists operate,
devaluing Afghanistan’s utility to them.
Why would large numbers of Arab
terrorists want to travel to Afghanistan
when they have bases nearby? Wouldn’t it be easier and more logical for
Islamic State fighters from Iraq or
Syria to flee to central and southern
Libya, eastern Yemen or the Sinai
Peninsula, than to Kandahar? The
same logic applies to terrorists from
Southeast Asia, the Sahel and parts of
sub-Saharan Africa.
In fact, it’s clear that Islamic State is
trying desperately to cling to a foothold in eastern Syria and along the
Iraqi border in the face of tremendous
United States military pressure. It is
also telling its operatives to remain
where they are and to launch attacks
from there, especially in Europe. Afghanistan was an attractive terrorist
base of operations before Sept. 11, but it
simply does not have the same resonance or utility today.
Finally, American counterterrorism
and homeland defense capacities have
improved by an order of magnitude
since Sept. 11. The old model of terrorists training unimpeded in Afghanistan
and then traveling to the United States
to conduct attacks is more difficult to
envision. It’s easier to imagine a cell of
jihadists with good computer skills
plotting against the United States from
an apartment in London, Paris or
Brussels than from remote parts of
So, what does this mean for American policy? In my view, the latest troop
surge will help the Afghan government
counter, but not defeat, the Taliban.
The additional 4,000 troops — which
would bring the United States total to
over 12,000 — will also offer a critical
morale boost to the government of the
Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani. But it
will do little to break the political stalemate among Afghan factions fighting
over the distribution of power. In addition, the deployment of thousands of
additional United States troops will
most likely bolster the Afghan public’s
confidence and potentially help stem
the flow of refugees to Western Europe, while allowing the United States
to keep a platform from which to conduct operations regionally.
These are all worthwhile objectives.
But it’s far less certain that a larger
United States military commitment in
Afghanistan will have much impact on
our fight against international terrorists. Given the cost — as much as $40
billion a year — and with the potential
for more American casualties, we need
to rigorously test our assumptions
about the Taliban and the terrorist
threat. It is time to clarify precisely
what we hope to achieve in Afghanistan.
a career intelligence
officer, is the national intelligence fellow
at the Council on Foreign Relations, a
government-sponsored position.
How to beat populism? Proportion.
tions and living in a dictatorship where
the opposition may never be allowed to
win again? Is “normalization” of populists the biggest threat facing Europe,
or should we also fear the hysteria of
populists’ opponents? And can the
forms of resistance that worked
against Communist and fascist dictatorships work against the democratically elected illiberal governments of
History, alas, does not provide many
clarifying answers. The memoirs of
those who survived the 1930s — Sebastian Haffner’s “Defying Hitler” is a
great example — warn against normalizing dictatorships, particularly when
new dictators are popularly elected.
That makes sense. But there’s a useful
counterexample to consider, too: In the
1970s, young leftist radicals were so
obsessed with the idea that there were
no major differences between Nazi
Germany and the postwar German
Federal Republic that they made profound errors in judgment and, at times,
ended up as terrorists and enemies of
What is the lesson? Drawing the line
between democracy and dictatorship
requires passion and a readiness to
defend one’s values. It also requires a
sense of proportion.
The task of being in the opposition to
the current crop of populist governments is particularly difficult because
these populists represent, first and
foremost, a triumph of intensity over
consistency in democratic politics.
Populism thrives when politics become
about symbols
rather than
Today’s populists
substance. The
don’t aspire to
populists’ core
voters — in
change society.
Poland and elseThey want
where — will
it preserved
easily forgive
and frozen.
their leaders for
failing to enact
policies or changing their minds. But they will not tolerate their populist crusaders acting like
“normal politicians.” And that is why
behaving as if we are living in 1930s
Germany or 1970s Eastern Europe
paradoxically serves the populists’
Unlike their fascist predecessors,
today’s populists don’t aspire to
change society. They want it preserved
and frozen. They represent resentment
against the changes — technological,
economic and demographic — of modern life understood as permanent
revolution. And the only solution they
can offer is destruction. In this respect,
the populists of today combine a revolutionary intensity with a very thin
When Piotr Szczesny set himself on
fire, he was determined to prevent the
normalization of the current regime in
Poland, a government that, it seems,
he viewed as almost as dangerous as
the Communist regime that preceded
it. But what he has failed to see is that
unlike Communists of the 1970s, today’s populists are not seeking normalization — they fear it. After many
months of protests in Poland, support
for the government has only increased.
The ruling party wants to keep society
highly polarized. Fighting the populists
by imitating their divisive, high-stakes
politics is not the way to beat them.
is the chairman of the
Center for Liberal Strategies, a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human
Sciences in Vienna, and the author,
most recently, of “After Europe.”
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 15
No two ways about it? She begs to differ
On Olympics
PRAGUE Already versatile to a historic
degree on snow, Ester Ledecka had
just come from the sand on the day we
met in September.
“Beach volleyball!” said Ledecka,
who definitely does not lack for enthusiasm.
Boredom is not an option. Nor is
burnout, considering all the varied
activities, including windsurfing, that
she embraces. But the two sports that
should make Ledecka, 22, one of the
most intriguing athletes at the Winter
Olympics in February are snowboarding and Alpine skiing.
Last winter, she became the first
person to compete in world championships in both, winning a gold medal
in the parallel giant slalom and a silver
medal in the parallel slalom in snowboarding at Sierra Nevada, Spain, and
also placing in the top 30 in the downhill, combined and super-G in skiing in
St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Now Ledecka plans to plunge into a
much bigger fishbowl by becoming the
first athlete to compete in both sports
at the Olympics.
“If she played golf and tennis at the
level she skis and snowboards, she
would be a household name in the
United States and be on ‘SportsCenter’
every night,” said Ledecka’s snowboard coach, Justin Reiter, a retired
American snowboarder and 2014 Olympian. “The winter sports give it a different twist, but it doesn’t take away
from the essential. I firmly believe
she’s one of the greatest living athletes.”
For now, Ledecka is not even the
most prominent figure in her own
family. Her maternal grandfather, Jan
Klapac, was a hockey star: an Olympic
medalist in 1964 and 1968 and a member of the Czechoslovak team that
defeated the Soviet Union at the world
championships in Stockholm in 1969.
Ledecka’s father, Janek Ledecky, is a
Czech pop music star who has composed successful musicals, including a
version of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” It
was a hit not only in his home nation,
but also in South Korea, the host of the
coming Olympics, where Ledecka will
presumably be the family’s main attraction.
“Things are starting to change a
little bit,” said Tomas Bank, Ledecka’s
head ski coach. “Two years ago, everyone was saying Ester was the daughter of Janek, but now you are hearing
more and more people saying Janek is
the father of Ester.”
The family, no relation to the American swimming star Katie Ledecky, is
resolutely supportive of her dual career.
“If my parents, for instance, would
not have had the money to support me
from the start in both sports, then I
would have to choose one, and I didn’t
need to do that,” Ledecka said. “I could
choose to go these two ways and try to
accommodate it as much as I can and
make my dreams come true.”
Competing in skiing and snowboarding at the highest level is a physical
and logistical challenge.
Though she works with the same
physiotherapist and equipment technician for both sports, she has separate
coaching staffs. Reiter, who retired
from racing in September, is part of the
SG Pro Team, and Ledecka trains
alongside male snowboarders, includ-
snowboard in Copper Mountain, Colo.
Last week, she left for Nakiska Ski
Area in Canada to work with Bank in
preparation for the opening World Cup
speed events in Alpine skiing in Lake
Louise, Alberta, in early December.
She then plans to return to Europe
for more ski races in St. Moritz before
making a quick transition back to
snowboard for the opening World Cup
race in parallel giant slalom in Carezza,
Italy, on Dec. 14.
“It is complicated, and I think every
year is more and more complicated,”
Ledecka said. “It’s always like in the
start of the season we have Plan A and
in the middle we have Plan Z, and then
we go around the alphabet like three
She has had much greater success in
snowboarding, where the depth, in her
view, is not as great as in skiing. She
won the parallel World Cup title the
last two seasons and the last two world
championships in parallel giant slalom,
which will be her only chance for an
Olympic medal; parallel slalom has
been removed from the program for
Pyeongchang, South Korea.
As an 18-year-old, she finished in the
top 10 in both events at the 2014
Olympics; she narrowly missed qualifying for the Czech Alpine ski team for
those Games. But that was before she
began competing on the World Cup ski
circuit. Her first race was a downhill in
Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, in
February 2016. She finished a remarkable 24th.
Ledecka is all but certain to compete
in both sports in Pyeongchang, if she
remains healthy. But the Olympic
program is not ideal. Bank considers
the downhill her strongest skiing
event, but it conflicts with the snowboarding schedule in Pyeongchang. So
she plans to skip the downhill, focusing
“If she played golf and tennis
at the level she skis and
snowboards, she would be
a household name.”
Ester Ledecka at the snowboard world championships, top, and at the Alpine worlds. She wants to be the first athlete to compete in both skiing and snowboarding at the Olympics.
ing the Americans Michael Trapp and
Robby Burns.
Bank is getting help this season from
his brother Ondrej Bank, a four-time
Olympian who was long the Czech
Republic’s top male Alpine skier before
retiring in 2016.
“There are a lot of people around
me,” Ledecka said, laughing. “I am
never alone.”
Tomas Bank and Reiter said one of
the challenges was reining her in
during training.
“She’s mentally fresh because she’s
changing sports, but the biggest problem for Ester is that she’s often really
tired, and that can be dangerous if it
leads to mistakes on the skis,” Bank
Funding for Ledecka’s elaborate
operation comes largely from sponsors, she said, with the rest coming
from the Czech snow sport federations.
Her default mode is to plan training
blocks of up to three weeks for each
sport and then pick her spots to compete in each on the World Cup circuit.
When she trained in Chile in the
off-season, Bank said, she did not bring
a snowboard and focused exclusively
on skiing. Last month, she spent two
weeks with Reiter training solely on
on the giant slalom and super-G before
changing herself back into, in her own
words, “snowboard girl” to race for a
medal in the parallel giant slalom.
The sports have significant commonalities and some crossover benefits.
Bank said being accustomed to
skiing’s greater speeds could make
snowboard races feel like “slow motion” for her.
“It’s like driving in Germany on the
autobahn and then switching to a
normal road,” he said.
Ledecka reads courses better than
many other snowboarders, Reiter said,
because she is used to more complex
ski courses.
“What she brings from snowboarding to skiing is probably a more creative way of understanding how a
mountain works, of how a carve
works,” Reiter said. “No offense to
skiers, but skiing’s pretty easy in
terms of carving because you have a
bailout. You have two skis, two poles:
different ways to save yourself and
disperse the force you are creating. In
snowboard, you have one edge, and if
you blow that edge, you are going
“But the one thing that makes Ester
truly different is Ester. It has nothing
to do with her being a world champion
in snowboarding or a top-20 skier. It’s
just her heart and her head. Basketball
didn’t make Michael Jordan special.
His ability to bring who Michael Jordan was to basketball made something
Shohei Ohtani of Japan is no Babe Ruth. Really.
Ever since Shohei Ohtani of Japan began capturing the attention of baseball
fans in the United States, he has elicited
comparisons to Babe Ruth, the largerthan-life slugger who strode across the
American landscape nearly a century
And why not? Ruth, in the early part
of his major league career, was a dominant pitcher with the Boston Red Sox
before evolving into an everyday presence in the Yankees’ outfield. No one
since then has really done anything like
that in the major leagues. Ohtani, 23,
meanwhile, has both pitched and hit
with distinction as a member of the Nippon-Ham Fighters of the Pacific League
in Nippon Professional Baseball.
But significantly, Ohtani, in Japan, is
not perceived as some Ruthian colossus
in the making. Yes, Ohtani, who is expected to make his major league debut
in 2018, is considered a standout player
here, and a very popular one. But some
of the hype surrounding his feats seems
to be a largely American phenomenon.
“First of all, we don’t call him Babe
Ruth,” said Kosuke Sasaki, a teammate
of the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka when
they played at Komazawa University
Tomakomai High School in Hokkaido.
He now manages there. “I never heard
anyone calling him Babe Ruth.”
Actually, some younger Japanese
baseball fans would not necessarily
know who Ruth was. In any case, said
the American-born Robert Whiting, who
has spent many years in Japan and has
written several books about baseball
there, comparing Ohtani to Ruth is misleading.
“Ohtani is not going to hit 60 homers,”
Whiting said in reference to the singleseason major league mark that Ruth set
in 1927 and then stood until 1961, when
Roger Maris hit 61. For one thing, Whiting noted, Ohtani — who is listed at 6
feet 3 inches and 189 pounds by Baseball
Reference — does not have the imposing
physique of a slugger, at least by American standards.
For another, the most home runs
Ohtani hit in any Japanese season was
22, in 2016, although that number came
in only 323 at-bats.
“He will probably do better as a
pitcher,’’ Whiting predicted. “Playing
both positions is probably too much to
A more accurate comparison, Whiting, Sasaki and others said, is to measure Ohtani against Yu Darvish, who, like
Ohtani, played for the Nippon-Ham
Fighters before moving to the major
leagues. Darvish made the switch in
2012 and since then has compiled a 56-42
record as a member of the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Darvish has never been a two-way
player, but he, like Ohtani, began pitching for the Fighters at age 18, in 2005.
Over seven seasons, he compiled a 9338 won-lost record with a 1.99 earned
run average. Ohtani, in five seasons
with the Fighters, put together a 42-15
record with a 2.52 E.R.A.
Those numbers, similar in how good
they are, suggest that Ohtani, if nothing
else, should be an effective pitcher in the
United States.
Eishi Yamagata, who has covered the
Fighters for Kyodo News, said he
thought the American perception of
Ohtani was somewhat overblown, but
he believed Ohtani would not feel overwhelmed by pressure to live up to the
fanfare he will encounter in the United
“Even if he gets unfair expectations
from American fans, he is a live-and-letlive type of person,” Yamagata said. “He
has not changed as a person.”
What has changed, apparently, is the
way Japanese players who leave for the
United States are perceived by the fans
they left behind. Hideo Nomo, who pioneered the first wave of Japanese pitchers coming to the majors, was considered something of a traitor when he departed for the United States for the 1995
But immediate success with the Los
Angeles Dodgers quickly led to Nomo’s
starts being broadcast on giant outdoor
screens in Japan. Fans became enticed
with the possibility that their homegrown stars could challenge the best
players in the world.
And that sense of general good will in
Shohei Ohtani is a starting pitcher who has also hit 22 home runs in a season.
Japan now extends to the players who
have followed in Nomo’s footsteps, like
Kumiko Konno, who was recently
shopping at the Fighters’ team store
next to the Sapporo train station,
wanted to purchase as much Ohtani
merchandise as possible before it went
out of stock, since items for former players are not easy to come by. She said she
had twice traveled to Arizona to watch
spring training expeditions by the
Fighters and each time had brought
Ohtani some chocolates — his favorite,
she said.
“He’s great at pitching and batting,”
said Konno, who is old enough to be
Ohtani’s mother and showed a cellphone
picture of him signing an autograph for
her. “But he’s also cute.”
But there is also another word Konno
used in reference to Ohtani — “nitoryu,”
which refers to the difficult, two-sword
technique that is credited to a venerated
17th-century Japanese warrior named
Miyamoto Musashi. Other fans said the
same thing, including Shigeki Sarodo, a
research fellow at Nippon Sports Science University in Tokyo.
In other words, being able to both
pitch and hit may evoke images of Ruth
for American fans but something much
different — swords from the 17th century, for instance — in Japan.
At play, too, in the different perceptions of Ohtani here and in the United
States, may be the ease with which
myths arise around Asian players from
a distance.
