5 April 2003

Incursion Aims to Show Residents That U.S. Can Attack at Will

PQ+ | Saturday 19:27:24 EST | comments (0)

Incursion Aims to Show Residents That U.S. Can Attack at Will

KUWAIT, April 5 — An armored force of 60 American tanks and other vehicles wheeled suddenly into the center of Baghdad today, taking the city's defenders by surprise and triggering a rolling firefight along boulevards lined with some people waving, and others shooting.

The demonstration of American force left at least hundreds of Iraqi fighters dead and was intended, United States military officials said, to show the 4.5 million residents of Baghdad that the Army and Marines now encamped at the city's edges could attack at will.

"We just wanted to let them know that we're here," said Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, commander of the Third Infantry.

As such, the goal of the raid appeared more psychological than military as Washington and London debate whether to challenge Saddam Hussein's political grip on Iraq by naming an interim government.

It also seemed possible that coalition commanders decided to respond to Friday's dramatic appearance of Mr. Hussein on the streets of Baghdad amid a cheering crowd of supporters. The adulation for the Iraqi leader, no matter how carefully staged or taped in advance, was beamed out on Iraqi and Arab satellite television as a measure of proof that he had survived all allied attempts to kill or silence him.

A grisly discovery reported by British military officials today of what were said to be the remains of hundreds of people at an abandoned military compound on the outskirts of Zubayr, in southern Iraq, served to remind allied forces and the world of other aspects of Mr. Hussein's rule. The remains were packed in bundles that contained shreds of military uniforms, the British officials said, but it could not be determined how old they were, or how they got there.

Between 600 and 1,500 Iraqi gunmen battled the Americans as they rolled through Baghdad streets today, killing one American tank driver and wounding six other American soldiers. American commanders on the scene estimated that more than 1,000 were killed. Later, officers at Central Command in Doha, Qatar, put the number much higher — 2,000 to 3,000 — and there was no explanation for the variance.

As the incursion was happening, Iraqi officials denied that American forces were in the city. Iraq's information minister, Mohamed Saeed al-Sahhaf claimed further that Iraqi forces had retaken the international airport to the west of the city, where the tanks that rumbled through Baghdad's streets later met the Third Infantry Division's First Brigade.

"The Republican Guard is in full control," Mr. al-Sahhaf said. "We have defeated them, in fact we have crushed them. We have pushed them outside the whole area of the airport."

The Iraqi official insisted that the "whole trend" of the military campaign had changed in Baghdad's favor.

However, the tank battalion, the 64th Armored Regiment of the Third Infantry Division's Second Brigade, returned later to its staging area on the southern perimeter of Baghdad via a different, more secure route that avoided the city center entirely. No hostilities were reported on that journey.

The British soldiers who investigated the Zubayr military base found 200 makeshift coffins bearing seriously decayed corpses, perhaps a year or a number of years old.

Soldiers of the Royal Horse Artillery also found Arabic documents and photographs of men bearing head wounds and showing signs of torture or disfigurement in the warehouse.

"I wouldn't want to speculate, but the bones inside are obviously years old," Capt. Jack Kemp told British reporters at the scene.

Also today, the 101st Airborne staged a rapid deployment to the outskirts of Karbala, which like neighboring Najaf, is the site of one of the holiest shrines in Shia Islam. Najaf has become increasingly pacified by the Army's entry into the city last week that United States military officials have said was welcomed by an edict, or fatwa, from the grand ayatollah there, Ali al-Sistani.

Karbala, however, was bypassed by coalition forces as they first feigned an attack on its defenders, and then dashed around it through the Karbala Gap to reach Baghdad and seize the airport.

"Basically, they are on the ground to go through and secure the highways and supply routes, and also they are looking to squelch any paramilitary threat in the area," Maj. Mike Slocum told reporters traveling with the formation in Karbala.

To the east, at Aziziyah, Marines responded to battlefield intelligence gleaned from an Iraqi special forces prisoner and rushed to a girls' school where the prisoner said groups of Iraqi men had knocked down a wall to hide something in the courtyard and then laid fresh concrete over it in three nights' time.

The intelligence report raised the immediate suspicion that chemical or biological weapons might have been hidden under the concrete, Marine officers said.

"We don't have a clue, but we are going to dig it up and see," said Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, the Marine commander in charge of the area.

In recent days, American forces in the field have been reported following such leads, which would prove that the Iraqi government possesses weapons of mass destruction that were never declared.

In Baghdad, a statement said to have come from President Hussein claimed that "the enemy's grip" on Iraq "has weakened."

The statement suggested that by setting the military objective at Baghdad, causing supply lines to be strung across broad expanses of desert, was a strategic mistake, and exhorted Iraqis to attack at these weak points.

"You must inflict more wounds on this enemy and fight it and deprive it of the victories it has achieved," he said. "You must rattle their joints and terrify them and speedily defeat them in and around Baghdad."

But coalition commanders said, if anything, Iraqi forces seemed more and more disorganized, making possible today's bold dash into Baghdad.

"American armored combat formations have moved through the heart of Baghdad, defeating the Iraqi troops we have encountered," Navy Capt. Frank Thorp told reporters at the United States Central Command headquarters in Qatar.

"This was a clear statement of the ability of coalition forces to move into Baghdad at times and places of their choosing and to establish their presence really wherever they need to in the city," Maj. Gen. Victor Renuart said at a news conference in Qatar. He declined to say whether any troops had stayed behind, but military officials who were part of the raid indicated that the entire force had exited the city, with the exception of one destroyed, and abandoned, tank.

Although soldiers in the convoy and a cameraman who rode along described harrowing scenes and at least two camera crews recorded the foray, a number of journalists based in the city were unable to find evidence that the column had passed through.

General Renuart described the path by saying the column entered from due south on the main highway that skirts the tight bend in the Tigris River that forms the Karada district of the city. The highway continues toward "what I would call pretty near the center of Baghdad and then turns out to the West," he said.

Though Baghdadis might argue that one has not been to the center of Baghdad unless reaching Liberation Square and the old city along the Tigris in that district, General Renuart nonetheless insisted, "It's about as close to the center as I know how to define."

"This isn't about taking or holding ground," Captain Thorp said. "At this point, that was not an objective to hold any territory in Baghdad. This was an opportunity that the ground force commander saw to move troops through a major area of Baghdad, and jumped on it."

Although the tanks were gone by midafternoon, military officials said United States special operations forces are operating in and around Baghdad, seeking to develop targeting information and political intelligence on the whereabouts of key leaders.

Britain today termed the defeat of the Iraqi army and much of the Republican Guard "comprehensive."

"It is clear that elements of the Republican Guard have suffered a comprehensive defeat with very heavy losses and a number of desertions," a spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said.

Submit a question for Patrick E. Tyler: The Times's bureau chief in Kuwait City will answer a selection of readers' questions every day.

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Viewing the War as a Lesson to the World

PQ+ | Saturday 19:26:43 EST | comments (0)

Viewing the War as a Lesson to the World

WASHINGTON, April 5 — Shortly after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld issued a stark warning to Iran and Syria last week, declaring that any "hostile acts" they committed on behalf of Iraq might prompt severe consequences, one of President Bush's closest aides stepped into the Oval Office to warn him that his unpredictable defense secretary had just raised the specter of a broader confrontation.

Mr. Bush smiled a moment at the latest example of Mr. Rumsfeld's brazenness, recalled the aide. Then he said one word — "Good" — and went back to work.

It was a small but telling moment on the sidelines of the war. For a year now, the president and many in his team have privately described the confrontation with Saddam Hussein as something of a demonstration conflict, an experiment in forcible disarmament. It is also the first war conducted under a new national security strategy, which explicitly calls for intervening before a potential enemy can strike.

Mr. Bush's aides insist they have no intention of making Iraq the first of a series of preventive wars. Diplomacy, they argue, can persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programs. Intensive inspections can flush out a similar nuclear program in Iran. Threats and incentives can prevent Syria from sponsoring terrorism or fueling a guerrilla movement in Iraq.

Yet this week, as images of American forces closing in on Baghdad played on television screens, some of Mr. Bush's top aides insisted they were seeing evidence that leaders in North Korea and Iran, but not Syria, might be getting their point.

"Iraq is not just about Iraq," a senior administration official who played a crucial role in putting the strategy together said in an interview last week. It was "a unique case," the official said. But in Mr. Bush's mind, the official added, "It is of a type."

In fact, some administration officials are talking about the lessons Mr. Bush expects the world to take from this conflict, and they are debating about where he may decide to focus when it is over.

The president seemed to allude to those lessons in his radio address this morning, saying his decision to oust Mr. Hussein was part of his plan to "not sit and wait, leaving enemies free to plot another Sept. 11 — this time, perhaps, with chemical, biological or nuclear terror."

But how to turn that broad principle into policy is already emerging as the next fault line in the administration, as well as in its relationships with the nations it alienated on the way to the Iraq conflict.

Some hawks inside the administration are convinced that Iraq will serve as a cautionary example of what can happen to other states that refuse to abandon their programs to build weapons of mass destruction, an argument that John R. Bolton, the under secretary of state for arms control and international security, has made several times in recent speeches.

The administration's more pragmatic wing fears that the war's lesson will be just the opposite: that the best way to avoid American military action is to build a fearsome arsenal quickly and make the cost of conflict too high for Washington.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell has been the most vocal in insisting that Iraq is about Iraq and nothing more. "I think it's a bit of an overstatement to say that now this one's pocketed, on to the next place," he said as the war began.

But Mr. Powell was taken aback — not for the first time — by Mr. Rumsfeld's comments about Iran and Syria. A senior aide said Mr. Powell had cautioned the administration against any public talk of a "domino effect," fearing it would further inflame Arab governments and fuel North Korea's considerable insecurities.

"His view is that we've made enough enemies in the past five months, and we don't need to go looking for another fight," one of his senior advisers said.

In fact, only Mr. Rumsfeld seems willing to name potential adversaries these days. But several senior administration officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they saw signs that some countries were reconsidering their behavior.

Their newest is North Korea, which Gary Samore, the nonproliferation specialist in the Clinton White House, recently called "the dog that hasn't barked."

North Korea's diplomatic broadsides at the United States have been toned down in recent days. No one has seen Kim Jong Il, the country's reclusive leader, in months, and some experts say they believe he may be staying out of sight for fear of his own personal security. So far, at least, the country has not made good on its threat to restart a plutonium reprocessing facility that has the capacity to to produce fuel for a half-dozen nuclear bombs this year. American intelligence agencies had expected him to do so by now.

"He may have simply encountered technical troubles," said one North Korea expert in the administration. "But he may also be looking at CNN and considering the wisdom of his next move. The fact is, We don't know."

Another possible factor, Mr. Bush's aides say, is that China, which is North Korea's main supplier of oil, has finally begun to deliver tough messages to Mr. Kim's government.

Iran may also be newly cautious, the administration argues. After Mr. Rumsfeld issued his warning on March 28 that the United States would not tolerate the entry into Iraq of the Badr Corps — which he said was "trained, equipped and directed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard" — the incursion was apparently cut off.

Syria is a very different case. In an interview published this week in a pro-Syrian Lebanese newspaper, Bashar al-Assad, Syria's 36-year old president, who inherited the post from his father three years ago, said the war only proved that Mr. Bush "wanted oil and wanted to redraw the map of the region in accordance with the Israeli interests." He urged Arabs to learn from Lebanon's history of "resistance."

Stephen P. Cohen, the Middle East specialist at Institute for Middle East Peace and Development in New York, said: "The Arabs understand that this war is happening at two levels — on the ground in Iraq, and then an ideological war once the ground war is over. They know how the first one is going to turn out, and they are debating how to wage the second."

Mr. Assad seemed to suggest in his interview that Syria would be a new target for Mr. Bush, because it "is the heart of Arabism."

Mr. Bush's national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice, not surprisingly, describes the agenda very differently. "You don't treat every case with the identical remedy," she said today. Even when the problem appears the same — weapons of mass destruction that could be passed to rogue states or terrorists — "there are lots of ways" to accomplish the president's goals, she said

"In North Korea, we're dealing with the issue in one particular way; with Iran, we're dealing with it in other ways," she added. But she also noted the president's belief that there is "a positive agenda for moving forward that could be catalyzed by Iraq."

Several of the hawks outside the administration who pressed for war with Iraq are already moving on to the next step, and perhaps further than the president is ready to go. R. James Woolsey, the former director of central intelligence, said on Wednesday that Iraq was the opening of a "fourth world war," and that America's enemies included the religious rulers in Iran, states like Syria and Islamic extremist terrorist groups.

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The Dia Generation

Arts | Saturday 19:25:48 EST | comments (0)

The Dia Generation

Next month, a former factory in a small town an hour north of New York will become the first museum dedicated to the greatest generation of American artists. Not Pollock, Rothko and de Kooning. The next generation, the one that came of age during the 1960's and 70's, the one that includes Donald Judd, Dan Flavin, Walter De Maria, Michael Heizer, Robert Smithson, Sol LeWitt, Andy Warhol, Robert Ryman, Agnes Martin, Bruce Nauman and Richard Serra. The history of American art is going to need a little rewriting.

They are men mostly, with big egos and big ideas. They were the first Americans to influence Europeans. The work these artists made changed, or at least questioned, the nature of art: what it looked like, its size, its materials, its attitude toward the places where it was shown, its relation to architecture, light and space and to the land. The artists even questioned whether art needed to be a tangible object. Minimalism, Post-Minimalism, Earth art, video art, Conceptualism -- suddenly art could be nothing more than an idea, a thought on a piece of paper that played in your head. It could be ephemeral or atmospheric, like the experience of a room illuminated by colored fluorescent tubes.

The work found itself at home, as the artists did, in the lofts of abandoned industrial buildings in Lower Manhattan, converted into studios and white-box galleries. But much of the art was too big for a gallery. Robert Smithson's ''Spiral Jetty'' was 6,650 tons of black basalt and earth in the shape of a gigantic coil, 1,500 feet long, projecting into the remote shallows of the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

The artists demanded space in tune with their aesthetic. Now along comes Dia:Beacon, set to open on May 18. Housed in a factory in Beacon, N.Y., that was built in 1929 to print boxes for Nabisco crackers, it will be the biggest museum of contemporary art in the world. With nearly a quarter of a million square feet of exhibition space, it dwarfs Frank Gehry's Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain: it is reused raw space adapted by artists to suit themselves, with no star architect but huge rooms, some as long as football fields, for paintings and sculptures that have never felt truly at home.

Before he died in 1994, Donald Judd complained that his sculptures were crammed in with other art in most museums and that the objects were denied what he considered their rightful independence and integrity. ''So much money spent on architecture in the name of art, much more than goes to art, is wrong,'' he barked about new museums. ''Even if the architecture were good, but it's bad.'' Dia:Beacon was built to let people see art the way Judd would have wanted.

Conceived by a charismatic German art dealer, Heiner Friedrich, and his wife, Philippa de Menil, in 1974, Dia was not meant to be a traditional museum. The opposite, in fact. For a while, Dia spent millions and millions of dollars financing projects like Walter De Maria's ''Lightning Field,'' for which huge steel poles were planted in a remote stretch of New Mexico. It poured $4 million into ''Dream House,'' by La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela: a building on Harrison Street in Lower Manhattan that housed Zazeela's light projections and where Young's electronic music played 24 hours a day. ''Dream House'' had its own guru in residence, Pandit Pran Nath, the Indian singer and teacher, and a staff that recorded every note of music and word of conversation and photographed and logged every meal eaten there.

Dia bought Fort Russell, a former Army post on 340 acres of scrubland in Marfa, Tex., for Judd to create a private museum for his work and the work of the few chosen artists he admired. The project epitomized the crazy scale and wild ambition of the art of his generation. Marfa, an isolated clutch of adobe and wood-frame houses on streets that peter out into no man's land, languished several drowsy hours from civilization. Its fort was a cavalry post for patrolling the Mexican border and later a camp for German prisoners in World War II, before it was decommissioned. Judd converted abandoned barracks into exhibition spaces.

At the center of the fort was Judd's crowning achievement and Minimalism's great shrine: 100 milled-aluminum boxes installed in two converted artillery sheds, twin cathedrals with giant Quonset hut roofs. Judd replaced the sheds' garage doors with big windows, letting sun play against the boxes, deflecting any preconceptions that the sculptures might be forbidding or monotonous.

The work exemplified Minimalism's paradoxical nature: Puritanism offset by a sensual embrace of optical surprise and ravishing detail. Time, light, form: Judd forcibly focused viewers' attention on these basics of human experience via simple shapes presented exquisitely, for slow study in rarefied isolation. At a time when museums were becoming malls and art seemed cheapened by commerce and mass reproduction (so felt 60's artists like Judd, inflamed by the antibourgeois politics of the time), Marfa was conceived to restore innate dignity to art and to the experience of looking. ''A shape, a volume, a color, a surface is something itself,'' Judd declared. ''It shouldn't be concealed as part of a fairly different whole.'' While Judd rejected metaphors of bodies for his boxes and other abstract sculptures, the utopian -- which is to say, human -- implications of what he had in mind were obvious.

To lump Judd with Nauman and Serra and Warhol as a ''generation'' is obviously to put together people of different ages and styles, not to mention temperaments, who nevertheless all first made their marks during the 60's and 70's, when wild experimentation tested the definition and limits of every kind of art. Art has not been the same since.

Andy Warhola, as he was born, made Andy Warhol his masterpiece, forever blurring the line between art and life. Nauman made movies of himself neurotically pacing in circles and helped to open up a whole world of video and performance art. Dan Flavin used colored industrial fluorescent tubes to make Minimal sculptures whose ambience was as much the subject as the abstract arrangement of the lights, establishing the basics of installation art before anybody ever thought to call it that.

Partly inspired by Flavin, LeWitt decided to start ''from Square 1,'' he said, with sculptures in the shapes of squares and cubes. Linguistic theorists at the time talked about words and mental concepts as signs and signifiers. LeWitt moved between his syntax of geometric sculptures and mental propositions for images: concepts he wrote on paper that could be realized by him or someone else or not at all. Physical things are perishable. Ideas need not be. LeWitt wasn't interested in precious one-of-a-kind baubles. ''Art has been veritably invaded by life, if life means flux, change, chance, time, unpredictability,'' the sculptor Scott Burton observed around then. ''Sometimes the difference between the two is sheer consciousness, the awareness that what seemed to be a stain on the wall is in fact a work of art.'' LeWitt's conceptual work pushed the point to an extreme: his art was the equivalent of the stain painted over, leaving only consciousness.

Meanwhile, painters like Martin, Ryman and Frank Stella were pushing at their own limits, making works that were just stripes or white on white. They were partly inspired by Pollock, but they rejected the 50's cult of expressionism that he exemplified. Pollock had revolutionized abstract art by pouring and dripping, but in the 60's his impact was as much on sculptors as it was on painters. Serra, tossing hot lead, echoed Pollock's physical performance and liquid vocabulary, moving sculpture off the pedestal and onto the floor.

Out west, Heizer, De Maria and Smithson were simultaneously moving art into the great outdoors. Heizer drove his motorcycle across a dry lake bed in the Nevada desert, making immense drawings with his tire tracks; then he made ''Double Negative,'' a 1,500-foot-long, 50-foot-deep, 30-foot-wide gash cut onto facing slopes of an obscure mesa in Nevada, a project that required blasting 240,000 tons of rock.

Visiting Chichen Itza, the Mayan city, he devised ''City'' next: a suite of giant, variously shaped abstract sculptures over an area that covered more than a mile end to end -- modern art turned into monumental abstract architecture, with ancient ruins as the model. Heizer imagined ''complexes,'' immense mastabas, some a quarter of a mile long, with 70-foot slabs weighing thousands of pounds. He acquired several square miles of remote property, surrounded by public land, two hours into the Nevada desert from the nearest paved road, and he lived for years in a trailer, locked in for half the winter and once going for months seeing only a couple of sheep trailers and a passing pickup truck. Art didn't get much more extreme than that.

Heiner Friedrich, who was born in Germany in 1938, liked to describe how seeing the destruction during the Nazi years inspired him to want to create things that would last forever. One recent morning, at the Mercer Hotel in SoHo, he told me that ''living in the countryside after the war in purest relation to nature, in great peace, made a huge impression on me -- seeing the manifestation of the divine.'' Bespectacled, dressed in a black suit and black shirt, a large, sturdy man with a lined face, Friedrich today looks more forbidding than he is. He is a dreamer, prone to verbal flights of near-spiritual reverie.

A son of the founder of Alzmetall, a manufacturer of industrial equipment, his life was changed by visiting Matisse's chapel in Vence, France, and on trips to Greece and Italy, ''where I saw art and architecture, each in its own place.'' Giotto's Arena Chapel in Padua ''became for me the true insight for the unfolding and development of Dia.'' The chapel was the work of a single artist: a singular site, complex, revolutionary, preserved in perpetuity, a pilgrimage destination both cultural and spiritual.

Friedrich started a gallery in Munich in 1963 and then opened a second one in Cologne, representing artists like Beuys, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Judd, Heizer, Cy Twombly, De Maria and Warhol. But Friedrich grew depressed by the endless cycle of short exhibitions and sales. At the same time, he noted how artists like Judd, De Maria, Smithson and Heizer were gravitating toward a kind of art that museums and galleries simply couldn't accommodate.

