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International New York Times - 06 March 2018

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The making
of Vladimir
V. Potemkin
China wraps
the globe
with digital
Antony J. Blinken
Contributing Writer
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
Efforts expand to include
pressure on platforms like
WhatsApp and Instagram
The spot in the Stockholm suburb of Varby Gard where Daniel Cuevas Zuniga, an aide for disabled adults, was killed by a hand grenade. It had been left on the ground.
Old weapons rattle Sweden
Surplus from the conflict
in the Balkans is flowing
into immigrant areas
In the Stockholm suburb of Varby Gard,
it was not unusual to see the figure of a
63-year-old man pedaling a bicycle
home after the end of his shift as an aide
for disabled adults, hunched against the
icy wind of a Swedish winter.
Daniel Cuevas Zuniga had just finished a night shift on a Sunday last
month and was cycling home with his
wife when he spotted a spherical object
lying on the ground, stopped and
reached down to take it in his hand.
It was an M-75 hand grenade. Manufactured in great numbers for the Yugoslav national army and then seized by
paramilitaries during the civil war in the
1990s, the grenades are packed with
plastic explosives and 3,000 steel balls,
well suited for attacks on enemy
trenches and bunkers. When Mr. Zuniga
touched it, he set off the detonator.
The shock wave was so powerful that
Mr. Zuniga’s wife, Wanna, was blown off
her bicycle and sprawled on the ground,
mottled with shrapnel wounds. She
turned and tried to crawl toward her
husband, she told a reporter later, but
the police, who had been patrolling
nearby, kept her back.
Weapons from a faraway, long-ago
war are flowing into immigrant neighborhoods in Stockholm, puncturing
Swedes’ sense of confidence and security. The country’s murder rate remains
low, by American standards, and violent
crime is stable or dropping in many
places. But gang-related assaults and
shootings are becoming more frequent,
and the number of neighborhoods categorized by the police as “marred by
crime, social unrest and insecurity” is
rising. Crime and immigration are certain to be key issues in September’s general election, alongside the traditional
debates over education and health care.
Part of the reason is that Sweden’s
gang violence, long contained within
low-income suburbs, has begun to spill
out. In large cities, hospitals report
armed confrontations in emergency
rooms, and school administrators say
threats and weapons have become commonplace. Two men from Uppsala, both
in their 20s, were recently arrested on
charges of throwing grenades at the
home of a bank employee who investigates fraud cases.
An earlier jolt came with the death of
Mr. Zuniga, who on Jan. 7 picked up the
grenade, which the police believe had
Weapons confiscated by the police from gangs in Stockholm. The country’s murder rate
remains low, but gang-related assaults and shootings are becoming more frequent.
been thrown by members of a local gang
at a rival gang or at police officers.
Paulus Borisho, 55, was in his kebab
shop around 50 feet away, and the explosion made his windows shudder. He ran
outside to see a thin column of black
smoke rising. Mr. Zuniga lay on the bike
path, curled on his side.
Like many of his neighbors in Varby
Gard, Mr. Borisho had sought asylum in
Hollywood legend, at 101,
throws down the gauntlet
In the era of ‘I, Tonya,’
Olivia de Havilland’s
privacy suit has symbolism
Olivia de Havilland in Paris last month. She turned 101 in July 2017.
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +?!"!?!#!"
Sweden to escape a war. He knew what a
grenade sounded like. As a commando
in a Lebanese militia, he had handled
grenades and remembered the strict
protocols he had complied with, locking
up the weapons for safekeeping the
minute he returned to camp.
That a grenade should be found on the
sidewalk outside a kebab shop, a few
Within its digital borders, China has
long censored what its people read and
say online. Now, it is increasingly going
beyond its own online realms to police
what people and companies are saying
about it all over the world.
For years, China has exerted digital
control with a system of internet filters
known as the Great Firewall, which allows the authorities to limit what people
see online. To broaden its censorship efforts, Beijing is venturing outside the
Great Firewall and paying more attention to what its citizens are saying on
non-Chinese apps and services.
As part of that shift, Beijing has at
times pressured foreign companies like
Google and Facebook, which are both
blocked in mainland China, to take down
certain content. At other times, it has bypassed foreign companies entirely and
instead directly pushed users of global
social media to encourage self-censorship.
This effort is accelerating as President Xi Jinping of China consolidates his
power. The Chinese leadership is expected to officially abolish presidential
term limits at a meeting that began
Monday, giving Mr. Xi outsize authority
over the country’s direction.
Zhang Guanghong recently discovered the changing online landscape
firsthand. Mr. Zhang, a Chinese human
rights activist, decided last fall to share
an article with a group of friends in and
outside China that criticized Mr. Xi. To
do so, he used WhatsApp, an American
app owned by Facebook that almost nobody uses in mainland China.
In September, Mr. Zhang was detained in China; he is expected to soon
be charged with insulting China’s government and the Communist Party. The
evidence, according to his lawyer, included printouts of what Mr. Zhang
shared and said in the WhatsApp group.
That information was likely obtained
by hacking his phone or through a spy in
his group chat, China tech experts said,
without involving WhatsApp. Mr.
Zhang’s case is one of the first known examples of the Chinese authorities using
conversations from a non-Chinese chat
app as evidence, and it sends a warning
to those on the American platform,
which is encrypted, that they could also
be held accountable for what’s said
“China is increasingly throwing its
weight around,” said Joshua Rosenzweig, an analyst at Amnesty International.
As Mr. Xi asserts himself and the primacy of Chinese geopolitical power,
Emailing from the Paris hotel where she
lives, Dame Olivia de Havilland
sounded defiant, and understandably
so. The topic at hand was her lawsuit
against the FX network and Ryan Murphy Productions over her portrayal by
Catherine Zeta-Jones in last year’s
docudrama “Feud: Bette and Joan,”
about the rivalry between Bette Davis
and Joan Crawford.
Ms. de Havilland’s lawyer in Los Angeles, Suzelle Smith, had arranged an
electronic question and answer session
before a court date much anticipated by
those who remember the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, rapidly receding in
a digitized and rightly diversified age.
And by the many in the industry who
mine recent history for dramatic purposes (consider the Oscar-nominated
films “The Post,” “Darkest Hour” and “I,
On March 20, the California Court of
Appeals will hear arguments over
whether Ms. de Havilland can proceed
with her suit, which alleges unauthorized use of her name and likeness to endorse a product — a “right of publicity”
claim — as well as false light, which
sounds like the old Vaselined lens trick
but in fact is a privacy tort akin to libel
and defamation.
Few expect her to win, but the action
is nonetheless reverberating as a kind of
last stand against the current bricolage
approach to facts.
Herself the recipient of two Best Actress Oscars, for “To Each His Own”
(1946) and “The Heiress” (1949), Ms. de
Havilland filed the suit last June, right
after “Feud” aired to widespread critical
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Issue Number
No. 41,982
If Xi Jinping is the world’s most powerful man, conventional wisdom puts
Vladimir Putin a close second. He’s
made his own bare-chested virility
synonymous with a resurgent Russia.
Mr. Putin seems to be playing on every
chessboard, from what Russia calls its
“near abroad” to the Middle East, from
Europe to America.
When it comes to sowing doubt
about democracy and fueling dissension among Americans, Mr. Putin is
eating our lunch. And Russia retains
the world’s largest nuclear arsenal,
with new weapons in the works that
Mr. Putin saw fit to brag about during
last week’s state of the nation speech
— even if his rhetoric far outpaced
their technical reality.
The Russian
But elsewhere,
Russia’s adventurleads a nation ism is feeding a
deep in
growing, gnawing
economic rot, case of indigestion.
And it masks a deepmilitary
set rot in Russia
itself. Mr. Putin is a
and failure
masterful painter of
to serve
facades. But his
its citizens.
Russian village looks
increasingly less
Putin and increasingly more Potemkin.
Let’s start with Syria. It’s true that
Moscow’s in extremis intervention
prevented the collapse of Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, and preserved
Russia’s sole foothold in the Middle
East. But having put his finger in the
dyke, Mr. Putin can’t remove it or Mr.
Assad will drown. So Russia is stuck in
the middle of multiple conflicts it cannot control — between the Assad regime and the rebels; between Turkey
and the Kurds; between American-led
coalition forces and the Islamic State;
between Israel, Syria and Iran; between Sunni and Shiite. This Rubik’s
cube of conflicting interests makes
partners on one front adversaries on
Far from abating, Syria’s civil war is
raging — slowly but surely becoming
more lethal to Russia’s forces, more
damaging to its reputation, and more
of a drain on its resources. Moscow is
fully complicit in Mr. Assad’s murderous campaign against the primarily
Sunni opposition, which has now
reached new levels of depravity with
the indiscriminate bombing of civilians
in Ghouta, a suburban area outside
Damascus. Moscow’s alliance with Mr.
Assad and Iran in slaughtering Sunnis
risks alienating Saudi Arabia, the Gulf
2 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
page two
A legend throws down the gauntlet
acclaim, and a day before she turned 101.
It was also just a few weeks after the
queen of England bestowed upon Ms. de
Havilland, whose estranged and equally
famous sister Joan Fontaine had died in
2013, the title of dame for her service to
“When ‘Feud’ was first being publicized, but before it went on the air, I was
interested to see how it would portray
my dear friend Bette Davis,” Ms. de
Havilland wrote in an email. “Then
friends and family started getting in
touch with me, informing me that my
identity was actually being represented
on the program. No one from Fox had
contacted me about this to ask my permission, to request my input or to see
how I felt about it. When I then learned
that the Olivia de Havilland character
called my sister Joan ‘a bitch’ and gossiped about Bette Davis and Joan Crawford’s personal and private relationship,
I was deeply offended.”
FX Networks is part of 21st Century
The last time Ms. de Havilland had a
case before the California Court of Appeals was in 1944. Risking her career,
she sued Warner Bros. to get out of her
contract, which she had signed in 1936.
She had been suspended for refusing
parts assigned to her, a common ploy
among studio bosses to keep their stars
in line, with the missed time tacked on to
the length of her deal.
She was 28, a brunet ingénue from
English stock, raised in what she has
wryly called “the most aristocratic village in the prune belt” of Northern California. In the 1930s alone, she had
starred with the swashbuckling Errol
Flynn in six films, including “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” and had been
lent out to David O. Selznick for the role
that would make her an American treasure: Melanie Wilkes in “Gone With the
She won then, tipping the scales of
studio autocracy and strengthening a
California labor statute. The so-named
De Havilland Law prohibits the enforcement of a personal services contract beyond seven years.
Three quarters of a century later, Ms.
de Havilland is hoping for another victory.
“Feud,” she claims, as a work of historically convincing fiction, falsely exposes her as a hypocrite — “with a public image of being a lady and a private
one as a vulgarity-using gossip,” violating Ms. de Havilland’s hard-earned
reputation for “honesty, integrity and
good manners.”
These are qualities that may seem
quaint in the age of Twitter. But the legal
action arrives during a content boom
that has sent writers — and big-league
actors and producers — raiding recent
history sometimes before it has pickled,
looking for figures and epochs to refashion as entertainment.
Courts have overwhelmingly supported First Amendment protections for
movies and TV shows about figures and
subjects in the public interest. But Ms.
de Havilland is undaunted.
“A large part of the reason I decided to
move forward with my action against
Fox is that I realize that at this stage of
my life and career I am in a unique position to stand up and speak truth to
power — an action that would be very
difficult for a young actor to undertake,”
she wrote.
Ms. de Havilland claims
“Feud” violated her reputation
for “honesty, integrity and
good manners.”
“I believe in the right to free speech,
but it certainly must not be abused by
using it to protect published falsehoods
or to improperly benefit from the use of
someone’s name and reputation without
their consent. Fox crossed both of these
lines with ‘Feud,’ and if it is allowed to do
this without any consequences, then the
use of lies about well-known public figures masquerading as the truth will become more and more common. This is
not moral and it should not be permitted.”
Ms. de Havilland agrees to interviews
sparingly, often mentioning her love of
Champagne, and has never cooperated
with an official biography. Hollywood
chroniclers have described relationships with Mr. Flynn, John Huston and
Howard Hughes, but she has remained
regally mum, in contrast to her voluble
friend Ms. Davis, who died in 1989.
Ms. de Havilland’s memoir, “Every
Frenchman Has One,” published in 1962,
is about being an American new to
France, where she moved in 1955 after
marrying her second husband, Pierre
Galante, then the editor of Paris Match.
She continued to work in movies while
raising two children: a daughter Gisèle,
her child with Mr. Galante; and a son,
Benjamin, from her first marriage to the
novelist and screenwriter Marcus Goodrich. Tracey Jackson, a longtime friend,
calls her “almost Garboesque” in her
protectiveness over her private life.
Then came “Feud.”
A lavish piece of early 1960s period
dish, it had considerable pedigree in its
Oscar-winning leading ladies, Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis and Jessica
Lange as Joan Crawford, and Mr. Mur-
A longtime friend calls Olivia de Havilland “almost Garboesque” in her protectiveness over her private life.
phy, whose portfolio of prestigious docudramas includes “The People vs. O. J.
Simpson” and “The Assassination of Gianni Versace,” both part of his “American Crime Story” serial.
“Feud” explores Ms. Davis’s and Ms.
Crawford’s longtime hatred for each
other and their uneasy alliance during
the making of “Whatever Happened to
Baby Jane?,” the 1962 horror movie that
finally united them onscreen. Directed
by Robert Aldrich, it was a surprise hit
in a Hollywood being slowly subsumed
by the counterculture, featuring a sadistic Ms. Davis in Kabuki makeup mentally torturing her paraplegic sister,
played by Ms. Crawford.
For her performance, Ms. Davis received her final Best Actress nomination, evidently sending the spurned Ms.
Crawford on a furious campaign of Oscar-night, anti-Bette subterfuge. (One
cannot imagine Frances McDormand
and Meryl Streep clashing like this.) In
the end, Ms. Davis lost to the absent
Anne Bancroft for “The Miracle
Worker,” and a triumphant Ms. Crawford strode onto the stage to accept the
statuette in Ms. Bancroft’s honor.
Ms. de Havilland’s character is used
as a framing device for the Davis-Crawford cage match that unfolds in “Feud,”
opening the series with the lines: “For
nearly half a century, they hated each
other, and we loved them for it.” Ms.
Zeta-Jones is posed on a love seat at the
1978 Oscars, giving an interview. “Feud”
meticulously copied the black dress and
sheer caftan the real Ms. de Havilland
wore to the Oscars that night, as well as
her glittering pendant and blond coif.
This physical copycatting is behind Ms.
de Havilland’s right-of-publicity claim.
Her claims of false light relate to the interview itself, which she says she never
To prevail, Ms. de Havilland will have
to convince a jury not only that the interview was fabricated, but also that it includes sentiments that the writers of
“Feud” either knew were false or profferred in reckless disregard for the
truth, causing economic damage to her
reputation and “emotional distress.”
Lawyers for Ms. de Havilland and FX
are also engaged in a byzantine factcheck over Ms. de Havilland’s use of
coarse language in other scenes, most
notably in reference to her sister, Ms.
Ms. Smith maintains that her client, at
a minimum, should have been consulted
about the project ahead of time. “She
would have considered, what was their
proposal?” the lawyer said. “Are they
proposing to compensate her? They
would have found out that certain things
were not true. Because they didn’t even
try, in their arrogance and hubris, they
didn’t take what we would argue are reasonable steps to find out what was true,
and what wasn’t true.”
The network says that Ms. de Havil-
land’s consent was not needed, because
“Feud” falls squarely under protected
speech around fictional works in the
public interest. Additionally, it contends
that her portrayal is positive. “While I
understand Ms. de Havilland alleges
that she was portrayed as a gossip, the
opposite is true,” said Mr. Murphy, who
declined to comment for this article, in a
declaration attached to FX’s defense.
“She is portrayed as a wise, respectful
friend and counselor to Bette Davis, and
a Hollywood icon with a unique perspective on the past.”
Last August, the network filed a motion to dismiss the case under California’s anti-Slapp (Strategic Lawsuit
Against Public Participation) statute,
which allows for the quick dismissal of
lawsuits that want to chill free speech.
One month later, Judge Holly Kendig of
the Los Angeles Superior Court issued
her ruling: While “Feud” arose from
protected speech, Ms. de Havilland had
adequately shown enough cause to de-
serve her day in court, with the suit fasttracked because of the plaintiff’s advanced age.
Legal observers were surprised.
“It is unusual for this type of case to
proceed past anti-Slapp,” said Jennifer
Rothman, a professor at Loyola Law
School and the author of a forthcoming
book called “The Right of Publicity: Privacy Reimagined for a Public World.” If
the de Havilland decision were allowed
to stand, Ms. Rothman said, “then that
upends the film industry, the TV industry, the video game industry. Anyone
who is trying to make stories based on
true events with real people are not going to be able to do so without permission.”
Though Ms. de Havilland has the
backing of the Screen Actors Guild, considerable forces have amassed against
The Motion Picture Association of
America and the streaming behemoth
Netflix, which just signed Mr. Murphy to
A scene from “Feud,” top, with Catherine Zeta-Jones, left, as Ms. de Havilland and
Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. Below, Ms. de Havilland in “Gone With the Wind.”
an exclusive producing deal reportedly
worth $300 million, filed an amicus brief
urging the appellate court to reverse the
trial judge’s decision—an unusual alliance in a universe of legacy companies
fending off big-monied new media, but
perhaps necessary to squash a uniquely
sympathetic plaintiff.
“The type of claims pursued by a celebrity like Olivia de Havilland here deserve especially heightened scrutiny
because docudramas, biopics and historical dramas — which by design do not
portray individuals or events literally or
with obedience to historical fact — often
depict real people who may not like, and
may even be offended or embarrassed
by, how they are portrayed,” the
M.P.A.A.-Netflix brief says.
To suggest that producers must purchase consent or life rights encourages
only whitewashed portrayals, is the
Moreover, according to Mr. Murphy,
the five credited “Feud” writers “endeavored in good faith to ensure that the
dialogue from Zeta-Jones’ characterization of de Havilland was based on comments, sentiments and tonal emotions
expressed through the years by Ms. de
Havilland herself.”
In its clearest form, the right of publicity, an offshoot of privacy law, is
meant not as a tool of censorship but to
enable celebrities and other public figures to protect their images from false
or unauthorized endorsements of products. In California, a hub of entertainment where the law is most hotly contested, the issue hinges on whether the
person’s identity has been transformed
— in other words, used as “the raw materials” for creative expression — or
merely co-opts the “sum and substance”
of the person wholesale.
Because the makers of “Feud” admitted that they wanted to make the appearance of the de Havilland character
as real as possible, Judge Kendig said,
her likeness was not transformed, leaving the mini-series open to a right of
publicity claim.
On her right-of-publicity website in
the last month alone, Ms. Rothman has
tracked claims against “The Simpsons”
brought by an actor from the movie
“Goodfellas,” and one by the estate of
the jazz legend Thelonious Monk
against a microbrewery making
Brother Thelonius beer. In California,
cases like Ms. de Havilland’s are measured against a 2001 State Supreme
Court ruling that established the transformative test to begin with.
In that case, the owners of the postmortem rights of the Three Stooges
sued a celebrity lithographer, Gary
Saderup, for selling T-shirts bearing the
comedy trio’s images. The court found
that Mr. Saderup was liable because his
drawings were too imitative, failing to
“transform” the Stooges’ likeness. (In
its ruling, the court drew a distinction
between Mr. Saderup’s literal depiction
of the Stooges and Andy Warhol’s transformative screen prints of Marilyn Monroe.)
Ms. Rothman believes right-of-publicity law is more urgently needed in
cases of catfishing and revenge porn,
where the victims aren’t celebrities or
inherent publicity seekers.
There is precedent on both sides.
Lawyers for Ms. de Havilland point to
the Stooges case as well as a 2011 California appellate court ruling that found
in favor of the band No Doubt, which
sued the video game publisher Activision for violating the terms of a licensing
agreement in the game Hero Band.
Lawyers for FX are more partial to a
1979 State Supreme Court decision disallowing a post-mortem right-of-publicity claim against a fictionalized TV movie
about the life of Rudolph Valentino. Or
an appellate court’s 2016 denial of a
claim brought by the former United
States Army Sgt. Jeffrey Tarver, an explosive ordnance disposal technician
who sued the makers of the Oscar-winning film “The Hurt Locker.”
As in “The Hurt Locker” case, “Feud”
“is a docudrama, and therefore scenes
are dramatized — i.e. transformed,” the
defense motion in de Havilland reads.
Besides, Ms. Zeta-Jones wasn’t even in
enough of the mini-series to merit inclusion in the show’s opening credits.
Asked via email if her retirement from
acting was a decision she came to with
ease or difficulty, Ms. de Havilland said:
“I would like to answer your question
with another: How many roles of significance are written for women of advanced years?”
As “Feud” chronicles, she replaced
Ms. Crawford on the “Baby Jane” followup, “Hush . . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte”
(though not before she either did or didn’t tell the director, Mr. Aldrich: ““Darling, you know how much I hate to play
bitches. They make me so unhappy.”).
By the ’70s, and ’80s, Ms. de Havilland
was down to sporadic mini-series, disaster movies and TV guest spots. In 1981
came an episode of “The Love Boat.”
The last movie she appeared in, for
British TV, was in 1988.
It’s a sadly familiar story about how
Hollywood treats its female elders,
something that Mr. Murphy kept pointing to as motivation for covering the
Crawford-Davis story. As Ms. de Havilland awaits her public hearing, he has
moved on to the next subjects in the
“Feud” anthology: Prince Charles and
Princess Diana.
aided reign
of terror in
BUENOS AIRES Former Gen. Luciano
Benjamín Menéndez, one of the most
notorious oppressors during Argentina’s era of brutal dictatorship, from 1976
to 1983, died on Feb. 27 in the central city
of Córdoba. He was 90.
Alejandro Richetta, the medical director at Córdoba Military Hospital, where
Mr. Menéndez died, said the cause was
complications of bile duct cancer.
Mr. Menéndez had been under house
arrest since 2012 because of his health
problems. He had received 14 life sentences — the most of any military leader
from that era — for crimes that included
homicide, torture, forced disappearances and the kidnapping of a newborn.
In all, Mr. Menéndez was sentenced 16
times, indicted in 49 cases and under investigation in 25 more for crimes
against humanity.
Human rights groups say that some
30,000 people were killed or forcibly
“disappeared” under the military junta
that ran the country in those years.
Roughly 500 newborns were believed to
have been kidnapped from political prisoners.
Mr. Menéndez, as head of the Third
Army Corps from 1975 to 1979, was in
charge of what the junta called anti-subversive actions in 10 Argentine provinces. He never expressed regret for his
actions. The use of force, he said, was
necessary to combat “Marxist” forces.
“The proceedings employed in the
fight against the subversion are being
criticized,” he said in 1984, “but those
proceedings must be judged from the
optic of an unconventional war.”
Luciano Benjamín Menéndez, the former
Argentine general, in an undated photo.
He was born into a military family on
June 19, 1927, in San Martín, Buenos
Aires Province. Both his father and
grandfather were officers. An uncle,
Benjamín Menéndez, also a military officer, attempted to overthrow President
Juan Domingo Perón in 1951. A cousin,
Mario Benjamín Menéndez, would become military governor of the Falkland
Islands (known locally as the Islas
Malvinas) during Argentina’s ill-fated
occupation of them in 1982.
Luciano Menéndez rose quickly
through the ranks and at 45 became one
of the youngest officers to be promoted
to general in Argentina.
“His file was filled with nothing but
praise,” said Camilo Ratti, a Córdoba
journalist who wrote a biography of Mr.
As part of his military training, Mr.
Menéndez spent a year in Fort Lee, Va.,
and later studied anti-insurgency tactics under the tutelage of French military officials, Mr. Ratti said.
Mr. Menéndez was in charge of one of
Argentina’s largest illegal detention
centers, known as La Perla, where thousands were detained, and he took part
directly in the torture and murder of political prisoners. He forced all those under his command to participate in torture and homicides in what became
known as a “blood pact.”
“Everybody who was under him had
to get their hands dirty so no one could
claim ignorance about what was happening,” said Carlos Gonella, the lead
prosecutor in three trials against Mr.
Mr. Menéndez was considered a hawk
within the military leadership. He was
known to confront junta leaders when,
in the face of international criticism,
they pushed generals to tone down the
antisubversive campaigns. He deemed
the junta leaders too soft.
His disagreements with the military
leadership led him to mount an insurrection in late 1979, but it was quickly
crushed. He was imprisoned for 90 days
and forced into retirement.
Former President Carlos Menem
granted Mr. Menéndez a pardon in 1990,
but it was declared unconstitutional in
2005. Mr. Menéndez received his first
life sentence in 2008, at a time when
there was a surge in trials against dictatorship-era leaders.
The Defense Ministry stripped Mr.
Menéndez of his military rank in 2011.
His wife, Edith Angélica Abarca, died
in 2012. He is survived by five of their
seven children.
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TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 3
Hava Beitermurzayeva, left, left home in Chechnya to marry an ISIS soldier she met online. She is back home from Syria with her son. Belant Zulgayeva, top right, with grandsons who were raised by militants. Adlan, above right, with a deep scar, came home alone.
Russia brings home children ISIS raised
Moscow at the forefront
of placing militants’
dependents with relatives
Every day, Belant Zulgayeva gets a knot
in her throat watching her grandchildren play their violent games, what she
calls their “little war.” They talk very little, but they run around, hide and occasionally slam one another to the ground
with a disturbing ferocity.
Ms. Zulgayeva is on the front line of a
different kind of struggle: an effort by
the Russian government to bring home
and care for Russian children like her
three grandchildren, who were raised
by Islamist militants in the Islamic
State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
As the American-led coalition and
Syrian government forces captured cities that had been held by the Islamic
State, they found among the ruins a
grim human wreckage of the organization’s once successful recruitment
drive: hundreds and perhaps thousands
of children born to or brought with the
men and women who had flocked to Syria in support of the militant group.
While Russia, which has so far taken
71 children and 26 women since August,
may seem surprisingly lenient in its policy, its actions reflect a hardheaded se-
curity calculus: better to place children
with their grandparents now than have
them grow up in camps and possibly arrive in their families’ home country as
radicalized adults.
“What should we do, leave them there
so somebody will recruit them?” said
Ziyad Sabsabi, the Russian senator who
runs the government-backed program.
“Yes, these children saw terrible things,
but when we put them in a different environment, with their grandparents,
they change quickly.”
European governments have shown
little sympathy toward adult males who
volunteered to join the Islamic State.
Rory Stewart, the British international
development minister at the time, for
example, told the BBC last year that
“the only way of dealing with them will
be, in almost every case, to kill them.”
But most European countries, including Britain, have taken a softer approach to repatriating most of the women and the estimated 1,000 children of
militants from the European Union who
fought in Syria. France has placed most
of the 66 minors who have arrived so far
from the Islamic State in foster or adoptive homes. Some have joined relatives.
A few older ones, who were combatants,
have been incarcerated.
Analysts estimate that as many as
5,000 family members of foreign terrorist recruits are now stuck in camps and
orphanages in Iraq and Syria. Russia
and Georgia are in the forefront of countries helping family members repatriate, said Liesbeth van der Heide, a co-
author of “Children of the Caliphate,” a
study published last summer by the International Center for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague.
As Mr. Sabsabi acknowledged, many,
if not most, of the arriving children were
exposed to unspeakable acts of macabre
violence, including roles in execution
videos. Many children were desensitized to violence through ceaseless indoctrination, paramilitary training and
participation in various other crimes.