When Ohtani, in 2016, hit a long drive
that became lodged in a panel in the Tokyo Dome ceiling, it was not all that different from what has occasionally occurred in domed stadiums in the United
States. Still, it created a sensation of
sorts among American fans.
LeiLani Nishime, an associate professor of communication at the University
of Washington whose area of research
includes Asian-American media representations, said stereotypes of the
“mysterious foreigner” remained prevalent in American popular culture.
“In Japan, there are many examples
of Asian athletes and a whole range of
labels and behaviors represented,”
Nishime wrote in an email. “In the U.S.,
we have so few examples that each example is significant and has repercussions beyond that one athlete.”
Or, as Sarado put it, “Shohei Ohtani
himself is not really mysterious for us.”
Nor, it appears, does Japan consider him
the second coming of Babe Ruth.
16 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
As World Cup curtain rises, a spotlight on Russia
On Soccer
MOSCOW Half a million fans — by
current, suspiciously optimistic, estimates — will descend on Russia next
year for what Gianni Infantino, the
FIFA president, has already decreed
will be the “best” World Cup in history.
Every single fan, he has decided, will
have “an amazing experience.” Billions
of dollars have been spent on new, or
renovated, stadiums to host the finest
players in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, Neymar and
Kylian Mbappé. Russia’s president,
Vladimir V. Putin, on Friday promised
a “major sporting festival of friendship
and fair play.”
And now, at last, we know how it will
all kick off. This great celebration of
soccer, this era-defining event, the
most watched sporting event in the
world, will get underway at Moscow’s
Luzhniki Stadium on June 14, with the
almost elemental collision of the 63rdand 65th-best teams the planet can
Applause rippled across the floor of
the hall at the Kremlin State Palace
when it was confirmed that Saudi
Arabia — officially the weakest of all
the teams that had to qualify for next
year’s World Cup, according to FIFA’s
rankings — would face Russia, officially the weakest of all the teams in
next year’s World Cup, in the tournament’s opening game.
It might have been relief from the
locals in the crowd, of course: There
has been no little concern here that
Russia’s team is so poor that it might
do what the revelations of the ongoing
FIFA corruption trial in New York and
the allegations of widespread statesponsored doping could not, namely to
make Putin regret bringing the World
Cup here in the first place.
Still, the applause felt odd, misplaced. By almost any measure, Russia-Saudi Arabia is an anticlimax of an
opening game: the weakest, in terms
of the rankings of the two teams, in
World Cup history. It is not the sort of
game that lived up to the absurd,
gaudy pomp of the ceremony that
preceded it, complete with a traditional
Russian dance troupe.
But it is fitting, given how the rest of
Friday’s World Cup draw set up welcoming paths for tournament favorites, especially France, Brazil and Germany. The host nation, Russia, also received a favorable draw.
the draw panned out. For the first time,
FIFA had changed the way the World
Cup groups were drawn, pooling teams
according to their ranking, rather than
on a geographical basis. The move’s
main effect was to protect most of the
tournament favorites from meeting
one another.
Indeed, only in two groups are notional heavyweights drawn together:
Spain meets Portugal in Group B,
while Belgium encounters England in
Group G. The prospect of drama in
either group, though, was quelled
when the identities of their other opponents were revealed. Spain and Portu-
All three have precisely the sorts of
groups that they would have drawn for
themselves: Peru, Australia and Denmark for the French; Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica for Brazil; Mexico,
Sweden and South Korea in with the
reigning champion, Germany.
Of all the top seeds, in fact, only
Argentina had cause to leave Moscow
a little dispirited. Jorge Sampaoli’s
team stuttered through qualifying, its
fearsome attack blunted surprisingly
— and troublingly — easily until Lionel
Messi conjured a hat trick in Ecuador
to ensure his country’s passage to
Russia. Still, its fragile confidence
could have done without the prospect
of Croatia, Nigeria and Iceland lurking
in Group D.
That such a lineup could constitute
the toughest of all the groups is indicative of the other major change — one
not effected, at least directly, by FIFA
— that influenced the way the draw
played out.
Qualifying for this tournament
proved, decisively, that there has been
a shift in the nature of international
soccer. Italy, the Netherlands, Chile
and the United States are not here;
Iceland, Peru and Panama are. Major
nations can no longer coast into the
No. 0412
Created by Peter Ritmeester/Presented by Will Shortz
(c) Distributed by The New York Times syndicate
gal will expect to get past Morocco and
Iran; England and Belgium should be
too strong for Tunisia and Panama, a
World Cup debutante. In the head-tohead games, nobody should suffer a
knockout blow.
France, Brazil and Germany did
even better. It is a convention among
athletes and coaches alike that you
never risk belittling an opponent —
pretty much every coach who faced the
news media after the draw uttered
some variation on the phrase “there is
no such thing as an easy game” — but
for those three, in particular, it must
have been tempting to break it.
World Cup. Smaller countries, with a
decent crop of players, a gifted coach,
and a sense of purpose, can overturn
the odds.
The change has made for some
wonderful stories over the last two
years, but this was its flip side: a tournament short on groups of death and
seismic encounters between superpowers.
As Gareth Southgate, the England
manager, rightly said, it is when the
draw is over that “everything comes
alive.” It is when fans start to map out
where their team will go, and whom it
might face in the knockout rounds,
when a black-and-white tournament is
flooded with color.
This is a little different. The 2018
World Cup has the look of a slowburner. The first
two weeks will be
There has
intriguing, rather
been a shift in
than explosive;
some of the
lesser lights will
soccer: Major
have a moment
nations can no
to shine. Only in
longer coast
the latter stages
into the World will the fireworks
start. FIFA is
unlikely to object
to a tournament
that, if things go
to form, could throw up quarterfinals
between Portugal and France, Brazil
and England, Spain and Argentina and
Germany and Colombia.
It is an approach with just one attendant danger. All tournaments hinge
on how the host country copes when
its team is eliminated. If it loses interest, the event itself can lose some of its
That is a particular risk with Russia,
where official support for the World
Cup is rooted in a desire to project
national pride, and power, to the world.
If that wanes, the electricity of the
tournament might go with it. “Russia is
warm and welcoming,” Infantino said.
“Everyone will be able to celebrate
football with the Russian people.” The
question, apart from what “everyone”
means, is how long that will last.
So perhaps the applause that
greeted confirmation of the opening
game was not from the Russians, but
from FIFA. Russia is in a group with
Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. Not
a cakewalk, by any means, but not a
Calvary, either. Enough, certainly, to
reassure the host that it might not be
thrown out of its own party too early.
Fill the grid so
that every row,
column 3x3 box
and shaded 3x3
box contains
each of the
1 to 9 exactly
For solving tips
and more puzzles:
No. 0212
CROSSWORD | Edited by Will Shortz
Fill the grids with digits so as not
to repeat a digit in any row or
column, and so that the digits
within each heavily outlined box
will produce the target number
shown, by using addition,
subtraction, multiplication or
division, as indicated in the box.
A 4x4 grid will use the digits
1-4. A 6x6 grid will use 1-6.
For solving tips and more KenKen
kenken. For Feedback: nytimes@
KenKen® is a registered trademark of Nextoy, LLC.
Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved.
  1 Falafel holders
  6 Piano technician
11 Start of a countdown
15 “Remember the ___!”
16 Party card game
17 “Tell me the rumors
are false!”
20 Revolutionary Guevara
21 Some HDTVs
22 Glowing part of a fire
24 Comprehensive, as a
Answers to Previous Puzzles
27 Put an end to
28 2000 Kevin Spacey/
Helen Hunt film
32 Sounding congested
35 Smash into
36 Leave rolling in the
37 Approximation: Abbr.
38 Oscar-nominated Enya 68 Cowboys’ home
song from 2001’s “The 69 D.D.E.’s predecessor
Lord of the Rings”
42 Was out to lunch?
43 Apple tablet
45 Dog doc
46 Helped out
48 Offer effusive praise
52 Poe poem that
starts “Once upon a
midnight dreary,” with
53 Long to have
57 Capital of Oregon
58 Sweetie pie
60 “That ___ lie!”
61 Get older
66 California’s Big ___
Solution to December 2 Puzzle
67 Sign on a
70 Cheese with holes
  1 Actor Joe of “My
Cousin Vinny”
“Stranger Things”
71 Actress Winona of
  2 Corporate raider Carl
  3 Trifled (with)
  4 Three-time Frazier foe
  5 Take a load off
  6 Chinese martial art
  8 Yanks : New York ::
___ : Washington
  9 Letters on an
10 One whose work is on
11 Popular sandwich
12 Make a list of
13 Do, re or mi
18 Pretentiously showy
23 Clean Air Act and
25 Clean Air Act org.
26 It may be read by a
27 Grooming implement
29 Travis of country
30 Liposuction target
31 Not naturally
red-haired, e.g.
32 Singer Diamond or
33 Spears at the dinner
34 “Keep your eyes
  7 Neighbor of the radius
the house?
56 Harder to find
41 Per person
57 Pageant wrap
44 Drop precipitously
58 Indonesian tourist
47 D.D.E., familiarly
50 Bad ones are hard to
59 Naval agreements?
63 Like a pitch between
the ankles and
54 Wicked one
64 “It’s f-f-freezing!”
55 ___ orange
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 17
Part of the exhibition “Mexican Red, the Cochineal in Art,” left, at the Fine Arts Palace in Mexico City. At right, images of the insect from which the dye is made are part of the exhibit, as is “The Bedroom,” by Van Gogh, which uses colors derived from the dye.
When Europe’s art turned red
Mexico’s cochineal dye
entranced painters and
enriched the conquerors
Along with silver and gold, the first
ships that sailed from the New World after the Spanish Conquest carried another treasure: a natural dye that
produced a red so intense that European
artists quickly embraced it as their own.
The trade in this dye reaped vast
riches for the Spanish crown and supplied the crimson palette that would color the sacred and secular art of Europe
for more than three centuries.
An exhibition that runs through Feb. 4
at this city’s Palace of Fine Arts, “Mexican Red, the Cochineal in Art,” traces the
journey of the color from the highlands
of pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica to Europe. There, it became increasingly associated with the projection of power in
the 17th and 18th centuries. Cochineal
fell into decline in the 19th century, as
synthetic dyes were introduced but was
sought out later by the Impressionists.
Based on a 2014 symposium organized by the museum, the exhibition and
its voluminous catalog reflect much of
the scholarship around cochineal. “We
hope that it has a resonance not just for
the works of art,” Miguel Fernández
Félix, museum director at the Palace of
Fine Arts, said of the show. “We are talking about economics here; we will talk
about society and culture.”
From the Venetian masters Titian and
Tintoretto to van Gogh, who blended it
into many shades in dozens of paintings,
artists sought out the properties of Mexican red, which is extracted from the
tiny cochineal insect. Carmine, van
Gogh wrote to his brother Theo in 1885,
using another name for cochineal, is the
“red of wine and is warm and lively like
The cochineal insect, a small parasite
that feeds on the prickly pear cactus,
was cultivated domestically in Mexico
and Peru in pre-Hispanic times. The female was dried and crushed to extract
the red carminic acid, and additives of
different acidity produced shades that
ranged from light pink to a deep purple.
(The dye is still in use.)
The dye colored sacred and
secular art for centuries.
The exhibition begins with a piece of
cloth dating to 300 B.C., its red tint still
visible. The dye was used in pre-Hispanic illustrated codices and in the codices produced around the time of the 1521
Spanish Conquest.
Spanish chronicles of the conquest
marvel at the vivid colors of cochineal
dyestuff for sale in the Aztec capital,
Tenochtitlán, and the first shipment
soon left for Spain. By midcentury, as
the curator Georges Roque writes in the
show’s catalog, cochineal was being
transported in bulk to Seville.
Because cochineal was the source of a
more intense and lasting red than any of
the pigments then available, demand
soared for it as a dye for sumptuous Eu-
Renoir’s “Madame Léon Clapisson” (1883), which pictures its subject on a red chair.
The Impressionists revived the use of cochineal in art.
ropean silks, velvets and tapestries.
Louis XIV ordered the upholstery of
the chairs and the royal bed curtains at
Versailles to be dyed with cochineal. So
rich was the trade that cochineal was
second only to silver as the most valuable export from Spain’s American colonies, more profitable than even gold, according to scholars cited by Mr. Roque.
He argues that painters rapidly
adopted cochineal to “obtain tonalities
as rich, as saturated, as brilliant” as the
fabrics that dyers were producing in the
ports of early modern Europe.
The first European work of the show
here is Tintoretto’s “Christ Carried to
the Tomb,” produced in the 1550s, in
which the painter, the son of a Venetian
dyer, used cochineal for the dense, almost tactile images of the fabric worn by
the mourners.
Titian began to use cochineal in his
works after the middle of the century, as
did Veronese, whose “Martyrdom of
Saint Justine” is in the exhibition.
Like the Venetians, the painters who
adopted cochineal most consistently
worked in port cities. Mr. Roque points
to Diego Velázquez and Francisco de
Zurbarán in Seville, and Rubens, Van
Dyck and Rembrandt in Antwerp and
Zurbarán’s “Penitent Magdalene,”
from the mid-17th century, shows its subject leaning on a table that is draped
with a richly patterned red brocade. In
the exhibition, a fragment of similar
Spanish brocade is displayed below, vivid evidence of cochineal’s link to both
fabric and painting.
Velázquez is represented by a portrait
of the archbishop Fernando Valdés from
the National Gallery in London, in which
the subject is framed by a lush red curtain that symbolizes both his spiritual
and temporal power.
In Mexico, too, the painters of New
Spain incorporated cochineal into their
work, and the exhibition features several examples, including a luminous
“Virgin of Guadalupe,” by Cristóbal de
Villalpando, who painted her clothed in
deep purple, and his “Marriage of Mary
and St. Joseph,” where he draped her in
a soft pink dress.
The writer Amy Butler Greenfield has
described how the Spanish hid the origin of cochineal to help preserve the
crown’s monopoly on it. But by the 18th
century, there was no shortage of information on its preparation. In Mexico,
José Antonio de Alzate, a geographer
and naturalist, published an extensive
treatise on cochineal, which is also on
display, along with his map of Mexico
City, marked with the dye.
The British, too, were captivated by
cochineal, which was used to dye the
wool cloth for army officers’ uniforms.
As early as 1648, the English priest and
traveler Thomas Gage wrote, “The English is like their sun, which is red, and so
do and will affect to wear scarlet, as long
as any cochineal is found in the Indies.”
The English fascination endured: Van
Dyck portrayed Prince Charles Louis
wearing crimson at the court of Charles
I about 1637, and more than a century
later, Joshua Reynolds painted Sir
James Hodges, a London official, in authoritative red.
There was cochineal in J. M. W. Turner’s paint box, which is on display. By
then, the dye had lost its association
with power. Later, the Impressionists
and Post-Impressionists used it to suggest shade and light. A stroke hints at
the curve of a muscle in a Cézanne drawing of bathers. Renoir painted Mme.
León Clapisson seated on a red chair
against a scarlet-tinged wall, perhaps in
an oblique reference to the portraits of
the past.
Van Gogh, more than anyone, explored the properties of cochineal. The
show features one of the three paintings
known as “The Bedroom,” which he
painted at Arles near the end of his life.
The cochineal in the original walls and
doors, which he described as lilac and violet, and in the warm rose of the floor
have faded, but his intent persists.
“In short,” van Gogh wrote, “looking
at the painting should rest the mind, or
rather, the imagination.”
A story spanning two continents and centuries of
craft, where a core element of the codes of Gabrielle
Chanel’s legendary 1932 high-jewelry collection is
fused with the artistry of Chanel’s Studio de Création
and the expertise of a famed Japanese lacquer
master to create one extraordinary collection –
Plume de Chanel.