Fed up with struggling to raise public money for big art projects in Germany, Friedrich moved to SoHo in 1971. For a while, his gallery at 141 Wooster Street became a salon where artists like De Maria and Blinky Palermo would hang out. Young and Zazeela staged performances. Judd exhibited sculpture. The gallery commissioned art on a large scale. Soon Friedrich met and fell in love with Philippa de Menil, an heiress to the Schlumberger oil fortune and the child of Dominique and John de Menil, low-profile, high-class art collectors who had commissioned the Rothko Chapel in Houston and whose Menil Collection, a cypress-clapboard-and-glass masterpiece by the architect Renzo Piano, exemplified the family's taste for fabulous, expensive simplicity.

Who knows how much of Dia can be attributed to Friedrich's vision or to the influence of the Menils or to the contribution of Dia's other founder, Helen Winkler, who worked for the Menils and became Dia's link with many artists. Winkler and her husband oversaw the construction of De Maria's ''Lightning Field'' in New Mexico. ''She held things together,'' Friedrich says. ''She was indispensable.'' Much of Dia clearly also came from the artists themselves, like Judd, who knew how and when to capitalize on a golden opportunity.

The general idea as it gradually emerged was pure and beautiful -- that is, if you accepted the premise that it was worth spending millions of dollars on difficult, brainy abstract art few people appreciated at the time. Then again, time itself was a relative concept for Dia. This was one of its distinguishing philosophies. Projects like ''Lightning Field,'' for instance, were expected to last for eons. If you calculated attendance in decades or centuries rather than weeks or months, then a handful of devotees trekking to the New Mexican desert year after year added up to a blockbuster crowd.

Friedrich explained that dia was a Greek word meaning ''through,'' as in conduit. A dozen or so artists, Friedrich's chosen ones, would be freed of all constraints and allowed to pursue work as they envisioned it. Naturally, this fueled deep suspicion and jealousy in the art world, but Friedrich compared what he was doing -- now with his wife's fortune -- to the Medicis. ''Dia didn't tap something new; it tapped something old,'' he said at the time. ''Our values are as powerful as those in the Renaissance.'' For emphasis, he added that Dan Flavin ''is as important as Michelangelo.''

Dia's artists were certainly devising plans that made Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel look like a minor interior-decorating job. In 1977, Friedrich's SoHo gallery became a permanent locale for De Maria's ''The New York Earth Room'': 280,000 pounds of dirt trucked in and spread 22 inches deep across 3,600 square feet. The room had to be regularly hosed and raked and cleared of mushrooms. Employees were assigned to watch silently over it -- no reading was allowed on the job, lest their distraction disrupt the aura of aesthetic contemplation. De Maria's ''Vertical Earth Kilometer'' was completed that same year: a slender 18-ton rod sunk into a 1,000-meter hole drilled in Kassel, Germany, leaving only the tiny circle of one end visible in the ground. The cost: $419,000, and $2,500 a year to maintain.

The first big outdoor project completed in America was De Maria's ''Lightning Field'': 400 stainless-steel poles, 2 inches thick and up to 20 feet tall, installed as a grid in a one-mile-long and one-kilometer-wide stretch of extremely remote New Mexico. Visitors were required to spend 24 hours in a rustic cabin beside the poles, contemplating the way light changed as day passed to night and back again. Dia bought the land near Quemado, N.M., in 1975, and local high-school students helped install the poles. Cost for the project: $1 million.

What was incalculable, as at Marfa, was its artistic value. The work required a journey, a pilgrimage, the sacrifice and effort being part of the philosophy of immersion in the art. There was something manipulative, even prescriptive, about that idea, but also something deeply liberating about the experience. On extremely rare occasions, a bolt of lightning actually struck one of the poles. Otherwise, the art entailed psychic intangibles: taking in the silent, peaceable, solitary passage of time in the high desert and the vastness of space -- and noticing how subtly different the poles looked as the sun moved across the sky, shifting from shiny slivers at sunrise to ghosts at noon, when they're nearly obscured by the high sun and surrounding mountains, then burning like fireworks just before sunset. The work meditated on a man-made forest of industrial materials and perfect geometry playing off against the wilderness and the stars. It celebrated America and the Western landscape, incorporating it, which was something fresh that De Maria's generation brought to art.

By 1979, Dia's staff had expanded from half a dozen to 80, and its annual payroll topped $800,000. Heiner Friedrich and Philippa de Menil were now putting together a vast collection, but their resources were being stretched thinner. They had met Sheikh Muzaffar Ozak, a Sufi master of the Halveti-Jerrahi Order of dervishes, and Dia started pouring money into a Sufi mosque on Mercer Street as well as supporting various Islamic publishing projects. At the same time, Dia was buying real estate for one-man museums. In addition to La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela's ''Dream House'' and Judd's spread at Marfa, it bought a former bank in Winchendon, Mass., for Fred Sandback in 1981 and converted it into a kind of open studio/private museum. Sandback's sculptures entailed thin colored strings attached to walls outlining geometric shapes, like triangles and rectangles. Viewed from certain angles, they created the illusion of solid glass, but from other angles, they disappeared from sight. Dia supported the museum for years until, by more or less mutual consent, the building was sold.

''People would scratch their heads and ask, 'What's going on here?''' Sandback, now white-bearded and ruddy-faced, looking like a monk with a ponytail, told me one recent afternoon. ''I think the skepticism hurt Heiner very much. It implied his motives were not correct. He may have gone overboard. But he wanted nothing more than to give LaMonte what he needed and Don what he needed to proceed unencumbered. Say what you will, I think the motivation was simple.''

Unfortunately, as Dia's costs skyrocketed, Schlumberger plummeted from around $87 a share in 1980 to around $30 in early 1982. Philippa de Menil had to sell off more and more stock for Dia. Plans were initiated to turn over some of the artists' projects, like Turrell's ''Roden Crater,'' to independent foundations, which would now need to find their own source of support.

Artists Dia had supported were apoplectic, especially Judd, congenitally angry anyway. Dia had spent more than $5 million and lavished a monthly stipend of $17,500 on him. Now Judd fumed about Friedrich: ''I distrusted him from the beginning. The only problem is that I didn't distrust him enough.''

Sandback says: ''When someone is so very protective and generous, it becomes the norm, which it isn't. This was a new paradigm for patronage, and I myself am ungodly lucky to have had such support and freedom in my life. It's too bad that some artists became so upset when it stopped. I didn't regard it as my due to have my work purchased. But other artists had reason to scream bloody murder, I suppose, because they were left high and dry in terms of what they really wanted, and had expected, to do. Remember, Don's commitment to Marfa was just as strong and intense as Heiner's was to Dia. That made the conflict inevitable. It's what made both of them exceptional.''

By 1983, Schlumberger stock had fallen further, and Dia had to take out a $3.87 million loan. Dominique de Menil, Philippa's mother and the family matriarch, now stepped in. Philippa's money was put in trust controlled by her brothers. Dozens of employees were fired. Much of the Manhattan real estate that had been acquired for one-man museums was put on the market. Young and Zazeela's ''Dream House'' on Harrison Street was sold.

Dia had spent $40 million amassing 1,000 works, creating or laying the groundwork for some of the most ambitious art in modern history. But now it had no income, and many of these projects were still far from completion.

Dia auctioned off 18 works at Sotheby's: a Twombly went for a record $418,000; a Warhol, for $165,000. The sale raised $1.3 million, but this was $700,000 less than Dia had hoped to raise. A low point for Friedrich was when Dia sold two of its three Barnett Newmans. ''That was crushing,'' he told me. ''I had talked about a Newman museum with Newman.'' Judd, threatening a lawsuit, won custody of his art (and another $2 million) in an out-of-court settlement.

''It was not run the way money people normally treat money'' is how Friedrich responds to critics who say he was irresponsible with Dia. Dominique, his mother-in-law, was one. She forced him to resign. A blue-blood board replaced him. Ashton Hawkins, longtime counsel to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, became chairman. Lois de Menil, Philippa's sister-in-law, became vice chairman. Stephen Breyer, the future Supreme Court associate justice, joined the board.

The foundation stopped collecting art. Dia's grand experiment seemed officially over -- like the era that produced it.

Charles Wright, a lawyer from Seattle, son of an art collector, was hired as the new director. Wright admired artists like Judd and De Maria and became increasingly enamored of Friedrich's ideas, but the new board had its own plans. By the end of 1987, real estate and art sales had raised $17 million, and Dia was pointed in a new direction. Dia donated more than 150 Warhols to help establish the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. It gave six Twomblys to Dominique de Menil's Cy Twombly Gallery. Friedrich had said Dia was a conduit. Now Dia's collection became the conduit for one-man museums that other people ran.

Dia did keep a warehouse on West 22nd Street in Manhattan, with 38,000 square feet that was converted into spare, white exhibition space. In October 1987, it opened with a show of Joseph Beuys, Blinky Palermo and Imi Knoebel. Dia now would present changing exhibitions -- the opposite of what Friedrich had conceived Dia to do -- but at least the exhibitions would be kept on view for up to a year or more, unlike shows at other museums, which were stuck in the entertainment cycle of rapid change that Friedrich despised.

Meanwhile, the climate of the art world was changing. First the glamour of the 80's, with its marquee stars like Schnabel and Salle, made the asceticism of artists like Judd and De Maria seem fusty. After the art-market boom went bust by the early 90's, Dia's traditional stress on solitary geniuses, great men removed from everyday circulation and freed to pursue big dreams, seemed equally out of sync in a cultural atmosphere that prized egalitarianism and social engagement. Wright, now 48, keeping up with the times then and wanting to endorse the new spirit, explained that ''people of my generation are looking for ways that the artist can come back down and plug directly into the social context . . . to make art more a part of a whole way of life and less of a removed, ivory-tower activity.'' He bemoaned the ''cult of the individualism of the artist,'' and with Gary Garrels, then Lynne Cooke, Dia's curators, he programmed heavyweight symposiums and exhibitions by politically conscious artists like Jenny Holzer, Tim Rollins, Robert Gober and Group Material. Dia established itself as a serious and chic gallery, although attendance was dismal.

People looking back on Friedrich's days now talked about what had gone wrong. But plenty had gone right. Dia still had ''Lightning Field,'' ''Broken Kilometer,'' ''Earth Room'' and a collection in storage deep in certain artists -- dozens of sculptures by John Chamberlain, the 102 ''Shadow'' paintings by Warhol and many works by Flavin, Beuys, Palermo and Twombly. ''The basic intent remained intact,'' Friedrich says. The original Dia had simply gone into hibernation.

What revived it -- and what led to the creation of Dia:Beacon -- was another bloody board shakeup. Having saved Dia from collapse, trustees seemed to have little energy left to raise more money, and Dia was still being kept afloat by selling property and art, which was self-cannibalism. After a decade as director, Wright resigned in June 1994, but stayed on the board to help pick Michael Govan as his successor and to support a new agenda.

Govan, 39, is a dark, lanky, quietly ebullient man disposed to cowboy boots and black shirts. In keeping with Dia's artists and founder, he is a kind of megalomaniac, despite his aw-shucks manner. He came from the Guggenheim Museum, where he had been the smiling, calm, long-suffering front man who had to explain the museum's slippery finances and unconventional strategies. He first met Thomas Krens, the Guggenheim's notoriously audacious director, at Williams College, where Krens was director of the Williams College Museum of Art when Govan was an undergraduate. The two shared ambition and a passion for 60's and 70's art; after he graduated in 1985, Govan became acting head of exhibitions at Williams. Along with Krens and another Krens protege, Joseph Thompson, Govan helped to dream up the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Mass MoCA, a gigantic museum in a complex of abandoned factory buildings in the depressed town of North Adams.

Then Krens left to take over the Guggenheim, and Govan took off to become a conceptual artist -- studying in California with 60's and 70's art icons like Allan Kaprow, David and Eleanor Antin and Helen and Newton Harrison. The experience was ''formative,'' he says. Even so, when Krens called, Govan moved to New York. He was 25.

He seemed like a baby technocrat, only more easygoing and personable than his boss. He would look pained while defending the museum for cutting staff or closing the library, but he also spoke Krens's business-school jargon.

Sometimes he, not Krens, seemed actually to be running the place. Besides helping to get Bilbao off the ground, Govan organized exhibitions, including a Dan Flavin show, and negotiated the purchase of Count Giuseppe Panza di Biumo's collection of Minimal and Post-Minimal art (a collection Friedrich helped to put together years before). The Panza purchase, which caused a public firestorm because the Guggenheim sold valuable paintings to make it, was the sort of risky venture and large-scale commitment to the art of the 60's and 70's that, in retrospect, made Govan a logical choice to take over Dia.

Despite the seeming symbiosis, in retrospect Govan had big differences with Krens that weren't apparent. Both were deal makers, but Govan's interests were more in art and artists than in fancy new architecture. He now speaks respectfully of his former mentor, who was hurt when he quit for Dia. ''It was thrilling at the Guggenheim,'' Govan told me when I met with him recently at Beacon. Krens, he said, had lately arrived unannounced on his motorcycle, with the actor Jeremy Irons. Govan laughed. ''On a day-to-day level,'' he added about his time at the Guggenheim, ''nothing could possibly be as exciting as working for Tom.''

When he was appointed as Dia's director, Govan made pilgrimages to Marfa and to Arizona to see Turrell's crater. Lynne Cooke, Dia's curator, introduced him to Michael Heizer, and he visited ''City.'' He reached out to Friedrich. He became the good son to several difficult fathers, like Heizer and De Maria, patiently giving them the sort of attention no one else did for years. Dia's board, lately expanded, now included Mimi Haas, heir to the Levi's jeans fortune; Ann Tenenbaum, whose husband is the venture capitalist Thomas Lee; Fred Henry, whose money came from publishing; and Anne Lannan. Her husband, Patrick, ran a $150 million foundation then supporting cutting-edge art.

Govan undertook a $12 million fund-raising campaign, which included a matching grant from the Mellon Foundation, $1 million if Dia could raise $5 million, a feat not even Mellon seemed to think Dia could pull off at the time. A rift opened on the board. To raise money, some trustees wanted to sell more property. They proposed unloading the building housing ''Broken Kilometer.'' Govan threatened to quit. Wright, Haas, Henry and Tenenbaum supported him. They called for restructuring the board. Hawkins resigned. Others followed.

The brouhaha dragged on for months as disgruntled former Dia trustees now lashed out in the media. They accused Govan's supporters of being social climbers, a curious accusation considering how marginal Dia remained in social spheres, notwithstanding that its annual gala had become fashionable. Meanwhile, Dominique de Menil, Friedrich's adversary in the first coup, joined the board. Wright became chairman. And, significantly, Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble, became a trustee.

Modern art's big patrons, if not arrivistes, are often newcomers, attracted by its argot and milieu. Dealers, artists and museum directors are happy to take advantage of their largess. Riggio, a rough-edged mass-market businessman, may seem the most unlikely devotee of cerebral and rarefied art -- until you recall that Judd, Serra, Turrell and Heizer are rough-edged in their own rights. In his office on lower Fifth Avenue, Riggio, now Dia's chairman, talked reverently one day about what he calls his ''conversion'': ''When Jay Chiat asked me to join the board, I asked the question everybody asks: 'What is Dia?' He told me it had great parties. My epiphany came when I saw Serra's 'Torqued Ellipses.' I immediately got the idea of the single artist space, seeing art in its own environment. I just got the concept of Judd, Flavin and all the others without even seeing their work yet.''

Riggio bought the Serras for Dia. ''My real intellectual awakening had come in the 60's,'' he told me. ''The big concept then was the integrity of the individual, the potential of every human being. When I built my business, I was thinking about bookstores for average citizens, for the whole of society. Then I went to Marfa and Roden Crater and visited Heizer in Nevada, and I thought these artists recognized the genius of the average American. Judd built his museum in a little Texas town. Turrell was hiring Native Americans from the area. Heizer was working with local people.''

Meanwhile, Patrick Lannan, Dia's other big patron, spent millions to revive projects like ''City,'' which until then seemed as if it might remain the most immense private folly ever conceived. Thanks to the injection of cash, after 30 years Heizer completed the first phase: huge dirt complexes rimming a vast, empty courtyard, in turn rimmed by massive mountains, whose silhouettes alert a visitor to the silhouettes of the massive structures Heizer erected. Then Heizer launched into the rest of ''City.''

Heizer's project, Riggio says, ''represents humankind's highest aspirations, spending a lifetime on a single project, pouring every ounce of energy, his entire soul, whatever money he makes into it. One man building his own equivalent of the pyramids. It's incredibly beautiful. After all, what is art? That's the big question.

''It exists at the intersection between the work and the viewer. Most museums are on an endless acquisitions binge. Their identity is defined by their architecture, and artists have to fit into the galleries. Dia has little institutional identity outside the projects we fund, and no objective except to sustain art on its terms.''

That's the point of Beacon, he adds, which was, in fact, Govan's last alternative for a home for Dia's collection, still slumbering in storage. His first thought was to exhibit the art at Mass MoCA, the place he, Krens and Thompson concocted. Thompson ran it. But putting the collection there meant turning it over to another institution. Govan then looked into a building in Chelsea and also asked New York State about leasing a pier on the Hudson. The building fell through. Dia was told it might take a decade to get approval for the pier.

At that point, Govan recalled piloting a small rented plane up the Hudson in 1998, accompanied by Lynne Cooke and the architect Richard Gluckman. They happened over the derelict Nabisco factory. ''Michael, that's the building you want,'' Gluckman said.

The factory sprawled beside railroad tracks that take passenger trains up from New York City. A long, low building on 31 acres with ''Nabisco'' in faded letters still visible from a passing train as a kind of pentimento just below the roofline, it turned out to require $1 million in environmental cleanup but had good bones. Riggio and Govan brokered a deal with International Paper, the owner, then got the state to contribute $2.7 million. (Beacon is Gov. George Pataki's neighborhood.) The acquisition and renovation took four years.

Now opportunistic developers, New York art dealers and a few public art projects, seeing how Dia became an anchor for cultural development in Chelsea, are already anticipating that people will make the hourlong pilgrimage upriver from the city, and they have been buying property, opening galleries and turning Beacon into an artistic boom town.

Govan gives me a tour of the factory in late winter, when the place is still mostly empty. He starts outside, pointing to where Robert Irwin, the artist, has planted rows of trees -- hawthorns, hornbeams and crab apples, still barren -- in front of the building to soften the mass of the facade. Irwin has also designed a formal garden on the side facing the river, mixing weeping hemlocks, cherry trees and Japanese barberries. Everything is simple and discreet. The focus is on the art.

An entrance to the building, also by Irwin, is a kind of Frank Lloyd Wright touch, akin to the entrance at the Guggenheim in Manhattan: a tight vestibule like a small compression chamber through which the galleries beyond look even more gigantic than they are. Inside, electricians and painters are puttering. Govan notices fluorescent lights overhead and fumbles with a light box before asking one of the workers to help turn them off. ''They're just for emergencies,'' he says. ''The natural light is plenty year round.'' With the overhead lights off, sun, pouring through row upon row of skylights, bathes the space and bounces off the maple floors. Most of the skylights are saw-toothed windows, some 25,000 square feet of them, facing north. Although austere, thanks to the light the building feels serene and comfortable. Riggio had told me: ''When I saw what other people would describe as a wreck of a factory, I was blown away by the ribbons of north light. It's genius. The people who designed it may have wanted to cool the place in summer or light it for the printers, but I've dabbled in industrial psychology. This is a place that makes humans feel better for being there.''

Govan points to empty rooms. Here will go the Agnes Martins, he says, there the Warhols, there the Gerhard Richters, there the Darbovens and the Joseph Beuyses. (It is not just Americans at Beacon.) The choice of artists, as always at Dia, is idiosyncratic. Cooke, Govan's collaborator in installing Beacon, argued passionately for, among others, Louise Bourgeois, whose work will now occupy the attic, and for artists like Darboven, On Kawara and Robert Smithson. Several different-size galleries survey the paintings of Robert Ryman. The Warhol room alone is nearly as large as a floor of Dia's Chelsea gallery. The building is so big that its scale is deceptive. A passage between two huge galleries looks from a distance only slightly larger than a normal doorway, but up close it's clear you could drive a Hummer through it.

Next Govan shows me the room for Kawara's identical gray canvases with a different date printed in block letters on each one. Kawara, like other artists, was invited to design his own space at Beacon, so he had the doorways at either end lowered and moved slightly off center and all the floorboards taken up so that a layer of ceramicized red-oak branches could be put underneath them. Govan tells me this is to ionize and purify the air in the room, ''a traditional Japanese construction technique,'' he says.

Serra's immense ''Torqued Ellipses,'' cottage-size, walk-in steel sculptures weighing hundreds of tons already occupy what used to be the factory's train depot, which opens onto the formal garden. Wedged into a passageway nearby, if a space the size of a gynmasium counts as a passageway, Serra's ''Union of the Torus and Sphere'' resembles the warped steel hull of a beached ship, an ungainly, enigmatic container that cannot be entered, only circumnavigated. The placement in tight quarters stresses the work's mass.