The domestic intelligence chief of
Germany, Hans-Georg Maassen, told
Reuters that the children of the Islamic
State were “brainwashed” and that “we
have to consider that these children
could be living time bombs.”
That is not an easy view to take of Bilal, 4, a little Russian boy with a mop of
sandy-blond hair and spindly arms who
last summer became the first child taken to Russia from Islamic-State controlled territory. He makes car noises
and pushes a toy around the kitchen table in his grandmother’s apartment in
Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. He says
little about his time in Iraq, said his
grandmother, Rosa Murtazayeva, but it
is obvious he remains touchingly attached to his father, Hasan.
With American-backed forces closing
in, father and son survived like hunted
animals in basements in Mosul, Iraq,
which the Islamic State controlled for
three years. Bilal recalls little but the
boiled potatoes they survived on. “I was
with Papa,” Bilal said. “There were no
other boys.” After they were captured,
his father vanished into Iraqi prisons.
Emaciated and filthy when he was
found, Bilal is now outwardly fine.
That is not always the case. Months
after coming to their family’s home
countries, some children remain grimly
silent, despite various therapies and
pampering from their grandparents.
When the Islamic State tide went out,
Hadizha, 8, was found like flotsam in a
Mosul street. Her grandmother identified her from a photograph posted by an
aid group. She was lying in a gutter, her
arm and chin bandaged from burns.
“What should we do,
leave them there
so somebody will
recruit them?”
What became of her mother, two
brothers and a sister is unclear, said the
grandmother, Zura, identified only by
her first name to protect the child’s privacy. “I want to hope they are alive, to
latch onto something. But she is certain.
She says they were shot but that she
waved her hands and said in Arabic,
‘Don’t shoot,’ and saved herself in that
While clearly troubled, Hadizha
hardly seems to pose any risks. She
spends her days curled up on a couch,
her eyes distant and angry, watching
cartoons on a big-screen television. “She
doesn’t need anything else,” her grandmother said. “She is silent.”
Others have fared better. Adlan, 9, left
for Syria with his mother and father and
two siblings but returned alone, delivered by Russians working with the repatriation program.
In the Islamic State, he said, he attended school, rode bikes and played tag
with other Russian-speaking children.
During the battle for Mosul, something
exploded in his house, he said. He survived but the rest of the family was
killed. “He said he saw his mother and
brother and sisters, and they were
sleeping,” said his Chechen grandfather,
Eli, identified only by his first name to
protect the child’s privacy. Asked by a
child psychologist to draw a picture with
crayons, Adlan drew a house and flowers, deemed to be a good sign. “I think it
will pass. He is still young and has a
child’s memory,” Eli said.
Women from Muslim areas of Russia
sometimes traveled to Syria or Iraq with
their husbands, and sometimes in
search of a husband, said Ekaterina L.
Sokiryanskaya, the director of the Conflict Analysis and Prevention Center,
adding that they present a different set
of resettlement issues. “Women were
not in the battlefield, but that does not
mean that they were not radicalized,
that they were not supporters of this terrorist organization and its very ugly
ideology,” Ms. Sokiryanskaya said.
Hava Beitermurzayeva, now 22,
slipped away in 2015 from her parents’
home in the village of Gekhi in Chechnya to marry an Islamic State soldier
she had met online, and she wound up
living in Raqqa, the capital of the militant group’s so-called caliphate in Syria.
She said in an interview that she
spent most of her time cloistered at
home, with a new son. The Islamic State
militants, she added, staged public executions, by beheading or stoning, for
crimes like adultery. “The passers-by
could stop and watch,” Ms. Beitermurzayeva said, though she denies she
did. Back at home now, she seems remarkably untroubled by her experiences and still enthusiastic about the caliphate, though, as she says, it was not
God’s will to work out this time.
At first, Hamzat, 6, and his younger
brothers, the boys who battle each other
in their grandmother’s living room,
talked very little when they moved in
with her in Dachu-Borzoi, a village in
the Caucasus Mountains in Chechnya.
They just played their war games. But
with time, they mellowed, Ms. Zulgayeva said.
They had been living in Tal Afar, Iraq,
when American-backed Iraqi forces surrounded the city. Their father died in the
fighting. After a bomb flattened a neighboring house, their mother, Fatima, decided to get out with the three boys and
their baby sister.
But Hamzat and his brothers, Malik,
4, and Abdullah, 5, became separated
from her at a checkpoint. She remains
detained in Iraq, while the Russian government brought in the boys and their
baby sister, Halima, who turned 1 this
month. “It’s a miracle they all made it
back alive,” Ms. Zulgayeva said.
Pressure grows on Nigerian leader to bow out of election
The calls for him to quit were already
loud, coming from two former presidents, a prominent pastor and newspaper editorials. Even Catholic bishops
weighed in with criticism.
Now, the president of Nigeria is facing
a new crisis: the mass kidnapping of 110
girls from their school late last month,
prompting another wave of outrage at
the government.
The pressure is mounting on President Muhammadu Buhari to step down
after his first term expires next year. A
diverse range of Nigerians have joined
the chorus, and while the presidential
vote is still almost a year away, campaign season in Nigeria is in full swing.
Billboards have popped up in parts of
the country and election news dominates the headlines.
Nigeria’s Constitution allows Mr.
Buhari to seek a second term, but already his opponents and former allies
are piling on. Even his wife has emerged
as a detractor of sorts, using social media to post video clips of politicians criticizing her husband’s presidency.
The latest tragedy gripping the nation
— the 110 girls who went missing in the
town of Dapchi after militants attacked
their school — has only deepened the
skepticism about Mr. Buhari. He has
been criticized for being slow to speak
out about the attack, especially since he
swore after a similar kidnapping in 2014
of nearly 300 schoolgirls from Chibok
that something like this would never
happen again.
Then on Friday, Mr. Buhari came under more criticism after militants began
a major attack on a military installation
near a displaced persons camp in the
town of Rann, killing at least three aid
workers and several others. Three people were missing amid fears they had
been kidnapped. The same camp was
erroneously struck by Nigeria’s own
military jets last year, killing dozens of
displaced people and aid workers.
Mr. Buhari has not announced
whether he will seek a second term. His
aides have indicated that he will, arguing that other aspirants have nothing to
offer Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation.
“Buhari has already transformed and
changed the image of leadership and
that of our leaders in this country, both
locally and internationally,” said Boss
Mustapha, secretary to the federal government.
“This good will is being fast
depleted by some glaring failures.’’
Mr. Buhari, a retired military general,
transfixed voters in 2015 with his promises to lift the nation’s troubled economy,
end decades of corruption and win the
war with Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has claimed thousands
of lives and uprooted millions from their
homes in the north of the country.
All those problems are still festering.
“This good will is being fast depleted
by some glaring failures of government,” said Archbishop Ignatius Ayau
Kaigama, until recently the president of
the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, which said living conditions have
worsened under Mr. Buhari.
Critics also cite Mr. Buhari’s health as
a concern. He spent weeks at a time last
year in London receiving treatment for
an illness whose nature he has yet to disclose.
In his time in office, a secessionist
movement championed by a group
called the Indigenous People of Biafra
has gained steam in the southeast of the
country, 50 years after a civil war over
the same issue left one million people
dead. Under Mr. Buhari, military operations have led to dozens of arrests and
deaths, and the disappearance of the
movement’s leader.
Beyond that, conflicts between farmers and pastoralists looking for places
for their cattle to graze have escalated,
with recent bouts of violence killing dozens.
Critics complain that Mr. Buhari has
failed to resolve these tensions. But
even his opponents concede that he has
tried to work on the promises that
helped him win the presidency.
Almost as soon as he began his term,
Mr. Buhari began an assault against
Boko Haram, with the military taking
back territory and capturing and killing
scores of militants. His government negotiated the release of several dozen of
the students taken in 2014 from the village of Chibok. Two other groups of
high-profile hostages — women police
officers and university professors —
were released this year.
But those successes have been
marred by the new kidnappings at the
Dapchi school. Officials didn’t initially
label the episode a kidnapping, despite
numerous witnesses reports of militants
hauling away the girls. The president’s
aides would say only that the girls are
The war with Boko Haram still rages,
with suicide bombers pulling off regular
attacks and militants conducting increasingly complex operations.
Yet Mr. Buhari has baffled the nation
President Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, center, in August at the airport in Abuja after
returning from medical treatment in London. His term ends next year.
by repeatedly saying Boko Haram has
been defeated.
His government has worked to crack
down on corruption, uncovering millions of dollars’ worth of cash and making high-profile arrests.
But critics say corruption is still widespread. They were outraged that Mr.
Buhari hired a former director of the nation’s pension fund to a new post in his
government after the previous administration had fired the man on grounds he
had pilfered billions.
Mr. Buhari also hired a national health
insurance executive who was being investigated by Nigeria’s anti-graft
agency on suspicion of approving shady
contracts and engaging in nepotism.
When Transparency International re-
cently announced that Nigerians think
that corruption has worsened during
Mr. Buhari’s tenure, he rejected the report as misleading.
On the economic front, Nigeria officially pulled out of a recession late last
year. That achievement has been overshadowed by soaring unemployment
and the fact that the country — one of
the world’s leading producers of oil —
faces a fuel scarcity in some areas, with
motorists stuck in miles-long lines for
hours in blistering heat.
Fed up, former President Olusegun
Obasanjo, who served from 1999 to 2007,
released an 18-page letter recently calling for Mr. Buhari’s “dignified and honorable dismount from the horse.”
In a lengthy response, Lai Moham-
med, Mr. Buhari’s information minister,
detailed the president’s achievements:
a near doubling of foreign reserves,
lower inflation, plans for a new rail line,
an increase in agriculture exports and
production, and other gains.
The Punch, a popular Nigerian newspaper, said in a recent editorial that Mr.
Buhari was “unfamiliar with the nuances of modern governance and insular to the point of self-entrapment in
primitive provincialism.”
In Nigeria, informal agreements call
for the presidency to alternate every
two terms between someone from the
predominantly Muslim north — where
Mr. Buhari is from — and a person from
the Christian south. If Mr. Buhari does
not seek a second term, many Nigerians
will expect the presidency to go to a fellow northerner.
Potential contenders include Atiku
Abubakar, who served as vice president
from 1999 to 2007. He is a co-owner of
one of Nigeria’s largest oil and gas logistics companies and the founder of the
American University of Nigeria, a private institution. Another possible candidate is Sule Lamido, a former foreign
minister. Both men are members of the
opposition People’s Democratic Party.
Tunde Bakare, a well-known pastor
who was once Mr. Buhari’s running
mate, has also become a vocal opponent.
“This administration anchored its policy outlook on three main thrusts, including security, job creation through diversification, and anti-corruption,” Mr.
Bakare said in what he called his own
state of the nation speech. “Yet all
around us are signs of retrogression.”
Dionne Searcey reported from Abuja,
and Tony Iyare from Lagos, Nigeria. Emmanuel Akinwotu contributed reporting
from Abuja.
4 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
China exerts its digital censorship globally
China has also become more comfortable projecting Mr. Xi’s vision of a tightly
controlled internet. Beijing had long
been content to block foreign internet
companies and police the homegrown
alternatives that sprouted up to take
their place, but it is now directly pressuring individuals or requesting that
companies cooperate with its online
censorship efforts.
That puts many American tech giants
in a tricky position, especially those that
want access to China’s vast internet
market of more than 700 million users.
In the past, these companies have typically gone to great lengths to gain a toehold in China. Facebook created a censorship tool it did not use and released
an app in the country without putting its
name on it. Apple is moving data storage
for its Chinese customers into China and
last year took down software that skirts
China’s internet blocks from its China
App Store. Google recently said it would
open a new artificial intelligence lab in
the country.
Often, these companies have little recourse when pressured for help by Beijing. Going to the United States government could set off retaliation from
China, so many have sought to navigate
the situation on their own.
“I personally am not sure what the solution is for these companies,” Mr. Rosenzweig said. “I don’t see a good answer
because the Chinese government is really putting them between a rock and a
hard place.”
China leaned heavily on major internet companies when Guo Wengui, a Chinese tycoon in self-imposed exile, went
on Facebook and YouTube to accuse a
number of Chinese officials of corruption. Chinese officials last year complained to Facebook and Google, which
owns YouTube, according to people familiar with the events who requested
anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Facebook suspended Mr. Guo’s account. In a statement, the company said
the account published the personal information of others without their consent, which violated the platform’s policies. A spokeswoman declined to comment on whether Beijing’s complaints
played a role.
The Chinese authorities have also
successfully persuaded Google to pull
down content that had been available
around the globe.
The Chinese government asked
Google’s services to take down 2,290
items in the first half of last year, according to the company’s statistics. That was
more than triple the number it requested in the second half of 2016, which
itself had set a record.
Content related to terrorism made up
a substantial portion of the material
China asked Google to take down, according to its data. The majority of China’s recent takedown requests focused
on videos on YouTube, the data showed.
A Google spokesman said the company
would not comment further on specific
takedown requests.
Chinese officials may have even bigger censorship ambitions.
At a major Chinese internet confer-
An internet cafe in Tianjin, China. Mercedes-Benz erased an Instagram post that included a quote attributed to the Dalai Lama, even though few mainland Chinese could see it because Beijing blocks the Facebook-owned app.
ence last year, Mei Jianming, a Chinese
antiterrorism expert, said Beijing
should put more pressure on companies
like Twitter. The goal would be to get
them to change their terms of service so
they could restrict posts by groups that
Beijing considers subversive, like the
World Uyghur Congress, which seeks
self-determination for the people of the
western Chinese region of Xinjiang.
Sometimes, Chinese internet users
also push foreign companies to censor
themselves in the country, nurtured by
sentiments on China’s propaganda
Daimler, the German carmaker, apologized in February after its MercedesBenz brand posted an inspirational
quote on Instagram, a Facebook-owned
platform, that it attributed to the Dalai
Lama. China views the Tibetan Buddhist leader as a champion of independ-
The Chinese authorities have
persuaded Google to pull
down content that had been
available around the world.
ence for Tibet, and Mercedes-Benz
faced withering criticism from Chinese
internet users who shared those views.
Mercedes-Benz erased the post —
even though few people in China could
see it because Beijing blocks Instagram.
Still, criticism continued. The People’s
Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party, branded Mercedes-Benz
an “enemy of the people.”
China is Mercedes-Benz’s single biggest car market, accounting for about
one-quarter of sales.
“China is getting stronger,” said Lokman Tsui, a professor at the School of
Journalism and Communication at the
Chinese University of Hong Kong, and a
former Google employee. “They’re getting more confident in putting pressure
on these platforms.”
China is also requiring individuals to
police what they say on global social media. In a prominent conviction last year
of a human rights activist, Lee Mingche, the Chinese police used writing that
he had posted on Facebook from Taiwan
as evidence against him.
“The fact that China is punishing people for critical content published outside
China to audiences not based in China is
of course a concern,” said Mr. Rosenzweig, the Amnesty International analyst.
The case of Mr. Zhang, the Chinese individual under scrutiny for what he
posted on WhatsApp, could indicate a
further extension of China’s reach.
The Chinese police have previously
focused on activists for what they say on
foreign social media, but Mr. Zhang’s
case seems to be one of the first in which
someone has been charged for spreading articles on WhatsApp. Because
WhatsApp is encrypted and run by a foreign company, it is generally considered
a safer platform than the China-based
messaging app WeChat.
Mr. Zhang’s lawyer, Sui Muqing, said
he was surprised when the police presented him with printouts of articles and
comments from Mr. Zhang.
“They didn’t get the information from
him, but they have it,” Mr. Sui said.
“That was what we found so weird.
None of us knew how they were capable
of getting that data and whether WhatsApp has become unsafe.”
Experts said the information was
likely gleaned from somebody within
Mr. Zhang’s WhatsApp group or by accessing Mr. Zhang’s phone directly, not
by hacking WhatsApp. Chinese officials
formally blocked WhatsApp in mainland China about the time of Mr. Zhang’s
A spokeswoman for WhatsApp said
the Chinese authorities did not have
backdoor access to its encrypted messages. China’s Ministry of Public Security did not respond to requests for comment.
“When I talk about technology and
the internet, people normally pine for
them and look forward to a future that
will promote liberalization,” Mr. Sui said.
“But people neglect the fact that modern
authoritarianism also rises with the development of technology, which makes
wider and deeper control possible.”
Carolyn Zhang contributed reporting.
Old weapons and gang violence rattle Sweden
steps from an elementary school, was
difficult for him to take in.
“Now, when I think of the future, I am
afraid,” he said. “I am afraid for Europe.”
Illegal weapons often enter Sweden
over the Oresund Bridge, a 10-mile span
that links the southern city of Malmo to
Denmark. When it opened, in 2000, the
bridge symbolized the unfurling of a vibrant, borderless Europe, but in recent
years it has been more closely associated with smuggling — of people, weapons and drugs.
The influx of heavy weapons has
caught Sweden’s security and criminal
justice systems unprepared.
The border with Denmark is open,
with insufficient personnel to search every vehicle entering the country. Hand
grenades were, until last year, classified
as “flammable products” rather than
weapons, so sentences for detonating
them were mild. The police are struggling to gather information in immigrant neighborhoods, and clearance
rates for gun homicide cases have fallen
steadily since the 1990s.
“We have lost the trust from the people who lived and worked in this area,”
said Gunnar Appelgren, a police superintendent and specialist in gang violence.
Sweden’s far-right party blames the
government’s liberal immigration policy for the rising crime, and will thrust
the issue to the fore in the fall campaign.
Last year, Peter Springare, 61, a veteran police officer in Orebro, published a
furious Facebook post saying that violent crimes he was investigating were
committed by immigrants from “Iraq,
Iraq, Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Somalia, Syria again, Somalia, unknown country, unknown country, Sweden.” It was shared more than 20,000
times; Mr. Springare has since been investigated twice by state prosecutors,
once for inciting racial hatred, though
neither inquiry resulted in charges.
Even President Trump weighed in on
the issue, saying that after taking in
“large numbers” of immigrants, Sweden
was “having problems like they never
thought possible.”
Police officials are more likely to at-
Left, mourners at the funeral of Daniel Cuevas Zuniga in Stockholm. Above, Paulus
Borisho was in his kebab shop around 50 feet away when the grenade that killed Mr.
Zuniga detonated. The explosion made his restaurant’s windows shudder.
tribute gang violence to a failure of integration, citing a recent study of a
Swedish street gang that found 24 percent of its members were ethnic Swedes,
and 42 percent had been born in Sweden.
But they, too, see an urgent problem.
Affixed to the wall in Mr. Appelgren’s
office in Stockholm’s Police Headquarters is a chart showing the increase in
the use of hand grenades. Until 2014
there were about a handful every year.
In 2015, that number leapt: 45 grenades
were seized by the police, and 10 others
were detonated. The next year, 55 were
seized and 35 detonated. A modest decrease occurred in 2017, when 39 were
seized and 21 were detonated.
Mr. Appelgren has watched the trend
apprehensively, calling it an arms race
among gangs.
“I think we’re going to see, if we don’t
stop it, more drive-by shootings with
Kalashnikovs and hand grenades,” he
said. “They throw rocks and bottles at
our cars, and they trick us in an ambush.
When will it happen that they ambush
us with Kalashnikovs? It’s coming.”
Much of the problem is the supply of
surplus weapons. The 1995 Dayton
peace agreement, which ended the Bosnian war, required paramilitaries to disarm and decommission their arsenals.
Sellers in Bosnia and Serbia have networks in Sweden’s diaspora and are so
eager to unload excess grenades, often
rusted from decades in storage, that
they throw them in free with the purchase of AK-47s, Mr. Appelgren said. In
Sweden the street price of a hand
grenade is 100 kroner, or $12.50.
“It’s odd,” said Manne Gerell, a lecturer in criminology at Malmo University. “I don’t know of any Western coun-
try with a similar use of hand grenades.
Our hypothesis is that they are used to
send a message. Not so much as a weapon, as a tool for intimidation. You don’t
need perfect aim. You are not trying to
kill a particular person.”
As for Mr. Zuniga, on the January
morning when he spotted the object in
his path, he had finally made a big decision.
Sweden had been good to him. He had
emigrated from Chile in 1985, as part of a
wave of left-leaning Chileans allowed
into Sweden by Olof Palme, a liberal
prime minister and passionate opponent of Chile’s authoritarian president
at the time, Augusto Pinochet.
Mr. Zuniga found work as a health
aide, most recently caring for adults
with severe disabilities and Alzheimer’s
disease. He was a genial bear of a man
who called everyone by a nickname —
Bandito, Diablo, Loco, Feya — and no
one, not even the stone-faced Swedish
head nurses, could resist him.
But lately, Mr. Zuniga had complained
that he did not feel safe in his neighborhood.
Varby Gard has produced a street
gang, the Varby Gard Network, which
the police have been monitoring for two
years. It is led by a Tunisian man and
populated by first- and second-generation immigrants from Finland, the
Balkans and Africa, said Lars Broms, a
detective who is investigating Mr. Zuniga’s death. Intent on protecting its monopoly on the local drug trade, it is fluid
and loosely organized, but like other
suburban gangs in Sweden, it is developing quickly, he said.
“Give them 20 years, and we’ll have
the same as in L.A.,” Mr. Broms said.
On Tuesday, the police arrested two
18-year-old men on suspicion of throwing the grenade that killed Mr. Zuniga.
Mr. Zuniga had complained about the
changes in Varby Gard, frustrated that
the police did not have better control,
friends said. A music lover, he no longer
went out to concerts at night, said Hugo
Garrido, 60, a close friend.
“Crime is increasing and increasing,
and they aren’t doing anything about it,”
Mr. Garrido said. “It’s denial. Swedes
are very good people and they want to
change the world. They want the rest of
the world to be like Sweden. And the reality is that it’s completely different.”
So Mr. Zuniga, who was nearing retirement, had planned his exit, squirreling money away to build a house in Thailand, where his wife’s family lived. He
told friends he planned to go in April.
Instead, on a recent Sunday his
mourners streamed into an unadorned
stone-colored chapel in a Stockholm
cemetery, overflowing the pews and
standing in the aisles. His son, Daniel,
sent a note from Chile, calling him “my
old sea wolf.”
His daughter, Natalia, said she would
give anything to drink one more cup of
coffee with him. Wanna stood at the foot
of the coffin, her face stretched into a
mask of grief. “He reiterated that if he
died, I must return to Thailand,” she said
of her husband. “He didn’t want me to
live here after he died. He told me to sell
the house and just leave.”
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 5
Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi voting in Milan on Sunday. Right, Matteo Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, after voting. Mr. Salvini’s party appeared to gain more, remarkably, than that of Mr. Berlusconi, his coalition partner.
Italy takes a big turn to the right
With no decisive winner,
it may be weeks before a
government is formed
Italy’s first election in five years was
widely seen as a bellwether of the
strength of populists on the Continent
and how far they might advance into the
mainstream. The answer was far, very
After Chancellor Angela Merkel of
Germany and President Emmanuel
Macron of France beat back populist
and far-right insurgencies in the past
year, Europe had seemed to be enjoying
a reprieve from the forces threatening
its unity and values.
That turned out to be short-lived.
In Sunday’s vote, preliminary results
showed, the parties that did well all
shared varying degrees of skepticism
toward the European Union, with laments about Brussels treating Italians
like slaves, agitation to abandon the
euro and promises to put Italy before
The most likely result will be a government in Italy — a founding European
Union nation and the major economy of
the Mediterranean — that is much less
invested in the project of a united Europe. All the while, geopolitical competitors from Russia to China are seeking to
divide and weaken the bloc.
The results were not just a disconcerting measure of Italy’s mood but also a
harbinger of the troubles that may yet
lay ahead for Europe. Far-right and populist forces appeared to gain more than
50 percent of the vote in Italy, where the
economy has lagged, migration has
surged and many are seething at those
in power.
But with no one party or coalition appearing to win enough support to form a
government, the election offered up an
outcome familiar here: a muddle. It may
take weeks of haggling to sort out who
will lead the next government, and who
will be in it.
One thing seemed clear, however:
Any government will be difficult to form
without the insurgent Five Star Movement, a web-based, populist party less
than a decade old. The party was poised
to become the country’s biggest votegetter, winning about a third of the votes
cast — its best showing ever.
“A triumph of the Five Star Movement,” Alessandro Di Battista, a leader
of the party, said on Sunday night. “Everybody has to come talk to us.”
Political analysts agreed.
Roberto D’Alimonte, a political scientist at Luiss University in Rome, said
that if the results held, the Five Star
Movement would find itself in “a pivotal
position.” With previously solid-seeming coalitions now fluid, he said, Five
Star was in the driver’s seat.
The question will be who will join it.
The projections also showed big gains
for the far-right League, a formerly
northern-based secessionist party run
by Matteo Salvini. He has been unapologetic about his use of inflammatory language about migrants, calling for their
Mr. Salvini’s party gained about 18
percent of votes, according to preliminary results. That was more, remarkably, than the party of former Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi, his coalition
partner and the personification of the
conservative mainstream, which won
just 14 percent of ballots cast, the early
results showed.
Taken together, the votes cast for the
Five Star Movement, the League and its
post-fascist coalition partner, the Brothers of Italy party, run by Giorgia Meloni,
depicted a dark mood in Italy and deep
frustration with the governing, pro-Europe, Democratic Party of the center
The Democratic Party suffered its
poorest showing ever in national elections, continuing a Europe-wide collapse of the left, and putting into immediate question the future of its once-
“Everybody has to come
talk to us.”
promising leader, the former prime minister Matteo Renzi.
One glimmer of hope for Mr. Renzi is
the possibility of forming a grand coalition with Mr. Berlusconi’s center-right
Forza Italia party. But even together
they lacked the numbers to form a government.
Nadia Urbinati, a political theorist at
Columbia University and the author of
the forthcoming book “The Age of Populism,” said the country had been “split in
two” between traditional establishment
voters on the right and left, and everyone else.
Ex-warlord talks peace in Afghanistan
Former insurgent remains
deeply divisive but insists
he can broker Taliban deal
When President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan stood up last week to try to
lure the Taliban to peace talks, promising them amnesty and political inclusion, he could point to a recent example:
the deal that brought the militant group
Hezb-i-Islami and its deeply divisive
leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, in from
the battlefield.
Through decades of Afghan turmoil,
Mr. Hekmatyar has managed to keep
himself near the action, and has broken
alliances several times to do it. He has
been favored by the United States Central Intelligence Agency as a fighter of
the Soviets, a warlord who mauled the
Afghan capital Kabul, a prime minister,
an admirer of Al Qaeda, an ally and enemy of the Taliban and an unabashed proponent of suicide bombings against
American forces.
Since the deal that allowed him to return, initiated during the Obama administration and finalized last year under
the Trump administration, he has become a more public player in the increasingly chaotic and hostile jumble of
Afghan politics.
Though his reconciliation has been
held out as a hope for peace, one thing
Mr. Hekmatyar has not yet become is
any kind of political peacemaker.
He has been a strident critic of Mr.
Ghani and even harsher about the government’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah, often meddling in the disputes
between the two Afghan leaders. And he
remains a distrusted and even hated figure among some Afghan power brokers
who can agree on little else.
Still, though Mr. Hekmatyar was not
deemed a significant force among insurgents by the time he reconciled with the
government, he insists that he has a vital role to play in securing a deal with the
In an interview in his governmentprovided residence in Kabul in February, Mr. Hekmatyar said his participation in Afghan politics showed the Taliban that they, too, could wield influence
after laying down their weapons.