18 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
A hit for all the wrong reasons
Filmmaker resigns himself
to acclaim based on work
that is simply terrible
At the end of “The Disaster Artist,” the
novice filmmaker Tommy Wiseau puts
on a tuxedo and attends the premiere of
his new movie, which he believes is a
masterpiece as profound as anything in
cinematic history. (He is its director,
producer, screenwriter and star.) Unfortunately, the film, “The Room,” is a flatout awful compendium of excruciating
dialogue, incoherent plot twists and
strangely wooden yet melodramatic acting.
The audience is puzzled, then horrified, then delighted, and right before our
eyes Tommy (James Franco) has to perform a tricky bit of emotional jujitsu, jettisoning his delusions and accepting
that if the public loves his film, it’s only
because it is so terrible. That’s the subtext of “The Disaster Artist,” which arrived last week, a based-on-a-true-story
movie that also explores friendship, obsession, Hollywood and the rich comedic possibilities of the line “You’re tearing
me apart, Lisa!”
How do you handle it when the movie
that you meant to be one thing turns out
to be a different thing entirely?
“The Room” was made for something
like $6 million of Mr. Wiseau’s nebulously obtained fortune. It opened in
2003, in a theater in Los Angeles that he
had to rent himself, and made $1,800 its
first weekend. But word spread that it
was a camp classic — an amalgamation
of absurd non sequiturs, continuity
problems and characters of dubious motivation who come and go for no particular reason, in the service of a story involving a cheating girlfriend, a betrayed
friendship and a lot of scenes of guys
tossing around footballs. Now it plays to
packed, “Rocky Horror”-style interactive audiences around the world and appears to have made back its investment.
At its center is the slight, longhaired,
sunglasses-sporting, black-clad Mr.
Wiseau, who has spent the intervening
years doing two things: promoting the
film, and maintaining the carefully constructed aura of mystery that swirls
around him as thickly as if it were generated by a Hollywood fog machine.
Despite being the subject of the new
movie as well as the 2013 book on which
it is based (also called “The Disaster
Artist” and written by Greg Sestero, Mr.
Wiseau’s “Room” co-star and codependent friend, along with Tom Bissell), Mr.
Wiseau remains a cipher wrapped in an
enigma packaged in a carapace that recalls Keith Richards attending a vampire-themed Halloween party.
“People don’t understand me as a person,” Mr. Wiseau said, speaking by
phone from Hollywood. He sounds exactly the way Mr. Franco does in the
film, with idiosyncratically mangled
syntax and a sui generis accent that is
vaguely Eastern European, but that he
refers to as Cajun.
In “The Disaster Artist,” Tommy indignantly refuses to tell Greg (played by
Mr. Franco’s younger brother Dave)
anything personal about himself, including his age, how he made his money, or
why he insists he is from New Orleans
when he is so obviously from someplace
else. Asked these same questions now
for journalistic purposes, Mr. Wiseau remains slightly less vague, but just as irritable.
“It’s not important, and No. 2, it’s a
personal question,” he said. “Long story
short, I grew up in Europe a long time
ago, but I’m American and very proud of
it. Do you have any questions about the
For years journalists have tried to pin
down these specifics, with what appears
to be some success; now
simply says he was born in Poland in
James Franco, left, above, with the man he plays in “The Disaster Artist,” Tommy Wiseau. Below left, Charlyne Yi, Kelly Oxford, Seth Rogen, Paul Scheer and Dave Franco; right, Sharon Stone and Dave Franco.
1955. As for his fortune, he said it came
from his leather-jacket and real-estate
The Tommy of “The Disaster Artist”
seems just shy of being certifiably crazy.
He’s erratic and demanding and grandiose and insecure, all at once. Greg
serves as his non-insane foil, remaining
relatively normal despite what appears
to be his poor judgment in assisting and
starring in his friend’s film.
It’s hard to understand what drew
them together, but, the real Mr. Sestero
said, Mr. Wiseau gave him a way to fulfill
his dream of becoming a Hollywood star.
“I was very much taken with Tommy
when I first met him,” he said by phone
from Los Angeles. “He represented freedom to me. He was the answer to so
many questions I had. I looked up to him
and needed him, and that kind of went
both ways.”
The people involved in the new movie,
including James Franco, who directed
as well as starred in it, and Seth Rogen,
who plays a seasoned script supervisor
who clashes with Tommy on the set,
have their own fascinations with Mr.
Wiseau. Mr. Rogen, who is also a
producer of “The Disaster Artist,” has
been a fan of “The Room” for years,
since the actor Paul Rudd took him to
see it.
“We became obsessed with it,” he said
in a telephone interview. “It is particularly fascinating to comedy people.
Most movies that are this catastrophically bad are in a genre that contributes
to their failure — like a science-fiction
film that didn’t have the budget for what
they were trying to do — but this is a
character drama that’s really personal.
The fact that this guy made all these
choices was so strange.”
Mr. Rogen and Mr. Franco both put
the $64,000 question to Mr. Wiseau: Giv-
en how wedded you were to the serious
nature of your film, how do you feel
about the fact that everyone else finds it
so funny?
“It takes an incredibly savvy person
to answer it in the way he does,” Mr. Rogen said, “which is to validate that people like it in a different way, but talk
about it as if they are reacting in exactly
the way he intended. It’s a semantical
slalom that he navigates extremely
Mr. Franco, who won best actor at the
Gotham Awards, kicking off Oscar season, added by phone: “Whatever happened to Tommy, there’s something he
needed to prove or fill, and he got that
from ‘The Room.’”
He continued: “Now we’re in the third
phase of the Tommy saga. Pre- ‘Room’
he felt he couldn’t depend on anybody,
and the film was him trying to wrestle
with feelings of rejection he’d had his
whole life. And then it came out and he
thought he had to maintain this persona
of Tommy, and pretend that he had intended it to be comedy. And now there’s
this new phase where people are getting
to see the other side of him.”
“When the movie was shown at South
by Southwest, they were cheering on his
story,” Mr. Franco went on. “I realized
later that it was probably the first time
that Tommy heard unironic applause,
just for him.”
What does Mr. Wiseau say, when you
ask him directly?
“To respond to your question without
avoiding it, I didn’t realize, to be honest,
that I’d created something that people
would interact with in this way,” he said.
“But you as an actor cannot criticize the
audience, and the audience is having
fun.” He added: “If you have a drama,
you can find a comedy. If you have a
comedy, you can find the drama.”
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who on his
return to San Francisco founded City
Lights, which naturally Carrión also
At times, “Bookshops” reads like a
collection of notes, leaping between
topics, comparing discoveries in different countries within a single paragraph, stopping to discuss writers like
Julio Cortázar and Roberto Bolaño,
recounting the history of publishing
from China to Gutenberg, digressing to
recall those authors, like Jean Genet,
who began their careers by stealing
books. All this, while profiling scores of
Repression is a reality because
regimes can know their enemies by
what they read and write. Book burning was routine for Spain’s Inquisition
and Franco’s dictatorship, as well as
for Stalin, Hitler, Mao Zedong and a
good many other dictators. Myriad
authors have also seen their books
banned, from Charles Baudelaire,
Joyce, D.H. Lawrence and Henry
Miller to Salman Rushdie. The United
States is no innocent, Carrión notes,
“with the present proscription of books
enforced by thousands of bookshops,
educational institutions and libraries
for political or religious reasons.”
Our peripatetic author’s explorations
are most enjoyable when he goes
beyond such landmarks as Foyle’s in
London, the Strand Book Store in New
York and L’Ecume des Pages in Paris
to less obvious corners, for instance,
Antigua in Guatemala. There, La Librería del Pensativo opened in 1987 in the
midst of a civil war when “distant
shots fired by the guerrillas, army or
paramilitary echoed around the volcanoes surrounding the city.” Under its
tenacious owner, Ana María Cofiño,
Carrión writes, it became a “center of
Though he is pleased about the new
movie, he takes issue with Mr. Sestero’s
account of him as tyrannical and cruel
on the “Room” set.
“The movie was produced in a very
respectful way based on formula I studied as a producer, actor and director,” he
said. “You can look at it two ways. You
analyze Marlon Brando, you analyze
James Franco, you analyze James Dean,
you analyze Tommy Wiseau and I hope
you come to the same conclusion: We
are good actors. But you are here to
please your audience, not yourself,
that’s No. 1.”
Referring to his detractors, he went
on: “I have advice for all of you bad apples. Be nice. Grab the camera and roll
the movie and see what happens. Before
you start criticizing anybody, see how
hard it is to make a movie.”
Here’s something curious: Mr.
Wiseau and Mr. Sestero are still incredibly close. Mr. Sestero, whose last serious romantic relationship foundered on
the set of “The Room,” has spent the last
few years publicizing his book and doing
“Room”-related projects.
The makers of “The Disaster Artist”
originally ended the film with the dissolution of Tommy and Greg’s friendship
— a reasonable assumption, based on
Mr. Sestero’s book.
“But then I watched Greg talk to
Tommy on the phone for an hour every
day,” Mr. Rogen said. “I was thinking,
‘That’s not the story. And we changed
the film because of their actual relationship.”
Mr. Sestero has a new film due in 2018
that stars Mr. Wiseau as a strange mortician and himself as the strange-in-a-different-way homeless man who together
embark on various crime and cadaverrelated escapades. It is called “Best F(r)
Book lust
By Jorge Carrión. Translated by Peter
Bush. 296 pp. Biblioasis. $24.95.
After surviving a civil war, a devastating fire and a property dispute, the
89-year-old Catalònia bookstore in
Barcelona closed in 2013 and was
reborn as a McDonald’s. Witnessing
this sacrilege was Jorge Carrión, a
Barcelona-based novelist and essayist
who at the time was preparing a cultural history of bookstores. “Of course,
it is an obvious metaphor,” he recalls
glumly, “but that doesn’t make it any
less shocking.”
Fortunately he holds off his pessimism until the end of “Bookshops”
(so named because its seasoned translator, Peter Bush, is British) since his
real purpose is to celebrate bookstores.
And he does so by wandering the globe
in search of those that play — or have
played — a special role in the intellectual and social lives of their communities. They become Carrión’s personal
mappa mundi.
True, he notes, libraries also deal in
books, but “the Bookshop is light; the
Library is heavy.” “While the Librarian
accumulates, hoards, at most lends
goods out for a short while,” he explains, “the Bookseller acquires in
order to free himself from what he has
acquired; he sells and buys, puts into
circulation. His business is traffic and
transit. The Library is always one step
behind: looking towards the past.”
It is the bookseller, then, who must
stay in touch with the world to survive.
And by tracking down what claims to
be the oldest functioning bookstore in
the world, the Livraria Bertrand in
Lisbon, with its logo displaying 1732,
Carrión demonstrates that survival is
possible. But what a struggle! While
writing, he discovers that some bookstores he has admired have since
Still, beyond a nod to ancient
Greece’s book trade and the Library of
Alexandria, he finds recent history
worth revisiting, not least Sylvia
Beach’s Shakespeare and Company on
the Rue de l’Odéon in Paris, which
served as a second home to the Lost
Generation and first published James
Joyce’s “Ulysses” in 1922, before closing in late 1941 during the German
occupation of France.
Its namesake, though, lives on.
Founded by George Whitman as Le
Mistral in 1951, it became the new
Ler Devagar Bookstore in Lisbon.
Shakespeare & Company in 1964 and,
to this day, it draws crowds of writers
and tourists to its labyrinthine quarters near Notre Dame. In his early
years, Whitman befriended expat
American writers, among them
A celebration of the social,
cultural and intellectual
history of bookstores
around the world.
In the postwar years of Paul Bowles’s Tangiers, it was La Librairie des
Colonnes, with its shelves full of English, Spanish and Arab titles, that
served as a meeting place for fugitive
or visiting writers, among them the
Beats William S. Burroughs, Jack
Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg as well as
Gore Vidal, Marguerite Yourcenar and
Juan Goytisolo. Yet even with the
support of leading Arab writers like
Amin Maalouf and Tahar Ben Jelloun,
the bookstore had to be rescued from
closure in 2010 by Pierre Bergé, the
late French fashion industrialist and
In Cape Town, Carrión was charmed
by the warmth of the Book Lounge, but
he noticed that each of the shelves
marked Paulo Coelho, Gabriel García
Márquez and J.M. Coetzee had a card
reading, “Ask for his books at the
counter.” Puzzled, he inquired. “They
are the three most stolen writers. The
only ones people steal. So we keep
their books here,” the bookseller explained, pointing to a pile behind her.
For all Carrión’s love of independent
bookstores, another reality is the mass
marketing of books, which began with
stands in 19th-century railroad stations
and later airports, spread to chains like
Barnes & Noble and Waterstones in
Britain and eventually spawned Amazon. But even as he admits to occasionally buying online, he considers his
mission incomplete. “I devote many of
my Sunday afternoons to surfing the
web in search of bookshops that still do
not exist for me,” he writes, “though
they are out there, waiting for me.”
Alan Riding is a former European
cultural correspondent for The Times.
His most recent book is “And the Show
Went On: Cultural Life in Nazi-Occupied Paris.”
MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017 | 19
Rolling from New York to New Orleans by rail
A traveler finally tests out
his romantic beliefs about
taking the slower route
Everyone I told said the same thing:
“Oh, my God! I’ve always wanted to do
The thing they had always wanted to
do, apparently, was travel from New
York to New Orleans by train. Or cross
any considerable distance by rail — distances typically flown over in the name
of expedience. Old, young, man, woman,
didn’t matter. They had all long nursed,
but never acted on, a wish to take the
slow route.
I write about liquor. Every July, in
New Orleans, there is a booze convention. I’d gone every year, always by
plane. Last summer, bored with the routine, I vowed to shake it up. I brought up
the Amtrak website and discovered
there was a line called the Crescent that
followed the eastern corridor down to
Washington, D.C., and then snaked
through the South to New Orleans. It
took 30 hours.
I had a day to spare. All that remained
was to O.K. the plan with my travel companion. “Oh, my God!” she said. “I’ve always wanted to do that!” (Or words to
that effect.)
Despite our shared enthusiasm, part
of me wondered if the trip was a good
idea. Amtrak was regularly in the news,
and not in a good way. A derailment
here, a delay there. Had I booked myself
a fantasy (lovely scenery, atmospheric
whistle stops, cocktails in the dining
car) that bore no correlation to reality
(aging cars, tourists, tedium)?
I admit to being a romantic. I also admit to being a cynic. This means I am
suspicious of my romantic tendencies.
I’ve sentimentalized train travel all my
life. Yet, after three decades of Amtrak
trips, I still genuinely enjoyed it, so I
concluded that my romanticism wasn’t
entirely self-delusion.
I had previously embarked on only
one journey of the duration I was now
contemplating. Shortly after college, I
took the California Zephyr from Chicago
to San Francisco, and the Empire Builder, across Montana and the Dakotas,
back. I was 23 then and slept sitting up in
my seat. That would not cut it this time. I
was older and required comfort. A private room fit in with my train-travel
dreams, but I had always assumed such
luxury prohibitively expensive. I was
pleased, then, to find a fare of $280 one-
way. The fare included a “roomette,” the
smallest private compartment on offer.
(I booked way ahead of time. By my departure date, that number had more
than doubled.)
We arrived at Penn Station with an
hour to spare. There were no obvious
signs of hell, except that we were put on
the Silver Meteor, which goes to Miami.
Normally, the Crescent makes the entire
trip from NYC to NOLA, but construction at Penn Station allowed it no further
north than D.C.
A porter directed us to our car. We
boarded and were immediately funneled into those narrow hallways that
remind you of old movies.
The room was as “-ette” as advertised
— 3’6” by 6’8” — but well-organized.
