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International New York Times - 27 September 2018

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U.S. debt
could soon
be costlier
than military
Hey, China:
‘I own you.’
Guess again.
With spending increases
and tax cuts, ‘everything
else is getting squeezed’
Thomas L. Friedman
Early in the movie “Crazy Rich Asians”
a Chinese-Singaporean father admonishes his young kids to finish their dinner, saying, “Think of all the starving
children in America.” I’m sure that
everyone of my generation in the theater laughed at that joke. After all, we’d
all been raised on the line: “Finish your
dinner. Think of all the starving children
in China.”
That little line contained within it
many messages: The first, which any
regular traveler to China’s biggest
urban areas can tell you, is that rich
China today — its
luxury homes, cars,
The Chinese
restaurants and
are catching
hotels — is really
up to the
rich, rich like most
U.S. in many
Americans can’t
ways, and
Mr. Trump
The second is that
this moment was
grasps only
destined to be a test
part of the
of who will set the key
rules of the global
order in the 21st
century: the world’s
long-dominant economic and military
superpower, America, or its rising rival,
China. And this test is playing out with a
blossoming full-scale trade war.
What does such a test of wills sound
like? It sounds like a senior Chinese
official telling me at a seminar at Tsinghua University in April that it’s just “too
late” for America to tell China what to do
anymore on issues like trade, because
China is now too big and powerful.
And it sounds like President Trump,
in effect, telling China: “Says who?
Show me what you got, baby!” Or as
Trump actually tweeted last week: “We
are under no pressure to make a deal
with China, they are under pressure to
make a deal with us. . . . If we meet, we
I guess we should be grateful that this
confrontation has been confined to
trade, but, as I said, it was inevitable.
Because, as one top tech executive
pointed out to me: “China is not a ‘near
peer’ anymore. It is a peer.”
As Mary Meeker’s latest internet
trends study noted, five years ago China
had only two of the world’s largest
publicly traded tech companies, while
the U.S. had nine. Today, China has nine
of the top 20 — Alibaba, Tencent, Ant
Financial, Baidu, Xiaomi, Didi,,
The New York Times publishes opinion
from a wide range of perspectives in
hopes of promoting constructive debate
about consequential questions.
An illegal piece of African rhino horn being weighed in a tailor’s shop in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2011. When poachers or their bosses are arrested, others quickly fill their roles.
Arrests that solve nothing
Catching alleged bosses
of poaching rings doesn’t
begin to fix the problem
In 2003, enterprising criminals in Southeast Asia realized that they could exploit
a loophole in South Africa’s hunting laws
to move rhino horns legally across international borders. Normally, North
Americans and Europeans account for
the bulk of South Africa’s rhino hunting
permits. But that year, 10 Vietnamese
“hunters” quietly applied as well.
Hunters are allowed to transport legally obtained trophies across borders
under various international and domestic laws. The Vietnamese hunters each
returned home with the mounted horn,
head or even whole body of a rhino.
Word spread. Though Vietnam and
other Asian countries have no history of
big-game sport hunting, South Africa
was soon inundated with applicants
from Asia, who sometimes paid $85,000
or more to shoot a single white rhino.
That represented the beginning of an
illicit industry referred to as pseudohunting — a first step toward the rhino
poaching crisis that rages today. And
the story of one of its chief practitioners
shows the lengths to which criminals
will go to move wildlife contraband.
Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national convicted in South Africa in a rhino-hunting
scheme, was sentenced to 40 years but released this month after serving six.
No one knows just how many rhino
horns were actually sent back to Asia as
purported hunting trophies. South Africa has records of more than 650 rhino
trophies leaving the country for Vietnam from 2003 to 2010 — goods worth
some $200 million to $300 million on the
black market. Vietnam, however, has
corresponding paperwork for only a
small fraction.
By 2012, South African investigators
had identified at least five separate Vietnamese-run criminal syndicates exploiting the pseudo-hunting loophole.
Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai citizen,
and his band of gun-toting prostitutes
were surely the most remarkable of
those gangs.
To acquire more hunting permits, Mr.
Chumlong hired more than two dozen
After four score years and 740 artifacts
A collector obsessed
with Abraham Lincoln
puts items up for auction
Harold Holzer has devoted much of his
life to a guy who died more than 80 years
before he was born. More specifically, he
has spent much of his time fixating on
the man’s face — his face in paintings, in
photographs, sculpted out of plaster.
Granted, Abraham Lincoln isn’t just
any guy. But Mr. Holzer, a historian and
former Democratic operative in New
York, found Lincoln fascinating enough
to write or edit 52 books about him, with
two more in the works.
In his office in Manhattan, Mr. Holzer,
69, boasts 10 feet of shelving that exclusively holds Lincoln books bearing his
name. That’s a few feet longer than the
16th president himself if he were lying
down — with the top hat on.
And Mr. Holzer didn’t take a break
from his Lincoln obsession on week-
Y(1J85IC*KKNPKP( +[!"!$!@!;
A portrait of Abraham Lincoln (without a beard) attributed to John C. Wolfe. It is part of
the collection of Harold Holzer, who is selling a vast trove of Lincolnalia at auction.
ends. Often, he would drive with his wife
to small towns in Pennsylvania or Massachusetts, where they would wake up
early to rummage through flea markets,
looking for Lincoln memorabilia that
people didn’t realize was valuable.
Mr. Holzer collected hundreds of Lincoln artifacts, called Lincolnalia by
those who have a similar preoccupation.
Most of Mr. Holzer’s items focus on Lincoln’s image: oil paintings, engravings
and other depictions of the man who
preserved the Union and abolished slavery.
After about 50 years of hunting for artifacts that wound up crowding his home
in Rye, N.Y., Mr. Holzer has decided to
let go of almost everything. This week,
740 items in his collection of Lincolnalia
will be auctioned off at a gallery in Manhattan. The only Lincoln items Mr.
Holzer is keeping are modern art pieces,
such as a watercolor and a terra cotta
He has two reasons for selling his collection: Mr. Holzer has moved on to a
new stage of his professional life, and he
Andorra € 3.70
Antilles € 4.00
Austria € 3.50
Bahrain BD 1.40
Belgium € 3.50
Bos. & Herz. KM 5.50
Cameroon CFA 2700
Canada CAN$ 5.50
Croatia KN 22.00
Cyprus € 3.20
Czech Rep CZK 110
Denmark Dkr 30
Egypt EGP 28.00
Estonia € 3.50
Finland € 3.50
France € 3.50
Gabon CFA 2700
Germany € 3.50
Great Britain £ 2.20
Greece € 2.80
Hungary HUF 950
Israel NIS 13.50
Israel / Eilat NIS 11.50
Italy € 3.50
Ivory Coast CFA 2700
Jordan JD 2.00
Kazakhstan US$ 3.50
Latvia € 4.50
Lebanon LBP 5,000
Luxembourg € 3.50
Malta € 3.40
Montenegro € 3.40
Morocco MAD 30
Norway Nkr 33
Oman OMR 1.40
Poland Zl 15
Portugal € 3.50
Qatar QR 12.00
Republic of Ireland ¤ 3.40
Reunion € 3.50
Saudi Arabia SR 15.00
Senegal CFA 2700
Serbia Din 280
Slovakia € 3.50
Slovenia € 3.40
Spain € 3.50
Sweden Skr 35
Switzerland CHF 4.80
Syria US$ 3.00
The Netherlands € 3.50
Tunisia Din 5.200
Turkey TL 17
U.A.E. AED 14.00
United States $ 4.00
United States Military
(Europe) $ 2.00
Issue Number
No. 42,157
women to pose as hunters. The women
received around $550 just to hand over
copies of their passports and to take a
brief “holiday” with Mr. Chumlong and
his men in South Africa.
Mr. Chumlong was eventually sentenced to 40 years in prison for wildlife
crimes, though he served far fewer.
It was a punishment unheard-of in its
severity, especially in a country with notoriously low rates of conviction for alleged wildlife crimes. Of 317 arrests related to rhino poaching in 2015, for example, just 15 percent resulted in guilty
Mr. Chumlong’s case illustrates one of
the most profound obstacles to disrupting the international trade in illegal
wildlife: the decentralized, constantly
morphing networks along which
poached goods are transported.
South Africa tightened its sport hunting rules after Mr. Chumlong was arrested, and in the overall story of the illegal wildlife trade, pseudo-hunting
proved a “temporary sideshow,” as Ronald Orenstein, a conservationist, put it in
his book “Ivory, Horn and Blood.”
Straight-up poaching and trafficking
now dominate. Yet many of the players
are still the same.
Again and again, associates of Mr.
Chumlong and his boss, Vixay Keosavang, from a decade ago, or longer, have
turned up in wildlife trafficking cases,
The United States government could
soon pay more in interest on its debt
than it spends on the military, health insurance for the poor or children’s programs.
The run-up in borrowing costs is a
one-two punch brought on by the need to
finance a fast-growing budget deficit,
worsened by tax cuts and steadily rising
interest rates that will make the debt
more expensive.
With less money coming in and more
going toward interest, political leaders
will find it harder to address pressing
needs like fixing crumbling roads and
bridges or to make emergency moves
like pulling the economy out of future recessions.
Within a decade, more than $900 billion in interest payments will be due annually, easily outpacing spending on
myriad other programs. Already the
fastest-growing major government expense, the cost of interest is on track to
hit $390 billion next year, nearly 50 percent more than in 2017, according to the
Congressional Budget Office.
“It’s very much something to worry
about,” said C. Eugene Steuerle, a fellow
at the Urban Institute and a co-founder
of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center in Washington. “Everything else is
getting squeezed.”
Gradually rising interest rates would
have made borrowing more expensive
even without additional debt. But the
tax cuts passed late last year have created a deeper hole, with the deficit increasing faster than expected. A budget
bill approved in February that raised
spending by $300 billion over two years
will add to the financial pressure.
The United States government’s
deficit is expected to total nearly $1 trillion next year — the first time it has been
that big since 2012, when the economy
was still struggling to recover from the
financial crisis and interest rates were
near zero.
Deficit hawks have gone silent, even
proposing changes that would exacerbate the deficit. House Republicans introduced legislation this month that
would make the tax cuts permanent.
“The issue has just disappeared,” said
Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat. “There’s collective amnesia.”
The combination, say economists,
marks a journey into mostly uncharted
financial territory.
In the past, government borrowing
expanded during recessions and waned
in recoveries. That countercyclical polDEBT, PAGE 7
The president doubled down on his
“America First” foreign policy and had
kind words for North Korea. PAGE 5
page two
After four score years and 740 artifacts
happens to be moving to a smaller
Mr. Holzer could make between
$158,000 and $236,300 on this sale, according to estimates by the auction
house. But he was not sure whether he
would show up for the auction.
“I’m either going to be a passive, nervous witness with a calculator, or I’m going to stay away,” Mr. Holzer said. “I haven’t had an emotional reaction to the
fact that the collection is gone, but I may
Thirty people or more are expected to
be at the auction in person, with others
bidding online or by phone. They’ll angle to claim the 19th-century art and
documents that animated Mr. Holzer’s
academic research for years and occupied his home while he and his wife
raised two daughters. “What if I stand
up and say, ‘Don’t you understand the
historical importance of that?’” Mr.
Holzer said. “‘Don’t you acknowledge
my personal attachment to it?’”
Mr. Holzer bought his first piece of Lincolnalia when he was about 18. It was an
envelope, a bit larger than an iPhone,
with Lincoln’s initials scrawled in the
corner to indicate that he was the sender. The initials also signified that as a
member of Congress, he was entitled to
free postage. Mr. Holzer saw the envelope in a catalog, borrowed $100 from his
father to make the purchase, and his collection was born. (The envelope is now
estimated to be worth $1,000 to $1,500.)
Despite being intellectually devoted
to a Republican politician, Mr. Holzer
spent much of his career working for
New York Democrats, including Representative Bella S. Abzug, Mayor Abraham D. Beame and Gov. Mario M.
Cuomo. He shifted away from politics in
the early 1990s to be in charge of public
affairs at the Metropolitan Museum of
For the past three years, Mr. Holzer
has been director of the Roosevelt
House, a double townhouse on the Upper East Side that Hunter College uses
as a hub for learning about public policy
and human rights. Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt first moved
to the house with their young children in
1908. The building was turned into a student center for Hunter in the 1940s.
Mr. Holzer, wearing round black spectacles and a pale yellow tie, sat at his
desk at the Roosevelt House recently
and explained one of the reasons he was
selling off several hundred artifacts he
had painstakingly collected. Put simply,
he has a new president to focus on,
“I’ve been helped to a new stage in my
life,” Mr. Holzer said. “Working here has
liberated me in a way.”
The height of Mr. Holzer’s collecting
career started in the early 1970s, shortly
after he married his wife, Edith Holzer.
Harold Holzer at his home in Rye, N.Y., in 2015. For 50 years he had been on the hunt for Lincoln memorabilia before deciding to sell.
The couple spent many weekends making excursions to sought-after flea markets in places like Pennsylvania Dutch
country. They would delight in finding
Lincoln treasures nestled among junk or
hanging off tree branches. Then, it was
time for the poker face.
“He’d say: ‘Don’t get excited. Don’t
show you’re excited,’” said Ms. Holzer,
his wife of 47 years. But the rush of discovery sometimes made that challenging, she said.
Mr. Stattler with an 1865 print of Lincoln ascending to heaven.
At an outdoor antique market in Adamstown, Pa., Mr. Holzer laid eyes on a
striking print depicting Lincoln, surrounded by angels ascending to heaven.
Noticing that the symbols surrounding
Lincoln were incompatible with his history, Mr. Holzer realized that the print
was nearly identical to one featuring
George Washington. The artist had simply swapped in Lincoln’s head instead of
On another Lincolnalia hunt in Pennsylvania, Mr. Holzer discovered a bluish-black print of a young, beardless
Lincoln that had been used to advertise
his nomination for the presidency. The
print shows him with unruly hair and a
ghostly pallor. Mr. Holzer excitedly recounted the story of the print’s origin. At
the Republican National Convention in
Chicago in 1860, Lincoln supporters
tossed the original version of the image
Rick Stattler of Swann Auction Galleries with the sculpture “The Council of War.”
from the balconies at the exact moment
when their candidate reached the number of votes needed to claim the nomination. For many, that was the first image
they saw of the future president.
Gradually, Edith Holzer said, the Lincolnalia began to dominate their house.
The items consumed their living room,
ate up wall space in the hallway and ran
rampant in Mr. Holzer’s den.
“There was a point at which I said no
Lincoln in the bedroom and no Lincoln
in the kitchen,” Ms. Holzer said.
Now, as the couple prepare to move
from their Westchester County home
into an apartment in Manhattan, Mr.
Holzer has accepted that his collection
simply will not fit. That’s the main reason that, about nine months ago, he
called Swann Auction Galleries to make
his pitch to sell it.
Rick Stattler, the specialist on the sale,
said Mr. Holzer’s collection was modest
in monetary value, but remarkable in its
historical and personal significance.
The most valuable item in the lot, Mr.
Stattler said, is a wood-framed oil painting that the president likely sat for after
his nomination in 1860. Mr. Stattler said
he thought it was worth $12,000 to
In the oval-shaped portrait, Lincoln
appears cleanshaven, with a heavily
lined face and piercing gray eyes. Although Lincoln has been cemented in
American memory as an angular,
bearded giant wearing a stovepipe hat,
Mr. Holzer’s collection of Lincoln images shows a remarkably wide breadth
of faces.
In early images, Lincoln looks tousled
and boyish. In others, he appears grim
and war weary. And his facial hair is far
from consistent: It varies from nonexistent to full and scruffy to a clipped,
square goatee.
“Depending on the angle you catch
him from, he can be a pretty handsome
fella,” Mr. Stattler said. But, he said,
pausing, he did have an “unusual face.”
Mr. Holzer, who spent much of his career tending to the public images of various politicians, saw something more intentional about Lincoln’s varied appearance. He thinks growing the beard, for
example, was a way to reassure the public of his fitness for office.
“Maybe it was time to swap the rugged, frontiersman, self-made man image for that of a more avuncular statesman,” he said. “I can’t help but think Lincoln had this very savvy understanding
of the visual media at a time when very
few people did.”
Arresting poaching ‘kingpins’ doesn’t help
among them Bach “Boonchai” Mai, arrested by the Thai police earlier this
Vixay Keosavang, a Lao citizen, was
once called the Pablo Escobar of wildlife
trafficking. He has denied involvement
in trafficking, and Mr. Chumlong told me
he had not had any contact with Vixay
Keosavang after his arrest.
But because of the way the poaching
and trafficking networks work, taking
down any one of these supposed “kingpins” will not stop the illegal trade.
To get their prize, rhino poachers —
who are often desperately poor local
men living on the fringes of parks and
reserves — tend to sneak in under cover
of darkness. Once in the park, they usually wait until first light to kill a rhino.
Afterward, they may await well-organized pickups, or they may bury the
horn for later retrieval. Others simply
run home with the horn as quickly as
they can.
Then, the goods are usually transferred along a chain of “runners” who
take them to larger and larger cities. At
some point, Asian businessmen based in
Africa are likely to get involved — generally Vietnamese bosses for rhino
horn, Chinese bosses for ivory.
Once the contraband begins its trafficking journey, the route often isn’t direct. A China-bound ivory shipment
may be sent first to Spain from Togo; a
passenger carrying rhino horn may fly
to Dubai before heading to Kuala
Lumpur and then to Hong Kong, obscuring its true origin and destination.
In the West, “organized criminals live in
a somewhat parallel society,” said Tim
Wittig, a conservation scientist at the
University of Groningen in the Netherlands. But among wildlife traffickers,
“the big criminals are typically also big
business people.”
“Usually, they’re involved in logisticstype businesses — trading or shipping
companies, for example — or in commodity-based ones, which is why it’s
easy for them to move things around,”
he said.
These individuals are sometimes referred to as kingpins, a term that experts say is overused.
“In some ways, chasing after a Mr. Big
behind it all is a bit of a myth,” said Julian Rademeyer, a project leader with
Traffic, a conservation group, and au-
A woman in Baoloc, Vietnam, drinking an elixir made from rhino horn. Five Vietnamese-run criminal syndicates were identified as exploiting a loophole to hunt rhino.
thor of “Killing for Profit: Exposing the
Illegal Rhino Horn Trade.”
One of the most important characteristics of poaching and smuggling networks is their diversity, according to
Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on international crime at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington.
While some networks are highly organized, others are completely dispersed.
Among wildlife traffickers,
“the big criminals
are typically also
big business people.”
A dealer smuggling ivory out of an African port may not know the local boss
overseeing poaching or the trader who
eventually sells the contraband in Asia.
In the cartels run by just one or a few
individuals, vacuums left by arrests are
quickly filled.
That is why these convictions, even
high-profile ones like Mr. Chumlong’s,
usually have little effect on shutting
down illegal trade — in wildlife, drugs or
any other kind of contraband, Dr. Felbab-Brown pointed out.
Three recent arrests for illegal wildlife trafficking have received wide attention among conservationists: Feisal
Mohamed Ali, charged with trafficking
in ivory in Kenya; Abdurahman Mohammed Sheikh, another alleged ivory
trafficker in Kenya; and Yang Fenglan,
Tanzania’s so-called queen of ivory. All
have denied the charges and await trial.
But even if they were all eventually
found guilty, Dr. Wittig noted, their trade
would account only for a meager 10.9
tons of ivory over the past decade, or the
equivalent of 1,500 elephants. By Dr.
Wittig’s estimate, the total amount they
may have trafficked accounted for 10
percent of African ivory smuggled over
that period. Nor has poaching declined
since those individuals were arrested.
“Arresting a few alleged wildlife-trafficking kingpins may be a useful symbolic tool for promoting the importance
and feasibility of strong enforcement to
the general public,” Dr. Wittig said. But
“it is not likely to be effective in actually
saving protected wildlife, especially if
done in isolation.”
Changing this largely depends on
changing the way the world addresses
illegal wildlife trade.
John Sellar, formerly chief of enforcement for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of
Wild Fauna and Flora, has argued that
we should instead just think of wildlife
trafficking simply as a crime, not a conservation issue.
But most of those tasked with fighting
this type of crime are conservationists,
Chumlong Lemtongthai, right, and his boss, Vixay Keosavang, a Lao citizen who was
once called the Pablo Escobar of wildlife trafficking.
rangers and wildlife managers. Mr. Sellar and other experts argue this job
should instead be assigned to police, detectives, money-laundering experts and
the courts.
That criminal groups dealing in wildlife tend to include multinational players
further complicates investigations.
Governments often do not share information or effectively collaborate across
After decades of work, for example,
Samuel Wasser, chair of the Center for
Conservation Biology at the University
of Washington, has developed a gamechanging forensic method that allows
experts to use DNA to determine the geographic origins of seized tusks, and
thus to map poaching hot spots in Africa.
Dr. Wasser could produce a map
showing officials and law enforcement
exactly where they need to go to shut
down the ivory trade in its current form.
Yet most countries don’t get around to
sending him samples of poached ivory
for a year or more after a seizure. Some
refuse to share any samples at all.
“That’s the hardest part for me, seeing how powerful a tool we have. Yet
countries are so reluctant to let us use
it,” Dr. Wasser said.
Even officials within a country
plagued by poachers may not cooperate.
Police officers don’t talk to customs officials who don’t talk to rangers. Rangers
don’t have access to policymakers who
don’t consult conservation groups.
“The intelligence environment is like
spy-versus-spy,” said Ken Maggs, head
ranger at Kruger National Park in South
Breaking up the decentralized criminal networks of poachers, experts say,
will require the building of new networks among those who oppose the decimation of animal species. Arresting a
few kingpins here and there will never
be a substitute.
“If the genie in the bottle were to grant
me just one wish to combat international wildlife crime, I would ask that everyone work more collaboratively,” Mr.
Sellar has written. “I remain convinced,
utterly convinced, that we would make
major inroads into combating international wildlife crime if we could only get
our act together.”
Mr. Chumlong, the Thai hunter who had
hired women to obtain extra permits,
most likely would have gotten away
with the scheme had it not been for
Johnny Olivier, a fixer and interpreter in
South Africa. Mr. Olivier worked for Mr.
Chumlong, but after 50 or so rhino kills,
his conscience began to nag at him.
“This is not trophies or whatever,” Mr.
Olivier told me he recollected thinking.
“This is now getting into slaughtering,
purely for money. These rhinos are my
nation’s inheritance.”
Mr. Olivier discussed Mr. Chumlong’s
dealings with a private investigator,
who began digging. The investigator
eventually compiled 222 pages of evidence.
When the case went to court in 2012,
South African prosecutors described
Mr. Chumlong as the mastermind behind “one of the biggest swindles in environmental crime history.” To Mr.
Chumlong’s shock, and that of many observers, he was sentenced to 40 years in
But Mr. Chumlong served nowhere
near 40 years. In 2014, Mr. Chumlong’s
sentence was reduced to 13 years in
prison, plus a fine of about $78,000.
This month, South Africa granted Mr.
Chumlong early release after serving
six years. Amid an uproar of criticism
from conservation groups and government officials, he was swiftly deported
to Thailand.
I interviewed Mr. Chumlong at the
Pretoria Central Correction Center on a
sunny Sunday morning in October 2016.
The guards led me into a spartan office where Mr. Chumlong was seated on
a bench, wearing an orange jumpsuit
with “Corrections” written in circular
patterns all over it.
After some hesitation, he agreed to
In a gush of broken English, Mr.
Chumlong told me that he was a legitimate businessman who recruited Asian
tourists to hunt in South Africa. “I get
tourists to shoot, I get commission,” he
said. “I’m never poaching. I go legal
He described having what he thought
were legitimate hunting permits, only to
be arrested by the South African police
for fraud and railroaded into jail after
signing what he believed was an agreement to pay a fine.
Soon enough, he was practically shaking, his eyes wide, his voice high.
“He said lie to me, my lawyer! Rhino
farmer go home, me go to jail 40 years!”
The way he told it, it did sound possible that Mr. Chumlong had been a scapegoat for savvier criminals who had taken advantage of his ignorance to help
get rhino horns out of the country.
Rachel Nuwer is the author of “Poached:
Inside the Dark World of Wildlife Trafficking,” published on Sept. 25, from
which this article is adapted.
Hong Kong narrows
divide with China
Rail and bridge projects
bind semiautonomous
city closer to mainland
After months of debate and political discord, passengers started boarding highspeed trains at a new station in Hong
Kong this week, the formal opening of a
multibillion-dollar transportation link
that will tie the former British colony
more closely to the rest of China.
Another project, the world’s longest
sea bridge, is expected to open later this
year. Like the train line, it is both an impressive engineering feat and a source
of controversy. It will span the mouth of
the Pearl River, linking Hong Kong with
the mainland city of Zhuhai and the former Portuguese colony of Macau, the
world’s biggest gambling hub.