And Heizer's ''North, East, South, West'' is embedded in a 150-foot-by-40-foot concrete floor on the opposite side of the building. The Heizer, a variation on a groundbreaking work he did in 1967 in the Sierra Nevada, consists of vertigo-inducing geometric holes cut into the concrete floor, made of Cor-Ten steel, in the shapes of a double square, a cone, a partial upside-down cone and a wedge. The holes are up to 20 feet deep. A glass rail will cordon off the work and limit visitors to a few at a time. But no barriers immediately surround the holes. To stare down into them requires walking right up to the unprotected edges and leaning over. It is thrilling and deeply alarming -- a little like standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, I realize, which people also want to do for the view despite the danger, or maybe because of it. This kind of art, typical of Heizer's generation, aspires to a similar condition: call it extreme wonderment. To the inevitable question, How will he prevent people from falling in, Govan responds with a sheepish smile. Maybe bungee cords tethered to the walls, he says. He's not kidding.

Renovation costs for Dia ultimately exceeded $30 million, a hefty sum for a marginal nonprofit art foundation, which next will have to figure out how to pay for renovating its aging Chelsea site. Riggio and Lannan reached deep into their pockets, also coming up with millions for more art to put in Beacon. Counting the cost of Irwin's landscaping, Beacon came to under $100 a square foot. Bilbao topped four times that. Beacon is the anti-Bilbao: cheaper, a renovation to an old industrial building, not brand new; shaped by artists, not an architect; a harbinger, perhaps, of a straitened new century. Frank Gehry's spectacular building, the product of a booming economy, exemplified the go-go 1990's and inspired museums elsewhere desperate to mimic its novelty and civic attraction. Tom Krens's grand plan for the Guggenheim empire has been to open signature buildings around the globe, shuttling the same shows through them: Guggenheim branches functioning as spectacular shells, fancy containers sharing the same products. Another one, designed by Jean Nouvel, is slated for Brazil.

Dia:Beacon, although also grandiose, is the reverse: a permanent display of art in a space consonant with it. You could say the same thing about the affiliated projects around Dia, including ''Roden Crater,'' Smithson's ''Spiral Jetty,'' Heizer's ''City'' and De Maria's ''Lightning Field.''

Touring Beacon with Govan, I notice De Maria in the twin main galleries, the first, cavernous rooms past Irwin's vestibule, each 100 yards long and about 13 yards wide. A virtual recluse for so many years that many people think he is dead, De Maria keeps to himself, as usual, declining to talk, instead arranging large circles and squares of cardboard on the floor, mock-ups of flat, polished stainless-steel sculptures. For weeks, De Maria has apparently been pondering minute changes in the placement of the sculptures in these vast rooms, shifting them an inch or less this way or that, his fixation with detail being the obsessive essence of Minimalism's paradoxically immense ambition.

The only color in the building at this point comes from a couple of John Chamberlain's crushed-car sculptures. But a crew is now starting to unpack crates of Warhol's ''Shadow'' paintings: near-abstract variations on the same obscure image, many in Day-Glo hues. Govan, snowblind after staring at the same white walls for so many months, is elated. ''I've been waiting for years for this,'' he says.

I nod. Even so, the large empty rooms, the light and glass and peace and quiet, make the paintings seem almost like an intrusion. To get acclimated to Beacon is to become attuned to an aesthetic of plainspoken industrial spaces, simple forms and a kind of meditative silence that is the antithesis of the usual museum experience. It is a somewhat peculiar reaction to have to a museum. But then Dia has always been a most peculiar kind of museum.

Michael Kimmelman is the chief art critic of The New York Times.

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Prejudice still haunts mixed-race couples

Asia | Saturday 19:24:33 EST | comments (0)

Prejudice still haunts mixed-race couples
By Vanessa Hua Friday, April 4, 2003

We were strolling one night toward a French bistro in San Francisco.

"Chink lover," spat out a man who passed by us.

I didn't hear what he said, but my boyfriend, Marc -- now my fiance -- told me. I flushed and turned around, enraged. By then, the man had crossed the street and was on the next block. Still, I yelled after him, screaming that he was the one alone and a loser.

I could have laughed it off, made jokes about how exhausted he must be, insulting the legions of mixed-race couples living in the Bay Area. He was just a drunk in gym shorts.

Instead, I was embarrassed. Although he was rude, I felt as if I had committed the transgression. His insult wasn't even aimed at me but at Marc, who was tainted by his association with an Asian woman.

The remark left us uneasy. Marc said it was unfair that I was angry at him for not defending me. The drunk wasn't worth the effort. I worried that he didn't understand what it meant to be a minority. But if we stayed upset, we would have let the name-caller succeed -- so we made up.

But why did our relationship enflame the man on the street? What did a white man with an Asian woman symbolize?

A few months later, on a trip to Thailand, we made a game of spotting what we dubbed "odd couples": tall, gangly foreigners with tiny Thai women. They held hands, dined together at open-air cafes and snuggled on the beach.

In private, I wavered from anger -- "that's exploitation" -- to moral relativism -- "she's doing what she needs to survive, and he's finding comfort the only way he can."

In public, I spoke loudly in English and wore my Tevas and other backpacking garb in an attempt to appear American and not as someone's paid consort.

It didn't work. Even Thais mistook me for one of them, pitching me deals in their language as we walked by restaurants or the airport.

I didn't want to be lumped together with the prostitutes and the girlfriends who came with a fee.

Maybe that's what bothered me so much about the jerk on the street -- his implication that all Asian women were somehow lower than white men. That only women with desperate financial need and lonely men would cross the color line.

When my fiance asked for my father's blessing before he proposed, Dad warned that my career was important to me. Marc replied that my ambition was part of what he loved about me.

The two of us met in Spanish class and practiced what we learned in Peru, Panama, Mexico and in the Mission District.

Last fall, on a trip to the North Carolina's Outer Banks, a friend predicted that Marc and I would last. I drove and he navigated so well together -- proof, she said, that we were meant to be.

In the Bay Area, every few months, the debate over Asian women/white men flares up on the online site Craigslist. The arguments always tread the same ground: Asian women steal white men from white women, wimpy whites seek subservient Asians, Asians try to social-climb out of their race.

The common explanation: "I know this is true because it happened to me."

What irks me is their belief that personal experience makes someone an authority. Behind their arguments is the assumption that all interracial relationships are the same, and by corollary, so are the people in them.

There is a long history of white male domination in Asia, with its women among the spoils of war. I don't deny that patterns emerge from cumulative experience. But I don't want to be grouped with other people who look like me, just as other individuals do not want to be confused with me.

I can speak only for myself.

E-mail Vanessa Hua at vahua@sfchronicle.com. Jon Carroll is on vacation.

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Restaurants On the Fringe, And Thriving

Living | Saturday 19:23:01 EST | comments (0)

Restaurants On the Fringe, And Thriving

IT was 9 o'clock on a Friday night at Mamasan's Bistro in the Mission District and the food was running a little late, but no one seemed to mind. Two dozen diners perched on folding chairs, listening to a hip-hop D.J. spin classic De La Soul in the glow of the Christmas lights dangling overhead. The restaurant's proprietor, a willowy 37-year-old woman who would reveal only her first name, Lynette, was in the kitchen placidly doctoring coconut yams on her crowded four-burner stove.

''This place has become my second home,'' said Carlos Castille, an artist, as he sipped a coconut-mango cocktail. ''There's a comfort to it. It's so mellow. I've brought all my friends.''

But securing a seat at Mamasan's is not easy. The restaurant, which also happens to be Lynette's apartment, has no sign, and the only way you will ever find it is if someone tells you where it is (a quiet street, a hidden door, up a dark stairwell to the top apartment).

Even then, you can't just show up: you must have an invitation. To get one you need an introduction from a previous guest. This may seem as if it's a complicated way to get a plate of grilled salmon, but Mamasan's Bistro is not a legal endeavor. Its kitchen lacks the certificates, permits and inspections required by the city of San Francisco. And although the coconut-mango cocktails flowed, Lynette does not have a liquor license.

Mamasan's is not, however, an anomaly. Restaurants of dubious legality, where food is cooked in apartments and backyards, abound across the United States. These underground restaurants range from upscale to gritty, and are born from youthful idealism, ethnic tradition or economic necessity. They lack certification from any government agency and are, strictly speaking, against the law. You dine in them at your own risk. If you can find them.

Over the last four years, Lynette said, more than a thousand customers have come through her doors to eat pungent Chamorran dishes from Guam, where she was raised in the local Chamorro culture. She cooks them with her 61-year-old mother, the Mamasan of the restaurant's name.

''I've worked at restaurants for years, and dealing with the public is a beast,'' Lynette said. ''You don't get to edit who comes into your space, and it becomes a very sterile exchange of goods. I like knowing who is coming, and whether they understand what I'm doing.''

Lynette describes her restaurant as a kind of ''party'' -- albeit one that comes with a bill -- and many underground restaurateurs harbor similar visions. Most chefs, after all, cook because they want to feed people great meals, but in the end, the compliments of satisfied diners are not always compensation for the headaches of running a business.

Club Azteca, in a private home in San Pablo, Calif., is open only on Saturday mornings. Customers sometimes drive hours for its menudo and lamb birria. Azteca, which starts serving at 6 a.m., is about eight months old.

''My parents used to run a restaurant before, but it was never as much fun as this,'' said Erika Carravieri, 30, who helps her parents operate the place. ''Everyone drinks and sings, and at 6 o'clock in the morning! When they were running a restaurant, my mom aged so much in a year.''

Gray hair is exactly what Michael Hebbe and Naomi Pomeroy hoped to avoid when they started Ripe in Portland, Ore. The young couple had cooked at a number of the city's better-known restaurants and knew, they said, how deflating and impersonal the professional cooking experience could be.

''The kitchen is demeaning,'' Mr. Hebbe said. ''You cook for people you don't see. All you hear from guests is, 'This is undercooked' or 'This needs to be redone.' That environment doesn't seem sustainable or healthy, which is why the staff turnover at restaurants is so incredible.''

Ripe, in contrast, was conceived three years ago as a twice-a-month supper club for a select group of guests. Their first night, Mr. Hebbe and Ms. Pomeroy served 22 people in their living-room-turned-dining room. Within months they had an online mailing list in the thousands and a bustling catering business.

Ripe recently moved into a tiny licensed commercial kitchen in the back of a downtown office building and is now, Mr. Hebbe said, ''fairly legal.'' Guests pay $20 (not including wine and dessert) to eat cassoulet or risotto served out of communal bowls.

After only two years of business, Mr. Hebbe says that Ripe is also profitable, which is more than most new restaurants can say. Mr. Hebbe attributes this to Ripe's underground roots. After all, he did not have to make an initial investment in a building or lay out a bundle for licenses, or insurance, or marketing, or staff. Starting a restaurant from scratch, depending on ambition and location, can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.

''The startup cost of most operations is astronomical,'' Mr. Hebbe said. ''It's impossible to do it by the book and make money in your first three to five years.''

Working underground can also be a way for a would-be restaurateur to test the waters of professional cooking. Joseph DeSalazar, 27, an advertising executive, runs a sporadically open restaurant called Foodies, serving dinner in various rented lofts in New York City. He ventured into his floating concern after spending his weekends volunteering in the kitchens at Café Boulud and 11 Madison Park. ''With Foodies, I didn't feel like I was making a lifelong commitment,'' he said. ''It isn't a fixed location, I don't have any expectations to live up to, and it can change every time.''

Many underground concerns are born of neighborhood necessity. According to Jim Leff, a food critic who founded the Web site Chowhound.com, apartment-based restaurants are common among Brazilian and African families who live in immigrant communities in Queens. One family, he said, might make it its business to prepare cheap takeout meals for an entire apartment building.

''They are filling a niche that isn't filled by restaurants,'' Mr. Leff said, ''doing it in areas where there are no restaurants, doing it at lower price points, or serving traditional dishes that restaurants are afraid to serve because they are too unusual.''

Most underground restaurants are a simple matter of economic necessity. Mr. Leff's favorite, he said, is the domain of a ''genius'' cook who once ran the ''best Venezuelan restaurant in New York.'' After that restaurant closed in a dispute between business partners, the cook could not afford to open her own establishment, so she began cooking out of the basement of her house in Queens.

''I've eaten there on card tables,'' Mr. Leff said. ''She is basically a homeless chef. Housing is not the only thing that's being priced out of the league of real people.''

The downside of running an underground restaurant is, of course, the chance of getting caught by the licensing authorities. Laws vary from state to state; in California, a dining establishment must comply with local zoning restrictions and be inspected by the fire department, the liquor authority and the health department. In addition, a state-certified ''food handler'' must be on staff at all times. New York has comparable requirements.

''It's all about how to avoid making people sick,'' said Jack Breslin, director of the consumer protection program at the San Francisco health department. ''If no one is looking over my shoulder to see how I'm storing, processing and serving my food, the greater the risk of something bad happening.''

And although the health department, at least in San Francisco, probably will not throw underground restaurateurs in jail, it will shut them down if it sniffs them out, which is one reason most advertise only by word of mouth. (Mr. Leff recommends asking taxi drivers.) On Internet sites like Chowhound.com, diners often lament the passing of beloved underground boîtes, like the Blue Tarp Thai restaurant in West Philadelphia, where until this summer, students and professors from the University of Pennsylvania ate green papaya salad at tables in the backyard of the Phanthavong family's row house.

Sunny Phanthavong, 18, said the family knew their restaurant was illegal, ''but thought we were doing something positive for the community.'' After several years in business, they were discovered by an observant police officer. ''He was writing a ticket for someone who was eating outside while parked illegally, and saw through the gate,'' Ms. Phanthavong explained.

In November, after receiving a loan from a community-oriented university program, the family reopened legally as the Vientiane Cafe, but it is not the same, Ms. Phanthavong said. ''I miss the old days of the backyard,'' she said.

Another drawback to the business of running an underground restaurant is the simple wear and tear that occurs when strangers troop through your home. Over the years, Lynette of Mamasan's Bistro has lost, she said, ''pretty much every good CD'' she has owned to light-fingered guests. And one reason Mr. Hebbe in Portland decided to move Ripe into a licensed kitchen was concern about his white carpets. ''Every two weeks our living room got ripped out to make space for tables,'' he said, ''and then we had to tear it down and clean up, and then two weeks later do it again. And we had to wash every single dish by hand.''

He may someday look back on those days of constant furniture rearranging and dish-water hands with fondness. Veva Edelson began her career running an illegal cafe in her home in Arcata, Calif., cooking vegetarian cuisine at bargain-basement prices. Today, although a co-owner of Firefly, a well-reviewed, popular and quite legal restaurant in San Francisco, she is sometimes nostalgic for its predecessor. ''I have dreams that I'm moving Firefly into my mother's living room and that it's now a one-night-a-week restaurant, off the books and cash only, where people just come and enjoy themselves,'' she said. ''There's so much less expectation when something is amateur.''

Up in her crowded apartment, Lynette occasionally thinks about making Mamasan's legitimate. Last year, she looked into a restaurant space, but became discouraged when she realized that it would cost $250,000 to renovate it and bring it up to code. So Mamasan's continues as a part-time restaurant that, while barely taking in enough money to cover the rent, has the virtue of retaining its personal touch.

''I do it for the love, mostly,'' she said. ''I don't exactly want to boast that I have an illegal establishment in my house, but this is how artists survive.''

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4 April 2003

Iraq's Not Vietnam

PQ+ | Friday 01:37:12 EST | comments (0)

[all this light resistence is just too eerie. i hope our forces are not walking right into a trap.]

Iraq's Not Vietnam

UMM QASR, Iraq — Let's be clear: Iraq will not turn into another Vietnam.

I keep getting doleful e-mail from Vietnam vets drawing the comparison, but it's false. Sure, bloody street fighting in Baghdad may lie ahead, even after a couple of days of breathtaking coalition advances. But the U.S. will easily win this war — expeditiously by historical standards (remember that just four years ago, President Clinton required 78 days of airstrikes to subdue the Serbs and protect Kosovo).

Yet if this isn't Vietnam, neither is it the Afghanistan campaign, where we were hailed as liberators. I was in Afghanistan during that war, and the difference is manifest. Afghans were giddy and jubilant, while Iraqis now are typically sullen and distrustful — and thirsty.

And that's our biggest long-term problem. For all the talk about our forces being short of armored divisions, or our supply lines being stretched so taut that marines were down to one meal a day, those are tactical issues that will be forgotten six months from now. The fundamental and strategic challenge is that so far many ordinary Iraqis regard us, as best I can tell, as conquerors rather than liberators.

Vice President Dick Cheney said on "Meet the Press" on March 16 that "we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." And Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said of the Iraqis in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on March 11: "Like the people of France in the 1940's, they view us as their hoped-for liberator. They know that America will not come as a conqueror."

It's too early to know definitively what Iraqis think, and for now, the signals are mixed, with jubilation in Najaf and anger in many other areas. Iraq these days is almost as varied, tribal and polarized a society as the U.S. (a California bumper sticker declares, "Regime change starts at home"). All in all, most Iraqis seem watchful and ambivalent, as reflected in this conversation I had near Safwan with a Shiite farmer in his 40's.

"Money was O.K. under Saddam," he said. "Freedom was not so good. As a people, we were doing O.K. before the invasion. But the war upsets our lives. It brings destruction."

"Do you think the aftermath of the war will bring improvements?" I asked.

He shrugged. "Only God knows."

"So do you think Saddam is a good president or a bad president?"

"Saddam is a good president." Long pause. "Well, maybe not good. So-so."

Fear of Saddam explains some of the reticence (half the Iraqis I've asked have said Saddam will win the war), but you also see nationalism fermenting in Iraqis who proclaim that they will fight U.S. occupation the way Palestinians fight Israeli occupation. The risk is not that America will lose the war, but that it will never fully establish a peace. Already the coalition-controlled south is, particularly after dusk, a Hobbesian world of banditry and anarchy. One Arab expert dourly suggested to me that Iraq could emerge as "another Lebanon."

Yet even if many Iraqis are suspicious now, there's hope of bringing them around. Consider Germany and Japan in 1945, when initial attitudes toward Americans were ferocious. One of my best Japanese friends was born in 1945, and his father wrote from the field to instruct his mother to kill the baby if the American brutes landed in Japan. As for Germany, the first significant German city occupied by the Americans was Aachen, and there the U.S. troops initially could not find a single German sympathetic to the Allies.

Sensitivity and diplomacy managed to turn around public opinion in Japan and Germany, and it's reassuring that the coalition has shown such sensitivity in its march on Baghdad and its patient siege of Basra, which could be a model for the siege of Baghdad. But this administration wages war better than it wages diplomacy, and the Pentagon's apparent plan to make an Iraqi leader out of Ahmad Chalabi, whose support lies along the Potomac rather than the Tigris or Euphrates, is emblematic of the administration's Attila-the-Hun brand of diplomacy, which risks antagonizing the world and alienating the Iraqi people themselves.

So today the paramount question is not whether we will win this war, but whether we can persuade ordinary Iraqis to accept our victory. The Iraqi jury is still out. The danger is not that Iraq will turn into another Vietnam but that after our victory, it could turn into another Lebanon or Gaza.

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Both the Starkly New and Routinely Old Shape Daily Life

PQ+ | Friday 01:36:22 EST | comments (0)

Both the Starkly New and Routinely Old Shape Daily Life

BAGHDAD, Iraq, April 3 - For one motorcycle patrolman here today, it seemed to matter little that columns of American troops were as close as the airport, or that the drivers still on the roads might have reasons to hasten in a city under heavy bombing, or even that the government whose laws he enforces might not be quite so solid as its ceaseless announcements of battlefield triumphs have implied.

Idling on the embankment beside the Tigris on a perfect spring day, the leather-jacketed patrolman spotted a car careering though a red light, and gave chase.

From an 11th-floor balcony of the Palestine Hotel, it was not possible to hear what the driver of the red Mercedes said when he was pulled over halfway down the block, but his gestures conveyed the essence powerfully enough. "Get real," the driver seemed to be saying. "Look at the sky. Look across the river. The old is giving way to the new."

Across the river, in plain view not 1,000 yards away, lay Saddam Hussein's principal palace complex, and within it the burned-out, blackened ruins of the old seats of power. Above, through much of the day, were the vapor trails of American bombers. Some were visible through field glasses as B-52's that arrowed in needle-straight from the northwest.

Untroubled by antiaircraft fire, they curved southward toward the front lines where American troops were pushing through the battered lines of the Republican Guard, or banked to the east to home in on targets in the heart of Baghdad.

Since the war began two weeks ago, the people of Baghdad have been exposed to a reality so stark, so astonishing, so overwhelming, that those who have witnessed it have struggled to find words adequate to express what they have seen.

To have been in Berlin or Dresden or Hamburg in the last months of World War II would surely have been more ghastly, for the sheer numbers of casualties caused by the Allies' bombing.

But American air power, as the 21st century begins, is a terrible swift sword that strikes with a suddenness, a devastation and a precision, in most cases, that moves even agnostics to reach for words associated with the power of gods.

Along with this, life under the bombing has continued to roll forward with an everyday nonchalance that, in its own way, has been as hard to adjust to as the bombing.

On the same street where the driver was pulled over this morning, a man who owns a boutique selling expensive perfumes to the Iraqi elite - a man dependent on the custom of people grown rich and powerful under the nearly 24-year-old rule of Mr. Hussein, and thus a man whose fortunes could be about to tank - was busy washing his open-top Japanese jeep, with red flashes on the side to mark him as a man with zip. Car washed, he took the hose to the plants flanking his boutique's doorway.