There was a place to hang my garment
bag in one corner. Opposite was a toilet;
above that a sink that folded into the
wall. There were towels and soap and a
paper-cup dispenser on top of the sink.
A cavity in the wall so high you would
easily miss it swallowed up the luggage.
Between the two facing, and rather commodious, seats, there was a retractable
table with a checkerboard pattern on it.
Switches above each seat controlled
three lights: ceiling, wall and reading.
This was all fine by me. My height
(6’1”) notwithstanding, I have always
felt most comfortable in snug spaces.
One-bedroom apartments relax me;
McMansions give me the jitters.
Once we pulled out of the station, it became apparent that we not only had one
long window but a second upper window, slightly hidden by the upper berth.
The roomette was flooded with light.
A woman named Brenda came by and
offered us bottled water. We tipped her,
figuring we would need to rely on her in
the future.
Train travel presents certain immediate advantages over air travel. It forces
you to relax, as you have time on your
Above, the Crescent crossing a bridge out of Lynchburg, Va. Below, in the bedroom compartment on the train.
New York City
O H I O Washington
I N D.
VA .
Amtrak Crescent route
K Y.
New Orleans
200 Miles
Even in a roomette, you’re afforded
more space than on a plane. Furthermore, you can stock your quarters with
items the airlines would never permit,
including well-stuffed suitcases; snacks
(in case the onboard fare isn’t up to par
— a safe bet); and the makings of cocktail hour.
We called Brenda for ice. Once 5
o’clock hit, out came a bottle of Pimm’s, a
half-liter of ginger ale, a cucumber and a
knife. Pimm’s Cups were built and enjoyed, under the glow of the coming sunset. I read some Fitzgerald and smiled,
thinking of all the suckers shoehorned
into seats on United or American.
The train was full, so meal seatings
were staggered. We were called at 5:45.
The dining car was bustling and had an
I poured out pre-mixed martinis
I had smuggled aboard in a flask.
“The only problem with this
train is not enough martinis,”
my companion said.
appealing, quasi-art deco feel to it.
There was no selecting of tables. We
were slipped into booths like files. “Side
by side,” instructed the waiter when we
tried to sit opposite each other. “Side by
The menu had a section titled “ACAT
Inspired Special.” ACAT stood for Amtrak Culinary Advisory Team. Only one
such item, a “vegetarian Asian noodle
bowl,” was available. I opted for the
“Field & Sea Combo” instead, based on
the waiter’s recommendation. It was
composed of steak, seared shrimp,
baked potato and mixed vegetables. It
came quickly and wasn’t bad, though it
wasn’t good, either.
At Washington’s Union Station, we
changed trains. The Crescent was right
across the platform. Our new roomette
looked exactly like the old one.
We asked Pat, our new attendant, for
more ice, and I poured out pre-mixed
martinis I had smuggled aboard in a
flask. We sipped contentedly. “The only
problem with this train is not enough
martinis,” my companion said.
As darkness fell on northern Virginia,
Pat set up the berths. The limited machinery that effected the change was too
much for us. Pat, stout and short, did it in
a second. She bid us a good night and
added, “Let’s see if we get through the
Carolinas.” Why wouldn’t we?, I wondered.
The bottom berth, amazingly, accommodated my long frame. Sleeping on the
upper, said my companion, felt like getting an M.R.I. But we both slept well. My
expectation that the train’s motion
would rock us to slumber had not been
bunk (as it were).
We woke in South Carolina. Red clay
lined the tracks. The rising sun made the
pine trees look burnt yellow. Mobile
homes and country lanes drifted by.
Washing up and shaving in the shower
down the hall required agility. The lurching train threw my body from wall to
In Atlanta, I detrained for the first
time. Raised on the train stations of the
northeast, I expected something as
grand. But the station was a remarkably
meager affair. There was a small waiting room with wooden benches and a
few vending machines. An older Amtrak
customers about past civil rights
achievements of the Brotherhood of
Sleeping Car Porters.
At lunch, we were seated opposite a
Birmingham family returning from a
jaunt to New York. We ordered one of
those ACAT culinary specials, a “Thaispiced pulled coconut pork slider.” The
Boston-based chef Jamie Bissonnette
was the supposed author. The table quieted when the dish arrived. For a slider,
it was as big as a burger. The gray meat
inside resembled dog food. A few bites
were all that were needed for us to plead
for the Hebrew National hot dog my
companion had spotted on the kids’
menu. The frankfurter was split open,
grilled and served with relish. It was delicious, easily the best thing we ate on
the trip.
Outside the window, I saw thick foliage, small country post offices and
handmade signs advertising boiled
peanuts. Mmm, I thought, boiled
Shortly after lunch, the train stopped
outside of Birmingham. I had been napping off and on, so I didn’t notice until an
hour had passed. It was then that Pat
communicated the cruel secret of the
Crescent. Beyond the northeast corridor, Amtrak doesn’t own the tracks it
runs on. By law, Amtrak trains must be
given priority. But, in practice, it doesn’t
always work out that way, resulting in
regular delays. In this case, a freight had
stalled. We sat still for three hours.
(“Let’s see if we get through the Carolinas,” Pat had said.)
The charm of train travel lies in constant motion, minute-by-minute adventure. When that motion ceases, the
charm evaporates. Alabama was the
longest state. There were two more delays, as we played less-precious cargo to
loads of grain, chemicals and coal. I no
longer felt smarter than plane people.
Around Tuscaloosa, we had dinner.
The dining car didn’t have the style of
that on the Silver Meteor. Nothing on the
Crescent did. However, the Field & Sea
Combo was strangely better, the steak
juicier, the shrimp well grilled. Our wait-
ress, Ashley, said they had a good chef
on board. I found the idea of an Amtrak
chef being good or bad, or even existent,
highly suspect. But maybe there were
differences from train to train.
We finally crossed into Mississippi,
then crawled to Louisiana. I lost track of
the delays — none were announced —
and of Pat. Many of the passengers had
disembarked at Birmingham. The Cres-
cent felt like a ghost train. Were we the
only ones foolish enough to pay full passage?
The train had been due at 9 p.m. We
arrived in New Orleans at 2 a.m. I stumbled, nearly hallucinating from exhaustion, onto the platform and into a taxi.
We told the driver our tale of woe. He
was not moved. “Last night, it got in at
People were still impressed when we
told them how we got to New Orleans.
When pressed for details, I demurred
and muttered darkly about Birmingham.
Would I do it again? Maybe. My romanticism hadn’t been entirely crushed.
But I’d try another line. And check beforehand who owned the tracks. And
smuggle in more martinis.
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20 | MONDAY, DECEMBER 4, 2017
The Spirit of Travel
Will Alien Life Welcome Us? Or Are
Human Affairs Too Petty and Trivial?
by Bill Nye. Page S3
Bill Clinton On the State of America
and What Comes Next. Page S4
Progress Amid Corruption in Saudi
Arabia, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Page S4
Orhan Pamuk Says We Must
Resist Authoritarian Instincts That
Restrict Our Liberties. Page S5
Why Borders Can Only Constrain Us,
by Vicente Fox. Page S5
Hari Kunzru Considers Humanity
in the Post Privacy World. Page S6
When the Government Wouldn’t,
the People Took On Climate Change,
by Laurence Tubiana. Page S6
Examining North Korea and a Planet
in Terror, by Madeleine Albright.
Page S7
The Dalai Lama Tells Us How to Stay
Centered When Everything Feels
Uncertain. Page S8
“Hot Spot III” (2009) by Mona Hatoum, made of stainless
steel and neon tube, depicts a world and its borders
under heat as the pressure of global conflict mounts.
A fractured 2017
As the world lurches into a new year, peace feels fragile,
truth is blurred and spectacle has taken over
Roger Cohen is a
columnist for The
New York Times.
A century has passed since President
Woodrow Wilson, in his 14 Points speech of
January 1918, set out an American plan for
the world. He called for the removal of
economic barriers to trade, an adjustment
of colonial claims that respected “the
interests of the populations concerned,”
and the creation of a League of Nations to
guarantee “political independence and
territorial integrity to great and small
states.” It was a program that announced
America’s ordering intentions, and it was
supposed to put an end to war. Wilson
failed; Europe’s peace at the end of World
War I would last but a generation. Still,
having gotten into the global blueprint
business, the United States, more powerful
than ever by 1945, would not relinquish it
— until 2017.
One hundred years is a good run. Countless people across the globe have gained or
preserved their freedom through American power. Errors were conspicuous. Nations are no more infallible than the individuals who compose them. Yet, all in all,
liberty, democracy and a rules-based order,
protected by far-flung American garrisons,
spread and prospered. Pax Americana was
no rip-off. It delivered. But all things must
That the world was ripe for a shake-up
has been Donald Trump’s singular intuition and constitutes his singular gamble.
A property guy who was raised in New
York, he’s used to gambles and a valuesfree transactional universe. As his company once operated, so he now believes the
United States should operate. He is at
home with authoritarian thugs; he recognizes their ilk. His obeisance to the
treaties, trade pacts, multilateral organizations and alliances that have advanced
American interests in conjunction with the
interests of America’s friends has been
grudging at best. He thinks all that is
In fact, he does not even believe he
needs more than the bare bones of a State
Department. American foreign policy has
ceased. “The one that matters is me,” he
tells Fox News. “I’m the only one that
matters, because when it comes to it, that’s
what the policy is going to be.” Call it “Meism.” And so, in his slash-and-burn way,
driven by instinct, Mr. Trump has already
ushered in a new world order.
Or rather, he has ushered in a free-forall, no longer shaped by American prescription, bereft of even the semblance of a
moral compass. When it comes to the
values of liberal societies, France, Germany and Canada will have to take up the
mantle (Britain has gone on post-Brexit
walkabout). The dangers of the new vacuum are chiefly offset (if often amplified)
by the social networks of the 21st century,
linking communities across borders; and
A loophole
into 2018
Heading into a
turbulent year
Each year at this time, we try to identify
the turning points of the year gone by and
the year to come, the critical events that
set us and our world on a new and often
fateful tangent. Usually it’s not an easy
choice. For 2017, it was.
The turning point of the year was, of
course, Donald J. Trump. The ascent of the
real estate mogul and reality show star
suddenly elevated to the most consequential office on earth had a devastating impact on everything from multilateral trade
to climate change.
People in every corner of the world
struggled to understand how and why this
phenomenon had been thrust on them, and
where it could lead. Authoritarian and
nationalist leaders welcomed a new ally,
while old allies joined Germany’s Angela
Merkel in concluding that “the era in which
we could fully rely on others is over to
some extent.”
That “to some extent” may subvert Ms.
Merkel’s sentence somewhat, but it does
offer a loophole into 2018. Human beings
are remarkably resilient and innovative,
and we have somehow managed to prevent
our follies from triggering what paleontologists call an extinction event.
The world goes on — helped by the
healing humor of late-night talk-show hosts
and cartoonists like our Patrick Chappatte,
who have steadfastly exposed the absurdity of it all.
So all the things that 2017 is bequeathing
to its successor — North Korea gone ballistic, the spread of fake news, the rise of
#MeToo, weather gone rogue, surveillance
run amok, democracy relentlessly abused
— should make for a most turbulent and
unpredictable year, but hopefully only to
some extent. 2018 will have its own turning
points, and some of them, like Saudi women finally getting the right to drive, should
steer us onto a more stable road.
The year in photos
Women march on seven continents Millions of people wearing pink
hats flooded the streets of Washington and other cities around the world
on Jan. 21 for the Women’s March, a protest in support of women’s rights
and other causes. Prompted by President Trump’s election, the march
took place the day after he took office.
Frigid ocean farming During the coldest months of the year,
Inuit people from the village of Kangiqsujuaq, Quebec, venture
under the frozen layer covering the local bay to pick mussels.
As tides empty the space under the ice, the hunters are able
to gain temporary access by cutting holes in it.
Serge Schmemann is a member of the
editorial board of The New York Times.
Eclipse captivates U.S. Above: A solar
eclipse on Aug. 21 was the first since
1918 to extend across the United States
mainland. According to a study by the
University of Michigan, 88 percent of
American adults watched the event,
in person or electronically.
Turmoil in Venezuela Right:
The increasingly authoritarian
government of Nicolás Maduro
violently cracked down on
monthslong protests taking
place across Venezuela.
Economic and political crises in
Venezuela have left the country
on the brink of default on its
loans and sparked social unrest.
Freedom for Mosul Above: The Iraqi campaign to regain control of Mosul, the Islamic State’s largest stronghold
in the war-torn country, ended in July 2017, when Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced that the city had
been liberated. The operations lasted nearly nine months, killing and displacing thousands of people.
James Comey and the F.B.I. Above:
James B. Comey, the former F.B.I.
director, testified in June before the
Senate Intelligence Committee about
his role in the investigation into
Russian meddling in the United States
presidential election and any possible
connections to the campaign of
President Trump.
Rohingya refugee crisis
Outbreaks of violence led by
the military against the
Rohingya minority in
Myanmar’s Rakhine State
caused hundreds of
thousands to flee the region.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel
laureate and the de facto
leader of the country, drew
criticism for her reluctance to
address the crisis.
Deadly violence in Charlottesville In August, the “Unite the Right” rally drew
hundreds of far-right protesters, who marched to oppose the city’s plan to remove the
statue of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee. The next day, a second “pro-white” rally and
counterprotests clashed. One car drove into a group of counterprotesters afterward,
killing a 32-year-old woman and injuring at least 19 others.
The cosmos is calling. What do we say?
TURNING POINT: Seven Earth-size planets
that could potentially harbor life are discovered
orbiting a star.
Bill Nye is C.E.O.
of the Planetary
Society, a nonprofit
dedicated to the
exploration of the
solar system.
The more we gaze out into the universe,
the more we suspect that someone may be
gazing back. The possibility became even
more intriguing earlier this year when an
international team of astronomers discovered at least three planets in the nearby
Trappist-1 star system that might be capable of supporting life.
The discovery of life on another world
would change our own. It would fundamentally change the way each of us feels about
being a living thing in the cosmos. And as
always seems to be the case with discoveries in astronomy, it would be humbling.
You probably know of a few famous
examples. Copernicus showed that Earth
and the other observable planets move
around the sun, not the sun around Earth.
Galileo showed that the moon is covered
with enormous craggy peaks and rugged
valleys. Astronomers from all over have
shown that our sun, our life-giving star, is
not any big deal; it’s one among billions.
Even our galaxy is hardly unusual. Billions
of those, too.
Just imagine finding a planet with a
comfortable surface temperature and an
atmosphere with substantial amounts of
not only water vapor, but also methane, the
main component of natural gas. Although,
nominally, there is more than one way to
produce it, the main way we get new natural gas and organic molecules is by the
natural processes of organisms. We’re
talking about microbes, either the ones
inhabiting seas and swamps, or those that
live inside creatures like us.
So where do we look if we want to find
microbes? Better yet, how do we look?
Finding a planet not too different from our
own would be a logical place to start. What
sets Earth apart from all the other planets
that we know well — Mercury, Venus,
Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune
— is its distance from the sun, which enables it to have liquid water. It has a suitable atmospheric pressure and surface
temperatures between liquid water’s freezing and boiling points, 0 to 100 degrees
Celsius (or 32 to 212 in those quaint “Fahrenheit” degrees).
The scientists who found the Trappist-1
system were searching for just that, and
they found not one, but seven exoplanets
— planets not in our solar system — orbiting the star. Three seem well suited to
barrage of questions: Do they have written
language? Do they have farms? Do they
have sex? Do they need those things? Are
they coming to visit? And then, what do
we do if they are on their way? What
would they think of us? Are we worthy
correspondents, communicating across the
vastness of space? Or, are human affairs
too petty and trivial to concern another
race of beings?