“Peace is our goal and ending the war
our responsibility,” he said.
Mr. Hekmatyar claimed that he had
Above, supporters of the militant group Hezb-i-Islami waited in Kabul, Afghanistan, last
May to hear a speech by their leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, below.
already begun establishing himself as
an intermediary and was in regular contact with the Taliban’s supreme leader,
Mawlawi Haibatullah Akhundzada.
The attraction for the Taliban of his
settlement deal as a model, he said,
would be greater if the government followed through on all its promises. Of
2,000 fighters in prison, he said, 150 have
been freed. The United Nations has
lifted Mr. Hekmatyar’s designation as a
terrorist, but the United States has not.
“A large number of Taliban could join
the government if the peace agreement
with Hezb-i-Islami is successful,” he
Mr. Hekmatyar is promoting a recon-
ciliation with the Taliban that would
grant local autonomy to the insurgent
group in certain regions, or peace provinces. He called these regions “secure
areas” that would remain part of Afghanistan, even as Afghan Army troops
withdrew from them.
“It would be very effective,” he said,
adding that in his discussions with the
Afghan president, Mr. Ghani had been
Western diplomats, in contrast, lean
toward a deal bringing the Taliban into
the central government, similar to the
arrangement with Mr. Hekmatyar, and
dismiss the model of local autonomy as
Mr. Hekmatyar has also suggested
that individual Taliban commanders
could join the peace process by first joining his party, and in this way be grandfathered into its settlement with the government. Hezb-i-Islami has claimed
success in negotiating deals with local
commanders in northern Afghanistan.
But diplomats and military analysts
say that, at least for now, there has been
no apparent reduction in violence or
prospect for a wider truce from Mr. Hekmatyar’s reconciliation.
Many Afghans cringe at a role in
peace talks for a commander who
earned the nickname “The Butcher of
Kabul” for indiscriminate shelling of the
capital during the civil war in the 1990s.
And there has remained his tendency
to exacerbate whatever political tension
is around. He often sits near Mr. Ghani
in meetings as a supposed display of
unity, but he has been publicly withering
about the president’s governance —
though mostly careful not to single him
out by name.
All of that was not enough to keep him
from flipping expectations in order to
tweak Mr. Ghani’s rival, Mr. Abdullah.
In November, Mr. Hekmatyar turned
up unexpectedly at a meeting of election
officials where Mr. Abdullah’s faction
was united in demanding the resignation of Mr. Ghani’s favored election committee chairman, who had been widely
accused of corruption. Mr. Hekmatyar
shocked the room, witnesses said, by
suddenly endorsing Mr. Ghani’s choice.
One point of continuing dismay for Afghan and American officials has been
Mr. Hekmatyar’s defense of Hezb-i-Islami’s suicide bombings. In one of the
worst, in 2012, the group claimed responsibility for sending a bomber to
blow up a minibus carrying flight attendants for a charter company that
served the United States Embassy,
killing 14 people.
In the interview, Mr. Hekmatyar denied attacking civilians but openly discussed what he described as one of his
more successful operations of the war:
an ambush of a United States troop convoy that “caused casualties.”
He had also been a target himself, he
said, narrowly escaping an American
drone strike that homed in on a signal of
his satellite telephone.
Mr. Hekmatyar said he knew Osama
bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, in the
1980s and once saved the future terrorist leader’s life by breaking a Soviet
Army encirclement of Arab fighters.
“He was a man committed to Islam,” Mr.
Hekmatyar said of bin Laden. He suggested that he had broken ties with bin
Laden after the terrorist leader shifted
focus from Afghanistan to global jihad.
Mr. Hekmatyar insists that he had no
contact with Al Qaeda after 2001, and
American officials have maintained that
his continued separation from the terrorist group was an unalterable condition of his reconciliation.
“Where we put our foot down was
there had to be a very specific commitment on Hekmatyar’s part to break with
Al Qaeda,” Laurel Miller, a senior analyst at the RAND Corporation who
served until last year as the State Department’s special representative for
Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in a telephone interview.
Mr. Hekmatyar’s assurances have
been sufficient for the former American
ambassador in Kabul to meet with him.
“We are honest,” Mr. Hekmatyar said,
“in both war and peace.”
The new Italian political landscape
does not mean that the anti-establishment forces will get the chance to govern together, or that they even want to.
But their strength at the polls was a
strong indicator of voter anger after a
prolonged period of economic stagnation and the arrival of hundreds of thousands of illegal migrants from Africa
and elsewhere.
For years, migrants who survived the
perilous crossing of the sea arrived on
Italy’s southern coasts. The country’s
center-left government sought to strike
a balance between a humane response
and enforcement of its borders.
Italy pleaded with other countries in
Europe to help share the burden, both
by patrolling the waters and accepting a
portion of the migrants sheltered in reception centers. But its neighbors, including France, locked their doors and
the migrants, many of whom felt stuck
in Italy, became an open political nerve.
The center-left government eventually reduced the arrivals through deals
in Libya and further south. But by then
the damage was done, and Europe,
which is deeply wary of the Five Star
Movement and the League, may now be
about to pay the consequences.
“We are surely in front of an extraor-
dinary result,” Alfonso Bonafede, a
member of Parliament from the Five
Star party said soon after the first exit
polls at a conference room in a Rome hotel. “We can say historic even. The Five
Star Movement will be the pillar of the
next legislature.”
Mr. Berlusconi, Mr. Salvini and Ms.
Meloni ran together with the idea of governing together. With their failure to
reach the 40 percent threshold to claim
power, it was not clear what would happen.
Supporters of Mr. Berlusconi argued
on television that his coalition had essentially won the election. But Mr.
Berlusconi himself did not appear to be
the winner, even within his coalition.
Both Mr. Berlusconi and Mr. Renzi
characterized Five Star as the greatest
threat to Italy to come along in ages. But
now it is Italy’s most popular party, and
it has a good deal of leverage going into
consultations with President Sergio
Mattarella, who will ultimately decide
the shape and content of the next government.
The newly formed Parliament will
meet for the first time on March 23.
Elisabetta Povoledo and Gaia Pianigiani
contributed reporting.
Undersea drones may help
Norway clean up its fjords
Norway’s fjords have long inspired the
country’s artists and drawn streams of
tourists. In winter, their ice-laced surfaces shimmer beside snow-capped
mountains: a vision of natural beauty,
blissfully untouched.
But lost in the depths of the fjord in
Oslo, stretching out from the capital, is a
trove that would please any intrepid archaeologist or Nordic noir sleuth: sunken Viking trinkets, bullion from Hitler’s
prized warship and, possibly, a few victims of homicide.
Mostly, though, the fjord is filled with
garbage, like unwanted cars. And that
has alarmed environmentalists.
“Not many years ago, a mayor said, ‘If
you want to get rid of a car, put it on the
ice,’ ” said Solve Stubberud, general secretary of the Norwegian Divers Federation.
Now, the capital is turning to new
technology to help pinpoint the litter so
that human divers can scour it off the
seabed. Last week, board members of
Oslo’s Port Authority approved a pioneering trash-removal plan.
“We will test out drones,” said Svein
Olav Lunde, the chief technical officer of
the Oslo Port Authority, shortly after the
meeting, explaining how the unmanned
vessels will be used to help clear out underwater “islands of trash.”
Geir Rognlien Elgvin, a board member, said he believed that Oslo’s port will
be the first in the world to try this sort of
trash pickup. The drones will plunge
into the depths of Oslo Fjord this spring.
An electric-powered ship with a crane
will join the cleanup fleet by next year.
Oslo is turning to drone technology
partly because of a dead dolphin —
bloodied, beached and ensnared in plastic. Gory images of the carcass, taken in
January on a trash-strewn shore of Oslo
Fjord, resonated on social media among
Norwegians, who see their coastline as
a paragon of untouched natural beauty.
Mr. Stubberud said that recent images of beached dolphins and whales
have woken up Norway, but that “plastic
is the real problem.” Politicians and the
public have shown more interest in the
cleanup campaign in the past two years,
he said.
But it’s mainly driven by environmentalists. Ambitious plans to clean up the
city’s industrial waste and sewage have
been in the works for decades, along
with a proposal for a car-free city center
and a ban on using oil to heat buildings
that is to go into effect in 2020. Campaigns like these won Oslo the European
Green Capital Award for 2019.
Fjords are indelibly linked to Norway’s identity as a seafaring nation. The
long, narrow, deep inlets form at the
base of mountains where ocean water
flows into valleys formed near the coast.
The Oslo Fjord is 62 miles long.
But in the fjord — roughly one-third of
Norway’s five million people live on its
shores — the problems started with industrialization and increased shipping
after the oil boom in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Even as the first drones are set to
plumb the fjords, the national government is moving in another direction.
Norway is one of the few countries that
“Not many years ago, a mayor
said, ‘If you want to get rid of a
car, put it on the ice.’ ”
allows offshore dumping of mining
waste, which can destroy vast numbers
of fish stocks in fjords with hundreds of
thousands of tons of sludge.
Norway has refused to sign an International Union for Conservation of Nature resolution outlawing the practice,
putting it in the company of Chile, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Turkey.
“It’s wrong, and I wish that we didn’t
do it,” said Lan Marie Nguyen Berg, vice
mayor for the environment and transportation in Oslo.
But the national government has emphasized that the mining projects provide local jobs.
After the meeting on Thursday, the litter collection plan settled, Roger
Schjerva, the chairman of the port authority, noted even more important
items in the fjords that continue to need
urgent attention: mines.
The mines date back to the Second
World War. There are more than 1,550 of
them in Oslo Fjord. Of the 270 that have
been located, around 100 have been detonated, said a spokesman for the Royal
Norwegian Navy. When detonated in
the fjords, they can damage ships and
fish. The mines are also leaking.
So another wave of mine sweeping
may come to the fjords. Mr. Schjerva
said, “We will prioritize removing remaining mines from World War II.”
6 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
Money unspent in fight
over Russian meddling
Delay reflects skepticism
of United States’ ability
to counter election threat
Steve Clark, whose family owns the Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton, Va., with a bolt-action rifle. He says that the store’s customers are drawn to more modern rifles.
American icon, love it or loathe it
AR-15 cemented its place
in culture after the end of
an assault weapons ban
Jeff Swarey bought his AR-15 rifle five
years ago after shooting guns in video
games. Jessie K. Fletcher, a former Marine sniper, was given one by his platoon
after he stepped on a bomb in Afghanistan that blew off his legs. Jessica Dorantes, a Texas police officer, will not go
on patrol without hers.
Their shared communion is a firearm
that has in recent decades become a staple of American gun culture. Its iconic
silhouette is immediately recognizable
— and polarizing.
The AR-15 won its place in American
culture through a confluence of circumstances, described in interviews by
more than 15 gun industry professionals, hobbyists, lawyers and gun owners.
They pointed to 2004, when the AR-15
re-entered the gun market after the end
of the federal assault weapons ban, at a
time of heightened interest in the military. It was popularized by the rise of a
video game culture in which shooting
became a form of mass entertainment,
and it was marketed as accessible and
easy to personalize.
For those who love the rifle, it is seen
as a testament to freedom — a rite of
passage shared between parents and
children, a token to welcome soldiers
home, a tradition shared with friends at
the range. But the AR-15 has also become inextricably linked with tragedy
and has been vilified as the weapon of
mass murder.
Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz confessed to gunning down 17 people last
month at a high school in Parkland, Fla.,
in which an AR-15 was used, the latest
mass shooting to prompt a new round of
the intractable gun debate.
Whether beloved or reviled, the AR-15
is for many Americans more than just a
Light, precise and with little recoil, the
Colt Armalite Rifle-15 Sporter hit the
market in the early 1960s, a civilian version of the rifle adopted by the military
as the M16. What set it apart was the inventor Eugene Stoner’s patented gas
operating system, which allowed for
rapid fire and reloading. The weapon
could easily handle a 20-round magazine, was easy to disassemble and was
marketed, in one of Colt’s early advertisements, to hunters, campers and collectors.
Billed as “America’s rifle” by the National Rifle Association, the AR-15 is less
a specific weapon than a family of them.
When Mr. Stoner’s rights to the gas system expired in 1977, it opened the way
for dozens of weapons manufacturers to
produce their own models using the
same technology. The term AR-15 has
become a catchall that includes a variety of weapons that look and operate similarly, including the Remington Bushmaster, the Smith & Wesson M&P15 and
the Springfield Armory Saint.
Over the ensuing decades, as the
American military modified the M16’s
exterior to allow for accessories such as
sights, grips and flashlights, the civilian
market followed. Today, gun enthusiasts
consider the AR-15 the Erector Set of
firearms. Online message boards, video
games and advertisements all provide
how-to guides for customizing the rifle.
But the guns were taken off shelves
after President Bill Clinton signed a law
in September 1994 banning what Congress called “assault weapons.”
Prompted by a string of mass shootings
— including one in 1989 in Stockton,
Calif., in which five children were killed
and 32 wounded in a schoolyard — the
legislation stopped production of civilian rifles like the AR-15 and introduced
the term “assault weapons” to the public.
The number of assault weapons recovered by the police in crimes and reported to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives dropped
sharply after the ban was carried out,
according to a Justice Department report.
But the report stops short of directly
tying the ban to a decrease in gun violence, and the ban’s broader effect remains in dispute. Gun rights advocates
say loopholes allowed for the sale of
slightly modified versions throughout
the ban. Its defenders cite law enforcement statistics showing a drop in the
criminal use of automatic and semiautomatic weapons during that time.
The number of rifles manufactured in
the United States has steadily increased
since the ban ended through congressional inaction when the law expired in
2004, though it is not clear how many are
semiautomatic firearms. Some 3.7 million rifles were manufactured in the
United States in 2015, the most recent
year for which the A.T.F. has publicly
available data.
Determining the true effect of the ban
is all but impossible because federal regulations prohibit the government from
tracking the guns. Though gun industry
lobbyists touted the popularity of
AR-15s, no public information is available on how many Americans own them,
where they are bought or concentrated
or exactly how many exist.
Culturally, the ban did what marketers
could not: In outlawing it, the government made the AR-15 tantalizing.
“If you want to sell something to an
American, just tell him that he can’t
have it,” said Mark Westrom, who
owned Armalite, the gun’s original manufacturer.
When the ban ended, enthusiasts
could finally buy what for a decade had
been forbidden.
And when the AR-15 reappeared in
gun stores that fall, American culture
had changed. Now, this civilian-model
military rifle was being sold amid not
only a swell of anticipation but also
post-9/11 patriotism and at the height of
the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Special Operations forces were being
mythologized in news segments, shown
carrying their rifles through the desert
in imposing tactical gear. Children were
shooting the AR-15’s military equivalent
in wartime video games. Manufacturers
designed rival versions, creating a competitive market that made the AR-15
more affordable.
“So you want to buy a rifle like our
troops are using in Iraq?” National Public Radio asked in November 2004.
“Well, step up to the counter and tell the
man what you want.”
Gun store owners scrambled to meet
demand, contemporaneous news accounts show. Shops that historically sold
traditional bolt-action guns and older
firearms started stocking AR-15s.
Steve Clark, whose family has owned
Clark Brothers Gun Shop in Warrenton,
Va., since 1956, said his customers are
drawn to newer and more modern rifles.
“If the whole world went to ARs, that’s
what I’d be selling,” said Mr. Clark, who
prefers older firearms for what he views
as superior craftsmanship. “It would
make me sad, but I’m going to sell them
what they want.”
AR-15 owners, asked why they bought
the firearms, cited recreation as well as
the larger mythology that has enveloped the rifle of embodying freedom and
the Second Amendment.
Joshua Boston, a Marine who spent
two deployments in Iraq and two in Afghanistan and owns several AR-15s,
said he keeps them for personal defense.
He is looking for the serial number of his
old military rifle so he can engrave both
it and the Colt logo onto the AR-15 he
plans to give years from now to his son,
now 11 months old.
Chris Cerino, a former federal law enforcement officer and firearms instructor in Ohio, said he hated the AR-15, until
he used one. “It was so fun to shoot,” said
Mr. Cerino, 48. Now, he and his wife, who
has a purple AR-15, love them.
“It’s an icon,” he said. “It’s a symbol of
freedom. To me, it is America’s rifle.”
Critics say the firearm’s branding positioned it for notoriety. Josh Koskoff —
a lawyer who represents parents of victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook
Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.,
in a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer Remington — cited a concerted effort
by the gun industry after the assault
weapons ban to use the AR-15 to shape
popular opinion around semiautomatic
weapons — rebranding them as “modern sporting rifles.”
“When they market it to young men,
there’s no ‘sporting rifle’ angle to it,” Mr.
Koskoff said. “It’s all military. It’s all violent. And it’s all incendiary marketing.”
Indeed, the AR-15 is also inextricably
linked to tragedy. Mass shootings are
central to the gun’s narrative and its
popularity. Police departments stocked
up on them after a string of massacres in
the 1990s. Some supporters attribute
their fondness to fear of being outgunned should they encounter an aggressor. Hobbyists, like Mr. Swarey, 23,
who picked up his taste for shooting
from video games, have swarmed to gun
shops after mass shootings, fearful that
they could be a catalyst for the government to outlaw them again.
“It was right around the time of the
first school shooting that made the news
and scared everybody,” Mr. Swarey said
of buying his first AR-15 about five years
ago, when, he said, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was fueling
talk of another assault weapons ban. “It
was one of those things, that I wanted to
get one before they were impossible to
Compared with pistols, assault rifles are
used rarely in shootings. According to
F.B.I. statistics, 374 people were killed
with any kind of rifle in 2016; 7,105 were
killed by a handgun.
But the AR-15 has been a recurring
character in some of America’s most infamous violent crimes. Adam Lanza
used his to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook. Stephen Paddock
used an enhanced AR-style gun to kill 58
concertgoers and wound hundreds on
the Las Vegas Strip in October. A month
later, Devin Kelley murdered 26 congregants with a Ruger AR-15 variant at a
church in Sutherland Springs, Tex. And
the rampage last month at Marjory
Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., renewed calls for assaultstyle rifles to be banned — a common refrain after mass shootings.
It is unclear when and how the rifle
worked its way into the United States’
lexicon of violent crimes. In 1982,
George E. Banks shot to death 13 people
with the weapon, and in 1997, an AR-15,
among other semiautomatic militarystyle rifles, was used in the North Hollywood shootout, a daytime robbery in
California that devolved into a nearly
hourlong firefight and was televised live
across the country. During the gun battle, police officers were forced to run to a
local gun store and take rifles to try to
contend with the robbers’ firepower and
body armor. Afterward, police departments around the country started making AR-15s standard issue for officers.
Mr. Koskoff, the lawyer for Sandy
Hook victims, criticized the marketing
of the AR-15 as hypermasculine and inflammatory, aimed at attracting young
men, “ringing the bell of the lone gunman.”
“What we’re seeing right now with
the increasing velocity of shootings with
AR-15s is a little bit of a ‘chickens coming
home to roost’ scenario,” he said. “They
sold so many to so many, and so indiscriminately to this younger demographic, that it’s just become a risk that increases with each sale.”
As Russia’s virtual war against the
United States continues unabated with
the midterm elections approaching, the
State Department has yet to spend any
of the $120 million it has been allocated
since late 2016 to counter foreign efforts
to meddle in elections or sow distrust in
As a result, not one of the 23 analysts
working in the department’s Global Engagement Center — which has been
tasked with countering Moscow’s disinformation campaign — speaks Russian,
and a department hiring freeze has hindered efforts to recruit the computer experts needed to track the Russian efforts.
The delay is just one symptom of the
largely passive response to the Russian
interference by President Trump, who
has made little if any public effort to
rally the United States to confront Moscow and defend democratic institutions.
More broadly, the funding lag reflects a
deep lack of confidence by Secretary of
State Rex W. Tillerson in his department’s ability to execute its historically
wide-ranging mission and spend its
money wisely.
Mr. Tillerson has voiced skepticism
that the United States is even capable of
doing anything to counter the Russian
“If it’s their intention to interfere,
they’re going to find ways to do that,”
Mr. Tillerson said in an interview last
month with Fox News. “And we can take
steps we can take, but this is something
that once they decide they are going to
do it, it’s very difficult to pre-empt it.”
The United States spends billions of
dollars on secret cyberweapons, but
these capabilities have proved largely
ineffective against Russian efforts on
Facebook, Twitter and elsewhere that
simply amplify or distort divisive but
genuine voices in the United States and
The role for the Global Engagement
Center would be to assess Russian efforts and then set about amplifying a different set of voices to counter them, perhaps creating a network of anti-propaganda projects dispersed around the
world, experts said.
“There are now thousands of former
Russian journalists who have been exiled or fired who are doing counter-Russian stuff in exile who we could help,”
said Richard Stengel, who as the under
secretary for public diplomacy in the
Obama administration had oversight of
the Global Engagement Center.
Concerted campaigns to highlight the
roles of Russian troll farms or Russian
mercenaries in Ukraine and Syria could
have a profound effect, Mr. Stengel said.
At the end of the Obama administration, Congress directed the Pentagon to
send $60 million to the State Department so it could coordinate governmentwide efforts, including those by the
Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security, to counter
anti-democratic propaganda by Russia
and China. This messaging effort is separate from other potential government
actions like cyberattacks.
Mr. Tillerson spent seven months trying to decide whether to spend any of
the money. The State Department finally sent a request to the Defense Department on Sept. 18 to transfer the
funds, but with just days left in the fiscal
year, Pentagon officials decided that the
State Department had lost its shot at the
With another $60 million available for
the next fiscal year, the two departments dickered for another five months
over how much the State Department
could have.
After The New York Times, following
a report on the issue by Politico in Au-
gust, began asking about the delayed
money, the State Department announced on Feb. 26 that the Pentagon
had agreed to transfer $40 million for
the effort, just a third of what was originally intended.
State Department officials say they
expect to receive the money in April.
Steve Goldstein, the under secretary for
public diplomacy, said he would contribute $1 million from his own budget to
“kick-start the initiative quickly.”
“This funding is critical to ensuring
that we continue an aggressive response to malign influence and disinformation,” Mr. Goldstein said.
Last Wednesday, Mark E. Mitchell, a
top official in the Defense Department,
said much wrangling remained before
any of the promised $40 million is transferred to the State Department.
The delays have infuriated some
members of Congress, which approved
the funding transfer with bipartisan
“It is well past time that the State Department’s Global Engagement Center
gets the resources Congress intended
for it to effectively fight Kremlin-sponsored disinformation and other foreign
Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the top
Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Wednesday.
Adele Ruppe, the center’s chief of
staff, defended the administration’s
broader efforts to counter Russian propaganda, pointing out that the State Department had provided $1.3 billion in assistance in 2017 to strengthen European
resilience to Russian meddling. But that
money was largely obligated during the
Obama administration, and the Trump
administration has proposed slashing
that assistance by more than half for the
coming year, to $527 million, and to $491
million for the next year.
“This funding is critical to
ensuring” an aggressive response.
While it waits for the funding transfer
from the Pentagon, the center, which
has a staff of around 60 people, including
23 contract analysts, will continue working on its original mission: countering jihadist and extremist propaganda.
Most of the center’s leaders are working in temporary assignments, a product of Mr. Tillerson’s halt in promotions.
The analysts work in a warren of cubicles in the basement of a tired building
that once housed the Office of Strategic
Services, the World War II predecessor
to the Central Intelligence Agency.
The analysts are divided into five
teams that largely work in four languages: Arabic, Urdu, French and Somali. The analysts said in interviews
that they had notched some significant
victories, including a video montage
proving that the Islamic State had itself
destroyed Al Nuri Grand Mosque in Mosul, Iraq, and a widely seen cartoon in
French depicting the miserable life of an
Islamic State fighter.
Still, these efforts are a small fraction
of what Congress envisioned. A 2015 internal assessment found that the Islamic State had been far more nimble on
social media than the United States had
been. In May, Congress more than doubled the center’s budget, providing an
additional $19 million over its earlier
budget of $14 million. But by Jan. 1, the
department had spent just $3.6 million
of the additional $19 million, Mr. Goldstein said.
James K. Glassman, the under secretary for public diplomacy during the
George W. Bush administration, said the
center’s uncertain funding and temporary leadership reflected the administration’s lack of interest in countering either jihadist or Russian propaganda.
“They’ve got the vehicle to do this
work in the center,” Mr. Glassman said.
“What they don’t have is a secretary of
state or a president who’s interested in
doing this work.”
Eric Schmitt, David E. Sanger and Adam
Goldman contributed reporting.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, second from left, has said of Russia’s online activities, “If it’s their intention to interfere, they’re going to find ways to do that.”
• An article in the weekend edition about
Lafayette Anticipations, an art center in
Paris, misspelled the surname of the
center’s managing director. He is
François Quintin, not Quentin.
• An article on Thursday about a poli-
tical standoff between the National Rifle
Association and Delta Air Lines, using
information provided by a consulting
firm working for Delta, misstated the
airline’s estimate of its economic impact
on Georgia. It is $43.5 billion, not $435
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 7
Billion-dollar high
for virtual currency
With initial coin offering,
Telegram may hit that lofty
level in just four months
It took Facebook seven years to raise $1
billion from investors. Uber did it in five.
The messaging company Telegram
has been around since 2013 but never
tried to raise significant money until late
last year. Now, thanks to an initial coin
offering, or I.C.O., Telegram is on track
to pull in a billion dollars in just four
months — long before the product the
company is raising money for is even
entrepreneurs introduce an I.C.O., what
they are really doing is selling their own
virtual currencies to raise money for
software that they say they are building.
In return for real money, investors receive digital tokens, similar to Bitcoin.
“We believe that a whole
new economy saturated
with goods and services
sold for cryptocurrency
will be born.”
A bus carrying venture capitalists and lawmakers on a trip that was pitched as a kind of Rust Belt safari — a chance to meet local officials and look for promising start-ups.
Silicon Valley looks inland
The Shift
“Oh my god, this is so cute!”
Robin Li, an investor with the San
Francisco venture capital firm GGV
Capital, was standing in the lobby of
the Madison building in downtown
Detroit. Built in 1917 as a theater and
refurbished several years ago as a tech
co-working space, the Madison checks
all of the aesthetic boxes of hipsterdom: reclaimed wood, exposed brick
walls, pour-over coffee served by
tattooed baristas.
“This is nicer than San Francisco,”
Ms. Li concluded.
Last month, I accompanied Ms. Li
and roughly a dozen other venture
capitalists on a three-day bus trip
through the Midwest, with stops in
Youngstown and Akron, Ohio; Detroit
and Flint, Mich.; and South Bend, Ind.
The trip, which took place on a luxury
bus outfitted with a supply of vegan
doughnuts and coal-infused kombucha
drinks, was known as the “Comeback
Cities Tour.”
It was pitched as a kind of Rust Belt
safari — a chance for Silicon Valley
investors to meet local officials and
look for promising start-ups in overlooked areas of the country.
But a funny thing happened: By the
end of the tour, the coastal elites had
caught the heartland bug. Several used
Zillow, the real estate app, to gawk at
the availability of cheap homes in cities
like Detroit and South Bend and fanta-
size about relocating there. They marveled at how even old-line manufacturing cities now offer a convincing simulacrum of coastal life, complete with
artisanal soap stores and farm-to-table
“If it weren’t for my kids, I’d totally
move,” said Cyan Banister, a partner at
Founders Fund. “This could be a really
powerful ecosystem.”