If there was any doubt that Iraqis in the neighborhood had some idea of what was going on just beyond the horizon, it disappeared at another sight on the same street, of policemen at a precinct house gathering on the sidewalk, six or seven at a time, to gaze down the Tigris past the point where the muddy green river turns from its southbound course through the city's heart to curve southwest.

For days, those gazing across the river have been measuring the devastation wrought by the bombing on the Republican Palace compound that is enfolded by the river's curve, but today the policemen's arms were pointing past the palace grounds, down the river, to an invisible point 10 or 20 miles away where the American Third Infantry Division was rapidly moving north.

The officer chasing the motorist, the perfume man washing his car, the policemen standing in the street: All were testaments, in the way they ignored today's bombing raids, to how little threatened, individually, most people in Baghdad seem to have felt by the air attacks.

The news this morning that American troops were nearing Saddam International Airport, 10 miles from the city center to the southwest, and had taken control of the highway leading west to Jordan at Abu Ghraib, 15 miles from the capital's heart, caused many families who had sat out the bombing to leave the city, many to the north where there has been no massed American advance, others to the east toward Iran, some even southward toward the American front lines.

The fear driving the exodus, by car, bus and truck, was of street-to-street fighting, revenge killings, a last-minute paroxysm of violence by the enforcers of the terror that has bludgeoned Iraq for three decades. For many Iraqis, this has been the nightmare all along, the least calculable part of the "price" they tell Westerners they have known would come with any American invasion to topple Mr. Hussein.

The implication in these whispered conversations has been that there has been a price, in limited casualties, that many, perhaps even most, Iraqis would be prepared to pay for their freedom, but that equally there was a price that would be too high.

With the battle for Baghdad about to be joined, that price will now be set, and with it, an outsider can imagine, the estimate many Iraqis will ultimately make of the war. But many people in Baghdad seem to have made their judgment about the air campaign already.

After the first few days, life in the city's streets gradually began reviving as confidence grew that there was not going to be widespread carnage, with American bombs and missiles striking wildly at civilians. Today, as for many days past, city-center gathering spots like Liberation Square, site of the lamppost hangings of nine Iraqi Jews condemned for spying in 1969, were busy with fruit and vegetable sellers, and hawkers doing brisk trade in the water canisters and buckets, duct tape and canned food, sacks of flour and candles, that have been the biggest sellers in recent weeks.

That American bombs and missiles have gone astray is beyond challenge. Pentagon officials acknowledged before the war that even with the advances in satellite-guided targeting systems since the Persian Gulf war in 1991, no technology was foolproof, and mistakes would be made. How many there have been in this war will be clearer when the fighting ends, but the impression gained from living the war in the center of Baghdad has been that many of the strikes that have been visible - either from the grandstand view afforded by the Palestine Hotel's balconies, or from the guided bus tours of bomb sites around the city organized by Iraqi Information Ministry officials - have been astonishingly accurate.

On visits to neighborhoods around the city, reporters have seen homes, workshops and sidewalks where airstrikes have killed dozens of civilians and wounded many more. In some cases, the huge size of the craters, the proximity to military installations and witnesses' accounts have lent credibility to the Iraqi claims that the strikes were responsible.

In others, including the marketplace bombing that Iraq said killed 62 people in the Shula district of western Baghdad on Friday, there have been more questions than answers. Often, as in Shula, officials have delayed taking reporters to the site for hours, and have met with evasions the inquiries about the unusually small crater at the marketplace, and the fact that most victims appeared to have died from shrapnel wounds and not from the kind of blast associated with high-energy bombs and missiles.

Iraqi officials asserted today that their toll for civilian casualties from all forms of American arms was 677 killed and 5,062 wounded, of whom about one third have been in Baghdad.

The information minister, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, said at a news conference at noon that the civilian toll from the bombing in the capital in the previous 24 hours alone was 27 dead and 193 wounded. But he gave no incident-by-incident breakdown, and, as has often been the case, Western reporters and photographers dependent on Iraqi permission to visit bombing sites were given no opportunity to judge for themselves.

For many journalists who have witnessed it, the most powerful image of the bombing, apart from visits to sites where significant numbers of Iraqis died, has been of target after target that has been struck with the precision of a sniper's bullet.

Over a few days in the last week, at least six inner-city telephone exchanges were destroyed, apparently to disrupt the Iraqi leadership's ability to conduct the war from the safety of underground bunkers and other hideouts. In almost every case, the missiles or bombs used appeared to have struck bulls-eyes in the roofs, plunging downward into the buildings' hearts before exploding with a force that left nothing but dangling wires, shattered concrete and twisted steel. At two exchanges, hours later, a lone beeper continued to wail in the wreckage, like a bell tolling for the departed.

But the striking thing, in these cases, was that even Iraqi officials made no claims of deaths. The neighborhoods where the exchanges and other probable targets are situated were mostly abandoned days ahead of the strikes, as were the targets.

The Information Ministry, struck three times by cruise missiles in as many days, emptied out after the Pentagon gave what turned out to be 48 hours' notice that it would be attacked. Iraqi officials said only one man had been wounded.

One destroyed telephone exchange, in the Salhiya district near the Baghdad railway station, was obliterated, with no visible damage apart from debris falling in the garden to the adjacent compound, 100 feet away, that houses the Saddam Center for Cardiac Surgery.

Putting together the American war in Iraq as told by Americans, and Iraq's war with America as told by Iraqis, has been one of the more bizarre aspects of the conflict as experienced from Baghdad.

To hear the Iraqi ministers tell it, American and British forces have suffered defeat after humiliating defeat.

Today, Mr. Sahhaf, the information minister, bounced into the daily briefings, a short, stocky, burnished man in green uniform and black beret, ever ready to rock back with laughter at the felicity of his Soviet-style phrase-making about the "criminals" and "villains" and "mercenaries" and "lackeys" who have invaded Iraq.

Unfailingly courteous, he could almost be called a jolly fellow, save for the pistol he wears at his hip, a reminder that the government he serves has rarely stinted to resort to more persuasive forms of argumentation when discourse has run its course.

By early this afternoon, American reports from the battlefront suggested that Iraqi defenses around Baghdad, as well as at Basra, Nasiriya, Najaf and Kut, were taking a pounding. But Mr. Sahhaf was as bullish as ever. At Kut, he said, the Americans had been "bitterly defeated." At Hilla, too.

"We're giving them a real lesson today," he burbled. "'Heavy' doesn't accurately describe the level of casualties we have inflicted."

As for reports that American troops were nearing the airport at Baghdad, he chuckled. "The Americans aren't even 100 miles from Baghdad," he said.

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At Airport, Bombs Provide the Only Light

PQ+ | Friday 01:34:34 EST | comments (0)

At Airport, Bombs Provide the Only Light

SADDAM INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Iraq, April 3 — Iraq's international airport was dark tonight and strangely quiet. Baghdad itself lay shrouded in darkness for the first time since the war began, lighted only by the intermittent white flash of American bombs and the red streaks of anti-aircraft fire rising into the night like feeble fireworks.

The first tanks of the Army's Third Infantry Division arrived at 7:30 p.m., punching through the outer wall of the sprawling airport, a strategic prize that American commanders consider a potent symbol of President Saddam Hussein's 24-year rule and now, with its apparent capture, of his looming downfall.

"This is weird," said Col. William F. Grimsley, commander of the division's First Brigade, whose troops led the assault on the airport, about 10 miles from the heart of Baghdad. "It's like spooky weird." His forces had faced only light resistance at dusk and then later virtually no resistance at all.

Only hours after the brigade's officers met beside an armored command post along the eastern shore of the Euphrates River and grimly reviewed intelligence reports warning of fortified strongholds of Iraq's most elite forces, the American division's armored forces cut off Baghdad from the south and southwest, forming the start of a ring that commanders have said will ultimately circle the city.

After crossing the Euphrates at Yasin al-Khudayr, about 25 miles south of Baghdad, during a brief but intense battle on Tuesday, the First Brigade occupied the southern part of this airport and by tonight had begun to press northward as more columns of tanks and armored vehicles rumbled through the breaches in the airport's walls.

Other parts of the airport — including the passenger terminal — were not under the control of American forces tonight, though it was not clear whether they were under Iraqi control either.

Tonight Air Force jets dropped three satellite-guided bombs that reverberated with thunderous claps as they struck barracks and hangars on the airport's northern side, briefly casting an orange glow that quickly subsided.

The airport — rather than Baghdad itself — was the division's ultimate objective when it crossed the border from Kuwait on March 20. The absence, so far, of sustained resistance from Iraq's most vaunted and feared forces — the Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard — baffled soldiers and officers, who had girded themselves for a final battle on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Colonel Grimsley and other officers speculated that the division's soldiers had deserted or had died after more than two weeks of aerial bombardment, including intense strikes on the airport itself in the last 48 hours. Others were at a loss. "I'm flabbergasted," said Capt. Michael J. MacKinnon, a staff officer with the brigade's tactical command post.

In at least one case it created an acute edginess. "They're there," Sgt. Maj. Gary J. Coker, an engineer, said as he arrived tonight, gesturing into the blackness. "They're out there right now."

As if in response, six Iraqi anti-aircraft rockets soared across the airport, exploding to the south, beyond the troops massing here. Just as quickly as they shuddered across the sky, all was silent again.

Today's assault began when the division's Second Brigade swept eastward from the bridgehead at the Euphrates and seized a crucial intersection at Routes 1 and 8, less than 20 miles south of the capital, severing the main north-south road into Baghdad from the south.

Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III, the division's commander, said in an interview at midday that the Second Brigade had encountered resistance from Iraqi forces that he estimated to number "several thousand," including parts of the Republican Guard's Medina and Hammarabi divisions.

At least one M1A1 tank was destroyed when a rocket-propelled grenade struck it, but the crew escaped, he said. Two soldiers were killed and four were wounded on the western side of the Euphrates when grenades struck their Humvees early today, he said.

After seizing the bridge on Tuesday, the First Brigade's main armored force, the Third Battalion of the 69th Armored, fought early this morning against at least a company of Republican Guard soldiers around the bridgehead. According to unconfirmed reports, more than 550 Iraqis died, including one believed to be the commander of the Medina Division's 10th Armored Brigade.

As swiftly as it progressed, today's advance from the bridge to Baghdad — fewer than 20 miles — was hardly a victory march.

The land between the Euphrates and Baghdad is a patchwork of lush fields and palm groves, interlaced by canals, levees and berms. The burned carcasses of Iraqi military vehicles — including at least two small tanks — lined the roads. Iraqi troops dug revetments in many of the canal banks, and many died in them.

Along the road into one village, Yusufiya, Iraqi civilians mingled on the roadside. Some waved and cheered, holding leaflets that have been dropped by the millions over Iraq. Children, especially, ran beside the armored columns, collecting rations or sweets that soldiers tossed out.

Most, however, glared — whether in awe or anger, it was hard to say. Not long after the First Brigade's mobile command post passed the village's shops, schools and mosque, someone opened fire on an artillery unit from a grove of trees.

"I expect some of them were wearing uniforms a couple of days ago," Lt. Col. James E. Lackey, the brigade's artillery commander, said of those on the roadside.

By the time American forces reached Route 1, parts of the six-lane highway that approaches the airport were full of fire and smoke. Several Iraqi military vehicles and what appeared to be a cache of mortar or artillery rounds burned as dusk fell.

At least two American scouts were injured by artillery blasts along the highway and had to be evacuated by helicopter. Two other soldiers were gravely injured after their Humvee rolled into a canal. They were also evacuated by helicopter.

By the time the lead forces arrived, the airport had already come under heavy air and artillery attack. More than 500 artillery shells and 90 rockets were fired in the area, Colonel Lackey said. Four 2,000-pound bombs were dropped on the headquarters of the Special Republican Guard on the airport's east side, closest to Baghdad.

As the first tanks rolled into the airport, an officer of the Third Battalion of the 69th Armored, reported seeing a commercial airliner on a taxiway.

"It's not attempting to take off, is it?" Colonel Grimsley radioed in response.


"Do not engage it unless it is attempting to take off," the colonel said.

It stayed where it was in the dark, and nobody fired.

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U.S. Troops Seize Parts of Baghdad's Main Airport

PQ+ | Friday 01:32:33 EST | comments (0)

U.S. Troops Seize Parts of Baghdad's Main Airport

KUWAIT, April 3 — United States armed forces rolled out of the desert to the western outskirts of Baghdad today as government officials in the city of 4.5 million insisted that the American approach was "an illusion."

The thud of artillery marked the arrival near the city of the first foreign army since British forces occupied Iraq in 1941. Allied forces entered Saddam International Airport, 10 miles from the center of the city.

"Coalition forces are on the outskirts of Baghdad," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, announced at the Pentagon this afternoon.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld cautioned from Washington that while the army of Saddam Hussein — parts of which have been routed or scattered during a 15-day armored thrust across 350 miles of desert — was "weakened," it was "still lethal."

"And it may prove to be more lethal in the final moments before it ends," he said.

His comments appeared to reflect the fact that the exact fate of the best-trained forces thought to be most committed to the defense of Mr. Hussein remained unclear. Some Republican Guard units have been routed, but others may have pulled back into the shelter of city streets, darkened tonight by a blackout. [Map, Page B4.]

Whether allied forces would seek to press into the city immediately or wait for the government to implode under the growing pressure was an open question tonight. General Myers suggested that American forces would proceed with deliberation. He made it clear that the allied forces intended to isolate Mr. Hussein and avoid street-to-street fighting, if possible. "Whatever remnants are left would not be in charge of anything except their own defense," he said.

The decision of American commanders not to throw a third division-size force at Baghdad from the north may now be tested. Plans to open an equally muscular northern front were aborted when Turkey refused passage of the Fourth Infantry Division across its territory. The division was hurriedly unloading its armor today in Kuwait's main port in the hope of getting into the fight.

The tank battalions of the Army's Third Infantry Division were the vanguard of a two-pronged assault on the capital today from the southwest and southeast. The First Marine Division pressed toward Baghdad's suburbs on the southeastern approach along the Tigris River.

In all, there were two, division-size forces moving roughly in tandem to the edge of the capital. American commanders said more than 2,000 Iraqi troops were killed during the advance north. The Marines were still 25 miles from the outskirts tonight, and their columns passed Iraqi civilians streaming out of the city. From his red pickup truck, one Iraqi man shouted, "You have saved us."

In North Carolina, President Bush told marines at Camp Lejeune that "a vise is closing."

"Our destination is Baghdad," the president said, "and we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory."

United States military officials said they believed that they were not responsible for the blackout in Baghdad, which raised the question of whether it was a deliberate tactic of the city's defenders. The blackout occurred shortly after Mr. Hussein's image appeared on state television in what was described as a meeting today, but it was also possible that it was taped in advance.

"We remain cautiously optimistic," Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks told reporters at the headquarters of the United Central Command in Qatar. "There are still options available to the regime, including the use of weapons of mass destruction."

He said Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the regional commander, would decide the next steps on whether to press the assault into the city. "We can't predict entirely what will occur next and how that fighting will unfold," but he said American forces remained alert for "opportunities as they develop."

As televised evidence mounted that American armored units had reached the western outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq's minister of information, Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf scoffed at the reports. "They are not any place," he said. "They are on the move everywhere. They are a snake moving in the desert. They hold no place in Iraq. This is an illusion."

During the day, the ministry organized a trip to the airport for reporters in the capital, and they filmed the empty runways and terminals. Yet within hours, artillery and rocket fire erupted and military officials said an assault on Saddam International Airport had begun.

Iraqi officials said that stray rockets landed on a civilian village on the eastern side of the airport, killing or wounding nearly 100 people, but witnesses said most of the casualties appeared to be military.

A member of the First Marine Division was killed on Wednesday near Kut, officials said, when his rifle discharged into his chest while he was sleeping next to it.

Military officials said today they were investigating the downing of a Navy F/A-18C Hornet fighter on Wednesday amid new reports that it might have been shot down by an American Patriot missile battery. Search operations were still under way for the Navy pilot.

Also under investigation was the crash of a Black Hawk helicopter on Wednesday that killed six troops. Earlier reports had said seven had been killed. Both incidents occurred near Karbala.

American officials said today they were examining a "possible friendly fire incident" involving an F-15E Strike Eagle that struck at ground forces, killing one soldier and wounding several others.

During today's advance by the Third Infantry, two other soldiers were killed and four wounded on the western side of the Euphrates when grenades struck their Humvees, officials said. One M1A1 Abrams tank was destroyed by a rocket-propelled grenade, but the crew escaped.

Total American deaths in two weeks of fighting was 53, with 7 captured and 16 missing. British forces reported 27 dead.
Commandos raided Mr. Hussein's Thathar palace 60 miles northwest of Baghdad before dawn but did not find any members of Mr. Hussein's family or his government hiding there.

Other Special Operations forces holding a dam on the Euphrates near Karbala were fighting a running battle with Iraqis to hold the facility and prevent any attempt to blow the dam, which would flood and cut the Army's main supply route wheeling into position around the capital 50 miles to the north.

"If we have indications that there are regime leaders" hiding in palaces or bunkers, "we'll try to attack them while they're in there to ensure that the people as well as the physical structures are rendered incapable of command and control," General Brooks said.

In the rear, where the coalition was fighting for the allegiance of millions of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, one of Iraq's most prominent Shiite clerics, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa, or edict, instructing Muslims to remain calm and not to interfere with allied forces seeking to defeat irregular troops loyal to Baghdad.

From New York, Sheik Fadhel al-Sahlani, who is the grand ayatollah's representative in the United States, said by telephone that he had not received a copy of the fatwa. But he said "the essence of such a fatwa is to protect the people from any fighting and war casualties."

"They cannot stand as if they are supporting Saddam and be the coalition's target," he said.

The fatwa seemed to be a reversal in tone. On March 27, the grand ayatollah, who may have been under pressure from Baghdad, issued a fatwa forbidding any cooperation with invading forces.

Asked if the United States had requested a new statement from him, General Brooks said, "We believe that the grand ayatollah's statement was his statement, and it has been pushed out to the Iraqi population. We think it was a courageous statement, also, because we know that he has certainly been under threat by this regime for a considerable period of time."

Allied forces had expected a more enthusiastic reception from the Shiite population of southern Iraq, which has often suffered at the hands of Mr. Hussein, a Sunni Muslim.

In northern Iraq today, a senior Iraqi Kurdish leader said its forces would not attempt to take the strategic oil center at Kirkuk, a step that would inflame tensions with Turkey, which fears that the Kurds want the city and its oil wealth to declare an independent state.

"Should a decision be taken to move" against Kirkuk, said Barham Salih, prime minister of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, "it will be done as Iraqi opposition and in tandem with the coalition."

He added, "We do not want to do anything that will undermine the mission, which is Baghdad."

Meanwhile, British forces pushed into Basra's suburbs from the south. One compound stormed by British troops today was that of Ali Hassan al-Majid, the commander of Mr. Hussein's forces in the south and known as Chemical Ali for his role in using chemical weapons against the Kurdish minority in northern Iraq. But the compound was empty. Left behind was a portrait of Mr. al-Majid standing behind the Iraqi leader.

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Hong Kong Battles Fresh Outbreak of Virus

China | Friday 01:31:29 EST | comments (0)

Hong Kong Battles Fresh Outbreak of Virus
By REUTERS Filed at 0:58 a.m. ET

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Hong Kong battled on Friday to stop a new hospital outbreak of a highly infectious global virus, while World Health Organization (WHO) experts in southern China tried to nail down the source of the disease.

More than 10 staff at Hong Kong's United Christian hospital have fallen ill with the disease in the last few days, raising fears a new wave of infections was just beginning and the epidemic in the territory was far from being contained.

``It's worrying,'' Hong Kong Hospital Authority director Ko Wing-man said of the new outbreak at the hospital, which is treating more than 100 other victims of the disease.

Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which has killed 81 people and infected nearly 2,400 worldwide after first showing up in China's southern province of Guangdong, has triggered precautionary moves in a growing number of countries.

Israel is the latest country to allow family members of its consulate staff to leave Hong Kong, a spokeswoman at the consulate told Reuters. It was not clear how many had left.

The United States moved on Thursday to offer non-emergency staff and all dependents at its embassy and five consulates in China free flights out on a voluntary basis.

Washington had confined such a move only to diplomatic staff in Hong Kong and the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou on Tuesday, but extended that decision to all of China on Thursday.

Late on Thursday, Canada announced it would cancel a big medical convention by the American Association for Cancer Research because some doctors, especially those who were caring for SARS patients, feared they could spread the disease.


A team from the WHO, which first warned against travel to southern China and Hong Kong because of the disease, is hunting for clues to the source of the virus in Guangdong.

Hong Kong's Cable Television reported on Friday that the Guangdong Disease Control Center now had data showing patients in the early stage of the outbreak were cooks and bird vendors, and that it suspected the virus was linked to animals.

Still little is known about SARS. In Hong Kong, scientists are tracing how the latest batch of medical staff got infected, and also the source of a sudden explosion of SARS in one housing estate, where more than 200 residents were infected last week.

``We have been briefing staff to take very serious precautions,'' said a spokeswoman for the Hospital Authority.

Police are also hunting for at least 200 people who had been exposed to the disease but who escaped a quarantine order earlier this week. Officials fear a new outbreak anytime from these people, as a two-to-seven day incubation is now passing.

In Australia, three Canadian children were isolated in a hospital with one diagnosed as probably having the disease.


