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International New York Times - 18 April 2018

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Modi’s India
embodied in
child’s killing
no workers,
get robots
Mitali Saran
India is sliding toward a
collapse of humanity and ethics in
political and civic life, as the recent
reports of the rape and murder of an
8-year-old girl from a seminomadic
Muslim community in the disputed
state of Jammu and Kashmir reveal.
Politicians from India’s governing
Bharatiya Janata Party defended the
men accused of the crime and ignited a
furious debate about the fundamental
character of the country.
The child was abducted in January
and imprisoned for a week in a temple,
where she was drugged, starved and
raped repeatedly before being murdered. Her body was thrown into the
forest. At the time the crime passed
without much comment beyond the
local press.
Outrage finally
A crime shows
exploded last week,
how the
after a front-page
country is
report in the Indian
sliding toward
Express newspaper
a collapse of
revealed terrifying
details from the
humanity and
police charge sheet,
ethics in
including the fact
political and
that one of the
civic life.
accused, a police
officer, had asked
his co-conspirators
to hold off killing the child so that he
could rape her once more.
The charge sheet and other reports
strongly suggested that this was not a
random crime but one deliberately in
line with the ugly sectarian politics
playing out across India. Intimidation
of religious minorities and violence
against them has increased since
Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the
Bharatiya Janata Party to power in
2014. India’s traditional secularism is
now locked in battle with the new
majoritarian, Hindu chauvinist politics
he represents.
The 8-year-old girl belonged to the
Muslim Bakarwal people, who move
with their sheep and horses between
high mountain pastures in the summer
and the plains of the Hindu-dominated
Jammu region in winter. There is tension with local Hindus over the right to
graze animals on the land. According
to the police, the motive of the premeditated crime was to terrorize the
Bakarwals and dislodge them from the
area. The bereaved parents were not
even allowed to bury the child in the
village. They have since fled the area.
A newly formed group called Hindu
Ekta Manch, or Hindu Unity Forum,
organized a protest march in defense
of the accused, who include a retired
Fast-growing economies
in Eastern Europe solve
severe labor shortages
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
against our people in Iraq, in Mosul and
Salahuddin and Anbar, everywhere,”
said Gen. Yahya Rasool, the spokesman
for the Iraqi joint operations command.
“To be loyal to the blood of the victims
and to be loyal to the Iraqi people, criminals must receive the death penalty, a
punishment that would deter them and
those who sympathize with them.”
But critics say the perfunctory trials
in special counterterrorism courts are
sweeping up bystanders and relatives
as well as fighters, and executing most
of them in a process more concerned
with retribution than justice.
The Office for the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights
warned that flaws in the judicial process
would likely lead to “irreversible miscarriages” of justice.
Human Rights Watch has criticized
Iraq for relying on an overly broad law
to quickly achieve the maximum punishment of the most people.
The nation’s counterterrorism law allows the death penalty for anyone “who
commits, incites, plans, finances or assists in acts of terrorism.” So courts are
meting out one-size-fits-all punishment
for the perpetrator of crimes against humanity as well as for the wife of an Islamic State fighter who may have had
little say in her husband’s career.
When Zbynek Frolik needed new employees to handle surging orders at his
cavernous factories in central Bohemia,
he fanned advertisements across the
Czech Republic. But in a prosperous
economy where nearly everyone had
work, there were few takers.
Raising wages didn’t help. Nor did offers to subsidize housing.
So he turned to the robots.
“We can’t find enough humans,” said
Mr. Frolik, whose company, Linet,
makes state-of-the art hospital beds sold
in over 100 countries. “We’re trying to
replace people with machines wherever
we can.”
Such talk usually conjures visions of a
future where employees are no longer
needed. In many major economies, companies are experimenting with replacing factory workers, truck drivers and
even lawyers with artificial intelligence,
raising the specter of a mass displacement of jobs.
But in Eastern Europe, robots are being enlisted as the solution for a shortage of workers. Often they are helping to
create new types of jobs as businesses in
the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia
and Poland try to stay agile and competitive. Growth in these countries, which
became low-cost manufacturing hubs
for Europe after the fall of Communism,
has averaged 5 percent in recent years,
buoyed by the global recovery.
Few are riding higher than the Czech
Republic, where plants roll out cars for
the likes of Toyota and consumer electronics for Dell, while smaller companies produce specialty goods to sell
around the world. A roaring economy
has slashed the unemployment rate to
just 2.4 percent, the lowest in the European Union.
The dearth of manpower, however,
has limited the ability of Czech companies to expand. Nearly a third of them
have started to turn away orders, according to the Czech Confederation of
Industry, a trade group.
“It’s becoming a brake on growth,”
said Jaroslav Hanak, the organization’s
president. “If businesses don’t increase
robotization and artificial intelligence,
they’ll disappear.”
Factories in Eastern Europe are already well automated. New robot installations in the Czech Republic rose 40
percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the International Federation of
Robotics. Today there are around 101 robots for every 10,000 workers. And more
machines are coming as companies try
to improve productivity, tilting them toward levels in countries like Germany,
Linet, a maker of hospital beds in the Czech Republic. Its founder said that raising wages and offering subsidized housing did not help him to attract workers.
10-minute justice in Iraq
Courts are handing down
death penalties to ISIS
suspects and their wives
The 42-year-old housewife had two minutes to defend herself against charges of
supporting the Islamic State.
Amina Hassan, a Turkish woman in a
flowing black abaya, told the Iraqi judge
that she and her family had entered Syria and Iraq illegally and lived in the Islamic State’s so-called caliphate for
more than two years. But, she added: “I
never took money from Islamic State. I
brought my own money from Turkey.”
The whole trial lasted 10 minutes before the judge sentenced her to death by
Another accused Turkish woman entered the courtroom. Then another, and
Within two hours, 14 women had been
tried, convicted and sentenced to die.
Iraq’s judicial assembly line has relentlessly churned out terrorism convictions since the battlefield victories over
Men waiting to be seen by security officers in Dibis, Iraq, who will determine if they
were associated with Islamic State. As many as 20,000 people are being held by Iraq.
Islamic State last year led to the capture
of thousands of fighters, functionaries
and family members. The authorities
accuse them of helping prop up the
group’s vicious three-year rule over
nearly a third of the country.
As millions of Iraqis struggle to recover from the bloodshed and destruc-
tion of the period, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has found widespread public support for his push to step up the
pace of prosecutions — and for punishments to the full extent of the law, which
in Iraq means execution.
“These Islamic State criminals committed crimes against humanity and
With best friends, sharing
includes even brain waves
Connections are closer
for people who think more
alike, researchers find
Learning to fight back
Women and girls are filling self-defense classes
taught by the New Delhi police as India combats sexual assault. PAGE 4
A friend will help you move, goes an old
saying, while a good friend will help you
move a body. And why not? Moral
qualms aside, that good friend would
most likely agree that the victim was an
intolerable jerk who had it coming and,
jeez, you shouldn’t have done this but
where do you keep the shovel?
Researchers have long known that
people choose friends who are much like
themselves in a wide array of characteristics: of a similar age, race, religion, socioeconomic status, educational level,
political leaning, pulchritude rating,
even handgrip strength. The impulse toward homophily, toward bonding with
others who are the least other possible,
is found among traditional hunter-gatherer groups and advanced capitalist societies alike.
New research suggests that the roots
of friendship extend even deeper than
previously suspected. Scientists have
found that the brains of close friends respond in remarkably similar ways as
they view a series of short videos: the
same ebbs and swells of attention and
distraction, the same peaking of reward
processing here, boredom alerts there.
The neural response patterns evoked
by the videos — on subjects as diverse
as the dangers of college football, the behavior of water in outer space, and Liam
Neeson trying his hand at improv comedy — proved so congruent among
friends, compared with patterns seen
among people who were not friends,
that the researchers could predict the
strength of two people’s social bond
based on their brain scans alone.
“I was struck by the exceptional mag-
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +@!"!$!=!.
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Issue Number
No. 42,019
2 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
page two
Sharing brain waves with friends
nitude of similarity among friends,” said
Carolyn Parkinson, a cognitive scientist
at the University of California, Los Angeles. The results “were more persuasive than I would have thought.” Dr.
Parkinson and her colleagues, Thalia
Wheatley and Adam M. Kleinbaum of
Dartmouth College, reported their results in Nature Communications.
“I think it’s an incredibly ingenious
paper,” said Nicholas Christakis, author
of “Connected: The Power of Our Social
Networks and How They Shape Our
World” and a biosociologist at Yale University. “It suggests that friends resemble each other not just superficially, but
in the very structures of their brains.”
The findings offer tantalizing evidence for the vague sense we have that
friendship is more than shared interests
or checking off the right boxes on a
Facebook profile. It’s about something
we call good chemistry.
“Our results suggest that friends
might be similar in how they pay attention to and process the world around
them,” Dr. Parkinson said. “That shared
processing could make people click
more easily and have the sort of seamless social interaction that can feel so rewarding.”
Kevin N. Ochsner, a cognitive neuroscientist at Columbia University who
studies social networks, said the new report is “cool,” “provocative” and “raises
more questions than it answers.” It
could well be picking up traces of “an ineffable shared reality” between friends.
Dr. Ochsner offered his own story as
evidence of the primacy of chemistry
over mere biography. “My wife-to-be
and I were both neuroscientists in the
field, we were on dating websites, but
we were never matched up,” he said.
“Then we happened to meet as colleagues, and in two minutes we knew we
had the kind of chemistry that breeds a
Dr. Parkinson described herself as introverted but said, “I’ve been fortunate
with my friends.”
The new study is part of a surge of scientific interest in the nature, structure
and evolution of friendship. Behind the
enthusiasm is a virtual Kilimanjaro of
demographic evidence that friendlessness can be poisonous, exacting a physical and emotional toll comparable to
that of more familiar risk factors like
obesity, high blood pressure, unemployment, lack of exercise and smoking cigarettes.
Scientists want to know what, exactly,
makes friendship so healthy and social
isolation so harmful, and they’re gathering provocative, if not yet definitive,
Dr. Christakis and his co-workers recently demonstrated that people with
strong social ties had comparatively low
concentrations of fibrinogen, a protein
associated with the kind of chronic inflammation thought to be the source of
many diseases. Why sociability might
help block inflammation remains unclear.
Researchers have also been intrigued
by evidence of friendship among nonhuman animals, and not just in obvious
candidates like primates, dolphins and
Gerald G. Carter of the Smithsonian
Tropical Research Institute in Panama
and his colleagues reported last year
that female vampire bats cultivate close
relationships with unrelated females
and will share meals with those friends
in harsh times — a lifesaving act for ani-
mals that can’t survive much more than
a day without food.
Through years of tracking the behaviors of a large flock of birds known as
great tits, Josh A. Firth of Oxford University and his co-workers found that individual birds showed clear preferences
for some flock members over others.
When a bird’s good friend died or disappeared, the bereft tit began making
overtures to other birds to replace the
lost comrade.
Yet when it comes to the depth and
complexity of bonds, humans have no
peers. Dr. Parkinson and her co-workers
previously had shown that people are
keenly and automatically aware of how
all the players in their social sphere fit
together, and the scientists wanted to
know why some players in a given network are close friends and others mere
nodding acquaintances.
Inspired by the research of Uri Hasson of Princeton University, they decided to explore subjects’ neural reactions to everyday, naturalistic stimuli —
which these days means watching videos.
The researchers started with a defined social network: an entire class of
279 graduate students at an unidentified
university (although widely known
among neuroscientists to have been the
Dartmouth School of Business).
The students, who all knew one another and in many cases lived in dorms
together, were asked to fill out questionnaires. Which of their fellow students
did they socialize with — share meals
and go to a movie with, invite into their
homes? From that survey the researchers mapped out a social network
of varying degrees of connectivity:
friends, friends of friends, third-degree
friends, friends of Kevin Bacon.
The students were then asked to participate in a brain scanning study, and 42
agreed. As an fMRI device tracked
blood flow in their brains, the students
watched a series of video clips of varying lengths, an experience Dr. Parkinson likened to channel surfing with
somebody else in control of the remote.
They watched the astronaut Chris
Hadfield demonstrate how water behaves like a goopy gel in low gravity.
They watched a sedately sentimental
scene from a Jewish wedding between
two people who happened to be gay
They watched the author Eric
Schlosser warn of the dangers of allowing a few fast-food giants to control our
food supply. They watched what might
be one of the worst music videos ever
produced, about a man with an obviously fake facial deformity who is bullied at work and snubbed by his attractive female colleague but who eventually wins her heart when the bullies turn
on her and he, Phony Elephant Man,
steps in and beats them up.
The students watched pratfall comedy clips and an Australian mockumentary so subtle that certain viewers confessed they didn’t realize it was a spoof
but liked it nonetheless.
Analyzing the scans of the students,
Dr. Parkinson and her colleagues found
strong concordance between blood flow
patterns — a measure of neural activity
— and the degree of friendship among
the various participants, even after controlling for other factors that might explain similarities in neural responses,
like ethnicity, religion or family income.
The researchers identified particularly revealing regions of pattern concordance among friends, notably in the
nucleus accumbens, in the lower forebrain, which is key to reward processing, and in the superior parietal lobule,
located toward the top and the back of
the brain — roughly at the position of a
man bun — where the brain decides how
to allocate attention to the external environment.
Using the results, the researchers
were able to train a computer algorithm
to predict, at a rate well above chance,
the social distance between two people
based on the relative similarity of their
neural response patterns.
Dr. Parkinson emphasized that the
study was a “first pass, a proof of concept,” and that she and her colleagues
still don’t know what the neural response patterns mean: what attitudes,
opinions, impulses or mental thumbtwiddling the scans may be detecting.
They plan next to try the experiment
in reverse: to scan incoming students
who don’t yet know one another and see
whether those with the most congruent
neural patterns end up becoming good
Alexander Nehamas, a professor of
philosophy at Princeton and author of a
meditative book, “On Friendship,” ap-
“Our results suggest that friends
might be similar in how they pay
attention to and process the
world around them.”
preciated the design of the study and its
use of video clips to ferret out the signature of friendship.
“The aesthetic choices we make, the
things we like, the taste we have in art,
plays, TV, furniture — when you put
them together they are absolutely essential components of our character, an
indication of who we are,” he said. We
live “immersed in art.”
Not high art, not a night-at-the-opera
art, but everyday art — buildings, billboards, clothing, the dishes at a restaurant, the percussive rhythms of subways on train tracks.
“Watching TV clips is much more accurate to our everyday life than the
times we go to a museum,” he said, and
potentially more revealing of who we
are and what we hope to find in a friend.
So if you happened to catch “The Cute
Show: Sloths!” about a self-proclaimed
sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica, and if
your first thought wasn’t ooh, how adorable those little smiley sloths are, but
rather, sloths are not pets to be cuddled
and don’t bathe the algae off their fur —
haven’t you heard of mutualism? — give
me a call.
We’ll be biosnob soul mates for life.
Burger King co-founder who sold his stake a year too soon
David R. Edgerton, who helped start
what became the world’s second-largest
hamburger chain, Burger King, but then
agreed to sell the company for what
proved to be a bargain price just as the
industry was about to take off, died on
April 3 in Miami. He was 90.
The cause was complications of
surgery after a fall, his friend and accountant Betty Amos Righetti said. His
death was announced in a paid notice in
The Miami Herald, but it was otherwise
not widely reported.
A business contemporary of Raymond A. Kroc, who built the McDonald’s
chain into the industry leader, Mr.
Edgerton started Burger King with
$12,000 after managing Howard Johnson’s restaurants in Miami and Orlando,
At the time, he had been preparing to
open a Dairy Queen with a hamburger
section in Jacksonville, Fla. But he
changed his mind and sold the business
to acquire Insta Burger King, a 15-cent
hamburger business in Miami. He took
it over in March 1954.
He soon persuaded James W. McLamore, who owned the nearby Brickell
Bridge Restaurant, to join him in what
was then a novel food-service business
model: a restaurant with a limited
menu, fast service and low prices, with
customers going inside to place orders
and pay in advance.
At the time, fast-food restaurants
typically had carhops bring orders to a
customer’s car.
In a 1998 memoir, “The Burger King:
Jim McLamore and the Building of an
Empire,” Mr. McLamore described Mr.
Edgerton as a creative conceptual
thinker but also as someone who “never
focused very much on details, particularly those concerning financial matters.”
Early on, Mr. Edgerton estimated that
profits were running at an eye-popping
28 percent of sales. But the “books” he
was looking at turned out to be an assortment of papers stuffed into a peach
basket showing that Insta Burger had
actually lost money in its first few
It was hard for the partners at first.
“We were losing our butts,” Mr. Edgerton said in a 2014 interview for this obituary. Paying himself $50 a week, he added, “We starved together.”
A major problem was the frequent
breakdowns of the Rube Goldberg-like
Insta broiler they had inherited. One
day, Mr. McLamore wrote, “the machine
began to malfunction just at the moment
Dave was standing in front of it,” and the
grinding of its metal parts sent him into
a rage.
By Mr. McLamore’s account, Mr.
Edgerton “reached into his toolbox and
grabbed a hatchet” and sank it into the
stainless steel mechanism, destroying
it. He then shouted, red-faced, “I can
build a better machine than this pile of
Three weeks later, Mr. Edgerton and a
mechanic who ran a machine shop had
produced a continuous-chain broiler,
which would set a standard for all Burger King broilers and become a model
for equipment in the industry.
But it was the creation of the company’s signature item, the Whopper, that
saved the venture.
Its genesis can be traced to early 1957,
when the partners were on a business
trip to inspect a poorly patronized prefabricated Burger King experimental
unit near the University of Florida campus in Gainesville. There they noticed,
less than 100 yards away, a rundown
drive-in restaurant with a sign advertising a big hamburger and a long line of
customers standing out front.
Mr. McLamore bought one of the burgers, served on a five-inch bun with all
the fixings, and gave one to Mr. Edgerton. Both were impressed by its quality.
Back on the road, the two agreed that
they should introduce a large, heavily
garnished burger. It eventually became
the “most preferred” sandwich in America, according to the trade press.
Left, a Burger King restaurant in Los Angeles. David R. Edgerton, right, with his partner, James W. McLamore in the 1960s. Mr. Edgerton started the franchise with $12,000.
Which of them was responsible for the
name is disputed.
“I named it,” Mr. Edgerton said flatly
in the 2014 interview, adding that he had
also made the first drawing of the king
on the company logo.
But in his memoir, Mr. McLamore
wrote, “I suggested that we call our
product a Whopper,” and that they
should install signs calling Burger King
“Home of the Whopper.”
The business took off, and by 1967 it
had more than 400 units in about 20
states, particularly in the East and California, as well as in a few other countries. Its success drew an offer from the
Pillsbury Company to buy Burger King.
“I really didn’t want to sell out,” Mr.
Edgerton said, but he went along because he had found Mr. McLamore to be
“a golfer first and foremost” who
wanted more time to indulge his passion
and who had no real need to keep working, being married to a wealthy woman.
The partners shared $20 million in
proceeds from the sale (about $152 million in today’s money) after paying $5
million to a financial backer, Harvey
Fruehauf. “We thought it was a smart
thing to do at the time,” Mr. Edgerton
said. “It wasn’t.”
Had they waited a bit longer, he said,
they could have gotten $100 million
more; the industry was about to flourish.
“We sold one year too soon,” Mr.
Edgerton said.
After passing through various other
hands after General Mills bought Pillsbury, Burger King had more than 12,100
restaurants worldwide and was valued
at about $4 billion when it was acquired
in 2010 by 3G Capital, a Brazilian investment group.
David Russell Edgerton Jr., the oldest
of two children, was born on May 26,
1927, in Lebanon, Pa. His father was an
itinerant hotel operator; his mother, the
former Blanche Berger, was a concert
In his early years the family had a
peripatetic life, living in Kutztown, Pa.;
Dayton, Ohio; Mount Dora, Fla.; and
Wilmette, Ill., north of Chicago.
Mr. Edgerton at first thought he
wanted to become a stage designer, but
after a brief stint in the Army he decided
to attend the Cornell University School
of Hotel Administration, from which Mr.
McLamore, he later discovered in Florida, had graduated.
Mr. Edgerton left Cornell after two
years without graduating and returned
to the Chicago area, where he enrolled in
Northwestern University as a part-time
student. It was at Northwestern that he
began his entrepreneurial career, running a successful pie-making business
that sold mainly to students. It lasted
three years.
Mr. Edgerton dropped out of Northwestern as well and went to work as an
accountant for the Albert Pick hotel
chain in Chicago. After that he went to
Florida, where he was a manager for
Howard Johnson’s. While waiting for his
aborted Dairy Queen to be completed,
he sold Fuller brushes door to door, and
while creating his burger business, he
pruned trees for the Florida Power &
Light Company.
In 1968, just after selling Burger King,
Mr. Edgerton married Kerstin Anderson, a Swedish flight attendant he had
met in Miami. They had no children, and
the marriage ended in divorce in 1972.
“I was just moving around too much,”
Mr. Edgerton said. “I’d go off for a week
and visit 10 cities.”
Mr. McLamore, who remained with
Burger King after the sale, died in 1996.
After his 12-year run with Burger
King, Mr. Edgerton started the Bodega
Steak restaurant chain, with locations in
Florida, Chicago, Detroit and Dallas. He
sold it in 1978.
In 1985 he moved to California, where
he partnered with Leonce Picot in opening restaurants in Monterey and San
Francisco. He went back to Florida in
1993 to buy a minority interest in three
Fuddruckers restaurants.
Mr. Edgerton did not remarry and
leaves no immediate survivors; his only
sibling, Jane Edgerton Johnson, died before him.
Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.
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WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 3
Reine de Naples Collection
in every woman is a queen
M A C A O M I L A N M O S C O W N E W Y O R K N I N G B O P A R I S S E O U L S H A N G H A I S I N G A P O R E TA I P E I T O K Y O V I E N N A Z U R I C H – W W W. B R E G U E T. C O M
4 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
Memorial to war dead
reflects Israeli divisions
Structure’s minimalism
aims to achieve consensus
in a fractured society
Clockwise from top: The 10-day self-defense training course for women and girls run by the New Delhi police is booked solid for the next six months; commuters riding in a women-only car on the New Delhi Metro; and a police constable, right, demonstrating a hold in the self-defense course, which mixes karate, taekwondo and judo.
Teaching girls to fight back
Self-defense classes fill up
as India responds to a
wave of sexual assaults
The schoolgirls ran into the auditorium,
shouting, “Let’s go, let’s go,” in Hindi as
they ushered one another into single-file
lines. Some adjusted the big, red bows
that held their braids together, part of
their school uniform. Then they
crouched into defensive postures, fists
“Oss!” they yelled — a karate greeting combining the Japanese words for
push and persevere.
They bowed slightly to their mentors
before unleashing a series of punches,
karate chops and kicks, interspersed
with occasional giggles, whispers and
sheepish smiles.
“Do not laugh!” Police Constable
Renu, who like many Indians goes by
one name, called from the stage above
them, her white T-shirt emblazoned
with “Respect Women” on the back.
“Do you think they will laugh when
they attack you?” she asked. “You must
strike back with anger.”
The girls stifled their smiles, their
fists pummeling the air faster, with more
determination. This was their seventh
self-defense class, and they were feeling
confident enough, many of them said, to
do the unthinkable: stand up for themselves.
Constable Renu has been teaching
this free, 10-day course hosted by the
New Delhi police — a combination of
karate, taekwondo and judo — for the
past eight years in the city’s public
schools and universities.
The initiative, with classes taught by
several female officers, also includes
summer and winter camps for women,
and a course called “gender sensitization for boys,” a lawyer-led course that
teaches men how to help women in trouble and how to be more respectful to
them in public spaces. It’s about making
them “feel responsible towards girls and
women,” Constable Renu said.
Constable Renu is booked solid for the
next six months. She said she had never
been busier as anxiety among women
and girls grows with a stream of news
headlines describing brutal assaults
across the country, including recent national outrage after an 8-year-old girl
was kidnapped, gang raped and murdered.
Since a 23-year-old woman, Jyoti
Pandey Singh, was beaten, gang raped
and fatally injured while riding a bus in
New Delhi in 2012, women here in the
capital have been on edge. That attack
prompted intense soul-searching and a
fierce public debate about an issue that,
though long pervasive, was seldom addressed. It also gave many women the
courage to come forward and demand
justice in such assaults, rather than suffer in silence, too ashamed to speak up.
On a recent morning at the Navjeevan
Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya school,
widely known as NSKV, Constable Renu
led about 180 girls, aged 11 to 17, through
possible scenarios of men grabbing
them from behind as they walked down
the street, striking a blow to their heads
or lunging for their necks. In each case,
the girls responded with the moves they
This was the girls’ seventh class,
and they were feeling confident
enough to do the unthinkable:
stand up for themselves.
had been taught to deflect such attacks
— grunting, kicking and punching in
“The first move we teach them in the
class is how to make a full-throated cry
for help when they are attacked,” Constable Renu said, explaining that the
girls tend to be reserved, making it hard
for them to make the ruckus needed to
alert others that they are in distress.
“To be able to make such a sound is
empowering in itself,” she said.
A newcomer to New Delhi, I have
been struck by the caution I’ve been advised to exercise, and the grim warnings
issued. A few weeks ago, I took my
young son to a public park, watching as
he gravitated to a young boy who was
being tended to by his grandparents,
visiting from Kolkata. They spoke about
their frequent trips to the capital to visit
their daughter and her children.
“Thank god we have grandsons —
Delhi is no place for a young girl,” the
grandfather said, his wife nodding in
The sentiment struck me not as sexist, but as one of genuine fear, as they
listed their concerns and nightmare scenarios.
Back in the classroom, Mona
Shamsher, a 16-year-old student,
showed me her favorite move as she
crouched into a sumo squat: a two-fisted
punch to the gut.
“I like it because it’s good for my
height,” she said.
“For an uppercut punch, I’d have to
jump like this,” she chuckled, as her
small frame, no more than 5 feet tall,
leapt into the air to strike an imaginary
Since her older sister was assaulted
while walking alone in their neighborhood last year, Mona said, she had not
felt safe on the streets until this month,
when her school offered the self-defense
“At this time, girls aren’t safe,” she
said. “Men treat us like we aren’t human.”
But she added, a clenched fist grinding into the palm of her open hand, “this
gives me confidence.”
Suhasini Raj contributed reporting.
Taste of literature, at the push of a button
Stories are shared many ways. They are
recounted in books and magazines.
They are read aloud around the campfire at night. They are randomly dispensed from stand-alone kiosks, doled
out on strips of paper like grocery store
Wait, what was that last one?
Leave it to the French, with their love
of Voltaire and Simone de Beauvoir, to
revive literature in the era of hot takes,
fast news and smartphone addiction.