Hong Kong officials say the projects
are critical to economic development
and will speed the movement of goods
and people through the region, which
the Chinese government wants to bind
more tightly together. But many residents are concerned about what the
Greater Bay Area, as China calls its vision of a more closely knit Pearl River
Delta region, will mean for Hong Kong’s
Large-scale building projects, like the
highway that linked Hong Kong with
Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong
Province, in the 1990s, helped secure the
region’s status as a global manufacturing center. But analysts say the benefits
of the latest projects are less clear, and
some suspect that China’s desire to
tighten its hold on Hong Kong trumped
other concerns.
Some in Hong Kong say the rail line to
China is about politics, not economics.
“I think it was obvious from the beginning that most likely political considerations were at least as important as economic reasons,” said Willy Lam, an adjunct professor of Chinese studies and
history at Chinese University of Hong
Both projects have seen delays, cost
overruns and other complications. Environmentalists fear the bridge will hasten the extinction of endangered Chinese white dolphins. At least 10 workers
have been killed in accidents during its
construction, and 19 people face criminal charges in Hong Kong over faked
concrete quality tests, which have
raised questions about the structure’s
integrity and required costly re-examinations.
The high-speed rail line, which cost
$10.8 billion, has been contentious in
Hong Kong because the station will host
Chinese officers who will enforce mainland laws in part of the terminal.
Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese control in 1997, operates its own
laws under a model called “one country,
two systems,” with more robust protections for individual rights than in mainland China. It maintains a border with
Guangdong Province, but allowing
mainland officers in the new station has,
in a sense, moved the border south.
Pro-democracy politicians, legal
scholars and activists say that represents a further erosion of Hong Kong’s
unique position within China.
“Both of these projects represent the
physical connection between Hong
Kong and mainland China,” said Victoria
Hui, an associate professor of political
science at the University of Notre Dame.
“Of course the train station in particular
goes all the way into the heart of Hong
Kong with Chinese jurisdiction.”
Such concerns were inflamed this
month when the mainland-controlled
section of the terminus was handed over
to Chinese officials in a brief, late-night
ceremony, with no local news media invited. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, denied any intent to keep the
event a secret.
Ms. Lam was also forced to explain
why some mainland officers would work
overnight, despite promises they would
return to Guangdong when the station
closed each evening, and why the station had an additional basement level
that had not been disclosed to the public.
The new rail line has been billed as
cutting travel time to Guangzhou to 48
minutes from over two hours. The line
will also allow passengers from Hong
Kong to connect to 38 long-haul destinations on China’s national high-speed rail
network, including Beijing and Shanghai.
But some potential passengers have
balked at the service’s baggage limits,
as well as ticket prices that offer little or
no discount to flying.
“I don’t think there will be any benefit
to me,” said Ling Chiang, 28, a commercial photographer who travels to the
mainland about once a month for work.
He goes to Guangzhou by train but said
he would probably stick with air travel
for more distant mainland destinations.
“Why waste time when the price is
about the same?” he said.
The Hong Kong government estimated in 2015 that more than 109,000 passengers would take the train every day,
but this year it lowered the forecast to
Both projects represent some of China’s biggest national infrastructure undertakings of the past decade. The highspeed rail system, which began 10 years
ago, is the world’s largest, with more
than 15,000 miles of track. The county
has also built hundreds of dazzling
bridges that set records for length and
As with the express trains to the
mainland, expectations for the 34-mile
bridge-and-tunnel project linking Hong
Kong to the western side of the Pearl
River have been scaled back. A 2008
forecast anticipated 172,000 daily passenger trips by 2030, but the government this year lowered the figure to
One reason is that the manufacturing
center of Shenzhen, which was cut out of
the original plan, is building its own new
bridge about 20 miles to the north. The
span will connect with the city of Zhongshan and is expected to open in 2023.
“This is a competitor to the Hong
Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge,” said Yang
Chun, a professor of geography at Hong
Kong Baptist University. “Obviously it
will dilute the transportation volume,
because they are parallel.”
The Shenzhen-Zhongshan bridge will
be entirely within mainland China,
meaning users won’t have to go through
the border controls maintained by Hong
Kong and Macau. They also won’t have
to switch from driving on the right side
of the road, which is used in the mainland, to the left, the side used in both former colonies.
The 14-mile main span of the mainland bridge cost $7 billion, of which the
Hong Kong government will pay about
$1.3 billion. Hong Kong spent an additional $13.7 billion to build connecting
roads, tunnels and an artificial island for
its border-crossing facilities.
The drive between Hong Kong and
Macau is expected to take about 45 minutes — far shorter than the current four
hours to drive overland, but not much
less than the hour or so it takes to go by
More doubts about the bridge project
were raised in April. Photos of an artificial island where a four-mile tunnel
emerges near Hong Kong’s side of the
river seemed to show that concrete tetrapods, structures meant to protect the
island from erosion, had drifted away.
The bridge authority said they were
working as intended, but some engineers were unconvinced.
When Typhoon Mangkhut blew
through the region last week, some of
the bridge’s detractors in Hong Kong expressed hope that the structure would
be washed away. But as Hong Kong
cleaned up, it was still standing, apparently unharmed.
A new bridge linking Hong Kong with the former Portuguese colony of Macau will cut
the drive to 45 minutes from the current four hours.
A protest against compulsory vaccination in Rome last year. A measure passed this month lets parents self-report children’s vaccination status, but critics say it is creating chaos.
A political party’s shot in the arm
Populists take power
and end verification
of vaccinations in Italy
For years, the antiestablishment Five
Star Movement of Italy has spread confusion about vaccines.
Its co-founder raised links between
vaccines and autism. Its political leader
campaigned against a law making vaccines obligatory. Its myriad websites
drew traffic with posts by vaccine skeptics, and its party representatives
blamed vaccines for tumors and allergies. For one senator, vaccine scars
were “branding for beasts.”
This month, with school starting
around Italy, the Five Star Movement
and its coalition partner, the League,
passed a measure that allows children
to stay in school as long as their parents
attest that they have been vaccinated, or
will be by March. No doctor’s note is required. Critics consider the decree a
dangerous, and purely political, measure that creates chaos in the school system, increases the risk to classmates
with autoimmune deficiencies and
tempts a public health crisis.
Only a year ago, the number of measles cases in Italy climbed to 5,006, from
843 in 2016. Also last year, Italy had Europe’s third-highest per capita rate of
measles after much poorer Romania
and Greece. Mexico has recommended
that its citizens be vaccinated before
traveling to Italy.
Italy is perhaps the most acute case of
a contagion of another kind spreading in
Europe and the West — one in which
populist politics, misinformation and
pseudoscience on the internet have
combined with an antiestablishment
mood in which experts are not to be
trusted. But now the populist forces that
have fueled that trend hold power and
must deal with the consequences affecting the public health and security of citizens.
“It’s all part of the antiestablishment
drift,” said Beatrice Lorenzin, the health
minister in the previous, center-left government and the namesake of the 2017
law making vaccines obligatory. “Because everything is a caste, also science
becomes a caste. But science is the last
bastion; when you have minimized the
authority of science, there is nothing
Facing an increase in measles cases
and a decade-long erosion of trust in
vaccines, the prior Italian government
required that children receive 10 vaccinations before enrolling in school. The
law came into force this year.
But this summer, Ms. Lorenzin’s successor in the new populist government,
Giulia Grillo of the Five Star Movement,
sought to loosen the requirements, at
one point offering something she called
“flexible obligation.” Ms. Grillo, who declined to comment for this article, finally
settled on the extension for students
without proof of vaccination.
“Nothing has changed. It’s exactly
like it was,” Rocco Casalino, the spokesman for the Five Star Movement, said
after the law was approved last week —
raising the question of why, then, it was
passed at all.
Five Star senators said they would
next seek to undo the vaccine law altogether.
Beatrice Lorenzin, a former health minister, was the namesake of Italy’s 2017 law making vaccines obligatory. She was succeeded by Giulia Grillo of the Five Star Movement.
Beppe Grillo, center, a Five Star Movement founder, has suggested a link between
vaccines and autism, saying the pharmaceutical industry has pushed them for profit.
“Unfortunately, the state has diffused
ambiguous information that can confuse the parents who are trying to decide whether or not to vaccinate their
kids,” said Roberto Burioni, a leading
immunologist at Università Vita-Salute
San Raffaele and a bête noire of the antivaccine movement. (One mother posted
on Facebook that she hoped he had
drowned on his summer vacation.)
“The state should be clear, and be
clearly on the part of science,” Mr. Burioni said.
The measles vaccine, which over the
past 50 years has helped eliminate the
disease in the United States, was introduced in Italy in 1976. The percentage of
coverage climbed steadily to more than
90 percent in 2003. But the obligation
was eased in 1999, Ms. Lorenzin said, because Italy had mistakenly believed it
had ingrained the belief in science and
vaccines into the culture.
Instead, she said, the opposite happened. She attributed the surge of distrust in vaccines to the fact that the diseases had become so rare as to seem unreal, to the debacle of a since-rejected
and retracted report in the scientific
journal The Lancet linking vaccines to
autism, and to what she called “Doctor
By 2015, coverage had declined to
about 85 percent. Cases of measles,
which can cause blindness, brain inflammation, pneumonia and in some cases
death, have been rising.
Italy’s “No-Vax” movement has risen,
too. In Rimini, a hotbed of No-Vax activity and the site of a 2012 ruling by a local
judge, later overturned, that linked autism to vaccines, antivaccination advocates attached streamers to planes that
read, “Everyone to School. Freedom of
In Veneto, the governor, Luca Zaia of
the League, has promoted a “personalized” approach to evaluating vaccina-
“The state has diffused
ambiguous information that can
confuse the parents” trying to
decide whether to vaccinate.
tions. Families have organized a secluded “school in the woods” for unvaccinated children, while others have met in
private homes.
Ms. Lorenzin said that if she were still
the health minister, she would send the
police to break up the illegal schools.
“It’s a chemical bomb,” she said.
Mattia Marchi, a spokesman for the
Veneto chapter of Corveleva, a No-Vax
umbrella group, said parents skeptical
of vaccines still had little choice but to
“No one ever said that a vaccine
causes autism,” Mr. Marchi said. “But if
a thousand people see a U.F.O., do we
want to tell these people that they are
crazy or do we want to find a solution?”
This month Federico Aliberti, an artisan, came from Livorno to Rome with
his 3-year-old son to protest the required vaccination of all Italian children
in nurseries and schools.
Mr. Aliberti, who voted for Five Star,
said he resented the “arrogance” of scientists who presumed to understand
something as complicated as the human
immune system. His Facebook feed, he
said, had been filled with clips of Five
Star politicians promising personal
choice, as well as articles and videos
about the pharmaceutical interests behind vaccines and the vaccines’ supposed connections to cancers and autism.
The government, he said, had given
him hope but, even with the new measure, delivered only “a stab in the back.”
Indeed, for years, the Five Star Movement, and more recently, the League,
had given him something to believe in.
Beppe Grillo, the co-founder of the
Five Star Movement, has raised a link
between vaccines and autism, suggested that vaccines weaken the immune systems of healthy children, and
claimed that the pharmaceutical industry has pushed them for profit. Members of the party in the European Parliament have proposed eliminating some
obligatory vaccinations for some public
employees and professed a link between
leukemia, tumors, allergies and autism
to vaccinations.
In another instance, they raised concerns that vaccines might be dangerous
for possessing metals. The party’s mayor in Livorno called the obligation to
vaccinate “intolerable,” while others in
Puglia invited people to a hearing by
doctors who believed eating nuts was
more effective than vaccines in preventing illnesses.
Last February, Paola Taverna, a
prominent Five Star senator, fondly recalled “parading to her cousin’s” house
to catch whatever disease was going
around as a preferable option to vaccines, which she compared to “branding
for beasts.” (Last week, though, Ms.
Taverna said she would have her own
child vaccinated.)
In July, a regional council member in
the Five Star Movement from Lazio
presented a proposal requiring students
to go into quarantine for four to six
weeks after receiving their vaccinations. The member, Davide Barillari,
also called for an “informational” stage
about the “causal correlations” between
vaccines and pathologies for parents
who sought vaccines in clinics. “Politics
comes before science,” he said.
Davide Casaleggio, the powerful son
of the party’s other co-founder, who
many believe controls the web platforms upon which the party functions,
wrote on his blog that the Five Star
Movement “totally distances itself”
from Mr. Barillari’s statements.
But Marco Canestrari, a former employee of Casaleggio Associates who left
the company and the party and coauthor of a book, “Supernova,” about its
inner workings, said that Mr. Casaleggio’s constellation of websites used to
host articles “openly against vaccines.”
“It was to draw traffic and advertising, on the theme of health,” he said.
“There was a lot of consensus around it,
but when the party got bigger and it became uncomfortable, they distanced
Emma Johanningsmeier contributed reporting.
Trump scorns globalism at a skeptical U.N.
Striking triumphalist tone,
president rails against Iran
but has kind words for Kim
President Trump has thrust his commitment to an “America First” foreign policy back onto the United Nations General Assembly. But in his second address
on this diplomatic stage, he sounded as
eager to claim credit for his achievements after 20 months in office, as he
was to disrupt the world order.
If Mr. Trump had changed, so had his
audience — no longer as daunted by the
insurgent figure who left them slackjawed last year when he vowed to
“crush loser terrorists,” mocked North
Korea’s leader as “Rocket Man” and declared that parts of the world “are going
to hell.”
This time, emissaries from around the
world listened quietly on Tuesday as Mr.
Trump fulminated at foes like Iran and
failing states like Venezuela. They nodded as he singled out an enemy-turnedpartner, Kim Jong-un of North Korea,
expressing optimism for a diplomatic
opening that would have seemed farfetched even a year ago.
But when Mr. Trump declared, “In
less than two years, my administration
has accomplished more than almost any
administration in the history of our
country,” the crowd broke into murmurs
and laughter.
Briefly disconcerted, the president
smiled and said, “I did not expect that
reaction, but that’s O.K.”
It was a jarring moment for a leader
who usually speaks to adoring crowds at
“Make America Great Again” rallies,
where his use of superlatives to describe
his success draws reliable cheers. Mr.
Trump still commands the world stage
and he is still capable of upending American foreign policy with a single tweet.
But after a year of such bombast, many
in the audience at the United Nations
treated him almost as a source of levity,
not fear.
There is also evidence that foreign
leaders are more willing to push back.
Speaking after Mr. Trump, President
Emmanuel Macron of France said the
Paris climate accord had survived despite America’s decision to pull out. In a
not-so-subtle slap at Mr. Trump, he proposed that countries refuse to sign trade
deals with those who do not comply with
the accord.
On Monday, France joined Germany
and Britain — as well as the other signatories, Russia, China and Iran — in recommitting to the Iran nuclear accord,
repudiated by Mr. Trump in May. They
did so even as Mr. Trump urged Europe
to isolate Iran and warned of draconian
new sanctions that would penalize
America’s allies for not cutting off commercial ties with the Iranians.
President Trump addressing the United Nations General Assembly. The crowd broke into laughter at one point when he boasted about his administration’s accomplishments.
President Hassan Rouhani of Iran
criticized Mr. Trump for quitting the
agreement and made clear he thought
the president’s offer to talk with Iran’s
leaders was disingenuous (earlier in the
day, Mr. Trump insisted it was the Iranians who had wanted to talk).
“It is ironic that the United States government does not even conceal its plan
for overthrowing the same government
it invites to talks,” Mr. Rouhani said.
Mr. Trump, for his part, condemned
Iran’s government as a “corrupt dictatorship” that had looted its people and
used the windfall from the nuclear deal
to finance what he described as a terrorist campaign that is destabilizing the entire Middle East.
“Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death and
destruction,” he declared. “They do not
respect their neighbors or borders, or
the sovereign rights of nations.”
“Not good,” he added.
Shifting gears, Mr. Trump lavished
praise on his efforts to shake up the established order, pointing to his withdrawal from trade deals and international organizations, his recognition of
Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and
his meeting last June with Mr. Kim of
North Korea, which he said had
produced far more than anyone expected.
“The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction,” Mr. Trump
said. “Nuclear testing has stopped.
Some military facilities are already be-
After a year of bombast,
many in the audience treated
President Trump almost as a
source of levity, not fear.
ing dismantled. Our hostages have been
“I would like to thank Chairman Kim
for his courage and for the steps he has
taken,” he said, adding, “much work
needs to be done.”
Mr. Trump’s speech showed a president at once fickle and set in his ways.
His emphasis on sovereignty was a repeat of the big theme of last year’s General Assembly address, and it showed
that on the core principles of his “America First” foreign policy, Mr. Trump is
not budging.
Yet Mr. Trump’s warm words for Mr.
Kim were a 180-degree shift from 2017,
when he said the North Korean leader
was on a suicidal collision course with
the United States. That showed he is
open to radical shifts in approach, based
on his idiosyncratic view of personal diplomacy and his self-avowed skill as a
dealmaker in spotting opportunities.
As he did last year, Mr. Trump relied
on his senior domestic adviser, Stephen
Miller, for much of the speechwriting.
Mr. Miller has spearheaded the White
House’s immigration policy and its recent decision to cut significantly the
number of refugees the United States
will accept.
The national security adviser, John R.
Bolton, an even more ardent proponent
than Mr. Trump of the virtues of
sovereignty, also injected themes. In his
own speech at a conference on Tuesday,
Mr. Bolton alluded to the frequent description in Iran of the United States as
the “Great Satan.”
“If you cross us, our allies, or our partners,” Mr. Bolton said, “if you harm our
citizens, if you continue to lie, cheat and
deceive, yes, there will indeed be hell to
For presidents, General Assembly
speeches are a good guide to the evolution of their thinking.
Mr. Trump has not yet faced a major
foreign policy crisis, and his speech reflected his good fortune. He still spoke
mostly about actions he had taken to unwind the legacy of Barack Obama.
Mr. Trump promoted his record in the
Middle East, where he said his closer
ties to Saudi Arabia had helped the fight
against extremism, and to Israel, where
he said the United States was no longer
“held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies and so-called experts who
have been proven wrong, over the
years, time and time again.”
Critics said Mr. Trump’s triumphalist
tone provoked the derisive reaction.
“If you’re boastful, and in the most improbable ways, it’s just becomes outlandish,” said Nicholas Burns, a senior
diplomat under President George W.
Bush. “It was a sad moment for American leadership.”
The president expressed resentment
toward a familiar array of perceived
malefactors: allies, who he said did not
pay their fair share for military defense;
trading partners, who he said exploited
unfair agreements that harmed American workers; and oil producers, whom
he accused of gouging the United States
and other customers.
“OPEC and OPEC nations are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I
don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said. “Nobody
should like it.”
Mr. Trump also assailed countries,
like China, that use industrial planning
in their economies to undercut competitors on trade. The United States, he said,
was systematically renegotiating what
he called unfair trade deals and striking
back against China’s theft of intellectual
property, predatory licensing agreements and the dumping of goods in the
American market under President Xi
“I have great respect and affection for
my friend President Xi, but I have made
clear that our trade imbalance is just not
acceptable,” he said. “China’s market
distortions, and the way they deal, cannot be tolerated.”
America’s other great strategic rival,
Russia, went unmentioned by Mr.
Trump, except for a reference to what he
described as Germany’s dependence on
Russian energy. That was also Mr.
Trump’s only mention of Germany, a
staunch ally, though he praised its
neighbor, Poland, which has an increasingly autocratic government, for its construction of a pipeline in the Baltic Sea to
diversify its energy supply.
After his speech, Mr. Trump took
credit for a change in Iran’s behavior
since he withdrew from the nuclear
deal. He claimed, without evidence, that
Iran had abandoned its ambitions to
build a land bridge to the Mediterranean
Sea. At some point, he predicted, the
United States and Iran would have
“meaningful negotiations and probably
do a deal.”
“Iran is a much different country today than it was a year ago,” he said before meeting Colombia’s president, Iván
Duque Márquez. “Everything in Iran is
failing right now.”
Mr. Trump spoke of the great potential of the United Nations, but expressed
little regard for any other international
bodies. The United States, he said, had
rightfully exited the Human Rights
Council, refused to take part in the
Global Compact on Migration or to recognize the authority of the International
Criminal Court.
“Sovereign and independent nations
are the only vehicle where freedom has
ever survived, democracy has ever endured or peace has ever prospered,” Mr.
Trump declared. “And so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished
independence above all.”
Rick Gladstone and Megan Specia contributed reporting
Outsider faced a culture of privilege and alcohol at Yale
Last week, more than 30 years after
they graduated from Yale University,
Deborah Ramirez contacted her old
friend James Roche.
Something bad had happened to her
during a night of drinking in the residence hall their freshman year, she said,
and she wondered if he recalled her
mentioning it at the time.
Mr. Roche, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, said he had no knowledge of the
episode that Ms. Ramirez was trying to
piece together, with her memory faded
by the years and clouded by that night’s
alcohol use.
Days later, in a story in The New
Yorker magazine, Ms. Ramirez alleged
that Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee,
exposed himself to her at a dorm party.
Mr. Roche, a former roommate of the
judge, believes her account, he said, and
supports her decision to speak out.
“I think she feels a duty to come forward,” Mr. Roche said. “And I think she’s
scared to death of it.”
Ms. Ramirez’s allegation — she is the
second woman to level claims of sexual
misconduct against Judge Kavanaugh
— has roiled an already tumultuous confirmation process and split the Yale
More than 2,200 Yale women have
signed a letter of support for Ms.
Ramirez; a similar letter has been circulating among Yale men. Dozens of students, dressed in black, staged a protest
at Yale Law School on Monday, urging
that the claims against Judge Kavanaugh be taken seriously. Others went
to Washington to hold signs outside the
Supreme Court, just days before the
Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear from Judge Kavanaugh’s
first accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.
Judge Kavanaugh, 53, denies the allegations of both women, describing the
accusations as “smears” orchestrated
by Democrats. Before they arose, more
than 100 Yale students, alumni and faculty members endorsed his nomination
to the high court in an open letter. Separately, 23 Yale Law classmates urged
Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation in a
letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, noting his “considerable intellect, friendly manner, good
sense of humor and humility.”
The allegation by Ms. Ramirez, also
53, stems from an incident she said occurred during the 1983-84 school year,
when she and Judge Kavanaugh were
Like most first-year students, they
lived on Old Campus, a quadrangle of
Gothic architecture on the Yale grounds.
Their social circles included mutual
friends. But they came from worlds
apart. Ms. Ramirez arrived at the rarefied halls of Yale from Shelton, Conn., a
town just 30 minutes away, the daughter
of a telephone company lineman and a
medical technician. She attended a coeducational Roman Catholic high
school, St. Joseph, that was predominantly white but had a number of minority students, including Ms. Ramirez,
whose father was Puerto Rican.
At college, Ms. Ramirez put in long
hours working at a residential dining
hall and cleaning dorm rooms ahead of
class reunions, common jobs for students who had to scrape together
money for tuition. Fellow student dining
hall employees described her as sweet,
sunny and hard-working. Jo Miller, one
of those students, said she “was a very
energetic, very smiley woman.”
She had been a cheerleader her freshman year, played intramural softball
and water polo, and served on her residential college’s student council.
But she saw herself as an outsider at
Yale, Mr. Roche said, where many of her
classmates were wealthier and more
traveled. Friends from back then described her as not particularly confident
in a place full of other high school standouts. Ms. Ramirez declined to be interviewed for this article, but her lawyer,
Stan Garnett, noted that “she did not
come from race or class privilege or
have the advantage other students had
when entering the university.”
She also found herself in an alcoholinfused culture. “Her whole circle happened to be a drinking circle,” said Victoria Beach, who served as president of
the student council when Ms. Ramirez
was a member. Elizabeth Swisher, a Seattle physician who roomed with Ms.
Ramirez for three years at Yale, recalled, “She was very innocent coming
More than 2,200 Yale women have signed a letter of support for Deborah Ramirez, top right, who has accused Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, bottom right, of exposing himself to her during a drinking game at a dorm party when they were freshmen at the university.
into college.” She added, “I felt an obligation early in freshman year to protect
Judge Kavanaugh had attended
Georgetown Preparatory, an elite Jesuit
school in suburban Washington, where
his parents moved in the capital’s political circles. His family was well-off,
with his father a lobbyist and his mother
a judge. At Yale, he seemed to settle in
quickly with a crowd not unlike his high
school friends.
Although he was not a varsity athlete
— he was on the junior varsity basketball team and played intramural football, softball and basketball — Judge
Kavanaugh hung out with rowdy jocks,
many of them members of his fraternity,
Delta Kappa Epsilon.