The epidemic led to a diplomatic spat between China and New Zealand. Foreign Minister Phil Goff tried to smooth it over, saying the decision to exclude 43 Chinese officials, after they arrived on Wednesday for a conference, was driven by uninformed fears about the virus.

Economists are counting the large costs to countries affected by the epidemic. Hong Kong markets remain depressed, and SARS is hitting stocks worldwide in airlines and tourism.

Patients brought down by the virus quickly end up in intensive care, and the sheer numbers plus the infectious risk to key medical staff can put an enormous strain on hospitals.

In Hong Kong, once-bustling shopping areas are nearly deserted, and expatriates have been leaving, taking their families with them on home leave.

Moody's Investors Service said on Friday the Hong Kong government would miss its 2003/04 budget deficit forecasts because of reduced public consumption due to the outbreak.

The death rate from the disease so far has been between three and four percent, but patients in areas without good medical facilities face a much higher mortality risk, doctors say.

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Squeezed, a Jewelry Designer Closes Shop

Fashion | Friday 01:30:31 EST | comments (0)

Squeezed, a Jewelry Designer Closes Shop

Angela Cummings is taking her diamonds and going home.

Ms. Cummings, one of the country's best-known jewelry designers, is closing her Manhattan office, paying off her staff and withdrawing all her diamond, gold, moonstone and enameled inventory and closing down boutiques in her two main outlets, Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, effective June 1.

"When she told us, we had a very emotional meeting," said Ronald L. Frasch, Bergdorf's chief executive. "The saleswomen cried."

Ms. Cummings says she wants to spend more time building a house in Utah. But her departure is sending the word, not only through the high-price jewelry world, but through the fashion community as well, that even when a designer is doing well, staying in business may not be worth it.

In the present difficult retail environment, both apparel and jewelry designers say that department stores are trying to squeeze more money from them.

"The way retailing is going these days — I don't want to get negative — but the market is generally oversaturated with jewelry," Ms. Cummings said earlier this week. "It's very difficult for a small business, without big funding in back of us. It's hard to keep coming up with new things when we pay for everything; so much was on consignment."

By last week, Ms. Cummings, 58, who started with Tiffany's in 1968 and formed her own business in 1984, owned 100 percent of the jewelry displayed in her 13 Neiman Marcus boutiques, partly by plan, and partly by circumstance. At Bergdorf Goodman, Mr. Frasch said the company purchased her jewelry outright, "but it's no secret that the expensive jewelry business has been suffering in the last six months."

But Ms. Cummings's company has been growing steadily nonetheless. Sales were up 31 percent from last June to January, compared with a year earlier, according to company officials.

In the mid-1990's, when newly minted jewelry by designers like Ms. Cummings, Paloma Picasso, Barry Kieselstein-Cord and Elsa Peretti was at its height, Angela Cummings Inc. was selling about $10 million a year. Last year, the company took in close to $13 million, according to Michele Ateyeh, the company's president and chief executive.

"We could have gone on for a couple of years," Ms. Cummings said, "but why do it?"

In a letter to Burton M. Tansky, Neiman's chief executive, Ms. Ateyeh wrote that the company was "calling back all of our Angela Cummings merchandise that is currently on hand in all 13 Neiman Marcus stores." This jewelry, much of which will be offered in a special sale held jointly with Bergdorf starting April 15, consists of everything from $1,700 cuff links to $3,500 earrings to $22,000 necklaces.

This week, several other people in the jewelry industry said Ms. Cummings was also quitting because the Hong Kong factory that did the delicate inlays that made her famous — jade, lapis lazuli and mother of pearl set in gold — was not doing that type of work anymore. But Ms. Cummings denied that was the reason. Although that factory is no longer a supplier for her, Ms. Cummings said, she already moved toward elaborate enamelwork — one gold necklace has glowing enameled cherries hanging from it — to replace the inlay designs. (The price of the cherry necklace: $14,950.)

Yesterday, Mr. Cord, who also has jewelry boutiques at Bergdorf and Neiman Marcus, said that he, too, has considered giving them up.

"It's increasingly difficult to deal with large organizations unless you're funded by a huge conglomerate," he said. "The normal pressures are now exacerbated because the department stores are trying to make two pennies for every one they invest."

The stores are "squeezing the heck out of vendors," he continued. Among their cost-saving steps, Mr. Cord said, the stores are increasingly demanding "markdown money," which are refunds to cover their less-than-expected profit when unsold goods are discounted.

`'You either have to take the stuff back, or give them markdown money to keep it in their stores," he said.

In many cases, the designers offer their goods on consignment, as Ms. Cummings ended up doing at Neiman's. "We are basically financing their inventory," Mr. Cord said.

Still, he has decided to keep his boutiques in Bergdorf and Neiman for now — and to look for new investors, and possibly more licensing deals. Mr. Cord, who makes gold, platinum and silver jewelry, along with leather handbags, some embellished with his signature sterling alligator, also has his own stores in Palm Beach, Las Vegas, Zurich, San Moritz and, most recently, SoHo.

Ms. Cummings, who disdains any mention of the word "retirement," said that although she was shutting down her company and closing her boutiques, she would keep designing jewelry for QVC, the cable shopping network that she began working with on Jan. 31.

Her jewelry for QVC is very different from the $22,000 necklaces she designed for Bergdorf.

First, she designs in silver, not gold. And second, she does not control the production, only the designs, which she will make at her new house in Utah, where she will live with her husband, Bruce, a gemologist and co-chairman of the business, and their teenage son.

Her first show was a smash. The channel gave her an hour, in which her staff sold several thousand pieces like the silver bracelets with nephrite jade hearts for $112 and wiry "Serendipity" bracelets for $121.75.

Ms. Cummings sold out in 50 minutes.

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More Wireless Internet Access Set for Lower Manhattan Parks

NYC | Friday 01:29:30 EST | comments (0)

More Wireless Internet Access Set for Lower Manhattan Parks

A downtown business improvement district is planning to establish free high-speed wireless Internet access in six parks and public spaces in Lower Manhattan next month, significantly expanding the availability downtown of wireless connections to the Internet.

Officials of the Alliance for Downtown New York, the business improvement district that encompasses most of Manhattan south of City Hall, said yesterday that the organization will set up wireless access points, which are known as Wi-Fi connections or "hot spots," in City Hall Park, the South Street Seaport area and Bowling Green.

In addition, the wireless access points will be available in Vietnam Veterans Plaza on Water Street north of Broad Street; in Liberty Plaza, at Broadway and Liberty Street; and in Rector Park in Battery Park City.

In those areas, plus at least one more for which the service is still being negotiated, anyone with a properly equipped laptop computer or personal digital assistant can enjoy free, high-speed access to the Internet through a system paid for by the Alliance.

The networks will be similar to a wireless network set up in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan that has grown in popularity since it was introduced last year.

Although access is also available in a few other parks in the city, like Tompkins Square and Madison Square, those services are made available by individuals who live or work nearby and might not be accessible in all areas of the parks.

Last year, the Downtown Alliance set up an experimental wireless network at Bowling Green. Dormant since last fall, it will be reestablished on May 1, at the same time as the five other downtown networks. The network should allow anyone in Lower Manhattan to walk to a free, wireless Internet connection within five minutes, said Shirley Jaffe, a vice president for economic development at the Downtown Alliance.

"At a time when there is a lot of doom and gloom over Lower Manhattan, this certainly demonstrates that downtown does have a future," Ms. Jaffe said.

The system is being created for the alliance by Emenity, a for-profit company formerly known as Cloud Networks. The company is affiliated with NYC Wireless, a non-profit organization that encourages the establishment of wireless networks.

Anthony Townsend, the chief operating office of Emenity and a co-founder of NYC Wireless, said that the Lower Manhattan project will be one of the largest free wireless networks in the country.

The Downtown Alliance says its effort will establish the first wireless business district in the country, although the claim is difficult to verify. Wireless networking is often a communal activity, where individuals hang an antenna for their own system out a window, making Internet access available to anyone who wants it.

NYC Wireless has mapped 141 such hot spots in the New York City area, where individuals or companies make their networks available for public use. Another nonprofit organization, the Public Internet Project, mapped more than 13,000 places in Manhattan alone where signals from home or office wireless networks can be detected and used by a computer user.

Mr. Townsend said Long Beach, Calif., has established a wireless network in the area of its convention center, and he said organizations in a growing number of cities are expected to begin offering similar services beginning this spring.

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2 April 2003

Come the Revolution

PQ+ | Wednesday 02:36:04 EST | comments (0)

Come the Revolution

CAIRO -- To read the Arab press is to think that the entire Arab world is enraged with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and to some extent that's true. But here's what you don't read: underneath the rage, there is also a grudging, skeptical curiosity — a curiosity about whether the Americans will actually do what they claim and build a new, more liberal Iraq.

While they may not be able to describe it, many Arabs intuit that this U.S. invasion of Iraq is something they've never seen before — the revolutionary side of U.S. power. Let me explain: for Arabs, American culture has always been revolutionary — from blue jeans to "Baywatch" — but American power, since the cold war, has only been used to preserve the status quo here, keeping in place friendly Arab kings and autocrats.

Even after the cold war ended and America supported, and celebrated, the flowering of democracy from Eastern Europe to Latin America, the Arab world was excluded. In this neighborhood, because of America's desire for steady oil supplies and a safe Israel, America continued to support the status quo and any Arab government that preserved it. Indeed, Gulf War I simply sought to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait to restore the Kuwaiti monarchy and the flow of oil. Once that was done, Saddam was left alone.

And that is why Gulf War II is such a shock to the Arab system, on a par with Napoleon's invasion of Egypt or the Six-Day War. But different people are shocked in different ways.

To begin with, there is the shock of Arab liberals, still a tiny minority, who can't believe that America has finally used its revolutionary power in the Arab world. They are desperate for America to succeed because they think Iraq is too big to ignore, and therefore a real election there would shake the whole Arab region.

Second is the shock of those Arabs in the silent majority. They recognize this is the revolutionary side of U.S. power, but they see it through their own narrative, which says the U.S. is upsetting the status quo not to lift the Arab world up, but rather to put it down so it will submit to whatever America and Israel demand. That's the dominant theme in the Arab media: this war is simply another version of colonialism and imperialism. Al Jazeera uses the same terms for U.S. actions in Iraq as it does for Israeli actions in the West Bank — Iraq is under U.S. "occupation," and Iraqis killed are "martyrs."

As Raymond Stock, a longtime Cairo resident and the biographer of the novelist Naguib Mahfouz, remarked, "People here, particularly the chattering classes who watch the Arab satellite channels, are so much better misinformed than you think. The Arab media generally tells them what they want to hear and shows them what they want to see. There is a narrative that is deeply embedded, and no amount of embedded reporting from the other side will change it. Only a different Iraq can do that."

But there is a third school: Egyptian officials, who are instinctively pro-American but are shocked that the Bush team would use its revolutionary power to try to remake Iraq. Egyptian officials view this as a fool's errand because they view Iraq as a congenitally divided, tribal country that can be ruled only by an iron fist.

Whose view will be redeemed depends on how Iraq plays out, but, trust me, everyone's watching. I spent this afternoon with the American studies class at Cairo University. The professor, Mohamed Kamel, summed up the mood: "In 1975, Richard Nixon came to Egypt and the government turned out huge crowds. Some Americans made fun of Nixon for this, and Nixon defended himself by saying, `You can force people to go out and welcome a foreign leader, but you can't force them to smile.' Maybe the Iraqis will eventually stop resisting you. But that will not make this war legitimate. What the U.S. needs to do is make the Iraqis smile. If you do that, people will consider this a success."

There is a lot riding on that smile, Mr. Kamel added, because this is the first "Arab-American war." This is not about Arabs and Israelis. This is about America getting inside the Arab world — not just with its power or culture, but with its ideals. It is a war for what America stands for. "If it backfires," Mr. Kamel concluded, "if you don't deliver, it will really have a big impact. People will not just say your policies are bad, but that your ideas are a fake, you don't really believe them or you don't know how to implement them."

In short, we need to finish the peace better than we started the war.

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THe Red Zone

PQ+ | Wednesday 02:34:56 EST | comments (0)

Battle for Baghdad Begins in Area Surrounding Iraqi Capital

CAMP DOHA, Kuwait, Wednesday, April 2 — The battle for Baghdad got under way today as American ground forces entered the "red zone."

United States Army and Marine ground forces advanced on separate axes into the swath of territory around Baghdad that is defended by the Republican Guard and has been characterized by American commanders as the most strategically vital and treacherous of the war.

Although still 50 miles or more from the capital, the attack brought the American military one step closer to its ultimate objective: capturing Baghdad and toppling the government of President Saddam Hussein.

It also ushered in a period of heightened risk for American forces. If the Iraqis plan to unleash chemical weapons, the entry of United States forces into the red zone — the area within artillery and missile range of Republican Guard forces defending Baghdad — is expected to be the trigger, according to American commanders.

The Iraqis are defending the area with extended-range Frog rockets, artillery and surface-to-surface missiles that can carry chemical weapons.

The first indication that today might be the day for the red zone attack came at a meeting on Tuesday of land war commanders, a session that links far-flung units through a classified video television conference. Lt. Gen. David McKiernan, the land war commander, signaled the plan.

"We are starting a big maneuver fight in the red zone," he said. "It is a significant close fight."

The attack into the area south of Baghdad involved the Army's Third Infantry Division and the First Marine Division. During the attack, some American units crossed the Tigris River. American military commanders planned to knock out some bridges to isolate some of the Iraqi forces.

American officials say that the attack comes at a time when the Iraqis' command and control seems ragged. Many of the Iraqi moves outside Baghdad, they say, seem to reflect the calculations of isolated commanders or individual groups of Iraqis and may not reflect a coherent national strategy.

The attacks took place during the darkest period of the month, allowing American forces to exploit their night vision devices against the ill-equipped Iraqis. American commanders said that when allied forces first invaded Iraq it was foreseen that that would probably allow them to advance close to the Iraqi capital during a time when it was especially dark.

One main foe tonight was the Medina Division, a Republican Guard unit that escaped destruction in the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and has, American military officials believe, been battered by American warplanes to the point of being "combat ineffective."

The division is defending the southern approaches to the capital. The Iraqis have been rushing other Republican Guard and regular army units to fill the gaps in the Medina Division's defense, but allied warplanes have been pounding them, too.

Another opponent in the sychronized attack tonight was the Baghdad Division, a Republican Guard infantry unit that is stationed along the southeast approach to the capital at Kut, about 100 miles from Baghdad. It, too, has been assessed to be on the verge of collapse, but it has been reinforced by regular army units.

This phase of the war is what American commanders call a deliberate attack, which means that unless the government suddenly collapses — an unlikely situation — the Army and Marine assault will not be a blitz to the outskirts of Baghdad but a methodical effort to destroy, piece by piece, the Republican Guard units defending the capital.

The current attack followed almost two weeks of bombing, the capture of more than 4,600 prisoners and the deployment of more than 100,000 allied troops in Iraq, many of whom have traversed hundreds of miles and defended against persistent efforts by fedayeen and other Iraqi paramilitary units to attack allied supply lines.

The ambushes delayed the American advance and initially threw the United States forces off stride. Difficulties remain in the rear, but American forces also seem to be making headway in the struggle to control the cities in southern Iraq and are now striving to put sharp pressure on Baghdad.

To mount the attack, the American military has been moving fuel and vast stores of food, ammunition and spare parts north. Airstrips have been built in the desert for C-130 supply planes.

To facilitate their attacks against Iraqi armor, the American military has taken over the Iraqi air base at Tallil. The base is being used to refuel the Air Force's A-10 attack planes, enabling them to undertake more missions.

The Iraqis have sought to disrupt the logistical push. Today, they fired an Al Samoud surface-to-surface missile at the Americans. An antimissile battery fired a Patriot PAC-3 interceptor at the Iraqi missile and knocked it down over Bushmaster, an assembly area in Iraq for Army forces. Debris rained down on a commander from the 82nd Airborne Division.

Chemical weapons remain a big worry for the Americans. Last week, Iraqi officials in Baghdad charged that American and British forces intended to use poison gas. The assertion was seen as an Iraqi effort to put out a possible cover story so that the government would have the option to use poison gas and blame it on the United States and Britain.

To try to persuade the Iraqis not to use poison gas, the American military has begun radio broadcasts telling soldiers who follow any order to use weapons of mass destruction that they will be held accountable.

The broadcasts also offer an assurance that American and British forces have no intention to use chemical or biological weapons.

"Saddam Hussein and his family cannot execute a weapons of mass destruction attack by themselves," an American broadcast said. "It is the duty of every Iraqi who has the means to stop a nuclear, biological of chemical attack to do so."

Fighting around, and eventually in, Baghdad also requires that American forces reduce the threats to American supply columns.

American troops have moved into some of the southern cities, including Najaf, where they received a warm welcome today, Nasiriya and Samawa.

But, early this morning, the focus was on Baghdad and Iraq's response. The Americans are gradually moving closer to the capital. The dangers are increasing, and the denouement of the war also appears closer at hand.

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On Affirmative Action, High Court Seeks Nuance

PQ+ | Wednesday 02:33:27 EST | comments (0)

On Affirmative Action, High Court Seeks Nuance

WASHINGTON, April 1 — Opponents of affirmative action came to the Supreme Court today to make an absolute case against race-conscious government policies but found the justices impatient with absolutes and hungry for nuance.

Prepared to argue the merits of the color-blind principle, the opponents found the justices more concerned about a world where color still matters and where senior military officers describe affirmative action as essential for national security.

By the end of two hours of fast-moving and sometimes surprising arguments, it appeared to many in the packed courtroom that affirmative action would survive its most important test in 25 years and that colleges and universities would still be able to take steps to ensure the presence of more than token numbers of minority students on their campuses. [Excerpts, Page A14.]

Whether the precise programs the University of Michigan was defending today would survive their encounter with a more conservative Supreme Court than the one that endorsed the use of race as a vague "plus factor" in the Bakke case 25 years ago was uncertain.

The university's undergraduate admissions program gives an automatic 20 points on a 150-point scale to applicants who are black, Hispanic or American Indian. The highly selective law school does not use a formula, but regularly admits students from those three groups who have lower grades and test scores than many white students it admits.

During the arguments today, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a regular opponent of affirmative action, criticized the undergraduate formula as a "disguised quota" and expressed doubts about the law school's program. But late in the second hour, Justice Kennedy asked a question that was potentially one of the most significant of the entire argument.

Justice Kennedy asked John Payton, the lawyer who argued in defense of the undergraduate admissions program, to assume that the court would invalidate both affirmative action plans. What would happen then? Justice Kennedy asked. Would it be the court's job to tell the university what to do, or the university's job to devise "some other system, say, more individualized assessment in order to attain some of the goals you wish to attain?"

What was important about Justice Kennedy's choice of words was that he said "individualized assessment" and not "race-neutral alternative," the formulation urged by the lawyer for the disappointed white applicants who are suing the university and also by the Bush administration, which entered the case on their behalf. An individualized assessment presumably permits consideration of race as one of the elements in an applicant's personal profile, as a race-neutral approach would not.

The Bush administration is arguing that the Michigan programs are unconstitutional because the university has failed to show that it cannot achieve diversity through a race-neutral alternative, such as the plan in use at the University of Texas, which offers admission to students graduating in the top 10 percent of every high school in the state. California and Florida use similar plans.

There was little discussion in the courtroom today of the percentage approach. Instead, the justices consumed much of the time allotted to Solicitor General Theodore B. Olson in firing questions about a brief filed in support of Michigan by a group of retired senior military officers and former military academy superintendents. The brief argued that an integrated officer corps was essential to national security and could be achieved only through affirmative action at the nation's military academies. It was obvious that of the 102 briefs filed in the two cases, this was the one that had grabbed the attention of justices across the court's ideological spectrum.

Mr. Olson did not welcome the line of questions, which not only stalled the flow of his own argument but put the administration, with its opposition to affirmative action, in a delicate position. "We respect the opinions of those individuals," he said, "but the position of the United States is that we do not accept the proposition that black soldiers will only fight for black officers." He added: "Race neutral means should be used in the academies as well as other places."

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked, "But you recognize, General Olson, that here and now, all of the military academies do have race preference programs in admissions?"

She added, "Is that illegal, what they're doing?"

Mr. Olson replied, "We haven't examined that, and we haven't presented a brief with respect to the specifics of each individual academy."

The delicacy of the solicitor general's personal, as opposed to institutional, position was also evident. As a lawyer in private practice during the 1990's, he opposed affirmative action and successfully argued the case that shut down affirmative action at the University of Texas. In that case, a federal appeals court declared that the Supreme Court's Bakke decision was no longer valid.

But the briefs that Mr. Olson filed for the administration in the Michigan cases did not go that far — Mr. Olson lost an internal battle over the wording — and assumed for the sake of argument that the Bakke ruling was still good law and that "diversity," as used in the controlling opinion by Justice Lewis F. Powell Jr., was a valid rationale for affirmative action. Justice Kennedy asked Mr. Olson whether he disagreed that diversity was a "permissible governmental goal."

Mr. Olson replied that under the law school's program, diversity was "an end in and of itself" and, as such, "obviously it's constitutionally objectionable."

So wasn't the Texas 10 percent plan just as objectionable, Justice Stephen G. Breyer wanted to know, because its motive and purpose "is to have diversity in the college?"

That was not the "stated motive," Mr. Olson replied. He said the purpose of the program was to break barriers and open access, and accepting the top 10 percent was "one very race-neutral means of accomplishing that legitimate objective."