Short Edition, a French publisher of
short-form literature, has installed more
than 30 story dispensers in the United
States in the past year to deliver fiction
at the push of a button at restaurants
and universities, government offices
and transportation hubs.
Francis Ford Coppola, the film director and winemaker, liked the idea so
much that he invested in the company
and placed a dispenser at his Cafe
A Short Edition dispenser at Francis Ford
Coppola’s Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco.
Zoetrope in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco. Last month public libraries in four cities — Philadelphia; Akron, Ohio; Wichita, Kan.; and
Columbia, S.C. — announced they would
be installing them too. There is one on
the campus at Penn State. A few can be
found in downtown West Palm Beach,
Fla. And Short Edition plans to announce more, including at the Los Angeles International Airport.
“Everything old is new again,” said
Andrew Nurkin, the deputy director of
enrichment and civic engagement at the
Free Library of Philadelphia, which is
one of the libraries that got funding from
the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to install the dispensers. “We
want people exposed to literature. We
want to advance literacy among children and inspire creativity.”
Here’s how a dispenser works: It is
shaped like a cylinder with three buttons on top indicating options for stories
that can be read in one minute, three
minutes or five minutes. When a button
is pushed, a short story is printed, unfurled on a long strip of paper.
The stories are free. They are retrieved from a computer catalog of more
than 100,000 original submissions by
writers whose work has been evaluated
by Short Edition’s judges, and transmitted over a mobile network. Offerings can
be tailored to specific interests, like children’s fiction or romance.
Short Edition gets stories for its catalog by holding writing contests.
Short Edition, which is based in
Grenoble, France, and was founded by
publishing executives, set up its first kiosk in 2016 and has 150 machines worldwide. The dispensers cost $9,200, plus
an additional $190 per month for content
and software. The only thing that needs
to be replaced is paper.
“We want to create a platform for independent artists, like the Sundance Institute,” said Kristan Leroy, the export
director at Short Edition.
The stories have a double life, shared
an average of 2.1 times, Ms. Leroy said.
“The idea is to make people happy,”
she said. “There is too much doom and
gloom today.”
When Israel’s leaders gather on
Wednesday at the country’s new National Memorial Hall for Israel’s Fallen,
there will be little trace of the long battle
it took to build it.
The somber, annual Memorial Day
ceremony will take place a day before
the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of Israel’s foundation, according to
the Hebrew calendar — and it took
nearly that long to create the country’s
first national pantheon. Adjacent to the
national military cemetery on Mount
Herzl in Jerusalem, the Memorial Hall
opened to the public without fanfare a
few months ago.
The product of decades of political
wrangling, emotional strife and procrastination, the monument reveals little
about Israel’s wars with its external enemies.
Instead, its minimalist design sidesteps internal conflicts over what
should be memorialized, why and how,
in a country still fighting its battles and
split by deep ideological divisions. Lacking a consensus around a single national
narrative, commemoration has been
pared down to the bare essentials.
Partly dug into the mountain, the
monument consists of a wall of more
than 23,600 white bricks, engraved with
only the sparest of details: the names of
the dead and the dates they died, arranged in chronological order. It spirals
around an undulating funnel of light that
seems to defy gravity, reaching skyward.
There are no ranks, no mention of the
places or the circumstances in which the
soldiers perished. Using a broad definition of the fallen, it includes not only
those killed in action, but also anybody
who died in uniform; not only soldiers
who fought for Israel, but also those who
fought to create Israel.
Avoiding any hierarchy of prestige or
loss, privates take their place alongside
generals and national heroes. No battles
are deemed more or less important than
“Once we introduced the concept of
unity and equality, it solved all the problems and prevented the arguments,”
said Aryeh Muallem, deputy director
general of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and head of its Bereaved Families,
Commemoration and Heritage department.
Preserving morale is considered critical in a small country where most 18year-olds are drafted for years of compulsory military service. Last Memorial
Day, about 1.5 million Israelis, or
roughly one-sixth of the population, visited military cemeteries around the
But Israelis cannot even agree on
what to call some hostilities, like Israel’s
1982 invasion of Lebanon, which is criticized by many here as an unjustified
“war of choice.” Officially called Operation Peace for Galilee, it is usually referred to as the First Lebanon War.
Mr. Muallem said the memorial was
the outcome of a long dialogue with representatives of bereaved families. They
presented the state with a challenge,
wanting their dead to be remembered
individually, on the day they had fallen.
So each inscribed brick has a light beside it, which is illuminated on the personal anniversary. At 11 a.m. every day,
a brief remembrance ceremony is held
for those killed on that date, as their
names and images appear on digital
screens mounted on 12 pillars. The
screens, and a smartphone app, provide
more information about the dead.
The wall begins with rows upon rows
of blank white bricks, waiting ominously
for more names; the design imposes no
limit. The first names a visitor sees are
the most recent fatalities, and then the
wall spirals back to the 1870s, commemorating the earliest casualties of the Zionist struggle and the soldiers of Zionist
militias who fought and died before independence.
“We decided to begin from the end,
with what most speaks to us today,” said
Michal Kimmel-Eshkolot of Kimmel
Eshkolot Architects, which designed the
monument. The inscribed bricks are no
higher than about six feet from the floor,
she said during a recent tour of the site,
“so a mother can reach up and touch the
Etan Kimmel, the chief architect of
the project, wrote in the brochure that
the challenge had been to create a space
“in a way that touches everyone, but
without imposing a uniform interpretation.”
That is at least partly because the issue of war dead still stirs painful debate
in Israel.
When it was announced last month
that Miriam Peretz, who lost two sons in
combat and who then dedicated herself
to Zionist education, was to be awarded
the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement, another bereaved mother, Nomi
Miller, criticized the choice as a cynical
glorification of suffering.
“We, the mothers, are not worthy of
any prize,” she wrote in an impassioned
Facebook post that elicited thousands of
sympathetic reactions. “Our sons’ lives
ended forever because our country continues to choose to live by the sword.
Fight for peace.”
Before the Memorial Hall, most of Israel’s fallen had been commemorated in
museums or monuments established by
veterans of particular battles or military
corps, or in private memorials scattered
around the country. But about 3,000 soldiers were not memorialized anywhere.
The idea for a national monument
goes back to 1949, when Israel’s leadership proposed erecting a tomb of the unknown soldier. But the location kept
changing, and bereaved relatives had
no interest in the idea, arguing that their
loved ones were not anonymous, according to Prof. Maoz Azaryahu, direc-
There are no ranks or hierarchy
in the wall. Privates take their
place alongside generals and
national heroes.
tor of the Herzl Institute for the Study of
Zionism at the University of Haifa, Israel. “When I go back, the whole story of
commemoration here in Israel is about
names,” Professor Azaryahu said. In the
new hall, “metaphorically, the bricks —
the names — are the building material of
the whole structure.”
Mount Herzl became the focal point of
Israeli memory, with its military cemetery and tombs of the founding fathers.
But the idea for a collective monument was quietly dropped until the
1970s, when a plan was developed to
build a museum of war and military heritage and a memorial complex on Mount
Eitan, outside Jerusalem.
Committees sat. Architects planned.
Large amounts of money were invested.
Historians, experts and intellectuals
filled files with recommendations.
“The new left wanted it to begin in
1948,” said Udi Lebel, a professor of sociology at Ariel University in the West
Bank and at the Begin-Sadat Center for
Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
“Others wanted it to begin with the Bible
and Jericho.”
There were arguments about how to
present the consequences of the 1967
war, with some viewing the newly occupied territories as a card for peace negotiations and others as the liberation of
Greater Israel. Some wanted the Mount
Eitan project to lift morale and encourage service. Others worried about presenting Israel as a militaristic, Spartalike state.
The debates went on until the 1990s.
By then, Israel was signing peace accords with the Palestinians and a treaty
with Jordan, and many felt it was not the
time to build a war museum.
The push for a memorial resumed in
the following decade, finally leading to
construction. “What went up in the end
is a place with one function only — to
give the names of the fallen,” said Professor Lebel, who specializes in collective memory and the politics of bereavement, adding that even one sentence about how they died could be
cause for argument. “That reflects Israel,” he said. “The only consensus there
can be here is empathy for the families
and remembering the victims. There is
no consensus over the past and we are
still living the conflict.”
The National Memorial Hall for Israel’s Fallen, in Jerusalem. It contains a wall of more
than 23,600 white bricks with the names of the dead and the dates they died.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 5
10-minute trials: Iraqi justice for ISIS suspects
“Individual circumstances don’t matter,” said Belkis Wille, the senior researcher for Iraq for Human Rights
Watch. “Cooks, medical workers, everyone is given the death penalty.”
The low bar for conviction under the
law, she said, also means that the courts
are not bothering to investigate some of
the worst crimes believed to have been
committed by Islamic State members,
such as slavery, rape or extrajudicial
Iraq’s Justice Ministry rejects such
criticism and touts the integrity of its
judges and its standards of due process.
“If there is evidence then suspects are
prosecuted, and if there is no evidence
then they are released,” said Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, a judge and Justice Ministry spokesman.
The government has not released
statistics about its terrorism detainees,
but two people familiar with the court
who were not authorized to speak to
journalists said that approximately
13,000 people had been detained on suspicion of ties to Islamic State since last
year, when the vast majority of arrests
were made.
Human Rights Watch estimated in
December that at least 20,000 people accused of ties to Islamic State were being
held by the Iraqi authorities. Last
month, The Associated Press reported
that Iraq had detained or imprisoned at
least 19,000 people since 2014 on accusations of connections to Islamic State or
other terrorism-related offenses.
Many of these detainees were arrested on the battlefield. Some were detained far from combat, based on information gleaned from informers and
prison interrogations.
Iraqi intelligence officials say that
high-value detainees, people accused of
involvement in specific terrorist attacks, are held separately from the majority of prisoners, who are suspected of
having been low-level cogs in the Islamic State bureaucracy.
Since the summer of 2017, more than
10,000 cases have been referred to the
courts, the people familiar with the
court said. To date, they said, approximately 2,900 trials have been completed, with a conviction rate of about 98
They did not say how many had received the death penalty, nor how many
executions had been carried out.
The government said it executed 11
people on Monday for “terrorism
Fleeing clashes between Iraqi forces and Islamic State near Mosul last year. There has been a 98 percent conviction rate in the 2,900 trials of people accused of ties to Islamic State.
crimes,” fulfilling its “promise to kill
those responsible for shedding Iraqi
blood,” the Justice Ministry said in a
Among those held apart from the general prison population are approximately 1,350 foreign women and 580
children, the majority of whom surrendered to Iraqi security forces last August during military operations to liberate the town of Tal Afar. The vast majority of these detainees are Turkish, Rus-
sian and Central Asian. Iraq says it is
determined to try them if evidence links
them to Islamic State, but some of their
home countries, including Saudi Arabia,
have requested extradition for some of
their citizens. Others, like Britain and
France, have been reluctant to take their
citizens back, officials from both countries said.
In rare cases, individuals have been
returned to their home countries, such
as a group of four Russian women and 27
children in February, after the Iraqi authorities concluded they had been
tricked into coming to Islamic State territory.
Turkey has been working to repatriate minors whose parents took them to
the caliphate, as well as those found innocent of wrongdoing.
For a nation that for more than 15
years has been an incubator for Islamist
extremists and has been torn apart by
terrorist bombings, Iraqis have little ap-
Canada’s pipeline dispute
Exposing data to prove a point
After buying information
on 346,000 people online,
artist puts it in a museum
Prime minister is trying
to resolve clash of industry,
environment and provinces
Deng Yufeng wanted to create art that
prods people to question their lack of
data privacy. What better way, he reasoned, than to buy the personal information of more than 300,000 Chinese off the
internet and display it in a public exhibition?
The police did not appreciate the
This month, the authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan shut down Mr.
Deng’s exhibition in a local museum after two days and told him that he was
being investigated on suspicion of having amassed the information by illegal
Mr. Deng’s project coincides with a
growing debate about the lack of data
privacy in China, where people are
starting to push back against technology companies and their use of information. Online brokers regularly, and illegally, buy and sell personal information
online. Chinese are often bombarded
with calls and text messages offering
bank loans or home purchases that
seem too personalized to be random.
Mr. Deng, a 32-year-old artist based in
Beijing, said he hoped to get Chinese to
question that everyday scenario.
“When these nuisance text messages
become a daily routine, we develop a
habit of ignoring and avoiding these text
messages in a numb state,” he said in a
telephone interview. “This is actually
the mental state of most people here: a
state of helplessness.”
Last month, Robin Li, the chief executive of the search giant Baidu, set off a
firestorm when he said that Chinese
were willing to trade privacy for convenience, safety and efficiency. In December, the software developer Qihoo 360
angered many internet users when a
blogger discovered that the company
was taking surveillance footage from
restaurants and gyms in Beijing and
broadcasting it without permission onto
its platform.
The rising public anger is taking place
amid a similar debate in the United
States over Facebook. But Beijing officials keep the volume lower because
personal data is broadly available to the
Chinese government. Tech companies
cooperate with the police in handing
over information, with few questions
asked. Citizens are resigned to the fact
that they are tracked by the government, and there is little pushback about
the increased state of surveillance.
So six months ago, Mr. Deng started
The artist Deng Yufeng paid $800 for the personal data he collected and turned into an
exhibit in Wuhan, China. Below, the data was visible only under a special light.
buying people’s information, using the
Chinese messaging app QQ to reach
sellers. He said that the data had been
easy to find and that he had paid a total
of $800 for people’s names, genders,
phone numbers, online shopping
records, travel itineraries and license
plate numbers — at a cost of just over a
tenth of a penny per person.
He said he knew he was breaking the
law. He wanted to prove a point.
“Artists are not merely aesthetic creators,” Mr. Deng said. “In the very complicated state of our world today, we
should also bear social responsibility.”
At his exhibition, called “346,000 Wuhan Citizens’ Secrets,” he printed the
pieces of personal data on sheets of paper using a special liquid solution. The
sheets were hung in neat rows and columns on a wall. Museumgoers could
only see the data under a special light
source, and key identifying details were
According to Mr. Deng, plainclothes
petite for leniency or concern about mitigating circumstances that in other nations could be grounds for clemency.
Foreigners in particular are widely assumed to have been Islamic State’s most
fervent adherents since they moved
here to join the caliphate.
“What concerns me the most in these
trials is that the system is fundamentally prejudiced against foreign individuals,” said Ms. Wille, who has observed
dozens of terrorism trials. “The pre-
sumption is because you are foreign,
and you were in ISIS territory, there is
no need to provide more evidence.”
The 14 women convicted in one afternoon this month, 12 Turks and two Azerbaijanis ranging from 20 to 44 years old,
had lived in Raqqa, the former capital of
the group’s territory in Syria. When international airstrikes escalated there
and several of their husbands were
killed, they moved to Iraq and were
among those who surrendered outside
Tal Afar.
Gaunt, withdrawn and surrounded by
plainclothes security guards, they
waited in the florescent-lit hallways of
Baghdad’s counterterrorism court for
their trials to start. Eleven toddlers who
had spent the last eight months in detention with their mothers accompanied
them to the court.
When Ms. Hassan was called, she
handed her child to another detainee to
look after. The other women cooed and
hummed to try to placate her curlyhaired toddler. Some appeared to whisper prayers.
Their state-appointed lawyer, Ali Sultan, said he had not prepared for the trials. He said he had no access to the evidence against his clients because information related to terrorism investigations is classified.
He added that his pay — $25 regardless of whether the case goes to appeal
— hardly encourages much effort. The
fee is paid only after the final appeal is
exhausted or the client is executed,
which despite the push to expedite trials, can take months if not years.
After Ms. Hassan was sentenced by
Judge Ahmed al-Ameri, he swiftly dispensed with the rest of the docket.
Negar Mohammed told him that she
was innocent of all Islamic State crimes;
he ruled otherwise.
Nazli Ismail told the judge that her
husband pushed her family to go to Syria. Three of her children were killed in an
airstrike, she said. The only one to survive was her youngest, a 2-year-old boy
named Yahya, who was waiting outside
in the hallway.
Judge Ameri asked, “Are you innocent or guilty?”
“I’m innocent,” Ms. Ismail replied.
The judge sentenced her to death.
Ms. Ismail accepted her fate with a
smile. “This means I will finally go to
heaven,” she said.
Mother and child left the courthouse
under armed guard. It was unclear what
would happen to the child.
police officers took him away two days
after his exhibition opened. They told
him that he was being investigated for
the buying of citizens’ information online and that he was barred from leaving
Wuhan. When reached for comment, a
Wuhan-based police officer from the station investigating the case said she did
not know anything about it and hung up.
Under Chinese criminal law, Mr. Deng
faces up to seven years in jail. But Raymond Wang, a lawyer who specializes in
data security, said he believed it was unlikely that Mr. Deng would be sentenced
because there were no “damaging consequences.”
Whether Mr. Deng’s exhibit will catch
the attention of China’s leaders isn’t
clear. But Legal Daily, a governmentrun publication, said Mr. Deng’s project
showed how laws on the protection of
personal information were weak and enforcement was poor.
“The organizer’s purpose was to call
for the protection of personal privacy,
and he himself violated the law to purchase personal information,” the newspaper wrote in an opinion piece. “Due to
the complexity of the plot, it will make
for a lively legal lesson.”
The privacy project is just one of Mr.
Deng’s many works of art touching on
social issues. He has gone undercover to
investigate the kidnappings of children,
a major problem in China. He has also
worked on a project about how people
buy fake identification cards and guns.
Mr. Deng pointed out that the lack of
data privacy was a global problem.
With the help of volunteers, he sent
about 10,000 text messages to the people whose information he used in the exhibition, inviting them to come.
One of them was not amused, according to Mr. Deng, responding back:
“You’re sick.”
While much of the world may be focused
on President Trump’s threats of a trade
war with China, Canada’s attention right
now is on a commercial feud within its
own borders.
The provinces of British Columbia
and Alberta are locked in a battle over
the $7.4 billion expansion of a pipeline
that runs from Alberta’s oil sands to a
tanker port near Vancouver, a plan approved long ago.
Many British Columbians fear that increased tanker traffic could lead to spills
along a coastline that is a global tourist
attraction. Alberta argues that the pipeline is vital to its energy industry and the
entire Canadian economy.
The rhetoric and threats from both
provinces have often been intemperate,
and the dispute has put Prime Minister
Justin Trudeau in a difficult situation.
In a potentially risky political move
for a leader who has put fighting climate
change high on his agenda, Mr. Trudeau
has declared the pipeline to be in the national interest and vowed that it will be
The dispute has been festering for
months. But the tension peaked when
the pipeline’s owner, Kinder Morgan of
Houston, said in the past few days that it
was suspending all nonessential spending on the program.
The company gave British Columbia
until the end of May to end its attempts
to delay or block the project. If not, the
company said, it would cancel its plan to
add a second pipeline along a route that
opened in 1953.
To try to resolve the standoff, Mr.
Trudeau has summoned Rachel Notley,
the premier of Alberta, and John Horgan, her counterpart in British Columbia, to Ottawa for talks. Mr. Trudeau said
he would deploy both financial and legislative tools to ensure that the pipeline
expansion happens, The Associated
Press reported.
“Canadians are quite divided,” said
Shachi Kurl, the executive director of
the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit
polling firm based in Vancouver. “So
much of this debate is rural versus urban Canada.”
The situation is similar to that of the
Keystone XL pipeline, whose starting
point is also in Alberta but which is intended to carry oil to the Gulf Coast of
the United States. Keystone XL was
quashed by President Barack Obama
and revived by Mr. Trump.
The expansion of the Kinder Morgan
pipeline is the latest attempt by the oil
sands industry to push more of its product out to market. Pipelines have not expanded at the same rate as output from
the oil sands, leaving many producers
relying on expensive rail shipments to
get their product to the United States,
which buys almost all of Canada’s oil and
gas exports.
Tanker ships filled by the current
Kinder Morgan pipeline now sail to refineries on the West Coast of the United
States. The extra capacity from a pipeline expansion could, in theory, allow oil
sands companies to also begin shipping
to Asian markets, where demand for oil
is growing, said Andrew Leach, an energy and environmental economist at the
University of Alberta.
Ms. Notley and her left-of-center New
Democratic Party surprised the Canadian political world in 2015 by bringing
four and a half decades of Progressive
Conservative governments to an end in
Alberta. While she vowed in her campaign to take on the big oil interests in
the province, politically she has no
choice but to be a booster of the pipeline.
Polls show that Albertans overwhelmingly want the expansion to go ahead.
To defend the expansion, the premier
has shown a willingness to get tough
with her neighbor to the west. This year,
Ms. Notley briefly banned imports of
wine from British Columbia.
Ms. Notley’s government is expected
to introduce legislation in the coming
days that will give it the ability to restrict oil and gas shipments to British
Columbia, and so driving up prices in
the province.
“If the national interest is given over
to the extremes on the left or the right, if
the voices of the moderate majority of
Canadians are forgotten, the reverberations of that will tear at the fabric of confederation for many, many years to
come,” Ms. Notley said last week, referring to the power-sharing system that
Canada adopted in 1867.
Ms. Notley has suggested that if Kinder Morgan decides not to go ahead with
the expansion, the provincial government may buy and build the pipeline. Officials in Mr. Trudeau’s cabinet have
suggested that the federal government
might support such a plan.
For Mr. Horgan, the British Columbia
premier, the political calculus surrounding the pipeline expansion is more complex.
The project is widely opposed in the
areas around Vancouver, the province’s
largest city, and Victoria, the provincial
capital, according to Ms. Kurl, the pollster. But support is strong for it elsewhere in the province, where resource
industries are big employers.
Perhaps tipping the scale in his decision to try to block the project is that Mr.
Horgan, also a member of the New Democratic Party, relies on the support of
three Green Party members to pass legislation. The Green Party, like many environmental groups, argues that Canada should not be building oil pipelines
while it is attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
So Mr. Horgan plans to ask a court to
determine if British Columbia can use
local permits and provincial environmental laws to block the pipeline.
Mr. Trudeau’s government has cited
several decisions, including some from
the Supreme Court, that it contends give
Ottawa complete authority over interprovincial pipelines. But it appears that
the federal government can do nothing
to stop Mr. Horgan from going to court.
Any judicial review could at least delay
the project.
Environmental groups and some indigenous groups have vowed to stop the
pipeline expansion through widespread
civil disobedience. Those arrested already for breaking court orders to keep
back from Kinder Morgan property include Elizabeth May, the national leader
of the Green Party.
A Kinder Morgan tanker port in British Columbia. The province is at odds with Alberta
over the company’s expansion of a pipeline that runs from Alberta to the port.
6 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
Grant Kier, a Democrat running for Montana’s House seat, said he sees health care, not gun safety, as the dominant issue in the race.
Kathleen Williams, center, another Democratic candidate for the seat, has made prevention of gun massacres central to her platform.
Defying the National Rifle Association
Shooting at Florida school
upends political calculus,
even in deep-red states
It has been an iron rule for candidates in
rural areas and red states for decades:
Do not antagonize the National Rifle Association.
But that was before the massacre at a
high school in Parkland, Fla., galvanized
gun politics across the country. Now, a
striking number of Democratic candidates in coming midterm elections, from
congressional contests in the Rocky
Mountains to governor’s races in the
South, are openly daring, defying and
disparaging the N.R.A., a group with
deep pockets, a loyal membership and a
record of Election Day score-settling.
Those Democrats, but also a few Republicans, believe that in the wake of
Parkland, many voters have been
turned off by the N.R.A.’s hard line, its
belligerence and its demands for lockstep loyalty from elected officials. Together, they are testing whether that
iron rule for electoral survival and success across rural America still holds.
“The N.R.A. has spent a lot of money
on our congressman, and a lot of money
on people in Washington, and that dictates what politicians are allowed to say
or not say,” John Heenan, a Democrat
running for Montana’s sole seat in the
House of Representatives, said recently
at a restaurant in Helena, the capital.
“And I think all Montanans, especially
gun owners, just want people who are
going to be responsive to them and
bring common sense to the table.”
Attacking the N.R.A., which claims a
membership of nearly five million, in
even a muted tone is a political gamble.
Yet Democrats say they feel emboldened by the groundswell of outrage over
gun violence after the Feb. 14 attack in
Florida that left 17 people dead. And
they are encouraged by polls showing
that measures like universal background checks and age restrictions for
gun buyers are widely popular.
There is also a certain political expediency: Many of the Democrats airing
misgivings about the N.R.A. and its
views are now competing in primaries
where they are playing to an audience of
fellow Democrats and not yet the entire
electorate. Their hostility to the N.R.A.
in the spring could certainly fade by the
fall, but in past election cycles, many
candidates would have regarded openly
crossing the N.R.A. as too risky even in
primary races.
“I don’t know that voters would have
been more receptive; I think that candidates would have been more timid,”
Stacey Abrams, a Democrat running for
governor of Georgia, said last month before she addressed a March for Our
Lives rally near the southern tip of the
Appalachian Trail and promoted her history of poor ratings from the N.R.A.
To be sure, some Democrats in conservative-leaning states, like Ms.
Abrams, have long been willing to challenge the group, especially in urban areas — but there were rarely very many
of them. Meanwhile, rural Democrats
often did the opposite, and actively
courted the N.R.A., whose seal of approval and potent ability to mobilize its
members could lift a candidate of either
party to victory.
That era is not completely over. But
many Democrats have grown wary of
an organization that they believe has effectively evolved into an extension of
the Republican Party, and they have begun to wonder whether they would be
better off putting some distance between themselves and the N.R.A. The
most fervent supporters of gun rights,
some Democrats reason, are unlikely to
support their campaigns no matter what
they do.
“I think those that are hypersensitive
to this issue are likely not going to be
voting for us anyway, and I understand
that, because there are voters who believe that any discussion of the Second
Amendment is the compromising of the
Second Amendment,” said Walt Maddox, a Democratic candidate for governor of Alabama. “But I believe the vast
majority of Democrats, independents
and Republicans are not fearful of a discussion on this matter, especially if it’s
reasonable, measured and common
For his own part, Mr. Maddox declares allegiance to the Second Amendment, but he declined to fill out the questionnaire that the N.R.A. sends to candidates. In the N.R.A.’s view, refusing to
complete the questionnaire is “often an
indication of indifference, if not outright
hostility, to gun owners’ and sportsmen’s rights.”
Other Democrats have mounted far
more pointed critiques of the group. The
Democratic Party in Virginia, a state
that retains a conservative streak despite recent Democratic successes, recently issued a statement referring to
N.R.A. “blood money” and declaring
that Virginians were excited about
“kicking out politicians who value National Rifle Association money over the
safety of their sons and daughters,
mothers and fathers.”
And in Kentucky, a Democratic state
representative from an overwhelmingly
conservative district stood on the House
floor in February to call for new gun control measures, and said he was surrendering his A rating from the N.R.A.