On a liberal campus known for its
scholarship, the DKEs stood out for
their hard partying and, some women
students claimed, misogyny. During
Judge Kavanaugh’s time there — 15 or
so years after women arrived — some
fraternity brothers paraded around
campus displaying women’s underwear
they had filched, drawing criticism.
The DKE pledge process was widely
seen on campus as degrading. An opinion piece in The Yale Daily News in 1986
said that pledges were forced to walk
around campus reading Penthouse
magazine aloud and yelling lines like
“I’m a butt-hole, sir.”
One woman remembers Judge Kavanaugh’s wearing a leather football helmet while drinking and approaching her
on campus the night he was tapped for
DKE. She described his grabbing his
crotch, hopping on one leg and chanting: “I’m a geek, I’m a geek, I’m a power
tool. When I sing this song, I look like a
Nearly a dozen people who knew him
well or socialized with him said Judge
Kavanaugh was a heavy drinker in college. Dr. Swisher said she saw him “very
drunk” a number of times. Mr. Roche,
his former freshman year roommate,
described his stumbling in at all hours of
the night.
Some former students cautioned
against associating Judge Kavanaugh
with DKE’s heavy partying contingent.
“They were a typical fraternity that
served alcohol, but I don’t recall ever
seeing Brett Kavanaugh drunk,” said
John Risley, who overlapped with Judge
Kavanaugh at Yale and was friendly
with members of DKE.
One night, Ms. Ramirez told The New
Yorker, Judge Kavanaugh exposed himself to her during a drinking game in a
dorm suite.
Sitting in a circle with a small group of
students, she recalled, people selected
who had to take a drink, and Ms.
Ramirez said she was chosen frequently.
She became drunk, her head “foggy,”
she recalled. As the game continued, a
male student began playing with a plastic dildo, pointing it around the room.
Suddenly, Ms. Ramirez claimed, she
saw a penis in front of her face. When
she remarked that it wasn’t real, the others students began laughing, with one
man telling her to “kiss it,” she told The
New Yorker in an interview. Then, as
she moved to push it away, she alleged,
she saw Judge Kavanaugh standing,
laughing and pulling up his pants.
Neither The New Yorker nor The New
York Times, which attempted to verify
Ms. Ramirez’s story last week, were
able to find witnesses acknowledging
the episode. (The Times did not obtain
an interview with Ms. Ramirez.) The
New Yorker, however, reported that a
fellow student, whom the publication
did not identify, confirmed having
learned of the incident — and Judge
Kavanaugh’s alleged role in it — within a
day or two after it happened.
Ms. Ramirez initially told friends she
had memory gaps and was not certain
that Judge Kavanaugh was the person
who exposed himself, as she related to
Mr. Roche and some other old classmates last week. But, after six days of
assessing her memories, The New
Yorker reported, she said she was confident that Judge Kavanaugh was the
man who had humiliated her.
Her lawyers declined to comment further on the episode.
Chris Dudley, a friend and supporter
of Mr. Kavanaugh who belonged to DKE
and went on to play professional basketball, says the allegations don’t square
with the man he knows. “That’s just not
Brett,” he said. “That’s not in his character.”
Several former students who worked
in the dining hall along with Ms.
Ramirez and her younger sister, Denise,
who is also a Yale graduate, did not
know of the incident Ms. Ramirez described and have not seen her in years,
they said in interviews. But they said
they knew her to be an honest person in
“She wasn’t manipulative,” said
Lisanne Sartor, a former Yale student
who is now a writer and film director.
“What you saw was what you got. This
was not someone seeking the spotlight.”
Mr. Roche, the friend she called last
week, described her similarly.
“She was bright eyed and guileless,
compared to the sophisticated and often
aggressive population you find at Yale,”
he said in an interview. “The idea that
she would make something like this up
is inconceivable,” he added. “It’s not
consistent with who I know her to be.”
Reporting was contributed by Rebecca
Ruiz, Emily Steel, Jo Becker, Grace Ashford, Steve Eder and Kitty Bennett.
Laos ready
for new wave
of Chinese
Manicure? It comes with the soup
A quirky Chinese chain
seeks acceptance in very
different environments
Sometimes, Shang Feifei goes to a
restaurant just for the manicures.
On a recent Wednesday night, Ms.
Shang, 40, sat patiently at a downtown
Beijing branch of Haidilao, a restaurant
chain that defies China’s well-earned
reputation for lousy customer service. A
Haidilao employee buffed and painted
her nails, free. The aroma from bubbling
broth-filled pots lingered in the air.
Ms. Shang wasn’t planning to stay to
eat after she got her pink, glittery nails
done. For her, the food was secondary to
the experience.
“I find Haidilao’s special services so
entertaining,” said Ms. Shang, who
comes to Haidilao every week to get her
manicures. “Like the free pedicures, the
photo printing machine, Chinese checkers and origami.”
Hot pot, in which diners cook their
own meat and vegetables in a boiling
broth, is a favorite meal in China. And
Haidilao is China’s most popular hot pot
chain, mostly because of how employees
go all out to greet, serve and entertain.
Haidilao hopes people outside China
will be as captivated. It raised nearly $1
billion on Wednesday in an initial public
offering in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous Chinese city where foreign investors can buy shares. The stock rose by as
much as 10 percent in early trading but
finished the day essentially flat.
The company wants to use the money
to expand beyond its overseas locations
in California and New York. But outside
China, it could be a harder sell.
“It was disgusting that people were
waiting and having their nails clipped,”
Joel Silverstein, chief executive of the
East West Hospitality Group, a restaurant consulting firm based in Hong
Kong, said of a Haidilao outlet he visited
in mainland China.
“In the U.S., it would be a total violation of health codes to be doing that
stuff,” he added. “But the thing I’ve
learned about China is, Chinese people
love over-the-top service, as long as
they don’t have to pay for it.”
A different chain made global headlines when a diner found a dead rat in
her hot pot. The Chinese company
vowed to get to the bottom of the matter.
In a country where service without a
smile is still the norm in many places,
Haidilao earns its loyalty.
Customers are offered free shoeshines and board games while they wait.
Diners can watch a traditional Sichuan
opera show. Eating with toddlers? A
“playground sister” will keep them entertained.
Patrons in China sometimes line up
for hours to get into one of Haidilao’s
nearly 300 domestic restaurants. A 2016
survey of 2,600 people conducted by
OC&C Strategy Consultants, a consulting firm based in London, ranked Haidilao as China’s favorite restaurant. Its
dining experience was cited in a Harvard Business School case study in 2011.
“The staff here gives you the feeling
that you are a family member,” said Liu
Lu, 42, a stay-at-home mother who said
that the chain’s employees would arrange a crib for her baby so she could
indulge in the hot pot without a care.
Hot pot — known in China as huo guo,
or fire pot — was originally consumed to
ward off the cold of winter. It is now a
year-round cuisine. Chinese diners love
Beijing’s planned rail line
is welcome in a nation
already in transformation
Haidilao, China’s most popular hot pot chain, where employees go all out to entertain diners in offering various perks. The restaurant chain is planning a global expansion.
Manicures and pedicures are among the free offerings, along with Chinese checkers,
shoe-shine services, origami and more.
the participatory nature of the cooking
process: People gather around a pot of
boiling broth, dunk their meats in it, fish
them out and dip them into sauces. The
time spent cooking gives people time to
Haidilao’s name originates from a
Sichuanese mah-jongg term that connotes winning. While the chain offers a
wide variety of broths, it is known
mainly for its Sichuan-style spicy hot
Zhang Yong, a former tractor-factory
worker, founded Haidilao originally
with just four tables in his hometown,
Jianyang, a city in Sichuan Province in
China’s southwest.
“I didn’t know how to make soup or
cook any ingredients,” Mr. Zhang told
Huang Tieying, a Peking University
professor who wrote a 2011 book called
“You Can’t Copy Haidilao.”
“In order to satisfy people, I gave
away more than I sold,” he said. “As a result, customers were still willing to
come back, even though my food wasn’t
that good.”
Even a string of food safety scandals
has not dented confidence in the brand.
Last year, a viral video taken in two
Beijing outlets by an undercover Chinese journalist showed rat-infested
kitchens, dishwashers covered with
grease and staff members cleaning sewers with a soup ladle. In June, the Chinese news media reported that a
Preparing meals at Haidilao. “In the U.S., it would be a total violation of health codes to
be doing that stuff,” a restaurant consultant said of combining nail clippings and dining.
customer in one of the previous offending outlets had found a fly in the dipping
sesame sauce.
In both instances, Haidilao apologized
and promised to overhaul food safety in
all its restaurants.
Now, customers can watch a livestream video of the kitchen from a flatscreen television hung on the wall or
through tablets on their tables. They are
also welcome to personally observe the
food being prepared.
“The food is very clean; other hot pot
restaurants have food that isn’t that
fresh,” said Liu Yali, a teacher who eats
at the chain every two to three days.
“Whenever my friends want to gather,
we always choose Haidilao.”
Hot pot, including Haidilao, has made
inroads near Chinese communities in
the United States and elsewhere. The
question for Haidilao is whether hot pot
— and the chain’s over-the-top customer
service — will draw a broader group of
foreigners the same way.
“If they want to be popular overseas,
they’ll have to adjust their services and
menu,” said Darcy Zhang, a Shanghaibased food blogger who is a fan of Haidilao. “In other countries, some of their
services might feel too exaggerated.”
“For example, a customer will go and
wash their hands and the staff will be
waiting outside with tissue paper and a
huge smile,” she added. “Perhaps foreigners might find that quite creepy.”
Two decades ago, this sleepy city on the
Mekong River was just starting to pave
its streets.
Today, Vientiane, the Laotian capital,
is abuzz with change. Cars choke the
paved city streets, and the downtown
area is brimming with cafes, restaurants and bars catering to the small but
growing middle class.
In recent years, Chinese investment
in resource-rich Laos has strengthened
the country’s economy, which is projected to grow by 7 percent this year. Vientiane’s hot property market reflects this
trend. Hoping that China’s Belt and
Road Initiative will improve connectivity with its neighbor, Laos is preparing
for a new wave of Chinese investment in
its property sector.
Crucial to these hopes is a 260-mile, $5
billion rail line that Beijing seeks to extend through Laos to Thailand, a much
larger market.
The completion of the rail line will
bring a major change to the city, connecting landlocked Laos to China’s extensive rail network, which will bring
tourism and property investment, said
Tony Saiyalath, managing director at
RentsBuy, a property company based in
“That will bring the property market
alive,” he said. “Even right now, people
are starting to buy — they already know
the locations of where the stations are.”
The increase in Chinese investment is
in part because of a new policy of “transforming assets into capital,” which
Laos’s Communist government introduced five years ago. Under the policy,
state-owned property can be privatized
to attract foreign investment. The plan
was especially appealing to Chinese investors, who acquired most of the highend property in Vientiane. Prices went
up sharply in 2014 but have stabilized,
while rents have dropped by 20 to 30
percent since 2016, partly because Chinese mining companies reduced their
Laos operations after concessions expired.
Chinese businessmen are the dominant property investors in Vientiane,
along with a mix of Laotian, Vietnamese
and Thai investors, Mr. Saiyalath said.
Chinese companies are also players in
the largest property developments in
the city. This is apparent on the east end
of downtown Vientiane’s riverside,
where the Laotian and French colonial
architecture yields to a mile-long stretch
of prime real estate developed by the
Camce Investment (Lao) Company, a
joint venture of China CAMC Engineering and the Laotian construction company Krittaphong Group. With its investment, Camce is aiming to draw
wealthy locals and foreigners.
The Landmark compound on the east
end of the Camce development combines high-end residential, hotel, restaurant and event spaces to create an exclusive, gated community. Landmark
As Zuckerberg asserted control, Instagram chiefs chafed
In a companywide meeting earlier this
year, Mark Zuckerberg was asked if Instagram could have hit one billion users
if it had not been bought by Facebook.
Probably not, he said. At least, not as
But at a later meeting a mile or so
down the road at Instagram’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. — a few
streets, interestingly enough, off a thoroughfare called Independence Drive —
the photo-sharing app’s co-founders,
Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, had a
different answer to that question.
Perhaps. Eventually.
We will never know who was right.
But we will know soon enough what Instagram will be like without its cofounders. This week, Mr. Systrom, Instagram’s chief executive, and Mr.
Krieger, its chief technology officer,
abruptly announced they would leave
the company, though they did not give a
specific date.
No one thing led to their decision to
part ways with Facebook, which acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012.
But little things added up over time: disagreements over tweaks to their product, staffing changes and Mr. Zuckerberg’s assertion over the past year of
more control over their business, which
had essentially operated independently
inside Facebook.
Within the last few months, they de-
cided it was time to leave, according to a
dozen current and former Instagram
and Facebook employees, all of whom
spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak
for the company.
Their departure comes at a particularly bad time for Facebook, which over
the past two years has struggled with a
series of crises, like widespread Russian
disinformation on its platform, a disclosure that a research company had siphoned off the information of 87 million
users and threats of regulatory intervention in Washington and Brussels.
Instagram seemed to avoid that turmoil. It was still growing fast, while
Facebook’s user count had stalled in the
United States and Europe. It was wildly
popular with younger people, while
Facebook was decidedly not.
And to outsiders, Instagram’s
founders appeared to be working well
with Mr. Zuckerberg, unlike the
founders of Facebook’s other big acquisitions, WhatsApp and Oculus.
But inside the company, there was
tension. Mr. Zuckerberg viewed Instagram as one of a “family of apps,” several properties under the Facebook umbrella that he thought should work more
closely together, according to two people with knowledge of his thinking.
The Instagram founders thought
Facebook’s increasing interest in shaping Instagram’s product direction and
growth was overbearing, according to
several people familiar with their thinking. They were accustomed to autonomy, and they were chafing at losing it.
Mike Krieger, left, and Kevin Systrom are leaving Instagram, which they founded.
Facebook declined to comment on
their departure.
Instagram began as an accident of
sorts. It was spun out of an app called
Burbn that Mr. Systrom had created in
2010. It was supposed to help friends
find one another online.
As smartphones became more popular, Mr. Systrom and his new partner, Mr.
Krieger, shifted their focus to the smartphone camera. Burbn was rereleased as
Instagram, and the new app was a hit.
In 2012, Mr. Zuckerberg announced he
had purchased Instagram for $1 billion
in cash and stock. It was a shocking
move — a lot of money for a software
app with little more than a handful of
employees and about 30 million users.
Today, some analysts estimate Instagram would be worth $100 billion if it
were an independent company.
Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger were allowed to make many of their own product decisions. The relationship between
parent company and fast-growing unit
was held as a model for how acquisitions
of start-ups should work. When courting
other possible acquisitions, Facebook
executives often mentioned how well
things had worked out with Instagram.
Instagram grew faster than anyone
had anticipated. It created video and
messaging products and released a
“stories” feature that hurt the growth of
its rival Snapchat, whose “Stories” product Instagram’s mimicked.
In June, the photo-sharing app hit the
billion-user mark. Instagram’s advertising business is expected to reach more
than $6 billion in revenue this year, according to projections from eMarketer,
an industry research firm.
But Mr. Zuckerberg’s views on how to
treat his “family of apps” — which include Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — began to change, according to the
two people familiar with his thinking.
Mr. Zuckerberg reorganized the top of
his management team earlier this year,
installing Adam Mosseri as vice president of product at Instagram. Though
Mr. Mosseri is liked by Mr. Systrom and
Mr. Krieger, many employees viewed
Mr. Mosseri’s promotion as a sign of Mr.
Zuckerberg’s installing a lieutenant in
the photo-sharing organization because
of his close relationship to Mr. Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives.
Mr. Zuckerberg also put a layer of
management between himself and Instagram’s co-founders, asking Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger to report to Chris
Cox, Facebook’s chief product officer.
As Instagram kept growing, Mr.
Zuckerberg believed there were ways it
should help Facebook grow and improve
Facebook’s “user engagement.”
Earlier this year, Facebook removed a
shortcut link to Instagram from its
“bookmarks” menu inside the Facebook
app, a small but significant source of
traffic to Instagram.
As the relationship began to sour, Mr.
Systrom and Mr. Krieger over the last
few months openly disagreed with their
Facebook counterparts in meetings.
The relationship was still courteous. But
employees were surprised when Mr.
Krieger, an affable, widely liked figure
inside the company, voiced his clear dissent against Facebook leadership in
meetings and on company message
boards, according to four current and
former employees.
Inside Instagram, many believed Mr.
Mosseri, who is likely to be its next chief
executive, was installed in the anticipation that the relationship between the
two sides could fall apart.
As for Mr. Systrom and Mr. Krieger,
they have remained effusive in their
public statements and in thanks to Mr.
Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives for supporting them.
And their departure, despite its suddenness, does require some perspective. Both Instagram founders stayed on
for six years after being acquired —
much longer than entrepreneurs usually do after selling their company and
long after they had received their full
payout in stock.
They said they planned to take time
off before embarking on another venture together.
In the meeting where the Instagram
co-founders were asked if they could
have hit one billion users without Facebook’s backing, they acknowledged that
Facebook’s vast resources helped. A lot.
But, they added, Instagram also had a
lot to do with its own success.
Hold the Donuts:
Name’s just Dunkin’
Change in label is a nod
to the beverages that
dominate the business
Chinese businessmen are the dominant property investors in the capital of Laos, Vientiane, where the hot property market reflects projections of robust economic growth.
How China is transforming Laos
Diplomatic Residence offers luxury
apartments for rent only, from $1,000 to
$2,200 a month, said Neo Liang, a Chinese manager at Camce’s marketing office. Next door, offering unobstructed
views of the Mekong River and Thailand
on the other side, is the five-star Landmark Mekong Riverside Hotel, where
President Barack Obama stayed in the
presidential suite during his visit to
Laos in 2016.
Farther upstream, ASEM Villa features 50 fully furnished and decorated
“mansion villas” for rent, starting at
$4,500 a month. Mr. Liang said the gated
community was more than 90 percent
occupied, with a variety of tenants.
“They’re from all over — Koreans,
Japanese, Chinese, Singaporeans,” he
A visit to ASEM Villa showed a strong
presence by Chinese state-owned companies, including China Railway Group,
which is building the rail line to Vientiane, and PowerChina, which has numerous projects of its own and via subsidiaries throughout Laos. Other offices
with Chinese tenants included a Belt
and Road information center and a Chinese culture center. The Singaporean
ambassador’s residence and the European Union’s office for Laos are also
The area includes another five-star
hotel, the Don Chan Palace. At 14 floors,
it is the country’s tallest. Like the Landmark compound, Don Chan Palace has a
large banquet hall and convention center. On a recent visit, the lobbies of both
hotels were populated primarily by Chinese businessmen.
Vientiane New World, an outdoor
mall on the development’s west end, is
Camce’s most public-facing development. It features a small office building
for the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei — whose advertisements
flutter on lampposts downtown — and a
“walking street” with restaurants, cafes, shops and a beer garden.
Chinese businesses are featured
prominently at Vientiane New World,
with regional Chinese restaurants offering cuisine from Liaoning and Shandong
Provinces, as well as Old Chengdu, a
high-end Sichuanese restaurant where
several dishes cost upward of $100 — a
month’s rent for the average Vientiane
resident. For wealthier Laotians, dining
at a Chinese restaurant is a sign of sophistication and worldliness.
On weekend nights, Vientiane New
World’s beer garden is filled with young
Laotians eating and drinking at dozens
of tiny open-air bars and restaurants,
typically constructed with corrugated
Camce’s riverside investment is but
one Chinese project transforming the
city. Shanghai Wanfeng has invested
$300 million of a projected $5 billion total in That Luang Lake, which has just
begun its second of four phases that are
scheduled for completion in 2032. Of the
11 buildings already built, four condominiums are selling units, Mr. Saiyalath
said. Two more buildings — a hotel and
serviced apartments — are preparing to
The project is in an economic zone,
where foreign investors can buy condominiums. Mr. Saiyalath said he hoped
the government would adopt a new law
to allow foreigners to own condominiums outside economic zones. In Cambodia, which has such a law, foreign
money, especially Chinese, has flooded
the property market.
“Once this law is in place, foreigners
will be more confident to invest here,” he
said. “Look at Cambodia. Our country
needs to be developed quickly.”
China is prioritizing Laos in its Belt
and Road investment push. Last November, President Xi Jinping of China
and Bounnhang Vorachith, his counterpart in Laos, oversaw the signing of a
memorandum of understanding to
deepen cooperation through a new
Laos-China economic corridor.
“China sees Laos as providing a path-
way for rail and road connectivity into
Thailand and the rest of Southeast
Asia,” said Brian Eyler, director of the
Southeast Asia program at the Stimson
Center, a nonpartisan policy research
center in Washington.
Thailand’s military leaders have
dragged their feet on the rail line between Bangkok and Vientiane that they
originally said would be completed in
March. Thailand’s Transport Ministry
now projects the line will be completed
by 2023, at the earliest.
“The fate of the rail connection from
Vientiane to Bangkok is uncertain,” Mr.
Eyler said, “which means China’s big
Belt and Rail push into Southeast Asia
could end inside of landlocked Laos.”
Thailand is wary of getting too close
to China, while the Laotian government
has been eager to tap into easy Chinese
money, said George McLeod, a consultant based in Bangkok.
“Thailand’s low-end manufacturing
sector has already been gutted by Chinese competition, and the leadership is
acutely aware that closer ties would
take a further toll on their economy,” Mr.
McLeod said. “Laos is even more susceptible to becoming an unequal partner: It has a tiny population of under
seven million and lies directly on China’s
southern border with no buffer in between.”
Time to take out the doughnuts.
Dunkin’ Donuts is removing “donuts”
from its name starting next year, making it the latest in a string of companies
aiming to breathe fresh life into their
brands with a name change.
The company said this week that it
would retain its colors and font but start
going by Dunkin’ in January. The shift is
a nod to the chain’s beverage sales,
which account for about 60 percent of its
business, and the popularity of its longtime slogan, “America Runs on Dunkin’.”
In explaining the change in a statement and on a call with reporters, the
company said multiple times that it was
“on a first-name basis” with consumers
and that despite its new moniker, its focus on doughnuts remained intact.
Dunkin’ Donuts — as it is known for
now — is one of many companies to declare a new name as part of a broader
rebranding strategy.
Also this week, Weight Watchers announced that it was now WW. It is an attempt to emphasize a focus on wellness
instead of weight loss, with the tagline,
“Wellness that works.”
In 2016, Tribune Publishing — which
owns The Chicago Tribune and other
newspapers — became Tronc, to widespread ridicule.
The restaurant chain IHOP even used
a name change as a marketing gimmick
this summer, when it temporarily
changed its name to IHOb, for “International House of Burgers.”
“Sometimes companies change their
names because the name limits them in
the business that they’re in,” said Nik
Contis, a senior partner at PS212, an
agency that specializes in brand naming
and helped Coach Inc. rename itself Tapestry. “Sometimes it’s a message to the
Street that the company is taking a new
direction. Most of the time, it’s either
due to a merger, an acquisition or a spinoff.”
On Tuesday, for instance, Michael
Kors announced that it would rename itself Capri Holdings Limited after its deal
for the Italian fashion house Versace is
But such shifts come with risks. David
B. Srere, co-chief executive and chief
strategy officer at Siegel & Gale, a brand
consulting firm, says he advises clients
“to do everything they can do first before they change their name” to avoid
losing any familiarity and emotional
connection with consumers. He was
skeptical about Dunkin’ and WW.
“I’d like to know what a ‘Dunkin’ is —
what does it mean?” Mr. Srere said.
“Dunkin’ is a verb, if anything, so it’s a
clarity issue for me. And the same thing
for WW — I don’t know what that is. The
only WW that I know is World War or a
website that forgot their third W.”
Dunkin’ Donuts got its name in 1950,
when its founder renamed his original
shop, which was known as Open Kettle.
As of last year, the United States had
over 9,000 Dunkin’ Donuts locations.
The company tested the new name
over the past year and the response has
been “overwhelmingly positive,” Tony
Weisman, chief marketing officer of
Dunkin’ Donuts in the United States,
said on a call with reporters.
He said the relationship the company
had built with customers was similar to
the kind that people have with their
friends, where they also use first names.
David Hoffmann, chief executive of
Dunkin’ Brands, emphasized that the
shift was about the chain’s broader
growth strategy to sell beverages — primarily coffee — to people on the go.
Like Mr. Srere, Mr. Contis, the senior
partner at PS212, was critical of Weight
Watchers’ new name, noting that saying
“W” out loud twice was a “linguistic
mouthful.” But he was more optimistic
about Dunkin’.