The lawyer defending the University of Michigan Law School's program was Maureen E. Mahoney, a veteran Supreme Court litigator who was a law clerk for Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist when he was an associate justice. Her experience showed as she held her ground in a series of rapid-fire questions from Justice Antonin Scalia, who said he could not take Michigan's position seriously because "the problem is a problem of Michigan's own creation."

Having "decided to create an elite law school," Justice Scalia said, Michigan was now complaining that in order to achieve diversity, it needed to ignore "the Constitution's prohibition of distribution on the basis of race." What was so important about having a "super-duper law school," Justice Scalia, a graduate of Harvard Law School, asked.

Ms. Mahoney replied, "I don't think there's anything in this court's cases that suggests that the law school has to make an election between academic excellence and racial diversity."

Kirk O. Kolbo, a lawyer from Minneapolis, represented the white plaintiffs in both cases — Barbara Grutter, who was turned down by the law school when she applied at the age of 43, and Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, who failed to win admission as undergraduates. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, upheld the law school plan in Grutter v. Bollinger, No. 02-241. It had not yet ruled on the undergraduate plan, in Gratz v. Bollinger, No. 02-516, when the Supreme Court decided to hear both cases. The Court is due to issue its decisions by early summer.

"The Constitution protects the rights of individuals, not racial groups," Mr. Kolbo said. He described his clients as the victims of discrimination.

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, whose position at the center of the court on this issue made her the object of particular attention, was the first to challenge Mr. Kolbo. Was he saying that race "can't be a factor at all," Justice O'Connor wanted to know.

"Race itself should not be a factor among others in choosing students, because of the Constitution," Mr. Kolbo replied.

Justice O'Connor objected that the court's precedents held otherwise. "You are speaking in absolutes, and it isn't quite that," she said.

In a web-exclusive column, Linda Greenhouse answers readers' questions on Supreme Court rules and procedure. E-mail Ms. Greenhouse a question at scotuswb@nytimes.com.Please include your name, address and daytime telephone number; upon request names may be withheld.

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Zhou Yu's Train

China | Wednesday 02:32:09 EST | comments (0)

Zhou Yu's Train
by Annie Wang, PRD SCMP
Wednesday, April 2, 2003

WHILE LITTLE FANG'S wedding with Sir William takes place at Shanghai's Grand Hyatt Hotel, Lulu, Niuniu, Beibei and CC go to see the new Gong Li movie Zhou Yu's Train.

In the movie, Gong Li plays the title character, a tempestuous painter who is torn between her two lovers. One is a poor, sensitive poet, played by Tony Leung Ka-fai, who works as a librarian to support himself. The other is a macho veterinarian.

Later at a Haagen-Daz shop, the friends order a chocolate cocktail to share and start to talk about the movie.

As usual, Beibei, the boss in the clique, makes the first comment. ''Tony Leung's performance was so brilliant. I fell in love with him 10 years ago when I saw him in the French movie The Lover. His heavenly butt was so unforgettable. He is as sexy as ever.''

Lulu adds: ''I read in the newspaper that Gong Li in real life is like the woman she plays, and prefers poetic types to that veterinarian character. What about you guys? Who do you prefer?''

''I like the poet better,'' Niuniu jumps in. ''The type of men I like is gentle, sexy, a bit vulnerable, sensitive, smart, sometimes a bit melancholy. They have a tender side that when mixed with passion, becomes quite combustible. They make you feel motherly and make your heart tremble and ache, and you feel on fire when they touch you.''

''Sounds like how I feel when I hear music by Chopin,'' CC says.

Niuniu nods: ''Yes, exactly. I like Chopin. I've never liked talkative, aggressive men. They're intimidating and they lack romanticism.''

''But successful men are often assertive and talkative,'' Lulu cuts in.

''That's why I'm not up to finding men of power and money like Little Fang. I'm all for passion, like Zhou Yu, who travels on the rail of love,'' Niuniu says.

''I agree with Niuniu totally,'' CC jumps in. ''I've found most men who have a successful career and money are self-centred and hard to deal with. You have to put up with their bad temperament and their overwhelming characteristics. It's hard to feel like you are a partner in life with men like that. You always feel like they want you to walk behind them and not with them.''

''You and Niuniu are both too Westernised,'' Lulu says. ''Here in Asia, most women are docile and subservient. They don't mind if their men are selfish male chauvinists or much older than they are. As long as they bring wealth and material comfort into their lives, these women seem to be fine with the emotional alienation.''

Niuniu says: ''Gong Li seems to always play strong-willed women who have the courage to reveal their sexual desires. Her characters are not fake. Perhaps that's why she is so well liked internationally. But in real life, I don't see many Chinese women like the Zhou Yu character whose love is so steadfast. For example, she didn't get any gifts from the poet except poetry. I have seen and interviewed so many girls who always enjoy men buying them designer bags or nice expensive jewellery.''

''Yes. They even envy those young women who marry old ugly men simply because the men are rich,'' CC agrees. ''That's why strong women like us are left single.'' She sighs. ''It is so difficult to find a good man in China. Either they think I'm too aggressive or vice versa.''

''So that means aggressive women and men don't click? Does a strong man have to find a weak, mild woman? Can a strong woman fall in love with a strong man like the Clinton couple?'' Beibei comments. ''This American model doesn't apply in this culture. That's why poor Zhou Yu has to die at the end of the movie. I think the director chooses such an ending because he knows that Zhou Yu is too noble for this shallow era we live in. In my humble opinion, women in Asia have three choices. First, to be cute and dumb, hoping to find a rich man to take care of you. Second, to be single forever or leave China before it's too late. Third, be like me - strong, rich and tough. I'm just like a man who has the power to buy lovers.''

''What about love and passion?'' Niuniu cries.

''You're still single because you think like that,'' Beibei tells the group. She is being honest, but Niuniu is a romantic. Niuniu has already tuned out as she replays the love scene from the movie in her head. She feels like crying, ''Bravo, Zhou Yu.''

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The exile, the cook and the generalissimo

China | Wednesday 02:31:25 EST | comments (0)

The exile, the cook and the generalissimo
By Susan Jung (Email: susan.jung@scmp.com)
Tuesday, April 1, 2003

HELEN CHIANG'S LIFE story could be that of any Chinese exile who fled the Communist rule of Mao Zedong. In 1949, when she was 10, she and 20 members of her extended family left their home in Zhejiang province and settled in Taiwan. So far, so normal. Except her grandfather's brother was Chiang Kai-shek, the leader of the Kuomintang who escaped to Taiwan after being defeated by the Communists, that year.

''We went there with no money,'' she recalls, sitting in her spacious Causeway Bay restaurant, Helen Chiang's Kitchen. ''We couldn't bring anything because we had to leave China very quickly.''

A close examination of the black and white pictures hanging in the restaurant show a Who's Who of modern Taiwanese history. In one family picture, taken in 1948 are Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, his second wife Soong Mei-ling (also known as Madame Chiang), and his son Chiang Ching-kuo, who served as president of Taiwan from 1978 until his death in 1988.

''He was very nice, very kind, always with a smiling face,'' she says of the generalissimo. ''He was good to us; very, very good. We went [to visit him] more than 10 times a year, for Christmas, birthdays, Chinese festivals, for special reasons. He was very busy.''

She didn't realise at the time how important her great-uncle was.

''I knew he was president, but that's it,'' she says. ''We weren't concerned with [the changes he was implementing] we were only concerned about ourselves.''

And Madame Chiang, who on March 14 celebrated her 106th birthday in New York? ''She was very beautiful and kind, a real First Lady,'' Helen Chiang says. ''I haven't seen her for a long time - 20 years. I watched the movie, The Soong Sisters, and my tears came down. I miss her.''

So why is Chiang, born into a life of wealth and privilege, working as chef of a Causeway Bay restaurant? Her life was one of ups and downs. Her father, Chiang Kuo-ping, a cousin of Chiang Ching-kuo, was struck with mental illness five years before she was born.

''I never really spoke to my father,'' she recalls as the crew for a Japanese television programme wait patiently to continue filming in the restaurant. ''My parents studied in Japan for four years and when they came back [to China], after one year my father got sick, something wrong here,'' she points to her head. ''He was very quiet, he just sat there and smoked and wrote Japanese words. He never talked. We just said, 'Father, we're having dinner' and he'd say, 'Oh, I come'.''

Chiang married a China Airlines pilot in 1961, had two sons and divorced her husband in 1980. After making a fortune in the Taiwanese property market, she moved to Hong Kong in 1989 and bought a 5,000-square-foot house on the Peak. She sold the property to lend money to a friend so he could pay off creditors; he was unable to repay her, she says, and later succumbed to a stroke, which rendered him unable to speak.

In order to make a living, at the age of 61, Chiang started to cook professionally three years ago at the Yellow Door Kitchen in Central, owned by multi-media artist, art critic and writer, Lau Kin-wai, and last year opened Helen Chiang's Kitchen on Paterson Street in Causeway Bay. In January, however, she moved the restaurant to Leighton Road, where she cooks lunch and dinner every day for up to 60 people at a time. She hasn't had a day off since she opened the restaurant, where she cooks ''Taiwanese, Shanghainese, a little bit of Sichuanese, and my chilli sauce is Hunan''.

Chiang says her husband persuaded her to take up cooking. Growing up with so many servants, she had never even been into a kitchen before her marriage. ''My husband said I should learn. We didn't want to always eat outside, so I learned. I didn't have any interest before that. There was no need; we had a cook at home to make Western food and Chinese food. I taught myself - I read books, I asked cooks and friends. In Taiwan I became famous for my food and my friends said, 'Why don't you cook for a business?' ''

Although she never had the opportunity to cook for Chiang Kai-shek, who died in 1975, she says Chiang Ching-kuo ''liked my food very much''.

She smiles when I praise the blanched pork kidneys with chilli sauce, which I had eaten at the restaurant about a month before. ''I have four assistants to help me, but when I clean the kidneys, I do it myself,'' she says, proudly. ''They must be very clean so there's no smell.''

Working seven days a week, and creating a new menu every two weeks, Chiang has little time to herself. ''I don't have time to relax, I work here and go home to sleep.'' Home now is on Paterson Street, where she lives with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter.

Isn't it a big change for someone like her to be working every day, and at an age when most people start thinking of retirement?

''Yes, but I can't be sad because there's a difference,'' she says. ''Now I use my hands to earn money, I feel happy. There's no need to ask someone for help. It's not too difficult because I have an interest in cooking, so when guests come here and they eat the food and like it, I feel happy. Life is good.''

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Pop star Leslie Cheung dies in fall from Central hotel

China | Wednesday 02:30:27 EST | comments (0)

Pop star Leslie Cheung dies in fall from Central hotel

Pop star, actor and director Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing plunged to his death from the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Central in an apparent suicide last night.
Cheung, 46 - star of the hit 1993 movie Farewell My Concubine - fell from the 24th floor window of the hotel and was found lying in Connaught Road at 6.41pm.

He was rushed to the Queen Mary Hospital where he was certified dead on arrival.

Police found a suicide note, his driver's licence, two credit cards, a car key and a few thousand dollars on his body.

Police refused to disclose the contents of the note but said his death was believed to be due to emotional problems.

As news of Cheung's death emerged, young women fans arrived and laid bouquets and cards near the spot where his body was found.

Cheung, who was gay and lived with his banker lover in Kadoorie Avenue, Ho Man Tin, shot to fame when he was runner-up in ATV's Asian Music Contest in 1976.

Friends and colleagues last night expressed shock and sadness over the star's death.

"I know that he had complained of feeling sick a while ago. But after going to the doctor his condition improved," said Kelvin Wong, general manager of the Chinese music division of Universal Music.

"Everything is in a state of chaos now. There were no signs that he was emotionally disturbed."

Mr Wong said that in the past few months, Cheung had been composing and recording songs for his new CD, which was to be released later this year.

Stephen Chan Chi-wan, assistant general manager of TVB, said that the station would call a meeting this morning to arrange for programmes commemorating the star's life to be aired.

Cheung was nominated best actor for Inner Senses at the Hong Kong Film Awards due to take place on Sunday.

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Leslie Cheung, 46, Pop Singer and Actor, Is Dead

China | Wednesday 02:29:23 EST | comments (0)

Leslie Cheung, 46, Pop Singer and Actor, Is Dead

HONG KONG, April 1 — Leslie Cheung, a pop singer and actor who won international acclaim for his portrayal of an opera star in the 1993 movie "Farewell, My Concubine," fell to his death today from a hotel here, local news organizations reported. He was 46.

A police spokeswoman refused to identify the dead man fully, saying only that a 46-year-old with the surname Cheung had died in hospital after falling from the 24th floor of the Mandarin Hotel.

Cable Television reported that Mr. Cheung had left a note saying he was suffering from emotional problems.

Mr. Cheung was one of Hong Kong's most popular performers, notable for being one of only a few Asian stars to play openly gay characters.

One of his most famous gay roles was in the 1997 movie "Happy Together," directed by Wong Kar-wai.

Mr. Cheung entered show business after returning to Hong Kong after studies at Leeds University in northern England.

He achieved success as a pop singer and enjoyed fame throughout Asia with his successful 1981 album "The Wind Blows On."

His success as a singer quickly paved the way for a career in film. Though he was to become noted for playing gay roles later in his career, Mr. Cheung made his breakthrough playing a rookie cop alongside Chow Yun-fat in John Woo's 1986 action movie "A Better Tomorrow."

Two years later he earned a reputation for romantic roles after playing an opium-smoking playboy in Stanley Kwan's "Rouge," one of the most successful films to emerge from Hong Kong during the 1980's.

Further collaborations with Mr. Woo followed with 1990's "Once A Thief," before Mr. Cheung teamed up the following year with Mr. Wong for "Days of Being Wild."

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1 April 2003

Ethnicity and Dating Criteria

Journal | Tuesday 23:45:18 EST | comments (0)

[another asian american discussion topic from amabelle's blog.]

when i was growing up i *knew* i was chinese, but i didn't really know what *chinese* meant. my parents spoke english at home. and there were hardly any asians at all where i grew up (Westchester County, NY). there were only 2 other asians in my year in school. and one was my best friend. i even won "most american" among other things in the senior poll. so growing up and in college, i basically only went out with or had crushes on non-asian girls. (mostly from not having enough exposure to cute asian girls.)

in college, i lived in a co-ed "euro" frat, and was hardly aware of the other world of asian social groups. once, i walked into a Chinese Students Club party, and a chinese girl who was a friend of mine asked me, "what are *you* doing here?" like i didn't belong, haha!

it was only after college really that i started to like asian girls. driving some asian friends of mine to the airport, i remember the feeling as i watched several groups of asian stewardesses walk by -- in a moment, my tongue was on the floor. so that was when my own asian "fetish" hit me. i began to realize how beautiful asian girls could be.

now, after spending six months in asia, after seeing and feeling what amazing things asian people have accomplished with so little, after learning more about the past 5000 years of chinese history, and after realizing the difficult *personal journeys* my own ancestors had in order to be where we are now, i am so overwhelmed with how unimpressive and unauthentic so much of our american pop-western culture is (even though i am a fiercely proud and patriotic american with prior military service).

i just feel too proud now of my ethnic historical and cultural heritage that i would *regret* not being able to share that heritage and abandoning its perpetuation. i now find it somewhat *unappealing* to have a girlfriend who is not chinese. not to say that i am ruling out finding a soulmate who is not, or refusing to go on dates. i am just hoping that she is. and i hope to dedicate my energy to look for her in places where i think she will be. (as you can see, now i'm a FOBabee)

just like if you really-really-really loved reading murakami, you might want to find a soulmate who also loved murakami (or *at least* liked reading) so that you could share and enjoy the experience together. it wouldn't necessarily mean that you couldn't still appreciate murakami yourself, but wouldn't it be extra special to be able to share it (and be genuinely appreciated) with the one you loved? similarly, interracial relationships don't necessarily mean forsaking your own heritage, but wouldn't it be more meaningful to perpetuate and strengthen that culture? (one can make this argument for any number of selection criteria. cultural heritage is just one, but a strong one for those that have immense pride in their own.)

so each of us have different experiences that will shape our motivations and effect the criteria we select. we just need to ask ourselves -- have we been honest and authentic in our selective criteria? and are we making choices with positive or with pejorative/negative motivations? in other words, what are the things in our identity that really make us most proud? what are the things that make us most ashamed? and what are those things that we really most desire?

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Moving Into 'Bad Guy' Land

PQ+ | Tuesday 15:26:43 EST | comments (0)

Moving Into 'Bad Guy' Land

HILLA, Iraq, March 31 — The main column of American marines set to attack Iraq's capital raced northward today, rolling on the country's main highway to within 70 miles of Baghdad and drawing only minimal resistance.

The convoy, including dozens of tanks and some 14,000 combat troops, began its journey in the Iraqi desert and ended 40 miles away, along the newly formed front lines from which Iraqi soldiers had retreated just hours before.

Night fell to sounds of American artillery bombarding the remnants of an Iraqi force that soldiers here said had been weakened severely by an American advance team early this morning. Two Iraqi missiles streaked across the afternoon sky, fired from a site a few miles up the road. Otherwise, the Iraqi guns were silent.

The marines took up their positions here as quickly as they could climb out of their vehicles, setting up pickets and digging foxholes along a newly formed perimeter, and shutting off all their lights as soon as the sun had set. Iraqi soldiers had fallen back, the soldiers said, and taken up positions less than four miles away.

"We're in bad-guy country," Col. John Pomfret said, surveying this newly captured piece of Iraqi territory. "I like it."

The swift movement of the troops was made possible by the furious battle overnight, in which the marines dispatched a battalion of Iraqi Army soldiers. An American soldier standing at the farthest edge of the American advance said that the fighting began last night and lasted until the morning, and that the Iraqi soldiers had been either captured or chased away.

"The Iraqis are lying around here," Staff Sgt. Kristian Lippert said, looking into the barley fields that lined the roadway.

The Iraqis seemed to have left in a hurry. American soldiers arriving at the scene found an array of ammunition, including shoulder-fired anti-aircraft rockets and a pair of surface-to-surface missiles.

The two missiles, three feet in diameter and 25 feet long, were being hidden aboard a freight truck in a rural neighborhood outside the city. The missiles, which appeared to be short-range Frogs, bore the recent stamps of United Nations weapons inspectors. American soldiers at the scene said the placement of the missiles in an area populated by civilians suggested that Saddam Hussein was hoping to complicate America's plans to destroy his arsenal.

The advance of one of the main salients aimed at the Iraqi capital ended a five-day hiatus that had prompted questions about America's strategy in Iraq. The marines gathered here, mostly young men, want to move forward, and five days of waiting in the desert had begun to gnaw.

"I trained six months for this thing, and now we're doing it," said one marine before the advance began. "I want to finish the job so I can go home."

Indeed, a kind of electricity seemed to fill the air as the American forces moved northward. At last, Baghdad was getting closer again, and everyone seemed to feel it. Marine officers strutted about their headquarters compound, set up hours before in an abandoned building at the highway's edge. American jets streaked freely about the skies.

The horizon, too, offered its own display of American power. To the left, an Iraqi city glimmered in the distance. Then, with an airstrike, its lights faded black. To the right, a huge orange glow rose in the darkness, illuminating the night sky, until it, too, shrank to nothing. Seconds later, a pair of American jets skylarked to the south.

The marines set up fresh bivouacs across a wide swath of territory here, but it was unclear how long they would sit still. Officers here said they did not know, but said they were on orders to be able to move on 24-hours notice.

The advance of the marines today left them somewhat farther away from Baghdad than the American Third Infantry Division, which is advancing from the southwest. As the two columns advance, their respective roles appeared to emerge: the Third Infantry Division as the main wedge, with the First Marines protecting their right flank. American officers say both divisions appear to be headed for significant concentrations of Iraqi soldiers soon.

Thirteen days ago, the Army and the Marines plunged across the Iraqi border with great speed, covering more than 200 miles in four days. But, with their supply lines stretched clear back to Kuwait, they became vulnerable to attack, and last Tuesday a column of marines was ambushed. At Diwaniya, the marines decided to stop.

Marine officers said they had spent the last several days clearing the areas around them of irregular Iraqi forces. Maj. Hunter Hobson, one of the senior officers here, said the marines fought nearly 100 engagements in the last five days.

Major Hobson and other officers said the marines had decided to bypass the city of Diwaniya itself. Officers said American bombs had already destroyed a Baath Party office as well as a stadium in the town where many of the party loyalists were said to have gathered. Marines had conducted raids around the outskirts of the city, which is thought to be a holdout for diehards of the Hussein government.

For the most part, though, the decision to bypass Diwaniya mirrors earlier ones to have American forces sweep past Iraqi population centers on their drive to Baghdad. That strategy, intended to prevent civilian casualties, set the stage for the street fighting in Nasiriya, where a large concentration of forces loyal to Mr. Hussein had come together. The ensuing battles for that city left more than 10 marines dead.

Marine officers say they are hoping that will not happen in Diwaniya, if only because their aggressive patrolling may have already diminished the number of those willing to fight for Mr. Hussein.

Driving northward into the Iraqi heartland revealed a changed landscape, politically and physically as well. Bullet-riddled cars gave evidence of the firefights that had unfolded on the way. Desert turned to farmland. For the first time in this convoy's advance from the Kuwaiti border, ordinary Iraqis could be seen walking about in groups.