Some Republicans have also calculated that they can now afford to cross
the group to some extent. Gov. Rick
Scott of Florida, who is running for the
Senate this year, recently signed a Republican-backed gun-control package
that was almost immediately challenged in a lawsuit by the N.R.A.
“If the N.R.A. wants to give me
an F for that, then I will proudly
stand with all of you and say that
F means ‘fearless.’”
The mass shooting in Parkland, which
helped prompt the legislation Mr. Scott
signed, appears to have been a political
turning point even in places like Montana, which has one of the nation’s highest rates of gun ownership.
At a candidates’ forum less than a
week before the Parkland shooting, the
Democrats vying for the party’s House
nomination — there were then five —
were asked whether they supported expanded background checks for gun purchasers. None said yes. Then came the
rampage in Florida.
In short order, the race was infused
with fresh calls to ban bump stocks, outlaw military-style weapons like the
AR-15 and eliminate loopholes for sales
at gun shows.
Mr. Heenan, one of the candidates in
the race, soon released an essay apolo-
gizing for not giving “a more straightforward answer” to a grandmother who
had asked him how he would help prevent gun violence.
Williams, made prevention of gun massacres central to her platform, and later
said, “If the N.R.A. wants to give me an
F for that, then I will proudly stand with
all of you and say that F means ‘fearless.’”
Lynda Moss, who is also running for
the seat, spoke last week about a column
she wrote years ago, when she described “how Montana’s gun policies became a facade of the N.R.A. — a false
front used to broadcast fear and misinformation perpetuating the myth of the
Wild West.”
Some supporters of gun rights said
they were skeptical that attacking the
N.R.A. would do any candidates much
good in a state like Montana, where gun
ownership is deeply entwined with the
state’s history and culture.
“In Montana, every candidate is going to say, ‘I’m going to support the Second Amendment’ — and then some will
add, ‘but,’” said Gary Marbut, the president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who has helped push nearly
70 gun rights bills into state law since
the 1980s. The suddenly vocal critics of
the N.R.A., he said, were “clearly political opportunists.”
The group backed the Republican incumbent in the House race, Greg Gianforte, in a special election in 2017 and is
expected to do so again this year, when
he is favored to win re-election. Neither
the N.R.A. nor Mr. Gianforte’s campaign
responded to requests for comment for
this article.
Some Democrats in the state are confident that their party can succeed with
a candidate who pushes away from the
N.R.A. but finds a way to appeal to individual gun owners.
“We’ve hit a moment in time where
the N.R.A. is denigrating a whole lot of
responsible gun owners, so it’s not that
surprising that folks finally say,
‘Enough’s enough — they don’t represent me, and they don’t represent either
the mainstream of America or the mainstream of firearm owners,’” Gov. Steve
Bullock, a Democrat, said in an interview in his office at the State Capitol.
Still, some Democrats in the race have
remained cautious.
Grant Kier, who is seen as one of the
front-runners in the primary along with
Mr. Heenan, recently called Mr. Marbut
of the sport-shooting group to discuss
gun rights.
“I think somebody who doesn’t respect people’s gun rights is not going to
do well in Montana, period, regardless of
the N.R.A.’s involvement,” Mr. Kier said.
“I don’t see myself as running against
the N.R.A.; I see myself as running
against Greg Gianforte.”
He said he sees health care, not gun
safety, as the dominant issue in the campaign. “I think that being sensitive to
people’s desires to find sensible gun
laws in our state and country is important, but I think there are far more issues on people’s minds that we need to
be working on, too, and I think that’s
how we win this election,” he said.
As the June 5 primary approaches in
Montana, even those Democrats who
have expressed deep misgivings about
the N.R.A. appeared eager to show that
they are not against guns.
“We love our wildlife, and we love a
good elk burger,” Ms. Williams said.
“That’s different than things that threaten our kids at school.”
Ex-F.B.I. director’s star turn may spoil an image
For decades, James B. Comey cultivated
an image of purity as a lawman who
stood above politics and politicians.
Then came the book tour.
With the release of his memoir this
week and a set of high-profile media interviews to publicize it, Mr. Comey —
whose firing by President Trump made
him a hero to the president’s critics —
has veered onto risky terrain, shedding
the trappings of a high-minded referee
and looking instead like a combatant in
the country’s partisan battles.
Mr. Comey’s description of the president as an unethical liar “morally unfit”
for office; his call for voters to decide Mr.
Trump’s fate at the ballot box in 2020;
and even his observations about Mr.
Trump’s appearance — his “orange”
skin, his too-long ties, his hands — are
stark departures from the law-enforcement mission of his former agency, the
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The personal potshots in particular
have surprised some former colleagues
who thought of Mr. Comey as relatively
sober and serious. Observers on both
the left and right — including many who
count themselves as fierce critics of Mr.
Trump’s — say that in embarking on his
star turn, Mr. Comey may be undercutting his own indictment of the president’s character and conduct.
“The real impact of having the former
head of the F.B.I. calling the president
unfit is dependent on the just-the-facts
professional image of the F.B.I.,” said
Michael Steel, a Republican strategist
who has been critical of Mr. Trump. “To
the extent that the former director appears petty and anything less than highminded, it diminishes the impact of his
“In a time when almost every public
debate is defined by people lining up
with their respective tribes,” Mr. Steel
added, “he’s managed to alienate both.”
Mr. Comey, in remarks promoting the
book, says he is trying to rouse the country to see Mr. Trump through the lens of
“ethical leadership,” arguing that the
president “does not reflect the values” of
Democrats, Republicans or independents. Asked on ABC if Mr. Trump should
be impeached, Mr. Comey said he hoped
it would not happen because voters
were “duty bound” to “go to the voting
booth and vote their values.”
Mr. Comey has cast himself as a truthteller before, sometimes to the irritation
of colleagues or superiors. He threatened to quit his job at the Justice Department in the George W. Bush administration rather than sign off on a domestic
surveillance program the White House
demanded, and he refused Mr. Trump’s
entreaties to back off of the investigation of Michael T. Flynn, his former national security adviser. Mr. Trump fired
Mr. Comey a few months later, calling
him a “grandstander” and citing the
F.B.I.’s investigation into his administration’s ties to Russia.
“After he was fired, he finally became
the martyr he always held himself out to
be,” said Matthew A. Miller, who served
as a top Justice Department official under President Obama when Mr. Comey
led the F.B.I. “By doing a tour like this
where you kind of get down in the gutter
the way he has, you sacrifice your claim
on being a martyr.”
Even before the release of his book, “A
Higher Loyalty,” the White House,
working in concert with the Republican
National Committee, began an all-out
campaign to besmirch “Lyin’ Comey” —
the name of a website the party created
to make the case — as dishonest, selfserving and driven by partisanship. But
with his one-liners and cutting asides
about the president, Mr. Comey only appeared to play into the hands of allies of
Mr. Trump, who are eager to paint the
James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, center left. He has sharply criticized President Trump while promoting his own book.
former F.B.I. director as just another figure working for the president’s defeat.
And Mr. Comey has drawn bipartisan
criticism with his latest efforts to explain — and, to some degree, recast —
his much-criticized handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a
private email server. Mark Mellman, a
longtime Democratic pollster, said Mr.
Comey’s standing had been undermined
by the one-two punch of liberal attacks
over his role in the 2016 election and the
more recent assault led by Mr. Trump
and his Republican allies.
“Trump has tried to define him as a
bad operator, and the problem for
Comey is that you can quote a lot of
Democrats saying the same,” Mr. Mellman said.
At this point, it seems unlikely that
Mr. Comey’s book or his performance in
interviews to promote it will sway public
opinion in a country that is already intensely polarized along partisan lines.
Mr. Trump’s approval ratings have been
similar for months, and the roughly 40
percent of Americans who support him
have proved remarkably unshakable,
while the 56 percent who disapprove
will probably not change their views on
Mr. Comey's account. While Mr. Comey
is sure to captivate the public for a few
days with his biting descriptions of the
president and dramatic interactions
with him, the combination of the supercharged news cycle and the looming —
and far more consequential — investigation by Robert S. Mueller III, the special
counsel probing Russia’s meddling in
the 2016 election, is sure to eventually
overshadow his memoir.
“It keeps the story of cover-ups and
corruption on the public radar while
Mueller is doing his investigation, but
Comey is just a pit stop along the way of
that,” said Stephanie Cutter, a veteran
Democratic strategist. “Much to
Comey’s chagrin, his moment has
passed. There’s nothing in this book we
don’t already know. He just adds one
more hole to a ship that’s already sinking.”
Mr. Comey plainly considers himself
to be a figure who is above the political
fray, driven and guided solely by facts.
His friends and advisers say he wants
the book to stir a conversation about the
value of honesty. “Telling the truth
should not be seen as a political act,”
said Keith Urbahn, Mr. Comey’s book
agent. “It should just be the truth.”
Yet there is a twist: While he professes to be uneasy with the country’s
growing polarization and appears to disdain partisanship, Mr. Comey has in effect weaponized himself against a Republican president by calling for him to
be voted out of office. Mr. Comey may
not want to be used as anybody’s “political battering ram,” as one associate put
it, but he recognizes that is precisely
how his book will be deployed.
Friends say Mr. Comey expected his
memoir would be criticized because of
how it would inevitably be construed:
either as airbrushing history and not being honest about Mr. Trump’s transgressions, or as a self-serving and score-settling account with the man who ended
his career in law enforcement.
Still, Mr. Comey’s former colleagues
rejected any notion that he has transformed himself into a political actor or
hurt his reputation. “Jim Comey is as upright, honest and decent a person and
public servant as I have ever met,” said
Jack Goldsmith, who served with him in
the Bush Justice Department.
Mr. Miller said Mr. Comey tends to be
“at his best when he’s coloring inside the
lines and following the rules,” as prosecutors are trained to do. “What you see
in the book is not just a factual recitation, but also a lot of spin on the ball,” he
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 7
Genetic testing as a job perk
Levi Strauss & Company introduced a
novel benefit for employees at its San
Francisco headquarters last fall: free
genetic screening to assess their hereditary risks for certain cancers and high
Chip Bergh, Levi’s chief executive,
said he had hoped that the tests would
spur employees to take preventive
health steps and in that way reduce the
company’s health care costs. But even
Mr. Bergh was surprised by the turnout.
Of the 1,100 eligible Levi’s employees,
more than half took the genetic tests.
Now, he wants to extend the benefit to
employees in other cities.
“It really is a differentiator,” Mr.
Bergh said.
Companies on the West Coast of the
United States vying for talent offer an
unusual array of benefits like college
loan repayment, egg freezing, surrogacy assistance and, for new mothers
away on business trips, overnight
breast milk shipping. Some companies
have added genetic screening as well,
and employees are lining up for the
Instacart, Nvidia, OpenTable, Salesforce, SAP, Slack, Stripe and Snap have
offered the screenings as an employee
benefit. So have some companies based
on the East Coast of the United States,
like General Electric Appliances and
Visa. All of them, including Levi’s, work
with Color Genomics, a start-up that has
quickly become a leader in employee genetic screening and counseling.
But the use of screenings as an employee benefit is becoming more commonplace just as federal health agencies, researchers, and physicians are
wrangling over whether the tests, originally developed to establish patients’ inherited risks of developing certain diseases, are ready for widespread adoption.
The tests screen for inherited gene
mutations that can greatly increase a
person’s risk of developing diseases like
colon cancer or breast cancer. Doctors
now regularly suggest them for highrisk patients, such as people who have
close family members with certain cancers.
But for people of average risk in the
general public, a screening may not be
all that useful — and could even cause
harm, experts said. A person without a
family history of cancer may have the
same problematic mutations as highrisk patients, they said, but could have
lower risk of developing cancer.
A federal advisory panel on evidencebased preventive medicine recommends against routine screening for
certain harmful breast cancer mutations for women who do not have cancer
or a family history of cancer. The group
concluded that the consequences of routine genetic screening for these women
could range from minimal to potentially
“There is exactly no evidence that
systematic screening of the general
New rules
for Marriott
Your Money
In the nearly two and a half years
since Marriott announced its intention
to acquire Starwood Hotels and Resorts, the parent of Westin, Sheraton
and W, skeptical customers of both
companies have waited impatiently for
answers to the following question: Just
how many rewards and perks would
Marriott take away from the 110 million
members when it combined the loyalty
This week, we all found out: Not as
many as we had feared.
The new rules will make it harder
for some customers to qualify for the
highest levels of elite status, and the
program’s new co-branded American
Clockwise from above: The Color Genomics laboratory in Burlingame, Calif.; the company’s chief, Othman Laraki, center, said genetic testing can help prevent a disease at an early stage; and a genomic testing machine.
low-up costs from additional tests, medicines, surgery and potential complications from surgeries — experts said that
overall medical expenditures were
likely to increase. Even so, they said,
spending on screening for conditions
like hereditary high cholesterol, which
increases risk for strokes and heart attacks before the age of 50, could ultimately prolong some lives.
“You are getting good preventive care
value for money,” said David L. Veenstra, a professor at the University of
Washington who studies health outcomes and economics.
Color has raised $150 million from
venture capital firms like General Catalyst as well as San Francisco Bay Area
tech luminaries including Max Levchin,
a PayPal co-founder; Sundar Pichai,
Google’s chief executive; and Laurene
Powell Jobs, a philanthropist-investor
who is the widow of the Apple cofounder Steve Jobs.
The company has reduced genetic
testing costs by using robotics and machine learning and eliminating tasks
like in-person prescreening by doctors.
It charges $249 for hereditary risk
screening for eight of the most common
cancers and began offering that price
while more established medical diagnostics firms were charging $4,000 for
similar tests.
The price point appealed to
OpenTable. It started offering genetic
screening benefits after an employee
with a history of cancers told executives
she was spending thousands of dollars
out of her own pocket to pay for hereditary risk tests.
“This was a really interesting opportunity to provide some choice to our employees that was accessible and affordable so they could better understand
their own personal health,” said Christa
Quarles, chief executive of OpenTable.
As more large-scale research is conducted, medical recommendations may
change. More than 150,000 patients, for
instance, have enrolled in a DNA sequencing study at Geisinger Health, a
medical center in Danville, Pa.
Executives at several companies that
have signed up with Color said they
were aware of the debate over genetic
screening, but said they believed the
start-up was simply ahead of the curve.
“Over time, innovation becomes consensus science,” said Mr. Russell of SAP.
healthy population for rare genetic conditions will have a net benefit in terms of
health outcomes,” said Dr. Jonathan
Berg, an associate professor of genetics
at the University of North Carolina at
Chapel Hill.
In fact, most cancers are not the result
of the hereditary mutations in single
genes that these tests detect. Some experts cautioned that extending use of
the tests to the broader population may
lead some people of average risk to
forgo recommended screening tests like
colonoscopies. And they warned that it
could also lead people to undergo unnecessary medical procedures, including
going to the extreme of having surgery
to remove their breasts.
“You could scare the living daylights
out of people unnecessarily,” said Dr.
Stephen J. Chanock, director of the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics at the National Cancer Institute.
The United States Food and Drug Administration, however, recently took the
opposite stance. It authorized 23andMe,
a consumer genetics company that had
already received agency clearance to
market several hereditary disease risk
tests, to offer a test directly to con-
sumers for three breast cancer gene
mutations common in people of Eastern
European Jewish descent.
While regulators called their decision
a step forward in the availability of direct-to-consumer genetic screening,
they explicitly warned that the test did
not detect most mutations that increase
breast cancer risk. They also warned
consumers not to use the tests as a substitute for qualified medical care and genetic counseling.
Color, the genomics company, takes
something of a middle road. It markets
comprehensive medical diagnostic tests
that screen for all mutations of certain
genes known to be linked to certain
kinds of heredity cancers and heart
risks. It has doctors available to order its
tests online for users and provides genetic counseling to discuss users’ results.
“By using genetics, you can help some
people prevent or interrupt something
at an earlier stage where the costs are
much lower,” said Othman Laraki, chief
executive of Color Genomics. The startup advises users that they could develop
major diseases even if their test results
show no harmful mutations.
Express cards will not be as lucrative
for many people who like transferring
hotel points into airline frequent flier
programs. But Marriott’s new Chase
Visa will prove more generous for
many cardholders than the current
one. Meanwhile, everyone in the program gets access to 6,500 hotels,
greatly increasing the number of
places to both earn points and redeem
“The product they are announcing is
not anybody’s worst case or fears
coming true,” said Gary Leff, a travel
industry blogger known for criticizing
companies that devalue their loyalty
programs. “In many ways, this is the
best possible outcome we could have
Marriott’s prudence here makes
sense given the stakes. It is now the
largest hotel company, and while scale
will help its negotiations with online
travel agencies, getting bigger is counterproductive if it scares customers
away. Its loyalty program moves are
also notable for what did not happen,
namely tying the program much more
closely to revenue. Many airlines have
done that, and many passengers have
hated it.
Which is not to say Marriott’s new
program won’t annoy some people.
Economies intertwined and at odds
A view from El Mirador restaurant at the Sheraton Hotel in Mendoza, Argentina, one of
the properties that Marriott gained when it acquired Starwood Hotels and Resorts.
Executives at SAP and Nvidia said
they hoped genetic screening might ultimately help prevent at least a few latestage cancers, the kinds of life-threatening illnesses that can debilitate employees and cost companies with selffunded health plans more than $1 million
in medical fees.
After Nvidia began offering free
screening from Color last year, about 27
percent of its 6,000 eligible employees in
the United States took the test. After
SAP started subsidizing the genetic
tests last year, about 17 percent of the
company’s 30,000 eligible employees
and family members participated.
“In the long-term view of a program
like this, it’s going to pay for itself,” said
Jason J. Russell, who oversees employee compensation and benefits for SAP
North America. And, he added, “You are
creating good will with employees.”
Given the expense of screening more
people of average risk — as well as fol-
As China depends less
on American parts, it
relies more on exports
China’s healthy economic growth this
year comes thanks, in part, to a factor
that could exacerbate the country’s
tense relations with Washington: China
is selling a lot more to the United States,
and its purchases from America aren’t
keeping up.
Figures for the first quarter show that
exports to the United States are growing
considerably faster than China’s purchases of American goods. That could
provoke more ire from President
Trump, who has threatened to impose
$150 billion in tariffs on Chinese products.
The trade figures present a mixed picture of how painful those tariffs could be
for China. Over all, trade is not as important to China’s economy as it was a decade ago, suggesting that the country
could better weather a trade fight. But
the data also suggests that China’s exports to the United States, specifically,
have become more valuable to China’s
economy as it increasingly makes most
— or even all — of the parts that go inside what it sells abroad.
China’s economy expanded 6.8 percent in the first quarter compared with
the same quarter last year, propelled by
strong household spending and heavy
government investment in infrastructure, the National Bureau of Statistics
announced on Tuesday. That was well
ahead of the pace necessary to hit the
government’s target of 6.5 percent
growth for the entire year.
Experts warns that testing may
not be all that beneficial and
may scare people unnecessarily.
Mr. Trump has focused on China’s trade
surplus with the United States, or the
difference between what it sells to
America and what it buys. And in the
Making carbon fiber in Lianyungang, China. In a potential breakthrough on trade, Beijing
said it would allow foreign carmakers to operate factories without local partners.
first three months of the year, the trade
surplus for goods hit a new quarterly
high of $58 billion, according to Chinese
data. Trade in services, in which the
United States is stronger, offsets only
about a tenth of the deficit in goods.
A potential breakthrough came Tuesday, when China said it would allow foreign electric car companies to set up
shop in the country this year without a
local 50-50 joint venture partner, and
that it would set a timetable for the rest
of the auto industry to build or run their
own factories in China.
American trade officials have accused
China of forcing makers of electric cars
to share their technology with Chinese
partners as a way to help Beijing foster
its own globally competitive industry.
The immediate big winner from the decision would be Tesla, which has already
negotiated for a site in the Shanghai
area to build cars but has been reluctant
to accept a joint venture partner.
Last year, China’s surplus on goods
traded with the United States totaled
$375 billion, according to Washington, or
$276 billion, according to Beijing. The
United States includes Chinese goods
shipped by way of Hong Kong, a Chinese
city that operates under its own laws,
while Beijing’s statistics do not. Either
way, China’s surplus has been rising.
Mr. Trump wants China’s annual
trade surplus to shrink by $100 billion —
a reversal that could lower China’s entire economic output by nearly a full percentage point if the Chinese factories
producing those goods simply shut
Xing Zhihong, the spokesman for China’s statistics bureau, said on Tuesday
that China did not try to have a trade
surplus with the rest of the world, and
noted that the surplus was narrowing
over all. He also dismissed the idea that
trade frictions with the United States
could stymie growth.
“Sino-American trade frictions cannot cause a slowdown in the Chinese
economy, nor change the good momentum in China’s economic development,”
Mr. Xing said.
On their face, the numbers suggest that
American businesses have become dependent on China. And in fact, China’s
trade surplus with the United States is
growing even as its surplus with the rest
of the world has shrunk.
But something else is going on: China
is depending more on itself.
China was once famous for assembling goods made from parts that had
been bought elsewhere. A smartphone
that was made in China, for example,
might have had a screen from Japan,
memory chips from South Korea and a
main processor from the United States.
In fact, those parts and components
long accounted for a sizable chunk of
what China bought from the United
Today, China can do all that entirely
within its own borders, making advanced electronic components or car
parts and assembling the final product.
“In the last 10 years, you’ve seen
China become considerably more developed and sophisticated in terms of its
own supply chains,” said Gordon Styles,
the founder and president of Star Rapid,
a company in Zhongshan, China, that
does rapid prototypes and low-volume
test manufacturing runs for products as
varied as auto parts and medical equipment.
“It is now easier than it ever was before to produce the entire product here,”
he said.
Global automakers and other multinational companies have moved much
of their supply chains to China to avoid
Chinese tariffs, tap the country’s vast
work force and move closer to a big new
Brad Setser, an economist at the
Council on Foreign Relations, calculated
that imports of manufactured goods
from the United States are becoming
steadily less important to the Chinese
He estimated that China now
produces within its borders up to fourfifths of the value of each dollar of exports. That share had been as little as
two-thirds in 2011.
Ailin Tang contributed research.
8 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
Lacking workers, companies call in robots
which averages 309 robots per 10,000
workers, the most in Europe.
At Elko EP, which makes industrial
timers for companies like General Electric, 70 percent of production is automated, and the company is aiming to be
almost fully robotized in a few years. In
a sleek white corner of the factory, robots have taken over routine manufacturing tasks. Jiri Konecny, the company’s chief executive, moved factory floor
workers to more complex roles and focused hundreds of other employees on
research and development.
“If we didn’t invest early in automation, we’d be dead by now,” he said.
For the Czech Republic and its neighbors, the calculus is one of survival. A
new generation of robots is needed not
just to confront the labor shortage, but
also to increase flexibility and output as
consumers demand a wider range of
On a recent afternoon in Brno, the nation’s second-largest city, hundreds of
suppliers showed off articulated robots,
robotic sensors and other wares in a hall
as big as an airport at Amper, an automation convention. Buyers crowded
around “smart” machines that tested
car headlights or interacted with humans in shared work spaces.
Many are doing brisk business as
companies around Eastern Europe accelerate an automation drive. At Rittal, a
maker of switch gears and control cabinets for industrial robots, orders rose 15
percent last year and have jumped 25
percent since January.
“Companies aren’t able to produce
more, so their competitiveness is falling,” said Jaromir Zeleny, Rittal’s managing director. “They don’t want to be so
dependent on people.”
Cost is another factor. Eastern Europe
became a manufacturing powerhouse
by luring multinationals with low
wages. That advantage is ebbing,
though. Average monthly pay in the
Czech Republic rose 8 percent last year
to about 1,160 euros, or about $1,400. Although one-third the average in Germany, it is expected to keep climbing.
Businesses say letting in more foreign
workers would help. But the conservative government has pledged to limit immigration and recently set strict caps on
foreign work visas.
There are longer-term trends at play,
as well. Families aren’t having children
fast enough to replace people heading
into retirement. Automation, one argument goes, could compensate. Skoda,
the nation’s biggest automaker, said last
month that it would “significantly accelerate” automation to face demographic
changes and wage pressures.
“A labor shortage will continue for
years,” said Bohdan Dovhanic, a
Prague-based business director at
Schneider Electric, a French industrial
company. “We must be prepared to find
more human employees, or find a way to
substitute for them.”
Whether robots will help or threaten
human livelihood has sparked a fierce
debate in a country that coined the term.
The word “robot,” derived from the
Slavonic term “rabota,” meaning arduous work, first appeared in a 1920 Czech
play about machines created to perform
repetitive factory tasks. The robots cooperate at first, but eventually take over.
The risk, critics say, is that when future recessions hit, workers will suffer.
“You won’t switch off the robots and
bring back people,” said Michal Pechoucek, head of the Artificial Intelli-
Counterclockwise from above: Cutting metal at Linet; Zbynek Frolik, Linet’s founder; a headlight machine at Amper, an automation convention in Brno, Czech Republic.
gence Center at the Czech Technical
University in Prague.
Czech unions echo those warnings.
“Unless business leaders, politicians
and trade unions react well in advance
and responsibly to the upcoming industrial revolution,” said Josef Stredula,
president of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions, “even more
jobs may be under threat.”
For now, companies in the Czech Republic insist that robotization will create
new work.
At Linet, the hospital bed manufacturer, most welding, cutting, painting and
molding functions were automated a
decade ago. Thirty industrial robots do
the work of up to 200 people. But that
doesn’t offset the need for humans, who
program machines and perform complex custom work on the assembly line
that robots can’t do.
Like other employers, Mr. Frolik was
caught off guard when unemployment
fell swiftly. Virtually every part of the
Czech economy has been affected. In the
industrial countryside north of the capital where his factories are, unemployment is below 2 percent. And in Prague,
even the trams have run less frequently
this year for want of drivers.
Mr. Frolik started Linet after the
Czech Republic’s 1989 Velvet Revolution
with a $10,000 investment in an old cow
barn. Today, Linet is one of the world’s
biggest hospital bed makers, with 900
employees making 500 beds a day. Its
devices monitor and collect data on patient health, and can cost as much as a
BMW. A Linet bed, Mr. Frolik said with a
chuckle, even appeared in an episode of
the Netflix show “House of Cards” in
which Kevin Spacey’s character, President Frank Underwood, was recovering
from an assassination attempt.
To keep up with a surge in orders driven by the global recovery, he needs more
He raised wages 12 percent last year
and tried to poach employees from other
factories, but it wasn’t enough, and he
didn’t have the production capacity to
bid on major government contracts.
“We could be growing much more,” Mr.
Frolik said.
So he put in an €8 million order last
month for superfast robotic lasers and
plastic molding machines to replace older models. The new devices will let him
move six workers to the custom assembly line.
But with other Czech companies also
scrambling to upgrade, he’ll have to
wait for the delivery of the machines.