“There’s kind of a humanness to it and
opens it up to not just being about
doughnuts and probably not just about
coffee,” he said. “I don’t have a problem
with Dunkin’ meaning more than just
dunking into a cup of coffee, any more
than I’d have a problem with Crate &
Barrel selling things that aren’t crates
and barrels.”
Dunkin’ Donuts said despite its new name, its focus on doughnuts would continue.
Borrowing costs rise, sinking U.S. deeper into debt
icy has been a part of the standard
Keynesian toolbox to combat downturns since the Great Depression.
The deficit is soaring now as the economy booms, meaning the stimulus is
pro-cyclical. The risk is that the government would have less room to maneuver
if the economy slowed.
Aside from wartime or a deep downturn like the 1930s or 2008-9, “this sort of
aggressive fiscal stimulus is unprecedented in U.S. history,” said Jeffrey
Frankel, an economist at Harvard.
Pouring gasoline on an already hot
economy has resulted in faster growth
— the economy expanded at an annualized rate of 4.2 percent in the second
quarter. But Mr. Frankel warns that
when the economy weakens, the government will find it more difficult to cut
taxes or increase spending.
Lawmakers might, in fact, feel compelled to cut spending as tax revenue
falls, further depressing the economy.
“There will eventually be another recession, and this increases the chances we
will have to slam on the brakes when the
car is already going too slowly,” Mr.
Frankel said.
Payments projected to top $900 billion annually
Annual interest payments on the national debt will triple over the next decade, according to the Congressional Budget Office. As a share of the overall
budget, interest is expected to increase to 13 percent, from 6.6 percent. Public debt is increasing even as the economy is growing, because of tax
cuts and spending increases.
Interest payments on the national debt
Expenditures as a share of overall budget
Public debt as a share of G.D.P.
15 %
$900 billion
100 %
Net interest 13.0%
Finding the money to pay investors who
hold government debt will crimp other
parts of the budget. In a decade, interest
on the debt will eat up 13 percent of government spending, up from 6.6 percent
in 2017.
“By 2020, we will spend more on interest than we do on kids, including education, food stamps and aid to families,”
said Marc Goldwein, senior policy director at the Committee for a Responsible
Federal Budget, a research and advocacy organization.
Interest costs already dwarf spending
on many popular programs. For example, grants to students from low-income
families for college total roughly $30 billion — about one-tenth of what the government will pay in interest this year. Interest payments will overtake Medicaid,
which provides health insurance for the
poor, in 2020 and the Department of Defense budget in 2023.
Source: Congressional Budget Office
What’s more, the heavy burden of interest payments could make it harder
for the government to repair aging infrastructure or take on other big new
Mr. Trump has called for spending $1
trillion on infrastructure, but Congress
has not taken up that idea.
Until recently, ultralow interest rates,
set by the Federal Reserve to support
the economy, allowed lawmakers to borrow without fretting too much about the
cost of that debt. But as the economy has
strengthened, the Fed has gradually
raised rates, starting in December 2015.
The central bank was expected to push
rates up again this week, and more increases are in store.
“When rates went down to record
lows, it allowed the government to take
on more debt without paying more interest,” Mr. Goldwein said. “That party is
Since the beginning of the year, the
yield on the 10-year Treasury note has
risen by more than half a percentage
point, to 3.1 percent. The Congressional
Budget Office estimates that the yield
will climb to 4.2 percent in 2021. Given
that the total public debt of the United
States stands at nearly $16 trillion, even
a small uptick in rates can cost the government billions.
Some members of Congress want to
set the stage for even more red ink.
Republicans in the House want to
make last year’s tax cuts permanent, instead of letting some of them expire at
the end of 2025. That would reduce federal revenue by an additional $631 bil-
lion over 10 years, according to the Tax
Policy Center.
Deficit hawks have warned for years
that a day of reckoning is coming, exposing the United States to the kind of economic crisis that overtook profligate
borrowers in the past like Greece or Argentina.
But most experts say that isn’t likely
because the dollar is the world’s reserve
currency. As a result, the United States
still has plenty of borrowing capacity
left because the Fed can print money
with fewer consequences than other
central banks.
And interest rates plunged over the
last decade, even as the government
turned to the market for trillions each
year after the recession. That’s because
Treasury bonds are still the favored port
of international investors in any economic storm.
“We exported a financial crisis a decade ago, and the world responded by
sending us money,” said William G.
Gale, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
But that privileged position has allowed politicians in both parties to avoid
politically painful steps like cutting
spending or raising taxes.
That doesn’t mean rapidly rising interest costs and a bigger deficit won’t
eventually catch up with us.
Charles Schultze, chairman of the
Council of Economic Advisers in the
Carter administration, once summed up
the danger of deficits with a metaphor.
“It’s not so much a question of the wolf at
the door, but termites in the woodwork.”
Rather than simply splitting along party
lines, lawmakers’ attitudes toward the
deficit also depend on which party is in
power. Republicans pilloried the Obama
administration for proposing a large
stimulus in the depths of the recession in
2009 and complained about the deficit
for years.
In 2013, Senator Mitch McConnell of
Kentucky called the debt and deficit “the
transcendent issue of our era.” By 2017,
as Senate majority leader, he quickly
shepherded the tax cut through Congress.
Senator James Lankford, an Oklahoma Republican who warned of the
deficit’s dangers in the past, nevertheless played down that threat on the Senate floor as the tax bill neared passage.
“I understand it’s a risk, but I think it’s
an appropriate risk to be able to say let’s
allow Americans to keep more of their
own money to invest in this economy,”
he said.
He also claimed the tax cuts would
pay for themselves, even as the Congressional Budget Office estimated that
they would add $250 billion to the deficit
on average from 2019 to 2024.
In an interview, Mr. Lankford insisted
that the jury was still out on whether the
tax cuts would generate additional revenue, citing the strong economic growth
While the Republican about-face has
been much more striking, Democrats
have adjusted their position, too.
Mr. Warner, the Virginia Democrat,
called last year’s tax bill “the worst piece
of legislation we have passed since I arrived in the Senate.” In 2009, however,
when Congress passed an $800 billion
stimulus bill backed by the Obama administration, he called it “a responsible
mix of tax cuts and investments that will
create jobs.”
The difference, Mr. Warner said, was
that the economy was near the precipice
“There was virtual unanimity among
economists that we needed a stimulus,”
he said. “But a $2 trillion tax cut at the
end of a business cycle with borrowed
money won’t end well.”
That thing that India and Pakistan do
brawls have
a more
Mohammed Hanif
Contributing Writer
KARACHI, PAKISTAN Four years ago
when India elected the right-wing
Bharatiya Janata Party (B.J.P.) to
power, Pakistan’s iconic feminist poet
and peace activist Fahmida Riaz recited
a poem of despair, comparing new India
to old Pakistan:
Turns out you were just like us,
Where were you hiding all this time,
In Pakistan, Ms. Riaz is not only
considered a hopeless peacenik but also
a bit of an India lover. She has reason to
be. In the 1980s, like many writers and
activists, Ms. Riaz was made to leave
Pakistan by the then military regime.
While others took refuge in Western
countries, Ms. Riaz chose to go into
exile in India, where she then lived for
more than six years. She is a muchloved poet who is not afraid of speaking
truth to power at home and abroad. She
is also not afraid of hoping.
Last Thursday other peaceniks in
Pakistan and India were hoping, too, as
the two countries agreed to resume
talks. The wave of optimism lasted a day.
Pakistan’s new prime minister, Imran
Khan, had written a letter to the Indian
government suggesting that the Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers meet
during the United Nations General
Assembly’s annual session when it
opened this week. India had accepted,
but made it clear that the meeting would
be not a resumption of talks, only a
Given that the last meeting of the
foreign secretaries, three years ago,
was called off at the last moment, this
was seen as a good enough development. There had also been reports
earlier that Pakistan’s army chief had
approached his Indian counterpart in
an attempt to restart some sort of peace
And then India and Pakistan did what
India and Pakistan do. On Friday, the
Indian government, in a harshly
worded statement, suddenly declared
that it had just seen “the true face” of
Mr. Khan and there would be no meeting. It claimed that Pakistan had issued
a series of postage stamps about what
Pakistan calls “occupied Kashmir” and
celebrating a slain anti-India Kashmiri
militant. India also accused Pakistan of
killing three Indian policemen along the
Line of Control.
Only, the stamps were issued before
Mr. Khan became prime minister. And
killings along both sides of the border, of
soldiers and civilians, has been a horrific routine for many years.
From there, the media in both countries went into an almost-default warhysteria mode. Mr. Khan tweeted, in
clear reference to Prime Minister
Narendra Modi of India, “all my life I
have come across small men occupying
big offices.” The Indian Army chief said
that Pakistan should be punished for its
barbarism and made to feel pain. The
spokesman of the Pakistani Army
declared that it was ready for war but
was choosing peace. Pakistan’s season-
al jihadists chimed in to say that the
army should put them on the border as a
first line of defense.
Within a matter of 72 hours the situation went from “Let’s sit down to talk
about talks” to “I’ll smack you in the
face.” Schoolyard brawls have a more
nuanced buildup.
In contrast to the Pakistani Army, the
Indian Army is seen as subservient to
the civilian authorities. Pakistani democrats like to remind us that the Indian
Army stays away from politics and
that’s why democracy has flourished in
India. But after the Indian Army chief’s
promise of pain, the Pakistani government’s spokesman declared that he was
acting like a B.J.P. functionary.
Here is the Pakistani army, which has
ruled this country directly for more
than half its life, accusing the Indian
Army of interfering in political affairs.
Irony said a final namaste and jumped
into the Ganges.
Pundits say Friday’s turnabout is all
about elections in India. Mr. Modi faces
a tough election next year, and his government is rankled by a scandal involving more than $9 billion given to an
Indian tycoon for manufacturing
French jet fighters. The tycoon has
never built anything remotely looking
like a plane before. Mr. Modi is being
called corrupt by his political opponents. His answer? Look behind you!
Pakistan is planning to kill us all.
A few months ago when Mr. Khan was
campaigning, his mantra was that the
incumbent Nawaz Sharif was soft on
India. His supporters declared Mr.
Sharif “Modi ka
yaar” (Modi’s bestie)
because Mr. Sharif
had attended Mr.
Modi’s inauguration
as prime minister in
other is no
2014 and the Indian
premier had paid a
surprise private visit
for our own
to Mr. Sharif’s estate
outside Lahore in
2015. Now the B.J.P.’s
ruling party head
honcho, Amit Shah, says: Look, Pakistan wants Mr. Modi gone, as does the
Indian opposition leader Rahul Gandhi.
If there is trouble at home, you throw
your trash at your neighbor and call
your fellow countrymen traitors.
On Sep. 28–30, India is scheduled to
hold a mega celebration to mark the
so-called surgical strikes, or the light-
ning attack, it waged on Pakistan two
years ago, in which Indian soldiers
crossed the Line of Control and taught
Pakistani forces a lesson. Pakistan
denies that any such strikes took place.
Then again, it routinely celebrates wars
with India which it never won. Now
India is going to celebrate a battle that
Pakistan says never happened.
This warmongering helps cover up
some basic issues on both sides. In a
recent TV interview, the son of a slain
Indian soldier was asked whether he
wanted revenge for his dad’s death. The
boy seemed confused, looked around as
if he didn’t know why he was being
asked the question. My dad can’t come
back, he said, but can you guys get my
younger brother a job? “How many
times do I have to ask for a job for my
younger brother?”
Do people want revenge or do people
want jobs? While on both sides millions
struggle to feed their families, for many
people, beating the war drums is a
lucrative job. A perma-war means a
India and Pakistan have many things
in common besides food and music.
India has blinded more civilians in
Kashmir with pellet guns than any
other regime in the recorded history of
the world. Pakistan has abducted many
of its own citizens and disappeared
them for years. Both acted in the name
of national security.
An Indian journalist recently mentioned to me Ms. Riaz’s poem in a phone
conversation. She said: You Pakistanis
must be feeling pretty smug about
what’s going on in India, quoting Ms.
Riaz to one another. She was talking as if
India becoming Pakistan’s murderous
other was a consolation for our failings.
No, I said, most Pakistanis don’t go
around quoting that poem.
I reread it recently, and it’s not a
bugger-off, you-are-just-like-us poem.
After much lamenting and comparing
our base urges, the poem ends on an
intimate note, almost like a bored
lover’s parting words:
When you do reach your promised land,
Do write us an occasional letter.
But India and Pakistan have reached
a stage where they can’t even leave
each other a Post-it note.
is the author of the
novels “A Case of Exploding Mangoes”
and “Our Lady of Alice Bhatti,” and of
the upcoming “Red Birds.”
What happens when you give L.S.D. to an elephant?
keep finding
ways to
justify giving
drugs and
alcohol to
Jennifer Finney Boylan
Contributing Writer
I am not an angry person, normally,
but then these days nothing is normal.
I open the newspaper or turn on the
television, thinking, Gee, I wonder
what’s going on down in Washington.
Next thing you know, my head is
rolling around on my neck and green
goop is coming out of my mouth, like
Linda Blair in “The Exorcist.” Oh my
God, I conclude. People are terrible.
And then there are reports of animals taking drugs: pigs drinking beer,
lobsters smoking pot, elephants on
Consider, for instance, JoAnna
Klein’s story last week about the octopods that scientists dosed with Ecstasy. Under the influence of the drug,
more properly known as MDMA, the
octopods seemed to chill.
They spent more time hanging out
with other octopods and showed off
their mouths, in a gesture not unlike
the one that Larger Pacific Striped
Octopi use when they’re out together,
you know, dancing beak-to-beak.
Up in Southwest Harbor, Me., a
place called Charlotte’s Legendary
Lobster Pound has been getting lobsters stoned on marijuana, using a
system involving a chamber filled with
water and pot smoke piped in through
a tube.
According to Charlotte Gill, the
owner, the lobsters thus sedated don’t
kick so much when, a little later,
they’re dropped into the, um, pot (and,
according to Ms. Gill, so they don’t
experience pain when they hit the
boiling water). The state’s health inspectors are not amused.
Ms. Gill has a license to grow mari-
juana, under Maine’s new law, but she
says she has received word from the
state that “it is supposed to be used
only for myself and not for a lobster.”
My favorite part of this story is the
detail that Ms. Gill’s 82-year-old father
is eating “copious amounts of marijuana-sedated lobster every day.” I picture the gentleman wearing a relaxed
grin, surrounded by a giant pile of
lobster shells. “Mmm,” he says. “Butter.”
Is this helping? No? Well, how about
this headline: “Australian Wild Pig
Drinks 18 Beers, Gets in Fight With
Cow.” The details of this story do not
disappoint, although things in this tale
don’t end well for the pig.
It is hard not to think wistfully of
how things might have been different
had the pig instead stolen some Ecstasy from a local octopus. Who knows?
In that world, the cow and the pig and
might have wound up as friends instead of turning to hooficuffs.
But all such stories pale in comparison with the legend of Tusko the elephant, who was given L.S.D. by researchers at the University of Oklahoma in 1962.
Some things to know about the
Tusko story:
1. The name of the doctor performing the experiment was Louis West,
but everyone called him Jolly.
2. Tusko is a common name given to
elephants in captivity, including a
pachyderm exhibited in 1922 as the
“World’s Meanest.”
3. The Oklahoma Tusko was injected
with the L.S.D. by way of a dart gun
shot into his right buttock. This is, of
course, the same method once used on
Timothy Leary.
4. Five minutes after the injection,
Tusko trumpeted, fell over and defecated.
5. After that, he went into a state the
scientists later described as a
“seizure”; his eyes closed and rolled
back in his great big head.
6. In an effort to stop the seizure, Dr.
West and company injected the elephant with both Thorazine and pentobarbital sodium. Tusko died an hour
and 40 minutes later. There is some
thought that it was these drugs, rather
than the L.S.D., that killed the elephant.
7. In the wake of the tragedy, it was
noted that the amount of L.S.D. given
to the elephant was about 30 times the
amount that would be administered to
a human.
You’d think that the moral of this
story would be fairly clear: Don’t give
drugs to animals. Especially not elephants. And yet, 22 years later, a different scientist apparently reached a
different conclusion, and repeated the
experiment with two elephants. This
time, both elephants survived. There is
no word as to whether, in the aftermath, the elephants expressed an
interest in jam bands.
I like the idea of tripping elephants,
in the abstract, in the same way that I
like the idea of octopods on Ecstasy, or
lobsters on pot, or drunken Australian
pigs picking fights with cows.
But the more I think about it, the
sadder and angrier it makes me. Why
do we have to mess with the brains of
animals? Isn’t it enough to destroy our
own minds without having to ruin the
lives of elephants and octopods and
It leaves me back where I started,
with the conclusion that people are, at
least sometimes, pretty terrible — to
this world, to the animals we share it
with and, of course, to one another. But
then, watching the news and reading
the paper every day, I knew that already.
JENNIFER FINNEY BOYLAN is a professor of
English at Barnard College and the
author of the novel “Long Black Veil.”
The Pakistani
military in Karachi this month
its second war
with India in 1965.
Both sides
claimed victory.
These are not disposable allies
A.G. SULZBERGER, Publisher
Aliza Marcus
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
Russia was
to express
and prove its
drug testing
legitimate after
the biggest
scandal in
sports history.
It has done
Three years after Russia’s drug-testing agency was
banned over one of the largest and most egregious statesponsored doping schemes in the history of sport, it’s
back in business, authorized by the World Anti-Doping
Agency to certify that the same Russian athletes it so
recently helped cheat are clean. It’s hard to know where
to start on how outrageous that is.
After negotiating with the Russians over the summer,
WADA announced last Thursday that it was, in effect,
lifting its major conditions for Russia’s reinstatement — a
full admission of the cheating and access to its stored
urine samples — in exchange for a pledge to grant access to those samples by year’s end.
Faced with a deluge of outrage, much of it from athletes, WADA’s president, Craig Reedie, claimed this was
the best way to get access to the samples WADA says it
needs to complete its investigation into Russian doping.
The report, by Richard McLaren, a Canadian law professor, inculpated Russia’s government sports organizations and the Russian Federal Security Service in an
incredible scheme at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi
to swap dirty urine samples for clean ones through a hole
in the testing lab wall. That in turn led to the suspension
of the Russian drug-testing agency, Rusada (Motto: “For
Clean and Fair Sport!”), and a host of individual sanctions by various sports federations. At the 2018 Winter
Games, in South Korea, Russian athletes cleared to participate did so as “Olympic Athletes From Russia,” without their national flag.
WADA and the International Olympic Committee are
now back in their familiar posture, defending against
furious athletes and critics. Travis Tygart, the head of the
American antidoping organization, said the decision
“stinks to high heaven.” Beckie Scott, a retired Canadian
Olympian, called it “a devastating blow to clean sport.”
Dr. Rodchenkov, who lives in hiding, called it “the greatest treachery against clean athletes in Olympic history.”
It’s not certain that the fury will have any effect.
WADA and the I.O.C., of which Mr. Reedie is a member
and which foots half of WADA’s budget, have a long
record of closing their eyes to the misdeeds of powerful
sports nations. They seem not to understand that condoning Russia’s cheating does irreparable damage to
international sport.
WADA must promptly explain how it came to the decision to reinstate Russia and how it will ensure that Russia abides by the new condition. To make sure Mr. Reedie
understands, Congress might note that the United States
government’s annual check to WADA is for $2.3 million.
The United States announced last
month that it intends to keep troops in
Syria to support Kurdish-led fighters
there until the Islamic State has been
completely routed and the area stabilized. Although this long-term commitment is critical, real stability and security can be ensured only by providing
political recognition and practical support to the Kurdish administration
governing northeastern Syria.
The United States has been backing
the Kurds in Syria but has insisted on
keeping the relationship strictly military. Since the first American weapons
drop to Kurdish fighters besieged by the
Islamic State in the Syrian town of
Kobani late in 2014, Washington has
focused on defeating the Islamic State
and avoided statements or actions that
could imply support for Kurdish autonomy or the Kurdish-led federation in
Today, largely thanks to the sacrifices
of these Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units, known as the
Y.P.G., Islamic militants have lost control over almost all of northeastern
Syria, including their self-proclaimed
capital, Raqqa. The last Islamic State
stronghold, in Deir ez-Zor province, is
under attack by Kurdish fighters and
their umbrella Syrian Democratic
Forces and will fall soon.
The Kurds now control more than a
quarter of Syrian territory where an
estimated 1.5 million to two million
people live. They have created their own
administration to govern and provide
services. As part of their vision for a
decentralized and inclusive Syria, their
institutions operate according to rules
that promote equal participation for
women and equal representation for
ethnic and religious groups.
Governing has proved difficult. Bureaucrats and others in the Civil Service, who, according to Kurdish officials
number some 190,000 people excluding
the police, are often untrained and
inexperienced. Combined with limited
funding and the continuing battle with
the Islamic State, the Kurdish-led authority has found it
hard to provide the
If the United
necessary services to
States really
support the populawants
tion and foster stabilstability in
Syria, it
The Kurdish region
needs to back faces an additional
challenge in the de
the Kurds
facto embargo that is
imposed on it by its
neighbors and the
rest of the world.
not just with
Turkey has closed its
border with the area
and even blocked off
portions of it with a
concrete wall. Opportunities for trade
with neighboring Iraq or the rest of
Syria are severely limited. International
aid, such as from the United States and
Europe, goes mostly to refugee camps
or the Arab areas around Raqqa or
Manbij and ignores majority-Kurdish
areas. This weakens the administration
and paralyzes economic development.
Washington has hesitated to recognize the ruling authority as the legitimate governing body for the area it
controls because the Y.P.G. and its main
political arm, known as the P.Y.D. were
created by the Kurdistan Workers’
Party, or P.K.K., the Turkish Kurdish
group fighting a decades-old insurgency
against Turkey. Both Turkey and the
United States list the P.K.K. as a terrorist group.
There are good reasons to criticize
the Kurdish leadership. The P.Y.D. and
the associated political and military
institutions exert tight control in northeast Syria. Its administration harasses
opposition parties, few of which still
Yet aiding the Kurds militarily and
ignoring them politically doesn’t promote a more politically tolerant society,
nor does it encourage stability. The only
way to build an alternative to the chaos
and repressive dictatorship in the rest of
Syria is through recognition of the
Kurdish-led administration and active
political engagement.
The United States can use its support
as a lever to push for a more open system in the Kurdish-controlled areas.
The United States can include opposition and independent activists in political meetings in northeastern Syria,
and it can demand the administration
lift regulations that impede activities by
groups and individuals not part of the
self-rule authority’s affiliated political
At the same time, the United States
and the European Union should help the
Syrian Kurds on technical issues, such
as water and sewage. They should help
to train a professional bureaucracy that
works on the basis of competence and
skill rather than on party loyalty.
Political engagement could not come
at a more critical time. President Bashar al-Assad has retaken control of
most of Syria. He wants next to move
against Idlib, the last major rebel
stronghold, where some three million
people live. His planned assault was
suspended last week — at least for now
— under a deal brokered by his backer,
Russia, and Turkey, which has supported rebel forces and fears a new
influx of refugees. The Kurds, unsure of
Washington’s commitment to them, are
hedging their bets. Although the Y.P.G.
denied it would join an Idlib offensive,
reports indicated that a token Kurdish
force was prepared to take part. A Syrian regime assault on Idlib would help
the Kurds by weakening Turkey, which
this year invaded and occupied the
Kurdish enclave of Afrin.
In the absence of American political
support, the Kurds have had no choice
but to make overtures to Russia — and
to the Syrian regime. In July, a delegation from the Kurdish-led administration went to Damascus to start negotiations for a political settlement. An
agreement seems far-off. The Kurds’
basic demand for a decentralized Syrian
state that protects minority rights is not
something Mr. Assad wants to accept.
The lack of a political deal makes it that
much harder for the Kurdish-led administration to create stable institutions.
It is the time for Washington to stop
treating the Kurds as effective but
disposable partners in the fight against
the jihadists. The Kurdish experiment in
Syria, however flawed, is a possible
route to long-term stability. With assistance and recognition, the United States
can salvage part of Syria, give the Kurds
the backing they need to demand a fair
settlement from Damascus and retain a
base for future operations against violent extremists.
is the author of “Blood
and Belief: The P.K.K. and the Kurdish
Fight for Independence.”
A dark and
cramped view
of the world
from an
isolated leader.
Donald Trump campaigned for the presidency claiming
“the world is laughing at us.” Now it really is laughing —
at him.
Apparently mistaking the United Nations General
Assembly for a campaign stop on Tuesday, Mr. Trump
opened his annual address — usually a somber occasion
for a president to assess the state of the world — by
boasting that his administration “has accomplished more
than almost any administration in the history of our
That’s when the other world leaders started chuckling.