If these aliens could travel here, they
probably wouldn’t think much more of us
than we think of termites: “These humans
sure are interesting. They build [the equivalent of] complex living spaces (mounds)
with only rudimentary instructions (con-
If aliens traveled to visit us here on Earth, they
probably wouldn’t think much more of us than
we think of termites.
having liquid water on their surfaces.
In the coming months and years, astronomers will refine the search, hoping to
tease out the critical spectral data that
would tell us whether there is water vapor
in these remote atmospheres, as well as
liquid water in an ocean.
Still, alien visitations are very unlikely.
According to all the physics that we understand, there is no practical way for us to
travel, in astronaut fashion, to another star
system. There is just too much space in
space. A spaceship would take tens of
thousands of years to reach Proxima Centauri, the star closest to our own. It would
be many times that distance to Trappist-1,
which is 40 light years away. And despite
decades of listening and looking, we haven’t heard an intelligible signal from the
cosmos. (Insert your own joke about earthling politics here.)
Any signal, any twinkling, any beam
from a distant star system would unleash a
stitutional governments, oligarchies, technocracies).”
But that would be about it. After all, we
seem to be in the midst of making our
home world unlivable for billions of our
own kind, let alone the dozens of species in
danger of extinction. If we got a signal
from out there, would it change our attitudes?
The researchers of the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope
(Trappist) program are said to be peaceloving deep thinkers, just like their program’s namesake, the Trappist monks. We
could learn something from them.
The world’s military budget is about $1.7
trillion. With the right inspiration — say,
keeping our planet whole long enough to
see what’s at the other end of that hypothetical alien signal — we could cut that in
half and use the rest to unite, protect and
strengthen our ailing Earth rather than
tearing it apart.
The Big Question:
If the world was ending, what would
your last message be?
If you were to send one last message out
into the cosmos that summed up the beauty
of life on Earth, what would it be?
Kyung-sook Shin is a Korean novelist whose
book “Please Look After Mom” won the Man
Asian Literary Prize in 2012, making her the
first South Korean woman to do so.
Oscar Murillo is an artist based in London.
Mohsin Hamid is a Pakistani novelist.
His latest book is “Exit West.”
Jane Goodall is an ethologist, a conservationist and a United Nations Messenger
of Peace. She founded the Jane Goodall
Institute in 1977.
The world, as I know it, is ending. I close my
eyes and again experience the wonder of
the rain forest, the murmuring streams, the
rustling leaves and the myriad sounds of
animal life, chirping and singing and buzzing.
Flashes of color; birds, butterflies, fish
shining in the water. Monkeys feeding overhead. The smell of damp earth and flowers.
Each species, no matter how small, playing
its part in the rich tapestry of life. I move my
mind’s eyes to the wetlands, the mountains,
the coral reefs, the golden prairies. The sun
glittering on the Arctic ice. The pine trees of
the cliffs I climbed as a child. In these few
minutes the beauty of the world I once knew
is real again.
I open my eyes reluctantly. I am surrounded by land and water that is dead,
polluted, plundered. The natural world
destroyed. Our cities collapsed. Nature has
hit back at we humans, who so greedily
stole her riches, with hurricanes, floods,
droughts, fires and earthquakes.
But suddenly I realize that though the
Earth may seem destroyed, it is alive in my
mind. And I am aware of another kind of
beauty: that of the indomitable human spirit.
The lust for greed and power has destroyed
the beauty we inherited, but altruism, compassion and love have not been destroyed.
All that is beautiful in humanity has not been
destroyed. The beauty of our planet is not
dead but lying dormant, like the seeds of a
dead tree. We shall have another chance.
Entities of the cosmos, greetings from the
humans of Earth.
Our world as we know it is coming to an
Humans are a biological life-form. Our
individual existence is characterized by
impermanence. We live, and then we die.
Our greatest achievement is that we are not
entirely overwhelmed by our awareness of
this predicament.
We know we will die, yet we experience
love and tenderness and wonder and joy.
Our mortality forms the basis of our compassion. We know that every human, no matter
how different we are from each other, will
experience death, and this creates a sense
of closeness.
We were not less because we died. We
were more. But the desire to live forever was
strong in us. We gave birth to machines that
we hoped would help us achieve this wish.
We hoped to merge with these machines.
Now, in our attempt to extinguish our mortality, we are on the verge of extinguishing
Farewell. May our example be of benefit
to you.
The pursuit of new frontiers in the name of
science and empire has almost always come
at the expense of others. Early explorers,
from the conquistador Cortés to Captain
Cook, voyaged across the globe for the sake
of expansion and knowledge. However their
aim was not to discover more about the
world; it was to spread an already-formed
worldview. Thus their path was littered with
casualties — communities, countries,
History is told by those with the loudest
voices. And the voices of imperialism remain
the loudest, even today. The astronauts of
the Apollo 11 mission trained in the desert of
the Western United States — formerly
Native American land — in order to prepare
themselves for the final frontier. According
to an old joke, a native chief asked the
astronauts if they could pass on a message
to the holy spirits who live on the moon. The
man spoke some words in his own language, and when the astronauts asked what
the message meant, the chief told them it
was a secret between his tribe and the
moon spirits. But the astronauts managed to
find someone who could translate the
The message was: “Don’t believe a single
word these people are telling you. They have
come to steal your land.”
James Dyson is an inventor, designer and
founder of the Dyson company.
The way engineers tackle seemingly insoluble problems with ingenuity and grit is
something to behold.
Tomorrow is more exciting than today
because of engineers. They drive all
progress using their brains and hands. With
intelligence and persistence, they show
human resourcefulness at its best. They are
the most genuine form of wealth creator an
economy can hope for, and they are incredibly resourceful.
Engineers don’t always follow the rules;
they approach challenges from new angles
and with a naïve intelligence in order to find
the right solution. No challenge is too big.
I therefore find it implausible that the
world is coming to an end. Engineers will
find a way to avoid this catastrophe!
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary
biologist and author. His most recent book
is “Science in the Soul: Selected Writings
of a Passionate Rationalist.”
Dear fellow cosmic citizens,
If you have the technology to intercept
this last testament from our doomed planet,
chances are that you are far more advanced
than us; you have probably been evolving for
much longer and your codebreakers are
capable enough to decipher my language.
You will be aware that, like any other
life-form, we evolved by gradual degrees
from simple beginnings, through the nonrandom survival of digitally coded instructions.
We called those instructions genes (doubtless yours differ in detail from ours). They
survived mostly by building what we called
bodies. Our life-form was driven by energy
from our star (the “sun”) and intercepted by
static bodies called plants, using specialized
photon collectors called leaves. The energy
of plants was then stolen by mobile bodies
called animals. Some animals, in turn,
consumed other animals, and the energy
was passed along in a “food chain.” All used
the same genetic code, a linear string of
digital characters drawn from an alphabet of
four. As you will easily calculate, this was
sufficient to encode a huge diversity of
forms, which was one of the stupendous
glories of our tragic planet.
Among the many millions of kinds of
animals, our own, called humans, were
distinguished by our large on-board computer (the “brain”) which enabled us to make
some progress toward understanding the
universe and our origins. We were quite
proud of understanding such things as
evolution and the fact that matter comes in
a finite set of “elements.” While we made a
start on what we called quantum theory, we
found it bewildering, probably because our
brains never evolved to understand the
We dreamed of a final Theory of Everything and a complete understanding of the
origin of all things, including time. Perhaps
you already have that. It is among our griefs
that we perished before we could reach it.
I was happy to be able to live on this Earth
as my mother’s daughter. She taught me
how to walk, how to put on clothes, how to
speak my name. After I grew a bit older, she
taught me that reading books is an important part of living in this world. Through her
life itself, my mother taught me how to plant
seeds, and that you reap what you sow, as
well as how to console people when they are
When I was 22, I started writing novels in
my mother tongue, a language filled with the
essence of my mother. I wrote about everything that is born in our hearts and in this
world, from sorrow and beauty to passion
and love. With words, I strived to restore
things that had disappeared. I also wrote
about my mother, who gave me everything
but whom I took for granted at times.
Writing was my way of paying tribute to
everything that was once alive on Earth and
has since left. If I had raised a daughter, I
would have taught her everything that I
learned from my mother. I wish I could have.
Daniel Humm is a Swiss chef and co-owner
of Eleven Madison Park in New York.
The ultimate beauty of life on Earth can only
be described in the context of personal
relationships. Natural, true beauty is enhanced exponentially as a shared experience.
As a chef, I am lucky enough to see this
every single night in my restaurant: people
from all walks of life, all ethnicities, all ages,
all connecting deeply around a table. The
human connection is significantly beautiful,
and nothing showcases that more than our
experiences in 2017.
Through all of the disasters, both natural
and man-made, there is one thing that
proved to be more powerful than the devastation: that absolute, and most human,
intention to look into each other’s eyes —
not at each other’s skin color, political views,
or religious or sexual preferences — and
connect on a completely soulful level. To will
someone else to triumph over adversity; to
lift someone else up when they are at their
lowest point; to connect with each other
below the surface ... this is us at our most
Americans must decide who they really are
TURNING POINT: President Trump issues
a travel ban that would preclude travelers
from North Korea, Syria, Iran, Chad, Libya,
Somalia, Yemen and Venezuela from
entering the United States.
America has a lot going for it.
We are in the second year of rising incomes across all income groups. Our work
force is relatively young, hardworking and
productive. America’s universities and
other research institutions are strong in
areas like materials science, software
development, nanotechnology, biotechnology, genomics and many other fields that
are important to our future economic
growth and employment. We continue to
move toward more energy independence
and cleaner energy, with advances in
battery storage for solar and wind power
and a vast untapped capacity to generate
electricity from both.
We also face serious economic challenges: severe inequalities in income and
wealth; low work force participation by
adults without college degrees, especially
white men; dramatic differences in growth
between prosperous urban and suburban
regions and counties full of small towns
and rural areas; gaping shortfalls in our
national infrastructure, from inadequate
roads and bridges, to rusty, dangerous
water pipes, to an electrical grid incapable
of moving the cleanest, cheapest energy
from where it can be produced most efficiently to where it is most needed, to the
absence of affordable, rapid broadband
internet in areas that desperately need to
be included in the national economy.
There are human resource challenges,
too. Our K-12 education system includes
some of the world’s best schools, but that
excellence has been hard to replicate
across districts and states with widely
varying conditions. Our higher education
system remains the world’s best, but costs
and student debt are big problems. Health
care reform has brought millions of people
affordable, quality medical insurance for
the first time, but we have wasted too
much time fighting over efforts to repeal
that progress when we should be fixing the
problems that remain and preparing for
the aging of our population. The future of
undocumented immigrants — including
the “Dreamers” and millions of people who
are working hard and paying taxes — is
uncertain at a time when our work force
cannot grow without them; the birthrate
among native-born Americans is barely at
replacement levels. From Charleston to
Charlottesville, we are reminded that the
racial divide remains a curse that can be
revived with devastating consequences.
And the opioid crisis and its progeny,
heroin and fentanyl, are killing and disabling Americans at a staggering rate. For
several years we’ve known it’s a huge
public health challenge, yet almost nowhere do we have the resources and organization necessary to turn the tide.
Tribalism based on race, religion, sexual
identity and place of birth has replaced
inclusive nationalism.
Finally, we have a serious set of security
challenges, from nuclear proliferation, to
terrorism, to climate change, to cybersecurity, the last of which may prove the
most daunting because it puts all the systems we need to deal with the other problems, and our very democracy, at risk.
In spite of our overall economic progress
since the 2008 crash, all these challenges
have contributed to declining economic
mobility, increasing political and social
alienation and more personal insecurity for
millions of our fellow citizens. These forces
have increased our divisions, and make it
even harder to recover our sense of common purpose.
The good news is that an aggressive
effort to address our problems with known
and affordable responses would bolster the
strength of our economy and our communities through higher incomes, more upward mobility and greater security. Many
cities and several states are proving it
every day.
But as a nation, we’re on a very different
path. All too often, tribalism based on race,
religion, sexual identity and place of birth
has replaced inclusive nationalism, in
which you can be proud of your tribe and
still embrace the larger American community. And too often resentment conquers
reason, anger blinds us to answers and
sanctimony passes for authenticity. These
trends are fueled by our Snapchat, Twitter
and Facebook worlds, in which the attention span for issues on television news is
only a few seconds, and the very survival
of newspapers depends upon retweets of
headlines from their online editions. Too
many social media sites are fever swamps
of extremist foreign and domestic invaders. Such resolute efforts to abolish the line
between fact and fiction, truth and lies, can
offset all the benefits of our interconnectedness. When trust vanishes and knowledge is devalued as an establishment
defense of the status quo, anything can
happen. We already see citizens being
disenfranchised by the millions, targeted
by race, ethnicity and age not because they
are ineligible to vote, but because they
favor inclusive, not tribal, nationalism.
Who wins in this kind of environment?
Those who already have it made; they’ll
make more. The least responsible members of the political media, who will prosper covering each new controversy and
outrage. And the enemies of democracy,
who feed the discord and hope that Americans will finally concede that informed
self-government no longer works — and
perhaps is no longer even possible — in
the modern world.
Twenty-five years ago, when I was
elected president, I said that every American should follow our Constitutional
framers’ command to form a more perfect
union, to constantly expand the definition
of “us” and shrink the definition of “them.”
I still believe that. Because I do, I favor
policies that promote cooperation over
conflict and build an economy, a society
and a politics of addition not subtraction,
multiplication not division. Unfortunately,
too many people in power across the world
seem determined to do the reverse. If we
do that here, we will miss this moment to
build our brightest days. Therefore our
most important challenge is deciding who
we Americans really are — as citizens,
communities and a nation. On that, all else
Bill Clinton was the
42nd president of
the United States.
Distraction and division in the Saudi kingdom
TURNING POINT: Saudi Arabia and other
Middle Eastern nations accuse Qatar of
supporting terrorism and block land, air and
sea access to the country.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a
research fellow at
the Hoover Institution and founder of
the AHA Foundation, a nonprofit
focused on protecting women’s rights
that are threatened
by cultural and
religious practices.
In June, Saudi Arabia — along with two
other Persian Gulf states and Egypt —
picked a fight with Qatar, on the grounds
that the country is funding Islamic terrorism. The move was almost satirical, given
that Saudi Arabia itself has long funded the
spread of fundamentalist Salafi Islam,
which is often associated with extremism.
However, this diplomatic spat seems to
be more than just an example of Saudi
Arabia’s pot calling Qatar’s kettle black.
Saudi leaders could be using the conflict,
which has resulted in a blockade of Qatar,
as a strategic smoke screen to deflect
attention from the simmering tension
inside their own insular borders.
The recently promoted heir to the Saudi
throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin
Salman, known as M.B.S., has pledged to
modernize the country. His agenda includes diversifying the Saudi economy
beyond oil, expanding trade, bolstering
employment and loosening restrictions on
entertainment. But at least two domestic
factors complicate his ambitions, and we
may see them play out on the world stage
in 2018.
The first is the possibility of a challenge
to M.B.S.’s ascendancy. Deposing his cousin, Mohammed bin Nayef (M.B.N.), as
crown prince and placing him under house
arrest, then freezing his personal bank
accounts in November, were daring moves,
even by the standards of Arab dynastic
politics. As the former head of the Saudi
secret intelligence service, M.B.N. could
prove to be a dangerous enemy.
Second, M.B.S.’s grand strategic reform
plan — known as Vision 2030 — is a direct
threat to the prestige and power of the
established (and reactionary) Wahhabi
clergy in Saudi Arabia. The clergy has the
clout, and motive, to frustrate his plans. If
the economy is opened up to private enterprise, the clergy’s wealth and influence will
be diminished, leaving it with fewer resources to maintain its grip on the kingdom. For centuries, the royal family has
relied on a pact with the Wahhabi clergy to
provide religious legitimacy to the family’s
rule. But if modernization erodes the clergy’s authority, how long will its members
remain docile?