These investors aren’t alone. In
recent months, a growing number of
tech leaders have been flirting with the
idea of leaving Silicon Valley. Some cite
the exorbitant cost of living in San
Francisco and its suburbs, where even
a million-dollar salary can feel middle
class. Others complain about local
criticism of the tech industry and a
left-wing echo chamber that stifles
opposing views. And yet others feel
that better innovation is happening
“I’m a little over San Francisco,” said
Patrick McKenna, the founder of High
Ridge Venture Partners who was also
on the bus tour. “It’s so expensive, it’s
so congested, and frankly, you also see
opportunities in other places.”
Mr. McKenna, who owns a house in
Miami in addition to his home in San
Francisco, told me that his travels
outside the Bay Area had opened his
eyes to a world beyond the tech bubble.
“Every single person in San Fran-
A stop in Ohio, with, from left, Mayor Jamael Tito Brown of Youngstown; Mayor William
D. Franklin of Warren, Ohio; and United States Representative Tim Ryan.
cisco is talking about the same things,
whether it’s ‘I hate Trump’ or ‘I’m
going to do blockchain and Bitcoin,’”
he said. “It’s the worst part of the
social network.”
The tour through the Midwest was
organized by Representative Tim
Ryan, a Democrat who represents
northeastern Ohio. Representative Ro
Khanna, a Democrat who represents
Silicon Valley, came along for the ride,
as did J. D. Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy.” (Mr. Vance, a venture
capitalist who now seems to magically
appear every time the words “Midwest” and “manufacturing” are spoken
aloud, has also been leading his own
whistle-stop tours of the region.)
Recently, Peter Thiel, the President
Trump-supporting billionaire investor
and Facebook board member, became
Silicon Valley’s highest-profile defector
when he reportedly told people close to
him that he was moving to Los Angeles full-time, and relocating his personal investment funds there. (Founders
Fund and Mithril Capital, two other
firms started by Mr. Thiel, will remain
in the Bay Area.) Mr. Thiel reportedly
considered San Francisco’s progressive culture “toxic” and sought out a
city with more intellectual diversity.
Mr. Thiel’s criticisms were echoed by
Michael Moritz, the billionaire founder
of Sequoia Capital. In a recent Financial Times op-ed, Mr. Moritz argued
that Silicon Valley had become slow
and spoiled by its success, and that
“soul-sapping discussions” about politics and social injustice had distracted
tech companies from the work of innovation.
Complaints about Silicon Valley
Direct appeals to the customer
Companies like Bacardi
are increasingly bypassing
traditional advertising
During Prohibition, tourists arriving at
the Havana airport were often greeted
by Rafael Valiente, a popular bartender
in Cuba and the first brand ambassador
for Bacardi rum. Mr. Valiente, known as
Pappy, would frequently take them to
Bacardi’s private bar in its Havana office building and treat them to a rum
Bacardi’s strategy was simple: It believed that people who sampled its rum
would turn into regular customers.
Decades later, the spirits company is
trying something similar — though this
time without Pappy Valiente. Last
month, 3,000 employees of Bacardi Limited made their way to bars throughout
the world. The goal: Interact with bartenders and other patrons in an effort to
generate good will and sales. Besides
Bacardi rum, the company’s brands include Grey Goose vodka, Dewar’s
Scotch and Bombay Sapphire gin.
The one-day initiative, called “Back to
the Bar,” was partly the result of brainstorming sessions involving the consulting firm Instinctif Partners and thousands of company employees that began last summer and continued through
early January, said K. C. Kavanagh,
Bacardi’s global communications offi-
cer. Videos showing employees how to
talk with bar staff members and how to
take pictures of cocktails for social media were posted on the company’s intranet and shared by email.
It is an example of how companies are
going beyond traditional advertising
and trying to attract customers through
direct contact.
“One thing that came up with everyone was that you have to get closer to
the business, to its roots — you can’t be
stuck in your office,” Ms. Kavanagh said.
“There’s so much to learn in the market.
You can’t just sit behind a desk, or we’d
be an accounting firm.”
Bacardi executives said their initiative had been inspired, in part, by the
#OptOutside campaign of REI, the outdoor retailer. Since 2015, REI has closed
its United States stores on Black Friday
— the day after Thanksgiving — paying
its 12,000 employees to enjoy the outdoors with family and friends; it has
also suspended online sales on that day.
Since last year, MillerCoors has sponsored events in three key markets —
“Cheers to Milwaukee” in that city and
“We All Sell Beer” in Denver and the
Dallas-Fort Worth region — that sent
hundreds of employees, with varying responsibilities and seniority, and distributors to hundreds of bars. The employees, including the chief executive, Gavin
Hattersley, bought beer for customers
and socialized with them and the bars’
staff and owners. All events also featured free concerts.
American Family Insurance, which
sells its products in 19 states, held
events called “One Saturday to Dream
Fearlessly” last year in five key markets: Minneapolis-St. Paul; Madison,
Wis.; Atlanta; Seattle; and Portland,
Ore. The name reflected the company’s
mission to “inspire, protect and restore
Each event featured celebrities (the
singer John Legend in Minneapolis-St.
Paul, the N.F.L. star J. J. Watt in Madison) who participated in community
service projects with local American
Family employees and agents and local
“There’s so much to learn
in the market. You can’t just
sit behind a desk, or we’d
be an accounting firm.”
volunteers. Among these was a “dream
academy” in Atlanta, with activities designed to show young people that “when
it comes to dreams, the sky is the limit.”
The events were created with the assistance of agencies like BBDO and Mindshare.
Community initiatives appear to be
producing positive results for the companies that sponsor them, quantifiable
and not.
Alex Thompson, vice president of
brand stewardship and impact for REI,
said eight million people participated in
#OptOutside last year by spending
Black Friday outdoors, up from 1.4 mil-
lion in 2015, based on social media engagements.
Over 600 organizations, including
companies like Subaru, Google and Unilever, as well as the National Park Service and the Sierra Club, have become involved in the campaign.
James Kanter, MillerCoors’s general
manager for Wisconsin, said his company’s initiatives helped it “sell beer and
build community relations.” Its recent
event in Texas took place in Fort Worth
on Friday, Texas Independence Day, and
Saturday, when a free concert, with free
food and beer, was held at its brewery
Such events, said Telisa Yancy, chief
marketing officer of American Family
Insurance, are a different way to engage
customers that is “relevant and aligned
with the current zeitgeist.”
As Ms. Kavanagh of Bacardi said,
“Who needs focus groups when you can
go to the local bar?”
Tulin Erdem, chairwoman of the marketing department at New York University’s Stern School of Business, said the
“Back to the Bar” initiative created a
“nice experience for customers to see
Bacardi employees, for community
building, and for employees to see how
customers relate to the brand.”
She also said it created “some buzz,”
significant “because paid advertising
only works to some extent today.”
“We live in the age of social media —
your customer has become your spokesperson,” Ms. Erdem said. “That’s the
best way to advertise today.”
Regulators worry that this novel
fund-raising method is allowing people
to flout the rules that are supposed to
protect investors. The financial authorities around the world have been promising to crack down on coin offerings,
which rose out of nowhere last year to
become a popular way for start-ups to
raise tens of millions of dollars, sometimes in minutes.
In recent months, the United States
Securities and Exchange Commission
has been sending out subpoenas, asking
for information about coin offerings that
may have violated the law — although
how existing laws may apply remains
unclear. Nonetheless, companies like
Telegram are proceeding with their offerings and hoping to stay out of trouble.
Telegram’s supercharged fund-raising has become the most visible and perhaps most lucrative example of an I.C.O.
The company has taken in $850 million
over the past two months from some of
the biggest venture capital firms in Silicon Valley, and it is now aiming to raise
another $850 million over the next
month or so.
A third $850 million round is in the
works after that, according to documents associated with the offering.
Telegram already runs a popular messaging service. It plans to use the new
money to create both an online currency
for ordinary people — outside the control of governments — and a new kind of
global computing network, combining
the attributes of existing virtual currencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum.
The project is being led by one of the
most vaunted but enigmatic figures in
the tech world: Pavel Durov, who built
the biggest social network in Russia,
VKontakte, before thumbing his nose at
Vladimir V. Putin and fleeing the country. He now hops between bases in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and around
Despite Mr. Durov’s credentials, the
tech world is divided on the wisdom of
putting money into his fund-raising
Some of Silicon Valley’s most prominent venture firms have signed up to invest in the project, including Benchmark, Sequoia and Kleiner Perkins, according to two people briefed on the private deal who were not authorized to
speak about it publicly.
But the venture capitalists who have
invested the most in the virtual currency space, like Union Square Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock
and Polychain Capital, have stayed
“It’s a pitch that sounds good to V.C.s
that haven’t participated but makes no
sense to people that have been in the
space,” said Nick Tomaino, the founder
of a virtual currency investment fund,
1confirmation, that didn’t invest in Telegram.
The most obvious reason to be skeptical of the project is that there is not even
a prototype — just a 132-page paper
promising what the system will look like
one day. The Telegram team is promising to release the software late this year
or next year.
What’s more, Telegram is promising
to do more than any other virtual currency and to fix the intractable problems that have plagued virtual currencies like Bitcoin, such as overcoming the
network’s difficulty in handling all the
transactions that have poured onto the
network as it has become more popular.
An analyst at one virtual currency-focused hedge fund, Pantera Capital,
wrote a scathing essay noting that the
Telegram team has given no evidence
that they will be able to solve the problems that have dogged everyone else.
“I cannot, in 132 pages, gain the slightest intuition as to how to go about proving that the hard problems it needs to
solve will be solved,” the analyst,
Charles Noyes, wrote about the Telegram project on Medium.
Telegram representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
Believers in the Telegram project
have said that the company has a team
of developers that have already proved
themselves by building two incredibly
popular tech products, VKontakte and
Mr. Durov, a self-described libertarian, founded VKontakte in 2006, but
gave up his role and his ownership stake
in 2013 after Mr. Putin’s allies took control of the company.
Since then, Mr. Durov and his brother,
who is said to be the technical genius behind the projects, have built Telegram
into a messaging giant with nearly 200
million users. (When Facebook raised a
billion dollars, it already had half a billion users.)
The Telegram app has been popular in
authoritarian countries because it
promises that all messages are encrypted and protected from government
snooping. Its pro-privacy stance has
made it popular with many in the virtual
currency community.
The virtual currency network that
Telegram is building, known as the Telegram Open Network, or TON, would allow users of the Telegram app to send
each other payments when they are not
in the same country. It would be a Bitcoin equivalent to the popular payment
systems that messaging programs like
WeChat have built.
“TON can become a VISA/Mastercard alternative for the new decentralized economy,” said a TON primer that
was sent to investors. “We believe that a
whole new economy saturated with
goods and services sold for cryptocurrency will be born.”
The Telegram Open Network will use
the idea of the blockchain, first introduced by Bitcoin, to maintain all the
records of Telegram’s currency, known
as the Gram, on computers around the
world, without any central authority.
But Telegram is promising that its
blockchains will do much more than Bitcoin: serve as the basis for a global super computer, somewhat like the popular Ethereum network.
The Bitcoin and Ethereum networks
have both struggled to keep up with
transactions, but Telegram said it will
overcome this by using multiple
blockchains that will allow it to process
millions of transactions a second.
The Bitcoin network limit is currently
around five transactions a second. The
Telegram documents say that 5 billion
Grams will initially be released to users.
The investors who put the first $850
million into the project paid 37 cents for
each token, according to offering documents.
Pavel Durov is one of the most enigmatic
figures in the tech world, and opinions
are divided on his project’s fund-raising.
The next round of investors, expected
to come together over the next month,
will pay about three and half times that
for each Gram. If the current round
raises another $850 million, Telegram
said in documents that it may hold yet
another round, to raise $850 million
The price that Telegram is charging in
the current fund-raising round — $1.33 a
Gram — assumes the entire currency
will grow to be worth at least $6.6 billion.
There are already eight virtual currencies worth that much, and all the Bitcoin
in the world were worth around $185 billion on Sunday.
Given Telegram’s experience, many
investors think it won’t be hard to
achieve that long term value.
Telegram’s team has also been careful
to stay on the right side of the law, only
offering their token to accredited investors, and working with the Wall Street
law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher
& Flom.
Telegram initially said in its offering
documents that it would do a public sale
of Grams, to smaller investors, but it
backed away from that after American
regulators spoke in congressional hearings in February about their concerns
over I.C.O.s, according to the people
briefed on the deal.
Despite those precautions, many virtual currency investors said the Telegram offering was too risky.
“This is an order of magnitude larger
than any of the most hyped I.C.O.s we’ve
seen,” said Joe DiPasquale, the founder
of BitBull Capital, a hedge fund.
“As an investor who looks at a lot of
projects in this space, that for me is a
8 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
Seizing the benefits of an aging work force
in tech find
Midwest a
place to love
More U.S. employers hire,
retain and support workers
over 50 to keep their skills
Robert Metoli, 57, spent eight years as a
skilled technician setting up the machines on the factory floor at Lee Spring,
a small firm based in the Brooklyn borough of New York that makes coils to be
used in a variety of objects, including
cellphones, eyeglasses, rockets and robots.
It took a toll. Mr. Metoli’s back started
bothering him, and his job, which involved standing most of the day and lifting wire, gears and tooling, became impossible for him to do.
“We gave him an opportunity to take
an office position that would be less
physically strenuous,” said Steve
Kempf, the chief executive. “He joined
our team of engineers charged with creating the work orders for jobs going out
into the factory.” The company arranged
and paid for the necessary training
It worked.
He was immediately able to pass his
insights on to the younger engineers,
who had never operated the machines,
Mr. Metoli said, and “the engineers were
able to explain their knowledge of
spring design and software to me.”
Mr. Metoli has continued to work in a
position that doesn’t hurt his back, Mr.
Kempf said.
More than half of American baby
boomers plan to work past age 65 or not
retire at all, according to a report by the
Transamerica Center for Retirement
Studies. Many worry that they will outlive their savings, that Social Security
retirement benefits will be reduced and
that they may someday need expensive
long-term medical care.
Two age groups, 65 to 74 years old and
75 and older, are projected to have faster
annual rates of labor force growth than
those of any others, according to the
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over the decade from 2014 to
2024, the labor force growth rate for 65to 74-year-olds is expected to be about
4.5 percent annually and about 6.4 percent annually for those 75 and older. One
hitch: In some workplaces, negative attitudes pervade about the cost of older
workers, their stamina, their technological ability and their enthusiasm for
learning new ways of doing things.
A rising number of role-model employers, however, are hiring, retaining
and supporting workers over 50. Lee
Spring was among 13 businesses and
nonprofit organizations based in New
York City that recently received Age
Smart Employer Awards through a program, now in its third year, that is a
project of the Columbia Aging Center at
the Columbia University Mailman
School of Public Health.
Those employers offer training and
education opportunities and flexible
scheduling; adapt physical tasks to the
abilities of workers; provide advance-
Robert Metoli was able to move to an office job at Lee Spring in New York when work on the factory floor took a toll on his back. The company paid for the training.
ment and leadership training for workers of all ages; retrain older workers;
and allow phased retirement.
“We’ve increased our life expectancy
by 50 percent in the last 100 years,” said
Dr. Linda Fried, the dean of the Mailman
School. “Now we have to design society
for longer lives, and these awards, I
think, are a linchpin of that.”
One hundred businesses and nonprofit organizations entered the 2017 Age
Smart Employer competition, double
the number in 2016.
Here are four other companies with
pioneering programs for older workers.
• Huntington Ingalls Industries, the
largest military shipbuilding company
in the United States, operates The Apprentice School at its Newport News,
Va., division.
“We don’t have an age limit,” said Susan Jacobs, vice president for human resources and administration with Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of
Huntington Ingalls. “Employees go into
The Apprentice School well past the age
of what you would think a traditional
student would be.”
The company’s overall work force of
22,000 is composed of 38 percent baby
boomers, 40 percent millennials and 20
percent Generation Xers.
“Nearly half of our employees could
retire at any day,” Ms. Jacobs said. “That
puts us in a risky situation, and we certainly don’t want those people to retire.
Being a master shipbuilder is not easy,
and it takes an awful lot of time to become an expert.”
To keep its aging work force engaged
with their work, there are intergenerational mentoring programs. Younger
workers mentor older ones, too. “What
we have found is that the younger workers are helping employees who have
been here longer get really comfortable
with using the technology.”
• Accounting firm partners over age 60,
who are frequently forced out by mandatory retirement practices, are just the
kind of talent PKF O’Connor Davies, a
network of independent accounting and
advisory firms in 440 cities and 150
countries, is happy to hire.
Many of the firm’s 800 employees,
who range in age from 21 to 83, have the
option to work shorter workweeks or
flexible hours. Employees nearing re-
tirement have been permitted to reduce
their hours or work as consultants.
“Hiring older workers for our team
has been a home run for us, as well as for
workers about to go into retirement or in
retirement,” said Thomas F. Blaney, a
partner and the director of the firm’s
Foundation Services, based in Woodcliff
Lake, N.J. “It’s not about age, really. We
just want talented people.”
• Silvercup Studios is a family-owned
film and television production company
in New York where shows like “The Sopranos,” “Girls” and “Sex and the City”
have been filmed.
It employs 49, and more than half are
over 50. Two workers recently celebrated their 30th anniversary with Silvercup.
“We didn’t sit around and say, ‘O.K.,
we are going to have a plan to hire and
keep older workers,’” said Gary Kesner,
the executive vice president of Silvercup. “It is not part of an overall program.
It just makes sense for us.”
Hiring people with experience presents distinct advantages. “They’re
more settled,” Mr. Kesner said. “There’s
more sense of loyalty. And it costs more
to bring in new staff than it costs to retain people.”
• The furniture maker Steelcase, headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., offers
workers a phased retirement program
with reduced and part-time hours. Facing a large number of retiring boomers,
especially in the information technology
and manufacturing skilled trades departments, the company began a
phased retirement plan in 2012.
For the past year and a half, David Rinard, 62, director of environmental special projects, has been transitioning toward retirement. He started his career
at Steelcase in 1979 as an assistant environmental engineer and moved steadily
up the ranks to director of global environmental performance, a position he
held for 13 years. Today, he calls himself
The program has allowed him to
spend more time with his wife, who is six
years older and retired, while earning
an income and not worrying about
health care coverage before he is eligible for Medicare at 65, he said. He added, “And my wife actually appreciates
the days I’m busy with work.”
Bad news for climate: World wants S.U.V.s
It’s the car of the future. It’s taking off in
markets all over the world.
The electric vehicle? Hardly. It is the
sport utility vehicle, the rugged, off-road
gas-guzzler that America invented and
the world increasingly loves to drive.
With incomes rising and gas prices
low, drivers in China and other countries
are ditching their smaller sedans for
bigger rides at a rapid pace. For the first
time, S.U.V.s and their lighter, more carlike cousins known as “crossovers”
made up more than one in three cars
sold globally last year, almost tripling
their share from just a decade ago, according to new figures from the auto research firm JATO Dynamics.
“Everyone is jumping on S.U.V.s,” said
Matthew Weiss, JATO Dynamics’ president for North America.
The ascent of S.U.V.s and crossovers
is already slowing progress in reining in
emissions from the world’s cars and
trucks, major emitters of the gases that
are warming the planet. Transportation
accounts for an estimated 14 percent of
global greenhouse gas emissions, with
cars and trucks making up the biggest
Between 2005 and 2008, the average
fuel economy of new cars worldwide improved by about 1.8 percent a year, according to the United Nations’ Global
Fuel Economy Initiative. But since then,
that pace has slowed to 1.1 percent in
2015, the latest data available, far below
the near 3-percent clip needed to simply
stabilize emissions from the world’s car
There are no signs that trend has improved since then, said Anup Bandivadekar, who heads the passenger vehicle program at the International Council
on Clean Transportation, a nonprofit institute affiliated with the United Nations
initiative. “It’s making progress in fuel
economy increasingly difficult,” he said.
The global S.U.V. boom is a roadblock
in the march toward cleaner cars, which
has been aided by advances in fuel-saving technology and hybrid or electric vehicles. Compared with smaller cars,
S.U.V.s are less efficient, generally by
about 30 percent.
S.U.V.s are also less likely to go electric soon. There are technological hur-
dles to powering a larger car with batteries, and the perception among many
automakers remains that drivers of
S.U.V.s value power and performance,
and don’t want to be constrained by the
range anxiety of battery-powered cars.
For the moment, Tesla’s Model X is
the only major fully electric S.U.V. on the
market. The company has sold about
40,000 since they went on sale in 2015.
The S.U.V.-building bonanza contrasts with promises made by automakers of big investments in electric vehicles and other low-emitting vehicles. At
the same time, they are pouring resources into far more polluting S.U.V.s.
General Motors, which unveiled its
Chevy Bolt electric car in 2016, has sold
about 25,000 of them in the United
States, and the model hasn’t received
updates that might spur sales this year.
This month, though, the automaker announced it was spending $265 million to
build its new Cadillac XT4 crossover at
its plant in Kansas City, Kan.
General Motors continues to invest in
clean car technology, including all-electric cars, a spokeswoman, Laura Toole,
said. “It’s encouraging to see overall industry fuel economy improving — especially given the significant market shift
to crossovers and S.U.V.s,” she said in an
Volkswagen, which made no S.U.V.s to
speak of a decade ago, plans to sell almost 20 new S.U.V. models worldwide
by 2020 and expects those models to
make up 40 percent of its global sales.
Currently, Volkswagen sells just four
S.U.V. models.
A Volkswagen spokeswoman, Jeannine Ginivan, said the company’s S.U.V.s
were filled with technology that bolsters
the car’s efficiency.
The S.U.V.’s global dominance today
has roots in the United States of the
1970s, when automakers started confronting stricter auto-safety and environmental rules. Authorized by a Clean
Air Act amendment to set federal
tailpipe rules for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency required
automakers to more than double their
average fuel efficiency over the following decade. But vans, pickup trucks and
other off-road vehicles escaped with
fewer restrictions than traditional passenger cars.
Haval sport utility vehicles at the Great Wall Motors assembly plant in Baoding, China.
S.U.V.s and crossovers made up more than one in three cars sold globally last year.
Detroit’s riposte: Turn the truck into
America’s new family car.
The Jeep Cherokee became an early
runaway hit — a “versatile family fun
machine that has the ruggedness, reliability and go-anywhere heritage Jeep
vehicles are known for,” declares the
brochure for its 1974 model — leading
the way for others to turn working vehicles into family rides. Cherokees and
Ford Explorers soon began replacing
smaller cars on driveways across America. In North America, S.U.V.s and
pickup trucks outsell all other car categories combined.
The vehicles are now particularly
popular in China, where the big cars
have offered a sense of status, stability
on bumpy roads, and room for larger
families emerging with the phasing out
of the one-child policy. McKinsey, the
global consulting firm, predicts that by
2022, one in every two cars sold in China
will be an S.U.V. That could make it
tougher for China to tame its urban airpollution crisis.
Even western Europe — where in
2004, Ken Livingstone, who was mayor
of London at the time, declared S.U.V.
drivers “complete idiots” and threatened to charge them 25 pounds, or about
$35 at current exchange rates, to enter
the city — has fallen for these vehicles.
Sales of S.U.V.s in that region have more
than doubled over the past five years, a
clip four times as fast as the overall market, according to JATO data.
Automakers have a strong financial
incentive to build and try to sell more
S.U.V.s, which tend to be higher-end offerings with luxury trimmings that command premiums over the basic vehicles
they are based on. A $60,000 truck, for
example, can generate tens of thousands of dollars in operating profit.
On the other hand, most automakers
still lose money on each electric vehicle
they sell. The credit rating firm Moody’s
recently warned that electric vehicles
will likely generate low returns for automakers through the early 2020s.
Automakers point out that the bulk of
the global growth has been in
crossovers, which are based on car underbodies (not trucks) and achieve better fuel economy than larger S.U.V.s.
Current E.P.A. rules remain ambiguous
on whether crossovers are cars or
trucks, allowing manufacturers to still
classify many models as trucks, evading
tougher fuel economy rules.
Crossovers have also been harmful to
overall emissions goals because market
research shows that many first-time
buyers of crossovers had previously
driven cleaner, smaller sedans.
More recent regulations have not
helped. Fuel economy standards around
the world tend to become more lenient
as car weight and size increase. That
means S.U.V.s typically do not have to
meet as strict a fuel-efficiency standard
as smaller cars do.
In the United States, automakers
have now come full circle. They point to
the shift toward larger cars as a reason
to push back tougher fuel regulations
that they agreed to, under the Obama
administration, in return for a federal
bailout of billions of dollars at General
Motors and Chrysler.
One question that worries experts:
Will the world embrace the S.U.V.’s evenmore-polluting cousin, the all-American
pickup truck?
There are signs this is already happening. Last year, Ford sold more than
one million F-series pickup trucks — a
fifth of them outside the United States —
putting it within striking distance of unseating Toyota’s Corolla as the world’s
best selling vehicle, according to tallies
from JATO and Toyota.
A Ford spokeswoman, Dawn McKenzie, said that trucks had “moved from
being seen as only relevant for work” to
“being much more versatile,” and that
recent models had made strides in fuel
economy. The most fuel-efficient F-series model gets about 25 miles per gallon
on the highway, though a new model this
year could get closer to 30 miles a gallon.
The trucks, which cater to drivers
looking for power and hauling might,
are unlikely to go electric soon. One of
the few hybrid choices right now is the
Workhorse, a hybrid pickup made by an
Ohio company that specializes in fleet
vehicles. Workhorse says it has received
about 5,000 orders so far for the truck,
which goes about 80 miles on a full battery charge.
“It seems to be an American male
thing to think: ‘I may want to haul
things,’ ” said Lewis Fulton, who co-directs the sustainable transportation
program at the University of California,
Davis, Institute of Transportation Studies. “If that caught on in other countries,
it really wouldn’t help.”
insularity are as old as the Valley itself.
Jim Clark, the co-founder of Netscape,
decamped for Florida during the first
dot-com era, complaining about high
taxes and expensive real estate. Steve
Case, the founder of AOL, has pledged
to invest mostly in start-ups outside
the Bay Area, saying that “we’ve probably hit peak Silicon Valley.”
But even among those who enjoy
living in the Bay Area and can afford to
do so comfortably, there’s a feeling that
success has gone to the tech industry’s
“Some of the engineers in the Valley
have the biggest egos known to humankind,” Mr. Khanna, the Silicon
Valley congressman, said during a
round-table discussion with officials in
Youngstown. “If they don’t have their
coffee and breakfast and dry cleaning,
they want to go somewhere else.
Whereas here, people are hungry.”
This isn’t a full-blown exodus yet.
But in the last three months of 2017,
San Francisco lost more residents to
outward migration than any other city
in the United States, according to data
from Redfin, the real estate website. A
recent survey by Edelman, the public
relations firm, found that 49 percent of
Bay Area residents, and 58 percent of
Bay Area millennials, were considering
moving away. And a sharp increase in
people moving out of the Bay Area has
led to a shortage of moving vans. (According to news reports, renting a
U-Haul truck for a one-way trip from
San Jose, Calif., to Las Vegas costs
about $2,000, compared with just $100
for a truck going the other direction.)
For both investors and rank-and-file
workers, one appeal of noncoastal
cities is the obvious cost savings. It’s
increasingly difficult to justify doling
out steep salaries and lavish perks
demanded by engineers in the Bay
Area, when programmers in other
cities can be had for as little as $50,000
a year. (An entry-level engineer at
Facebook or Google might command
triple or quadruple
that amount.)