Mr. Frolik stopped before a hulking industrial laser that would eventually be
replaced by a faster, smarter machine.
The two employees operating it would
be educated for other work at the factory inside the old cow barn.
“We’ll still need people,” Mr. Frolik
said. “But robots are more reliable.”
U.S. investors may look abroad as dollar falls
Since the start of last year, the dollar has
lost more than 12 percent of its value
against a basket of foreign currencies.
During that same stretch, stock funds
that invest abroad have gone from being
laggards to leaders.
“Foreign investments tend to do better when the dollar is weak,” said Jack A.
Ablin, chief investment officer for Cresset Wealth Advisors. That’s because
“when you invest in foreign stocks,
you’re actually buying two things — the
foreign equities, but also the foreign currencies needed to buy them,” he said.
And as those foreign currencies
strengthen against a weak dollar, the returns on foreign investments held by
Americans get a lift.
Over the last year, European equities
have largely been flat when measured in
their local currencies. But when translated into dollars, European equities
have returned nearly 18 percent over
the last 12 months for Americans.
Many observers think the dollar could
weaken further as inflationary fears
build in the United States. “The dollar is
still fundamentally overvalued against a
number of currencies, particularly in
the emerging markets,” said Thomas
Clarke, a portfolio manager of the
William Blair Macro Allocation Fund.
Does that mean investors should continue to look overseas? The short answer is yes, market strategists say. But
it’s complicated.
The falling dollar is a double-edged
sword for Americans investing abroad,
said Harry W. Hartford, president of
Causeway Capital Management.
“On the one hand, if the dollar is weakening versus the euro or the yen or the
Swiss franc, the value of your foreign investments is going to go up just on the
currency alone,” he said. “But there’s
another impact you cannot ignore.”
New rules
for Marriott
While foreign funds held by American
investors benefit from a currency tailwind, international companies held
within those funds face headwinds as
they compete against United States
businesses whose goods are cheaper because they’re priced in dollars.
Mr. Hartford notes that companies in
the Morgan Stanley Capital International Europe, Australasia and Far East
Index (known as the MSCI EAFE) generate roughly 15 percent of their revenue in the United States and an additional 10 percent in emerging markets,
where many currencies are at least partially linked to the dollar.
“The benefits investors will have seen
from the decline in the U.S. dollar could
be offset by the translation effect on
company revenues,” he said.
This doesn’t imply that American
stock investors should avoid foreign exposure, however.
Regardless of how the dollar trades
from here, shares of foreign companies
are more attractively priced, on average, than domestic stocks.
Domestic blue-chip equities, for example, are trading at a price-to-earnings
ratio of 32, based on 10 years of averaged
profits. That’s twice as expensive as
they’ve historically been, according to
Research Affiliates.
By contrast, shares of foreign stocks
based in developed economies such as
Europe and Japan have a P/E of 17.5,
which is a 30 percent discount from their
historic median. Emerging market
stocks are trading at a P/E of 15.
“I look on Europe as a bargain and the
emerging markets as a bargain,” said
Robert D. Arnott, chairman and chief
executive of Research Affiliates. “I’m
perfectly happy about nondollar investments because they are cheap and the
U.S. stock and bond markets are not.”
Still, to benefit from the gains a weak
dollar produces while avoiding potential
A currency exchange office in Istanbul in November. Since the start of 2017, the dollar
has lost more than 12 percent of its value against a basket of foreign currencies.
problems, investors may want to focus
on specific types of companies — those
domiciled abroad but whose profits are
not going to be affected by any further
decline in the currency.
“One place to look is international
small caps,” said Mr. Ablin said, referring to shares of small companies domiciled abroad with a market value of
around $3 billion or less. “These companies are denominated in foreign currencies. But because they are smaller, they
tend to transact most of their business in
their home markets.”
The MSCI EAFE small-cap index
tracks such stocks, and an investor can
buy an exchange-traded fund that mirrors the index, like the iShares MSCI
EAFE Small-Cap E.T.F.
One company included in the index is
Orpea, which has nursing homes, rehabilitation hospitals and home-care op-
erations throughout Europe. Another
example is the German real estate company LEG Immobilien. It owns more
than 130,000 residential apartments,
nearly all of which are in the German
state of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Beyond smaller names, investors can
also turn to foreign companies with
commodity-based businesses.
One important factor is inflation,
which has bolstered commodity prices
and is a big part of the explanation for
the dollar’s fall in the first place, said
James Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group.
Mr. Paulsen points out that the dollar
fell last year even though the Federal
Reserve had been raising rates. Higher
rates typically tend to attract more cash
flows and lift a currency’s value, but rising “inflation destroys the value of the
U.S. dollar,” Mr. Paulsen said.
Commodities, as well as other “real
assets” like real estate, are viewed as an
inflation hedge and tend to outperform
in periods of dollar weakness. “They’re
joined at the hip,” Mr. Paulsen said.
One good example of a foreign commodity play: Royal Dutch Shell, the
multinational oil and energy giant.
Though headquartered in the Netherlands and incorporated in the United
Kingdom, Royal Dutch Shell reports its
earnings in dollars, because oil is priced
in that currency.
“Because they are reporting in U.S.
dollars, then you as a U.S.-based investor should be indifferent to what the exchange rate does, whether it goes up or
down,” said Mr. Hartford of Causeway
Capital Management, whose fund,
Causeway International Opportunities,
counts Royal Dutch Shell among its top
If the dollar is falling because inflation
is picking up in the United States earlier
than in other parts of the world, then
emerging market stocks ought to benefit. Many parts of the emerging world —
such as Latin America — are dependent
on commodities. Moreover, emerging
economies are more tied to manufacturing than consumption compared with
the developed world, and rising inflation
often squeezes consumer companies
Since the dollar began to sink in January 2017, emerging market equity funds
are up 37 percent, nearly twice the gains
of the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index
during that time. And in an earlier
stretch in which the dollar was weak —
from 2002 to 2008 — emerging market
funds trounced those focused on the
United States by nearly 20 percentage
points a year for six years.
“A weaker dollar is beneficial to international investments relative to the
U.S.,” said Mr. Paulsen. “And that’s more
true for the emerging markets.”
Experienced players of the rewards
program game often do best by combining travel at a single hotel or airline
with everyday use of its co-branded
credit card. And because the new cards
will give out differing numbers of
points depending on where you use
them, everyone will have to do some
math to see how he or she will make
out in the new system.
Any evaluation of a loyalty program
begins with the earn-and-burn analysis: What do you get in exchange for
your loyalty, and what can you trade it
for when you want to redeem? According to David Flueck, senior vice president of global loyalty for Marriott,
hotel guests will earn about 20 percent
more points than they did previously.
That number is meaningless, however, if the points are worth less when
they’re redeemed. Marriott, which
completed its acquisition of Starwood
in September 2016, is moving to threetier pricing in points for free rooms —
a standard price and then peak and
off-peak rates coming next year. Within
that kind of plan, there is a lot of room
for Marriott to improve its own economics at the expense of frequent
Mr. Flueck made the following points
when I pressed him on this: There are
more properties where standard award
pricing will fall than there are where
they will rise. There will be roughly the
same number of peak and off-peak
nights. And he answered with a
straight-up “no” when I asked him, on
behalf of loyalists of the Starwood
Preferred Guest program like myself,
whether the changes were designed to
devalue the program for Starwood
members, who were often able to get
up to (a quite generous) 3 cents per
Many perks
point in value when
booking free rooms.
remain intact
Loyalty brings
for platinum
perks in addition to
level and
points, but compahigher,
nies don’t want to
make it too easy to
upgrades to
earn them. Starwood
certain suites. members used to be
able to qualify for
platinum status after
just 25 stays. Now, you’ll need to rack
up 50 nights. The company will allow
people to qualify under either the old
rules or the new ones this year.
Many perks remain intact for people
who reach the platinum level and
higher, however, including club lounge
access, upgrades to certain suites and
a 4 p.m. checkout at every hotel (except resort and convention properties
under some circumstances).
Also, Marriott travelers who regularly stay in lower-priced properties in
parts of the United States with no
luxury hotels get some welcome news:
The company did not follow the lead of
airlines that have tied status more
closely to revenue. At Marriott, a night
is still a night, whether it’s at a Courtyard or a Ritz.
“For a road warrior always staying
in secondary markets, we didn’t want
to make it harder,” Mr. Flueck said.
Assessing the changes will be complicated enough for many travelers.
But the analysis gets more confounding when you consider the various
credit cards on offer. Instead of consolidating its portfolio with one card issuer, Marriott chose to maintain its relationship with both American Express
and Chase. Both companies introduced
new cards Monday.
The annual fee for the new Premier
Plus Chase card is $10 more, though it
will also offer more points than the
current Premier plastic. Cardholders
will need to alert the company if they
want to switch.
The more interesting developments
here, however, are on the American
Express side. It is adding a “Luxury”
American Express card that will be
available in August and require a $450
annual fee. It will earn six loyalty
points for every dollar spent at Marriott hotels, three at restaurants and
airlines, and two points everywhere
While comparisons with the old
program get tricky, for some time now
Marriott has been allowing Starwood
members to transfer their points into
Marriott’s existing program at a oneStarwood-for-three-Marriott ratio. I
ran my own numbers on card spending
from 2017 (and made some wild
guesses about future travel spending)
and found that the points I earn will
fall by about one-third.
At first glance, this would seem to
matter a great deal, especially to people who like trading points for airline
miles. While Marriott is preserving
that feature and the bonus points that
it sometimes gives out during the
transfer, earning fewer points through
card spending means fewer miles on
the other side of the trade.
So who would add this card (or stick
with the program at all, for that matter)? Well, consider the other perks. A
$300 annual credit for any money you
spend at a Marriott property brings
the annual fee down to $150. Then, you
get a certificate for a free night stay at
all but the most expensive hotels. That
could be worth that remaining $150,
easy. Cardholders will also get the
speediest Wi-Fi in hotels without having to pay for it.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 9
For sale From far left, “Bord de Mer à Sainte-Adresse” (1868); “Camille Assise sur la Plage à Trouville;” (1870-71); “Extérieur de la Gare Saint-Lazare, Effet de Soleil” (1877); and “La Seine à Lavacourt” (1879), all by Claude Monet and owned by Peggy and David Rockefeller’s estate.
In a rare offering, 5 Monets
The sales of paintings that
span the artist’s career are
expected to set records
Rockefeller still rings true as one of the
greatest names in wealth and philanthropy — most everyone has heard of
the center, the foundation, the oysters.
Peggy and David Rockefeller were
also known for their prodigious art collecting, and Christie’s New York is staging an auction of their trove, with multiples sales spread over three days, May 8
to 10.
The house will offer masterpieces by
Matisse and Picasso, as well as truckloads of valuable porcelain. Highlights
from the collection have been touring
the globe to increase anticipation.
All the proceeds from the sale — appropriately enough to be held at
Christie’s headquarters at Rockefeller
Center in New York — will go to 12 charities designated by the couple.
It has the potential to be the largest
single-owner sale, and the largest charitable one, in history.
The heart of the collection is a group
of five works by Claude Monet (18401926), the most-represented artist in the
Christie’s lineup, which will be auctioned in the first evening sale. The pictures arrive freighted with anticipation,
given that five paintings by the artist
have brought more than $40 million
each at auction.
The Rockefeller grouping forms a
kind of Monet variety pack, spanning
1868 to 1917 and offering an overview of
his career.
“It’s very rare that you have five masterpieces by one artist in a single collection,” said Adrien Meyer, a co-chairman of the Impressionist and Modern
department at Christie’s. “They cover
all of Monet’s facets.”
The works include one urban scene,
“Extérieur de la Gare Saint-Lazare, Effet de Soleil” (1877), and three water
scenes: “Bord de Mer à Sainte-Adresse”
(1868), “Camille Assise sur la Plage à
Trouville” (1870-71) and “La Seine à
Lavacourt” (1879).
The most valuable piece is from Monet’s popular Water Lilies series,
“Nymphéas en Fleur” (1914-17). That’s
the one the auction house expects to
bring the most money: from $50 million
to $70 million, Mr. Meyer said, given the
track record of similar pictures.
The Rockefellers doted on this picture
in particular. “As you were coming down
the staircase in the country, there was
the Monet Water Lilies,” said Jessica
Fertig, a senior Impressionist specialist
at Christie’s, referring to the family estate in Pocantico Hills in Westchester
County. “It was such a part of their life.”
The art historian Paul Hayes Tucker, a
scholar of Impressionism who has written five books on Monet, said that the
lineup spoke well of the Rockefellers’
“It’s elastic, catholic and embracing of
all the periods, the real hallmark of enlightened collecting,” he said.
Mr. Tucker said he discovered Monet
as a student at Williams College in
Massachusetts, where he later taught.
Since then, he said the painter “has been
my companion, my guide, my soothsayer.”
But only from a distance: He has
never owned one of Monet’s works. That
privilege is reserved for a lucky few like
the Rockefellers and Scott M. Black, the
Boston-based founder of the investment
firm Delphi Management.
Mr. Black’s collection of more than 50
works includes three Monets, which he
has lived with on and off over the years,
when they are not on loan to museum
Mr. Black made a fortune picking winners in stocks, which is why his clients
include business titans like Michael R.
Bloomberg, the former mayor of New
York City. And in his estimation, Monet
is a consistent performer.
“He didn’t have too many off days,”
Mr. Black said. “He’s my favorite single
painter of the 19th century.” And he
knows the comparables, as they say in
the investment game: He owns works
by Degas, Renoir, Cassatt and Pissarro.
Water lillies
It’s estimated that “Nymphéas en Fleur” (1914-17) could sell for up to $70 million.
“There’s such an exuberance on the
canvas,” he said. “It’s such a pleasing
aesthetic experience.”
Mr. Black bought his first Monet for
around $1 million in 1986 — what he now
considers a bargain. “It’s worth a lot
more now,” he said.
From the marketplace’s perspective,
one notable facet of the demand for Monet’s work is its universality. “It attracts
a broader market than ever,” Mr. Meyer
said. “Every major Monet we’ve sold in
the last few years has had serious bidders from America, Europe and Asia.”
That’s music to the ears of anyone at
an auction house. “It makes him an extraordinarily stable and sound name,”
Mr. Meyer said. “He’s become a brand.”
Of course, the brand wasn’t always
The word Impressionism was coined
by the French critic Louis Leroy, writing
for the satirical magazine Le Charivari
in 1874, to insult Monet’s “Impression
Sunrise,” painted a few years earlier. Leroy imagined a conversation between
two viewers in which one scolded,
“Wallpaper in its embryonic state is
more finished than that seascape.”
Mr. Tucker noted that it wasn’t just
Leroy who had been skeptical of Monet’s talent. As recently as the 1950s,
Monet’s late work — now the most
prized of all for its abstract beauty —
was misunderstood and shunted aside.
“Impressionism fell out of favor, with
some exceptions, between the world
wars,” Mr. Tucker said. “And many of the
late works had been left in the studio.
People didn’t know them.”
Even the Water Lilies, Mr. Tucker
added, were “still avant-garde for some
in the 1950s.”
It took the influential director of the
Museum of Modern Art, Alfred H. Barr
Jr., to bring conventional wisdom
around. In this endeavor, he had an assist from the influential critic Clement
Greenberg, most famous for his canonizing of Jackson Pollock.
Just a few years after pooh-poohing
the painter’s last phase in The Nation as
offering “the mere texture of color as adequate form in painting,” Mr. Greenberg
finally came around.
He wrote in the essay “The Later Monet” that “the 20 years by which Monet
outlived Cézanne turn out not to have
been in vain.”
Fast-forward to today, when Impressionists are beloved drivers of museum
attendance, as evidenced by “Public
Parks, Private Gardens: Paris to Provence,” currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and featuring 13 Monets.
It seems that only Renoir could use a
bit of public-relations help. His more
flowery scenes, particularly some of the
female portraits, not only seem unlikely
to come back in style, they have active
detractors: The Instagram account
renoir_sucks_at_painting has some
Renoir certainly has his acolytes,
though perhaps it’s telling that his
record sale, of $78.1 million, was set, at
Sotheby’s, almost 28 years ago. Even
Mr. Black had relatively faint praise.
“With Renoir, you don’t really want to
buy one after 1890,” he said. “It was
downhill after then, let’s be frank.”
(Fans will be happy that the Barnes
Foundation in Philadelphia has an exhibition, Renoir: Father and Son/Painting and Cinema, opening May 6.)
But anyone wanting to write off Renoir, or anyone else, is encouraged to remember that markets are made by buying low and selling high. The wheel of
fortune has a way of turning.
As for Monet, it could be said that Mr.
Barr and Mr. Greenberg did their job too
well — that is, if you’re thinking of buying one. The lowest estimate for the
Christie’s Monets, for “Bord de Mer à
Sainte-Adresse,” is $2 million to $3 million. Even investment gurus have their
limits. When asked if he would be raising a paddle at Christie’s for any of the
five Monets, Mr. Black demurred.
“No, the prices are too high,” he said.
“But I’m going to come down to see
© Didier Gourdon
10 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
A Paris sale helps brings art to children
Street artists join effort
organized by students
to aid Musée en Herbe
“We’re counting on you and your raised
hands to bid for the street art selected
by the M.B.A. students and go home victorious!” said Arnaud Oliveux, the auctioneer and specialist in urban art at the
French auction house Artcurial.
Mr. Oliveux, 43, strode theatrically
across the stage, hammer in hand, at the
Théâtre de la Ville-Espace Pierre
Cardin in the Eighth Arrondissement
and officially opened the second edition
of the charity auction Street for Kids.
The event is organized by 33 students
pursuing master’s degrees in art management, with a focus on the international art market, at the Icart School of
Over the past six months, as their final project, the fifth-year students
planned their first public auction. They
persuaded renowned street artists and
galleries to donate pieces; they drafted
the communication strategy; they designed and built the exhibition space.
More than 250 people gathered in the
cultural center on March 19 to watch as
65 lots from 55 artists, including Shepard Fairey, Banksy and CLET, were auctioned, with bids starting at 500 euros
(about $620).
Julien Garcia-Toudic, 22, was among
the students charged with collecting the
donated street art. “It can be complicated to ask artists to donate work,” he
said. “But as soon as I explained that it
was for charity and it would be financing
children’s access to art, they were immediately supportive of the cause.”
Their goal was to raise money for the
Musée en Herbe (Budding Museum).
Tucked in the First Arrondissement, a
stone’s throw from the Louvre, the
Musée en Herbe’s mission is to bring art
and culture to children and those typically excluded from the art world.
Founded more than 40 years ago, the
6,400-square-foot space provides exhibit-related activities for those “between
the ages of 3 and 103.”
“We’re a little alien in the world of art,”
said Sylvie Girardet, the museum’s director. She was a wide-eyed graduate in
art history and archaeology when she
created the museum with two friends.
At the time, she had been shocked to
learn that the majority of the French
population did not visit museums (In
2014, 61 percent had not been to a museum once in that year, according to one
“Childhood is when a lot of core values
are formed,” said Ms. Girardet, 67. “We
thought that if we initiated children into
the world of art, then as future adults
they wouldn’t have this mental block.”
The current exhibition (through Sept.
9), “The Secrets of the Studio: From Monet to Ai Weiwei,” showcases the work of
Damian Elwes, who paints the studios of
famous artists. Visitors, equipped with a
mini magnifying glass and a Sherlock
Holmes-style hat, set out on a mission to
find Mr. Elwes’s “missing palette.”
Children are encouraged to study the
paintings to see if they can uncover
which artist “stole” the palette. At the
end of the exhibition, once they have
found the culprit, they are given a tube
of paint.
“Young parents who came to visit the
museum when they were little now
come back with their children,” Ms. Girardet said as she watched schoolchildren crowd around the tables in the museum’s atelier. “It’s touching; it means
they remember and they keep fond
memories of their time here.”
Every year, she said, the nonprofit
museum “struggles to find a budget for
the year ahead.” The annual budget is
around €1 million. About half comes
from admissions; grants from City Hall
make up a fifth of the budget, and the
rest is acquired through sponsors.
Nicolas Laugero-Lasserre, 42, the director of the Icart School of Arts and a
fan of the philosophy behind the Musée
en Herbe, suggested having his students organize an auction for the museum.
“Three years ago, I decided I wanted
the students to really experience how
the art market works,” Mr. LaugeroLasserre said at the exhibition before
the auction. “Then I thought, why not
raise money for a good cause? The
Musée en Herbe is like a paradise for
children, open to everyone and breaking
social barriers.”
In 2017, the first edition of Street for
Kids raised just over €74,000. With this
extra funding, the museum was not only
able to continue to educate children and
families but also to fund its program
Récrés du Musée (Break Time in the
Museum). This included working with
nongovernmental organizations accompanying families from disadvantaged
backgrounds on free tours of the museum.
This year, Ms. Girardet announced
that the students raised €90,750; she
was greeted with loud cheering and
clapping. The museum will use part of
the funds for its next exhibition on the
monsters of Japanese manga comic
books and their influence on contemporary artists in Japan.
Charley Uzzell Edwards, a street artist known as Pure Evil who is based in
London, donated two original pieces.
One sold for €4,000, and the other,
painted live at the auction, sold for
“It’s awesome that they have [the
Musée en Herbe] set up to cater to children and get them inspired,” he said. “I
think for a lot of kids, street art is their
Art market
Clockwise from top:
“Live that life,” by
Nasty, part of the
Street for Kids
charity auction in
Paris in March; the
auctioneer Arnaud
Oliveux presenting
“C.O.G Project
48/17,” by Toxic;
and Charley Uzzell
Edwards, a street
artist known as Pure
Evil, with the piece
he painted live at
the auction.
Private sales: Art for a few eyes only
Those deals can be
lucrative, and they are
done without the paddles
The “Virgin and
Child With Saint
John the Baptist
and Mary Magdalene” was sold
privately to the J.
Paul Getty Museum.
The Dent-Brocklehurst family in England owned an amazing painting. Hanging in Sudeley Castle, their ancestral
home in Gloucestershire, it had been in
the family since at least 1845.
In fact, Parmigianino’s “Virgin and
Child With Saint John the Baptist and
Mary Magdalene,” a pastoral Renaissance masterwork with a touch of eroticism — the Virgin’s pink and blue gown
has a see-through bodice — had been in
private hands for more than four centuries.
When the family decided to sell, they
worked with Sotheby’s, the auction
house. But there was no auction. There
was never going to be.
The Parmigianino went to the J. Paul
Getty Museum in Los Angeles, and the
Dent-Brocklehursts and their agents
earned a reported $31 million in what is
known as a private treaty sale.
Private sales through auction houses
are suddenly big, but are they new? “It
was something that was kept under
wraps at most of the houses for some
time,” said David Schrader, who joined
Sotheby’s last year as its head of private
sales for contemporary art. “Now we’re
being very vocal about it and putting
more energy into it.”
And why not? It’s a lucrative revenue
stream, and it takes advantage of all that
expertise and those client connections.
Sotheby’s private sales grew 28 percent last year, a spokesman said, to
$744.6 million.
That’s a four-year high, but the miracle year was 2013, when numbers
topped $1 billion.
There are compelling reasons for clients to sell far from the auction crowds.
“The privacy is huge” as a factor, Mr.
Schrader said in a telephone interview
from Hong Kong, where he was overseeing the house’s first private-selling
shows, timed to coincide with Art Basel
Hong Kong. “A lot of people don’t want to
see their work come up in a more public
Both buyers and sellers also want
highly targeted sales efforts. When Mr.
Schrader says that much of Sotheby’s
work is “very bespoke,” he isn’t kidding.
For one collection, he said, he is searching for “a Picasso that is no more than 25
inches that has no yellow in it.”
One of Sotheby’s most striking recent
sales was to Jonathan Ruffer, a British
investment adviser who is restoring
Auckland Castle, a neo-Gothic palace
that was home to the prince bishops of
Durham for centuries, and revitalizing
the surrounding town.
Auckland had a dazzling head start on
its collection. In 1756, when Bishop Richard Trevor lived there, he redid the dining room to showcase a purchase: Francisco de Zurbarán’s “Jacob and His
Twelve Sons.”
That cycle of 12 of the life-size portraits set a definite tone, so Mr. Ruffer
decided to fill the castle with more Spanish old masters.
“Jonathan invited me to his office in
Victoria in London to discuss his proposal” in November 2016, recalled
James Macdonald, Sotheby’s head of old
master paintings private sales. Mr. Ruffer “acquired around 20 significant
pieces through Sotheby’s, almost all
through private sale.”
Many came from private collections
in Spain, but there were also purchases
from France, Britain, Switzerland and
Chile. The project took about 18 months,
which Mr. Macdonald called “a remarkably short period of time.” Buying an
equivalent collection at auctions, he
said, would have taken “well over a decade.”
Mr. Ruffer always planned to go the
private sale route. “If one buys only at
auction or from dealers, one has simply
to take the pictures that happen to come
up,” he said.
Although he still runs Ruffer L.L.P. in
London, Mr. Ruffer spends about half
his time in the town of Bishop Auckland,
living in the castle’s lodge house, with
“my fireplace, wife and two stinkers” —
Dandie Dinmont terriers, he said. “I go
up by train and eat egg and cress sandwiches if I’m feeling ebullient.”
He’s supervising the Auckland
Project, which encompasses properties
outside the castle grounds, and the castle’s reopening (planned for December).
Asked which acquisition thrilled him
most, Mr. Ruffer declined to play favorites. Mr. Macdonald mentioned “The
Penitent Magdalene,” by Juan Bautista
Maíno, an artist “who has only recently
started to emerge from the shadows.”
The market for good to great Spanish
old masters is strong, Mr. Macdonald
What appeals to today’s collectors is
the category’s “powerful aesthetic and
often intense emotion.” There is also a
sense that “the market has been somewhat overlooked” until now.
On the other hand, the single hottest
category today seems to be Western
modern and contemporary art, with a
growing number of Asian buyers. That’s
why Mr. Schrader was in Hong Kong,
surrounded by the signatures of Picasso, de Kooning, Dalí and Bonnard.
Asian collectors’ tastes are becoming
more sophisticated, Mr. Schrader said.
“As they travel more and go to museums
in Paris and London and New York and
Venice, they’re just getting exposed to
different kinds of objects.” Americans’
tastes are expanding in the same way.
“There’s quite a convergence happening.”
Convergence can be scary, but Mr.
Schrader said he believed traditional
auctions would survive. For one thing,
public-sale frenzy, with competitors
lusting after the same object, paddles
going up and down around the room and
telephones ringing to signal international bids, can create “a type of magic”
— for certain lots.
He mentioned “the Basquiat that we
sold for $110 million,” referring to an untitled 1982 skull painting snapped up by
a Japanese billionaire at a New York
sale last year. “I don’t think I could have
achieved that price privately,” Mr.
Schrader said.