Months before his ascendancy in June,
M.B.S. signaled that the influence of the
clergy could be an obstacle to economic
growth and Saudi Arabia’s ability to wean
itself off its oil-revenue dependency. If the
clerics resist having their wings clipped,
they are likely to openly oppose encroaching westernization just as Saudi Arabia
seeks to attract and retain foreign investors.
The royal family may therefore have to
buy the clerics’ support, or at least their
silence. For example, M.B.S. might offer
them greater latitude in areas that are less
crucial to the economy, such as “da’wah” —
the spreading of Wahhabi Islam. Since
1973, the Saudi government and its semipublic “charitable” foundations have spent
billions of dollars spreading fanatical Wahhabi ideology abroad, and further bolstering da’wah would be bad news for the
international community’s anti-radicalization efforts.
The Saudi clergy is powerful — a num-
tional airport, and the Lebanese prime
minister, who happened to be visiting the
kingdom, publicly resigned, citing security
concerns about Iranian-backed Hezbollah.
Since then, ripples continue to be felt
across the region.
The stakes are high. If M.B.S. succeeds
in his modernization efforts, Saudis will
benefit from new opportunities and freedoms, and the world will benefit from
A continuing quarrel with Qatar masks the
simmering tensions within Saudi Arabia’s
own insular borders.
ber of clerics have large social media
followings, which provide a direct channel
to supporters across the country. Clergy
members who are agitating for a political
backlash could use these platforms to
criticize the aging King Salman, cast doubt
on his right to rule and threaten M.B.S.’s
modernization agenda. They could also
ignite social unrest in a country that has a
chronically high youth unemployment rate.
In an effort to stifle dissent, M.B.S. in
September cracked down and detained a
few influential clerics who failed to support
the kingdom’s position on Qatar. He went
on in November, under the auspices of an
anticorruption purge, to arrest more than
200 Saudi power brokers, including former
government ministers, members of the
royal family and wealthy magnates.
The Wahhabis share a worldview with
much of the complex network of Islamist
and jihadist organizations around the
world. Qatar and Turkey — supporters of
the Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban
— will most likely use their connections to
a belligerent Saudi clergy to frustrate
M.B.S.’s agenda and tarnish his image
abroad. In response, the Saudi leadership
could seek a bigger external distraction by
escalating its conflict with Qatar, just as it
did with the invasion of Yemen in 2015.
Already we are seeing Saudi politics
being breathlessly stage-managed. On the
same evening in November that M.B.S.
began wielding the ax against his political
rivals, Riyadh announced that a Yemeni
missile was intercepted near its interna-
curtailing the Wahhabi radicalization
agenda. A decade from now, the kingdom
could look more like the United Arab Emirates, its prosperous and relatively forwardlooking neighbor.
If M.B.S. fails, Saudi Arabia will relapse
into authoritarian theocracy, the tiny advances in women’s rights that have been
made since the 1970s will be swept aside
and the country will be set back, economically and socially, by decades. Worse, the
kingdom’s money and influence will continue to be used to export the extremism
that is causing so much upheaval in the
rest of the Middle East, as well as in Africa, South Asia and Europe.
Middle Eastern politics is regarded by
nearly all players as a zero-sum game; to
compromise is to bring shame upon one’s
family and entire culture. Instead of acquiescing to the gulf states’ ultimatums —
such as requiring that it shut down news
organizations and distance itself from
groups like the Muslim Brotherhood —
Qatar has only deepened its alliances with
Iran and Turkey. These forces are already
in conflict in Yemen, in what is arguably a
proxy war between the region’s Sunni bloc
and Iran and its allies. The next obvious
battleground will be Syria, where Iran (to
say nothing of Russia) stands to be the
principal beneficiary of the defeat of the
Islamic State. Also in play in the year
ahead will be Iraqi Kurdistan.
In June, this all seemed like a minor spat
between two Arab kingdoms. In 2018, it
could spark a much larger conflict.
My belief in multiculturalism
TURNING POINT: Elections in Europe give
wind to right-wing nationalist movements.
In the wake of Brexit and the election of
Donald Trump, with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Narendra Modi’s voter-sanctioned
authoritarianism and the Polish and Hungarian governments’ rejection of liberal
values, and of migrants, the consensus is
that there is a new nationalist, illiberal
wave washing over the Earth.
As ever, we must resist authoritarian
instincts that restrict our liberties, demonize anybody who appears to be different
and — as is happening in Turkey — outlaw
freedom of expression, judiciary independence and pluralism. We must stand unflinchingly in defense of our dearest values: women’s rights, freedom of thought,
academic liberties.
But we must also ask how this illiberal
wind has taken hold in spite of our wellintentioned avowal of egalitarianism and
humanism. Why does our side keep losing
One of the joys of being a novelist is that
it allows you to see and write from both
sides of a problem, to inhabit opposing
perspectives even as they remain so violently at odds with each other. I wrote my
novel “A Strangeness in my Mind” to explore and describe the world of a street
vendor, an everyman, on the streets of
Istanbul, without ignoring his religiosity.
To omit something as important as religion, even if the writer doesn’t identify
with it as the character does, risks catching readers off-guard when the character’s
inspiration, the real lower class, begins to
vote for Islamist political parties. The
power of such movements seems stronger
to us when we confuse our liberal fantasies
with reality.
Just as I try to explore conflicting perspectives while writing, the current American incarnation of multiculturalism, which
advocates immigrants adding their unique
backgrounds to a new culture rather than
abandoning their history in order to assimilate, can encourage people to fight bur-
geoning authoritarianism. By learning to
understand one another more fully, we
remain calm in the assurance that we
know our neighbors, regardless of how
different they may be.
It was during my first trip to New York,
in 1985, when I realized that multiculturalism enabled us to live alongside people of
different religious and cultural backgrounds without having to shed our own
heritage. Back then, this form of tolerance
had not yet been conflated with the notion
of cultural relativism. The concept of multiculturalism was essential to the American
“melting pot,” in which people of disparate
tion and modernity; secularism and Islam;
East and West. I anticipated multiculturalism bolstering Turkish democracy, already so diminished by those same conflicts, by military coups justified in the
name of secularism and by the periodic
disbanding of political parties. In the early
2000s, I argued that joining the European
Union would benefit Turkish democracy
and Europe both, and that absorbing more
than 60 million Muslims would transform
Europe into a multicultural society like the
United States.
Thirty-two years since that first trip to
New York, none of my hopes have been
How has an illiberal wind taken hold in
spite of our well-intentioned avowal of
egalitarianism and humanism?
faiths and cultures came together and
were forged into one nation.
It challenged those who would have
pitted communities against each other to
live instead in harmony, in the same country, in the same cities and on the same
streets. People of different cultures could
keep the traditions that governed their
religious beliefs, social mores and everyday habits, as long as they recognized that
those values were relative.
To me, the American way of integrating
religious minorities into wider society still
seems far more effective than European
methods. Muslim immigrants to the United
States appear much happier and more
comfortable than Muslims in France. I
believe multiculturalism has been much
better than laïcité, the secular French
model, at safeguarding the freedom of
religion. High school students in France
aren’t allowed to wear headscarves to
classes — not unlike university students in
Turkey, as I described in my novel “Snow.”
Political Islam has exploited this seeming intolerance to consolidate its power
and influence in Turkey. In the 1990s, I was
— as I still am — convinced that multiculturalism had the power to soften some of
Turkey’s eternal conflicts: between tradi-
fulfilled. But my faith remains, in part
because I haven’t forgotten that these
disappointments are rooted in the historically nationalist mind-sets found in both
Turkey and Europe.
Indeed, we can trace such modern sentiments back at least a century. In April 1914,
the French author André Gide wrote in his
diary: “... for too long I thought that there
was more than one civilization, more than
one culture that could rightfully claim our
love and deserve our enthusiasm. Now I
know that our Occidental (I was about to
say French) civilization is not only the
most beautiful; I believe — I know — that
it is the only one.”
Gide’s original openness morphed into
chauvinism, triggered by his negative
impressions of Istanbul on a trip there in
1914. The Turkish intellectuals who at the
time advocated for the country’s Westernization were distressed by Gide’s words.
But to respond in kind would have agitated
nationalist sentiments on both sides and
further cut Turkey off from the West.
Forty years spent writing novels and
trying to understand people different from
me have taught me the same thing: to
remain calm in the face of these easterly
and westerly, historic and contemporary
The illiberal winds we face today are not
so strong as to sweep all logic away. Let us
not forget that Hillary Clinton won 2.5
million more votes than Donald Trump; in
Britain, the notion of Brexit has become
tinged with regret; in Turkey, Erdogan’s
authoritarianism was endorsed by only a
paper-thin margin in April’s vote to cement
his power.
Comprehending these forces requires us
to recognize why other people might disagree with our most deeply held convictions. Doing so is not a cure-all for either
newly born nationalist movements or
generational enmity, but it can both keep
us calm and help us to endure. In this
endeavor, the novelist and the multiculturalist share a similar approach, one based
on imagining and understanding the humanity of people who are not like us.
Orhan Pamuk won
the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 2006.
His novel “My Name
Is Red” won the
2003 IMPAC Dublin
Literary Award. His
work has been
translated into more
than 60 languages.
The future is bringing countries without borders
cated, and there is no simple answer for
how a government should deal with the
issues of national security. Anyone who
has ever led a nation, myself included,
understands the priority of keeping citizens safe. The answer, though, is not to
punish the men and women whose admiration and dedication to a country has served
as the catalyst for their hard work and
We have heard many stories of young
people arriving in America with their
parents, whose dreams of providing the
best life possible for their children embold-
TURNING POINT: Prototypes for a wall along
the border between Mexico and the United
States are unveiled.
Vicente Fox
Quesada was
the president of
Mexico from
2000 to 2006.
September brought great sadness, frustration and anger when the president of the
United States, Donald Trump, called on
Congress to phase out DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a
program that assured the future of around
800,000 children from all over the world
who are living in the United States, protecting them from deportation. Making up
nearly 80 percent of that figure, Mexicans
will be disproportionately affected by an
end to the program.
Latinos, particularly Mexicans, have
been the main targets of President
Trump’s constant racial attacks. According
to Mr. Trump, we are guilty of all sorts of
criminal acts. We have been called rapists,
drug traffickers and thieves who steal
American jobs. He has demanded that we
pay for a wall to be built between our two
nations that would prevent us from entering the United States.
Many of these DACA recipients arrived
as babies or toddlers and know no other
home, yet they still acknowledge their
birthplace and cherish their mother nation,
adopting proud hybrid identities.
Every country has its own Dreamers, as
these young immigrants are known. As
they grow up, study, build businesses and
exchange ideas, they help fortify a globalized world where cultures mix.
The residents of this modern world
order endorse a new kind of citizenship
and democracy. They don’t settle for voting, but are eager to protest when they
believe they are being treated unjustly.
global identity, and countries without
borders, it remains imperative that we
prioritize the preservation and celebration
of our cultural traditions. Our customs
provide us with an exciting mix of ideas,
experiences and stories to contribute.
As we honor what each individual brings
to the table by way of their background,
the term “minority” will become an anachronism. Each person has a unique story
and skill set, effectively making all of us
equal in our potential contributions to
Conservative movements have risen in
Imagining a new global identity where
the term “minority” is an anachronism.
They strive for self-sustaining economic
growth. They are concerned with the major shifts in climate around the planet.
These citizens of the world know their
value. Regardless of skin color, upbringing
or nationality, they are able to thrive in
different types of environments. We see
examples every day of these evolved people, who are fighting to end racism and
bring equality, inclusion and representation to their governments.
Immigration is nuanced and compli-
ened them to risk a hazardous border
crossing into unknown territory. Those
young people have gone on to acquire
educations, careers and communities;
helped their parents to fill out job applications and medical forms in English; and
sent aid and guidance back to their birthplaces. They aren’t trying to hurt their
adopted country — just the opposite.
They’re just looking to be recognized.
America is so admired because of what
it seems to represent: equality and opportunity and heterogeneity. Rescinding
DACA would be a huge step backward for
a nation that has always prided itself on its
forbearance. The potential damage to
hundreds of thousands of lives is unquantifiable, and the upside is nonexistent. This
change would punish the people who
wanted so badly to live in a country that
they risked everything they had to get
If the future is bringing the notion of a
opposition to this cultural blending, not
only in America, but all over the world,
from the Brexit efforts in Britain to the far
right party Alternative for Germany’s
presence in this year’s election. Rapid
change and disruption have brought instability and concern, and in response conservative leaders are promising tranquillity
and security through protectionism and
excessive nationalism.
We cannot resort to this old answer to a
new struggle. It is no longer feasible to
shut our doors in a world that is commingled politically, economically, socially and
culturally. Banning men and women from
entering a country based on their religion
is bigoted and hateful.
Denying refugees and those seeking
asylum the opportunities many of our
countries are equipped to provide them is
needlessly cruel and, as in the case of
DACA, only serves to hurt our most vulnerable fellow humans.
17 things that happened for the first time in 2017
Surprising, serious and sometimes silly events. By Tricia Tisak
1. Taiwanese court rules in
favor of same-sex marriage
Taiwan’s constitutional court has
ruled that the country’s civil laws
barring same-sex marriage are
unconstitutional, giving the
legislature two years to fix current laws or enact new ones
allowing gay marriage — which
would make the island nation the
first in Asia to do so.
L.G.B.T. activists and allies
celebrate the Taiwanese
top court’s landmark
decision in May.
2. Storing image files
in living memory
Scientists have figured out a way
to store moving images in the
unlikeliest of places — inside living
cells. Harvard Medical School
researchers encoded a series of
stills of a galloping horse captured
in 1878 by Eadweard Muybridge, a
photographer and moving-image
pioneer, inside the DNA of common bacteria. The images stored
in the DNA survived as the bacteria
divided and multiplied, an advancement that could have farreaching uses as the technology
3. Brazil grapples with first
strike in 20 years
Violence erupted in Brazil in April,
when protesters and the police
clashed in the country’s first
general strike in two decades.
Workers were angered by President Michel Temer’s calls to
overhaul labor laws and trim the
nation’s generous pension system.
Protesters set buses
ablaze in Rio de Janeiro
in April during a union
4. British couple tie the knot
in the Antarctic
A British couple became the first
to officially wed in the British
Antarctic Territory. The polar field
guides, who work for the British
Antarctic Survey at a research
station on Adelaide Island, were
married in subzero temperatures
in July.
5. A Holy See first
for four countries
Of five men that Pope Francis
elevated to the position of
cardinal in June, four are the
first ever to be so named in
their respective countries: El
Salvador, Laos, Mali and Sweden. The pope’s picks are consistent with his mission to
diversify the ranks of the cardinals, the church authorities who
will choose the next pontiff.
A pledge to fight climate change
TURNING POINT: The United States
announces its withdrawal from the Paris
climate accord.
President Trump’s declaration on June 1,
2017, that he was withdrawing the United
States from the 2015 Paris agreement on
climate change, which I helped to design,
was framed as a call to nationalism, saying
he was “elected to represent the citizens of
Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
But 75 percent of Pittsburghers voted for
Hillary Clinton, who was in favor of the
agreement, and since then the mayors of
Pittsburgh and Paris have together endorsed the Paris agreement, in the joint
goal of building a cleaner, safer world.
As local governments see how climate
change is linked to citizens’ well-being,
they are taking concrete actions such as
setting milestones for air quality, banning
diesel cars or combustion engines, and
implementing renewable energy systems.