“Didn’t expect that reaction,” Mr. Trump said, like a
comic in a roomful of hecklers, “but that’s O.K.”
Actually, it’s not O.K. America’s president is now
openly derided in the most important international forum.
In last year’s United Nations address, Mr. Trump introduced the themes of American sovereignty and national
identity (and vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea).
This year, he offered a more ornate statement of his
atavistic if still rather incoherent agenda.
“Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct
culture, a rich history and a people bound together by
ties of memory, tradition and the values that make our
homelands like nowhere else on earth,” the president
said. “That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control
and domination.”
He added: “The United States will not tell you how to
live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our
sovereignty in return.”
Just what the president meant by “global governance”
is unclear. But he seemed intent on conjuring up the
phony black helicopter vision of international institutions
as an “unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy”
intent on erasing borders and eliminating national governments.
He reaffirmed his decisions to withdraw the United
States from the United Nations Human Rights Council
and cut cooperation with the International Criminal
Court, castigating it as having “no jurisdiction, no legitimacy and no authority.”
Mr. Trump was quite explicit in his view of foreign
assistance as a reward for good behavior and for personal loyalty. For Mr. Trump, it’s all about the quid pro quo
and the political message to his domestic audience.
A flag depicting Abdullah Ocalan, founder of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, at a militia fighter’s funeral in Kobani, Syria.
The many faces of Brett Kavanaugh
Frank Bruni
Brett Kavanaugh’s wife, Ashley, told
Martha MacCallum of Fox News: “I
know Brett. I’ve known him for 17
But that’s hardly his whole life. And
that’s hardly the whole Brett. She knows
him mainly as a husband and a father,
moved by the emotional currents that
those roles stir up, distinguished by the
traits that they tease out.
“They know Brett,” she said of the
couple’s two daughters. “And they know
the truth.” They do indeed — part of it.
But not all of it. He may be the gentlest
man on earth with them. He may be a
feminist in terms of their ambitions,
their basketball league. But he may be
nothing of the kind to women in the
abstract or women who were in his path
when he was very young, very inebriated and very insistent.
A Yale roommate of his told The New
Yorker that Kavanaugh was “frequently, incoherently drunk” during the
time in college when, their former classmate Deborah Ramirez alleges, he
exposed himself to her.
“Is it believable that she was alone
with a wolfy group of guys who thought
it was funny to sexually torment a girl
like Debbie?” the roommate, James
Roche, said. “Yeah, definitely. Is it believable that Kavanaugh was one of
them? Yes.”
So possibly that’s Kavanaugh, too.
That’s him riding a wave of testosterone
and booze, among similarly pumped-up,
zonked-out buddies.
As Brett Kavanaugh’s admirers and
detractors stage a ferocious battle over
his biography and reputation and those
of us watching it try to determine what
he’s capable of and what he’s made of,
too many of us fall into a familiar trap.
He’s either a wrongly tarnished angel
or deceptively phlegmatic devil, prey or
predator, “a loyal friend or fratty enabler of bad behavior,” as Kyle Swenson
wrote in The Washington Post. A man
like Kavanaugh couldn’t do what he’s
accused of, or a man like him indisputably did it.
His ethics are elastic and his lies
abundant — about his actions in the
second Bush administration, about his
awareness of a mentor’s obsession with
pornography and mistreatment of
women. Or he’s a primly religious,
utterly devoted family man whose
blemishes are the inventions and exaggerations of political foes.
That’s a misleading, false dichotomy,
inconsistent with everything we know
about human nature and about ourselves. I don’t believe that anyone persuasively accused of what Christine
Blasey Ford says that Kavanaugh did to
her has any business on the Supreme
Court. So we must try our hardest to
come to a best guess about what happened more than 35 years ago, including
by listening closely to her scheduled
testimony before the Senate Judiciary
Committee on Thursday.
But that effort isn’t served by the
caricatures that have come to dominate
this discussion, as they do so many
others. Those caricatures are out of
sync with life. And no set of character
witnesses — to Kavanaugh’s virtues or
vices — is the final, irrefutable word.
They caught a few scenes of him. They
didn’t see the whole messy movie.
We show different colors at different
times in different situations. We age,
sometimes in ways that make us better,
sometimes in ways that make us worse.
We fashion ourselves, with or without
cunning, into who and what we need to
be for friends, lovers, parents, children,
bosses and employSome women ees based on their
diverse expectations
saw a young
and ever-shifting
Some saw
We are genuinely
a drunk
saints and we are
genuinely sinners.
We are pieces that
Maybe he
add up to an incoherwas both.
ent whole.
In the interview
that Kavanaugh and
his wife gave to Fox News on Monday,
he repeatedly mentioned the Sept. 14
letter that 65 women who knew him
during high school signed and sent to
the leaders of the Senate Judiciary
Committee. It vouched for positive
interactions with and impressions of
But it doesn’t mean that other women
couldn’t have had negative ones. A
person’s experience of Kavanaugh
likely hinged on the circumstances.
Perhaps it was the luck — or curse — of
the draw.
Hence the push and pull in the New
Yorker article about Ramirez’s charge.
Some of Kavanaugh’s Yale classmates
said that it didn’t jibe with his character.
Others said that it did. They aren’t
necessarily contradicting each other.
They’re describing their partial perspectives from particular vantage
Kavanaugh is being typecast, but he’s
many types. He’s entitled. He’s diligent.
He’s arrogant. He’s earnest. He’s the
beer-mad treasurer of the “Keg City
Club,” according to what he wrote in his
1983 yearbook from his all-boys Catholic
secondary school, Georgetown Prep.
He’s “an avid consumer of legal scholarship,” according to what a former
professor of his at Yale Law School — a
Hillary Clinton supporter — wrote in
praise of him in The Times.
Speaking of that yearbook, The Times
on Monday night published a story, by
Kate Kelly and David Enrich, about a
phrase that Kavanaugh included on his
page: “Renate Alumnius.” It was apparently an unsubstantiated boast, made
by him and other football players, about
Renate Schroeder, who attended an
all-girls Catholic school nearby.
Now known as Renate Dolphin, she
was among the 65 women on that letter,
and she learned only afterward — in the
past few days — about the yearbook
phrase. “The insinuation is horrible,
hurtful and simply untrue,” she said in a
statement to The Times. “I pray their
daughters are never treated this way.”
She knew one Kavanaugh in high
school, or thought she did. She’s getting
to know another in retrospect. She’s
sifting through conflicting signals.
That’s the task before all of us now.
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Cryptocurrency’s viral growth
Ross Hartshorn
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin have lost
over half their value so far in 2018, and
more than that since late 2017. These
virtual currencies have crashed before,
but this time they seem in no hurry to
gain back lost ground, largely because
recent evidence has revealed problems
with the new technology.
In one recent study, a team of academic researchers said that market
manipulation might have been behind
Bitcoin’s steep increase in value in
2017. And a recent report by the New
York attorney general’s office found
substantial risk that consumers who
invested in cryptocurrency could lose
access to it, either temporarily or
permanently, if there were problems at
their exchange. The report also uncovered that many of the exchanges had
traded on their own markets, essentially creating a conflict of interest in
which they were trading against their
own customers.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.
Cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were
started not as a way to get rich but to
provide an electronic payment system
that was more secure and resistant to
fraud than credit cards and eliminated
the need for trusted intermediaries like
financial institutions. Because cryptocurrencies were not controlled by a
central institution like a government or
even a governing nonprofit, they were
supposed to give the holder the reliability of gold, without the inconvenience of having to transfer a physical
item to make a transaction.
Large organizations and technically
savvy users may have valid reasons
for using cryptocurrencies, especially
for transactions between governments
or large multinational corporations.
However, for the ordinary citizen,
cryptocurrency is in fact less secure,
more vulnerable to sudden drops in
value and — surprisingly — more
dependent on trust in an intermediary
institution than fiat currency like the
United States dollar.
In the world of cryptocurrency, there
are two categories of intermediary
institutions. The first category contains
the exchanges where users buy, sell
and store their virtual currency. These
exchanges include Coinbase, which the
New York attorney general’s report
claimed traded on its own platform,
and the now-bankrupt Mt. Gox exchange, which lost over 700,000 of its
users’ Bitcoins to hackers in 2014. The
second category is made up of the
people and companies who create and
sell their own cryptocurrency, using
initial coin offerings. This year, two
founders of a virtual currency called
Centra were arrested and charged with
“conspiracy to commit securities fraud,
securities fraud, conspiracy to commit
wire fraud and wire fraud.” In May,
The Wall Street Journal found that
hundreds of initial coin offerings were
“using deceptive or even fraudulent
tactics to lure investors.”
When it
More recently,
comes to
social networks such
Bitcoin and
as Facebook promthe like,
ised to connect evgovernment
eryone in the world
and give users a
platform to speak
should be
freely. As we’ve seen,
a feature,
they did not make
not a bug.
things free; they
opened us up to
manipulation by
anyone, anywhere. There is a feeling I
get when I log in to Facebook and am
assaulted by clickbait news, overly
intrusive ads and a confusing inability
to configure my feed to show me the
updates from friends that I came here
to Facebook to read. “Free” is not the
word for it. Facebook has become less
free than an ordinary real-life conversation, not despite the ability to connect to to anyone but because of it.
We saw something similar in peerto-peer lending, where people could
take the savings of one person who
needed to invest and transfer it to
another person who needed to borrow.
The system was supposed to make the
economy work more fairly, by removing the arbitrary and inefficient banker
middlemen. Instead of following
through on its promise, peer-to-peer
lending in China has resulted in a lot of
lost money for ordinary citizen savers,
creating an unstable financial sector.
In software engineering, we have a
phrase for this: “That’s not a bug, it’s a
feature.” Established systems (such as
customs, regulations or software) are
the way they are, for many reasons,
some of them now forgotten. Sometimes we never know all the reasons a
system needed restrictions or limitations until we discover a way to make
new systems without them and discover (for better or for worse) what
happens without those constraints.
Cryptocurrency, peer-to-peer lending,
and anonymity and pseudonymity in
communication are all impressive feats
of engineering. They are also all excellent at showing us the value of a society that requires a stable identity,
government support of a currency and
oversight of its financial systems.
Bitcoin’s first commercial transaction was in 2010; by late 2017 it had
grown to a value of over $100 billion.
Facebook grew to one billion users in
about the same amount of time. The
word “viral” is often used to describe
such exponential growth, but viruses
grow exponentially for a reason, and it
has nothing to do with a benefit to the
host. If a new technology grows exponentially, that ought to make us wary,
not excited.
We need time to discover and address the problems in any new system.
We also need time to revisit the restrictions and limitations of established
systems, and see if they still apply. The
underlying danger is that some of
these new systems and technologies
have grown too fast and have been
adopted for general use before we
recognize the problems caused by their
lack of restrictions.
Many of the so-called limitations of
government-regulated currencies are
features, not bugs. There is a place for
cryptocurrency, though I don’t believe
it’s for the average, nontechnical user.
In general, cryptocurrencies are not a
replacement for ordinary currencies.
That’s not in spite of their freedom
from government control but precisely
because of it.
is an independent
software developer.
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We reserve the right to withdraw this offer at any time. A different shelf life
Glenn Adamson
A couple of years ago, my parents
moved into Brooksby Village, one of
the largest retirement communities
near Boston. The residents like to joke
that it’s a cruise ship that never docks.
There are restaurants, recreation
rooms, variously denominated chapels.
And there are corridors, many of them,
all seemingly identical. You can easily
get lost, particularly if your cognitive
faculties aren’t what they once were.
I expect it’s partly for this reason
that the management at Brooksby
installed a shelf in the hallway next to
each apartment door. The shelves are
small, about two feet long and one foot
deep, and are all the same. But the
residents use them in endlessly varied
My parents choose to display a blue
glass vase (a gift from me) and, somewhat incongruously, a little bronze
Komodo dragon. Some shelves feature
sentimental cards or teddy bears or
flowers, real and artificial, or mementos of loved ones. Others bespeak the
eclectic ethnic mix of the community
and are filled with Irish and Italian and
Polish and Russian tchotchkes and
flags. On others still are crafts, paintings, sculptures — some souvenirs
from past travels, some made by the
residents themselves.
As a result, when you walk around
Brooksby Village, you always know
where you are thanks to those landmarks. But it’s obvious that the shelves
and their contents are serving a purpose higher than mere navigation.
Despite the diversity, they have a
single message. They say to passersby: This is us.
There is deep feeling here if you are
open to seeing it. Many attachments
may have fallen by the wayside.
Friends may have died, homes sold,
children grown up and moved away.
But the macaroni-encrusted chicken is
still there, and with it, a measure of
As a professional curator, I feel there
is something to learn from these microexhibitions. After all,
they are a lot more
A curator
emotive than many
finds much
museum and gallery
to admire in
shows manage to be.
the creative
Once I began thinkexuberance
ing about them, I
started noticing
of the
similar displays, in
objects in a
other places, markretirement
ing other times of
home’s halls.
life. Objects laid by a
child’s crib, on a
dorm room desk,
along an office cubicle ledge, at the
foot of a gravestone. Wherever we are,
at whatever age, we have an impulse
to tell people who we really are
through a few resonant objects.
Having dedicated my career to the
history and creativity of craft, I have
become increasingly worried about the
incursion of the digital into our lives.
There is much gratification and practical use to be had through the sliding,
tapping and clicking that we all do
incessantly, bathed in the encouraging
glow of our screens. But aren’t we
losing something in the process? This
goes far beyond the ability to make
things, or even to understand how they
are made. It has to do with a pervasive
disconnect from our physical surroundings, in all their richness. It has
to do with the way we are losing touch,
quite literally, with the accumulated
“material intelligence” of the past.
All useful objects, from satellites to
screwdrivers, are a repository of this
material intelligence that has been
handed down from previous generations. When we underestimate that
inheritance (perhaps because we overstate the worth of newer technologies)
we risk cutting ourselves off not only
from the human past but also from those
people around us who still have a hand
in making our world what it is.
Will Brooksby Village eventually
replace its shelves with digital tablets
that automatically scroll through thousands of family pictures but communicate far less than a few carefully chosen
things? I doubt it. As humans, the urge
to keep objects close is deeply rooted in
us. Today, it’s easy to lose track of this
desire, either getting distracted by our
devices or surrounding ourselves with
so many things that each one ceases to
hold much value. At Brooksby, though,
I’ve found reason for optimism. We will
never lose touch completely with the
curators inside us.
GLENN ADAMSON, a curator and senior
scholar at the Yale Center for British
Art, is the author of “Fewer, Better
Trump to China: ‘I own you.’ Guess again.
Meituan and Toutiao — and the U.S. has
11. Twenty years ago, China had none.
Do you see a trend? Do you hear
footsteps? The total value of China’s
internet economy is already bigger than
America’s. And China’s economy now is
so cashless that many women no longer
carry purses or men wallets — just a
cellphone with mobile apps — to buy
anything, or even donate to a beggar.
And don’t get me started on the biggest emerging work and services tool in
the world — artificial intelligence. China’s plan is to catch up to America in A.I.
and surpass it as soon as possible, and
it’s well on its way. Because with A.I., the
more training data you can feed the
machine the faster it learns, the more
patterns you can see and the more
algorithms you can write to improve
products and services or invent new
ones. Because China has so many more
people than we do, and so many more of
them use mobile apps for their daily
lives, China’s ability to amass giant data
sets and train more machines faster is
“If data is the new oil, then China is
the new Saudi Arabia,” remarked KaiFu Lee, author of “AI Superpowers:
China, Silicon Valley, and the New
World Order.”
Chinese companies are already the
world leaders in computer vision/facial
recognition and speech recognition,
which can be used for commerce and
for surveillance and societal control. In
just the last two years there has been
an explosion of fintech start-ups in
China, offering mobile payments, lending, brokerage and banking.
And the No. 1 and 3 drone manufacturers in the world — DJI and Xiaomi
— are Chinese. France’s Parrot is No. 2.
At the same time, China is producing
far more engineers and scientists than
the U.S., and their quality is steadily
America today, by contrast, has become the unrivaled world leader in
generating data about Donald Trump
and from Donald Trump.
In the daily barrage of Trump news
and tweets, some Trump statements are
actually true, though — like the need for
the U.S. to confront China’s unfair trade
practices. China has grown incredibly
these past 30 years with a very specific
formula: hard work, unleashing capitalism, smart planning and long-range
investments in education and infrastructure — but also by stealing intellectual property, forcing technology transfers and cheating on World Trade Organization rules.
We have to respond. But wisely.
Historically the U.S. could dominate
the global scene and check a rising
power like China, and set the global
rules, with just our
sheer physical mass
— more money, more
today has
troops, more naval
become the
ships, more top-10
companies, more
world leader
scientists and more
universities. That is
in generating
just not possible any
data about
longer, as China has
become both big and
Trump and
smart in more and
from Donald
more areas. But all is
not lost.
It happens that we
have three huge
assets that China doesn’t have, and is
unlikely to acquire them anytime soon.
We should be doubling down on our
strengths: immigration, allies and
values. Instead, Trump is squandering
Many of the smartest and most
talented people in the world — high-I.Q.
risk-takers — still want to come to our
country. And in a knowledge-talent era,
where companies thrive by being the
first and fastest to put intelligence into
everything they make, we should be
welcoming more high-skilled immigrants than ever and giving green
cards to every Chinese, and other
foreign students, who come to America
for advanced degrees.
China can’t attract the best and
brightest Indian, Israeli, Arab, French,
Brazilian and Korean immigrants, but
we still can. So why would we put out a
signing saying “Go Away” or make it
harder for their students to stay here?
Also, we have real allies in a way
China does not. China has clients,
customers and frightened neighbors. It
does not have real partners like Canada
and Mexico. It doesn’t have the whole
Atlantic alliance with the European
Union or tight relations with Japan,
South Korea, Singapore and Australia —
which we can leverage if we aren’t doing
stupid stuff, like slapping them with
steel tariffs or tearing up the TransPacific Partnership.
Finally, as a society, we stand for
things — or at least we used to stand for
things — values people admire, about
the dignity of human beings, the rights
of minorities and women and the virtues
of freedom and the rules for fair play.
In short, a strategic president wouldn’t squander our strengths but would
reinforce them by creating a stronger
global network of people and countries
that share our values. We won the Cold
War with a strategy of containment and
bankrupting the Soviet Union by outspending the Kremlin on defense. But
we will “win” this standoff with China,
not by brute force alone, or by containment of China’s giant economy, but by
“entanglement” — entanglement of
Chinese students with our schools,
Chinese businesses with our values, and
the Chinese government with our allies.
That is, with the broad alliances and
global institutions, and their rules of fair
play, that we’ve been part of since World
War II.
So we have to fight for those rules,
and China will fight for its versions. But
ultimately, I believe, the U.S. and China
together will have to play the role that
the U.S. played alone after World War II
— to define the rules of the new international order, from A.I. to privacy to
trade. And our weight in that process —
we must never forget — will depend on
the talent we attract, the allies we rally
and the values we embrace and promote.
Sex in the time
of Kavanaugh
Under the twinkling lights of the Eiffel
Tower at dusk, below a row of 10 towering white palm trees reflected in the
black mirror of an infinity pool, in front
of rows of gawking onlookers gathered
on the steps up to the Trocadero, the first
model of the Saint Laurent show appeared — and began to walk on water.
Or, to be fair, to walk through it, but
since it was only an inch or so deep, and
she was wearing towering platform
heels, it looked as if she was walking on
it. In a man’s black trouser suit, a white
shirt undone practically to her navel.
Welcome to the second coming of sex.
It’s been out of fashion for awhile now,
but Anthony Vaccarello, Saint Laurent’s
creative director, is on what seems like a
There was mutiny at Maison Margiela, in a
powerful show by John Galliano.
mission to bring it back.
He did it with slick cigarette pants and
sheer tops; transparent gypsy dresses
in black and leopard chiffon, billowing in
the wind; red velvet rock star jackets
He did it with big-heeled cowboy
boots, those platforms and micro shorts
in leather, denim and satin. A lot of micro
shorts. He did it with playsuits and
plunging maillots. He did it with feather
He did it, in other words, with lots of
nods to the history of YSL in the 1960s,
’70s and ’80s — “different eras and timeless icons,” as he said in a news release.
Those eras were, of course, the time of
the Sexual Revolution, when women
claimed their own carnality and reveled
in it.
This is a different time, and a different
kind of revolution.
There was no way for YSL to know,
weeks ago when this all came together,
that the show would be held in the midst
of the debate over the Supreme Court
nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh,
just after #BelieveSurvivors Monday,
on the day Bill Cosby was sentenced to
prison for sexual assault.
And it is possible to see these clothes
as a line in the sand that says women are
allowed to wear whatever they want to
celebrate their own bodies. As they darn
well should be.
One thing we know now is the “she
was asking for it” argument will never
fly again.
But sitting beside that watery runway, watching the models teeter by in
what were effectively diaper bathing
suits, it was hard not to think that as
women have moved on, so should the
clothes that allow them to express their
That showing the most leg, the most
cleavage, the most sheer, made for a revolutionary statement back in the 20th
century, but not a particularly nuanced
or relevant one in the 21st. It’s why Mr.
Vaccarello’s tailoring has power, but his
silly pasties just seem — old-fashioned.
He should think a little harder about
what YSL means now, as opposed to
Or, as the actress Sasha Lane said in
one of six videos aired before the terrific
Maison Margiela show: “Don’t just be
better; be different.”
And so it was. Since his first collection
for Margiela in 2015, Mr. Galliano has
been effectively making it his own, abstracting the deconstruction that is part
of the brand’s history into a riotous
statement about second chances and
the reconstruction of self. He loves nothing more than throwing restraint to the
winds, and this was, by those standards,
a somber parade; revelation by a thousand cuts.
Starting with the basic elements of
the gray suit, the black cape, the evening
Los Angeles moves to Paris
As part of its Los
Angeles promotion, Le Bon
Marché installed a
skate ramp high
inside a mirrored
cube, its reflections giving the
impression that
the ramp was
suspended high
above the groundfloor beauty
On Sunday afternoon, a line had formed
outside Echo, waiting for tables for
brunch. Inside, juices, grain bowls and a
“Larry David plate” (bacon, eggs and
dukkah, the Middle Eastern spice
blend) were on the menu.
Silver Lake? Almost, but not quite.
Echo is a “deli Californien” on Rue
d’Aboukir, with food by Mailea Weger, an
alumna of Gjusta and Gjelina in Los Angeles, and one of the latest signposts of
the California dreaming that has seized
Paris. For several years, the French
have been decamping for, and setting up
shops and studios in, the City of Angels
— now they are bringing it back home as
“We used to hear a lot about New York
in the past,” said Jennifer Cuvillier, the
fashion director of Le Bon Marché.
“Now it’s more and more about Los Angeles.”
Earlier this month, that LVMHowned department store opened its annual fall exhibition, dedicated to all
things Los Angeles. (It runs through
Oct. 21.) “Los Angeles: Rive Gauche”
blared the tropical-colored signs in its
windows, a nod to the store’s Left Bank
address. On Monday morning, Parisians
were peering into its windows at vintage
motorcycles, “Baywatch”-red lifeguard
hoodies and coconut-flour tortilla chips.
Inside the store, on displays set out
for “Sunrise,” “Sunlight” and “Sunset,”
oases of pink and orange in Le Bon
Marché’s otherwise subtler interiors,
the day was beginning. A coffee shop
had popped up in the midst of “Sunrise”
— run by Echo, naturally enough. Serv-
ing avocado toast, promised a Bon
Marché employee.
Dozens of new Los Angeles brands
were brought into the store for the occasion, covering fashion, accessories,
beauty and, for the first time in a major
way, wellness. Gwyneth Paltrow, patroness of L.A. wellness, is represented
here with her Goop products, including
creams and bath soaks, a Paris exclusive. There are mood-altering stones in
the jewelry, if you believe in such things,
and in-store yoga classes and Pound
rock ′n’ roll cardio workout classes to
boost the endorphins if you don’t.
Along the way, you might pick up an
Alo Yoga top, dip-dyed cashmere from
The Elder Statesman or a reproduction
vintage-rock T-shirt from Blaine
Halvorson’s MadeWorn label off racks
inside an enormous makeshift zeppelin
on the second floor.
On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, skaters swarm a room-sized
skate ramp in a mirrored cube among
the beauty displays, to halfpipe for an
hour high above Tom Ford Beauty and
Goutal Paris.
“We have had very good response
since Day 1, which is a good thing,” Ms.
Cuvillier said. “Usually, in the beginning
it works or it doesn’t work. But here,
since the first day — for the French
customers but also the foreign
customers, we really surprised them.
You can see happiness on their faces.”