Galleries may resent auction houses
invading their territory, but those at
Sotheby’s say there’s more collaboration than competition.
A private sale is straightforward.
Sotheby’s has dedicated spaces for private sales in London, New York and
Hong Kong.
Most often, a prospective buyer and
an artwork come together in a locked
Sometimes technology intervenes,
perhaps an electronic image accompanied by a condition report.
For Mr. Schrader, who came to Sotheby’s from Wall Street, private sales
couldn’t be more logical. “We’ve been
selling art maybe 10 times a year,” he observed. “The other 355 days, art was
selling at other venues.”
That was then.
Auckland Project
Part of the collection of Jonathan
Ruffer, a British
investment adviser
who is restoring
Auckland Castle, a
neo-Gothic palace.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 11
An education fostered by collecting
we going to hire, where are gaps that
we need to fill. We have quite a lot of
wonderful colleagues that we’ve hired
— some from Sotheby’s, some from
Christie’s — with truly amazing women among them. In Belgium, we were
joined recently by Marianne Hoet, who
was at Christie’s. She has lived and
breathed art from the moment she
could talk, basically, and it’s amazing
working with someone like that.
Acquiring art informs
Cheyenne Westphal’s
work in leading Phillips
As chairman of Phillips, Cheyenne
Westphal is among the highest-ranking
women in the auction world — and she
certainly has the best-sounding title,
even though she reports to the chief
executive, Edward Dolman.
Ms. Westphal, 50, joined Phillips just
over a year ago after a long, successful
tenure at Sotheby’s, having run that
house’s contemporary art sales in Europe for more than 15 years. She
presided over some acclaimed events,
including “Beautiful Inside My Head
Forever,” a sale that raised $200.7 million in 2008 with a slate consisting
entirely of direct-from-the-studio works
by Damien Hirst.
A native of Baden-Baden, the German spa town, Ms. Westphal studied at
St. Andrew’s in Scotland and then at the
University of California, Berkeley, under the renowned art history professor
Anne Wagner.
Now based in London, Ms. Westphal
has been infusing Phillips with new
energy. Last month, the house had its
record sale when 44 lots of 20th-century
and contemporary work brought in $135
million on the London block. Big tickets
included Picasso’s “La Dormeuse”
(1932) at $57.8 million and a Matisse
sculpture, “Nu Allongé I (Aurore)”
(1908), at $20.5 million. The Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford saw a
record for his work when “Helter Skelter I” (2007) brought $11.9 million.
Ms. Westphal, a collector who owns
works by Gerhard Richter, Hirst,
Banksy and Tara Donovan, among
others, spoke about glass ceilings,
powerful women and what she’d do
differently in her career. (This interview has been edited and condensed.)
You’re on the advisory board of the
Association of Women in the Arts.
What does the group do?
Aiming high Cheyenne Westphal, chairman of Phillips, wants to make it “the premier auction house in all areas that have to do with the 20th and 21st century.”
You have an august title — what are
the-day-to-day responsibilities of a
It’s not managerial. It’s really outwardfacing. So I focus on working with
clients on a global basis. That also
means getting and selling pictures or
works of design, or watches.
I think that’s called rainmaking. And
it’s global now?
I do have a schedule that moves according to the art calendar. March was
focused on the London sales. We’re
opening a new office in Hong Kong.
May and November, of course, are in
New York for the sales. June in Basel
for the fair and December in Miami.
Do you feel like a glass-ceiling
It’s interesting, because I’ve been
working in this industry for a long
time. I started in 1990 — I had my own
glass ceilings that I broke in a way, I
suppose. I started running the contemporary department at Sotheby’s in
1999, when I was still really quite
young. And it felt, at the time as a
woman, that I could do that. It felt very
open. But I do think that it’s very nice
that there’s a woman as chairman of
Is hiring other women a focus?
You’re absolutely right. I work very
closely with Ed Dolman on whom are
How can you be in this market, and
live in this world, and not want to buy
things? I’ve had a chance to work
closely with some artists, like Damien
Hirst. He and I did an amazing charity
sale with Bono for (RED), and of
course, the “Beautiful Inside My Head
Forever” auction, that brought 220
works of art directly from the studio to
market. And so, of course I’ve also
collected Damien over the years.
So what would you do differently?
That’s no small buy-in. How many
Hirsts do you own?
The very first thing that I said was,
“You have to remember, when I started
in the art world it was 1990.” Things
have changed. I might have been
working in what was called a contemporary field, but I was really only
working with artists that were already
very established. Every work of art
had to be at least 10 years old before
we sold it, and I don’t think I got out
enough. It took me a few more years,
courtesy of Charles Saatchi and the
like, to pick up on the truly contemporary scene. So my advice to myself
would be: I should have been more
grass-roots right at the beginning.
You’re up against a famous duopoly
in Christie’s and Sotheby’s. How does
that change your thinking?
I love that question. I genuinely think
that we have a chance to make a big
dent in the duopoly. We can give collectors a third option that they like. I
On offer
Clockwise from
left: Fulvio Bianconi’s “Con Macchie
Vase,” to be sold by
Wright; Chinese
porcelain Fu Lions,
to be sold by Doyle
New York; and a
George I carved
walnut wing armchair, to be sold by
Stair Galleries.
The headlines in the auction world tend
to involve Christie’s, Sotheby’s and
Phillips, 18th-century businesses with
English roots that routinely provide
record prices, historic consignments
and single-owner sales with famous
names attached.
But as Kathleen M. Doyle, chairman
and chief executive of Doyle New York,
put it, “They had a 200-year head start.”
Auctions for fine art, decorative arts
and collectibles of all stripes are everywhere, in New York and across the country. You just have to know where to look.
Here are just a few standouts and some
of the areas they specialize in. All have
brick-and-mortar sales rooms in addition to online buying.
Headquarters: Chicago
Founded: 1982
Best bets: contemporary art, jewelry
The founder, Leslie Hindman, has been
on an expansion kick from her Chicago
base and now runs eight offices across
the country. And she knows her audience. “I understand the middle market,”
Ms. Hindman said, noting that plenty of
items sell at her house for around $500.
As in the auction world generally, jewelry and contemporary art receive lots
of attention from bidders, and in 2017 a
platinum and diamond ring sold for
$97,000. “Jewelry is a tangible asset and
people appreciate it as such,” Ms. Hindman said, “just like the stock market.”
Founded: 1962
Best bets: paintings, jewelry,
single-owner collections
“We’re welcoming,” said Kathleen M.
Doyle of the small but wide-ranging
house, with more than 40 specialists
across many fields. “It’s an open-door
policy.” Doyle is particularly proud of
bringing in superlative estates that encompass many kinds of works. Coming
up in May, the house will offer items
from the estates of Lili and Norman Israel, including a pair of Chinese porcelain Fu Lions on ormolu bases, (estimated at $7,000 to $10,000). Ms. Doyle added, “People come to us for something
they can use right away.”
Headquarters: New York
Founded: 1941
Best bets: books, works on paper,
African-American art
Founded as a rare-book auctioneer,
Swann still holds dozens of such sales a
year. And it has “kept things two-dimensional,” said the president, Nicholas D. Lowry, in terms of what goes on
the block. He noted that Swann was the
first auction house to sell vintage photographs, in 1952. The house has also
had a dedicated department of African-American art for 12 years, setting records like the $965,000 paid in
2015 for a painting by the Abstract Expressionist Norman Lewis. “We
helped create that market,” Mr. Lowry
said, “and it’s had a groundswell of
support that hasn’t waned.”
Headquarters: Hudson, N.Y.
Founded: 2001
Best bets: English and Continental
furniture and paintings, modern and
contemporary art
Colin Stair, the founder and president,
comes from a long line of antiques
dealers, and his Hudson Valley auction
house takes the long view, too. “I’m big
on exhibitions,” Mr. Stair said, of the
five- to 15-day display times for upcoming lots, longer than normal. “We put
on a good show, and people like to look
at stuff.” Stair, on Hudson’s main drag,
is frequented by dealers and bargain
hunters, and it’s a place to find interesting decorative arts lots like a
George I carved walnut wing armchair, estimated at $1,200 to $1,800,
coming up as part of a sale on April 28
and 29.
Headquarters: Chicago
Founded: 2000
Best bets: 20th-century and
contemporary design
“We’ve mined deeply one area, and
that’s how we built our reputation,” said
the founder, Richard Wright, of the
house’s laserlike focus on modern design. He noted that the average lot price
at the house is around $7,000 and that
there are many entry-level buyers, given how popular design has become. One
of the many subspecialities within
Wright’s wheelhouse is Italian glass,
and on May 23 Wright will sell a large
private collection that includes Fulvio
Bianconi’s “Con Macchie Vase,” with an
estimate of $90,000 to $120,000.
Headquarters: Dallas
Founded: 1983
Best bets: coins, sports memorabilia,
comics, movie posters
With roots in coin auctions, Heritage has
grown quite large: It raked in $438 million last year in online sales alone, and
the firm now conducts live auctions in 10
locations across the globe and across
many categories. But their bread and
butter are items that the company president, Greg Rohan, calls “the kinds of
things that everyone has,” like comic
books, baseball cards and classic film
posters. “People aren’t buying what
we’re selling for decoration or for resale,” he added. “They’re buying things
they absolutely love.”
What makes you want to collect art?
You have to be working for at least five
years in order to become a member.
It’s a forum where you can give career
advice and really engage in very interesting conversations. The first discussion that I led was, “If you could look
back today, what were the three things
that you would change?” That brought
out a very good conversation, and the
next one was on mentoring. I’m very
happy to be part of it.
Comics, coins and more
If you’re on the hunt for
something special, here
are some places to look
think the time is right. We really want
to be the premier auction house in all
areas that have to do with the 20th and
21st century. And, when you look at
certain market segments, we are world
leaders. We’ve got the top worldwide
market share in watches. We are also
leaders in photography. The biggest
financial piece is, of course, the 20thcentury market, and that’s where we
are putting a lot of efforts. And since
2014 our sales are up 80 percent across
the company.
Welcoming Consignments:
Editions and Works on Paper
Auction date: Monday 25th June 2018
The Westbury Hotel, Mayfair, London W1S 2YF
Further details:
Banksy (b.1974)
NOLA (White Rain)
Screenprint in colours, 2008, signed and numbered from
the edition of 289 in pencil, on Arches 88 wove paper,
printed and published by Pictures on Walls, London.
Estimate: £40,000-60,000
Accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Pest Control.
If we’re counting prints, I have more
than five. Less than 10.
Who else?
I really, really do love Gerhard Richter.
Obviously, you know, he is very expensive, but wherever I saw an opportunity, whether it’s an edition or whether
it’s an overpainted postcard, I take it.
I’ve got one of his wonderful 1989
souvenirs. I don’t own, and probably
won’t own, a large painting. But it’s not
about scale.
Do you think living with art as a collector gives you a useful perspective
in terms of your job?
Yes. And I’m lucky that in my office I
can hang works of art that are coming
up for sale — I spend time with the art.
I’m lucky to have something amazing
with me for six or eight weeks. You get
a very different sense of the work.
12 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
Mysterious architect
of global environment
Whose blood did it drink?
Leeches’ recent meals
help scientists track
elusive animal species
Viruses beyond counting
shape all living things
in ways little understood
Michael Tessler realized his life had taken an odd turn. His days were spent, not
in an office, not out with friends — but
alone in the woods, attracting leeches.
Sometimes, they were so bountiful
that “it was like the forest floor was moving toward me,” he recalled. “Even for
someone who’s used to having swarms
of leeches coming at me, it could be intimidating to see that many of them.”
Dr. Tessler, a postdoctoral fellow at
the American Museum of Natural History’s Sackler Institute of Comparative
Genomics, subjected himself to this horror movie scenario for the good of science. He collected hundreds of leeches
and analyzed their last blood meals,
hoping to identify their animal victims
— and thus to learn the range of species
living in the forest.
Copious leech bites later, Dr. Tessler’s
sacrifice paid off. He was a co-author of
two papers confirming that leeches and
their blood meals offer a fast, cheap
method for surveying biodiversity. Such
basic data can be surprisingly difficult
to come by, yet is often critical for making conservation decisions.
“That this bloodsucking worm might
suddenly advance conservation efforts
is something few would have predicted,”
he said.
Terrestrial leeches are found in humid
regions stretching from Madagascar
across southern Asia to a number of Pacific islands. Some 70 species have been
described, with many more likely to be
awaiting discovery.
They’re a diverse bunch: some are
drab brown, others strikingly patterned
in greens, reds and blues. Some crawl
across the forest floor in search of a
meal, while others occupy leafy perches
and leap onto unsuspecting hosts.
They all share a taste for blood. The
tiny vampires may swell to 10 times
their normal body weight after feeding,
transforming from agile, threadlike
worms into engorged blood sausages.
Remnants of a leech’s last gluttonous
meal may remain in its body for months
— a boon for researchers curious to see
what it has fed on.
The idea of using leech blood meals as
an identification tool may have been inspired by a criminal case in Tasmania in
2009. Investigators recovered DNA
from a blood-filled leech to link a suspect
to a robbery.
Several years later, researchers published the first field study showing that
the method worked to identify wildlife,
too. While encouraging, the initial study
was based on a sample of just 25 leeches
caught in Vietnam.
Eager to see whether the method
might be applicable on a much broader
scale, Dr. Tessler and his colleagues set
out to investigate in Bangladesh, China
and Cambodia.
The first step — collection — was simple, said Sarah Weiskopf, a biologist at
the United States Geological Survey and
co-author of the new papers: “You just
get to your spot in the forest and look
around for things crawling toward you.”
Of the thousands of leeches Ms.
Weiskopf, Dr. Tessler and their colleagues captured, 750 were selected for
genetic analysis. The researchers cut
out the parasites’ digestive tracts and
filtered them to extract DNA.
They used primers — short, known
sequences of genetic material — to separate mammal from leech DNA, and
then they sequenced the results and
compared them to a genetic database of
known species.
Leeches, the researchers reported in
the journal Systematics and Biodiversity, are far from picky eaters: the parasites had fed on 26 different mammal
species, plus three birds.
Nguyen Quang Hoa Anh, a project
manager for the World Wildlife Fund in
Vietnam who was not involved in the research, has been using leeches for sev-
This Thailand leech is one of about 70 species scientists have described that inhabit forests from Madagascar to some Pacific islands.
eral years to survey wildlife in remote
jungles near the border with Laos. He
confirmed their utility as a monitoring
tool, especially when paired with other
“We need as much information as we
can possibly get if we are going to identify endangered species and head off the
extinction crisis,” he said.
Researchers have traditionally made
such identifications by catching animals, collecting hair or dung samples, or
setting up camera traps. Capture
stresses out and sometimes injures animal subjects, however, and hair and
dung can be difficult to find.
Camera traps are the current gold
standard in tropical rain forests, but
they tend to require significant time and
In the second study, published in The
Journal of Applied Ecology and led by
Ms. Weiskopf, then at the University of
Delaware, the researchers aimed to
compare camera traps to leech collection. The researchers set up 30 camera trap sites in four forest reserves in
Bangladesh and captured 200 leeches in
the same spots.
While the leeches produced evidence
of 12 species of mammals (including a
small rodent, the Tanezumi rat, that the
camera traps missed), the cameras documented 26 species. But Ms. Weiskopf
pointed out that the cameras were
rolling for nearly nine months, while the
Leeches like this Malaysian specimen can swell greatly after a meal.
leeches were collected in just four days.
Simply collecting a few more leeches,
Ms. Weiskopf said, could potentially put
the method on par with camera trapping
— especially when time and money are
taken into account. The leech work cost
far less.
Given these advantages, Ms.
Weiskopf said, “leeches could really
complement some of our already existing biodiversity-monitoring methods,
and move forward some existing biodiversity conservation efforts.”
Future studies, Dr. Tessler added,
could be made even more efficient by
blending hundreds of leeches into a
slurry and genetically sequencing all of
their blood meals at once.
“I don’t know how big this will become, but I think leeches have quite a bit
of potential,” he said. “This is just a fascinating method.”
Monkeys find relief from stress in hot baths
Snow monkeys taking their ease in hot springs near Nagano, Japan. Natural hot springs
tend to be too hot, so they have been provided a spring with cooler water.
The snow monkeys of Japan are famous, as monkeys go. This troop of
Japanese macaques lives in the north,
near Nagano, the mountainous, snowy
site of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
Others of their species live even
farther north, farther than any other
nonhuman primate, so they are able to
adapt to winter weather.
But the source of this troop’s fame is
an adaptation that only they exhibit:
soaking in hot spring bathing pools.
Their habitat is full of natural hot
springs that tend to be over 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that is
apparently uncomfortable for the
It wasn’t until 1963 that a young
female macaque was first observed
bathing in a pool built by a hotel, with
the water cooled to a temperature
comfortable enough for humans and
At first, one or two monkeys joining
human visitors were a curiosity, but
eventually they became a nuisance
and a health hazard, and a park was
built with hot spring pools at a comfortable 104 degrees Fahrenheit, for
monkeys only.
The monkeys have been a longtime
tourist attraction and favorite of photographers, and it looked as if they
were trying to stay warm. Only recently have scientists investigated this
behavior by measuring levels of stress
hormones and observing the effects of
social structure.
Rafaela S. C. Takeshita and her
colleagues at Kyoto University collected and tested the monkeys’ feces
for levels of glucocorticoids, which
increase with stress. The cold is known
to cause levels of these hormones to go
up. They published their results in the
journal Primates.
As expected, during the periods
when the monkeys were bathing,
stress levels were down. Another
indication of the value of bathing to the
macaques was that the higher-ranking
females spent more time in the pools.
Dr. Takeshita said that the males
were usually on the periphery of the
troop and did not spend much time
bathing, so she studied only the females.
High in the Sierra Nevada range in
Spain, an international team of researchers set out four buckets to gather
a shower of viruses falling from the sky.
Scientists have surmised that there is
a stream of viruses circling the planet,
above the planet’s weather systems but
below the level of airline travel. Very little is known about this realm, and that’s
why the number of deposited viruses
stunned the team in Spain. Each day,
they calculated, some 800 million viruses cascade onto every square meter
of the planet.
Most of the globe-trotting viruses are
swept into the air by sea spray, and
lesser numbers arrive in dust storms.
“Unimpeded by friction with the surface of the Earth, you can travel great
distances, and so intercontinental travel
is quite easy” for viruses, said Curtis
Suttle, a marine virologist at the University of British Columbia. “It wouldn’t be
unusual to find things swept up in Africa
being deposited in North America.”
The study by Dr. Suttle and his colleagues, published earlier this year in
the International Society of Microbial
Ecology Journal, was the first to count
the number of viruses falling onto the
planet. The research, though, is not designed to study influenza or other illnesses, but to get a better sense of the
“virosphere,” the world of viruses on the
Generally it’s assumed these viruses
originate on the planet and are swept
upward, but some researchers theorize
that viruses actually may originate in
the atmosphere. (A few researchers believe viruses may even have come here
from outer space, an idea known as
Whatever the case, viruses are the
most abundant entities on the planet by
far. While Dr. Suttle’s team found hundreds of millions of viruses in a square
meter, they counted tens of millions of
bacteria in the same space.
Mostly thought of as infectious
agents, viruses are much more than
that. It’s hard to overstate the central
role that viruses play in the world:
They’re essential to our immune systems, to our gut microbiome, to ecosystems on land and sea, to climate regulation and to the evolution of all species.
Viruses contain a vast diverse array of
unknown genes — and spread them to
other species.
Last year, three experts called for a
new initiative to better understand viral
ecology, especially as the planet
changes. “Viruses modulate the function and evolution of all living things,”
wrote Matthew B. Sullivan of Ohio State,
Joshua Weitz of Georgia Tech, and
Steven W. Wilhelm of the University of
Tennessee. “But to what extent remains
a mystery.”
Do viruses even fit the definition of
something alive? While they are top
predators of the microbial world, they
lack the ability to reproduce and so must
take over the cell of a host — called an
infection — and use the host’s machinery to replicate. The virus injects its
own DNA into the host; sometimes the
new genes are useful to the host and become part of its genome.
Researchers recently identified an
ancient virus that inserted its DNA into
the genomes of four-limbed animals that
were ancestors of humans. That snippet
of genetic code, called ARC, is part of the
nervous system of modern humans and
plays a role in human consciousness —
nerve communication, memory formation and higher-order thinking. Between
40 percent and 80 percent of the human
genome may be linked to ancient viral
Viruses and their prey are also big
players in the world’s ecosystems. Much
research now is aimed at factoring their
processes into our understanding of
how the planet works.
“If you could weigh all the living material in the oceans, 95 percent of it is
stuff is you can’t see, and they are responsible for supplying half the oxygen
on the planet,” Dr. Suttle said.
In laboratory experiments, he has filtered viruses out of seawater but left
their prey, bacteria. When that happens,
plankton in the water stop growing.
That’s because when preying viruses infect and take out one species of microbe
— they are very specific predators —
they liberate nutrients in them, such as
nitrogen, that feed other species of bacteria. In the same way, an elk killed by a
wolf becomes food for ravens, coyotes
and other species. As plankton grow,
they take in carbon dioxide and create
One study estimated that viruses in
the ocean cause a trillion trillion infections every second, destroying some 20
percent of all bacterial cells in the sea
Viruses help keep ecosystems in balance by changing the composition of microbial communities. As toxic algae
blooms spread in the ocean, for example, they are brought to heel by a virus
that attacks the algae and causes it to
explode and die, ending the outbreak in
as little as a day.
While some viruses and other organisms have evolved together and have
achieved a kind of balance, an invasive
virus can cause rapid, widespread
changes and even lead to extinction.
West Nile virus has changed the composition of bird communities in much of
the United States, killing crows and favoring ravens, some researchers say.
Multiple extinctions of birds in Hawaii
are predicted as the mosquito-borne
avipoxvirus spreads into mountain
forests where it was once too cold for
mosquitoes to live.
When species disappear, the changes
can ripple through an ecosystem. A textbook example is a viral disease called
The Italian army brought a few cattle
into North Africa, and in 1887 the virus
took off across the continent, killing a
broad range of cloven-hoofed animals
from Eritrea to South Africa — in some
cases wiping out 95 percent of the herds.
“It infected antelope, it infected wildebeest and other large grazers across the
whole ecosystem,” said Peter Daszak,
the president of Ecohealth Alliance,
which is working on a global project to
catalog viruses likely to pass from animals to humans.
“The impact was not just on the animals. But because they are primary
grazers and they died off in huge numbers, vegetation was impacted, and it allowed trees to grow where they would
have been grazed away,” he said.
“The large acacia trees on the plains
of Africa are all the same age and were
seedlings when rinderpest first came in
and the wildlife died,” Dr. Daszak said.
In other places, far less grazing created
Viruses attached to a fragment of bacterial cell wall. It injects DNA into the host.
Bacteriophages, the light ovals with
stalks, overwhelm a bacterium.
Mostly thought of as infectious
agents, viruses are much more
than that. It’s hard to overstate
their importance.
a hospitable habitat for the tsetse fly,
which carries the parasites that cause
sleeping sickness.
“These kinds of ecological changes
can last for centuries or even millennia,”
Dr. Daszak said.
Large numbers of people died from
starvation as rinderpest spread in areas
also hit by drought. An explorer in 1891
estimated two-thirds of the Masai people, who depended on cattle, were killed.
“Almost instantaneously, rinderpest
swept away the wealth of tropical Africa,” John Reader wrote in his book “Africa: A Biography of a Continent.”
With intensive vaccinations, rinderpest was wiped out, not only in Africa
but globally in 2011.
The beneficial effects of viruses are
much less known, especially among
“There are huge questions in wild systems about what viruses are doing
there,” said Marilyn Roossinck, who
studies viral ecology in plants at Pennsylvania State University. “We have
never found deleterious effects from a
virus in the wild.”
A grass found in the high-temperature
soils of Yellowstone’s geothermal areas,
for example, needs a fungus to grow in
the extreme environment. In turn, the
fungus needs a virus.
Tiny spots of virus on the plant that
yields quinoa are also important for the
plant’s survival. “Little spots of virus
confer drought tolerance but don’t cause
disease,” she said. “It changes the whole
plant physiology.”
“Viruses aren’t our enemies,” Dr. Suttle said. “Certain nasty viruses can
make you sick, but it’s important to recognize that viruses and other microbes
out there are absolutely integral for the
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 13
Will the next superbug be from Yemen?
The war-torn Sam Loewenberg
country is
a breeding
It was two days after the young Yemeni
man was released from surgery that the
ground for
doctors first noticed the smell. The
drug-resistant bullet that wounded the leg of the 22year-old college student had shattered
bone and torn a hole in the soft tissue.
Now, the wound was emitting a distinct
smell, described in the medical literature as “offensive.” It strongly suggested infection, perhaps life-threatening, and the wound was not getting
Realizing that normal antibiotics
were not working, the doctors at a
trauma center run by Doctors Without
Borders sent a blood culture for analysis to their new microbiology lab, the
only one of its kind in the region. The
tests found a bacterium, Acinetobacter
baumannii, resistant to most standard
Nobody knows how the student —
who was identified using his initials,
A. S., to preserve his privacy — acquired the drug-resistant infection, but
it is so common in Yemen that it could
have come from the bullet itself or the
sand on the ground when he fell, said Dr.
Nagwan Mansoor, the chief physician in
Doctors Without Borders’s antibiotic
stewardship program.
Doctors started the gunshot victim on
a program of specialized antibiotics,
medicines rarely used because of their
potentially dangerous side effects. He
required numerous
surgeries, seven in
all. What would
normally have been a
in Yemen
five-day stay became
three weeks, during
has produced
which the man was
thousands of
casualties and put into isolation to
prevent him from
created vast
infecting other panumbers of
tients. When his
refugees. But
family came to visit,
the real cost
they could not touch
may not
him without wearing
protective clothing.
A. S. survived. “We
captured the patient
for years
from the mouth of
to come.
death,” said Dr. Mansoor. But A. S. was
lucky: Most hospitals
in Yemen do not have the capacity or
protocols in place to detect and treat
drug-resistant infections; if he had been
anywhere else, he would have lost his
leg, or died.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign in
Yemen has produced thousands of
casualties and created vast numbers of
refugees. But the real cost may not
become apparent for years to come.
After years of bombardment that has
crippled the food supply, destroyed
basic infrastructure and disrupted
medical care, Yemen has become a
breeding ground for antibiotic-resistant
disease, with potentially catastrophic
consequences — and not just for Yemen.
When penicillin was first widely
introduced in 1942, it was a revolution in
medicine. Infections that used to kill no
longer did. Similar breakthroughs
followed, but the threat of microbes
developing resistance to these wonder
drugs has been a concern from the
beginning. Until recently, the threat of
drug-resistant disease was largely
theoretical, a generalized fear rooted in
a few isolated cases.