A growing
When you invest
number of
in a San Francisco
tech leaders
start-up, “you’re
basically paying
have been
landlords, Twilio, and
flirting with
Amazon Web Servthe idea of
ices,” said Ms. Banleaving
nister of Founders
Silicon Valley. Fund, referring to
the companies that
provide start-ups
with messaging services and data
Granted, California still has its
perks. Venture capital investment is
still largely concentrated on the West
Coast, as are the clusters of talented
computer scientists who emerge from
schools like Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. Despite the
existence of tools like Slack, which
make remote work easier, many tech
workers feel it’s still an advantage to
be close to the center of the action.
But the region’s advantages may be
eroding. Google, Facebook and other
large tech companies have recently
opened offices in cities like Boulder,
Colo. and Boston, hoping to attract new
talent as well as accommodating requests from existing employees looking to move elsewhere. And the hot
demand for engineers in areas like
artificial intelligence and autonomous
vehicles has led companies to expand
their presence near research universities, in cities like Pittsburgh and Ann
Arbor, Mich.
Then there is HQ2, Amazon’s muchballyhooed search for a second headquarters, which seems to have convinced some tech executives that cities
between the coasts may be viable
Venture capitalists, who recognize a
bargain when they see one, have already begun scouring the Midwest. Mr.
Case and Mr. Vance recently amassed
a $150 million fund called “Rise of the
Rest.” The fund, which was backed by
tech luminaries including Jeff Bezos of
Amazon and Eric Schmidt, the former
executive chairman of Alphabet, will
invest in start-ups throughout the
But it’s not just about making money.
It’s about social comfort, too. Tech
companies are more popular in noncoastal states than in their own backyards, where the industry’s effect on
housing prices and traffic congestion is
more acutely felt. Most large tech
companies still rate highly in national
opinion surveys, but only 62 percent of
Californians say they trust the tech
industry, and just 37 percent trust
social media companies, according to
the Edelman survey. So you can start
to understand the appeal of a friendlier
During the Akron stop of the bus
trip, while the Silicon Valley investors
mingled with local officials over a
dinner spread of vegan polenta pizza
and barbecue sliders, Mr. McKenna,
the San Francisco venture capitalist,
told me that he felt a difference in
people’s attitudes in cities like these,
where the tech industry’s success is
still seen as something to celebrate.
“People want to be in places where
they’re the hero,” he said.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 9
In shades
of gray
Forget lapel pins or white roses or
black; the Oscars drew a line in that
sand, anyway. Sunday night in Paris,
Thom Browne made an utterly convincing statement about female strength
and sexuality. He may have been an
ocean away from Los Angeles but it was
as theatrical as any film, and as potent.
It began in a vast ballroom of the
Hôtel de Ville, Paris’s city hall, with a
central island filled with canvases
propped up on easels. Out came a procession of painters — imaginary doppelgängers of Élisabeth Louise Vigée Le
Brun, Marie Antoinette’s favorite portrait painter and a woman who made her
way in a man’s world — in beige jackets
and gray bloomers, the legs exaggerated to hoop-skirt size, their hair jutting
back in towering cones.
As they began to daub, their visions
appeared: women drawn in multiple
shades of gray and an eye-boggling
amount of detail; women whose bodies
were both art and artifice, a wink and a
smile, inscribed in strips of tweed and
astrakhan, threads sketching the form
beneath, pearls encircling nipples and
fur rosettes at the crotch. Their corsets
were visible under sheer scrims of chiffon set into flannel jackets, marbelized
sequins monumentalizingflesh.
Half a jacket hung from a shoulder
and met half a molded slip dress; suit
jackets covered in minute ruffles trailed
on the floor like a train. At the end, each
model stood haloed in a square of neon
light, and to Baha Men’s “Who Let the
Dogs Out,” four men in (yes) dog masks,
gray flannel suits and high heels appeared, leashed together and led by a
figure in a long, gray rose-covered robe.
After circling the room, they arrived
at a throne of sorts, and the attendants
removed the robe, revealing the South
Sudanese model Grace Bol in her own
gray flannel pantsuit. She took the
throne, the music changed to Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run,” the anthem
at the end of the 1988 film “Working
Girl,” and it was done.
It was less a fetishization of the female body (an approach that would be
questionable at this point in time) than a
demand for recognition of the feminist
form with a touch of levity. There’s been
some rumbling this red carpet season
about women taking political positions
in evening gowns while still exploiting
their “assets” — as The Daily Mail says
— in the classic cleavage-and-curves
way. Mr. Browne backhanded that out of
the room.
There’s a revolt of sorts happening at
the tail end of a fraught fashion month.
Designers seem increasingly unwilling
to shut their mouths and just make
pretty clothes. This is their soapbox, and
they’re speechifying with their seams.
As Pierpaolo Piccioli said, leaning in
with some unexpected urgency before a
verdant Valentino show, held on the
same day Italy went to the polls: “Very
often if you make clothes you feel are doing something that is not really meaningful for society, but I feel you can use
clothes to deliver a message. Italy right
now is choosing whether to embrace discrimination and I hate all forms of discrimination.”
That’s why he opened his show with
the Sudanese model Adut Akech, and
closed it with the Afro-French Assa
Baradji, and used his work to prove that
romanticism — not about relationships,
but about life — could be a strength
rather than a weakness. The clichés of
the genre (flowers, pink), were turned
into power symbols: Pansies in black
and white and caramel appeared as intarsia on wool tunics and capes and
knee-high leather boots with stacked
heels, so instead of being merely decorative they were built into the structure of
the garment.
Eschewing the stereotypes of
strength that have been so dominant
this season (big shoulders, ‘80s references), Mr. Piccioli chose instead to express freedom through ease, cutting
flowing tunics in red and deep pink and
leafy greens, scalloping the edges and
pairing them with neat pressed trousers, allowing hands to be plunged deep
in pockets, heads held high.
It’s hard to add this kind of dimension
to fashion. You can easily fall over the
edge into pretentiousness or fakery. And
not everyone is comfortable with the
idea: At Akris, Albert Kriemler’s liquid
C-suite leathers, knits and silks in jade
and lapis lazuli remained quiet in their
confidence; at Sacai, Chitose Abe stuck
to her usual cut-and-paste of forms and
fabrics (school blazers, down jackets,
tennis sweaters, chiffon), with her usu-
al, if occasionally overcomplicated,
aplomb. When she first introduced this
“hybridization” approach, she was
ahead of the curve. Now the curve is
moving on a bit; so, hopefully, will she.
But when it works — as it did at
Valentino wonderfully well, and as it did
at Stella McCartney, where the suit linings became the stuff of slip dresses
false-fronted onto velvet and knits, and
portraits of women by the British artist
J.H. Lynch were revealed under sheer
lace and tulle shirts, the normally unseen elevated and exposed to the light —
it raises the bar for everyone.
Even more so when the reintroduction of a house is at stake. The new life of
Poiret, now owned by the South Korean
fashion and beauty conglomerate Shinsegae International, should by all rights
have been a major event: Paul Poiret
was one of the most influential design-
ers of the early 20th century; there was
a retrospective devoted to his work at
the Met in 2007; the house has been dormant for almost 90 years — and he was
the designer who freed women from the
corset, for goodness sake! He embraced
multiculturalism before the word existed. The timing was perfect.
And yet somehow, despite many
pieces that spoke to the history of the
brand, especially puffer egg-shaped
opera coats burnished in gold, and
jumpsuits and day dresses made from
two rectangles of fabric crisscrossed in
front (plus some pieces that looked a lot
like Lanvin used to under Alber Elbaz),
there was nothing to love. The animating spirit of the house had not been
adapted to the contemporary era, even
if the designs were. Once upon a time it
set off a revolution. Now it’s missing one.
Maybe next season.
10 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
fashion paris
The silent designer
whose clothes tell all
With Martin Margiela, the rule was silence. The creator didn’t explain.
After an interview in his earliest days
in business, Mr. Margiela decided he’d
had enough. “He told me on the way
back, ‘I don’t think I’m going to do interviews anymore,’ ” said Pierre Rougier,
who worked as a press officer for the
company then. “That was it. It was not a
strategy. He just didn’t want to do it.”
It hardened, over 20 years at Maison
Martin Margiela, into a philosophy. The
clothes spoke; their designer didn’t.
But the clothes spoke loudly. Mr.
Margiela, at the label he founded in 1988
with Jenny Meirens, renovated fashion
as radically as Balenciaga or Courrèges.
As a full-throated new retrospective just
opened at the Palais Galliera, the city of
Paris’s fashion museum, makes clear,
Mr. Margiela is one of the great godfathers of conceptual fashion as we know
it today. Alternately adored, reviled,
overlooked and imitated in his own day
— one former employee arched an eyebrow at the rose-colored glasses with
which many critics now look back on
those years — his influence has nonetheless permeated widely.
If there’s a shock to be had in the show,
on view through July 15, it’s not from the
Margiela pieces that are already well
known. It’s from those pieces you didn’t
even realize he did first. Mr. Margiela
hasn’t been forgotten. He’s barely even
been gone. (A complementary exhibition, on Mr. Margiela’s years designing
for Hermès, is to open at the Musée des
Arts Décoratifs on March 22.)
Nine years after stepping down from
Maison Martin Margiela (now known as
simply Maison Margiela, Martin having
left the building), Mr. Margiela still will
not speak.
Contacted via Olivier Saillard, the former director of the Galliera, who worked
on the exhibition, Mr. Margiela declined
to comment, even by email. But the exhibition itself is his comment. Mr.
Margiela is its “artistic director,” not
only its presiding genius but also its
guiding docent, painting every bit of
makeup and body print himself.
Here on view are the hallmark
Margelian heresies: the oversize collections, the collections built on painstakingly recreated dolls’ clothes, the
“horizontal” collection that whips
around the body. But here, too, are incursions into classical elegance, like his famous Stockman collection, a study on
traditional draping (with pieces of the
dressmaker’s dummy attached); into
punk (a gappy, frizzled sweater that was
knitted by his mother, on broomsticks);
into out-all-night disco fabulosity (when
Mr. Margiela finally decided to make
high heels, he trashed them first for authenticity, and then sent models wearing them down a cardboard runway,
which they pierced with every step).
It’s hard not to think that Mr. Margiela
appreciated the opportunity to underscore his legacy and his achievement at
the present moment, when his influence
feels particularly strong. His clearest
acolyte is Demna Gvasalia, whose work
for Vetements and for Balenciaga
makes frequent homage to Mr.
Margiela’s: In its often oversize proportions, in its interest in the gesture as well
as the form of clothes, in its appetite for
replication and recycling garments.
That makes sense: Mr. Gvasalia spent
several years at Mr. Margiela’s maison.
But plenty of designers who never
came through its doors borrow nearly as
much: establishment heroes like Phoebe Philo (especially his work for
Hermès); Thom Browne; young guns
like Glenn Martens of Y/Project, which
won the French Andam fashion prize
last year, 18 years after Mr. Margiela
won it himself. He staged collections in
out-of-the-way places, shot films in lieu
of shows, featured friends and untraditional models in his collections, doubled
back on successes and remade found
items stitch for stitch. All of these ideas
have since become commonplace. Mr.
Margiela got there years ago.
He was a serious student of fashion,
whose preoccupations were evident
from his first collections: With tailoring
(he bucked the ’80s trend for giant
shoulders and developed his own narrow shoulder line instead), with proporPHOTOGRAPHS BY JULIEN MIGNOT FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES
From the Margiela
exhibition in Paris:
Above, for spring
1991, ball gowns
cut into long waistcoats; far left, a
variety of the
designer’s trademark tabi shoes
and, left, from
spring 2009, an
image of the
house’s first jacket
was printed on a
poster and then
made into a dress.
tion (caroming between tracing the
body and exaggerating it under oversize
designs), with color, with construction
(his use of darts, seaming, exposed linings, raw seams), with trompe l’oeil.
But he was also a gleeful pinprick to
its pomposities. He held shows in abandoned metro stations, in supermarkets,
in far-off, still gamey corners of Paris far
from the prim enclosure of the Louvre,
where many of his fellow designers
showed. He made clothes out of subway
station posters, the shoe-printed runway from his first show (he had dipped
the soles of the models’ split-toed tabi
shoes in paint), flea market scarves, old
theater costumes and vintage clothes.
When critics complained that his recycled pieces looked worthy of the Salva-
tion Army (“Armée de Salut” in French),
he staged his next show at the Armée de
Salut, complete with band.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that
Mr. Margiela, more than almost any
other designer of his generation, haunts
fashion. (It’s what makes it almost startling to see pieces like his XXXL dress
form in the show, an antique American
castoff on which he built his oversize collections, grand and faintly numinous.)
As the industry circles Paris for the fall
collections this week, among their ranks
are plenty of veterans who saw Mr.
Margiela’s collections in their day.
For critics of long standing, bragging
rights are accorded to those who saw
Mr. Margiela’s first show, or his second,
or his last, in 2008, which capped his ca-
reer and after which he disappeared.
(True to form, despite rumors, no official announcement of this came until later.) “You were living a landmark moment; you could feel it,” came a wistful
sigh from the table next to mine this
morning, about the early years.
But the moment may have shifted.
“Margiela belongs to this long, noble
history of fashion in which creating your
own house with your name, your signature, is a daily engagement,” Mr. Saillard
said in an email, lamenting the rise of
conglomerate luxury groups and the
loss of independence like Mr. Margiela’s.
“Since Margiela, we are talking more
about designers schizophrenically
walking through different houses, like
A new approach
at the Palais Galliera
What’s first on the agenda for the
As director of the Palais Galliera for
the last eight years, Olivier Saillard
elevated the city of Paris’s fashion
museum to must-visit status, thanks to
programming that encompassed everything from performance pieces by
Tilda Swinton to the first Azzedine
Alaïa retrospective in the city. So the
fashion community was stunned last
summer when Mr. Saillard abruptly
announced he was quitting in January
to become artistic director of J.M.
Weston, the French luxury men’s shoe
A guessing game about who might
take his place followed. In December,
the answer was revealed: a relatively
unknown Spaniard named Miren Arzalluz.
A political historian by training and
Basque by birth, the 39-year-old Ms.
Arzalluz had honed her curating skills
for eight years as the head of the
Cristóbal Balenciaga Foundation in
Getaria, Spain. She said she was hesitant to apply for the Galliera post (she
had been happy in her most recent job,
as director of the Etxepare Basque
Institute, a cultural center in San Sebastián).
But she ultimately pursued it because, she said, “this job was really
going back to my thing.”
So what is her thing? Here is her
Alexandre Samson, who curated the
show under Mr. Margiela’s direction,
called him the greatest designer of his
time. Out of discretion, he wouldn’t say
what Mr. Margiela is doing, though he
did say the designer has kept an eye on
the industry, with no evident pleasure.
“He’s quite sad about how it is,” Mr.
Samson said.
“He said he couldn’t have been Martin
Margiela if he had to create that. He had
the liberty and the freedom to do things
at the end of the ’80s that, as a new designer, it’s quite difficult to do today. He
dared to do things.”
Why, I asked him, do you think he’s
had such a lasting influence?
“Because,” Mr. Samson said, “he’s
How did you end up in a museum, if
you studied politics?
I studied history, worked at a British
think tank, earned my master’s in
comparative politics at the London
School of Economics. It was just after
9/11. The world was in such turmoil. I
started going to the Victoria & Albert
Museum for fashion exhibitions. Then
I remember walking into the National
Portrait Gallery bookshop and seeing a
whole section on fashion history. It was
a revelation. When you study history,
it’s to be a social or political historian.
But fashion? That was something that
I had never dreamt of. I went to the
Courtauld Institute of Art in Somerset
House for a master’s in history of
dress, and fell in love with the subject.
I thought: “Oh, this is what I want to
Why do you think fashion museums
and exhibitions have become such
hot tickets?
Fashion is a creative expression with
which people find themselves much
more identified — maybe feel closer —
than with other creative expressions,
like contemporary art. Because they
have an intimate relationship with
clothes, they feel they can have an
informed opinion. In fashion museums,
we always try to find a way to transmit
certain ideas about what we are exhibiting: the history, the cultural context
in which these items were created, the
designer and the spectacle — because
spectacle is so intrinsic to fashion. You
have to balance the content, the rigor
and the scientific approach with the
Is fashion an art form?
Oh, the debate! I think some fashion
objects can be very close to being art.
But fashion is so much more: It’s a
cultural expression, a political statement, an echo of its time. Yes, there are
certain designers who have had a
conceptual approach to fashion and
have come out with creations that can
be compared to art — like Balenciaga,
Vionnet, Charles James and Alaïa. But
is fashion art? That’s a big statement. I
don’t think we will reach a conclusion
soon on that. Either way, it’s not a
reason not to show fashion in museums.
Olivier explored different ways of
showing fashion, like performances or
exhibiting outside the museum in
places like the Palace of Versailles, and
this should all be continued. But there
are other challenges that I inherit, like
creating a permanent exhibition, which
is something the general public has
demanded for a long time. After the
Martin Margiela show this spring, we
close the museum for two years to
rehabilitate the basement and create
rooms to show pieces from the museum’s extraordinary historic archives.
Unlike the temporary exhibits, the
permanent collection will have a more
generalist approach to the history of
fashion since the 18th century, and it
will be constantly renewed to keep it
dynamic. So we have to plan that, as
well as my first show, once the museum reopens.
What do you do when you aren’t
I arrived in Paris in the first week of
January, and found an apartment near
Place de République, which is a fun
part of town. I spend my free time
visiting museums and exhibitions. I
saw the “Picasso 1932: Année Érotique,” at the Musée Picasso just the
other day and I adored that. I loved the
concept of concentrating on one year,
and I thought the erotic approach was
interesting. As you can see, I only like
to do things related to my work.
Miren Arzalluz,
the new curator, at
the Palais Galliera,
the city of Paris’s
fashion museum.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 11
r a l p h l a u r e n . c o m / c o l l e c t i o n
12 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
How tiny red dots took over your life
As the ranks of tech-industry critics
have expanded, it has become harder to
tell what common ground they occupy.
Across various political divides, there is
a sense that Facebook, Twitter and
Google exert too much influence on the
national discourse; closely connected to
this is the widespread concern that we
users have developed an unhealthful relationship with our phones or with the
apps on them. But on any more specific
claim, consensus becomes impossible.
The sudden arrival of a new class of
tech skeptic, the industry apostate, has
only complicated the discussion. Late
last year, the co-inventor of the Facebook “like,” Justin Rosenstein, called it a
“bright ding of pseudopleasure”; in January, the investment firm Jana Partners, a shareholder in Apple, wrote a letter to the company warning that its
products “may be having unintentional
negative consequences.”
All but conjuring Oppenheimer at
White Sands, these critics offer broadsides, warning about addictive design
tricks and profit-driven systems eroding our humanity. But it’s hard to discern
a collective message in their garmentrending: Is it design that needs fixing?
Tech? Capitalism? This lack of clarity
may stem from the fact that these people are not ideologues but reformists.
They tend to believe that companies
should be more responsible — and users
must be, too. But with rare exceptions,
the reformists stop short of asking the
uncomfortable questions: Is it possible
to reform profit-driven systems that
turn attention into money? In such a
business, can you even separate addiction from success?
Perhaps this is unfair — the reformists are trying. But while we wait for a
consensus, or a plan, allow me to suggest a starting point: the dots. Little. Often red. Sometimes with numbers. Commonly seen at the corners of app icons,
where they are known in the trade as
badges, they are now proliferating
across once-peaceful interfaces on a
steep epidemic curve. They alert us to
things that need to be checked: unread
messages; new activities; pending software updates; announcements; unresolved problems. As they’ve spread,
they’ve become a rare commonality in
the products that we — and the remorseful technologists — are so worried
about. If not the culprits, the dots are at
least accessories to most of the supposed crimes of addictive app design.
When platforms or services sense
their users are disengaged, whether
from social activities, work or merely a
continued contribution to corporate
profitability, dots are deployed: outside,
inside, wherever they might be seen.
I’ve met dots that existed only to inform
me of other dots, new dots, dots with almost no meaning; a dot on my Instagram app led me to another dot within it,
which informed me that something had
happened on Facebook: Someone I
barely know had posted for the first time
in a while. These dots are omnipresent,
leading everywhere and ending nowhere. So maybe there’s something to
be gained by connecting them.
The prototypical modern dot — stopsign red, with numbers, round, madden-
ing — was popularized with Mac OS X,
the first version of which was released
nearly 20 years ago. It was used most
visibly as part of Apple’s Mail app,
perched atop an icon of a blue postage
stamp, in a new and now ever-present
dock full of apps. It contained a number
representing your unread messages.
But it wasn’t until the launch of the
iPhone, in 2007, that dots transformed
from a simple utility into a way of life —
from a solution into a cause unto themselves.
That year, we got the very first
I’ve met dots that existed only to
inform me of other dots, new
dots, dots with almost no
glimpse of the iPhone’s home screen, in
Steve Jobs’s hand, onstage at MacWorld. It showed three dots, ringed in
white: 1 unread text; 5 calls or voice
mail messages; 1 email. Jobs set about
showing off the apps, opening them,
eliminating the dots. Eventually, when
the iPhone was opened to outside developers, badge use accelerated. As touchscreen phones careered toward ubiquity, and as desktop interfaces and website design and mobile operating systems huddled together around a crude
and adapting set of visual metaphors,
the badge was ascendant.
On Windows desktop computers, they
tended to be blue and lived in the lower
right corner. On BlackBerrys, red, with a
white asterisk in the middle. On social
media, in apps and on websites, badge
design was more creative, appearing as
little speech bubbles or as rectangles.
They make appearances on Facebook
and across Google products, perhaps
most notoriously on the ill-fated Google
Plus social network, where blocky
badges were filled with inexplicably,
desperately high numbers. (This tactic
has since spread, obnoxiously, to news
sites and, inexplicably, to comment sections.) Android itself has remained officially unbadged, but the next version of
the operating system, called Oreo, will
include them by default, completing
their invasion.
What’s so powerful about the dots is
that until we investigate them, they
could signify anything: a career-altering email; a reminder that Winter Sales
End Soon; a match, a date, a “we need to
talk.” The same badge might lead to
word that Grandma’s in the hospital or
that, according to a prerecorded voice,
the home-security system you don’t own
is in urgent need of attention or that, for
the 51st time today, someone has posted
in the group chat.
New and flourishing modes of socialization amount, in the most abstract
terms, to the creation and reduction of
dots, and the experience of their attendant joys and anxieties. Dots are deceptively, insidiously simple: They are either there or they’re not; they contain a
number, and that number has a value.
But they imbue whatever they touch
with a spirit of urgency, reminding us
that behind each otherwise static icon is
unfinished business. They don’t so
much inform us or guide us as correct
us: You’re looking there, but you should
be looking here. They’re a lawn that
must be mowed. Boils that must be
lanced, or at least scabs that itch to be
picked. They’re Bubble Wrap laid over
your entire digital existence.
To their credit, big tech companies
seem to be aware of the problem, at least
in terms of user experience. Google’s
guide for application developers makes
a gentle attempt to pre-empt senseless
dot deployment. “Don’t badge every notification, as there are cases where
badges don’t make sense,” the company
suggests. Apple, in its guidelines, seems
a bit more fed up. “Minimize badging,” it
says. “Don’t overwhelm users by connecting badging with a huge amount of
information that changes frequently.
Use it to present brief, essential information and atypical content changes
that are highly likely to be of interest.”
These companies know better than
anyone that dots are a problem, but they
also know that dots work. Late last year,
a red badge floated to the surface next to
millions of iPhone users’ Settings apps.
It looked as though it might be an update, but it turned out to be a demand:
Finish adding your credit card to Apple
Pay, or the dot stays put. Apple might as
well have said: Give us your credit card
number, or we will annoy you until you
The lack of consensus within the
mounting resistance to Big Tech can
also be found within the perimeter of the
dot. After all, it’s where the most dangerous conflations take place: of what we
need, and what we’re told we need; of
what purpose our software serves to us,
and us to it; of dismissal with fulfillment.
The dot is where ill-gotten attention is
laundered into legitimate-seeming engagement. On this, our most influential
tech companies seem to agree. Maybe
our self-appointed saviors can, too.
The pros and cons of getting a cheaper smartphone
Brian X. Chen
The evolution of the smartphone can
be summed up by two trends: Phones
just keep getting bigger. They are also
getting pricier.
The chief examples are phones from
Apple and Samsung Electronics, the
top handset makers. Samsung recently
introduced the Galaxy S9, its new
flagship smartphone,
with starting prices
of about $720 and,
of people
for a slightly larger
don’t want
screen, $840. Years
to splurge
ago, Galaxy phones
on a fancy
started at about
phone every
Apple’s iPhone
few years.
prices are also increasing. Last year,
Apple released the
iPhone 8 for $699, up from the $649
starting price of earlier iPhones. In
addition, the company introduced the
iPhone X, its first premium-tier handset, for $999.
Rising prices make the smartphone
one of the most expensive household
products. But unlike televisions, which
plummet in price and attract bargain
hunters, many consumers are willing
to up their spending on phones.
“They become more and more essential to people’s everyday life, so
price sensitivity just continues to
erode,” said Jared Wiesel, a partner at
Revenue Analytics, a pricing and sales
consulting firm. Yet plenty of people
don’t want to splurge on a fancy phone
every few years.
Huawei, the Chinese manufacturer,
was the No. 3 phone maker in the
fourth quarter last year, IDC, a research firm, said. Sales of cheaper
Honor smartphones and other low-end
devices contributed to the company’s
And there’s a silver lining for those
who want to spend less: Cheaper
smartphones have never been better. If
you spend between $200 and $300, you
can get a capable, fast smartphone for
basic tasks like placing calls, using
maps and sending texts. Of course,
there are trade-offs, like lower-quality
screens and less impressive cameras.
Is a budget phone right for you?
Here’s an overview on the pros and
cons of going cheap, with some phone
recommendations from Wirecutter, a
New York Times company that tests
play, you should probably invest in a
superior device.
But if you want a phone only for
basic tasks and you’re not in a hurry to
adopt the latest and greatest technology, a cheaper phone may serve you
George Zhao of Huawei discussing its Honor smartphones in London in December. The
$200 Honor 7X was a runner-up budget pick by Wirecutter.
Let’s start with the downsides of buying a cheaper phone.
• You won’t get the best camera. Budget phones lack the advanced camera
sensors found on high-end smartphones. So if you go cheap, your phone
camera probably won’t be very fast,
won’t do a great job at taking photos in
low light and will lack features like
optical image stabilization, which helps
photos remain clear even when your
hands are shaky. “The camera is a big
one,” said Andrew Cunningham, a
Wirecutter editor. “If you’re taking
photos, especially in low light, performance is going to fall off a cliff.”
• Obviously, you won’t get cutting-edge
features like the infrared face recognition system on the iPhone X or the
fancy stylus on Samsung’s big-screen
Galaxy Note. You also won’t get the
fastest computing processor, so your
phone won’t be as capable of running
games with heavy graphics.
• You also won’t get the brightest and
most vibrant display. The fanciest
smartphones have OLED screens,
which have better color accuracy and
• You won’t get many software updates, which are important because
they introduce new features and security enhancements. For phone makers,
the priority is issuing big software
updates to more powerful smartphones. At best, with a cheap Android
phone you will probably get one major
software update and a few security
updates over 18 months.
With all that said, there are plenty of
benefits to buying a good budget
• You will get a decent camera. Many
cheaper phones have high-resolution
sensors that can take clear, rich pho-
tos. “A cheap phone today is going to
have a better camera than a cheap
phone from three years ago,” said
Nathan Edwards, a senior editor for
Wirecutter. “It’s not like they’re truly
• You’ll get a screen good enough for
reading websites, watching videos and
looking at photos. Budget phones still
use LCD, an older display technology
that has greatly matured and still looks
quite good.