And, in some cases, on the rest of
them. The Los Angeles-based tattoo artist Dr. Woo, who collaborated with Converse, with Mr. Halvorson and with the
store on special items for the pop-up
event, also is taking appointments for
tattoos — wait-list only — through Le
Bon Marché’s customer relations department until Oct. 2.
bustier, Mr. Galliano sliced sparingly
away at the elbows, the thighs, the hip
bones, letting the shine of PVC poke
through, feathers escape, beige nylon
underpinnings emerge, in a mere suggestion of what lay beneath.
A gold brocade corset and big floral
silk bow — clichés of formality — were
crushed and bolted onto the torsos of
both boys and girls with no discrimination made between the two; shiny
vinyl leggings paired with tweed jackets.
It was as if Mr. Galliano understood
that emotions are running so high at
the moment, there was no need for
histrionics on the runway.
That this is a time when the most
pressing questions are about “what’s
real; what’s not real,” as he said on a
podcast about the collection.
In the form of a maybe, maybe not,
trench, a shadow Le Smoking, they
were most elegantly exposed.
Goal: A list of predators. Reality: A jumble.
Sports officials struggle
to compile database that
protects young athletes
Gymnastics recently had 178 people on
its list. Swimming had 163. An additional
31 are on the list from taekwondo, 29
from figure skating and 33 more from
The lists reflect the hundreds of people who have been barred, often for sexual misconduct, from the federations
running these sports, as well as others
overseeing the development of Olympic
athletes. A few of the names are well
known, perhaps none more than
Lawrence G. Nassar, the former team
doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who was
sent to prison after being accused of sexually abusing scores of young female
Yet the sheer scope of the lists, and the
inconsistencies within them because of
differing standards among the organizations, raise plenty of questions — not the
least of which is whether an effort to collect and publish the names is even legal,
given that until recently, people were
disciplined by the governing bodies,
each with its own brand of justice. There
are also questions about transparency
and whether individual sports are divulging all past offenders.
The plan, as the United States
Olympic Committee vows to throw open
the curtains and let in the light, is to get
all the names, from all the years and all
the Olympic sports, in one place so that
people can easily check them before
joining a team or hiring a coach or a
“What we want is an environment
where, across the entire Olympic and
Paralympic family, the names of individuals who have been banned are readily
available,” said Rick Adams, the United
States Olympic Committee executive
who oversees the effort to create a central clearinghouse, under what is called
the SafeSport initiative.
The Olympic committee created the
U.S. Center for SafeSport, which it spun
off as a separate entity in March 2017.
The idea was to have a single agency
empowered to investigate and rule on
Lawrence G. Nassar, the former team doctor for U.S.A. Gymnastics who abused scores of athletes, at a sentencing hearing last year.
accusations of misconduct, taking those
responsibilities away from the organizations that run individual sports, like
U.S.A. Gymnastics, U.S.A. Swimming
(caught up in a scandal of its own) and
SafeSport does not publish a list of all
people barred from the sports, but it
does provide links to the individual federations’ lists on its site and it maintains
a searchable online database for all the
cases in which SafeSport has handed
down bans or suspensions — sometimes
interim, as investigations continue.
From its inception last year through the
end of August, SafeSport handled 1,368
reports of sexual misconduct across
nearly every sport, the organization
said, with 800 of those cases still open.
SafeSport has meted out 149 lifetime
bans so far, the organization said.
huge. The number that are not on these
banned lists is, quite possibly, even
SafeSport received the backing of federal legislation this year. It has an office
in Denver, a growing crew of investigators and one set of policies and procedures for jurisprudence. (What it
does not have, critics like Ms. Denhollander say, is the necessary funding or
the independence from the U.S.O.C. and
sports organizations whose years of
oversight fueled the crisis in the first
The effort to more rigorously compile
the names is proving to be a delicate and
difficult goal. There are about 50 groups
that govern individual sports under the
Olympic and Paralympic umbrella,
some with painfully checkered pasts
when it comes to handling accusations
gated since 2017 — only a name, the
sport, the decision date, a couple of
words to categorize the violation (“sexual misconduct”) and the person’s status, such as “suspended” or “permanently ineligible.”
The pre-2017 reports from sports organizations are far more varied — everything from just a list of names to detailed descriptions of the cases, as is the
case with U.S. Figure Skating, which has
posted its list online for years.
“The information is useless if it stays
internal,” said Patricia St. Peter, a past
president of the skating organization.
“The purpose is protection — to make
sure that this doesn’t happen again
somewhere else.”
Other governing bodies, like U.S.A.
Hockey and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard
Association, have not made their lists
public, trusting that internal mechanisms and background checks keep the
organizations from inadvertently employing those with troublesome pasts.
There remain some sports organizations with no lists at all because they
have no barred members. Others are
shrouded in cryptic language or blank
U.S.A. Volleyball’s Suspended Membership List, for example, contains 53
people, including more than 20 barred in
the past year by SafeSport. Of the others, dating as far back as 2002, it can be
hard to discern what the infraction was.
Many simply say a person was suspended for a violation of the organization’s code of conduct. Others are blank.
U.S.A. Field Hockey has four people
on its barred list, but only their names.
U.S.A. Diving has eight barred members
listed, most accompanied by a list of
code numbers and letters referencing
the violation. The relevant bylaws,
when searched separately, are vague
enough that one person listed was either
involved in sexual misconduct or drug
use, or both.
Of the 163 people barred or permanently suspended by U.S.A. Swimming,
at least 100 were banished explicitly for
sexual misconduct (including about 18
by SafeSport.) About 25 others were
punished for felonies related either to
sexual misconduct or drugs; the information does not delineate. Most of the
rest do not contain information to explain why the people were barred.
No. 2709
Created by Peter Ritmeester/Presented by Will Shortz
(c) Distributed by The New York Times syndicate
(Signs of its early influence, and the
broader cultural shift toward reporting
sex crimes, can be seen within some of
the lists provided by various sports’
governing bodies. Before SafeSport,
U.S.A. Track and Field had one person
on its banned list. Now it has 47.)
When taken together, the continually
updated lists of barred people, which include more than 220 lifetime bans for
sexual misconduct or abuse in the past
17 months alone, ensure that the frequency of child predation in youth
sports in America is more fully exposed.
“This goes a whole lot deeper than
stopping someone like Larry,” said
Rachael Denhollander, a lawyer and former gymnast who was the first to go
public with accusations against Dr. Nassar. “The number of coaches who are
predators on the banned lists is quite
of sexual misconduct. Not all have these
lists or want to share them.
For now, SafeSport’s public database
does not include all the people who were
barred before it came into existence in
March 2017. SafeSport left it up to the
governing bodies to make those names
Before SafeSport, each sport’s governing group handled its own investigations and disciplinary actions. Handling
abuse claims could be unwieldy, expensive and uncomfortable. Revealing
them could create public relations nightmares, which could affect everything
from sponsorships to medal counts.
The structure fostered environments
of secrecy and unexamined allegations.
Part of the concern was legal exposure.
Nudged by congressional hearings after the Nassar case, Susanne Lyons, acting chief executive officer of the
U.S.O.C. (she has since been named
chairwoman), sent a letter to all national
governing bodies on May 31. She instructed each organization to provide
detailed information on accusations, investigations and suspensions or bans
that predated SafeSport’s launch. SafeSport hopes to make that information
available publicly by the end of the first
quarter of 2019.
Shellie Pfohl, president and chief executive of SafeSport, said the mission
represented a logistical challenge: creating a database that links 49 national
governing groups so they can share information, while also giving the public
access to all the names and at least some
of that information, too.
Legal experts said that SafeSport and
the U.S.O.C. have the right to publish the
information from the sports governing
bodies, if it is true and accurate. Claims
of defamation would have to prove that
the information is intentionally false.
Arguments about the lists being an invasion of privacy would be hard to win,
lawyers said, unless there was some prior agreement to keep names secret,
such as a settlement.
“By further pushing this information
out, they’re somewhat vouching for its
accuracy and thoroughness,” said Donald Lewis, a lawyer with experience in
sexual misconduct cases. “That could
create potential problems.”
For now, SafeSport’s database reveals
little even about the cases it has investi-
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. 2609
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
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KenKen® is a registered trademark of Nextoy, LLC.
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved.
Answers to Previous Puzzles
1 ___ bar
68 Stuff from which some
36 Brand name derived
from the phrase
“Service Games”
5 Substance
9 Zombie’s domain
37 Sign of summer
14 Kind of rinse
38 Iraq’s ___ City
15 Nose (along)
16 Coverage of the
47 Crowd, they say
49 Good standing in the
20 Draw upon
50 Break up a plot?
21 Word that sounds like
a state when accented
on the second syllable
rather than the first
69 Some overhead light
1 Vegetarian choice
animated film of 2015
7 Pays for a workout,
26 Cause for a shootout
65 Bean sprouts?
8 “Hah! Done!”
27 Gives, as roles
66 Lambchop
9 Card letters
31 Packing
67 Bellyache
10 Kind of black
11 Light
Solution to September 26 Puzzle
5 Highest-grossing
55 “’Tis sad”
59 Rejuvenation station
24 Spotted
23 Noted Warhol subject
6 Tolkien tree creatures
57 Hyundai model
22 Place
70 Dr. Foreman player on
4 “___ see you”
54 Munchkin
3 Moolah
51 In times past
suits are made?
2 Early-blooming
12 Help in getting past a
13 Immigration or health
18 Brand concern
19 One way to play
28 ___-bear
44 Awareness
29 Dip
45 Rocks on the edge
30 Songs for one
32 Walt Whitman’s “Song
of ___”
34 Added fuel to
46 Permissible to be
eaten, in a way
47 Spanish city where El
Greco lived
23 During flight
35 Leaves
48 Fastball, in baseball
25 Org. whose first-
39 Fiver
50 Something you might
ever presidential
endorsement was
Ronald Reagan
27 Hoofed animal
40 Follow relentlessly
41 Scripts, informally
43 Lead-in to Latin
kick after you pick it
52 Complex purchase, in
53 Word next to an
56 Thwack
58 Starbuck’s order giver
59 [Just like …
60 One in custody,
61 African menaces
63 Part of a dollar sign
64 Chill
Cecily Brown at the other Met
She’s the first artist
to paint for the opera
house since Marc Chagall
When the Metropolitan Opera in New
York opened its season on Monday
evening, well-heeled patrons ascending
the building’s sweeping dual staircase
may have recognized bits of themselves
and their dramatic surroundings in two
huge paintings by Cecily Brown,
stretching more than 9 by 25 feet, one at
the top of each landing.
Though the loose, gestural brushwork
seems abstract, on closer inspection it
coalesces into jostling figures, only to
break apart again into fragments. Black
bow ties pop out from the crowd, and
then faces and dinner jackets start to
come into focus. “There’s an awful lot of
groping going on,” said Ms. Brown, the
acclaimed British-born artist, lithe and
animated in her New York studio. “As
you come up, it’s almost that you enter
into the painting, and the crowd will be
mirrored. People think my work is ab-
Cecily Brown with her painting “Triumph
of the Vanities II,” right, in the dress
circle of the Metropolitan Opera House,
below. Above, a canvas being unrolled.
stract, but I always see it as teeming
with figures — here more than usual.”
This is the first time since the Metropolitan Opera opened its doors in 1966,
and Marc Chagall unveiled his two sitespecific murals — “The Triumph of Music” and “The Sources of Music” — that
an artist has been invited to make and
exhibit work inside the main hall. Ms.
Brown, 49, is part of a small club of female artists with work commanding
seven figures. This is her first public
project in a space that isn’t a museum.
“She’s created a bonfire of the vanities
— that kind of excitement, passion and
tragedy,” said Dodie Kazanjian, founding director of Gallery Met, the nonprofit contemporary-art space at the Metropolitan Opera, who tapped Ms. Brown to
make the paintings. “It’s got all the emotions in it of what opera brings out.”
The paintings, both titled “Triumph of
the Vanities,” will be on view through
next summer.
Since Gallery Met, the white-box
space for artist projects at the south end
of the lobby, is being reconfigured by Ennead Architects as a new entrance for
patrons and subscribers, to ease congestion at the lobby doorway, the Met’s
general manager, Peter Gelb, has let Ms.
Kazanjian bring it directly into the
house. She will choose an artist every
year to take on the majestic front of the
house — open to the public for limited
hours during weekdays and Sundays.
Confessing to being a “frustrated performer” who adores singing and bawdy
musicals, Ms. Brown accepted the invitation immediately. “I love the
schmaltzy drama of the building,” she
said of Wallace K. Harrison’s design, picturing straightaway a crowd scene set
within a swirling space.
“There’s a theatrical side to my work
that sometimes I dampen down a bit,”
she added. “This felt like a chance for
that to really come out.”
The artist’s paintings have always
cannibalized fragments of figures and
compositions drawn from her close
study of artists throughout history, including Rubens, Delacroix and Degas.
For the Met, she imagined a mash-up of
a cocktail party scene, after Max Beckmann’s “Paris Society,” with Florine
Stettheimer’s paintings of soirees attended by New York’s avant-garde during the 1920s through early ’40s.
A graduate of the Slade School of Art
in London and a deft draftsman, Ms.
Brown made drawings of fancy, dourfaced couples straight out of Beckmann,
macabre scenes of hell copied from Hieronymus Bosch and images of performers lifted from William Hogarth’s
“Strolling Actresses Dressing in a Barn”
and an old production photo of the
“Ring” cycle (operas in this season’s
The drawings, also on view at the Met,
are part of Ms. Brown’s process of internalizing her subjects before painting.
“When I come to paint, I don’t need to
look at the drawings,” she said.
Using rollers, like a house painter, she
laid down her first broad, looping
strokes quickly across the two massive
canvases, which she worked on in tandem. “It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in
starting,” Ms. Brown said. “It was very
freeing, like a dance.” She began using
these rollers when she shifted to epic
scale in paintings of shipwrecks, including one modeled on “The Raft of the Medusa,” by Théodore Géricault, shown at
the Paula Cooper gallery last year. It
was acquired by Mitchell and Emily
Rales for their museum, Glenstone.
The framework she laid down with
rollers is the architecture for her densely layered brush strokes.
“There’s a kind of sheen of cocktail
dresses and fur and gowns, but then
someone’s got their hand on someone
else’s butt, or is grabbing their arm,” she
said. High heels are coming down steps.
Long gloves may look like guns.
“I’m obsessed with double images
that can be read two ways at once,” Ms.
Brown said. “There are little secret plot
points buried in them, too,” she added,
pointing out cat ears and the oblique
profile of President Trump.
Each painting is dominated by deep
reds and golds, echoing the over-the-top
interior design of the opera house and
the palette of the nearby Chagalls — but
“more gaudy and garish,” Ms. Brown
The project was funded by the artist
herself, who will have a survey of her
work opening on Nov. 8 at the Louisiana
Museum of Modern Art in Denmark.
At the Met, Ms. Brown also wanted to
address the contentious history of the
building of Lincoln Center. In the late
1950s, Robert Moses initiated the razing
of many city blocks of tenement homes
and businesses on the West Side to
make way for a new world-class performing arts complex.
“All this grandeur was built on the
backs of people who were uprooted by
Lincoln Center,” said Ms. Brown, whose
figures in the lower sections of both
paintings function almost as armatures,
holding up the crowd.
“I wanted to make the painting that
New York deserves right now,” she said.
“It’s such a bloody awful time in so many
ways. At the same time, New York is
having one of its richest moments in history for lots of people. So I wanted a very
celebratory picture, but also that tumultuousness and dysfunction.”
“Painting,” she added, “is very good at
saying more than one thing at once.”
Farewells reckon with past and present
The 1960s have been over for a long,
long time: temporally, culturally, ideologically. And one by one, the decade’s
leading musicians are deciding they’ve
been on the road long enough. Yes, Bob
Dylan and Neil Young, among others,
are still barnstorming. But on recent
successive nights, farewell tours by
two major figures rooted in the 1960s
folk revival came to New York City:
Joan Baez, 77, at the Beacon Theater
and Paul Simon, 76, at Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
Their careers have intersected. On
Saturday night, before a crowd of more
than 30,000 people, Mr. Simon explained that he wrote “Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After
the War” — his “oddest song title,” he
said — after seeing a photograph with
that caption in a book he happened to
leaf through while rehearsing with Ms.
Baez at her California home.
Ms. Baez, the previous night, raved
over the concert by Mr. Simon she had
just seen at Madison Square Garden;
then she sang a Simon & Garfunkel hit,
“The Boxer.” Ms. Baez’s concert was
serene and modest, deferring — as
always — to the songs she sang and
the ideals they suggested. Mr. Simon
worked on a larger scale, invoking a
world of influences, ideas and details,
juxtaposing and often combining introspection with a dance party.
A farewell concert is inevitably a
reckoning with an entire career, a last
major chance in the spotlight to put a
near-lifetime of music into perspective.
It took the Grateful Dead five nights in
2015 — two in California, three in Chicago — to encompass the jammy
sprawl of their music (and most of the
band members were back on the road
in various configurations within
months). By contrast, set lists from
Elton John’s three-year farewell tour,
which comes to New York City in
October, show a straightforward jukebox of two dozen hits. Mr. Simon and
Ms. Baez both chose not to retire with
wall-to-wall oldies; their shows revisited past glories but also showed them
still engaged, still tinkering.
Ms. Baez joked about her “big
band”: just a guitarist and keyboardist
(Dirk Powell), a percussionist (her
son, Gabriel Harris) and sometimes a
backup singer (Grace Stumberg),
along with her own guitar. They provided a self-effacing backdrop for Ms.
Baez’s voice. Although it’s no longer
her transparent soprano of the 1960s,
that voice retains its earnest determination to tell deserving stories and to
rally a social conscience.
A folkie to the end, Ms. Baez paid
tribute to mentors, comrades and
sources. She cited Pete Seeger, her
sister Mimi (who recorded as Mimi
Fariña), the Chilean songwriter Violeta
Parra, the labor movement commemorated in “Joe Hill” and, most of all, Bob
Dylan, for whom she was an early
champion and a girlfriend. His catalog
handily provided farewell songs for the
concert; she opened with “Don’t Think
Twice, It’s All Right.” And their mercurial relationship was the subject of Ms.
Baez’s own “Diamonds and Rust,” a
barbed post-breakup song that put her
Paul Simon, left, at Flushing Meadows
Corona Park in New York, and Joan Baez
in Palafrugell, Spain, in mid-August.
in the Top 40 in 1975. After she sang
Mr. Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna
Fall,” she commented, “That boy’s not
much in the way of manners, but he
sure could write.”
Still, Ms. Baez also looked to songwriters from younger generations to
address the present. Her current outlook, she said, is summed up in a song
from Antony and the Johnsons, “Another World.” After she sang about an
exploited woman’s revenge in “Silver
Blade,” a ballad written for her by Josh
Ritter, she cited the #MeToo movement. And in the night’s most topical
song, Zoe Mulford’s “The President
Sang Amazing Grace,” she memorialized the 2015 church murders in
Charleston, S.C.
Ms. Baez’s progressive politics are
so well known that she didn’t have to
elaborate on them. Instead, she was
pointedly playful. When she finished
her main set, Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock version of “The Star-Spangled
Banner” blared from the sound system; she and her bandmates took a
knee. She ended the concert with the
spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”
greeting mortality with faith and returning to the a cappella purity that
brought her 1960s fame. At the end,
she sang about angels who were “coming to carry me — you — us — even
Donald — home. Amen.”
Mr. Simon, who has insisted that he
is retiring from touring but not songwriting or performing, chose his
farewell venue precisely: near the
Unisphere, a symbol of 1960s global
optimism, in the largest park in the
borough of Queens.
Mr. Simon was born in New Jersey
but grew up in Queens, and he was
grinning well before he sang “Goodbye
to Rosie, the queen of Corona,” in “Me
and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,”
knowing exactly the roar he would get
from the audience. After he sang “Kodachrome,” which belittles “all the crap
I learned in high school,” he said,
“Take that, Forest Hills High,” before
admitting that he “actually had a good
time there.”
But Mr. Simon’s music also portrayed a New York City beyond the old
neighborhood: internationally con-
nected and informed, curious and
welcoming, culturally intertwined and
restlessly exploratory and, often, a
place of uneasy solitude amid the
hyperactivity. The upbeat tunes of
songs like “You Can Call Me Al” and
“Kodachrome” carry tidings of desperation and disillusionment; driven by
flamenco handclaps, the snappy
“Wristband,” from Mr. Simon’s 2016
album, “Stranger to Stranger,” warns
about the rising anger of people who
feel shut out.
Mr. Simon has always steered clear
of direct political messages, determined not to be didactic. He introduced
“American Tune” — which was released in 1973 and muses, “When I
think of the road we’re traveling on/I
wonder what’s gone wrong” — by
simply saying, “Strange times, huh?
Don’t give up.”
The rhythms were both international
and idiosyncratic, with grooves that
invoked Jamaica, India, South Africa,
Brazil, Nuyorican salsa and Louisiana
zydeco (“That Was Your Mother,”
which had Mr. Simon showing off some
footwork of his own).
His omnivorous 14-member band
handled a profusion of instruments —
button accordion, oboe, Brazilian cuica
— and a remarkable spectrum of idioms and fusions.
Farewells in pop tend to be final
until they’re not; ask Phish or the
Eagles. Ms. Baez’s tour extends into
next year and is scheduled to bring her
back to the Beacon on May 1. And with
these concerts as closing statements,
Ms. Baez and Mr. Simon suggested
that even if they leave the road behind,
their work isn’t finished.
What if the guy with the red pencil is nuts?
But in reality, they are not combatants,
and never were.
“Since I’m always the bad guy, it’s important for me to emphasize: These
were versions of us,” Mr. D’Agata said,
over a tall glass of ice tea, with a pained
smile. “I would hope that we all have an
inner diva in us. I let that out for the sake
of the book.”
That persona, you will not be surprised to hear, was not wholeheartedly
welcomed. Mr. D’Agata recalled critics
“kicking me in the face” and at least one
online comment wishing he’d killed himself instead of Levi Presley.
In the same week I sat down with
them, the cast met Mr. D’Agata and Mr.
Fingal for the first time. In an airy rehearsal room overlooking the billboards
of Times Square, all three said they did
not see a villain or a hero.
“Actors don’t judge,” Ms. Jones said,
absent-mindedly pulling a small yellow
lighter out of her pocket.
Mr. Radcliffe, in a black T-shirt and
Vans, has been on Broadway twice since
his Harry Potter days. He recalled “going from being a person that the papers
don’t care about to being a person that
the papers do care about” and realizing,
“‘Oh, you do just make stuff up.’”
He stopped: “You guys don’t. But
there are papers in England . . . ”
Ms. Jones and Mr. Cannavale said
they had largely avoided that kind of attention from fabulists. (Neither had
played boy wizards.) Mr. Cannavale
added that tabloids only pay attention to
him when his partner, Rose Byrne, is
pregnant. “They love pregnant actresses!”
The three had some fun with the
meta-nature of our talk. At one point, as
they collectively struggled to remember
the name of a book, Mr. Cannavale suggested: “Make it seem like we knew it.”
Mr. Radcliffe added: “We’ll just tell the
fact-checker that’s how it happened.”
Then Mr. Cannavale recalled being
boxed in by a fact-checker who was calling to confirm an anecdote he had relayed to a reporter from when he was 6
years old.
“All of a sudden, I had to remember:
‘Was I 6 years old? Was I 7? Was I 8?!’”
Which brought us back to Mr. D’Agata’s original point: Why are we so obsessed with the idea of a possibly impossible, absolute, objective truth?
When the subject of truth comes up,
Donald Trump cannot be far behind.
Though the play is set in the present day,
the president is not mentioned. But for
members of the cast, his specter lingers.
With the topic broached, Mr. Cannavale, in a white T-shirt depicting cartoon renderings of Tupac and Biggie, got
animated. He ticked off Plutarch and
Herodotus and Cicero, writers named
by his character in the play, crediting
them with thoughtfully exploring the
role of fact in art.
“Hopefully the play can continue this
argument,” he said. “Trump be damned.
Like, I don’t give a [expletive] that the
internet is always going to be able to
provide us with clips of [expletive] Sean
Hannity. No one’s gonna give a [expletive] about him in a hundred years. And
they are still gonna be reading Herodotus!”
“Yeah, and probably studying the history of this period in America with their
jaws slack,” Ms. Jones added.
Rehearsals had largely proceeded
with no intrusion from the pair. Mr. D’Agata had successfully lobbied for the excision of one detail in the script: the
claim that he was paid $10,000 for the essay. (“First of all, no. Like, maybe Malcolm Gladwell’s making 10 grand?”)
Mr. Fingal, however, had not even
asked to see the script. “It’s one of those
things you think but never say out loud:
‘As the original fictionalizer of Jim Fingal, I would never criticize a fellow traveler.’”