It’s happening now in Yemen. The
conflict is taking on aspects of warfare
once found only in history books, when
the real toll of a military campaign is not
the immediate damage from weapons,
but the long-term and far greater impact of disease that spread in the chaos
of armed conflict. “It’s a huge burden on
the health system that can barely take
care of primary health care,” said Ana
Leticia Nery, the medical coordinator
for Doctors Without Borders in Yemen,
which has long been the poorest country in the Middle East. More than 60
percent of the patients admitted to the
medical organization’s hospital in Aden
have antibiotic-resistant bacteria in
their systems.
The widespread prevalence of multidrug-resistant infections has nearly
quadrupled the amount of time patients
must spend in a field hospital to recover
from war wounds. This extra time, plus
the specialized antibiotics a patient
requires to overcome a drug-resistant
infection, means far fewer patients can
be treated than the norm, and the care is
much more expensive and difficult.
Similar problems are reported to be
occurring through the war-torn regions
of the Middle East, including Iraq and
Syria, and countries with extensive
refugee populations, like Jordan.
“There is a scary, scary prevalence of
multidrug resistance we see in the
Middle East,” Dr. Nery said.
In humanitarian crises, the focus is
on emergency care, and other problems
are often missed. Surveillance of drug
resistance is spotty, but it appears that
“many people are dying of infections” in
Middle Eastern conflicts, said Susan
Elden, a health adviser on Syria for
Britain’s Department for International
Development. Findings similar to
Doctors Without Borders’s Yemen
experience have appeared in small
studies in Syria, she said, adding, “The
global aid architecture has not caught
up with the realities” of multidrugresistant infections in conflict zones.
It’s a threat to American national
security, too. Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan were laid low by drug-resistant infections for many years before the
military began a program in 2009 to
tackle it. The causes of drug resistance
in the American military were many of
the same as in civilian populations:
poor hygiene, overuse of antibiotics and
treatment in multiple facilities, said Dr.
Kent E. Kester, a retired colonel who led
the Walter Reed Army Institute of
Research and oversaw the drug resistance program.
Doctors Without Borders is unusual
among relief organizations in that it is
paying attention to drug resistance at
all. This was born of necessity. The
normal protocols it uses for antibiotics
in sub-Saharan Africa often do not work
in Yemen and other war-torn Middle
Eastern countries because of the high
prevalence of drug resistance, Dr. Nery
said. “We saw that our patients are not
improving with the usual antibiotics.
Our patients are not getting better.”
Before the war, Yemen had a functioning, if fragile, health system. The war
destroyed it, along with the country’s
water and sanitation infrastructure.
Many small children are not even getting routine vaccinations. Nearly 18
million people are hungry, with many
close to famine levels. By conservative
estimates, 10,000 civilians have been
killed, with 52,000 more wounded —
fertile ground for drug resistance.
Antibiotic consumption was already
very high in the region. A 2014 study
found a prevalence of nonprescription
antibiotic use by 48 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia and 78 percent in
Yemen. Syria was a major producer of
antibiotics, both for itself and for export.
It’s a recipe for catastrophe: a struggling health system where antibiotics
remain widely available with little
oversight, combined with an overwhelming number of wounded in hospitals and weak hygiene and infectioncontrol practices. Doctors in Yemen,
struggling to treat the rush of patients,
often use broad-spectrum antibiotics on
even simple infections. “This creates a
new generation of multidrug-resistant
bacteria,” Dr. Mansoor said, and inadvertently sets the stage for a public
health meltdown.
Diseases from the 19th century have
re-emerged in force. Yemen faces the
fastest-growing cholera outbreak ever
recorded, with more than one million
people affected, a quarter of them small
children. Diphtheria has emerged as
Doctors Without Borders, which has
been in Yemen since 1986, appears to be
the only relief agency tracking drug
resistance in the area, and last year it
set up its dedicated microbiology lab.
Other medical-relief agencies I contacted said that they were too busy to be
following the issue.
This goes to a core problem: a lack of
surveillance and infection-control
procedures as part of humanitarian
response, which are increasingly a
necessity with so many prolonged
conflicts. “Where we need the most
information, we don’t have it,” Ms.
Elden said.
is a public health
reporter. This article, part of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s
Global Superbug Crisis series, was
funded with support from the European
Journalism Centre.
The ethical case for having a baby with Down Syndrome
My wife
and I are
and believe
in the right
to choose.
We chose
our child.
Chris Kaposy
My wife’s ultrasound turned up something abnormal in the baby’s heart — an
otherwise innocuous feature that correlates with genetic conditions such as
Down syndrome. A series of tests confirmed that our son indeed had Down
syndrome. We were given the option of
abortion, but my wife, Jan, already
regarded him as our baby, and a few
months later Aaron was born.
The first days after the diagnosis
were hard. We thought about our son’s
future, and our future. We went through
a period of grieving. But we soon came
to accept that Aaron would have Down
syndrome, and to accept him as a member of our family. By the time Aaron was
born, it was a joyous occasion. Today,
almost nine years later, Aaron is an
affectionate boy with blond hair and a
crooked smile. He is passionate about
hockey (we’re Canadian after all) and
about animals. If he could grow up to be
anything, he would probably be a veterinarian.
Many parents make a different
choice. In the United States, an estimated 67 percent of fetuses with prenatally
diagnosed Down syndrome are aborted.
In Canada, the rate could be even
higher, though there aren’t any reliable
studies on it. This has become a front in
the American abortion-rights debate,
and bills have been passed in North
Dakota, Ohio, Indiana and Louisiana
(and introduced in Utah) that make it
illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion because of a positive prenatal test
for Down syndrome.
My wife and I are pro-choice and
oppose placing limits like these on
abortion. Nonetheless, I wish more
people would include children with
Down syndrome in their families. For
this to happen, we don’t need new laws;
we just need more people to choose to
have such children.
I understand the emotional turmoil
that a prenatal diagnosis can bring. But
after parenting Aaron through difficulties and joys and seeing the curiosity
and delight he brings to our lives, I
wonder why more people do not choose
to bring children like him into the world.
People with cognitive disabilities are,
of course, commonly subject to ridicule,
even by political leaders. I don’t mean
just President Trump — President
Barack Obama once made an offensive
joke about the Special Olympics (he
apologized). People with Down syndrome have tried to counter bias
against them by speaking out about
how they contribute to their communities. But acceptance in our communities
seems scarcely possible without acceptance into our families.
Having a baby with Down syndrome
may seem too demanding to some
prospective parents. It may seem that
those of us who choose to have children
with Down syndrome are either irresponsible or saintly. From my experience, however, such parents tend to be
utterly normal and levelheaded people.
Parents of children with Down syndrome have written extensively about
their lives and have contributed to
many research studies, as have people
with Down syndrome themselves.
These sources tell us that the lives of
people with Down syndrome tend to go
well. Their families are as stable and as
functional as those that include only
children who aren’t disabled.
So why is there such reluctance to
have children with Down syndrome?
One explanation shows up repeatedly
when parents recount the early days
after receiving their child’s diagnosis.
They feel a sense of loss because they no
longer dream that their child will get
married, go to college or start a family
of their own one day — in other words,
that they will not meet the conventional
expectations for the perfect middleclass life. In fact, some people with
Down syndrome do accomplish those
things. Nonetheless, hopes and dreams
of perfection might be a strong motive
for parents to choose abortion.
After the initial phase of grief, however, parents of children with Down syndrome tend to leave behind concerns
about perfection, and embrace a new
outlook that values acceptance, empathy and unconditional love. And re-
searchers note that those parents feel
pride in their children.
Perhaps the question to ask is: Why
do we have children at all? Most parents would agree that it is not only so
that they can replicate a conventional
arc of a successful middle-class life:
college, marriage, real estate, grandchildren. If those are the reasons to
abort fetuses with Down syndrome,
they seem disappointing — they are
either self-centered or empty in their
narrow-minded conventionality. Aaron
will probably not become a veterinarian, and that’s O.K. Childhood dreams
often harmlessly go unrealized. He
could still get a different job working
with animals, and that would make him
happy. Prenatal tests enable our capacity to choose, to some degree, the children we will raise. And those who are
pro-choice typically embrace this autonomy in reproduction.
But the concept of autonomy can be
understood in different ways. In one
sense, it simply means being free to
choose, without infringement by the
government. But, in a richer sense, it
means choosing in accordance with
one’s own values. If you value acceptance, empathy and unconditional love,
you, too, should welcome a child with
Down syndrome into your life.
CHRIS KAPOSY, an associate professor of
bioethics at Memorial University of
Newfoundland and Labrador, is the
author of “Choosing Down Syndrome:
Ethics and New Prenatal Testing Technologies.”
Smoke rose from
a community hall
where Saudi-led
warplanes struck
a funeral in Sana,
Yemen’s capital.
14 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
The real next war in Syria: Iran vs. Israel
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
Thomas L. Friedman
India’s prime
minister voiced
no outrage
after extremist
backers were
tied to the rape
and killing of
an 8-year-old
Muslim girl.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India loses his voice
when it comes to speaking out about the dangers faced
by women and minorities who are frequent targets of
the nationalist and communal forces that are part of the
base of his Bharatiya Janata Party.
Indians took to the streets during the weekend to
protest their government’s callous response to the horrifying rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in January
in which supporters of his political party have been
Until last week, he declined to address the attack on
the girl, in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir,
by men who wanted to frighten and drive away her
nomadic Muslim community, the Bakarwals, from an
area that is dominated by Hindus.
As Mr. Modi remained quiet as public outrage built up
for weeks, state lawmakers from his party, which is part
of a coalition that governs Jammu and Kashmir, attended a rally in support of a man who had been arrested for the crime and joined in demands by locals
that the investigation be taken away from state officials,
some of whom are Muslim, and be turned over to federal authorities.
Mr. Modi has also been reluctant to talk about a rape
accusation against a state lawmaker from his party in
India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which is
governed by the B.J.P.
On Friday, Mr. Modi said that these cases had
brought shame on the country and that “our daughters
will definitely get justice.” But his remarks ring hollow
because he waited so long to talk about the cases and
spoke in broad generalities — describing the crimes as
“incidents being discussed since past two days.” He has
taken a similar approach in the past when addressing
cases in which vigilante groups affiliated with his political movement have attacked and killed Muslims and
Dalits — members of India’s lowest caste — who they
falsely accused of killing cows, which are sacred to
Mr. Modi cannot be expected to discuss every crime
committed by someone who supports him. But these
cases are not isolated or random examples of violence.
They are part of an organized and systematic campaign
by nationalist forces that want to terrorize women,
Muslims, Dalits and other underprivileged citizens.
The prime minister has a duty to safeguard and fight
for all of the people of India, not just those who are
allied with him politically.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:
Syria is going to explode. I know, you
have heard that one before, but this
time I mean really explode. Because the
U.S., British and French attack on Syria
to punish its regime for its vile use of
chemical weapons — and Russia’s vow
to respond — is actually just the secondmost dangerous confrontation unfolding in that country.
Even more dangerous is that Israel
and Iran, at the exact same time, seem
to be heading for a High Noon shootout
in Syria over Iran’s attempts to turn
Syria into a forward air base against
Israel, something Israel is vowing to
never let happen. This is not mere speculation. In the past few weeks — for the
first time ever — Israel and Iran have
begun quietly trading blows directly, not
through proxies, in Syria.
And this quiet phase may be about to
Israel and Iran are now a hair-trigger
away from going to the next level — and
if that happens, the U.S. and Russia may
find it difficult to stay out.
Let me try to explain what is unfolding from a lookout post on the SyrianIsrael border, where I stood a couple of
days ago. To follow along at home, I
highly recommend this website, which
tracks the multiple interlocking Syrian
conflicts in real time and is used by the
U.N. observers here on the Golan
Let’s start with the fact that the latest
U.S., British and French cruise missile
punishment attack appears to be a
one-off operation and the impact will be
contained. Russia and Syria have little
interest in courting another Western
raid and raising the level of involvement
in Syria by the three big Western powers. And the three Western powers do
not want to get more deeply involved in
It is the potentially uncontained direct
shooting war brewing between Israel
and Iran that is much more likely and
worrisome, because it may be about to
enter round two.
Round one occurred on Feb. 10, when
an Iranian drone launched by a Revolutionary Guards Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, east of
Homs in central Syria, was shot down
with a missile from an Israeli Apache
helicopter that was following it after it
penetrated Israeli airspace.
Initial reports were that the Iranian
drone was purely on a reconnaissance
mission. But the official Israeli Army
spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis,
said Friday that the drone’s flight path
and Israel’s “intelligence and operational analysis of the parts of the Iranian
unmanned vehicle” indicated that “the
aircraft was carrying explosives” and
that its mission was “an act of sabotage
in Israeli territory.”
I have no ability to independently
verify that claim. But the fact that the
Israelis are putting it out should raise
alarm bells. If it is true, it suggests that
the Quds Force — commanded by Iran’s
military mastermind Qassem Suleimani
— may have been trying to launch an
actual military strike on Israel from an
air base in Syria, not just reconnaissance.
“This is the first time we saw Iran do
something against Israel — not by
proxy,” a senior Israeli military source
told me. “This opened a new period.”
It certainly helps to explain why
Israeli jets launched a predawn missile
raid on the Iranian drone’s T4 home
base last Monday. This would have been
a huge story — Israel killed seven Iranian Quds Force members, including Col.
Mehdi Dehghan, who led the drone unit
— but it was largely lost in the global
reaction to (and Trump tweets about)
President Bashar al-Assad’s use of
chemical weapons two days earlier.
“It was the first time we attacked live
Iranian targets — both facilities and
people,” said the Israeli military source.
(After the story appeared, the Israeli
Army’s spokesman’s office disputed the
characterization and accuracy of the
raid by my Israeli source, and emphasized that Israel maintains its policy to
avoid commenting on media reports
regarding the raid on the T4 airfield and
other events. He would not comment
Russian and Syrian military officials
both attributed the attack to Israel and
the Iranians not only openly announced
their embarrassing
losses through the
Iran’s elite
semiofficial Fars
Quds Force
news agency — they
is trying
have played down
to use Syria
previous indirect
as a base
casualties from
Israeli strikes in
to pressure
Syria — but then
Israel. Israel
publicly vowed to
is not going
take revenge.
to stand
“The crimes will
for it.
not remain unanswered,” Ali Akbar
Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, said during
a visit to Syria.
Since then, senior Israeli defense
officials have let it be known that if the
Iranians were to strike back at Israeli
targets, Israel may use the opportunity
to make a massive counterstrike on
Iran’s entire military infrastructure in
Syria, where Iran is attempting to establish both a forward air base, as well as a
factory for GPS-guided missiles that
could hit targets inside Israel with much
greater accuracy — inside a 50-meter
radius — and deploy them from Syria
and with Hezbollah in Lebanon.
These defense officials say there is
zero chance Israel will make the mistake it made in Lebanon — of letting
Hezbollah establish a massive missile
threat there — by letting Iran do the
The nation’s
has reined in
the country’s
secret police
and released
some political
prisoners. But
the nation is
not yet free of
its despotic
It is a measure of how repressive Uzbekistan was under
its first post-Soviet president, Islam Karimov, that the
first, tentative steps by his successor to curb the secret
police are raising high hopes of an Uzbek Spring in the
making. Yet with democracy in retreat across much of
the former Soviet empire and elsewhere in the world,
President Shavkat Mirziyoyev’s efforts bear watching
and deserve support.
Little was expected of Mr. Mirziyoyev when he ascended — unconstitutionally — to the presidency on Mr.
Karimov’s death 19 months ago. He had long served the
dictator as prime minister and was widely expected to
maintain his despotic system. Yet he has unexpectedly
taken a very different, and so far positive, path.
Most notable have been his steps to curb the huge
powers and reach of the feared security apparatus. Mr.
Mirziyoyev fired its long-serving chief and his deputy
and signed a law that made protecting human rights
one of the security service’s missions. He has released
some political prisoners, including journalists; he has
removed about 18,000 people from the security services’
notorious “black list” that made it impossible for them
to travel or get work; he has curbed the use of forced
labor in cotton fields; he has loosened controls on news
media a bit; he has worked to mend fences with Uzbekistan’s neighbors.
Yet with contempt for rule of law and independent
institutions spreading around the world, even Mr.
Mirziyoyev’s modest attempts to buck the trend are
After seven decades of Soviet rule and 27 years under
Mr. Karimov’s iron hand, fear, self-censorship and timidity run deep among Uzbekistan’s citizens. Even if Mr.
Mirziyoyev succeeds in bringing the security apparatus
under control, there is no certainty that he is prepared
to cede his own powers, put an end to arbitrary detentions and torture, or address past abuses. Despotism as
deep as Uzbekistan’s is not quickly excised.
But Mr. Mirziyoyev has made a beginning, and it is
critical that the United States and the European Union
link whatever engagement they have with Uzbekistan
to continued improvements in human rights. That is
critical not only to ensure that Mr. Mirziyoyev stays the
course, but also as an example to Uzbekistan’s neighbors, and to any leader who sees benefits in authoritarian and illiberal rule.
Israeli soldiers taking part in a training session last week in the Golan Heights.
same directly in Syria. Now you can
understand why it is such a dangerous
situation — even without the U.S.,
French and British punishment for
Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Iran claims it is setting up bases in
Syria to protect it from Israel, but Israel
has no designs on Syria; it actually
prefers the devil it knows there — Assad
— over chaos. And it has not intervened
in the civil war there except to prevent
the expansion of Iran’s military infrastructure there or to retaliate for rebel
or Syrian shells that fell on Israel’s
I understand Iran’s security concerns
in the Gulf; it faces a number of hostile,
pro-American Sunni Arab powers trying to contain its influence and undermine its Islamic regime. From Iran’s
perspective, these are a threat.
But what is Iran doing in Syria?
Tehran’s attempt to build a network of
bases and missile factories in Syria —
now that it has helped Assad largely
crush the uprising against him — appears to be an ego-power play by Iran’s
Quds Force leader Suleimani to extend
Iran’s grip on key parts of the Sunni
Arab world and advance his power
struggle with President Hassan
Suleimani’s Quds Force now more or
less controls — through proxies — four
Arab capitals: Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana.
Iran has actually become the biggest
“occupying power” in the Arab world
today. But Suleimani may be overplaying his hand, especially if he finds himself in a direct confrontation with Israel
in Syria, far from Iran, without air cover.
After all, even before this, many
average Iranians were publicly asking
what in the world is Iran doing spending
billions of dollars — which were supposed to go to Iranians as a result of the
lifting of sanctions from the Iran nuclear
deal — fighting wars in Syria, Lebanon
and Yemen.
That is surely one reason Iran has not
retaliated — yet. Suleimani has to think
twice about starting a full-scale, direct
war with Israel, because of another big
story many people have not noticed:
Iran’s currency is collapsing back home.
Consider this April 12 story on
The Iranian rial “has plummeted to a
record low amid growing economic and
political uncertainty, causing a rush to
the banks as Iranians desperately try to
acquire U.S. dollars with exchanges
forced to shut their doors to prevent
long and chaotic lines.” The rial has lost
one-third of its value just this year, the
story noted.
Moreover, Israeli military officials
believe Russian President Vladimir
Putin and Suleimani are no longer
natural allies. Putin wants and needs a
stable Syria where his puppet Bashar
Assad can be in control and Russia can
maintain a forward naval and air presence and look like a superpower again
— on the cheap.
Iran’s President Rouhani probably
also prefers a stable Syria, where Assad has consolidated his power and
that is not a drain on the Iranian budget.
But Suleimani and the Quds Force
seem to aspire to greater dominance of
the Arab world and putting more pressure on Israel.
Unless Suleimani backs down, you
are about to see in Syria an unstoppable
force — Iran’s Quds Force — meet an
immovable object: Israel.
Fasten your seatbelt.
America shouldn’t ignore Cuba
Christopher Sabatini
In the coming days, Cuba’s National
Assembly of People’s Power will select
Raúl Castro’s successor as president.
The coronation by the assembly, likely
of the first vice president, Miguel
Díaz-Canel, will mark the first time
that someone without the Castro name
will govern Cuba since Fulgencio Batista fled the country on New Year’s
Eve 1958 and Fidel Castro took power
on Jan. 1, 1959.
As Cuba goes through this momentous transition — the government is
planning to make the announcement
Wednesday or Thursday — CubanAmerican relations are at a low point.
While limited discussions on antiterrorism and the environment continue, the mysterious illnesses of American diplomatic personnel in Havana
have provided an excuse for the Trump
administration to reverse the Obamaera détente and downgrade diplomatic
relations to their lowest level since ties
were established in the 1970s.
Little is publicly known about Mr.
Díaz-Canel, even inside Cuba. He rose
steadily through the ranks of the Communist Party from party secretary in
Villa Clara Province. The most popular
stories — likely floated by the government to paint Mr. Díaz-Canel as modest and modern — describe how he
rode his bike to work in Villa Clara’s
capital, Santa Clara; uses an iPad; and
is a fan of the Beatles and the Rolling
Stones. But despite the propaganda,
Mr. Díaz-Canel appears to be cut from
the Castro cloth.
Unlike several earlier heir apparents
to the Castro brothers, Mr. Diaz-Canel
has kept his head low and stayed loyal.
A videotaped meeting last year showed
Mr. Diaz-Canel railing against human
rights activists and foreign embassies
for “subversion” — language that could
have been taken straight from the
Castro playbook.
But even if Mr. Díaz-Canel harbored
hidden desires to reform, he would
have little latitude to change the direction of the revolution. The more than
600 National Assembly delegates, who
choose the president and the Council of
State — the highest governing body in
the Cuban government — were themselves chosen from a list of officially
approved candidates. Don’t expect a
significant break from the past when
most officials — including the aging
históricos from the old guard — come
from the belly of the revolution.
Moreover, the Castro family will
continue to cast a long shadow on any
future government. Though he’s stepping down from the presidency, Raúl
Castro, 87, will remain the secretary
general of the Cuban Communist Party
(the only official party, which sets the
agenda of the state), and he will keep
his post as head of the armed forces,
which control a large share of Cuba’s
command economy.
And there are other Castros, too.
Raúl’s son, Alejandro, is a key figure in
the Ministry of Interior, which controls
the police and internal surveillance
functions of Cuba’s repressive machinery. Raúl’s former son-in-law, Gen.
Luis Alberto Rodríguez, runs Gaesa,
one of the largest military holding
Economic policy is one area in which
the successor to Castroismo may have
some space to make changes. And
change will be driven by necessity:
The revolution has run out of economic
steam. In 2010 Raúl Castro himself
admitted that Cuba’s economic system
was failing.
For those without access to the
estimated $3.3 billion in remittances
that come in each year from abroad,
and for those who have access only to
state stores and the ration-card system, life is bleak.
The economic lifeline provided by
subsidized oil from Venezuela is drying
up, and Cuba does not have much of an
export base. Investment laws from
2014 intended to open up the economy
to foreign investment are falling short
of their goals. Even
the much-promoted
As Cuba
(though exaggerattransitions
ed) successes of the
away from
revolution in health
rule by the
care and education
Castros, the
have been eroded by
United States shortages and lack of
state investment.
has an
The major ecointerest in
nomic challenge will
be unifying Cuba’s
dual currency system, which uses a
domestic peso and a
separate international peso for trading
with other countries. (The international peso trades artificially at a rate
of one-to-one with the United States
dollar, and the domestic peso trades at
a rate generously assumed to be 24
local pesos to the international peso.)
Unifying the currencies will cause
upheaval in the economy, increasing
the prices of imported goods and ending the double-booking system that
many businesses use to keep themselves artificially solvent, leading to
inflation and unemployment.
Modernizing and advancing the
Cuban economy requires addressing
this wrenching change.
This is where the United States can
come in. While it is not in America’s
interest to promote investment to prop
up an anachronistic, repressive regime, it is also not in its interest to
stand by while a neighbor’s fragile
economy crumbles under the weight of
its failed policies. In the worst of cases,
an economic implosion would produce
social unrest and waves of migrants to
American shores.
Multilateral banks like the International Monetary Fund and the World
Bank, at Washington’s urging, could be
given special allowances to offer economic assistance to the next Cuban
government while providing international cover for American-led efforts.
Any aid should come with a strong
message from Washington and the
banks that the Cuban government
must refrain from repression in response to protests.
Doing this would require restoring
the American Embassy personnel to
its pre-Trump levels so that officials
can have broader contacts with the
government and with the population —
as was negotiated under the Obama
Even if incrementally, generational
change is coming to Cuba. And
whether or not Mr. Díaz-Canel wants
it, the country faces difficult economic
Rather than not engaging, the
United States should play a cautious,
principled role in helping Cuba, and by
doing so, shape its future toward more
economic and political openness.
is a lecturer at
Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and executive director of Global Americans.
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 15
The luckiest Jews in history
Shmuel Rosner
Contributing Writer
TEL AVIV I am perhaps the luckiest Jew
The blindness of social wealth
David Brooks
Bob Hall was a rancher. In 1936, in the
midst of the Depression, he was suffering from a cancer that was eating the
flesh on the side of his face. His ranch
had dwindled to nearly nothing, and
weeks after bankers took the last of his
livestock, Hall died, leaving his family
deeply in debt.
His sons pleaded with anybody they
could find to make a loan and save the
family ranch. No one would do it. Finally, in desperation, they went to their
neighbor, Buzz Newton, who was
known for his miserliness, and asked
him to co-sign a loan. “I always
thought so much of your dad; he was
the most generous man I have known,”
Newton answered. “Yes, I’ll co-sign the
Bob Hall’s grandson, also named
Robert Hall, drew out the lesson in his
book “This Land of Strangers,” noting:
“The truth is, relationships are the
most valuable and value-creating
resource of any society. They are our
lifelines to survive, grow and thrive.”
There’s a mountain of evidence
suggesting that the quality of our
relationships has been in steady decline for decades. In the 1980s, 20
percent of Americans said they were
often lonely. Now it’s 40 percent. Suicide rates are now at a 30-year high.
Depression rates have increased tenfold since 1960, which is not only a
result of greater reporting. Most children born to mothers under 30 are
born outside of marriage. There’s been
a steady 30-year decline in Americans’
satisfaction with the peer-to-peer
relationships at work.
Former Surgeon General Vivek
Murthy summarized his experience as
a doctor in an article in September in
The Harvard Business Review: “During my years caring for patients, the
most common pathology I saw was not
heart disease or diabetes; it was loneliness.”
Patients came to see him partly
because they were lonely, partly because loneliness made them sick. Weak
social connections have health effects
similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day,
and a greater negative effect than
obesity, he said.
Over the past five years, such trends
have abruptly gotten worse. In 2012,
5.9 percent of young people suffered
from severe mental health issues. By
2015 it was 8.2 percent.