• Your phone will be fast enough for
important tasks like placing calls,
sending and receiving email, browsing
the web and running lightweight apps.
If you aren’t an app-aholic or a gamer,
maybe that is all you will need.
So here’s the upshot. There is a
strong argument for spending more on
your smartphone: If it is your most
important technology tool for work and
Now comes the tough part: picking a
good budget phone and avoiding the
duds. Wirecutter tested 20 of the best
budget smartphones over the last few
years to highlight a few. Expect to
spend roughly $200.
Wirecutter’s top budget phone is
Motorola’s Moto G5 Plus, which costs
about $230. It has a high-quality camera, a good 5.2-inch screen, a fast
fingerprint sensor and plenty of storage. The device also comes unlocked,
meaning it works with all American
carriers. (If you want to spend a bit
more, you could buy the Moto X4,
which is water-resistant and on sale
for $300, down from $400.)
Wirecutter also highlighted Huawei’s
$200 Honor 7X, which has a better
camera and bigger screen than the
Moto G5 Plus. The downside is it runs
an older version of the Android operating system, called Nougat.
Another option, if you prefer
iPhones, is to buy an older iPhone
model. Apple is still selling the iPhone
6s, introduced in 2015, which is reasonably fast with a nice camera and a
good screen. It costs $449 through
Apple, but you may find it much
cheaper elsewhere. What’s more,
Apple typically supports its iPhones
for about five years, so the 6s should
continue to get software updates
through 2020.
“A lot of things you’d have to pay 600
or 700 bucks for three or four years
ago, you’ll get for $200 or less now,”
Mr. Cunningham said. “If you just want
the basics, a budget phone is going to
do just fine for most people.”
Keeping tabs
on cell data use
Are there any programs that track
cellphone data use by individual app?
Third-party apps often use easy-toread graphics to break down your
phone’s cellular data consumption so
you can see just which programs are
burning through your bytes. Data
Usage for Android and iOS as well as
My Data Manager (also for Android
and iOS) are among the options, and
your wireless carrier may have its own
data-tracking app. However, depending
on your device, you may not need
extra software.
In iOS 11, open the Settings icon on
the home screen and tap Cellular.
Scroll down to the Cellular Data section to see the total amount of data
used in the current period noted above
a list of apps. (The “current period” is
measured between the times you hit
the Reset Statistics button at the bottom of the screen — which can be at
the beginning of your billing period or
whenever you feel like it.)
In the list, you can see the amount of
data each app has used. If you want to
stop an app from pulling down data
over the cellular connection, tap the
button on the right side of the screen to
restrict its network activity to a Wi-Fi
The steps for checking your data use
in Android vary based on the operating
system and device maker. In several
versions, start by opening the Settings
app, choosing Network & Internet,
then tapping Data Usage and Mobile
Data Usage. To see how much an app
is eating, tap its name in the list to see
its total use, its foreground use and its
background use. Android 7.0 and later
has a Data Saver mode that can help
save megabytes on a limited plan.
If you don’t like the data-meter tools on
your phone, the app My Data Manager
monitors cellular use in graphic detail.
Cutting the cord
to Facebook
Last year, I opened a Facebook account, and as I entered my information I soon decided I didn’t want to
continue. I deleted the app on my
phone and tablet. Occasionally, I
receive a “Welcome back to Facebook” message and realize I’ve not
cut the cord. Is there a way to sever
this connection for good?
Removing the Facebook app from your
mobile devices does not delete the user
account connected with it.
To fully sever your ties with the
social network, you need to visit the
site’s Account Deletion page and log
back in; you can do this from a web
browser if you do not want to download the mobile app again. Use the box
on the page to officially request that
Facebook delete your account.
Facebook’s settings page also offers
an account deactivation option, which
removes your profile page from view
but is not permanent. Accounts are
reactivated when you log back in. If
you deactivated your account and then
started up a laptop that was set to
automatically log into Facebook, your
account may have revived itself.
From your account settings page,
you can see on which devices you are
logged into Facebook and then log out
if necessary.
Logging in, then logging out of any
forgotten devices and permanently
deleting the account should cut your
Facebook ties.
(More active Facebook users can
download an archive of the posts made
while using the service by clicking the
“Download a copy of your Facebook
data” link in the account settings.)
If you deactivated the account and
are sure no other devices were set to
automatically log into Facebook, receiving “Welcome back” messages
may mean Facebook is trying to reengage you or that someone else is
trying to get into your account.
You can report the problem at Change the password of the mail account you used for
Facebook and — to be safe — reset
your Facebook password before deleting the account.
Fake messages purporting to be
from Facebook have been flying
around the internet for years, so it is
also possible you received a phishing
attempt urging you to supply your
information to a fraudulent site.
Late last year, Facebook announced
that its users could see a list of official
messages by clicking the link at the
bottom of the Security and Login tab
on the Settings page. If you see that
Facebook has not sent you any legitimate messages, report the one you
received to J. D.
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 13
In ‘The Insult,’ what the unspoken says
The dispute
in the film is
the stuff of
politics are
petty quarrels
over how to
slice the pie.
Karim Emile Bitar
BEIRUT, LEBANON In the beginning
there was just an insult, sparked by a
trivial squabble in a street of a working-class neighborhood of Beirut. A
surly-looking man on a balcony
splashes some water on a foreman
below who has come to fix a defective
pipe; the foreman curses back. Such is
the starting point of “The Insult,” a
film by Ziad Doueiri, which was nominated for an Academy Award in the
foreign-language category this year.
Matters could have ended there.
After all, as Freud supposedly said,
“The first human who hurled an insult
instead of a stone was the founder of
civilization.” But not in the Lebanon of
“The Insult” — where the insult turns
into a fight, then a court case and
finally a state affair. And not in the real
Lebanon either: Some weeks back,
just a few months before the next
general election is expected to be held,
another insult set
the country ablaze.
A system
In late January a
designed to
video appeared
online showing
Gebran Bassil, the
foreign minister
(and the president’s
son-in-law), calling
Nabih Berri, the
has turned
speaker of the Nathe country
tional Assembly, a
into a quasi“thug.” Some streets
of Beirut broke out
into scenes that
could have been
lifted from the movie: angry youth,
blocked roads, burning tires — as ever,
the specter of civil strife. Mr. Bassil
(like his father-in-law) is a Maronite
Christian; Mr. Berri is a Shiite. And the
whole of Lebanese politics plays the
sectarian chord.
Here, a single insult can rekindle
badly healed wounds, and nudged by
just a few excesses from the media or
the public, push Lebanon to the brink.
(Freud might have called this, too, the
“return of the repressed.”) Resentment
runs deep in this tiny country, this
house of many mansions, home to so
many communities with so many
narratives forged over so many decades of frustration. Fear of a conflagration remains after a long history of
deadly fratricidal clashes, for example
in 1845, 1860, 1958 and, of course, 1975–
Lebanon’s main fault lines have
shifted since that civil war. The film
mentions the massacre of Christians
by radical Palestinian militias in the
village of Damour in 1976, which is
sometimes overlooked. But the Palestinian question has become a less
central issue since the Israeli invasion
of 1982, which caused many fighters
from Yasir Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization to leave the country.
By focusing on this earlier period in
a film set in contemporary Lebanon,
Mr. Doueiri might appear to be evading the most sensitive questions of the
moment. The movie makes no mention
of the Shiite organization Hezbollah,
undoubtedly the most important political actor in the country today. No
word either of the rift between Sunnis
and Shiites, which has deepened both
in Lebanon and throughout the region
since the American invasion of Iraq in
2003. Or of the proxy wars that Iran
and Saudi Arabia have been waging
But the film also avoids being Manichaean, and it captures well how Lebanon’s fundamental structural problems
have barely changed: minorities’ fear
of the other and their existential anxiety, clientelism and corruption, the
shameless manipulation of popular
resentment by politicians.
In 1991, soon after the war, an amnesty law was passed in the name of
national reconciliation. It has only
allowed the warlords to evade justice
and stay in charge: Since then, they
have continued to sabotage the state,
though now from within, capturing its
resources and handing those out to
their minions. The central authorities
are weak and powerless as a result,
having become indentured to various
political and sectarian fiefs. Since
amnesty has also bred amnesia, the
country still isn’t immune to a return
of its old demons.
The insult of Mr. Doueiri’s film is the
stuff of tragedy. It illustrates deep
disagreements over history and memory between two victims who are from
opposite camps yet alike in their
shared experience of suffering.
Trapped in a great game being played
well beyond them, both men, each in
his own way, end up embodying what
George Orwell called common decency.
In contrast, the rivalries of today
oppose members of a well-fed elite.
Their confrontations are not about
assaults on an individual’s dignity;
they are petty quarrels over how to
slice the pie. These people have ruled
together, and they will likely rule to-
gether again, in what they call, improperly, “national unity governments.” At most, the upcoming election
in May will only marginally affect a
system that is as well-greased as it is
Indeed, 75 years after independence
from France, Lebanon has yet to develop a proper sense of democratic
citizenship, a direct relation between
the individual and the state. From
their cradles to their graves, Lebanese
people live under a sort of house arrest, confined by their communal
affiliation; they cannot assert their
rights without having to resort to the
patronage networks of sectarian leaders.
Behind its facade as a liberal parliamentary democracy, Lebanon is the
hostage of a half-dozen cynical politicians — themselves often indentured
to a foreign power — who divvy up
positions and profits among themselves. The country’s system of “consociational democracy,” which was
supposed to maintain balance among
its various religious communities, has
over the years turned it into a quasioligarchy.
Lebanon’s civil society is often commended, and rightly so, for its dynamism and its resilience. But its political system and its political class,
however dysfunctional and sclerotic,
are remarkably resilient as well. The
country’s leaders may be patently
incompetent when it comes to matters
of the state — sovereign debt, electricity shortages, waste-management
crises — but they are very ingenious
about holding on to power. And that is
why, much like the Lebanon in Mr.
Doueiri’s film, the real Lebanon of
today continues, as the cliché goes, to
dance on the edge of a volcano.
is a senior fellow at
the Institute for International and
Strategic Relations, in Paris, and associate professor of international relations at Saint-Joseph University, in
Beirut. This essay was translated by
The New York Times from the French.
Can there be good porn?
I never
wanted the
of shaping
young minds.
Now it’s
keeping me
up at night.
In 2006, when I first considered performing in a hard-core pornographic
video, I also thought about what sort of
career doors would close once I’d had
sex in front of a camera. Being a
schoolteacher came to mind, but that
was fine, since I didn’t want the responsibility of shaping young minds.
And yet thanks to this country’s
nonfunctional sex education system
and the ubiquitous access to porn by
anyone with an internet connection, I
have that responsibility anyway. Sometimes it keeps me awake at night —
but I try to do what I can.
Pornography was not intended as a
sex education program. It was not
intended to dictate sexual practices, or
to be a how-to guide. While some
pornographers, like Nina Hartley and
Jessica Drake, do create explicitly
educational content, pornography is
largely an entertainment medium for
But we’re in a moment when the
industry is once again under scrutiny.
Pornography, we’re told, is warping
the way young people, especially
young men, think about sex, in ways
that can be dangerous. (The Florida
Legislature even implied last month
that I and my kind are more worrisome than AR-15s when it voted to
declare pornography a public health
hazard, even as it declined to consider
a ban on sales of assault weapons.)
I’m invested in the creation and
spread of good pornography, even
though I can’t say for certain what that
looks like yet. We still don’t have a
solid definition of what pornography is,
much less a consensus on what makes
it good or ethical. Nor does putting
limits on the ways sexuality and sexu-
al interactions are presented seem like
a Pandora’s box we want to open:
What right do we have to dictate the
way adult performers have sex with
one another, or what is good and normal, aside from requiring that it be
Still, some pornographers have been
taking steps to try to minimize porn’s
potential harm to young people and
adults for years. And one way we’ve
been trying to do so is by putting our
work into its proper context.
Context reminds people of all the
things they don’t see in the final product. It underscores that pornography is
a performance, that just as in ballet or
professional wrestling, we are putting
on a show. For years the B.D.S.M.focused website Kink provided context
for its sex scenes through a project
called Behind Kink, with videos that
showed the scenes being planned and
performers stating their limits. Their
films also showed a practice called
“aftercare,” in which participants in an
intense B.D.S.M. experience discuss
what they’ve just done and how
they’re feeling about it. (Unfortunately,
the Behind Kink project lost momentum and appears to have stalled out in
Shine Louise Houston, whose production company is dedicated to queer
pornography, has live-streamed behind
the scenes from the set, enabling viewers to see what making pornography is
really like. I have always tried to provide at least minimum context for my
explicit work, through blog posts and
in promotional copy.
Many other performers and directors maintain blogs or write articles
discussing scenes they particularly
enjoyed doing or sets they liked being
on, and generally allowing the curious
to get a peek behind the metaphorical
curtain. Some, like Tyler Knight, Asa
Akira, Christy Canyon, Annie Sprinkle
and Danny Wylde, have written memoirs.
When viewers have access to context, they can see us discussing our
boundaries, talking about getting
screened for sexually transmittable
infections and chatting about how we
choose partners. Occasionally, they
can even see us laying bare how we
navigate the murky intersection of
capitalism, publicity and sexuality.
But this context is usually stripped
out when a work is pirated and up-
loaded to one of the many “free tube”
sites that offer material without
charge. These sites are where the bulk
of pornography is being viewed online,
and by definition don’t require a credit
card — making it easier for minors to
see porn. And so the problems that
come with porn are inseparable from
the way it’s distributed.
How it’s distributed also shapes the
type of porn that is most readily available to teenagers. I frequently hear
pornography maligned as catering
only to men. That’s not quite fair: Most
heterosexual pornography caters to
one type of man, yes, but to ignore the
rest does a disservice the pornographers who have been creating work
with a female gaze, or for the female
gaze, for decades.
Candida Royalle founded Femme
Productions in 1984 and Femme Distribution in 1986. Ovidie and Erika Lust
have been making pornography aimed
at women for over 10 years. Of course,
their work also isn’t the sort of content
that’s easy to find on free sites. But
plenty of men enjoy this sort of work,
too — just as some women like seeing
bleach blondes on their knees.
Sex and sexual fantasies are complicated. So much of emotionally safer
sex is dependent on knowing and
paying attention to your partner. We in
the industry can add context to our
work, but I don’t know that it’s possible, at the end of the day, for what is
meant to be an entertainment medium
to regularly demonstrate concepts as
intangible as these. We cannot rely on
pornography to teach empathy, the
ability to read body language, or how
to discuss sexual boundaries — especially when we’re talking about young
people who have never had sex. Porn
will never be a replacement for sex
But porn is also not going anywhere.
That means that we have a choice to
make. We can hide our heads in the
sand, or we can — in addition to pushing for real lessons on sex for young
people again — tackle the job of understanding the range of what porn is,
evaluating what’s working and what
we can qualitatively judge as good,
and try to build a better industry and
cultural understanding of sex. I choose
to try.
a pornographer and freelance
A supporter of
Nabih Berri, the
speaker of Lebanon’s National
Assembly, during
a protest in Beirut
in January.
14 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
The 8 million species we don’t know
Edward O. Wilson
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
DEAN BAQUET, Executive Editor
MARK THOMPSON, Chief Executive Officer
JOSEPH KAHN, Managing Editor
STEPHEN DUNBAR-JOHNSON, President, International
TOM BODKIN, Creative Director
JEAN-CHRISTOPHE DEMARTA, Senior V.P., Global Advertising
SUZANNE DALEY, Associate Editor
ACHILLES TSALTAS, V.P., International Conferences
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
Why would
any policymaker with
the agenda
or values she
espouses work
for a president
so determined
to lay waste
to them?
This is the third part of an editorial series on nepotism in
the White House.
When Ivanka Trump traveled to Pyeongchang, South
Korea, to attend the Olympic closing ceremony, President Trump tweeted: “My daughter, Ivanka, just arrived in South Korea. We cannot have a better, or smarter, person representing our country.”
“Why? Is there some rule against it?” a critic responded.
The irony escaped the president, no doubt, since he
was not embarrassed to send his daughter as the bookend of Kim Jong-un’s sister, who was dubbed “the
Ivanka Trump of North Korea” when she made a splash
at the opening ceremony. Giving a family member such
a prominent role is natural for a fearful, insecure leader
with autocratic impulses, just as it is for Mr. Kim.
Yet no American president before Mr. Trump has
given such an underqualified son or daughter a White
House post, and Ms. Trump’s tenure demonstrates why.
Her supporters said she went to Washington to serve
— as an advocate for liberal-leaning causes from the
environment to human trafficking, and as a moderating
influence on her father. In reality, the self-proclaimed
“Daddy’s girl” followed her father to the White House
for the same reason she followed him into Manhattan
real estate, and onto the set of “The Apprentice”: because she’s a Trump.
Ms. Trump declared paid family leave to be her signature domestic policy issue, and launched herself as a
global advocate for women’s empowerment. She is
omnipresent in White House meetings, on subjects from
manufacturing employment to women in technology,
and has conducted a charm offensive in Congress. She
and her husband, Jared Kushner, invite legislators,
lobbyists and C.E.O.s to their Washington home for
off-the-record discussions of their agenda.
During Mr. Trump’s first trip abroad in May, Ms.
Trump raised eyebrows when she briefly represented
her father at the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg,
taking a seat alongside Prime Minister Theresa May of
Britain and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. She
was jeered when she called her father “a tremendous
champion of supporting families” during a women’s
entrepreneurship panel in Berlin. “Whom are you representing?” the moderator asked. “Your father as the
president of the United States, the American people, or
your business?”
It’s an apt question. Ms. Trump chose a formal, unpaid administration role, requiring her to comply with
federal conflict-of-interest and ethics rules. Yet she and
Mr. Kushner have retained financial control of their
businesses and have made repeated errors on federal
financial disclosures. CNN reported Thursday that the
F.B.I. is investigating one of Ms. Trump’s business
deals, in Vancouver. Other projects she has spearheaded, from Azerbaijan to Manhattan, have raised
legal questions as well. She hawked her book on Twitter,
and has used public appearances to tout Ivanka Trumpbranded jewelry and showcase Trump family businesses.
Ms. Trump’s zeal for global renown has been exploited by foreign governments eager to curry favor
with her father, just as her husband’s financial travails
have been viewed as opportunities for influence. On the
day Mr. Trump and the Kushners met with the Chinese
president, Xi Jinping, China granted Ms. Trump’s company three trademarks in the giant Chinese market;
other countries have done likewise.
But where are Ms. Trump’s public policy successes?
Language supporting paid family leave appeared in Mr.
Trump’s initial budget blueprint, which went nowhere in
Congress. There have been executive orders and working groups promoting women in technology, apprenticeships and job training, but no significant government
funding, programs or legislation.
During an interview when she was in South Korea ,
Ms. Trump was asked whether she believed women’s
accusations of sexual misconduct and assault against
her father. Ms. Trump, a senior presidential adviser
who profits personally from her support for women’s
empowerment, took umbrage. “I don’t think that’s a
question you would ask many other daughters,” she
said, before going on to say she believes “my father.”
What a perfect summary of what’s wrong with White
House nepotism. Since she is the president’s daughter,
Ms. Trump considers herself immune from criticism or
tough questions even when she’s acting in her public
role as a “senior adviser.” In fact, of course, no policymaker truly committed to the agenda Ms. Trump espouses would have joined this administration. No presidential adviser with the values she claims would still be
working for a president so determined to lay waste to
them. So why does Ms. Trump stay? The answers could
only be family allegiance, personal gain, or plans —
wildly optimistic plans, in light of the F.B.I. noose tightening around this White House — for a dynastic political career. These are precisely what the founders
condemned as nepotism’s dangers to democracy.
Ivanka Trump isn’t serving America, she is serving the
The history of conservation is a story of
many victories in a losing war. Having
served on the boards of global conservation organizations for more than 30
years, I know very well the sweat, tears
and even blood shed by those who dedicate their lives to saving species. Their
efforts have led to major achievements,
but they have been only partly successful.
The extinction of species by human
activity continues to accelerate, fast
enough to eliminate more than half of all
species by the end of this century. Unless humanity is suicidal (which,
granted, is a possibility), we will solve
the problem of climate change. Yes, the
problem is enormous, but we have both
the knowledge and the resources to do
this and require only the will.
The worldwide extinction of species
and natural ecosystems, however, is not
reversible. Once species are gone,
they’re gone forever. Even if the climate
is stabilized, the extinction of species
will remove Earth’s foundational, billion-year-old environmental support
system. A growing number of researchers, myself included, believe that
the only way to reverse the extinction
crisis is through a conservation moonshot: We have to enlarge the area of
Earth devoted to the natural world
enough to save the variety of life within
The formula widely agreed upon by
conservation scientists is to keep half
the land and half the sea of the planet as
wild and protected from human intervention or activity as possible. This
conservation goal did not come out of
the blue. Its conception, called the HalfEarth Project, is an initiative led by a
group of biodiversity and conservation
experts (I serve as one of the project’s
lead scientists). It builds on the theory
of island biogeography, which I developed with the mathematician Robert
MacArthur in the 1960s.
Island biogeography takes into account the size of an island and its distance from the nearest island or main-
land ecosystem to predict the number of
species living there; the more isolated
an ecosystem, the fewer species it
supports. After much experimentation
and a growing understanding of how
this theory works, it is being applied to
the planning of conservation areas.
So how do we know which places
require protection under the definition
of Half-Earth? In general, three overlapping criteria have been suggested by
scientists. They are, first, areas judged
best in number and rareness of species
by experienced field biologists; second,
“hot spots,” localities known to support
a large number of species of a specific
favored group such as birds and trees;
and third, broad-brush areas delineated
by geography and
vegetation, called
To reverse
All three apand save the
proaches are valuplanet, we
able, but applying
must learn
them in too much
haste can lead to fatal
more about
error. They need an
all its
important underlying
component to work —
a more thorough
record of all of Earth’s
existing species. Making decisions
about land protection without this fundamental knowledge would lead to
irreversible mistakes.
The most striking fact about the living
environment may be how little we know
about it. Even the number of living
species can be only roughly calculated.
A widely accepted estimate by scientists puts the number at about 10 million. In contrast, those formally described, classified and given two-part
Latinized names (Homo sapiens for
humans, for example) number slightly
more than two million. With only about
20 percent of its species known and 80
percent undiscovered, it is fair to call
Earth a little-known planet.
Paleontologists estimate that before
the global spread of humankind the
average rate of species extinction was
one species per million in each one- to
10-million-year interval. Human activity has driven up the average global rate
of extinction to 100 to 1,000 times that
baseline rate. What ensues is a tragedy
upon a tragedy: Most species still alive
will disappear without ever having been
recorded. To minimize this catastrophe,
we must focus on which areas on land
and in the sea collectively harbor the
most species.
Building on new technologies, and on
the insight and expertise of organizations and individuals who have dedicated their lives the environment, the
Half-Earth Project is mapping the fine
distribution of species across the globe
to identify the places where we can
protect the highest number of species.
By determining which blocks of land
and sea we can string together for maximum effect, we have the opportunity to
support the most biodiverse places in
the world as well as the people who call
these paradises home. With the biodiversity of our planet mapped carefully
and soon, the bulk of Earth’s species,
including humans, can be saved.
By necessity, global conservation
areas will be chosen for what species
they contain, but in a way that will be
supported, and not just tolerated, by the
people living within and around them.
Property rights should not be abrogated. The cultures and economies of indigenous peoples, who are de facto the
original conservationists, should be
protected and supported. Communitybased conservation areas and management systems such as the National
Natural Landmarks Program, administered by the National Park Service,
could serve as a model.
To effectively manage protected
habitats, we must also learn more about
all the species of our planet and their
interactions within ecosystems. By
accelerating the effort to discover,
describe and conduct natural history
studies for every one of the eight million
species estimated to exist but still unknown to science, we can continue to
add to and refine the Half-Earth Project
map, providing effective guidance for
conservation to achieve our goal.
The best-explored groups of organisms are the vertebrates (mammals,
birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes),
along with plants, especially trees and
shrubs. Being conspicuous, they are
what we familiarly call “wildlife.” A
great majority of other species, howev-
er, are by far also the most abundant. I
like to call them “the little things that
run the world.” They teem everywhere,
in great number and variety in and on
all plants, throughout the soil at our feet
and in the air around us. They are the
protists, fungi, insects, crustaceans,
spiders, pauropods, centipedes, mites,
nematodes and legions of others whose
scientific names are seldom heard by
the bulk of humanity. In the sea and
along its shores swarm organisms of the
other living world — marine diatoms,
crustaceans, ascidians, sea hares,
priapulids, coral, loriciferans and on
through the still mostly unfilled encyclopedia of life.
Do not call these organisms “bugs” or
“critters.” They too are wildlife. Let us
learn their correct names and care
about their safety. Their existence
makes possible our own. We are wholly
dependent on them.
With new information technology and
rapid genome mapping now available to
us, the discovery of Earth’s species can
now be sped up exponentially. We can
use satellite imagery, species distribution analysis and other novel tools to
create a new understanding of what we
must do to care for our planet. But there
is another crucial aspect to this effort: It
must be supported by more “boots on
the ground,” a renaissance of species
discovery and taxonomy led by field
Within one to three decades, candidate conservation areas can be selected
with confidence by construction of
biodiversity inventories that list all of
the species within a given area. The
expansion of this scientific activity will
enable global conservation while adding immense amounts of knowledge in
biology not achievable by any other
means. By understanding our planet,
we have the opportunity to save it. As
we focus on climate change, we must
also act decisively to protect the living
world while we still have time. It would
be humanity’s ultimate achievement.
is a university research professor emeritus and an honorary curator of entomology at Harvard, and a scientist on the Half-Earth
New culture warriors: Activist C.E.O.s
Aaron K. Chatterji
In the wake of the school shootings in
Parkland, Fla., companies like Delta,
Hertz and Symantec distanced themselves from the National Rifle Association by eliminating benefits to their
Dick’s Sporting Goods, which owns
35 Field and Stream stores (which
feature hunting gear and supplies),
took it a step further: The company
announced that it had unilaterally
raised the age limit for firearms sales
and stopped selling the AR-15, the
weapon used in Parkland and other
recent mass shootings. The chief executive, Edward Stack, said that the company was “going to take a stand and
step up and tell people our view and,
hopefully, bring people along into the
conversation.” Less than 24 hours later,
Walmart joined Dick’s in raising the age
limit on firearm sales (Walmart
stopped selling AR-15s years ago).
They exemplify a recent phenomenon, “C.E.O. activism,” in which corporations and their chief executives pick a
side in the culture war.
Some companies have benefited,
through gains in popularity or even
sales, by taking such stands. Patagonia
reportedly saw a revenue surge after
announcing its lawsuit against the
Trump administration’s efforts to slash
the size of Bears Ears National Monument in Utah. My research with Michael
Toffel of Harvard Business School finds
that consumers were more likely to buy
Apple products after hearing Tim
Cook’s statement opposing Indiana’s
religious freedom bill.
But other firms have faced angry
consumers and had to retrench, as
Target did when hundreds of thousands
of people signed a petition in protest of
its trans-inclusive bathroom policy. The
chief executive of Papa John’s, who
blamed the National Football League’s
handling of the national anthem controversy for his company’s declining sales,
stepped down after he was criticized for
his comments. What has not happened
in any of these cases is a cooling of
partisan tensions. Even in rare cases
when pragmatic business leaders
helped to broker agreements, which
was reportedly the case in North Carolina with the repeal of the so-called
bathroom bill, a culture war still festers.