Mr. D’Agata: “Maybe because in the
book version Jim is — to quote somebody recently — ‘the moral center’?!”
Mr. Fingal: “Was that me?!”
Mr. D’Agata laughed. “They’re afraid
to tarnish his image as America’s sweetheart.”
“I did feel like he had been beat up a
bit by it all,” Mr. Cannavale said of Mr.
D’Agata. “But I’m just so happy that,
you know, he’s having his moment.”
Continuing to defend his counterpart,
Mr. Cannavale added, “The guy’s a storyteller! And even the story of their relationship, it’s all story upon story upon
story. And somewhere in there, it’s all
paper and some magazines so they
would have subjects to discuss with
For a man who once knew everybody who was anybody without having
to advertise it, Ovitz has now become a
shockingly frequent name-dropper.
The book’s selection of photos is a
trophy wall of very dated shots (some
signed) of Ovitz hobnobbing with
Hollywood royalty. There are pictures
of him adorning magazine covers, and
a reprint of a New Yorker cartoon that
name-checks him. (“So what if he
doesn’t know Ovid,” one glamorous
young woman says to another. “He
knows Ovitz.”)
The book cites the lists on which he
has appeared (Most Fascinating, Most
Powerful, Most Intriguing and so on),
and even includes blurbs praising
C.A.A.’s ad campaign for Coca-Cola.
The trouble with all this vanity is that
it obscures Ovitz’s real accomplishments. The Coke campaign was a
coup; it overturned the advertising
model of an army of hacks and substituted a small, Ovitz-led S.W.A.T. team
ready to throw conventional ad precepts out the window. Ovitz proved
that manpower didn’t matter as much
as having the right man. But he can’t
tell this story or any of the others in
this book without a brag tag. Most of
its anecdotes end with lines like: “The
movie grossed close to $300 million.”
Ovitz also displays a pettiness that
just won’t quit. Despite the occasional
psycho-gloss (“Bullied as a child, I
spent my life bullying back”), he cannot stop competing with Ron Meyer,
who was his longtime C.A.A. partner
and close friend, until he was not. Even
by Ovitz’s account, Meyer has a long
list of legitimate grievances, many
having to do with Ovitz’s simple greed.
The two supposedly patched things up
in 2016. And yet here we have Ovitz
saying that two of his clients thanked
him at the Oscars, whereas — nya-nya
— Cher didn’t thank Ron. And she
thanked her hairdresser.
Ovitz is in his 70s, and claims that
he’s trying to make peace with his
rivals and amends for his terrible
reputation. He’s written this book
hoping to accomplish that, but the
memoir defines him better than he
might like. Who is Michael Ovitz? A
killer turned would-be sage. A visionary who won’t look inward. A guy who
can’t get over who he used to be.
‘The Lifespan of a Fact’
mines drama from editing
a magazine article
“What kind of big fan were you?” the
writer John D’Agata asked as he sat in a
cozy booth in a sunny midtown Manhattan diner. “Were you a” — pause — “hater” — pause — “big fan?”
I’d just told Mr. D’Agata how much I’d
enjoyed his 2012 book, “The Lifespan of
a Fact,” which he wrote with Jim Fingal,
seated to his right. I hadn’t realized I’d
hit a nerve.
In 2005, then working as an unpaid intern for the San Francisco magazine
The Believer, Mr. Fingal was assigned to
fact-check an essay by Mr. D’Agata, a
celebrated creative-nonfiction writer.
Theoretically, unremarkable. In practice, a dramatic enough tale to birth first
the book and, now, a Broadway adaptation starring Bobby Cannavale, Daniel
Radcliffe and Cherry Jones, now in previews at Studio 54 in New York.
And dramatic enough to render Mr.
D’Agata a villain.
His original article was a lovely, meditative essay on the suicide of Levi Presley, a Las Vegas teenager who jumped
off the observation deck of the Stratosphere Tower in the summer of 2002.
The aim was to write a piece explicating
the feel, if not so much the literal exact
truth, of a city’s sadness.
Mr. Fingal was then a recent Harvard
graduate crashing on his brother’s futon
in Mountain View, Calif., and starving
for a challenge. His fact-checking document bloomed into a breathless 90-page
chronicle of the essay’s every last inaccuracy. He pulled lengthy testimonials
from linguistics-expert pals pushing
back on Mr. D’Agata’s flourishes; he
made his own solo reporting trip to the
Vegas strip to double-check the colors of
the bricks at the base of the Stratosphere.
The fact-checker, a presumably mildmannered figure, suddenly took on the
menace of an interrogator. Which goes a
way toward explaining how a slim, odd
little book about fact-checking made it to
Broadway in the first place. There is an
inherent extremism in the work that
can, at times, feel insane.
In the darkly comic adaptation, Mr.
Radcliffe plays a sleep-deprived and
slightly manic version of Mr. Fingal. To
the sure delight of shlumpy writers everywhere, Mr. Cannavale portrays Mr.
D’Agata as a romantically rumpled warrior-poet type. “My family is excitedly
reminding me that he’s far more Italian
than I am,” Mr. D’Agata said. “My students” — at the University of Iowa —
“say he’s built a career as ‘evil with a
heart.’ I’m hoping it’s all just heart. And
he doesn’t, like, kill anyone.”
Ms. Jones plays Emily, the editor in
chief of the unnamed prestige magazine
in which the piece is running. A new
character, she acts as an unflappable
mediator between poles. In rehearsal,
she repeatedly landed perfect, elegant
curse words.
Though never a best-seller, the book
touched a nerve with writers and editors and other people who like to argue
about ethics in art.
That included the producer Norman
Twain, who originally spearheaded the
adaptation but died in 2016. The script is
credited to three writers: Gordon Farrell, Jeremy Kareken and David Murrell. And, in a first for Broadway, women
make up the entire design team.
As directed by the prolific Leigh Silverman (“Violet,” “Sweet Charity”), the
95-minute adaptation contrives a reason to get all three of its characters into
the same ramshackle Nevada home. It
compresses the timeline (which in reality spanned years) to a few days, wringing tension out of a hard publication
deadline. There’s also boozing and choking and lots of anguish over the state of
the world — and whether art gives one
the right to lie.
Top, foreground from left: Daniel Radcliffe and Bobby Cannavale; background from
left: Jim Fingal, John D’Agata and Cherry Jones. Above, Mr. Radcliffe in rehearsals, and
right, rehearsing with Mr. Cannavale.
The book itself is even more minimal.
Cleverly, it wraps Mr. D’Agata and Mr.
Fingal’s punchy battles in marginalia
around the text of the original essay. Mr.
D’Agata contends that he has the right
to change the verifiable number of strip
clubs in Las Vegas to 34 from 31 “because the rhythm of ‘thirty-four’ works
better in that sentence than the rhythm
of ‘thirty-one.’”
That’s on the second page of the book.
By the end, the two aren’t so much coworkers as radicals fighting for their
very worldviews.
Mr. Fingal now works as a software
engineer in San Francisco while also
running a small culture and technology
magazine called Logic. Mr. D’Agata has
published and edited widely, including
the anthology series “A New History of
the Essay.” And 13 years since they first
started working on The Believer piece,
the two remain locked together.
At the diner, they happened to visually represent extremes. Mr. Fingal, in
his mid-30s, was all in black up to his
plain ball cap and down to his Sauconys;
the only thing that broke up the color
pattern was his neatly trimmed red
beard. Mr. D’Agata, in his early 40s, was
in a natty light blazer with a pocket
square; he had at least a passing resemblance to well-preserved Tom Cruise.
Once upon a time, a power broker
Who Is Michael Ovitz?: A Memoir
By Michael Ovitz. Illustrated. 372 pp.
Portfolio/Penguin. $30.
As Michael Ovitz reached his breaking
point at the all-powerful talent agency
C.A.A., which he had run like a warlord
since co-founding it in 1975, he did the
unthinkable: He insulted a superstar.
It was 1995. Barbra Streisand was on
the phone, complaining at length about
sexism and unequal pay for women in
Hollywood, when Ovitz blew a fuse.
“Barbra,” he said, “you know my 15year-old son? All he and his friends
think about is girls, but you’re no longer on their list.”
The younger, slicker Ovitz would
never have done such a thing. He
explains in his back-patting new memoir that he specialized in keeping clients happy by identifying and then
fulfilling their wildest dreams. As he
says here: “It’s only blarney if you
can’t make it happen. If you can, then
it’s the truth — and the truth is the
supreme sales tool.” A lot has been
written about the more noxious qualities that outweighed Ovitz’s gift for
flattery. But for a while he was making,
he says, 300 calls a day to keep people
happy. He would spend typical afternoons on the phone going from “Spielberg to Kubrick to De Niro to Hoffman
to Murray, each call as important as
the rest.”
Why is this book titled “Who Is
Michael Ovitz?”? Some prospective
readers will be young enough to pose
this as an honest question: Who? They
might not have any idea who Ovitz was
before the high-profile incineration of
his high-powered career more than 20
years ago.
He got involved in the even more
lucrative business of brokering sales of
American movie studios to Japanese
corporations (Columbia to Sony, MCA
to Matsushita), and he began burning
out at C.A.A. He left the agency and
endured a brief, humiliating stint at
Disney as second in command to Michael Eisner, famed for treating his
underlings badly. For the select few
still interested in Ovitz’s career, the
self-searching title of this memoir
Michael Ovitz.
promises a glimpse into What Made
Mike Run.
But there’s very little self-reflection
here. And the little there is seems a bit
too neatly packaged. He writes of his
life being “a story of three valleys” —
the San Fernando Valley (his childhood home), Silicon Valley (where he
is busy getting richer) and “a Valley I’d
dug for myself.” He opens this book
with a scene in which he watches
“Terminator 2” and suddenly realizes
that he used to be as ruthless, frightening and tough as the Arnold Schwarzenegger character.
“That was the image I took great
care to project, anyway,” says the new
and improved author. “It was an image
I grew to hate.” You hated the cold,
brutal, attention-commanding Ovitz?
Take a number, sir.
Learning about C.A.A.’s rigid, Ovitzimposed rules is one of the more interesting aspects of this memoir. Employees have talked about these rules, but
they’re more interesting when articulated by the boss. Ovitz adapted the
formal dress code enforced by one of
his heroes, M.C.A.’s Lew Wasserman:
suits, black shoes, white shirts, ties, no
casual Fridays. (Wasserman may have
been a hero, but when Ovitz was given
the chance to deal him a tough business blow, he took it.) He was also
influenced by many things Japanese
and combative; sorry, no Zen. Ovitz
famously had his troops read Sun Tzu’s
“The Art of War,” and also insisted that
they regularly read at least one news-
Finding the real Prague
The puppet maker Mirek Trejtnar clipclopped a red-nosed marionette across a
makeshift plywood stage in his studio in
Prague. This, he told me, was Kasparek,
perhaps the most iconic character in
Czech puppetry: a source of comic relief
beloved by schoolchildren countrywide.
Kasparek was a mesmerizing, deeply
expressive chap, particularly for being
made of wood and having a face with no
movable parts. He danced a jig; he
tripped and dragged himself, moaning,
across the stage; he banged his head on
the ground.
I had come to the Puppets in Prague
studio, which Mr. Trejtnar shares with
his wife, Leah Gaffen, through a recommendation from a friend in the arts
scene in Cincinnati, which I had explored earlier in this 52 Places trip. Before meeting them, though, I had felt a
lot like Kasparek: banging my head
against a wall of tourists. Of whom, of
course, I was one, along with my friend
Julia, who had come to visit.
For decades, Prague has been on the
backpacker circuit, and for good reason:
It’s magnificent. Every building in the
Unesco-inscribed medieval city center
will set your mouth agape — which is
how I remember spending my first visit
here in 2005. But as Julia and I navigated through our first few days, I kept
wondering when we were going to
scrape past the crowds (there were a
record 7.65 million visitors in 2017) to
reach the scrappy, resilient spirit of the
city that had so charmed me a decade
Our initial attempts fell flat. We
signed up for a walking tour of Communist history — and spent four hours seeing Prague through the eyes of a guy
from Colorado. We caught a glow-in-thedark pantomime production of “Faust”
at the Black Light Theatre of Prague
and it felt like being in an actual tourist
trap, held hostage by the random dancing penguins onstage.
Getting to know Prague beyond its
Disneyland veneer took a combination
of effort, insider tips and luck. But by the
time I left, I felt grateful to have
glimpsed a tiny slice of the creativity
and cultural pride that still courses
through this city, ready to be explored.
“We try to keep the puppet tradition
alive,” said Mr. Trejtnar, who is a graduate of the renowned master of fine arts
program for puppetry design at the
Prague Academy of Performing Arts. I
was visiting their Puppets in Prague
studio in the Vrsovice district midway
through one of the English-language
workshops they started hosting 20
years ago. Students of all ages from
around the world were spending a
month in Prague, first carving and costuming their own marionettes, and then
putting on a show.
Puppetry isn’t a novelty or fringe art
in Prague. It’s deeply entwined with
Czech national identity. This year is the
100th anniversary of the founding of an
independent Czechoslovakian state in
1918, at the end of World War I and after
centuries as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. (Unesco recognized Slovakia and Czech puppetry as an “intangible cultural heritage” two years ago.)
Under Austrian rule, Mr. Trejtnar explained, all official theater in big cities
was performed in German. The only
outlet for Czech people to see culture in
their native language came from families who traveled in caravans from town
to town performing puppet shows.
One of the reasons I was determined to
dig into Prague’s contemporary art
scene is that it plays a huge role in my
family. My mother, Lucy Lyon, is an artist working in the specialized field of
cast glass sculpture (similar to bronze
statues made in molds). The Czechs are
to cast glass what the Venetians are to
blown glass: the pre-eminent practitioners. I had seen their huge kilns in action
on my previous visit. When my mother
wants to make a big piece, she sometimes sends it to the Czechs.
On my mom’s recommendation, Julia
and I made our way to the quiet residential neighborhood of Smichov, where
one of my favorite artists, Karen LaMonte — known for her realistic, lifesize dresses in glass, marble and metals
— had an exhibition at the newly opened
Museum Portheimka. Set in a Baroque
aristocratic summerhouse from the
1720s, Portheimka is a branch of
Prague’s modern art gallery, Kampa
Museum. It’s also a beautiful and restful
place to spend an afternoon.
Across the Vltava River, at the two-week
Letni Letna “new circus” festival in the
hip Prague 7 district, the link between
puppetry and the city’s booming avantgarde performance scene was undeniable. The Puppets in Prague students
would be introducing their production of
“The Magnificent Seven” here as one of
the two to three puppet shows scheduled every day.
There’s a certain symbolism to the
freedom of expression that Czech puppeteers and circus performers display
on this particular hill: It was once home
to the world’s largest monument to
Stalin, now replaced with a 75-foot-tall
red metronome. Come dark, it turns into
an outdoor party with a fantastic view of
the skyline, where the youth of the city
bring their beers, set off fireworks,
dance to dubstep and make out.
Letni Letna started 14 years ago and
has since grown to be one of the highlights of a Prague summer. Julia and I
got tickets to the headline show, “Baro
d’Evel (Bestia),” which promised a harmony of two-legged, four-legged and
Scenes from Prague, clockwise from upper left: The Charles Bridge looking toward Prague Castle at dawn; swans on the Vltava River
next to the Saturday morning Naplavka Farmers’ Market; sunset from Riegrovy Sady Park; Anezska Street in the Old Town.
winged performers. That meant humans balancing on top of galloping
horses, sometimes chasing birds. Another night, I saw “Cirque Inextremiste
(Extension),” an impressive balancing
act involving two men, some sturdy
wooden planks and metal gas canisters
Casting a wide net for local flavors
Three hours by car and ferry from Seattle’s frenetic tech scene, Lopez Island
pokes along at its own neighborly pace.
Slow-pez, the affectionate nickname
used by many of its 2,500 full-time residents, is the third largest of Washington
State’s San Juan Islands. A single desultory village serves as hub for these 30
square miles of rolling farmland and evergreen forest bisected by two-lane
roads, where passing motorists give
each other a little wave. Everyone’s a
neighbor on Lopez, even if you’re new to
the island.
That certainly has been the experience of Nick Coffey and Nova Askue
since moving full-time to Lopez and
opening their restaurant, Ursa Minor, in
April 2017. The couple, who wed on Lopez a month after the restaurant
opened, have gotten to know plenty of
Lopezians, especially those who fish,
forage, raise livestock or grow fruits and
At Ursa Minor, Ms. Askue handles the
front of the house and other aspects of
the business; Mr. Coffey’s menu offers a
vision of a “creative agrarian Northwest
cuisine” that relies heavily on the
bounty of the island — lamb, beef and
oysters, along with orchard fruits, wild
berries and garden vegetables — and on
nontraditional ingredients like licorice
fern root, cherry blossoms and reindeer
Grilled summer vegetables with nasturtium, goat yogurt and salmon roe at Ursa
Minor on Lopez Island, Washington.
“We’ll use just about anything from
Lopez that comes our way,” said Mr. Coffey. “Just last week we grilled cattails
brought to us by a woman who was digging up a pond.”
The fleeting availability of so many ingredients means the menu changes often, sometimes from one day to the next.
But it also promotes nimble, mindful
cooking, as I learned during dinner on a
quiet Sunday in July. As twilight lingered for hours, washing the airy dining
room in a rosy glow, two companions
and I sampled widely from the menu’s 11
Grilled oyster mushrooms, paired
with a quivering raw egg yolk for dipping, were a surprise, acquiring a salty
tang and surreal green color from their
dusting of dried sea lettuce. Shiso and
dried cranberries brightened golden-
fried cauliflower on a rich bed of walnut
purée, and we made quick work of sockeye salmon sprinkled with marigold petals and resting in a shallow, foamy pool
of horseradish-infused buttermilk. Our
dessert distilled summer itself: blueberry ice cream, flavor-boosted by its
coating of dried blueberry powder,
alongside glistening ruby strawberries
and crackers of toasted meringue.
A pared-down, modern Northwest
vibe pervades the 45-seat dining room,
which occupies a building in the village
with a wisteria-draped, 16-seat patio.
Dried herbs hang from exposed roof
timbers, and large windows overlook
boats bobbing at moorings. Simple
wooden tables are set with glasses and
stoneware crafted by Seattle artisans,
while diners sit in wooden chairs inspired by Danish midcentury design.
For Mr. Coffey and Ms. Askue, Ursa
Minor is the culmination of a long journey that began when the two native
Midwesterners met at art school in Milwaukee more than 10 years ago before
moving to Seattle and then Lopez. The
couple’s choice of a constellation for
their restaurant’s name ties into their focus on the natural world, they said, but
the name appealed to them for an additional reason. “The constellation includes the North Star,” Mr. Coffey said,
“the star that guides travelers to their
Ursa Minor, 210 Lopez Road; 360-6222730; An average
dinner for two, without drinks and tip, is
5 essential items to pack for trips
I’ve spent the majority of the last five
years as a digital nomad, living and
working in over 40 countries. Because of
this, I tend to travel fairly light. Following are five universally useful, perhaps
unexpected, items I never leave without.
Maps and Translate will transform your
travel experience.
The key is having internet access at
all, and ideally, fast access. If your phone
is an unlocked model, you can buy a local SIM card with high-speed data in
whatever country you’re visiting. These
are usually around $20, and available at
airport vending machines and kiosks,
although a cellphone store in town
might be cheaper.
mentioned Google Maps and Translate,
but making the most of them requires
some preparation before you leave.
Let’s say you’re going to Paris. Type
“Paris” into Google Maps. Make sure
you see all the parts of the city you need
(the arrondissement where your hotel
is, for example) and the parts you want
to explore, then hit “save” at the bottom
of the screen. Now you can walk around
without internet and still see a map of
your surroundings. This includes street
names, Metro stops and so on.
Google Translate has the same fea-
ture, letting you download language
packs for use offline. This speeds up
translations, including the futuristic
camera feature that lets you point your
phone at a sign to translate what you’re
seeing in real time.
It’s also worth looking into a photo
backup service. Something like iCloud
or Google Photos will save your phone’s
photos to the cloud as you take them, so
if your phone gets lost or stolen, you’ll
still have all your pictures.
Pens are one of those things
that seem to be around only when you
don’t need them. When you do, you can’t
find one. For example, most countries
require you to fill out an immigration
card before you enter. Your airline will
give you this in-flight, but not a pen to fill
it out.
Traveling with a
phone that works everywhere is a must.
Being able to post to social media and
talk with friends and family at home is
great, but having fast access to Google
all day taking pictures, navigating with
Maps, posting to social media, and so on,
your phone’s battery is going to drain
pretty quickly. Even a small USB battery pack can charge your phone once,
and slightly larger ones twice or more.
The easiest way to recharge all your
gear is with a USB multicharger that
uses one wall socket to power several
USB ports. In the same vein, a few longer USB cables are a good idea, too.
— before a third performer in a wheelchair came in with a forklift.
What I most noticed, though, was how
rapt the Czech audience was, including
children. Cellphone use was forbidden,
but the warning seemed unnecessary.
Ms. Gaffen told me this is largely be-
cause Czech children start watching
puppetry in kindergarten. They become
used to live performance at such a
young age and grow up with such respect for it that the idea of supplementing that entertainment with a glowing
screen doesn’t even cross their minds.
At times, though, the crowds did overwhelm — and so Julia and I adopted the
philosophy of stopping right there and
getting a beer. It felt like an appropriate
approach: Light beers are only 4 percent alcohol, and it’s common to see a 70year-old Prague woman having one
over breakfast.
Luckily, a bartender we had met on
our first night directed us to two terrific
microbreweries. At U Medvidku,
founded in 1466, we tasted what they
claim is the strongest beer in the world,
fermented in open wooden barrels and
sold nowhere else in the city, let alone
the world. (We liked their other beers
better.) A trip to Klasterni Pivovar Strahov (monastic brewery), high on a hill
near the Prague Castle, came with similarly great beers, plus a night view of the
city and an accordion player who inspired a conga line.
Our favorite spot was Riegrovy Sady,
a beer garden in the Vinohrady neighborhood where students can afford to
live. I liked being there so much that I
came back on my own one evening after
Julia left. Just down the road, at least 100
people were gathered on picnic blankets
on a hillside to watch the most spectacular iteration of all the sunsets and sunrises I saw in Prague.
Tambour Horizon
Your journey, connected.
French golfers fail to quality as other players stand out; a former U.S. captain talks about creating his team
At France’s Ryder Cup, where are the French?
This will be the first time
that the host nation will
not have a golfer
The Ryder Cup is finally being staged in
France, but no French players will be
taking part.
Since the Cup began in 1927, this will
be the first time in its 42 editions that the
host nation will not have a golfer in the
competition because none qualified.
“It’s a failure, no doubt,” said Pascal
Grizot, president of the France 2018 Ryder Cup Committee.
But Grizot and those who have spent
years preparing for the tournament,
which will be held at Le Golf National
outside Paris this week, did get quite a
surprise consolation prize.
That would be Tiger Woods, whose
unexpected resurgence this season put
him back in the 12-man lineup for the
American team as a captain’s pick.
Woods was initially set to come to
France in a nonplaying role as a vice
captain, doing the same cheerleading
job he did at the last Ryder Cup in 2016 at
Hazeltine National Golf Club near Minneapolis.
“Tiger was coming to France as a
tourist, and now he’s coming as a player,” Grizot said. “I can say this only to an
American journalist, but if you had the
choice between a French golfer and Tiger Woods for this Ryder Cup, I would
have chosen Tiger Woods. And that’s for
just one reason: because he can transform nongolfers into golfers.”
Raising the sport’s profile and participation levels in France were the primary goals for pursuing the Ryder Cup.
Grizot, a former captain of the French
national team, was instrumental in the
chase, leading the bidding team that secured the event in 2011.
When Grizot and his team started the
bidding process, France was also in the
midst of its successful bid to host the European soccer championships in 2016.
“All the journalists in France were
saying to us, we know what Euro 2016 is,
Golf has experienced rapid growth in France in the
past but has struggled to maintain momentum.
but we don’t know what the Ryder Cup
is,” Grizot said.
There is still far from universal
awareness, and soccer’s shadow is even
larger now in France with the French
team winning this summer’s World Cup
in Russia.
“People don’t care about the Ryder
Cup,” Michael Lorenzo-Vera, a French
golfer, said in June. “Honestly, nobody
knows there’s going to be a Ryder Cup in
France. Only the golfers know. That’s it.”
Grizot disagrees. “Forty-four percent
of the tickets for the Ryder Cup have
been sold to the French,” he said.