This was demonstrated just days after
Mr. Trump’s announcement, when American governors, mayors, businesses, universities and others declared “We Are Still In,”
pledging to meet the goals of the Paris
agreement. The commitments of more
than 2,500 such leaders are now formalized in the “America’s Pledge” effort, as
they work to build upon those promises. It
is an extraordinary, innovative move:
citizens implementing a global agreement,
a government obligation, standing as
responsible actors of the global community.
The private sector can see this is the
future and companies are investing accordingly: The automotive industry is
competing madly in the rush to switch to
electric vehicles, while private investors
are reluctant to invest in new coal power
The battle over climate change at this
year’s G-20 meeting starkly illustrated Mr.
Trump’s growing isolation. Despite a failed
attempt by the United States to rally a
pro-fossil fuel coalition, including a preG-20 visit to Poland and an appeal to climate skeptics, often through social networks and the far-right press, trying to
equate climate action as a clash between
global elites and ordinary people, all 19
other countries reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris agreement, leaving the
United States out in the cold.
Mr. Trump’s claim that this move will
help the American economy does not hold
up. In the fast-changing area of electric
power generation alone, twice as many
Americans work with solar technologies as
in fossil fuels, and his slashing of federal
research funding will hurt the country’s
We are also in a time when extreme
events are becoming more frequent and
more costly. Every year we have a oncein-500-years storm, and every year is the
hottest on record. Hurricane Harvey,
which made landfall on the mainland in
southeast Texas, will be the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United
States: Its estimated $190 billion price tag
may exceed the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina in 2005 and Sandy in 2012.
Climate change is what is called a
“threat multiplier,” both contributing to
instability and making its effects worse.
Drought and desertification lead to famine
and conflict over water, fueling regional
conflicts and political unrest, and increasing migration. The severity of Syria’s
drought from 2007-10 was caused by climate change, and researchers have found
that drought was a significant driver of the
civil war that is today the world’s greatest
humanitarian disaster. Altogether, an
estimated 203 million people were displaced by natural disasters from 2008-15.
Though Mr. Trump is choosing to ignore
reality on the federal government levels,
we are seeing unprecedented action by
leaders at the sub-national and local level,
along with those in business and civil
Further discussion about the withdrawal
by the United States could be a deadly,
costly distraction from our work ahead. We
cannot let that happen. There is a clear
need for leadership in order to bolster the
coalition around the Paris agreement,
which is remaining steady.
Let’s focus on going much faster and
further, toward achieving peak emissions
in 2020 and net-zero emissions by the end
of the century.
Many regions still face pressing issues
around decarbonization of power and
industry. Europe needs to do better at
home and, with leadership from France
and Germany, to continue engaging China
and India, encouraging them to meet more
ambitious targets.
The global movement that was founded
upon the statements in the Paris agreement is about people, citizens’ concerns,
economic expectations and technological
development. It is not a technocratic legal
document, nor about abandoning national
sovereignty. We are working toward a
shared vision of a common future, with the
goal of safeguarding the planet for all.
When our thoughts are no longer our own
TURNING POINT: WikiLeaks releases a trove
of documents detailing methods the C.I.A.
might have employed to break into
smartphones, computers and
internet-connected TVs.
Hari Kunzru is
the author of
“The Impressionist,”
“Gods Without Men,”
and most recently,
“White Tears.”
Laurence Tubiana
is C.E.O. of the
European Climate
Foundation and a
professor at Sciences Po, in Paris.
She was appointed
the French ambassador to the 2015
COP21 climate
change conference,
where she was a key
architect of the
landmark Paris
In 1855, the reclusive poet Emily Dickinson
sent a poem to her sister-in-law.
There is a solitude of space
A solitude of sea
A solitude of death, but these
Society shall be
Compared with that profounder site
That polar privacy
A soul admitted to itself —
Finite Infinity.
A century and a half later, we live in a
world where the first two kinds of solitude
— that of space or of sea — are nearing
extinction. Even if we travel into the desert
or far out over the ocean, we must be
resigned to the idea that someone could be
watching, via satellite or drone. For much
of our lives, as we go about our business in
the heavily surveilled spaces of modern
cities, carrying the seductively packaged
trackers we still quaintly call our “phones,”
we are under observation.
What is privacy? It’s not just an occasional preference for solitude. It is the
capacity to conceal things: parts of our
bodies, aspects of our lives. Privacy is
more than solitude; it’s not simply visual.
We sweep through the world trailing
clouds of metadata, and, with new and
inexpensive tools to store and process it,
pictures of our intimacies are being drawn
that are not only descriptive, but actually
predictive, of how we will behave, given
certain inputs.
Within a few years, the intensity of
surveillance will increase almost beyond
measure. Researchers at the University of
Stuttgart in Germany recently described
an information-gathering technology nicknamed “smart dust,” employing lenses the
size of a grain of table salt that can capture
images sharply and could be manufactured
quickly and cheaply using commercially
available 3-D printers. Imagine tiny cameras injected into the brain to detect tumors! Wonderful! Now imagine the effect
of ubiquitous, near-invisible, networked
surveillance of all social and political life,
using tools so cheap that they can be manufactured in unimaginably large quantities,
the world’s spies and secret policemen
scattering their eyes like farmers sowing
seeds. At that point our expectation of
privacy will fall to zero, and with it still
more of our ability to resist established
power, whatever its political complexion.
This is the era of pattern recognition, and
our habits, our predilections, the desires
that shape our behavior, are ever more
susceptible to quantification, prediction and
control. We have learned to marvel at the
big-box chain that knows we’re pregnant
before our partner does. We are less conscious of the e-reader that gathers information on which pages we skip and which
words we linger over. We are only beginning to understand the political power of
network architecture, of information silos
(whether liberal or conservative) that feel
whose sense of themselves is more intense,
more luxurious. The superman, the Extropian genius, the next wave. But we are
making a world where such a possibility
seems increasingly remote, at least for the
majority. Perhaps augmented powers and
an expansive interiority will be achievable
for a small elite, to those who will be able to
pay for privacy. Most people will find themselves living more muted, circumscribed
If our sense of self looks likely to be
transformed by the erosion of privacy, it is
also under pressure from the erosion of the
social world of work and the human identities that come with it. Automation is about
to destroy the livelihoods of many kinds of
What will become of our inner selves now that
our most intimate moments are analyzed to
predict our future actions?
to their inhabitants like the entire world, of
political advertising calibrated to the precise dimensions of our particular, individual
Say I’m a gun owner. I live in an area of
high crime. I recently bought exterior
lighting for my home. Surely, I fear a home
invasion. My advertisement opens with a
shadowy figure, a flashlight sweeping
across the faces of sleeping children. My
neighbor’s ad is completely different.
When you are always, at least potentially,
being watched, any form of self-expression
is also a sort of betrayal, a card player’s
tell. With ubiquitous visual surveillance, we
will surely retreat inside ourselves, into the
realm of the unexpressed, Emily Dickinson’s “profounder site” of privacy, the “soul
admitted to itself.” While the language is
spiritual, it describes a state that secular
people also recognize. We have an expectation that, before we go forth into the social
world, we can occupy a private interior
space for experimentation and contemplation, a space free of the judgment of others.
This interior space is by its very nature
utopian and transgressive. On it we rest
our ideas about freedom, choice and moral
For a generation or so, we have been
fantasizing about the possibility of becoming posthuman. What would our own evolution look like? What are we becoming?
When we think of our successors, we lazily
imagine sovereign individuals who are
somehow more powerful than ourselves,
worker, from taxi driver to investment
banker. It is encroaching on many of the
domains of the “human,” those of expertise,
craft and even art, and taste. Low payroll
costs mean higher profits, and private
companies have no obligation to ensure full
participation in the labor market.
The advent of that much-heralded thing,
the Leisure Society, looks less like a sevenday party weekend than large-scale human
warehousing. We define ourselves through
our social roles. We are socialized to be
useful, to participate, to maintain a state of
high productivity. Our politicians, eager to
reduce the cost of providing a social security, grind into us the notion that idleness is a
great sin. But for many, idleness will be
enforced, and along with it the shame of
being watched and treated as sinners. For
as citizens excluded from economic life, the
idle are always the most disruptive and
have historically been subject to the most
intense surveillance.
Posthumanity is too grandiose a term for
what is on the horizon. This is about power,
and an economic reorganization that is
driving wealth upward, not a species evolving toward some sort of Borg-like network
form. A nostalgic yearning for the halcyon
days of humanity may allow us to strike
melancholic poses, but it will do little to halt
the vast processes that are driving these
changes. Instead we need to imagine a kind
of politics that still assigns a value to private life and new forms of belonging that
do not revolve around work.
6. In France, too-thin
models are out
In a first for the country considered by many to be the birthplace
of fashion, France has enacted a
law essentially banning underweight models. The law, which
took effect in May, will require
doctors to vouch for the wellbeing of models — including
having a healthy body mass
index. It also requires commercial
photographs of models that are
retouched to say so, or the
agency will be subjected to a
hefty fine.
Models present Thom
Browne women’s wear
during Paris Fashion
Week in October.
7. Facebook releases
first VR film
Facebook’s virtual-reality arm,
Oculus, premiered its first
full-length V.R. film, “Miyubi,” at
the Sundance Film Festival in
January. Set in suburban America in the 1980s, the 40-minute
film allows the viewer to experience life as seen through the
eyes of a toy robot.
8. U.S. scientists repair DNA
in human embryo
For the first time in the United
States, scientists have successfully edited out a dangerous mutation in human embryos, according
to a study published in Nature in
August. Using a tool called Crispr,
scientists managed to erase
genes that cause a heart condition that can lead to sudden death
later in life.
9. Advances in Chinese
China’s first homemade aircraft
carrier was launched in April. The
still-unnamed ship, which was
built in less than four years, will
be ready for combat by 2020. And
less than a month later, China’s
first domestically manufactured
passenger jet took off from
Shanghai’s Pudong International
Airport for its maiden voyage. The
country hopes to enter the international aviation market with the
C919 plane.
The first aircraft
carrier built entirely in
China launched from
dry dock in April.
10. Canadian mint releases
luminescent coin
In commemoration of its
150th anniversary, Canada
released a glow-in-the-dark
coin into circulation, a first for
the country. The $2 coin,
which Canadians call a
“toonie,” features a lake scene
with a sky that glows bluegreen, in honor of the aurora
A fractured 2017
How to protect the world from North Korea
TURNING POINT: North Korea tests
advanced ballistic missile technology.
When the two met in the Oval Office soon
after the 2016 election, Barack Obama
reportedly told Donald Trump that the
Democratic Republic of North Korea, or
D.P.R.K., would be the most serious national security challenge he would face as
president. After a year of provocative
missile tests, fiery rhetoric and dangerous
brinkmanship, Mr. Obama’s warning has
proved prescient.
In 2017, nervousness approached something close to panic as North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs
progressed far more rapidly than experts
had anticipated. In a breakthrough, Pyongyang tested an intercontinental ballistic
missile capable of striking not only Guam
and Hawaii, but also the continental United
States. North Korea also detonated its
most powerful nuclear device yet, which
the regime claimed could be mounted on
one of its ICBMs.
Instead of offering a clear strategy,
President Trump has jumped from one
approach to the next, scarcely pausing
long enough for observers, including key
allies such as South Korea and Japan, to
catch their breath. He turned to China to
rein in the D.P.R.K., a well-worn approach
that, predictably, has not succeeded. He
expressed an interest in negotiating directly with the North Korean leader, Kim
Jong-un, saying it would be an “honor” to
meet him. Then he decided that talking
was “not the answer,” even as his top aides
were stating their openness to a diplomatic
initiative. Along the way he has accused
South Korea’s leaders of appeasement and
talked about withdrawing from America’s
free trade agreement with that country.
Practically nothing has been consistent
about Mr. Trump’s approach to North
Korea, except that he repeatedly blames
his predecessors for his predicament. And
while he criticizes George W. Bush and Mr.
Obama for not doing more, much of his ire
is directed at the Clinton administration’s
diplomatic efforts, which I participated in
as ambassador to the United Nations and
as secretary of state.
Like Mr. Trump, President Bill Clinton
was confronted by North Korean belligerence early on. In 1993, the D.P.R.K. threatened to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and remove the fuel
rods from its nuclear reactor, extracting
the weapons-grade plutonium they contained — enough to fuel half a dozen nuclear warheads.
This precipitated a crisis between Washington and Pyongyang. Our focus was on
stopping the D.P.R.K. from developing
nuclear weapons, so we applied pressure
at the United Nations while also considering our other options, up to and including
military strikes aimed at North Korea’s
nuclear reactor.
Fortunately, through diplomacy, a military clash was avoided. Working closely
with our allies, we vigorously engaged
with North Korea to conclude an accord we
called the Agreed Framework. This required the North to shut down its reactor,
seal 8,000 fuel rods containing reprocessed
plutonium and freeze its plutonium production facilities, under inspection by the
International Atomic Energy Agency. In
return, the United States and our allies
agreed to help North Korea cope with its
immediate fuel shortages and pay for the
construction of two civilian nuclear power
The Agreed Framework was not perfect,
and implementation fell short on both
sides. But it ended the immediate crisis
and prevented the North from realizing its
potential to develop dozens of nuclear
bombs. Had it not been in place, experts
have estimated that the D.P.R.K. would
have possessed between 50 and 100 nuclear weapons by the time the Bush administration took office. Instead, to our knowledge it had none.
To this day, I remain the highest-ranking
sitting United States official to have traveled to North Korea. Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, and I held two days of
intensive talks, during which he appeared
willing to accept more significant restraints on the missile programs than we
had expected.
When the Bush administration came in,
it declined to continue negotiations and
pursued a more confrontational strategy.
11. A cancer drug
For the first time, the Food and
Drug Administration has approved
a drug to treat any tumor sharing
certain genetic characteristics —
regardless of cancer type. For
years, doctors focused on treating
cancer cells depending on where
they were in the body. Pembrolizumab (known by its brand
name Keytruda) is an immunotherapy drug that blocks the cancer
cell’s ability to protect itself from
the body’s immune system.
By 2003, the Agreed Framework had collapsed. By 2006, North Korea had tested its
first nuclear device.
Leaving office, I felt there were many
possible directions in which events on the
Korean Peninsula might unfold. Unfortunately, after many twists and turns, they
have come full circle. The Trump administration is now facing the very specter Mr.
Clinton had feared: a North Korea armed
with enough nuclear bombs to threaten its
neighbors — and the United States —
while deterring incoming attacks.
Obviously, if this dilemma were easy to
resolve, it would have been settled long
ago. The fundamental problem is that the
North Korean leadership is convinced it
requires nuclear weapons to guarantee its
own survival. For confirmation, it need
only ponder the fate of Iraq’s Saddam
Hussein and Libya’s Muammar el-Qaddafi.
However, the most promising way to
stabilize the situation does not differ all
that much from the Clinton administration’s approach. The United States’ policy
toward North Korea should include diplo-
12. Pinpointing baby
dinosaur’s parentage
For the first time, paleontologists
have determined the species of
one of the largest known dinosaur
eggs, found in central China nearly
25 years ago. According to scientists, the fossilized embryo is a
giant oviraptorosaur, a large feathered dinosaur that weighed up to
one ton and had sharp claws and a
toothless beak.
North Korean leadership is convinced
it requires nuclear weapons to
guarantee its own survival.
matic pressure, enhanced military deterrence, close coordination with South Korea
and Japan, and a willingness to engage in
direct talks, not as a reward to Pyongyang
but as a means of doing what is necessary
to protect our own security.
For too long, American policy has
searched in vain for a deft, simple solution
to North Korea’s nuclear ambitions. The
hope has been that the regime in Pyongyang would change, or that China would
force it to capitulate. The result has been a
backward slide, forfeiting prior gains
without substituting anything new. It is
time for a more realistic and serious approach — one that exhausts the possibilities of diplomacy, protects our citizens and
does not plunge the world into an unnecessary war.