C.E.O. activism has typically not
brought people together, working from
the middle out. Instead, this type of
activism, largely from the progressive
side, has begun to galvanize conservatives. For example, in Georgia, lawmakers stripped tax breaks for Delta over its
decision to cut ties with the N.R.A.
In the short term, Dick’s will become
another corporate poster child for how
political polarization and so-called
negative partisanship — an automatic
rejection of members of the opposing
party — are infecting our society. There
will be a rash of news stories about
increased sales from liberal consumers
rushing into Dick’s stores to vote with
their wallets. Conservative media will
point to boycotts and highlight other
retailers that are stepping in to serve
disaffected consumers.
But the real story will be the long
game. C.E.O. activism represents a
historic shift in the way corporations
intersect with national politics. Rather
than chief executives shaping political
discourse, however, our toxic political
environment is dictating corporate
strategy. Instead of being cast as practical technocrats who could unite us, chief
executives will be swept up in our cultural war, just like university presidents,
celebrities, professional athletes and
religious leaders before them.
Brands are likely to
become even more
Our toxic
segmented into red
and blue, strengthenvironment
ening the association
is dictating
between liberals and
Priuses and conservatives and Cracker
Barrel. Corporate
brand campaigns
could soon resemble political campaigns, with efforts to identify the most
intensely loyal consumers for repeat
purchases as opposed to attracting new
Mainstream brands may become as
common as moderate politicians — that
is, a rare, perhaps extinct, species in
today’s political environment. Twitter
and PayPal serve diverse customers
today, but their recent efforts to regulate
their own platforms have led to allegations of political bias and incited competitors. Most companies are not prepared for this new world of politics.
Pepsi and Starbucks have already been
victims of orchestrated fake news campaigns; there will be many more. As
more companies take stands, those
remaining will be named and shamed
on social media, creating impossible
choices in an environment where neutrality is not an option.
Like our politicians, corporate chiefs
will have to quickly figure out what
stand they should take on the issue of
the day by reflecting on their core convictions and estimating how their
(customer) base will react. Like pollsters, they will have to assess which
kind of consumers they can write off and
which ones to curry favor with. The
right answer will vary by a company’s
geographic location, who their employees are and how much they depend on
favorable government regulation.
There is no going back. Lists are
being kept and wins are being tallied by
pressure groups aiming to get companies on their side. The issues that divide
us will keep being served up in relentless succession, forcing companies to
take stands on just about everything.
Much of this is a reflection of who we
have become. Corporate America
thrives by selling us what we want, and
they do that by appealing to our identities. In 2018, for many Americans, our
political identity seems to define us
more than ever. It already influences
whom we socialize with on Facebook,
whom we marry, what news we read
and where we live. It was only a matter
of time before this big sort started to
shape our consumer behavior, too.
is an associate professor of business and public policy at
Duke University’s Fuqua School of
Business and Sanford School of Public
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 15
The China espionage threat
David Wise
God, don’t save the king
Timothy Egan
Can you love “The Crown,” but hate the
throne? Can you find young Queen
Victoria adorable, while never forgiving
her for how deplorable her kingdom was
during the Irish famine? Can you be
enthralled by the advanced nation
portrayed in “Black Panther,” but appalled that it’s still governed by the
backward institution of a hereditary
Yes, to all of the above, though it’s a
struggle at this cultural moment. Our
country was born in violent revolt
against the idea that power is determined at birth. But every now and then
— and this is very much a now time —
you have to remember what that violent
revolt was against.
While burnished renditions of British
royals dominate the small screen, and a
super-powerful African king owns the
big screen, the monarchal narcissism of
the American president shows why we
have a constitutional clause banning
any title of nobility.
It’s damn explicit, as well, from Article 1: “No title of nobility shall be
granted by the United States.”
The closest thing to a throne will have
to be the solid gold toilet that the
Guggenheim Museum helpfully offered
President Trump. If Trump were king,
opponents would be jailed for failing to
clap during his speeches.
He calls that ageless act of defiance
treason. The Constitution calls it something else.
This president is also the nearest
approximation of the mad king since the
original sovereign to wear that title,
George III, was booted from oversight
of our shores. As the saying goes, King
George lost the colonies, then lost his
mind. Trump is doing it in reverse order,
with a middle-aged democracy.
Globally, authoritarians who act as if
they rule by the divine right of kings are
on the rise. China’s Xi Jinping just
rigged the system to allow him to be
emperor for life. To that end, his internet
censors have been working overtime,
banning Winnie the Pooh references to
keep the masses from slyly making fun
of him.
And that blood-chilling image of
Turkey’s Islamist strongman, Recep
Tayyip Erdogan, embracing a sobbing
6-year-old as a potential martyr, shows
what can happen when you let monarchy creep back into your country.
I love “The Crown,” on Netflix, absorbed as much as any Irish-American
can be by a series about a bejeweled
and inbred elitist who heads both
church and state. Her Majesty, QE2, the
world’s longest reigning monarch, is a
pretty nice girl but
she doesn’t have a lot
to say. The young
Queen Vic and her
makes some
doomed husband,
people pine
Albert, as played on
for a royal
the high-rated PBS
drama “Victoria,” are
family. Don’t.
charming and hot in
the royal sack —
while the morbid inequality of the
Victorian age rages all around them.
But let’s get real. Elizabeth would be
living on a civil servant’s pension, waiting in line to get that hip replacement,
were she not born into the House of
Windsor. Victoria married her first
cousin, which is banned in half the
states of America.
And even with three of Victoria’s
grandchildren at the table of global
power — the Russian czarina, the
British king and the German kaiser —
they could not prevent the senseless
slaughter of World War I. Royal slights
may have actually contributed to its
The nicknames are nauseating —
Porchey and Bertie and the like for
do-nothing viscounts and earls. Talk
about affirmative action for white people: These toffs are trained from birth to
recognize a fish knife from a butter
knife, a bouillon spoon from a melon
It’s fine to swoon over the Marvel
Comics monarch of Wakanda in “Black
Panther,” but a real-life facsimile is
dreadful. That would be King Mswati III
of Swaziland, the last absolute monarch
of sub-Saharan Africa. He has 15 wives
and 13 palaces — or maybe it’s the other
way around — and is worth in excess of
$50 million. This while his tiny landlocked kingdom has one of the lowest
life expectancies in the world, and the
average person gets by on less than
$1.50 a day.
Sure, Kate and William and the kids
are sooooo cute. And the coming royal
nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan
Markle — a woman of color, divorced
and raised Catholic — shows that the
British monarchy has moved beyond its
medieval restrictions, thanks to a 2015
change in succession law.
Those royals, at least, are decent role
models, and high-minded celebrities. If
the United States granted titles to the
children of its rulers we’d be forced to
fawn over Donald Trump Jr. and his
brother Eric — two of the least likable
and most pathetic men in public life.
Ivanka certainly acts the part. But she
wants royalty with real power, something even the Brits don’t grant to their
first clan. Barron, thankfully, spells his
name with two r’s.
Trump’s vainglorious, vandalistic and
vulgar presidency makes some people
pine for the unity, continuity and dignity
of a royal family. Don’t. He will pass, by
will of the people. If we had a monarchy,
we’d be stuck with the Trump line for
a former national correspondent for The Times, writes about
the environment, the American West
and politics.
A painting of King George III of England
in his coronation robes, around 1770.
Behold Vladimir V. Potemkin
States and Turkey. It also will inflame
Russia’s own Sunni Muslim population
and their brethren in Central Asia and
the Caucasus, lighting the fuse for
more terrorism directed at Moscow.
Mr. Putin insists that any Russians
now fighting on the ground in Syria are
guns for hire. But American intelligence believes that the man who controls them is Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, a
prominent oligarch close to Mr. Putin
who takes his orders from the Kremlin
and is one of the 13 oligarchs recently
indicted in the United States’ special
prosecutor’s investigation of Russian
meddling the 2016 election. Irregular
or not, the Russian fighters in Syria
increasingly find themselves in crossfires of their own making, including an
ill-advised attack on American-backed
anti-Islamic State forces in eastern
Syria. When American air power came
to their defense, as many as 200 Russians may have been killed. Mr. Putin
swept the debacle under the rug to
avoid acknowledging the deaths at
home — having repeatedly declared
mission accomplished — or risking
direct conflict with the United States.
Syria may not be Russia’s new Afghan quagmire yet, but its quicksand is
sucking Russia in deeper and deeper.
Meanwhile, whatever national pride
Mr. Putin piqued in seizing Crimea is
getting old, and the region’s needs
make a consistent claim on Russia’s
treasury. Worse, his intervention in
Eastern Ukraine has precipitated
many of the very developments Mr.
Putin sought to prevent.
NATO is more energized than it has
been in years — not because of Presi-
dent Trump’s browbeating, but in
response to Mr. Putin’s aggression. The
alliance now has forces on regular
rotational air, land and sea deployments along Russia’s border, and its
budget is increasing, in part with a
sustained infusion of funds from the
United States. The European Union
has revived the idea of strengthening
its own defense capacity, spurred on by
Mr. Putin’s threats and Mr. Trump’s
rhetorical retreat from America’s commitment to Europe’s
defense. Europeans
are getting more
serious about energy
in Eastern
security. They are
Ukraine has
multiplying new
routes, connections
and sources for fuel
many of the
and renewable
developments power. That’s making it harder for Mr.
Mr. Putin
Putin to use oil and
sought to
gas as strategic
levers. American-led
sanctions, despite
Mr. Trump’s reluctance to impose them, have done real,
sustained damage to Russia’s economy.
As for keeping Russia’s fist on
Ukraine’s future, Mr. Putin has managed to alienate the vast majority of its
citizens for generations. Systemic
corruption is now a bigger bar to
Ukraine’s European trajectory than is
Mr. Putin embarks on foreign adventures in part to distract his people from
Russia’s putrefaction at home. Reform
is stagnant. The single-cylinder economy can’t break its addiction to energy.
Corruption and kleptocracy are all-
corrosive. The population is aging and
declining. The opposition is repressed
but resilient.
As former Vice President Joe Biden
— for whom I worked as national
security adviser — told the crowd at
the annual Munich Security Conference last month, “By almost any objective measure, this is a country” that is
“in serious decline.”
The irony is that the United States
and Europe have more to fear from a
weak Russia than a strong one. The
shakier things get, the more Mr. Putin
will lash out.
But even as he plays a weak hand,
Mr. Putin holds a trump card: his
low-cost, high-impact meddling in
Western democracies.
Mr. Putin’s primary goal in the 2016
elections was to delegitimize our institutions and pit Americans against each
other. Mr. Trump insists at every opportunity that there was no collusion
by him or his campaign. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will figure that one
But every time Mr. Trump attacks a
core American institution (the intelligence community, the F.B.I., judges,
the media, Congress) or denigrates
one group of Americans (take your
pick) or spreads fake news, he is doing
Mr. Putin’s work for him. The collusion
is now — and it is the greatest source
of Mr. Putin’s depleting but still very
dangerous strength.
a deputy secretary of
state in the Obama administration, is a
managing director of the Penn Biden
Center and a co-founder of WestExec
With all the focus on Russian meddling
in the 2016 election, the damage done
by China’s vigorous and continuing
espionage against the United States
has taken a back seat.
The preoccupation with Russia, in
fact, has obscured the significant inroads made by Chinese intelligence
and cyberspies. In some cases, China
has proved more skillful than Russia in
infiltrating American intelligence.
A case involving a former C.I.A.
officer named Jerry Chun Shing Lee is
a perfect example. Beginning in 2010,
C.I.A. sources in China began disappearing; a dozen were reported executed and several more imprisoned.
What had seemed a major success in
establishing a network of C.I.A. spies
inside China had been turned into a
devastating intelligence failure. The
C.I.A. and F.B.I., suspecting a mole,
went on a secret hunt.
Mr. Lee, who had been stationed in
Beijing, emerged as a prime suspect.
When he stepped off a flight in New
York on Jan. 15, he was arrested by the
F.B.I. and charged with unlawfully
retaining documents related to the
national defense. But there is still no
certainty that he was responsible for
the loss of the agents.
The Chinese government approaches its spycraft differently from
either Russia or the United States. It is
often much more patient. The Chinese
may take years to develop a source
and plant one inside American intelligence organizations. But they have
managed to do just that inside the
F.B.I., the C.I.A., the Pentagon and the
State Department.
Some analysts attribute Beijing’s
successes to an American lack of understanding of China’s approach. Paul
Moore, a former China analyst for the
F.B.I., explains the difference this way:
“If a beach were a target, the Russians would send in a sub, frogmen
would steal ashore in the dark of night
and collect several buckets of sand and
take them back to Moscow. The U.S.
would send over satellites and produce
reams of data. The Chinese would send
in a thousand tourists, each assigned
to collect a single grain of sand. When
they returned, they would be asked to
shake out their towels. And they would
end up knowing more about the sand
than anyone else.”
In other words, the Chinese have
infinite patience. A real-life example is
China’s attempt to plant a man named
Glenn Shriver as a mole in the C.I.A.
Mr. Shriver grew up in a Michigan
suburb, learned Mandarin in college
and, while a student in Shanghai in
2004, answered an ad inviting an essay
on United States-China relations.
A woman who called herself Amanda
paid him a small fee and later introduced him to a “Mr. Wu” and “Mr.
Tang.” All three were agents of China’s
Ministry of State Security.
They asked him to apply for a State
Department job. He flunked the Foreign Service examination twice but
was paid $30,000 for trying. He was
then paid $40,000 more to apply to the
C.I.A.’s clandestine service. By then,
the Americans were on to him. Lured
back to America in 2010 for what he
thought was a final
screening, he was
arrested, convicted
focus on
and sentenced to
four years in prison
meddling in
after accepting a
the 2016
plea deal.
China’s most starelection has
tling and disturbing
pushed out
coup in penetrating
of public
American intelliattention the
gence agencies
occurred after the
posed by
F.B.I. recruited Katspies for
rina Leung, a promiChina.
nent Chinese-American in Los Angeles,
because she was
known to have extensive contacts in
the Chinese government. But later, it
turned out, she had affairs with two top
F.B.I. counterintelligence agents in
California, James J. Smith and William
Cleveland Jr., and became a double
agent for some 18 years, starting in
Ms. Leung was accused of feeding
F.B.I. secrets to the highest level of the
Ministry of State Security after filching
them from Mr. Smith’s briefcase. She
was in jail or under house arrest for 21
months before accepting a plea deal
that punished her with probation,
community service and a fine.
China also somehow acquired the
design of the W-88, a thermonuclear
warhead that sits atop Trident submarine missiles. Despite a four-year
investigation, led by the F.B.I., that
used 300 people in 11 agencies, the
mystery of how China got the plans
was never solved.
In the case of Mr. Lee, he was long
suspected of helping China destroy the
C.I.A.’s network there. But for reasons
still unexplained, he was not arrested
when two small books were discovered
in his hotel room and luggage as he
traveled back with his family in 2012 to
settle in Northern Virginia. According
to court documents, the books had
handwritten notes of meetings with
C.I.A. sources in China, their true
names and their phone numbers.
Whatever the outcome of his case,
why did it take five years to arrest
him? When the potentially incriminating material was discovered in 2012,
the mole hunters were divided on
whether to act. Counterintelligence
agents prefer to catch a suspected spy
in the act of passing secrets to a foreign power.
They also often prefer to wait to see
whether one suspect leads to others.
And in this case some were leery of
arresting the wrong man.
In addition, the investigators argued
that there might have been causes for
the damage other than a mole, like
poor tradecraft by C.I.A. officers in
China or a communications breach.
There is a history of intelligence
agencies being penetrated by dangerous moles — notably Aldrich Ames in
the C.I.A., whose betrayal led the Russians to execute 10 sources, and Robert
Hanssen in the F.B.I., who spied for the
Soviet Union and later Russia for 18
years and contributed to the deaths of
three United States sources. Both are
serving life terms.
Within the F.B.I., Chinese counterintelligence has not been the best career
path. For decades, the bureau’s spycatching resources were almost entirely concentrated on Russia. Now,
meddling by Russian intelligence in
the 2016 election reveals a clear threat
to American democracy that overshadows Chinese spying and much else.
Still, China today is arguably a greater rival for superpower status than
Russia. The C.I.A.’s shattered network
in China will take years to rebuild. And
despite the arrest of Mr. Lee, the counterspies have so far not explained what
is the author, most recently,
of “Tiger Trap: America’s Secret Spy
War With China.”
Whatever happens
next, we’ll help you
make sense of it.
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TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 17
The fury behind an avenger
Television’s ‘Jessica Jones’
reflects painful events
in the life of its creator
For the past dozen years, Melissa Rosenberg has devoted herself to some seriously gloomy characters.
She was the screenwriter behind the
“Twilight” movies and their tortured
vampires, not to mention serving as the
head writer on the serial killer drama
“Dexter,” before she created the noir-superhero Netflix series “Jessica Jones.”
On a recent late afternoon, the sixfoot-tall Ms. Rosenberg walked across
her sunny, sparsely decorated office in
the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles in a tan blazer, green silk camisole
and sleek blonde bob, exuding not a
trace of gothiness. She has never been
the kind of woman who favored a sepulchral black wardrobe and moody makeup, as her latest show’s heroine does.
But with “Jessica Jones,” which will return on Thursday for a second season,
she is able to let the spikiest elements of
her imagination run amok.
A hard-drinking private eye who has
been physically and emotionally assaulted by a powerful man, Jessica
(Krysten Ritter) harnessed her superhuman strength in Season 1 to exact
vengeance and protect others from her
depraved, mind-controlling abuser.
Looking back, it’s slightly eerie how
“Jessica Jones” anticipated the conversations about sexual harassment and
assault that bubbled to the surface of
American public life these last six
Season 2 had already finished shooting when #MeToo exploded, but these
13 new episodes venture even deeper
into that toxic territory. While Jessica
tries to tamp down the trauma of her
past and get on with her work as a hardboiled detective, her foster sister, Trish
(Rachael Taylor), moves in the opposite
direction, confronting an older male
producer who exploited her when she
was a teenage performer.
“We were writing the second season
during the whole Trump/Hillary election, and I was just so angry,” Ms. Rosenberg said of her team of writers. “We
constantly talked about characters that
had been trying to be nice for so long,
finally just saying, ‘Get out of my way!’
Just tapping into the rage Hillary must
have felt every day.”
Although “Jessica Jones” springs
from the Marvel comic “Alias,” the TV
version of Jessica is more self-destructive and nihilistic. Ms. Rosenberg also
tweaked the original story line by adding sexual assault to the litany of horrors committed by Season 1’s villain, Kilgrave, whose specter hangs over the
new episodes.
Ms. Rosenberg, 55, said the show’s approach was partly inspired by her own
troubling encounters with men as a girl
growing up in a permissive household in
Northern California.
The upside of having hippie parents
(her psychologist father, Jack Lee Rosenberg, wrote the 1973 book “Total Or-
“If I had been a man, my stridency
and my opinionated presence and voice
would not have engendered the same
kind of response,” Ms. Rosenberg said.
A show about a furious female avenger, “Jessica Jones” now looks like the
first step toward a more socially conscious Marvel television and film universe; it was soon followed by “Luke
Cage,” which is steeped in black history
and racial politics (and whose lead character was introduced to the public on
“Jessica Jones”), and now “Black Panther.”
“Marvel works best when you take
things from real life and you put them
through the Marvel prism, so it doesn’t
feel like you are sitting on a soapbox — it
feels like you’re watching a drama that
has action and adventure and humor in
it,” said Jeph Loeb, the head of television
for Marvel.
“In the process of digging into
this damaged but strong
character, we find ourselves
digging into issues as well.”
Above, Melissa Rosenberg, who created the Netflix series “Jessica Jones.” Top right, Krysten Ritter, the show’s star.
gasm”) was the freedom to “create your
own reality.” This resulted in impromptu
dance performances and neighborhood
plays; she would go on to major in dance
and theater at Bennington College in
The downside of having parents “going through their puberty at the same
time I was,” Ms. Rosenberg said with a
wry grimace, was that no one was protecting her or teaching her to protect
herself. “You’re vulnerable to predators
and all manner of ills,” she continued.
“We were told that we were free, and
what’s wrong with you that you’re not
embracing your sexuality? It’s like,
‘Well, I’m 13!’ ”
After graduating from high school at
17, Ms. Rosenberg moved to the East
Coast to study and perform with a theater company in New Jersey and
worked a circuit of strip clubs there to
support herself. She now thinks she
leaned into her sexuality because, she
said, “That’s all I felt I had to offer.” This
is the kind of dark matter whirling
through her writers’ room and into her
characters’ heads.
Those edges weren’t particularly welcome in a female television writer when
Ms. Rosenberg began her career in the
mid-1990s on series like “Dr. Quinn,
Medicine Woman,” “The Magnificent
Seven” and “Party of Five.” She recalled
struggling “to be one of the guys in the
writers’ room.” If she didn’t laugh along
with men at sexist conversations that
made her uncomfortable, she risked being left out of meetings — or fired.
“If what you get from watching ‘Jessica Jones’ is that she is a smart-aleck
detective who is solving crime, great,”
Mr. Loeb added. “If what you get from it
also is that there is a very real, deeprooted anger in this country and around
the world about the way men treat women, then good for us. Melissa really understood that and wanted to play with it
in the very unexpected forum of a superhero show.”
To mirror the heroines onscreen, Ms.
Rosenberg ensured there were a lot of
women in the crew. And when she announced that she’d like to have women
direct half of the second season, Allie
Goss, the vice president for original programming at Netflix, countered with a
better offer: Why not have female directors take on all 13 episodes?
“Jessica Jones” was never meant to
be “a treatise on women and politics and
our lack of power,” Mr. Rosenberg cautioned. “In the process of digging into
this damaged but strong character, we
find ourselves digging into issues as
well, but it’s always born out of the
process of exploring character. It was a
way to get inside Jessica’s anger, to experience my own and that of all of us in
the writers’ room.”
That fury propels characters into
bruising action, while biting humor leavens the series’s dark tone. In the Season
2 opener, a man tries to persuade her to
work with him, smarmily insisting, “I
never take no for an answer.” To which
Jessica deadpans, “How rapey of you.”
Jessica isn’t a figurehead for strong,
liberated womanhood; she is doused in
too much whisky, guilt and confusion.
“She’s never going to sit there and be
depressed for more than a scene or two,”
Ms. Rosenberg said. “Buried underneath all that alcohol and psychic damage is someone who wants to do good in
the world. Ultimately, she’s going to do
something about it, because she is a survivor.”
Ms. Ritter describes the character of
Jones as a two-headed creature that is
“half Melissa and half me. Someone on
set said that watching the two of us in
rehearsal is like watching two teenagers
start a band in a garage — all passion
and grit and fire.”
Ms. Rosenberg pointed to a scene at
the start of the new season. “It was
about 3 a.m., and I had overwritten the
scene, which became obvious the moment we started rehearsing it,” she said.
Moments before the cameras were set to
roll, the two women stood on set excitedly brainstorming about how to hone
the dialogue. “We were finishing each
other’s sentences!”
Now that she has succeeded in complicating the superheroine narrative,
Ms. Rosenberg said she would be game
to take on another genre film franchise
like “Twilight.” For now, though, she is
devoting herself to “Jessica Jones,”
which allows her to channel the current
cultural moment into characters who
live, breathe and fight back.
“We all play a role in what society constructs for us,” she said, staring at the
wall where a poster of the villainous Kilgrave looms. “And I think what’s incredible about this [#MeToo] movement is us
saying, ‘You know, we’re not going to
play those roles anymore.’ ”
Some harsh light in Tinseltown
At the Academy Awards,
self-congratulation yields
to a bit of self-examination
This year’s Academy Awards needed to
address two things: the last few minutes of the previous Oscarcast and the
last — oh, let’s just call it forever — of
men’s behavior in the movie industry.
The host, Jimmy Kimmel, began his
monologue by referencing the first:
last year’s fiasco, when a logistical
foul-up for the ages led Faye Dunaway
and Warren Beatty to mistakenly
announce “La La Land” as the best
picture winner instead of “Moonlight.”
“This year, when you hear your name
called,” he told potential award winners
on Sunday night, “don’t get up right
The second, more momentous matter: These Oscars were the first since
the sexual misconduct revelations that
took down Harvey Weinstein — the
producer who loomed over awards
season for years — and a host of other
men in Hollywood and beyond.
Mr. Kimmel, the subject of speculation as to whether he would address
the revelations and the #MeToo movement, praised the Oscar statuette as
the most respected man in Hollywood.
“He keeps his hands where you can see
them, never says a rude word and
most importantly, no penis at all,” Mr.
Kimmel said.
The opening set the tone of an Oscars that offered a little more selfexamination than usual among the
Above, from left, the Oscar winners Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney and Gary Oldman, and at right, Ashley Judd, Annabella Sciorra and Salma Hayek onstage.
Mr. Kimmel had the tricky job of
doing a monologue that neither ignored Hollywood’s biggest news nor
minimized the abuse of women, many
of whom were in the room. If he
seemed a little on edge, he managed
partly by acknowledging the scale of
the problem. If Hollywood succeeded
in fixing itself, he said, “Women will
only have to deal with harassment all
the time at every other place they go.”
But maybe the biggest statement
was that it was happening at all: The
former co-host of “The Man Show” — a
Comedy Central show that featured
women bouncing on trampolines —
was now kicking off the Oscars with a
monologue about sexism.
The issue came up early on the red
carpet, where Ashley Judd and Mira
Sorvino, two of Mr. Weinstein’s accus-
ers, talked about the Time’s Up campaign. “We are going forward until we
have an equitable and safe world for
women,” Ms. Sorvino said.
Ms. Judd also appeared, during the
broadcast, with two other Weinstein
accusers, Salma Hayek and Annabella
Sciorra. Ms. Sciorra, who had reportedly been blacklisted by Mr. Weinstein,
greeted the crowd: “It’s nice to see you
all again. It’s been a while.”
The issue also came up by omission
on the television channel E!, whose
host Ryan Seacrest has been accused
of sexual harassment by Suzie Hardy,
his former personal stylist. (NBC
Universal said it had an independent
counsel investigate the charge and had
elected to keep him as host.)
Mr. Seacrest was generally mum
about #MeToo. When he interviewed
One idea: Lose all the “We love
the movies!” montages. (We are
watching an Oscars ceremony.
We are already into the movies.)
Christopher Plummer, who replaced
Kevin Spacey in “All the Money in the
World” after Mr. Spacey was accused
of sexual misconduct, the reason Mr.
Plummer was in the film did not come
up. If your lead host can’t talk about
the biggest issue in Hollywood that
year, you might consider having him
take the night off.
Another recurring theme was representation. Presenting the best director
award, Emma Stone introduced the
nominees as “these four men and
Greta Gerwig.” (Guillermo del Toro,
the director of the best picture winner,
“The Shape of Water,” beat out Ms.
Gerwig, only the fifth woman nominated in the category.)
And accepting the lead actress
award for her role in “Three Billboards
Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Frances
McDormand asked every female nominee in the room to stand with her.
“Look around, ladies and gentlemen,”
she said. “Because we all have stories
to tell and projects we need financed.”
The makers of “Coco,” the best animated film, saluted Mexican culture;
Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani
flicked in a vote of support for the
“Dreamers” brought into the country
without documentation.