But there was little contact. In the desert, one Bedouin farmer after another had lifted his hand in greeting to the passing American soldiers. Now, at the edge of Iraqi farm country, the locals appeared to be keeping to themselves. No one waved; few men even looked up.

The change did not go unnoticed.

"Hey," said Maj. Mark Stainbrook, "did you see that? None of the Iraqis are waving to us anymore."

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A Tug of War Over Aid Disbursal

PQ+ | Tuesday 15:25:31 EST | comments (0)

A Tug of War Over Aid Disbursal

UMM QASR, Iraq, March 31 — People in southern Iraq waited today for the assistance promised by the Bush administration while debate simmered over the Pentagon's plans to oversee the distribution of the aid, a task that has traditionally been controlled by civilians.

Aid organizations, poised to help in the delivery of emergency supplies, said they would be reluctant to take part if their work was associated with the American military.

Moreover, State Department and aid agency officials said that distribution of aid under the direction of the military would amplify the perception that the American presence was an occupation.

In an unusual letter to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last week, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell asserted that he wanted to retain control of the assistance programs for Iraq.

One of the motivations behind the letter, according to State Department officials, was the knowledge that foreign governments and international aid agencies would be reluctant to help in Iraq if the American military was involved.

Mr. Powell was also eager to maintain the present situation in which emergency teams of the United States Agency for International Development report to Andrew Natsios, the head of the agency, who in turn reports to Mr. Powell. These teams, known as disaster assistance response teams, direct the efforts in the field of nongovernmental aid agencies.

Almost 50 members of these disaster assistance response teams are waiting in Kuwait City to go to Iraq to direct the delivery of emergency water, food and other supplies. They include doctors, nutritional experts and water treatment engineers.

But a month ago, Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, a retired Army officer who is the head of the Bush administration's new reconstruction and humanitarian assistance office for Iraq, claimed responsibility for the aid programs, A.I.D. officials said. General Garner, who is also in Kuwait City, reports to the war commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks.

"Our implementing partners do not want to work with the military," an A.I.D. official said. He was referring to major nongovernmental agencies, including Oxfam-America and Catholic Relief Services. "We've said A.I.D. would be interested in coordination, not subordination," to the military, he added.

A military-led relief effort would "jeopardize all burden-sharing by U.N. agencies and other governments," said George Rupp, president of the International Rescue Committee. "It would also compromise the independence and safety of humanitarian workers around the world."

Other aid agencies said that the military, already pressed to supply food to its own troops on the battlefield, would be unable to distribute food effectively to Iraqi civilians. They pointed to the chaotic distribution in the southern town of Safwan where Iraqi men shoved needy women out of the way to grab food boxes as coalition forces looked on.

"Some American units are running low on food because they can't get supplies to them," said Kenneth H. Bacon, president of Refugees International. "So how can they distribute food to the whole country?"

Mr. Bacon and the leaders of 13 other major American aid agencies sent a letter to President Bush last week urging him to place the humanitarian effort in Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

In doing so, they said, Mr. Bush would be living up to his own pledge made in the Azores last month that the United Nations would play a key role in the aid programs in Iraq. Further, they said, the World Food Program and Unicef, the United Nations program for children, had worked in Iraq for years and the United States should capitalize on their long experience.

Two Unicef convoys tried to get into Iraq today. The one from the north, with medicine and water purification equipment, was stopped by Turkish border guards. In the south, 5 out of perhaps 10 water tanker trucks were allowed past the border; 3 made it to Umm Qasr. One of the other two turned around when the driver became anxious; a second ended up in a ditch.

The Umm Qasr docks, the main entry point for assistance to Iraq, remained idle today, more than a week after coalition forces declared the facility secure. Several dozen Iraqi dock workers have been employed in recent days after interviews by a team of British soldiers. But so far the workers have been relegated to simple loading tasks at warehouses. The British said they had not yet found any Iraqis to take management positions at the docks.

One of the reasons for the lack of activity at the docks, according to American officials, was the refusal of the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator in New York to make a security assessment of the port. Ships loaded with grain from the United Nations World Food Program cannot be unloaded until the port is declared secure.

Teams of United Nations security experts have been waiting for days at the Kuwait border to cross into Iraq to make the assessment but are yet to receive a go-ahead. American officials said they believed that the United Nations was stalling on the safety issue for political reasons.

As a result of the lack of a security clearance a vessel carrying about 100,000 tons of Australian wheat — a gift from the Australian government to the World Food Program — remained stuck in the Persian Gulf waiting to dock.

In an effort to spur the United Nations on and to demonstrate that the port was safe, two A.I.D. workers were sent to the port today to set up a small headquarters there. They had enough equipment and supplies to stay overnight at the port, where British army officers are working in the derelict offices of the Iraqi port directors who fled.

For the moment, people in Umm Qasr, and in the towns further north to Basra, appeared to have enough food. Everywhere, water was in short supply. In embattled Basra, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that their workers had begun to restore three generators on the water treatment plant in the town in an effort to get the city's water capacity above 50 percent.

But American aid officials said that stocks of food, distributed before the war, will begin to run out in many Iraqi households by the end of April.

By then, they said, they will have to be able to revive the distribution systems for the 450,000 tons of food that needs to be distributed every month to Iraqis under a revived version of the oil-for-food program. The aid workers stress that this is four times the amount of food distributed each month in Afghanistan.

The critical shortage of water was evident in Umm Qasr, even though a major new water pipeline from Kuwait into the town opened today for the first time. "The water comes in tankers but there are always fights over it," said Murtartha Taleb Kadem, one of the dock workers.

It is much more difficult to get water now than before the war, he said. Then, water was available for two hours in the morning, and two hours in the evening. He would buy water for drinking.

In the section of the town near the port this morning, the obsession with water was clear. Young boys pushed trolleys along the road with empty containers to fill up from a tanker. Men formed a scrum around the back of a truck packed with boxes of mineral water bottles. Young children carried as many bottles as they could, and several women carried bottles under their long black robes.

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American Air Reaches Deal With 3 Unions on Big Cuts

Finance | Tuesday 15:24:23 EST | comments (0)

American Air Reaches Deal With 3 Unions on Big Cuts

American Airlines said yesterday that it had reached tentative agreements with all three of its major unions on $1.8 billion in annual concessions, a move that reduces the airline's chances of having to file for bankruptcy protection immediately.

The airline, the world's largest, and its unions worked out the agreements in frantic negotiations that began over the weekend in Fort Worth, where American is based. Yesterday afternoon, the pilots' union, the flight attendants' union and the mechanics in the Transport Workers Union approved tentative agreements, becoming the final labor groups to accept wage and benefit cuts. Baggage handlers and six smaller groups at the Transport Workers Union had already reached tentative agreements last week.

Industry experts said that the agreements gave American, a unit of the AMR Corporation, more breathing room but did not guarantee that the company would stay out of bankruptcy court in the next several months or even weeks. The concessions still have to be approved by union leaders and members, with all voting to be finished by April 15. And the cuts might not even be enough to sustain American through the steep drop in passenger traffic caused by the war with Iraq. American also said it still needed to obtain concessions from its suppliers and aircraft lessors.

Executives at American continued talks yesterday for over $1.5 billion in financing that it would need if it filed for bankruptcy protection. That money would probably come from four lenders, led by Citigroup, bankers said.

Donald J. Carty, chief executive of American, said last night that the tentative labor agreements would help the company avoid an immediate bankruptcy filing.

"By taking these decisive actions, the union leadership and our employees have demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the future of the company and have enabled us to avoid an immediate filing with the bankruptcy court," Mr. Carty said.

Of the $1.8 billion in annual concessions, $660 million would come from the pilots, $340 million from the flight attendants, $620 million from the T.W.U. workers, $80 million from agents and representatives and $100 million from management. In exchange, employees would take part in a new stock option and profit-sharing program, the company said.

American also said Mr. Carty would take a 33 percent pay cut from his annual base salary and would decline a bonus. He will also ask the board to cut executive compensation packages, the company said. Those statements come after lawmakers recently criticized airlines for doling out what they called lavish packages to executives last year while the carriers were losing billions of dollars.

Despite all the cuts, American said its "prospects remain uncertain" and "the days ahead will be difficult and the success of our joint efforts is not yet assured."

Jim Corridore, an industry analyst at Standard & Poor's, echoed that assessment, saying that American would still have to deal with the drop in revenue that has accompanied the outbreak of war. In the first week of the war, overall traffic fell by 10 percent, according to the Air Transport Association, the industry's main trade group.

"I think they're still in significant danger," Mr. Corridore said. "I wouldn't say it's likely that they'll file for bankruptcy or that it'll happen. But the danger is there because of the extent of the bad environment given the war."

There is also a chance that one or more of the agreements will be rejected during the votes by the various union memberships. All the unions have said they intend to have members vote on the concessions by mid-April if union leaders give their approval. But voting can be capricious, and Mr. Corridore said that the mechanics are "very unpredictable."

The mechanics have complained that they already made large sacrifices. Moreover, a competing union has tried to take over representation of the mechanics, stirring up bitter feelings among the workers and making leaders of the Transport Workers Union more defensive.

The T.W.U., which has 34,000 workers at American, posted details of the tentative agreements on its Web site yesterday. For the eight labor groups that it represents, wage cuts range from 6.6 percent to 19 percent.

The main cuts, though, would come from the mechanics and baggage handlers because there are more than 16,000 workers in each group. Pay would be cut 16 percent for baggage handlers and 17.5 percent for mechanics. In addition, the company will make changes to scheduling and work rules to increase productivity.

Last November, United Airlines faced a nearly identical situation — relying on its workers to vote in favor of concessions to keep the airline out of bankruptcy. All the labor groups voted for the cuts except for the mechanics, represented by the International Association of Machinists. That contributed to the many factors that pushed United to file for bankruptcy protection in December.

The Association of Professional Flight Attendants declined yesterday to release details of its tentative agreement with American, saying that leaders were still reviewing it.

Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, said the pilots had offered American wage and benefit cuts of 20 percent in the first year and 15 percent in subsequent years, in addition to work rule changes. Productivity changes will result in 2,000 to 3,000 layoffs.

As it talked to its unions, American Airlines was also trying to put together more than $1.5 billion in so-called debtor-in-possession financing that would allow it to keep operating under bankruptcy protection.

Executives from American and bankers were in talks all day yesterday. One person briefed on the discussions said that Citibank, which would lead the financing, had agreed to put up $750 million because its parent, Citigroup, issues the credit card tied to American's frequent-flier program. The $750 million might come in the form of a straight loan or become part of the overall debtor-in-possession package, this person said. Citibank would contribute several hundred million more to the package.

The other lenders involved in discussions were J. P. Morgan Chase, the CIT Group and Merrill Lynch. GE Capital, the financing arm of General Electric, dropped out of talks, possibly on Friday night, said the person briefed on the discussions.

In Washington, Republican lawmakers were trying to pull together legislation that would give financial aid to the airline industry. The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee will be marking up the supplemental financing bill to cover Iraqi war costs this week, and each will attach some kind of aid to the airline industry, worth about $2.8 billion.

The Senate Republican leadership agreed on a package that would include a one-year extension on war-risk insurance, which expires this summer, and would offer at least a temporary respite from some of the fees and taxes imposed since the Sept. 11 attacks. That package will also have conditions limiting executive compensation.

House Republican staff members said their package was likely to be in the same financial range as the Senate plan but that the details could differ.

The assistance under discussion is much less than what the airline industry has been seeking.

"There's a widespread recognition that you should not bail out the industry," said Carlos Bonilla, a lobbyist at the Washington Group, whose clients include Delta Air Lines. "On the other hand, you should not let nonmarket issues — war — decide the fate of the industry."

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Self-Protection or Delusion? The Many Varieties of Paranoia

Science | Tuesday 15:23:00 EST | comments (0)

Self-Protection or Delusion? The Many Varieties of Paranoia

I am being harassed by the guy next door and I want him to stop," the woman in my office said with firm conviction. The man would leer at her in the elevator just to make her squirm, she said.

But when I inquired further, she described a lingering feeling of being mistreated by people she said were jealous of her. She was even sure that someone had once tried to poison her.

Then I asked a question that gave me a direct taste of her problem. Is it possible that you are mistaken?

Her pleasant manner instantly shifted to icy contempt before she denounced me for implying that she was paranoid.

Of course, she was right. And the unshakable nature of her belief was the clincher.

Certainly none of her ideas were bizarre or impossible. People are harassed and envied all the time. But her absolute absence of doubt was what made her psychotic. She could not imagine being wrong.

Probably no psychiatric term is bandied about as loosely as paranoia. But paranoia covers a broad terrain, from a stable personality trait to a symptom of severe mental illness.

Paranoia may even confer an adaptive advantage in some instances. After all, someone who is always watching his back and is mindful that his peers are driven by self-interest is more likely to have a competitive edge when one is needed.

In politics, mild paranoia is probably an asset; no politician could survive for long with a rosy and trusting view of the world.

But there is a world of difference between having a paranoid streak and harboring a delusion.

Some people, like my patient, develop a delusional disorder in middle or late life, having had no trace of paranoid thinking before. Their disorder is fairly rare but striking. These patients falsely believe that they are the objects of persecution, envy or even love. Yet they often function effectively at work and can superficially pass for normal in social settings.

Ian McEwan's "Enduring Love" describes a man in the grip of a mistaken but unyielding belief that he is loved by a complete stranger whom he meets by chance.

Celebrity stalkers often fall into this category. They insist that they are secretly loved by a powerful or famous figure. Clearly, there is more than a little self-importance at the heart of these delusions. Whether it is being persecuted or loved, it is all about being the center of attention.

And all attempts to convince them that their beliefs are mistaken fail. Because they have no doubt about their delusions, they are immune to reason.

The most common cause of paranoia is also the least understood by the public, schizophrenia. A chronic mental illness that is generally believed to affect 1 percent of Americans, schizophrenia is characterized by delusions, often paranoid in nature; hallucinations; and so-called negative symptoms that include social withdrawal and apathy.

Contrary to popular notion, schizophrenia has nothing to do with split or multiple personality. It is thinking and perception, not personality, that are so disordered in schizophrenia.

What is intriguing is that drugs can produce symptoms that mimic schizophrenia, and they have yielded clues about the neurobiology of psychosis. Cocaine and amphetamines, for example, flood the brain with the neurotransmitter dopamine, producing psychosis in vulnerable people. And the cocaine-induced delusions are easy to confuse with those of schizophrenia.

Antipsychotic drugs alleviate psychosis by blocking dopamine receptors in important brain areas. In doing so, they normalize the excess dopamine activity in schizophrenia and stimulant-induced psychosis.

Curiously, antipsychotic drugs, which are so effective in treating the paranoia of schizophrenia, are of limited use in delusional disorder. That suggests that the neurobiology of paranoia is diverse, just as the illnesses that produce it are.

An intriguing clue to the origin of psychotic thinking comes from recent brain imaging studies. Dr. David Silbersweig and Dr. Jane Epstein at the New York Weill Cornell Center used PET scans to study schizophrenic patients who were having delusions and auditory hallucinations while their brains were being imaged.

The paranoid subjects showed increased activity in the amygdala, a part of the brain involved in the emotional processing of fear and danger, not only in response to threatening words, but also to neutral words. Healthy people respond like this only in threatening situations.

The implication is that the brain is responding to a nonexistent threat, at least in these paranoid schizophrenic subjects. It is like a faulty burglar alarm set off in the absence of an intruder. The paranoid patient is correctly responding to real brain activity that indicates danger, but those neural circuits have no good reason to be firing in the first place.

To make matters worse, the schizophrenic subjects also showed decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex compared with healthy people. The prefrontal cortex serves an executive function, critically evaluating signals from brain regions and shaping responses to them. So in addition to having an overactive fear circuit, these paranoid subjects have an impaired ability to judge whether their fears are rational.

Sure, paranoid people, like the rest of us, do occasionally have enemies. But if these imaging studies are replicated, the results will mean that the real enemies of paranoid people are their own brains.

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Surprise, Mom: I'm Anti-Abortion

PQ+ | Tuesday 15:21:19 EST | comments (0)

Surprise, Mom: I'm Anti-Abortion

FOR her high school class in persuasive speech, Afton Dahl, 16, chose to present an argument that abortion should be illegal. She graphically described the details of various abortion techniques, including facts about fetal heart development.

"The baby's heartbeat starts at around 12 to 18 days, so it's murder to kill someone with a heartbeat," Miss Dahl said recently, recalling the argument she used in class in January. "I don't believe in abortion under any circumstances, including rape. I think it would be better to overturn Roe v. Wade."

This contrast between mother and teenage daughter illustrates a trend noted in polls: that teenagers and college-age Americans are more conservative about abortion rights than their counterparts were a generation ago. Many people old enough to have teenage children and who equate youth with liberal social opinions on topics like gay rights and the use of marijuana for medical purposes have been surprised at this discovery. Miss Dahl was one of numerous students in her class who chose to make speeches about abortion, and most took the anti-abortion side.

Miss Dahl, a sophomore, attends Red Wing High School in Red Wing, Minn., a small city that is the home of Red Wing shoes and a town where a majority voted for Al Gore for president. Miss Dahl's abortion views are not something she learned from her parents: her mother, Fran Dahl, 47, maintains that abortion should be a woman's choice.

"Nowadays kids don't grow up knowing or being aware of what was going on when abortion was illegal," said Ms. Dahl, a former nurse. "It's not a choice that I would have taken personally, but for the future of women I want to see the right to an abortion maintained."

This contrast between mother and teenage daughter illustrates a trend noted in polls: that teenagers and college-age Americans are more conservative about abortion rights than their counterparts were a generation ago. Many people old enough to have teenage children and who equate youth with liberal social opinions on topics like gay rights and the use of marijuana for medical purposes have been surprised at this discovery. Miss Dahl was one of numerous students in her class who chose to make speeches about abortion, and most took the anti-abortion side.

"I was shocked that there were that many students who felt strong enough and confident enough to speak about being pro-life," said Nina Verin, a parent of another student in the class (whose oral argument was about war in Iraq). "The people I associate with in town are pro-choice, so I'm troubled — where do these kids come from?"

A study of American college freshmen shows that support for abortion rights has been dropping since the early 1990's: 54 percent of 282,549 students polled at 437 schools last fall by the University of California at Los Angeles agreed that abortion should be legal. The figure was down from 67 percent a decade earlier. A New York Times/CBS News poll in January found that among people 18 to 29, the share who agree that abortion should be generally available to those who want it was 39 percent, down from 48 percent in 1993.

"Abortion isn't a rights issue — it's become for increasing numbers of young people a moral, ethical issue," said Henry Brady, a professor of political science and public policy at Berkeley who has taken surveys in this area. "They haven't faced a situation where they couldn't get an abortion." Experts offer a number of reasons why young people today seem to favor stricter abortion laws than their parents did at the same age. They include the decline in teenage pregnancy over the last 10 years, which has reduced the demand for abortion. They also cite society's greater acceptance of single parenthood; the spread of ultrasound technology, which has made the fetus seem more human; and the easing of the stigma once attached to giving up a child for adoption.

Ten to 15 years ago, said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice, an abortion-rights group, adoption was generally portrayed as an effort to find parents for needy children. Now, she said, that has changed — infertile couples are desperately seeking children.

"Young people are idealistic," Ms. Kissling said. "They think sacrifice is a good thing, particularly conservative Christian kids. One of the main sacrifices you can give is the gift of a child to a deserving couple."

The most commonly cited reason for the increasingly conservative views of young people is their receptiveness to the way anti-abortion campaigners have reframed the national debate on the contentious topic, shifting the emphasis from a woman's rights to the rights of the fetus.

Abortion opponents celebrated on March 13 when the Senate passed a ban on a procedure that its critics call partial-birth abortion; the bill is expected to pass the House quickly and be signed by President Bush, and to immediately face a court challenge. Even though the procedure is used in only a tiny fraction of cases, graphic descriptions of it since the mid-90's, and even the name its foes have given it (doctors call it dilation and extraction), have had an impact on young people.

"There's been so much media attention over the last seven to eight years on partial-birth abortion, we shouldn't be surprised that some of it has had an effect on 12-to-14-year-olds, and it is a public relations coup for the National Right to Life Committee," said David J. Garrow, a legal historian at Emory University who has focused on reproductive rights.

Britni Hoffbeck, another speech student at Red Wing High who opposes abortion, and who says her views are more conservative than those of her parents, put her argument succinctly: "It's more about the baby's rights than the woman's rights."

Tom Cosgrove, a communications consultant in Cambridge, Mass., who has researched the views of young people for national abortion-rights groups, said: "All the restrictions that the right-to-life movement has imposed young people look at and say, `They're a good thing, because it's meant to protect a young woman's health.' They don't want the label of pro-choice. The pro-life side figured out a long time ago that this is about children, whereas the pro-choice movement is focused on women and choice."

Some young people who oppose abortion, and who were born after the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 declared that were is a constitutional right to abortion, have adopted a new rhetoric. One of them is Kelly Kroll, a junior at Boston College and president of American Collegians for Life, who says she is a "survivor of the abortion holocaust" because she was adopted. "Myself and my classmates have never known a world in which abortion wasn't legalized," she said. "We've realized that any one of us could have been aborted. When I talk about being a survivor of abortion, I am talking about it from a personal place."