13. India’s latest launch has
the world watching
India’s space agency set a new
world record when it launched
104 satellites from a single rocket
in February, overtaking Russia’s
previous record of 34. It is no
secret that the country has made
space exploration and commerce
a priority, and this latest launch
makes it a serious contender in
the private space-travel market.
mere adjuncts to men. The world
moves on, but in zigzags, not straight
lines. The front lines of race are no
longer in British India. They are down
the street, or over the tracks, within
Western societies. Eurocentrism is
over. Gender and sexuality are a battleground in the dismantlement of old
ways of thinking. Yet the old, especially in male chauvinist form, never
goes quietly. It digs in and it fights.
Of course, Trump’s reactionary
politics do little or nothing for his
white blue-collar constituency. What
he offers is spectacle. This is the potent lifeblood of his movement: the
appearance of action. Statesmanship
is such a quaint word because spectacle has replaced it.
Trump’s proposed tax cuts are for
the rich. Who else? Meanwhile, immigrants in New York and across the
country are living in a terrifying dark
age. Immigrant workers on farms are
often too afraid to leave properties.
Arrests of unauthorized immigrants
by the Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency are up 43 percent
over last year in the period between
Trump’s inauguration and early September. All over the United States,
mothers and fathers are being ripped
from their children. Young immigrants
who thought they could dream of an
American future have seen that future
The Trump administration has
embarked on an all-out attack on the
poor, be they recipients of food
stamps, or Medicaid, or any federal
cushioning of low-income existence
and misery. Incompetence has been
deified in his Washington. It’s not just
the State Department that’s been
eviscerated. The Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency are not far behind. “Climate change” is now an unutterable
phrase in official circles. Beneath all
that Trump noise, ugliness and brutality spread in a fractured America
governed by a man who thrives on
Storms are brewing. The weather
itself is weird and violent. Fear
spreads. Peace feels more fragile.
Technology is a great connector; it is
also a great isolator. Individualism
lurches into narcissism. Truth and
falsehood blur. Stupidity and vulgarity
are on the march.
An American president tweets
about revoking the broadcast license
of NBC because its news division is
not patriotic enough. This is PutinErdogan-Duterte territory.
People start to shrug. Some rejoice.
This is the new reality. Trump actually
tweets: “Why would Kim Jong-un
insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I
would NEVER call him ‘short and
fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his
friend — and maybe some day that
will happen!” The world will have to
get along without America, taking a
break in middle school, and without
even the idea of America.
Good luck to it. The time was ripe;
Pax Americana was so 20th century.
Chaos is stimulating, even revitalizing.
It punishes lazy thinking. It occurs at
the ending of something, which must
inevitably be the beginning of something else. Of course, chaos can also
end badly — before it yields its unknowable fruits.
Madeleine Albright
was United Nations
ambassador from
1993 to 1997 and
United States
secretary of state
from 1997 to 2001.
Onlookers watch as the
Indian Space Research
Organization launched a
flock of 104 satellites into
space over the course of
18 minutes.
by the eroding but not yet defunct
architecture of the postwar order.
Trump has not, so far, hurled the world
over a cliff.
Sure, Russia and Iran won in Syria.
Sure, you can get on a motorbike in
Tehran and drive through territory
mainly under Iranian control or influence all the way to Beirut. Sure, Saudi
Arabia, recklessly embraced by Trump,
stands somewhere between revolution
and implosion under the fast-forwarding, grandstanding Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman. Sure, SaudiIranian enmity could end in war (in
Yemen, it already has). Sure, America’s
withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade agreement and from
the Paris climate accord signal abandonment of responsibility — as surely
as China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative binding countries to its expanding
ambition signals confidence and engagement. Sure, Trump has honed
nuclear brinkmanship with North
Korea. Sure, he hardly knows, and
cares less, where Ukraine is or what
Vladimir Putin may be doing there.
The thing is, Trump thrives on all
this upheaval. He believes the world
does, too, within limits. As I said, he’s a
property guy raised in New York.
Property is a conservative business.
That’s inside Trump, too: He walks to
the edge but not over it. He wouldn’t
want prices-per-square-foot to tumble.
Markets, as he keeps noting, have
soared since he took office. Wall Street
loves an administration that looks after
the rich (especially if it can pretend its
real concern is the American worker).
The 21st-century world is a pyramid.
Wiring everyone together did not so
much empower everyone as connect
the elites at the summit, the guys who
had the view of everything and the
means to turn what they saw into a
geyser of cash. Busy with all that, sure
of themselves, operating globally,
benefiting from cheap labor and taxlite impunity, they scarcely noted that
they no longer had much connection
with the masses below, whose view
was still national, whose culture was
still local, and who dimly suffered, with
mounting anger, the transformative
consequences of globalization.
Trump saw that he could be the
vehicle of that anger. He grasped that
nationalism, nativism and xenophobia
were ripe for a rerun. Sovereignty is
his mot du jour, even if — or more
likely because — ever more of life is
lived in a virtual reality where the
nation is defunct. The ugly reactionary
tide has not yet run its course. Trump
will squeeze every last drop of political
juice from it in 2018 and beyond. So will
Europe’s rightist movements, still
vigorous across the continent despite
Emmanuel Macron’s uplifting victory
in France. The neo-fascists of Poland,
of Hungary, are on the march, their
anti-Semitism not yet exhausted. In
every Western democracy, Trump has
helped unleash that which is most foul
in human nature.
It’s the last stand of the white man,
whose century this will not be. Demography is inexorable, as are movements
in people’s minds. Wilson could still
speak of colonialism as something to
be adjusted, rather than the vile white
exploitation of dark-skinned people
that it was. Women, in his time, were
After his 12-day trip through Asia, President Trump said that “America is back” as a global
leader. Mr. Trump with President Tran Dai Quang of Vietnam in Hanoi in November.
14. Nepal holds
local elections
For the first time in two decades,
millions of Nepalese voted in local
elections, seen as a promising if
precarious step as the country
slowly transitions to a full-fledged
democracy. Nepal has been
plagued with years of political
instability and virtually no local
governance following a 10-year
civil war that ended in 2006 and
the abolition of the monarchy in
A Nepali woman displays an
inked thumb after casting her
vote in a polling station.
15. Beware the ‘borgs?
For the first time, companies are
equipping their employees with
technology inside their bodies.
Epicenter, a company in Sweden,
has given its workers the option to
have radio frequency identification,
or R.F.I.D., technology implanted in
their hands. A U.S. company, Three
Square Market, has followed suit,
giving its employees the option to
be “chipped,” which would allow
them to open doors and log in to
their computers, among other
abilities. Critics, however, expressed privacy concerns.
The Dalai Lama: How to ward off despair in a time of uncertainty
The 14th Dalai
Lama, Tenzin Gyatso,
is the spiritual leader
of Tibet and a recipient of the Nobel
Peace Prize. Since
1959 he has lived in
exile in Dharamsala,
in northern India.
A crack in a floating ice shelf in Antarctica
reached its breaking point and calved a
huge iceberg, setting it afloat in the seas.
It’s a fitting image for a world that feels
under pressure and on the verge of, well,
everything — ready to break off and set
itself free. The global political temperature
is on the rise, the future of truth is under
debate and the specter of nuclear conflict
hovers. We asked His Holiness the Dalai
Lama for his thoughts on how to cope.
We are facing a time of great uncertainty and upheaval in many corners of
our planet. When it comes to making the
world a better place, concern for others is
Our future is very much in our hands.
Within each of us exists the potential to
contribute positively to society. Although
one individual among so many on this
planet may seem too insignificant to have
much of an effect on the course of humanity, it is our personal efforts that will determine the direction our society is heading.
Wherever I go, I consider myself just
one of 7 billion human beings alive today.
We share a fundamental wish: We all want
to live a happy life, and that is our birthright. There is no formality when we’re
born, and none when we die. In between,
we should treat each other as brother and
sister because we share this commonality
— a desire for peace and contentment.
Sadly, we face all sorts of problems,
many of them of our own making. Why?
Because we are swayed by emotions like
selfishness, anger and fear.
One of the most effective remedies for
dealing with such destructive patterns of
thought is to cultivate “loving-kindness”
by thinking about the oneness of all the
world’s 7 billion humans. If we consider
the ways in which we are all the same, the
barriers between us will diminish.
Compassion enhances our calm and
self-confidence, allowing our marvelous
human intelligence to function unhindered. Empathy is hard-wired in our
genes — studies have shown that babies
as young as 4 months experience it. Research has shown again and again that
compassion leads to a successful and
fulfilling life. Why, then, do we not focus
more on cultivating it into adulthood?
When we’re angry, our judgment is onesided, as we aren’t able to take all aspects
of the situation into account. With a calm
mind, we can reach a fuller view of what-
ed conflict. If we are to make this century
a period of peace, we must resolve problems through dialogue and diplomacy.
Since our lives are so intertwined, the
interests of others are also our own. I
believe that adopting divisive attitudes
runs counter to those interests.
Our interdependence comes with advantages and pitfalls. Although we benefit
from a global economy and an ability to
communicate and know what is happening worldwide instantaneously, we also
face problems that threaten us all. Climate
change in particular is a challenge that
calls us more than ever to make a common effort to defend the common good.
For those who feel helpless in the face
We all want to live a happy life, and that is
our birthright. There is no formality when
we’re born, and none when we die.
ever circumstances we face.
Humanity is rich in the diversity that
naturally arose from the wide expanse of
our world, from the variety of languages
and ways of writing to our different societal norms and customs. However, when
we overemphasize race, nationality, faith,
or income or education level, we forget
our many similarities. We want a roof over
our heads and food in our bellies, to feel
safe and secure, and for our children to
grow and be strong. As we seek to preserve our own culture and identity, we
must also remember that we are one in
being human, and work to maintain our
warmheartedness toward all.
In the last century, the inclination to
solve problems through the use of force
was invariably destructive and perpetuat-
of insurmountable suffering, we are still in
the early years of the 21st century. There
is time for us to create a better, happier
world, but we can’t sit back and expect a
miracle. We each have actions we must
take, by living our lives meaningfully and
in service to our fellow human beings —
helping others whenever we can and
making every effort to do them no harm.
Tackling destructive emotions and
practicing loving-kindness isn’t something
we should be doing with the next life,
heaven or nirvana in mind, but how we
should live in the here and now. I am
convinced we can become happier individuals, happier communities and a happier
humanity by cultivating a warm heart,
allowing our better selves to prevail.
Carolina Herrera on fashion’s evolution
A review of what’s ahead
Staying true to tradition and consistency
The news that will definitely happen in 2018
TURNING POINT: Younger shoppers —
those born after 1980 — become the growth
engine for the global luxury market.
Fashion and the way we shop are constantly being disrupted. Instagram and
Facebook monitor our activity and send
us targeted, shoppable ads that allow us
to buy items with a click. Influencers with
hundreds of thousands of followers are
paid by brands to wear and write about
clothing and accessories in ways that
encourage viewers to make purchases.
Amazon now sells nearly everything:
wedding gowns, car tires, diapers.
Many designers are forgoing traditional seasonality and taking a “see now,
buy now” approach to sales, allowing
customers to buy items as soon as they
appear on the runway. All these changes
can feel unsettling.
The Venezuelan-American designer
Carolina Herrera discusses navigating
her 36-year-old house through this new
consumer landscape. Known for her
classic styles, Mrs. Herrera says that
while the business of fashion may evolve
with the times, the core of the industry —
artistry, detail and personal vision —
remains unchanged. This conversation
has been edited and abridged.
What do you feel is the most important
first connection to make with a potential
The first thing someone who comes to buy
something asks is “What’s new?” because
fashion is all about newness. It’s about having
something very special that is very specific for
you — to make your own. I design for the
woman who desires something feminine,
luxurious and special, but that also fits her
modern lifestyle.
What are some of the biggest evolutions
happening in fashion right now?
The digital world has changed the way people
view fashion. Social media, Instagram, Facebook have never been more relevant in telling
the brand story. Years ago, fashion was something very few people were involved in; now
it’s everywhere. With the internet, anyone can
see the shows while they’re happening. For
example, I have an Instagram for the Carolina
Herrera house that gives people exclusive
access into the atelier and design process. It
allows people to be more informed about the
Fashion is a dream that suddenly has to
become reality. You have to wear it, which is
why I always say that fashion is art in movement. It changes all the time and it changes
very quickly now with each collection, but that
doesn’t change its allure and mystery.
What remains consistent?
I’ve always made clothes that make women
look beautiful and feel feminine. Elegance
never goes out of style. I always say that I’m
not working in the fashion business; I’m working in the beauty business. I want women who
wear Herrera to really feel confident in what
they are wearing. Style isn’t just what you
16. Painting of skull smashes
record for U.S. artists
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982
painting, “Untitled,” featuring a
skull rendered in his distinctive
street-art style, sold at auction for
$110.5 million, in May, making it
the most expensive painting sold
by any American artist to date.
Coming Up:
A Sotheby’s official talks
about American artist
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s
17. A major edit for
anatomy books
Scientists have discovered a new
organ in the human body. Called
the mesentery, it was first thought
to be a fragmented part of the
digestive system. Researchers in
Ireland, however, have proved that
it is one organ — a set of tissues
that line the abdominal cavity.
Women to take the wheel
in Saudi Arabia
A royal decree has lifted the ban
on women driving in Saudi Arabia.
The decision, which will allow
more women to work and ease
the financial and logistical burden
of having to hire a driver, is in line
with the new crown prince’s plan
to stimulate the country’s stagnant economy. The kingdom will
start granting women driver’s
licenses in June 2018.
A woman drives her car
in the Saudi coastal city
of Jeddah. By the middle of next year, women
will be able to obtain a
driver’s license without
permission from a male
wear, but how you wear it. It’s a personal thing
that is reflected in the way you live and arrange your house, your taste in books and art,
and the personal stamp you give to everything
you touch.
Why is New York so important to you?
New York is a very important place for fashion.
I am Venezuelan, but I am an American designer because I started designing in New York
over 35 years ago. It’s always been important
for me to have an in-house atelier and to
support the city and the garment district that
has supported the brand.
New York is a constant source of inspiration. There is always something happening —
its energy is contagious. There is inspiration
everywhere if you are open to it.
You’ve spoken about the importance of
design integrity and style. Are you concerned about maintaining pace with current trends?
I don’t believe in trends. If everyone follows
trends, then we will all look the same, and
what fun is that? Fashion should be an expression of yourself. I’ve always stayed true to the
style codes of the house and have kept my
eyes open — beauty has a way of finding you
that way.
And yet you’ve managed to stay so current. How?
This is a 36-year-old house. A designer has to
stay true to who they are and what their house
is while creating clothes for today. We are in
another era. I cannot sit still and do the same
things that I did in the ’80s or in the ’90s.
The landscape has totally changed. The
world is completely different because of technology and global access to information.
Fashion is everywhere now — it’s on the
phone or computer, it’s in television, it’s in
films. What is produced has to be something
new in the consumer’s eyes.
It’s a huge challenge, but it’s also very
exciting because nobody knows whether it’s
magical, it’s madness or it’s beautiful. Fashion
is not a revolution, it’s an evolution.
Indigenous woman plans
presidential bid in Mexico
An indigenous woman is running
for president in Mexico in 2018,
making her the first in the country to do so. Maria de Jesús
Patricio Martínez, also known as
“Marichuy,” is a healer from
Jalisco, and has the support of
the Zapatistas, a left-wing group
that led a 12-day uprising in the
country’s south in 1994.
Maria de Jesús Patricio
Martínez hopes to bring
attention to issues affecting
the Mexico’s indigenous
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