Maya Rudolph, brilliantly paired
with Tiffany Haddish (2019 Oscar
hosts, anyone?), joked about the pro-
gram’s diversity, assuring viewers,
“Don’t worry, there are so many more
white people to come.”
Indeed, with the exception of Jordan
Peele, who is African American and
won the award for best original screenplay, the other major recipients were
all white. They included Gary Oldman,
best actor for “The Darkest Hour”;
Allison Janney, best supporting actress
for “I, Tonya”; Sam Rockwell, best
supporting actor for “Three Billboards”; and James Ivory, best
adapted screenplay for “Call Me by
Your Name.” The Oscar for best foreign language film went to “A Fantastic
Woman,” from Chile.
Despite the recent upheaval in Hollywood, the ceremony at large still
focused mainly on celebration and
glitter, literally in the case of the blinding set, which looked as if the ceremony were encased in an enormous geode.
There’s also the perennial problem of
bloat. The hitch, of course, is that
every part of the show has its constituency. Cut awards, and someone will be
slighted. Cut the musical numbers, and
you’d lose Mary J. Blige tearing
through “Mighty River” and Sufjan
Stevens’s whispery “Mystery of Love.”
But one idea: Lose all the “We love
the movies!” montages. (We are
watching an Academy Awards. We are
already into the movies.) Another:
Ditch the stunt gags, like Mr. Kimmel’s
leading a parade of stars to crash a
movie screening, which are inevitably
more fun to think up than to sit
Those are all typical issues, though.
After what has been an atypical year
for Hollywood, the show was mainly
notable for acknowledging troubles
that are harder to fix than an envelope
18 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
She’ll finally get to dance all night
Lauren Ambrose stars
as Eliza Doolittle in the
revival of ‘My Fair Lady’
When the actress Lauren Ambrose arrives in the lobby at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art, it takes a minute to recognize that she is indeed Lauren Ambrose. A wide-brimmed hat hides her
flaring hair. A wool overcoat hides the
rest of her. A girlish, clean-scrubbed face
peeks out in between.
That half-hidden face will soon be
more visible and a lot dirtier when “My
Fair Lady,” the 1956 Lerner and Loewe
musical, begins previews on March 15 at
the Vivian Beaumont Theater in New
York. Ms. Ambrose, who has been peripheral to the public eye for a few years
now, will play Eliza Doolittle, the pert
cockney flower seller who transforms
her life through sheer force of will and
correct vowel placement.
She had come to the Met because an
art historian cousin had tipped her off to
a Renoir portrait of the first Eliza, the
Austrian actress Tilla Durieux, who created the role in George Bernard Shaw’s
“Pygmalion,” Lerner and Loewe’s
source text. She thought it might help
her open up “this antique play, find a
new way through it,” she said.
“My Fair Lady” is not exactly antique,
but it hasn’t had a Broadway revival in
25 years, and when the director Bartlett
Sher cast Ms. Ambrose as his Eliza the
choice surprised many. To begin with,
Eliza is one of the great parts for an ingénue. And Ms. Ambrose, 40, is not exactly an ingénue.
After making a sardonic splash as a
bathroom-trapped high school senior in
the 1998 teen flick “Can’t Hardly Wait,”
she spent five seasons in the early 2000s
on the prestige cable series “Six Feet
Under” as Claire Fisher, the surly, sensitive art student.
In 2006, she made her Broadway debut as an unhappy wife in Clifford
Odets’s “Awake and Sing!,” directed by
Mr. Sher. The next year she was, in Ben
Brantley’s words, “a Juliet truly to die
for,” in Shakespeare in the Park’s “Romeo and Juliet,” outshining her Romeo,
Oscar Isaac. She returned to the park in
2008 as a turbulent Ophelia and to
Broadway in 2009 in Eugène Ionesco’s
“Exit the King.” Since then, it’s mostly
been TV movies, sporadic series appearances and a few pilots that didn’t
As an actor, she has force, she has
nerve, she is queen of the ugly cry. She
looks like a Dante Gabriel Rossetti model, minus the consumption, and she has
an emotional transparency that makes
her sunburnable skin seem see-through.
That’s all true. This is also true: Ms.
Ambrose has one previous musical theater credit, as Ado Annie in “Oklahoma!” In high school.
If you’re wondering why Ms. Ambrose, older and differently credentialed
than a typical Eliza, should vault ahead,
Mr. Sher put it simply. “There is no better actress working in New York right
now,” he said.
Still, that lack of experience could be a
worry. “Oh my God,” she said. “If I’m going to start listing worries, it’s going to
be a long list.”
Then she laughed. “I’m kidding,” she
said. “I’m actually not worried. I’m super excited. It’s been a long time coming.”
Ms. Ambrose never meant to make us
wait. “I mean, I’ve been threatening to
be in a musical for hundreds of years at
this point,” she said. She started performing early, singing in the choir of her
Catholic church in New Haven, Conn.
When she was 11, she appeared on
“Star Search,” bopping in a purple skirt
suit and hair bow to a sped-up arrangement of “Dancing in the Street.” (She
lost out to a kid singing the soul-stirrer
“God Bless the Child,” not a fair fight.)
As a teenager, she began classical
training. She figured she’d head to a conservatory, as a lot of her friends did,
maybe try for a career in opera. But she
Left, Lauren Ambrose at the Whitby Hotel in New York. Top, Peter Krause, Frances
Conroy and Ms. Ambrose in the long-running TV series “Six Feet Under,” and above,
Ms. Ambrose seated with Diana Rigg during a “My Fair Lady” rehearsal.
booked a couple of Off Broadway plays
and then the movie “In and Out,” and
soon she was in a series and there was
never really time — for a conservatory,
for college, for the commitment a musical requires.
In 2009, when she was in town gigging
with her Dixieland band, the Leisure
Class, Ms. Ambrose told The New
Yorker, “I would love to do a musical.
Something old-fashioned, probably.”
And two years later she nearly got her
wish, when she was cast as Fanny Brice
in a Broadway-bound revival of “Funny
Girl,” directed by Mr. Sher. But four
months later, the financing fell apart;
the musical was scrapped.
“I don’t think it was about me,” Ms.
Ambrose said. That’s mostly true. As
Mr. Sher said, speaking by telephone, in
a season already packed with revivals,
the investors “couldn’t really pull together the amount of money they
Would a flashier name have made a
difference in the financing? “Yes,” Mr.
Sher said. “You need to have a big, giant
star to carry those things in that environment.” But he didn’t want a big, giant
star. He wanted Ms. Ambrose. “She
could sing it, she could act it. She had all
the heart you need,” he said.
Why isn’t Ms. Ambrose a giant? Back
on “Star Search,” when Ed McMahon
stoops down and asks her to introduce
herself, she gives a heart-cracking smile
and says, “I hope to someday be a great
actress and a wonderful performer.”
It happened. The great actress part.
The wonderful performer part. But Ms.
Ambrose, who long ago traded Hollywood for a semirural cottage, has always skirted celebrity.
Early on, there were a few attempts to
mold her into a starlet, “narcissism boot
camp,” she called it. But she never really
went along with it; years ago, an agent
snapped at her about “not playing the
game,” she said. “I’ve always just been
more of an actor,” she said.
“I’m super excited. It’s been a
long time coming.”
Other actors build brands and shore
up celebrity with magazine shoots, social media posts, sponsorships. She
doesn’t. Not that she judges anyone who
does. “For real. You might be seeing me
on Instagram, holding a mayonnaise jar,
in like 10 minutes,” she said.
She rarely gives interviews. But after
hiring some personal publicists “to curate how it’s done in a way that feels O.K.
to me,” she agreed to this conversation
“because I’m proud of this opportunity
and excited and I have to do a bunch of
stuff anyway for Lincoln Center.” Still,
she apologized a couple of times for giving me “nothing to write about.” Once,
she unconsciously pushed the recorders
You can plot Ms. Ambrose’s ambivalence on a map. When “Six Feet Under”
ended in 2005, “somebody with a brain
might’ve continued on in California to
further one’s career,” she said. But she
moved to New York to do theater. And
then a few years after that she moved to
what she calls “the woods.” The Berkshires? “The woods,” she repeated.
“Could be any woods.”
She lives there with her husband, the
filmmaker Sam Handel, a son, 11, and a
daughter, 5. She and Mr. Handel met “at
a wrap party for a film neither of us had
worked on” and they married a year later, when Ms. Ambrose was 23. They
have matching tattoos, undulating
scripts of “Not Alone” inked inside their
He has been a stabilizing force while
Ms. Ambrose has tried to make a life in
acting, “this difficult, impossible,
groundless, shifting thing,” she said.
The woods offer more stability, though
“My Fair Lady” has meant temporary
resettlement on the Upper West Side.
“Basically we’re counting it as a big family adventure,” she said.
Just how woodsy is Ms. Ambrose?
Let’s just say that in “The River,” a short
film she made with Mr. Handel, she
plays a cashier at an organic food co-op
with keen familiarity. And that she was
into kombucha before kombucha was a
thing. And that her idea of a rehearsal
skirt involves tie-dye. And that over dinner at Shun Lee West a week or so after
the morning at the museum, she showed
photos on her phone of her favorite
chicken, Gloria. (Ms. Ambrose ate Peking duck at dinner. Don’t tell Gloria.)
Last fall, Mr. Sher invited her into the
city to audition for Eliza after he had al-
ready considered “lots and lots and lots
and lots of people,” he said, many of
them prominent musical comedy stars.
(No, he didn’t name names.)
The day that she came in “was kind of
a runoff. A little bit of its own reality
show in the making,” he said. Ms. Ambrose won. “I don’t want to create expectations that are too out of control,” he
said. But then he called her funny and
glamorous and furious and wild.
Eliza is described in the script as “perhaps eighteen, perhaps twenty, hardly
older,” but as Ms. Ambrose said, “ I think
that the story of a woman who is coming
into her powers can really happen at any
age.” (Besides, Mrs. Patrick Campbell,
for whom Shaw created the role, was
nearly 50 when she played it. So there.)
In the months before rehearsals
started, Ms. Ambrose threw herself into
research — about Shaw, about Lerner
and Loewe, about the flower girls of Tottenham Court Road, putting their pictures on her phone, a swipe away from
that chicken.
At the Met, looking for her own elusive Eliza, she passed a Rodin exhibit,
which had its own Pygmalion sculpture,
an artist wresting a girl from stone.
“This myth, I have questions,” she said.
As she examined it, Ms. Ambrose mentioned a Rainer Maria Rilke sonnet,
“The Archaic Torso of Apollo.” The poem
begins as the writer confronts an ancient sculpture and ends with its imperative, “You must change your life.”
“That should actually be our goal
while we’re here,” she said, eating a granola bar she’d filched from her kids.
The Renoir, painted in 1914 when the
artist was so infirm that he had to strap
his brushes to his hand, wasn’t going to
change anyone’s life, but that didn’t really matter. Though Ms. Ambrose is rigorous in her research, to prepare for her
roles she mostly looks inward. Acting
has elements of magic for her, of ritual.
She thinks that every job “that the universe places in my hands” has something to teach her, and so she gives over
her dream life to it and most of her waking life, too.
On “Six Feet Under,” she and Claire
learned how to be artists together. “She
never had a false note,” Alan Ball, the
show’s creator said. When she played
Juliet, her baby son fired her love for Romeo and the play became a way “to
channel all of the possibly overwhelming emotions of new motherhood,” she
Not that Ms. Ambrose works by simple substitution. This isn’t algebra. Oskar Eustis, who directed her in “Hamlet,” described her work as “always harrowing. She will happily scare you and
scare herself.”
At the museum that morning, at dinner a week later, she was still discovering what the role would teach her, what
kind of Eliza she would be. She wasn’t
alone. Mr. Sher said that he was still
working out the central relationships.
Even the poster for the show has Eliza’s
face a blank.
Ms. Ambrose knows that “My Fair
Lady” can go wrong. She knows that the
songs can gloss over the ugly way that
Henry Higgins, the eccentric, arrogant
phonetician, played here by the English
actor Harry Hadden-Paton, treats Eliza.
She knows that Eliza can come across as
merely sassy, spunky, cute. She knows
that the ending can seem like a surrender, not a meeting of equals. She won’t
let that happen.
“I’m fighting for the dignity of the
character,” she said. She sees Eliza as “a
powerful person and an actualized person,” a hero.
On a rainy Saturday morning, she and
Mr. Hadden-Paton were rehearsing the
scene where Eliza arrives at Higgins’s
home and demands lessons while Higgins insults her. Script in hand, tie-dyed
skirt swishing, Ms. Ambrose’s shrieking
Eliza wasn’t yet actualized. She was angry and scared and crushingly brave. A
woman determined to change her life.
The role could change Ms. Ambrose’s
life, though it’s too soon to know just
how. Maybe it will give her the kind of
celebrity she’s never entirely wanted.
Maybe it will make her a Broadway regular. Maybe it will send her back to the
woods more in command of her chickens and her powers. The universe hasn’t
told her yet. “The best is when it’s a real
surprise,” she said.
brought her, at the age of 26. She’d long
been suicidal and suffered from eating
disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder and a depression so crippling,
she was hospitalized five times from
the ages of 13 to 24.
Prozac “hurled me to heaven,” she
writes in “Blue Dreams.” “I lived a
gilded life, rich and buttery, producing
books and babies as fast as I could,
because I knew the Prozac would wear
off, and eventually it did.”
She found another drug cocktail that
eased her symptoms. But at 54, she
writes, “my body is in the shape of an
octogenarian with issues.” Her memory is shot. The antipsychotic she takes
causes insatiable hunger and her
weight has ballooned. She has diabetes. Her kidneys are failing. Her feet
are covered in weeping sores and her
eyesight is in trouble.
The drug Slater relies on is called
Zyprexa. Curiously enough, it’s the
same drug Andrew Solomon described
taking almost 20 years ago, in his
National Book Award-winning history
of depression, “The Noonday Demon:
An Atlas of Depression.” He writes of
the relief and anguish the drug brought
him with eerie similarity, of having to
choose his mind over his body.
What accounts for this sluggish
progress, these intolerable bargains?
There’s a “dry pipeline of new drugs,”
the psychotherapist Gary Greenberg
wrote in The New Yorker, “an indication that the drug industry has begun
to lose faith in the myth it did so much
to create.” Looking to the future, Slater
seems to find hope in the “drugs not
discovered but rediscovered”: in the
encouraging studies of psychedelics
and depression.
“Blue Dreams,” like all good histories of medicine, reveals healing to be
art as much as science. Slater doesn’t
demonize the imperfect remedies of
the past or present — even as she
describes their costs with blunt severity. And, improbably perhaps, she ends
on a note of hope, calling these early
efforts to address mental illness “the
first golden era.” If the story of the
magic bullet of psychopharmacology is
coming to an end, another story — a
potentially better one, Slater believes
— is coming to take its place.
Minds saved, but bodies wrecked
Blue Dreams: The Science and the
Story of the Drugs That Changed Our
By Lauren Slater. 399 pp. Little, Brown &
Company. $28.99.
The world’s first transorbital lobotomy
was performed in 1946 by Walter Freeman, in his Washington office. Using
an ice pick from his own kitchen, he
went through the eye sockets into the
brain of his patient, a 29-year-old severely depressed housewife, and cut
into her frontal lobes. Then he sent her
home in a cab.
The history of mental illness treatments reveals medicine at its most
inventive, desperate and disturbing.
There have been awe-inspiring discoveries — of the healing properties of
lithium, for example, a soft, silvery
metal produced in the first 20 minutes
after the Big Bang. But remedies generally seem to have run a narrow
gamut from the unpleasant (Cotton
Mather’s prescription for depression:
“living swallows, cut in two, and laid
hot reeking unto the shaved Head”) to
the outright sadistic. Aside from Freeman’s lobotomies, there is a long tradition of poisoning patients or inducing
comas to “reset” the brain. In one
notorious treatment, turpentine was
injected into a patient’s abdominal wall
in the hope of encouraging a fever high
enough to burn away her hallucinations.
We’re lucky to live in more evidencebased, scientific times. Or do we? In
“Blue Dreams,” a capacious and rigorous history of psychopharmacology,
the psychologist and writer Lauren
Slater looks at the fact that despite the
ravenous appetite for psychotropic
medications at least in the United
States (about 20 percent of Americans
take some psychotropic drug or other),
doctors don’t really understand how
they work or how to assess if a patient
needs them. In the case of antidepressants, two-thirds of patients taking an
S.S.R.I. (Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, etc.)
would improve on a placebo alone.
Still, the misconception that depression is a matter of “low serotonin”
persists. “There is no proof that a
depressed person has a chemical imbalance,” Slater writes. “When you
choose nevertheless to put that person
on a medication that will alter neurotransmitter levels in his or her brain,
then in effect you are causing a chemical imbalance rather than curing one.”
None of this is news, or should be.
“Blue Dreams” arrives in the thick of a
debate about the pharmaceutical approach to mental health, and synthesizes forceful critiques from Gary
Greenberg, Irving Kirsch and Robert
Whitaker, among others. Slater is pithy,
readable and generally fair, although I
wish she had engaged more thoroughly with the defense of antidepressants, mounted perhaps most persuasively by Peter D. Kramer in his recent
book “Ordinary Well,” which explored
flaws in the studies that examined the
efficacy of antidepressants.
The real strength of this book comes
from Slater’s very particular position.
She is patient and psychologist, part of
the first wave of people who were
The psychologist Lauren Slater.
prescribed Prozac in the 1980s. She
describes how, in the years since, her
mind has been saved and her body
For 35 years, Slater has taken one
psychotropic medication or the other.
Her 1988 book “Prozac Diary” documented the relief that medication
TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018 | 19
A weird and fragile Louisiana beauty
Where the Mississippi
meets the gulf, fingers
of earth, marsh and mist
If New Orleans is an aging beauty queen
drunk on the fumes of her glorious past,
Plaquemines Parish, to the southeast, is
plain old sloshed — not to mention saturated, striated, slivered and surrounded
by water. And no wonder: The peninsula
that is most of the parish was born many
years ago, when the Mississippi River
shifted, creating a sliver of land melding
into its extensive wetlands.
Even on the peninsula itself, things
aren’t so solid, not with the Mississippi
chugging down its middle at approximately the equivalent of 166 semitrailers of water a second, and the Gulf of
Mexico — flat, blue-brown and dotted
with oil rigs — on both its eastern and
western flanks. Route 23, the main road
in and out, gets you just past Venice, the
peninsula’s last town. Go a bit farther on
Tidewater Road and you come to the
sign that tells you that you have reached
the “Gateway to the Gulf,” or “the southernmost point in Louisiana.”
If you want to go to the very end,
where the river spills out in three different channels (called passes), you have
to do it by boat. I did it years ago, albeit
on a cruise ship. But on a cruise ship,
you don’t really think about how strange
the landscape is as the river churns its
way to the rim of the continent, where
the land is barely land at all, but rather,
mere fingers of earth, clumps of marsh,
mosquitoes and mist.
But when I took the same trip by car,
paralleling the river until it could be paralleled no more, I got a fuller view, as if
looking at the same picture from both
sides of a negative.
Despite the immense ships floating
by on the far side of the seemingly endless levee, Plaquemines appears to be
like many other rural Louisiana
parishes: dotted with churches, convenience stores, trailer homes surrounded
by tender green fields, sprays of yellow
wildflowers, live oaks covered with
Spanish moss, vegetable gardens. In the
town of Belle Chasse (not far from New
Orleans,) there’s Woodlands Trail and
Park, a recreational greenway of
forested wetlands filled with palmetto
and cypress — lovely, yes, but similar in
many ways to other such woodlands in
the state.
So too, there are antebellum plantations, including a handful of privately
owned plantation homes in various
states of repair (or not). In Braithewaite, Stella Plantation opened in 2012
as an events venue. Woodland Plantation, in West Pointe à la Hache, was built
in the 1830s and was for decades dedicated to the propagation of sugar cane
and the trading of slaves. It is now operating as a bed-and-breakfast, with five
separate buildings for guests, including
a raised Creole cottage with numerous
guest rooms.
Farther on is Fort Jackson, completed
in 1832 to defend New Orleans. During
Woodland Plantation was built in the 1830s in West Pointe à la Hache, La., and was for decades dedicated to the propagation of sugar cane. It is now operating as a bed-and-breakfast.
Boulaye — built by early French explorers and now situated on Highway 39, not
far from New Orleans — is on private
property, and there isn’t much left to see
despite its importance to Louisiana’s
first European settlers.
Plaquemines is an enchanted place,
beloved by nature lovers and sportsmen
alike, but given its fragility, how long it
will remain a place at all — in the sense
of a location that signifies firm land — is
anyone’s guess. Even so, from its earliest days as a European foothold on the
new continent, and on through hurricanes, wars, epidemics and social and
economic upheavals, the region hung
on. Then the 1927 Mississippi River
flood came along, and when the powers
that be in New Orleans realized that the
flood would most likely inundate the entire city unless drastic steps were taken,
they dynamited the levee some 13 miles
below the city, sparing the Big Easy by
funneling the floodwaters into Plaquemines, and, in the process, devastating it.
Randy Newman recounted the disaster
in his song “Louisiana,” which goes, in
part: “The river rose all day, the river
rose all night / Some people got lost in
the flood / Some people got away all
What Mr. Newman doesn’t sing about
is how, in the aftermath of the flood, the
Army Corps of Engineers was authorized to do what it had to do to prevent
future catastrophes, the upshot being
that it changed the course of nature,
straight down the Atchafalaya River
and from there past the town of Morgan
City (home of an annual petroleum and
shrimp festival) and finally into the Gulf
of Mexico.
But since the forces of industry, trade
and human settlement demand that the
river remain where it is, the corps built a
collective of enormous and costly structures — most notably, the Old River Control Structure and the Morganza Spillway — to prevent the Atchafalaya from
“capturing” and rerouting the Mississippi.
But the more the river is tamed and
contained, the more the surrounding
land sinks — crunching down to everthinner layers of earth as, deprived of
the natural replenishment of regular
flooding, it dries out like an old, brittle
sponge. Hence, while New Orleans is, on
average, one or two feet below sea level,
Plaquemines is six feet below.
It’s both weird and fragile, this place,
While New Orleans is, on
average, one or two feet below
sea level, Plaquemines is six feet
Boating in Plaquemines, above, and gas pumps in the boat harbor.
the Civil War, it was under Union naval
fire for 12 days. It fell on April 28, 1862,
after which Union forces captured New
Orleans and used the fort as a prison.
It’s now a National Historic Landmark and the only one of three historic
local forts that — despite having been
badly damaged by Hurricanes Katrina
and Rita, before being re-soaked by
Isaac — can be visited by the casual
traveler. Dragonflies play in the rushes
growing in the fort’s moat, and along the
rim, which you can walk or drive along
on a series of pathways, you can see that
the fort is shaped like a five-pointed
There are two other forts in the neighborhood. Fort St. Philip is on the river’s
east bank, but because it’s privately
owned and accessible only by boat or
helicopter, it’s a bit hard to visit. Likewise, the circa 1700 site of Fort De La
which in turn set in motion a cycle of increasingly more ruinous storms, followed by increasingly more expensive,
if unavoidably temporary, fixes.
To understand the predicament that
Plaquemines is in, you have to go back
to prehistory, during which, for thousands of years, the river flooded regularly. Along with flooding, it frequently
changed course to find the fastest route
to the sea. Because that’s what rivers,
left to themselves, do: They flip and flop
around, creating river deltas and vast
watery networks. These two behaviors
— flooding and rerouting — created rich
deep loam (as in the Mississippi Delta),
and built both the barrier islands and
the landmass of South Louisiana itself.
It’s a complex story with many moving parts (and many books devoted to
explaining it, including the masterful
“Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi
Flood of 1927 and How It Changed
America,” by John M. Barry).
But the gist of all this is that after 1928,
the river was forced into a vast continuum of regulated levees and straightened, the idea being that the levees
would prevent flooding, and the
straightening would accommodate
shipping. But with the levees keeping
the water in, natural land-and-barrierisland-building came to a stop; with the
waters rushing on at a faster pace (without natural twists and turns to slow it),
silt began to collect in inconvenient
places, such as in shipping channels, including in Plaquemines, where the
Army Corps regularly dredges.
Faster-moving water also means that
the river may be more insistent than it
would otherwise be about where it
wants to go as it wends its way to its final
home in the gulf. Because where it
wants to go isn’t where it now goes (past
the “big bend” at Baton Rouge, east toward New Orleans, and finally through
Plaquemines Parish), but rather,
President and C.E.O.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Marie-Josée and
Henry Kravis Chief Curator
of Painting and Sculpture
Founding Partner
Avid Partners, LLC
Almine Rech Gallery
Victoria and Albert Museum,
which may even be one of the reasons
people keep coming here — for its
swamp tours (by kayak, air boat and
small motorboats), its cypress and tupelo forests, and its wildlife: turtles, bright
green frogs, snakes, alligators and, of
course, birds. Birds, birds, everywhere,
including an abundance of water fowl —
snow geese, mottled duck, mallards,
shovelers, green-winged teal, pintails,
speckled-bellied geese, not to mention
white egrets, blue herons, bald eagles,
ibis, pelicans, flycatchers, osprey, kites,
falcons, buntings, sandpipers, hummingbirds and gulls. You float under ancient trees, past cypress knees and
plants that look like they’ve been there
since the time of the dinosaurs.
In point of fact, and despite the ubiquity of petrochemical all-stars like
Chevron and Baker Hughes, much of the
parish is designated as a wildlife refuge,
including Breton Island, which, together
with the Chandeleur Islands and other
barrier islands, composes the Breton
National Wildlife Refuge.
Its enthusiasts claim that the fishing
in and around Plaquemines is the best
anywhere — tuna, dolphin, wahoo,
whale shark and marlin in the deep blue
seas; redfish, flounder and speckled
trout closer in. You can fish in fresh water, salt water, on and offshore. There is
fly-fishing, bayou- and swamp-fishing.
There are nine marinas and hundreds (if
not thousands) of charters and guides.
Ducks abound, too, which is why many
of the fishing-tour operators also arrange duck-hunting excursions.
Me, I neither hunt nor fish, but I do
eat, and by the time I pulled into the
Venice Marina, with its houseboats and
elevated, brightly colored “camps”
(small cottages), many available as
rentals, it was well past noon. I was hungry. It was a quiet day, too windy to venture out.
The boats in the marina danced on the
current. I stumbled into Crawgator’s
Bar & Grill — so far as I could tell, the
marina’s sole restaurant — sat on the
deck and devoured a platter of fried fish,
sweet potato fries and toast, which was
served to me by a young woman who,
not surprisingly, couldn’t have been
nicer or more polite. But that’s South
Louisiana for you — the people are
warm and friendly, the food is fabulous,
and though the whole place could be
washed away in a hurricane season or
two, it sure as heck knows how to live.
This April, The New York Times will convene
the new Art Leaders Network, a select
group of the world’s most distinguished art
experts and influencers—dealers, gallery
owners, museum directors, curators, auction
executives and collectors—to define and
assess the most pressing challenges and
opportunities in the industry today.
Through provocative interviews and
riveting discussions, senior New York Times
journalists will explore myriad topics, from
the impact of economic events on the arts
to the outlook for galleries in the era of the
mega-dealer, from the future of museums in
this technological age to the undiminished
fascination with contemporary art, and
much more.
This invitation-only gathering will take place
in Berlin, a city whose story of renaissance
and reinvention mirrors the essence of this
groundbreaking event.
President and C.E.O.
Pace Gallery
For more information on sponsorship
opportunities, please contact Carina Pierre at
20 | TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2018
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