Margaret Watson, a junior at Rutgers University who recently started an abortion rights group on campus, RU Choice, said that because the historical circumstances surrounding Roe v. Wade are distant, her peers take the right to an abortion for granted.

"For my generation, we have always grown up knowing we could have an abortion," she said. "I look at being pro-choice as being American, to have free will. I would hope that mothers do decide to keep their babies, but I just want women to be able to make up their own minds."

One reason there may be less support for abortion among the young is that they are less likely to imagine having to consider an abortion, because teenage pregnancy rates are down: while 4 out of 10 girls become pregnant, that is a 21 percent decrease since 1990, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Experts attribute the decline to greater awareness of AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, which has led young people to become more cautious about sex. Studies show that fewer high school students engage in sexual intercourse, and that contraceptive use is up.

"There are better contraceptives — RU-486, the morning-after pill — along with an emphasis on sex ed, abstinence and slogans like, `Not me, Not now,' " said a sophomore at Hunter College High School in Manhattan whose father did not want her to be identified. "Abortion isn't such an issue, because getting pregnant isn't such a prevalent problem among my peers."

Some parents trace their teenagers' anti-abortion views to sexuality education programs that stress abstinence as the only way to prevent pregnancy and disease, and in the process sometimes demonize abortion. Since 1996 the federal government has budgeted $50 million annually to "abstinence only till marriage" programs, which are taught in 35 percent of public schools in the country, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit group affiliated with Planned Parenthood.

Renee Walker gave permission for her seventh-grade son to participate in such a program last fall in his public school in Concord, Calif. But she said she became alarmed when, reviewing his class notes, she found a list of the disadvantages of abortion, including the circled words "killing a baby." He said he had been told abortion "tears the arms and legs off."

Ms. Walker sent a letter of complaint to officials of the school district, Mount Diablo Unified School District, expressing her surprise that the abstinence curriculum had been created by First Resort, a Christian anti-abortion and pregnancy counseling group. "Most parents are busy, doing laundry, running around like me, and we're trusting the schools to reflect public policy," she said. "I had an anti-choice critter jump out of my son's backpack and was running around my house."

The district agreed with Ms. Walker that the First Resort program was overly graphic, a schools spokeswoman said. It asked for, and got, modifications, she said.

If today's teenagers and young adults maintain their views on abortion into older adulthood, and if succeeding waves of students are also conservative, the balance could tip somewhat in the America's long-running abortion war, some experts speculate.

It's unclear whether the shift will ever be substantial enough to change the centrist position of the majority of Americans of all ages: that abortion should be legal, but with restrictions. In Red Wing, the certainty of the youthful opinions of the students reminded their speech-lcass teacher, Jillynne Raymond, of an earlier generation's certainty — her own.

"Teenagers have strong opinions," Ms. Raymond, 41, said. "It's no different than the 70's when I was a teenager, but the difference is that the majority of speeches then were pro-choice. I wanted the right to an abortion as a woman. The focus then was not having the government tell me what to do with my body.

"Today," she said of her students, "the majority is pro-life."

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Sorry, Old Boy, the Mayor Says 'No Smoking'

NYC | Tuesday 15:19:26 EST | comments (0)

Sorry, Old Boy, the Mayor Says 'No Smoking'

THEY are as much a part of Manhattan's old private clubs as leather chairs, billiard tables and investment bankers named Winthrop: oak-paneled bars, befogged with cigar smoke.

The oak bars will remain, but as of today, the last acrid skeins of cigar smoke are dissipating into the chandeliers and settling onto the velvet draperies and dark red Scalamandré fabrics of men's lounges in the city's mustiest old clubs. The city council's smoking ban, an effort to protect employees from second-hand smoke, has kicked in, and to the dismay of many members of those clubs, the law applies to cigars — and it applies to them.

"The attitude at every place I know is that this is the most asinine law they've ever heard of," said Michael M. Thomas, a writer and a member of the Racquet and Tennis Club, on Park Avenue. "I know of no more detested law than this."

Mr. Thomas doesn't even smoke cigars, but that's beside the point, club members say. The basic premise of clubs is that members should be able to go to their clubhouses and do as they please, which should at least include the option of lazing in a big club chair with a highball of single-malt scotch and a stinky cigar in hand. Having that option taken away without so much as a vote from the house committee, well, it's just very un-club-like. Steven T. Florio, the chief executive of Condé Nast Publications, a member of the New York Yacht Club and a man known for his love of cigars, actually quit smoking four months ago, but that hasn't changed his opinion of the law.

"This is way over the line," he said. "If you're a member of any private club and they have a designated area where you can smoke a cigar, I think that should be allowed. It's one of those nice things you can do with your buddies."

Part of the dismay over the cigar ban among some club members comes from the fact that it has been championed by one of those buddies — Michael R. Bloomberg. Until he became mayor, and standard bearer for the stogie police, Mr. Bloomberg was on the inside. In 2001, just before embarking on his mayoral campaign, Mr. Bloomberg resigned from four clubs — the Harmonie; the Century Country Club in Purchase, N.Y.; the Brook Club; and the Racquet and Tennis Club — but he kept memberships at 10 others, including the New York Yacht Club and the Harvard Club, both of which are now subject to the cigar ban. (Back in 1998, Mr. Bloomberg, then merely a mogul and not a politician, took a more laid-back approach to the issue, holding his daughter's 16th birthday at a joint called the City Wine and Cigar Company.) The cigar ban hasn't endeared the mayor to his fellow club members.

"I was a little shocked that with everything that's happening in New York City that the mayor has decided that this is how he'll be remembered," Mr. Florio said. "It really, really makes me miss Rudy."

Part of the members' frustration surely also stems from the fact that the law — all 21 pages of it — doesn't give the clubs much wiggle room. The law bans smoking "in all enclosed areas within public places," and among the definition of public places, it lists, explicitly, "membership associations," or clubs. Even covered outdoor spaces of clubs are off limits to smokers. So while it's legal to smoke a cigar on the terrace of the Knickerbocker Club on Fifth Avenue, which is open to the heavens, it is illegal to puff on the loge of the Racquet and Tennis Club, which is recessed into the building, and therefore, technically, covered.

Cigar smoking is a touchy subject for members of many private clubs. In 1998, federal agents arrested a manager of the Racquet and Tennis Club under the Trading With the Enemy Act, for having Cuban cigars in the on-premises humidor. After that incident, which was splashed across the pages of the city's tabloids, members of exclusive clubs learned that in a pinch they could not count on sympathy from the very public they were excluding. So in the spirit of good citizenship, most clubs are quick to report that they plan to comply with the law.

"It doesn't allow smoking in the clubhouse," said Winthrop Rutherford, the president of the Racquet and Tennis Club. "So no smoking in the clubhouse."

There are a few narrow exceptions, though. One is for clubs that have no employees — which gave some members of the Union Club, on East 69th Street, an idea: why not create a special class of membership for the employees, to get around the law? When other members raised the specter of busboys on the squash courts, the idea was quickly scrapped.

Another option seemed to be the creation of a single room for smoking, legal so long as it was sealed off from the rest of the club, vented outdoors and off-limits to employees. The idea of a hermetically sealed smoker's tank had its downsides — it's expensive to build, unsightly and, since no employees could enter the room, members would have to pick up after themselves. But that option was taken away on March 26, when Gov. George E. Pataki signed an even tougher state law banning smoking in public places. The tougher law goes into effect in just under four months. That's too bad for the Century Association on West 43rd Street, which recently spent around $10,000 on duct work to create a smokers' room for its cigar puffers. The room will soon be obsolete.

"What must be, must be," said Louis Auchincloss, the novelist and the president of the Century Association.

The Brook Club, on East 54th Street, recently held a final smoke-out. After toying with letting in the rabble, the Union Club has given up its search for loopholes. The Harvard Club, which designated part of its downstairs lounge for cigar smoking — the area roughly from the oil portrait of President Theodore Roosevelt 40 feet to the head of an elephant mounted on the wall — doesn't see a way around the law and will ban smoking.

But what about all those humidors and private cigar lockers? Most clubs haven't figured out what to do with those yet. Charles H. Townsend, the chief operating officer of Condé Nast and the rear commodore of the New York Yacht Club, recently donated a humidor to the club, "with a brass plaque and everything," he said.

"I don't know whether I get it back," Mr. Townsend said. "I'm not going to go over there and snatch it."

A good, well-sealed humidor might be exactly what Mr. Townsend and his cigar-smoking buddies need to keep their stogies fresh until the anti-smoking fervor subsides. At least, he said, that's the hope.

"The tide goes in and the tide goes out," Mr. Townsend said. "Who knows how long this regulation is going to be around?"

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A Murky Trail Behind Rediscovered Works by Malevich

Arts | Tuesday 15:18:39 EST | comments (0)

A Murky Trail Behind Rediscovered Works by Malevich

In May 13 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York will open a gleaming exhibition of paintings and drawings by Kasimir Malevich, a master of the Russian avant-garde and a seminal figure in modern art.

This show will feature important works never seen in the West. There will be an elegant dinner and a flurry of events, all celebrating the bold spirit of an artist who was also a prominent victim of Stalinist repression.

But this exhibition also alludes to another saga of the avant-garde, one about which the Guggenheim has had much less to say.

What the museum calls the "newly rediscovered" paintings at the center of its show were once the treasure of Nikolai Khardzhiev, a Russian critic who befriended leading members of the avant-garde as a young man and secretly preserved their art, manuscripts and memoirs long after such work was banned as subversively bourgeois.

The story of Mr. Khardzhiev's collection is an art-world parable, setting the obsession of a frail and complicated old man against the forces of a market in which a single Malevich oil can command $15 million or more.

When the 90-year-old scholar and his wife finally left Moscow in 1993, having survived the collapse of the Soviet system, they hoped to finish their lives in peace and find a suitable home for their collection of more than 1,000 pieces.

Instead, Mr. Khardzhiev died in Amsterdam less than three years later, embittered and alone. His wife had died in a mysterious fall. An out-of-work Russian actor to whom they entrusted their estate took a $5 million payoff and disappeared.

Though Mr. Khardzhiev (pronounced HARD-zee-ev) wanted his collection preserved, many of the best pieces were sold to wealthy collectors, earning millions in profits for a pair of European art dealers whom the couple had come to despise. Nearly half of his precious literary archive was seized by Russian customs inspectors as it was smuggled out of Moscow; the rest now sits in a museum basement in Amsterdam.

"It is as though he spent his entire life constructing this unique, magnificent building and then it was just destroyed," said Aleksandra S. Shatskikh, a Russian art historian who has studied Mr. Khardzhiev's archive. "There was almost nothing left but walls and a foundation."

The paintings' path to the Guggenheim has been dominated by characters whose motives have often been unclear. They include the powerful art dealers who acquired some of the best works for a pittance in return for helping the couple move from Russia; some Russian-speaking helpers who preyed on the couple in Amsterdam; and the Dutch executor of their estate, who was later convicted of tax fraud in the case.

The role of the Guggenheim is also complicated. Displaying the Khardzhiev works could greatly increase their value for the art dealers still trying to sell them, and the Guggenheim official who conceived the Malevich show is a longtime friend of the dealers. He was also a go-between for Russian cultural officials, who first threatened Mr. Khardzhiev for what they called the "illegal export" of his collection but later defended the dealers who helped with the move.

The art dealers, the Guggenheim and Russian officials all deny having done anything improper. It is through their efforts, they argue, that superb art hidden for decades is finally being seen.

"What happened here is the worst thing I could have envisioned," one of the art dealers, Mathias Rastorfer, said regarding the scattering of Mr. Khardzhiev's art and archive. "But if none of this would have happened, this collection would have been a mystery, and it would have been dispersed by dubious characters all over the place."

For most of Mr. Khardzhiev's life, his collection was a source of peril, not wealth.

Born in Ukraine in 1903, he studied law before moving to Leningrad, where he met many of the painters and writers who had ventured from European modernism into new realms of abstraction. Among them was Malevich, who was working to distill a nonrepresentational art of "pure sensation" that he called Suprematism.

Mr. Khardzhiev made an impression as a brilliant young critic of this new art and literature. "He saw everything," said a friend, the novelist Andrei Sergeyev. "It was an open book to him."

But by the late 1920's the Soviet authorities were growing impatient with the avant-garde. Malevich was jailed for several months in 1930 and died in 1935, ostracized by a state that had declared Socialist Realism the only acceptable art form. The absurdist writer Daniil Kharms, Mr. Khardzhiev's cherished friend, was arrested by the secret police in 1931 and later died in a prison hospital.

Mr. Khardzhiev survived, hiding his passions and holding to the fringes of the cultural bureaucracy. He wrote guardedly and published little. Hoping to write a history of the Russian Futurist movement, he began to gather the avant-garde's literary remains: manuscripts, memoirs, fragments of all sorts.

The paintings he collected had little commercial value in that closed, fearful society. Still, at least a few relatives of artists later accused him of failing to return borrowed works.

What saved him from arrest may have been his love for Vladimir Mayakovsky, Stalin's favorite poet. After helping to edit Mayakovsky's collected works, Mr. Khardzhiev was admitted to the Soviet writers' union in 1941.

During the Khrushchev thaw that began in 1956, Mr. Khardzhiev dared to organize the first public shows of avant-garde art since Stalin's terror. He never openly criticized the government, but his friends included luminous outcasts like the poet Anna Akhmatova, and there was no question of his hatred for the Soviet state.

"He always wanted to flee," Mr. Sergeyev said.

Several things held him back. In 1953 he married for the second time, to a sculptor, Lydia Chaga. He spent endless hours in the state archives, struggling vainly to produce a definitive collection of the poetry of Velimir Khlebnikov. Then there was Mr. Khardzhiev's own archive, freighted with the sacrifices of its creators and his own unfulfilled promise.

Some friends thought he seemed to harden as his collection grew. Paintings that once covered his walls were hidden away. His charm also became less visible, and he quarreled with friends. "He could be dogmatic even about tea," one said.

Letters found among his papers suggest that he began trying to escape the Soviet Union in the mid-1970's, but was disappointed by a Swedish scholar, Bengt Jangfeldt, to whom he turned for help. Mr. Jangfeldt confirmed in an interview that he had received four Malevich oils from Mr. Khardzhiev and later refused to return them. But he said they were a gift unrelated to the critic's efforts to emigrate.

By the time Mr. Khardzhiev and his wife left Moscow, the state that tormented him had collapsed. Their conduit was a Dutch academic, Willem Weststeijn, who approached Mr. Khardzhiev in 1992 with an invitation to visit the University of Amsterdam. Mr. Khardzhiev proposed instead that he move, and suggested he might leave his archive to that university.

Mr. Weststeijn had no idea how to get the collection out of Russia, but soon found someone who did in Krystyna Gmurzynska, an art dealer whose gallery in Cologne, Germany, was a powerful force in the competitive market for avant-garde art.

Ms. Gmurzynska was stunned by what she found in the Khardzhiev's tiny apartment: rare oils, gouaches and drawings by Malevich; paintings by Pavel Filonov, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova; important drawings by El Lissitzky. Along with the vast literary archive, there were about 1,350 artworks, all unquestionably authentic in a market plagued by forgeries and fakes.

The dealer said she entered into an arrangement with the couple only after Ms. Chaga, Mr. Khardzhiev's wife, "cried and asked for our help." But the deal was hardly charitable. According to papers seized in Moscow, Ms. Gmurzynska and her partner, Mr. Rastorfer, were to give Mr. Khardzhiev and his wife $2.5 million to resettle in Amsterdam. In return, the dealers would receive six Malevich works that art experts had valued at 10 times that amount or more.

After the agreement came to light in 1994, Ms. Gmurzynska and Mr. Rastorfer denied taking part in the smuggling. But they would not say how the trove was moved, only that they advanced the couple money to relocate in November 1993 and completed the purchase of the art after it left Russia.

The Khardzhievs told a very different story. The two art dealers not only took charge of moving their belongings, they said, but also helped to pack and carry away suitcases full of art.

"Even this lady Gmurzynska was carrying very heavy valises," Mr. Khardzhiev told a Russian journalist, Konstantin Akinsha, who interviewed him in Amsterdam two years later. "I was impressed by her womanly strength."

Relations between the critic and the dealers soon deteriorated. The Khardzhievs were put up at a Hilton hotel in Amsterdam and, they complained, abandoned.

They eventually moved into a row house near the hotel. But Mr. Khardzhiev grew desperate waiting for his archive and was disconsolate when he learned in February 1994 that almost half of it had been seized at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. He became convinced that other manuscripts and books had been stolen as well.

A series of Russian speakers recruited to care for the temperamental couple quit or were fired. Last in the parade was Boris Abarov, a former Russian actor who won their confidence and placed a Dutch friend as their business adviser.

In July 1995 Mr. Abarov and this adviser helped Mr. Khardzhiev prepare a will providing for a cultural foundation in the couple's name and making Mr. Abarov their sole heir. (The couple had no children.)

Ms. Chaga died four months later. Mr. Abarov said she fell down the steep stairs of the couple's home and hit her head. But a close friend of Ms. Chaga, Anna Gourevich, challenged that account. In a statement to the Dutch authorities she cited contradictions in Mr. Abarov's version of events, and said Ms. Chaga had described repeated fights with Mr. Abarov over his efforts to control the couple's finances.

The police investigated briefly, but filed no charges. Mr. Abarov, who has denied wrongdoing, could not be reached.

A friend of Mr. Khardzhiev, Vadim Kozovoi, said he arrived in Amsterdam in March 1996 to find him confined to bed, complaining about Mr. Abarov and demanding to change his will. He said that Mr. Abarov threw him out of the house soon thereafter.

After Mr. Khardzhiev's death three months later, Mr. Abarov changed the bylaws of the Khardzhiev-Chaga foundation in Amsterdam to allow the sale of more art. Before the Dutch authorities began investigating a year later, the foundation negotiated new sales of at least $12.5 million with the Gmurzynska gallery for four Malevich paintings and drawings by Lissitzky.

During the same period, according to an art expert familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity, several important Malevich letters and manuscripts, apparently from Mr. Khardzhiev's collection, quietly went on sale in Europe.

Finally, as allegations of improprieties appeared in De Volkskrant, the Dutch newspaper, Mr. Abarov negotiated with the couple's executor to receive $5 million for renouncing further claims on the estate. Then he disappeared.

Ms. Gmurzynska initially had little trouble selling Mr. Khardzhiev's art, placing Malevich oils with the cosmetics heir Ronald S. Lauder and the German industrialist Peter Ludwig. But in an already turbulent avant-garde market, art experts said, the public scandals in Russia and the Netherlands cast a shadow over the collection.

Negotiations between those two governments over the fate of the art and archive dragged on, and in an internal memorandum, Russia's security chief at the time, Vladimir V. Putin, suggested that he would continue to pursue a criminal inquiry into the alleged smuggling.

"We regard it as essential to further solve the problems connected with the Khardzhiev collection," wrote Mr. Putin, now the Russian president, according to a copy of the 1998 memorandum provided to The New York Times. "Cultural treasures which are illegally taken from the territory of the Russian Federation are subject to return."

With more Malevich works to sell and tens of millions of dollars at stake, Ms. Gmurzynska and Mr. Rastorfer set about making the problem go away.

They filed or threatened lawsuits against news organizations that they said reported inaccurately on aspects of the case. (In a separate case, they unsuccessfully sued several experts including Ms. Shatskikh, the art historian who questioned the authenticity of some works sold by the gallery.) They helped finance a lavish book on Mr. Khardzhiev's art and archive, a project that generally portrays them as conservators of the collection.

Most important, perhaps, the dealers continued to cultivate close ties with Russian cultural officials who, despite the view of Mr. Putin's security services, voiced support for Ms. Gmurzynska and her gallery. At a ceremony in Bonn in June, Ms. Gmurzynska received a certificate of gratitude from the Russian culture minister, Mikhail Shvydkoi, for her contributions to Russian culture.

Finally, the dealers began working with the European representative of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, Nicholas Iljine, on an exhibition of works from Malevich's Suprematist period that would include many of the Khardzhiev paintings.

In Mr. Khardzhiev's last interview, in December 1995, he said that Mr. Iljine had first approached him on behalf of the Russian authorities, trying to negotiate the return of some of his paintings or part of his archive. Mr. Khardzhiev said he later concluded that Mr. Iljine "was working for Gmurzynska and we stopped letting him in."

Mr. Iljine, who did not join the Guggenheim until 1996, denied that he ever worked for Ms. Gmurzynska. He said he had merely sought to help friends in the Russian culture ministry "calm down some wild cops" in the security services.

The director of the Guggenheim, Thomas Krens, declined to discuss the Khardzhiev case. The guest curator of the exhibition, Matthew Drutt, said he had agreed to work on it only after being assured that there were no outstanding legal claims to the paintings.

"I wasn't trying to wash provenance," said Mr. Drutt, who is curator of the Menil Collection in Houston. "I was only trying to honor Khardzhiev's ultimate intention, which was to bring this work to a broader public."

Ms. Gmurzynska and Mr. Rastorfer cited a similar goal, saying they promised to sell Mr. Khardzhiev's paintings only to museums or collectors who would also honor that intention.

So far their record is mixed. The Ludwig Museum in Cologne declined to lend the Guggenheim the Khardzhiev painting that Mr. Ludwig bought. Mr. Lauder, whose painting from the Khardzhiev collection sits in his Manhattan home near the museum, also refused to lend his.

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