Last year, Jean Twenge wrote a
much-discussed article for The Atlantic, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a
Generation,” charting the accelerating
And the
social collapse. Teenrise of the
agers are suddenly
less likely to date,
less likely to leave
the home without
their parents, more
likely to put off the activities of adulthood. They are spending more time
alone with their digital screens, and
the greater the screen time, the greater the unhappiness. Eighth graders
who are heavy users of social media
are 27 percent more likely to be depressed.
I summarize all this because loneliness and social isolation are the problem that undergird many of our other
problems. More and more Americans
are socially poor. And yet it is very
hard for the socially wealthy to even
see this fact. It is the very nature of
loneliness and social isolation to be
invisible. We talk as if the lonely don’t
I was really struck by this last week,
when Mark Zuckerberg came through
Washington. Most of the questions he
faced at the congressional hearings
and most of the analysis in the press
were about Facebook’s failure to protect privacy. That’s the sort of thing
that may be uppermost on your mind if
you are socially wealthy, if, like most
successful politicians and analysts, you
live within a thick web of connection
and feel as if your social schedule is
too full.
But the big issue surrounding Facebook is not privacy. It’s that Facebook
and other social media companies are
feeding this epidemic of loneliness and
social isolation. It’s not only that heavy
social media users are sadder. It’s not
only that online life seems to heighten
painful comparisons and both inflate
and threaten the ego. It’s that heavy
internet users are much less likely to
have contact with their proximate
neighbors to exchange favors and
extend care. There’s something big
happening to the social structure of
The British anthropologist Robin
Dunbar observes that human societies
exist on three levels: the clan (your
family and close friends), the village
(your local community) and the tribe
(your larger group). In America today
you would say that the clans have
polarized, the villages have been decimated and the tribes have become
That is, some highly educated families have helicopter parents while less
fortunate families have absent parents.
The middle ring cross-class associations of town and neighborhood have
fallen apart. People try to compensate
for the lack of intimate connection by
placing their moral and emotional
longings on their political, ethnic and
other tribes, turning them viciously on
each other.
The mass migration to online life is
not the only force driving these trends,
but it is a big one. Such big subjects
didn’t come up in the Zuckerberg
hearings because socially wealthy and
socially poor people experience Facebook differently and perceive reality
and social problems differently. It’s
very hard to quantify and communicate the decline in quality of relationships. But it is nonetheless true that
many of us who are socially wealthy
don’t really know how the other half
Modi’s India embodied in child’s killing
government official and two police
officers. Thousands joined in, many
waving the Indian national flag. Vijay
Sharma, a co-founder of the group and
an organizer of the march, was also a
high-ranking leader of Mr. Modi’s
Bharatiya Janata Party in the region.
Mr. Modi’s party shares power with
a regional political party in the state of
Jammu and Kashmir. Two B.J.P. ministers in the state government joined
the protest in defense of the accused.
“So what if a girl died?” one of them
remarked. “Many girls die every day.”
They demanded that the investigation be transferred from the state
police — the investigators included
Muslim officers — to the federal Central Bureau of Investigation, a largely
delegitimized institution that serves as
a de facto arm of the ruling party.
Lawyers at a court in the city of
Jammu tried to physically prevent
officials from filing charges against the
accused and have threatened the lawyer who is representing the girl’s family.
Over the past week, horrified Indians have protested vigorously on
social media and in some cities. The
disgust and the fury at the complicity
of politicians, and the federal government’s silence, grew into a thunderous
chorus demanding that the prime
minister speak up and fire the ministers backing the Hindu Ekta Manch.
Belatedly reacting to popular outrage, Mr. Modi finally said: “Incidents
being discussed since past two days
cannot be part of a civilized society. As
a country, as a society, we all are
ashamed of it.” He promised justice.
His vague statement delicately alluded
to another case in the northern state of
Uttar Pradesh, where a lawmaker from
Mr. Modi’s party is accused of rape. Mr.
Modi stayed away from his party’s
involvement in both cases.
Yet instead of uniting India in horror,
the incident has deepened religious,
political and ethical divides. It has also
made clear that there is no automatic
political cost to crime or falsehood if it
furthers the hegemonic political narrative. The politicians involved were
sacked only after a huge public outcry.
Government ministers, officials, rightleaning media and right-wing supporters have been perfectly sanguine about
using the dead child
to polarize society
Instead of
with whataboutery,
uniting India
fake news and wild
in horror, the
conspiracy theories.
incident has
A spokeswoman
for Mr. Modi’s party,
Meenakshi Lekhi,
attacked opposition
protests, suggesting
and ethical
that they were selecdivides.
tive and opportunistic. “You see their
plan,” she said.
“First shout ‘minority minority’, then
‘Dalit Dalit’ and now ‘women women’
and then try to somehow fix blame of
state issues on the center.” An influential ex-editor tweeted that Muslim
Rohingya refugees were to blame for
the crime. A B.J.P. youth activist
posted a comment, now deleted, on his
Facebook page saying that the rape
must have been fun. A pornography
site reported a surge in searches for
videos using the raped and murdered
girl’s name.
The sense of national crisis today is
because Indians feel a rising urgency
to either counter this ethical collapse
or to capitalize on it in the run-up to
the next election.
Mr. Modi came to power in 2014, and
four years into his term, religious and
cultural bigotry stands mainstreamed
in Indian society.
Many who voted for Mr. Modi’s
economic promises are disappointed
by his failure to deliver, and impatient
with his deliberate silences around
sectarian and sexual violence and hate
speech by his party colleagues and
ministers. The systematic destruction
of democratic institutions is hard to
The B.J.P. and its Hindu nationalist
affiliates are bent on refashioning
India into a country that is increasingly hostile to secular, democratic,
pluralist and minority Indians. The
rape and murder of the little nomad
girl has thus taken on a larger meaning, reflecting the struggle for the
fundamental character of India.
An open letter to the prime minister
signed by retired civil servants
strongly protested “the agenda of
division and hate your party . . . insidiously introduced into the grammar of
our politics, our social and cultural life
and even our daily discourse” and held
him directly responsible for “this terrifying state of affairs.”
This battle for the soul and future of
India is likely to get more violent in the
lead-up to the national elections,
scheduled for next year. Mr. Modi’s
B.J.P. is braced for a desperate, ugly
fight and has a long history of using
religious polarization to electoral advantage. It will be up to the citizens of
India to fight for a tolerant, pluralist
country and stop the degeneration of
its civic and political life.
is a columnist for the
Business Standard newspaper based in
New Delhi.
who ever lived. Or if you are Jewish, you
might be. I am the Jew who gets to see
Jewish ingenuity unapologetically
celebrated, Jewish material success
flourish, Jewish might acknowledged
and the Jewish language rejuvenated. I
am the Jew who after 2,000 years gets to
witness Jewish political independence.
And this is true of all Jews, whether they
live here in Israel or experience this
success in Jewish communities elsewhere in the world.
True, there is some competition for
the luckiest generation of Jews: the
time of Moses, Solomon’s kingdom or
the Golden Age in Spain. But I think I
can make a solid case for it.
Israel, the Jewish state, turns 70 this
week. Around the time my grandmother
was born in Lithuania, at the end of
World War I, there were, according to
scholars, about 60,000 Jews living in
Palestine. When my mother was born in
Mandatory Palestine, shortly before
Israel declared its independence, there
were about 600,000. I was born in 1968,
when Israel celebrated its 20th anniversary, and during my childhood the
number of Jews in this country was
about three million, according to Israeli
government statistics. Whenever today’s population is mentioned, I have a
moment of cognitive dissonance: In my
still-young mind we are still three million, even as my older body lives in an
Israel of six million Jews.
Still, 70 years of independence is
barely a blip on the radar of Jewish
history. And the Jews of Israel are
highly aware of our role as a small link
in a long chain of Jewish history. We are
modern Israelis, of course, but our
consciousness is one of ancient Jews. In
survey after survey, more Israelis
choose “Jewish” over “Israeli” as their
main identity. And by this they do not
refer to a religion (Judaism) but to a
nation (the Jewish people).
Thus, when celebrating 70 years of
statehood, we Jews must engage in a
kind of balancing act. On one hand, we
need to appreciate the great achievement of building this Jewish homeland
in such a short time in such a hostile
On the other hand, we need to grasp
the smallness of this achievement in
Children wearing pilots’ uniforms watched Israeli Air Force planes on Monday during
training for the 70th Independence day celebrations this week, on a beach in Tel Aviv.
the scheme of Jewish history.
The prophet Jeremiah described the
Babylonian exile as a 70-year affair. We
consider that short. In the second century BCE, the Hasmonean kingdom,
widely viewed as the last period of
Jewish political autonomy before the
founding of Israel, lasted for about eight
decades before it became client of the
Romans. This kingdom is still today a
source of Jewish
pride, but it is also a
cautionary tale: Most
Israelis plan for a
its 70th
future that extends
much further than
this week.
merely another
decade of statehood.
Let’s be
So being the luckithankful —
est Jew ever is a
and cautious.
blessing and a burden. The more we
have, the more obligated we are to guard it and the more
afraid we are to lose it. We’re afraid for
psychological reasons: Jews thought
they were lucky in the past, and it often
ended badly for them (remember Germany in the early 20th century).
But we are also afraid because of
indisputably dangerous circumstances:
There are people out there who want to
harm us, deny us what we have and
destroy us, from Iranian leaders to
Palestinian extremists to anti-Semites
around the world.
And Israel faces other challenges,
some of which are familiar to many
countries: economic inequality, populism, homegrown radicalism and illegal
immigration. Not even the lucky Jew
can ignore these and other challenges
that hover like clouds over the future of
Jewish sovereignty and success.
Still, Israelis tend to be hopeful. In a
survey taken a year ago, 73 percent of
Israeli Jews said they were optimistic
“about Israel’s future.” They must see
something beyond the challenges that
makes them so confident. One of them, I
believe, is this sense of being lucky, of
being born at such a good time.
The number 70 has a special place in
the Jewish tradition. The people of
Israel make up one of 70 nations; Moses
had 70 elders at his side as he wandered
the desert; a well-known commentary
suggests that God has 70 names, as does
the city of Jerusalem.
Celebrating 70 years of independence
instinctively feels more special than 60
or 80. It instinctively connects the mind
of a modern Israeli to the long, complicated and treacherous Jewish past. And
it instinctively makes him aware that
what feels like a long and sometimes
exhausting journey is barely one lucky
step on the dusty Jewish road.
is the political editor at
The Jewish Journal and a senior fellow
at the Jewish People Policy Institute.
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16 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
What Hurricane Maria couldn’t wreck
Amateur baseball league
presses on in Puerto Rico,
helping local communities
At the Estadio Hermanos Marrero, a
baseball stadium nestled in the small,
mountainous municipality of Aibonito in
the center of Puerto Rico, parts of the
roof over the grandstand are gone or
twisted back.
The Cayey Toritos played their 2018
home opener there in a Sunday doubleheader because their stadium is still too
heavily damaged to use. Before the first
pitch, a team prayer in the dugout led by
Toritos right fielder Rafael Sánchez
ended with a rallying cry, “This is for our
The players are far from the millionaires getting set to play a major league
game in San Juan an hour north on Tuesday; they are students, salesmen, barbers, teachers and cooks. And they have
lived the hardships of Hurricanes Irma
and Maria, yet still take the field despite
the aftermath, or because of it.
The hurricanes devastated this baseball-loving island, but seven months later, the Toritos and other teams in the island’s predominant amateur 18-andover league have provided a semblance
of normalcy by pressing on with their
games, even amid harsh conditions.
“Sometimes we had to wash our
clothes in the river,” said Toritos catcher
Raulier Martinez, 22, who was without
power at home for six months.
Their determination reflects baseball’s special relationship with this island, as the Toritos and 37 other teams of
the Liga de Béisbol Superior Doble A do
what it has done every year since 1940:
play ball.
“Doble A is more regional on the island than any other sport I can think of,”
said Luis Rodríguez Mayoral, a Puerto
Rican author, broadcaster and former
baseball executive with such teams as
the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers.
“There are little towns everywhere on
the island where people’s lives revolve
around following their home team.”
Above left, the Cayey Toritos of the Liga de Beisbol Superior Doble A gathered for a team prayer in the dugout before a game on Sunday. Above right, the Toritos’ home ballpark,
Pedro Montañez Municipal Stadium, is shut down because of damage from Hurricane Maria. Below, players taking a break in the locker room between doubleheader games.
Many Doble A team owners considered skipping this season, but José
Quiles, the president of the Puerto Rican
amateur baseball federation, urged
those who could do so to play. More than
a dozen teams said yes. As word spread,
the number doubled, and eventually
reached 38, four fewer than normal.
“We wanted people to have their oasis
from the rough past several months,”
said Pedro Vargas, the executive director of the league. “But this exceeded our
expectations. There was a large movement everywhere.”
Including Cayey, which, as of late January, was not going to play. Other teams
would draft their players.
But the ardent fan base of Cayey, a
municipality of 44,000, demanded the
opportunity to watch their team, which
reached the semifinals in Doble A last
season. They voiced their opinions on
Facebook, to team owner Héctor De
Jesús, and to the municipal government, which owns the stadium the Toritos use. Players met and asked to play.
“We didn’t have a stadium, the business sponsorship wasn’t in the right
shape, we didn’t know when electricity
was going to come back, how many players we would have or what their economic situation was,” De Jesús said.
“Everyone had to chip in and do their
worth of damage, disabling the scoreboard and knocking down concrete supports and the outfield wall.
Vargas said the league budget is tight
each year, so teams rely on local businesses to help cover costs. Jerseys are
covered in advertisements from banks
and car dealerships, and the players’ introductions over the public address system are sponsored by supermarkets. De
No. 1804
Created by Peter Ritmeester/Presented by Will Shortz
(c) Distributed by The New York Times syndicate
part to create an environment where
people could forget a little bit about
what’s gone on with Maria.”
Cayey’s Pedro Montañez Municipal
Stadium, a $15 million, 6,000-seat stadium, was opened in 2012 and built with
central and local government funds. It
was a source of pride, said Mayor Rolando Ortiz Velázquez. But Velázquez
said Hurricane Maria caused $2 million
Jesús said those sponsorships were
harder to secure this season.
To make the numbers work to run the
league, officials moved opening day to
April 1 from the second week of February and shaved four games off the regular season schedule, to make it 16
games. Games were moved to Sunday
day doubleheaders, instead of the usual
Friday night or Saturday afternoon
games, because the lights do not work at
many stadiums. Admission was
dropped from $5 per game to $5 per doubleheader. Rosters grew by two, to 26
players, to accommodate the players
from the four teams that couldn’t play.
The league also reduced the players’
maximum stipend — essentially gas and
extra spending money — to $100 from
about $300 for a weekend. Some players
with professional experience, like Cayey’s Fernando Cabrera, 36, the top
starting pitcher in the league who once
pitched for the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox, get
tips from fans on the side for winning.
“It’ll be a tougher season: doubleheaders, under the sun, the lower pay,
the traveling,” said Richard González,
29, the Toritos second baseman. “But at
the end of the day, we’re doing what we
love to do, which is to play baseball and
for the people of Cayey.”
Efrain García, 55, the manager of the
displaced Azucareros of Yabucoa, a
small municipality in southeastern
Puerto Rico hard hit by the hurricanes,
said he was grateful to use the stadium
in Las Piedras for home games and
practice. But sharing a stadium and his
players’ work schedules on Saturday,
when they practice, has affected the
team’s preparation. They are off to a 1-3
start. Like Cayey (3-1), Yabucoa’s fans
rallied to encourage the team to play
this season.
“Winning is important, but in these
circumstances, it’s about more,” he said.
“We want fans to be distracted for a few
hours even though some are still without water or power, and give them something to enjoy that they love.”
Doble A has the humble feel of minor
league baseball. Cayey’s coaches finished dressing in the dugout on Sunday.
Foul balls hit into the parking lot were
chased down and reused.
In between games, players rested in
the cramped locker room littered with
equipment bags. The music of Bad
Bunny, a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist,
blasted from the giant speaker in the
locker room. Some players mingled with
fans in the main concourse, where fried
chicken, pork and empanadas were
sold. De Jesús, the owner, worked the
drinks counter. Players hung their
sweaty jerseys to dry so they could wear
them again in the second game.
Attendance at the first game was
sparse, but it probably reached 900 during the second, half of what the games
get in normal times. Some loyal Cayey
fans took a bus paid for by the municipality to the game in Aibonito.
“The Doble A team is the only institution in the city that unites all the Cayeyanos regardless of political affiliation or religion,” Velázquez said.
From the top row of the stands, Lucía
Rivera, 65, tracked every out and hit on
a homemade scorecard. A Cayey native,
she brought her son, José Ramos, 44, to
games when he was younger, and they
continue the tradition to this day.
“It’s in my blood,” she said.
“We’ll follow them wherever they go,”
Ramos said of the long drives to see
their beloved Toritos. “This is our relief
from the stress. Life goes on. We have to
adjust, just like the players did, and keep
baseball going.”
Fill the grid so
that every row,
column 3x3 box
and shaded 3x3
box contains
each of the
1 to 9 exactly
For solving tips
and more puzzles:
No. 1704
CROSSWORD | Edited by Will Shortz
Fill the grids with digits so as not
to repeat a digit in any row or
column, and so that the digits
within each heavily outlined box
will produce the target number
shown, by using addition,
subtraction, multiplication or
division, as indicated in the box.
A 4x4 grid will use the digits
1-4. A 6x6 grid will use 1-6.
For solving tips and more KenKen
kenken. For Feedback: nytimes@
KenKen® is a registered trademark of Nextoy, LLC.
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved.
Answers to Previous Puzzles
1 Southeastern
Conference football
powerhouse, for short
5 Pretentious sort
9 Charlie Brown
13 Ones making a case
29 Cause of a cold
30 Cheers for toreadors
32 One who talks on the
phone a lot?
and z
36 Buffoon
37 When repeated, “Old
MacDonald” cry
14 Cork’s land
15 Mr. ’iggins in “My Fair
16 It creates an opening
at the dentist’s office
Leave en masse
“Old MacDonald” cry
River isle
News inits.
___ Family Singers
(group that inspired
“The Sound of Music”)
24 Works, as dough
27 Gets comfortable
40 With glee
42 Egyptian menaces
44 Section of a clothing
Auction units
Central Asian plains
Loudly mourn
Flynn of film
Apt name for a worrier
Alphabet run
Beverage for a flu
58 Part of party mix,
Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
song … hinting at
what happens three
times in this puzzle’s
Adjust, as a piano
Day-Glo colors
“Fat chance!”
___ Reader
“The Simpsons”
cohort of Al Capone
Hockey great whose
jersey number rhymed
with his name
“Fat chance!” and
Kingdom that’s spread
throughout the world
Highway patrollers
Quick rundown
Tuna cut
Suffix with right
Items at an
emergency shelter
Get ready to fight, say
4 Wan
5 Make more alluring
6 Frank who was a
3 Groening who created
1 Taking off, as business
2 Pet from a pet shelter,
Solution to April 17 Puzzle
61 Much-covered 1956
33 It might involve x, y
for drinking?
26 Key of Pachelbel’s
Canon: Abbr.
Meeting point
Those, in Madrid
Rock’s Kings of ___
Weighty work
Swiss miss, maybe:
Singles, doubles and
Colorful, conical
candy on a stick
39 Camera setting
41 “That HURTS!”
43 Like leopards and
46 Hypothetical particle
that travels faster
than light
47 Location of “Yellow
Submarine” on the
“Yellow Submarine”
49 Court proposition
50 Lump on a trunk
51 BMW alternative
53 Public spat
54 Flat sign
57 Italian province
known for sparkling
59 Like Cockneys, in
British lingo
60 Popular tech news
62 ___ crawl
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 17
Heirlooms that may become worthless
Laws to protect elephants
are expected to stop sales
of many antiques in ivory
In his award-winning biography, “The
Hare With Amber Eyes,” the British ceramic artist Edmund de Waal tells the
story of his family through its collection
of Japanese netsuke carvings.
Netsuke are ornamental toggles
made mainly out of ivory or wood and
used to fasten things to the sash of a kimono. Each one is “a small, tough explosion of exactitude,” as Mr. de Waal memorably wrote. Charles Ephrussi, a cousin
of the author’s great-grandfather,
bought a complete collection of 264 of
these carvings from a Paris dealer in the
late 19th century. Among them was an
ivory netsuke of a trembling hare with
amber-inlaid eyes.
Extraordinarily, the entire collection
has remained intact, surviving World
War II in Vienna, hidden in the mattress
of a family servant. It spent further
years in the apartment of an uncle in Tokyo, before being bequeathed to Mr. de
Waal, who keeps it in his London home.
He writes in his book how a disapproving neighbor, surprised by the sight
of such a precious object in a private
house, suggested that the netsuke
should be returned to Japan. “No,” replied Mr. de Waal. “Objects have always
been carried, sold, bartered, stolen, retrieved and lost,” he said. “It is how you
tell the stories that matters.”
Such stories of lives lived through material culture could be severely curtailed
here in Britain, following the government’s announcement earlier this
month that it would be banning the sale
of items made with ivory. The measure,
is designed to protect elephants, the department of environment, food and rural
affairs said in a statement. A spokesman
would not say when legislation would be
brought before Parliament.
The department said that 20,000 elephants had been killed for their ivory in
2017. Last year, China pledged to shut
down its commercial trade in the material.
Like the United States, which in 2016
announced a near-total ban on the trade
of African elephant ivory, Britain will
have some exemptions. These will require permits, available for a fee from
the government’s Animal and Plant
Health Agency. It will be possible to
trade items containing less than 10 percent ivory, provided they were made before 1947. The same applies to musical
instruments with less than 20 percent
ivory, made before 1975, and to portrait
miniatures on ivory more than 100 years
Exemptions will also apply — and this
is the proposed legislation’s grayest
area — to the “rarest and most important items of their type,” if they are at
least 100 years old. Again, these items
will have to be registered with the Animal and Plant Health Agency, which will
then seek advice from a museum on
whether to issue a permit for sale.
After consultation, the Conservative
government has modified its 2015 preelection pledge to implement a total ban
on ivory sales. The proposed legislation
has, nonetheless, thrown the British antiques industry into a spin.
“We can trade at the top end, but for
someone starting out or people in the
middle market, this is a total disaster,”
said Jan Finch, partner at Finch & Co., a
London based dealership specializing in
unusual objects from around the world.
Ivory pieces frequently appear in its
Like many in the British art and antiques trade, Ms. Finch thinks the 10 per-
Left, an ivory netsuke of a rat from the 18th century. Above, a netsuke from the mid-19th
century showing two legendary figures grappling with an octopus.
“We can trade at the top end,
but for someone starting out
or people in the middle market,
this is a total disaster.”
cent maximum for ivory-decorated antiques is too low and would like to know
how the criterion “rarest and most important” will, in practice, be applied.
“A whole load of stuff will be illegal,”
Ms. Finch added, referring to everyday
items such as boxes and chess sets that
will soon be unsellable and unexportable.
But where, exactly, will the “top end”
of the remaining trade in antique ivory
be pitched? How many of those relatively humble Japanese netsuke carvings, for example, will pass the “rarest
and most important” test?
The Animal and Plant Health Agency
“could decide to establish a bar that’s too
high,” said Max Rutherston, a leading
specialist dealer in netsuke, based in
London. “If I’m offered a great piece,
how do I know it’s going to get a sales
Mr. Rutherston currently has 155
ivory netsukes in stock, 130 of which are
being offered on behalf of clients. Prices
range from about 250 pounds, or about
$350, to £45,000, the level at which he
currently values Mr. de Waal’s “Hare
With the Amber Eyes.”
Uncertain of how much of his stock
will be eligible for government-issued
Two 17th-century ivory reliefs attributed to the Flemish sculptor Francis van Bossuit:
“Bathsheba at Her Bath,” left; and “Lot and His Daughters.” The dealer exhibiting the
two pieces said he had reduced prices 50 percent in five years.
sales permits, Mr. Rutherston said he is
considering relocating his business to
continental Europe, perhaps to the
But dealers in the European Union,
who can trade in worked ivory dating
from before 1947, courtesy of an exemption in the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora, also have problems
with this controversial stock in trade.
“It’s much more difficult to sell ivory,”
said Florian Eitle-Böhler, director of the
old master sculpture dealers Julius
Böhler Kunsthandlung, based in Starnberg, Germany. “I’ve reduced prices by
about 50 percent in the last five years,”
said Mr. Eitle-Böhler, who exhibited an
exceptional pair of 17th-century ivory
reliefs, “Bathsheba at Her Bath” and
“Lot and His Daughters,” attributed to
Francis van Bossuit, at last month’s
Tefaf fair in Maastricht, priced at
250,000 euros, or around $310,000. He
said his gallery did not sell any ivory
pieces at the fair.
Mr. Eitle-Böhler, echoing other
British and European dealers, said one
of the main problems was the ending of
the trans-Atlantic trade in ivory. “You
can’t sell to America,” he said. “You commit a felony. It gets destroyed.”
But New York’s status as a no-go zone
for trading in antique ivory is being challenged by dealers in the United States.
In a complaint filed on April 5 to the
United States District Court for the
Southern District of New York, the Art
and Antique Dealers League of America
and the National Art and Antiques Deal-
ers Association of America are contesting the New York state law passed in
2014 banning the sale of antique ivory.
The plaintiffs contest that this state legislation conflicts with exemptions for
antiques included in the prevailing federal ban on the ivory trade.
Back in Britain, the window for buying and selling antique ivory is closing.
“We are turning things away,” said
Lee Young, managing director of
Duke’s, an auction house in Dorchester,
England. “We’re not going to be able sell
something that could be worthless in six
months’ time.”
Mr. Young, a specialist in Asian art,
said there could well come a point when
Duke’s, along with other British-based
auction houses, would no longer sell
“The trade will die because people
will be too embarrassed to own these
things,” Mr. Young said. But what will
happen to the mountain of unsellable,
unexportable ivory antiques that will
then accumulate in Britain? “You’ll only
be able to pass it down the generations,
and they won’t want it,” he added.
The “Hare With Amber Eyes,” a
signed piece by the Osaka carver
Masatoshi, dating from around 1880,
would doubtless pass the “rarest and
most important” test, thanks to the popular success of Mr. de Waal’s book. But
what about all the other, less exceptional
ivory netsuke in this family collection?
When Britain’s ban on its ivory trade becomes law, these too could become unsellable and, in a sense, worthless. Mr.
de Waal declined a request from The
New York Times for comment.
If — and in dealers’ minds, this remains a huge “if” — elephants can be
saved by banning the trade in antique
ivory, this would be a story with a happy
ending. But a lot of other stories will be
lost along the way.
Mao as an object of steamy desire
A TV program intended
to show his human side
has raised some hackles
She wrote about desiring him: of wanting to kiss his eyes, his cheeks and his
mouth a hundred times.
She said she was going crazy because
he had not written for a while.
She said in the letter that he belonged
to her.