One of those expected to attend is
Édouard Philippe, the French prime
minister. Grizot said the Cup had been
sold out for months. The original plan to
attract more than 60,000 spectators per
day was downsized for security reasons
and to ease transport concerns. But
more than 50,000 fans were expected for
competition on Friday, Saturday and
Sunday, despite there being no pedestrian access to the course in St.-Quentinen-Yvelines. About 35 percent of those
who bought tickets are British or Irish;
14 percent are American.
There are clearly limits to how far the
sport can rise in France’s pecking order.
It experienced rapid growth in the 1990s
and early 2000s, but has struggled, as
have many golf federations worldwide,
to maintain that momentum.
The French Golf Federation has about
410,000 card-carrying, dues-paying
members, down from a high of about
425,000 in 2012. Grizot said there were
about 780,000 golfers in the country.
By comparison, a consortium of
American golf governing bodies and industry partners recently estimated the
number of golfers in the United States at
23.8 million.
In terms of membership, the French
Golf Federation ranked seventh in the
country in the most recent government
count, well behind the leader, the French
soccer federation, which had more than
two million members. Tennis ranked
second with just over one million members.
“Football is king in France, at least for
four more years,” said Jean van de
Velde, who in 1999 became the first
Frenchman to take part in the Ryder
Cup and is playing an ambassadorial
role this time.
But there has been an effort to capitalize on the tournament, including the
construction of nearly 100 compact golf
courses close to major population centers and a recently completed 11-city
tour throughout France to promote the
event outside the Paris region.
“Golf is not very visible on television
here in France, and there is lots of competition,” said Pierre Lasfargue, a director with the French Golf Federation who
helped lead the tour. “The Ryder Cup is a
comet that passes every two years, and
only every four years in Europe, so
there’s not been a lot of knowledge of it
out there in France. But now there are
quite a few more who know about it.”
Another goal is to put France on the
map as a golf destination for foreigners,
particularly Americans.
“The first time I went to the U.S.A. to
speak about the Ryder Cup bid, the first
thing that a very famous American architect told me was that he didn’t even
know there were golf courses in
France,” Grizot said. “That was quite
something to hear.”
In Paris, the French organizing committee has put in place a 10-day program
around the Ryder Cup with a fan zone
and daily activities.
“I had the good fortune to attend Ryder Cups in Europe and in the United
States,” Grizot said. “And I was struck
because the United States is the world’s
leading nation in golf, but the Ryder
Cup, when it was played outside of Chicago, you could not imagine when you
were in Chicago that the Ryder Cup was
being played nearby. It was the same
last time in Minneapolis.
“So in Paris, we’ve tried to do it differently with this 10-day program. It’s now
or never, because after all we’re doing, if
there are not more golfers in France,
sadly we will have a problem.”
A big Ryder Cup boost remains far
from certain.
“Personally, I don’t see it,” said Gilles
Jourdan, a former director of the Open
de France, the regular European Tour
stop at Le Golf National. “I think they
have made a bad calculation because
there is just so much work to do. I’m a
golfer, but. . . . ”
He exhaled, like a homeowner looking
at a flooded basement. But Jourdan,
who is now director of the expansion
project for the French Open tennis tournament, does think golf could get a longer-term lift from the combined impact of
the Ryder Cup and the Summer
Olympics in Paris in 2024.
The Olympic golf tournament also
will be staged on Le Golf National’s Albatros course, the watery layout that
opened in 1990 and has been significantly reworked since then. It has lots of
space and fine sight lines for spectators.
“That course is made for viewing,”
Jourdan said. “I’ve been to Ryder Cups
where you’re standing in the fifth row
and you see nothing. But the greens at
this course are low, and as a spectator
you are usually standing above them, so
there’s lots of room, which is great. What
it doesn’t have is much history.”
The Ryder Cup can fill that void, however. The event has been providing intercontinental thrills for more than 90
years, and though the French who do
find their curiosity piqued won’t get to
watch a Frenchman in action, they will
get to watch someone quite likely more
“If there had been a French player, we
in the federation would have been very
happy of course,” Lasfargue said. “But
in France, Tiger is for a lot of people
probably the only golfer they know.”
The stage
Spectators at the
Open de France in
June at Le Golf
National outside
Paris. The Ryder
Cup will be held at
Le Golf National,
and Olympic golf
will be played
there in 2024.
The Americans
Clockwise from top
left: Tiger Woods,
Patrick Reed,
Jordan Spieth and
Brooks Koepka.
Players to watch at the Ryder Cup
The Europeans and
Americans have powerful
golfers, including Woods
contending, with a weight seemingly
lifted upon winning at East Lake Golf
Club in Atlanta on Sunday. He’s just 1317-3 in Ryder Cups and won’t be asked to
carry this squad.
A central Ryder Cup performer in two
previous appearances, a winless Spieth
arrives in Paris amid the most dissatisfying year of his young career. He is the
only member of the team who missed
out on the season-ending Tour Championship, his first such absence since joining the PGA Tour.
Despite placing third at the Masters
and a share of ninth at the British Open,
Spieth managed just three other top-10
finishes in 2018, all coming before April.
Putting woes have been the culprit, and
he ranks 136th in the tour’s crucial
strokes gained/putting metric, the first
time he’s been outside the top 40 since
his rookie season.
It’s been a full quarter century since the
United States last won the Ryder Cup on
European soil, when Tom Watson’s
squad went on a Sunday singles roll at
the Belfry in England to pull off a 15-13
triumph in 1993.
Perhaps half of the United States
team in Paris this week hadn’t swung a
golf club by then; Bryson DeChambeau
was just 10 days old. They’re now tasked
with lifting a 25-year cloud of discontent
when they tee up at Le Golf National.
Thomas Bjorn, the European captain,
has chosen to lean on veterans of past
Ryder Cup triumphs, though some have
struggled through 2018.
Considered such a long shot as he returned from back surgery that he accepted a nonplaying vice captain’s invitation from Jim Furyk, the team captain,
Woods now gets to take his clubs and
momentum from a Tour Championship
triumph to France.
Woods didn’t play in either United
States win in 2008 and 2016. Knee reconstruction sidelined him in 2008, and he
was a vice captain when back woes kept
him off the course in 2016. The winner of
14 majors shows newfound enjoyment in
Though “Captain America” now has a
Masters green jacket to wear over his
superhero costume, Reed could use a
shot of Ryder Cup magic to lift him out of
summer doldrums that set in after winning at Augusta National in April.
Since Reed placed fourth at the
United States Open, he has just one
top-10 finish, on European soil no less, at
the European Open in Germany.
But he’s shown a flair for the Ryder
Cup stage, bursting on the scene with a
3-0-1 mark in 2014, famously trying to
shush the Gleneagles crowd in the
process, and leading the 2016 charge
with a 3-1-1 record.
A sparkling 11-month run briefly lifted
the English pro to No. 1 in the world
rankings this month, adding the FedExCup season title on Sunday in Atlanta.
Four victories worldwide include a
World Golf Championships win in China,
augmented by runner-up honors at the
British Open and two FedExCup playoff
Rose was one of the heroes of Europe’s 2012 “Miracle at Medinah,” winning the final two holes of his singles
match to snatch victory away from Phil
Mickelson. He’s also proved especially
tough in the alternate-shot format, posting a 4-1-1 record over the past three Ryder Cups while joined with four different
As the first man to win back-to-back U.S.
Opens in nearly three decades, Koepka
already has shown a knack this year for
defying historical odds. He also won the
P.G.A. Championship in August and will
be counted on to continue his strong
Koepka’s power game is a prime fit in
four-balls play, allowing him to risk the
occasional wayward drive for a chance
to give himself birdie chances with short
irons and wedges.
He owns a 3-1 mark in the format
across stints in the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup, and trounced Danny Willett
in Sunday singles two years ago at Hazeltine.
Molinari steamrolls into Ryder Cup
Tiger Woods, right,
and Francesco
Molinari, center,
walk off the first tee
during the Ryder
Cup at the Medinah
Country Club in
Illinois in 2012.
They will be facing
each other again at
this weekend’s
He keeps winning and is
one of the most consistent
golfers in the world
The last time Francesco Molinari played
a round of Ryder Cup golf, he ended up
as an unlikely hero in Team Europe’s
“Miracle of Medinah.” Now, six years
later, he finds himself going into this
year’s competition, which starts Friday
at Le Golf National in France, as the
principal standard-bearer for European
Molinari is the top player in the European Ryder Cup rankings, and after a
number of strong finishes this year he is
one of the most fearsomely consistent
golfers in the world right now. He won
the BMW PGA tournament on the European tour this spring, went on to win the
Quicken Loans National on the PGA
Tour, then capped his surge with his first
major when he captured the British
Open in July.
It’s been a remarkable rise that few
would have predicted.
It took Molinari 10 years to achieve
four wins on the European Tour before
2018. This summer he went on a run in
which he won three out of six consecutive tournaments, and finished second
in two of them.
Thomas Bjorn, the European team
captain, told journalists at the end of
that run, “He’s achieved in two months
probably what most European golfers
want to achieve in a career. He won the
BMW PGA, he won in America and then
the Claret Jug. It’s pretty special.”
Molinari credits his new consistency
to “working ugly” with Denis Pugh, his
longtime coach, Dave Alred, his performance coach, and Phil Kenyon, his
putting coach. The approach has emphasized repetitive exercises, particularly around the greens, with Alred
building Molinari’s psychological armory by not allowing him to move on
from playing uncomfortable shots until
the exercise has been successful.
Bjorn said that Molinari “just goes
about his business, does it quietly, easily” and called him, “one of the hard
workers and good guys of the Tour.”
Where Molinari has always had a
strong long game, the improvement in
his short game and composure this year
has elevated him to a new level. Molinari’s success may also have set him up
for another clash with Tiger Woods, who
has been on what he calls a “trending”
run of form in 2018 and won the Tour
Championship on Sunday.
The two played each other in singles
in the 2010 Ryder Cup, with Woods winning, 4 & 3.
Players to watch
The Europeans
Clockwise from top
left: Justin Rose,
Rory McIlroy, Sergio
Garcia and Ian
Little more than a month ago, McIlroy
was so unhappy with his form that he
skipped the FedExCup playoffs opener
to work on his game with an eye on the
Ryder Cup. It appears to have paid off,
with top-12 finishes in his next two outings, though Paris will provide the ultimate judgment.
An up-and-down year has included a
win at the Arnold Palmer Invitational
and three runner-up finishes, including
the British Open. Two years ago, McIlroy was one of just three Europeans
with a winning record at Hazeltine, with
a 3-2 mark that included a down-to-thewire singles loss to Patrick Reed.
Back in form after injury kept him out of
consideration for 2016, Poulter’s Ryder
Cup legend is well established.
A 72.2 winning percentage, on a 12-4-2
record (with the two draws equating a
13th win), is the best of any European in
history with more than five matches,
prompting the English pro Lee West-
wood to once quip that Europe’s roster
should be “11 qualifiers and Poults.”
Poulter’s zenith came at Medinah in
2012, as five straight birdies to conclude
Saturday four-balls snatched an unlikely victory that set up Europe for its
Sunday miracle. He was winless in his
last appearance in 2014 at Gleneagles. A
renaissance season in 2018 includes a
victory in Houston, and he’ll be needed
in Paris.
Perhaps the most controversial selection on either roster, the former Masters
champion has been a thorn to many previous United States Ryder Cup hopes,
but endured an awful summer in which
he produced just one top-10 finish since
March and missed the cut in all four majors.
Garcia’s best Ryder Cup work came
more than a decade ago, when he went
14-6-4 in his first five appearances, highlighted by winning 4 ½ points in a 2004
road win at Oakland Hills. In this decade, he’s just 5-5-3, with a break-even
mark in all three editions.
In 2012 in Medinah, Ill., Team Europe
was down, 10-6, going into the final day
singles play, with Woods and Molinari in
the final pairing. The European players
won match after match, pulling even
with the United States team. A win by
Woods would only have tied the overall
scores and ensured the trophy stayed
with the European holders, but Molinari
managed a half to cap an outright Europe victory.
Neither player has appeared in a Ryder Cup since, and for long periods since
2012 it looked unlikely either of them
would. Until late last year, Molinari ap-
peared preoccupied with the modest
goals of retaining his tour standings,
and Woods has been recovering from injuries and personal issues.
The two have crossed paths this year,
with Woods — as tournament host —
presenting the Quicken Loans National
trophy to Molinari on July 1, then playing in the final round pairing with Molinari as the Italian won the British Open
a few weeks later.
At the time, Pugh described the symbolic significance of Molinari playing
that final round with Woods.
“Tiger 10 years ago would have been a
much tougher proposition, but even now
the crowds are following him because he
is the main man,” Pugh said. “You have
to accept that.
“I think he is the best golfer that ever
lived, and I think the nicest thing for
Francesco was to play so well, to win the
Claret Jug in front of him. He has the
card signed by Tiger Woods. That’s an
extra bit of polish.”
Molinari’s first breakthrough at a major may mark the final time he is starstruck by Woods or any other player.
Team Europe expects him to be the star
this weekend.
The art of finding players who will act as a team
Tom Lehman,
center, talked with
Tiger Woods and
Jim Furyk before
they teed off in their
fourball match in
the 2006 Ryder Cup
in Ireland. Below,
Lehman played in a
senior tour event in
the spring.
Tom Lehman, the former
U.S. captain, offers his
coaching perspective
Tom Lehman, 59, captain of the 2006
United States Ryder Cup team, talks
about selecting players, leading a team,
and breaking a 25-year losing streak
overseas. This conversation has been
condensed and edited.
What’s it like being a Ryder Cup captain?
It’s a huge honor because it’s the people
who you look up to and respect in the
world of golf who ask you to do it. It’s
something that you don’t always put on
your list of goals, thinking you want to
be a Ryder Cup captain someday. It just
sort of happens. There are very few
guys who get to do it. It’s special. There’s
a lot of responsibility and pressure. But
you’ll never forget it.
What was difficult or challenging
about being the captain?
Nobody is ever prepared to do it, really.
None of us are coaches, we’re players.
The difficult part was making your
picks. I only had two, now they have
four, which is easier because there are
only a couple that are pretty obvious.
Making those two picks for me was the
most difficult because sometimes the
players don’t always separate themselves, and I had to go with gut instinct
and intuition.
Do players pressure you to get on the
Yes, and it’s difficult to have to call the
other guys to tell them you didn’t pick
them. That was the hardest, because
they’re your friends, people you know
and respect. You always get lobbied.
Some guys will approach you about how
much they want it, other guys just let
their clubs do the talking, and they’ll get
picked if they are the right guy. Some
guys who don’t get picked handle it the
right way and thank you for being con-
sidered. Others call you a jerk and get
angry. That’s the tough part. You don’t
want to make a bad pick and hurt the
team by picking the wrong guy.
What kind of balance and alchemy
goes into those pick decisions?
More goes into it than hitting shots; it’s
not as simple as who hits it the farthest.
It’s about whether a player is a real team
guy or an individual. You need to know
who fits best within the team. You need
to provide an atmosphere where the
guys can relax and play their best golf.
You need to understand the guys on the
team and what motivates them.
What kind of players work best?
You have to pay attention to that and
find each guy’s sweet spot and kind of
push their buttons. You have to buy into
the team, no doubt about it. Everybody
needs each other. They can’t do it themselves. Everybody has to do their job,
stay in their lane and just be you. It’s a
simple thing. You have to get into the
process. You can’t have guys who hang
to themselves. That’s a cancer for any
team, whether it’s basketball, football,
baseball or golf. Those guys don’t last
long. You want guys who do everything
they can for their teammates and make
them feel confident and comfortable and
inspire them. Good teams do that. They
create a collective confidence that
grows and spreads and becomes consuming. Then the team is fantastic.
What about pairings?
More often it’s about who you don’t want
to play with. Some people just know they
don’t gel and connect. Jordan Spieth and
Patrick Reed are both emotional, highenergy guys. They create something
that’s almost unstoppable. But then
there’s Jordan’s buddy Justin Thomas.
Maybe they should be paired up and
Patrick Reed plays with Tiger Woods,
somebody that Patrick really admires.
Patrick’s fire inspires people. To play
with Tiger, who is already a fiery dude, is
a great pairing. Splitting up Spieth and
Reed could create two teams that are
equally good instead of just one. Those
are all the things that a captain goes
Jim Furyk is captain this year. What’s
going through his mind?
I’m sure he’s talked to some coaches
who he respects a lot, like Bill Cowher
from the Pittsburgh Steelers, to get his
take on things. He’s trying to figure out
what to do to create that atmosphere
and play as a team. Jim is very processdriven. He’s not so worried about the result, he’s about execution, ‘Let’s just do
it.’ It kind of takes the pressure off, and
that’s the way to handle it.
He’s really fortunate to have a great
team. If I’m Jim Furyk, I’m going to be
super confident. Jim is a smart guy and
should be very proud about the way he’s
done things and his message about being in the moment and doing your thing
and following the process. There’s personally nothing he could do to mess it
up. Not that he would. But at this stage
of the game, these guys have been
around and know what guys go well
with each other and have a lot of experience. He’s going to put the right partnerships on the golf course, and then it’s out
of his hands. Now, it’s showtime — step
aside and let it go.
The U.S. hasn’t won on foreign soil
since 1993. Could this year’s team
break that slump?
Playing in Europe is a tough and rugged
environment. It’s not for the faint of
heart. But our team has so much
courage, chutzpah and swagger. They
are confident and talented. They have
all the intangibles. If the Europeans win,
it will be an upset. Even though we are
on their home turf.
What do they need to do to win?
These guys play individual golf; they
have their own methodical process.
When they play on a team, they start
thinking too much and get out of their
process. They have applied their individual game to the team. My advice is to
just play your game. If you do all the little things right, take care of details and
don’t make mistakes, they’ll leave winners.
Some critics say Ryder Cup galleries
can get overzealous. Is that a problem?
The stuff I heard at the 1996 British
Open was way worse than most of the
stuff I hear at the Ryder Cup. I don’t
have a lot of sympathy for anybody who
complains. You’re a professional; deal
with it. Use it. Don’t sweat it. The more
personal you make it, the more it would
make me mad and fire me up.
You hear some stupid and nasty
things out there. If they start talking
about your wife, take it in, let it churn
around and spit it back out with birdies
and eagles. You want to get personal,
let’s do it. I’ll take it out on your guy right
here. I may or may not beat him, but I’ll
go down swinging.
To spur interest, courses go small in France
Not for the elite
At left, from top,
the Ugolf BucToussus club has a
nine-hole layout
and is what the
French call a
compact urban
golf course. Workers from a nearby
factory play on
their lunch break.
The grass at the
eco-friendly course
is yellow because
fields are irrigated
only near the hole.
These compact layouts
are short, modest and
near population centers
Just a 15-minute drive from the site of
this year’s Ryder Cup, the Ugolf BucToussus club is quite a bit farther from
the Ryder Cup in style.
Le Golf National, which will be the
proving ground for the American and
European teams this week, has a modern stone and glass clubhouse and 18
holes on its championship Albatros
course that measure a total of 7,331
yards with a par of 72.
The golf club in Buc has a small metal
block of a clubhouse with an overhead
shade structure typically reserved for
roofs over parking lots. The club has a
nine-hole layout designed for high
handicappers that measures a total of
about 1,260 yards with a par of 28.
It is what the French call a compact
urban golf course. And it is a French
twist on what Americans or Britons
would call a “pitch and putt.”
These short and modest French
courses, designed to fit small parcels of
land near major population centers, are
also intended to be one of the main legacies of the Ryder Cup and are scattered
throughout France.
“I have seen a bunch of them, and I
really think they will leave a mark,” said
Jean van de Velde, the French golfer
who was in position to win the British
Open in 1999 before infamously splashing down on the 72nd hole at Carnoustie.
If Van de Velde had won that day, he
might have become the big French star
that his country’s golf industry was
searching for to build interest in the
game, rather than a gallant loser for the
Now as then, Arnaud Massy, who won
the British Open in 1907, remains the
last and only Frenchman to win a major.
Though Van de Velde, Thomas Levet
and Victor Dubuisson have represented
France in the Ryder Cup on one occasion
in the last 20 years, there is no Frenchman on the European team this time.
French golf authorities have had to
adopt more creative strategies to try to
continue growing the sport in the face of
a challenging economic climate, no
shortage of recreational competition
and the lingering perception of golf as
an expensive, elitist pursuit.
“It’s complicated to develop that great
champion, and we thought if we want to
develop golf in our country we needed
structural change,” said Pierre Lasfargue, a director at the French Golf Federation. “We needed more facilities, but
not just any facilities.”
Lasfargue was one of the driving
forces behind the French federation’s
push to promote the compact course
“I discovered golf in London on a pitch
and putt, and I had proposed that we try
to develop pitch and putt in France,”
Lasfargue said. “And they told me at the
time it was a very British concept and
would never work in France, and I said,
‘Hey, I’m French and it worked for me,
so that’s not a reason.’”
He was told to keep developing the
idea and was eventually part of a federation study in the mid-2000s that looked
at the French golfing landscape.
“In France, we have about 173 significant residential and commercial zones,
and we examined what kinds of golf
courses we could put in these zones,” he
said. “We realized what was missing
were the little ones. We needed small facilities close to cities, particularly if we
wanted to attract the young.”
That was because France already had
experienced a building boom for golf
courses from 1985 to 1995.
“In 10 years, there were about 400 18hole courses that were built, which is
about two-thirds of the total in the whole
country,” Lasfargue said. “But when we
looked at it closely, we realized more
than half of these 400 courses were outside of the residential and commercial
zones, which meant they weren’t connected to the population.”
It was only when France’s bid for the
Ryder Cup began in earnest in 2009 that
the project accelerated and the commitment was made if the bid was successful
to build 100 of these compact courses in
time for the tournament in 2018.
Pascal Grizot, president of the France
2018 Ryder Cup Committee, said the
compact courses had created 47,000
new golfers through the years.
“We can trace the impact because
each time there is a new golfer, they purchase a membership in the golf federation,” Grizot said. “And these golfers are
affiliated directly with these courses.”
Lasfargue said the average age was
about 10 years younger than at clubs
with 18-hole courses. “The level of revenue is a bit lower, and the average age is
40, 41, 42, where on the big courses it’s
52,” he said. “We also get quite a few
young people because the compact
courses are often accessible by bus and
bicycle. They are not overflowing with
the young, but there are quite a few.”
Though there has been public investment, the compact courses have been
primarily funded by the private sector,
which was the case in Buc, one of the
earliest examples.
“What the federation has done is not
provide the money but provide the business models for private investors,” said
Paul Armitage, general manager of Le
Golf National. “It’s also helping private
investors talk to town councils or municipalities. Getting ahold of land close
to cities is not easy and not cheap, so it’s
sometimes helping to get planning commissions and maybe municipalities involved and saying, ‘Right, you keep the
land, and you own it. But why just leave
it as a wasteland?’”
In Buc, earth from a large tunnel
project was used to shape some fields
into an undulating and intentionally unchallenging course.
The first hole, a par 3, measures 119
meters, or about 130 yards, from the
back tees, and the fairway resembles a
grassy halfpipe so even errant shots will
be funneled toward the green.
“For us, these compact courses respond to three big issues,” Lasfargue
said. “People say golf is expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Compact
courses are inexpensive. They are easy,
and you can play them quickly.”
Florent Terroni, who works at the Buc
club, says a good player can finish the
nine holes — eight of which are par 3s —
in about 45 minutes.
“An average player will finish in about
an hour,” Terroni said. “We’ve got a lot of
different ages here and a good base.
There are about 250 regulars, and then
on top of that people in golf schools or
who come here to get their green card.”
The green card is the permit that allows golfers access to regular 18-hole
courses in France. A licensed instructor
has to sign off on it after observing a
player for at least one round.
Moving up remains the goal for many
of Buc’s golfers, which creates considerable turnover. But the price at the course
is hard to beat. Playing nine holes costs
20 euros, or about $23, less if you have a
discount card.
Unlimited access to the course for a
year costs €588. There is also a driving
range, the only thing about the club that
is not compact.
It has room for 110 golfers, even if it is
rare if more than half the slots are occupied.
“I’ve never seen it full,” said Benoit
Serraz, a Buc resident who often practices at the course. “They are thinking
about cutting the driving range in half
and redesigning the whole course to
make it longer, a real nine holes.”
That sounds as if it might not quite fit
in with the national smaller-is-better
strategy. But for now, with the Ryder
Cup just about to start and a Ryder Cup
banner behind the reception desk in
Buc, the federation’s official count of
compact courses is at 99.
Tempting though it might be, Lasfargue is resisting the thought of rounding
up as he prepares to retire after the Ryder Cup.
“We’re almost there, but we want it to
be true,” he said with a laugh. “We don’t
want to say 100 if it’s not 100, but we’ll
get there and beyond.”
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