It is unusual for the intended recipient, Mao Zedong, worshiped by many
Chinese people as half emperor and half
deity, to be portrayed by the state media
as an object of romantic desire in such
explicit terms. As it turns out, it may be
too much for some Chinese people.
The letter was written in 1929 by
Mao’s first freely chosen wife, Yang Kaihui, a prominent Chinese revolutionary,
and was broadcast by China Central
Television on the show “Trust in China.”
It was the latest manifestation of how
A portrait of Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing. More than four decades
after his death, Chinese society has not fully come to terms with his legacy.
the state propaganda machine has been
trying to win the hearts and minds of its
More than four decades after Mao’s
death, Chinese society has not fully
come to terms with his legacy. Many older Chinese display posters of him in
their homes, and taxi drivers carry his
picture as an amulet to ward off bad
luck. But many others are ambivalent
about the chaos caused by the 1966-76
Cultural Revolution and the Great Leap
Forward, a period in which millions
starved to death. Mao’s fourth wife,
Jiang Qing, is vilified for her role in the
Cultural Revolution (Ms. Yang, considered by some as Mao’s true love, was executed by a warlord at age 29 in 1930.)
Dorothy Solinger, a political science
professor who specializes in Chinese
politics at the University of California,
Irvine, said some people in China still
want Mao “to remain above the fray and
be superhuman.”
“It could be that the people who are
protesting something about Mao’s personal life object to this trivializing of him
by making him seem human,” Ms.
Solinger said.
The “Trust in China” show features
celebrities reading the letters of more
than 100 national heroes and heroines
from 1921, the year the Communist
Party of China was founded. The show is
intended to display the “humanitarian
side” of party members, according to
the Chinese news media.
On one website, the episode on Mao
was viewed 1.7 million times. The Chinese actress Han Xue recited the letter
against a simulated backdrop of a forest,
where it supposedly had been found. Be-
Mao is worshiped by many
Chinese people as half emperor
and half deity, not an object
of romantic longing.
fore her performance, she said she felt a
“little stressed” about having to read it
to the public.
As her eyes welled with tears, Ms.
Han cited Ms. Yang as writing to Mao: “I
want to kiss your eyes, your cheeks,
your mouth, your forehead and your
head a hundred times, you are mine and
you belong to me.”
But Chinese internet users were less
than enthusiastic. One person published
a statement online under the name Yunfeiyang2046, saying that the show had
“pained him” and caused him to lose
sleep. He demanded a public apology.
“Instead of remembering the martyrs
and defending their dignity and inheriting their spirit, you’re giving fodder to
gossips and using the opportunity to
gain eyeballs and ratings,” he wrote.
But many were supportive, saying
that the letter presented a more rounded
image of Mao. “People are complicated.
You can have a glorious side and an ordinary side, but heroic leaders are all
produced among the people,” Zhang
Ding, head of the family letter research
center at Renmin University in Beijing,
said in a telephone interview.
Under President Xi Jinping, the Communist Party has imposed even tighter
restrictions on debate about Mao. In
2015, a Chinese television celebrity, Bi
Fujian, was investigated for mocking
Mao at a dinner banquet.
The state media is also fond of playing
up the relationship between Mr. Xi and
his wife, Peng Liyuan, often portraying
them as a loving couple.
But discussions about the love lives of
Chinese leaders are allowed only on the
party’s terms. In 2015, five booksellers
from Hong Kong, who sold books with
topics such as the love life of Mr. Xi, disappeared. They turned up later in the
custody of the Chinese authorities.
18 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
A cruel world that he made himself
Lucrecia Martel’s ‘Zama’
chronicles the despair of
an agent of colonialism
When Don Diego de Zama stands on
edge of the New World, what does he
see? He sees a group of naked women
bathing and chattering. It is the late
18th century, and he also sees native
people walking along the crystalline
water and under the endless, sheltering sky. Mostly, Zama — an official of
the Spanish empire, born in the Americas yet proudly, insistently Spanish —
sees himself, as if gazing into an enormous mirror. He sees a noble husband,
father, magistrate, would-be lover and
defender of the crown. He sees a world
that is being remade in his image, not
grasping that his mirror is cracked.
Lucrecia Martel’s cinematic marvel
“Zama” tells the dreamlike story of
Don Diego (a wonderful Daniel
Giménez Cacho), a proud if beleaguered agent of Western colonialism.
When you first meet him, Diego is
waiting for a transfer from a desolate
outpost. He has been waiting a long
time. Over this pleasurably eccentric
movie, Diego — with his noble head
held high, his tragically ill-fitting wig
and slow-growing despair — continues
to wait, while simultaneously being
assailed by slights, insults, rejections,
humiliations, a comically inquisitive
llama and catastrophic physical violence. Diego’s tribulations are almost
worthy of a Christian martyr, except
that he is suffering for sins of his own
In “Zama,” colonialism shapes every
scene, exchange and body; it is the air
that people breathe. Soon after the
movie opens, Diego oversees the interrogation of a bound, near-naked prisoner. The scene is brief, restrained, and
its meaning — as is sometimes the
case in this movie — seems oblique.
The man’s crimes remain unstated,
though you infer that his great offense
may be his skin color. When he doesn’t
confess, Diego decides to release the
man, who runs right into a wall. He
then haltingly speaks of a fish that
swims to and fro, “fighting water that
seeks to cast it upon dry land.” The
water rejects it.
The prisoner disappears, but his
story’s allegorical power takes root.
This elliptical approach is a familiar
one for Ms. Martel, a well-regarded
Argentine director (“La Ciénaga,” “The
Headless Woman”) who conveys Diego’s story piecemeal. What joins the
seemingly disconnected parts in
“Zama” — what ties a sensual glance
to a strange barking to a thief in the
night to a desperate struggle — is
Diego, or rather his adamant, increasingly desperate request for a transfer.
His desire to leave propels and all but
defeats him. It also becomes the narrative through line, connecting Diego to
everyone and everything, tethering
him to the past and inexorably pulling
him toward his fate.
“Zama” is based on the brilliant 1956
novel by Antonio di Benedetto (19221986), translated only recently into
English. (Suggestion: See the movie,
read the book and then, for pleasure,
see the movie again.) Ms. Martel’s
“Zama,” for which she wrote the
screenplay, departs in detail from the
Clockwise from above; Daniel Giménez
Cacho as Don Diego de Zama; Lucrecia
Martel on the set of the movie; Lola
Dueñas as an object of Zama’s affection.
novel, though the two are more spiritually alike than not. What’s striking is
how she conveys the novel’s singular
first-person voice, one that is described
in the introduction as “a certain abject
nobility.” On the page, that voice is at
once imperiously self-aggrandizing
and unconsciously preposterous, with
di Benedetto’s ironic detachment reverberating in each of Diego’s utterances.
“My hand may strike a woman’s
cheek,” Diego says in the novel at one
point — casually, unknowingly and
ridiculously expressing power’s terror
— “but it is I who will endure the blow,
Colonialism shapes every scene.
It is the air people breathe.
for I shall have done violence to my
own dignity.”
Ms. Martel retains patches of di
Benedetto’s dialogue and the novel’s
overall arc. For the most part, though,
because she doesn’t use narration or
scrolls of text, she expresses Diego’s
story — its horrors, absurdity and her
attitude toward each — through her
limpid visual choices and the performances. Ms. Martel has a wonderful eye
and can generate tension as much
from the arrangement of bodies in a
frame and scene as from any spoken
line. In one scene, Diego courts Luciana (Lola Dueñas), a flirt in a preposterous wig worthy of Marie Antoinette. “Europe is best remembered by
those who were never there,” Luciana
says, while fanned by a silent, attentive, presumably enslaved black man.
These kinds of juxtapositions — the
image of indolent whites served by
enslaved blacks — function much like
the doubled voice in the novel. Nothing
if not dialectical, “Zama” is filled with
such meaningful oppositions: freedom
and captivity; open, bright skies and
closed, gloomy homes. Ms. Martel’s
cool approach fits di Benedetto’s story
and can be just as devastating, especially when she abruptly flips drama
into comedy. In one scene, as Diego
receives humiliating news from a
superior, his eyes and voice filling with
emotion, she sets loose a llama that —
after it slowly makes its way to the
front of the shot to stand next to him —
turns the moment absurd and Diego
along with it.
Mr. Giménez Cacho, who appears in
nearly every scene, anchors “Zama”
beautifully in an expressive yet re-
served performance that pulls you in
intellectually rather than emotionally.
(Early on, when he stands in profile to
the camera with his tricorn and aquiline nose, he suggests a misplaced
George Washington.) This is crucial to
how the movie works, particularly
because it is told from the point of view
of the colonizer, not the colonized. Ms.
Martel is exploring the past, how we
got here and why, but she is more
interested in relations of power than in
individual psychological portraits. The
monstrous must be humanized to be
understood, which doesn’t mean it
deserves our tears.
Europe has doomed the colonized,
and it will doom the colonizers. With
their stiff manners and unsuitable
clothing, Diego and the rest of the
colonialists seem perpetually ill at
ease. At other times they seem deranged, delirious. In “Zama,” their wigs
keep slipping; their humanity has
already slid away. One man wants to
enslave Indians to regain his status.
Diego himself may be highly placed in
the outpost, but his standing will always be suspect. As an Americano, he
is caught — or perhaps lost — between
the Old World and the New. He belongs
to neither. And so Don Diego de Zama
waits and he waits, marooned in a
threatening, unwelcoming world that
he himself helped create.
Portrait of the artist as a complete jerk
The Italian Teacher
By Tom Rachman. 341 pp. Viking. $27.
The romantic image of a genius who is
at best self-absorbed and at worst
plainly monstrous in private life is
familiar from countless biographies of
painters (writers, composers, directors). The annals of art are littered
with abandoned women, neglected
offspring, heartbreaks and betrayals.
Yet Gauguin, after deserting his family,
went on to paint his celebrated landscapes of Tahiti, and Picasso — who
fathered four children by three women,
juggled mistresses and wives and
helped drive two of them to suicide —
forever changed the face of modern
art. Morality and immortality, it must
be acknowledged, do not necessarily
go hand in hand. In fact, the opposite
often seems to be true: To achieve real
mastery, the artist must be obsessed
with work, fiercely protective of his
time, ruthlessly selfish in his dealings
with those who would impose upon
him — all the small, needy people who
ask for crumbs of his soul yet ask in
vain — for all of it, undivided, is laid on
the altar of Art.
Such a Great Artist, the capitalization almost palpable, is the subject of
Tom Rachman’s engaging and subtle
third novel, “The Italian Teacher.” In
the opening scene, the aptly named
Bear Bavinsky appears to his adoring
son as a magnificent giant who, rising
from his bath, leans on the 5-year-old
for balance, making the boy tremble
under his weight. Like many a subsequent episode, this feels both vividly
realistic and effortlessly symbolic,
foretelling the unbalanced relationships within the family, the man ever a
dominant, expansive, larger-than-life
figure who will continue to cast his
shadow on numerous successive wives
and progeny. (We learn the exact head
count of Bear’s children only at his
funeral; Picasso, who may have served
as the inspiration for a few plot peregrinations, had nothing on him.)
Painted in bold, convincing brush
strokes, Bear strides through life with
confidence and vitality, joking, scowling, smoking pipes, spreading his
mood, “the man’s pleasures clapping
you on the shoulder,” charming and
impregnating young women, discarding them as they get older, mussing his
children’s hair, feeding his children’s
hopes, crushing his children’s dreams
and always thinking about, talking
about, breathing art.
Art is not, however, the focus of
Rachman’s novel. To be sure, art lovers
will find a steady scattering of treats —
anecdotes about Giacometti and Picasso, aesthetic judgments (Correggio
and Renoir are reviled, Dürer and
Soutine admired), pithy aphorisms
(“Success in art is 50 percent timing,
50 percent geography. The rest is
talent,” a cynical dealer says), and
snapshots from the art world, from the
elegant Roman gatherings of the 1950s,
where “the moneyed all speak of art,
the artists all speak of money,” to the
auctions at the turn of the millennium,
where Bulgarian crime bosses and
Malaysian baby-bottle billionaires
snatch up critically sanctified masterpieces. Yet such glimpses are oblique,
and profound insights into the nature
of artistic greatness are not on offer.
While Bear’s genius does not seem to
be in doubt, we are given a rather
one-note, not to say gimmicky, impression of his work: His wildly colored
paintings are all extreme magnifications of this or that body part, “a bare
throat filling the huge canvas, or a roll
of tummy fat, or a pricked shoulder”;
significantly, his portraits never once
include a subject’s face.
Yet Rachman appears in perfect
control of his material. This is not an
aesthetic treatise but, first and foremost, a morality tale about fame and
family, “the long, loud effect of fathers.”
For Bear Bavinsky, while unquestionably the book’s central presence, is not,
in fact, its protagonist. It is his son,
Charles “Pinch” Bavinsky, whose much
more obscure life we follow in its chro-
It’s as if Pinch sees the world
dimly, blinded by the glare of his
father’s personality and the light
of his art.
nological unfolding, from childhood to
old age. Pinch’s mother, Natalie, a
struggling Canadian potter, is Bear’s
third wife, living with him for a decade
before being deserted for a new family.
Insecure, solitary, unattractive, Pinch
will spend years trying to impress the
absent man. As an adolescent, he
harbors artistic aspirations of his own,
“imagines enduring in history, a major
painter, he and Dad recalled together,”
but Bear, with casual cruelty, dashes
his ambitions in an understated yet
gut-wrenching scene. “I got to tell you,
kiddo,” he says. “You’re not an artist.
And you never will be.” Crushed, Pinch
turns to art history, styling himself as
“the future critic of renown” who will
become famous for writing the definitive biography of Bear Bavinsky. Yet
this dream, too, comes apart in due
course, not without Bear’s heavy hand
in the debacle, and Pinch steps out of
his father’s spotlight and slowly fades
into adulthood, his life a modest existence of a language instructor at a
London school — the slyly ironic “Italian teacher” of the title.
Pinch’s middle years, and the middle
of the book, are meandering and seemingly plotless, filled with sadness,
disappointment and tenuously formed
and lost connections. Yet the quiet
story remains engrossing, by turns
gently humorous and pathetic, mundane and poignant. Unlike his father,
Pinch leaves few traces, forms few
attachments, sires no children. Rachman’s gift for characterization, on full
display in his first novel, “The Imperfectionists,” seems oddly underused
here, for the characters are fewer, less
defined. Apart from Bear, the only
figures who stand out in Pinch’s surroundings are his mother, the tormented woman with her own ruined
dreams, and his best friend, who has a
penchant for pastel scarves, scandalous opinions and hard drinking. This
lingering vagueness sounds a curious
echo to Bear’s faceless paintings,
almost as if Pinch sees the world but
dimly, blinded by the glare of his father’s personality, by the light of his
father’s art.
Indeed, Bear’s presence or absence
remains the shaping force of Pinch’s
existence well into his later years; but
as he ages, the question of his acquiescence, of his volition, begins to hover
more and more insistently. Is Pinch
really as oppressed by his father’s
overbearing (pun intended) will as he
appears? Or is he largely culpable for
the ending of his mother’s life, the
collapse of his one meaningful love
affair, the fate of his father’s legacy?
As “the grizzled legend,” already in
his 80s, nears death, the story quickens, bringing the themes of posterity
and accountability to the fore. How
precisely are reputations made? What
separates the immortals from “the
billions whose inner lives clamor, then
expire, never to earn the slightest
notice” — how much of it is luck, how
much personality, how much talent?
And does talent give one the right to
trample others? Bear himself believes
so. In an explosive confrontation at the
heart of the book, the father says to his
son, “You work for me.” The aftershocks of this emotional eruption
ripple through to the end, bringing
upheavals and reversals in their wake.
As the hour of reckoning draws nigh,
the ironies grow thick, and the eventual dramatic resolution feels somewhat
forced; while some readers may see a
heartwarming message here, I, for one,
found it highly ambiguous and not a
little horrifying. Yet so apparent are
Rachman’s humanity and intelligence
throughout that this ambiguity must be
fully intended. There are no black-andwhite answers in life and art, not even
in our present age of increasing personal responsibility. “The Italian
Teacher” is a psychologically nuanced
Olga Grushin is the author of three
novels, including, most recently, “Forty
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018 | 19
A Beatles tour? You know that can’t be bad
When I suggested to my Beatles-obsessed husband that we should go to
Liverpool, I won points for the rest of our
marriage. What I didn’t realize until later, when I was standing on a certain lane
behind the shelter in the middle of the
roundabout, was that I would actually
enjoy myself. Very strange.
I had wondered if, in making such a
pilgrimage, there would be a place for
the nonreligious. But when slanted sunbeams fell on Eleanor Rigby’s headstone as if on cue, I shivered a little and
My husband, Ricky, knows all the answers (at least when it comes to the Beatles), so I let him engage in trivia contests with our tour guide in Liverpool.
Freed from the tug of minutiae, I was
able to marvel in the phenomenon of the
Fab Four: how one band united the
world and continues to do so, 50 years
after the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s
Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
Everyone loves a good origin story.
Even better — at least for me — was the
Where does one begin the story of the
Beatles in Britain? At the crosswalk, of
course. Last summer, we headed to Abbey Road in London just hours after we
stepped off the plane at Heathrow Airport to recreate the scene on the namesake album. A few hundred people were
doing the same.
Since Abbey Road Studios is still a
working recording studio, it was closed
to the public. We had to settle on visiting
the modest gift shop in the building next
door. There, we posed in front of the wall
painted with the “Sgt. Pepper” album
cover as Brazilian tourists took our picture. My husband bought some guitar
picks for his guitar teacher. That was the
extent of our entire Beatles souvenir
purchases, purists that we are.
Outside, we met Shari and Richard
Stegman, from San Diego, who were in
England celebrating their 30th wedding
anniversary. Like us, they were on their
way to Liverpool. Not like us, since we
were looking to save money, they would
be staying at the Hard Day’s Night Hotel
in Liverpool.
They snapped several pictures of us
crossing Abbey Road, and we did the
same for them. I learned that their wedding song was “Here, There and Everywhere.” They equated the Beatles, Mr.
Stegman said, with “a lifetime of love.”
The next day, we stopped in the men’s
fashion district to see the former headquarters of Apple Corps, the Beatles’
multimedia operation. The band bought
the building at 3 Savile Row in 1968 and
played their last public concert there on
the roof on Jan. 30, 1969. Two guitars in
memorabilia display cases just inside
the landmark building are the only signs
of the band’s former home. It is now an
Abercrombie & Fitch Kids, and salespeople bustled by, indifferent to history.
I yearned for authenticity. In Liverpool, Beatles tourism brings in £82 million, or about $116 million a year, according to a 2016 study commissioned by the
City Council. I didn’t know whether to
expect depth or Disney. We got the latter
the first afternoon, glimpsing our first
Magical Mystery Tour Bus, and, along
Left, a replica of the Cavern Club at a museum in Liverpool, England. Above, the barbershop in the Beatles’ song “Penny Lane.”
One band united the world and
continues to do so, 50 years after
the release of “Sgt. Pepper’s
Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
the dockyards, a Yellow Submarine
houseboat for rent. Outside the Beatles
Story museum, Sgt. Pepper himself
stood hawking tickets.
The museum was actually a decent
primer for the uninitiated, showing the
musical roots of the band, with replicas
of the Casbah Coffee Club and the Cavern Club. It prepared me for the next
day’s show: the Fab Four Taxi Tour. I
had reserved months in advance, informing the company that my husband
was not their average tourist.
They sent Gareth Byrne, 57, in a black
cab with the name “Michelle” on the
side. We were soon treated to his deadpan humor, encyclopedic memory and
an accent that begged for subtitles.
Throughout the next three hours,
Gareth would be part college professor,
part stand-up comedian and full-time
wedding photographer who insisted he
knew how to capture the best angles, taking multiple shots to be sure. We really
weren’t in a position to argue. Turned
out, he was right.
On a cool, cloudy early afternoon, we
started slowly by visiting the registrar
where John Lennon’s parents got mar-
ried, the outside of the hospital where
John was born, the pub that he first frequented. From there, we saw Ringo
Starr’s first home, a rowhouse boarded
up and still scheduled for renovation by
the city with other empty houses in the
Welsh Streets neighborhood.
In contrast, Paul McCartney’s brick
childhood home was well-preserved
from the outside. The inside was off limits unless you reserved a different tour
with England’s National Public Trust,
which owns the home.
Former factory is now an artful hotel
From $375
L’Otel at Doce-18 Concept House is far
from a traditional hotel — guests enter
rooms from the second level of an openair building that overlooks a contemporary restaurant and a sort of modern
mini-mall, featuring boutiques and food
stalls from local independent businesses. Opened in November 2016 in
what was once a metals factory called
Casa Cohen, the hotel has a fresh vibe —
from zigzag floor tiles to floral wall murals — with shared spaces that include
an outdoor patio and pool; a sitting room
with a grand piano; and a library
stocked with books like “Imperfect
Utopia,” by the artist Carlos Betancourt.
In February, the hotel began offering inroom spa treatments and plans to open a
dedicated spa space and rooftop restaurant later this year.
In the center of San Miguel de Allende, a
colonial-era city recognized by Unesco
as a world heritage site and just over an
hour’s drive from Guanajuato International Airport. The hotel is within walking distance of the pedestrian plaza El
Jardín and various art galleries and
We checked into our deluxe double room
at night and were immediately warmed
by the electric fire place “roaring” under
the Sony flat-screen TV opposite the two
queen-size beds. Brightly patterned pillowcases stood out against the otherwise all cotton-colored room (sheets,
floors, chairs — everything) decorated
with mod furnishings like wooden armchairs, marble shelves and a linen-covered, lantern light fixture overhead. Artwork, such as striking photographs of
the Mexican desert taken by Edgardo
Trujillo, gave life to an otherwise
dreamy setting. The plump mattress
covered in 400-thread count sheets provided one of the best nights of sleep I’d
had in a while, and it was hard to leave
the daybed, where we’d wrap ourselves
in the cashmere blanket knit in Ixmul, a
small town in the Yucatán. It’s available
to purchase for $560.
Separated from the sleeping area by the
TV and the fireplace, there was a marble
vanity with a deep square sink, bronze
faucet and lighting from two hanging
Edison bulbs that flanked an oval mirror. Steps away, in a separate room with
The pool area, top, and a double deluxe suite, above, at L’Otel.
a door, the toilet and glassed-in shower
got illumination from a skylight. (This
room did not have a bathtub, but others
do.) Between the natural rays and the
fresh flowers, it felt like an oasis. The
misleadingly thin towels made of bamboo fibers were absorbent, and all the
toiletries from the hotel’s own natural
Ablu Botanica line were in large dispensers so we didn’t have to worry
about squeezing out any last drops. Plus
there was a welcome pot of lip butter,
which was ours to keep.
Beyond the bevy of options in the concept house, the private hotel spaces feel
like one’s own living room — if one’s own
living room resembled Shakespeare’s “A
Midsummer Night’s Dream” as reimagined by Architectural Digest. Wi-Fi is
available throughout the property, and
each night for turndown, housekeeping
left a lavender and sage spray on our pillows for what the bottle says would be “a
calming, tranquil” sleep, and a mini dessert by the bedside. (Our favorite was
the citron meringue tart.)
Breakfast is served in the courtyard
area on glass tables lining the balcony.
Fresh juices (like watermelon or orange) as well as yogurt, cereal and
cheeses are available buffet-style from
the bar, while made-to-order dishes include a mix of Mexican and American favorites such as oatmeal with toasted pistachios, scrambled eggs topped with
mole, and chilaquiles with green or red
sauce and melted cheese. Downstairs,
we tried Jacinto 1930, where cocktails
like the Dragon Breath with tequila, habanero extract and agave honey wowed
us from the first sip, while the fried panela cheese starter had us wiping the
plate with our warm corn tortillas.
A unique accommodation that’s artfully
designed as a one-stop shop with offerings and comfort that won’t leave guests
wanting for anything.
L’Otel at Dôce-18 Concept House, Calle
Relox 22, Centro, San Miguel de Allende,
The same with John Lennon’s childhood home. Outside of the Menlove Avenue house where John lived with his
Aunt Mimi since he was 5 years old, Gareth told us about the day when his
mother, Julia, visited. After years of not
hearing from her after a divorce, John
learned she had lived only a few blocks
away. They began repairing their relationship. But one day after visiting him,
Julia was crossing the street when she
was hit by a car. Gareth gestured toward
the corner, and I felt the chill.
George Harrison’s childhood home
was still a simple, private house, partially blocked by bushes out front. A soft
yellow rose burst from one of the
bushes, and it felt just right for the most
spiritual Beatle.
No Liverpool tour is complete without
a stop on Penny Lane to see the lyrics
come to life. Gareth showed us how the
Beatles played with the map, since not
all of the verses correspond to places on
Penny Lane. Rather, the song “Penny
Lane” describes a neighborhood.
Tony Slavin’s barbershop was still
there, but we didn’t stop and say hello.
The bank on the corner is now a medical
practice. The shelter in the middle of the
roundabout used to house a restaurant,
but appeared vacant now. The firehouse
closed in 2015.
From there, it was a skip over to
Strawberry Field, where we slipped into
a parking spot ahead of the Magical
Mystery Tour bus, eliciting a victory cry
from our driver. The location seemed remote, not like the crowded Strawberry
Fields of Central Park fame.
The tour was winding down, finishing
in the parking lot of St. Peter’s Church
where Paul first heard John and his
Quarrymen skiffle band play a Sunday
picnic on July 6, 1957. In the cemetery
across the street was Eleanor Rigby’s
Beginnings and endings. We had
come full circle.
As we were parting, I thought I would
ask Gareth his favorite song. “‘I Feel
Fine,’” he said with a sigh, as if weary of
the question. But he winked, remembering the tip.
“There’s a Beatles song for anything
going on in your life,” Elizabeth
Kiessling, 32, said later that afternoon in
Liverpool. A lawyer in Washington, D.C.,
she was visiting with her mother, Marcia Kiessling, 62, from Evansville, Ind.
“The bottom line — it makes me so
happy,” Elizabeth said.
Her mother recalled how the Beatles
were always a family institution, starting from the time they gathered to
watch their first United States appearance. “I was 9, and I remember seeing
them on ‘Ed Sullivan,’” Marcia said.
“My father said, ‘What do you think
about those haircuts?’”
Earlier that afternoon, mother and
daughter had danced at the Cavern
Club, where the Beatles played their
early gigs. In its seventh decade, the
club still hosts live music, and is the finish for the Magical Mystery Tour. Other
tour buses come, too, and on that day, a
load of retirees from Australia had disembarked to dance. They remembered
how, 52 years earlier, they squealed
when they spotted the plane carrying
the Beatles to their concert in Adelaide
coming in for a landing.
20 | WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2018
The Spirit of Travel
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